Epaphras Prayer Letter

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

Week of September 13, 2021 | Sunday, September 19, 2021

“But they did not understand the saying and were afraid to ask him” (Mk.9:32). Jesus predicts his passion: handed over to men; they will kill him; but after three days he will rise. What’s not to understand here? We, from this side of history, completely get what Jesus is talking about. He’s telling them about his death and resurrection. We learn two things from the disciples’ incomprehension: one, they could not comprehend a dying messiah; two, Jesus dies at the hands of men—that is, all humanity. Nothing in the disciples’ history or teaching prepared them for a messiah who triumphs through humility rather than glory. The only glory Jesus would get displayed him on the cross, lifted up him for the whole world to see, and mocked him as a loser by those who only understand glory, both the political and the religious kinds. Those disciples were unprepared for a humiliated messiah and were left uncomprehending. Jesus announces quite plainly that men will lay their hands upon him and take his life (cf. Mt. 21:33-41). Those men had a pragmatic purpose: for the good of the nation, this Jesus must die (cf. Jn. 11:50). They used legal means, holding a trial, and convicting him under the Law. The Law, in the hands of a sinful humanity, cannot be trusted. Your neighbors will just as easily use it against you as they might for you; and you would do the same to them. Only Jesus Christ who endured the humiliation of the cross provides us with his Gospel that frees us from a capricious use of the Law.


Prayers from a law-breaking sinner who needs the Gospel’s freedom…


Jesus Christ, Son of God, I and the rest of humanity laid hands upon you and killed you. Yet, our word of death was not the last word for God raised you from the dead. Grant that I, baptized into a death like yours—that is, one of humiliation—also receive the hope of a resurrection like yours. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.


Jesus Christ, Son of God, I and the rest of humanity laid hands upon you and killed you. So free us from a capricious Law by the preaching of your Gospel that we might learn the Law’s limits as we live under the proclamation of an unbounded Gospel. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.


Jesus Christ, Son of God, I and the rest of humanity laid hands upon you and killed you. As we come to know the limits of your Law, grant that it come to order our lives while the flesh still adheres. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.


Jesus Christ, Son of God, I and the rest of humanity laid hands upon you and killed you. As the Law orders my life with my neighbors… with my community… with my country… and with creation itself, grant my obedience under the Law will be transformed as the Gospel makes of me a new creature in Christ. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.


Jesus Christ, Son of God, I and the rest of humanity laid hands upon you and killed you. Grant that the confrontation with my sinfulness and my inevitable death keep me humble in the presence of my Heavenly Father and my earthly neighbors. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.


Jesus Christ, Son of God, I and the rest of humanity laid hands upon you and killed you. Grant that the Institute of Lutheran Theology live under this truth and remain humble in the face of its conviction. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.


Jesus Christ, Son of God, I and the rest of humanity laid hands upon you and killed you. As we await your final revealing, hold us in the gospel’s gifts: the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, so that we wait in patience until that day. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer. Amen

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