Archive for June, 2012

LCMS President Issues Statement in Response to
U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Health Care Reform Legislation
ST. LOUIS, June 28, 2012—In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today to largely let stand the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, issued the following statement:

“In light of today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), we remain opposed to the controversial birth control mandate, which is one of the requirements included in the law.

“The Court’s decision today guarantees that we will continue to bring awareness to the threat to religious liberty represented by the birth control mandate, which requires virtually all health plans, including those of religious organizations, to cover birth control drugs and products that could cause the death of the unborn. We are opposed to the birth control mandate because it runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life and creates a conflict of conscience for religious employers and insurers, who face steep penalties for non-compliance based upon their religious convictions.

“We will continue to stand with those who have filed suit in the many religious freedom cases pending against the birth control mandate. Through education and civic advocacy, we will continue to educate the public about the vital necessity of protecting our First Amendment right to act according to the tenets of our faith. We remain steadfast in our opposition to the birth control mandate and will continue working to ensure our right to refrain from paying for products and services that conflict with our doctrine about the sanctity of all human life.

“And, regardless of the Court’s decision on the health care reform law, we in the LCMS will continue to uphold the sanctity of all human life while we care for the sick and work to restore the health and well-being of people in our communities and around the world.”

On June 21, 2012, Rev. President Harrison and many other church leaders wrote and signed the following letter:

Putting Beliefs into Practice
An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

Putting Beliefs into Practice

An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

Dear Friends,

Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of countless American citizens.

As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.

That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious authority, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.

The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.

No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.

Sincerely yours,

Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance

Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson
Archbishop of St. Louis

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V.
Superior General of the Sisters of Life

Sister Barbara Anne Gooding, R.S.M.
Director, Department of Religion
Saint Francis Health System

Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

U.S. Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches

The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions
Orthodox Church in America

The Most Blessed Jonah
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All American and Canada
Orthodox Church in America

Imam Faizul R. Khan
Founder and Leader
Islamic Society of Washington Area

The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky
Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations
Orthodox Church in America

The Most Rev. William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Chicago Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Baltimore
Province Little Sisters of the Poor

The Rev. John A. Moldstad
Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann
President Concordia Deaconess Conference
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
Hispanic Evangelical Association

Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann, R.S.M., J.D., J.C.D., M.B.A.
Generalate Secretary
Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan

The Rev. Mark Schroeder
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America

Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, l.s.p.
Communications Director
Little Sisters of the Poor

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
The General Council of the Assemblies of God

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Intro: The Augsburg Confession, the principal doctrinal statement of the theology of Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Phillip Melanchthon. At its heart it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. Signed by leaders of many German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, on June 25, 1530. A few weeks later Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). In 1580 the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was included in the Book of Concord.

This was the scene as described by a Reformation historian(The Book of Concord Historical Introduction) :

“The place where they assembled on Saturday, June 25, at 3 P.M., was not the courtroom, where the meetings of the Diet were ordinarily conducted, but, as the Imperial Herald, Caspar Sturm, reports, the ‘Pfalz,’ the large front room, i. e., the Chapter-room of the Bishop’s palace, where the Emperor lived. The two Saxon chancellors, Dr. Greg. Brueek and Dr. Chr. Beyer, the one with the Latin and the other with the German copy of the Confession, stepped into the middle of the hall, while as many of the Evangelically minded estates as had the courage publicly to espouse the Evangelical cause arose from their seats…The Emperor desired to hear the Latin text. But when Elector John had called attention to the fact that the meeting was held on German soil, and expressed the hope that the Emperor would permit the reading to proceed in German, it was granted. Hereupon Dr. Beyer read the Confession. The reading lasted about two hours; but he read with a voice so clear and plain that the multitude, which could not gain access to the hall, understood every word in the courtyard.” 

What was all the fuss about? In my amateur historical understanding, the center of the fuss was over the following article in The Augsburg Confession, these 2 sentences, these words which changed the Church:

Article IV: Of Justification.

 Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins.  This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4. 

“They” are the papal church and it’s theologians that the catholics (yes, Luther, Melancthon, et.al. understood themselves as faithful catholics) were disputing.  The papal theologians had been teaching and preaching for too long:  Christ, yes, faith in Him, yes, but Christ plus:  works.  When the papal theologians responded to the Augsburg Confession with their Confutation, then Melancthon wrote The Apology of the Augsburg Confession and Melancthon’s apologia (defense) of Article IV was the longest. These two sentences summed up, not the faith of the Reformers, but the faith as taught, preached and written in the Bible.  These two sentences undermined the institutional church’s hegemony on the lives of catholics/Christians with a system of works, obligatory works to gain salvation.  The Reformers presented on this day their Confession, based soundly  upon the Scripture and the 3 Ecumenical Creeds, that salvation in Jesus Christ is sheer gift for sinners who can not attain heaven by anything we can ever do. This lively iconographic image shows Word and Sacraments, the Preaching of Christ and Him crucified, freely given rein for the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people for their faith and faith active in love.

Let us pray…

Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg. Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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In the Two Year Dailty Lectionary, the Gospel Lesson for today is St. John 20: 1-18, the narrative of the Resurrection. Pr. Scott Murray, has another cogent reflection, this one on the reality of the Resurrection in the historical life of the Church, which includes the persecuted Church from his A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year. Then I have an additional reflection.

Christianity stands or falls on the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. If there is no resurrection, neither the life nor the truth of the faith survive.

The faith that disbelieves the resurrection of Christ is of no value when the gun is put to your head and the question is asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” Christian martyrs confessed that Christ was Lord and God when faced with death, rather than fail to confess the living Lord. Who in his right mind dies a literal death for a mythical faith? If Christ’s resurrection is a myth, then I might be excused for declining to die a very literal martyr’s death. A mythical martyrdom is the only one called for by a mythical faith. Yet uncounted thousands with joy embraced the tools of slaughter when brought to the arena, and thanked the living Lord for the privilege of dying for the sake of the name of Christ. If I have a living Lord, what is the worst that my enemies can do to me? Send me home to live with Him. What is the downside to this proposition? Cynical mythologization never survives faithful martyrdom.

All the apostles, save John, died a martyr’s death. Why? Because they had seen the risen Lord. The apostle Paul proclaims the truth of his Gospel and proclamation because the risen Lord stands behind it, bringing to fulfillment the Word. This same Lord still reigns in His Church through His Word. We are not left alone in a world of oppressive mythologies. He is still the living Lord who triumphed for our sakes. He lives that we would live. So live!

Post-script:  Someone could point out that radical Islam too has it’s martyrs, they are willing to die for their “real” faith”, and many think a martyr is a martyr.  First in radical Islam, martyrdom is actually willful and active  suicide, accompanied by the death of others. In Christianity, the Christian martyrs were killed to expel them from body politic.  It was a passive act.

Second, in Islam in general, it is taught that one so martyred assures himself of a place in heaven by his work of death.  Not so Christians:  we do not believe that by so being martyred, we assure ourselves of heaven.  We are given the hope of the life to come, not by what we do, but by what Jesus Christ has done in His death and Resurrection, that is the forgiveness of sin, justification by faith.  Eternal life is gift, never a work.

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Lessons for this Day:

Psalmody:  Psalm 31:9-10, 14-19

Additional Psalm: Psalm 102

Old TestamentReading: Proverbs 22:1-21

New Testament Reading: John 18 

Reflection:  Note above that in the Daily Lectionary at this time, the Gospel readings are from our Lord’s Passion.  It is quite jarring to read about His arrest, suffering, crucifixion, and death, when the hour of darkness overcame Him, in the midst of summer, vacations, lush and verdant fields.  Maybe this contrast is necessary to remind us the power of transgression in our lives and then His so great a salvation.  This reminds of the world God has given us which is good, and of the world, the cosmos which we create which is darkness. Not meant to be jarring, it is such.

 “…but we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Corinthians 1: 23)  Note:  it is “preach”, present tense, not “preached”.  We need to hear of His forgiveness, the growing life of the Holy Spirit in the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ, in the midst of summer. As you go on vacation, attend the preaching and the Sacrament where you are!  Pray every day.

Here is another great reflection by Pr. Scott Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year, on Today’s Gospel:

“Who was the one able to be manhandled by those who arrested Him? No less than the God-man, who God-handled those who came to arrest Him. The mob meant what they did for evil, but He meant it for their good. Those who did not understand what they were doing to God were nevertheless fully understood by Him (Isaiah 53:11). They did not know the plan, yet in them the divine plan was fully implemented. Even for their own sakes it was necessary that He should be arrested and taken to die.

While the powers of evil sought Him, He sought the powers of evil. When the wicked came to apprehend Him with bonds, He came that He might be apprehended by the wicked in order to free them. He offered Himself into their power so that they might have the power “to become children of God” (John1:12). When Judas identified Him as the victim to be taken, He was taken that He might keep them from being victims of a common enemy. The kiss of peace that brought Him chastisement brought us peace (Isaiah 53:5).”

Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinful men to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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About Elisha: Elisha, son of Shaphat of the tribe of Issachar, was the prophet of God to the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 849-786 BC. Upon seeing his mentor, Elijah, taken up into heaven, Elisha assumed the prophetic office and took up the mantle of his predecessor. Like Elijah, Elisha played an active role in political affairs. He also performed many miracles, such as curing the Syrian army commander Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5) and restoring life to the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-7). A vocal opponent of Baal worship, Elisha lived up to his name, which means “my God is salvation.”  

Reflection:  Elisha was the Lord’s prophet who by His Word many great deeds (miracles) were accomplished.  I think the greatest “miracle” was the healing of Naaman the Syria

n:  2 Kings 5. Naaman was a VIP and significantly, a Gentile and a leper.  Being a Gentile and a leper meant Naaman was unclean twice.  (And it be must be noted at this time in the news:  a Syrian).

People will do amazing things to be healed. Naaman the Syrian went afar to find relief and he received even more.  Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, like  a 4 star general.   It just so happens he has a young Israelite girl that he had taken captive as a servant.   He hears from her that there is a “man of God” who might heal him in her country:  Elisha.  General Naaman goes to Israel with his entourage and eventually comes to Elisha’s home:  it would be like a limousine pulling up to a bungalow. “If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1: 40) Elisha tells Naaman to Go wash 7 times in the Jordan and you will be clean;  but Naaman responds to the prophet, “Can’t you just wave your hand and make me clean? Are not the rivers Pharpar and Abana in Syria better than the Jordan?” (fwiw:  I have seen the Jordan River and the Syrian rivers are probably better!)  Then we are told:

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (NIV;   this verse is not in all translations)

If the prophet had told you to do the 40 days of the purpose-driven life, wouldn’t you have done? If the prophet had told you to join a monastery and fast and pray, would you not have done it?  If the prophet told you to witness to a 100 Syrians about the God of Israel, would you not have done it? But just washing in a river?  Everyone does that!

After Naaman’s servants speak so boldly to their master and Naaman does as the Word of God spoken by Elisha tells him.  Naaman made his decision for God? Hardly, he was at his wit’s end.  The General did as he was told. And he was cleansed…but this great deed is the more remarkable for what followed:

15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” 
16 But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.  
17 So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD. 18 Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing.” 
19 Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a short distance.

Naaman comes to faith by the Word of God in the water.  Naaman confesses to Elisha his faith: I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.  Naaman wants to respond in the only way he probably knew how:  monetarily.  He wants to pay for his baptism.  Naaman urged Elisha to accept the gift.  No, says Elisha.  Why?   The Lord’s grace is free and frees.  The greatest miracle for Naaman was faith.  But the story continues with Elisha’s servant Gehazi shaking down Naaman for money.  And Elisha’s response, the judgement of God, drives home the point:  you can not buy God’s grace and favor.  It is free. Gehazi becomes a leper. 

Faith can not be bought or brokered, the Lord creates the faith by His Word which alone heals.  There was greater healing that day in the Jordan:  Naaman’s soul.  Just think:  From an arrogant General to a humble believer saying to a foreigner, “your servant“!  From a non-believer to a worshiper of the true and only LORD in the midst of temple of Rimmon.  

“If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1: 40) What a simple, clean faith.  You can make me whole, You alone.  The leper (Mark 1)  knew he could not make himself clean.  Naaman did not make himself clean.  Only cats clean themselves.  We are not spiritual cats!  We can not clean our souls by our actions or words.  We must turn to water and soap, outside of us, to clean our bodies and so our souls.  I speak of the Word of God.  His Word is in the water, the water of Baptism as it was for that time-conditioned sacrament for Naaman.  “If you will, you can make me clean” “I will;  be clean” (Mark 1:40) This is the I will of His sovereign grace to sinners and His  Word is His will:  Baptism.  This Baptism’s authority comes from the Name of God (Matthew 28:18 ) and the great and powerful deed, central to all human history and each and every individual’s history:  His death and Resurrection (Romans 6: 1-11)

From Martin Luther’s Small Catechism:

How can water do such great things?–Answer.

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghostwhich He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christour Saviorthatbeing justified by His gracewe should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

“He was made clean”

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elisha, You continued the prophetic pattern of leaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

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In a sermon entitled, “Where are you, Adam?”, by Rabbi Marc Gellman (published in First Things), among the many cogent Torah-centered observations he preaches, this is one of many that stands out:

In The Altruistic Personality, their book about Christians who saved Jews during the Holocaust, Samuel and Pearl Oliner asked what distinguished the rescuers from the majority who did nothing, or were complicit. Their conclusion was that they were not distinguished by educational level or by political views or even by attitudes towards Jews. They were, however, different in two critical respects: they were strongly connected to communities that had straightforward and unsophisticated understandings of right and wrong, and they had a powerful sense of moral agency and shame. They said over and over again in interviews that they could not have lived with themselves—and many said they could not have answered before God—if they had not done what they had done. The righteous gentiles of the Holocaust came from communities and families that had prepared the way for their courage by teaching them how to feel shame and therefore virtue and courage. In this country those same institutions are often preparing the way for moral relativism and cowardice by teaching that nobody really knows what is right and what is wrong, so what the hell.

Jesus taught about children being brought to Him and His erstwhile disciples who were preventing parents from bringing  the children to Him, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 19: 14)  Why do children get it, that is Jesus? Children know right from wrong.  It’s that simple.  They know goodness and evil. The families coming to Christ in His reign knew this.  The good fairy tales and children’s stories are filled with this moral clarity.  Children are ashamed when they are caught.  Their understanding is wonderfully unsophisticated.  Rabbi Gellman’s citation is most illuminating.   It was not the academic elites who resisted Nazism and their treatment of the Jews but those who knew right from wrong.  Many were Christians who are derided in our day and time as “fundies”, or cultural neanderthals and the like.  A  good documentary on one village of 5,000 Huguenots in France who saved the lives of 5,000 Jews is Weapons of the Spirit by a man who was saved at birth in Le Chambon, Pierre Sauvage.  Why did those villagers risk so much?  Their answer:  we had too.  Why?

Your Word is a lamp to my feet
   and a light to my path. Psalm 119:  105

His Word is quite clear and lights our path.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (St. Matthew 11)

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About the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, AD 325:  The first Council of Nicaea was convened in the early summer of AD 325 by Roman Emperor Constantine at what is today Iznik,Turkey. The emperor presided at the opening of the council. The council ruled against the Arians, who taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God but was created by the Father and was called Son of God because of His righteousness. The chief opponents of the Arians were Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and his deacon, Athanasius. The council confessed the eternal divinity of Jesus and adopted the earliest version of the Nicene Creed, which in its entirety was adopted at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381.

Reflection:  Some people see this history as simply and terribly as dogmatic Christians getting their way in a power play.  Others see a creed as simply fussy, nit-picking  doctrine.  But the Church knew that in the challenge of Arianism (and all heresies)  something is at stake:  the very basis of the Gospel and the authority of the Scriptures. (This is why the blessed Reformers took their stand on the Word of God).  At stake was (and always is) forgiveness of sinners received by faith in Jesus Christ:  the sinless One in the sinners’ stead ( 2 Corinthians 5:21).  In Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and the way the Lord accomplished this once and for all  was by sending His Son in the flesh, “very God from very God”, the only- begotten Son of God (1 John 4:9, KJV).  This is the sound doctrine of which the Apostle wrote to Timothy and Titus.  Doctrine is life, eternal life.   If the bishops and pastors had not convened and took a stand against false teaching, we would be lost but the Lord will not let us be lost, but found, and so we praise Him for His faithful Church.  Let us  pray:

Lord God, heavenly Father, at the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea, Your Church boldly confessed that it believed in one Lord Jesus Christ as being of one substance with the Father. Grant us courage to confess this saving faith with Your Church through all the ages; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The Nicene Creed

  • I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
  • And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only‐begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.
  • And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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I saw this morning the following bumper sticker message:

“Liberals treat dogs like people while conservatives treat people like dogs.”

Need less to say, this is a nasty swipe at conservatives, but the real problem with the message is that both halves of the statement are plain WRONG:  God’s people are not to treat dogs like people nor people like dogs. This is true for both liberals and conservatives, because both statements are judged false in God’s Word, the Bible. People are to be treated as people, God’s highest creation, initially made in the image of God and redeemed in His beloved Son Jesus Christ.  When people are not so regarded then justification for murder increases, as in abortuaries, concentration camps, euthanasia, gulags, “killing fields” and like horrors. I  think that those who think dogs should be treated as people probably have no problem with, say, abortion. Dogs are treated as pets, not people, one of God’s lesser creatures and so worthy of humane treatment. 

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Almighty God, You called Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labor and suffering You raised up a people for Your own possession. Pour out Your Holy  Spirit upon Your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 Scripture Readings

Psalm 115:1-8 or 31:1-5
Acts 20:17-28
Luke 24:44-53

Introduction: As Patrick was a missionary bishop to Irish people, sent from the Catholic Church in England by the Bishop of Rome (the pope), so was Boniface sent from the same by the Bishop of Rome to the German peoples.  Boniface was martyred on this date in the Year of our Lord, 754. He had returned to Frisia (present-day Holland).   June 5th of 754 was Pentecost.  At sunrise, reading the Gospel to a group of the newly Baptized, Boniface and the neophytes were attacked by a band of pagan Frisians.  All were massacred.  InFulda,Germany, are the remains of Boniface along with the purported Gospel book he was holding with slash marks.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the Church is under such attacks again in our day, for instance see this article.

Boniface has been called “The Apostle to the Germans” but it is historically inaccurate to call him the apostle to Germany

Historical Backdrop: 

  • European Nation states did not come into existence until the 17th century and after (If memory serves).  There were lands, countries and tribes:  see map
  • The Schism between the Eastern and Western halves of the Catholic Church into the Roman Catholic Church and theEasternOrthodoxChurchesoccurred in 1054. 
  • The Reformation began with the posting of the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517.  Boniface lived and ministered the Gospel and Sacraments in the 8th century!

 I recounted to a colleague that my understanding from seminary of early Church history is basically, our Lord ascended into heaven in A.D. 33, the Church became all fouled up and Luther straightened it out in the 16th Century and here we are.  My colleague responded, “Yeah, that’s about right”.  The point is that a lot went on in between those dates!.  If it had not been for the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching, teaching and administration of the Word of God by Boniface and the catholic Church, there would have been no Christians in the German lands.

Biographical Timeline: 

  • ca. 675.  Born in Crediton, Wessex, England. His name was originally Wynfrid.   Note: that at the time of his martyrdom, Boniface was in about 79 years old. 
  • His father took ill and he was sent to the Benedictine school atExeterand then to the Benedictine Monastery in Nursling.  The monastery was noted for it’s learning and it’s concern for missionary activity and there he was ordained at the age of 30.
  • ca. 715: Wynfrid was given permission from his Abbot for missionary work in Frisia (Holland) Wynfrid was about 40 years old.  Missionary work had been done by (St.) Willibrord  (+11 November 739). After a year, Wyndrid realized the time was not ripe for mission work.
  • 717:  Wynfrid’s Abbot died and Wynfrid was elected his successor.
  • 718: Wynfrid resigned as Abbot and a trip toRome (Note: the distance between Holland and Rome; he probably walked) for a missionary assignment.
  • 719:  Pope Gregory II gave Wynfrid a broad missionary assignment in the German lands.  In a Letter to Wynfrid, Gregory II called Wynfrid, “Boniface”, “one who does good” and it may have been nickname or a term of endearment. Boniface went to Thuringia to reform the partly pagan clergy.  Boniface was not the first missionary to the German lands for there was an immoral and hertical clergy ‘ministering’ to the people.  Boniface returned to Frisia to learn Willibrord’s missionary methods.
  • 721:  Boniface went back to the German lands toHesse and established a monastery there
  • 722: Boniface baptized thousands, on Pentecost, according to his biographer, Willibald.  The Pope heard of the success, and so Boniface made a 2nd trip to Rome. On November 30th, the Pope ordained Boniface a Bishop with no fixed diocese in the German lands.
  • 723:   He returned to the mission fields to Hesseand one of the most spectacular events in his mission work occurred when Boniface, “…was to fell the sacred oak tree of Thor (a Norse god), at Geisman in the region of Hesse.  When Boniface was not struck down by the ‘god’, many people were converted and Boniface built a chapel in honor of St. Peter with wood from the tree.” (Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Phillip Pfatteicher)
  • 725-735: After he stayed for two years in Hesse,  Bishop (Bp.) Boniface spent a decade inThuringia where Frankish and Irish missionaries  had made a start. Bp. Boniface had a fruitful mission despite struggles with the pagan corruption of the clergy.
  • 731:  Pope Gregory II died
  • 732: Pope Gregory III made Boniface an archbishop in order to consecrate missionary bishops.
  • 737:  Boniface made his third and final journey to Rome, spent a year.  The Pope made him his legate to organize the Church.
  • 738: Boniface returned to the German lands, toBavaria,  establishing new bishoprics and abbeys. 
  • 741:   Pope Gregory III died, the new pope is Zachary (741-752)
  • 742-747:  Boniface reformed the Frankish Church
  • 744:  He established his most noted monastery in Fulda which became the center of spiritual and intellectual life in the German lands.
  • 1 April, 742:  Bp. Boniface convenes a church council
  • 1 March, 734: A second church council
  • 2 March, 744:  A third church council and again councils in 745 and 747
  • 745: Pope Zachary assigned Boniface the see (bishopric) of Colgne
  • 751:  Boniface is assigned the see ofMainz
  • 751: Pippin was consecrated King of the Frankish Empire. His son was none other than Charlemagne.  Pippin supported Boniface.  

Boniface wanted to return to active missionary work and it was on this date, as reported above, on a missionary tour of Frisia he became a martyr.

(Sources:  The Letters of St. Boniface, translated by Ephraim Emerton and Festivals and Commemoration by Philip Pfaitteicher)


Almighty God, who called Your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in the lands of Germany and Friesland, and by his labor and suffering raised up a people for Your own possession, pour forth Your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy Name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


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God did not send just anyone,

He sent His only Son,

He did not send an angel,

He gave His Son to save from hell.

By God’s Son we know He so loved the world,

By His Son, He gave us His truthful Word.

We cannot ascend into heaven; we just do not have the wings for it.  However, He descended, the Son of Man. Peter preached David did not ascend into heaven, but David’s King and Lord did descend.  Salvation did not happen in the heavens, but here, right here on earth, the lowest place of human depravity:  lifted up upon a Cross.

Julius Caesar once crucified several hundred Mediterranean pirates who had kidnapped him.  Six thousand slaves under Spartacus’ revolt were crucified, their crosses lining the Appian Way.   We are all susceptible to death but how is this one Man’s death, His crucifixion different from all those others crucifixions?  The Athanasian Creed goes to great lengths, to make it clear that Jesus Christ is not 50% God and 50% man, but 100% God,  100% man, without dividing the substance. There is no time in which those two natures are separated.  

 How is His crucifixion different?  In the scale of justice, God’s Son outweighs sin, death and the devil, the weight of glory, the glory of heaven, concealed in human flesh.  The thief on the cross to Jesus’ right knew Jesus was innocent while he and the other thief were guilty as sin.  “For these men died for their own sins, but Christ for the sins of others.” (Pr. Murray)  Peter could only quote Isaiah that in Jesus “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.”  Isaiah knew he needed cleansing by the Lord.  Even the Roman Procurator Pilate said I cannot find this man guilty.  Nicodemus knew that by Jesus’ deeds, God was somehow working in Jesus and Nicodemus was seeking.  They were all standing in the presence of the thrice Holy God, or trying to. 

 The Creeds, the confession of faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is like a map. Maps are not the reality they portray but without a reliable map we would be lost trying to find our way to our destination.  The Creeds of the Church are not the reality they confess but they point us to the way of God for us and for our salvation, our eternal destination, not down, but up.  Now a lot of people think faith is all about pious feelings. “I feel God’s presence …from everywhere from the golf course to sky diving.”  I would think it’s true.  These folks have no use for dogmas and creeds…but a map is sure more helpful than a walks in the woods, or putting on the beautiful ninth hole if I want to get to New Mexico.  (Insight courtesy of C. S. Lewis)

Nicodemus had a map, the map inward:  his good deeds, spirituality, religiosity and piety but hearing Jesus maybe Nicodemus began to realize salvation is not in his hands. In town, a man is touting a spiritual journey:  literally “The Journey inward”. But this map, the map of the journey inward, was leading Nicodemus  down a dead end and maybe he sensed it, knew something was amiss,  but there must be something I have overlooked, one more thing I can do.  Nicodemus was lost though a ruler in the Sanhedrin.

 So, Nicodemus sought out Jesus and Jesus turns the tables  on Nicomedus with one thing he could not do:  be born again, born from above.  Incredulously Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Up until that point, Nicodemus thought his salvation was in his own hands…but hearing Jesus, maybe he began to know it was not.  Now Jesus seals the deal:  your salvation is in the Lord’s hands, after all, the Psalm has it right of course:  The Lord is my salvation, of whom then shall I be afraid? 

 Nicodemus came in the cover of night maybe because he was fearful of his reputation and honor in Israel in speaking with the rabbi from Nazareth.  Now Jesus says he must be born from above. This is the one more spiritual thing Nicodemus could not do but the new birth is not just one more thing, it is the main thing of your life and mine in Christ Jesus:  our baptism, born from above in water and the Spirit. His forgiveness richly given to us each and every day as we repent and daily turn to Him.  Unless you are born from above in water and the Spirit, a person can not enter theKingdomofGod.  Nicodemus could not do that and that’s the point:  Jesus will effect Nicodemus’ rebirth.  Jesus is not interested in one more spiritual thing you can do, Jesus has bigger fish to fry.  Jesus is not interested in more spiritual thing you can do, He is involved, so involved because He loves you. It is as if Jesus were saying:

“It is My purpose to inform man that I will make him thoroughly pious, not externally by parading his sour face of his respectable conduct before the world.  No, not that, I want to instruct him in the new birth.  I wan to build from the bottom up and purify the heart.” (Luther)

 Baptism is utterly the work of the Holy Spirit so we may cling in faith to Jesus Christ:

By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghostwhich He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christour Saviorthatbeing justified by His gracewe should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying. (Titus chapter 3)

 The Holy Spirit blows where He wills and He wills to so breath at one place in particular and every Word leading up to that place and every Word going from that place today and every day:  the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross-is like a mast of a ship and the sail is filled with the wind of the Holy Spirit.  The Father sends the Son and proceeding from the Father and the Son the Holy Spirit. 

 The Creedal map points to a dynamic doctrine of the work of the Lord in our lives through His Word.  Doctrine is life.  Nicodemus got a lot more than he or you or I could ever bargain for with the Lord.  Many people think John 3: 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” is a verse apart and by itself. It is not, it is the   Lord’s own answer to Nicodemus’ incredulity.  The Trinitarian love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father and the love of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts. He will be lifted up as the bronze serpent was in the map of theIsrael’s 40 years in the desert.   The Israelites were biting devouring each other and Moses, sick of manna, sick of the whole journey.  Therefore, the Lord appointed poisonous serpents to bite and devour them as they were doing the same to each other.  Men began to die.  Moses prayed and the Lord said lift up a bronze serpent in the middle of the camp and whoever looks upon it will live.  If you were so dying how would you feel?  Born again?   Israel knew their destination, the land of promise and yet they were lost…whole nations, denominations, families and individuals can be so lost. As Israel was judged, so the Lord saved Israel and has once and for all, and for all the whole world upon the cross, where no man dare ascend, but true Man and true God, Jesus Christ has once and for all and for you.  We are to announce the results.

 Baptism is our daily life in the Lord:

  Luther: What does such baptizing with water signify?—Answer: It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Where is this written?—Answer: St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

 The image  above of Nicodemus and Jesus speaking with the cross looming in the background surely speaks to our daily life and work in the Lord. You are work in progress and the sign of His work is His cross.  Roman Catholic G.K. Chesterton said it well:

As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. … But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms forever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its centre, it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.

 The cross is our daily signpost when we are lost that the Lord finds us in the depth of His love and we love each other. When do we in particular make the sign of the cross? When we invoke the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for our life in prayer to the blessed and Holy Trinity.

  • In Baptism, all are baptized in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
  • In Confession and absolution, we turn to the Lord as returning to our baptism for the remission of sins.
  • In Doxology:  Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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