Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Tag Archives: epiphany

What on Earth Is a “Gesima”?

The Season of the “Gesimas”

You’ll notice, looking ahead at the church calendar, that two strangely named Sundays are coming up in 2017: on February 12th, “Septuagesima,” and on February 19th, “Sexagesima.” The next Sunday, February 26th, although it is called “Baptism of Jesus,” is also known as “Quinquagesima.” What we affectionately call the “Gesimas” is actually the season of Pre-Lent, the bridge between Epiphany and Lent.

The names of the days refer to about how far away the Sunday is from the celebration of Easter; thus, Septuagesima, Latin for “seventy,” is about 70 days before Easter, Sexagesima (“sixty”) is about 60 days before, and Quinquagesima (“fifty”) is about 50 days before Easter. Lent, as you may know, spans the 40 days leading up to Easter.

Nils Jakob Laache describes this season in his devotional Book of Family Prayer: “This period of the Church Year is our ‘narthex,’ our entrance, into the season of Lent, a time for us to pause before we begin our pilgrimage to Calvary and the empty tomb…. Each of the three Sundays focuses on one of the three Sola’s of Lutheranism. The first week we will hear how we are saved by Grace Alone (Sola Gratia), the next week of Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura), and finally we consider the importance of Baptism and how we are saved by Faith Alone (Sola Fide). With our eyes focused on how God works to save us, we are prepared to enter the penitential season of Lent” (Laache, Book of Family Prayer, 162).

So now you know what to look for. On February 12th, Jesus tells the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16), while in the Old Testament we hear of Jeremiah’s call, as one whom the Lord knew while he was still in the womb (Jer. 1:4-10), and St. Paul encourages his readers to run the race faithfully to receive the promised prize (1 Cor. 9:24-10:5). What does all this have to do with Sola Gratia?

On February 19th, Jesus tells the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Luke 8:4-15), as Isaiah compares God’s Word to rain and snow (Is. 55:10-13), and St. Paul boasts of his weaknesses and the revelations and grace of God (2 Cor. 11:19-12:9). Additionally, this year, the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, we will commemorate on this day the death of Martin Luther (February 18th, 1546), remembering him as a great preacher of the Word. What does all this have to do with Sola Scriptura?

Lastly, on February 26th, we will hear the account of Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:13-17), while St. Peter tells of the great benefits of Baptism and the picture of the faithful of God in the Flood (1 Pet. 3:18-22), and Isaiah prophesies of the Chosen Servant of the Lord (Is. 42:1-9). What does all this have to do with Sola Fide?

Continue looking ahead to this season, and to all the upcoming seasons and Sundays of the Church Year. This year, a year in which we look back on our history and our heritage, we follow the readings of the Historic Lectionary. Look ahead each week in the Hymnary on pages 202-203 to see what lessons are coming up. May
your devotions be enriched by God’s grace for you in his Word, inspiring faith in the Savior from sin.

-Pastor Michael G. Lilienthal

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Luther’s Rose

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Feasting with God #9 – Bread Alone

Feasting with God #9

Bread Alone

Matthew 4:2-4

2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  4But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

After Jesus was baptized, he went out into the desert with a very distinct—and very odd—purpose: “to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1).  He had just stepped into his public ministry, had just revealed himself to people as the promised Messiah, and his first public act was to seclude himself in the wilderness and to face temptation.

For forty days and forty night Jesus went without food.  Luke says, “And he ate nothing during those days” (4:2).  It seems impossible that someone could go so long without food and still survive, let alone walk and talk.  And yet Jesus was not only true man, but also true God, and his divine nature, with all the power of the Son of God, could have sustained him through this time.  But do not let that detract from the trial Jesus underwent.  The Gospel writers tell us that “he was hungry.”  And so it was from this angle that the devil made his first attack: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

It would not have been wrong for Jesus to make food for himself in the wilderness, but here the devil is asking for proof of his divinity.  To do what the devil said would first of all have been to obey Satan rather than God.  And, more than that, it would have demonstrated a lack of trust in God.  Jesus knew God’s plan: that he was to come into the wilderness and be tempted, even as all we human beings are tempted, and so earn the perfection that we could not.  Later that perfection would become ours when this perfect Jesus would die the punishment for all who were imperfect.  On the cross he took what we deserved for every time we listened to the devil and followed the desires of our sinful natures, and he provided for each of us the reward for never obeying the tempter’s voice.

Jesus suffered this bodily hunger as an illustration, to make clear the statement Moses made in Deuteronomy 8:3: “that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  Jesus, refusing to put his bodily needs over the spiritual needs of the whole human race, demonstrates for us that we, even amidst our temptations and our sufferings and hunger pains, we are safe and secure in the life we have because of the Word of God.  It is in that Word, in fact, that the reward Jesus won for us actually comes—when we hear and read and recite and believe the words of Scripture, Christ’s holiness comes into our hearts, and we are fed on that Word and nourished not merely for an earthly life, but for an eternal, heavenly life.

Lord Jesus, thank you for bearing up under temptation when we could not.  Thank you for providing perfection where we earned only damnation.  Thank you for blessing us with your Word and your works, through which we are saved and come to be sons of God.  Bear us up as we continue to face temptations and suffering, and never let your Word be taken from our presence.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #8 – The Wedding at Cana

Feasting with God #8

The Wedding at Cana

John 2:6-11

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim.  8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”  So they took it.  9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now.”  11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.  And his disciples believed in him.

Wedding receptions are meant to be joyful events.  The feasting and the drinking of wine are all intended to honor the estate of marriage, and specifically to commemorate the joy of the now-wedded couple as they enter into their new life together.  It would have been rather awkward, therefore, at this wedding in Cana, if the wine ran out at an inopportune time.  No, the bride and groom wouldn’t have been driven out of town for failing to supply adequate wine, but they definitely would have felt embarrassed, and been viewed in an embarrassing perspective by the guests.  When Mary initially came to Jesus, she had the comfort and well-being of the happy couple in mind.

And Jesus, too, had sympathy on them.  Really, this is the point of this miracle.  Throughout his ministry on earth Jesus had sympathy on those in need.  He felt what they felt, and he yearned to make them better.  This miracle, being “the first of his signs,” was where he began to show the public who he was, what power he had, and for what purpose he had come.  From here on out, Jesus’ sphere of influence really began to radiate outward into a wider and wider circle, but for now, his blessings came upon a simple family, a newly wedded couple.

John takes note first of all of the immense quantity of wine that was made: “six stone water jars… each holding twenty or thirty gallons each holding twenty or thirty gallons.”  Then, he also notes the remarkable quality of that wine created by Jesus: “You have kept the good wine until now.”  This was a very fine wedding gift granted by Jesus to the happy couple.  And it foreshadows the rest of what he would accomplish here on earth.  Jesus’ work was the salvation of mankind; in other words, Jesus came to transform the plain and grimy nature of man into the holy and glorious forms made in his image; he came to take what was base and unworthy of consideration and turn it into something noble.  This he did with the water used for ceremonial washing, turning it into wine, and this he did with our sinful human natures, turning them into his own righteousness.

It has been said that Jesus joins us in all our sorrows, all our joys, all our temptations (cf. Hebr. 4:15).  At this wedding he sought to join in the joy, and to enhance it.  He came into this world to increase our joy.  What joy can be greater than that of the knowledge of our salvation, won for us by the one who lived a perfection we could never reach and then died to take the punishment meant for us?  This miracle is called by St. John a “sign,” and what it signifies is both the divine power of Jesus as god, and the great delight he takes in lending a helping hand to his fellow man.

Dear Lord, you have suffered as we have suffered, and you have rejoiced as we have rejoiced.  But never let us lose sight of the great joy we have since you have won for us the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation from a wicked world.  Let us look on this your first miracle as a sign of your divine omnipotence and so find we can trust in you, and also as an indication of your great love for us, so that we can come with confidence to you in prayer for all our needs.  In your blessed name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Epiphany – After the Twelve Days of Christmas

January 6th is the festival of the Epiphany.  In our liturgical calendar, the next few Sundays are called “Sundays after Epiphany,” to observe this celebration.  While Christmas is a familiar holiday, however, not many recognize what Epiphany means.

The word “epiphany” comes from Greek, and means “manifestation.”  In this holiday, it is recognized how God manifested himself, or made himself present and visible to the world, in the person of Jesus Christ.  We can define the difference between Christmas and Epiphany by saying that Christmas celebrates Jesus as True Man, while Epiphany celebrates him as Very God.

In some parts of Christendom (specifically the Eastern Churches) Epiphany is regarded as the actual celebration of Christmas.  There are several reasons for this, but perhaps the most compelling is that while Christmas celebrates Christ’s birth, Epiphany celebrates his revelation to the world and the beginning of his ministry and work.  Christmas is his birthday, while Epiphany is his coronation.  Epiphany, in fact, is closer in relevance to the average human population than Christmas is – Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds are really the only ones directly affected by Christmas.  Epiphany meant that God had come to fulfill his promised work of salvation.

There are several little epiphanies celebrated during this season.  Historically, the first “epiphany” is the coming of the Magi or the wise men to worship Jesus.  They were the first from the broader world to see this God-Man, and actually to bow down before him, recognizing his glory and power.  Other epiphanies include when Jesus was presented at the temple and Simeon sang his famous song of thanks to God for sending salvation, when Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and the Father declared him publicly his Son and endorsed his mission, when Jesus performed his first miracle and demonstrated his divine power to the wedding guests at Cana, and when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain before his disciples so that they could see his divine glory.

All of these epiphanies and more are designed to bring proof to the world that Jesus is God made Man, that he is the promised Messiah and the Christ, and that he is the Savior of the world.  After seeing what this season and this holiday is about, can you fail to recognize its blessed significance?

At Redeemer this season, we celebrate on January 11th the Baptism of Jesus, on January 18th and 25th the calling of disciples by God, on February 1st and 8th the miracles of Jesus, and on February 15th the Transfiguration.