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Grace Worship

Lessons and Hymns for Epiphany 3 B

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

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Mark 1:14-20

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

The Lord Calls Us to Himself by the Preaching of Repentance in His Name

When “the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time,” sending him to preach judgment against the great city of Nineveh, “Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord” (Jonah 3:1, 3). By this preaching, the people were brought to repentance. Because they “believed God,” as He spoke to them through His prophet, “they turned from their evil way” and were spared “the disaster that he had said he would do to them” (Jonah 3:5, 10). St. Paul also warns that “the appointed time has grown very short” (1 Cor. 7:29). Therefore, while we live in this world and deal with it, we are not to cling to it, nor put our trust in it, for “the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). Rather, give “your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35). When our Lord Jesus Christ comes and is proclaimed in the Gospel, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14–15). Therefore, He still calls men and sends them to become “fishers of men” with the net of that Gospel (Mark 1:17).

These are the hymns we will sing:

O Christ, Who Called the Twelve (LSB 856)

Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us (LSB 851)

Praise and Thanksgiving (LSB 789)

O God, My Faithful God (LSB 696)

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way (LSB 857)

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Grace Worship

Monday of Epiphany II – Prayer of the Day

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and on earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people and grant us Your peace through all our days; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

I know a man who is absolutely unflappable. Chaos can be erupting around him, but he is always calm, always has a smile, always has an encouraging word. Please do not get the idea that this fellow has achieved some sort of wise enlightenment. Sometimes the chaos erupting around him his decidedly of his own foolish making. At the same time, he manages to keep his feet grounded in some simple truths.

We pray for peace in this prayer. There are lots of reasons for you to be anxious and troubled in this month of January. As you read this, the inauguration of the president is set to take place. As I write it, the dust is just settling from the mob who stormed the capitol building. There are already rumblings of some sort of violence at the inauguration. Oh, yes, there is still a pandemic going on, economic concerns, and social justice unrest. When the world feels like it is falling apart, anxiety might just be the realistic course of action!

My friend has a full measure of Christ’s peace. He is sure that God does govern all things, even when that is hard to see, like it is hard to see right now. He also believes that God mercifully hears his prayers and the prayers of all believers. Because this is true, he has Christ’s peace. Even when he is the immediate cause of some of the turmoil and chaos around him, even then, when it really is his fault, he knows that Christ’s love for him is not based on his getting life right. You have so many things to be anxious about. Take a deep breath today. Remember that God is the Creator of this world and He loves this world, all of it, even the parts we think are irretrievably broken. He has made a solemn promise to you to hear your prayers with His gracious, loving, merciful attention. I cannot tell you how it will all turn out, but we know that He has you in mind. Together we will do our work, confident that He will make it work for His kingdom, even if we have erred. It is His kingdom. He will take care of it.

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Grace Worship

Friday of the Baptism of our Lord – Mark 1:4-11

Mark 1:4-11

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

“He said he was sorry. He apologized,” I reminded her.

“But he’s not sorry enough!” she said, her finger jabbing at the air in front of her.

I could not really argue with that. How could he be sorry enough for what he had done. What was sorry enough? Was there a repent-o-meter somewhere in the basement of church that I had overlooked? Perhaps there was a chart in the back of one of my theology textbooks at the seminary which would have indicated proper sorrow levels for various sins. What was sorry enough? How would I recognize sufficient sorrow if I saw it?

I knew what she was trying to say. I have tried to say it too. I think Christians have struggled with this question from the very beginning. I read somewhere that grievous sins in the ancient church were only forgiven after lengthy periods of penitence. For something like murder, a man might have to stand outside the church for years, every Sunday, in sackcloth, asking people to pray for him during the services. After several years, the penitent might be allowed in, but only to listen, not to partake of the supper, not yet. He had to show that he was sorry enough. A wise and new Christian once asked me what Jesus was doing in that line of sinners in this reading today. After all, John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus had no sins of which he needed to repent. Why was he there? Or did he have sins. He has taken upon himself the sins of the whole world. He bore them from this Jordan river all the way to calvary’s cruel crest where he was crucified, the propitiation for all those sins. Was he repenting this day of my sins because I am not very good at repenting? Have I even failed to be adequately sorry for them? I think you know the answer to that question, and so do I. Praise God that Jesus has borne my sins and fully repented of them on this day when he walked into the Jordan river to be baptized by John.

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Grace Worship

Thursday of the Baptism of our Lord – Romans 6:1-11

Romans 6:1-11

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Christmas this past year must have been a wild ride for the people who deliver packages. So many people staying home and ordering things online. I saw more than one UPS or FedEx driver with harried, strung-out looks on their faces. In the beginning of December, I came home to a package on my doorstep. It was a rather expensive, cordless hedge trimmer which I had not ordered. Had my children bought me a gift? Had someone else? No, they had not. Closer inspection revealed that the label had been misprinted and made no sense. The poor delivery guy had simply taken his best guess and left it on my doorstep.

What is one to do? I called the delivery company, explained what had happened, and we arranged for them to pick it up. There it sat on the grey cabinet in my carport for the next two weeks. They never came to pick it up. It had been ordered from Home Depot. Since I am a regular patron of that merchant, I threw it in the back of my car on my next shopping trip and stood in line at the returns desk. “What’s wrong with it,” the orange-aproned man asked me. “Nothing,” I replied. “I am not the guy on the label. I called the delivery company and they never came. This belongs to you guys.”

“Why did you do that?” someone asked me a few days later. “You could have just kept it.” But that would have made me a thief, taking what did not belong to me.

Paul says that baptism has changed us. He imagines someone objecting to God’s gracious forgiveness of sins. This imagined objection runs like this. If God just forgives sins, why not just do whatever we want to do, whatever our desires and passions lead us. It is all forgiven, so sin more, and get more forgiveness. But as Paul notes for us. We died to sin. That is just not who we are any more. The man or woman whom God has raised up from the waters of baptism is a different sort of person, dead to sin, alive to Christ. I get to say no to all those old sinful urges. I can do that. That describes you too. You are no longer enslaved to sin. Live in that freedom today.

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Grace Worship

Wednesday of the Baptism of our Lord – Psalm 29

Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

1The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

There is a funny thing about rubber bands. They only work with tension. Leave it lying on the countertop, it is just a piece of rubbery material. Pull it around a box and it can hold the lid shut. Twist it up in a toy airplane and it can power the propeller. Stretch it over your finger and you can shoot it at your sister. So useful! It only works, however, with tension. You must pull and stretch and twist it or it is not useful.

Do you hear the psalmist raising the tension in this psalm? God is mighty and majestic. His voice breaks the cedars and makes the mountains skip like a calf. Did the author just witness an earthquake? That might be how we would have described it. Is the psalmist more accurate in his description? Then he sees the voice of the Lord flashing fire, shaking the wilderness of Kadesh. A volcano? In any event, something great and frightening.  But then, did you catch it? Look at verse 9 again. His voice makes the deer give birth. All that power and thundering volume is also responsible for this life-giving, secretive moment in a gentle creature. The psalmist pulls one way and then another. It is like the tension on a rubber band. But what is the purpose of this tension? Why does the psalmist want us to see all this? Look at the couplet that is formed with verses 10 and 11. The Lord is enthroned above the flood forever. He is great, mighty, and eternal. But that reign is purposeful and beneficial. He gives strength and peace to his people. It is as unexpected as the deer nuzzling her new-born fawn in verse 9. Contrary to our experience with great power, God’s power is not to crush, kill, and destroy. It is to empower and bless his people. You are those people!

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Grace Worship

Tuesday of the Baptism of our Lord – Genesis 1:1-5

Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

My old Dentist, Dr. Bob, was a Lutheran. I do not think he went to church much anymore, but he had at one time. He knew I was a pastor and would often talk about faith and religion while my mouth was filled with his gloved fingers. I think he liked the idea that the preacher had to be quiet. Once, while I was captive on his chair, he told the story of when he had lived in California. His parish was conducting a service out in the local forest one summer day and the pastor tapped him to read the scripture reading. It was a last-minute request. These services often are often taking off with a limited flight plan. There was a misprint in the bulletin and instead of “Genesis 1:1-12” it indicated “Genesis 1-12” as the reading. He thought this a little ambitious, but it was a different service. He was handed a Bible and started in. He was well into chapter 3 before his pastor finally came up to him and said, “That’s enough, Bob.”

My friends who are physicists tell me that the universe is exceedingly fine-tuned, so much so that it seems almost designed for life. Change just one little thing and the universe would be a very inhospitable place or might not be able to exist at all. This observation and suggestion that there is One who tunes the universe is not something which will ever satisfy the objection of a thoroughgoing skeptic. For the believer, however, that fine-tuning makes a lot of sense. God said, “Let there be light,” and what wonderful light it is.

My dentist and his pastor could not even get the bulletin right for that service in the park, with humorous results. God got the universe right, in fact He got it just so. I think we spend a great deal of time concerned about many questions which Genesis 1 raises for us, so much so that we miss what it is really trying to say to us about the fact that God made me and all creatures, we are His, obliged to keep His rules, subject to His judgment, and objects of His attentive love. Take a moment today. Observe the light streaming around you. Is it glistening off fresh snow? Is it diffused through rain clouds? Did it fall on a beautiful leaf or a make a rainbow in an icicle hanging off your eave? God made that light. He made it for you. Thank Him.

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Grace Worship

Lessons and Hymns for Epiphany 2 B

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

1 Samuel 3:1-10

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1:43-51

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

The Lord God Is with You and Reveals Himself to You by the Preaching of His Word

The Lord Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael to “come and see” that He is “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel” (John 1:43–49). And they shall see even “greater things than these” (John 1:50). For His body is the temple of God on earth, and by His priestly sacrifice the heavens will be opened to all who believe and are baptized into Him. Therefore, He calls Philip and Nathanael, first to hear His Word and then to speak as apostles, even as He once called Samuel and established him “as a prophet of the Lord” (1 Sam. 3:20). As the Lord was with Samuel “and let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Sam. 3:19), He also accompanies and upholds the preachers of His Word in our day. Thus, by the Gospel that is preached to you, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Cor. 6:19). Since your body thus belongs to the Body of Christ, is meant “for the Lord” and shall be raised up like Him, now “glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:13–20).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty (LSB 901)

For the Fruits of His Creation (LSB 894)

Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling (LSB 827)

As with Gladness Men of Old (LSB 397)

The Church’s One Foundation (LSB 644)

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Grace Worship

Monday of the Baptism of our Lord – Prayer of the Week

Prayer of the Day

Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

My brother and I elected to remain in the car. Dad only needed one fluorescent light bulb at Walmart, so we stayed put. He had parked right next to the building, near the garden center. It was a warm day, so the windows were down. We could hear the store intercom. Dad had not been gone long when we heard over the intercom, “We need a broom and a dustpan in aisle 17.” I turned to my brother and said, “What do you want to bet that Dad had something to do with that?” He smiled but thought it could not be so. Pretty soon my father came out fuming. He had picked up the last right-sized bulb in the rack, tipped the carton up to make sure that the bulb was in there only to have it slide out and shatter on the floor. It was in aisle 17.

I thought my brother was going to pass out he laughed so hard. At this point we all started laughing. It was truly ridiculous. We ask God to make all of us faithful to our calling as His children. If you knew my father, his ability to navigate ridiculous situations, and tell self-deprecating stories, you would know that my relating of that story to you is in fact a sincere homage. He would have loved it.

What does it mean that we are praying to be faithful to our baptismal calling to be God’s children? He is not one for self-deprecating stories or making messes in Walmart. Children are like their parents. I pick up those square tubes with fluorescent light bulbs carefully when I am in a big-box store. God has dealt with us in mercy, kindness, gentleness, and love, even when we did not deserve it; no, especially when we did not deserve that loving compassion. Being faithful to our calling to be God’s children will involve looking a little like him in word and deed. He feeds the hungry, he cares for the poor, he befriends the lonely, and defends the vulnerable.  I will not ever truly measure up, but if a broken sinner sees a little of God’s love and care in me, I have heeded that baptismal Call today.

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Grace Worship

Friday of Christmas II – Luke 2:40-52

Luke 2:40-52

4And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

What was your confirmation like? Mine happened when I was 14 on Palm Sunday. It involved a public examination of the confirmands, microphone held in trembling hands, while we recited portions of the catechism before the whole congregation. The members all turned out for this day so there were some 400 folks in church. My father did not tell you which section you were going to get, so you had to know the whole catechism.

This is the story of Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah which is a Jewish rite roughly equivalent to a confirmation. The word means “Son of the Covenant.” A young man who had completed his Bar Mitzvah was considered a full member of the community. I find it interesting that after we ask young people to hold fast to this confession of faith made in the rite of Confirmation, suffering even death rather than falling away, we turn right around and pray. It is almost as if we realize that the person who has spoken the promise has not yet grown into the enormity of what he or she has promised. They will need God’s help to keep that promise.

Luke wants us to see that Jesus was up to the promises he made, so much so that he surprised the people who encountered this newest “son of the covenant.” The Jewish people also realized that a 12-year-old was not really an adult. They also had to grow into the promises which they made. According to the Rabbi’s of Jesus days one was not really an adult until you were 30. We will not let that confirmand get a driver’s license at 16 but not rent a car until she is 25. Growing up is a process. How did that play out in Jesus’ case? There are many mysteries in this Christmas season. The readings this week have explored a few of them, but none of them rise to this one. How could the infinite God learn and grow as a child? Jesus was fully human. He did not skip over childhood and growth. That is a part of being human too. I cannot parse out how that worked exactly, but I am able to thank God that in Jesus he has sanctified childhood, adolescence, and the whole of human life.

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Grace Worship

Thursday of Christmas II – Ephesians 1:3-14

Ephesians 1:3-14

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Do you know someone who is adopted? You probably do. There is a funny thing about adoption – there are no accidental adoptions. I know a few folks who were not intended births. Their parents were not trying to have a child but then, unexpectedly, she was pregnant, and they had a baby. Surprise! God has a blessing you which you were not looking for!

But that never happens with an adoption. Adoptions take choice, work, and often considerable expense. I read somewhere that a couple adopting a child should budget something like $20,000 for the process. Notice what Paul says in this text to us. God chose us. He predestined…according to the purpose of his will. Paul keeps hammering this home. This is God’s plan. The conclusion is straight forward: You are not an accident. God’s love for you is deliberate, intentional, and the product of much planning and effort. Currently the world would very much like to strip your life and your very being of any cosmic significance. It would like to tell you that you are in fact nothing but an accident of a nature which is governed purely by random, impersonal forces. Your life has no inherent meaning. You will live as a meaningless mote of dust in a vast impersonal universe and then you will die, and that is that. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The world is wrong. God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in heavenly realms. He has chosen you and loves you. Through the blood of Jesus, God has poured out his blessings on you. You are no accident. You are the heir of heaven itself. Praise God!