Third Sunday in Advent A

Matthew 11:2-15

“…Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind” (Mt. 11:7)?  Here is yet another reversal.  The Old Testament readings for Advent have been received from the prophet Isaiah and they are replete with reversals.  In this text, Jesus confronts the crowd with a reversal of its expectations.  Jesus reveals the truth of what they expected to find in the wilderness.  They went expecting to find someone unmoved by the shifting winds of change (vs. 7).  They went expecting to find someone clothed as befits a preacher from the wilderness and not arrayed in the finery of the palace and Temple (vs. 8).  They went out expecting a prophet and, lo and behold, they received more than a mere prophet; they received a messenger of the Lord.  Jesus’ question confronts you… you who go into the wilderness of your church building’s sanctuary.  It demands to know whether you expect to hear a speaker mouthing pious platitudes of self-improvement unto righteousness; or do you expect a preacher handing over Jesus Christ to be the life of sinners dead in their sin, killed by the unrelenting accusation of the law?  Do you enter that sanctuary expecting to see your preacher dressed indistinguishably from someone on the street?  Or do you enter expecting your preacher clothed in the badge of office, wearing that which marks him or her out as a dispenser of law and gospel, the Word of God that kills and makes alive?  Your church building’s sanctuary and the one that presides there are as distinct from your regular haunts and the people in them as John the Baptist and his wilderness haunt were distinct from the finery of Jerusalem and its Temple.

Prayers from one who would prefer a comfortable and pleasant worship but needs to encounter the death-dealing, life-giving Word of God handed over by the Lord’s own messenger…

Holy Father, your enduring Word kills and makes alive, so grace me with its death and new life that I would live from the future established in my Lord Jesus Christ.

Holy Father, your enduring Word continues from generation to generation, grant me a preacher of this Word so that my ears are filled with it and the world’s competing voices are drowned out.

Holy Father, your enduring Word establishes me in a New Creation, tearing me away from and placing me in contrast to this old, passing away creation.

Holy Father, your enduring Word sets before me a creation filled with neighbors and their needs, set my hands to useful tasks that those needs may be met, and the days of my baptism would pass quickly in hope and anticipation.

Holy Father, your enduring Word sustains me in these days as I wait for your Son’s arrival in glory, grant that I do not grow weary in doing the good of being useful to those neighbors of mine.

Holy Father, your enduring Word calls forth teachers and preachers so that its proclamation would persist from generation to generation.  Grant that the Institute of Lutheran Theology continue in its call to produce teachers and preachers of your Word.

Holy Father, your enduring Word holds me in expectant hope for that day when faith shall become sight and the glory long waited for becomes visible; grant me my glory when your Son’s glory is manifest at last.

For all these things, Holy Father, I wait upon you, trusting your goodness and mercy to supply all that I need—my daily bread for this creation and for the next.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen

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Second Sunday in Advent A

Matthew 3:1-12

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2). John the Baptist delivers the first half of the sermon preached by Jesus as he went into Galilee. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). The difference between these two preachers marks the difference between the old creation and the New Creation coming into being through Jesus Christ.  Jesus named John the Baptist the greatest man born of woman. Yet, John couldn’t come close to the least in the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt. 11:11). John, like Jesus, came out of the wilderness commanding the people to repent. Scripture tells us that the people of Jerusalem, Judea, and all the surrounding regions were going out to John (cf. Mt. 3:12). Similar remarks in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke speak of the large crowds gathered around Jesus (cf. Mk. 5:24, Mt. 8:13, & Lk. 14:25). The preaching of repentance attracted them. Jesus, however, could deliver on what he preached. John the Baptist could only command repentance of the people, for as Jesus had said, “He is a man born of woman.” Jesus, in contrast, had been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. As the very Word of God himself, who brought into being all that exists, Jesus could command, “Repent!” Jesus could command, “Believe!” and establish repentance where there had been only sin-hardened hearts… establish faith where there had been only resolute idolatry and unbelief. Jesus himself sends out his apostles… his preachers… who speak with that same authority… the authority of the New Creation… the authority of the Holy Spirit. Such preaching brings about repentance and belief as the Holy Spirit works them in the hearts of its hearers.

Prayers from one whose sin-hardened heart must be created anew so it can repent and believe…

My Father, who is in heaven, you sent John the Baptist as that voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord… my Lord Jesus Christ. Grant me to hear John as he points to the one greater than he who will sift the chaff and gather the grain from his threshing floor that I, too, may be numbered among those grains of wheat he gathers in. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

My Father, who is in heaven, as John the Baptist is that voice preparing the way for my Lord Jesus Christ, grant me to hear his accusation against my lack of fruit and turn me to hear the preaching of my Lord Jesus that I may know true repentance… true faith… and produce true works. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

My Father, who is in heaven, use the witness of John the Baptist to point out your Son, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, that I, too, may know the true forgiveness of sins and your forgetfulness regarding my iniquity. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

My Father, who is in heaven, John the Baptist, when the crowds demanded of him, “What shall we do?” told them to be good neighbors and honest in their vocations. Grant me such neighborliness and such vocational integrity that good fruit would be produced through me. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

My Father, who is in heaven, John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed for his unrelenting confrontation of the people, especially their rulers, with the Word of God. Grant me such preachers that I, too, would be relentlessly confronted by the Word of God. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

My Father, who is in heaven, as John the Baptist continually pointed to and witnessed to the greatness of Jesus Christ, grant that the Institute of Lutheran Theology would in like manner be a witness to Jesus Christ. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

My Father, who is in heaven, as John the Baptist went down to his death still awaiting the coming of his Lord in glory, grant that I, too, may wait… wait in faith, hope, and patience… for my same Lord to come in glory. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

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First Sunday in Advent A

Matthew 24:36-44

“But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into” (Mt. 24:43). Sinners are well-fortified against a frontal attack on their sin. Jesus must come subtly, like a thief in the night. Sinners, so tightly curved in upon themselves, are like that armadillo presenting only their tough and hardened outer shell to the one who would be their Lord. So, Jesus comes almost surreptitiously in ways you would not expect, using means that seem innocuous. Jesus comes to you on a puff of air past a preacher’s lips… Jesus comes to you in water poured and the Name spoken… Jesus comes to you in a bit of bread and a sip of wine, meager really, but with his promise attached:  my body… my blood… given and shed for you. Through these unpretentious means, Jesus comes like that thief in the night. Jesus comes, emptying out that tough and hardened outer shell curved so protectively around itself… Jesus comes and steals away your most precious possession. He takes away your “I.” He takes away that self… that sinful self at the center of you and replaces it with himself, his life, and his heart. With its center gone, that tough and hardened outer shell melts away, softened so completely that now the neighbors’ needs penetrate it easily. Therefore, to be ready, you must have a preacher who delivers Jesus Christ to be your life… Jesus Christ to steal away the “I” at the center of you… Jesus Christ who softens you up for the needs of the neighbor.

Prayers from a sinner who reflexively curls like an armadillo, but who nonetheless has a preacher…

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. Until that day your Son my Lord must come like that thief in the night sneaking past my armor and stealing away my treasured “I.” While I wait for that day, give me ears to hear my preacher, give me a head to receive that water poured and the holy Name spoken, give me a mouth to taste the goodness of the Lord as he comes to me in his holy Supper. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. As you have commanded, do not let me neglect your Word or the preaching of it. Pour it into my ears such that it not only drowns out the cacophony of the world’s voices but draws me into standing under its authority. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. As I stand under the authority of your Word, Jesus Christ, grant that I would live by the faith he brings to me… that I would know the hope he delivers to me… that I would live in the readiness provided by my preacher who hands over Jesus Christ to be my life. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. While I wait these many days in anticipation and readiness for the coming of your Son in glory, grant that I do not grow bored but rather pass these days by being of some use to my neighbors in their many and various needs. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. As I try to be of some use to my neighbors, do not let my hands go empty of the works you have prepared for me to walk in. But even as I walk among those works, keep Jesus Christ as Lord of my conscience so that my obedience would not overwhelm my faith. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. In these days as we wait, you have established the Institute of Lutheran Theology with the intent that preachers of Jesus, him crucified, and him alone handed over to be the life of dead sinners… that such preachers would be formed and fashioned for the upcoming generations. Grant its fruitfulness in this endeavor. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. I live now in the days of my baptism… in the days between my sacramental death beneath the water and the Word and my physical death of going down to the dust from which I came. As I live between those two deaths, keep me confident of being joined to my Lord’s resurrection. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Into your hands I commend all for which I have prayed trusting that you do not lie, and your promises are certain. In the name of Jesus… Amen

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Christ the King Sunday

One sinner addresses another sinner.  Both are condemned to death.  Both are guilty of the accusations leveled against them and will justly die.  One mocks Jesus and seeks to avoid the just punishment meted out upon him.  The other accepts the justice of his impending execution and, rather than mock Jesus, he pleads to be remembered by Jesus.  This criminal, acknowledging his guilt and punishment, becomes a preacher to the other criminal who seeks to avoid punishment for the guilt of his sins.  The one becomes a preacher to the other, “Do you not fear God…?”  As Martin Luther reminds us in his giving meaning to the First Commandment: “We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.”  These three are mutually inclusive emotions, absolutely—absolutely because each of the three must be total—that is, if we have no absolute love of God, there is neither fear nor trust… –that is, if we have no absolute trust of God, there is neither fear nor love… –that is, if we have no absolute fear of God, there is neither love nor trust.  All sinners, including you and I, fall under the same sentence of condemnation: “You shall surely die!”  Even Jesus Christ who takes away the sin of the world comes under that death sentence applied to all mortals.  And there… there on the cross where humanity carried out the death sentence upon him… there, he was enthroned as Christ the King!

Prayers from one who hates drinking from the cup that is set before him… and who abhors his King enthroned on the cross…

Father, you sent your Son as your love to the world, grant me to hear that he died on the cross for me because I wanted him dead.  Merciful Father, hear my prayer.

Father, you sent your Son as your love to the world, grant me to hear that his death on the cross for me announces my election to eternal life to me.  Merciful Father, hear my prayer.

Father, you sent your Son as your love to the world, grant me to hear that his drinking of the cup of crucifixion for me was on my behalf and for my benefit.  Merciful Father, hear my prayer.

Father, you sent your Son as your love to the world, grant me to hear that he died on the cross for me so that he could come again and take me to where he is.  Merciful Father, hear my prayer.

Father, you sent your Son as your love to the world, grant me to hear that his enthronement on the cross for me was his only glory in this world and, since he died in my place, will be my only glory as well.  Merciful Father, hear my prayer.

Father, you sent your Son as your love to the world, grant me to hear that his death on the cross for me satisfied the wrath of God by taking away the sin of the world. Merciful Father, hear my prayer.

Father, you sent your Son as your love to the world, grant me to hear that he died in this creation for me so that I would live in the new creation with him.  Merciful Father, hear my prayer.  Amen

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Twenty-third Sunday After Pentecost

Jesus delivers consolation to those disciples concerned about the coming crisis of the temple’s destruction.  He reassures them that crises come and go.  There’s nothing particularly unique about them; even the betrayal of these disciples by those closest to them is but another crisis to be endured as they await the coming of the Son of Man.  Our contemporary culture appears addicted to the adage, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”  Crisis after crisis—whether real or not—becomes an opportunity for leaders, whether cultural or political, to use the fear of them as motivation and urgency for the people to take the action preferred by those leaders.  Jesus himself provides an action: “Lift up your heads!  See the coming of your redemption!”  Jesus reassures those disciples then, and all disciples now; the Son of Man… the Lord of all Creation… the one who has charge of all time… that one is also Lord of all Crises.  This Lord of all Crises is your Lord as well.  Take heart!  Do not fear!”  Lift up your heads!  He is your redemption in each and every crisis that comes upon you.

Prayers from one who is tempted to never let a good crisis go to waste…

Heavenly Father, through your Son, Jesus Christ, all things were made, are made, and will be made.  Give me ears to hear that I should, “Fear not!” even in the face of crisis for nothing is made without our Lord.  With my fears alloyed, grant I should live each day in the expectant coming of my redemption, Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

Heavenly Father, through your Son, Jesus Christ, all things were made, are made, and will be made.  As you grant me to live in the expectant coming of my redemption, turn me from the idolatrous trust in cultural and political leaders.  They are mortal and their plans perish with them.  Grant that I trust in you and you alone, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

Heavenly Father, through your Son, Jesus Christ, all things were made, are made, and will be made.  As you grant me to trust in you and you alone, the reality and expectation of betrayal by those close to me is no surprise but instead an occasion for forgiveness and the confession of your name, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

Heavenly Father, through your Son, Jesus Christ, all things were made, are made, and will be made.  As you grant the word forgiveness to be on lips so also grant that your Word of forgiveness be on your lips for all my betrayals of you, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

Heavenly Fatherly, through your Son, Jesus Christ, all things were made, are made, and will be made.  As I live through the crises common in this world broken by sin and passing away, grant that I deliver both the bread of life come from heaven and the daily bread come from this world to those in crisis with me, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

Heavenly Father, through your Son, Jesus Christ, all things were made, are made, and will be made.  All things of this world are as grass, fading and withering.  Grant that in the midst of its fading and withering, the Institute of Lutheran Theology may be of use to its students and faculty, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

Heavenly Father, through your Son, Jesus Christ, all things were made, are made, and will be made.  Since all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to your Son, my Lord, grant that he be the one and only authority of my life and my one and only redeemer from all the crises that come during these days of my baptism, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

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All Saints Sunday

The Gospel is an offensive Word.  When you preach (or when you hear this Word preached) Jesus Christ, him crucified, and him alone handed over to be the life of dead sinners… when you preach that or hear that gospel of Jesus Christ, people will be offended and will revile you for offending them.  Such people think they still have life in themselves, and that God-Jesus-faith is just something you add to a pre-existing life.  The Gospel reeks of death and exudes the stench of the grave to such people.  They cannot abide hearing that they are dead in their sin (Eph. 2:1).  So, they silence the message by silencing the messenger who bears the Gospel’s stink.  However, to those dead in their trespass… dead in their sin… dead and in need of salvation… dead and requiring a resurrection not merely a resuscitation… to such people, the Gospel’s stench is but the sweet aroma of Christ.  The Gospel’s preaching fills their nostrils with a whiff of the new life.  This Word and its promise fills their dead ears and raises them up… makes them alive together with Christ… and these new creatures in Christ make welcome the one with beautiful feet who comes preaching good news (Ro. 10:15). 

Prayers from one who needs the offensive Word of the Gospel so that the stench of the grave would become the sweet aroma of Christ…

Father in heaven, you set out the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, so that it must be preached into people’s ears that they might have life out of death.  Provide me with a preacher with beautiful feet for bearing such good news to me that I, too, would be made alive together with Christ, through the firstborn from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Father in heaven, you set out the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, so that it must be preached into people’s ears that they might have life out of death.  Provide for me to be a preacher bearing such good news to my neighbors that they, too, would be made alive together with Christ, through the firstborn from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Father in heaven, you set out the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, so, that as my ears are filled with this Word, the stench of the grave and the reek of death readily apparent to me the reality of my death in trespass, through the first-born from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Father in heaven, you set out the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, and repent me from death to new life.  Now, with Christ as my life and as my righteousness, turn me toward my neighbors that I would meet them and serve their needs not mine, through the firstborn from the dead, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Father in heaven, you set out the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, and repent me from unbelief to belief.  Since faith in Christ delivers me into the reality of the New Creation in Christ, grant that I pour myself out in service while the flesh still adheres in this creation, through the firstborn from the dead, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen

Father in heaven, you set out the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, and provide for the preaching and teaching of it.  Grant that the Institute of Lutheran Theology both provide for the teaching of the Good News and produce preachers of the Good News, through the firstborn from the dead, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen

Father in heaven, you set out the Good News of your Son, Jesus with the expectation that this news would fill our ears all the days of our baptism.  Grant, that as my ears are filled with this Word, my nostrils would be filled with the sweet aroma of Christ and I would not fear the stench of the grave as I wait and hope for the coming of my Lord in glory, through the first-born from the dead, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen

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Reformation Sunday

To be honest with ourselves, we must hear the Word of God regarding our human condition:  We are in bondage.  The only question is “To whom are we in bondage?”  In asserting our freedom, we declare our bondage.  Human independence is an illusory dream promulgated by sinners.  The freedom so carefully hoarded is but a lie of Satan, the arch-deceiver.  Our denial of bondage simply refuted in total by the death that awaits us.  Sin, death, and the power of the devil, named by Luther in the Small Catechism, are a trio of bondage holding us enslaved through an illusion, a lie, and a denial.  When Jesus comes, fully and bodily, through Word and Sacrament, he binds us to himself in such a way that both our death and our life are taken up fully in his death on the cross and his vindicating resurrection.  Only as the Holy Spirit reveals our bondage to the truth that is Jesus Christ is our freedom from the lies of the evil one realized and our death in sin accepted and not denied.  Out of our being dead in sin, Jesus Christ raises us to a freedom he establishes… a freedom with no constraints…. a freedom for freedom’s sake alone (Gal. 5:1).

Prayers from one who loves the lies and illusions more vigorously than the reality given him by the Word of God…

Father, your Son Jesus Christ tells me that he is the truth.  So use your Holy Spirit to work such faith within me that I be born into the reality established by your Son, leaving behind the lies and illusions that hold me in their bondage.

Father, your Son, Jesus Christ tells me that he is the way.  So use your Holy Spirit to work such faith within me that I resist finding any other way to you except the way that comes through the Word of God.

Father, your Son, Jesus Christ tells me that this is life itself.  So use your Holy Spirit to work such faith within me so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

Father, your Son, Jesus Christ, has taken away that self-centered “I” and given me neighbors to fill its place.  So use your Holy Spirit to work such faith within me that I can trust this reality your Son provides and not seek the comfort of the lies and illusions.

Father, your Son, Jesus Christ, provides me with neighbors so that I can pass the days of my baptism in both usefulness and in expecting his imminent return so that I do not seek out the lies and illusions of bondage out of boredom and impatience.

Father, your Son, Jesus Christ, has given me a particular neighbor in the Institute of Lutheran Theology; so use your Holy Spirit upon me that I am useful to it in its endeavor to teach and preach Christ, him crucified, and him alone.

Father, your Son, Jesus Christ, has given me a promise to sustain me while I wait for his return in glory.  So use your Holy Spirit upon me that I do not neglect the hearing of your Word but gladly hear and receive it as if it were life itself.  Amen

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The Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost C

The example of the unrighteous judge (Lk. 18:1-8) is now applied in a concrete way to those confronting Jesus.  These who are righteous in themselves and contemptuous of others are akin to that judge who neither feared God nor respected people (Lk. 18:2).  The crowd of people confronting Jesus consists of both disciples and Pharisees (Lk. 17:20).  The target audience for this parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is indeterminate.  It could be pointedly aimed at the Pharisees in the crowd, or it could be broadly aimed and include the disciples as well.  Limiting the target audience to the Pharisees also limits the accusation of the parable.  Rightly, its application extends to disciples both then and now.  Those who would be righteous in themselves and are contemptuous of others lack the quality of honesty exhibited by the unrighteous judge.  Jesus must speak even more pointedly in his confrontation with the sinners around him.  That confrontation with sinners is brought forward today by your preacher who speaks for Jesus in calling out your self-righteousness and lack of respect for others.

Prayers from one who would rather look to the work of his own hands for righteousness rather than Jesus’ work on the cross…

Father in heaven, your Son provides my total righteousness; keep my eyes and my faith entirely looking to him rather than looking to myself.  Amen

Father in heaven, your Son provides for my total humility; in that humility, keep me from contempt for evildoers for I myself am numbered among them.  Amen

Father in heaven, your Son died at the hands of sinners, and I am numbered among them, totally. Like that tax collector, I can only say, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!” (Lk. 18:13).  Amen

Father in heaven, your Son provides my total righteousness, so hold me in his righteousness that I turn to my neighbors in usefulness rather than to prove my own righteous deeds.  Amen

Father in heaven, your Son forgives my sins, grant that I, too, forgive the sins of my neighbors.  Amen

Father in heaven, your Son, Jesus Christ, is the content of our proclamation.  Grant to the Institute of Lutheran Theology a single-minded pursuit of this content and its proclamation.  Amen

Father in heaven, your Son has promised to return in glory so that what is hidden now may then be revealed.  Hold me in patient anticipation so that I do not covet a premature glory.  Amen

I commend these things to you, Father, trusting in your mercy through Jesus Christ your dear Son, my Lord.  Amen

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The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost C

Jesus’ words tell the truth about that judge.  Later, the judge tells the truth about himself when he confesses, “I neither fear God nor respect man” (Lk. 18:4).  This judge, unrighteous though he may be (Lk. 18:6), is at least honest in his confession:  he has no fear regarding human or divine consequences.  This honesty of his extends over the attitudes and affections of his own heart.  He admits he will only help the persevering woman out of his own self-interest (Lk. 18:5).  We as sinners should be as honest as this unrighteous and self-interested judge.  Every time we come before our God in confession, we come as sinners who are totally “in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.”  Truly, as sinners, we neither fear God nor respect man.  When we are honest about ourselves, the good that we do flows from the core of our self-interest.  An honest confession demands this from us sinners.  As long as our flesh endures, we are totally and completely sinners, dead in our sin.  But God has chosen us; we are his elect.  Our God, in sending Jesus Christ, has emptied himself of all self-interest in his love toward sinners who neither fear God nor respect man.

Prayers from one, who in his own self-interest, struggles to make an honest confession . . .

Heavenly Father, the attitudes and affections of my heart are completely known to you, and yet you continue to forgive my sin.  Grant that I may be honest with myself and with you regarding the depth of my sin.

Heavenly Father, the attitudes and affections of my heart are completely known to you, and yet you continue to love me though I lack fear of both divine and human consequences.  Grant that you raise me from being dead in my sin to a new life in Jesus Christ my Lord.

Heavenly Father, the attitudes and affections of my heart are completely known to you, and yet you continue to provide me with a preacher who delivers your election of me in Christ made before the foundation of the world.

Heavenly Father, the attitudes and affections of my heart are completely known to you, and yet you continue to turn me toward my neighbors so that, even in my self-interest, I would be useful to them.

Heavenly Father, the attitudes and affections of my heart are complexly known to you, and yet you continue to provide me with neighbors who will set before me both the goods of this creation and of the next.

Heavenly Father, the attitudes and affections of my heart are completely known to you, and yet you continue to set before me the Institute of Lutheran Theology with all its needs.  Grant that I may be of use—even in my selfishness—in meeting those needs.

Heavenly Father, the attitudes and affections of my heart are completely known to you, and yet you continue to hold me in the promises of my baptism.  Grant that my preacher would speak them to me again and again throughout these days of waiting.

Heavenly Father, hear these prayers of mine and hold me in the confidence of their speedy response.  Amen

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The Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost C

Jesus’ question has echoed through the generations until it has come to us.  As it reverberates in the emptiness of our none-too-crowded sanctuaries, it resonates between the poles of despair and pride—despair that our local congregations are dwindling and closing, pride that the few of us still gathered are the faithful remnant.  The truth is that we cannot answer Jesus’ question except to say, “They are not here.”  Perhaps they have gone off as Jesus once commanded, “Go and proclaim the kingdom of God!”  Or maybe they’ve gone off to bury their dead or to say goodbye to father and mother or to find a place to lay their head (cf. Lk. 9:57-62).  Could it be that having once shown themselves to the priest, they were overcome by the desire for attending to the religious duties they so neglected during their time of affliction?  Even today, religious duties of all sorts come between us and our Lord Jesus Christ.  We should, I think, be cautious in our assessment of the absent nine as ungrateful louts… hesitant in our despairing and taking pride… and prayerful in being confronted by Jesus’ question, “Where are the nine?”  Tomorrow, it may be us who are numbered among them.

Prayers from one in constant danger of being numbered among the nine…

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer of our souls, grant that your Son so heal my soul as to take me out of pride and despair and deposit me in eternal gratitude for the healing his salvation has wrought within me.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer of our souls, grant that your Son forgive my sins of pride and despair which overtake me whenever your saving Word slips from my hearing.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer of our souls, grant that your Son be delivered to me by my preacher so that my ears do not remain empty of your saving Word.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer of our souls, grant that, as my ears are full of your saving Word, my hands would be filled with works useful to my neighbors.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer of our souls, grant that my works, useful though they may be, do not become my source of righteousness; keep that, Father, solely to your Son, Jesus Christ.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer of our souls, grant the Institute of Lutheran Theology be the recipient of some useful work from the labor of my hands.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer of our souls, grant that during these days of my baptism you would deliver me out of pride and despair and turn me again and again to the healing wrought by my salvation in Jesus Christ your Son.  Amen

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