Sunday, March 30, 2014
John 6:1-15; Galatians 4:21-31; Exodus 16:2-21
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Just as there are but two ways, a way of life and a way of death, so also are there but two sources of food and nourishment, one that delivers life and one that delivers death. And, these two have been from the beginning, in Paradise, where God planted a tree whose fruit He caused to deliver life and where God also planted a tree whose fruit He caused to deliver death. And, as I have instructed you before, it was not the trees nor their fruit in and of themselves that caused them to deliver life or death, but it was God’s Word which He attached to those trees and their fruit that caused them to deliver life or death.
And so it is also with food, particularly with the symbolic staple that is bread: There is a bread of which a man may eat that always delivers life and there is a bread of which a man may eat that always delivers death. The bread of which a man may eat and live is the Bread of Life, the Word of God, and the Word made flesh Jesus Christ. The bread of which a man may eat and die is any other bread. To be sure, there is the bread made by the hands of men through the toil and sweat of his brow having its origin in grain sown and harvested by the famer, ground into flour by the miller, and baked into bread by the baker of which a man may eat and nourish his body and grow and live for a time, but it cannot deliver life eternal and its end is always and only death. This is the bread by which, alone, man cannot and does not live. Yet, there is a bread of which a man may eat and live and never die. Our Lord God provides us both kinds of bread, feeding us in body and in soul that we may live. However, only one bread delivers life that cannot and does not die. We must seek and find, desire and treasure that bread above all else. That bread is the one thing needful that feeds the soul even when the body hungers and languishes.
In captivity in Egypt, the children of Israel ate bread and meat until their bellies were full. For 430 years they ate and they slaved and they died while their souls longed for, desired, and were fed upon the spiritual bread of God’s Word that sustained them through those dark years. When the LORD delivered them from Pharaoh across the Red Sea, they left behind, along with their slavery and suffering, the pots of meat and baskets of bread, but they were free and they were happy for they had the LORD and His Word. But the desires of the flesh are against those of the Spirit and the people began to grumble that they had no food. They desired to dwell in Egypt in slavery once again where they at least had meat and bread and were not hungry.
They grumbled against the LORD and His servants, and the LORD heard their grumbling and promised to feed them. He caused manna to appear on the ground each morning. The people were instructed to gather only enough for their household each day. This was a test. Would they believe and trust in the Word of the LORD, or would they surrender to the desires of their flesh and gather more than a day’s worth? The manna was nothing to be desired, and intentionally so. They were not to trust in the bread, but in the LORD who provided the bread. He said it would be enough and, for those who trusted, it was. But, for those who did not trust, the extra they had gathered spoiled, stank, and bred worms. The LORD provides daily bread, bread sufficient for the needs of body and life for the day. And, the LORD provides spiritual bread, His Word, sufficient to sustain the soul for the day and for eternal life.
The LORD had lead the children of Israel out of Egypt in the Passover, where a great distinction was made between the way of life and the way of death. A clear distinction was made then between those who trusted in the LORD and His Word and those who did not. The LORD had commanded His people to mark the doorways of their homes with the blood of an unblemished one year old male lamb. The Angel of Death passed over their homes, not merely because of the blood, but because of the LORD’s Word of command attached to the blood. The homes of those who disregarded and did not trust in the Word of the LORD suffered the loss of their firstborn, both man and beast. It was not the blood alone, as it was not the fruit alone, as it was not the bread alone, nor anything else alone, but it is always the Word of the LORD in, with, and under these created things that delivers life or death in accordance with His Word.
And so it was near the celebration of the Passover that a great multitude had followed Jesus into the wilderness because they had seen the miraculous signs He had performed. Jesus took this opportunity to teach about the two ways, the way of life and the way of death, by teaching about the Bread of Life that is the Word of God. “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Jesus asked His disciple Philip. It was a rhetorical question meant to test Philip’s and the other’s faith. “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little,” Philip answered. He was right. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what they for so many?” said Andrew. He was right as well. There was nothing that man could do or produce to feed the multitude and satisfy them physically and make them live. How much less could man do to feed them with the Bread of Life that they might live spiritually and not die?
Once they had confessed their failure and inability to provide bread and life for themselves, Jesus had them all sit down in the grass. Now that they were done striving and worrying they were prepared to receive what the Lord Jesus would do in His Word. Jesus took man’s meager provisions and gave thanks to God, the giver of bread, life, and all things, and distributed the bread and fish, as much as they wanted, to those who were seated (were some perhaps still standing and missed out?). When the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us, then also did the LORD take up man’s meager provision, flesh and blood, and provide of it sufficiency and abundance. Jesus is God’s gift of Bread and Life of which a man may eat and live and never die. Jesus is the spiritual fountain of God’s providence of which a man may drink and never thirst again. For, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh: He is the heavenly manna which continues to feed, nourish, and sustain our lives as we make our pilgrimage through this wilderness world and life to the Promised Land of God’s kingdom in heaven.
Man knows a good thing when he sees it! The multitude were so amazed and impressed with Jesus’ miraculous feeding that they rushed to make Him their Bread King. He was indeed their King and He would be their King, but not by force, and not the way they understood His Kingship and Kingdom. You see this is the problem with sinful men, this is the problem with us, and this is the problem with the so-called Prosperity Gospel and its proponents, men like Joel Olsteen, Oral Roberts, Ken Hagen, Benny Hinn, and nearly everyone on the Trinity Broadcasting Network: we see Jesus, we see God as a means to an end, a way to get what we want and desire. Jesus is King, not because He gives us what we want, but because He is what we need and He gives Himself freely to us. Jesus is the Bread of Life of which a man may freely eat and live.
Very soon now, in our Lenten pilgrimage, we will hear the voices of those who would make Jesus their King turn against Him and crown Him with thorns as they cry “Crucify! Crucify!” Like the children of Israel before them, they rejected the gift God gave them and hungered and thirsted for the meat pots, bread, and rivers of Egypt and that devil Pharaoh and slavery. Part of the reason that fasting is recommended during Lent – and even throughout the year – is that, by causing the body to experience even a twinge of hunger, fasting can be used as a spiritual discipline to remind ourselves that man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God and that our lives do not consist of the abundance of our possessions, but that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give to us the Kingdom.
The children of the free woman must not submit themselves once again to a yoke of slavery, but live in the freedom of grace and the Gospel. Their bread is not what fills the body but what nourishes the soul. Come, eat this bread that will surely not fill your body or the desires of the flesh, but will nourish your soul and strengthen your faith, for it is the body of Christ given for you. Come, drink this wine that surely will not quench your thirst, but will comfort your soul, for it is the blood of Christ shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus says to you, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.” “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Romans 8:31-39; Genesis 18:22-33
The Petitions of the Great Litany: “Spare us, Good Lord”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
When we pray “Spare us, good Lord,” we are asking the Lord to save us, to redeem us, to exempt us, or to someway, somehow, release us from the fate we will surely otherwise and deservedly suffer. This is to say, once again, that our prayer is a confession: We confess that we have sinned and that we deserve both temporal and eternal punishment. We confess that this is what we have rightly earned and merited. We confess that the Lord is just and right to punish us. Nevertheless, we pray, we petition, we ask, we beg the Lord to not punish us, but even to spare us from our justly deserved punishment. For, this prayer is also a confession of our faith in the Lord, that He is the kind of Lord who will indeed act in such a way and spare us, a Lord who even loves to spare us and has spared us, because He did not spare His only-begotten Son as our substitute and sacrificial offering in our place.
The LORD was about to reign down judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah because of their notorious sin and wickedness. They earned and merited this judgment; it was their just deserts. But, Abraham interceded and prayed to the LORD to spare the cities and the people who lived there. He didn’t claim that they were innocent or make any excuses for them – they were justly condemned, and Abraham knew that – but he prayed to the LORD simply to spare them, because of the LORD’s righteousness.
“Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?” Do you realize how bold a petition this is? Only Abraham could ask such a thing. Did Abraham believe for a minute that there were actually fifty righteous persons in the city? Well, not if their righteousness depended upon their works, obedience, and sinlessness. If that were the measure of righteousness, then there would be not one soul in Sodom and Gomorrah, or anywhere else, that would measure up. However, if Abraham reckoned righteousness as the LORD Himself had regarded him as righteous, then, yes, there might be fifty such souls, or maybe forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty, or, well, perhaps ten? You can hear the humility and fear of the LORD in Abraham’s questions. Abraham knew that He was asking the LORD to turn away from His just judgment upon those cities and their inhabitants. Abraham knew that He was asking for mercy and forgiveness that he had no right to ask or expect. What, then, motivated Abraham to ask? Faith. Faith in God, His Will, and His Word. Not faith in itself, but the object of Abraham’s faith, what it clung to and trusted in no matter what – the LORD Himself. Tellingly, Abraham ceased his petitioning with ten righteous souls. Perhaps he remembered that, for the sake of eight righteous souls, Noah and his family, the LORD did not spare the world in the flood. Indeed, Sodom and Gomorrah would not be spared, but the righteous therein, Lot and his family, like Noah before, would be spared. In life, and in death, the righteous will live by faith.
The faith by which the righteous live is in the one whom God did not spare, His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Though He was and is the only righteous one, righteous in Himself, innocent and without sin, perfectly obedient, humble, fearing and trusting in the LORD, He was declared to be unrighteous and guilty, and He was judged and condemned in our place that we might be declared, innocent, righteous, and holy in His Name. As our righteous father Abraham plead for and interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah on account of righteous Lot and his family, evermore does our heavenly Father make us to be righteous in His Son. Thus, when we pray, “Spare us, good Lord,” we do so in the faith and confession that the LORD has already answered, He has already spared us, and He continues to do so even now: “It is finished.”
The petition, “Spare us, good Lord,” comes early in the Litany, and it appears only once. Following, we petition the Lord to help us, to deliver us, to hear us, to have mercy upon us, and to grant us His peace. The placement of this petition sets the stage right from the beginning: All that we ask of the Lord is prefaced in our confession that we deserve not His help, deliverance, mercy, and peace, but only judgment, death, and eternal punishment. Nevertheless, we throw ourselves on the mercy of the Lord and trust in His promise, particularly in His promise fulfilled in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. With the Lord, it’s all or nothing: We bring nothing; He gives all.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” What wonderful rhetorical questions the Apostle has set before us! “How will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” indeed! He will! He does! Therefore, ask Him in boldness and humility (no, those are not mutually exclusive qualities). Ask Him boldly because the Lord is God and He has paid dearly for you and desires to shower you with His blessings and grace. Ask Him in humility because you confess that you do not deserve His mercy and grace, because He is holy and righteous and, of yourself, you are not. But, ask Him, in boldness, and ask Him in humility: “Spare us, good Lord.” And, when your enemy lies to you and deceives you saying, “You don’t believe enough to receive His gifts,” or, “Your sins are too great to be forgiven,” remember that he’s right, but also remember that it doesn’t matter, because it’s not about you, how much you believe, or how good or bad you have been. No, all that matters is that the Lord is good and right and true and that He has done what was necessary to make you right before Him. Do you believe that? I’m not asking how much or how strongly, but only, “Do you believe that?” Yes! Then, you have all that you need. Do not worry. Do not fear. But, be certain of this, “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us for the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Spare us, good Lord,” we pray. “I have, and I will,” the Lord replies.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Luke 11:14-28; Ephesians 5:1-9; Exodus 8:16-24
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways.” So begins the ancient Christian document dated to the end of the first or the beginning of the second century known as The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. The Didache goes on to say, “The way of life is this: first, you shall love the God who made you; second, your neighbor as yourself, and whatever you would not have done to you, do not do to another.” As you can hear, the Didache is not a novel instruction, but simply a reiteration of the Great Commandment to love God and to love your neighbor. What is striking about the Didache, however, is how it denotes strongly, and immediately, that there are only two possible ways – one way that leads to life, and one way that leads to death, and that there is a great difference and distinction between the two ways.
But this distinction is not novel either. Indeed, it is a continuous doctrine throughout the Holy Scriptures. In his farewell address to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses said, “Today, I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” The same two ways are found in Jeremiah 21:8 and in Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Likewise, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Indeed, when it comes to faith, life, and salvation, there is only one way, Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, apart from whom no one can come to the Father.
After the fall, all humanity, all creation was plunged into sin and the way that leads to death. It was God’s gracious and merciful work that set man on the way of life once again. God clothed our First Parents’ nakedness by shedding innocent blood, pointing to the sacrifice that He Himself would make, shedding the blood of His Son Jesus as a sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world. The entire Old Testament is the account of those were called off of the way of death to walk in the way of life, and those who, by their own fallen will and decision chose to walk the way of death apart from and against the LORD. God set His people apart, He sanctified them and made them holy as He is holy. They were not to be like the pagan nations that surrounded them. Even when He caused them to go down into Egypt, the LORD set His people apart as holy and His own.
We see the LORD in action in the account of the Ten Plagues. Pharaoh’s magicians were able to mimic a number of the plagues initially, however, soon they were unable to copy the works of the LORD done through His servants Moses and Aaron. Thus, we see not only that the devil is a liar and a deceiver, but that, ultimately, His power is limited and controlled by the LORD Himself. Pharaoh’s magicians had to confess, “This is the finger of God.” The “finger of God” is typically understood to be an anthropomorphism for the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus claims to exorcise demons by the “finger of God” as well. After the plague of gnats, which Pharaoh’s magicians could not mimic and copy, the LORD began to make a clear distinction between His people Israel and Pharaoh and the Egyptians. In the next plague, the plague of flies, the houses of the Egyptians would be filled with flies while the houses of the Israelites dwelling in the land of Goshen would be spared that the Egyptians would know that the LORD dwelt in the midst of His people.
All of the Levitical laws served to set God’s people apart as holy and distinct from the pagan nations surrounding them. The LORD’s people were not to participate in the activities and ceremonies of the pagan nations: They were not to tattoo, scar, or pierce their bodies in any way; they were not eat the blood of animals; they were not to worship images carved from wood, bone, or stone; they were to worship one God, the only God, and serve Him only. This sanctification, this setting apart for holiness, continues in the New Testament Church as St. Paul writes to the Ephesians in our Epistle: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. […] sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, […] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, […] but let there be thanksgiving, […] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true).
Jesus had just cast out a demon from a man who couldn’t speak. You would think that people would view this as a good thing, right? Instead they accused Jesus of casting out the demon by Beezelbul, that is, by the power of Satan. Jesus effectively called his accusers on the ridiculousness of their thinking saying, “Excuse me, but is a mute man regaining his speech a good thing or an evil thing? Is a demon being cast out of a man a good thing or an evil thing? You agree with me that it is a good thing, right? Then, let me ask you this – Does Satan work for good? Does Satan cast his own demons out? Would Satan work to release this man from Satan? No, of course not! Satan would be working against himself. Therefore, I say to you, every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”
There is a way of life and healing and forgiveness and all that goes with it, and there is a way of death, which is any other way. If Satan’s kingdom is being overrun, if his palace is being plundered – and it most certainly is – then you may know that the kingdom of God has come upon you. In fact, Jesus is the King, and He brings the kingdom with Him. When He casts out demons, when He heals, when He raises the dead, when He opens ears to hear and eyes to see, when He baptizes, forgives sins, and restores life, Satan’s palace is being plundered and God’s kingdom is being established. Satan’s kingdom and household fall about him and there is nothing he can do.
When Peter answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” with his great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus praised Peter saying, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Then Jesus said to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Contrary to our Roman Catholic brothers’ and sisters’ belief, the rock upon which Christ promised to build His Church was not the man Peter, but rather that man’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Moreover, Christians often misunderstand Jesus’ meaning when He said “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Too often Christians think this means that hell will not win over the Church. While, this is most certainly true, that is not precisely what Jesus says. Rather, Jesus says that hell will suffer and fall under the attack of Christ’s Church. It is the defensive gates of hell that will not prevail against the Church. Gates don’t attack, they defend and keep out. Jesus is saying that the gates of hell will not be able to stand against the advance of the church, the kingdom of God. And that is precisely what Jesus demonstrated in His ministry: “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” Blessed are those who are not offended by Him.
One of the ways in which the kingdom of God is established and Satan is cast out is through Holy Baptism. When a child is baptized, Satan’s palace is plundered just as it was when Jesus exorcised the demon from the mute man in today’s Gospel. This is why the baptismal liturgy has traditionally included an exorcism in these words: “Depart thou unclean spirit and make way for the Holy Spirit, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Yes, in Holy Baptism, Satan is cast out and the soul is reclaimed for God’s kingdom. This is why Baptism is no light or trivial matter. It is not a mere ritual performed by men, but it is the “finger of God,” the Holy Spirit, in action.
However, as Jesus warns in today’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit must take up residence in the person from whom Satan has been exorcised, or else he will return, and the fate of that person will be worse than it was previously. This is why Holy Baptism does not work ex opera operato, it is not a work that is efficacious in itself, but it must be accompanied by faith in order to benefit a person. In baptism, the Holy Spirit creates faith, but faith is sustained and strengthened by the Word of God. Thus, when a woman in the crowd cried out to Jesus saying, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”
When you are reclaimed for the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ, you become His servant in His kingdom. Christ has called you to follow Him in the way of life. You remain in that way by keeping His Word and receiving His gifts. But, it is a narrow way, and broad and easy is the way that leads to death. You must take care not to stray off the way. Yes, the Lord will keep you and protect you; staying on the way is not a work you do, but straying most certainly is. You belong to Christ, but Satan, your enemy, will lie to you and try to deceive you that you are not Christ’s or that Christ is an unfair master. This is why you must keep God’s Word, hear, learn, and inwardly digest it. This is why you must received the Lord’s gifts regularly for forgiveness, the strengthening of your faith, life and salvation, and protection from the lies and deceits of your enemy. It is the Holy Spirit who keeps you in faith, but if you resist Him and stray from Him, over time your heart will grow cold and will harden. How much time? Only God knows, but it is not prudent or faithful to put the Lord to the test. Therefore, He gives you this promise: Remain in Him, and He will remain in you. He will never leave or forsake you. May your eyes be ever turned toward the LORD, for He will pluck you out the net of your enemy, and He will keep you in His kingdom until He can crown you with eternal life.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Luke 12:22-34; Isaiah 41:8-20
The Petitions of the Great Litany: “Help us, Good Lord”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“Our God is a refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” Thus sings the psalmist in Psalm 46. We are right to pray “Help us, good Lord,” for our Lord and God is help and He loves to help us. But, what does help mean? Well, help doesn’t mean that the Lord will always give you what you want, or what you think you need, but the Lord will protect and keep you in His grace and mercy. The Lord will see you through every temptation, trial, and tribulation towards the end and works He has prepared for you. For, ultimately, you are His. You are His servant whom He has called out of the nations. He has made you to be a people, His people, who were once no people. And, He has adopted you as His children, His own sons and daughters, through faith in His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. The Lord is jealous over you. He’s always got your back so long as you trust in Him and do not reject Him.
Last week you heard about the tenacious faith of Jacob. Though the Lord wrestled with him and fought against him, even wounding him, putting his hip out of joint, Jacob refused to let the Lord go without a blessing. The Lord did bless Jacob, and the Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning, one who “struggles with the Lord and prevails.” In that spiritual wrestling match, all of Israel was reduced to one man, Jacob. Thus, centuries later, the Prophet Isaiah refers to the people of Israel also as Jacob, prophesying the Word of the Lord to them saying, “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; […] fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Indeed, this is the blessing the Lord bestowed upon Jacob following that wrestling match. Jacob become the Lord’s servant, His chosen one, the promised seed of Abraham, and the Lord’s personal and dear friend. The Lord blessed Jacob with a right relationship, one of love, grace, mercy, Fatherhood, and unchanging faithfulness. The Lord would always have Jacob’s, Israel’s, back and would help him.
The Lord’s help often takes this form: He will set you apart and make you holy. The Lord will sanctify and keep you. He will make a distinction between you and unbelievers. Does this mean that all will go well for you, that you will not suffer pain and loss and strife? No, it does not. It means that you will persevere; you will prevail, in patience, in time. And, as you trust in Him ever more and more, you will be content and at peace. You will want for nothing as the psalmist sings in the 23rd Psalm, and you will have, as Jesus promises, a peace that world cannot give. “Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.” The end of this is that, while you will continue to have enemies and struggle, these will not ultimately prevail over you. Indeed, there will come a time when you will search for them and will find no trace of their existence.
Yet, beyond this, the Lord does indeed positively help His chosen and holy people. The Lord says, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” This prophecy is similar to our Lord Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. There is blessedness in being poor in spirit, for those in spiritual poverty are open to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Likewise, there is blessedness in being hungry for righteousness, for those in spiritual hunger are open to be fed with the Word and Spirit of the Lord. Likewise does our Lord Jesus teach His disciples that life is more than food and clothing. As the Lord provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, how much more does He provide all that we need to sustain our bodies, lives, and spirit?
We pray in the Litany, “Help us, good Lord.” Our prayer is grounded in our belief and confession that the Lord is indeed good, just as He has said and promised. Thus, as in last week’s homily, once again we hold God to His Word, to what He has said and revealed about Himself. We trust that He is gracious, just as He has said. However, more than that, we trust in what the Lord has done in sending His Son into our human flesh as one of us. The longest petition in the Litany ending with the prayer, “Help us, good Lord,” is all about Jesus. In this petition we ask for the Lord’s help on account of the Lord’s work for us in His Son: by His holy incarnation, nativity, baptism, fasting, and temptation; by His agony and bloody sweat; by His cross and passion, death and burial; and by His glorious resurrection and ascension and promised sending of the Holy Spirit. These works of our Lord in His Son are not mere words and promises – indeed the Words and promises of the Lord are never mere anything! – but they are Words and promises that have been kept and fulfilled. They are certain, trustworthy, dependable, and true.
Our last petition for the good Lord’s help in the Litany is for His help “In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death; and in the day of judgment.” This petition is as much a confession as it is a request and a plea. What we confess is our need for the Lord’s help at every stage and every moment of our lives. We are commending ourselves into the Lord’s gracious and merciful care and providence. We confess our faith and trust in Him alone and completely. We appeal to nothing in ourselves that would merit, earn, or deserve His help, but we appeal to the Lord according to who He is, what He has promised, and what He has done. We petition the Lord for help, and He helps, He has helped, and He will continue to help until we will need no help because we will be with Him in His presence and care face to face.
Our God: our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, is also our eternal home. Help us, good Lord. Amen.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.