"Pastor Charlie Woodward", "Charlie Woodward"Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the pandemic days until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. As the title states, we are in the wilderness alone, but we are still together. We may feel isolated and on our own. But we are in this together. I want to make sure we have an opportunity to stay connected. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  

Find a link to each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the Devotions distribution list.

This is an opportunity for us to be present with each other in the days to come. You can be present by sharing your comments, insights, prayers and pictures in response to what Pastor Charlie shares in the coming days. For we are in this together. And where two or three are gathered in God’s name, God is present, too.

Christ Has Set Us Free

Galatians 5:1 

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
 

In Martin Luther’s Treatise on Christian Liberty (The Freedom of A Christian), he summarizes his argument at the very beginning. He writes:

To make the way smoother for the unlearned — for only them do I serve — I shall set down the following two propositions concerning the freedom and the bondage of the spirit:

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.

A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

While these may seem to contradict each other, they echo the verse for today: For freedom, Christ has set us free.

We Lutherans hear it every year on Reformation Sunday that we are saved by grace and not by good works. We know that. But, Luther would be quick to remind us that good works are only good if they are for the proper purpose. Good works are GOOD, BUT they are BAD it appears that good works are necessary to earn the love of God.

We can do nothing to make God love us more. Nothing we can do will make God love us less.

We are free from trying to save ourselves. This is God’s doing and not ours.

This is the good news we need to hear over and over and over again. The more we hear it, the more we trust in it. The more we trust in it, the more we are able to be set free from the bondage of trying to do what only God can do.

In response, God calls us to respond by caring for the neighbor, servant of all, subject to all.

Near the end of this treatise, Luther puts it this way (I apologize for the male pronouns):

“…the good things we have from God should flow from one to the other and be common to all, so that everyone should “put on” his neighbor and so conduct himself toward him as if he himself were in the other’s place. From Christ the good things have flowed and are flowing into us. He has so “put on” us and acted for us as if he had been what we are. From us they flow on to those who have need of them so that I should lay before God my faith and my righteousness that they may cover and intercede for the sins of my neighbor which I take upon myself and so labor and serve in them as if they were my very own. That is what Christ did for us. This is true love and the genuine rule of a Christian life. Love is true and genuine where there is true and genuine faith. Hence the Apostle says of love in I Corinthians 13:5 that “it does not seek its own.”

How is God calling YOU to love your neighbor?

For freedom, Christ has set us free.

Let us Pray: 

Forgive us from the times we try to save ourselves. Use our hands and our feet, our voices and all we are to love one another. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 


It’s Friday. But Sunday’s Coming!

Psalm 75 

 

Thanksgiving for God’s Wondrous Deeds

To the leader: Do Not Destroy. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

 

We give thanks to you, O God;

    we give thanks; your name is near.

People tell of your wondrous deeds.

 

At the set time that I appoint

    I will judge with equity.

When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants,

    it is I who keep its pillars steady.

I say to the boastful, “Do not boast,”

    and to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horn;

do not lift up your horn on high,

    or speak with insolent neck.”

 

For not from the east or from the west

    and not from the wilderness comes lifting up;

but it is God who executes judgment,

    putting down one and lifting up another.

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup

    with foaming wine, well mixed;

he will pour a draught from it,

    and all the wicked of the earth

    shall drain it down to the dregs.

But I will rejoice forever;

    I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

 

10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,

    but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
 
 
Sociologist, author and pastor Tony Campolo preached a Good Friday sermon, and later wrote a book by the same title. He tells of being on stage with other pastors to preach. One of the preachers there had a simple sermon. Just five words, but it spoke volumes: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming.” The original sermon has been traced to California and Baptist pastor S. M. Lockridge. There are many variations to the text, but the text below is said to be close to the original.
 
 

It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s a coming.

It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.” It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God, who will not abide with sin, pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, “My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” What a horrible cry. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. And at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming.

And on that horrible day 2,000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man, died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. Finally he had disproved the prophecy God had uttered in the Garden and the one who was to crush his head had been destroyed. But that was Friday.

Now it’s Sunday. And just about dawn on that first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. But that wasn’t the only thing that was shaking, because now it’s Sunday.

And the angel of the Lord is coming down out of heaven and rolling the stone away from the door of the tomb.

Yes, it’s Sunday, and the angel of the Lord is sitting on that stone. And the guards posted at the tomb to keep the body from disappearing were shaking in their boots, because it’s Sunday. And the lamb that was silent before the slaughter is now the resurrected lion from the tribe of Judah, for He is not here, the angel says. He is risen indeed.

It’s Sunday, and the crucified and resurrected Christ has defeated death, hell, sin, and the grave. It’s Sunday. And now everything has changed. It’s the age of grace, God’s grace poured out on all who would look to that crucified lamb of Calvary. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary was buried and rose again. All because it’s Sunday.

It’s Friiidaaaay!

But Sunday’s coming!
 

(With Thanks to Dr. Michael G. Davis for the text version)

The past few months have been filled with a LOT of Fridays, yes?

As the Psalmist writes –  When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants, it is I who keep its pillars steady.

Hold on – Sunday’s coming! 

 

Let us Pray: 

Let us never forget the power of the cross and the joy of the empty tomb. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.