The Second Sunday After Epiphany A

John 1:29-42a

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29 & 36). 

John the Baptist calls attention to Jesus in a most strident manner, not wanting those in his hearing to miss out on or to ignore Jesus.  “Behold!” John exclaims.  You can see him in your mind’s eye:  all his attention focused on this man walking by… all his intention on pointing out this man walking by… all the extension of his pointing finger reaching toward this man walking by…  This man walking by?  A man?  Not a lamb… let alone the Lamb of God.  This man walking by was just that, a man.  Nothing about him identified him as a sheep… as the Lamb of God.  Nothing identified him as the Son of God.  Divinity did not radiate from him or surround him with a glow.  Certainly, he performed miracles, but those were commonplace in the ancient world—witness Pharoah’s magicians (Ex. 7:11) and the casting out of demons (Lk. 9:49).  Even as Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee and its environs, to know him as the Lamb of God… the Son of God… the one who takes away the sin of the world… to know Jesus in his divinity required something more than knowing him in his humanity.  That something was… and is… faith.

Prayers from one who would appreciate an occasional miracle to shore up a flagging faith…

Father, Jesus Christ is your Son from eternity and yet a man born of the virgin Mary, grant your Holy Spirit to so work faith within me that I trust this reality completely with no need of miracles to bolster the authority of your Word.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen

Father, Jesus Christ is your Son from eternity and yet a man born of the virgin Mary, grant that I live from this reality delivered to me by faith in Jesus Christ such that he, Jesus, is the life of my mortality in this old, passing away creation.  Amen

Father, Jesus Christ is your Son from eternity and yet a man born of the virgin Mary, grant that I would hear of this man dying on the cross and come to believe that I and all humanity put our God to death.  Amen

Father, Jesus Christ is your Son from eternity and yet a man born of the virgin Mary, grant that I would hear of this man being raised from the dead and come to believe that his resurrection is my resurrection so that I am convicted that death has been conquered.  Amen

Father, Jesus Christ is your Son from eternity and yet a man born of the virgin Mary, grant that I, in my freedom from death and in my confidence of the resurrection, would be given by God as an answer to my neighbors in their prayer for daily bread.  Amen

Father, Jesus Christ is your Son from eternity and yet a man born of the virgin Mary, a foolish proclamation when heard by our reason while in this old, passing away world, enable the Institute of Lutheran Theology to be so foolish as to preach and teach this truth for the establishment of faith within us.  Amen

Father, Jesus Christ is your Son from eternity and yet a man born of the virgin Mary, this Son of yours has promised to come in glory, grant me to look forward to that day when my glory, too, will be revealed.  Amen

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The Baptism of Our Lord

Matthew 3:13-17

“But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented” (Mt. 3:15). 

Jesus’ words to John are as startling to us as Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (Jn. 3:3) which startled Nicodemus into proposing an impossibility, “Can a man enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (Jn. 3:4).  “Baptism fulfills all righteousness.”  C’mon, Jesus, surely you can’t mean “all righteousness,” can you?  What will we do with all that talk of baptism initiating us into walking the walk?  What will we do with all that talk of progressive sanctification?  What will we do with all our expectations of engaging in religious quests… of improving our discipleship… or with that old slogan, “Every day, in every way, a little better and better?”  Despite our protests, Jesus speaks truly.  Unlike John’s baptism and other this-worldly-washings, the baptism of Jesus and our baptism into Jesus are not of this world but of the world to come.  This next-worldly baptism is the in-breaking of the New Creation into this creation, old and passing away as it is.  This next-worldly baptism establishes the one baptized in the complete, total, and entirely fulfilled the righteousness of the New Creation.  Baptism fulfilling all righteousness receives ratification from God himself.  God announces over Jesus, “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  At your baptism, God announces through the mouth of the preacher, “You, child of God, you have been marked by the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit forever” (LBW p. 124).  Baptism fulfills all righteousness.

Prayers from one who, despite being baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, still covets quests for religious and divinely assisted self-improvement.

Heavenly Father, the words you and your Son speak are true.  Grant that I rest in their truth and not exhaust myself in vain attempts to fulfill all righteousness with my human works no matter how divinely aided they may be.  For Jesus’ sake, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, the words you and your Son speak are true.  Grant that their truth brings to me the condemnation of the law that I might truly die to sin.  Grant that their truth delivers me out of that death to enjoy Jesus Christ who has come to be my life.  For Jesus’ sake, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, the words you and your Son speak are true.  Set before me the days of my baptism that I might be returned to its fulfillment of all righteousness as I confess my sins and receive absolution in the name of Jesus Christ.   For Jesus’ sake, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, the words you and your Son speak are true.  Since all righteousness has been fulfilled for me as I have been joined to both the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus, set before me the needs of my neighbors that I might be of some use to them as I go about my daily callings.  For Jesus’ sake, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, the words you and your Son speak are true.  Grant that I live out the days of my baptismal righteousness without being enticed to use my neighbors to prove my righteousness.  Rather, let me be used by them in the providing of their daily bread.  For Jesus’ sake, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, the words you and your Son speak are true.  Grant that the Institute of Lutheran Theology teach and preach their living in such truth to all the students who come to it.  For Jesus’ sake, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, the words you and your Son speak are true.  Grant that I wait for your Son’s coming in glory with the sure and certain hope provided by a God who does not lie.  For Jesus’ sake, hear my prayer.  Amen

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The First Sunday After Christmas A

Matthew 2:13-23

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region…” (Mt. 2:16)

In the days of my youth, a dramatic television commercial for a certain brand of margarine depicted the product as being so good tasting that it even tricked Mother Nature into thinking it was butter.  When the trickery became known, Mother Nature responded with anger and vengeance announcing, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”  While we don’t give credence to a personified nature, this royal prerogative demonstrates that Herod’s response to being “tricked” resembled a force of nature—an opposite and unequal reaction.  To trick a king compelled violence, bloodshed, and death.  This vengeful incident, the martyrdom of the innocents, has led the church to consider them its first martyrs… has led to the establishment of a holy day in their memory (usually celebrated in the western church on December 28th)… has led to the composition of songs, hymns, and paintings commemorating and depicting the infamous executions.  Herod’s vengeance at being tricked reveals the casual way that the world wields violence:  death and destruction are merely the world’s last resort against those things that annoy those with the power to destroy and kill.  The death sentence is the world’s pinnacle of coercive power.  Yet, our Lord Jesus declares to those who would follow him, “It shall not be so among you” (Mt. 20:26).  He then goes on to surrender such vengeance, the ultimate in coercive power available to a divine Lord, by dying on the cross.  It is his glory.

Prayers from one who resists surrendering the coercive power of force, and only reluctantly taking up the authority of preaching the Word…

Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power and refused to call down the heavenly host against his enemies, even as he died on the cross.  Grant that I, too, would surrender such power and, instead, take up the authority of preaching Christ, him crucified, and him alone.  I know I am to hand him over to be the life of dead sinners.

Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power, demonstrating the forbearance of the heavenly court where forgiveness, not vengeance rules.  Grant that I, too, would forgive sins rather than bring vengeance upon those who sin against me.

Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power, and he was vindicated by his resurrection from the dead.  Grant that I, too, may enjoy such vindication when my Lord Jesus Christ is manifest in all his glory.

Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power and endured the cross.  Grant that I, too, might bear my cross as I follow him into the world of usefulness to my neighbors.

Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power, exchanging it for the authority of law and gospel, confronting and saving.  Grant that I, too, may know their proper distinction and not confuse their use among my neighbors.

Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power.  Grant to the Institute of Lutheran Theology the attractiveness of preaching and teaching Jesus Christ, him crucified, and him alone and thereby win students.

Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power and endured three days in the tomb, trusting and awaiting his resurrection.  Grant to me such endurance as I live out the days of my baptism and wait out those nights in my grave until that certain day, the day of resurrection.

Into your hands, heavenly Father, I place all things, confident that you hear and answer prayers in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

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The Nativity of Our Lord A

John 1:1-18

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

You do not have a disembodied God. Jesus Christ, the Word of God and the only God (cf. John 1:18), has become flesh—that is, Jesus Christ is the Word Incarnate. John delivers the purpose statement for the Word Incarnate in verses 16 & 17 of Chapter 3 in his gospel: believers in him are saved through him, no condemnation in him, and the world would be saved through him (cf. John 3:16-17). Your God is not far off, distant, hidden in the heavens. No, your God is near, dwelling among you, bringing salvation rather than condemnation. This is his glory, and it is displayed on the cross. Jesus died on the cross, surrendering his divinity rather than displaying it by coming down from the cross, calling down the heavenly host, and bringing down the righteous condemnation of a spurned divinity. Jesus’ glory was to die as any human mortal would. That glory, appearing as weak and foolish before the world, reveals Jesus’ fullness… his fullness of grace and truth. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, is full… full of grace… the grace of your faithful God who never lies even in the face of his people’s deceit and unfaithfulness. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God is full… full of truth… the truth of your God who calls out his own name: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Dt. 34:6). Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, emptied himself of equality with God, becoming obedient even unto death and this is his glory. God, the Father, has equally emptied himself of a godly condemnation in the sending of his Son, and this is his glory.

Prayers from one who knows little about emptying himself and so must be emptied of self by the Word Incarnate…

Empty me, Heavenly Father, that I may be filled by the glory of my Lord Jesus as he emptied himself on the cross, for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Empty me, Heavenly Father, that I may be filled with the faithfulness of a God who would be obedient unto death rather than condemn his disobedient people, for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Empty me, Heavenly Father, that I may be filled with the truth of your self-claimed name: merciful and gracious, for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Empty me, Heavenly Father, that I may be filled with love for my neighbors, providing them with the fruits of this creation and the fruits of the new creation coming into being through Jesus Christ, for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Empty me, Heavenly Father, that I may be filled by the love of my neighbors as they forgive me my failures at providing for them their daily bread, for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Empty me, Heaven Father, that I may be filled with prayers for the Institute of Lutheran Theology that its fruitfulness at raising up preachers and teachers for another generation be increased, for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Empty me, Heavenly Father, that I may be filled with hope when considering your faithfulness to your promises so that the days of my baptism would be ones of expectant waiting for your Son’s coming in glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen

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Fourth Sunday in Advent A

Matthew 1:18-25

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Mt. 1:19).

The Word today gives us another reversal.  The Advent Old Testament readings from the book of Isaiah have been replete with them.  Last week’s gospel had another:  Jesus confronting the crowds with the reversal of their expectations.  Today, the Word confronts with a change of plans.  Joseph, a righteous man, wanted to have his cake and eat it too.  Out of his righteousness, he desired to be rid of a woman demonstrably unfaithful to him even before the consummation of their vows.  In his righteousness, he deluded himself into thinking that severing his betrothal to Mary would be a quiet affair.  Not possible.  Over the course of the subsequent months, the increasing obviousness of her pregnancy and the subsequent birth of a child would bring shame down upon her and her community.  The community would visit against her whatever consequences it felt appropriate to restore its honor.  It could go so far as to impose a death by stoning upon her.  Contrary to Joseph’s plans, there is divine intervention reversing Joseph’s intent to act upon his delusion.  The angel of the Lord delivered a contrary Word to him.  That Word told him he would not carry out his plans for a “quiet divorce.”  Rather, he would continue in his betrothal to Mary, living with the increasingly obvious shame of a woman unfaithful to the impending marriage or with the community obviously knowing that he himself could not restrain himself until marriage.  Like Hosea in his marriage to Gomer, Joseph, under the command from God, lived with the shame of unfaithfulness resting on his household.  So, too, with you.  On every occasion when the Word of God confronts you with your sinfulness, you are revealed as unfaithful… as having consorted with various idols… and so the Lord your God—as if he were your husband—must live with the unfaithfulness you visit upon his household.

Prayers from an unfaithful one who has no response except repentance and a promise to do better… a repentance and promise needfully repeated again and again…

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people even when they have been unfaithful.  As I am numbered among them, forgive the sinfulness of my idolatry, and restore me to a right spirit—your Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people, grant them and me continued confrontation with your faithfulness even as together, we flaunt our unfaithfulness.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people, so use your Word of law and gospel upon me that my sinful, unfaithful self dies beneath its accusation so that my justification would also be the imposition of a new faithful and righteous life upon me.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people, grant that I may live as a useful neighbor in the household you have established for me in this creation broken by sin.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people.  Out of that faithfulness, you have turned me back to this creation you once called “good.”  So establish me within it that I, too, would be a useful agent in the work of establishing some order within its sin-caused chaos.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people.  In that faithfulness, uphold the Institute of Lutheran Theology in its work of raising up preachers who will proclaim your faithfulness to a new generation of idolaters.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people.  Continue to reassure me of your faithfulness as I live out the days of my baptism; and, as I fall into idolatry and unfaithfulness, bring me to that needful repentance and promise by restoring to me that right spirit—your Holy Spirit.

Into your hands, Heavenly Father, I commend all that is mine, even these my most fervent prayers, confident that you are faithful in the midst of my unfaithfulness.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen

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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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