To the Lamb!

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
   and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5: 9-10

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:12

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

And the Lamb is Christ our Lord!

Continuing in Easter Joy!

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Prodigal Love

Art by Aaron and Alan Hicks

“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.” Ephesians 1:5-8

Prodigal love is lavish love. It is love freely and seemingly recklessly given. Today’s gospel lesson told of the reckless, seeming wastefully spent love of a father on a son who who had squandered the inheritance he received from his father and had returned broke and broken. The father’s prodigal love cared not what looked appropriate as he ran to wrap his son in his embrace and welcome him home. Robing him in fine clothes, feeding him a feast, and serenading him with celebratory song–all fit for a prince, not a wayward son. Such was the father’s prodigal love.

Such is the love of God for me…and for you. It is the same prodigal love. God the Father did not spare His beloved Son. That is why Jesus came to earth–to give his life, freely, recklessly, without reserve. His life for ours. On the Cross He wore our sins so that we might be robed in His righteousness. He comes running to find us wherever we are and to fold us into His embrace. He tells us He has prepared a home in Heaven for all who believe in Him, who return to Him and accept His prodigal love.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

“If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened…I will give you rest.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will never perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

We may be prodigals, but we have an even greater Prodigal Father!

A New Creation

You[will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
   and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:1-2 ESV

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
   my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to theLord,”
   and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32: 1-5 ESV


17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[ the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV

As beautiful as these orchids are, they pale in comparison to the beauty of our status before our Almighty God, the Creator of the world–we are forgiven through faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ. Isaiah spoke of this forgiveness. The Psalm writer wrote about this forgiveness. St. Paul wrote about our status as a “new creation.” No sin is dark enough. No circumstance is hopeless enough that God’s mercy cannot reach you. During this season of Lent our Lord calls us back to Himself. He calls us to turn away from our idols and to look at Him alone–even as He looked upon us as He hung from the Cross with love to reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. May the beauty of God’s Word strengthen you and give you hope this day.

Temptation

image by Briton Revieri
"O Christ, You walked the road our wand'ring feet must go. 
You faced with us temptation's pow'r and fought our ancient foe.
No bread of earth alone can fill our hung'ring hearts.
Lord, help us seek Your living Word, the food Your grace imparts.

No blinding sign we ask, no wonder from above.
Lord, help us place our trust alone in Your unswerving love.
When lures of easy gain with promise brightly shine,
Lord, help us seek Your kingdom first;
our wills with Yours align.

O Christ, You walked the road our wandr'ing feet must go.
Stay with us through temptation's hour to fight our ancient foe."

O Lord, hear my prayer, O Lord, hear my prayer. When I call, answer me. O Lord, hear my prayer, O Lord, hear my prayer. Come and listen to me. In boldness I pray to you for you have been forever faithful and have promised to listen. You know what is on my heart and mind this night. I lift my prayer to you. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

Transfiguration

Painting by Carl Bloch

“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

“Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”–not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

“And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.” Luke 9:28-36

It was no dream…Peter and James and John with their own eyes and ears saw and heard Moses and Elijah conversing with their Lord who shown bright on the mountaintop that day. The scene inspired Peter to declare a holiday– “Let’s camp here!” (my paraphrase) It wouldn’t be the last time that Peter would try to throw a monkey wrench into the plan meant for our Savior. Moses and Elijah and Jesus–heads together–spoke about the days ahead. The mantel of the Law and the Prophets now rested on our Lord’s shoulders. He would bear the load of sin–alone–on the cross–for you, for me. A prolonged camping trip was not on His agenda.

A swirling cloud swallowed up the men on the mountain. God declared His agenda, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” The disciples heard those words and there was no more talk of tents. Peter didn’t say a word as they went back down the mountain. He and James and John kept the mountaintop experience to themselves. It would still be in the future that they would really HEAR/UNDERSTAND all the words from their Master’s lips–and that by the power of the Holy Spirit. They had a road trip to Jerusalem ahead of them.

Soon we will enter the season of Lent. A time of reflection. A spiritual road trip. And God tells us to listen to His Son, His Chosen One. He speaks to us in His Word and through His sacraments. We hear Him implore all who are weak and heavy laden to come to Him and to receive His rest. He promises to walk this road with us.

LORD may we listen to You and follow Your lead in word and deed. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

Be Merciful

“So Joseph said to his brothers, “come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Genesis 45:4-5

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103: 8-12

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35-36

These verses are a part of the Scripture readings that we will be hearing read tomorrow in the Divine Service. There is a beautiful, comforting theme that runs through them. First Joseph forgives his brothers and draws them to himself. Then the Psalmist tells just how far God removes our sins from us. And we hear Jesus’s words to his disciples to love those who seem impossible to love–their enemies. Acts of mercy. Words of forgiveness. I know how much I deserve God’s wrath, but instead I hear him say, “Come near to me. I forgive you. Go and be merciful too.”

Lord God, you do not treat me as my sins deserve.  Your Word instructs me in your way, but I often fail in following it.  When others sin against me I fail to be as gracious and merciful as you are to me. 

 Forgive me, Lord and help me to forgive those who sin against me.  Just as Joseph did not hold his brothers in contempt, let me also let go when I am wronged.  Let your grace and mercy rule in my heart, for Jesus’s sake, I pray.  Amen.

Who do you need to forgive?