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Archive for January, 2014

In the Daily Lectionary the Epistle reading for today (January 29) is the beginning of 2 Timothy, 1: 1-18. Selections from 2 Timothy will continue for the next 3 days: 2 Timothy 2: 1—26; 2 Timothy 3: 1—17 and then on 1 February, 2 Timothy 4: 1—18.

I concentrate on verse 5:
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

When asked the question, Why are you a Lutheran, one of the answers is my upbringing, as it was for Paul’s brother pastor, Timothy. Paul reminds Timothy of his education and formation in the faith delivered to the saints once and for all through Timothy’s mother and grandmother. Paul reminds him to encourage him. We all need these reminders for our encouragement to fulfill our vocations. In prison, Paul remembers Timothy with tears of joy and prayer for him (verses 3-5a), but also for Lois and Eunice.

Professor Timothy Oden in his commentary, Interpretation: First and Second Timothy and Titus, comments on the purpose of this “transmission of apostolic faith” in Timothy’s ministry and vocation as a pastor:

“The intergenerational transmission of apostolic faith was of urgent concern to Paul. That is what he seemed to be most seriously pondering in prison. He was constantly reminded of Timothy’s sincere faith (v. 5), untainted by hypocrisy, unmixed by corrupted motives—the same faith that dwelt first in the grandmother Lois and the mother Eunice and then in the son. To these two women we rightly credit the transmission of the faith to Timothy, the precondition of his transmission of the faith to countless others. In Timothy we have a young man from a transitional, cross-cultural family charged with transmitting the faith intergenerationally.”

A good solid upbringing, catechesis in the Faith, is for bringing the faith to “countless others”. Fathers and mothers are their child’s first “bishop and bishopess”, as Luther said it.

In this verse 5 the imprisoned Apostle mentions faith directly and indirectly three times in this one sentence. The Faith is not only apprehended intellectually but Faith “dwelt” first in Timothy’s grandmother and then his mother and now it dwells in Timothy. Faith holds tight the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ for us all, His grace, mercy and peace for sinners (verse 2). Paul describes the abiding Faith in Christ Jesus as “sincere” but a more literal reading of the Greek word is that it is “unfeigned”, not fake. Oden calls this the “quiet transmission”:

When preaching asks how Christian mission is to be revitalized today, nothing is more central to the answer than being a good parent. We see a model of parenting embodied in the small-scale, inconspicuous transition from Lois to Eunice to Timothy. That such traditioning can occur within a highly pluralistic, syncretistic, rapidly changing environment is clear from this account. They did it. Faith can be passed on through families. Religious instruction in the family unit is crucial to the transmission of the Christian tradition.

Too much of Christianity is television and show and shallow emotionalism and wanting to accommodate to the fads and fashions of the world. The unfeigned faith can happen in the Church in the home. Just think that Christian faith was educated in the Roman Empire without a lick of support from the culture and society.  I think Professor Oden’s language is a little sterile but he is saying what the text teaches and his conclusion is startling in this noisy world and worldliness inthe sentence I emphasized. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter, God gives the growth. Growth takes time, it takes the Lord’s time. How did Timothy grow in the Faith in Jesus Christ? Answer: the Scriptures, the Word of God:

But as for you ,continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be  complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3)

The Holy Spirit teaches and His lesson plan is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His TextBook the Bible. We need home-church schooling more than ever. 

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Visit, O Lord, the homes in which Your people dwell, making them a haven of blessing and of peace. Strengthen the bonds of love and faithfulness between all married couples, leading us all to honor this institution that You have established for our good. Give courage and strength to all Christian parents, that they may faithfully teach their children to know the voice of the Good Shepherd and to trust in Him alone for all good things. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

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Leave it to Beaver

Troubles the Beaver got into:

  1. Borrowing his brother Wally’s bike without Wally’s permission
  2. Gets in trouble and is scared
  3. Lying to his father
  4. Untidy room
  5. Arguments with his brother
  6. Resisting doing his homework
  7. Beaver is known as the “boy next door”
  8. Sent to the principle’s office for talking out of turn
  9. Driving the family car in the driveway and getting  a dent in it
  10. Hangs out with Eddy and gets caught in a lie about a prank in Beaver’s house

 

Leave it to Bieber

Troubles the Bieber has gotten into:

  1. DUI
  2. Gets in trouble and laughs at it in his police mugshot
  3. Truthful and forthright about his wrongs and doesn’t seem to care
  4. Public urination
  5. Doesn’t seem to have parents
  6. Resisting arrest
  7. Cultivates  image of “boy next door”
  8. Sent to a judge
  9. Drunken drag racing
  10. Huge parties in his mansion

Reflection: Full disclosure:  I made up the plot lines for the “Leave it to Beaver”, but I think they are rather like them.  Many current commentators say that we don’t live in that ’50s sitcom world…approvingly.  Look at what has been lost and this should make us mourn. They say that world was unreal…oh really?!    Long before Christ is denied as Lord, the Law of God is denied in lawlessness, 1 Timothy 1:8-10.  We are bombarded by Lawlessness everyday and too many pastors and denomination teach lawlessness.  Our Lord’s warning is clear: 

Matthew 5: 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (emphasis my own)

Dr. C. F. W. Walther pointed out that the important word in the Matthew verses is “teach”.  C. F. W. Walther’s comment on the Scripture passage above: 

The Lord also speaks of a person “who shall teach men so.” It is bad enough when a person for his own part disregards some law and leads a careless life; but it is much worse when he preaches his lax views and leads men to perdition by his preaching. He will have to render an account to God of his preaching, and on that day he may not excuse himself by claiming that it was only trifling matters which he had represented as so unimportant that no one need grieve over them. A Christian grieves even over trifles, but unchristians imagine that they can “escape by iniquities,” Ps. 56, 7. [Luther: “What evil we do is already forgiven.”] That is the slogan of the wicked, just as it is the easy-going way of unconverted people to speak of their iniquities thus: “Well, I can easily make amends, and grass will soon grow over it.” No grass will ever grow over anything for which forgiveness has not been asked of God.

Lord, give strength and courage to all who preach and teach in Your truth the fullness of your Word of Law and Promise, the light of Your Word in these dark days. Amen.

j

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Prayer of the Day:

O God, You gave to your servant John Chrysostom grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, John fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to your church bishops and pastors who are like John in preaching and fidelity in their ministry of the Word to your people, and grant that we all be partakers of the divine nature through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You adn the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Bio: Given the added name of Chrysostom, which means “golden-mouthed” in Greek, Saint John was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church. Born in Antioch around the year 347, John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398, John Chrysostom was made Patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city there brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: “Glory be to God for all things. Amen.”

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

For further reflection:  St. John Chrysostom is one of the most influential Church Fathers.  One of his Paschal (Easter) Sermons is traditionally preached every Pascha (Easter) in the Eastern Orthodox Churches during the Easter Vigil. The first section below is the saint’s sermon. One year during a vigil in a joint Lutheran service, I had the privilege of preaching this sermon. Please note it’s brevity.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Easter Vigil lasts roughly from 11pm to 4am!   When my friend, a retired Orthodox priest, first told me this, I asked him incredulously, “How do you turn around and do Easter morning liturgy?!”  “Oh no”, he responded, “…that is the Service!” (They do have on Easter Agape Vespers around 5:00pm)    Now there is much discussion both in congregations and on the blogs on the proper length of a sermon but it is not the length of the sermon that matters, but the Word aptly preached, Law and Promise, whatever the length of the preaching, is always the goal.

The second section is a reflection from A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year.  Today’s Epistle Reading happens to be Romans 15:  14-33, in particular these verse, 15: 15-16  is striking on the Commemoration of St. John Chrysostom.  I stated in yesterday’s blog that the Commemoration of St. Titus finishes a troika of commemorations about pastors, I forgot about Chrysostom, it’s really a quartette!  

“… on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (emphasis my own)

The third  section are quotes from Chrysostom’s sermons on Marriage.  His sermons on marriage preach to us now more than ever. I have included these quotes in many postings in our mission blog.  

I.  St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Sermon

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, “Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.” It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
“O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?”
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

II.  Reflections from Pastor Scott Murray and St. John Chyrsostom:

Pr. Murray:  John Chrysostom never stopped preaching and writing, even when he was deposed as patriarch of Constantinople. Such proclamation was to lead people to become a sacrifice in God’s presence (Romans 15:16). By proclaiming the Gospel to us, our pastors are the priests who offer believers to our Father. Their office is to proclaim the Gospel of God. Like the apostle Paul, the proclaimers are not seeking their own honor but the praise of the Word of God and its gracious giver. Their only tool in this priestly work is the “knife of the Gospel,” as Chrysostom puts it, but it is God’s Gospel and so is entirely suited to the task. No wonder Chrysostom kept preaching and writing to keep aflame the fire of the Spirit.

St. John Chrysostom: “[Paul] lifts his discourse, not speaking of mere service as in the beginning but of service and priestly ministry. To me this is priesthood; this is preaching and declaring. This is the sacrifice I bring. Now no one will find fault with a priest for being concerned about offering the sacrifice without blemish. He says this at once to lift their thoughts and show them that they are a sacrifice, and in defense for his own part in the matter, because he was appointed to this office. It is as though he were saying, ‘My knife is the Gospel, the word of preaching. The cause is not that I maybe glorified, not that I may appear conspicuous, but “that the offering of the Gentiles maybe acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16)’; that is, that those souls taught by me may be accepted. It was not so much to honor me that God led me to this point as it was out of concern for you.

III.  The following citations are from On Marriage and Family Life, by St. John Chrysostom (St. Vladimir Press)

  • (The Lord) did not on the one hand, fashion woman independently from man; otherwise man would think of her as essentially different from himself.   Nor  did  He  enable woman to bear children without man;    if  this  were the  case  she would  be  self-sufficient.   Instead, just as the  branches  of  a tree proceed from a  single  trunk,  He made  the one   man Adam to be the  origin of  all mankind  both male and female, and made it impossible for men and women  to  be self-sufficient.  Later, He forbade men to marry their  sisters or  daughters, so that our  love  would  not be limited  to members of our families,  and withdrawn from the  rest  of the  human race.”  (Homily 20)
  • (In marriage) you  are sacrificing yourself for  someone  to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself  up for the one who turned her back on Him and  hated  Him. (Homily 20)
  • What kind of marriage can there be when the wife is afraid of her husband?  What sort of satisfaction could a husband himself have, if he lives with his wife as if she were a slave and not with a woman by her own free will?  Suffer anything for her sake, but never disgrace her, for Christ never did this with the Church. (Homily 20)
  • Indeed, of actions,  it is  mystery,  a great mystery indeed, that a man should leave him  who gave life  to him  and brought  him  up  and her who suffered  in labor and childbirth. For a man to  leave those  who favored him with so  many great blessings, those  with  whom he  has  been in such  close contact, and be united to one whom  he  has  not always known and who often has nothing in common with him, and should  honor her  more  than all  others—that is a mystery indeed.  Yet parents are not distressed when marriages take place, but when they don’t!  They’re delighted to spend money lavishly on weddings—another great mystery indeed! (Homily 20)
  • 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!  (Homily 21)
  • How is marriage a mystery?  The two have become one.  This is not an empty symbol.   They have not become the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself.  (Homily 12)
  • We are not sufficient unto ourselves in this life. (Homily 12)
  • When your daughter is to be married; don’t look for how much money a man has.  Don’t worry about his nationality or his family’s social position.  All these things are superfluous.  Look instead for piety, gentleness, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord. (Homily 12)
  • Marriage is not an evil thing.   It is adultery that is evil; it is fornication that is evil. (‘Sermon on Marriage’)
  • God will judge you at the last day not by the civil law but by His law. (‘How to Choose a Wife’)
  • You must consider that marriage is not a business venture but a fellowship for life.  (‘How to Choose a Wife’)

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Acts 20: 28-35

Psalm 71: 1-14

Titus 1: 1-9

St. Luke 10: 1-9

St. Titus, like Timothy with whom he is often  associated, was a friend and co-worker of St, Paul. Titus was a Gentile, perhaps a native of Antioch, who accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem when they brought assistance to the Christians in Judea during a famine (Acts 11:29-30; Galatians 2:1). It is not known if he accompanied Paul on his first or second missionary journeys, but Titus was with him on the third one, when he helped reconcile the Corinthians to Paul (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) and assisted with the collection for the Church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:3-6). It was probably on the return to Jerusalem that Paul left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:4-5). Afterward he is found working in Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). According to tradition, Titus returned to Crete, where he served as bishop until he died about AD 96. 

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  In 1539, Father Martin Luther wrote, On the Councils and Church.   The most noted section in it is the Seven Marks of the Church.  Luther asked a good question, 

The Creed teaches us that a people of God must be on earth and remain until the end of the world. This is an article of faith, which cannot cease until that comes which it believes, as Christ promises, “I am with you even unto the end of the world.” But how can a poor, erring man know where this Christian, holy people in the world is?(emphasis my own)

Luther’s answer to his own question is the 7 marks of the Church. By these 7 marks a “poor, erring man” can publicly see the Church and know where the Church is true to the Word. These are quotes from his treatise:

  1. First , This Christian, holy people is to be known by this, that it has God’s Word,

  2. Second . God’s people, or the Christian holy people, is known by the holy Sacrament of Baptism, when it is rightly taught and believed and used according to Christ’s ordinance.

  3. Third . God’s people, or a Christian, holy Church is known by the holy Sacrament of the Altar, when it is rightly administered according to Christ’s institution and is believed and received

  4. Fourth . The people of God, or holy Christians, are known by the keys, which they publicly use. Christ decrees, in Matthew 18:15 that if a Christian sins, he shall be rebuked, and if he does not amend his ways, he shall be bound and cast out; but if he amends, he shall be set free. This is the power of the keys

  5. Fifth . The Church is known outwardly by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices which they occupy.

  6. Sixth . The holy, Christian people is known by prayer and public thanksgiving and praise to God.

  7. Seventh . The holy, Christian Church is outwardly known by the holy possession of the Holy Cross.

 I concentrate today, the Festival of St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor on number 5:  called and ordained Servants of the Word, pastors and bishops.

Christianity is the only religion on earth who calls their ministers Pastors: Pastor literally means “Shepherd”.  For instance, a congregation called “Good Shepherd” is in Spanish, “El Buen Pastor”.  A shepherd leads his flock to “good pastures”, see Psalm 23:2;  St. Mark 6: 39;  St. John 6: 1-14, 33-35.  He calls pastors to feed His flock with the Word preached and taught, baptizing,administering His Body and Blood, and forgiving repentant brothers and sisters, who also are sinners. The Lord commanded Peter: Feed My sheep( John 21:16-18).  We need to  eat and drink every day and every week, so we need Him. This was the vocation of Paul and his brother pastors  Timothy and Titus.

The past 3 days are respectively the Festivals of St. Timothy, St. Paul and St. Titus:  all pastors. Luther said a called and ordained Servant of the Word, a pastor,  is a mark of the Church.  

In the TV show M*A*S*H, Fr. Mulcahy was always wondering was he really useful.  The Korean War era helicopters could only take two wounded soldiers at a time, one on each side of the helicopter.  When there was only one wounded, the pilot would use a dummy or a person who volunteered. In one episode, in order to feel useful, Fr. Mulcahy did so.  Colonel Potter was not pleased.  Hawkeye and the other surgeons tried to comfort Fr. Mulcahy that he was indeed useful.  In the  show, one barely sees him saying Mass on Sundays or even talking about it or preaching.  He does hear confessions but usually for the humor in it.  He never evangelizes the Korean villagers. He never baptizes.  It really is a sham portrayal of military chaplains. But many pastors who do all of the above will still feel the need to be “useful”.  As a pastor I think many of us suffer from the  Father Mulcahy Syndrome.  Pastor and something else:  therapist, CEO of church growth, social activist, community organizer and the like.  The pastor can assuage his conscience that he is “useful”.  In terms of this world, yes, I think pastors are useless:  the world of sin, death and the power of the devil of course has no use for Word and Sacraments, for Jesus Christ!  “It’s not practical”  will think our pastor feeling the need to be useful.  I think that conclusion is sheer unbelief and unbelief is  the world and the flesh and devil’s desired outcome. This is a sore temptation to want to feel “useful”.  The thing is that the devil knows the Enemy’s Word is quite practical, for the practice of faith and the fruit of faith, love, His light in the darkness. Numbers 1-4 of Luther’s 7 Marks of the Church is deemed not enough, but it is.  The Lord calls pastors to carry out marks 1-4 which will result, by God’s Word, marks 6-7. Paul, Titus and Timothy were not looking for adjuncts to heighten their need for usefulness in the Holy Ministry.  Your pastor needs prayer and encouragement to do the one thing needful, the good portion that will not be taken away:  preaching and teaching the Word written, spoken and incarnate (see St.Luke 10:41-42)

Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher. Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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From The Week:

The world’s most ancient Christian communities are being destroyed — and no one cares:

Christians in the Middle East have been the victims of pogroms and persecution. Where’s the outrage in the West?

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Acts 9:1-22  Galatians 1:11-24 Matthew 19:27-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You turned the heart of him who persecuted the Church and by his preaching caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant us ever to rejoice in the saving light of Your Gospel and, following the example of the apostle Paul, to spread it to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Day:  St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascus is related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out for Damascus to arrest and bring believers to Jerusalem for trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

Suggested Reading from the Book of Concord: Large Catechism IV 56-67

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

From Luther’s Sermon on, Acts 9,  The Conversion of St. Paul

Introduction: After the Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself to Saul of Tarsus, Saul could no longer see. The Lord guides his footsteps. Luther in his House Postil (Sermon) for this Feast Day has great insight on the importance of pastors.   Then I will comment on it and the day:

Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (vs. 6)

Although he speaks with Paul directly from heaven above, God does not intend to put away the pastoral office or establish something extraordinary for him. Indeed, he might have spoken to him directly and revealed what he wanted him to do, but instead he directs him to go to the parish pastor in the city where he would hear and learn what he was supposed to do. Our Lord God does not purpose some special thing for each individual person, but gives to the whole world—one person like the next—his baptism and gospel. Through these means we are to learn how to be saved, and have no need to wait for God to reveal some new thing from heaven, or send angel.  For it is his will that we go to hear the Gospel preached by the pastor;  there we will find him, and in no other way…

Our Lord God did not mandate anything extraordinary for Paul to do, for he, after all, had heard the physical voice of Christ, the Lord, and he was to become a foremost preacher. Instead he is told to go into the city and to hear Ananias. So, get up and go! he says. Nothing special beyond this is done, no further instruction there along the road, no baptism, just the directive to go where his Word and baptism are to be had. And Paul willingly complies with the Lord’s directive, although he does not yet know where and by whom this will all happen…

Ananias to Saul: “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way as thou tamest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (“vs. 17)

That is something we must really note well, so that we esteem the preaching office as we ought.  Paul receives his sight, his insight and the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of Ananias, so that he knows who Christ is, understands the power of baptism, and forthwith emerges as a changed man.

 My comments:  I would guess that if you asked a knowledgeable fellow Lutheran and Christian when was Paul converted, the answer would be, ‘On the road to Damascus”  But based upon the Text and from it, Luther’s sermonic insight,  Saul’s conversion does not take place on  the road to Damascus but in the Word and the Font, prayed and administered by the pastor, Ananias. Baptism is conversion, born from above, transformed. As the Apostle well knew when he wrote to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 6:

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.(emphasis my own)

What happened to Saul on the road was not his conversion but the apocalypse by the Lord to Saul.  Note that  our word “apocalypse” is from the New Testament Greek, “reveal”, and “reveal” is the word the Apostle Paul used in his letter to the Galatians about that famous walk to Damascus: Galatians 1:16.  Similarly, when Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Lord said the Father revealed, literally, “apocalypsed” this to Peter.  I think this day should be called the Apocalypse to Saul.

 Saul is blinded for 3 days (vs. 9) as in the Lord in the tomb for 3 days.  Saul was blinded by his own sin and the Lord’s judgment of his sin in consenting to the arrest and murder of Christians, such as the first martyr, Stephen, see Acts 7: 60-8:1.  Only by the Word of the Gospel that Ananias administered in prayer was Paul able to see and in Baptism be saved, receiving Christ Jesus’ forgiveness in His death and resurrection (see Romans 6: 1-11!!!). This is when Saul of Tarsus is converted.

Note:  there is no “decision of Christ” at all!  As Paul well knew this when he wrote:  “The letter (of the Law) kills, and the Spirit gives life.” (see 2 Corinthians 3:6) There is no intervention of the choosing self, the Old Adam.   It is all the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes! Receive the Holy Ghost, says the Pastor on the street called straight. Paul had no choice for the Lord chose him, one “untimely  born”(see 1 Corinthians 15:7-9).   We look for God in all the wrong places.  We think it should be glorious, but it is not, it is the Cross. Jesus does not give Saul any instruction but to go the means He Himself has appointed for Saul to be washed and saved:  Water and the Word (cf. St. Matthew 28: 18)

 Woody Allen’s  movie, Love and Death,  is  his funny take on 19th century Russian novels and his main character continually asks for ‘vision’, a revelation, for the proof of the existence of God.  He is always stymied. Those so  wanting a revelation will be disappointed, deluded and demonized because they are not looking to where the Lord said He will be found: His Word and His Sacraments. We have all sorts of people who consider themselves “spiritual” and even think the Lord has revealed Himself to them apart from His Word and Sacrament and then go on to  deny His means of grace.  But the Lord directed Saul to the Font, as Paul would also direct the Lord’s people, as did the Lord,  and as a  saint in your life also pointed the way to the Lord in His forgiveness for you:  not in the sky, but in the laver of regeneration, Baptism.  Thank Him for His grace which causes the blind to see His love in the washing unto eternal life! (see 1 Corinthians 6:11)  

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Edward Burne-Jones, “St. Timothy and His Grandmother Lois” (c. 1872), Vyner Memorial Window in Oxford Cathedral.

Prayer of the Day

Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds such as Timothy to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Psalm 71:15-24
Acts 16:1-5
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Matthew 24:42-47

Bio:  St. Timothy had Christian believers in his family. His mother, Eunice, was a Christian woman and was the daughter of a Christian woman named Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). Acts records that St. Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and wanted Timothy to continue on with him (16:1-3). Over time, Timothy became a dear friend and close associate of Paul to whom Paul entrusted mission work inGreeceandAsia Minor. Timothy was also with Paul inRome. According to tradition, after Paul’s death, Timothy went to Ephesus, where he served as bishop and was martyred around AD 97. Timothy is best remembered as a faithful companion of Paul, one who rendered great service among the Gentile churches.

Reflection by  Fr. Valerius Herberger (21 April 1562-18 May 1627,  German Lutheran preacher and theologian)

Dearly beloved, today we celebrate the commemoration of St. Timothy. He was born in Lystra (Acts 16:2); his father was a pagan, but his mother, Eunice, born an Israelite, had accepted the Christian faith and had committed her son, Timothy, to be raised by her mother, Lois, who was also a Christian. So Timothy learned the catechism from his grandmother. See, dear parents, what the diligent training of children can do! Now since he was a good, excellent thinker,St. Paulaccepted him as his colleague or chaplain, and since he improved himself daily, Paul eventually ordained him as bishop ofEphesus, where he was also killed by the raging pagans.S t. Pau lloved him dearly, which we can see from both epistles that he wrote to him. In 1 Timothy 1:2, he calls him his true son in the faith. From these two epistles, many passages shine forth like the stars of heaven:

  • 1 Timothy 1:5: “The aim of the commandment is love from a pure heart and from a good conscience and from a faith unfeigned.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
  • 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Since St. Paul and St. Timothy were dear friends, they were put beside each other in the calendar, and also on the day of St. Timothy, the Gospel of John 15:9-16 is read, which speaks of pure love and friendship.

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Further Reflection:  

Paul’s two letters to Timothy are pastoral correspondence, that is, from Apostle to fellow pastor.  The two letters are about pastoral formation in these areas:

  • Preaching Law and Promise and rightly distinguishing the two:  1 Timothy 1: 8-12, 2 Timothy 2: 15
  • Prayers of God’s people:  1 Timothy 2
  • Servants of Jesus Christ in His Church: overseers (or bishops), deacons:  1 Timothy 3
  • Description of the called and ordained Servant of the Word:  1 Timothy 4
  • Servants of Jesus Christ:  widows, 1 Timothy 5
  • Pastors’ salaries:  1 Timothy 5: 17-18;  6: 6-10
  • Sound Doctrine and false teaching and teachers:  1 Timothy 6: 2b-21
  • Homeschooling in the Scriptures:  2 Timothy 1:  3-5
  • Unity of Purpose for the soldier of Christ Jesus in His militia Christi: 2 Timothy 2
  • The Centrality of the Lord’s Last Word in the last days:  the Scriptures:  1 Timothy 3
  • The Office of Preacher:  1 Timothy 4

As the old saying: what’s good the goose is good for the gander.  In other words, Paul’s counsel and exhortation to his dear brother and fellow pastor, is also for every brother and sister in Christ being formed in His school of the Holy Spirit.  Paul not only wrote to Timothy but also to us.  As the Lord inspired clearly the Apostle, this is the Lord’s Word to you.

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