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Archive for February, 2013

I recently  found this “share” on facebook:

I think Greek/Roman mythology is simple: it is  a projection of the overweening pride of the Old Adam writ large.  Greek/Roman mythology is a ‘divine’ soap opera.  Hubris or pride is only a small part of the pie graph above.  I think this is incorrect.  It should be entirely red. The pie graph should be simple:  basically  pride is 100% and this is the cause of “prophecy that couldn’t be avoided”(see Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, etc.) and the cause of  envy over someone being better, that is having more talent, money, popularity;  and the cause of Zeus’ inability to keep his pants on (actually his toga down). Note, we can do some thing to prevent this on our own externally, like keeping one’s “zipper closed”.  So note, above illustrates 21st century thinking:  we can do nothing to keep the zipper up, we just can’t help ourselves, so pass out condoms at the next high school assembly.  We can keep the zipper up and the “hissyfits” of envy from our lips…but that does not solve the problem. I still WANT  to do things  against God’s Law, like adultery, anger, jealousy and the like. Lust and envy shows the state of the our hearts (see Matthew 15:17-19).  Lust and envy are marks of hubris/pride. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18  Jesus Christ has borne the destruction and arrogance of us all:  by the preaching and teaching of the Word of Law and Gospel, He gives us a heart transplant by faith in Him, by His grace.  He was killed and lives that He can pour the only salve that cures our souls and bodies and churches and societies:  His forgiveness marked with the print of the nails. His forgiveness is for my neighbor as well, like the one I am envious of, and/or lustful towards. His forgiveness alone cures temptation’s power:

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (or, the evil one).

Amen!

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A Cartoon

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"They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" Exodus 32:8

“They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” Exodus 32:8
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence
Paul Simon  

Last evening (February 24th), Seth McFarlane,  host of the Oscars  said:  

“It’s Sunday, everybody’s dressed up,” he told the glittering crowd. This is like church, only with more people praying.”

Sadly, McFarlane’s joke cuts to the bone because it is probably true, but it did not stop there, the Oscars had a ‘sermon’. First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise ‘visit’ via satellite on the Academy Awards show  and said,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“(This year’s movies) taught us that love can endure against all odds and transform our lives in the most surprising ways. And they reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage to believe.”

In other words: movies  teach and so create belief, and “transform our lives”. This  is a pale imitation of the Word of God by which the Holy Spirit creates true faith, see Romans 10:17.   But what kind of idolatrous belief?  Answer: belief in the number one god which is the self. McFarlane rightly said everyone is praying…but not to the one true God.  If that is the belief then what is the “love”.  Answer:  sexual immorality.  Idolatry and sexual immorality go hand in hand down the wide and easy path to perdition (see 1 Corinthians 10: 1-3). 

 I guess what the Mrs. Obama wants us to dig  into is our “lives”.  It sounds to me, dig into your self and this is the message from the First Lady.  The self is closely tied in with the other idol vying as number 1:  mammon, or money. It all looks so good but the Oscars are white-washed tombs, all glittery on the outside, but inside  filled with dead bones and rot (see Matthew 23:27)  

Just looking at the picture above from last night awards ceremony, it sure looks like a pagan temple which the idolaters of old would be envious.  Their sign is a golden statue. Psalm 115:

 4 Their idols are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
5They have mouths, but do not speak;
   eyes, but do not see.
6They have ears, but do not hear;
   noses, but do not smell.
7They have hands, but do not feel;
   feet, but do not walk;
   and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them;
   so do all who trust in them.

 9O Israel, trust in the LORD!

And the Word became flesh: mouth, ears, hands, throat, heart and soul and true God.  “Oscars” do not save nor do they love.  The Lenten message is simple:

Matthew 4:17
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The Cross of Jesus Christ is the sign, bar none, of true faith and true love.  It is obvious we need His Word now more than ever in these dark days.

1. When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that harm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

3. See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

4. Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a tribute far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

                  The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #175

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Text:  St. Luke   13: 31-35

In two of the Orders of the Divine Service in our worship book, we sing as offertory verses from Psalm 116, including these verses:

I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O
Jerusalem.

The foretaste of the Jerusalem to come down from heaven, adorned as a Bride for her Husband, the Lord, is when the Holy Spirit gathers us  to hear His Word and to eat and drink His Word, His body and His blood. He does as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.  Even today this spot and this time is Jerusalem. 

At the time of Israel, especially in the history of Genesis through Deuteronomy, there were no nations, but there were cities and kings ruled cities.  Today city may offer many things, places of worship,  business, restaurants, parks, opera houses, theaters and the like…also back then.  The attractions pale in comparison to the reason for them. A city was a reflection of her king in the lives of his people.  If he were wise and benevolent so could the citizens be…or not.  If he were firm in justice and strong in mercy so could his citizens be…or not.  The King of Jerusalem is such, the Lord God, but His people rebelled against His decrees of His just law and His ever firm grace, mercy and peace.  They sought other gods.  They rebelled against His Word.  They stoned the prophets and those the King sent to Jerusalem.  They knew how to look out for number 1, spiritually and materially.  Their goodness, centered on themselves, became sin. This is as old as Adam in us all.  Fallen man turns the best into the worst all the while it looks the best on the outside.

Therefore, the King sent His Son, the rightful heir. Jesus said this is where I must go: Jerusalem, no other place. He said, this is why I have come.  Jesus came to forgive the worst and turn us to the best, Himself, His reign, His rule, His grace, mercy and peace for rebellious sinners that they repent and return day by day to the founts of His grace on life’s way, His way. It was to Jerusalem, the Lord said He must go.  Pharisees, you can not detain Me.  Herod Antipas will not stop Me. You will not.  Tell that fox, today, tomorrow and the next day I finished my course, my race. Death is His destination but not His eternal resting place so our resting places are not eternal.  He is risen.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday , today and forever(Hebrews 13:8).

 Stay the course. Jesus stayed the course.  He said He would and He did.  We heard last week that the devil tempted Him so Jesus would not go on, not suffer and die for sinners.  The devil did not want that to happen.  He did not want heaven unleashed on earth as in Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.  The devil did not want God’s reign to set up colonies in all the devil’s kingdoms. The Pharisee’s by their good intentions to help  Jesus would have likewise stopped Him.  Jesus does not need our help to save us.  Jesus is our help Who has saved us and will do so.  Christ is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Our self-made and unchecked self-righteousness points other to us that they may see how “good” we are and then we have our reward. (Matthew 6:5). Nothing beginning with “I” can ever lead to eternal life…except, Lord, forgive. Lord, have mercy.  Be Thou my Hope and Stay.

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Nothing can originate in us apart from the Lord.  As Jesus said, I am the vine you are the branches. Apart from Me you can do nothing.

Stay on the Way. “It’s the journey that counts that not the destination.” What nonsense.  “Tell that to your children in the back seat of the car on a long road trip going to Grandma and Grandpa’s.  Oh, by the way, children, we are just going to keep on driving.”  Life is a journey with a destination. We diminish the destination because we want to go our own way.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
  (Isaiah 53: 6)

The prophet Isaiah spoke this Word some 5 centuries before Christ on earth. Human nature on it’s own is lost and condemned. All we…not some, not just the ‘bad’ people, but all we.  Every one.  Lost.   The Lord makes this clear in His Law but He did stop there but pressed on.  Luther:

 I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. (emphasis my own)

 “…and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. 

Jesus went to Jerusalem to get all our iniquity laid on Him, the pure Lamb of God.  The people wanted to do in Jeremiah.  Jezebel was out for Elijah’s blood.  The King  told Amos, get out of here.  His Law and His prophets preached:  Mend your ways, the way you are walking. You are lost.  His Law spiritually and explicitly shows us the same message as  the road sign, WRONG WAY does.  A destination means accountability that we stay on the way, the path, the road of Life.   Our citizenship is from heaven, from which we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul was inspired to write so that his brothers and sisters in the Lord keep steadfast on the Way.  There are two ways:  death or life.  Life lived in the belly, belly faith is death, glorying in shame. They are enemies of the cross, enemies  of His love and mercy and refuse to be gathered under the shadow of His wings, the shadow of His cross. Paul wrote that in tears.  The way of life, eternal life, the way, the truth and the life who is Jesus Christ has found us by His Cross.  His cross is a sign for all freed travelers that He keeps us on the way.  

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be;
Let that grace now like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

 Stay on the Way as The Way is our Stay.  The Bible tells us to run the race looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-3) The way is our stay every step of the way He has gone, every temptation He knew and every sin He bore in His sinless body and soul, true Man and true God. So we can,

Pray on the Way. Every word Jesus taught, every Word in Scripture and we

Pray the Way.  Pray as He prays with us, for us and in us in His Church, His Jerusalem on the way.

 We are resident aliens here.  In the 2nd century an unknown Christian wrote to a high Roman official Diognetus explaining his fellow Christians, the Church,

 They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.  They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.”They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.

 Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!

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

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Intro:   Polycarp’s martyrdom on this date around AD 156 deeply impressed the nascent Church and can not be glossed over.   Polycarp was link between the time of the Apostles and post-apostolic era.  He was martyred when he was 86 years of age by being burned.  Eyewitness accounts said the smell was of baking bread.  His name means, “much fruit”.  Below is a short bio from The Apostolic Fathers edited by Jack Sparks of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  It is well worth reading: 

“Take the oath and I will let you go,” said the proconsul. “Revile Christ.”

“I have served Him eighty-six years,” replied Polycarp, “and in no way has He dealt unjustly with me; so how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Thus the aged and much revered bishop spoke, in full knowl­edge of the outcome. His martyrdom was sealed. His life had stretched from the days of the apostles till the middle of the second century, and on a February day in about 156 he moved on with honor to the church enrolled in heaven.

We first meet Polycarp as the relatively young bishop of Smyrna when the aging Ignatius of Antioch was on his way to mar­tyrdom. It was in Smyrna that Ignatius made that famous rest stop on his final journey, and Polycarp was the only individual on record to whom the great martyr ever addressed a personal letter. In the years that followed, Polycarp gathered Ignatius’ letters and passed them on to others.

Irenaeus, who was bishop of Lyons in the latter half of the second century, tells us that Polycarp was a disciple of the apos­tle John and indeed knew others who had seen the Lord in the flesh. The witness of Irenaeus is important because he appar­ently grew up in Smyrna. What he says of Polycarp indicates that the bishop of Smyrna was most concerned about the pres­ervation of the orthodox faith. One incident he reports demon­strates the severity of Polycarp’s attitude toward heresies and heretics. Polycarp, says Irenaeus, once met the heretic Marcion on the streets. “Do you recognize me?” asked Marcion. “In­deed,” replied Polycarp, “I recognize you as the firstborn of Satan!” (Adv. haer 3:3,4).

Though Irenaeus hints at several letters by Polycarp, only  one has come down to us. That letter is to the church at Philippi and reflects the same concern for truth and orthodoxy we have already mentioned. His letter is filled with, indeed almost made up of, quotes from the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles of the New Testament, as well as the letters of Clement and Ignatius. Some critics have sneered at Polycarp because he is so uncreative and offers no new theological insight. We can be glad he was the way he was. Through Polycarp we have not only a link with the ear­liest days of Christianity, but a faithful transmission of apostolic doctrine as well. No, he was not creative. He was a loyal disci­ple of Christ and the apostles.

Near the end of his life Polycarp made a visit to Rome to dis­cuss with Bishop Anicetus a number of church matters, appar­ently including the date of Easter. The Eastern churches were still celebrating Easter on the exact date of Jewish Passover, while Rome was using a specified Sunday each year. Neither agreed to change, but their fellowship was not disturbed. Before he left Rome, Polycarp, at the invitation of Anicetus, led in the celebration of the Eucharist. The two men parted in full agree­ment to leave their respective traditions as they were.

Last of all we have an eyewitness account of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Perhaps by request, the church at Smyrna pre­pared a full account, to be sent to the church at Philomelium and other places. This clear and simple testimony of the martyrdom of an aged saint should bring tears to the eyes of any believer. Some have questioned the record because of the miraculous ac­count of the means of his death. But there is great danger in rejecting a miracle on the grounds that “such things just don’t happen.” Some have done so and thus have rejected the mira­cles of the Scriptures.

Polycarp’s last prayer is characteristic of the man and a clear testimony of his faith. He concluded with, “I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ your beloved Son through whom to you with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory now and forever. Amen.”

Comment:  No, he was not creative. He was a loyal disci­ple of Christ and the apostles.” I like Fr. Sparks’ comment.  I have heard of “creative ministry”.  We create the ministry?  No, the Lord does.  He re-creates us.  Polycarp was not creative, he was faithful.  He was a faithful servant of Jesus.  Satis est.  That is enough and Christ will fill us by His grace for us sinners.

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

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But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
Philippians 2: 20

In preparation for this coming Sunday (2nd Sunday in Lent), as I read the Philippians verse above, I thought of the quote below. It is from The Letter to Diognetus, 2nd Century, from an unknown Christian to a high Roman official.  

For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life. This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do.  Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.  They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.”They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.

Lord God Almighty, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your is leading us and Your love supporting us;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

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But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

Appointed New Testament Reading for the Tuesday of the Week of Lent 1:

 Mark 3:  20Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

 31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said,”Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and eternal God, Your Son Jesus triumphed over the prince of demons and freed us from bondage to sin. Help us to stand firm against every assault of Satan, and enable us always to do Your will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Meditation by Pr. Scott Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year (CPH):

Mary had a unique relationship with Jesus. She was His mother according to the flesh. However, that relationship was not all sweetness and light. She had seen the nakedness of His human flesh and so forgot that He was eternally begotten from the Father. One day, Mary, perhaps convinced by His brothers, came to rescue Him from Himself. He refused rescue from the way of the cross. When she called for Him, He pointed to His disciples and expressed His preference for those who believed in Him over those who were merely related to Him by flesh.

Our mothers also have a unique claim on us. They have given us life. Nevertheless, that claim does not extend to our life in Christ. A second and indestructible life has been granted to us through the rebirth of Baptism. That claim is the greater one. Our life together as the baptized gives us unity through water, which is thicker than blood, because it unites us in one family marked by the sonship of Christ. An illustrious ancestry is less important than the family created by Baptism.

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Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s scriptural studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wart­burg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. Luther died on February 18, 1546while visiting the town of his birth. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Lessons:

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

Prayer of the Day

O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day, and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ’s faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

Here you can see what it means to believe. It may indeed seem an easy matter, but it is in fact a high and great art. Therefore when you feel your sin, when your bad conscience smites you, or when persecution comes, then ask yourself whether you really believe. At such times one is wont to run to saints and helpers in cloisters and in the desert for succor and relief, crying: “O my dear man, intercede for me! O dear saint, help me! O let me live! I promise to become pious and to do many good works.” That is how a terrified conscience speaks. But tell me, where is faith? If you believe in the words of Christ, “None of them is lost whom Thou hast given Me” (John 17:12), then, as a Christian, you must say: “I acknowledge no saint here. I am a poor sinner deserving of death; but in defiance of sin and death I cling to Thee, and I will not let Thee go. I have taken hold of Thee, dear Lord Christ. Thou art my Life, and this is the Father’s will, that all who adhere to Thee have eternal life and be raised from the dead. In the meantime let my fate be what it will. I may be beheaded or burned at the stake.” No other life—whether it be called the monastic life or the life of St. Augustine or of St. John the Baptist—will arm a person for victory. Only faith in Christ can do so.

—Martin Luther

Reflection:  One of the last words that Fr. Luther preached were:  “It is true.  We are all beggars.”  We are all beggars with the Lord Who has given us all things and above all things: His beloved Son Jesus Christ.  In the quote above, Fr. Luther makes that clear we only cling to Jesus Christ.  We can not go running to and fro to ‘saints’.  I realize that sounds in our 21st ears so antiquated:  it is, in a literal sense.  Yet, in our day and time, we do go running to ‘saints’, but we would not call them ‘saints’.  They are powerful personalities, preachers, presidents, especially on TV and in their number 1 bestsellers.  We do go running after the Rick Warrens, the Joel Osteens, the Robert Schullers, the Joyce Meyers, etc and if we do then we think we will really live,(so we think) and then we will have our best lives NOW, we will be purpose driven, we will be positive in all we do and win, we are the ones we have been waiting for.  We still say as Luther said in his day about such ‘seekers’, “I promise to become pious and to do many good works”, that is, the ‘good works’ the Warrens that the Osteens, the Schullers, the Meyers, etc. say we must do in the book we just plucked down $19.95 to be ‘spiritual’.  We still buy indulgences to get our lives out of our self-made purgatories, but we just spend our way deeper into the debt…of the devil.

Luther’s question haunts, “But tell me, where is faith?” The One in Whom you are baptized and believe, however weak your faith, did not sell you a book but has written your name in the book of life as He has made you His own.  He did not sell you nor sell you out, but has bought you, not with gold or silver, but His own precious blood.  (Romans 5:91 Corinthians 11:25Ephesians 1:7Colossians 1:20Hebrews 9:10-121 Peter 1:18-201 John 5:5-7)   No, I acknowledge I am no ‘saint’ like them. I am a poor sinner, deserving of death.  It is true, we are all beggars.  Oh, for a love that will not let me go. He won’t…Luther knew quite well that when he wrote the words above, he could have been burned at the stake.  He had no armor, save faith in Jesus Christ  (Ephesians 6:15-17) and it is more powerful than all the ‘spiritual’ books of self-chosen works piled together.  Here I stand.

The video below  was a promo for The Wittenberg Trail.  But I think it is also  a good description of the Lutheran Church in communion, not with the times we are in, but with the continuity of the Faith of all the ages in Word and Sacrament, as taught by Fr. Luther and the blessed Reformers–Pr. Schroeder

  

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Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Philip Melanchthon also wrote The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (synonym of “apology” is “defense”).  It is  the second document  in The Book of Concord .  Not so long after the Augsburg Confession was presented to His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Charles V in the meeting of the Diet, in the city of Augsburg June 30, the papal theologians wrote the Roman Confutation of the Confession which was read publicly on August 3rd in the same place as the Augsburg Confession.  By April or May of 1531, Melanchthon wrote the final draft of the Apology and it eventually was signed as a Confession of the Faith as well.

The longest single section in the Apology is Article IV:  Justification,  some 60 pages.  This was and is still the central issue both dividing the churches and  the one doctrine which unites the Church.

In our corner of the world, one of our weekly newspapers has directory for churches.  The local Roman Catholic congregation describes quite clearly their doctrine:

“Assisted by Divine Grace, we have both the ability and the responsibility to live moral lives, taking as our standard of behavior the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.”

In other words:  It’s  law alone with a little grace thrown in.  They have it “bass ackwards”!  And the Beatitudes are also Law?  The Law does not bless but accuses rightly of our sin.  The Lord blesses in the Beatitudes:  pure Gospel.  One of the summaries of the Biblical Doctrine of Justification is “sola gratia”, by grace alone.  But obviously the Roman doctrine says Jesus did not do a good enough job, in fact, you O man,you O woman,are still in the driver’s seat.   We are not assisted by divine grace, but saved by grace alone:

Ephesians 2:8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

One of the charges against the Reformers was that Justification was a heretical innovation.  The Book of Concord begins with the 3 Ecumenical/Universal Creeds of the Church to show that we are in apostolic succession of the pure saving doctrine from the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry:  The Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.   Before this becomes overly long, for instance, St. Augustine is very clear that it is by Jesus Christ ALONE, we are saved.  In his sermon on John 5: 1-8,  he points out that in the healing of the man was done amongst 5 porticos in the Temple and they represent the 5 Books of the Law. He preached:

Why, then, was the Law given? He goes on to say, “But the Scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” … The five porches are the Law. Why did not the five porches heal the sick? Because, “if there had been a law given which could have given life, surely righteousness should have been by the law.” Why, then, did the porches contain those whom they did not heal? Because “the Scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (The Scripture passages are all from Romans)

Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one holy, catholic and apostolic church in the renewal of is life in fidelity to Your Word and promise.  Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voice will give strength to Your church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom;  through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

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