Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 20 A (Proper 24)

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Isaiah 45:1-7
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

We Are Recreated in the Image of God by the Cross of Christ

Plotting against Jesus, the Pharisees attempted “to entangle him in his words” by asking about the payment of taxes to Caesar (Matt. 22:15). The Lord pointed to coins required for the tax, and He answered that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). But if coins bearing the image of Caesar should be rendered to him, then man — who is made in the image of God — must be rendered to the Lord. That tax is paid for us by the Lord Jesus, the image of God in the flesh, by His self-offering on the cross. And from His cross, as the Lord’s anointed, He reigns as the true Caesar over all nations “from the rising of the sun and from the west” (Is. 45:6). The Lord once called and anointed Cyrus “to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings” (Is. 45:1). Now by the preaching of the Gospel, “in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:5), foreigners from all over the world are “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9–10).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Our God, Our Help in Ages Past (LSB 733)
Holy God, We Praise Thy Name (LSB 940)
O Living Bread from Heaven (LSB 642)
On Eagles’ Wings (LSB 727)
Amazing Grace (LSB 744)

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“You are cordially invited …”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Isaiah 25:6-9
Philippians 4:4-13
Matthew 22:1-14

The closer we get to the end of this month,, the more we are bombarded with various “Tales from the Crypt.” The job of the preacher is to draw attention to tales from the Script. Jesus provided a challenging tale in this Sunday’s Gospel lesson.

Jesus’ kingdom parable this week depicts the kingdom as a wedding banquet. A king prepared everything for his son’s wedding banquet. Then he sent servants to all those who had been invited to tell them to come, but they refused. An invitation from a king is not something that people ordinarily refuse. Such things smack of “command-performance,” rather than a casual “Come by some time.”

Thinking the guests may not have understood the nature of the event, the king sent more servants who described in detail the fattened cattle, sumptuous eats, and joyful, festive atmosphere that awaited them. Nonetheless, they paid no attention and simply continued with everyday business-as-usual. Some of them even seized the servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king chose not to have his authority questioned or his servants treated like that, so he sent his army to deal severely with those murderers.

Then he said to the rest of his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” So the servants gathered all the people they could find, without reference to whether they were considered good people or bad. Soon the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The king was pleased to see everyone having a great time, but then he noticed one fellow who refused to enjoy himself. He had not even accepted the party clothes the king had provided in order to help everyone get into a festive mood. When the king questioned him about this, he chose not to answer a word. The king told the attendants to throw the bum out into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Therein we have Jesus’ image of the kingdom: laughter and singing on the inside–weeping and gnashing on the outside. Jesus closed the parable with: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

When the second group of servants came to those who had originally been invited, to explain the lavish preparations, delicious cuisine, and joyful celebration that was waiting, the could-be-guests who did not mistreat them, simply ignored them. The banquet was unimportant; only the fields and businesses that provided for everyday living were important. That form of idolatry is the most popular form to this very day! God’s invitation, God’s will, God Himself–all these are not as important as making a living. One preacher referred to that attitude as, “making a dying.”

In my telling of the story, I have added a common interpretation. Historians tell us that wealthy people in Jesus’ day provided wedding garments to those who could not afford them. I was very young when I first heard this story, and no interpretation was offered. I wound up feeling very sorry for the poor man who (I thought) could not afford a tuxedo, and wound up being thrown out because of it. As a matter of fact, for a long time I had a fixation on this one character in the entire story. As I grew older that fixation helped me realize just how excellent a storyteller Jesus is. I think that, while there are a number of issues that challenge us in this story, that one character is at its heart.

The opening challenge is the most essential. God is caring and gregarious, not aloof and unapproachable. He chooses to enter into a loving relationship with us, and His invitations are wide-open and manifold. He is not discouraged by our vain and stupid refusals to come to Him, and He extends the invitation again and again. You are cordially invited …

That single character, however, comes to prominence, not because he is a victim of poverty, mistreated by some idle-rich king. He is the groomsman whose tux is rented by the king, and given to him scot-free, but he refuses to wear it and wants to participate in his own choice of garments. I don’t think we can escape the connection to the robe of righteousness that Jesus provides to us from the richest resources of His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Robert Farrar Capon, in The Parables of Judgment, comments on refusing God’s invitation because we want nothing to do with a system that operates on grace through faith. We want our sleazy little merit rewarded, and everyone else’s raunchy behavior punished.

A pastor once told me about a phone call he received from a parishioner. She called him because something had just happened that she felt compelled to share with someone. She was glad he was in his office. Someone had called her and asked for an unfamiliar person. She explained that the caller must have dialed the wrong number. At that point, the voice on the other end of the line insisted: “I did not dial the wrong number. You picked up wrong!” Something tells me that caller would not accept Christ’s wedding garment.

Here at the International Center,, a large trash bin recently appeared in the chapel. My immediate assumption was that the roof had begun to leak. But then I wondered if our chapel speaker had planned some kind of dramatic representation of our righteousness being like filthy rags, or maybe of Paul considering everything else rubbish that he might gain Christ. My first assumption was correct. Jesus’ parable helps us to look at our reluctance to throw away our own righteousness and rely totally on Christ’s gift. But it also reminds us that as Christ’s servants we are continually being sent out to invite everyone to His banquet.

Our mission is to bring everyone in and help everyone get into the wedding clothes supplied at great cost by Jesus Christ. In my childhood interpretation of the parable, I worried about the poor man who could not afford a wedding garment. Now I know that no human being can afford what Christ paid for the “wedding clothes” He gives to us. We have no innocent life to give. He gave His life for us. We have no sinless blood to shed, no guiltless body to be broken. He gave his for us and gives His to us. “The wedding banquet is ready … Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

The Holy Spirit Equips and Powers Us

“And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping?  Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation’” (Luke 22:45-46).  Jesus was exhausted too.  After all, He was human.  He got hungry and tired, just as His disciples did.  We are prone to shake our heads at those lazy, disloyal disciples, but how often do we say we’re too tired to serve, too poor to give, too inadequate to help?  Like the disciples who were transformed on Pentecost, we have received the Holy Spirit Who equips, enables, and energizes us to be God’s stewards.

Prayer:  Our gracious Heavenly Father, You have given us the message and the power to proclaim the Gospel.  Give us joy and courage in our task.  Forgive us when we fail our responsibility.  Thank You for Your Son Who has lived the perfect life of stewardship for us.  Through Him we ask these things.  Amen.

 

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 19 A (Proper 23)

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Isaiah 25:6-9
Philippians 4:4-13
Matthew 22:1-14

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

Clothed in the Righteousness of Christ, We Partake of His Wedding Feast

By His cross and resurrection, the Lord has swallowed up death forever, and by His Gospel He “will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth” (Is. 25:8). Therefore, “let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Is. 25:9). On the mountain of the Lord of hosts — in His Church on earth, as in the kingdom of heaven — He has made “for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine” (Is. 25:6). It is the royal “wedding feast” of the Son of God, “and everything is ready” (Matt. 22:1, 4). Thus, His servants are sent into the highways and byways to invite and gather as many as they find, “both good and bad,” to fill the wedding hall with guests (Matt. 22:8–10). In Holy Baptism, He clothes them all in the “wedding garment” of His own perfect righteousness (Matt. 22:11). Therefore, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” and “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4–6).

These are the hymns we will sing:

We Praise You, O God (LSB 785)
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee (LSB 803)
Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness (LSB 636)
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us (LSB 711)

Pure Evil

The late night “funny men” weren’t quite so humorous when they discussed the events from Las Vegas. It seems they were just like many of us in wanting to place blame somewhere, on someone, for the murders of so many people and the large numbers of those injured.

The one response that caught my attention was from Stephen Colbert:

Agreeing with (President) Trump’s labeling of the Las Vegas shooting as an act of “pure evil,” Colbert added, “So then, what are we willing to do to combat pure evil? The answer can’t be nothing.”

Pure evil. Where did that come from? How do we defeat it? Can we defeat it?

I can give you answers but most of the world won’t agree with me. Pure evil is a result of man and woman’s sin in the Garden of Eden. When the choice was made to not follow God’s command, man and woman were guilty of attempting to become like God. But they failed. We are living in the mess sin has caused–sickness, catastrophe, death, murder–the list can go on and on.

We don’t like to hear this news because it means we all have a part in it. No one born on this earth has escaped the brutal situation we call sin. Except one–His name is Jesus Christ.

How do we defeat evil? That is where we turn to our Heavenly Father as He has provided the way to defeat evil. It was through the life, death, and resurrection of His only Son who was born for us, who lived the perfect life His Father demanded for us, and who was raised from the death on Easter to offer us forgiveness and eternal life.

This is a gift we don’t deserve or earn–it is a free gift from our Lord for everyone who believes in Him and His salvation from sin (evil). I don’t know why God loves me and you and everyone else so much to do this wonderful act but He does and I thank Him everyday for His generous love.

Can we defeat evil? No, not on our own. Yes, evil has been defeated through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Why then, is evil so rampant upon the face of the earth? I don’t have an answer for that because I do not know the mind of God and understand His ways. But I do trust in my Lord to watch over me and protect me every day. Does that mean I will escape all the evil and violence of the world? Not at all, but I do know that God will be there with me in those times.

What I can do is pray to my Lord asking for His help in dealing with the anguish I feel when senseless murders take place. I also ask the Lord to show us His will in addressing these sinful acts.

May God keep you safe this day.

Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 18 A (Proper 22)

It seems I forgot to post the lessons and hymns last week. I promise I’ll try to do better this week (and beyond).

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming week:

Isaiah 5:1-7
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers appointed for this Sunday.

The True Vine Redeems the Vineyard of the Lord of Hosts

“The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Is. 5:7), which He planted “on a very fertile hill” (Is. 5:1). He did everything for His vineyard, not only clearing it of stones and planting it with “choice vines,” but also building the “watchtower” of His prophets and hewing out the “wine vat” of His priesthood in its midst (Is. 5:2). But when “he looked for it to yield grapes,” there were only “wild grapes” of bloodshed and unrighteousness (Is. 5:2, 7). The Lord Jesus likewise described the unfaithfulness of those who were called to care for His vineyard (Matt. 21:33–35). But in this He also describes His cross and Passion (Matt. 21:38–39), by which He has redeemed the vineyard for Himself. He is the true Vine, planted by death into the ground, and in His resurrection He brings forth “the fruits in their seasons” (Matt. 21:41). Among those good grapes of the true Vine is the apostle Paul. Once a zealous persecutor of the Church, he “suffered the loss of all things” in order to “gain Christ and be found in him,” to “know him and the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:8–10).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Lord, ‘Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee (LSB 573)
O Love, How Deep (LSB 544)
By Grace I’m Saved (LSB 566)
The Man Is Ever Blessed (LSB 705)
Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling (LSB 827)

Wait Until Next Year

My Cardinals did not play up to their usual standards this season. Many mistakes were made, the team didn’t have the “right” players to win–this can go on and on forever. We love to make excuses when things don’t go our way.

There is one thing that cannot be taken away from this year–2017 is the 125th anniversary of the St. Louis Cardinals. The following video was shown at every home game this season (although I never got there to see it) and it shows a little of flavor of what makes the Cardinals the team they are.