Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Thanksgiving Day, is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after Congress requested a proclamation by George Washington. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader holiday season.

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621.  This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow—it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.  The New England colonists were accustomed to celebrating “thanksgivings” regularly—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to praise and thank You each and every day.  You are the creator and source of all good things for which I give You thanks.  In Jesus’ holy name I pray.  Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!

Lessons and Hymns for the Last Sunday of the Church Year A

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Matthew 25:31-46

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

By the Cross of Christ, We Enter the Kingdom of Our God and Father

When the crucified and risen Lord Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, “he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32). “To those on his right,” who have been crucified and raised with Him through repentance and faith in His Gospel, He will grant the blessed kingdom of His Father (Matt. 25:34). Having been justified by His grace, they live unto righteousness in Him (Matt. 25:35–40). But “those on his left,” who trust in themselves and despise their neighbor, will depart “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Until that day, the Lord searches for His sheep “as a shepherd seeks out his flock” (Ezek. 34:11–12). Through His preaching of repentance, He disciplines the proud sheep and goats, “the fat and the strong,” but through the preaching of forgiveness He rescues the lost, binds up the injured, strengthens the weak and feeds “the lean sheep” (Ezek. 34:16, 20). In this way, He destroys the power of death in the children of Adam by His cross, so that “in Christ shall all be made alive” by His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20–26).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Come, Thou Almighty King (LSB 905)
The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns (LSB 532)
Crown Him with Many Crowns (LSB 525)
Beautiful Savior (LSB 537)
Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense (LSB 741:1 & 8)

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Job 14:1-6
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Matthew 24:15-28

A few weeks ago I had chapel here in our building. I shared some thoughts on the opening words of Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. He said: “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your  labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the Edit-O-Earl for Pentecost 22, I drew your attention to those same words, especially Paul’s favorites, “faith, love and hope.” In one of his most quoted passages (First Corinthians 13), he wrote about them and closed, “and the greatest of these is …”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone in the church began all communication with others in the church by thanking God for them? All God’s children have been given faith, hope and love by the power of the Holy Spirit. We may all sin and have lots of shortcomings and do all sorts of things that upset each other or cause differences among us, but we still have good reason to thank God for each other. If we began that way, by giving thanks, I can’t help but believe it would have a wonderful influence on how we finished.

This week’s Epistle lesson, also from First Thessalonians, is not much different from Paul’s beginning of the letter. In this lesson he says, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

The words seem innocent enough. It is common among Christians to speak of loving each other. We are only following our Leader when we do. Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples because of our love for each other. But the plain facts are that there was a whole lot of hate in Thessalonica!

Paul first went there after suffering persecution, a physical beating and imprisonment, in Philippi. Later, he was forced to leave Thessalonica because of persecution there! In fact, some of the Thessalonians followed him and stirred up trouble for him in Berea as well. Persecution continued for any Thessalonians who came to faith in Christ as a result of Paul and others telling the Good News about Jesus to them.

Still later, knowing that they were continually being persecuted, Paul sent Timothy to find out how the believers in Christ were doing … particularly how they were withstanding the persecution. When Timothy returned with a good report about the Thessalonians, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to encourage these new Christians to remain steadfast in the faith, clinging to God’s grace in Christ.

When Paul wrote in verse 13 of Sunday’s lesson, “May He [the Lord] strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones,” his purpose was twofold. First, he was earnestly praying that God would preserve their Christian faith and life. Second, he was reminding them that the persecutors of the church have their day coming … “when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones”!

Apocalyptic images of Archangel Michael and his warriors sharpening their swords in anticipation of bringing paybacks to persecutors are designed to reassure the persecuted. It’s kind of like saying that, even if the U.S. Armed Forces don’t find Bin Laden, Michael and his friends will!

But even in the midst of persecution and trouble, our love for each other must increase and overflow. The overflow part has the rich possibility of transforming our enemies into friends. That’s why Paul didn’t stop with just love for each other. He added, “and for everyone else.”

He also added, “just as ours does for you.” Again, this is so Christ-like. Jesus often urged His disciples and He urges us to love as we have been loved. Among His famous last words in the upper room, perhaps the most significant were, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

He said that right after He had washed the disciples’ feet and not long before He also said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18-20).

The entire conversation took place on the night He was betrayed. It was the same night and about the same time He said about a piece of bread, “This is my body given for you.” It was the same night and about the same time He said about a cup of wine, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

That is how much He loved them. That is how much He loves you.

I can’t read these words of Paul without remembering those words of Jesus. Paul knew Jesus’ words well, he repeated them in First Corinthians 11:24-25.

Jesus came to the world to change enemies into friends. Perhaps as our love increases and overflows, He is doing the same thing through us today. But we get in His way when we nurse our differences, instead of thanking Him for our faith, hope and love. We get in His way when we dwell on bad news and fail to tell the Good News about Jesus. We get in His way when we whimper about persecution in the church and neglect His mission to everyone outside it.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. Amen.

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

The Gift of Love

“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair” (John 12:3)Whose heart is not softened by the mental image these words produce – and the conscience pricked as well, for which of us is willing to sacrifice as much as Mary did?  Her gift was a gift of pure love.  She didn’t understand Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.  How could she, for it had not yet occurred!  She loved her Lord even before she knew He would give His life for her.

We, on the other hand, have as much or even greater reason to offer gifts – extravagant gifts – to our Savior.  Sadly, at times we are instead too much like Judas, holding back from the Lord, even stealing from the Lord, as we attempt to hide our greed and selfishness behind reasonable excuses for not giving our all to our Savior Who gave His all for us.

Let us pray with the psalmist, “Make me to know Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:4-5).  Then, without reservation, we will with thanks give our gifts, ordinary and extravagant, in worship of our Savior.

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant me a loving and giving heart.  In Jesus’ precious name I pray.  Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!

Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 24 A (Proper 28)

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

Zephaniah 1:7-16
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

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

God’s Gift of Forgiveness Engenders Our Forgiveness of Others

The Day of the Lord is “near and hastening fast,” and it will be “a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation” (Zeph. 1:14, 15). The Lord will search out and punish “the men who are complacent” concerning His Word, “who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud” (Zeph. 1:9, 12). Then all their works and efforts will be for nothing: “Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them” (Zeph. 1:13). But those who fear, love and trust in the Lord are “good and faithful” stewards of His property (Matt. 25:21). They live by faith in His free gift of forgiveness, and they multiply His goods in the loving forgiveness of their neighbor, and “the master of those servants” settles His accounts with them by the gracious reckoning of His Gospel (Matt. 25:19). Likewise, “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9). Therefore, let us also “put on the breastplate of faith and love” in our dealings with one another (1 Thess. 5:8).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus (LSB 660)
The Day Is Surely Drawing Near (LSB 508: 1, 2, 5, 7)
Lord Jesus Christ, Life-Giving Bread (LSB 625)
Rise to Arms! With Prayer Employ You (LSB 668)
Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word (LSB 655)

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Being a Biblical Steward

Do you know the difference between being an institutional steward and a Biblical steward?  The institutional steward looks at his church as an institute with a budget and needs to be met and a place where he can be served.  Then he tries to “give his share” and “do his part” while complaining if his needs are not met.  The Biblical steward, on the other hand, looks at the gifts God has given him. He gives according to the blessings he has received, not to fulfill an obligation.  He seeks to discover the gifts God has given him and uses them in whatever way he can in service to fellow believers and others. Usually the steward who is busy using his gifts finds that his own needs are met in the process of helping others.

God has chosen us to be His own.  He has made us His children and stewards of the gifts He daily gives us.  “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” admonishes the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:1.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to show my gratitude continually for Who You are and all that You do for me each and every day.  Use me in Your service.  Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!

Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 23 A (Proper 27)

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

Amos 5:18-24
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

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

The Gospel Prepares Us for Our Heavenly Bridegroom’s Coming

The Day of the Lord is “darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18, 20) for all who trust in their own righteousness and piety. The Lord will not accept their “burnt offerings and grain offerings,” nor will He look upon their “peace offerings” (Amos 5:22). Instead, He desires a heart of faith that trusts in Him, which lets “justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24) in love for the neighbor. In order for the “lamps” of our lives to burn brightly with such love, we must be filled with the “oil” of forgiveness through faith in our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ (Matt. 25:1–4). Therefore, as we await His coming, wisdom directs us “to the dealers” (Matt. 25:9), that is, to the ministers of His Gospel. Thus we wait upon the Lord, and we “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). Waking or sleeping, we are prepared to meet Him when He comes “with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God,” and “we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).

These are the hymns we will sing:

The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns (LSB 348)
Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying (LSB 516)
How Great Thou Art (LSB 801)
O Bless the Lord, My Soul (LSB 814)
Abide, O Dearest Jesus (LSB 919)