Translating God's Word for a new generation
What’s in a name? This is the thought we are developing together over the next few weeks at Concordia. Names are important not only for humans, but also for God. Our full names, nicknames, and names of affection are how we know each other, and they tell the stories of who we are. But these names pale in comparison to the name of God. The Bible reminds us that God’s name is holy, set apart and special. And God places this holy name upon us. He shows us how much he values us through the name by which he calls us. This weekend in worship, Pastor Jacob Schultz reminds us of the names by which we are known.
Identity, Purpose and Action have been at the forefront of our ministry over the past few weeks. As it turns out, these three things ought to be at the forefront of every saint’s life throughout all of life. “Saint” is another word that identifies us as Christians. Saints know God as their Creator. They know Him as their Savior. They know Him now by faith and through the work of the Holy Spirit and will one day know Him face to face in heaven. Until then, they live out their saintly identity and purpose in saintly action. That’s just the way it is with children of God.
Today, we hear in our Scripture reading, “The truth will set you free.” This is Good News. We live in a world where much is uncertain, such as politics, jobs, retirement, health, and children, to name only a few. But we know that one thing is always certain: the truth whose name is Jesus Christ. This truth frees us from all the evil in the world. This truth gives us an eternal perspective. This truth is what we confess. This weekend in worship, we hear that truth and we speak that truth to one another.
The old story of "footprints in the sand" reminds us that God’s path is not always visible to us as we look ahead but is more often clear as we look behind us. The story of Ruth illustrates this in a profound way. The future is not known to us, but God has promised to be with us and guide us on the path, toward the future He has prepared for us in Jesus Christ. When we fear for that future, we have the witness of the saints—of the Old Testament and of the New—whose trust in the Lord was vindicated as His mercy proved to be more than enough to lead them into everlasting life.
“Every moment of every day is an opportune time to be faithful.” For Timothy, the heritage of faith runs from Lois to Eunice to him. What is your heritage of faith? How did your family help form your faith? How are you helping the next generation form their faith? With a “spirit of power, love and discipline,” we get to Be Faithful in passing on grace, mercy and peace at the opportune times and places God provides for us.
In both the Old and New Testaments, the battle between good and evil, between God with His forces and Satan with his allies is a prominent theme. On this day, we reflect on that mighty battle and its combatants. We become part of the action and realize anew how costly the victory has been for Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who is worthy to receive our endless praise. The holy angels have worked and continue to work as God’s agents, surrounding us and fighting on our behalf!
Wouldn’t it be great if your credit card company called you up and said “We have reduced your balance by fifty percent”? Or if your lender told you that your mortgage had been reduced by half? It would be great, but this kind of debt reduction doesn’t just happen... or does it? The one who tells the parable of the shrewd manager’s debt reduction plan is the one who carries out the ultimate debt reduction plan. Jesus takes our debt of sin to the cross. And there, he reduces it not just by half, but entirely cancels our debt of sin.
If the Lord describes Himself in Scripture as our Shepherd, it follows that we, as those who belong to Him, are His sheep. Although the agrarian setting of the shepherd-sheep relationship may be unfamiliar to many in our day, it’s a powerful scriptural image that shows forth the saving work of Jesus. All we like sheep wander away from our Shepherd’s provision, wrongly assuming that we can find our own way. Our own way will only lead us to everlasting death, not everlasting life. But fear not! Because our Shepherd became one of us as the very “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” we know that the Lord never gives up on us. He pursues His wanderers. He finds us, claims us, and carries us home. And that’s exactly where He gathers us today: at home in His presence so that He, our Shepherd, can fill us, His sheep, with His love and mercy.
This weekend, many of our Concordia youth, their parents, and volunteers are at a retreat learning about the “Seasons of Life.” In addition to inspiring a song made popular by The Byrds, Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us of the challenges and joys we face during different times in our lives. Many teens and adults consider the challenges posed by our culture to be particularly daunting. One challenge consistently promulgated by our culture is the idea that we must rely upon ourselves rather than upon God. This weekend, Pastor Krueger reminds us of God’s covenant with us, a covenant of grace, love and mercy, based on who He is and what He has done.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Jesus urges us to follow the path of humility, thinking of others before ourselves and not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. With this very purpose, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath and reveals the character of God’s patient and powerful love. We are invited to follow Christ’s own example and to be people of such love and humility that God is glorified and the mercy of God is exalted.