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What is the heart and soul of Lutheran worship? Is it a beautiful church building? an instrument? a liturgy? vestments? hymnody? No, because these alone would be nothing more than an empty shell, void of true worship.

The heart and soul of Lutheran worship is Christ and the blessings He won for us when He was offered up on the cross a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

We are miserable sinners and begin our worship confessing our utter sinfulness and looking to Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness. And through the absolution spoken to us by Christ’s called ministers, Christ Himself forgives our sins and promises us the eternal joys of heaven.

We bring to God our prayers and praises. And then, as Christ taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, He teaches us and speaks to us through His Word which is read to us and explained by Christ’s ministers.

We remember Jesus’ words in John 6:63: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” We know that faith is the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word and His Sacraments and that Christ is at work in us as we hear His Word, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

We offer up to Christ our prayers for the church and its ministers and for those around us in the world. We pray for our leaders that we may freely preach and teach God’s Word and live according to it. We pray also for the lost that they too might hear the preaching of the Gospel and be brought to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

And, if that were not enough, Christ further consoles us poor sinners by giving us to eat and to drink of His very body and blood which was given and shed for us on the cross. We partake of the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and so receive the blessings of forgiveness and life He won for us.

Before we leave, Christ dismisses us and sends us out into the world to bear witness to Him with God’s name and blessing upon us. We are to “go … and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things” that Jesus has commanded us, and He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20).

He blesses and keeps us; He looks upon us with grace and favor; He grants us the peace of sins forgiven and the promise of everlasting life with Him in heaven.

So, Lutheran worship is not really about us and what we do for God; it’s all about God and what He offers and gives to us in Christ Jesus, our Savior!

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15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ” Luke 14:15-24 NKJV

Dear Christian Friends,

This parable paints a picture for us of a situation we used to see a lot more before the pandemic started – a great feast. Large dinner parties involve lots of time, and resources, and preparation from those who would host them. They require cleaning the house, preparation of large amounts of food and drink, appetizers, desserts, and possibly even entertainment.

Being invited to such an event seems like a great honor. Sure, there are plenty of reasons why people would not be able to go, but in general, one would think that most people would make every effort they could to go.

But in our parable, it seems that none of those originally invited wanted to go The excuses do not really even sound that good – The first one has just bought property and wants to see it. Will that property not be there after the supper? Today, if you were to throw a large dinner party, and invited someone but they declined to come because they had just bought new property, how do you think you would feel about it? I think I would be tempted to be a bit angry and hurt. The second has bought five yoke of oxen and wants to test them. Is he worried they will not be able to pull a plow? The third has just gotten married. Is he not allowed what we would call today a “plus one”? It seems many people will be at the feast, why could he not bring his new wife? Or at least ask the master?

The master is angry, as we might be too – think back of all the expense and preparation, and the sense of injustice in potentially wasting all of that food. So then the master orders that the servants invite the poor, the maimed and the blind, who seem eager enough to come. But still there is room. Does the master re-issue invitations to those who rejected them? He does not. Instead, he has his servants go out to the highways and hedges, and demand that all they find come, so that those who first rejected his kind invitation would not have room.

And so the supper is eaten, but not by those who were first invited. How, then, are we to understand this parable?

The master, of course, is God, and the great supper or feast is everlasting life in bliss with him. We like to think that God should love us because of what we do or how we act, but just like those invited in the parable, we can think of any flimsy excuse to ignore God and his Word. We see this in our own natural rebellion. Do we put God first in our lives? Do we look for every opportunity to worship him? Would we rather sleep in or do something else on Sunday mornings rather than learn about and worship God?

And while the focus of this parable is not on how we treat our neighbors, we see plenty of rebellion in our behavior towards them as well. Do we always speak well of our neighbors? We have been studying a lot of the Jewish civil law in Exodus lately – those rules about helping a heavily laden donkey, and returning items that we know belong to others can be particularly cutting. When we do those things, we recognize just how unworthy of God’s invitation we really are. It is so easy for us to justify our own actions, or try to compare ourselves with others. But that is not the standard that God judges by – rather that standard is God’s own holiness, and we must admit that, in so many ways and at so many times, we have not measured up to that standard. We are all sinners, condemned by God’s Law, and we do not deserve His blessings.

But God invites us, nonetheless. Is this not an amazing thing? We are ungrateful and rebellious, but God’s love is greater. God himself took on our humanity, in the person of Jesus Christ, and lived a perfect life, and died a sacrificial death to pay the price that was owed for all sin of all time. When I see this passage, I cannot but help but think of a similar invitation to God’s great feast that is recorded for us in the book of Isaiah:

Isa 55:1 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. 3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live.”

Just as in a great human feast, as guests, God requires nothing from us. Indeed, what do we have to give that does not already belong to God? We do not bring anything our own of value to the feast – it is the job of the host to provide all the food and drink and entertainment. In human feasts, we often invite guests because of things about them – they are family, or friends, or business acquaintances. But in this great feast, and particularly in the case of this parable, we see that the Master wants to see his feast enjoyed, regardless of whether he knows the people who ultimately attend it or not.

So great was this feast, that even though those who were originally invited spurned it, the Master arranged for others to enjoy it. The great feast of the Gospel is like this in that in it, God promises his grace and forgiveness to all human beings, regardless of race or gender, wealth, nationality, status, or any other human characteristic. It is expressly God’s will that this Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through the perfect life and death of Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and Son of Man, be preached to every human being alive. And we, dear Christian friends, are those from the highways and hedges – for certainly we did not deserve to be invited to this great supper, and we were not the ones to whom the invitation first came. But by the grace of God, we have been invited, and we shall eat the supper at our Lord’s call.

We may be inclined to ask – what other great supper are we invited to, where we can see and taste God’s love for us in a very special and direct way? How can we hear about the master’s great supper, and not think of our Lord’s Supper, which we share again today?

In that Supper, he has promised us his own body and blood. What greater cost of preparation has there ever been for a supper than the body and blood of God himself, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins?

And how could we offer an excuse for such an invitation? “Come,” Jesus says to us – “Take and eat my body, and drink my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”

We do not understand how this can be – how his true body and blood can be received by each of us, everywhere around the world. But in the spirit of Mary, who said, “May it be to me, according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) We trust God at his Word, to make things so that could not be so otherwise.

How could God take on human flesh? How could God die for our sins? These too are things that we cannot understand – but we trust that they are true because God’s Word says that they are true. And in the same way, we partake of Jesus’ true body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, for the forgiveness of our sins. This, we will do as often as we do it, in remembrance of Him.

So, dear Christian friends – come to the feast our Lord has prepared for us! Surely, we do not deserve his love, his grace, or his favor. But his mercy made it so that he reached out to us, took on our flesh, to live and die for us, and call us to Him. And, so, as he bids us, let us come – certainly, let us not make excuses and try to be somewhere else. But instead, let us come as he calls us – let us believe in and take hold of his promise to forgive our sins. And let us further come to the Great Supper that he instituted, where He gives us His own body and blood, again for the forgiveness of our sins.

Dear Christian friends, hear our Lord’s call – please do not reject it, please do not make excuses. Come to the great supper our Lord has prepared for us. Maybe far off in the future, maybe soon – we shall partake together in the great marriage feast of the Lamb, after Jesus returns in glory and after the resurrection of all the dead. But until that day, let us also hear our Lord’s call to eat the Lord’s Supper together, until the Last Day comes, we shall be united with our Lord, and we shall forever be with Him and with each other, in endless peace and joy.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.” Luke 14:16-17 (Read Luke 14:15-24)

You have been invited to the greatest banquet of all! Even though you are a sinner and deserving of God’s eternal wrath and punishment, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to fulfill the righteous demands of God’s Law in your stead and then to suffer and die on the cross and bear the full punishment for your transgression and sin. God calls you through the preaching of the Gospel and invites you to receive His pardon and forgiveness and to be a part of His everlasting kingdom through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Bible tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). It tells us that “Jesus Christ … loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5); that “in [Him] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7); and that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).

And, the risen Lord Jesus even now is preparing a place for all who believe in Him, in the mansions of His Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Through the preaching of this good news, God calls you to come to Him and receive the everlasting blessings of His kingdom.

Even now, as you read these words, God’s Spirit calls you to “come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17); and to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Jesus told the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24) to admonish His hearers for rejecting the salvation God was providing for them in His Son.

The Jews had the Old Testament Scriptures, which promised eternal salvation through the coming Messiah and Savior; but when Jesus, God’s Son, came into this world to accomplish the salvation God had promised of old — when the Gospel invitation went out: “Come; for all things are now ready” — the Jews excused themselves for various reasons. They were too busy with the things of this world to come to Christ Jesus and receive from Him forgiveness for their sins and eternal life. One bought a piece of land and wanted to go and see it; another had bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to try them out; and another had just gotten married and could not come (cf. Luke 14:18-20).

What about you? This same Gospel invitation has gone out to you: “Come; for all things are now ready.” Do you have time to come to Jesus and learn of Him and the eternal blessings He has won for you? Do you come to hear His life-giving Word and learn of God’s offer and promise of forgiveness for all your sins and of the everlasting joys of heaven? Or, are you too busy with the cares and concerns of this life?

What is your excuse? Are you too busy checking on land or property? Do you have to try out that car or truck or tractor? Do you have to try out that new tool or toy? Are you too busy with work or school or business to come to Jesus? Have you married a wife and become too busy with family concerns to take time for church services and the hearing of God’s Word? What is your excuse?

The excuses in Jesus’ parable angered the man who made the great supper (v. 21). He said, “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (v. 24).

Will God accept your excuse? Is not this a warning to us not to become so busy with other things in this life that we neglect that “one thing … needful” (Luke 10:42)?

Jesus admonishes us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). And Jesus warns: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Heb. 2:3)?

What did the master of the house in Jesus’ parable then do that his house might be filled with guests? He sent his servants out into the streets and lanes of the city to bring in the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And, when there was yet room, he sent them out into the highways and hedges (where the poor often camped) to compel those there to come in (Cf. Luke 14:21-24.)

It is by the grace of God that we have heard the Gospel of Christ and come to trust in Him for forgiveness and life (Eph. 2:4-9); “and yet there is room” (v. 22)! Our Heavenly Father sends His servants out into the streets and lanes, and to the highways and hedges, to compel them to come in — to call upon all, whether rich or poor, healthy or handicapped or sick, to come to Christ Jesus in faith and partake of the blessings of His kingdom.

Jesus commands His disciples to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). They are to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). They are to say: “Come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). And, Jesus tells us: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Dear LORD God, our Savior, grant that we not neglect and excuse ourselves from partaking of the salvation so graciously provided for us through the innocent sufferings and death of the Son, Jesus Christ. Fill us also with Your love for lost sinners that we may obey Your command and send men into all the world with Your saving Gospel and compel them to come in! In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23

Not all who call Jesus, “Lord,” will enter God’s eternal kingdom. Not all who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ truly are Christian.

We can think of groups that take the name of Jesus on their lips and claim to hold to His doctrine but who do not believe in Him as their Savior and Redeemer. It is not enough to look to Jesus as an example, as a son of God, or only as a lord and master.

But Jesus spoke these words that we, too, might examine ourselves and be certain we are holding fast to Him in faith and trusting in His innocent sufferings and death for our salvation.

The Scriptures admonish us: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Cor. 13:5).

It is not enough to just take the name of Jesus on our lips and call Him Lord. It’s not enough to preach in His name or do miracles or good works in His name. Jesus says we must do the will of His Father in heaven.

What is that will? Jesus answered that question for us when He said, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).

It is the will of God the Father that we sincerely repent of our sins and wickedness and place our faith and confidence in the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of the Son, Christ Jesus our Savior. It is the will of God the Father that we not only see Jesus and take His name on our lips but that we believe and trust in Him and continue trusting in Him unto life everlasting.

Jesus called upon His hearers to repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15; Matt. 4:17); and He still calls upon us today, through His Word, to turn from our evil and rebellious ways to Him for forgiveness and life.

The Bible tells us to “repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19).

And, where there is true repentance, there are also “fruits meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Those who are sorry for their sins and place their faith and hope in Jesus Christ will also, as a fruit of their faith, seek to live their lives for Him in accord with his Word.

Thus, as Jesus said, many who have professed to know Him will be cast out on the Last Day, for their repentance and faith were feigned — they may have even deceived themselves. They may claim to be followers of Jesus, but they are not truly sorry for their sin and unbelief and do not turn to Christ Jesus for forgiveness. Nor do they seek his help and strength to amend their lives and live for Him.

And then Jesus will, as He said, “profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Jesus spoke these words in His Sermon on the Mount that we might not be deceived and find ourselves cast out on the Last Day. We, therefore, ask ourselves if we are truly sorry for our sins; if we trust in Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for our salvation; and if we, with the help and aid of the Holy Ghost, truly desire to amend our lives and live in accord with God’s commandments. If we cannot honestly answer all three of these questions with a yes, we need to consider the consequences we shall pay for our sin and rebellion against the LORD God and His anointed.

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation as God has provided for us in His own dear Son (Heb. 2:3)? Or, as the Bible says in Hebrews 10:29, “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”

But how comforting it is to know that we can yet, by God’s grace, turn to the Lord Jesus for mercy and He will not cast us off but wash away our sins! Because Jesus suffered and died for all sins and rose again, the Lord is indeed “good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon” Him (Psalm 86:5).

O Lord Jesus Christ, keep us from impenitence and unbelief and grant that we sincerely repent of our sins and trust in You for mercy and forgiveness that we may be received into Your everlasting kingdom and not be cast out on the Last Day. And as a fruit of our faith, grant that we also seek to walk in accord with Your commandments while we await Your return. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible]

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15th Anniversary of ELDoNA

INVOCATION
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

PSALM — Psalm 25 A Psalm of David.
Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

COLLECT
O GOD, the Strength of all them that put their trust in Thee: Mercifully accept our prayers: and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without Thee, grant us the help of Thy grace, that in keeping Thy commandments we may please Thee, both in will and deed: through Jesus Christ. Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever One God, world without end. Amen.

EPISTLE — 1 John 4:16-21
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him. because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

GOSPEL — Luke 16:19-31
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

SERMON/DEVOTION — Luke 16:19-31
We should note first of all that Jesus’ illustration of the rich man and Lazarus may be much more than a parable, for it is told by Jesus as if it is a true and factual account. But, whether an actual historical event or a parable, we can still learn much from Jesus’ telling of it.

The rich man is not identified by name; but the poor beggar’s name was Lazarus (from the Greek, but probably Eleazer in Hebrew), which means “God is help.” Even though Lazarus was poor and full of sores, we know that he was a true believer in God, as his name indicates, because he was taken to heaven when he died.

Even though the rich man was greatly blessed by God in material things, he did not believe or listen to the Word of God (Moses and the Prophets) and repent of his selfish and sinful ways. This can be seen by the fact that there were no fruits of faith in his life in regard to poor Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, and also by the fact that his soul went to hell when he died.

In addition to teaching that one’s soul goes either to heaven or to hell when he dies, Jesus warns against living one’s life solely for the selfish enjoyment of the good things of this world. One’s first concern should be to heed the Word of God and repent, turning away from sin and the selfish use of this world’s goods to faith in Christ, who died to redeem us from sin and death and then rose again.

As a fruit of true repentance, we will then put to death our selfish and sinful desires and use the goods of this world to help those in need. We will not close our hearts to the poor and needy but will do all we can to help them.

One more important truth should also be learned. If one does not heed the Word of God during his lifetime, there is no other hope for repentance; for the Holy Ghost works through the Law to convince us of our sin and the punishment we deserve and through the Gospel to reveal our Savior and to give and assure to us forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

If one, during his lifetime, refuses to turn from his sins to Christ Jesus, his Savior, there will be no more opportunity for repentance. His torment in hell will be forever!

But when one, by the grace of God, heeds the Word and repents, trusting in Christ for forgiveness and life, he is forgiven by God; and his soul, at the time of death, will be transported by angels to the bosom of Abraham.

O Jesus, who my debt didst pay and for my sin wast smitten, within the Book of Life, oh, may my name be also written! I will not doubt; I trust in Thee, from Satan Thou hast made me free and from all condemnation. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn 611, Verse 5)

GENERAL PRAYER
Almighty and Everlasting God, You are worthy to be held in reverence by all the children of men, we give You most humble and hearty thanks for the innumerable blessings, both temporal and spiritual, which, without any merit or worthiness on our part, You have bestowed upon us.

We praise You, especially, that You hast preserved unto us, in their purity, Your saving Word and Your holy Sacraments. And we give thanks unto You for 15 years of blessing upon the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America. We beseech You, O Lord, to grant and preserve unto Your holy Church, throughout the world, purity of doctrine, and faithful pastors who shall preach Your Word with power; and help all who hear, rightly to understand, and truly to believe it. To that end, we pray Your blessing on Bishop Heiser, on our pastors, and on all the pastors of our diocese.

Be the Protector and Defender of Your people in all time of tribulation and danger and may we, in communion with Your Church, and in brotherly unity with all our fellow Christians, fight the good fight of faith, and in the end receive the salvation of our souls.

Bestow Your grace upon all the nations of the earth. Especially do we entreat You to bless our land, and all its inhabitants, and all who are in authority. Cause Your glory to dwell among us, and let mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, everywhere prevail. To this end, we commend to Your care all our schools and pray You to make them nurseries of useful knowledge and of Christian virtues, that they may bring forth the wholesome fruits of life.

Graciously defend us from all calamities by fire and water, from war and pestilence, from scarcity and famine. Protect and prosper everyone in his appropriate calling, and cause all useful arts to flourish among us. Be the God and Father of the widow and the fatherless children, the Helper of the sick and the needy and the Comforter of the forsaken and distressed.

We pray for all those ill from the coronavirus, from other diseases or afflictions, or suffering from the effects of isolation. Grant health and healing to those ill and comfort all with the Gospel promises of forgiveness of sins and the everlasting joys of heaven through faith in Christ Jesus, Your Son, and our Savior.

And as we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, help us by true faith and godly life to prepare for the world to come; doing the work which You have given us to do while it is day, before the night comes when no man can work. And when our last hour shall come, support us by Your power, and receive us into Your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Ghost, forever and ever. Amen.

LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

BENEDICTION
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Amen.

HYMN — The Day is Surely Drawing Near
1 The day is surely drawing near
When God’s Son, the Anointed,
Shall with great majesty appear
As Judge of all appointed.
All mirth and laughter then shall cease
When flames on flames will still increase,
As Scripture truly teacheth.

2 A trumpet loud shall then resound
And all the earth be shaken.
Then all who in their graves are found
Shall from their sleep awaken;
But all that live shall in that hour
By the Almighty’s boundless pow’r
Be changed at His commanding.

3 A book is opened then to all,
A record truly telling
What each hath done, both great and small,
When he on earth was dwelling;
And ev’ry heart be clearly seen,
And all be known as they have been
In tho’ts and words and actions.

4 Then woe to those who scorned the Lord
And sought but carnal pleasures,
Who here despised His precious Word
And loved their earthly treasures!
With shame and trembling they will stand
And at the Judge’s stern command
To Satan be delivered.

5 O Jesus, who my debt didst pay
And for my sin wast smitten,
Within the Book of Life, oh, may
My name be also written!
I will not doubt; I trust in Thee,
From Satan Thou hast made me free
And from all condemnation.

6 Therefore my Intercessor be
And for Thy blood and merit
Declare my name from judgment free
With all who life inherit,
That I may see Thee face to face
With all Thy saints in that blest place
Which Thou for us hast purchased.

7 O Jesus Christ, do not delay,
But hasten our salvation;
We often tremble on our way
In fear and tribulation.
Then hear us when we cry to Thee;
Come, mighty Judge, and make us free
From every evil! Amen.

Text Information
Title: The Day is Surely Drawing Near
German Title: Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit
Translator: Philip A. Peter (1880, alt.)
Author: Bartholomäus Ringwald (1586, ad.)

Tune Information
Name: ES IST GEWISSLICH
Source: “Geistliche Lieder,” Wittenberg, 1535

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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