Sunday, February 25, 2018

Reminiscere - The Second Sunday In Lent

Matthew 15:21-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; Genesis 32:22-32

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Reminiscere, remember – That is the name of this Second Sunday in Lent. In today’s Introit we called upon our LORD to remember, to remember His mercy and His steadfast love for us. The words come from Psalm 25, but they appear regularly throughout the Scriptures, both in the Old and the New Testaments. But, does God need us to call Him to remember? Is it even possible that God could forget? No, of course not. Nevertheless, your LORD and God wants you to call upon Him. He wants you to remind Him of His mercy and His love, and of the promises He has made to you, not because He has forgotten, mind you, but because this is your faithful worship and praise, and because you are His creatures, His children, and He loves to hear you call upon Him. Like a loving father, your heavenly Father loves to have His children remind Him of His love for them, for then He can see that you remember that He has been loving and merciful in the past and that He has promised to be loving and merciful today and tomorrow until there are no more tomorrows. No, your LORD does not forget, but you do, I do, we do. Therefore, it is good for us to remember, and we do so today by calling upon our Lord to remember, to remember His mercy and His steadfast love for us.
And, what we are to remember most of all is that the Word of our LORD endures forever, it cannot fail, and God always keeps His promises. Therefore, even when things seem very, very dark and evil, when you don’t know what to do and cannot see any way out of your troubles, remember that the Word of the LORD endures forever, it cannot fail, and God always keeps His promises. However, that does not mean that you will not face trial and tribulation. Indeed, your Lord Jesus assures you that you will, that you must! More than that, however, you have to wrestle with the fact that God permits these trials to fall upon you. It is His will, even if it is alien to His true nature of love. Sometimes God permits you to reap the fruit of your sinful sowing that you might despair and repent and receive His grace once again. Other times, He sends you tribulation to test you, to discipline you, to strengthen you in faith. As St. Paul confesses, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Today’s propers provide us a couple of examples of faith in the midst of trial and tribulation – trial and tribulation at the hands of our God and LORD! In the Old Testament reading, the patriarch Jacob, fleeing his brother Esau after having deceived his father Isaac and stolen his brother’s blessing – which was none other than the covenantal blessing of God to Abraham – wrestled with a man all through the night. As the men wrestled, however, we learn that it was no mere man who wrestled with Jacob, but it was God Himself, or, more precisely, it was the Angel of the LORD, the Second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, our pre-incarnate Savior. Although Jacob did not pick this fight, he was prevailing, effectively pinning the LORD to the ground. Then the man, God that is, did something surprising and unthinkable – He touched Jacob’s hip and put it out of socket! Jacob had Him pinned and would not let Him go, so God intentionally, willfully hurt Jacob, crippling him, putting his hip out of socket! The pain must have been intense! But, still, Jacob would not let Him go despite his pain and the LORD’s pleading, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But, Jacob held on tight and answered the LORD, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And, the LORD did bless Jacob, and He changed His name to Israel, which means “one who has wrestled with God and has prevailed.” Then Jacob named the place where the LORD had blessed him Peniel, which means “face of God,” saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been spared.”
Not only did the LORD permit trial, tribulation, and suffering to come upon Jacob, but He Himself was the one who afflicted him! What you must learn from this is that, when trial, tribulation, and suffering come your way, whether they come from your own misdeeds, from the sins of others, or because God permits them to come upon you, or even sends them Himself, like Jacob, you must hold on to God, His Word, and His promises and not let go without His blessing. This idea is captured well in a hymn we’ll sing in a bit called “What God Ordains Is Always Good”: “I take content, what He has sent, His hand that sends me sadness will turn my tears to gladness.” “No poison can be in the cup that my physician sends me.” “Though I the cup am drinking which savors now of bitterness, I take it without shrinking. For after grief God gives relief, my heart with comfort filling and all my sorrow stilling.” In this regard, we may also consider Job, whom God permitted the devil to afflict tremendously, just short of taking his life. After Satan took his wealth, his children, and his health, Job confessed, “The LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” Whether the LORD is in a giving mode, or a taking away mode, nothing has changed, but the LORD is still good, loving, merciful, gracious, and righteous. Similarly, Jesus prayed three times that His Father would take the cup of His wrath away from Him and find some other way to redeem His people. Nevertheless, Jesus submitted to His Father’s will to crush Him.
Then, in our Gospel reading today, Jesus and His disciples were approached by a Canaanite woman, a Gentile, who pleaded for Jesus to heal her demon-oppressed daughter. The woman addressed Jesus as “Lord” and as “Son of David,” and she pleaded for mercy. Although the Scriptures state that the LORD hears and answers the prayers of the faithful, Jesus did not acknowledge or answer the woman’s plea. When the disciples appealed to Jesus to help her so that she would go away and leave them alone, Jesus answered them saying that He was not sent for the likes of her, but for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” First He ignored her, and then He said that He wasn’t for her. Many would have given up and gone away insulted or demoralized, but not this Gentile woman. Again she pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, help me.” This time Jesus answered her with a proverb saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Directly or indirectly, the Lord answered the woman this time with an insult. Indeed, there are times when it seems that God does not hear our prayers, or that He doesn’t care. And, there are even times when it seems that the LORD Himself is the source of our trouble. What do you do when it seems that God is ignoring you, that God doesn’t care, or that God is Himself against you? You do what Jacob did; you do what the Canaanite woman did; you hold on all the more tightly; you refuse to let God go without a blessing. The woman countered Jesus’ proverb with a proverb of her own: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus praised her for her faith, faith that He knew and saw in her all along. Because she had faith that would not let Him go, even when He ignored her, said that He wasn’t sent for her, and called her a dog, Jesus gave her a blessing, He healed her daughter and set her free. The Canaanite woman showed herself to be a true Israelite, one who “struggles with the LORD and overcomes.”
When you face trial and tribulation, hardship, difficulty, disease, and death, remember. Remember the faithfulness and the steadfast and unchanging love and mercy of the LORD. Cling to the LORD and His Word and promises and do not let go. Never let Him go without a blessing. For, He will bless you, no matter what. In fact, even your tribulation and suffering He makes a blessings as He works all things for the good of those He has called according to His purpose. Therefore, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” And, remind the LORD of His love and mercy. Remind the LORD of His promises in Jesus Christ. Call the LORD to remember, not because He forgets, but because He wants you to hold Him to His Word and not let go. Like Jacob, He has given you a new name as well, “My son. My daughter. My child.” Therefore, come now to your Father’s table where you are invited to eat, not just crumbs, but the very Bread of Life given for you for the forgiveness of your sins, for the strengthening of your faith, and for protection from the assaults of the Evil One. And, then, go, His children, forgiven and with His blessing, and be His blessing to others in your lives, words, and deeds, to the glory of His holy Name.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lenten Vespers In the Week of Invocabit (Lent 1)

John 18:1-27; Genesis 2:8-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Rivers and trees factor prominently in the Holy Scriptures. The Garden of Eden was the source of four rivers: The Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. Likewise, amongst the many trees of the Garden, two are named in particular: The Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The LORD visited Abraham under the Oaks of Mamre, and God spoke with Moses from a burning bush. The LORD baptized His people in the Flood, in the Red Sea, and in the Jordan River as they passed through it into the Promised Land of Canaan. The olive tree was a symbol of Israel, and many significant events in the Old Testament and in our Lord Jesus’ life and ministry occurred on the Mount of Olives. Jesus Himself was baptized in the Jordan River. And, in the Revelation, the River of the Water of Life is described as flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, and that River is flanked on both sides by the Tree of Life bearing its twelve kinds of fruit every month, its leaves are for the healing of the nations.
Indeed, one of the first, personal images we are provided of our God and LORD in the Scriptures is that our God is a Gardener. He plants gardens and trees and He tends them and waters them. He provides seed for the sower and bread for the eater. And, He placed the man He created in the midst of the Garden to tend it and to care for it, even as he sustained his life by eating of its fruit. The man was given to eat the fruit of all the trees of the Garden save one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The LORD commanded Adam not to eat of it lest he die.
But, why this command? This question has been the source of endless theological speculation, some of which has been less than helpful and beneficial. Nevertheless, it seems clear that God did not desire human beings to be automatons, serving Him because they had no other choice. Rather, God desired that His creatures would love, serve, and obey Him freely, therefore He attached His Word of prohibition to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil so that Adam would have a choice: He could choose to rebel against his Creator if he pleased. To serve the LORD freely is part of what it means to be created in His image, an image Adam lost when he rebelled and plunged all humanity into sin and death and separation from God. For, as Jesus taught, He who is not with Him is against Him.
However, do not conclude that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was an evil tree or bad in any way. It was not, but it was the good creation of our Holy and Righteous God. Most likely it looked very much like other trees in the Garden. Its fruit was a delight for the eyes. The only reason the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge brought death was because God said so, because He attached His Word to the tree and its fruit, and so its fruit brought death just as the Word of God said it would. Likewise did the fruit of the Tree of Life give life, because the Word of God said it would. For, the Word of God is performative and creative, it brings into being what it says. It was the Word of Creation that brought forth something from nothing, saying, “Let there be…,” and there was. Likewise, Holy Baptism is what the Word of the LORD says it is, a lavish washing away of sins, renewal, and regeneration. And, Holy Absolution really and truly forgives your sins as the Word of the LORD is spoken, “I forgive you all your sins, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And, when the Word of the LORD is spoken over the bread and wine of the Supper, they are what God’s Word says they are, Jesus’ real and true body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of your sins, the strengthening of your faith, and the equipping and sending of you for good works in service of your neighbor to the glory of God.
But, Adam chose the word of the devil over the Word of God. He chose knowledge that wasn’t given to him, which was truly nothing but the knowledge that he was no longer holy, that he no longer shared the mind and will of God, that he who was created for life with God had chosen for himself death apart from God. And so, it was in a garden on the Mount of Olives that Judas betrayed Jesus and handed Him over into the hands of those who desired to kill Him. Jesus had been baptized in the Jordan River where His Father declared Him to be His beloved Son with whom He is well pleased. Then the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Jesus overcame Him by standing firm in the Word of God. Having crossed the Brook Kidron, Jesus prayed in the garden that His Father might spare Him the cup of His wrath against our sin, but He also prayed that His Father’s will, and not His own, would be done. And, so, Jesus would go to the Tree of the Cross, to die for the sins of Adam, and you his children, sin that began from eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.
In His baptism, however, Jesus sanctified all waters, making them “a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is the source of the River of Life that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb in the Revelation, for Jesus’ baptism was for you, and for me, and for all humankind, that we might be baptized into Him, die to our sin, and be raised to new life in Him that cannot die. As Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The waters of Eden, the Flood, the Red Sea, and the Jordan each prefigure Jesus. The water that flowed with blood from Jesus’ side on the cross was poured out for you. And, the water of the River of Life flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb in Revelation is an image of the superabundant grace and glory that is yet to be fully seen, but which will be revealed when Jesus comes again in glory on the Last Day. Likewise, the Tree of Life in the Garden prefigured the Tree of the Cross upon which Jesus would lay down His life for all mankind, for, though the cross was the instrument of Jesus’ death, through His death He defeated the devil and won the victory over him, and He was raised from death, the firstfruits of those who fall asleep and die in Him. The Tree of Life in the Revelation is an image of the superabundant grace and glory and life that is yet to be fully realized, but which will be revealed when Jesus comes again in glory on the Last Day and the dead are raised.
Truly, the LORD utilized many rivers and trees to show us His providential care and love. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of them all, the Water of Life and the True Tree of Life with every good.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Christian Funeral for Lowell Mac Snyder

John 10:11-16; Romans 8:31-39; Isaiah 25:6-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
On March 31, 2017, Mac received the diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia and was given three weeks to two months to live. Perhaps the most horrible thing about cancer is that it causes the body to attack and destroy itself. When someone or something is attacking you from outside, you can know your enemy and fight or stand against him. However, when the enemy is inside you, when your own body is your enemy, that really takes a toll on a person’s self-understanding and identity, and it’s not surprising that cancer patients often struggle with depression, hopelessness, and despair. Undoubtedly, Mac could relate to St. Paul’s words, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” And yet, Mac was not overcome with depression, hopelessness, and despair. In fact, he was at peace with his disease and with his impending death. He was more concerned about his wife and family, especially his beloved grandchildren, than himself. And, that is because Mac also clung to St. Paul’s words that say, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword,” or even Acute Myeloid Leukemia? “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that 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 from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Of course, the reality is that Mac did not die in three weeks, or two months, but he lived another ten months and then some. And, he really and truly lived those months, spending time with his grandchildren, worshipping at church, attending Bible study, keeping up with the local news at the HyVee, and more. Mac was living on borrowed time, and so he made the most of it. Of course, the truth is that we are all living on borrowed time, all the time. Blessed are those who realize that and treasure each day as a gift from our LORD who gives us life, who sustains our life, and who will call us through death into life that does not end, in His way and in His time.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and Mac His precious and beloved sheep. And, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. That is how much He loves you. He did not flee the wolf Satan, but He faced him dead on and threw Himself into the wolf’s jaws that He might break them and destroy his power in death. Jesus knows each and every one of His sheep personally. He know you, He calls you, He protects and He keeps you. He died for you and He was raised for you that you should be raised from death to life with Him in heaven, life that can never die again. What freedom this knowledge and faith grants us in our lives; what freedom this knowledge and faith granted Mac in his life! Indeed, “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?”
Fear, fear of death, keeps us paralyzed and unable to truly live and truly love and truly give and truly glorify God by loving, giving to, and serving others. Mac didn’t have that problem. Mac wasn’t afraid. Strangely, having been effectively given a death sentence, Mac wasn’t afraid, but he was freed; he was freed to live, to love, to give, and to serve without fear. And, Mac loved to give gifts, especially to his grandchildren. In fact, he loved to give gifts so much that the actually couldn’t wait to give them. Like a kid with a new gift himself, he would let the cat out of the bag prematurely, talking about them so much that they’d guess what it was, or just flat out giving it to them before Christmas, or the birthday, or whatever the occasion happened to be. Freedom to live and worship and serve without fear, that is what Mac enjoyed. And that is what Mac shared with his family and his friends and all who encountered him. What a wonderful witness to our wonderful and amazing God and His grace!
Mac was a hard worker, having worked for John Deere thirty years while also farming with his Dad Jack and brother Phil. He was frugal and he drove the bus transporting employees from Waverly to John Deere in order to save money. He enjoyed nature, birding with Betty – together they spied and identified over 500 species! – hunting deer and duck, and fishing in Canada. And, Mac enjoyed working with Laborers for Christ and with other men from the church in building the Gathering Room extension. Though Mac wasn’t so much involved in the building itself, he did contribute by cleaning up and by sweeping the floors. He especially enjoyed the morning Bible Study which ended with the singing of the Doxology, “Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow.” Indeed, I have heard Mac and his cohort in crime Glen, kindly heckling me at the Bartel’s Center saying, “Let’s sing 805!” And, we’ll be singing 805 this morning, as Mac is surely singing it “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven,” around the throne of God and the Lamb.
Mac and Betty were blessed with fifty-six years of marriage. Betty says that Mac was her rock. Over those years, Mac was able to visit all states, with the exception of Hawaii, which Mac didn’t consider a state. When I asked if he had visited Alaska and whether he considered it a state or not, Betty said, “Yes, because he liked it.” Mac also served in the Army and was amongst those men who provided a human shield along the streets of Berlin for President Kennedy’s cavalcade in 1963 when he spoke those famous words, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” After retiring from John Deere, Mac and Betty moved to Minnesota. Betty said, “I will live in Minnesota, but I will not be buried there.” Indeed, Mac and Betty moved back to Iowa to be close to their beloved grandchildren. Indeed, Mac will not be buried in Minnesota, but in Tripoli, Iowa, where he will join his brothers, in time, three in a row, overlooking the Snyder Access land donated by his family for hunting and fishing.
Mac was baptized and confirmed at the Congregational Church in Tripoli. In many ways, he has come home, not only to Tripoli, but to the Good Shepherd’s pasture where His sheep may safely graze. Our Good Shepherd Jesus has lead His dear sheep Mac through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and into His Father’s house forevermore. However, the same Good Shepherd accompanies you through that very same Valley even now, and victory over sin, death, and the devil is already yours, just as it was Mac’s, and will be given to all who trust in Him and follow Him. Indeed, death is the wage of our sin, both original and actual. But, death has been defeated in the incarnation, life, obedience, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. Therefore, you have nothing to fear, and you are truly free to live and to love and to give and to serve without fear, as did our brother Mac throughout the time that was given him. Truly, we all have but a little borrowed time to live our lives for the LORD, and for others to His glory. He has blessed us with an example in Mac. Let us honor Mac’s faith and life by living our lives in faith toward God and in fervent love towards our neighbors to the glory of His holy Name. Let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Invocabit - The First Sunday In Lent

Matthew 4:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10; Genesis 3:1-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was not tempted in the wilderness by the devil so that He might provide you an example of how you can resist temptation. On the contrary, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil for you, in the place of Adam, in your place, for Adam’s failure to resist temptation in the Garden, and for your failure to resist temptation every day since. Thus, Jesus is not your sensei, but He is your substitute. He is not your mentor, but He is your mediator. Jesus is not demonstrating for you how to wield the Word of God as a weapon, but He is the Word of God become flesh demonstrating that He has won the victory for you. Therefore, do not take away from today’s Propers encouragement and confidence that you have the weapons and the skill to fight the devil with the Word of God. You fool! Satan knows the Scriptures exceedingly well, exceedingly better than you ever will, and he uses them against you in such a way that you don’t know which end is up! Rather, take away from today’s Propers this comforting and encouraging fact: Jesus has won the battle that Adam lost, the battle that you lose daily still. He has won this battle for you who trust in Him and are baptized into Him. And so, His victory is your victory. You are victorious over sin, death, Satan, and hell, already, now, not because you can wield the Word of God like a weapon and defend yourself, but because the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ, has defeated the devil in the wilderness in obedience to God the Father for you and for all humanity. Jesus’ victory over Satan in the wilderness demonstrated His trust and obedience to the LORD for you so that His victory on the cross would be payment for the debt you owe because of your sin, your failure to trust and obey God the Father, His Word, and His commandments.
Jesus was lead into this temptation, this confrontation, and this battle with the devil by the Holy Spirit immediately following His baptism by John in the Jordan. St. Mark, in his Gospel, states that the Spirit literally threw Jesus out into the wilderness like a lamb breakfast for a hungry lion. This was the LORD’s will for His Son Jesus, that He face temptation by Satan, in hunger and in thirst, stripped of all physical, mental, and emotional strength, relying upon nothing but the Word of the LORD alone for you. In this way, Jesus became the Second Adam and was victorious where the First Adam failed. In fact, the scene and situation were completely the opposite: The First Adam had plenty to eat and to drink, was in a lush and perfect paradise garden, was physically, mentally, and emotionally strong, and had never suffered in any way nor faced any temptation of any kind. And yet, at the first word he heard that was not from God, he rebelled, he sinned, and he fell. In contrast, Jesus, the Second Adam, had fasted for forty days and He was hungry and tired and weak when He faced temptation by Satan. Yet, Jesus overcame Satan because He refused to trust the word of the devil over the Word of His Father and LORD. Further, Jesus’ victory over Satan was not in His fighting him offensively, wielding the Word of the LORD like a weapon, but Jesus’ victory was in the fact that He took refuge and defense in the mighty fortress that is the Word of the LORD.
Jesus did not choose this battle any more than He chose His cross, but the Holy Spirit chose this battle for Him as well as the cross He would bear for you. Likewise, you do not choose the temptations and the spiritual battles you face, nor the crosses you bear, but the LORD, by His Spirit, chooses them for you. The Christian’s life from baptism to the grave is nothing other than a daily duel and battle with the devil, the world, and the flesh. Immediately after Baptism, you were placed by the Holy Spirit into the wild, wanton world and subjected to all manner of temptation, trial, and tribulation. Again, Jesus was tempted, not that He might provide you an example of how to resist temptation and overcome, but Jesus was tempted for you, in your place, and was victorious that you might bear temptation more easily.
The LORD tempts no one, but He does permit temptation to befall you with the promise that, with the temptation, He will always provide a way of escape that you will be able to endure it. Sometimes the way of escape is easy, a simple choice that you make. Other times, as with the martyrs, the way of escape may be your death. But, always, always, the way of escape is faith and trust in Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, who has suffered Satan’s greatest temptations as a man and persevered through them, even through death, and emerged victorious. He did not do this as an example for you that you should go and do likewise, but He did this for you, in your place, as your scapegoat and Passover Lamb, as your champion, your victor, your Redeemer, and your Lord. You can endure all things through faith in Him who is your strength.
Temptation, affliction, trial, tribulation – This is a painful reality that is all too near for the life of Christian saints in this fallen world. The Germans have a great word for it – anfechtung, which means spiritual attack. Thus, St. Peter exhorts you saying, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” In your temptation, affliction, trial, and tribulation – in your anfechtung and spiritual attack – you “share Christ’s sufferings.” Moreover, Christ shares and shoulders your sufferings with you. You can endure all things through faith in Him who is your strength. And, do not forget that, as the Holy Spirit threw Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, so is your baptized life lived in the spiritual wilderness of this fallen, sin-infected, broken, and cursed world. The LORD knows the anfectung you suffer and He permits it, He wills it to befall you. However, “He who knows all your woes knows how best to end them.” He uses all your trials and tribulations for a good you cannot know, a good that He promises you in His Word and has sealed you in through your baptism into Christ and faith.
St. Peter also warns you that, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But, why does he roar? No lion roars as he stalks his prey; they would hear and be alerted and run from the danger. Ah, but the lion, the devil, roars because he is mortally wounded. Jesus our champion and victor has already defeated him in the wilderness and on the cross! Now Satan roars and rages in furious, blinding rage and hatred attempting to take down any, and all, that he can. But he can only do this by means of lies and deceptions. For the truth is that he is already defeated, he is a toothless and clawless lion. Do not fear him, but fear God, trust in His Word, cling to Christ and your baptism into him and do not let go. The worst the devil can do to you is kill you, but even then the victory belongs to Christ who has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who trust in Him.
Truly, the chief temptation you face at the hands of the devil is the same temptation our First Parent’s faced in the Garden: Will you listen to God, or will you listen to Satan? Will you trust in God’s Word and do His will, or will you trust in your reason and your will and be your own god? You know what Adam and Eve’s choice was. They wanted knowledge and wisdom, they wanted to be better than God created them, they wanted to be gods. But, they rejected the Word of Truth and they believed in a lie. The knowledge they gained, the knowledge of good and evil, was only the knowledge of a choice other than good, other than God. Freely they chose evil, and they did not become gods, but their god became Satan and they began to die. The temptation you face at the hands of the devil is the same: Will you listen to God, or will you listen to Satan? Will you trust in God’s Word and do His will, or will you trust in your reason and your will and be your own god? Don’t believe the lie, but hold fast the Truth. Jesus lives! The victory’s won! Believe it and own it and live.
And, to aid you in your pilgrimage through the barren wilderness of this fallen, broken, and cursed world, your heavenly Father provides you the cleansing water of Holy Baptism and His Word of Absolution, His faith-creating and sustaining Word of Life, and the life-giving body and blood of your champion, your victor, and your Redeemer Jesus Christ in bread and wine. Truly you have greater gifts and providence than did our First Parents in paradise! Moreover, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit of God who counsels and comforts you as you go. Remain in His gifts. Receive His gifts and keep your lamps full with the Spirit-given gift of faith and you will persevere and endure through the worst your adversary can visit upon you.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.