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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

This Is the Day the Lord Has Made

There are those Bible verses that are well known by a vast majority of Christians, but if pressed on chapter and verse (or even book or testament) it is from they could hardly tell you.  Today during my daily devotions (I use "Treasury of Daily Prayer" published by CPH.  If you are looking for a way to get into God's Word every day, I highly suggest it.) I came across one such verse, "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  For the record, it is Psalm 118:24.  Growing up in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, this is one of those no brainier responses where we automatically, almost despite our own volition, fill in the second half of the verse whenever someone around us speaks the first half.  It wasn't until my devotions this morning that I really realized the fullness of what this verse speaks.  Context is everything!

In summary, Psalm 118 is a "general statement of thanksgiving for all the kindness God showers daily on all men, both good and evil." (From Luther's Commentary on Psalm 118).  The kindness, however, culminates in Christ, even within the psalm itself.  This was my big "epiphany" this morning as I read this verse in context.  The psalm starts out with a hearty, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!"  (Another well known, stand alone verse.)  The psalmist well establishes the people of God in this phrase by putting it on their lips and repeating it three times, "His steadfast love endures forever."  Once we are rooted in His love, the psalmist continues on to say no only can we take refuge in the Lord, but in the Lord we find victory!  He even goes as far as to say that it is ONLY in the Lord that we find victory.

Even when we seem all but overtaken, our victory is still in the Lord.  For, "The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation."  (Another, another great stand alone verse we all know.  Perhaps this speaks to just how rich this psalm is...even more so when you put these verses back where they belong.)  Then the psalmist breaks out into this song of salvation that comes from the Lord, climaxing in the claim, "I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord."  In the Lord, we have even overcome death itself!  God may punish us, or give us over to ourselves in sin, but as His children He does not give us over to death.  From this claim the psalmist begins to ask God that to give Him righteousness that he may give thanks, and that righteousness is nothing other than salvation.

This is where we get to our verse from the beginning, "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  After asking for this righteousness, this salvation, the psalmist gets right to the heart of the matter:

    "The stone that the builders rejected
          has become the cornerstone.
     This is the LORD’s doing;
          it is marvelous in our eyes.
     This is the day that the LORD has made;
          let us rejoice and be glad in it."

Our salvation is established in the stone that the builders rejected, the cornerstone of Christ.  This is the Lord's doing, this was His plan and purpose, that Christ as the stone that religious and political leaders rejected would be the rock, the cornerstone of our salvation.  This is a marvelous thing!  God used our own sinfulness and the devil's trickery to overcome our sin and bind the devil!  This is the day that God has established our salvation, let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Each day we live and breath is a day that God has made, a day that God has saved, a day that God comes to us in victory!  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

The psalmist still isn't done, however.  He continues, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  We bless you from the house of the Lord!  The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us.  Bind the festival sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!"  The psalm ends the same way it begins, with praise and thanksgiving and, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!"

Remember this today.  Remember this each day.  This is the day that God has covered you with his unending love!  This is the day that God has established you in His salvation forever!  This is the day that Christ has given you victory over sin, death, and the devil!  "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016

Perhaps my brothers who write for this blog no longer struggle with this, as they have endured quite a few elections as pastors.  However, this is a new one for me.  The day after the election, I now find myself praying a bit more often than usual for my sermon that I will preach on Sunday.  I didn't give it much thought before the election, but now that the results are in and people are faced with the reality of who will be their next president it is weighing heavily on my mind.

I have been asking God for guidance on how to preach to a congregation, some of whom are elated and some of whom are terrified.  How do you preach to a people who have been shaped by  experiences that have lead to differing political stances?  How do you preach to people who have honestly faced or witnessed racism and sexism and hate while at the same time preaching to people who have honestly been falsely accused of these same things?  People supported their candidate because they believed them to be the best answer to their fears.

Many people feel strongly on opposing positions because of what they have experienced.  They support who they do for good and true reasons, as a result of our broken and fallen world.  The only cure for a broken world is Christ Jesus, so the only thing to preach is Him crucified, risen, and ascended to one day return again.  May we turn to Christ alone for our comfort and consultation.  May we turn to Christ alone for our refuge and safe-haven.  May we not become proud and puffed up in our politics nor fall into despair, but may we look to Christ as the One who is above all.  May God use me as His mouth peace to preach to those blinded by pride or fear so that they may see Jesus.  Amen.