Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Seventh Petition--“Rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation.” When we pray the Seventh Petition, “but deliver us from evil,” we might be tempted to conclude that we are asking that “evil” never rear its head in our lives. This misses the mark. Evil will come into our lives in the form of Satan’s attacks upon our “body and soul, possessions and reputation.” Holy Scripture makes this clear. We will not be spared from being attacked. God wills that the attacks of evil against us serve the cause of faith. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.” Therefore, in the Seventh Petition we are asking that God would preserve our faith in Christ when we are assaulted by the Evil One, and teach us to commend ourselves—body, soul, and spirit, with all that we are and have —into His gracious keeping. The Word of our Lord teaches us that He will not forsake His own. If He allows evil to enter into our lives, then He does so for His good purposes and for the exercise of faith in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This petition promises the Christian: “God will not allow the Evil One or any adversity to overwhelm you.” By this petition He invites you to trust this promise and to call upon Him in your need. In this way faith in Christ is active.
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Fifth and Sixth Petitions—Faith in Christ’s Righteousness Brings True Freedom--Faith in Christ’s righteousness, which is a free gift of God’s grace that covers all our sin, gives true freedom. It is by the gift of Christ’s righteousness that we learn to commend our fellow sinners to God, not holding their sins against them but sincerely forgiving them and gladly doing good to them, especially when they sin against us (Fifth Petition). It is by the gift of Christ’s righteousness that we are delivered from every evil (Sixth Petition). This is why faith continues to pray that God would preserve us in His forgiveness against all evil. Satan’s desire is to tempt us away from the free gift of the righteousness of Christ. When our faith moves away from Christ’s righteousness then false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice come into our hearts and lives. So the faith that receives Christ’s righteousness is always calling upon Him in prayer to preserve us in the freedom of His righteousness.
Catechesis Notes for the Week—“Creation and redemption are equally impossible for man to accomplish, but not for God. ‘With God nothing will be impossible,’ not even the incarnation of His Son for the salvation of His fallen world. He is the actor, the Savior, and the Lord, who descends to our human flesh and joins Himself to our weaknesses, becoming like us in every way, except without sin, so that He might take our sin to Himself. When His Word sounds forth to announce His salvation, it can only be received and believed, for it carries with it all the saving benefits it proclaims. Mary received this Word, and the life of the world was conceived in her womb. Every Christian receives this Word too, through the call of the Gospel, and it brings to us the same Christ and the same salvation who was born of Mary. Therefore, our confession of faith is the same as Mary’s, “Let it be to me according to your word.” — Excerpted from Lutheran Catechesis, p. 90
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Genealogy of Jesus--“The first thing to be noted in the lineage of Christ is the fact that the evangelist (Matthew 1:1-17) lists in it four women who are very notorious in Scripture: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. But nothing is said about the women of good repute: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel. Now [some early church writers] have been concerned about the reason why this was done. I hold that the first group was mentioned because these women were sinners and that Christ also wanted to be born into that large family in which prostitutes and fornicators are found in order to indicate what a love He bore [for] sinners. For the holier real holiness is, the closer it draws to sinners. This, then, is the reason why He thrusts and sticks Himself into a family of sinners and is not ashamed of them, nay, lets them stand in the catalog of His ancestry and lets them be sung at that altar before all the world. Had Christ been a Pharisee, He would not have boasted very much of them; nay, they would have had an evil odor to Him, and He would have turned up His nose at them. But because He was holy, [sinners], too, had to be listed among His [ancestors].” –Martin Luther
Catechesis Notes for the Week—Joseph, the Guardian of Jesus, and Christian Vocation (Read Matthew 1:18-25)--Joseph, the Guardian of Jesus as he is often called, had a difficult vocation. He was called to be Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father. This calling meant a life of suffering and self-denial. This is always what true faith calls us to: a life of sacrificial love in which we deny ourselves. This is the shape of our lives as Christians because our life is lived by faith in the God and Savior who lived in selfless love for us. The Child conceived in Mary’s womb was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was not an adulteress. His name would be called “Jesus” because He is the Lord who would save His people from their sins by becoming one with them in their flesh and blood. All this was done to fulfill the Scriptures, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” This means that God is with us in the poverty and humiliation of our human condition in order to redeem us by the sacrifice of Himself. Joseph had no strength to fulfill his vocation within himself, but he was strengthened by the Holy Spirit through the promises of the Scriptures and the message of God’s selfless love for him and for all his people. This is our strength too in our vocation. The Gospel not only saves us from our sins, but it also strengthens and keeps us in the love of Christ in the earthly vocations to which our Lord has called us.
Catechesis Notes for the Week—Repentance Is at the Heart of Advent--“I’m tired of hearing talk about our sin!” This is often the response of those who hear the call to repentance. “Sin is a downer! Can’t we get on with something else?” Yes, we can go on. That’s what repentance is all about—going on, confessing sin, turning from it to Christ, finding our relief, comfort, and strength in His forgiveness. The message of repentance is not only the knowledge of our sin, it is also the proclamation that there is nothing that Jesus hasn’t done to save you from your sin and to give you new life and freedom now! The message of repentance always brings relief when it finds its rest in Christ, our righteousness.
A Congregation at Prayer ~ November 28–December 4, 2016 ~ The Lord's Prayer – Address & First Petition
Catechesis Notes for the Week—Advent--Advent means “coming.” It is the beginning of the Church Year. "Here in late November, we are in the middle of a season of dying. The flowers are frozen. The gardens are all gone. Gone are the greens and blues of summer. Here to stay are the grey days and long nights of winter. Yet in the middle of nature’s dying, we experience a Church that is thriving! In the Church’s year, all is fresh and new as we await the birth of the Word made flesh. In nature, we see more darkness than daylight. But in the Church, we watch with wide-open eyes as the Light of the World dawns in the darkness. In nature, we come face to face with the stubborn fact that all things pass away. But in the Church, we celebrate the coming of Christ who makes all things new!"
Catechesis Notes for the Week--The End of the Church Year: Watching During the Great Tribulation--The Bride of Christ,the Holy Christian Church, waits eagerly for her Lord’s Second Coming. Then she, of whom we are all members, will be delivered once and for all from sin and the corruption that is in the world. The “Great Tribulation” of the last days is the struggle that the Church and every Christian in every age has had with the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. These enemies attack faith in Christ. We, Christ’s Church, have been in the “Last Days” since our Lord's ascension into heaven. The faith of the Church has always been under attack. Our only defense as Christians is the Word of God and the prayer of faith that claims Christ's victory in the midst of this suffering.
Catechesis Notes for the Week—How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit--When Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter evening, He said to them, “Peace to You! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you…Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 21-23, NKJV). These words teach us much about “how” we receive the Holy Spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit through our Savior’s Word of forgiveness. There is an inseparable linkage between our Savior’s words and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord and giver of life.” He calls us to faith in Christ. He creates a new will in our hearts that desires to love God and serve the neighbor. He produces in us the good works of love that flow from faith. He brings forth in us the “fruit of the Spirit”— love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He brings to us everything that Jesus has done for us. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself actually dwells in our hearts by faith. The Holy Spirit does all this by the Word of our Savior. Christians need to know where the Holy Spirit promises to be found: in the reception of the Word of Christ. Therefore, we seek the Spirit in the very promises of our Baptism, in the ongoing preaching of the Gospel, in faithful catechesis of the Word of Christ, in the life of repentance and faith that confesses sin and receives the absolution. Even the Lord’s Supper carries the promise of the Holy Spirit because Jesus’ word, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” is at the center of the Sacrament. When we pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are praying for the Holy Spirit to come to us and work in us where He promises to be found: in Christ’s Word—in all the wonderful ways Jesus’ word of forgiveness comes to us.
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Third Article of the Creed--“Neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe in him and take him as our Lord, unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work had remained hidden and no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not be buried but put to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure of salvation. Therefore to sanctify is nothing else than to bring us to the Lord Christ to receive this blessing, which we could not obtain by ourselves... Further we believe that in this Christian church we have the forgiveness of sins, which is granted through the holy sacraments and absolution as well as through all the comforting words of the entire Gospel. Toward forgiveness is directed everything that is to be preached concerning the sacraments and, in short, the entire Gospel and all the duties of Christianity. Forgiveness is needed constantly, for although God's grace has been won by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God's Word in the unity of the Christian church, yet because we are encumbered with our flesh we are never without sin.” — The Large Catechism, Third Article
Luther's Small Catechism
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