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Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248.During the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. (From the LCMS website)

Regarding his martyrdom, from The Penguin Dictionary of Saints “When persecution began again in 258, under Emperor Valerian, St Cyprian was one of the first victims. There is an account of what happened compiled directly from contemporary documents. Cyprian was first examined by the proconsul, and on affirming his adherence to the one true God, and refusing to divulge the names of his priests, he was exiled to Curubis. When a new proconsul came into office, Cyprian was brought up for trial in Carthage. He again refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. Accompanied by a tumultuous crowd, he was led to the field of Sextus; there he knelt in prayer. He gave a generous gift to the executioner, blindfolded himself, and his head was struck off.”        

Reflection:  St. Cyprian lived before the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 312 which made Christianity a legal religion of the Empire.  From the time of our Lord’s Ascension to that time the Church went through persecution from social ridicule to martyrdom.  In 250, under Emperor Decius, with the threat of death, many Christians denied the faith, gave-up fellow Christians to the authorities or when told to burn incense to Caesar bought letters called,  libelli, or certificates, that they had done so. Based upon 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, the Church prayed for Caesar, but did not pray to Caesar (see the 1st Commandment).  

When the persecution ended, many wanted to return to the Church. My speculation is those who denied the faith were regarded as traitors.   One party wanted them to be re-baptized or one Novatus said they committed apostasy and were not saved.  He denied absolution to the repentant.  Novatus’ heresy, Novationism, was also condemned in The Augsburg Confession because he denied absolution/forgiveness to repentant and contrite (1).   The Bishop of Rome , Pope Stephen I said that once baptized, still baptized and like Saul and Judas a Christian can be lost. The Church agreed Biblically that a time of penitence, that is, repentance would return one to the flock.  The Biblical understanding is absolution for the penitent restores one to the Church.   This crucial understanding of repentance and absolution is reflected in the true Reformation understanding: “Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practice what we began before, but abandoned.”(The Large Catechism).

Two of the lessons we can learn from St. Cyprian are:

1. Cyprian and all the martyrs remind us that faith in Jesus Christ matters. Even in the midst of persecution, Cyprian and the Church debated right doctrine and the resulting right practice. They did not soften doctrine in order to be accepted by society and culture or by those who denied Christ and a lot was at stake: their lives but more: true doctrine which is eternal life. There were those who denied Christ and so ‘saved’ themselves, but those who sell out doctrine and faith and true worship are not saving  the Church, and removing themselves from the Savior.  

2. Cyprian and the Church took seriously  the right Biblical way of ministering to those who denied Christ and they sought the true way:  repentance.  Cyprian was beheaded for the faith, for true worship, for right doctrine and practice.  

The beheading of Cyprian has a relevance in the news these past years of Islamists beheading  Christians. We are so readily led to  water down doctrine and the faith to “reach out” to the world which fits the devil’s game plan.  We need the courage of a Cyprian and the love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit to minister in the Name of the Lord to our neighbors:

“…having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Colossians 3:1-4]. Let us, then, who in Baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ’s.”  –Cyprian of Carthage

Remove the pow’r of sin from me/And cleanse all my impurity/That I may have the strength and will/ Temptations of the flesh to still.—Renew Me, 0 Eternal Light (LSB 704:2)

Endnote:

(1From The Augsburg Confession: Article  XII, Of Repentance:  “Our churches teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of  the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance. They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost.Also those who contend that some may attain to such  perfection in this life that they cannot sin. The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance. They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own. 

9/11

The cross at Ground Zero | RiverheadLOCAL

Fr. Pierre de Chardin was a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, a theologian and a paleontologist.  He eventually succumbed to teaching false doctrine  which Lutherans and Roman Catholics agree is false, but when he was a young priest, Fr. de Chardin served as a stretcher bearer in the French Army in the front lines of World War I.  He wrote many letters to his cousin who was the head mistress of a Catholic girls school.  Excerpt of these letters are in The Making of Mind:  Letters from a Soldier-Priest 1914-1919.

He wrote to his cousin about a terrible battle named for its locale, Froideterre hill.  He has this reflection:

I don’t know what sort of monument the country will later put on Froideterre hill to commemorate the great battle.  There’s only one that would be appropriate:  a great figure of Christ. Only the image of the crucified can sum up,  express and relieve all the horror, and beauty, all the hope and deep mystery in such an avalanche of conflict and sorrows.

And in the ruins of the World Trade Center, these twisted steel beams were found in the shape of a cross.  This cross was put up right in the ruins and Mayor Guiliani had pedestal built for it. Eventually the cross, or the Ground Zero Cross was put into the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Only the image of the crucified can sum up,  express and relieve all the horror, and beauty, all the hope and deep mystery in such an avalanche of conflict and sorrows. Where it once stood on the empty footprint of the World Trade Center, was on a cemetery. Today the names of the deceased are read to remember.  I think a crucifix is an even better reminder as it specifically draws one to the God who bore the sin of the world:  in His flesh:  Jesus Christ who bore the sin of our flesh.   The crucifix is not an idol but a pointed reminder of the cost of the sin of this world:  God’s own Son in death.  The Son ever points us to the Father and He to us and the salvation of the world, the One who bore our sin,  He bore its pain, the sinless One in the sinners’ stead.  The Cross is ground zero, showing us the zero sum of sin and the risen Lord fills us up with the fulness of His mercy and hope.

God’s Law says to sin Never Again, but we do transgress again and again.  God’s Gospel says to sinners, I have sacrificed my whole life for your forgiveness, and I do not die, never again to die.  I am risen bearing the marks of the Cross, ever again for you to live.   “We preach Christ and Him Crucified”, again and again.  We are baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection that we are His again. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ died on this day. We receive the gifts of His Body and Blood in the Holy Communion, again and again to strengthen faith and thereby quicken love. We confess our sin and receive His forgiveness again and again. We pray to the Lord for this world regarding terrorism, Lord, never again. Not only terrorism from abroad but in our own country.  We pray for those who mourn that the Lord comfort them in all their sorrows, again and again, with the comfort we ourselves have received from the Lord.  We give thanks for the firemen, police, emergency works, soldiers, sailors and airmen who protect our country and died for our constitutional freedoms, again and again.  We give thanks for the firemen and police who  went into the burning World Trade Center to seek and save the lost. We pray the Church be the cruciform sign of His mercy in a merciless world, again and again, that we say to the devil and his empty promises, never again and live as His people, “…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2: 15)

ARMOR OF GOD | Moreno Hills SDA Church Blog

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  St. Matthew 6:13

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.-Ephesians 6: 13

I need Thy presence every passing hour:
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me.
-“Abide with Me”

“We must remember that we fight not with flesh and blood but against the powers of darkness and spiritual deception (Eph. 6:13). Because the deceptiveness of temptation far exceeds our strength (really, our weakness), there is great danger in underestimating its power lest we give in to temptation, are overcome by it, and so drown in perdition. Therefore, first of all we pray asking that Satan not have freedom to tempt us as much as either he would or could.  We also ask that he tempt us much only as as God permits and gives permission (Job 1: 12).  . We pray that our heavenly Father not cast us off and deliver us to the lusts, to the treasons, and to the power of this Tempter. We pray that he would remove and temper the temptation and not allow us to be tempted  past that which by his grace and gift we are able to bear (l Cor. 10:13).

Now this petition contains a general confession  for the weakness and infirmity this life in the whole Church, that is the children of God. When we pray that we may not give in to temptation nor be overcome by it, we acknowledge and confess that by own strength we are not able to resist temptations. We acknowledge that this the work of God’s grace. We acknowledge that after we have received new spiritual strength through our rebirth, God’s grace and strength directly follow.

Martin Chemnitz, as quoted on Treasury of Daily Prayer, pages 698-699, 7 September (published by Concordia Publishing House)

Triune God, Be Thou Our Stay;
O let us perish never!
Cleanse us from our sins, we pray,
And grant us life forever.
Keep us from the evil one;
Uphold our faith most holy;
Grant us to trust Thee solely
With humble hearts and lowly.
Let us put God’s armor on,
With all true Christian running
Our heav’nly race and shunning
The devil’s wiles and cunning
Amen, amen! This be done;
So sing we, Alleluia!

“Triune God, Be Thou Our Stay”, LSB 505:1

Meme of the Day

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, You raised up Gregory of Rome to be a pastor to those who shepherd God’s flock and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people. Preserve in Your Church the catholic and apostolic faith that Your people may continue to be fruitful in every good work and receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

One of the great leaders in Europe at the close of the sixth century, Gregory served in both the secular and sacred arenas of his era. As mayor of Rome, he restored economic vitality to his native city, which had been weakened by enemy invasions, pillage, and plague. After he sold his extensive properties and donated the proceeds to help the poor, he entered into full-time service in the Church. On September 3, A.D. 590 , Gregory was elected to lead the church in Rome.

As Bishop of Rome he oversaw changes and growth in the areas of church music and liturgical development, missionary outreach to northern Europe.  From Festivals and Commemorations by Pr. Pfatteicher:

“Gregory’s use of monks as missionaries to the Anglo-Saxons was his single most influential act in determining the future of Christian culture and institutions. In 597 he sent Augustine of Canterbury and forty monks to evangelize Britain. The story told by Bede is that Gregory saw some fair-haired slaves in Rome and, being told that they were Angles, is said to have replied, “Not Angles but angels” and decided that they must be Christianized.”

He also established a church-year calendar still used by many churches in the western world today. His book on pastoral care became a standard until the 20th century. And having read most of St. Gregory’s reflections on Pastoral Care, it is too bad that it is no longer considered a “standard”.  One reads in it a humble man, a humble pastor, a humble Christian.  As St. Gregory preached on Ezekiel: “So who am I to be a watchman, for I do not stand on the mountain of action but lie down in the valley of weakness?” (Adapted from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod web-site, Commemoration Biographies)

Reflection:  

The following quote is from St. Gregory’s Sermon for the 2nd  Sunday in Advent, text, St. Matthew 11: 2-10. He shows that in our ‘small ways’ we too can be like John the Baptizer with the Message for a friend. The only stat I cite regarding evangelism is that the majority of people who join a congregation do so because a family or friend invited them.  Historical reminder:  the Church spread by the Word of the Gospel going from mouth to ear for the first 2 centuries of the Church as the Church was illegal and persecuted. Here is eloquent testimony and encouragement to so invite a friend or family member, just as Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see” (John 1:46)

You… who live in the Tabernacle of the Lord, that is, in the Holy Church, if you cannot fill up the goblets with the teachings of holy wisdom, as well then as you can, as far as the divine bounty has endowed you, give to your neighbors spoonfuls of the good word!

And when you consider that you have yourself made some little progress, draw others along with you; seek to make comrades on the road to God. Should one among you, Brethren, stroll out towards the forum or the baths, he will invite a friend whom he thinks is not busy to keep him company. This simple action of our ordinary life is pleasant to you, and if it be that you are going towards God, give a thought not to journey alone. Hence it is written: He that heareth, let him say: come (Rev. xxii. 17); so let him who has heard in his heart the invitation of divine love, pass on to his neighbors around about him, the message of the invitation. And though a man may not have even bread wherewith to give an alms to the hungry;  yet, what is still more precious  is able to give who possess but  tongue. For it is a greater to strengthen with the nourishment of a word that will feed the mind for ever, than to fill with earthly bread a stomach of perishable flesh.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. 1 Samuel 2: 9, from The Song of Hannah

Hannah was the favored wife of Elkanah, the Ephraimite, and the devout mother of the prophet Samuel. He was born to her after years of bitter barrenness (1 Sam 1:6–8) and fervent prayers for a son (1:9–18).After she weaned her son, Hannah expressed her gratitude by returning him for service in the House of the Lord at Shiloh (1:24–28). Her prayer (psalm) of thanksgiving (2:1–10) begins with the words, “My heart exults in Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord.” This song foreshadows the Magnificat, the Song of Mary centuries later (Lk 1:46–55). The name Hannah derives from the Hebrew word for “grace.” She is remembered and honored for joyfully having kept the vow she made before her son’s birth and offering him for lifelong service to God. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

In Hannah’s brief bio above points out  her “bitter barrenness”.  “Bitter barrenness” surely described Hannah’s soulful plight and ours as well.  When Elizabeth was greeted by her kinswoman Mary, she exclaimed blessed is the “fruit of your womb”. The Visitation is sheer joy.  Mary was filled with the  Lord, body and soul. We want wombs to be no longer fruitful.  We want barrenness, bitter barrenness as a way to ‘solve our problems’, but it has not. Zero population growth in Europe will result in the demise of those once Christian populations, and it will also  be part of the reason of the demise of life and joy.  Pro-life is more than no abortion.  Pro-life means children.  Our solutions to problems both actual and perceived become even greater problems for we rebel against God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.  Note the  Lord does not say, “reproduce the species” but “be fruitful” and the first phrase is clinical, the second lyrical.

In Hannah’s bitter barrenness, she prayed to the point that the priest Eli thought she was drunk because she was so overcome. The Lord answered her prayer and she conceived and named her son Samuel, literally God hears.  There was good news in the bedroom of Hannah and Elkanah and in the bedroom of Joseph and Mary.  We must take the Lord at His Word of promise to be fruitful because, parenthood is the highest vocation in creation which is blessed by the Lord with His Word in the 4th Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.  No children also means no honoring of parents.  We live in a shameful age.  Christians must be as Hannah and be Samuel, trusting in the Lord: He hears.

The Lord also heard more that Hannah may had not have heard:   Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas were scamming worshipers of their offerings (1 Samuel 2:  12-17) and committing adultery with the women serving at the temple in Shiloh (1 Samuel 2: 22-25).  Hophni and Phinease were priests as their father.We are told Hophni and Phineas were “worthless men”(1 Samuel 2: 12) and Eli knew about it but did little.  Sounds like headline ripped from our news about churches in our day.   There was a greater bitter barreness in the land:  “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.”  (1 Samuel 3: 1)We are also told this about Hophni and Phineas:   “They did not know the Lord”(1 Samuel 2: 12).

The lack of the Word of God is the possibility of eternal barrenness, that is, hell. Priests who do not know the Lord nor follow in His ways sound like the bitter barrenness of churches advising abortion, non-fecund same sex false marriages, wombs never knowing life as ‘planned parenthood’,  divorce and remarriage, winking at adultery and masturbation, always thinking about money, preaching a false prosperity ‘gospel’ of your best life now.

What went on in Israel happened over years as well in this land.  We decry the terror abroad but not the terror in our barren pews and hearts which has been increased by the healthy Christians devolving into sloth for “live-streaming” services.  Those services may be “live” but not alive to each other in Christ. .  Yet the Lord raised up Samuel:  God hears.  He has heard and calls out to repent:  Christ died to take away your sins and fill you ever with Himself as you are freed, fill our emptiness.  Again, Samuel’s name literally means from the Hebrew “God hears” and Hannah’s name means “Grace”.  The Lord in His grace hears the hollow echoes of our emptiness.  Samuel anointed the first kings of Israel, David and Solomon and from the seed of David came the King anointed with the Holy Spirit: the Christ that He will be all in all.

God the Father Almighty, maker of all things, You looked on the affliction of Your barren servant Hannah and did not forget her but answered her prayers with the gift of a son. So hear our supplications and petitions and fill our emptiness, granting us trust in Your provision, so that we, like Hannah, might render unto You all thankfulness and praise, and delight in the miraculous birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s (1794-1872) depiction of the Israelites cross the Jordan River on dry ground as priests hold the Ark of the Covenant in the center of the river. From the Pitt Theological Library, Digital Archives, Emory University. Scripture Reference: Joshua 3

Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Joshua 3: 11

About Joshua:  Today we remember and thank God for His faithful servant, Joshua. Joshua, the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, is first mentioned in Exodus 17 when he was chosen by Moses to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. He was placed in charge of the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 33:11) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent to survey the land of Canaan (Num 13:8). Later, he was appointed by God to succeed Moses as Israel’s commander-in-chief. He eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and directed the Israelites’ capture of Jericho. He is remembered especially for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (Josh 24:1–27), concluding with the memorable words, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”(24:15). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

About Joshua:  Today we remember and thank God for His faithful servant, Joshua. Joshua, the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, is first mentioned in Exodus 17 when he was chosen by Moses to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. He was placed in charge of the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 33:11) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent to survey the land of Canaan (Num 13:8). Later, he was appointed by God to succeed Moses as Israel’s commander-in-chief. He eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and directed the Israelites’ capture of Jericho. He is remembered especially for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (Josh 24:1–27), concluding with the memorable words, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”(24:15). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Writing:

Joshua the son of Nun was the minister and successor of Moses, and the leader of the people of Israel who led them through the dry bed of the Jordan into the land of Canaan. He had the same name as our Savior, Jesus Christ [since in Hebrew “Joshua” and “Jesus” are the same name], and he was a type of Christ, who led the children of the promise of Abraham through the Jordan of this life’s troubles and of death into the restfulness of eternal life. . . . When Moses died, on the first day of the 2493rd year since the world’s creation, Joshua led the people of Israel into the land of Canaan, which was promised to their fathers. He won excellent and miraculous victories for God’s chosen ones. Having conquered the kings of Canaan, he distributed the land and finally died at the age of 110. In Hebrew his name is Yehoshua or Yosua, that is, “Savior,” “Helper.”In Greek his name is lesous or lesus.—David Chytraeus (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Some may know he was “Israel’s commander-in-chief”. Some may know that the 6th book of the Bible is named after him.  Most people might know that “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho.”  The Battle of Jericho is recorded in chapter 6 and then follow 18 chapters of the Conquest of the Land.   Joshua and the Israelites fought against the seven nations:

“…the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, Hivites, Girgashites and the Perizzites.“-Joshua 3:10

Joshua and the Israelites fought many a bloody battle. Modern/post-modern ‘sensibilities’ do not like the Book of Joshua because it is so ‘militaristic’ and violent.  The Promised Land was given by the LORD but the people fought for it.  We think enemies can be won over to be  ‘nice’ like us… or letting them “express themselves”. Give me a break.  The seven nations had “detestable practices” , such as “child sacrifices, the practice of divination or sorcery, and occult activity.  In addition, Leviticus 18 and 20 detail the rampant sexual depravity among the Canaanites.” (“The Peoples of Canaan, The Lutheran Study Bible, page 345). Joshua and the Israelites had passed over into an occupied promised land.

What follows after the entrance into the Land, the Crossing of the Jordan, is the first circumcisions and Passover therein, and then the Battle of Jericho, in the next 18 chapters is quite a slog.  They,  and only the Israelites, then were engaged in both physical and spiritual warfare, physically killing the enemies.  The Church does not take up the physical sword per our Lord’s commands, but spiritually we must kill enemies…actually the Lord does: sin, death and the power of the devil.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6: 12, from the Epistle Reading for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (9/2/2012)

Yet they are enemies, the cosmic powers, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, even in the Church, giving their consent to sexual immorality   and covetousness. This blind world does not see it but we can see the breaking of every commandment every day on our favorite television programs. We have seen it in ourselves by God’s Law and we cry out, Kyrie Eleison, Lord, have mercy.    By God’s grace alone in Jesus Christ, we see the 7 Nations’ occupation of our own souls.  The name “Joshua”, literally means “God Saves”.  Joshua in Hebrew is pronounced, Yeshua and transliterated into Greek it became Iesus, the very Name in the New Testament, then transliterated into Jesus.

Joshua of old led the Israelites through the waters of the Jordan into the promised land for the conquest.  Jesus Christ leads us through the waters of Holy Baptism into the promised land of eternal life and leads Jew and Gentile as, “…the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12: 2). IN and for our struggles, the crucified and risen Lord leads before us, beside us, within us, around us. He is the new and living covenant of the Lord of all the living who went through the waters for us and our salvation.

We are living in an occupied land.  The 7 Nations of Idolatry, Profanation, Restlessness, Greed, Adultery, Anger and Covetousness hold sway and with everyday these evil nations hold more of the land and that means her people.  And it all looks good on our various screens. The Church of the New Testament went into a Roman world and they fought, not with Caesar’s swords but the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6).  The Lord’s orders are clear:  “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them ” (Rom. 12: 14) and “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.  There are so many other Scripture verses on how to live as the Church in occupied land and the point is that those who are held captive can see the way of Jesus Christ in our life together and come to the joyful repentance.

It is a long campaign and it is a slog.  It is a slog when we see politicians approving abortion and the abortions of their conscience.  It is a slog when we see church bodies emasculate even the mention of  spiritual warfare as “too militaristic” so that a man and a woman does not stand in the battle and fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6: 12) . It is a slog when in our lives we see so many fighting and fears within and without.  It is a slog when we are overcome by the evil around us and think no one is with us: that is what the enemy wants us to think.  Joshua took a stand with his house:  we will serve the Lord.  Jesus Christ took His stand and served the Lord to us all, the LORD God of Sabaoth for our battles and struggles to defeat the spiritual Hittites, Canaanites etc., and now by His grace alone  who has won us over to the Lord.  He made us His own, forgiven and drafted into His army. Joshua declared as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. In Baptism we renounce the devil and all his empty and false promises and cling by faith to all the promises of God which have their, Yes in Jesus Christ.  The Ark of New Testament in Jesus leads us through the waters going to the promised land of the new heavens and the new earth.  More than ever, we need the conscientious decision of every family, every father and husband to say as Joshua did, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”, and not the false gods and practices of those around us, not only for our salvation won for us by Christ Jesus but others to come to faith in Jesus Christ and be saved. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Your servant Joshua led the children of Israel through the waters of the Jordan River into a land flowing with milk and honey. As our Joshua, lead us, we pray, through the waters of our Baptism into the promised land of our eternal home, where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

In the three year lectionary, the Epistle lesson is Romans 13: 1-10 for this coming Sunday (6 September, Labor Day Weekend, 2020) and this is the classic text about the role of government: “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

The you-tube video below is of Tennessee State Rep. John Deberry speaking recently to their legislature in General Assembly. This is an impassioned plea which speaks to the meaning of Romans 13 for both black and white people. Please note that Representative is from Memphis where Dr. King was assassinated. Mr. Deberry is also a witness to the civil rights history of the ’50s and ’60s and it’s meaning then and for today in the face of unprecedented racial violence in our cities incited by black and white people. It is over ten minutes long and worth every second!

Saint Augustine Of Hippo Quotes | St augustine quotes, Augustine of hippo,  Inspirational words of wisdom

O Lord God, the light of the minds that know You, the life of souls that love You, and the strength of the hearts that serve You, give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and loving You we may fully serve You–for to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian:

Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer,Concordia Publishing House)

Concordia Lutheran Mission, who sponsors this blog, and your scribe here, Pastor Schroeder, want to let you know that today is the 10th Anniversary of Concordia Lutheran Mission.  We became a mission in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod after 20 or so of us left a heretical Evangelical Lutheran Church congregation here in Lexington, VA. This congregation was my last pastorate in the ELCA. You can read about our history:  see the tab above:  Concordia Lutheran Mission’s History.

 In conjunction with Pr. Keith Beasley, of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Roanoke), we began the Mission with the first Divine Service on this date, August 28th.  I was not aware at the time it was  the Commemoration of St. Augustine.  I do not think Pr. Beasley was likewise aware of today’s commemoration when he came up to preside at that first Divine Service.  The Commemoration of St. Augustine is a good one to begin a Lutheran mission and congregation.  Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk.  He taught and confessed the Biblical doctrine of the “unilateral grace of God” against the Pelagians who said you have to cooperate to be saved. As St. Augustine preached to the a group of the newly Baptized, about Christ coming to us, His “divine condenscension”:  

“For this divine condescension cannot be truly understood, and human thought and language fails us, that without previous merit on your part this free gift has come to you.  And for this do we call it a grace:  because it is given gratis.  And what grace is this? That you are now members of Christ, Children of God; that you are brothers of the Only-Begotten!”(emphasis my own)

This is apt as it is based on Scripture as are the Lutheran Confessions:

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 4)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2)

In the bio above, St. Augustine is described as a, “fierce defender of the orthodox faith”.  I had to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as did other brothers and sisters,  because I too defend the orthodox and evangelical faith, but I know I am no Augustine.  It’s hard to so defend when so many don’t want to hear the truth…but this is a sign that we were on track. In a recent part time job,  I was of accused as being rigid  as a Christian and a Pastor, and this from a former secret service agent!  Did that agent have to follow unbending protocols and procedures to protect the President of the United States even if the agent hates the President’s political views?  I think rigidity is important in protecting the first family, or our nation, or marriage and preaching the truth of the Scriptures.

Concordia Lutheran Mission, this little ship, founded on this date, has floundered and yet by His grace, Concordia Lutheran is celebrating her Tenth Anniversary and is afloat.  We have received a warm Christian welcome from the Congregation of Ben Salem Presbyterian Church to use their Sanctuary:  The Divine Service at 9:15am and Bible School at 10:45am. The congregation has gone out of their way to accommodate us and help us in their hospitality which is a great Christian virtue.

St. Augustine’s great work is the City of God.  I sadly admit that I have not read it.  His metaphor of the City of God (actually, more than a metaphor!) and the city of man are in stark contrast.  St. Augustine and God’s people, and the Roman Empire, were facing the collapse of the empire. The wild pagans of the north were to come and lay waste the City of Rome itself.  I pray I am exaggerating, but as I write the wild paganism, even worse, the nihilism of atheistic political ideologies and their fanatical supporters are burning and looting several great American cities. The immorality of abortion goes on and now infanticide is promoted as is every sexual perversion that can be described. Greed is rampant. Unbelief stalks churches. Denial of sound Christian doctrine is accepted.   Maybe the Wuhan virus is God’s just judgment.  We are learning again the Scripture that here we have no enduring city: For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14)..  We have been baptized into a different city, the eternal Zion and so we have hope:

 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3: 20-21).

The cities of our land need the City of God and the Word of the Great King, slain for hate-filled citizens, us all, risen for our justification, that citizens of the City of God to go forth with His Word.  Please pray for Concordia Lutheran Mission, myself as Pastor in the Church, my wife (the organist here!) and the Church in these dark days that with you, around the world, we may proclaim our great King:

“… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2: 9-10)

Please the appointed verses selected from Psalm 48 for this day in rejoicing in the Lord:

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
    the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God
    has made himself known as a fortress.

For behold, the kings assembled;
    they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
    they were in panic; they took to flight.
Trembling took hold of them there,
    anguish as of a woman in labor.
By the east wind you shattered
    the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
    which God will establish forever. 

Let us pray…

We turn to You, the Lord our God and as best as we can give we give You thanks.  We beseech You that in Your goodness You will hear our prayers and by Your power:  drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us Your holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end through Your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

(A prayer adapted from a benediction by which St. Augustine ended at least two of his sermons)

St. Monica Prayer Card

About Monica, Mother of Augustine: A  native of North Africa, Monica (AD 333-387) was the devoted mother of St. Augustine. Throughout her life, she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy, on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some Church Year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

From The Confessions of Augustine of Hippo:

(Monica) was brought up in modesty and sobriety. She was made by You obedient to her parents rather than by them to You. When she reached marriageable age, she was given to a man and served him as lord. She tried to win him for You, speaking to him of You by her virtues through which You made her beautiful, so that her husband loved, respected and admired her. She bore with his infidelities and never had a quarrel with her husband on this account. For she looked forward to Your mercy coming upon him, in hope that, as he came to believe in You, he might become chaste….

Another gift with which You endowed at good servant of Yours, in whose womb You created me, my God, my mercy (Ps. 58:18), was that whenever she could, she reconciled dissident and quarrelling people. She showed herself so great a peacemaker that when she heard from both sides many bitter things, Monica would never reveal to one anything about the other unless it might help to reconcile them….

At the end, when her husband had reached the end of his life in time, she succeeded in gaining him for You. After he was a baptized believer, she had no cause to complain of his behavior, which she had tolerated in one not yet a believer. She was also a servant of Your servants: any of them who knew her found much to praise in her, held her in honor, and loved her, for they felt Your presence in her heart, witnessed by the fruits of her holy way of life. She had “testimony to her good works” (1 Timothy 5:10). She had brought up her children, enduring travail as often as she saw them wandering away from You. Lastly, Lord—by Your gift You allow me to speak for Your servants, for before her falling asleep we were bound together in community in You after receiving the grace of Baptism—she exercised care for everybody as if they were all her own children. She served all as if she was a daughter to all of us. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

Scripture:

Proverbs 31: 10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1: 5

Reflection:  Monica’s husband was an adulterer.   She stayed with him.  She was faithful. She probably took literally the Epistle reading:   Ephesians 5:21-23.   She wanted her husband to be her head…but in Christ Jesus.  She is not the model in our day of the liberated woman!  Thank, God.  Her strength was her Lord and she prayed for the conversion of both her husband and their son.  I am not saying that a wife in an abusive marriage should stay.  Monica was not physically abused.  She was, though, spiritually and emotionally hurt by her feckless husband and faithless son.  She persisted in prayer for them.  They were far from the Church and her Lord.  We read and listen to the reports about our children leaving the Church under the banner “spiritual not religious”.  And with that, not wanting children or families.  I wonder how I went wrong as a parent.  What did Monica do?  She prayed in faith to the Lord.   We pray for our children to return to You, O Lord.  Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord…We look to You for our forgiveness. Monica is the saint to remind us of prayer.  Her husband and son were baptized.  Maybe our prayers won’t be answered in our life time.  

Monica’s son became one of the most important theologians and pastors whose writings influenced one young monk in the Order of St. Augustine:  Martin Luther.   Augustine’s feast day is tomorrow. Freedom in Christ is praying for someone who may not even want our prayers.  

P.S. and FWIW:  I think a day like this one should be for the Church to serve as Mother’s Day.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son. Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.