LWML Craft Bazaar and Bake Sale - November 7th 7:00am until Noon
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Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1st Peter 5:5-7, ESV)
I love the way the last part of this text was rendered above the exit to the worship area at the church I grew up attending: “Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you.” More about that in a moment.
My wife’s adorable third graders are dedicated people-pleasers. If an adult in their life (parent, grandparent, teacher) is unhappy about their behavior, they can feel devastated until the situation gets fixed. Their sincere young hearts crave affirmation. They thrive on praise from adults. With grace from God we can mimic these third graders again; and to do so is to be spiritually strong.
We “humble [ourselves]” before God when we get on our knees—whether literally or metaphorically—and confess our sins, seeking the pardon and cleansing God gives in holy absolution: be that spoken by a pastor, reminded to us by a fellow disciple, read in Scripture, or recalled by a penitent sinner. And God exalts us—lifts us up—by assuring our hearts that thanks to Jesus our sin is forgiven and our guilt has been atoned for.
We “cast our anxieties on him” in prayer, and he reminds us of his love and providence. The Spirit reminds us of the Father’s mercy on account of the Son, which greets us fresh and new each morning. Although we wander back into worry on a regular basis, our Lord does not leave us wallowing there for long. A word from a faithful friend, a refreshing event, an unexpected boost for our faith—one way or another God snaps us back out of the fiction of self-reliance and reminds us to lean on Jesus.
May the triune God lift you up today, enliven your faith in Christ, and confirm your consistency in prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1st Peter 5:1-4, ESV)
Peter addresses congregational “elders,” and tells them to “pastor” the flock of God under their care (Greek, poimen: shepherd, pastor). In Acts 20:17-35, Paul addresses the Ephesian area “elders” and tells them to “pastor” the Church of God, serving with diligence in the congregations wherein God has made them “bishops.” Suffice to say that we’re not given a detailed chart regarding the specifics of church leadership.
I will make some comments on the office of the pastoral ministry. To start off, the apostle tells pastors to be “…examples to the flock,” in contrast to seeking to dominate the congregation. The joke is told about a pastor who had to seek another job; the trouble was that he had an “Altar Ego.” I think some people reckon “servant leadership” and “shepherding” to be simpler concepts than they really are.
Of course, the reverse can happen. A congregation can say they want a pastor (which, you’ll remember, means shepherd), when what they really want is a religious services chaplain. A healthy pastor-congregation relationship obtains when both listen to, and respect, each other. And clearly, in the absence of active unselfish love in both directions, harmony and productivity will elude both pastor and congregation.
The qualifications for the pastoral ministry, and the duties thereof, are treated in greater detail by the apostle Paul in his letters to Timothy and his letter to Titus. I won’t review those lists here. In summary, proclamation of the Gospel, outreach, and nurture of the spiritual wellness of the flock are paramount. Along with at least one other thing: equipping and encouraging the members of the flock to join in the congregation’s ministry, and welcoming their partnership in the Gospel. Pastor and congregation are in this together!
I pray fervently that God will “fire up” every pastor, and every lay person, to live and share their faith with evident joy, enthusiasm, and energy—all supplied by the Lord of the Church. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1st Peter 4:15-19, ESV)
This passage highlights our full dependence on God to reach Paradise and avoid manifold pitfalls. It also serves to fire us up to invite people to worship with us, whether in person or by live stream or otherwise online. The reality of a day of judgment should also remind us, often, to lay our sins before the Lord and ask him to pardon us, and to renew our zeal for living according to his Word.
The apostle reiterates that we, as Christians who are connected to Jesus, are ready to endure whatever the world hurls at us, and however unbelievers harass us. Our first love is him who gave himself up for us; our model is the same. I pray that God would shield each and all of you from harm or hardship on account of your Christian faith. I also pray that he would equip each of us, and all of us, to hold fast our confession of Christ even if we face persecution for it.
In addition to avoiding murder and meddling, along with stealing and other wrongs, we ask God to steer us clear of unloving words or deeds; counterproductive communication (like gossip and idle speculation about others); and moral compromise in any number of areas. We seek God’s work of sanctification because we want to please our heavenly Father. Our souls pray, “O Holy Spirit, make me more like Christ.”
May our loving God make your joy complete by increasing your faith and strengthening your commitment to live and love as he calls us to. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1st Peter 4:12-14, ESV)
Note: beginning next week, the devotions will be weekly since we have Sunday morning worship and I hope, God willing, to start a worship service back up on Saturdays at 5:00 pm. My target for resuming Saturday services is Saturday, October 31: Reformation Day.
Grace and empowerment to endure suffering—whatever the severity of the persecution—is given on a “need to have” basis. Any Christians who are enduring persecution or injustice because of their loyalty to Jesus will, no doubt, pray for strength and for deliverance. Those Christians not enduring persecution for their faith will pray that such grace would be given to those who are being persecuted.
We don’t look for martyrdom and we don’t invite or incite persecution of the Church. But should either find us, we depend on God for the ability to stay faithful to Jesus and endure what we must for the sake of the Gospel. And through all that we know that suffering endured for being loyal to Christ binds us that much more tightly to him; and that our suffering as Christians is valued by God, who has eternal joy prepared for us in the age to come.
Note that in places where being a Christian can get you in trouble with the law, or harassment from neighbors, or both, people prize their Bibles and cherish time together in Christian fellowship. They know they may not always have one or both. Sometimes Christians who aren’t being persecuted for their faith also cherish the Word and fellowship with other Christians; but sometimes they don’t.
A director of an outreach ministry that rented classroom space for teaching English to folks in China was meeting with a Buddhist landlord in a classroom many years ago. After reassuring himself they were not being watched or listened to, the Chinese man told the American pastor: “The Chinese government is stupid. They should let people attend Christian churches when and where they want. Then everyone would just stay home, like in America.”
O Lord, may it not be so! Kindle is each of us, and among us all, the fire of your love! “Renew our zeal in faith and life”—that is, living out our faith in unselfish love, service, and Christian witness. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen!
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1st Peter 4:10-11, ESV)
One body, many parts. Countless Christians across space and time, yet one flock under one Shepherd. As such—as believers, as sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd, Jesus—we are called to build each other up, to look out for one another, to help carry one another’s burdens, and to encourage each other with the Word of God.
How often we do quite the contrary. We get provoked; or we set ourselves up in the office of Judge; or we give ourselves permission to render payback. Of course, that’s not the whole list: just a sampling. We may not plan to set aside numerous apostolic exhortations and instructions, but sometimes we do.
Lord, forgive us for our faults. Revive our zeal in the imitation of Christ. Refresh us with renewed sanctification. Shower us with blessing so that we speak and act as salt and light. And remind us not to fixate on the speck in our brother’s or sister’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own. Make us yet more loving toward the brethren. And give us a heart to witness to the lost by thus loving one another.
May the Lord of the Church motivate us majorly to use the various gifts he has deposited in each of us to build one another up, strengthen the Church where we are (at any given time), and proclaim the excellencies of him who rescued us from the domain of darkness and planted us in the kingdom of his holy light. Thus planted, may we bloom by his gracious working. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
(1st Peter 4:7-9, ESV)
Because “… no one knows the day or the hour…,” Jesus’ visible return could occur at any time, any moment. Readiness comes from having a Spirit-given connection to Jesus as both Son of God and Savior. Lutherans believe this is bestowed through Holy Baptism (see 1stPeter 3:18-21), or by the hearing (and/or reading) of the Gospel of Christ (see again 1st Peter 3:18-20, for a succinct statement of that Gospel).
Love—unselfish, Christlike love—does not atone for sin, nor does it obtain forgiveness. But it is fortified in our hearts when God forgives our sins. Loved, forgiven, and made clean by God, we want to forgive, love, and edify others. In that frame of mind, we’re ready to overlook their faults and failings (as opposed to judging them, or sullying their reputation). If you’re among those a given person trusts for admonition, you deliver it as gently and quietly as you can.
The forms that hospitality takes can change according to time, place, and culture; but neighborly kindness toward the people we encounter is the same gentle disposition from age to age. God often blesses us with a joyful feeling both when we give and when we receive kindness and hospitality. May God make us even better at both.
May he also sustain healthy prayer and devotional habits in each of us, nurturing and defending our bond with Christ Jesus, and keeping us ready to meet him (either when we depart this world for Paradise, or when Jesus returns: whichever happens first).
Now it’s time to pray: O Lord, in your abundant grace and mercy forgive our sins; steer us toward righteousness; increase our Christian faith, hope, and love; and multiply in our hearts and lives the manifold fruit of the Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
(1st Peter 4:1-6, ESV)
We are good at checking in on the physical and emotional wellness of others—our families, our neighbors, our fellow Christians. I hope we also remember to discuss their spiritual wellness—and, of course, our own. Even as we avoid a “flood of debauchery,” the new creation we are as Christians is still being formed and grown in each of us. Each believer is simultaneously sinner and saint: and the wrestling match ends when we arrive in Paradise.
Peter contrasts the habits of the godly with those of the worldly. We know we should strive and seek after the godly: yet, more often than we’d like anyone to broadcast, we slip back into the worldly—to a greater or lesser degree. The spiritual thermometer we can use, primarily to check our own spiritual state, is this: Do we pray often for grace to resist temptation? And do we groan within to be rid of all sin? If the answers are yes, then we’re probably fairly regular at confessing our sins to God and asking for his mercy.
Luther’s abbot and mentor at the Augustinian monastery he joined (in Erfurt) often helped the young monk grapple with the struggles of “growing up into the fullness of Christ” (see Ephesians 4:15). In one scene (well-researched, I believe) in the 2002 motion picture, “Luther,” Martin is in a meditation room reciting the sins he believes are besetting him. Von Staupitz, the abbot, says: “You’re too hard on yourself, brother Martin. Arguing with the devil never does any of us any good. He’s had 5,000 years of practice: he knows all the weak spots.”
Luther replies, “I’m too full of sin to be a priest.” The abbot counters with something like: “Two years in the confessional, and I’ve never heard you confess anything remotely interesting.”
The more progress we make as Jesus’ disciples, the less we can stand the sin that still clings to us. Let us pray. O Lord, in you we “live, and move, and have our being”: rain down grace upon each of us, and all of us, that we may grow stronger, more humble, wiser, and more loving as your faithful people! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
…Because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1st Peter 3:20-22, ESV)
Peter teaches us that the flood that floated Noah’s ark and kept him and his family safe foreshadows Holy Baptism, which the Holy Spirit uses to connect a person to Christ (or, in some cases, to fortify that bond already forged by the gift of faith). God’s Word is joined to water, making this sacred washing a means of grace (a channel of blessing from God).
Note as well that the amount of water, and thus the mode of application, is not mandated in the Bible. The Greek verb baptidzo can mean to immerse, because that would have been how most people washed dishes and utensils. When it came to sacred furniture, however, they might have poured some water over each piece and wiped the furniture down. We know that pouring is as valid as immersion because of Peter’s deliberate comment: “…Baptism…now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience…”
The “good conscience” being formed and fortified in each of us by the Holy Spirit is ours because we were cleansed by the water of Holy Baptism; and our baptismal cleansing is reapplied to us in Holy Absolution (“…in the stead and by the command of my Lord, Jesus Christ, I deliver to you God’s forgiveness of all your sins…”) Please note that the precise wording is secondary: the content matters most.
Writing to Titus, Paul calls Holy Baptism “…a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (see Titus 3:5). What a joy it is to baptize a person, whatever their age! I recall a Council meeting at my first congregation. I had just officiated a string of funerals in a relatively short time. I looked around the table and, though almost every council member was a grandparent already, I said: “I would love to see fewer funerals and more Baptisms.” They replied, “Well, don’t look at us!”
Not all Christians view Holy Baptism the same way: but each of us can say, with faith and joy, the phrase Luther recommended we should repeat often: “I am baptized!” May the Lord of the Church strengthen you mightily in your baptismal bond with Jesus, who loves you with an everlasting love, and who lives and reigns with his Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared… (1st Peter 3:18-20a, ESV)
Christ suffered once, not for his sins—he had none—but for ours. Then, at some point we cannot pinpoint, he exited the tomb and “…descended into hell…” I’ve stated in sermons, as most pastors likely have, that this was his victory lap. He descended to the level of the enemy’s abode and proclaimed his win on the cross, which would be made manifest by his empty tomb. We have a victorious Savior!
I’ve told the story in sermons before, about the reporter who got a chance to speak with President Coolidge—whose popular nickname was “Silent Cal”: verbally speaking, he was rather stingy. Once a reporter saw him heading to his limousine after church; the reporter asked, “Mr. President, what was the sermon about? “Sin,” replied Coolidge, and ducked into the car.
The encounter with the reporter—an early female newswoman, who wanted to impress her male colleagues—reportedly went thus. She was seated next to the president at a dinner. She boldly initiated a conversation. “Mr. President,” she said, “I bet my colleagues at the newspaper that I could get you to say more than two words. So, Mr. President, what do you have to say?” Without missing a beat, Silent Cal replied: “You lose.” That is what Jesus “…descended into hell…” to say.
Which means, of course, that Jesus won! And he shares his victory with us even now, by praying the Father to send the Spirit to make us more like him, namely the Son. Since Jesus shares his Crucifixion/Resurrection victory with us, we (and all believers in Jesus) “…reign on earth…” (Revelation 5:10, citing the most reliable manuscript for Revelation, Codex Alexandrinus, which has the present tense [reign] and not the future tense [shall reign]).
This succinct presentation of the Gospel of Christ by St. Peter, apostle and missionary, is truly good for our hearts. May this well-stated (and, of course, inspired) Gospel word feed us, cheer us, and embolden us as Jesus’ ambassadors. In his name, Amen.
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