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Appointed Scripture Readings: Genesis 15:1-6 Psalm 33: 12-22 Hebrews 11:1-16  The Holy Gospel: St. Luke 12:22-40

Text for this Sermon: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

All Scripture is divided into Law and Promise.  By His Law, the Lord commands us the way we are to live. By His Promise and promises, the Lord gives us His life to live. Genesis 15: 1 is promise.  Promise or Gospel is not only in the New Testament but in the Old Testament as well.  The Lord gave His precious promise to Abram, I am your shield and with the promise of reward: Abram will be the father of many nations. This is the first time in the Bible, and in the first person, the only time Lord says, “I am your shield.” Of the 76 times the word shield(s) is used, 26 of those times it is in reference to the Lord.  This first time, which is the only time the Lord says it about Himself personally is to one of His chosen, Abram (Abraham). The Lord said it to Abram one to one so that, by the word of the Lord, the Lord would make faith in Abram:  I am your shield.

The Lord said first, Fear not. “Fear not” is also a precious promise to many: to Israel, to Mary, when an angel appears, when risen Lord appears to His disciples…and the Lord said it twice in today’s Gospel to those anxious and worried about will we have enough to live, be secure. The Lord said to them that He may say it us.

 As in “I am your shield”, this is the first time the Lord said “Fear not” to anyone in the Bible. It is obvious, the Lord knew Abram was fearing.  But why?  At this juncture, Abram had every reason not to fear: in previous chapter,  he had won a great battle and was blessed by the priest of the most high God, Melchizedek, King of Salem, King of Righteousness who brought  bread and wine.  Then he acted righteously and shows  the quality of his character: the King of Sodom wants to give Abram his possessions;  but Abram demurs and faithfully says to Sodom’s King: 

“I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 

Now here in at the beginning of chapter 15, Abram has fear and again, why? He had just won an important battle and was faithful in his response to the King of Sodom:  Abram was on the top.  The clue is Abram’s question:  Will I have a son? The Lord had promised him a son and Abram would become a father of many nations. Having the son of Eliezer did not work and God’s promise was late in coming. It doesn’t take much for things in life to quickly unravel. It only takes one dark cloud on a sunny day to cause fear and trepidation. Throughout the Bible, in our lives, a man is doing well in the Lord’s sight and then something happens, even small, a small doubt.  Paul said he had surpassing visions then the Lord gave him a thorn in the flesh which humbled the Apostle.  Paul could not trust his own good works and the Lord threw Paul back upon the Lord’s steadfast grace and mercy: “My grace is made perfect in weakness”. Abram could not trust his own works to produce an heir, that is the continuation of life, even eternal life, the Lord’s promise to him.  The Lord promises his reward will be great.

After fear not, the Lord said to Abram, He said:  I am your shield. He said to Abram “Fear not” to say the same to us.

The Lord is our shield, and His shield is synonymous with faith. Ephesians 6: 16:  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. 

The Roman soldier’s shield protected him from head to toe.  Arrows were tipped in tar and lit and then shot.  The Roman soldier would soak his shield in water to douse the flaming darts.  This may be a reference to Baptism through which we are washed and faith is given, so that as the Baptized, putting on the shield of faith, in order “… to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.  The evil one will shoot at you doubt and despair at your inability to withstand your own lusts of eye and heart: “Oh, you’re not a good Christian.  If you really were a Christian, you would not be feeling like this.”  “No, Satan! It is because I am a Christian that I know this and can cry out, I am baptized! Lord, save me!”  You cannot stand up against such, with all your works, except by the shield of faith, the shield given to you by His grace, not by your works (!), as He died and rose for you. (Ephesians 2). 

For many years, probably from the 1950s and on, congregations have been operated and been used as dispensers of spiritual goods: fellowship groups, worship, a Bible study or two, community presence, marriage mills, baptisms without active membership, a place for the local boy scout troop and the like.  A lot of that has gone away and rightly so. The mega-churches have done a great job of ratcheting this up to the maximum utilizing fine-honed tactics and techniques.  All of this has made for atomized congregations who are basically customers who may or may not form friendships with their fellow congregants. Maybe we only had a veneer of unity but not necessarily unity in faith and doctrine, as so many congregations were so busy with programs that the teaching of the promises of God played second fiddle to our busyness. For what it’s worth, years ago I said church was more about programs than promise. Then we became more and more attracted to proving our usefulness to the world, and not wanting to offend the world in order to get them into our services, we allowed for false gods with non-Christian doctrines, just as King Solomon allowed his wives to have their false gods in Jerusalem and the Temple. While we were sleeping, or sleep walking, the enemy came in and sowed bad seed in the ground (see Matthew 13:24-29). We were no longer walking by faith, but by sight.  By sight we look to the works of our hands, and the Lord has a name for that: idolatry.

And we forgot the saints who fought nobly of old.  Today (10 August) is the Commemoration of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr who on this date was martyred in AD 258.  He was a deacon in Rome. The emperor at the time, who thought that the Church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lawrence to produce the ‘treasures of the Church.’ According to tradition, Lawrence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year AD 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. This reminds us that gold does not make the Church, only the blood of Christ makes the Church, His Body.

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The Roman soldier in battle was not alone but had to rely on his fellow soldiers. Standing in formation with their shields for combat the soldiers overlapped their shields to help protect their comrade in arms.  When besieging a city, they protected themselves in what they called the “tortoise”, Latin testudo. They would move that way in order to besiege a city. 

We are not alone. We need to close ranks as never before, without giving up true doctrine and practice. I have thought that we don’t need bigger congregations but more congregations, small ones to close ranks.   The Roman soldier would not forsake his vows to Caesar and the Empire. The Roman was always looking toward the protection of Rome.

Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah,  Joseph, Moses, the people of Israel, Rahab the prostitute, Gideon,  Barak,  Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets…as listed in Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith, the great cloud of witnesses and their shield was faith.  Did they know the anxieties we are all subject? Would we have enough food on our tables, a roof over our heads and clothes on our back?  Of course.  Faith is not only historical knowledge about the Lord, the Bible and the like, but faith is trust.  Is the Lord trustworthy?  Now sometimes the response to fear, “Oh, don’t be so scared”, is rightly met with bemusement at best. Yet, a child scared of a thunderstorm, or the monsters underneath his bed, and Dad comes in and basically says, Fear not, the child begins to calm down. Dad’s presence is itself an answer.  Why?  Faith, trust in his Father who has a track record of faithfulness.  When our Lord says “Don’t be anxious”, He knows of what He speaks.  He gives examples from creation:

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 

Does the Lord know something about the ravens and the lilies? Yes, I would think so since He created them and takes care of them, so He cares for us.  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  Sometimes I think I need this verse tattooed on my arm to read daily.  The devil daily shoots the flaming darts of anxiety and anxiousness at us and a lot of that comes from the worldly culture, from TV, the internet, advertisers and the like. anxiety dwells in the heart.  The Roman’s shield was to protect the torso, the heart,the abdomen, all open to attack.  So the Lord knows:

But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 

The Lord redirects us: 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

For Abram was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. We have a city who founder, and foundation is the Lord Himself, Christ Jesus. Let us remain true and steadfast to Christ Jesus and the Kingdom of God, not for our sakes alone, but for the life of the world.

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Abram’s great reward from God was faith in the God of promise, His shield and ours,  and the Lord gave Abraham the child of promise. The Lord redirected Abram to look up at the stars, heaven itself, count the stars. The stars were a sign pointing to the promise as is the bread and the wine as His Body and Blood point to His presence.  Abram never did see Israel and the Church and yet his reward is great. The Son of Abraham came among us full of grace and truth, Jesus Christ.

The One had no where to lay his head who was ever on the move to the Cross, leads us.

The One who was stripped has clothed us in Baptism.

The One who hungered and thirsted feeds us the bread of life.

Gold does not make the Church, only the blood of Christ makes us into the Church.

Concordia and Koinonia

Gracious Lord, in every age You have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of  Your Gospel and all the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.  Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel, like Your servant Lawrence, whose faithfulness led them to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to Your Son’s victory over sin and death, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

About Lawrence: Early in the third century AD, Lawrence, most likely from Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage Church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the Church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lawrence to produce the ‘treasures of the Church.’ According to tradition,  Lawrence brought before the emperor…

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The Prayer of Agur

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Today’s Gospel lesson for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost (8/4/19) is St. Luke 12: 13-21, the Parable of the Rich Fool. Jesus teaches about covetousness and wealth. Dr. Paul Kretzmann in his Commentary on the Bible(1924) observed regarding this Text:

His goods were his god; in them he trusted to bring him happiness and the fulfillment of all his desires. This man, like most rich men, made the mistake of considering the additional wealth an asset, whereas it was a liability. Every dollar that God blesses a person with beyond the actual needs of life for himself and his family is not an asset in God’s sight, but a liability. The prayer of Agur, Prov. 30, 8. 9, is very necessary in our days when the love of money, covetousness, is stalking through the land, sowing dissatisfaction and strife in every station of life. But into the midst of these rosy meditations thundered the voice of God: Fool, man void of sense and understanding, in this night thy life is asked of thee. And the greater reckoning will follow. That which thou hast gathered, whose will it be? But even as foolish are all people that think only of gaining riches for themselves, the goods of this world, neglecting to seek the true wealth, the spiritual, heavenly gifts. (emphasis added)

The Prayer of Agur, Proverbs 30:8-9, is most instructive for us almost a century later. We wink at the sin of adultery in all it’s forms, but we do the same regarding the 1st Commandment and with it greed and covetousness. These verses should often be prayed:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
    and profane the name of my God.

St. Luke 12: 15c

Fake Life, Dangerous Life | "...ONE'S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS.” | image tagged in truth | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

A lot of the media buzz after the last two Democrat Party debates was about Marianne Williamson. She spoke about ‘spirituality’ during the debates and our nation’s spiritual problem(s). She has written 13 books, one of which was a best seller. The post-debate media coverage tended to portray her as ‘wacko’, out there and the like, as if Ms.Williamson is on the fringe of religion. She is not. I maintain Ms. Williamson is a purveyor of the new mainstream ‘spirituality’.

This past May, I resigned after serving as the chaplain for our local hospice (paid position) for three years. I began to read about the transformation of the role of hospice chaplain according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association (NHPCO). Our local hospice decided to produce a brochure about their hospice chaplaincy, initially entitled, “Spiritual/Existential Therapist””. I encouraged the brochure committee to drop the word “existential” since most people do not what that word means. They did and so the chaplain was no longer a chaplain but a “spiritual therapist”.

This new job title demonstrates to me that the mainstream understanding of “spiritual” and “spirituality” is the now familiar category of “spiritual, not religious”. Religion is a bad thing but especially Christian religion and particularly orthodox Christian religion. On more than one occasion, I found this out working as a hospice chaplain in our small college town. One example: the director asked me to pray at a public hospice function, I closed with the Aaronic Benedition, Numbers 6: 22-26. The next day the director called me to her office to tell me that a couple of board members were offended by the benediction. I incredulously asked, Why? “It’s not inclusive but exclusive. The use of “God” is okay but not “Lord”. One of the central canons of the new orthodoxy of ‘spirituality’ is inclusivity and with it hard and dogmatic tolerance. All ‘spiritual’ roads leading to ‘god’ are good. This is “nones” spirituality. The new ‘spirituality’ is not centered in the Lord but in you. Marianne Williamson is a mainstream representative of this ‘new’ ‘spirituality’.

One of the Ms. Williamson’s quotes from the debates is:

“If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.”— Marianne Williamson​

There is plausibility in what she said. Bureaucracy and bureaucrats can not solve actual spiritual problems. But who is the problem today? Answer: the President. He has brought up “this dark psychic force of collectivized hatred”– I have read NHPCO literature about spiritual/religious matters and much of it sounds like Ms. Williamson’s convoluted ‘spiritual’ language, newspeak.–Let’s say for argument’s sake, the “dark psychic force” is sin, the sin of anger and hatred which are actual sins. This only means the sin has always been there and maybe the President has shined a light on it. If I shine a flashlight into a dark, old basement and the rats start scurrying, the flashlight did not create those rats or bring them up, conjure them, as Ms. Williamson seems to be saying. She is saying, as the others, if we just get rid of the President, everything will be light and good. I wonder whom else Ms. Williamson and others (!) would want to get rid of for their ‘perfect’ inclusive society? Answer: probably orthodox Christians.

I think President Trump has shined the light of honesty on the dishonest practices of the ruling elite who control mainstream thought in politics, education and many religious groups. For instance, it was said by President Clinton in the ’90s that abortion should be: “safe, legal, and rare”. Sounds good. People bought it because evil likes to lie hidden even in plain sight under the patina of ‘goodness’, lest evil be exposed. Abortion is manifestly safe but not for the child! And not for the spiritual and emotional well being of the mother. It may be legal but it is absolutely immoral. Abortion was and is not rare and the elites did nothing to go toward that goal but the pro-life movement has and this movement is despised by the mainstream elites. I think the rage today comes from evil being exposed to the light of day. “Safe, legal and rare” was and is a lie. So President Trump forcefully talked about the horrors of abortion and the rats went scurrying and they hate it and direct their hatred to the scapegoat in Chief. So Ms. Williamson’s quote are just lies, true spiritual lies. She is as dangerous to the body politic as are the abortionists and socialist/communist candidates because she wants to commit abortion of the soul under the guise of her self-chosen ‘goodness’.

I have put the word “spirituality” in single quotes because in the Holy Bible “spirituality” is Holy-Spirit-ualty that is the Holy Spirit teaching and preaching in the Church Jesus Christ. I think the reason the elites do not want the Name to be spoken is they kind of know that the Lord actually does change people to be His own in His mercy and forgiveness. They resist this because the Old Adam likes wallowing in the self and it’s self-made religion…better the devil you know. Forbidding and/ or not saying the Name of the Lord is as old as the beginnings of the Church: See Acts 5: 28-30. Ms. Williamson’s ‘spirituality’ is the new ‘spirituality’ of religion of the mirror, of Narcissus, always looking into the dank basement of the heart and soul of man without the Lord and then “following your heart”. The devil does not want us to look into glorious face of Jesus Christ but the Lord does! See 2 Corinthians 4:6!

Biography:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge,England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled “Sententiae.” Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, Saint Robertus.” (The Treasury of Daily Prayer/CPH)

The following is a quote  by Luther (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer):

This Dr. Robert Barnes we certainly knew, and it is a particular joy for me to hear that our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest has been so graciously called by God to pour out his blood and to become a holy martyr for the sake of His dear Son. Thanks, praise, and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who again, as at the beginning, has granted us to see the time in which His Christians, before our eyes and from our eyes and from beside us, are carried off to become martyrs (that is, carried off to heaven) and become saints. 

Now, since this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes, heard at the time that his King Henry VIII of England was opposed to the pope, he came back to England with the hope of planting the Gospel in his homeland and finally brought it about that it began. To cut a long story short, Henry of England was pleased with him, as is his way, until he sent him to us at Wittenberg in the marriage matter.[1]

Dr. Robert Barnes himself often said to me: Rex mews non curat religionem, Sed est, etc. [“My king does not care about religion, but he is,” etc.]. Yet he loved his king and homeland so keenly that he willingly endured everything like that and always thought to help England .And it is indeed true that one who would not be optimistic toward his homeland and would not wish everything good for his prince must be a shameful rogue, as not only the Scriptures but also all our laws teach. He always had these words in his mouth: Rex mews, regem meum [“my king, my king”], as his confession indeed indicates that even until his death he was loyal toward his king with all love and faithfulness, which was repaid by Henry with evil. Hope betrayed him. For he always hoped his king would become good in the end.

Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.[2]

 Reflection:  The narrative of St. Robertus is an illustration of the Biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms as rediscovered by the blessed Reformers.  According to Romans 13, the Lord rules through temporal kingdoms, or nations, for the well-being of temporal order, peace, security and the like and then through His kingdom, His spiritual reign through the coming of His reign, in the crucifixion, Resurrection and ascension of His beloved Son, and His reign is eternal. As the Lord rules through both, Christians are citizens of both and St. Robert did want to serve his King. We are to do our best as Americans to be “optimistic” in regards to our “homeland” and “wish everything good” for our government, and that is enough.  The temporal kings (rulers, president, prime ministers and the like) are placed there by God but not as God!  When any government, or church, would tell us not to preach and teach Jesus Christ, in word and/or deed, nor the 10 Commandments, then we respond with the Apostle’s words:  “We must obey God rather than men”  (Acts 5:29). As Robert did and as Roman Catholic Thomas More, who did not agree with the King on the marriage matter said just before his execution, likewise ordered by King Henry VIII:  “The king’s good servant, but God’s first.”  So with St. Robert and as Christians we are the king’s better servants because our hope is not for this world alone.

We give thanks for the martyrs in our day in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya who obeyed the Lord and not the state.

“Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.


[1] The “marriage matter”, or the “great matter” was King Henry the VIII’s desire to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, and the only way a divorce was granted was by the Pope’s annulment of a marriage.  The Pope did not so grant, so the King, who had considered himself a devout Roman Catholic, eventually declared himself the head of the Church in England.  The monarchs of the United Kingdom have been the head of the Church of England ever since.  This struggle to separate the English Church from the Roman Church was a time of great turmoil resulting in more than the execution of St. Robert Barnes, such as the beheading of Henry’s faithful Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More. Luther was not for the divorce.

[2] As it is written in Ephesians, our struggle is not against flesh and  blood but against the powers and principalities in the heavenly places. Our prayer is for the Lord’s vengeance against wrongdoing and wrong doers, make no mistake about that, but not as Christians to slay the wicked! As Pastor Andrew Preus wrote in his article “Learning to Pray from the Imprecatory Psalms”:

“The devil would love to make us cry out curses with our own words and our own thoughts out of our own pride. James and John asked Jesus concerning the Samaritans who did not receive him, “Lord, should we tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:54)?” But the imprecatory psalms don’t have us call the fire down. They have us rather call God down. God is the one who brings vengeance (Deut 32:35Rom 12:19). And he does this in his own time and wisdom as he reveals his own patience toward us and all sinners (2 Pet 3:9). Therefore Jesus rebuked his overzealous disciples. What begins with anger against injustice can, if the devil and the flesh are given opportunity, turn into prideful curses that reflect the will of the beast (Rev. 13:13) rather than the will of God.”

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Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (St. John 11:5).” 

About Mary, Martha and Lazarus:  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”  On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”  When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).  Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  Many people think as Martha, It is what we offer to Jesus that matters. And He better notice and give me some help.  Mary knew better:  it was what  Jesus offered her that mattered and changed her and Martha, and you and I.  For instance:  When I was a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America it was said many times, “The word liturgy means “work of the people”.   The second syllable of “liturgy” is “ourgia”:  work.  I heard this so many times in 20 plus years…ad nauseam.  Then I reread The Apology of the Augsburg Confession and the word liturgy is given its right meaning.  Yes, ourgia, as in ergonomics, work, and the first syllable is public: the public works of God in His Word Sacraments for us and our salvation, not first our work. From The Apology:

“Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings; the righteousness of the law is that worship which offers God our own merits. It is by faith that God wants to be worshiped, namely, that we receive from Him what He promises and offers.”

There are two types of worship: the worship by the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of grace. Mary was at the feet of Jesus in the righteousness of His grace, His Word which forgives, heals and lifts us up.

Just think, this very article will be read by people around the earth. This was not possible to do from home some 20 years ago but we cannot be constantly amazed by all of this.  Adoring the creation of our hands is idolatry.  It is the Lord who gave us the mind and brains to make stuff to relieve hardship, explore, wonder and wander. Even greater is our Father’s love and mercy to save sinners by the giving of His Son and His love to still so serve our neighbor as the Lord is our God and our neighbor.

Our “ourgia” does not save us. Mary knew that.  Martha did not… at that time.  Martha would.  In John’s Gospel, Martha confesses Jesus is the Christ, chapter 11, after the death of her and sister’s brother.   This is the good portion, one thing that is needed that they both heard and believed.  Mary meets Jesus on the road and again falls at His feet and cries out that my brother would not have died if you had been here.  She knew whom to turn to as did Martha.  In the whole tangled mess of anxiety and trouble, the sisters turned not to themselves but Him and His Word. Our spirituality likewise is God’s Word, every Word in the Bible, every Word sung and prayed, every Word faithfully taught and preached, the one thing needful, daily repentance turning toward Him our Sabbath Lord.  Sabbath teaches we cannot save the world, let alone ourselves.  The one thing needful is His Word of grace, mercy and peace to do the one thing needed: being taught His Word and to help and serve our neighbor in our various vocations. We so serve not to be saved but because we are saved by grace, grace alone.

“You shall observe the worship day/that peace may fill your house, and pray./And put aside the work you do, /So that God may work in you.”/Have mercy, Lord!” (LSB #581)

 Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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