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Archive for July, 2013

Joseph of Arimathea

This Joseph, mentioned in all four Gospels, came from a small village called Arimathea in the hill country of Judea. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem. He was presumably wealthy, since he owned his own unused tomb in a garden not far from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:60). Joseph, a man waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went to Pontius Pilate after the death of Jesus and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). Along with Nicodemus, Joseph removed the body and placed it in the tomb (John 19:38-39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus.

Reflection:  Joseph of Arimathea is a critical actor in the burial of Jesus.  If a congregation were to do a Passion play, the role of Joseph would be a bit part, just one or two lines. Many an actor wants of course the lead. Yet, like any part in a play, big or small, each role is crucial. Most of us will ever and only have a bit part in the life we are called to lead, yet your part is crucial, even critical in the lives of someone else.  We will flub our lines and make missteps and miss our cue.  Yet, the Lord will teach us the role we are assigned and it takes practice, the practice of discipleship and Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus’ disciple.  He was looking for the Kingdom of God and he buried Jesus’ Body.  When he put Jesus in his tomb, he may have not known he was entombing the reign of God.  But even the large stone in front of his new tomb could not hold the Lord of life. He is risen.  By his service to the Lord, Joseph of Arimathea, helped form  The Apostles’ Creed:  “and was buried and on the third day…”  Do not minimize nor maximize your calling in the Lord’s work. You just may have the ‘line’, the part that the Lord uses for His work of salvation.

Prayer of the Day

Merciful God, Your servant Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial with reverence and godly fear and laid Him in his own tomb. As we follow the example of Joseph, grant to us, Your faithful people, that same grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Campus Ministry

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A Quote

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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.   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.

 Meditation by Pr. Murray

There can be no free form 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; emphasis my own). 

Further Reflection: In the St. Augustine quote above, 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.–Pr.Schroeder

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.”

 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.

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection:  

Martha invited Jesus into her and her sister’s Mary house.  She welcomed Him.  She was hospitable.  Then there was a division in the house.  Martha went about serving.  Mary sat learning.  Martha did not like it that she had all the dinner chores. Martha sounded resentful.  She said to Jesus, Tell my sister to help me.  She commanded Jesus.  She commanded the Lord for Mary to help.  But Jesus loves the welcoming Martha as well as Mary, as He did their brother Lazarus, and chides Martha and she can not hide.  Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things   Many things is as vast a territory as in Luther’s explanation of the 1st commandment, we are to fear, love and trust in God above all things.  We live in age of anxiety and trouble. We live in a Martha world.  We are all Martha some time or another.  Things come crashing in us.  We are overwhelmed by all the demands of the day.  We wonder will there be enough?  Can we pay the mortgage?  Or if things are everything okay, the “what if’s” attack, What if I lose my job, What if I don’t go the college I want, What if I don’t do FILL-IN-THE BLANK, I’ll just die. I’ve left so many things undone, and done so many things I should not have.  IN the media age of increasing amounts of information,  feeds the Old Adam in his anxiety and trouble from the health scare of the week to terrorists all over and what if someone were to break into your home. Anxiety and trouble has already killed you. Jesus came not to kill but give life in His Word to the anxious and troubled. He came not to kill but be killed by the trouble and anxiety of the world in His sinless body to forgive and renew us by His death and His indestructible life.

 When I see a picture of a great cathedral, the feeling is I could serve there.  But how cold and bare that house would be if Jesus Christ was not all in all there.  In the probably humble home of the 2 sisters and Lazarus, was the greatest Church building ever constructed because Jesus and His Word was there.  And before that?  A stable in Bethlehem and the magi were wise to worship there and receive more than all their gold, frankincense and myrrh could ever give.  And before that?  The womb of the Virgin Mary.  Before that?  A tent pitched outside of Mamre, in the portable home of Abraham and Sarah came the Lord. IN all those cathedrals, not the word and advice of men and women, no promotion of yet another self-help book with Scripture wrongly quoted to sanctify busy-ness to save oneself. 10 steps to a better you.  No, the Savior was there and Martha was missing out. As Mr. Spock might say, ‘It is illogical to do more things to right the many debilitating things’.  Many things and Jesus said there is the one thing needful: The many and the one: Sabbath rest in His Word. This lesson illustrates the 3rd commandment, remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  We are to fear and love God so that we do not despise His Word and the teaching of it. If the Sabbath rest in His Word is not there, then the heart cold and bare, frightened and scared runs to and fro for every wind of doctrine and spiritual ‘experience’.  Mary despised it not, she and Martha both needed the one thing needful, the good portion that will not be taken away. Martha welcomed Jesus.    The need for the one outweighs the needs of the many if the One is Jesus Christ.   If God’s Word of Law and Promise, the Law and the Prophets fulfilled in Jesus Christ and preached in all doctrinal purity and the Sacraments not administered according to Christ’s command, who cares?   All is darkness of busy-ness, shouting and screaming, look at all our good deeds, good feelings, good times. Not, look, behold:  the good Lord.

Many people think as Martha, It is what we offer to Jesus that matters.  Mary knew better:  it was what  Jesus offered her that mattered and changed her and Martha, and you and I.  For instance:  in the ELCA it was said many times, “The word liturgy means “work of the people”.  I heard this many times in 20 plus years, ad nauseam.  Then I reread The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the word liturgy is given it’s right meaning.  Yes, ourgia, as in ergonomics, work, and the first syllable public, the public works of God in His Sacraments for us all.

“Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings; the righteousness of the law is that worship which offers God our own merits. It is by faith that God wants to worshiped, namely, that we receive from Him what He promises and offers.”

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

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

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e5010-hammerofgod

The novel, The Hammer of God is about three distinct time periods in the life of a congregation in a small rural town in Sweden,  In the scene quoted below, Pr. Gosta Torvik, has been quite zealous for God’s Word…that is His Word of Law with a heavy dose of obedience and spiritual experience.  Torvik’s congregation can no longer have a rector, a chief pastor, so a neighboring one is chosen,  Pr. Olle Bengsten to come for as a visiting rector.  Pr. Bengsten, a confessional Lutheran, has noted that Pr. Torvik has become quite legalistic.in his espousal of  revivalism   He encourages Pr. Torvik to…

“Read the Bible, of course. “

“I read the Bible every day.”

“I believe that. But how do you read?”

“You mustn’t be so critical, Olle, of everything a poor fellow does. I try to read devotionally and for edification, so that I take to heart that which I feel is meant for me.”

“Feel, feel! That is just what is wrong. Don’t you believe the Bible is God’s Word just as truly, no matter how you may feel? Don’t you see, Brother, that this won’t do?…Because you make your feelings your barometer, you pass by the gospel and are held fast in the law. Look in your Bible and see if the passages you have especially marked are not just those that speak of what you shall do. But you have not given half the attention to that which tells what Christ has done through his atonement.”

With Pastor Torvik, reading the Bible according my feelings  that this or that verse is “meant for me”, it would leave out a whole lot of the Bible that is disagreeable to me, especially those parts in which salvation is sheer gift and so I am not in control.  The result of choosing how I feel about Scripture results in I am judge and jury over God’s Word for “us and our salvation”!  Pr. Bengsten correctly diagnoses “feelings as barometer” as being “held fast by the law”, that is the Law of God to save oneself and one’s congregation.  Feelings will result in one of two feelings:  spiritual pride, or Pharisaism, that we are obedient and holy by our works and so better than a ‘sinner’ (see  Luke 18:  9-14) or spiritual despair.  Feelings centers us on ourselves, not the Lord Who by His atonement made us His own when we were on our own.  

We live in an age of “feelings”.  As an experiment with yourself and others, count how many times  in a discussion, sentences begin with, “I feel…”.  Just count how many people speak about the emotional “uplift” their congregation gives them:  this is the stuff of “mega-congregations”. If faith is based upon my feelings then I am in for wild ride of “spiritual experiences” and I like it!  In the movie Wise Blood, based upon Flannery O’Connor’s novel of the same name, a character states, “I have a religion of my heart where Jesus is king”, as she tries to seduce Hazel Motes who has declared the “church of truth without Christ”.  In Robert Bellah’s sociological study of religion in America, Habits of the Heart, one of his interviewees is “Sheila” and she states that her spiritual belief is in herself, which Bellah dubbed, “Sheilaism”.  Faith is based upon God’s objective Word: Law and Gospel and this runs contrary to the post-Enlightenment, post-modern that man is the measure of all things. People won’t like it. Satan does not like the preaching of the crucified at all, just too much holy love, and he rages against it and the rage is all about us .  The one cure is Christ’s Cross and love of God in and through His Cross poured out for all who believe through the Holy Spirit. It is a radical cure and has been the only one available for 2,000 years and we need it more than ever.  We need the “for you” of His atoning Sacrifice preached, taught, prayed, sung and administered day by day into our ears and into our lives and into our world as salt and light (Matthew 5:13  Matthew 5:13-15) Like our Lord said to His apostles goes for us:  

 But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” Luke 9 (emphasis my own)

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Concordia and Koinonia

Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantor

Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection: On this day in 1750, Johann Sebastian…

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