Time in the Word

Book of Concord reading for the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany and
Preparation for next week, the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany

The Righteousness of Christ

Jesus warns that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20), but He also calls His imperfect people “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13, 14). That’s because the Lord Jesus came not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, “but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17) in perfect faith and love. Since He does and teaches all of God’s commandments, He is “called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19). God manifests His “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2–4) and through the preaching of the Gospel gives His “secret and hidden wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:7). Christ gives this perfect righteousness to His people and it leads them to true fasting, which is “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free” (Is. 58:6) and “to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house” (Is. 58:7).

Book of Concord Reading for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article XI: Eternal Election

[In the Gospel reading for to-day, Jesus’ disciples, moved by the Holy Spirit, ascended the mountain to be in the presence of Jesus and to be taught by Him.]

The entire Holy Trinity—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—directs all people to Christ, as to the Book of Life. For this has been decided by the Father from eternity: whom He would save, He would save through Christ. Christ Himself says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). And again, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9).

Christ, as God’s only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father [John 1:18], has announced the Father’s will to us. He says, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life” (John 6:40). And again, “God so loved the world‹, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)›.

The Father wants all people to hear this proclamation and desires that they come to Christ. Christ does not drive these people from Him, as it is written, “whoever comes to Me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

In order that we may come to Christ, the Holy Spirit works true faith through the hearing of the Word. The apostle testifies about this when he says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), that is, when it is preached in its truth and purity. (¶66–69)

Source: Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p. 611. Used by permission. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy of Concordia, call 800-325-3040.

Monday, January 31, 2011Psalm 119:9–16; Antiphon, Psalm 119:12
Like last week, the readings for next Sunday contrast the righteous and the wicked, but with even more emphasis on the righteous. The Introit is a portion of Psalm 119, the longest Psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It is a meditation on the characteristics and blessings of God’s Word. Several terms are used throughout the psalm as synonyms for the Word of God: Law, testimonies, statutes, precepts, and more. The section here encourages us to read, study, meditate upon, and memorize the Word of God. The more we immerse ourselves in the reading and studying of God’s holy Word, the more it will become part of our being, constantly guiding our thoughts and actions.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011Psalm 112:1–9
Psalm 112 lists some of the characteristics of the righteous person. He fears the Lord and greatly delights in His commandments. That is, that is, he believes, respects, and obeys God’s Word. He finds pleasure in obeying God’s Word. Since his righteousness is not of his own doing, but by the grace of God, through faith in Christ, He is described in the same sorts of terms as we would describe Christ: gracious, merciful, and righteous, looking in triumph on his adversaries, his horn is exalted in honor. All these describe us, too, who are children of God by faith, bestowed upon us in Holy Baptism.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011Isaiah 58:3–9a
Many rituals and observances were prescribed by God for the children of Israel in the Old Testament, including fasting. But what was it about fasting that the Lord desired? The mere outward act, without the proper humble attitude? About such fasting, the Lord says: Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Rather, what God desires is that we shun evil and do those things that are pleasing in His sight: loose the bonds of wickedness, share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your house. In other words, just as the Lord has had pity on us poor sinners, so we also ought to have compassion for others.

Thursday, February 3, 20111 Corinthians 2:1–12
We sinners have what St Paul calls itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). That is, too often, we want to have God’s Word preached on our terms, in ways that we like. Many preachers capitulate, neglecting to preach about sin and grace, and instead telling people what they want to hear: that God exists to give them whatever their hearts desire or ten steps to greater success in the world. Such preachers are to be avoided, for the preaching content of a true servant of God is this: I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Friday, February 4, 2011Matthew 5:13–20
Jesus teaches His disciples that they are to be the salt of the earth, that is, a preservative in this corrupt and sinful world. God preserves the world, so that we Christians may serve Him here. And our highest form of service is being the light of the world, bringing the light of the Gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus into a sin-darkened world. Christ is the true light, which enlightens everyone (John 1:9), and, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, we Christians reflect the light of the Son of God into a world dark with sin, wickedness, ignorance, and unbelief.

Saturday, February 5, 2011
Sunday’s hymn of the day is Thy Strong Word (LSB #578). Jesus told His disciples (and us) to be the light of the world. By what means do we bring light into this world? By Thy strong Word, which casts the bright beams of Christ’s salvation into the world. The hymn proclaims the light which Christ brought into the world at the Creation and at His crucifixion, and prays that we might proclaim the work that He accomplished, that is, to be light in the world. Finally, the last stanza is a rousing hymn of praise to the Triune God, father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Collect for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany: Almighty God, You know we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright. Grant strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord (2 February—read Luke 2:22–38): Almighty and ever-living God, as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer for the Church: Merciful God, we humbly implore You to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer for the Holy Spirit: O Lord God, heavenly Father, by the blessed light of Your divine Word You have led us to the knowledge of Your Son. Grant us the grace of Your Holy Spirit that we may ever walk in the light of Your truth and, rejoicing with sure confidence in Christ, our Savior, be brought unto everlasting salvation; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer before the study of God’s Word: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, without Your help our labor is useless, and without Your light our search is in vain. Invigorate our study of Your holy Word that, by due diligence and right discernment, we may establish ourselves and others in Your holy faith; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Lectionary summary on front page from the LCMS Commission on Worship.
Woodcut by Baron Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, 1794-1872, a distinguished German artist known especially for his book, Das Buch der Bücher in Bilden [The Book of Books in Pictures]) ©WELS.
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.