1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
– John 1:29-34
As we hear John the Baptizer point to Jesus and acknowledge Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” I can’t help but hear the beautiful Communion hymn, known in Latin as the Agnus Dei (which is translated “Lamb of God”), sung after the Lord’s Prayer in our liturgy. This hymn became part of the Eucharistic liturgy about 700 A.D. when Pope Sergius I introduced it as a devotional hymn, first sung by the choir during the Fraction. Through the years, it has as often as not been sung as a congregational hymn, although in many of the great “musical Masses” of Mozart, Haydn, Gounod, and others, it is included as one of their five choral Mass texts: Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.
Although the words in the reading above come from John the Baptizer, they also reflect the many times in the book of Revelation when Christ is referred to as the Lamb. This hymn reminds us of the connection between the Passover and Easter, which explains the Christian understanding of Jesus as the Lamb of God.
According to Exodus 12, when the Israelites were about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt, God commanded each household to select a lamb without blemish, to kill it in sacrifice, and to put its blood on the lintels and doorposts of the house. When the firstborn in Egypt were slain, the angel of death would “pass-over” the homes marked with the sacrificial lamb’s blood. Under the new covenant, Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb whose blood delivers us from our bondage to sin and death. When we sing this hymn to the Lamb of God, we proclaim that in His sacrifice is our salvation, and we prepare to receive His body and blood for our forgiveness.
We hope and pray that our congregations and pastors have found ways to provide the Lord’s Supper to the faithful in spite of the pandemic. Still, throughout these unusual times we have found ourselves hungering for Word and Sacrament, when we, with John, witness the Lamb of God who is the Son of God — in our midst, with us always!
Prayer: Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, take away my sin! Amen.
Lenten Response: Search this link reformation500.csl.edu/luther-predigt-lc-wb to see Martin Luther pointing to Christ as Lamb of God in his preaching.
Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel
Deuteronomy 7:6–11 (Listen)
6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.
Titus 1 (Listen)
1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Qualifications for Elders
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
John 1:29–34 (Listen)
Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Psalm 27 (Listen)
The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation
27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
Psalm 147:13–20 (Listen)
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 126 (Listen)
Restore Our Fortunes, O Lord
A Song of Ascents.
126:1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like streams in the Negeb!
5 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6 He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 102 (Listen)
Do Not Hide Your Face from Me
A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD.
102:1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
2 Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!
3 For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
8 All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the LORD,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the LORD builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.
23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.
Martin Luther, Renewer of the Church, 1546 (February 18)
About the Commemoration
Martin Luther was born November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony. He was baptized the following day, St. Martin’s feast day, and was given the name of that saint. His intellectual abilities were evident early, and his father, who was a miner, planned a career for him in law. After attending schools in Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Eisenach, Luther at the age of eighteen entered the University of Erfurt, where he completed his master’s examination in 1505 and began the study of law. His real interest, however, lay elsewhere, and on July 17, 1505, he entered the local Augustinian friary. He was ordained priest April 3, 1507, and a month later celebrated his first mass in the presence of friends and his father, who had disapproved of his son’s entrance into the friary.
Luther had seen his first Latin Bible in the school at Magdeburg, and at the monastery, with the encouragement of his superiors, he continued his study of the Scriptures. He helped with the instruction of novices in the order and served as a teaching assistant in moral philosophy at the new University of Wittenberg. In 1510 he made a trip to Rome for the Augustinian order. There, like St. Francis and others before him, he was shocked by the laxity and worldliness of many of the clergy.
In October 1512 Luther received his doctorate in theology, and shortly afterward, he was installed as a professor of biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. His lectures on the Bible were popular, and within a few years, he had made the university a center of biblical humanism. (When Luther died, Wittenberg was the largest university in Germany.) As a result of his theological and biblical studies he called into question the practice of selling indulgences (remissions of the punishment to be undergone in purgatory). On the eve of All Saints’ Day, October 31, 1517, he posted on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, as was the custom, the notice of an academic debate on indulgences, listing ninety-five theses for discussion. Luther’s theses spread rapidly throughout Germany and other parts of Europe. As the effects of the theses became evident, the pope called upon the Augustinian order to discipline their member. After a series of meetings, political maneuvers, and attempts at reconciliation, Luther, at a meeting with the papal legate in 1518, refused to recant, and in debate with John Eck, he was forced to admit that some of his views were not in accord with the official doctrines of the Church.
Up to this time Luther had attempted to reform the Church from within, but it was now clear that a break was inevitable, and on June 15, 1520, the pope issued a bull that gave Luther sixty days to recant. Many schools burned Luther’s books, and he retaliated by burning a copy of the papal bull and books of canon law. He was excommunicated on January 3, 1521, and Emperor Charles V summoned him to the meeting of the Imperial Diet at Worms. There Luther resisted all efforts to make him recant, insisting that he had to be proved in error on the basis of Scripture. The Diet was divided in its judgment, but it finally passed an edict calling for the arrest of Luther. Luther’s own prince, the Elector Frederick of Saxony, had him spirited away and placed for safekeeping in his castle, the Wartburg.
Here Luther translated the New Testament into German and began the translation of the Old Testament. In March 1522 Luther returned to Wittenberg against the wishes of the prince in order to settle the disturbed situation of the churches there, which were under the disruptive leadership of Andreas von Karlstadt. Luther preached a series of eight famous sermons in which he restored order to the community and set the lines of the Reformation.
He then turned his attention to the organization of worship and education. He introduced the congregational singing of hymns, composing many himself, and he issued model orders of worship in Latin (Formula Missae 1523) and, for more general use, in German (Deutsche Messe 1526). In 1529 he published his large and small catechisms for instruction in the faith and also a series of sermons. During the years from 1522 to his death, Luther wrote a prodigious quantity of books, letters, sermons, and pamphlets. The American Edition of his works is fifty-five large volumes, and that does not include everything extant that he wrote.
On June 13, 1525, when he was forty-two, Luther married Katherine von Bora, one of a number of nuns rescued from the cloister of Nimbschen in 1523 because of their evangelical persuasion (see December 20). The couple had six children.
In 1546 Luther was called to Eisleben to mediate a family quarrel among the princes of Mansfeld, and after resolving the quarrel, Luther died there in the town of his birth on February 18. Thousands of people came to the service for the great reformer, and his body was interred in the Castle Church in Wittenberg on February 22.
Lutherans have named many churches, colleges, and societies after Luther. There are monuments to Luther in many cities; the most famous is the one a Worms in which Luther rests his hand on the Bible and is surrounded by likenesses of earlier reformers and his protectors and friends.
Events in Luther’s life have been commemorated on various dates. The anniversary of the posting of the ninety-five theses has become on Lutheran calendars the Festival of the Reformation, and it is also observed by other Christian churches. Many Lutheran communities have remembered Luther on the day of his death; on the centennial in 1646 the day was observed particularly in Wittenberg and Erfurt, and later the observance became more widespread.
The commemoration of Martin Luther is included on the calendar in the Methodist For All the Saints (1995) and was added to the Episcopal (Anglican) calendar in Fesser Feasts and Fasts 1997. He is remembered on the 1997 calendar of the Church of England, the Christian Year, on October 31.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
See also: Martin Luther
From Luther’s Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings (Wittenberg, 1545)
I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary” ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was not the cold blood about the heart, but a single word in chapter 1 [:17], “In it the righteousness of God is revealed,” that had stood in my way. For I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punished the unrighteous sinner.
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, I hated the righteousness of God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly muttering greatly, I was angry with God and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely, by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.
And I extolled my sweet word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word “righteousness of God.” Thus that place in Paul was for me truly that gate to Paradise.
Luther’s Works 34, Career of the Reformer IV, ed. Lewis W. Spitz, trans. Lewis W. Spitz, Sr. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), 336-37.
Almighty God, through the preaching of your servants, the blessed Reformers, you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine forth: Grant, we pray, that, knowing its saving power, we may faithfully guard and defend it against all enemies, and joyfully proclaim it, to the salvation of souls and the glory of your holy Name; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
CSB, SBH, Reformation Day
God, our refuge and our strength: You raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your Church in the light of your Word. Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.
Readings: Isaiah 55:6-11; Psalm 16 or 46; Revelation 14:6-7 or Galatians 2:16-21; John 2:13-17 or 15:1-11
Hymn of the Day: “Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word” (LBW 230, LSB 655, ELW 517)
Prayers: For the continual cleansing of the church; For an ever-new discovery of the good news of God; For the unity of the church.
Preface: Trinity Sunday (BCP)
This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.