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Archive for January, 2014

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

…even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.

Reflection:  The verses above are for the appointed Psalm for today in the Daily Lectionary, Psalm 139: 1-6, 12-14.  Yesterday was the March for Life in Washington, D.C. upon the sad 41st year of the Supreme Court’s usurping judgment of Roe vs. Wade.

The sonograms of our oldest child, 22 years ago, when this technology was relatively new was one of the reasons I changed my mind on pro-choice.  When my wife heard the good news from the doctor that she was with child, her first question to my wife was: “What do you want to do?”  Thumbs up or thumbs down like an every day Caesar in a physician’s office, a place of life, now a coliseum of death.  I saw the sonograms and  I knew I was not looking at “fetal tissue”.

Long before our technology, the inspired psalmist saw by faith through God’s Word the image of the womb, knitted together in his mother’s womb.  I should have trusted Scripture, God’s Word first and foremost.  I think abortion was preceded by the deadly  vivisection that too many Biblical scholars have done to God’s Word, continually asking the serpent’s question, Did God say…?  This happened at the same time as Christians and non-Christians began to want to do the most selfish act of the old Adam:  kill a child in the womb.  The combination is toxic.

Now the whole of Psalm 139 can of course be prayed.  In verse 19, there is challenge for the tender sensibilities of post-modern men and women, a sudden change in mood from the sublime prayer of thanksgiving and adoration to the Lord:

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
    O men of blood, depart from me!

The psalmist prays for the destruction of God’s enemies.  Rabbi Aiden Steinsaltz in his essay, “Dissonance in the Psalms” takes up this ‘radical’ change of mood in more than Psalm 139 alone.  He notes this “dissonance” but after the inspired psalmist sees the order and harmony of God the Creator in all things, then evil and sin and wickedness just do not fit in, it is abhorrent, perverse.  Just think of so-called doctor, Kermit Gosnell this past year which showed the true nature of an abortuary.   O men of blood, depart from me! It is the so-called ‘enlightened’ scientific man or woman who says in so many ways wickedness does fit in, such as abortion, infanticide, state-sponsored limits on family size, physician assisted suicide. The psalmist cries out for a separation from them.

“They are described…as enemies of God. That is their danger!  They are part of the society in which the psalmist lives who by their moral and religious conduct oppose and ignore God.  To be willfully an enemy of God is unthinkable to the psalmist, but there the wicked are, the embodiment of another way than the fear of the LORD, conditioning and endangering the whole society  by their character.  (Psalms:  Commentary by Dr. James Luther Mays, Interpetation series)

They are obviously unrepentant, though the Lord desires such for us all that all might be saved. God’s will is our hope…for our continuing repentance as well. The psalmist has seen by faith the wonders of the Lord in his own creation which is as your creation: you too are faithfully and wonderfully made…and so are the wicked!  Then the fullness of time, God is carried in the Virgin’s womb. Wonderful are your works;  my soul knows it very well.

 Let us pray…We come to you Father with praise and thanksgiving, not as we ought, but as we are able. We beg you to accept and bless the prayer we offer you. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness. Lord, in your mercy, R.: hear our prayer.

Remember, Lord, Your one, holy, Christian and apostolic church. Watch over her and guide her. Grant her peace and unity throughout the whole world. Grant her to speak with one voice and act with unity of purpose upholding Your gift of life, and working for an end to the scourge of legalized murder. We pray especially for Matthew and all the leaders of our Synod; for all pastors, and every servant of the Church. Grant that they may be steadfast in Your Word. Lord, in your mercy, R. 

Remember, Lord, all who bear witness to the sanctity of life. Guard them, we pray, from the attacks of Satan and give them patient strength in the face of opposition. Lord, in your mercy, R. 

Remember, Lord, those who work in crisis pregnancy centers. Remember those doctors and nurses who work with pregnant women. Lord, in your mercy, R.

Remember those women who are struggling with their pregnancies. Give them strength and sustenance to care for their children, and grant us grace to offer them our love and support. Lord, in your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, all women who are barren. Remember those parents who grieve the untimely loss of their little ones. Give to them that peace which the world cannot give. Lord, in your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, our enemies. Turn their hearts toward the truth, and give us a genuine love for them. Forgive them their sins, for they know not what they do. Lord, in your mercy, R. 

Remember, Lord, how once You sent Your Son to save our lost and fallen race. We commend to Your tender compassion all the millions of innocents who have been destroyed by abortion and other crimes, together with all those who are now suffering in body or soul. Grant them your mercy and a happy issue out of their afflictions. Lord, in your mercy, R. 

Remember, Lord, those women who have had abortions and are now burdened with guilt and grief.  Grant them Your peace.Lord, in your mercy, R.

[Insert Additional Petitions Here]

Remember, Lord, all Your people who are gathered here before You, our living and true God. We pray for our well-being and redemption. Grant us Your peace in this life and a place in the world to come, through Christ our Lord. Lord, in your mercy, R.

With the whole Church we honor Mary, the virgin Mother of Jesus, our Lord and God.  We honor Joseph her husband. We honor the apostles, evangelists, prophets, confessors, martyrs and all the saints. Grant us grace to follow the pattern of their lives in faith and service, Lord, in your mercy, R. 

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN.

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Prayer of the Day

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Intro:  The following meditation is for this day, 22 January and is cited from the excellent A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditation for Each Day of the Church Year (Pastor Scott Murray).  The lessons for this day are:  Psalmody: Psalm 69:19-23,32-33;  Old Testament Reading: Joel 2:1-17 New Testament Reading: Romans 11:1-24.  For those unfamiliar, there is a daily lectionary of readings with the Lutheran Service Book.  I do not think it necessary to go farther afield than these resources for daily devotions and prayer by going hither and yon looking for such.  The Treasury of Daily Prayer is another  closely related resource.  We need this because the Lord is explicit in His Word that, “…we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26) but the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness even in our sighs with God’s Word.  The disciples were constrained to ask Jesus to teach them to pray,see Luke 11:1.  The Lord has so taught us to pray and prayer in His Word:  see the Psalms!  If you sense that you do not pray as you ought, then you are in agreement with Scripture and seek out the mentioned sources in order to help your  praying.  If you think you do pray well and that  you are spiritually rich, then thank the Lord and this meditation below by Pr. Murray, who then cites St. Augustine, is for you, as it is for us all!

Meditation

Sometimes we suffer from a spiritually swollen head. If that happens, the crown of righteousness will no longer fit. If we get spiritually puffed up or proud, then we defeat the very gift of grace that comes to those who are in need of it. If our heads swell on account of the crown of righteousness, the crown will slip off our pates and be lost. The nature of the Christian faith is counterintuitive in that just when we think we can reach out and grasp it, that is exactly when we can be sure the faith has slipped from our grasp. When we are feeling most unworthy of the divine gift of forgiveness in Christ, that is when are most likely to have it.

What we think of as our own merits are really Christ’s gifts. Who shows pride of accomplishment in a gift? Only the deluded. Watch out for your head size.

“After redemption from all corruption, what remains but the crown of righteousness? This at least remains, but even in it or under it, do not let your head be swollen, so that it may receive the crown. Hear and mark well the psalm: that crown will not fit a swollen head. After he says, `Who redeems your life from the pit,’ he says, `who crowns you’ (Psalm 103:4). Here you were ready at once to say, -‘Crowns you” is an acknowledgment of my merits. My own excellence has done it. It is the payment of a debt, not a gift.’ Give ear rather to the psalm. It is to you again that it says, ‘All mankind are liars’ (Psalm 116:11). Hear what God says: `Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.’ Out of His steadfast love He crowns you. Out of His mercy He crowns you. You had no worthiness that He should call you; being called, that He should justify you; being justified, that He should glorify you. `There is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace’ (Romans 11:5-6). `Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due’ (Romans 4:4). The apostle says, ‘Not counted as a gift but as his due.’ But you He crowns with steadfast love and mercy. And if you think your own merits have preceded this, God says to you, `Examine well your merits, and you will see that they are My gifts”‘ (Augustine, Sermons on Selected Lessons, 81.8).

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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)

Some of you may have seen the 2000 movie, “Pay It Forward” about a young boy, with a troubled family who is given an unusual assignment by his social studies teacher.  Instead of  “paying someone back” for a good deed or favor done, “paying it forward”:  matching good deeds with good deeds to new people and in the movie the young boy begins a revolution in the lives of his family and those around him. I have not seen the movie.  Doing good deeds out of faith is a good thing but notice the premise of the movie is not doing good deeds out of faith in Jesus Christ, but PAYING it forward. 

How much does one pay?  If one is paying then one is buying something.  What is the person buying? In  a word:  salvation. How much does one pay for salvation?  We can’t pay it forward.  How much does one pay? We have the answer in today’s Gospel, how much.  ““Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29)  How much did salvation cost?   “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”  (1 Peter). Our silver and gold can not buy salvation, neither can our deeds. but the deed of His blood has bought us. He has paid the price of our sin, backwards and forwards with His priceless blood, the blood of the Lamb of God, because you and I can not pay it forward or backward.

            The Lord’s solution to the sin of the world is a lamb. His solution is our Savior.  It’s foolishness to the world. Salvation is not in government sponsored programs, or church sponsored programs for that matter, nor good intentions, nor again, paying it back or  “paying it forward”, not in men’s wisdom, or the great signs and works  of human religions, but a lamb.  Not just any lamb, it is this Lamb, the perfect Passover Lamb, not 50% man and 50% God, but 100%/100%: Behold!. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.  When the Lord in His Law finds us out, we can not bear the sin and it is the sin of the world, heavier than the mere world Atlas bore.  In so many movies about army basic training, we hear the drill sergeant screaming, Can you take it!  I can take it, drill sergeant, yells the recruit.  They can…but sin and sorrow? No.  Even a tough Roman centurion could not take the illness of his beloved servant and he knew that in Jesus Christ pure holiness dwelt (and still does), and he sought the Christ (Matthew 8:  5-10). the Lamb of God is with us, the One has takes  away the sin of world. When in His Law He finds us out, then in His Christ, His beloved Son, He finds us.

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The March on Washington, 1963, Rev. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, looking from the Lincoln Memorial where King spoke

‘…the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.’

Introduction:  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s  “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”  dated April 16th, 1963, was written to clergymen who did not like the non-violent protests of civil rights movement. His letter is an apologia, a defense of  non-violent protest against injustice.  It is a long letter. Below are citations from it.  You can read the entire letter here.

Reflection:  Dr. King wrote this when I was nine years of age.  One of the most important inventions of the 20th century is still the television.  We saw in black and white on the nightly news non-violent protesters beaten, hosed and pursued. I still remember my Father saying this is not America.  This letter is a measured response to the resistance to resistance to evil.  I have emphasized a couple of quotes below that I think are especially needed in our time about the Church.

First, note that Dr. King had no troubles with the “separation of Church and state”.  It was not about the 10 commandments in a court house but in the courts of public opinion and policy.  Still is.  It is not about manger scenes alone in public squares but His Incarnation for us in our public squares.  

Second, he had no trouble invoking the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as reflective of our “Jude0-Christian heritage”.  We must not be either as we witness the executive and judicial branches of government usurping our founding documents to enforce health care and abortion, and abortion as health care. Since the State can do that as a supposed “moral good”, then what is stopping said State from even more curtailing of our Constitutional liberties?  This is a state  defining marriage contrary to all the Jude0-Christian heritage.  As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of blessed memory wrote, When the Church is excluded from the public square then the State will become the church.  No one could convince Dr. King that the Church did not belong in the public square.  Yet, many are still doing that these days in the name of immoralities and abortions of conscience.  We must take heed to his words.

  • I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my a particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
  • We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was “well timed,” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the words [sic]”Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
  • We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
  • You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”
  • Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes and “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn’t segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.
  • We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws. I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
  • But as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist for love — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist — “Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice–or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thusly fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
  • There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. (emphasis my own)
  • Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.
  • But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. I am meeting young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.
  • One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

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Text:  John 1:29-42, especially the italicized verses

29 The next day (John the Baptizer)  saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizeswith the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be calledCephas” (which means Peter).

John’s vocation pointed by preaching and teaching the Word of God to the Christ. A pastor told me that on one Sunday morning, Good Shepherd Sunday, they had in the sanctuary as an illustration an actual lamb. This pastor was noted for creativity in the liturgy.  The pastor commented about having lamb in the sanctuary, ‘Boy, did he ever stink!  Never again.’  I am sure glad the Lord did not and does not so think about His people:  don’t want them in here, never again, they stink.  Oh, we do and that’s the reason we come together, to be cleansed in His Word, repented and forgiven in Him. 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake
.  The Lamb of God is also the Good Shepherd. Lamb and Shepherd are two aspects of the one Office of Christ.  He bore our sin as the Lamb of God and so leads His people as the Good Shepherd of His flock..  The slaughtered lamb is the wounded Shepherd.
and with his wounds we are healed 

The Lamb of God did not stink but He was baptized so He would stink with the foulness of a zombie flesh eating, vampire blood-sucking, breaking bad world.  He had no need for washing the stain of sin from His body and soul. John witnessed that Jesus was baptized, fully immersed into the sin of world taking it away with every step He walked, that we walk in Him.  Fully immerse so that, with every Word He spoke, we speak His Word, with every prayer He uttered that we pray, with every morsel He ate that we be fed, with every tear He cried that we are washed, with every drop of blood He shed so that we are made whole.  Feed my sheep, the risen Lord commanded Peter three times.  “That stinks to high heaven” and so the Lord of heaven came down to wash His sheep three times in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He feeds us His Body and Blood, the Word of God, the Word of grace and peace through His forgiveness.  John’s vocation pointed by preaching and teaching the Word of God to the Christ.  The Lord called John the Baptizer to baptize and point to the Lamb of God. Jesus is the baptized Lamb of God.  He still is.  

“For the Holy Scripture declares that the sin of the world does not lie on the world, or St. John’s sin on St. John, or St. Peter’s on Peter, for they are unable to bear it.  The sin of the world lies on Christ, the Lamb of God.  He steps forth and becomes a vile sinner, yea, sin itself (2 Cor. 5: 21), just as if He Himself had committed all the sin of the world from its beginning to its end.  This is to be the Lamb’s office, mission and function.”

The Lord, the Holy Spirit inspired men to write the Scriptures to point to the Lamb of God. Later on in John’s holy Gospel, Jesus teaches,  …The Scriptures are the Word of God in the words of God He inspired human authors to write. We can count on His Word to point us to our Savior and away from the quicksand of our thoughts about Christ causing us to fall. Luther:  “This is a key element especially to the devil, as he seeks wasy to tear us away from the Word (of God), and then , apart from the Word leads us away from the Word, and then, apart from the Word, leads us to think our own thoughts (about Christ,apart from the Bible, see for instance Mohammed and Joseph Smith or liberal theologians).  for then (the devil)  knows has won and we have lost” (Luther). The star led the Magi to Jerusalem as these pagans logically thought the King of the Jews must be born in the capital, in the Temple of Israel, but it was finally the Word of God in the words of God in Micah, which states that the king is born in the least of the cities of Judah, Bethlehem.  “The Word is a trustworthy star, and it guides them straight to Christ.  Without and apart from the Word, they would not have found Christ the King.” (Luther)

 Paul wrote that Adam was the type of the one to come. There are many types, examples, in fact the Old Testament can be regarded as filled with the promises and the types of Christ to come,so that the Lord’s Church be challenged, encouraged and strengthened.  So Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that the journey of his freed people Israel through the wilderness is an example or types of Christ.  When the people of Israel cried out for water, the Lord told Moses to hit the rock with his staff and water came forth.  For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. The Bible is about Jesus Christ, from when the Lord clothed the fallen Adam and Eve because they were ashamed with the nakedness of their sin till when He baptized us and so clothes us in Jesus Christ, our christening robe. 

The Lord baptizes His Church, His Body to point to the Lamb of God, following Him,  abiding in His Word and so He feeds us His Word.  The two sections of today’s Gospel both commence with John’s sermon: Behold!  The Lamb of God. In the first section is his witness to Jesus’ Baptism.  In the second section is John’s witness to the Lamb of God to John’s disciples.  Andrew and the other disciple wanted to know where Jesus was staying, or abiding.  They followed Him. They wanted to know where the Lord was staying, abiding.  They wanted to spend time with Him, the Word of God made flesh and so Andrew invited his brother Simon, or as Jesus named him, Cephas or rock.  They wanted their words and life to point to the Lamb of God.  This was a new orientation in their lives.  What do our lives point?  The compass point of the world always points inward.   The compass of His Word which makes the Church points out to Jesus Christ.  We live in the disorientation of a world concentrating on the idolatry of the self.  The Lord baptizes and calls His church to point to the Lamb of God.  We need His orientation day by day.  The picture above is the altarpiece painted by Mattheas Grunewald for the hospital chapel of Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Isenheim, Alsace (then part of Germany), where monks ministered to victims afflicted with the disfiguring skin disease known as Saint Anthony’s Fire, which was common in the middle ages. Monks, hospital staff, and patients at St. Anthony’s would have related in a very personal way to the ravaged body of Christ as it appears in the central Crucifixion scene of the closed altarpiece.  It shows John the Baptizer with a big long finger pointing to the Crucified. He doesn’t point at us to say how bad you are.  He does not point to himself to say how good he is, and the words  in Latin behind John are his own sermon, He must increase and I must decrease.  The altarpiece has hinges and then can open up and be changed to the Nativity and the resurrection.  Those so afflicted were being reoriented. We do too as we are found and do not get lost. Others are to be sought in this lost world for which He died and you are part of that world. The Lord has so that we may abide in His Word and point, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  In the Orthodox Church the bread of Holy Communion is called the Lamb.  From the Lamb we receive His Body and His blood, fed the word of life.

 John’s vocation pointed by preaching and teaching the Word of God to the Christ.

The Lord, the Holy Spirit inspired men to write the Scriptures to point to the Lamb of God.

The Lord baptizes His Church, His Body to point to the Lamb of God, following Him,  abiding in His Word and so He feeds us His Word. IN the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Heavenly Father,You revealed to the apostle Peter the blessed truth that Your Son Jesus is the Christ. Strengthen us by the proclamation of this truth that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Confession of St. Peter:

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of God in the New Testament would begin with the person of Peter, whose confession is the rock on which Christ would build His Church. But Peter was not alone (the “keys” given to him in Matthew 16:19 were given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:21-23). As St. Paul tells us, Peter and the other apostles take their place with the prophets as the foundation of the Church, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The confession of Peter, therefore, is the witness of the entire apostolic band and is foundational in the building of Christ’s Church. Thus the Church gives thanks to God for St. Peter and the other apostles who have instructed Christ’s Holy Church in His divine and saving truth. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Readings:

Acts 4:8-13

Psalm 118:19-29 

2 Peter 1:1-15

Mark 8:27-9:1

Reflection:   The Greek New Testament for the confession of St Peter in St. Matthew has a word play.  The Roman Catholic Church asserts that when Jesus says to Peter, Upon this rock I shall build my Church, the Lord is referring to Peter as the rock, the foundation of the Church and subsequently the popes.  The Lord did not as He was referring to Peter’s confession.  The word play is the “Petros” (-os, masculine ending), i.e. Peter, “Rock “is Peter’s new name, but when Jesus says, “Upon this rock…”, the Greek is “petra”, neuter ending, that is Peter’s Confession.  All of the Church is to confess Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God,the sweet sound of salvation for sinners.  “…it is certain that the Church is not built on the authority of a man but on the ministry of the confession which Peter made, when he declare Jesus to the Christ, the Son of God” (The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of Pope, The Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions)

The Lord has called His apostolic Church to be faithful in confessing Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Lord.  Peter eventually led the way of the holy Apostles in preaching and teaching Christ.  Peter who had denied Christ, was faithful to Christ’s command to him, “Feed My Sheep”. Pastors are called  to be faithful in confessing Christ, to feed and lead His people so that others may hear of the Savior.  If pastors, ministers and priests trust their own thinking about Christ, and not the Word,   “…will lose Christ” (Luther). In a school, principles are worthless without the authority and care of a principled principal to educate with students.  Principles are words.  So likewise  a principal without sound principles is anarchy. The Lord’s pastorate is principled in the Word of Law and Promise to teach His people.  If they follow their own lesson plans, then there is anarchy.  What makes Christianity Christian is Christ so we can be Christians, taught and fed by faithful Christian pastors, as we are  built on the Rock of our salvation, Jesus the Christ, even when steeples are falling. As Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached on St. Matthew 16:  

What is the difference between Peter and the others? Is he of such heroic nature that he towers over the others? He is not. Is he endowed with such unheard-of strength of character?  He is not. Is he gifted with unshakable loyalty? He is not. Peter is nothing, nothing but a person confessing his faith, a person who has been confronted by Christ and who has recognized Christ, and who now confesses his faith in him, and this confessing Peter is called the rock on which Christ will build his church.  Peter’s church–that means the church of rock, the church of the confession of Christ. Peter’s church, that does not mean a church of opinions and views, but the church of the revelation; not a church in which what “people say” is talked about but the church in which Peter’s confession is made anew and passed on; the church which has no other purpose in song, prayer, preaching, and action than to pass on its confession of faith; the church which is always founded on rock as long as it remains within these limits, but which turns into a house built on sand, which is blown away by the wind, as soon as it is foolhardy enough to think that it may depart from or even for a moment neglect this purpose.

St. Augustine was a good catholic as was Luther.  St. Augustine knew from whence comes the Christian. 

“Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

St. Augustine: Upon this rock I shall build my faith; the faith you confess. Upon what you have said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God: I shall build my Church.

For thou art Peter.

Peter from the rock (petra); not the rock from Peter. So Peter, because of the Rock; as Christian, because of Christ.  Would you know after what rock (petra) Peter is called? Listen to Paul answering: “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, the Apostle of Christ says, “I would not have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea. And all did eat the same spiritual frod. And all drank the same spiritual drink; and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ (I Cor. x. i—k)”. From this rock Peter came.  (emphasis my own)

From a sermon by St. Augustine, delivered on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, from The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers,  (a Roman Catholic publisher)

 

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You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain; for the Lord will not let those who misuse His name go unpunished.

“The false doctrine in our church, which under the circumstances finds itself disguised as utterly pious, thoroughly Christian, totally orthodox, is also a misuse of God’s holy name, and because of this doctrine the judgment of God will have to come upon us and our children, that is unless we do everything in our power to drive out this false doctrine under the guise of God’s name.” (From a Sermon preached by Peter Brunner on the Second Commandment, July 22, 1945)

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