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Archive for October 23rd, 2012

Martin Luther’s works translated into English encompass 55 volumes.  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and Concordia Publishing House,  is currently publishing and translating more volumes.  Dr. Luther somewhere said that all of all he wrote, he thought the only two books  worth keeping were The Bondage of the Will and The Small Catechism

Five of the six Chief Parts of the Catechism has this  encouragement: 

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household

Luther wrote this for pastors and congregations for the pastors to put them into the hands of the head of the family, normally, a father.  He wrote that a Father and Mother are the Bishop and Bishopess to their children.  Today at a Pastors’ Bible study, we noted that it is our experience,  parents who read the Bible to their children, pray daily at one common meal, speak about the Faith, etc. usually have children who stay in Church. Many Christian families home-school but every Christian family needs to home-church.  This is more urgent in these dark days because the culture is no longer even neutral to the Church. What Luther wrote was a summing up of Christian doctrine in the Bible.  What Luther wrote is an excellent resource for families. What Luther wrote reiterates what the Church has known and taught already.  As in this exhortation and warning from St. John Chrysostom (died +14 September, 437):

Concern for spiritual things will unite the family…Don’t think that it isn’t necessary for a child to listen to the Scriptures; the first think he will hear from them will be, “Honor your father and your mother,” and immediately you will begin to reap your reward.  Don’t say, “Bible reading is for monks; am I turning my child into a monk?”  No!  It isn’t necessary for him to be a monk.   Make him into a Christian!  Why are you afraid of something so good?  It is necessary for everyone to know Scriptural teachings and this especially true for children.  Even at their age they are exposed to all sorts of folly and bad examples from popular entertainments.  Our children need remedies for all these things!  We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord!  

Let us pray…Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have blessed us with the joy and care of children. give calm strength and patient wisdom that, as they grown in years, we may to teach to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

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Lessons:  Acts 15: 12-22a, Psalm 133, James 1: 1-12, St. Matthew 13: 54-58

Prayer of the Day:

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Biography: St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with other relatives of our Lord (except His mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

3 Reflections:  

One: As indicated above, James, and Judas , two other brothers and their two sisters, have been understood early on the Church not to be brothers (and sisters) of Jesus, but his kinsman, except the normal Greek words  for  “brother” and “sister” are  used.  The Virgin Mary was understood early on as semper virgine, “ever virgin”.  Eventually, there also arose  the understanding that Mary was immaculately conceived herself, that is, without the stain of original sin.  

I understand that even Luther believed in the doctrine semper virgine, except I do not think there is any Biblical basis for this doctrine.  Below I have cited the pertinent paragraph from Dr. David Scaer’s James: The Apostle of Faith, A Primary Christological Epistle for the Persecuted Church,(Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN)  excellent commentary supporting the understanding that James was the half-brother of Jesus.  

The plain sense of the Scripture is that Joseph and Mary became one flesh in marriage and had there own children together.  My sense of semper virgine is that well-meaning Christians just could not have asserted Mary, as wife and Joseph as her husband,  became one flesh because of the ‘holiness’ of her womb and the Child she bore. There seems to be a suggestion in such a non-Biblical doctrine that somehow the connubial oneness is “dirty”.  Of course, it is not.  

At this crucial time in our history, when marriage between a man and a woman has been so debated, debased and denigrated, the beauty of married love in a faithful husband and wife is to be lifted up, especially Joseph and Mary. Families in the Lord can also, by faith, be holy families, made holy by the Son of Mary, the Son of God and His Sacrifice for all the families on earth.

Two:  James is a pastoral Epistle as indicated by the use of the word, “my brothers”:  he is primarily addressing fellow pastors in a time of persecution probably after the dispersion recorded in Acts 8: 1.  Pastors were beginning to cave in order to accommodate the Word to be acceptable, especially to the wealthy.  Dr. Scaer:

“The problem of poverty in the congregations seems to have caused some members and especially the clergy to cater to the rich during the worship services in a most conspicuous way. The rich did not provide for the poor and, worse, were dragging members of the congregation into court, probably ecclesiastical ones. They did little, if anything, to provide for the support of the clergy, a problem later faced by Paul (2 Cor. 11:9; Acts 18:3).”

 Many a pastor, when a wealthy member has become disenchanted by the pastor or something or someone in congregation, is told by church council or a session member: “Pastor, you better talk to him…he’s a big contributor.” Or should be!

Three: James was quite important in the early history of the Church as indicated in the Scripture references cited above in James’ bio. He  is also cited as a witness to the Resurrection.  He believed.  In his letter, James did not assert his family lineage but his vocation:  “a servant (also translated as slave) of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, was His servant as all who are baptized.  He was humble.  He knew that it was only by the “implanted Word”, could a man and a woman be saved.  (James 1:21). Implanted into the womb of James’ mother, Mary.  James would have heard the narrative of the Annunciation by the archangel Gabriel to his Mother from his mother!  The Word made flesh. The same Word implanted by the preaching and teaching of it precisely and carefully and for us and for our salvation. As James wrote, the implanted Word can save your soul (James 1: 21).  

Dr. Scaer on Semper Virgine:

“Later in the church’s history James, the Lord’s brother, would be deprived of any early prominence he enjoyed in the ministry of Jesus and the Jerusalem church by an evolving Mariology. Though the early church saw her and Joseph having their own children, she was later held to be a perpetual virgin. The real significance of the earthly family of our Lord was lost. Joseph and Mary gradually were regarded as the primordial celibate pair, and James and his full brothers and sisters had to be assigned to other parentage to safeguard their chastity. Even the thought that they were Joseph’s children by a previous marriage is no longer tolerable according to this view. James, the Lord’s brother, was relegated to the rank of cousin and was subsequently considered as one of the original 12 disciples, the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:2-3). The James who would later attain prominence in the early church was neither of the two disciples called James, sons of Zebedee and Alphaeus, but the James whose parents were Joseph and Mary.4 The conception and birth of James dispels any docetic (“seems like”) concept of the nuptial union between Joseph and Mary as an unnaturally sexless arrangement. It also assures us that Jesus was brought up in a home where natural sibling rivalries prevailed. Regardless of any competitive spirit among James and the other younger brothers, Jesus no more resented them than He resented His subjection to His parents (Luke 2:51).

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