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Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 2012

This week is one of the most important in the church year. We will be remembering, mourning, and celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Remembering is critical for the Christian's mind. The way we view what is in front our eyes presently is seen through glasses that are colored by the past. Our past can either fog up the lenses or make things clearer. For the Christian who sees the world through the lenses of Christ's death and resurrection, things are seen more clearly. When we observe the world around us, we do so in remembrance of Him.

Remembering the past, however, is not the only thing for the Christian. The creation and the fall, Noah's flood, the promises to the Patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, the reign of David, the fall of Israel, the miraculous coming of the Messiah who died and rose again, all of this is vital for our life and salvation. It is in the past where our salvation was purchased with the blood of Jesus. So, we must remember. But, what we remember impacts us now, where we are at this moment, in our present. For the blood of Christ was shed then for you now! Christ's salvation is not bound somewhere in the past, for our crucified Lord is risen and is reigning in mercy. Jesus who saved us in the past with His work on the cross saves us in the present. But how? Our Christ who reigns comes to us through the work of the Holy Spirit in His Word and sacraments. The salvation purchased in the past is delivered in the present by means of water, bread, wine, and the attached promises spoken by the pastor or fellow Christians.

Let's take communion as an example for this. This Maundy Thursday we will likely sing the hymn, "Go to Dark Gethsemane." This is a hymn of remembrance. It reminds us of what Jesus went through as He prayed to God before His arrest. We will also receive the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine at communion. At the command of Christ, we will do this in remembrance of Him (I Corinthians 11:25). We will remember how Christ sacrificed Himself for us. But we will do more. Or, better said, more will happen to us. For we won't merely remember Christ in the past, we will receive Christ in the present. Christ will that night, as He does every Sunday, give us His very body and blood which was sacrificed on the cross and has risen from the dead. We can remember dark Gethsemane, but we cannot actually go there. But that is okay. Our dear Lord who sweat blood in that garden will come to us! Jesus will be present in the present! What a present! (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

All of this is quite remarkable, but we aren't done. We remember what Christ has done in the past, we receive what He gives in the present, and in all of this we are prepared for the future! Back to communion: There we anticipate what Christ has earned and given when we gather around the altar. As St. Paul says, "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup (present), you proclaim the Lord's death (past) until he comes (future)." What an amazing moment we encounter every time we gather at the altar! The past, the present, and the future are all concentrated in that one moment. What an amazing God who calls us to that meal! The crucified and risen Christ (past) gives Himself to us to forgive our sins and strengthen our faith (present) and prepare us for His return (future)!

Please plan to join us this Holy Week (see this newsletter for service times) as we remember, receive, and prepare!

Pastor Bob

40 Days with James ~ Day 40 ~ Saved from Death

Day 40 ~ Saved from Death
James 5:19-20  My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
With these words James concludes what is likely the earliest New Testament writing.  And what a note to end on!  The very gospel itself!  Through our journey James has called to our attention many ways in which we can err in our life of faith.  There are many voices out there trying to drown out God's Word in an effort to make us wander away from His truth.  False teachers arise trying to tell us that Christ is not sufficient for our salvation and they offer different plans.  The riches of this world try to tell us that there is a better way of living than suffering with Christ.  Our own pride and self-righteousness tell us we don't need to listen to God's Word and that other people are merely a means to an end.  All of these voices James has silenced along the way so that we end up at the foot of the cross, once again, ready to hear this good news: Jesus died to save you from death and His blood covers all your sins.

This is the message that brings salvation.  The preaching of Christ crucified for sinners is the very Word of God that creates and sustains faith in our hearts.  We need this message constantly placed in our ears by someone else, lest we grow distracted by false teachers, worldly temptations, and our own pride.  By placing this Word in our ears, the Holy Spirit secures Christ in our hearts.  This gives us great hope and confidence before God and the world.

In this world, however, there are many who are distracted.  They are listening to the other voices.  Some have walked away from the faith.  Some have never known the truth in the first place.  If hearing this message brings the light of God's love, then the messages that our friends in the world are hearing darken them to the truth.  "Faith," St. Paul says, "comes from hearing the message" (Romans 10:17).  But, many don't hear the message of forgiveness and so remain in the darkness.  "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:14) People in this world will not believe the Gospel unless someone tells them the Gospel.  They don't know that God has forgiven their sins in Christ Jesus.  They don't know that they have been reconciled to God through Christ's blood.  They don't know that Jesus rose again for their salvation.  How can they unless someone tells them?

You know the truth.  The truth has set you free.  You belong to Jesus.  You are baptized.  Your sins are forgiven.  You have been given new life in Christ.  God has promised you a place with Christ for eternity.  All of these promises Christ has secured for you in His death and resurrection.  He's done it for everyone else too.  So tell them, for heaven's sake!

Confession:  Father, forgive me for not speaking your gospel boldly.  I have kept this public news to myself as if it was a private belief.  Give me a mouth to declare your forgiveness and love to the whole world with boldness, confidence, and joy.  AMEN.

Challenge:  Invite a friend to Good Friday AND Easter services.

Pastor Bob

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Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email