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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings: See “Read Before You Hear’ Page, Above

Graham Green’s comic novel, Monsignor Quixote takes place in Spain under the brutal dictatorship of Francisco Franco and is about a Roman Catholic priest Monsignor Quixote.  Yes, his name is the same as the great fictional character.  Fr. Quixote lives and serves in a sleepy town who’s Mayor is an ardent Communist and the Father’s best friend.  Father, not known for ambition, is made a Monsignor and this sets off a chain of events that brings together the new Monsignor and his Communist friend in a series of adventures in the Father’s old car Roncinante.  In this scene the Father and the Mayor have fallen asleep, but Monsignor Quixote wakes up from a bad dream:

He had dreamt that Christ had been saved from the Cross by the legion of angels to which on an earlier occasion the Devil had told Him that He could appeal. So there was no final agony, no heavy stone which had to be rolled away, no discovery of an empty tomb. Father Quixote stood there watching on Golgotha as Christ stepped down from the Cross triumphant and acclaimed. The Roman soldiers, even the Centurion, knelt in His honor, and the people of Jerusalem poured up the hill to worship Him. The disciples clustered happily around. His mother smiled through her tears of joy. There was no ambiguity, no room for doubt and no room for faith at all. The whole world knew with certainty that Christ was the Son of God.

It was only a dream, of course it was only a dream, but nonetheless Father Quixote had felt on waking the chill of despair felt by a man who realizes suddenly that he has taken up a profession which is of use to no one, who must continue to live in a kind of Saharan desert without doubt or faith, where everyone is certain that the same belief is true. He had found himself whispering, “God save me from such a belief.” Then he heard the Mayor turn restlessly on the bed beside him, and he added without thought, “Save him too from belief,” and only then he fell asleep again.

Fr. Quixote’s friend, the Communist, also had a belief:  certain, ideological and inflexible.  The mayor believed only in what he saw, in other words, as communism espouses Godless materialism, he had no hope. Certainty is not faith.  Faith is trust, trust in one who loves and cares for you.

23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8)

Faith produces hope and from faith and hope in Christ, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love.  If the Father’s dream were true, there would be no faith, neither hope nor love. We are saved in Christ passing through the Passover Lamb, forgiven, living and learning Christ, strengthened in hope and walking in love, that is, the Holy Spirit.  Lent and Easter is the paradigm of our life in Christ.

Collect of the Day

We give thanks to You, O God, creator and fashioner of the universe, for the work of Your servants Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach; and we pray that by the vigor and strength of their creations you would open our eyes to the wonder of life, the glories of creation, and the exploration of our place in the world; through Your son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About: Lucas Cranach (1472-1557), a close friend of Martin Luther, was a celebrated painter of portraits and altar pieces and a producer of woodcuts of religious subjects. Albrecht Duerer (1471-1528), a native of Nuernberg, Germany, was one of the most learned of Renaissance artists and also an ardent admirer of Martin Luther. He was considered tHis paintings and woodcuts include examples of the splendor of creation and skilled portrayals of biblical narratives. Both Cranach and Duerer are remembered and honored for the grandeur of their works of art that depict the glory and majesty and the grace and mercy of the triune God.

“Who can exhaust all the virtue and power of God’s Word? The Holy Scriptures, sermons, and all Christian books do nothing but praise God’s Word, as we also do daily in our reading, writing, preaching, singing, poetizing, and in painting. This blessing abides and sustains us when the temporal blessings vanish and when through death we part from them and from one another. This blessing does not leave us or depart from us; it goes through death with us, tears us out of it, and brings us to eternal life, where there is neither death nor fear of dying.” – Martin Luther

This Durer piece is probably his most widely known work:

After Durer's Praying Hands Art Print by Peter Jochems

Lucas Cranach’s Wittenberg Altarpiece, in the Church in which Luther preached, portrays the Church nourished in Word and Sacrament which is based upon Christ’s death and Resurrection:

How Did Christians 500 Years Ago “Do Church”? | Painting, Medieval ...
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”  St. John 12: 23b

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings:  See “Read Before You Hear’ Page, Above

There was a famous televangelist, Robert Schuller, who’s TV show was entitled, “The Hour of Power”. He was more a proponent for positive thinking than he was of the Gospel.  His hour of power was all about positive thinking.  He even gave away the “Positive Thinker’s Bible” in which all the positive passages were in the color blue. I wondered if the 10 commandments and the cross were in blue.

Jesus also spoke quite a few times of the coming “hour”:  John 2:4John 7:30John 12:27,  John 16:32,John 17:1.   The hour would be suffering and death, humiliation and shame, then on the third day rise from the dead. Rev. Schuller said that the passages about Jesus’ crucifixion just showed that He had positive thoughts by which He would get through this.  It was not positive thoughts that led Jesus through it.  It was His love of mankind, for me and for you  and our redemption in His blood that Jesus led us the way through the valley of the shadow of death and sin.  He came to do the Father’s will.  

There is more to life in this world than this life lived on our terms.  Even positive thinking is a symptom of the sin of Adam.  Such positive thinking helps to alleviate symptoms but not the root cause:  man separated from his God. Man cannot bridge the chasm, only the One who true God and true man has. Thinking apart from the Lord leads us down many a rabbit hole:  first the hole seems utopian but rabbit holes are terrible dead ends. That fruit always looks good but it is cursed.  And in the faith and life in Christ we can admit we have failures and weaknesses, as we did in the prayer above.  The Lord knows as He cares for you and He bears you up.  The second Adam, the man from heaven came to this hour to bear our sin and be our Savior.  

The hour was the  Triduum,  or The Three Days:  the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. The Triduum is the culmination of the Lenten journey.  All of our positive thoughts, as nice and good as they can be, won’t lead us through.  Christ is the good Seed planted into the earth, His death and now risen to bear much fruit:  faith in Him, love of Him, hope in Him to bear fruit as He is the vine and we are the branches (cf. St. John 15).  He leads us through as He is the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12: 1-2), not us!

Christ the Redeemer statue shows coronavirus support with light show

Sermon Text: “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” St. Matthew 21

“Behold, your King is coming to you…”.  Today is the Advent of our King.  The other time in the Church Year we point to Palm Sunday is the season of Advent.  The Hymn of Invocation is an Advent hymn:

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Also in the advent hymn, Prepare the Royal Highway:

God’s people, see Him coming:
Your own eternal king!
Palm branches strew before Him!
Spread garments! Shout and sing!
God’s promise will not fail you!
No more shall doubt assail you! 

Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word!

“Behold, your King is coming to you…”. This is the joy of Christmas.  He came humble, born of the blessed Virgin.  The angels sang to the lowly shepherds the song of heaven, Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will. Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word!

“Behold, your King is coming to you…”.  This is the joy of Palm Sunday, He is coming toward Jerusalem, to save the daughter of Zion.

All glory, laud, and honor 
to you, Redeemer, King, 
to whom the lips of children 
made sweet hosannas ring.

Yet the true and only King will be cast out of David’s royal city and crucified. Not as some sort of symbol, or performance art, or solidarity with the current out group, but to and for all, all are sinners, out of God’s will to finally and fully atone for the sin of the world.

Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word!

“Behold, your King is coming to you…”.  This is narrative of Good Friday as He came to us in the strange and alien country of sin and death amidst the temptations of the evil one.  We begin to feel this alien country in this time of viral quarantine. The sun darkened at midday and the moon turn to blood as the very Author of life shed His life blood for the sin of the world, bent in upon itself.  As He went to the tomb of Lazarus and the stench of death, He went into death itself. “We adore You, O Lord, and we praise and glorify Your resurrection. For behold, by the wood of the cross joy has come into all the world.” As the Lord said, For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son…” The photo above is Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro.  It is lit with the flags of the nations affected by coronavirus. It is a good reminder also of the Lord who bore the sin of the world in all nations. Note that many of the nations had at one time a self-understanding that they are Christians nations. Note the color which stands out in the flags, including our own:  red.  This can remind us of two things:  the blood of Christ shed this week for the life of the world and for the fire of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit teaching us Christ and to love the Lord and our neighbor, against whom we sin daily.  So we believe and are relieved in true and joyful repentance of our sin.  Joy is buried deep in Jesus in the tomb, the pearl of great price, priceless, in the earth. As He said the grain of wheat which dies and lives. “…on that day of deepest darkness, our God was loving the world, loving you and me and all who fail Him again and again. He was loving us by giving His only Son into that horrid death so that our hate-filled, violent, rebellious race might be pardoned and given a life without end in His kingdom.”- Pr. Matt Harrison

Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word
!

“Behold, your King is coming to you…”.  The Lord comes to us on Easter morning, the joy of all joy.  The disciples found His grave cloths, neatly folded and the tomb emptied.  The Lord did not and would never need those grave cloths, so we be clothed in Him baptized into Him. Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word!

“Behold, your King is coming to you…”.  God came to us at Pentecost. God the Holy Spirit comes to all in their Baptism to fill us, teach us, reach us and reach out through with Jesus Christ in the glory of God the Father.  Y’all are temples of the Holy Spirit bound together Monday through Saturday in the living tether of the Holy Spirit.  And like the great whale, we come out of the deep at least once a week for air, for the breath of the Holy Spirit in the Divine Service, and divine Bible study.

For Christ bore our sins, and not his own, When he on the cross was hanging; And then he arose and moved the stone, That we, unto him belonging, Might join with angelic hosts to raise Our voices in endless singing.

God came to us then at Pentecost, His Spirit new life revealing, That we might no more from Him be lost, All darkness for us dispelling. His flame will the mark of sin efface And bring to us all His healing.

Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word!

“Behold, your King is coming to you…”.  The Lord has come into our homes. 

Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall,
where Jesus Christ is all in all!
For if he were not dwelling there,
how dark and poor and void it were!

The yearly Palm Sunday question is:  Pastor, what do we do with the palms? In years past I have said put a palm leaf behind a cross or crucifix.  Now I encourage you: put the palm leaf on your front door as a sign that this too is also house of the Lord.  Here you can find in the quarantined land,  a house of prayer and welcome, food if needed, an ear to listen.  This is house of Scripture.  20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gate

Then here will I and mine today
a solemn cov’nant make and say:
though all the world forsake his Word,
my house and I will serve the Lord.

Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word
!

“Behold, your King is coming to you…”.  As the Church rightly summed up the doctrine of our Lord’s second coming every week: 

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian* Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen
.

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy).  We await His coming in joy, the marriage feast of the Lamb and the Lamb and Shepherd gives us Himself, His Body and Blood,  the Kings comes in the Sacrament of Baptism and by every word that proceeds from His mouth. For a time we forgo His Mass with others as well for a while.

Hosanna to the Lord, For He fulfills God’s Word!

Now these are not several Advents but the one Advent of our King.  His Kingship is disputed even by churches.  Lord save us by Thy grace. What but Thy grace can save us in temptations’ hour?  His reign can not be compromised with the world as He did not compromise with the world but gave us in the world His promise of forgiveness and life with Him forever.

In the 16th century, King Henry the VIII, contemporary of Martin Luther, had as his Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More.  More was a devout Christian and Roman Catholic. The King had beheaded one of his wives when she did not provide a male heir to the throne.  When the King wanted a second divorce, the Pope said no. Thomas More would not submit to the  King in the marriage matter.  The King stripped him of title and imprisoned him and finally had Sir Thomas More executed by beheading. Thomas More’s Last words were:  “I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.”  The only way Thomas More could have rightly said that is that the true and only King died for us all. Henry the VIII saw Thomas More as a traitor. Thomas More was no traitor to the king but to the true and only King, as we all have been traitors to the true and only King.  We have rebelled to get our own ways, like sheep  gone astray, everyone to his own way and upon the true King the chastisement was laid that has made us whole. 

This King is lowly, not conquering kingdoms and nations with the weapons of man but by the weapons of the Spirit. “Behold, your King is coming to you, humble…”.  The other time the Lord used the word “humble” is in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you restTake my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This King is righteous and makes us righteous by faith in Him and His sacrifice for sinners.  He seeks not divorce and division and death, only our divorce from sin to make the way for God within, and gives Himself so that in Him we live eternally in His love shed mercifully…for traitors and so we live in His service.  He daily bids us, Come to Me. The Apostle Peter:  Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word!

Cranach painting reveals Luther's understanding of the Bible and ...

A Lutheran pastor on a blog observed that we are so willing to put sweet baby Jesus on a display in a manger, but recoil at the thought of using a Crucifix. I think he is right. Why?  We think we are in control of Jesus, what we like or don’t like about Him.  We’re not. By doing so we end up with fake Jesus, one that looks like us, just another idol. The point is the manger and the Cross are the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.  He is the first and the last.  He is the beginning of the end of the world as we know it, it’s fame, power and it’s glory which are fake versions of fake eternal life which are all eternal death. They have been judged and found wanting.  The Lord’s  last things make the first things last.  The last things of His coming make the first things of His love, joy, and peace last and endure as He does. You are the potter, we the clay, the word of Thy hand, form us O Lord as these fragile earthen vessels to hold the wonders of Your forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

“…mostly the churches have acquiesced to the orders to close their doors and suspend all worship services. It is strange that along with this has come the silence that is deafening — the tacit admission that the church is non-essential and that worship is merely a social gathering.  Abortion clinics, cannabis dispensaries, beer distributors, veterinary clinics, and a host of other odd things are essential but not the church.  

Pastor Larry Peters

Article by Larry Peters in his blog, Pastoral Meanderings:

Safe distance. . .

Antichrist - Wikipedia

As a pastor I like to watch national events which involved a Christian rite of any sort, just in case something is done amiss. At Prince William and Kate’s Wedding in the august and historical Westminster Cathedral, and they had live trees in the Sanctuary.  I watch  those ‘events’ so I  can be prepared for, say, ‘Pastor,  at William and Kate’s wedding, there were trees in the Sanctuary, can we?’, and not be blind-sided.  No, I have not been asked that but you can imagine it!

On 11 June, 2004 President Ronald Reagan’s funeral was conducted at The Washington National Cathedral.  I watched it.  My oldest son, who was 13 at the time said to me, “Dad, I know why you to watch Reagan’s funeral.”  I bit, “Why?” “So, you can criticize the pastor’s sermon.”  He got me.  But what I did criticize was the reading of the Gospel.  The Text was St. John 14:  1-6, except not all of verse 6 was read.  “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  The priest stopped there and proclaimed, The Gospel of the Lord.  But he did not read the rest of verse 6: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

A number of years ago at my last parish as an ELCA pastor, I attended a funeral there after I had left that congregation. In both the bulletin and the reading of the Gospel, again St. John 14: 1-6, the same deal:  those last words were not read. Jesus is a way, a truth, a life.  Not the way, the truth, the life. He said nothing about the love that bled for sinners, the very blood of God.  It was  a Bloodless sermon.

I talked about this with a member of the mission here.  I said it was at the very least it was intellectually dishonest.  It was misrepresentation of Christianity and the New Testament.  The member responded, ‘In other words, it was a lie, Pastor’.  And Satan is the “Father of lies” (John 8:44), we commented almost in unison.

In 2 Thessalonians 2 the antichrist is called “the lawless one”, not once but several times.  He is in the true temple of God.  I think the “lawless”, as in the “lawless one”, the antichrist, that “lawless” means without God’s Law.There are many antichrists before the final one comes.  The mission member remembers when she was girl in Iowa she heard a fiery Baptist preacher say, “When the antichrist comes, will we even know it?”  He/she will sound so good and smooth and those pastors who preach Law and Gospel will be castigated as “negative”, “fundamentalistic”, out of tune with the times, etc.  I think this passage, St. Matthew 5: verse 19 is right on target here:  “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”   Emphasis my own:  The operative word is “teaches”.    There is only one tree in the sanctuary:  the Cross and the antichrist does not want it in there nor you in there.

Christians will be tested. It may start harmlessly as a way of stopping a contagion. Then maybe penalties for gatherings of 10 or more to stop that contagion…just an emergency caution…then what? Sounds like I am paranoid and yes, maybe. But who would have thought even a decade ago we would be talking of castrating boys to make them girls. When the antichrist is revealed, by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we will recognize him.

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