We walk with our Lord through the season of Lent, traveling with Him till we behold His supreme sacrifice for us in the battle with Satan and all of the accusing forces of evil. Then the astonishing happens: He dies.
God came to earth to accomplish victory, and now He, who took on human flesh and lived among us, dies.
It’s true that, once our eyes are opened to it growing up, we are haunted by mortality all the rest of our lives: Death of a pet. Death of a celebrity or television character. Death of our loved ones. Our own death one day. And now add to that the death of Jesus, who died while doing battle for our salvation. Yes, death is haunting, and we learn it to be well beyond our control.
It’s the very premise that God would experience our situation, even going through death, which is the comfort of Lent. He died, and the earth quaked. The sun darkened. Graves opened. The veil within the great and holy Temple was rent in two. We find some comfort that we’re not the only ones dealing with death — It seems that all creation could not bear His death. Our great comfort is that God comes to earth so that we may witness His taking on death and all its might.
Christians observe Lent every year, not because it culminates in Jesus’ Innocent Death; Christians observe Lent every year because, while it culminates in Jesus’ Innocent Death on our behalf, death does not get the last word! Keep watch until Resurrection Sunday for that.
But for now, we are called, and we are satisfied to walk to Golgotha, the hill on which Jesus paid for your sins and mine. We see a work offered to heaven for us by Jesus Christ — because we were not capable of making things right on our own. All of our lives, when or if haunted by death, we will look to His death to make us right with our Maker.
Here at Martini, during Lent, Lent is what we do! We repent, deeply, and with a wonderful sense of God’s complete forgiveness. We take fearless inventory of our lives, and then take fearless inventory of what the Lord was doing on Earth for our salvation. He stands the test of prophecy fulfilled and the laws of sacrifice satisfied, and then multiplies such blessing to each one of us. And, of course, we journey through Lent in hope. It’s not like we don’t know how the story ends.
To appreciate that ending best, we take each part in the fulness of the journey to the cross, one day by one day, until the Friday God says, “It is finished!” …and the Sunday the dawn breaks, with physical and spiritual proof of victory…
God’s blessings to you in Lent. Thanks for stopping by the Pastor’s Corner! Come worship Sundays, and also Wednesdays in Lent at 7:00. See our Calendar for Holy Week services. We’ll look to see you.
I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
This is the Resurrection season. As creation around us bursts forth with colorful bloom, it serves as testimony to Jesus, who burst forth from the grave and from death’s strictures to stand again, in the flesh, amid His disciples, alive.
In His new, Resurrected state, he showed them His nail-scarred hands, and wounded side, inviting Thomas to touch him and know for sure. He ate among them, conversing, teaching, loving them. Those forty days had to be the most amazing days the remaining disciples had ever known.
The Day of Resurrection and the forty days which follow it this year are also our time to be in touch with the victorious Lord of Life.
Because Jesus rose bodily, we, too, connected by faith to Him, shall rise bodily after we have left these bodies of death. Because of the appearance of sin in this world, we were born into sin’s economy, inheriting it from our parents as they did from theirs. In short, we were born corrupted — born to die. But God’s original plan had been that we would live for Him here and enjoy life with Him forever. Jesus is God’s proof that God’s original plan is open to us, and guaranteed for all who believe Him.
In the life of the Church, we call the first day of the week the Lord’s Day, because, on this day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead and left the tomb empty. Every Sunday is a little “day of Resurrection.” This worship reminds us that our entire life, beginning at Baptism, is a life of dying and rising. Check out the “dying and rising” motif of the Christian life: We worship, and celebrate the forgiveness of sins [sins=”dying;” forgiveness=”rising.”] which Jesus won on the cross for us. We celebrate heaven’s open door, and the prospect of entering there — all by God’s grace alone. Should we fall into sin, the forgiveness paid for at the cross cleanses us and raises us up. Should we fall into bad circumstances and be humbled, it is God’s pleasure to exalt us in due time. Should we be part of a rift in relation to a friend, He calls us to repentance, and leads us through reconciliation to live in a renewed, restored relationship. When we commit ourselves to Him each evening and go to sleep, He keeps us through the night and wakes us at the dawn with His mercies refreshing and new. And one day, when we close our eyes in death, he will bring us to paradise, and raise us bodily on the last day.
So our daily life is re-defined by resurrection, as is our final day. Jesus summed it up this way: “Because I live, you also will live.” [John 14:19]. The resurrection lifestyle is not available apart from His death and subsequent resurrection. But it is provided to you and me in full by Jesus Christ.
When I got my start here on earth I was born to die. Even now, as all the world reawakens in colorful beautiful springtime, I was born to die. I owned my sin, but could not beat it, outrun it, or shake it off. My life was blessed in many ways, but I was not free, not able to achieve in the best sense, as long as sin defined each day.
Now, born into the family of God through Baptism and the Word, I have been made a child of God. Courtesy of my Lord Jesus Christ, I have been born into His kingdom to live in Resurrection beauty, Resurrection forgiveness, Resurrection power each day, and Resurrection victory at the last.
So it is for all whose trust is in Him. Resurrection living is beautiful.
Christmas, the Birth of our Lord
Here’s a little secret: I always enjoy Christmas best about three days afterward, say on the 27th or 28th. For Pastors, the season is quite busy, and very involved. But immediately after Christmas, many are taking time with family, or are visiting them out of town, and things get fairly quiet. It’s at some time during those days, when better rested, I personally and intimately realize the sweetness and strength of all that “Christ is born” means, and say to myself — even out loud — “Christ is born for me.” It feels good, and I smile.
Here at Martini Lutheran Church we’ve had a busy, happy December leading up to Christmas. We set the tables in the fellowship hall for Christmas crab cake dinner for Augsburg Lutheran Home residents, and shared with them a Christmas “chapel” service with Luke 2, and sang carols in our sanctuary. Also, our Choir fixes, as a gift, a delicious dinner for the congregation. Children come and meet a Santa who bows before the manger before asking about other gifts. Admission is warm knitwear for children in need. And there’s Christmas singing and a great turnout! From Thanksgiving time to Christmas time, we give out food baskets. This year we gave 49 heaping baskets, plus two additional turkeys! Because we know the Christmas story before it’s told us again, we find ourselves excited by the giving initiated by God’s gift of His Son, and wanting to share the Word in Word and deed.
Worship is central to all we do. After the Sunday and Midweek worship’s “expectancy” of Advent worship, Christmas worship brings us a satisfaction in God’s compassion, the joy of having an ancient, promise-keeping God who cares for each of us yet today, and the excitement of celebrating this with everyone around us. Each Christmas time, we give the nod to Sunday School to bring the first worship proclaiming Jesus’ birth. This year we were blessed to see a great group of children among us, telling from the front of the church of the Savior who came for them. From the simplicity of the children’s words, we came to the high joy of Christmas Eve Candlelight and Carols. The sermon looked at the condition of our world as precisely the reason we need the manger, the cross, and Christ in His fullness for our day.
As the local church, we are the place where celebrating Christmas gets its rationale. A few days before Christmas, the many hip bars in our area were having Mayan Calendar “end of the world” parties. No question, they made money. But most people saw it as an excuse, rather than a reason, to celebrate. And I thought, “For how many people is Christmas an excuse, rather than a rationale, to celebrate?” The question attended my hearing as I listened to the radio at Christmas. On the commercial stations, there were three kinds of Christmas songs. First, there were artists doing songs of Christ, the Shepherds, the Wise men of the Epiphany, and Angels. Next, there were songs about the accoutrements of Christmas: Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, Santa looked a lot like Daddy, and songs about snow, snowmen, chestnuts, reindeer noses, et al. Finally, there were the songs about something else happening at Christmas: We fell in love, it happened it was at Christmas, and we were happy as carolers sang in the distance, or some such thing.
It’s my observation that people’s spiritual lives are like the songs of Christmas. Some are squarely built on Jesus Christ, and His life and death for them. These folks also enjoy the accoutrements of Christmas, and all that life means with Christmas in it. Then there are some get into the “Christmas spirit” and become more giving and more happy, or at least more uninhibited. But the centrality and truth of Christ is not there for them. When or if they come to a Christmas service, it’s more about the decorations and trappings than the Divine Incarnation. Yet others are just living as best they can, without the true Gift of Christmas, only a passing knowledge. Some of their life happens at the same time as Christmas, and they notice that that was the case.
Here at Martini Lutheran Church, we are here to share the best news of all: Christ was born for you! He was born for you that He might live for you. He lived for you that He might die to forgive your sins. He died, then rose again, that His power may be strong in your life. And, much as the promise of His first coming, He has promised to come again. When you think of all this means, and of a God who is so wonderfully accessible, and who wants your worship, wherein He has many gifts for you, it brings a wonderful joy.
May God bless you with a wonderful Christmas joy which takes you well through the year ahead!
It’s Advent, and I’m looking for Jesus to come!
The season is a preparation for Christmas, the celebration of God coming into the world in human flesh, making His home among us. We celebrate and confess the Scriptures’ truth that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.
The miracle and mystery of God coming to earth in humanity is why we need Advent, too.
The word “Advent” means “Coming.” Our Bible readings each Sunday in church will tell of various times Jesus entered to be among the people. He’ll ride into Jerusalem. He’ll step from the crowd into the Jordan to be baptized by John, His forerunner.
We’ll also hear about His second Advent, His second Coming, when He will judge the living and the dead. This teaching of the second Advent leaves us awestruck — and also lets us think of a simple truth: Jesus was promised and prophesied for thousands of years, then at the right time He came in person. So if He promised and it is prophesied that He will come a second time, He is able to do it — at the right time and in person. Advent, among its many themes, would have us look toward Jesus’ second coming, and always be ready.
The best way to prepare for that final Advent is to prepare to welcome Jesus at Christmas. To welcome Him to our world. To welcome Him to our church. To welcome Him into our homes. To start by welcoming Him into our hearts. This kind of Advent observance becomes a way of life in which we are always looking to Him and will never be unprepared for His coming.
As we long for His coming, we ask Him to abide with us when it is evening. We ask Him to shepherd us as we embark on every new day’s work. And on His day of rest, He presents Himself to us so personally in His divine, inerrant, life-changing Word, the Bible; or tenderly and substantively in the Meal at His altar, as He promised.
We seek Him for every need of our lives of body and soul. We desire Him with us. Yet, when we take stock of ourselves, we realize that our heart-house is not properly cleaned and straightened for our Guest. This is God’s Holy Spirit bringing us to repentance, and He sees to it that we are cleansed to the standards of the Guest and God whom we seek to welcome aright, and who alone can do such cleansing.
I love Advent. If it is true that so much of a trip’s enjoyment is in the journey, then Advent is the Journey, Christmas the destination. I love enjoying gifts and candy canes and lights on trees. I am reminded by each of the Gift of a Savior, Shepherd and Light of the World. Here at Martini, our choir will host a dinner of fellowship and carols and Santa and collecting hats/scarves/gloves for the needy. The natural Advent wreath will fill the church with its aroma, and the candles will count the weeks with increasing light to December 25. Our congregation will make available Christmas baskets and toys for up to thirty families, and youth will pack them. Trees will arrive from the woods, and we will light and decorate them to the glory of God.
And amid the joy of preparation, I need the time to stop and reflect. Jesus’ journey was to earth, and His destination, specifically, was the cross, where He would take my sins and yours and the world’s, and accomplish the reason for His coming — to be Savior [“Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled”].
I need to prepare and be cleansed and re-experience the closeness of the Lord and take time to appreciate what His personally-sent, fully delivered Saving Grace is all about. So do you!
For those in the Martini Lutheran Church area, our three midweek Advent devotional services are meant to help with that. They are December 5, 12, and 19, from 6:45 – 7:30. Come, and be blessed!
Happy Advent. Let’s walk the days together, looking and preparing for Jesus to come!