Monthly Archives: June 2013

Stöckhardt: Not By Sight, But By Faith

What we have said about justifying faith on the basis of Scripture is explained by the example of Abraham’s faith at the end of Romans chapter four. And we should practically use this kind of example. Exempla illustrant.[1] We read in Romans 4:18-22: “In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘reckoned to him as righteousness.'” Abraham believed in hope against hope. According to the common course of events there was nothing for him to hope. But he did not consider his own deadened body and the deadened body of Sarah, did not look at what lay before his eyes, but looked only at God and God’s promise, according to which he should be a father of many nations. He gave glory to God in that he did not doubt, but knew in the most certain way, was firmly convinced about it, that God could do what He has promised. We should apply this to ourselves. “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”[2] We believe in God, Who has raised Jesus from the dead. We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Resurrected, in Whom we have perfect righteousness, as the Gospel witnesses. And this is the type and nature of proper faith: he completely disregards his own person and looks solely at the promises of God that promises us vain grace, comfort, and joy in Christ. Faith is a marvelous thing. We go out, as we believe, as it were, completely from ourselves and cling with every fiber of our hearts to the great and rich promises of God, rest with our soul entirely in the Word that presents to us the righteousness that avails before God. According to the natural course of things, according to the judgment of reason and our own conscience there is nothing for us to hope. For we are sinners and deserve only death and destruction. But we believe in hope against hope. We forget ourselves, who we are, and direct hearts and thoughts solely on the Word that eternally stands firm outside ourselves, on the gracious promises of God of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and not doubt that God actually does and gives what He promises in His Word, that all of God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ, and give God glory with such confidence.

Accordingly, a preacher should say to his hearers: Pay no attention to what is before your eyes! You probably still feel sin in your flesh daily. Your conscience often gnaws and bites at you. If you look at yourself, you have to hope for nothing good. But you must and shall entirely ignore your unworthiness and incompetence, your own person, your deeds and conduct, your own righteousness and unrighteousness. This is proper faith. Behold what lies outside of and around you! Fix your eyes straightaway on the Word. The comforting voice presses against you throughout Scripture: Be of good cheer, my son, your sins are forgiven! You shall not die, but live! And what God promises you in His Word is Truth, it has power and validity. Therefore give God glory and do not doubt, but believe in the most certain way that the gracious promises of God also concern us and will come true for you. Let this be your watchword: “I believe what Jesus’ Word promises, whether or not I feel it.”

[1] They illustrate examples.

[2] Romans 4:23-25.

“The Practical Treatment of the Doctrine of Justification”, translated by DMJ


Trinity 4 – Luke 6:36-42

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            There is, perhaps, no more abused word in our time than the word “love”. The common definition of love, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, has been changed. Love used to flow from faith, a devotion to someone or something. Now it seems that love flows from, well, love.

A Christian must disagree with this modern definition of love, for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. However, even Christians get caught up in believing that it doesn’t matter whether or not you have a belief system. All that matter is that you demonstrate love by assisting the poor and needy. So love flows from love. But where does love come from? Love seems to appear out of thin air, or is perhaps an inherent trait passed down through the generations. Love from love is, by and large, the very opposite of true love.

“New” love is whitewashed selfishness and self-love. For example, the word “tolerance” has been re-defined. Tolerance used to mean that you disagree with someone or something but, out of respect for the individual or the organization, you tolerated their position with the hope that you could work toward agreement. The new definition of tolerance is that anyone with a particular bias toward something is unacceptable. A “tolerant” person under the new definition is someone who is neutral in every aspect of life. Nothing is right. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is absolute. Anyone who says otherwise must be silenced as “intolerant”. If this isn’t whitewashed selfishness and self-love, then what is?

Today Jesus exhorts us to render more compassionate love to our neighbor, whether or not we love or even tolerate the person. Unconverted people are not able to render the mercy Jesus exhorts because they are dead in sin. They are bad trees. The bad tree bears bad fruit. The bad tree is dead in trespasses and sins. What looks like mercy and compassion from them is actually, in God’s eyes, self-love and whitewashed compassion.

When Jesus says be merciful, even as your Father is merciful, He speaks to those who call God their Father in faith. He speaks to you because you have experienced God’s mercy in Christ through the forgiveness of sins. You also truly love your neighbor because you love God the Father. God loved you before the foundation of the world. His love is reflected in your love toward Him and especially toward your neighbor. God does not need your love, but your neighbor does.

Jesus gives three examples of bestowing more compassionate love toward your neighbor. First, Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Christians are often called intolerant because we are judgmental and condemnatory about sin. When we judge and condemn certain actions and behaviors on the basis on God’s Word, we are right in judging and condemning. We also believe that God has set up the vocations of secular authorities, parents, even pastors, to exercise judgment and condemnation at God’s command and according to His Word.

The kind of judging and condemning Jesus speaks against in Luke chapter six is the kind that flows from hatred and thoughtless contempt of the neighbor. We deem our neighbor unworthy of love or compassion. We judge him simply because of the way he looks or the way he acts. Even when our neighbor is in open sin, we are able to speak against the sin, but still practice compassion toward him.

Perhaps the best way to be compassionate toward our neighbor mired in sin is to cover his sin and pray for him. It sound contradictory to cover our neighbor’s sin, show mercy on him, yet also speak against sin. Consider that you are a sinner as well. How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. We fall under the same condemnation of sin as that of our neighbor. Yet we as Christians live in daily contrition and repentance, living in baptismal grace that drowns sin in order that the new man may rise and walk with Jesus, following His pure example, albeit as a forgiven sinner rather than the perfect Savior.

Jesus says further: forgive, and you will be forgiven. It’s hard enough to believe God forgives sins, let alone for us to forgive those who sin against us. But our Lord reminds us we are to forgive our neighbor not merely seven times, but seven times seventy times. That doesn’t mean 490 times and done. Our Lord does not keep score when it comes to forgiveness and neither should we. Instead, we forgive as we have been forgiven. As much as the words “I’m sorry” flow from a Christian’s mouth, so also the words “You’re forgiven” quickly leap from a Christian’s mouth as well. Keeping score with forgiveness is walking the path of death. Forgiving freely, and forgetting the offense, is walking the path of righteousness and everlasting life.

Jesus says further: Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. There is hardly more opportunity for a charitable rendering of love than giving. You are by now familiar with the words I speak before the collection of tithes from Hebrews chapter 13: [Through Christ] let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Praise of God happens both with lips and with lives.

Consider also Saint Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians: Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Note Paul does not tell them how much to give. That is up to you in good Christian judgment. He does say each one must give, but not reluctantly or under compulsion. Giving is a Gospel thing, not a Law thing. Psalm 116 says it best: What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people…. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

It is well and good to praise the Lord, but from where does this flow? Listen to the beginning of Psalm 116: I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord God has given you life in place of death. He gives you His Son’s perfect obedience and innocent suffering and death for your sin. Jesus becomes sin for you that you might become the righteousness of God. That’s why you give. That’s why you forgive. That’s why you do not judge or condemn when it is not your vocation to judge or condemn. You do what is given you to do from the God Who gives you everything you need in this body and life.

It is useless to speak of love flowing from love. Love must have a source. Our heavenly Father is the source of all love, for He loved the world by sending His only-begotten Son so that all who believe in Him should not die but live forever. As He loves you, you also love one another, even your enemies. As you suffer “intolerance”, you are given strength to bear it, and all burdens, in the shadow of the cross of Jesus. Your burdens are made light in His burden for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Trinity 3 – Luke 15:1-10

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Sacred history tells how a significant truth of salvation has resounded from the mouths of the enemies of the Church. Consider Caiaphas, the high priest at the time of our Lord’s crucifixion. Saint John records his saying that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish. John is quick to add that he did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Saint Luke records the words of Gamaliel, a Pharisee and one of Saint Paul’s teachers: Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with [the apostles]. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God! God used these significant statements for His praise in spite of the speakers.

Today’s Gospel is another instance of good coming from evil. What once angered the Pharisees that they mockingly spoke of it still delights Christians today. Their mocking words have become a song of praise to the merciful grace of God: JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS.

The Pharisees have the wrong idea about Jesus’ person and work. They refuse to believe He is Messiah, the Sent One from the heavenly Father. They refuse to believe that one Man is able to make atonement for the sins of many. The Pharisees also refuse to believe the depravity of human nature. A pious Pharisee would never dream of using the title “sinner” to describe himself. A Pharisee behaves like the chief of sinners but would never dream of calling himself chief of sinners.

Why would anyone want to receive sinners? A Savior seeking sinners is nonsense. Sinners should seek the Savior. If this is true, then salvation rests in our hands instead of Jesus’ Hands. Jesus seeks the lost.

The world looks at repentant sinners found by Jesus Christ and taunts them with the Pharisees. God’s mercy in Jesus Christ is foolishness. A rational human being is unable to do anything for their salvation. Nevertheless, God is hidden and man must seek Him out. Believing that man acts alone in working out his own salvation with God is a fragrance from death to death that Saint Paul references in 2 Corinthians chapter two. Nothing dead is able to seek anything living.

JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS. God works in humble things to shame the wise. God uses the cross among His creation in place of the ways the world expects Him to work. The world expects God to break into our world to work some sort of showy, flashy event. Now we must emulate what He does to be saved from sin and wrath.

Looking at it from our heavenly Father’s way, it makes perfect sense for the Son of God to take on sinful flesh in order to reconcile sinners to the Father. It makes perfect sense for God’s only Son to seek and save the lost by becoming lost, last, least, little, and dead.

The three parables of Luke chapter 15 defend the truth that JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS. Precious lost sheep are scared of what might happen to them when they stray from the pack. The shepherd seeks the lost sheep. The shepherd carries him back to the flock, where there is great rejoicing.

Lost coins are precious. When they are found, we can’t help but rejoice because something of value that was lost is now found. If there is much rejoicing over lost sheep and coins, then how much more for lost sons of the heavenly Father? Lost things and lost persons found by Christ Jesus are a fragrance from life to life mentioned by Saint Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter two.

In spite of ourselves, in spite of every obstacle we put in our own way of being found, in spite of despising sinners and elevating our self-righteousness above the Father’s perfect righteousness, JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS. Jesus also eats with sinners. He eats with us in this great feast of preaching and the Supper. Jesus seeks the lost among us neither to chide or shame them. Jesus does not ask them to jump through hoops. Jesus does not reject sinners. Jesus seeks the lost to draw them to repentance and forgiveness of sins.

The last are first. The lost are found. The least are the greatest. The little ones are precious in His sight. The dead live. JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS. Even you He has forgiven. Believe it for His sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Stöckhardt: The Vis Communicativa of the Word

Consequently a preacher must now also underline the importance of the word as a means of grace, namely regarding its vis communicativa.[1] The following circle of thoughts should constantly recur in preaching: Here you have the Word. The Word is really near you, it is always in your ears. Here you have Christ in the Word, here you have righteousness, grace, comfort, peace, joy, happiness and everything good. Therefore hear only the Word! Believe in the Gospel! Believe and accept what is given to you here in the Word! I proclaim and preach to you in the name and mandate of God that iniquity is forgiven. Only hear and believe what I say to you! When you rightly hear and learn and take to heart only the Word and preaching, then you have everything that you need, a gracious God and eternal life.

[1] communicative force.

“The Practical Treatment of the Doctrine of Justification”, translated by DMJ

Stöckhardt: Unsheathing the “It is Finished” of the Dying Redeemer

[Romans 3:24] says that we are saved through the redemption or by means of (διὰ) the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Through the redemption of Christ is established the righteousness that avails before God, our forgiveness of sins and life and salvation is acquired with it. The modern theologians make a sharp distinction between redemption and justification or forgiveness of sins. They teach the “possibility” of forgiveness of sins is revealed by Christ’s redemptive death, and faith lifts up this possibility of this human behavior into a reality. This goes directly against Scripture. No, we are justified by Christ, by the redemption of Christ. What justifies us before God is not any of these acts and conduct on our part, but only what Christ has done and suffered for us. God regards solely the work and merit of Christ when He declares us righteous. This whole business, God’s judgment of our person, is already decided in and with the redemptive work of Christ. Scripture testifies that we, as we are redeemed and reconciled, in so doing have been justified. We read in Romans 5:9-10: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Here the other certain fact is inferred from the fact that we are reconciled by the death of the Son of God, or what is the same, being now justified by His blood, that we are kept by Christ once from wrath, that we shall be saved by Christ’s life. “Reconciled” is considered here as synonymous with “justified”. The apostle writes in Romans 5:18-19: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Through the righteousness of one Man, Christ, has come the justification of life of all mankind. Through the obedience of one Man, through the active and passive obedience of Christ many were set forth as justified before God. Scripture testifies that in and with the redemption and atonement is the forgiveness of sins. We have in Christ “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”[1] “God was in Christ and reconciled the world to Himself, and did not impute their sins to them.” Here the statement is explained in more detail, that God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, through the other, that he did not impute their sins to them, to mankind. If a preacher brings to light the redemptive work of Christ, when he unsheathes the “It is finished” of the dying Redeemer, when he rightly preaches Christ, then he bestows the comfort of justification to his hearers, the forgiveness of sins. He will comfort poor troubled sinners in the following way: Behold, Christ died for you, has given Himself for you, He has taken your guilt upon Himself, atoned for your chastisement, so you go free from sin, guilt, and chastisement. Christ has satisfied the righteousness of God with His suffering, death, and blood, has satisfied God’s wrath, so now God’s favor and pleasure is turned to you, you are reconciled to God, you have a gracious God in Christ. Christ has entered for you before God with His blood and His righteousness, with His perfect merit, so you are pure before God’s eyes, righteous, perfect, just as God wants you.

[1] Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14.

“The Practical Treatment of the Doctrine of Justification”, translated by DMJ

Stöckhardt: Christ says, “Demand it from Me!”

And so everything lies on the fact that a preacher presents and extols the great work of redemption to those who hear him and properly paints the crucified Christ quite spiritedly before the eyes. They find rest for their souls in this [preaching]. If we are justified through redemption, then it happened through Christ Jesus. Christ, God’s Son, has come and walked in our place. He is the Lamb of God Who bears the sins of the world.[1] The Lord cast all our sins on Him.[2] God has made ​​Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us.[3] Christ bears our sins. Of course, sin is no external load that one carries on one’s back. Christ has taken our sins upon Himself, i.e., He has take our sins on His conscience. He has attributed our sins to Himself. He has shown Himself to God as if He were the sinners and wrongdoers. He has made the declaration to God: I want to be the guilty one. Demand it from me! And God has hung our sins on Him. God has attributed to Him our sins and iniquities. God looks at Him as if He had done wrong all the things we have done wrong. Christ is the offender before God’s eyes. No doubt we still feel the sin in our members and still feel the sting of guilt in our conscience. But it does not hinge on how we view the matter, what we feel and sense. It all depends on how God views the matter. God now simply sees all our sin and transgression lie on the one Christ. This is the wonderful swap and exchange Luther so often points out, that a poor sinner may say to Christ: You are my sin. And all our sins Christ has borne in His body on the tree, the tree of the cross.[4] Christ died on the cross. Death on the cross was punishment of the criminal. The cross was a tree of the curse. What we have perpetrated is recompensed on Him. Christ was a curse for us.[5] He was wounded for the sake of our transgression and bruised for the sake of our sins. The chastisement lies on Him, therefore we are free.[6] Christ died for our sins.[7] Christ has suffered once for our sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones.[8] And so we are redeemed from sin, guilt, chastisement. The great, precious Word of redemption through Christ is the center of all Christian preaching. And no preacher should imagine that he need not tell His people anything more, they would know this well enough. No, so long as we still have to deal with sin, so long as we still sojourn in this sinful flesh, we have need of the Gospel of our redemption. This is the bread of the soul, the remedy for our wounded consciences.

[1] John 1:29.
[2] Isaiah 53:6.
[3] 2 Corinthians 5:21.
[4] 1 Peter 2:24.
[5] Galatians 3:13.
[6] Isaiah 53:5.
[7] 1 Corinthians 15:3.
[8] 1 Peter 4:18.

Georg Stöckhardt, “The Practical Treatment of the Doctrine of Justification”, translated by DMJ

Trinity 2 – Luke 14:15-24

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            I know what you’re thinking. “Boy, I wish so-and-so was here. S/he really needs to hear this parable. Pastor’s sermon will really get ’em thinking about why they don’t come to church.” Thing about it is that Jesus doesn’t tell the parable to those who weren’t reclining at table with Him. Jesus tells the parable among some Pharisees. The parable hit the desired target audience. As it did then, so it does now.

The parable of the great banquet is for you in the pew as much, if not more, than for the person not in the pew. Chances are you know their excuse(s). Bunch of hypocrites over there at the Lutheran church. No kids. No young adults. Too many old people. Too many women. Not enough men. I need to sleep in on Sunday. I play bingo Saturday night. I don’t like the pastor. I don’t like so-and-so who goes there. The hymns are boring. I can have church at home. I don’t need to be with other people. I’m not a church kind of person.

Many of these, if not all of them, are your excuses too. It’s as if going to church is merely a weekly check-up with your spiritual physician. The hard work of being a Christian takes place during the week. You have to check in once a week with others to see how everyone is progressing in their faith. So you visit with each other for a while, have a corporate devotion with the spiritual physician’s assistant, and head home for the hard work of living your life and being a Christian. Being a Christian is like being a Lion, or one of the Kiwanis, or Rotary Club, or the Chamber of Commerce. You are part of a voluntary association of like-minded individuals getting together for the good of the group.

Believe it or not, theologians have taught such definitions of “church” to be true. If this was the case, and it is not the case, then why bother having corporate worship? It’s not really necessary. Oh, sure, the Roman Catholics say it’s necessary, but that’s because they make the Gospel into a Law. You go to Mass or it’s a mortal sin. We’re not Roman Catholics. We’re free to skip a week, or two, or several. After all, there’s always next week. Better still, I can turn on the radio or the television and get the same thing there as I get here.

The Old Adam is always looking for excuses not to have to make a public appearance in the Lord’s house. If Divine Service was a three-course meal at a Michelin three-star restaurant, and you didn’t have to pay the bill, you more than likely would rush here to get a seat. How many opportunities do you receive to have dinner at a Michelin three-star restaurant? But wait, there’s more. What if you could have three of your favorite public figures join you for dinner? Again, you don’t pick up the tab. What a deal! A great dinner, some fine wine, and three famous people at your table. Where do I sign up?

Wait. What’s the catch? There has to be a catch, right? The catch is that the three-course meal is Word, Sacrament, and Hymns. The restaurant is right here at Second and Pine Streets. The three public figures? The Triune God: one God in three Persons. The meal is free, but at a great cost: the death of the Father’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. What a deal! And you get to dine every week on a feast that is a foretaste of the eternal feast to come in the new heavens and the new earth! Come, for everything is now ready.

I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused. I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused. I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. These are legitimate excuses mentioned in Holy Scripture…but they are excuses for going to war, not for missing a great banquet. They are proper excuses used in an improper way. There is always time to work, but why not take an hour away from work for the great banquet of Word and Sacrament? There is always time to test drive a new car. You can’t do it on Sunday morning, not in Illinois at least. The best way to begin a marriage is by attending corporate worship together, at least if you plan to have a Christian marriage.

Those who received the invitation spurned the banquet by illegitimately using legitimate excuses. Not only is this telling God what to do with His banquet, it is also telling God that you want things your way, not His way. He’ll have to understand. Life gets in the way. He’ll have to let me miss this time. There’ll be other opportunities.

The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And the servant said, “Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.” And the master said to the servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” It’s a happy ending in a sad way. There is room for more at the banquet table, but it’s at the cost of the rejection of those for whom the banquet is given.

The banquet is chiefly for God’s chosen children: the Jews. They don’t want the party God’s way. They want it their way. They will use God to justify their excuses. They will not recognize the reason for the banquet even when the Banquet is telling them the parable! Jesus Himself is the Great Banquet. The Jews receive the Promise of redemption, but make excuses for not coming to the banquet to rejoice in the Son of God’s forgiveness and life. Oh, yes, they will quote Scriptural excuses. But those excuses are out of line, just as most of our excuses are out of line.

Consider that those who attend this great banquet are here because they know who they are before the face of God. They know where they stand. You don’t deserve the invitation. In fact, the invitation wasn’t for you in the first place. God went and found you. He compelled you to come to the feast, much like mom and dad did to you (and may still do to you) when it’s suppertime. You don’t want to miss what’s offered here because it is important that you are here to receive what is put in front of you.

What is put in front of you is salvation. The Divine Service is the appetizer for the great heavenly banquet that lasts for all eternity. You have an invitation to this banquet by virtue of the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, a righteousness that avails before the Father in heaven. There was room at the table. You were compelled by the Holy Spirit to receive the invitation that the Word of Christ made to you. None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet, says the Father. Their loss is your gain.

Blessed indeed are you who eat bread not only in the kingdom of heaven, but also here in this place. You eat the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, when you hear Gospel preaching, when you rejoice in your Baptism, and when you partake of the Holy Supper. The Psalmist writes in today’s Introit: The Lord was my support in the day of my calamity. He brought out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. The Lord delights in those, both Jew and Gentile, who heed the call of the Gospel and receive the gift of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.

And still there is room.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Luther on The “Roasted” Christ

In a spiritual sense, our dear Lord Jesus Christ is himself the banquet. The heavenly Father is the rich man and host; he has prepared a banquet, permitted his dear Son Jesus Christ to be born in  human form of a virgin, and to suffer, be slaughtered, cut to pieces and readied, just as one prepares food. And just as one butchers a hen, puts it on a spit, and roasts it, so the heavenly Father allowed his dear Son to be butchered, nailed to the cross, and offered up in fervent love, as the true Paschal Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world.

However, just as a hen or anything else is not kept on the spit and roasted in order to remain there permanently, but upon being roasted is removed from the spit and placed on the table for people to eat and be nourished, have their hunger satisfied and become stronger, so Christ, having suffered with terrible pain on the cross, was afterwards removed from the spit of the cross, laid in the tomb, risen from the dead, and so one, in order that the whole world might have this food. For Christ was the world’s genuine Bread of Life, for Jews and Gentiles alike.

So now this heavenly food, so carefully prepared and subjected to the intense fire of the cross, is served up and offered to the whole world. Wherever Christians are gathered, there you find the table. The preaching of the gospel is the dish. The servers are the pastors. Christ is the food. Through the pastor’s mouth the food is laid on the table and served; for when the gospel is preached, this food is served up and offered. It is embraced solely in the Word and is heard by both young and old, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, and the like. Each person receives just as much as anyone else in the world if only he believes, for it is a food that fills and satisfies; yes, it is possible for the whole world to have their hunger sated by this food. All believers partake of Christ, and each receives him wholly, despite which Christ remains whole, something that does not occur when eating earthly food, whether a hen or capon.

This food is offered in the following way: The gospel is proclaimed, telling how Christ suffered, was crucified, and died for our sins. Everyone in the world is urged to come and not to stay away, to eat of this food, gladly hear the gospel of Christ, and believe what the gospel proclaims. For to the serving up belong three things: first, the dish, which is the Word of God; second, the waiter, that is the pastor’s mouth; and third, to believe it with all one’s  heart. When these three things come together, man’s heart and soul begin to eat, saying, Here is a deliciously prepared hen or chicken; here Christ is proclaimed; I see and hear what this food is, the “roasted” Christ; I am to eat of this; hence, I must believe what is proclaimed and taught in the gospel. Whoever believes this with all his heart eats of this Christ.

– House Postil for Trinity 2 (Luke 14:15-24)

…The More Things Stay the Same

The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form. Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent to teach. Nevertheless, all maintain that they are Christians, have been baptized and receive the holy Sacraments. Yet they cannot recite either the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live like dumb brutes and irrational hogs; and yet, now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely learned to abuse all liberty like experts.

Therefore I entreat you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office, to have pity on the people who are entrusted to you, and to help us inculcate the Catechism upon the people, and especially upon the young. And let those of you who cannot do better take these tables and forms and impress them, word for word, on the people….

– Martin Luther, Preface to the Small Catechism, paragraphs 1-3, 6