The Church from time to time reflects on the faithful who have gone before us. This week, we remember St. Luke, who wrote the third Gospel. He was also a faithful companion to the apostle Paul. He worked hard to use his gives to carry out Christ’s mission on earth. Oh that we would use our gifts as tirelessly and skillfully as did the model of Luke. Not that we “wear ourselves down to nothing” for the work of the gospel. Rather, that we use those gifts which the Lord has given us personally in a unique way, to further the cause of his kingdom here in this life.
Our God wants real repentance that leads to true obedience. The Verse of the Day reminds us that one day, every one will bow before Jesus of Nazareth and confess him as Lord. Some will do so in grief and others in joy. God wants real repentance from every sinner so they might bend the knee to Christ in true obedience and confess with gladness that Jesus is Lord. The Church prays that God would rule our hearts through Word and Sacrament that our repentance might be real and our obedience truly pleasing.
Next Sunday, Riverview Lutheran Church will hold the final service in their year-long 75th Anniversary celebration. Through the years God remains faithful to his people, strengthens his church throughout the ages, and guides and protects congregations just as Christ prayed that God would do for his disciples and all believers. We go forward under that assurance and promise.
From the prophets of old to the pastors and teachers of today’s church, the Lord has blessed his people with those who proclaim a message that changes lives in the public ministry. This week, we review the wonderful truths to which these men and women bear witness: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. May that news of God’s saving work move all of God’s people to faithfully share that life-changing message of peace, forgiveness, and hope.
The Church forgives as God forgives. Anytime we try to imitate God, we quickly realize our inadequacy. Yet this week God tells us to model our forgiveness on his: a boundless, free, and loving forgiveness based on the sacrifice of Christ. How could our sinful hearts ever forgive like that? We pray that the mercy and grace of God would precede us and follow after us, that we might love God with undivided hearts—hearts always ready to forgive as God does: sins are forgiven, forgotten, forever.
The Church is militant: first the cross, then the crown. Christ tells us that for him and for us, going God’s way means death must come before life. He calls on us to deny ourselves and follow him on the way of the cross. Those words offend our sinful flesh and make our Old Adam cry with Peter, “Never!” They make us accuse God with Jeremiah. We pray for the never-failing mercy of Christ that we might avoid such wicked and harmful thoughts and instead be guided on the cross-laden path to salvation. Then, and only then, do these words of Christ cease offending our flesh and become a joy and delight for our heart.
The Church will stand forever. Nothing can keep our Redeemer from upholding his promised salvation. Neither false expectations nor the gates of hell, neither an Egyptian army nor a flowing river, not even the great tribulation of the end times will keep our God from preserving his Church.
The Church is meant for all people. It is only by God’s gift of grace that we come into his presence to offer true and faithful service. This week’s lessons teach that the gift of grace given to Israel, God also intended to give through Israel to the world. The Church is meant for all people: a display of God’s mercy and a result of the living and active Word of God.
The Christian seeks spiritual wealth. Next Sunday, we pray a very ancient Prayer of the Day, asking for God to give us true spiritual wealth. “Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised.” What a magnificent prayer for the materialist world in which we live! Our lessons this week show people who have come into great wealth, but yet this earthly wealth only serves to illustrate where true treasure lies. True, spiritual wealth can only be found in God and his eternal blessings for us in Christ.
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” These words of our God place the responsibility for judgment—especially the final judgment—solely into the hands of God himself. Of course, to the person without Christ that is a frightening notion, for none will escape the judgment of the Lord. But to God’s children, who still struggle daily with temptation and sin, these words are a sobering reminder of our evil nature but also an opportunity to remember that our good Savior has already borne that judgment for us.