36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.” 39 And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, My betrayer is at hand.”
Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” (Genesis 32:26).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ!
his caravan reach the Jabbok, a stream that flows into the Jordan from the east
just about midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. After leading
family and flocks south across the Jabbok under cover of darkness, Jacob himself
goes back across the stream, apparently to spend some time alone with the Lord
in prayer. As he begins once again to pour out his heart to God, he suddenly
becomes aware that out of the darkness someone has grabbed hold of him and is wrestling
him to the ground. The mysterious struggle continues—for hours—until the first
streaks of dawn appear in the eastern sky.
commenting on this passage, Martin Luther said, “This text is one of the most
obscure in the Old Testament.” Although there are elements of this wrestling
match that are difficult to understand and to explain, there are some basic truths
that are immediately clear.
Jacob is struggling
with God in earnest prayer. This struggle involves a spiritual striving with
God for His blessing, but it involves a physical struggle as well. Jacob’s
opponent, at first referred to “a man,” later identifies Himself as God.
should God appear to one of His children as an opponent, as an enemy fighting
against Him? Surely not to crush the life out of him. If God so wanted, the
wrestling match would be over in half a second. In the heat of the struggle,
Jacob may be tempted to think of God as his enemy; in that case God would not
want to bless Jacob. But God has promised to bless, and Jacob knows that God
cannot lie. Yes, God is an opponent, but He is not the enemy.
struggle continues until Jacob’s divine opponent, by merely touching Jacob’s
hip, throws the entire hip socket out of joint. Now Jacob can’t continue the
painful struggle any longer, so he throws his arms around his opponent and
holds onto him. His opponent says, “Let Me go, for the day has broken.” He is
delighted to hear Jacob answer, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.”
God doesn’t want Jacob (and He doesn’t want us) to be timid with Him. He
delights to let us win victories over Him on the basis of humble believing
prayer. Jacob clings in faith to God and to God’s promise, and he receives the
blessing he desires.
your name?” the Lord asks him, not because He has forgotten but because He
wants to remind Jacob that he has been born a “heel-grabber,” one who takes
unfair advantage of a rival. But that old name no longer fits this man, and so
God gives him a new one. “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but
Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
names often serve as more than convenient labels for people. Here Jacob’s new
name describes the new nature and character the Spirit of God has patiently and
painstakingly created in him. No longer will he rely on his own cleverness to
overcome anyone who opposes him. The heel-grabber has become the persistent
fighter who clings to God’s promise and wins God’s blessing legitimately. He
has learned to lean on God.
apparently feels that Jacob needs a memento of his victory, as a warning
against relapsing into his old nature. So, as Jacob leaves the scene of the wrestling
match, he is limping. All of God’s children need to learn that in and of
ourselves we have no strength, no power with God or man. Our only strength, like
Jacob’s, lies in holding on for the blessing, on holding firmly to God’s promises.
another blessed fruit of this mysterious struggle is that he is freed from the
terror that has gripped his heart since he learned Esau was coming for him with
four hundred men. With the Savior’s promise ringing in his ears, he is now
ready to meet Esau, ready for whatever surprises the new day might bring.
appears to His people on occasion as though He is an opponent. Each of us has
known dark hours when we were unable to see God’s blessing and have seen only a
face that looks angry. Jacob holds on to God even when He appears as his opponent,
and he wins a blessing. We will have that same experience when we learn how to
say, “My Savior, I will not let you go unless You bless me. Keep holding on for
learned the hard way a lesson we all need to learn—in and of ourselves we have
no power with God or man. We are much like helpless babies. Our only strength
lies in holding firmly to what God has promised and crying out to Him for help.
Apart from Jesus, we can accomplish nothing spiritually. Without the Holy Spirit,
we do not know how to pray or for what to pray.
babies, we do not outgrow this helplessness. We never become spiritually self-sufficient
but grow in our dependence. If there is one thing we discover as we mature
spiritually, it is that before God we are nothing but beggars. In the face of
death and God’s judgment, we can only cry out to Jesus as beggars did in the
ancient world: “Lord have mercy!” Or as Jacob did in our Old Testament lesson: “I
will not let You go until You bless me!”
experience of helplessness is the best thing for our spiritual growth. As long
as we can manage quite well by ourselves, we have no need to pray and never
learn to praise God. But when we have come to the end of our own rope, our only
hope lies in prayer. Only those who are helpless can truly pray. Only those who
have been helped by God in answer to their prayers can really praise God.
on a journey through this fallen world to the Paradise of God. You live in a
land where there are temptations, and in which you have fallen often. Perhaps
it is pride that keeps you awake in the darkness before the coming dawn. Maybe
it is slavish fear in the middle of the night. You are alone as you wrestle
with your past, with your conscience, and with that ever-increasing load of guilt.
Lord permits you to wrestle with Him throughout the darkness of this world’s
night. He may reach out His finger and touch your heart or your home or a loved
one. There is instant pain and it continues. You hobble around and, in spite of
the hurt and suffering, with strength and determination that can only be from
above, you hold on until you have God’s intended blessing.
amazing, isn’t it? Striving with God and men… and prevailing. Suffering.
Enduring hardship. Hearing the accusations of the Law. All the time, holding
God to His gracious promises in prayer. Holding on for the blessing.
wages of sin is death…”
Lord, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
that sins shall die…”
Lord, but He was wounded for our transgressions.
none that does good; no not one…”
slay me, yet will I trust Him.
the Lord engage in such a wrestling match with you? Why does He inflict or
permit a variety of painful injuries, horrid diseases, and awful injustices
that might dog you the rest of your earthly life? In order that you might hold
on for the blessing. In order that you might turn from your prideful independence
to humble dependence upon Him. And in Christ you are! In order that He might
bring you forgiveness. And in Christ you are forgiven! In order that your
slavish fear might be replaced by godly fear. And in Christ you are! In short: In
order that He might bless you! And in Christ you are blessed!
provides you with His Word and Sacraments, not only to bring you into the
Israel of God, but to sustain you in His Church. Recall your Baptism daily by drowning
the Old Adam through contrition and repentance. Declare to Satan: “I am
baptized. And if I am baptized then I belong to Christ.”
yourself… both the sinner and the saint. Know God’s Word… both the Law that
accuses and the Gospel that forgives. Listen as the absolution is announced and
take it to heart. Receive the true body and blood of the Incarnate Son of God,
given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin and the strengthening of
your faith. Through these means of grace, the Holy Spirit gives you the strength
to endure whatever the Lord God may permit to come your way and to remain faithful
unto death and be given the crown of life.
encounter between Jacob and God provides an object lesson for our prayer life.
We wrestle with God in prayer. It isn’t always easy. Eager as He is to hear us
and help us, God is no pushover. He is no magic genie at our beck and call.
Often He must oppose us when our sinful will is out of sync with His perfect
will. He challenges, convicts, judges, evaluates us and our requests. But when
our will is in accord with His, God graciously lets us prevail. Graciously, He
gives us the blessing we ask for.
Jacob, may you continue to hold onto the Lord even in those dark hours when you
are unable to see God’s mercy and see only a face that looks angry. May you
learn to say in prayer, “My Savior, I will not let You go unless You bless me.”
Indeed He does bless you. He soothes your suffering spirit. He calms all your
fears. And He gives you peace and comfort even in the midst of strife.
Christ, you are blessed. That is to say: You are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[Jesus said:] “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (John 17:20-21)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
According to John, it was the last thing Jesus said in the upper room on Maundy Thursday. After teaching His disciples many things about Himself, the world, and things to come, Jesus concludes His last evening with His disciples in prayer to the Father. And He concludes His prayer with the words in this text. As the saying goes, you can learn a lot about a man by listening in on his prayer. I would submit to you that you can learn so much more listening to the prayer of a man who knows that he will soon die.
And Jesus is headed to meet His death. In the next verse after our Gospel, John tells us that Jesus goes with His disciples across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas, who betrays Him, leads a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees to meet Jesus and to arrest Him.
What can we learn about Jesus through this prayer? It helps to pay close attention to the details. Notice that in these final petitions, Jesus isn’t praying for the world. Neither is He praying for the disciples. No, in our text, Jesus is praying for those who would believe in Him through the apostolic Word. In other words, He is praying for you, me, this congregation, the whole Church.
What does Jesus ask the Father? What does He want for (and from) us who follow Him? We find that in three clauses in verse 21: “That they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in you, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”
Jesus first prays that all believers may be one just as Jesus and the Father are one. That’s really close! But that’s not all. Jesus also prays that these believers would be “in us.” In other words, Jesus doesn’t only desire for His people to be close to each other, but also close to Him and the Father. Indeed, the only real unity is unity around and in the triune God. Those first two clauses beginning with “that” help us understand the content of Jesus’ prayer.
But the third clause, the one that begins “so that” does something else. It is a purpose clause, and it points to the ends of this unity. Jesus desires that, through Christian unity, the world might believe that He was sent by the Father. Note that Jesus doesn’t pray for the world directly. Instead, He prays for the world through the unity of His people. The unity of the Church is a witness to the world. It is fundamental to the Church’s mission.
But an honest reflection would show that Christian unity is lacking these days. There’s the fragmentation of the Church into so many denominations—even so many church bodies that claim Lutheran heritage. There’s the biting and devouring that takes place between members of our own denomination. Closer to home, we may find the temptation to think only of our own congregation’s wants and ignore the need of the larger body of Christ. Or a lack of concern individual members of our congregation have for one another. Each of these hurt our Christian witness to the world. But they also hurt our fellow saints.
In a most perverse way, the devil will use affliction to tempt you away from God. We should know better: it was the afflicted and downtrodden whom Jesus especially sought out, who most joyously heard His Word because they knew this world only breaks you eventually. Sometimes, the hits keep on coming in the form of sickness, injury, financial loss, family troubles, grief, and more. Satan will use them to make you curl up in a ball in the corner, to turn your face to the wall—to separate yourself from sadness. That’s where isolation happens—divided from Christ and His body, the Church. The devil works hard at this one, because he knows how comforting the Gospel will be if you hear it at such a time. Remember that the Lord is your strength, and it is in His means of grace that He delivers grace and life to sustain you—even in the worst of trials.
This is a time when Christians often fail each other: when people are afflicted, the temptation is to leave them alone—because we don’t know what to say, we want to “give them space,” or because being with sad people makes us uncomfortable. The same is true for those who, because of health, can no longer make it to church. It’s a lonely existence. The inaction of others leaves the one who suffers isolated and alone—and the devil will use that to convince them that they are separated from God, too; that they are no longer part of the “one in Christ.” The Lord uses us as His hands and voice: let us not cease in visiting and caring for those who are in deep distress. And let’s not be afraid to let others know our needs.
If Jesus is all about restoring oneness, then the devil is going to be all about fostering division. That is what sin does: it divides. It shatters. It fragments and isolates. Plenty of sins divide and separate. Pride will have you alone on your pedestal, considering others below you and not worth your time. Greed will have you gather possessions to yourself, not friends or family. Lust will have you view others as objects to be used, not as fellow people for whom Christ has died. Many sins entice you to hide in a room with your sin, all alone. They work to destroy friendships, marriages, families, and congregations by division and subtraction.
All of that separation is awful enough, but it distracts us from what is worse: sin separates you, divides you from God. It keeps you unholy, and an unholy you cannot be one with your holy Savior. If you cannot be one with Him, all that is left is the ultimate, eternal separation of death and hell
It’s a problem that’s been going on ever since the Fall in the Garden. The Bible tells us that the first Church was in perfect unity with God and with one another. Adam and Eve were perfect, sinless, and holy. Furthermore, they were created in the image of God. Because God is righteous, they were righteous too. They reflected His glory. Furthermore, they could be in His presence. They could walk with God in the Garden. They could look upon His face. There was no shame, no guilt that would make them run away and hide.
Sin changed all that. As soon as Adam and Eve fell into sin and heard God walking in the Garden, they ran and hid from Him. When He asked what they had done, they blamed Him and each other. They were no longer one with God. They would no longer be as one with each other, because they would always have selfish, ulterior motives in dealing with one another. Because of their sin, God cast them out of the Garden, away from the tree of life—but not before He promised that the Savior would come and deliver them from death and devil. The Savior would come and reverse the curse of sin. He would bring people back to God by removing their unrighteous sin and make them holy once again.
The Savior is Jesus, the One praying in the Gospel. Remember what happens next: Jesus will be arrested and hauled out of the Garden of Gethsemane. He’ll be put on trial and sentenced to death for being guiltless. Then He’ll be taken from the city to the Place of the Skull, and He’ll be crucified.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they were driven from the Garden of Eden because of their sin. When the Passion of our Lord begins, He’s removed from a garden, too—because of His holiness. Where Adam was sentenced to death by God because of His guilt, Jesus is sentenced to death by man because of His innocence. Where God grieved at the sin and separation brought about by Adam, man rejoices to be separated from the Son of God when He dies on Calvary.
Jesus is undoing what Adam did. He’s taking Adam’s place to undergo Adam’s punishment: not just physical death, but far worse. He’s fully forsaken by God on the cross. That’s what it means when He cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The Son of God—one with the Father from eternity—suffers the ultimate separation from oneness with the Father. In other words, He suffers hell on the cross before He is restored to His Father again.
All of this lies less than a day away as Jesus prays this prayer; and listen again to what He prays about you: “That they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (John 17:21). Jesus prays that you would be one with God and one another again, like Adam and Eve before the Fall into sin.
In His prayer, we get a glimpse into the gracious heart of Jesus. Not only does He desire unity in the Church and unity with God. He does what it takes to make it happen. You see, there’s only one way for that prayer to be answered, and that is for Jesus to suffer the ultimate separation from God in your place. That’s what the cross is about. For Christ, separation and condemnation. For you, redemption. Restoration. Reconciliation. One with God and one another again.
Look around you here, and you will see a miraculous gathering of people. Not many in numbers, certainly; but more than that first two-member congregation. The Lord Himself has gathered you together, and it is He who keeps you together—who keeps you one with one another, His whole Church, and Himself. And He tells you how He does in our Gospel for today.
In His prayer, Jesus calls you “those who believe in Me through [the apostles’] Word.” He’s given you His Word, and His Word makes and keeps you one. Faith comes by hearing His Word, which He gave to us through His prophets and apostles. His Word is the means to gather us together, and His Word is His means to keep us together, one in Him. That is why we gladly repent of our sins of ignoring His Word in favor of our sinful, divisive desires.
Jesus has given you His glory. He prays to His Father, “The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one.” The glory of Jesus is foremost the cross, for that is the ultimate act of love for us, that is where we best see the gracious heart of Jesus.
Jesus has given His cross to you and it didn’t hurt you any more than three quick splashes of water. In Baptism, Jesus joined you to His cross, His death and resurrection. Without that, you’d have to die your own death for sin, isolated from God forever. But because He’s shared the glory of His cross with you, you are now one in Him. That is why we gladly repent of our sins that would separate us from His life and lead us death, for Christ has opened to us the way of salvation.
Furthermore, Jesus prays, “I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Jesus has made His name known to you: He has made known to you that He is the Savior of all nations, forgiving you all of your sins. He’s put His name on you—marked you as His own! You are not left as individuals trying to find your way to an unknown God through any variety of religions. And with His name, the Lord has also made known to you His will. He tells you that He has gathered you in, forgiven your sins, made you one with Him by His sacrifice. That’s why we gladly repent and confess our pursuits of other gods that cannot save, including our own desires and wishes, for salvation is found in Christ.
Jesus has given us His Word, His glory, and His name. It is in these gifts that we best see the gracious heart of Jesus for you and me. It is by these gifts that He has made us one. It is by these gifts that He keeps us one.
I give great thanks this day, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to be united in Him and with you. This is all the Lord’s doing, and so you can be sure: you are one with His body, the Church, and one with Christ: for His Word, His glory, and His name are all summed up in these words: you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
[Jesus said:] “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesus makes two big
promises that Christians need to hear. The latter is more popular and, at first
glance, more comforting. It is the kind of promise that people put on the
signature line of their emails or make into memes on Facebook or Instagram. The
former is just as certain, however, and equally significant, but in a different
Jesus spoke these two
big promises to His disciples in the Upper Room just before His death and
resurrection, but they apply to all followers of Christ.
We’ll start with the
first promise: “In the world you will have tribulation.”
Jesus begins by
talking about the world. He said a lot about the world in the Upper Room that
night: it cannot receive the Spirit of truth (John 14:7); it does not give
peace as Jesus gives (John 14:27); it hates Jesus and will therefore hate His
disciples (John 15:18); Christians are not “of the world” and are chosen “out
of the world” (John 15:19); the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:11); and
the world will rejoice while the disciples weep and lament (John 16:20). Then
comes John 16:33, where Jesus promises His disciples that in the world they
will have tribulation.
The word translated “tribulation”
has both a literal and a figurative meaning. In the literal sense it means
physical pressure. This pressure is not the good kind. Think pressure cooker or
hydraulic press. The kind of pressure you experience when life squeezes you or
when circumstances beyond your control press down on you. It is when the weight
of the world bears down and threatens to crush you. Christians should expect this
kind of pressure from the world.
When you are not
experiencing this kind of tribulation, the promise of “you will have
tribulation” hardly seems comforting. It seems almost threatening—at least disconcerting.
But when you are in the midst of it—when the pressure of this world is bearing
down on you—it is comforting to know it has not caught God unawares. It is
comforting to know God has not abandoned you. Indeed, experiencing the
unpleasant fulfillment of this first promise drives us toward dependence on the
second promise: “Take heart, I have overcome the world.”
This is not the first
time Jesus told people to “take heart.” He said the same to the disciples
during the storm at sea (Mark 6:50), to the paralytic in Capernaum (Matthew
9:2), and to the bleeding woman who touched the fringe of His garment (Matthew
9:22). Those who follow Jesus are to be “always of good courage” (2 Corinthians
5:6-8) even amid extreme pressure.
On what basis? On the
basis of His victory. He has overcome the world which opposes Him. Note the
verb tense. “I have overcome.” When
Jesus makes this promise, it is before Easter. Even before He rises from the
dead, Jesus has overcome the world. His resurrection confirms His lordship of
the world opposing Him. This is no small thing, for it reminds us how His
victory over the ongoing pressures we face is already completed, even before we
finish enduring them.
The disciples are
going to need these comforting promises of Jesus. Though they confidently claim
that they understand Jesus’ parting words, Jesus utters the sober prediction
that they will soon abandon Him. The time is coming when their faith will
undergo a severe test, a test they will fail miserably. When push comes to
shove, when the going gets tough, they will all scatter, each going his own way.
They will leave Jesus alone in His darkest hour. But Jesus will overcome.
In a very short time,
Jesus will face and overcome tribulation greater than any of His disciples will
ever face. In great fear of death, He will sweat blood on the Mount of Olives.
He will be abandoned by all His disciples. He will willingly give Himself into
the hands of those who will lead Him mercilessly, bound hard and cruel, from
one unjust judge to another. He will be falsely accused and condemned, spit
upon, scoffed at, and struck in the face with fists. He will be hit, whipped, crowned
with thorns, and treated wretchedly—like a worm and not a man. He will be counted
a sinner and hung up between two evildoers as a curse. He will be pierced in
hand and feet with nails, and in His highest thirst He will be given vinegar
and gall to drink. Finally, in great pain, He will give up His spirit.
All of this Jesus
will do for you and me, so that He might redeem us poor and condemned creatures,
not by any of our works, merit, or worthiness, but by His holy suffering, death,
and shedding of blood. So that He might pay our debt and we might be healed by
His wounds. So that He might overcome sin, death, and the world on our behalf.
Let us heed the
warning: Pride goes before a fall. Those boasting about spiritual maturity
stand in danger of succumbing to human pride and unbelief. And none of us are
immune. The devil and the world seek to scare us or ensnare us. And our old
Adam is all too often a willing ally.
It’s no secret that
it’s not easy to be a Christian these days. Millions of Christians across the
world are experiencing persecution. Thousands are martyred each year. While we
need not meet in secret, and none of us here has yet shed his or her blood due
to tribulation, the time of being in the majority—if not in numbers, at least in
cultural and political influence—is past. We are living in what some call a
post-Christian era. Politicians used to at least give lip-service to Christians
and Christianity; now some openly mock us or chastise us. A few of them go so
far as to insist that they are the true Christians, and that we who hold to biblical
teachings regarding the sanctity of marriage and human life are unloving and teaching
falsely. For most of us, we are in completely new territory.
What are Christians
to do, scattered throughout a pagan world that seems to thrive on hatred,
violence, and oppression? What are Christians to do when we feel we are a
minority, out of place, out of step, out of time? With the world falling apart
all around us, what are scattered Christians to do?
Two common responses
of Christians to the world’s attacks is withdrawal or compromise. Both are
toxic because both acts reject the vocation and intellectual inheritance handed
down to us. The act of withdrawal contracts Christianity leading to apathy or
elitism, whereas compromise reinterprets Christian doctrine according to the
ways of thinking currently in vogue. Withdrawal and compromise are inconsistent
with biblical Christian living. Withdrawal denies that the Christian life is to
be lived out in our vocations, lived out in the world, not of the world, nor
separated from it. Compromise ultimately denies Christ and Him crucified for a
world of sinners.
Dr. Peter J. Scaer had this to say about that
in an online essay entitled “Double Down”:
years, the American church has been in decline, and for a good number of
reasons. My own best guess is that prosperity isn’t good for the soul. The more
we have, the less God is needed. Or so we think. And so, what have we done?
Well, we seek to make the Church more like the world that surrounds us. The Church
becomes less a sanctuary, more a motivational center. The hymns are replaced
with praise songs, not so much light, but flimsy. Fellow Lutherans have a hard
time finding a decent church, one that has reverence, one that uses the
liturgy, and sings hymns that fortify.
still we wonder, what should we do? I would say, enough with the retreating,
and the self-doubt. Enough we trying to be what we are not. What should we do?
Double down. Double down on Lutheranism. Double down on our confession. Double
down on hymnody and liturgy. As the world grows darker, the Church must be salt
and light. Salt that loses its saltiness is good for nothing. And the greater
the darkness, the greater the light that still shines.
if the world is hell bent on spreading lies, let’s be heaven bent on speaking
the truth, even and especially when it’s under assault. “Do this in remembrance
of Me,” says our Lord. And as often as we do, we proclaim the Lord’s death
until He comes. So it is, we are memory keepers. We hold sacred the Scriptures
that uphold us. One thing is expected of a steward, and that is faithfulness.
And he who is faithful to the end will be saved. No gimmicks, no rebranding, no
euphemisms, or treating the truth as if a distasteful vegetable that needs to
be hidden under a fatty and sugary sauce.
dust off those hymnals, those catechisms and Bibles, and together, let’s double
down on the faith of our fathers, the one thing needful.
What should the
Church do in the face of declining interest and increasing opposition? Not new
strategies or promotions, but more of what she’s done for centuries—the basics
of faithful Word and Sacrament ministry.
Let’s be making
disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded
us (Matthew 28:19-20).
Let’s live in the
benefits of our Baptism, which works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death
and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the
words and promises of God declare.
Let’s put to death
the Old Adam in us by daily contrition and repentance, that a new man should
daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Let’s live in the new
life of the Spirit, loving the Lord our God with all our heart and all of our
strength and with all of mind, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, loving one
another as Christ has loved us.
Let’s be confessing
our sins, and receiving absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as
from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are
forgiven before God in heaven.
Let’s be receiving Christ’s
true body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, given and shed for
the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith.
Let’s be singing joyfully
and heartily the liturgy and treasury of hymns—old and new—that we have
received from our fathers in the faith.
Let’s have no fear of
those who may harm us, nor be troubled, but in our hearts honor Christ the Lord
as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a
reason for the hope that is in us; yet doing it with gentleness and respect,
having a good conscience, so that, when we are slandered, those who revile our
good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3:14-16).
Let’s turn to the heavenly
Father in prayer, trusting that He hears our petitions and will grant our
requests according to His gracious will, for our benefit, and eternal good.
brothers and sisters: In the world you
will have tribulation. But take heart; Christ has overcome the world. Amen