Collect of the Day

Almighty God, Your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise You for the gifts of grace imparted to Your servant Johann, and we pray that by his teaching we maybe led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

About Johann Gerhard:  Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) and the most influential of the seventeenth-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (twenty-three large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the superintendent of Heldburg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

A Reading from Pr. Gerhard, cited in The Treasury of Daily Prayer, A Prayer by Pr. Gerhard:

You, most faithful God, perform the duties of a faithful and skillful doctor in healing the mortal wounds of my soul. You heal them by the wounds of Your Son. there is danger that the healed wounds will be reopened, but Your Spirit prevents this with grace like a poultice.

After receiving the forgiveness of sins, so many people return to their former way of living.  By repeating their sins, they offend God all the more grievously. We see so many who were freed from the yoke of sin only to return to the bondage that once held them. So many of those who have been led out of the spiritual Egypt look back to its fleshpots of carnal pleasures (Exodus 16:3). After recognizing Christ, they flee the defilement of the world but become entangled in it again as they return to their former evil ways (2 Peter 2:20). They were freed from the bonds of Satan through conversion. Trapped again by Satan’s bonds, they hold fast to the deception of evil spirits. Their last state is surely worse than their first (Luke 11:26). It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, for them to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Peter 2:21). They are like dogs that return to their vomit or like pigs that wallow in muck after they are washed (2 Peter 2:22).

The same can happen to me if You do not keep me on the good path through Your powerful grace and the effective working of Your Holy Spirit.  The same evil spirit that captured them attacks me. The same world that seduced them entices me. The same flesh that secured them lures me. Only Your grace protects me against these attacks and with with the power necessary for victory.  Your  strength supplies the power I  need in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). You my  spirit the strength to restrain the passion of the flesh. Whatever is good in me comes from You, the font of all good things, because in me, by nature, there is nothing but sin. I have to acknowledge that all the good works I do—which are nevertheless impure because of the corruption and imperfection of my flesh—are gifts of Your grace. I will give You thanks forever because of Your immeasurable gift to me. Amen.—Johann Gerhard  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy, translated by Pr. Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

Reflection:  Pr. Gerhard is one of my favorite theologians because he prayed with the Church, he preached and taught the Scriptures with the Church and desired to give praise to God alone through His mercies in Jesus Christ for him and us all.

His sermons are wellsprings of Scripture.  As one pastor wrote in a volume of Gerhard’s sermons:  “He saw the New Testament through Old Testament eyes”, as the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.  Rev. Prof. Gerhard lived and breathed the Scriptures as they are the very words of the Holy Spirit writ into His creation for our redemption in Jesus Christ. We learn doctrine and life from Jesus Christ, as sound doctrine is life:

My sheep here My voice He says, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give them eternal Life. Just as Christ’s  teachings are a complete rule of faith, so also is His life a clear, complete mirror for every good work. Learn from Me, He says in Matt, 11-29, as if to say: You have enough to learn about My love, about My patience, My humility, meekness, friendliness to do you for the rest of your lives. As a result, you will well forget about the commandments of men with which you serve God fruitlessly and in vain, Matt. 15:9. O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, highly praised in all eternity: Give us all such an obedient, willing heart for following the voice of Christ in doctrine and life. 

You can read more quotes from Pr. Gerhard here for your edification in Christ Jesus:

On Holy Communion:

What can be more intimately united to the Lord than His own human nature, which He hath taken, in His incarnation, into fellowship with the adorable Trinity, and thus made the treasury of all the blessings that heaven has to bestow? What is so intimately joined to Him as His own body and blood? With this truly heavenly food He refreshes our souls, who are as miserable worms of the dust before Him, and makes us partakers of His own nature; why then shall we not enjoy His gracious favor? Who ever yet hated his own flesh (Ephesians 5:29)? How then can the Lord hate us, to whom He giveth His body to eat and His blood to drink? How can He possibly forget those to whom He bath given the pledge of His own body? How can Satan gain the victory over us when we are strengthened and made meet for our spiritual conflicts with this bread of heaven ?

On Christ’s Crucifixion and the Church:

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife ; but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and will as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth ; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. V. 26).

On John the Baptist and Steadfastness:

 “…John’s (the Baptist) steadfastness is held up as an example to be followed by all faithful teachers—indeed also by all true Christians. John was not a reed. He did not allow himself to be deterred from the pathway of truth and from his calling by the world’s cunning and temptation.  So also Christians are not to be fickle and erratic like a reed.  Rather, they are to be grounded like pillars and columns in the house of God.   1 Tim. 3: 15, Rev. 3: 12ff

On Peter’s Denial and God’s Power:

 “We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall (i.e. his denial), in order that we avoid the same. He was entirely too daring (presumptuous)–meaning that it all depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he noticed others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain. Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our own faith, or on our good intentions. God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.”

On Meditation: 

“Let holy meditation produce in thee a knowledge of thy true condition, and this lead thee to conviction of sin, and conviction beget in thee a spirit of devotion, and this indite thy prayer. Silence of the mouth is an excellent thing for peace of heart.  

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou Bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

(The Lutheran Hymnal, “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones”, #475)

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and foreve

The Mother of the Lord:  

St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen of specific incidents in her life being recorded:

  • her betrothal to Joseph;
  • the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah;
  • her visitation to Elizabeth,
  • the mother of John the Baptizer;
  • the nativity of our Lord;
  • the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men;
  • the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple;
  • the flight into Egypt;
  • the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee;
  • her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John;
  • and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Acts 1                                                                                                

Thus, she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Readings for the Day:  Isaiah 61:7-11Galatians 4:4-7Luke 1:39-55

A Reflection:  I think the Roman Catholic problem with Mary is that they make much too much of her which has no Scriptural warrant.  I think the Lutheran problem with Mary has been we make much too little of her importance which likewise has no Scriptural warrant.  We should not pray to her, and neither should we think we have prayed her away.

The Scripture records what she prayed:  “My soul doth magnifies the Lord.”  The problem with many Roman Catholics and Lutheran we do not magnify the Lord as did the Virgin Mary. Too much ‘theology’ magnifies how good we are, not the goodness of the LORD. What or who do we magnify in our lives?  I find my own question embarrassing.  Think of what the world magnifies:  fame, wealth, power and the temple of the  self and I have wanted it all.  Not Mary.  For instance: Mary did not “shop till she dropped”.  Her Son was not a choice but her Child. All births are God’s planned parenthood for us. She loved her Son.  She magnified the Lord as she had faith.  She magnified, made big in her life God’s grace to her in bearing the Only-Begotten Son of God.  She bore her Savior and yours as God came to her, Emmanuel, God with us.

“Granting that the blessed Mary prays for the Church, does she receive souls in death, does she conquer death [the great power of Satan], does she make alive? What does Christ do if the blessed Mary does these things? Although she is most worthy of the most ample honors, nevertheless she does not wish to be made equal to Christ, but rather wishes us to consider and follow her example [the example of her faith and her humility].” (The Book of Concord, Invocation of the Saints)

A colleague of mine once said during the fad of “WWJD” bracelets (What Would Jesus Do) that it actually should be “WWMD”:  what would Mary do?  Good question.  The answer?  She heard the Word of God, the Word of grace.  She believed and obeyed.  She was a faithful wife. She prayed.  She suffered.  She served her Lord and her neighbor in her vocation as Mother and Wife.  It was all the Lord’s work toward her and the fruit of her faith.  And like any child, wanted or not, is a gift of God’s good creation. And Mary’s greatest gift is still the fruit of her womb, Jesus. She is the model of the faithful believer, even the whole Church. “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”--Galatians 4: 19

Concordia and Koinonia

Theology and Doxology
Wednesday of Epiphany 5
8 February 2017
Theology and doxology are inseparable. Praise of God and faith in Him must spring from speaking about God using the Word of God. The Word’s own claims of power unto salvation drive us to confess the truth of the word that we obediently convey to the world in the discipline of theology. The Word of God is never a dead letter, rather being spirit and life, it gives life and salvation to us who are dying and by nature damned sinners.

Who, when granted such a salvation, would not break forth in paeans of glory to the God who becomes man for our sakes in Christ? Who would not praise the one who breaks the darkness? Who would not offer prayers to honor the God who debases Himself in our Lord Jesus for our sakes? Theology that does not echo…

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“The Didache … also known as The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations … is a brief anonymous early Christian treatise written in Koine Greek, dated by modern scholars to the first or (less commonly) second century AD. The first line of this treatise is “The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the twelve apostles”.The text, parts of which constitute the oldest extant written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization. The opening chapters describe the virtuous Way of Life and the wicked Way of Death. The Lord’s Prayer is included in full. Baptism is by immersion, or by affusion if immersion is not practical. Fasting is ordered for Wednesdays and Fridays. Two… Eucharistic prayers are given.” (Wikipedia)

In other words, the Divine Service, the Liturgy of Holy Communion and its order, has an ancient provenance.  The Didache quote below is about the Eucharist, or the Holy Communion. The Didache is a catechism as is the Liturgy. Ever changing novelty only teaches novelty. A true Christian catechism teaches Christ and the Way of Life in Him.

Now about the Eucharist: This is how to give thanks: First in connection with the cup:

“We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your child, which you have revealed through Jesus, your child. To you be glory forever.”

Then in connection with the piece [broken off the loaf]:

“We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have revealed through Jesus, your child. To you be glory forever. “As this piece [of bread] was scattered over the hills and then was brought together and made one, so let your Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom. For yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.”

You must not let anyone eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptized in the Lord’s name. For in reference to this the Lord said, “Do not give what is sacred to dogs.”

After you have finished [the Sacrament], say grace in this way: “We thank you, holy Father, for your sacred Name which you have lodged in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have revealed through Jesus, your child. To you be glory forever.

“Almighty Master, ‘you have created everything’ for the sake of your name, and have given men food and drink to enjoy that they may thank you. But to us you have given spiritual food and drink and eternal life through Jesus, your child.

“Above all, we thank you that you are mighty. “Remember, Lord, your Church, to save it from all evil and to make it perfect by your love. Make it holy, ‘and gather’ it ‘together from the four winds’ into your Kingdom which you have made ready for it. For yours is the power and the glory forever.” “Let Grace come and let this world pass away.” “Hosanna to the God of David!”

               —Didache (As quoted in The Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 17976-17980). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.)

Let us pray…

Mighty God, Your crucified and buried Son did not remain in the tomb for long. Give us joy in the tasks set before us, that we might carry out faithful acts of service as did Joanna, Mary, and Salome, offering to You the sweet perfume of our grateful hearts, so that we, too, may see the glory of Your resurrection and proclaim the Good News with unrestrained eagerness and fervor worked in us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Other appropriate prayers include: For a humble spirit; For strength during dark times; For the proud, that they might repent; For those facing dark times, that they may find their light in Jesus; For the Church at large, that we might share the love of Jesus with our humble service to others

Lessons: Psalm 45:1-9 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Luke 23:54-24:11 or Mark 16:1-8

Joanna, Mary, and Salome:  Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of Matthew (28:1), Mark (16:1), and Luke (24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Lk. 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alphaeus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Mt. 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.


“Why was Christ’s resurrection revealed to these women first? There are several answers.

  • First, God was keeping His ancient custom of choosing what is foolish, undistinguished, and despised in the eyes of the world in order to put the strong and lofty to shame. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-28) These women were despised not only due to the weakness of their gender but also because of Galilee, their homeland. (see John 1:46But God exalts them by revealing to them the resurrection of His Son, which is an excellent article of our faith.
  • Indeed, He even sends them to the apostles to share the message of Christ’s resurrection with them, so that they become, as the ancients say, like “apostles to the apostles” …
  • Third, in this way God wanted to prevent the accusations of the Jews. The high priests lied, saying that Christ’s disciples had stolen the body of their master. In order to provethe shamelessness and absurdity of this lie, it happened by God’s marvelous providence that these women came to the grave before the apostles. Now, it is highly unlikely that these few women could have stolen the body from a grave guarded by soldiers and closed by a large stone.
  • Fourth, through the woman Eve, death came to all human beings. On account of this, Christ wanted His resurrection, which brings us righteousness and life, to be told to others by women. At the fall of the first human being, these three worked together: the devil, who deceived; the woman, who proclaimed his talk further; the man, who ate and corrupted human nature. So also,Christ’s resurrection, these three worked together: Christ, who rose and redeemed human nature; the angel, who proclaimed the resurrection; and the women, who carried the joyful message further.

Now if Christ was pleased with the zeal of these women, which was yet bound together with significant weaknesses of faith, and did not let them come away from the tomb empty, how much less will He let those go away empty who in true faith seek Him who rules at the right hand of the Father!”—Martin Chemnitz (He has been called the “second Martin”, the first being Martin Luther;  all of the above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)


The holy women brought myrrh.  We remember myrrh every Christmas as the magi brought gifts of  “gold, frankincense and myrrh”.  The magi were hard-core pagan magicians and unexpectedly they bring expensive gifts for the King!  Myrrh was a costly ointment used for fragrance and especially for burial. The magi’s gift of myrrh was already pointing to the Lord’s death.

Myrrh covered the smell of death, but it is finally only perfume, a cover up and sin and death “stinks to high heaven”.   “While fallen human nature exults the proud, the arrogant, the conceited, and we even teach people how to be more so as we encourage them to be more self-confident and self-assertive, the Lord exalts the humble and opposes the proud (Luke 1:52; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 3:8).” (Pr. Rickert, from his posting on this commemoration). The faithful women bear myrrh to the tomb and unexpectedly they find out:  He is risen!  O Lord, the holy women came to anoint Your Body in the Tomb and You did anoint them, and us, eternally with Your Risen Life!  You anoint us with the grace of Your forgiveness in the anointing of the Holy Ghost! They did not have to anoint His Body!  As  Christ Jesus is the sweet fragrance of His Resurrection by which He has conquered death, no cover-up of death  but swallowing  up death, may we be the aroma of the risen Christ in this vain and violent world: Christ the death of death our foe, Christ the life of all the living, as we look to heaven with all your saints and the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting. 

In the Song of Solomon, myrrh is used to scent the marital bed.  This can remind us that the Church is His bride. The Church is His body, see 1 Corinthians 12.  We are to serve another in His Church, His body, anointing each other in service and agape.  1 Corinthians 13 is the “love chapter”, the agape or the charity chapter in which we are enjoined in the service of each other, Christ’s living body as He is the head, in His charis, His grace by which we are anointed in the Holy Spirit by faith.  

Along with Joanna, Mary and Salome, we are joined with Paul and all the Church as the “aroma of Christ”:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2)

The prayer of Agur, Prov. 30, 8-9, is very necessary in our days when the love of money, covetousness, is stalking through the land, sowing dissatisfaction, and strife in every station of life.

This quote is from Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s commentary on the entire Bible, completed in 1924. His comment about the Prayer of Agur, is from his comments on St. Luke 12:13–21, which is about covetousness, as are many passages in the Bible, including the 9th and 10th Commandments. The 20s were also known as the Roaring 20s. In spite of prohibition, drinking, partying, lots of cash, and wild behavior seem to characterize this decade, then came the Great Depression. It is sobering that Dr. Kretzmann wrote at that time the problem in the USA was, as he saw it, based upon the Bible: “covetousness is stalking through the land”. Pious hyperbole? Hardly, as Dr. Kretzmann’s phrase fits our time to a T as well. Then and now, the problem is we like our stalker, even love our coveting. It is the basis of a consumer society, capitalism and it’s servant advertising. Yet, we don’t think covetousness is that bad, after all it’s fun to shop. What has been the result of our covetous desires? The abundance of possessions. “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We think our possessions are our life. Are we any happier because of abundance of our possessions? We are obese with our stuff. How obese? I came across these stats:

Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).

3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

I came across these quotes from the becomingminimalist website…and there are 19 other facts about our consumption, such as:

 Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal).

We can say possessions are evil and sound pious, but that is not the truth. After all matter matters as God created the material world and gave a commandment about our possessions: Thou shalt not steal. Yet, possessions are intrinsically not evil. It’s about the heart desiring them, and then we have anxiety and every uptick or downturn in economics we are either are happy or depressed. We think we possess our possessions but our possessions possess us. We have a false god, extolled in our consumer society. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Give up our idols as the Lord gave Himself up as fragrant offering for our sin. Stop buying what you don’t need. Delete your Amazon app. Don’t walk in all your stuff, you’ll trip and fall. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5. What we have does not have to have us. We can die to sin as Christ bore our sin. We can use our treasure for those who do not have. We can use our treasure in hospitality, for the truth of the Word, and care of His Church, His Body (note: the Church is not soul of Christ, but the BODY of Christ, cf. 1 Corinthians 12). We should pray the Prayer of Agur and it is very necessary these days: in 1922 and 2022. A “roaring economy” might be the devil, a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, stand firm in your faith (see 1 Peter 5: 8-9) and pray at all times: Lead us not into temptation.

Biography:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge,England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled “Sententiae.” Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, Saint Robertus.” (The Treasury of Daily Prayer/CPH)

The following is a quote  by Luther (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer):

This Dr. Robert Barnes we certainly knew, and it is a particular joy for me to hear that our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest has been so graciously called by God to pour out his blood and to become a holy martyr for the sake of His dear Son. Thanks, praise, and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who again, as at the beginning, has granted us to see the time in which His Christians, before our eyes and from our eyes and from beside us, are carried off to become martyrs (that is, carried off to heaven) and become saints. 

Now, since this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes, heard at the time that his King Henry VIII of England was opposed to the pope, he came back to England with the hope of planting the Gospel in his homeland and finally brought it about that it began. To cut a long story short, Henry of England was pleased with him, as is his way, until he sent him to us at Wittenberg in the marriage matter.[1]

Dr. Robert Barnes himself often said to me: Rex mews non curat religionem, Sed est, etc. [“My king does not care about religion, but he is,” etc.]. Yet he loved his king and homeland so keenly that he willingly endured everything like that and always thought to help England .And it is indeed true that one who would not be optimistic toward his homeland and would not wish everything good for his prince must be a shameful rogue, as not only the Scriptures but also all our laws teach. He always had these words in his mouth: Rex mews, regem meum [“my king, my king”], as his confession indeed indicates that even until his death he was loyal toward his king with all love and faithfulness, which was repaid by Henry with evil. Hope betrayed him. For he always hoped his king would become good in the end.

Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.[2]

 Reflection:  The narrative of St. Robertus is an illustration of the Biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms as rediscovered by the blessed Reformers.  According to Romans 13, the Lord rules through temporal kingdoms, or nations, for the well-being of temporal order, peace, security and the like and then through His kingdom, His spiritual reign through the coming of His reign, in the crucifixion, Resurrection and ascension of His beloved Son, and His reign is eternal. As the Lord rules through both, Christians are citizens of both and St. Robert did want to serve his King. We are to do our best as Americans to be “optimistic” in regards to our “homeland” and “wish everything good” for our government, and that is enough.  The temporal kings (rulers, president, prime ministers and the like) are placed there by God but not as God!  When any government, or church, would tell us not to preach and teach Jesus Christ, in word and/or deed, nor the 10 Commandments, then we respond with the Apostle’s words:  “We must obey God rather than men”  (Acts 5:29). As Robert did and as Roman Catholic Thomas More, who did not agree with the King on the marriage matter said just before his execution, likewise ordered by King Henry VIII:  “The king’s good servant, but God’s first.”  So with St. Robert and as Christians we are the king’s better servants because our hope is not for this world alone.

We give thanks for the martyrs in our day in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya who obeyed the Lord and not the state.

“Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.

[1] The “marriage matter”, or the “great matter” was King Henry the VIII’s desire to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, and the only way a divorce was granted was by the Pope’s annulment of a marriage.  The Pope did not so grant, so the King, who had considered himself a devout Roman Catholic, eventually declared himself the head of the Church in England.  The monarchs of the United Kingdom have been the head of the Church of England ever since.  This struggle to separate the English Church from the Roman Church was a time of great turmoil resulting in more than the execution of St. Robert Barnes, such as the beheading of Henry’s faithful Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More. Luther was not for the divorce.

[2] As it is written in Ephesians, our struggle is not against flesh and  blood but against the powers and principalities in the heavenly places. Our prayer is for the Lord’s vengeance against wrongdoing and wrong doers, make no mistake about that, but not as Christians to slay the wicked! As Pastor Andrew Preus wrote in his article “Learning to Pray from the Imprecatory Psalms”:

“The devil would love to make us cry out curses with our own words and our own thoughts out of our own pride. James and John asked Jesus concerning the Samaritans who did not receive him, “Lord, should we tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:54)?” But the imprecatory psalms don’t have us call the fire down. They have us rather call God down. God is the one who brings vengeance (Deut 32:35Rom 12:19). And he does this in his own time and wisdom as he reveals his own patience toward us and all sinners (2 Pet 3:9). Therefore Jesus rebuked his overzealous disciples. What begins with anger against injustice can, if the devil and the flesh are given opportunity, turn into prideful curses that reflect the will of the beast (Rev. 13:13) rather than the will of God.”

St. Luke 12: 15

Intro: the quote below is from the Becomingminimalist website. These are scary stats in the light of God’s Word of Law and Promise:

Here are 21 surprising statistics about our clutter that help us understand how big of a problem our accumulation has actually become.

1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

3. And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

4. While 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

5. The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self storage roofing (SSA).

6. British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily (The Telegraph).

7. 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

8. The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

9. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes).

10. While the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

11. Nearly half of American households don’t save any money (Business Insider).

12. But our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).

13. Some reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago (The Story of Stuff).

14. Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).

15. Americans donate 1.9% of their income to charitable causes (NCCS/IRS). While 6 billion people worldwide live on less than $13,000/year (National Geographic).

16. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).

17. Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (Affluenza).

18. Women will spend more than eight years of their lives shopping (The Daily Mail).

19. Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items.The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list (The Daily Mail).

20. Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal).

21. The $8 billion home organization industry has more than doubled in size since the early 2000’s—growing at a staggering rate of 10% each year (Uppercase, note: link no longer available).

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (St. John 11:5)

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel according to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Pentecost 6 SERMON Year C 2022 CLM, Text: St. Luke 10:38–42 

Today is the Commemoration of Martha, Mary and Lazarus and from the Collect of the Day, “Heavenly Father…Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus.” Serve, Learn, Raised are the three verbs in the Collect of the Day above with the subjects being respectively Martha, Mary and Lazarus. These verbs describe our life of faith in Jesus.  These three verbs describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the true faith in Christ in making us holy, the work of sanctification, as we are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Our homes, like Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ home can be outposts of God’s reign, yes, heaven…or hell houses.

Serve   Right after the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we read Jesus and His disciples come to the home of Jesus’ friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, sisters, and brother.  38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. Inviting Jesus meant welcoming 12 disciples. They could rest in the hospitality of their home.  This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. As we are told in St. John 11: 5, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” The word “welcome” is the same used of Zacchaeus welcoming Jesus.  Martha invited Jesus into her and her sister’s Mary house.  She welcomed Him.  She was hospitable…and so was Mary. Hospitality is the basis of Jesus sending the 72.  Those who welcome the 72, sent out two by two, with the good message of the reign of God and His shalom, welcomes the One who sent them, and receives the Father who sent His only begotten Son to be born of the Virgin Mary. 

And more: welcoming Jesus Christ was socially unusual in that day:  a woman welcomes Jesus, rabbi, and a man, into her home, and that Jesus accepts her hospitality:‘not only the role Mary assumes, but also the task Jesus performs in this story is in contrast to what was expected of a Jewish man and woman’.  Mary, Martha and Lazarus were dying to hear the Word of the Gospel, as we, so man-made social customs are shed at times.

And hospitality is not simply a footnote to this short narrative but essential to the Bible. Jesus comes to their home…as He did so many centuries before, to the tents of Abraham and Sarah, receiving their hospitality…for the Lord had joyous news, as He had promised: they would have a son in their old age.  There is a famed Orthodox icon of this Scripture entitled, the Hospitality of Abraham. The child of promise, from who’s seed would be born the Messiah.  And what did Sarah do when she heard the news?  She laughed. When the Lord says, Sarah laughed, verse 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”  The Scriptures tell us that a qualification of pastors is to provide hospitality. All our homes are for guests to find warm welcomes to the Word of God.  Our homes provide a warm welcome to our guests. It is providential that little Lexington has a yearly opportunity for public hospitality:  adopt a rat.   “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let Thy gifts to us be blest”.  So in our homes, and here in the House of God we can…

Learn  Do you think that Jesus and His disciples asked upon arriving at Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ home, Hey, what’s for dinner?  The question is a hopeful and happy question of expectation.  We quickly find out in this short narrative who is feeding whom and with what food.  There were two hosts in the Bethany home:  Martha and Jesus. Martha as hostess was busy with much serving:  cooking, setting the table, then cleaning up in order to feed the guests.  Jesus was giving to Mary, “the good portion that will not be taken away.”  The Greek Word for “Portion” was used for a meal. We know how to feed ourselves, that is, our bodies.  With the Holy Spirit and the grace of the Lord, we know we have hungers and thirsts that are not physical but of a spiritual nature. The Lord feeds us our daily bread and the Bread of His Word as He is Himself the Bread of Life. Martha went about serving.  Mary sat learning…every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  Taste and see that the Lord for His mercy endures forever.  What does the Lord want to teach us? Jesus, teach us to pray day by day hour by hour in all circumstances of life and for ourselves and our neighbors in all conditions of life. Teach us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Open the Scriptures to us that we may know and do Your. Give us hope as we hear of the ways You have been with Your people Israel. Teach us love and serve our neighbor. Open the treasures of Your Word.

Martha did not like it that she had all the dinner chores. Martha sounded resentful.  She said to Jesus, Tell my sister to help me.  She commanded the Lord to tell Mary to help and accused Him of being uncaring! But Jesus loves the welcoming Martha as well as Mary, as He did their brother Lazarus. He did not lecture her. The problem was not Martha serving and Mary learning as the Lord knows the bottom of our hearts:

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things   Many things is as vast a territory as in Luther’s explanation of the 1st commandment, we are to fear, love and trust in God above all things.  We live in age of anxiety and trouble. We live in a Martha world.  Anxiety. He diagnosed the problem…

 We are all Martha some time or another.  Things come crashing in us.  We are overwhelmed by all the demands of the day.  We wonder will there be enough?  Can we pay the mortgage?  Or if things are everything okay, the “what if’s” attack, What if I lose my job, What if I don’t go the college I want, What if I don’t do FILL-IN-THE BLANK, I’ll just die. I’ve left so many things undone, and done so many things I should not have.  IN the media age of increasing amounts of information,  feeds the Old Adam in his anxiety and trouble from the health scare of the week to terrorists all over and what if someone were to break into your home. Anxiety and trouble kills us.  Jesus came to kill sin, the Old Adam and give life in His Word to the anxious and troubled. He came to be killed by the trouble and anxiety of the world in His sinless body to forgive and renew us by His death and His indestructible life.

Many things and Jesus said there is the one thing needful: The many and the one: Sabbath rest in His Word. This lesson illustrates the 3rd commandment, 

The Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

  If the Sabbath rest in His Word is not there, then the heart is cold and bare, frightened and scared runs to and fro, for every wind of doctrine and spiritual ‘experiences’.  Mary despised not Christ’s doctrine, neither did Martha.  They both needed the one thing needful, the good portion that will not be taken away. Martha welcomed Jesus.    The need for the one outweighs the needs of the many if the One is Jesus Christ.   If God’s Word of Law and Promise, the Law and the Prophets fulfilled in Jesus Christ and preached in all doctrinal purity and the Sacraments are not administered according to Christ’s command, who cares?   All is the darkness of busy-ness, shouting and screaming, look at all our good deeds, good feelings, good times. No, look, behold:  the good Lord Who gives us what we need.

In John’s Gospel, chapter 11, Martha confesses Jesus is the Christ, chapter 11, after the death of her brother.   This is the good portion, one thing that is needed, they both heard.  Mary meets Jesus on the road and again falls at His feet and cries out that my brother would not have died if you had been here.  She knew whom to turn to as did Martha.  At the whole tangled mess of anxiety and trouble, the sisters  turned not to themselves but Him, His Word. Our spirituality is God’s Word, every Word in the Bible, every Word sung and prayed, every Word faithfully taught and preached, the one thing needful, daily repentance turning toward Him our Sabbath Lord.  Sabbath teaches we cannot save ourselves.  The one thing needful is His Word of grace, mercy and peace to do the one thing needed:  help and serve our neighbor in our various vocations. We so serve not to be saved but because we are saved by grace, grace alone.

“You shall observe the worship day/that peace may fill your house, and pray./And put aside the work you do, /So that God may work in you.”/Have mercy, Lord!” (LSB #581)

The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively,  the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love…in hope and so,

Raised  The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers tend to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, John chapter 11, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her:   “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”. Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff! Now she will believe in Him  And she loved her sister and brother. So, when it comes down to it:  it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person. Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and know both contemplation and action, or service, around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world…

…and we are also Lazarus.  Nothing that Lazarus spoke is recorded in the Bible. He was not present when Jesus first met them, at least we are not told.  Lazarus was acted upon by the Lord:  raised.  Our salvation is utterly passive:  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Death is both spiritual and physical.  We were dead in our trespasses (Colossians 2:13). The spiritual and physically dead cannot raise themselves  Our words cannot create life only the Lord’s does.  I cannot raise me. It takes God Himself to do so in the resurrection of absolution/forgiveness and on the last day.  We are Mary, Martha and Lazarus and in common with them, the Lord has given us faith in Him in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

We are also told by the Evangelist St. John that,

 “ Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.”

They gave a dinner for Lazarus!  Oh, to be a fly on that wall! And there is Martha serving again! This was just a week before Jesus Himself would give Himself up in crucifixion for the life of the world and rise for our justification (Romans 4:25). And in the night in which He was betrayed, He made a dinner for us all to be fed and watered by the Lord’s almighty nail imprinted hand:  The Lord’s Supper or the Mass or the Divine Service, the Holy Communion.  His body and blood us all as we are Martha, Mary and Lazarus, to serve Christ as He served and serves us,  and our neighbor as Martha, learn Christ as Mary(cf. Ephesians 4:20) as the Holy Spirit teaches us the Word of the Bible and be raised as Lazarus day by day and in the last day to eternal life (John 6:40}as Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

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