Ready for church this 3rd Sunday in Lent (Oculi): Our eyes are always on the Lord + even as we are tempted to look back (1.Kings 19,1-8; Eph.5,1-9 and Luke 9,57-62) or elsewhere. We know: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk.9,62).
So, we sing the old confirmation standard:
1 Jesus, lead Thou on till our rest is won; And although the way be cheerless,we will follow calm and fearless. Guide us by Thy hand to our fatherland.
2 If the way be drear, if the foe be near, Let not faithless fears o’ertake us; Let not faith and hope forsake us; For through many a woe to our home we go.
3 When we seek relief from a long-felt grief, When temptations come alluring, Make us patient and enduring. Show us that bright shore where we weep no more.
4 Jesus, lead Thou on till our rest is won. Heav’nly leader, still direct us, Still support, console, protect us, Till we safely stand in our fatherland.
The 3rd Lenten Service is coming up. We´re following the propers of the local lectionary. The Introit starts us off with the 3rd penitential Psalm:
O Lord, do not continue to rebuke me in your anger. Do not continue to punish me in your raging fury. For your arrows pierce me, and your hand presses me down. My whole body is sick because of your judgment; I am deprived of health because of my sin. For my sins overwhelm me; like a heavy load, they are too much for me to bear. My wounds are infected and starting to smell, because of my foolish sins. I am dazed and completely humiliated; all day long I walk around mourning. For I am overcome with shame, and my whole body is sick. I am numb with pain and severely battered; I groan loudly because of the anxiety I feel. O Lord, you understand my heart’s desire; my groaning is not hidden from you. My heart beats quickly; my strength leaves me. I can hardly see. Because of my condition, even my friends and acquaintances keep their distance; my neighbors stand far away. Those who seek my life try to entrap me; those who want to harm me speak destructive words. All day long they say deceitful things. But I am like a deaf man—I hear nothing; I am like a mute who cannot speak. I am like a man who cannot hear and is incapable of arguing his defense. Yet I wait for you, O Lord! You will respond, O Lord, my God! I have prayed for deliverance, because otherwise they will gloat over me; when my foot slips they will arrogantly taunt me. For I am about to stumble, and I am in constant pain. Yes, I confess my wrongdoing, and I am concerned about my sins. But those who are my enemies for no reason are numerous; those who hate me without cause outnumber me. They repay me evil for the good I have done; though I have tried to do good to them, they hurl accusations at me. Do not abandon me, O Lord. My God, do not remain far away from me. Hurry and help me, O Lord, my deliverer.
The Old Testament lesson on those lofty plans to build the tower of babel very much sketches the sinful inclination to make a lasting name for oneself, but ending up much worse than before: Genesis 11:1-9.
The Gospel lesson from St. Luke takes us back to the upper room, where our good Lord dined with his disciples on the night, when he was betrayed. Even there those closest friends of his disputed among themselves, who of them, was the greatest. Simon Peter obviously favored his chances to be the first (primus inter pares), but is put into place as our good Lord points special prayers for him and tasks him with future service and duties to strengthen his brothers:
A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. So Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ Not so with you; instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.For who is greater, the one who is seated at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.“You are the ones who have remained with me in my trials. Thus I grant to you a kingdom, just as my Father granted to me,that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat,but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”But Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!”Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.”
Then Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no money bag, or traveler’s bag, or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?” They replied,“Nothing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me is being fulfilled.” So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Then he told them, “It is enough.”
Gospel of St. Luke 22,24-38
In contrast with this sinful striving to be first and foremost, our good Lord serves his people to the very end – faithfully and lovingly. Not only does he wash his disciples feet, but he also suffers all for us and our salvation. On the cross – counted amongst the outcasts – he still looks out for his mother the holy virgin St. Mary and his disciple St. John, whom he loved. He truly did not hold on to his divine privileges, but emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! The short verses from St. John´s gospel serve as sermon text for this lenten service:
So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!” He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.
Gospel of St. John 19:26f
Together with the Christian Church we laud and magnify His glorious name – evermore praising Him and saying with these lovely words:
1 O perfect life of love! All, all, is finished now, All that He left His throne above To do for us below.
2 No work is left undone Of all the Father willed; His toil, His sorrows, one by one, The Scriptures have fulfilled.
3 No pain that we can share But He has felt its smart; All forms of human grief and care Have pierced that tender heart.
4 And on His thorn-crowned head And on His sinless soul Our sins in all their guilt were laid That he might make us whole.
5 In perfect love He dies; For me He dies, for me. O all atoning Sacrifice, I cling by faith to Thee.
6 In ev’ry time of need, Before the judgment throne, Thy work, O Lamb of God, I’ll plead, Thy merits, not mine own.
7 Yet work, O Lord, in me As Thou for me hast wrought; And let my love the answer be To grace Thy love has brought.
Burg is the 3rd largest city in Sachsen-Anhalt – but still hardly heard of. Yet there´s a lot to see and not just towers, churches and steeples.
Theodor Fontane , author of one of my long time favorites “Der Stechlin” was an assistant to some local chemist for some time here – around 1840 – and the military genius Carl von Clausewitz and author of the renown “Vom Kriege” (On wars) was born here and his remains were brought back here to be buried after he died at just 51 years.
„I left Berlin in autum 1840 to stay in Burg, a notable city, unknown to most – It´s lost in the shadow of Magdeburg.“
Theodor Fontane: Von Zwanzig bis Dreißig
Obviously the heyday was some time ago – and even then it was but playing second – or make that third – fiddle. Still, the old walls continue to speak loud and clear.
The 3rd Sunday in Lent (Oculi) is coming up and we´ve got the first part of the fifth chapter of St. Paul´s letter to the Ephesians on the table. We´re using the excellent commentary of Dr. Timothy Wengert (St.Catherines) to come to grips with this baptismal instruction on Christian life in this world in the light of our God and Lord:
Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved childrenand live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints.Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting—all of which are out of character—but rather thanksgiving. For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience.Therefore do not be sharers with them,for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live like children of light— for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Tomorrow is the 2nd Sunday in Lent and is called “Reminiscere” (Remember!). This is a reference to the Introit from Psalm 25. It invites us to call upon the triune God, pleading him to remember his tender mercies and loving kindnesses, which endure forever. The above altar by Lucas Cranach jr (1548) depicts three such pointers to God´s mercies and gracious favors.
Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O Lord, My God, I trust in you. Please do not let me be humiliated; do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me. Make me understand your ways, O Lord. Teach me your paths. The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live. The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your reputation, O Lord, forgive my sin, because it is great.
This divine compassion and loving kindness is exemplified in the Gospel of St. John with our Lord´s story of the elevation of the bronze serpent (see the right panel of the reformation altar above), whereby he points us to his own elevation on the cross:
Just as Moses lifted up the serpentinthe wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted upso that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.
The holy Gospel according to St. John 3:14-21
The truly amazing part of this story is that God´s showed us his gracious favor and loving kindness – when we were still sinners! That´s the message of the epistle lesson:
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.
St. Paul´s letter to the Romans 5:1-11
It´s on this backdrop, that the true monstrosity of sinful abomination and rejection of God´s loving graces becomes clear. He, who does all and everything for us and our salvation, comes to realize time and again that his loving pursuit is in vain and attains horrible opposition. God´s prophet Isaiah puts this into dramatic words in his song of God´s vineyard – and that´s the assigned sermon text for this Sunday: Isaiah 5:1-7.
So we will join the Christian church in singing pastor Paul Eber´s hymn, which is translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878):
The 2nd Lenten Service is coming up. We´re following the propers of the local lectionary. The Introit starts us off with the 2nd penitential Psalm:
How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven, whose sin is pardoned. How blessed is the one whose wrongdoing the Lord does not punish, in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long. For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer. (Selah) Then I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, “I will confess my rebellious acts to the Lord.” And then you forgave my sins. (Selah) For this reason every one of your faithful followers should pray to you while there is a window of opportunity. Certainly when the surging water rises, it will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you protect me from distress. You surround me with shouts of joy from those celebrating deliverance. (Selah) I will instruct and teach you about how you should live. I will advise you as I look you in the eye. Do not be like an unintelligent horse or mule, which will not obey you unless they are controlled by a bridle and bit. An evil person suffers much pain, but the Lord’s faithfulness overwhelms the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be happy, you who are godly! Shout for joy, all you who are morally upright!
The Old Testament lesson is the account of the institution of the Passover (Exodus 12,1.3.7-8.12-14.26-27) and the Gospel lesson from St. Luke takes us to our Lord´s institution of His Holy Supper in the night He was betrayed and during their celebration of the Passover feast:
Then the day for the feast of Unleavened Bread came, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us to eat.”They said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?” He said to them, “Listen when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters, and tell the owner of the house,‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’Then he will show you a large furnished room upstairs. Make preparations there.” So they went and found thing just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Now when the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles joined him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
“But look, the hand of the one who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man is to go just as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” So they began to question one another as to which of them it could possibly be who would do this.
Gospel of St. Luke 22,7-23
The sermon text supplements this most perfectly:
Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end.The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself.He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.”
Gospel of St. John 13,1-7
Together with the church of old we sing in the translation of Robert Campbell (1814-1868):
1 At the Lamb’s high feast we sing Praise to our victorious King, Who has washed us in the tide Flowing from His piercèd side. Alleluia!
2 Praise we Him, whose love divine Gives His sacred blood for wine, Gives His Body for the feast– Christ the victim, Christ the priest. Alleluia!
3 Where the paschal blood is poured, Death’s dread angel sheathes the sword; Israel’s hosts triumphant go Through the wave that drowns the foe. Alleluia!
4 Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed, Paschal victim, paschal bread; With sincerity and love Eat we manna from above. Alleluia!
5 Mighty Victim from the sky, Hell’s fierce pow’rs beneath You lie; You have conquered in the fight, You have brought us life and light. Alleluia!
6 Now no more can death appall, Now no more the grave enthrall; You have opened paradise, And Your saints in You shall rise. Alleluia!
7 Easter triumph, Easter joy! This alone can sin destroy; From sin’s pow’r, Lord, set us free, Newborn souls in You to be. Alleluia!
8 Father, who the crown shall give, Savior, by whose death we live, Spirit, guide through all our days; Three in One, Your name we praise. Alleluia!
This is where Johann Arndt, the author of “Four books of true Christendom” with considerable influence in Russia (!) was born on the 27th of December 1555 – or perhaps it was in Edderitz. In the German version of Wikipedia we read more about him:
Fürst Joachim Ernst nahm die Konkordienformel von 1577 nicht an, sondern erließ 1585 eine gesonderte Bekenntnisformel. Im Jahr 1589 verlangte sein Nachfolger, Fürst Johann Georg von Anhalt, die Abschaffung des Exorzismus in der Taufe. Arndt lehnte dies ab und weigerte sich, sich dem neuen Bekenntnis zu unterwerfen. Am 10. September 1590 gab Arndt eine entsprechende Erklärung ab. Wenige Tage später wurde ihm das Amt entzogen und er wurde des Landes verwiesen. Arndt vermutete zu Recht, dass dieses Bekenntnis nur der erste Schritt zum Übertritt des Fürstentums Anhalt zum Calvinismus sein würde. 1596 führte Fürst Johann Georg den Calvinismus ein. 1590 nahm Arndt deshalb eine Pfarrstelle an der Nikolaikirche in Quedlinburg an, wo er bis 1599 blieb. Anschließend wirkte er als Pfarrer und Autor in Braunschweig (bis 1609), in Eisleben und von 1611 bis 1621 als Generalsuperintendent in Celle.
Our Bible study is coming up and it´s all about the triune God´s passionate pursuit of His people:
I will sing to my love — a song to my lover about his vineyard. My love had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He built a hedge around it, removed its stones, and planted a vine. He built a tower in the middle of it, and constructed a winepress. He waited for it to produce edible grapes, but it produced sour ones instead.
So now, residents of Jerusalem, people of Judah, you decide between me and my vineyard! What more can I do for my vineyard beyond what I have already done? When I waited for it to produce edible grapes, why did it produce sour ones instead?
Now I will inform you what I am about to do to my vineyard: I will remove its hedge and turn it into pasture, I will break its wall and allow animals to graze there. I will make it a wasteland; no one will prune its vines or hoe its ground, and thorns and briers will grow there. I will order the clouds not to drop any rain on it.
Indeed, Israelis the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the people of Judah are the cultivated place in which he took delight. He waited for justice, but look what he got—disobedience! He waited for fairness, but look what he got—cries for help!
Ready for church on this 1st Sunday in Lent (Invocavit). “Invocavit” means “He has called” and refers to our God´s promise: “When he calls out to me, I will answer him. I will be with him when he is in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him honor.” (Psalm 91,15) So, we come to Him this morning to call and cry to Him in all our trouble. We trust, that He will rescue us – just as He always has through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord and God, who rules and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit – one God – now and always. Amen.
The candles are burning. The table is set and we´re full of great expectations to celebrate our Lord´s victory of sin, death and devil. He did just that to fulfill his mission: For this purposethe Son of God was revealed: to destroythe works of the devil. (1.Joh.3,8b)
We´ll be using the Prayer provided by our sister church for this Sunday:
Almighty God, You led Your ancient people through the desert and brought them to the Promised Land. Guide the people of Your Church, that following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty God, You disdain nothing that You have made. Create in us new and contrite hearts, that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, we would receive Your absolution with true penitence. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty God, because we are dust, stretch forth the right hand of Your majesty and defend us from those that rise up against Your Church. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty God, preserve all catechumens and their teachers, all children and their parents, and every Christian home from the assaults of the evil one. As Your Son overcame Satan in the desert by the Word of God, so also give us the victory through Christ and His Word. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty God, since we sojourn in the wilderness of this earth, look upon our desire for peace, and by Your mighty power defend us and our nation against all our enemies. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty God, send Your holy angels to protect and keep us in Your ways, that no evil may befall us. Graciously behold the needy, the sick and the troubled [especially _____________]. Satisfy us with long life, and show us Your salvation. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty God, You covered the sin and shame of our first parents with animal skin and foreshadowed Your perfect sacrifice in the shedding of Your Son’s blood, by which we are cleansed and clothed. Give us the garments of repentance and faith, that we may receive Your Son’s body and blood for the forgiveness of all our sins. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord God, heavenly Father, inasmuch as the adversary continually afflicts us and as a roaring lion walks about, seeking to devour us: We implore You for the sake of the suffering and death of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to help us by the grace of the Holy Spirit and to strengthen our hearts by Your Word, that our enemy may not prevail over us, but that we may evermore abide in Your grace and be preserved unto everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.