Translating God's Word for a new generation
It has been said, “The Church is never more than one generation away from extinction.” This bold statement, perhaps, finds support in the admonition found in today’s Old Testament lesson. There Moses writes this concerning the works of the Lord, “Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) Each generation has the responsibility, and privilege, of passing on the works of God to the next generation. While much of this teaching happens in the setting of a local congregation, the Christian instruction that happens in the home—in our own families—is key! This teaching is always centered on Jesus Christ, the One through whom our Lord has worked the mightiest work of all—our salvation. That same Savior promises that even the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church!
They’re perfect! “Stain-resistant! Wrinkle-free! Easy-care!” Not only are the pants good-looking, but they’re also functional. While store catalogs may use these terms to grab your attention and sell their products, the Bible uses similar words to proclaim the wonderful news of God’s free grace for you! Jesus has redeemed you by His blood in order to “present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”(Ephesians 5:27) Like a bride beautifully adorned and awaiting her bridegroom, we anticipate the final coming of our Lord Jesus, even as we today receive Him who comes to us in His body and blood. Let us join together and praise the One who has declared us to be spotless!
We are an audiovisual culture. Everywhere you turn, people use a wide variety of means to grab attention: billboards along a highway, radio commercials, pop-up advertisements on social media, telephone surveys that interrupt family dinners. The list goes on and on! Jesus, too, used a variety of means at His disposal in the first century to communicate His message of life and salvation. He Himself is the greatest communication in any time and place—the very Word made flesh. Christ gives words that are spirit and life. He speaks; we listen. Christ also does the saving work of removing darkness by His death and Resurrection. He shines; we see and live. Talk about an audiovisual Savior! Today, let us listen, touch, taste and see. As we respond to God’s grace with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," let us lift up thankful hearts to our Father in the Name of Jesus.
There is a great divide—a notable difference—between what we were before being given new life through baptism and what we are now—recipients of God’s forgiving love in Christ. In today’s Epistle, Paul lists the characteristics of any Christian who is reflecting that love. It is not a list commending our successful reflections of our new nature, but a series of exhortations, writing, “Let us ....” There is only one source of hope as we struggle—our Lord! We have been baptized into the Body of Christ and, at each reception of the Lord’s Supper, we are strengthened to show the new person He has called us to be. As Elijah was strengthened by miraculous food and went on toward Horeb (or Sinai), the mount of God, so we are assured of God’s forgiveness as we receive Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. He is the “Bread of Life” from Heaven, who enables each of us to discard our old ways and live in the new life of God’s forgiving love with gladness!
In today’s Gospel, the crowds are trying to stay close to Jesus, but He says it is for the wrong reason; they want to fill their stomachs. As the manna in the wilderness was not produced by Moses, but was a gift from God, so Jesus did not come to produce physical bread. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.” In our ever-changing fallen world, there is one thing that remains unchanged and enduring—God and His Word! Listen today to the unchanging promises of God for you, anchored in His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus who walks on water. The disciples are terrified and think they have seen a ghost; but, Jesus is not a ghost — He is very much alive! Jesus is God’s gift to us for what we need in every aspect of our lives, here in time, and for eternity. The Epistle focuses on our inclusion in the Body of Christ, with “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Indeed, we are all gifts of God to one another, called to faith to speak the truth in love and to work together to build up the Church to the measure of Christ Himself.
When Amos speaks God’s Word to Israel, they do not want to hear it. Amos is told to prophesy elsewhere. John the Baptist’s message of repentance landed him in Herod’s prison and, eventually, in the grave. Speaking God’s Word is not always easy! It often meets resistance and, sometimes, even violence. As we gather with fellow believers of God’s Word, consider how we have met resistance in the past. Which part of God’s message have others not wanted to hear? This week, we will explore how to best share God’s unchanging truth to a changing world.
We live in a divisive world. There is so much out there that divides us — political viewpoints, race, gender, age, fashion, and more. There are wars, conflicts, and rumors of war floating around every day in the news. In today’s Epistle, Paul speaks of a dividing wall of hostility; we have many such walls. Yet, in Christ, we are reconciled to God and to one another! The walls that divide us are toppled over, and Christ makes peace between nations and peoples by His Own blood. We are now one body, one Church, serving under one Lord. May God’s peace reign in your life and break down any walls that divide you from God or from others.
Our culture is fascinated with rebels—characters such as Han Solo, Ferris Bueller, and Katniss Everdeen. Though not perfect, we admire how they stand up to authority. Being a rebel is good or bad depending upon whom one is rebelling against. When the authority is God Almighty, rebels are not looked upon so fondly … Israel rebelled against God, and Ezekiel told them that very thing; the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, rebelling against their own hometown prophet; Paul was a rebel himself, first against the followers of Jesus, and then on their behalf. Sin is rebellion against God. Yet God forgives us through Jesus’ death and Resurrection, turning our rebellion into reconciliation and rejoicing! Despite our weaknesses and inclination to rebel, God’s grace comes to us in Jesus, and He is sufficient for us.
“For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) This week, as people across our great land celebrate the freedoms that belong to us in the United States of America, the people of God bow before the Lord in humble praise and prayer, acknowledging the true source of our freedom. Set free from our captivity to sin and Satan by the redeeming work of Jesus, we live as free people. We belong to God! As citizens of Heaven, with temporary citizenship in our country, we treasure all the earthly blessings we now have, including the freedoms of our country. Today, let us use those freedoms for the sake of the One who sets us free. We are free to love our God. We are free to worship Him in Spirit and truth. We are free to love our neighbor. And, we are free to bring the saving Gospel to all we meet. God bless America! And God bless all His people this day--and every day--with the freedom that is ours in Christ!