Judica Midweek Vespers
April 10, 2019 AD
April 10, 2019 AD
April 3, 2019 AD
March 27, 2019 AD
March 20, 2019 AD
Just before He died on the cross the Lord Jesus spoke that word which the bystanders no doubt understood as an admission of defeat but which was in fact Jesus’ cry of victory: “It is finished!” meaning “It is accomplished, it is completed!” And if we ask, “What is finished? What is accomplished? What is completed?” the answer is this: our Lord ‘s work of perfect love for His Father, His perfect love for this lost and fallen world. That Jesus lived a life of perfect love for His Father is seen in His perfect obedience to the Father’s will, humbling Himself even to the death of the cross. That Jesus lived a life of perfect love for this lost and fallen world is seen in His praying even for those who had brought His cruel death, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” A life of perfect love for the Father, a life of perfect love for this lost and fallen world: This is what is finished, accomplished, completed as the Lord Jesus bows His head and dies.
On these Lenten evening this year we’re meditating on the Ten Commandments in the light of Jesus’ passion and death.
We remember that when Jesus was asked, “Which is great commandment in the Law? He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In these words Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments: the first ‘THREE commandments require love for God, the remaining SEVEN require love for the fellow human beings God has placed in our lives. But even these last seven also have to do with the love of God. For since they are commandments given by God, fulfilling them, keeping them, not disobeying them expresses love for God
This evening we reflect briefly on the Third and Fourth Commandments.
The Third Commandment is “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” And in the Catechism Dr. Luther explains this third commandment in this way. “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
Jesus truly lived from the written Word of God. When tempted in the wilderness He defeated Satan with the Word of God: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. You shall not tempt the Lord your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” And as Jesus lived so also He died. As His life drew to a close the Word of God was on his lips. For on the cross He prays in the words of the 22nd Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” and from the words of the 31st Psalm, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Lord Jesus not only prayed to the Father: in the most real sense His whole life was prayer, communion with the Father, and so perfect love for Him.
The Fourth Commandment is “Honor your father and your mother.” And in the Catechism we learn that this means: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” Saint John tells us in His Gospel that Jesus, “having loved His own who were in the world loved them to the end.” And so as He is dying on the cross Jesus says to Mary His mother, “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother.” Here we see how our Lord provides for His mother by entrusting her to the care of John the beloved disciple. And we see in this the pattern of love for parents which God requires of us all — not always easy, but never, ever to be regretted!
But from the cross our Savior not only provides a home for His mother. In a deeper sense He provides a home for every lost and lonely child of Adam’s race — by bringing into being that holy family, His one holy Church, gathered together by the blood and water which flowed from His pierced side as He handed over the Spirit: the water of Holy Baptism, the blood of the Holy Sacrament, and in both of them the gift of the Holy Spirit. In that magnificent 68th Psalm which sings of the triumphal progress of the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings the psalmist sings: “A father of the fatherless and a defender of the widow is God in His holy habitation: God sets the solitary in families.” And how does God do this? Through that CRUCIFIED Body born of Mary, gathering forgiven sinners into His MYSTICAL Body the Church, the whole company of His faithful people in heaven and on earth. And as Jesus in His death not only provided a home for His mother but an eternal home for every human being His love calls into being, so you and I who are already by our Baptism members of that blessed company of all faithful people are called to WELCOME into Christ’s family those who have yet to know His mercy and His grace.
Saint John wrote: “If you KNOW these things, blessed are you if you DO them.” May we then take to heart all we have been shown from God’s holy Word so that together with Christ’s blessed Mother and all saints we may forever rejoice in the unveiled presence of Him who died but is alive forevermore and has the keys of death and the grave!
March 13, 2019 AD
Now we remember how God first revealed His Law to Moses in written form, the Ten Commandments on the two stone tablets. But long before that, in fact from the very beginning of the human story, God’s Law was written on the heart of every human being. Saint Paul puts this so clearly when he writes in his Letter to the Church at Rome, “When the Gentiles which have not the Law do by nature what the Law required,…they show that what the Law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them.” And so we see that God’s Law is written not only on two tablets of stone but also on the heart of every human being. And this Law of God is no arbitrary code but simply reflects the way we’ve been fashioned by our Creator.
An illustration I often use in confirmation class is this, that God’s Law is like the little manual that comes with a new car. It tells you what to do and what not to do if you don’t want your car to become a wreck! The owner’s manual isn’t arbitrary but comes from the company that made the car and knows what needs to happen if the car is to be in good running order. Well, you might say that the Ten Commandments are something like your car’s owner’s manual. God is our Maker and so He knows how we are to live if we are to avoid all kinds of trouble, even disaster.
This evening we consider the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods” which means “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things” and the Second Commandment, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” which means that “We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.
“You shall have no other gods…” We remember how our first parents and we like them really want to be our own God, ourselves the arbiter of good and evil, right and wrong. Saint Paul tells us that our Lord did not think of equality with God as something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking on the form of the perfectly obedient Son and Servant of the Father, humbled Himself even to the death of the cross. The words of the psalmist were perfectly fulfilled in Jesus. The psalmist sings, “Then said I, ‘Lo, I have come to do THY will, O God’… and by that WE have been sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.”
God cares about His name as we learn in the Second Commandment “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” and God-in-the-flesh taught us to pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” a prayer which may be paraphrased as “May Your name be kept holy, May Your name be held in reverence.” But to listen to people talk today – to say nothing of the blasphemies regularly heard on television and in the movies, patterns of speech which even pollute the lives of our little children – you would think that the Second Commandment has become nothing more than an empty form.
It is both amazing and saddening how widespread the misuse of God’s name, even the holy name of Jesus, has become even among professing Christians – all this a symptom of the collapse of any real sense of the majesty and holiness of Him who made and redeemed us. A wise pastor of the Church had this to say: “God’s name must not be profaned in speech… We cannot drag God’s name in the mud of our dirty discourse without undermining in ourselves, and in those who hear us, reverence for God Himself.” There is much to ponder here and perhaps much to repent of.
Jesus is the perfectly obedient Son of the Father. During His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane He prays, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not MY will but THINE be done” and then goes forward to His bitter passion, the perfectly meek and humble Lamb of God, the perfectly trusting Son of the Father, praying with His final breath, “FATHER into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Jesus’ whole life had in fact been an expression of His dying words, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” “Father, I place my life in Your hands.” He did not curse those who betrayed Him, arrested Him, unjustly condemned Him, flogged Him, and crucified Him, but instead prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He continues to call upon His heavenly Father both in Gethsemane and on the cross.
And all of this He did and suffered for you. He did suffered for me. HIS obedience makes good for OUR disobedience. HIS perfect love makes good for OUR imperfect love, HIS perfect trust makes good for OUR imperfect trust. His HOLY life He gives in exchange for OUR sinful life. And so nothing stands between us and the judgment of God. In His suffering Christ our Lord has suffered the judgement of God for all our sins and so we live in the happy freedom of those who know that “There is now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus.”
The whole human race fell in Adam’s fall, the whole human race is restored through the perfect obedience of Him who is the Second Adam. Says Saint Paul, “As one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one Man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all.” And that acquittal is yours and mine not through any effort on our part but through simple trust in God’s sure promise that this is so!