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Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 7:4-16 Psalm 127 Romans 4:13-18 St. Matthew 2:13-15; 2:19-23

Collect of the Day: Almighty God, from the house of Your servant David You raised up Joseph to be the guardian of Your incarnate Son and the husband of His mother, Mary. Grant us grace to follow the example of this faithful workman in heeding Your counsel and obeying Your commands; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About St. Joseph

St. Joseph has been honored throughout the Christian centuries for his faithful devotion in helping Mary raise her Son. Matthew’s Gospel relates that Joseph was a just man, who followed the angel’s instructions and took the already-pregnant Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24). In the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus is referred to as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). This suggests that Joseph had building skills with which he supported his family. Joseph was an important figure in the early life of Jesus, safely escorting Mary and the child to Egypt (Matthew 2:14) and then settling them back in Nazareth once it was safe to do so (Matthew 2:22). The final mention of Joseph is at the time the twelve-year-old Jesus visits the temple in Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 2:41-51). Joseph, the guardian of our Lord, has long been associated with caring parenthood as well as with skilled craftsmanship.

Reflection:  The narrative of the birth of Jesus features two earthly fathers:  Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus and King Herod the Great.  The Lord told Joseph to flee because  King Herod the Great, outsmarted by the magi, set out to kill all Bethlehem’s male children under the age of two in order to kill a threat to his throne. Herod had 17 children and he had many of them executed, along with his wife.  After his death, the kingdom was divided into four regions and four of his sons became rulers of those tetrarchs. Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded.  Not one thing that Joseph ever spoke is recorded in the Scripture, yet he was silently obedient to the Lord as Jesus’ stepfather and guardian. When he found out that his betrothed Mary was pregnant, without him, he decided to quietly divorce her to save her shame. He fled to Egypt with his family, at great risk, trouble, and cost. He took care of  his family. He brought them to worship in Jerusalem and at the synagogue in Nazareth every Saturday. He did what a father is to do.  His stepson Jesus was known as, “the son of the carpenter”, thereby showing how much Jesus reflected the labor of his stepfather. He had other children, one of whom, James would become a pillar of the Church in Jerusalem.  James’ Epistle is part of the canon of the New Testament.  

Herod the Great and Joseph is certainly a contrast in two diametrically opposed types of fathers.  The difference?  One obeyed his own lusts and flesh, thus the devil, and corrupted his family.  Herod was merely a biological father. The other obeyed in true faith the Lord and His Word and guided his family by truly being a father according to the 4th Commandment. Though not Jesus’ biological father, but as many stepfathers, more than a father than Herod!  Herod, in our day, would be the stuff of the media, the internet, fame and power.  Joseph probably would be considered a narrow-minded and dogmatic redneck:   but whom would you want as your father? Herod the Great did not point his life toward the Lord, the Almighty Father.  Joseph did and still does.  I think March 19th should be  the Church’s Fathers’ Day.

Biography

Patrick, Missionary to Ireland Patrick is one of the best-known of the missionary saints. Born to a Christian family in Britain around the year AD 389 he was captured as a teenager by raiders, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a herdsman. After six years, he escaped and found his way to a monastery community in France. Ordained a bishop, it is believed that Patrick made his way back to Ireland in the summer of 433, and there spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities. He strongly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a time when it was not popular to do so. His literary legacy includes his autobiography, Confession, and several prayers and hymns still used in the Church today. At least one tradition states that Patrick died in Ireland on March 17 around the year AD 466. From Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 39624-39626). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

Collect of the Day

Let us pray… God of grace and might, we praise You for your servant Patrick, to whom You gave gifts to make the good news known to the people of Ireland. Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection

The Church’s mission is Baptism.  St. Patrick, missionary Bishop, knew that. From his Confession:

In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord—so many thousands of people.

We could call Bishop Patrick, Patrick the Baptizer. His poem, Patrick’s Breastplate (see below) is the basis of the hymn, “I Bind Unto Myself This Day”, a baptism hymn, see Lutheran Service Book, # 604. Baptism is evangelism.  The Lord calls His Body, the Church, to baptize all nations from the Lord’s own mouth, see St. Matthew 28: 19-20. Bp. Patrick did that! Baptism into God is good news for sinners:  washed in the blood of the Lamb.  Baptism is also the return to Baptism for those who have left the Church:  Confession of sin, and Absolution.  Baptism for those in the Church to walk in the Holy Spirit as we are baptized into Christ, see Romans 6: 1, and following. The Church does not primarily need evangelism programs to quickly fill the pews and as I have seen, they do not work.  Spiritual problems cannot be solved by administrative techniques and tactics (ala, Abraham Heschel) but only by spiritual means:  the work of the Holy Spirit teaching us the Word made flesh. The Church has her Lord’s program, better yet, His promises in preaching and teaching the Word, in administering the Sacraments, in praying, singing, learning, following Jesus. He will add to those being saved.  Patrick got out into the Irish lands to preach, teach, and baptize.  We can turn beer green, but the Lord alone takes us, dead to sin, and makes us green:  alive and growing in Him.  Yet, like Kermit the Frog, It’s not easy being green. It’s not easy being a Christian and we have our brothers and sisters in Christ, all the saints, helping us. On St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish, it is said.  Given Patrick, everyday on account of Christ, faith and baptism in Him, everyone can be Christian, and that is the green of eternal life.

From Patrick’s Confession: “Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.”

Quote

I bind unto myself today The strong name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation; His baptism in Jordan River, His death on cross for my salvation; His bursting from the spicèd tomb, His riding up the heavenly way, His coming at the day of doom I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power Of the great love of cherubim; The sweet “Well done” in judgment hour, The service of the seraphim, Confessors’ faith, apostles’ word, The patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls, All good deeds done unto the Lord And purity of virgin souls.

 I bind unto myself today The virtues of the star lit heaven, The glorious sun’s life-giving ray, The whiteness of the moon at even, The flashing of the lightning free, The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks, The stable earth, the deep salt sea Around the old eternal rocks.

 I bind unto myself today The power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward; The word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin, The vice that gives temptation force, The natural lusts that war within, The hostile men that mar my course; Or few or many, far or nigh, In every place and in all hours, Against their fierce hostility I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles, Against false words of heresy, Against the knowledge that defiles, Against the heart’s idolatry, Against the wizard’s evil craft, Against the death wound and the burning, The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name, The strong name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same, The Three in One and One in Three. By whom all nature hath creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: Praise to the Lord of my salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

—St. Patrick’s Breastplate:  From Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 39624-39626). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

A Lenten Reflection

There is a series of delightful mystery stories and novels about a 12th-century Benedictine monk, Caedfael.  Brother Caedfael is the herbalist for his monastery in Shrewsbury…and he also is a detective.  There is PBS series based upon several of this series, starring Derek Jacobi. There are eighteen books in this fictional series written by Ellis Peters.  In one scene Brother Caedfael and a young brother, Mark, come upon someone who has been murdered:

“Mark stood quiet and still, staring down in undismayed compassion. “I wonder had he wife and children,” he said at last. Caedfael marked the first focus of one fledgling priest’s concern, and approved it. Christ’s first instinct might have been much the same. Not: “Unshriven, and in peril!” not even: “When did he last confess and find absolution?” but: “Who will care for his little ones?”

The speculation about the victim’s soul is interesting, sounding like care but not needed as only God knows.  I think it does show forth a hypocritical piety.  True piety is in the fledgling priest’s question, “Who will care for his little ones?”  Caedfael and Mark carry through with this concern in the story…Lent is about the Lord’s free gift of forgiveness for us sinners.  Fasting and praying are good… and this scene from this story shows us again the importance of almsgiving, caring for those in sorrow and pain in “undismayed compassion”.  The Lord calls us to be resolute in His compassion.

And they have conquered (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12:11

About Perpetua and Felicitas and their Companions

At the beginning of the third century, the Roman emperor Septimus Severus forbade conversions to Christianity. Among those disobeying that edict were Perpetua, a young noblewoman, and her maidservant Felicitas. Both were jailed at Carthage in North Africa along with three fellow Christians. During their imprisonment, Perpetua and Felicitas witnessed to their faith with such conviction that the officer in charge became a follower of Jesus. After making arrangements for the well-being of their children, Perpetua and Felicitas were executed on March 7, 203. Tradition holds that Perpetua showed mercy to her captors by falling on a sword because they could not bear to put her to death. The story of this martyrdom has been told ever since as an encouragement to persecuted Christians.

Writing for Perpetua and Felicitas, Martyrs

The crowd jumped to its feet so they could watch Perpetua and Felicitas move to where they had been told and see the sword pierce their bodies, thus making their eyes partner in the murder. But first they kissed one another, that they might consummate their martyrdom with the kiss of peace, then all the martyrs, immoveable and silently, received the sword-thrust, especially Saturus, who also had first climbed the ladder. He was waiting for Perpetua and was the first to give up his spirit. So that she might taste some pain, being pierced between the ribs, she cried out loudly, and she herself placed the wavering right hand of the youthful gladiator to her throat. Such a woman could not have been killed unless she herself had willed it, because she was feared by the impure spirit.

O most brave and blessed martyrs! O truly called and chosen for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, who exalts and honors whomever He chooses! We ought to read these recent accounts for the edification of the Church, no less than the older ones, so that new virtues also may testify that one and the same Holy Spirit is always operating even until now, with God the Father Omnipotent, and His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, to whom belongs the glory and infinite power, forever and ever. Amen.

(Author:  Tertullian; The above are quotes from. Treasury of Daily Prayer (Concordia Publishing House: Kindle Locations 39583-39587).

Reflection

An early Christian writer, Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220) famously penned “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  The first church buildings were erected over the sites of martyrdom, as was the case of Perpetua and Felicitas  after Christianity became a legal religion after AD312.

We erect church buildings in our day after a church building committee has taken in consideration all sorts of factors but this one is major: visibility with good parking.  Now parking is important and convenient. But it is a sobering reminder that the first basilicas, etc. were not built according to convenience, but to honor the witness of the martyrs. Martyrdom is not convenient, only expedient for the persecutor, or  so such a person, government etc. thinks.

For a long time now we have marketed convenience in our churches. This convenience Christianity was to make it easier for a person to join. I remember an eastern European Lutheran pastor, who served under the atheistic, Communist East Germany, saying he was rather shocked by padded pews here in our country. Now we are shocked that ‘all of a sudden’, Christians are no longer welcome to the world’s table. We issued convenient entreaties for our churches and our services, and ‘ministries’, only to discover no one cared.

Why? As we made church life a bowl full of cherries, so we made convenient the Lord’s precious truths. The invitation on many church street signs has, “Everyone Welcome”. It’s is true, but it became “everyone welcome” without repentance and catechesis (education). The Lord’s Supper became a happy meal, not the giving of His Body and Blood for forgiveness and strengthening of faith and sanctification. Would anyone risk martyrdom for our inalienable right to pot-lucks, picnics and positive experiences? We wanted to fit in and found out we were not faithfully fit. We put the light of the Lord under a bushel basket. Biblical illiteracy is at an all-time low.

Perpetua and her companions were bright with Christ’s own light, that is the joy of the grace of forgiveness in the God who died and rose for us all: this is the heart of Lent. I heard a janitor in a Lutheran church in East Berlin, under the thumb of Communism, state that at that time Church does not leave the four walls of the church building. We still do not have those constraints. Maybe Perpetua and her companions were bringing the light of the Gospel outside of their Services where it was lit. Lord, bring forth in our lives a witness to your Gospel, your salvation , to You, O Savior of mankind.

Let us pray:

O God the King of saints, who strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Appointed Scripture Readings: Isaiah 66: 1-2 Psalm 134 Acts 1: 15-26 St. Matthew 11: 25-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About St. Matthias: Apostle St. Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. According to the Early Church Fathers, Matthias was one of the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1–20. After the ascension, Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the vacancy in the Twelve resulting from the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16–25). Early Church tradition places Matthias in a number of locations. Some historians suggest that he went to Ethiopia; others place him in Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion. Martyred for his faith, Matthias may well have met his death at Colchis in Asia Minor, around AD 50. The Church of St. Matthias at Trier, Germany, claims the honor of being the final burial site for Matthias, the only one of the Twelve to be buried in Europe north of the Alps.

Writing for St. Matthias, Apostle: “After one of the apostles was cut off, Christ commanded the eleven others to “go and teach all nations and baptize them into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Spirit.” The apostles (which means “sent ones”) immediately starting doing this. Having chosen Matthias as the twelfth apostle in the place of Judas, on the basis of the authoritative prophecy found in a psalm of David, they received the promised power of the Holy Spirit for the gift of miracles and preaching. They established churches throughout Judea, by bearing witness to the faith in Jesus Christ. Then they went out into the world and preached the same doctrine of the same faith to the nations, establishing churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, received the tradition of faith and doctrine. Every day there are more churches being established. This is precisely why only these churches are able to call themselves apostolic, because they are the offspring of apostolic churches…. Therefore, though there are so many churches, they all comprise the one original church founded by the apostles. In this way, they are all originally apostolic and one, in unity, peaceful communion, and are brothers in the bond of hospitality, hospitality, privileges which derive from no other rule than the one tradition from the same mystery. From this we draw up our rule of faith… all doctrine that agrees with the apostolic churches, which are the molds and original sources, must be regarded as the truth that contains what was received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God. All doctrine must immediately be regarded as false that has the taste of being different from that which the churches received from the apostles, from Christ, from God. —Tertullian

All of the above is from Concordia Publishing House: Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 39561-39563).

Reflection: When parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, pastors, ministers, beginning with the apostles, taught us right and wrong and  told us about Jesus, who forgives, you were being built up and into His Church, His temple, His Body and still are. Our ancestors in the faith of the Church, like Matthias were called by the Lord in His death and resurrection, by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God, are awaiting with us our Easter day.  His Temple is the template of our lives today to be aware when we,  like Matthias, can tell of Jesus and proclaim Him. St. Matthias was different in the Lord’s call to him:  he was an apostle.  He went into the front lines of this warring world to proclaim the peace beyond understanding (St. John 14:27; Philippians 4: 7).  The idolatrous world and it’s worldlings don’t want to hear it.  And except for St. John the Evangelist, all the apostles were martyred, so we know the Lord as He knows us all. Matthias died so we can hear the Gospel to this day, no thanks to foes who fear it (“A Mighty Fortress is our God-Luther). For to us all He says, as it is written in the appointed Gospel of this day which Matthias likewise heard:

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

For one in place of Judas,
Th’ apostles sought God’s choice;
The lot fell to Matthias
For whom we now rejoice.
may we like true apostles
Your holy Church defend,
And not betray our calling
But serve You to the end.

From, Lutheran Service Book, #517, By All Your Saints in Warfare

Sermon Texts:  The Gospel reading, (Matt. 6:3–4, 6, 17–18). and 1 Corinthians 9: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Years ago, Natalie’s Father died during Lent. We were up in New Jersey and family and friends were standing around somewhere, maybe church, and they were lightly chatting about what they gave up for Lent, as if they were talking about the latest football or basketball game.  What is the purpose of fasting, praying and almsgiving?  Jesus knows there is great temptation to show off about our spirituality to be seen by others:  as it was then, is now. This is not the purpose of fasting, praying and almsgiving says Jesus, for then we have our reward:  the adulation and praise of the world, by which the Church must not be led and is not fed. The world rewards itself yearly with award shows even with rewards for good deeds.

The world thinks itself quite ‘spiritual’, even using denial, but self-denial is a lot harder than denial. The purpose of self-denial teaches Jesus is to be seen by the Lord, our heavenly Father, for then He is our reward. He is our shield and great reward. He is our mighty fortress. The purpose of the Lenten discipline, for 40 days and nights…and other times as well…is to keep our eyes and hearts on the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who bore the cross for our justification, our Captain in the well fought fight.

St. Paul wrote this encouragement and challenge to the Church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 10: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things, As a resident of Corinth in A.D. 50-52, he had probably witnessed the Isthmian Games in the spring of A.D. 51. This prestigious event, second only to the Olympic Games, was celebrated every two years about ten miles from Corinth. The basic athletic events included racing, wrestling, jumping, boxing, hurling the javelin, and throwing  the discus. Paul begins with an illustration from the footraces in the stadium. A number of runners competed in each event, but only one could win the prize. The analogy to the Christian life is, of course, imperfect, for in the race all believers are prize winners. But Paul uses the analogy only to the exertion and self-discipline required of the successful runner. He challenges the Corinthians: “Run that you may win” (9:24).

The other purpose of the Lenten discipline is keeping our fighting trim.  When my Father was in the FBI, he didn’t particularly care for his physical because he had to be a certain weight as a special agent in the Bureau.  Our souls can become overweight with the love of the world and the world is ever too much with us. 

The world seeks to be praised
And honored by the mighty,
Yet never once reflects
That they are frail and flighty.
But what I truly prize
Above all things is He,
My Jesus, He alone—
What is the world to me?

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving is the discipline of  getting in shape as His Church, the Church militant.  1 Corinthians 9: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  By so disciplining himself, Paul’s faith was active and alive in Christ in loving service to all.  If he were to live a life of self-indulgence, he would endanger not only the salvation of others, but also his own. Spirituality is not about our spiritual jollies, that’s just narcissism, and worse: hypocrisy, play acting…  The root word of discipline is disciple, so we are prepared for our everyday lives living as the Body of Christ, His Church. “…if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?Jesus is as clear as Uncle Sam:  I want you every man woman and child…but He does not point at us but points to His Wounds for us and our salvation.

The purpose of self-denial and discipline is also for  battling for the souls of others in the clear sound of the Lord’s grace, mercy and peace for sinners.  Giving up on satiation of food, we then want ever more the Bread of Life and Lord, open thou my lips.  Giving up our words which does  not create, redeem, and sanctify the world, we  are focused on His Word, incarnate, written and heard Who alone created, redeemed and sanctified you and I.  Yet our speech and prayers can guide the hungry man to His Feast.  Giving up money, we can help our neighbor in all manner of services.

Is discipline difficult? Of course!  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Given the military associations with discipleship in the Bible, St. Paul’s advice is sound to Timothy:  “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” This was written to a pastor…and for us as well.  We can easily be entangled in civilian pursuits in the world to our detriment. I think of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, the greatest of these are prayer.  For prayer, like love, has no end. And the discipline is prayer, as Augustine wrote, fasting and almsgiving are wings of prayer: taking it to the Lord  in prayer.  Run the race. Remember:

We are called to please Him who was pleased to enlist us  in Holy Baptism into His Church, the church militant, and out of the armies  of the devil and the antichrist and to fight for the lost. As in Colossians, For in Him all the fulness of God was PLEASED to dwell.  He is pleased to save us into His forces. As we sing at Christmas, “Pleased as man with man to dwell/Jesus our Emmanuel” (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing).  Yet, we can become AWOL, absent without leave, run away from the Lord we love.  Doing so in military and one is faced with punishments.  We are too.  But when we return to the Lord, repent, saying what I did was wrong, He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and mercy to restore us.

Lent has been practiced for a thousand years or more,  a training period on earth a learning, discipling, praying for the joy of Easter and  Baptism…for living in the world but not for the world, looking to our Captain of the well fought fight.

A noble army, men and boys,
the matron and the maid,
around the Savior’s throne rejoice,
in robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven,
through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given,
to follow in their train.

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.”-Martin Luther

Concordia and Koinonia

Prayer of the Day

O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day, and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ’s faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s scriptural…

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Jesus was transfigured and Jesus was disfigured.  Sin is disfigurement. Wrong and evil twists man into horrible shapes of greed, lust for power, sexual immorality…seeking God in all the wrong places, fame, power, looks. They then have theologians who will justify ungodliness, saying it is okay, devising daily  cleverly devised myths.  Like the myth of tolerance as the sole virtue these days. Pastor Matt Richards posted this on Facebook:

“In Jesus, we do not see tolerance, but we see love. If Jesus would have gone the way of tolerance, He would ‘not’ have gone to the cross but would have left us in our sins. And if we were left in our sins, we would be left with damnation. So much for the way of tolerance! But because of His great love for us and His rich mercy, Jesus could not tolerate our sin. Indeed, the Son of God could not tolerate our sin, so He was compelled to the cross – in love – to do something about it.”

He has done something about it and Lent is focus of what the Lord did about it.  Can you imagine the Lord saying to  you, I tolerate you?  It is frightening and He has not but He has said, For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.   Just imagine anyone saying that to someone they claim to love! I tolerate that you are doing wrong.  Such is the way of cleverly devised myths which always results  in the downward spiral of the disfigurement of sin and eternal death. St. Peter wrote of all “false prophets”:

They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.

The One who was transfigured, was disfigured and we are configured together as His Church, His body.  This Word, as all the Word of God, is the lamp in our hearts, the day star arising. Tend to His Word always as the Lord tends to you always.  We can love others and show the Way.

School as Sanctuary

After school murders, this time at a college, the Governor’s point person said that, Our schools are a sanctuary and they should be safe. I agree. The Governor’s solution is gun control, but government can not speak to the real problem, such as, self-control, since so much of current culture is out of control.

When we contemplate the idea that all schools should be a “sanctuary” and safe, I don’t think that many schools are safe in any class. I will not write here about leftist ideologies in the curricula, but the old-fashioned problem of peer pressure. Sanctuary’s root word is the Latin, “sanctus”, At one time a major problem in a school was chewing gum, now it’s birth control. Another problem was not getting in line, now it’s getting high. There were always bullies in a school, but now it’s a twitter mob and social network bullies…by the thousands. One time a concern was piercing one’s ears, now it’s cutting off body parts…I could go on. There is little that is holy at all in our schools. Peers’ are educated by their peers is the bitter fruit of the ’60s’ revolutions: the blind leading the blind”. Lutheran pastor and professor, Dr. Kurt Marquardt, in the context of the Church pointedly about lack of self-control in children teaching their elders in 1978:

Who, after all, could respect an institution (church) which is, after two thousand years’ experience, so confused about its functions as to say, in effect: “Dear children, help us! We are no longer sure about what we ought to be doing. Perhaps you might have some good ideas?” Who could possibly take seriously the play-worship prefixed with that horrid word, “experimental”? The fact is that no healthy, viable society lets its children arbitrate its values. It is for the elders of the tribe to guard its cultural heritage and to transmit it solemnly to the younger generation-never vice versa. Also in our society the problem is not with the youth but with their elders. 

Our children should be taught by adults…faithful and grown-up. The Lord wants us feed the sheep, not experiment with rats. And if there is nothing of “sanctus” in a school, then it is not safe. Parents are removing their children from the public schools for an education with teachers who teach the truth in love. We need schools where the Lord is confessed…not the culture. This is good.

I think the best Valentine’s Day card is Luther’s Rose which he created as his seal. which features a red heart in the middle with the Cross in the middle of the heart. As Luther explained, The cross symbolizes the death of sin and the redness of the heart made alive in Christ. Red also reminds us of God’s agape, love for us all in His only-begotten Son who shed His blood that we be made pure in His mercy, with the gold ring of heaven.  This reminds me of marriage and the wedding feast of the Lamb.  A blessed St. Valentine’s Day!

The full explanation by Fr. Luther of his seal:

First, there is a black cross in a heart that remains its natural color. This is to remind me that it is faith in the Crucified One that saves us. Anyone who believes from the heart will be justified (Romans 10:10). It is a black cross, which mortifies and causes pain, but it leaves the heart its natural color. It doesn’t destroy nature, that is to say, it does not kill us but keeps us alive, for the just shall live by faith in the Crucified One (Romans 1:17). The heart should stand in the middle of a white rose. This is to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace—it puts the believer into a white, joyous rose. Faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). This is why the rose must be white, not red. White is the color of the spirits and angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). This rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that a joyful spirit and faith is a beginning of heavenly, future joy, which begins now, but is grasped in hope, not yet fully revealed. Around the field of blue is a golden ring to symbolize that blessedness in heaven lasts forever and has no end. Heavenly blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and better than any possessions, just as gold is the most valuable and precious metal.

(From: Letter from Martin Luther to Lazarus Spengler, July 8, 1530 [WA Br 5:445]; tr. P. T. McCain)

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