Gift of Grace Lutheran Church is a Biblical, Historical, and Sacramental Church. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is at the center of who we are.

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Sunday, April 4th 2021

We all like surprises don’t we? Some of you might say, “It depends.” And the hesitancy is because there are joyful and good surprises, but we also know and have expe-rience alarming, sorrowful, and bad surprises. Because of this some just wish not to be surprised at all, lest it be an unwanted one. One illustration of this is the effect of the Jack in the Box toy on young toddlers… So how would we label the surprise of Easter?

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Taking Jesus at His Word
Wednesday, April 7th 2021

Of all the things our Lord Jesus attended to on the eve of His crucifixion, instituting, or establishing, a new meal was an important part of that night. This meal He enjoined upon his disciples for generations to come. And of this meal, Jesus connects and identifies the New Covenant of His blood with it. Now that is saying something! We rightly conclude that participation in this meal is something most special.

Interestingly, the Old covenant was likewise ratified by blood. And gruesomely the sacrificial blood of animals was thrown upon the altar, and then flung at the people so that they might be covered under the covenant God made with His people Israel. But with the new covenant a more efficacious blood confirms the agreement God makes with man. It is the blood of the perfect sacrifice, that to which all animal sacrifices previously pointed. It is nothing less than the blood of the Incarnate Son of God. And this blood is not flung at us, but rather, it is offered to us in a meal.

And Jesus says of the bread He blessed and broke, “take and eat, this is My body, given for you.” And of the cup that He blessed and shared with His disciples, “take and drink, this cup is the new covenant in My blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.”

It is best to take Jesus at His word. “This is My body. This is My blood.” We get in trouble when we try to understand or explain it. It is obviously in the category of a miracle, and one of the mysteries of the Faith. And yet it is a tenet of the faith that God’s Word is able to accomplish what it purposes. After all, God spoke things into existence out of nothing. We just accept that we need His supernatural, sacramental body and blood to be nourished and sustained in the forgiveness of sins. What a meal!

Skipping such a meal is not conducive to good health...

Since You Asked…

Does the receiving of money offerings play a significant role in the worship service?

Yes, more than you might think! Cash is one of the strongest symbols in modern culture. When we offer our money on the altar it should represent our time and effort – our very selves. In early Christian worship gifts-in-kind were handled during the weekly assemblage. In our post-industrial societies, we now exchange in paper or metal symbols. The offering of our selves upon the altar is in response to God’s love proclaimed in the Good News and in anticipation of how God offers back that which is entrusted to him. During the moment of offering we also offer bread and wine upon the altar, and in return these gifts are offered back to us as the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Urgent Faith?
Wednesday, March 31st 2021

Has the past year with the pandemic and all the hardships made us more urgent about the Christian Faith? I ask you the question. I am not overwhelmed with indications in the culture that it has…

When I say urgent, I don’t necessarily mean panicked. But I am implying a resolute sense of devotion, an indication of the right priorities, and signs of renewed dedication. When it has been understandably difficult, and arguably dangerous, to gather, a sense of urgency might be indicated by expressions of hunger and longing for being able to gather and commune with brothers and sisters in Christ in partaking of His body and blood given with bread and wine.

In a year that we have oft heard the distinguishing between essential and non-essential workers and activities, church activities if mentioned at all, are seldom mentioned in the essential category. When one of the greatest mantras has been we need to “trust” or “follow” the science, the spiritually tuned ear finds it deafeningly silent any mention of the transcendent to see us through. Science, by the way, is certainly a valuable tool and we would be remiss without it. But is it a worthy guide above all else?

Unquestionably, a healthy amount of fear lends support to caution and the exercise of prudence. But unlike loftier rhetoric of the past, when have we been warned today that the greatest thing to fear is fear itself? Where has the realization that a meaningful life is one of taking risks, especially for the sake of the Gospel and out of love for our neighbor? Where has the demonstration been that this world is not our home, and that death in this age is complete with every generation?

In my plug for the upcoming Easter Celebration, I remind you of the Apostle Paul’s take: If Christ has not been raised from the dead; we are of all people the most to be pitied. But if He has…

Since You Asked…

How are we to understand the Easter Feast?

“Easter is to be understood as the crown of the whole year, the queen of feasts, and as such it lasts not for a day, not for a week, but for a week of weeks – a week not made up of seven days but of seven weeks. So the Sundays of this season are called the Sundays of Easter. It is one extended feast. … The Gospels for the Sundays of Easter present the themes of resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit as aspects or stages of the Easter Mystery…” (from the Manual on the Liturgy a companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, publ. by Augsburg)

Body and Soul
Wednesday, March 24th 2021

I am impressed this week to talk with you about the culture war being waged against confessional Christianity and the truths of God’s Word. This is nothing new, but we are certainly currently in a bad cycle. The push back against Christian teachings and morality has become more blatant and aggressive in recent years.

If, by chance, you don’t agree with this, my purpose here is not to convince you otherwise. Instead, my concern here is for how ill equipped we are to fight back. But let me hasten to describe what I mean by fighting back. I mean with the weapons of the Spirit. Such armaments always involve speaking the truth in love, refusing to lend credence to falsehoods, standing our ground, by proclaiming and teaching the Gospel of Jesus, and by serving our neighbor.

In general, we are not well catechized as Christians in our culture. That means, we are not well-formed in the Faith. This is for a host of reasons. But oddly, I do not believe they are primarily because of external reasons. Instead, they have to do with the pampering of the flesh and enticements by the devil along with the world. They have to do with sloth and misplaced priorities. And they have to do with thinking of discipleship primarily as an appeal to our affections, rather than responding to God’s grace with the whole of our being, especially at the core, with lifelong catechesis (read apprenticeship). Jesus said discipleship is a matter of being baptized and catechized in all that He taught (cf. Mt 28:19-20).

Lacking such formation we are not able to identify the falsehoods of our age. We latch on to every whim and fancy of the culture (cf. Ja 1:6). We care more how “we feel” about something, rather than holding up all matters to the light, truth, and scrutiny of God’s Word. We care more about the approval of man than of God! And we live as if this temporal age was our true home.

 

Since You Asked…

What is the purpose and meaning of our Votive Prayer Candles? 

To “light a candle for someone” means that you will say a prayer for them. The candle symbolizes your prayers. When we light a candle it is a sign of attentiveness and that we are being purposeful in offering intercessory prayer. It is an important act in which we are involved! To be in prayer is to be spiritually awake and vigilant. And as the candle continues to burn it symbolizes our ongoing prayers. It is a sign to others that prayers are being offered. In such an atmosphere, indeed the darkness gives way to light.

The Weapons of the Spirit
Wednesday, March 17th 2021

I am impressed this week to talk with you about the culture war being waged against confessional Christianity and the truths of God’s Word. This is nothing new, but we are certainly currently in a bad cycle. The push back against Christian teachings and morality has become more blatant and aggressive in recent years.

If, by chance, you don’t agree with this, my purpose here is not to convince you otherwise. Instead, my concern here is for how ill equipped we are to fight back. But let me hasten to describe what I mean by fighting back. I mean with the weapons of the Spirit. Such armaments always involve speaking the truth in love, refusing to lend credence to falsehoods, standing our ground, by proclaiming and teaching the Gospel of Jesus, and by serving our neighbor.

In general, we are not well catechized as Christians in our culture. That means, we are not well-formed in the Faith. This is for a host of reasons. But oddly, I do not believe they are primarily because of external reasons. Instead, they have to do with the pampering of the flesh and enticements by the devil along with the world. They have to do with sloth and misplaced priorities. And they have to do with thinking of discipleship primarily as an appeal to our affections, rather than responding to God’s grace with the whole of our being, especially at the core, with lifelong catechesis (read apprenticeship). Jesus said discipleship is a matter of being baptized and catechized in all that He taught (cf. Mt 28:19-20).

Lacking such formation we are not able to identify the falsehoods of our age. We latch on to every whim and fancy of the culture (cf. Ja 1:6). We care more how “we feel” about something, rather than holding up all matters to the light, truth, and scrutiny of God’s Word. We care more about the approval of man than of God! And we live as if this temporal age was our true home.

Since You Asked…

What is the purpose and meaning of our Votive Prayer Candles? 

To “light a candle for someone” means that you will say a prayer for them. The candle symbolizes your prayers. When we light a candle it is a sign of attentiveness and that we are being purposeful in offering intercessory prayer. It is an important act in which we are involved! To be in prayer is to be spiritually awake and vigilant. And as the candle continues to burn it symbolizes our ongoing prayers. It is a sign to others that prayers are being offered. In such an atmosphere, indeed the darkness gives way to light.

Nothing Worthwhile Ever Comes Easy
Wednesday, March 10th 2021

This week it is my intention to complete the series on Confession and Absolution. We have specifically focused on the practice of Private Confession. As of late we have been discussing the obstacles that deter folks from taking advantage of this wonderful gift. I want to end in a strange and perhaps unexpected place.

Although I have attempted to alleviate some of the fears associated with trusting a Confessor to hear your confession, there is no way around it; our sinful nature will resist it. And the trust level and sense of vulnerability remain significant. But oddly enough, that actually works to our advantage! What do I mean?

There is an old adage: nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. So often we appreciate the value of something for which we had to work hard. In the instance of confessing our sins, it is not so much the hard work as it is the difficulty of humbling ourselves, admitting our inability to work ourselves out of the predicaments we get ourselves into, and to freely admit our need for help. One can mutter under their breath in a general way that these things are true. But you need to be intentional, and risk embarrassment, to allow your confession of sins to God to be overheard. Private Confession becomes a true act of humility and indicates great urgency. And this is good.

We are so used to God being unseen that we can adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. It should bother us more that God sees all and knows all, but frankly we are often more worried by other humans seeing and knowing what we have done. Again, this is all the more reason why an ambassador of the unseen God can bring the practice of confessing sins into vivid focus. It is also why the spoken words of “Your sins are forgiven you,” can bring home the gift in a more tangible and comforting way.

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