Thy Kingdom and Will

Text: Second and Third Petitions

Last week, we began again our time of Lenten catechesis. It is during this season of the year that we turn again and take up the Catechism. In the Catechism are the basic teachings of Scripture which all are encouraged to know, and which we who are confirmed are to also believe and confess. Two years ago, we began with the Ten Commandments. Then, we took up the Apostles’ Creed. This year, having learned what we are to do and believe as Christians, we also learn again how we are to pray and what to pray for. This year, we are studying the Lord’s Prayer.

In short, to pray is to speak to God in word or thoughts. Prayers can be spoken or sung, or they may be offered only in our minds to Him who discerns our thoughts from afar. Prayers may be concerned with any number of things such as thanksgiving and praise, confession and supplication. In the Lord’s Prayer we receive a model of how to pray and what to pray for. In the Introduction we learned that we are invited to speak to God as His own dear children, and in the First Petition we pray that His name would be kept holy among us. Today, we study the Second and Third petitions. In these petitions, we pray that God’s Word would continue to dwell and be received among us and all the world, and that all who would prevent that be restrained and defeated.


Let’s recap a little bit, shall we, before we go further. One thing that I neglected to mention last week is, what’s a petition? I’ve said that word about four times already in this sermon, but what does that mean? A petition is a request. To petition someone is to ask for something you want or need. In the Lord’s Prayer there are seven petitions, seven things we pray for. These requests, petitions, are sandwiched by an Introduction and Conclusion. The first four petitions are all asking for some sort of blessing (spiritual in the first three and material in the Fourth) and the final three petitions ask for deliverance (from sin, from temptation, and from the devil). The Intro and Conclusion encourage us that God invites us to pray for these things and will grant them according to His good will.

Last week we began with the Intro, Our Father Who Art in Heaven. With these words we are immediately comforted with the promise that God truly does desire our prayer. He invites us to pray to Him with confidence, just like children speak to their beloved fathers. And, like a loving father, God provides. He hears and answers prayers which are made through faith in Jesus and in accordance with His will. So, when we pray, we always pray according to God’s Will – for His is truly best – rather than our own. Recognizing that we often have difficulty with that – submitting to God’s will above our own – we pray straightaway in the First Petition, Hallowed Be Thy Name.

As we’ve already learned, this petition is not asking that God’s name be made holy, because it already is. In the Psalms it says, “Let them praise Your great and awesome name! Holy is He.”[1] Again, it says, “He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name![2] The mother of our Lord also said, “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”[3] In the First Petition, rather, we pray that God’s name would be kept holy and used in holy ways among us. We pray that He would preserve us in the true and pure teaching of His Word and that we would not be given to false and human doctrine. We also pray in the First Petition that we, as God’s children, would live holy lives in keeping with His Word.


In the Second Petition, we recognize that we have been made God’s children by the power of His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, and we ask that these things would remain among us. We speak the Second Petition and meaning together. We pray in this petition that God’s kingdom would come to us also. But, what does that mean? The kingdom of God? It’s kind of a complicated phrase, because it can refer to a few things. First, there’s the “kingdom of God,” the universe. God is the King of Creation. He rules the world by His law; laws like gravity and cause and effect, but also His moral law. That means that the universe works, and crime is punished. That’s not the kingdom we’re talking about.

We are talking about the kingdom where God rules by grace and where He freely grants forgiveness and salvation. This kingdom is called God’s Kingdom of Grace, which we might also call the Church. This is the place we’re brought into by the preaching of the Gospel and the washing of Baptism. This is the place where sins are forgiven, and godly lives are led. We pray in this petition that God would continue to grant us a place in His kingdom by His grace and spread this kingdom of grace to all the world. In this petition we pray that there would be increase of the Gospel and its spread until all the world adore the saving name of Christ. We also pray here that God would finally lead us and all the saints to His kingdom of glory, heaven.


One of Luther’s favorite phrases was this, “Where God builds a church, the devil places a chapel next door.”[4] He meant that, where God’s Word is taught in its truth and purity, there the devil will also be tempting men to fall away. This has been true ever since the ancient serpent spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden. The history of the Church has also witnessed that whenever the Gospel shines brightest, then the devil is also hardest at work. Yet, the more he presses, the more the Church grows. That’s because we pray in the Third Petition that God’s will be done. We speak the Third Petition together.

As with the other petitions, where His name is holy and His kingdom comes even without prayer, we pray in this petition that God’s will may be done among us also. His will is done, first, when “He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world and our sinful nature.”[5] Here Luther reinforces where the temptations to sin come from: from the devil, from the sinful world, and even from our own sinful flesh. He echoes St. James, who says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”[6] The devil, the world, and the flesh do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come. We pray in this petition that God would put to death in us our sinful desires and that He would restrain the wicked foe and all his horde until Christ returns.

God’s will is also done, Luther says, “when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.” So often, it seems, we’re hanging on by a thread. Either life gets the better of us and we despair, or we get the better of life and become proud. In either situation, most often, our faith is weakened. We ask in the Third Petition that God would not only put to death the sinful desires within us and restrain the ancient serpent, but that He would also strengthen and keep us in the faith. For this purpose, Christ gave His Word and instituted the Sacraments. Through His Word we are called and strengthened in the faith, by Baptism we are made God’s children, by the Supper our sins are forgiven, and in the words of Absolution our hearts are reassured that we are forgiven. By the regular reception of these things, God works to keep us firm in His faith until we die and enter His eternal kingdom of glory.

We’ve learned now the Introduction and first three petitions of our Lord’s prayer. With these words, God invites us to pray to Him as his dear children. We can know that He desires, hears, and answers our prayers. We pray that His name would be holy in our teaching and actions, that He would continue to call to faith all the world and keep us firm in His faith until we leave this vale of tears for the shores of heaven. Next week we will learn again the Fourth Petition, Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.

[1] Ps. 99:3, English Standard Version.

[2] Ps. 111:9.

[3] Lk. 1:49.

[4] Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Luther’s Works (American Edition), Vol. 23, pg. 284.

[5] Martin Luther, Small Catechism, Part III.

[6] James 1:14.

Now Is the Favorable Time

Text: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10

We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain…Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”[1] Thus, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter. In his first letter to them, he was very direct in addressing the issues they faced. He spoke very clearly and authoritatively concerning the sins that were being openly committed among the congregation. The Corinthians received Paul’s word, repented of their sins, and received forgiveness. Through faith in Christ they were restored to a right relationship with God and each other, and they were renewed to live the life of faith, to live in the good works produced by the Holy Spirit within them. Still, the temptation remained among them to be idle in the faith.

To be idle in the faith is what St. Paul meant by receiving the grace of God in vain. To receive God’s grace in vain is to hear the Good News of Christ, believe in the Gospel, and then to live as if nothing has changed. To receive the Gospel in vain is to hear and believe the Gospel, but then act the complete opposite – or to do nothing. The Corinthians struggled here, and we do, too. St. Paul said to them that now is the favorable time and day of salvation. The time promised so long ago through the prophets has come. The kingdom of God has been brought in by Christ’s incarnation, and we live now in the forgiveness of sins. Now is the time for the Word to spread to all the world so that many believe. For night will soon come, when no one can work. Since we live now in the time of God’s grace, let us use this time in fruitful ways: by a faithful witness to Christ and endurance together as His body.


As St. Paul said, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” What Paul means is that the time that God had promised, where salvation would be accomplished, and sins forgiven, has now come. Beginning with the promise made to Adam and Eve in the Garden, then with the promises made to the Patriarchs, and continuing through the prophets, God’s people lived in faith in the Messiah and longed for His arrival. Then, in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary – to be born under the Law – to redeem us who were held captive beneath it. Through in Jesus, we receive the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. Our past and continuing transgressions are not counted against us by God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

So that all might hear and believe His saving Word, Christ commissioned the Apostles, St. Paul and the others to spread His Word. And, they did so, “by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech.”[2] They devoted themselves to the spread of the Word because they knew that, by the Word, all things are made new. When the Word is preached, the Holy Spirit works through that Word to create faith in those who hear it. When faith is created – at that moment – an individual receives salvation. The salvation that Christ long ago accomplished on the cross is applied to them. By faith, dead sinners are made alive saints. For those who hear the Word of God and receive the gift of faith, it is the day of salvation. And now is the favorable time, in which the Word of God is spreading to all the world. It has even spread to us, we who have heard the Word and believed, who have been and are continually renewed by the Word and Sacrament.


Since now is the favorable time and the day of salvation – the time in which the Gospel of Christ is spreading to all the world – let us use this time to be faithful and fruitful stewards of God’s grace. To receive God’s grace in vain, as St. Paul said, is to hear the Gospel and act as if we haven’t. As St. Paul would say to the Romans, it would be to use God’s grace as a cover-up while we continue to sin. To the contrary, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”[3] By faith in Christ our sins are forgiven, and we are raised to new life. We become new creations and receive new and right desires by the working of the Holy Spirit within us. Two of these desires, good desires produced in us by the Spirit, come to mind.

The first is this, as St. Paul said, now is the day of salvation in which the Good News of Christ is given to the world and where sins are forgiven by grace through faith – but how are people to believe unless they hear, and how are they to hear unless someone shares with them the saving Gospel? Believe it or not, there are people who haven’t heard of Jesus. And, moreover, there are many who have heard of Jesus – but not the true Gospel. The true Gospel is that Jesus Christ suffered and died to accomplish that is necessary. We receive salvation not through some moral perfection on our part, but by God’s grace as a gift. St. Paul and the Apostles endured many things and traveled far so that more would hear this Good News. We are called to share it with those in our daily lives.

The second holy desire produced in us by the Spirit was actually brought up last week as well: steadfastness and endurance in God’s Word. In our reading we heard of all things St. Paul endured for the sake of the Word. We, likewise, have been called to suffer with Christ. In fact, you cannot have Christ without bearing the cross. But, we do not bear the cross alone. The Holy Spirit produces in us endurance in the face of the world, but this endurance is lived out together as the body of Christ. We have all been called by the one Spirit, we all have partaken of the one body of Christ; we are united with Him and each other by Baptism. When we are together, encouraging, supporting, teaching and forgiving each other, we become hardened against the assaults of the devil and the world.

Behold, now is the day of salvation,” St. Paul said. Now is the time in which the kingdom of God is among us. Now is the time in which the Gospel is being spread to all the world, and soon the time will come when all work will cease. Since we have heard and believed the Gospel of Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit, let us use this time in fruitful ways – by faithful witness to Christ in our lives and by enduring together as His body on earth. Amen.

[1] 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. English Standard Version.

[2] 2 Cor. 6:4-7.

[3] 2 Cor. 5:17.

Hallowed Be Our Father’s Name

Text: Introduction and First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

From ancient times, the season of Lent – the season in the Church Year we have now entered – has been used as a time of catechesis, a time of learning. It was during this time of year that candidates for Baptism used to increase their devotion to God’s Word in preparation for receiving the washing of the Water and the Word on the Vigil of Easter – the Saturday before Easter, after sundown. Though we now Baptize in all parts of the Church Year, Lent, as a period of learning can still be seen in the readings for each Sunday, especially in the epistles.

In the Lutheran Church there has been a longstanding tradition of studying the Catechism during Lent. This stands as both a welcome refresher for those of us who’ve long since been through confirmation, and a continuing help to those who are currently receiving instruction. In our congregations, we continue this practice. Two years ago, we studied the Commandments, which show us what God’s will for our live is and what sort of actions are pleasing to Him. Last year, we confessed the Apostles’ Creed and learned what it means to believe in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This year we take up the prayer our Lord Jesus has taught us. We’ve already learned what we should do and believe. In the Lord’s Prayer, we learn how to pray. Today, we learn that in the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer we are encouraged to pray to our heavenly Father as His dear children, and in the First Petition we ask that His name would be kept holy in our words and lives.


Before we go further, perhaps we should answer this question first: What is prayer? A month ago, when we celebrated the Transfiguration, I asked this question at the start of the sermon: What is the Bible? Today’s question, what is prayer, is likewise simple but easy to overthink. Prayer is speaking to God. The synodical explanation in the back of the catechism says that prayer is “speaking to God in words or thoughts.” From there, prayer can take any number of different forms. The most familiar form of prayer is often the spoken. Prayers to God are often spoken out loud, especially when we pray as a congregation. When we pray as a congregation, we are praying as one body together. Praying out loud facilitates that. Prayers are also often sung, such as in the liturgy when the pastor chants a prayer or in the hymns the congregation sings. Prayers may be spoken or sung, but the most frequent prayers are those offered silently in our thoughts.

As prayers may take many different forms, they may also be concerned with many things. Prayers may be prayers of praise. They may be prayers of supplication, requests for ourselves and others. Often times, we offer prayers of thanksgiving and some are prayers of confession. We address our prayers to the Triune God first, because He does command it. In the Psalms it says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”[1] Our Lord also has said, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’”[2] He says when, and does not leave it open for us not to pray. In addition to God’s command to pray, which also falls under the Second Commandment, He has promised to hear us. Our Father in heaven hears and answers all prayers made in faith.

Third, in addition to God’s command and promise, our own great need should move us to pray. None of us live such perfect lives that we have no wants or needs – to say nothing of our need for forgiveness. And, even if our own needs don’t move us to pray – those of our neighbors should. And finally, we can pray using words that our Lord Himself has given us. We call it the Lord’s Prayer because He is the author and it is for us both the best prayer and the model for how we should pray and what we should pray for.


Having said that, let’s say the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer together. With the words, “Our Father,” God invites us to believe that He is our true Father and we His true children, so that we might address Him with all boldness and confidence. The Lord’s Prayer, then, begins with a Gospel promise. Our God, the God, is not some distant deity who is not truly concerned for us inhabitants of earth. Instead, He is our Father and we are His children. We are His children by faith. Though we, by the Fall into Sin and by our own personal sin, had separated ourselves and become children of wrath, God the Father sent forth His Son to fulfill the Law and redeem us. Through faith in Christ we are restored to a right relationship with God. By faith, Jesus is our Lord and brother, His Father becomes our Father, and we His children.

Jesus teaches us to pray in this way, so that we might pray with boldness and confidence. This confidence is not based on anything in us, however. By faith, we address God as Father. By faith, He is our Father and we are His dear children. Therefore, we should not fear to speak to Him. In fact, He doesn’t just command it; He desires it. God wants to hear from us and for us to speak to Him. He invites us to. With the words, “our Father,” we are encouraged to speak to Him as children would their own fathers – with boldness and with confidence. In the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches and invites us to pray to God our father with boldness and confidence in His promise to hear and answer.


Now, the First Petition. We speak it together. In this petition we ask that God’s name would be kept holy in our words and our lives. In the Large Catechism, Luther points out that “Hallowed be Thy name,” doesn’t make for good German – and maybe neither English – because God’s name is holy in and of itself. Simply put, God is holy. His name is holy. There is nothing that can change or add to that. In this petition, we’re not praying that God’s name be made holy but that it be kept holy in our lives. That’s exactly what we just spoke, “We pray in this petition that it [God’s name] may be kept holy among us also.”[3]

How is God’s name kept holy among us? Two ways. First, when God’s Word is taught among us in its truth and purity. That is to say, God’s name is kept holy when His saving Word is taught, spoken, and preached rightly, without any human doctrine snuck it. Second, God’s name is kept holy among us when we, as His children, lead holy lives according to His Word. Just as unruly children often reflect poorly on their parents, we dishonor God when we – as His children – live contrary to His Word. In this way, the First Petition is asking God to lead us to keep the Second Commandment. The Second Commandment means that we should fear and love God so that don’t lie or deceive by His name, but instead call upon it in every trouble, “pray, praise, and give thanks.”[4]

So far, we’ve learned what it means to pray. Praying is speaking to God in words or thoughts; be they spoken, sung, or simply prayed in silence. We pray because God commands it, but also because He promises to hear and answer – and because of our own great need. In the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, God invites to pray to Him as dear children speak to their own dear father. God, indeed, desires to hear from us – His children. In the First Petition, we ask that God would lead us to keep His name holy by keeping His Word pure and undefiled, and by living our lives according to it. Next week we will continue with the Second and Third Petitions: Thy Kingdom Come and Thy Will Be Done.


[1] Ps. 50:15, English Standard Version.

[2] Lk. 11:2.

[3] Lutheran Service Book, 323.

[4] Ibid., 321.

Escaping Corruption

Text: 2 Peter 1:2-11

Tonight, we enter once again the season of Lent. By now, we have celebrated our Lord’s incarnation and birth. We have witnessed the glory of His transfiguration. We await yet the celebration of His victory over death and the grave at Easter. But, as we learn from the Transfiguration, before we can celebrate our Lord’s victory over death and the devil, we must first witness His cross. Just so, in our lives here, before we receive our Lord’s forgiveness, we must first be called to repentance. Before we can be comforted by the Gospel, we must first be convicted by the Law. Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent afford us another opportunity to reflect on our lives, especially our failures in regard to God’s holy Law, and begin again the cycle of repentance and faith.

This is what St. Peter encouraged in our Epistle reading. He wrote, “As His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue.”[1] St. Peter encouraged his hearers that God has, indeed, given us all good things. By His grace, through faith in His Son, He has given us the free and full forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He has brought us out of the corruption of this sinful world. Being God’s children now, we are called to live the life of faith. As God has granted us all good things through the knowledge of His Son, St. Peter encourages us to supplement this faith with virtue so that we may not be found to be unfruitful stewards of God’s grace.


Tonight, we are in the same chapter of St. Peter’s second letter as we were back on the Transfiguration – although our present text actually comes before that one. We might remember that St. Peter wrote to a group of fellow Christians who were undergoing stress. They were undergoing pressure from the world to conform to its immoral way of life. They were also under attack from within. Some in the congregation were asserting that Peter and the other Apostles were liars and that Christ wouldn’t return. St. Peter responded with Apostolic authority that they had not made the Good News up, for they were with Christ on the holy mountain. They were eyewitnesses of His glory and have now made known these things to the world. As such, St. Peter’s hearers could be assured that their sins were, indeed, freely and fully forgiven. Their entrance into eternal life had been secured.

We, too, continue to live under the same pressures that Peter’s original hearers endured. The Church at large continues to bear the scorn of the world, and we in the Missouri Synod are under ever-increasing pressure to fall in line with our sinful society. Unfortunately, even within the Church – as in St. Peter’s time – there is the temptation to set aside or look at in a different light the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Like the saints of old, the pressures set us on edge.

As St. Peter wrote to them, he writes to us: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.”[2] Despite the pressure we feel, we have this confidence and promise: God has indeed rescued us from this sinful world. By the knowledge of His Son and through the washing of Holy Baptism, He has given us the forgiveness of our sins and entrance into eternal life. As St. John said, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.”[3]


St. Peter wrote that God has brought us out of the corruption of this world through the knowledge and faith of His Son. He has brought us into His marvelous light and caused us to be no longer children of wrath, but His very own dear children. As God’s beloved children, He also leads us by His Holy Spirit to do His will. His will this: that we love and serve Him and our neighbor. St. Peter said it like this: As God has brought us out of the corruption of this world and given us all good things in His Son, “[So] make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”[4]

These things – virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, and love – are not things God requires of us in addition to faith, but they are the good fruits the Holy Spirit produces in us through faith. The Spirit causes us by faith to bear good fruit: to love our neighbor with a genuine and pure love, to be steadfast under trial, to love God’s Word and to study it, to exercise self-control in the face of temptation. None of these things are what the world teaches or desires of us. But God, by His Holy Spirit, brings us to be and live as His children. St. Peter says, “If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[5] That is, when God’s will is carried out in our lives, when we live in love to our God and each other, our conscience is comforted and we are assured of the faith that dwells within our hearts.


My friends, St. Peter encourages us to practice and exercise our faith, “to confirm [our] calling and election,” by seeking an increase of the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.[6] But, when we examine our hearts, we find nothing good in them. It is the truth that, because of our sinful nature, we are more apt to deny our calling by our actions than to confirm it. We are more ready feed grudges than forgive, more ready to sleep than be awake and sing God’s praises; we are more ready to be content with what we’ve learned than to study more deeply the living and active Word. We more easily give in to temptation than resist it. And sometimes, because of our deep sinfulness, we don’t even feel bad.

‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’[7] We are gathered this evening to mark the beginning of our Lord’s Lent. We have received the sign of the cross on our foreheads. It is in ash, because we are but ash. The Lord formed our first father from the dust, and because of our sin, to dust we shall return. This dust is in the shape of cross, for by the cross our Lord has redeemed us from sin and death and brought to us eternal life. We have been made God’s children, and we have failed to live up to our calling. Therefore, we return again this evening to repent. We repent of our failures to love God and our neighbors. We repent of our great and vast iniquity. And we know that, as far as the east is from the west, so far has our God removed our sins from us.[8] May He grant unto us an increase of faith, hope, and love in this season, and, by His Spirit, an increase of the fruits of faith in our lives. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Pet. 1:3, 5.

[2] 2 Pet. 1:3-4.

[3] 1 Jn. 3:2

[4] 2 Pet. 1:5-7.

[5] 2 Pet. 1:8.

[6] 2 Pet. 1:10.

[7] Joel 2:12.

[8] Ps. 103:12.

Love Is

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”[1] These beautiful words of the Holy Spirit are given to us this week through St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. These are words that we’ve heard and read and sung and aspired to. These words have been read at many weddings to encourage husbands and wives as they begin their new life together in the love of Christ. Yet, for over a thousand years this text has been the epistle reading for this Sunday, the last before Lent.

I don’t remember who it was who first taught me this text, but I was taught to understand this text by taking wherever “love” is written in this text and read, “Jesus.” Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus bears all things and endures all things. His love for us will never end. Jesus’ love for us wasn’t even diminished by the prospect of dying on the cross. Jesus bore the rejection, the suffering, the pain and dying, all for us – so that our sins might be forgiven. Out of His great love for us, He died for us. By our Baptism into His death and resurrection, that great love which He has for us is given to us. By the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts through Baptism, we are led to share that same love with those around us. The love of Christ within us causes us to be long-suffering, to be forgiving, and to rejoice with truth.


As I said, the epistle reading this week has, for generations, been paired with the Gospel reading from Luke 18. This Sunday is called Quinquagesima, which means, “about fifty days before Easter.” As we stand on the verge of our Lord’s Lent, we hear of His nearing Jerusalem for the last time. The Transfiguration happened back in Luke 9, and ever since then, Jesus has been traveling upward and forward, toward Jerusalem. It’s not a long journey, but Jesus sort of meanders – He preaches and teaches and heals all over, so that many might hear and believe in Him. Many do believe, but some don’t yet understand why Jesus has come. So, Jesus, taking the twelve, said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”[2]

Jesus explains to the Disciples here – for a third time – why He’s come: to fulfill the promises of God by being mocked, humiliated, spit upon, and killed. Then, He will rise from the dead. All these things must be done to secure for the world the forgiveness of sins, to fulfill God’s Law and remove His righteous wrath from us poor sinners. Jesus here demonstrates the depth of His great love for us. There is nothing He would not endure, nothing He would not suffer, for us – for you and me. He did not despise us for our sin, but He has been patient with us. He did not keep a record of all the things that we have done wrong, but instead, died for them all.

When Jesus died on the cross, He accomplished what theologians call, “The Great Exchange.” That means, that when Jesus died on the cross, He died taking our sins upon Himself and we, in turn, receive His righteousness. He takes our place in death so that we share His place in life. This exchange happens in Baptism. That’s what St. Paul talks about in Romans 6, how we are buried with Christ in Baptism and raised with Him to new life. In Baptism, we receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts, bringing with Him the love of Christ. This is why St. Paul writes what he does to the Corinthians.


You might remember that the Corinthian congregation was founded by St. Paul. They were a young congregation, a lively one. They were composed of both Jewish and Gentile converts to the faith. Yet, they had problems. For one, false doctrine had infected the congregation. St. Paul spent much of the letter teaching on topics related to the Sixth and Eighth Commandments. Second – what prompted the text today – the congregation was not living in the love of Christ. Many held themselves to be more important than others. Those with certain gifts pitted themselves against others who had different gifts. The different members of the one body of Christ all tried to be the most important member. St. Paul said to them, that if he were to speak in the tongues of men and angels, if he were to prophesy and understand all mysteries, if he were to give away everything he had – but had not love – it would all be for nothing.

Perhaps, we are not so different from the Corinthians. We have been called by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel of Christ. We have been united with our Lord through Baptism into His death and resurrection. We have received the body and the blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Yet, we often times think of ourselves as the most valuable member of the body. We have related to others, even in this very congregation, with less than Christian charity. We have not explained everything in the kindest way, we have not forgiven as we’ve been forgiven; and, when we’ve been sinned against, we have lashed out in one way or another.

For these behaviors, we should be ashamed. But, my friends, this is why these texts from Sts. Paul and Luke are heard together. While we are impatient with those around us, Christ has been patient with us. While we have kept record of our brother’s sins, our God has kept none. And, while we have failed to endure the life to which we have been called, Christ fulfilled His purpose by dying on the cross for us. For, He is love. And this love He has for us, has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.[3] By the working of the Holy Spirit within us, the love of Christ is carried out in our lives.


How? In the ways Paul talks about in our text. First, the love of Christ is patient. In Greek, this word means “longsuffering,” and is most often used for God – who bears with us in our iniquity. So, also, are we called to be with those around us. The fact is, we are all sinners. And, because we are sinners, we sin. But, instead of demanding absolute perfection from others, the love of Christ within us causes us to forgive and bear with those who sin against us. Second, Christ’s love within us leads us to not keep a record of wrongs. The English says, “[love is not] resentful,” but the Greek means that the love of Christ which has been poured into our hearts through Baptism causes us to forgive and not store up the number of someone else’s sins. Third, St. Paul says, “[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”[4] This means that the love of Christ which has been given to us produces in us a rejoicing at the common confession of the truth. The love which we have been given causes us to joy at being together: here in worship, in Bible study, and all the other times where we speak and share the living Word of God.

Often times, this text is preached as a Law text. However, it is also Gospel. Patience, forgiveness, and a love for each other are good things produced in us by the Holy Spirit. We do not make ourselves be this way. Rather, the Spirit produces these things in us through faith. However, the Old Adam still claws away at us. He is drowned in our Baptism, but the temptation to sin will never be fully removed until we put off this sinful flesh in the Resurrection. So, when we hear this text and find these things not happening in our lives, here’s what we can do: confess our sins and receive Christ’s absolution. For our sins, Christ suffered and died on the cross. By His Word, He forgives us our sins, strengthens in the faith, and produces these good things in us. We should pray that the Holy Spirit would ever increase these good fruits within us.

Dear friends, this is the last Sunday before our Lord’s Lent begins. On Wednesday, we will receive the sign of the cross on our foreheads in repentance of our sins, but also in faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Out His great love for us, He suffered and endured all things so that we might live with Him in life. By His Holy Spirit, that love is also poured into our hearts so that might live in love toward each other. God grant this unto us all. Amen.

[1] 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, English Standard Version.

[2] Lk. 18:31-33.

[3] Rom. 5:5.

[4] 1 Cor. 13:6.