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It is the Lord who chooses Apostles, Bishops and Pastors. He establishes the Office.

Concordia and Koinonia

One of the symbols of St. Matthias is a pair of dice because the Disciples cast lots to decide who would take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1: 15-26).  The only time he is mentioned in the Bible is at the time of his selection.

 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. 


Lessons:  Isaiah 66: 1-2  Psalm 134  Acts of the Apostles 1: 15-26   St. Matthew 11:  25-30

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…

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Image result for Polycarp

Born c. 69, Polycarp was a central figure in the early church. A disciple of the evangelist John, he linked the first generation of believers to later Christians. After serving for many years as bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was arrested, tried, and executed for his faith on February 23, c. 156. An eyewitness narrative of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, continues to encourage believers in times of persecution. You can find out more about the Saint here (Issues, etc.) and here.

To our ears, the crowd’s cry, “Away with the atheists”, as a denial of Christianity may sound strange.  The understanding in those days was the gods and goddesses of the many city states and of the Roman Empire were considered to be integral and essential to the welfare of city and Empire.  If they were not worshiped, then it was thought city and Empire would be adversely affected.  The Christians were denying the existence of all the mythologies of the gods and goddesses, so they were considered atheists.  Even worse they were considered to be trouble-makers, disturbers of order and against the very fiber of the culture, and so, “away with the atheists”. 

Christians in our days are considered to be a type of atheist in the religions of sex and self.  For instance,  many consider it ‘hate speech’ to publicly state marriage is between man and woman only.  If Christians do not buckle under to the new regime and it’s fanatical dogmatism of sex and self, then we are the disrupters of the order and ‘goodness’. If Christians do not give obeisance to the dictates of lust and narcissism, efforts have been made to curtail this nation’s first amendment rights.  We do deny the enslavement of the bodies and souls of our fellow citizens to the false gods of slave and sex, and for us first; but with Polycarp, we are called to confess Christ as Lord and we are His people for freedom of friends and family from those gods and goddesses. (Here is a link to very good sermon by Dr. Peter Scaer on this enslavement, from the daily chapel service, 2/21/20 at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN.  The Reading of the Sermon Text begins at marker 14.00 and the Sermon at 17.00, followed by the singing of the Te Deum Laudamus. In it he refers to the 2nd century of the Church when the Roman Empire required citizens to burn a little incense to the “genius of Caesar”.  If they did not, execution loomed.  This is what happened to St. Polycarp)

Unlike Polycarp at that time, no one in our beloved nation has been burned at the stake or beheaded. So many, in society, and many churches want behead the head of the Church, His Body. We have seen in the Middle East another anti-Christian Islamic movement, ISIS, putting to death in horrible ways many of our brothers and sisters.  On February 21, 2015, 21 Coptic Christians, in Libya were beheaded by ISIS on the shores of the Mediterranean. The ISIS terrorists demanded they renounce the Christian faith. They did not and ISIS derided them as, “People of the cross”. May we be so accused and with Polcarp, we cannot blaspheme our King who has saved us but ever preach, teach and proclaim Him.

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Let us pray:  O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Icon of the 21 Coptic Martyrs
Image result for 21 coptic martyrs
The 21 Coptic Martyrs

Meme of the Day

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor, possible text that says 'A man asked a priest: If God is everywhere, why do go to Church? The priest replied: The whole atmosphere is filled with water; but when you want to drink you have to go to a fountain or a well. rocnoAb CABdW TEMLEGOTICOR മമ'
Image result for Martin Luther

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 studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wart­burg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. Luther died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Lessons:

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

In Martin Luther’s Commentary on The Sermon on the Mount (Luther’s Works, Volume 21, CPH), on St. Matthew 5:8, the 6th Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”, he asks, what does it mean to be “pure in heart”.  How does one become pure in heart?  He cites our Lord in St. Matthew 23: 27 speaking to the Pharisees that they are “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and al uncleanness” and compared them to the monks of his day. You can change the outside and everyone thinks you are pure but inside, in the heart, that is, the will, is where we are made pure.  Still, how does that occur?

Then Luther, cites that,

“…this is the way it is with our clergy today. Outwardly they lead a decent life, and in the churches everything is conducted with such excellent taste and formality that it is beautiful to behold. But He does not ask for such purity. He wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly the person may be a drudge in the kitchen, black, sooty, and grimy, doing all sorts of dirty work.”

We look around and can say that as well as false doctrine is taught and sexual and societal immorality abounds and is extolled in our idolatrous and adulterous generation and in churches, and outwardly beautiful people and churches are inwardly filled with real filth.

Luther:

“But He does not ask for such (outward) purity. He wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly the person may be a drudge in the kitchen, black, sooty, and grimy, doing all sorts of dirty work.”

As a hospice chaplain, I visited many very poor, dirty homes.  One such home, in early spring and in the first room had pens with baby ducks in it.  The yard was thoroughly full of junk with more than one Confederate flag flying.  The house was dirty and ramshackle.  The granddaughter guided me through the maze of dark rooms to the patient’s room, her Grandfather’s. His room was done in Nascar memorabilia galore. In the corner was the gun safe.  He had lived here for most of his life and raised a family in this house…home. His home was grimy, with barnyard animals, aesthetically tacky and so politically incorrect, i.e. ‘racist’. After introductions,  the granddaughter left the room, and I asked this typical, clinical question to a new patient: How would you describe your spirituality? Without a hesitation, he said, “Jesus”.  He knew where his purity, and his faith and hope and love lay and came to life.

Luther:

Then what is a pure heart? In what does it consist? The answer can be given quickly, and you do not have to climb up to heaven or run to a monastery for it and establish it with your own ideas. You should be on your guard against any ideas that you call your own, as if they were just so much mud and filth. And you should realize that when in the monastery is sitting in deepest contemplation, excluding the world from his heart altogether, and thinking about the Lord God the way he himself paints and imagines Him, he is actually sitting — if you will pardon the expression — in the dung, not up to his knees but up to his ears. For he is proceeding on his own ideas without the Word of God; and that is sheer deception and delusion, as Scripture testifies everywhere.

What is meant by “pure heart” is this: one that is watching and pondering what God says and replacing its own ideas with the Word of God. This alone is pure before God, yes, purity itself, which purifies everything that it includes and touches. Therefore, though a common laborer, a shoemaker, or a blacksmith may be dirty and sooty or may smell because he is covered with dirt and pitch, still he may sit at home and think: “My God has made me a man. He has given me my house, wife, and child and has commanded me to love them and to support them with my work.” Note that he is pondering the Word of Cod in his heart; and though he stinks outwardly, inwardly he is pure incense before God. But if he attains the highest purity so that he also takes hold of the Gospel and believes in Christ — without this, that purity is impossible — then he is pure completely, inwardly in his heart toward God and outwardly toward everything under him on earth. Then everything he is and does, his walking, standing, eating, and drinking, is pure for him; and nothing can make him impure.

So it is when he looks at his own wife or fondles her, as the patriarch Isaac did (Gen. 26:8), which a monk regards as disgusting and defiling. For here he has the Word of God, and he knows that God has given her to him. But if he were to desert his wife and take up another, or neglect his job or duty to harm or bother other people, he would no longer be pure; for that would be contrary to Cod’s commandment. But so long as he sticks to these two — namely, the Word of faith toward God, which purifies the heart, and the Word of understanding, which teaches him what he is to do toward his neighbor in his station everything is pure for him, even if with his hands and the rest of his body he handles nothing but dirt.

Therefore be on guard against all your own ideas if you want to be pure before God. See to it that your heart is founded and fastened on the Word of God.

What was the joy of Martin Luther’s discovery, actually rediscovery of the pearl of great price, in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in creation, redemption and sanctification? Answer: the Word of God and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, our very Holy Spirit-uality. A hospice patient knew where his spirituality was found. This is our joy as well.

Let us pray: 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.

About Philemon and Onesimus:  Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. Although the name “Onesimus” means “useful,” Onesimus proved himself “useless” when he ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (Philemon 18).  Somehow Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome), and through Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After confessing to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, he was directed by Paul to return to his master and become “useful” again. In order to help pave the way for Onesimus’ peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and “to receive him as you would receive me” (v. 17), “no longer as a slave, but as a beloved brother” (v. 16). The letter was eventually included by the church as one of the books of the New Testament.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

The Book of Philemon  is the third shortest book in the Bible and it is one of the Apostle Paul’s Epistles and you can read it here.

 “Oh, he’s useless…no good.”  “What a useless waste of time!”  “It’s useless.  I give up!”  At one time or another we have all said something like that and it is a word of judgment, of law: a judgment of others or of our selves. It appears that in the  house and home of Philemon, Onesimus was indeed useless.  He was not living up to his own name, Onesimus, “Useful”. We are not told in what ways he was useless as a slave.  Not obedient?  Slothful?  He had talents and abilities he did not use?   Maybe he did a lot of “brown-nosing”?  We do not know.  But he was useless. We do not know why Onesimus ran away.  Maybe he wanted to be free, but freedom, as bondage is of two types:  physical and spiritual and sometimes they cannot be readily separated.

A conjecture is, as the Lord caught up to Jonah as Jonah ran away and as Jonah,  Onesimus’ uselessness was catching up to him as he ran away and the Lord found him in a jail…with His Apostle!  Then what a conversation Onesimus and the Apostle must have had in that jail cell! The Apostle did not command that Onesimus be welcomed back by his owner, Philemon. The Church overly loves to legislate. At a wedding, a Roman Catholic said to me, What I like about the Lutherans they don’t have rules.  I chuckled and said, We find the 10 commandments quite sufficient.   In fact, it seems that the Apostle did not issue many rules and regs.   For instance:  When the Church in Corinth was allowing for prostitution, Paul did not appeal to the 6th Commandment, but of course he clearly points out what they were doing was sin.  But the remedy is not the Law but the Gospel:

18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6)

The Law does not save but shows we need saving.  Flee from immorality, wrote Paul. Onesimus  may have thought he was fleeing  from wrong but there is no escape from God’s Law. And the Gospel Word alone finds us as the Lord did through His Apostle. The Law catches up to us and catches us up. The Gospel catches us in Christ’s forgiveness and frees us from our entanglements. The Apostle’s appeal is to the Gospel by which the Lord forms us in His grace, mercy and peace and has redeemed us and our brother next to us, even a runaway slave the Apostle met in jail. His appeal is to Who’s we are and who has bought us, “…with a price”:  the blood of Christ.  The Law shows us when we are useless, the Gospel of the grace of Christ makes us useful through faith in Him by His grace:

I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. (Philemon)

Lord God, heavenly Father, You sent Onesimus back to Philemon as a brother in Christ, freeing him from his slavery to sin through the preaching of the Apostle St. Paul. Cleanse the depths of sin within our souls and bid resentment cease for past offenses, that, by Your mercy, we may be reconciled to our brothers and sisters and our lives will reflect Your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

About Valentine:  A physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of Emperor Claudius, Valentine became one of the noted martyrs of the third century. The commemoration of his death, which occurred in AD 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the Early Church of the West. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, Valentine left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly shaped piece of paper. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine’s Day in many nations.(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection: I am at the age in life to begin a sentence, When I was a kid…I remember Valentine’s Day as day for cards and kisses but now it has become something else with the denial of true marriage.  We now ‘live’ in  a culture in which The Church of the Self is pre-eminent and utterly dogmatic,  and it’s Sacrament is Coitus Non Interruptus and Non Fecundus, and Hosts of the Priests and Priestesses in the orders of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW fulfill it’s mission and abortion is it’s excommunication with no chance of repentance and life, then Valentine’s is the High Holy Day.  Our vain attempts at love on the basis of fallen desire will only make for greater sadness for the limited gladness it offers.  “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

It is obvious that the actual Valentine and with him, all the saints in Christ Jesus, speak of a love which is holy…Who is Holy.  This Love died for sinners and rose again so our love may be His. There seems to be a longing on Valentine’s Day, on day in which a Christian by the name of Valentinus was martyred for love which never dies.  

Oh, love, how deep, how broad, how high,
Beyond all thought and fantasy,
That God, the Son of God, should take
Our mortal form for mortal’s sake!

The Lord knows about love, for He is love, but love is not God.  We’re like the ancient Romans in that respect making love a god (Aphrodite/Venus). There is a tradition that at the time of Valentine, marriage was forbidden by the Empire and Valentine would secretly preside at marriages in Christ. (See Would Saint Valentine Be A Christian Martyr For Marriage Again Today?, The Federalist) This is tradition is almost prophetic in our day and time as marriage is denied and false marriage is applauded because of a presidential candidate.  We must not only decry the attempts to curtail marriage and family, we must also lift marriage up. This love between husband and wife is physical and spiritual and both are holy.  In His love alone can we learn to love.  Please pray…

Almighty and everlasting God, You kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Your holy martyr Valentine. Grant to us, Your humble servants, a like faith and the power of love, that we who rejoice in Christ’s triumph may embody His love in our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Concordia and Koinonia

Let us pray:   

Triune God, whose very Name is holy, teach us to be faithful hearers and learners of Your Word , fervent in the Spirit as Apollos was, that we may teach it correctly against those who have been led astray into false and error and that we might follow the example of Aquila and Priscilla for the good the Church You established here and entrusted into our humble care;  for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Aquila and his wife Priscilla (Prisca), Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul, traveled widely. Because of  persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tentmaking (Acts 18:1-3). They, in turn, joined him in his mission of proclaiming the Christian Gospel. The couple later traveled with Paul from Corinth to…

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