Archive for July 30th, 2012

Lessons for July 30th:
Psalmody: Psalm 50:1-6
Additional Psalm: Psalm 130
Old Testament Reading: 1 Samuel 15:10-35/ New Testament Reading: Acts 24:24-25:12

The Lessons for this day are from The Treasury of Daily Prayer.  They do not reflect the Commemoration of Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr.  (The brief bio on Robert Barnes is below, also for your edification.) I included the appointed lessons  because of the reflection below by  Pr. Murray  in his wonderful book of meditations with the Church Fathers for daily prayer:  A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year (Concordia Publishing House)

 Pr. Murray is reflecting on the Old Testament lesson (listed above) in which the Lord ordered King Saul, after winning a battle, to kill all his opponents including the King, Agag.  Because Saul spared King Agag, the Lord forsook Saul as King and regret ever having trusted him!  This is a rough lesson by our modern/post-modern sensibilities.

Please read Pr. Murray’s reflection. Here is my brief take on Saul and Agag which I think is consonant with Pastor Murray’s.

 In the St. Augustine quote below, the Bishop of Hippo disapprovingly observes that one could call what Saul did as “compassionate disobedience.”     Compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His unvarnished Word.  We do a lot of that in our day and win the roaring approval of the world:  adultery, same-sex ‘marriage’, violence, greed as “good”, gossip, virulent atheism and the like.  No wonder we are in such bad shape.  If Robert Barnes had compassionately disobeyed his calling, yes, he would have saved his life…but not his soul.  It is not easy but Jesus said much about bearing one’s cross and self-denial.  If we obey the self, we certainly can not obey the Lord. No, His will is hard to understand and that’s why He calls our obedience in Jesus Christ faith.  We think by our compassionate disobedience that we are saving lives…no, we are losing lives…even our own and those we love. This is not our calling.

Meditation by Pr. Murray

There can be no freeform holiness that comes from our own hearts. We often define and act on our own set of pious principles in seeking our own righteousness. This is purely a rebellion against the clear and unchanging will of God in the Law. There can be no holiness apart from the specific commands of a holy God. Our revision of the divine Law arises from seemingly righteous principles. Perhaps Saul spared Agag (1 Samuel 15) out of a desire to be compassionate and gracious, which God Himself claims to be (Psalm 86:15). Why shouldn’t Saul be able to get in on the compassion act? Simply because he had a direct command from God to do otherwise.

A veteran pastor was confronted by two married couples whom he considered pious members of his parish. They announced to him that they were swapping spouses and wondered if he might unite them in a double wedding. They argued that their spouse swap was loving and that, after all, the Holy Spirit had let them know that this was a good thing. He strongly suggested to them that they could not ignore the Sixth Commandment, and that maybe their spouse swap was merely self-serving. Our impieties are often perpetrated for pious reasons; love and compassion being common among those pious reasons. We even argue that God agrees with us. Like Saul, who as a worldly ruler considered it his prerogative to spare Agag, our pieties tend to benefit ourselves. We must flee from creating our own righteousness and remain tied down to the clear Word of God.

“Saul saw fit to use compassion when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain (1 Samuel 15:9-11). However, he deserved to have his disobedient compassion, or, if you prefer it, his compassionate disobedience, rejected and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow man in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. Truth, by the mouth of the Incarnate Himself, proclaims as if in a thundering voice, ‘Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). And in order to except martyrs from this sentence, to whose lot it has fallen to be slain for the name of Christ before being washed in the Baptism of Christ, He says in another passage, ‘Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39)” (Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin, 2.17).


Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr

Bio:  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 friends with 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 dinner guest and houseguest … this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes.”

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