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Archive for May, 2014

Lessons:

Isaiah 11: 1-5

Psalm 138

Romans 12: 9-16

St. Luke 1: 39-56

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Festival Day:  John the Baptizer and Jesus, the two great figures of salvation history, now come together in the visit to Elizabeth by the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:39-45), both of whom conceived their children under miraculous circumstances. Thus John is brought into the presence of Jesus while they are still in their mothers’ wombs. This presence of the Lord causes a response by the child John as he leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. John’s response to the presence of Jesus, the Messiah, foreshadows John’s own role as forerunner. Already now, a new creation is beginning, and a baby still in the womb hails the new creation’s inception. Foreshadowed in John’s leap are the miracles of Jesus, who will cause all creation to leap at His presence: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). The incarnate presence of the Messiah also evokes a response from Elizabeth, who proclaims Mary’s blessedness. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) provides the theological significance of this meeting as Mary sums up her place in salvation history. Mary’s song is a hymn to God for His gracious gifts to the least in this world, whom He has lifted up out of lowliness solely because of His grace and mercy.

“… it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”—Irenaeus of Lyons (died AD 202)

(The above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  The understanding from Ireanaeus of the contrast between Mary and Eve has obviously been around for sometime.  It has become a liturgical and theological centerpiece of Eastern Orthodox churches.  This dovetails well into Martin Luther’s understanding that the greatest miracle is not that Mary conceived but she believed.  Many years ago, everyone was all agog about WWJD bracelets:  What Would Jesus Do.  A friend and colleague said those bracelets should have on them: What Would Mary Do.  She believed as the Word of the angel came into ear and into her heart (Romans 10:17).  She received with the meekness the implanted Word(James 1:21). Mary and Elizabeth are the first Church as the Church is the body of Christ, so Mary bore the Christ. is the Church.  Mary bore the Word made flesh, as does the Church if she is faithful in all things to the Lord, as was Mary, even at times not understanding because of the weakness of the flesh (Luke 1:34). Every child is gift. The Lord is sheer gift times two: God and man for all the diverse manner of women and men.  And so when Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s child, John, leaped in her womb when Elizabeth heard the greeting, the Word. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word alone.  The Church was there in the hill country of Judea.  The temple of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We are made His through His Word alone in Holy Baptism and in faith.  In the most humble of homes, the beauty of holiness shone within and without.  St. Luke 1: 45: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Indeed!  And so are you! The Church is made by His Word so that the Word be heard. As Elizabeth visited Mary and their Lord, so visit Him this day and every day in Word, in Holy Communion, in Prayer. He visits you.  Blessed Festival Day!  

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From The Book of Concord:  The Lutheran Confessions, The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Article VII, 27-30:

“… since He has ascended, not merely as any other saint, to heaven, but, as the apostle testifies [ Eph. 4:10 ], above all heavens, and also truly fills all things, and being everywhere present, not only as God, but also as man [has dominion and] rules from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth; as the prophets predict, Ps. 8:1,693:1f ; Zech. 9:10, and the apostles testify, Mark 16:20, that He everywhere wrought with them and confirmed their word with signs following. 28] Yet this occurred not in an earthly way, but, as Dr. Luther explains, according to the manner of the right hand of God, which is no fixed place in heaven, as the Sacramentarians assert without any ground in the Holy Scriptures, but nothing else than the almighty power of God, which fills heaven and earth, in [possession of] which Christ is installed according to His humanity… that is, in deed and truth, sine confusione et exaequatione naturarum, that is, without confusion and equalizing of the two natures in their essence and essential properties; 29] by this communicated [divine] power, according to the words of His testament, He can be and truly is present with His body and blood in the Holy Supper, to which He has directed us by His Word; this is possible to no other man, because no man is in such a way united with the divine nature, and installed in such divine almighty majesty and power through and in the personal union of the two natures in Christ, as Jesus, the Son of Mary. 30] For in Him the divine and the human nature are personally united with one another, so that in Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, Col. 2:9, and in this personal union have such a sublime, intimate, ineffable communion that even the angels are astonished at it, and, as St. Peter testifies, have their delight and joy in looking into it [ 1 Pet. 1:12 ]”

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Lessons:

Acts 1: 1-11

Ephesians 1: 15-23

St. Luke 24: 44-53

Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
    He was manifested in the flesh,
   vindicated by the Spirit,
       seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
       taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3: 16

 

Ephesians 3:   14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 The Lord’s Church, His Body  of whom He is our head, is multi-dimensional: “…the breadth and length and height and depth”.  The Lord’s Ascension is the fulfillment of the Church in Him that is not merely 3 dimensional, but 4 dimensional, that is, in space and  time.  The Ascension of our Lord is about:

looking back

looking up

looking out

and

looking forward.

  •  Looking back to the entire record of the Bible and the Lords’ saving acts in Israel and now in Jesus Christ for Israel and the entire world, so we are strengthened in our souls through faith by His grace revealed in history.  The Bible is God’s own Word inspired by the Lord and  recorded by men that we may know the Way.
  •  Looking up in faith in prayer to the Lord as He ascended, so we may know where He is leading us.  The Church, and the world, does not live in the time after Christ,  but in the time under Christ. Christ Jesus is Prophet, Priest and King and from His three fold office we receive grace upon grace.  Prophet:  His preaches His Word to all creation.  Priest:  Our Great High Priest officiates at His Table His Body and Blood.  King:  He rules His Church and creation by His Word as we awaiting for the coming of the Kingdom in all its fullness.
  •  Looking out for each other is the service that fellow pilgrims and companions offer to one another.  “Watch out” is caution.  The Lord’s looks out for us in His Law, in which the Lord direly warns: “Watch out”.  Looking out for one another is to encourage each other as we see the Day approaching.
  •  Looking forward for the Kingdom coming, begun in Jesus Christ is our God-given hope and faith. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 11, as oft as we eat of this Bread and drink of this Cup (Holy Communion) we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  The vain world thinks this is it, that is, this world and this life as it thinks it has life in itself. It does not.  Christ is crucified, Christ is risen, Christ is ascended, Christ will come again. We look to the “pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 11) to the Day. 

“Sursum Corda”, literally, Hearts Lifted, as in Lift up your hearts, we lift them up to the Lord.  He has done the heavy lifting.  He intercedes for His Body on earth so our minds are set in hope on things above. His love is for us all in all space and time, in all dimensions.

On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build
By: Josua Wegelin

On Christ’s ascension I now build
The hope of my ascension;
This hope alone has always stilled
All doubt and apprehension;
For where the head is, there as well
I know his members are to dwell
When Christ will come and call them.

Since Christ returned to claim his throne,
Great gifts for me obtaining,
My heart will rest in him alone,
No other rest remaining;
For where my treasure went before,
There all my thoughts will ever soar
To still their deepest yearning.

Oh, grant, dear Lord, this grace to me,
Recalling your ascension,
That I may serve you faithfully,
Adorning your redemption;
And then, when all my days will cease,
Let me depart in joy and peace
In answer to my pleading.

Hymn # 150 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Etlich Christlich lider
Tune: Nun Freut Euch
1st Published in: 1524

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  • Jesus was born of the house and lineage of David,  descended, according to the flesh, from King David.
  • His Mother was a devout Jew.  His step-Father also a faithful son of Israel. They observed all the required sacrifices in the Temple.
  • His Body, our Temple became the ultimate sacrifice.
  • Jesus was born in the city of David, Bethlehem.
  • On His 8th day of life, according to the Covenant the LORD God established with Abraham and his descendants, Jesus was circumcised.
  • Jesus taught in the synagogue of Nazareth.
  • Jesus observed the great Festivals of Israel, in particular, The Pesach, the Passover. His last meal was Passover.
  • Jesus kept the Sabbath and rested in death on the Sabbath, routing hell.
  • By His Word through His touch He healed the sick, the blind, the deaf, the mute, the dead.
  • By His Word He multiplied wine and bread.
  • His hands blessed and broke the bread.
  • His hands were bound as a common criminal.
  • His head was crowned with thorns shedding His blood.
  • He was a carpenter and bore the work of another carpenter:  the cross.
  • He walked the length and breadth of the Land of Promise.
  • His  feet were nailed to the cross.
  • His side was pierced by a Roman spear and blood and water flowed out.
  • He said the Son of Man has no where to lay His Head.
  • He was laid in a tomb.
  • And as He said, on the third day He rose again.
  • For for 40 days,  in His resurrected body He ate and drank and showed many His hands and His side.
  • On the 40th Day, He ascended into heaven: with the scars of the cross, the mark of the circumcision, the hands that healed and broke the bread blessed His apostles one last time…a true man, a Jewish man, was taken up into heaven and sits upon the right hand of God the Father.  Jesus is true God before all worlds were created.
  • He came down from heaven to be born of the Virgin Mary.  He left so we are born from above in Him in Holy Baptism. 
  • Only He who descended from David, could ascend, true God and true man. He left to come again and we will discover the true nature of His promise:  “I am with you always even unto the end of the age”.  He will come again as He never left. He’s always been with us.

His ascension is man’s exaltation.  As much as we exalt ourselves, at the expense of others, we do so to distance ourselves from others. He is exalted to be close to us all.  His exaltation is His humiliation and in that humiliation His love and mercy for Israel and the whole human race is poured out through His life and crucifixion and resurrection.  He humiliated Himself to bring us close to His bosom and He ascended and is exalted to be close to us all.

For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
   but the haughty he knows from afar.

How high is heaven?  Very far away for the proud and self-exalted. But near for the lowly, for those who pray by looking up to Him Who came down for all.

 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
   and your right hand delivers me. (Psalm 138)

His right hand has delivered us:  Thanks be to Jesus Christ!

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“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” St. John 14: 18 

The one of most famous orphans in fiction is Oliver Twist. What does an orphan want more than anything else in the world?  To be adopted. This is the refrain of Oliver Twist.  Jesus will not leave His disciples as orphans.  He sent the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, as the Lord taught.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of adoption,

 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8: 15

 Slave of sin is not a son or daughter of God.  We need not fear we if we are adopted.  As sinners, off on our own, far away from our Father’s home, He seeks His offspring to make them His own.  Sinners need the Lord’s adoption.  The Law can only help us adapt.   His Gospel is to adopt.  In the Holy Spirit, through the Son, we know God the Father, adopted.  Jesus is saying, I have called you but I will not you leave orphaned, I will adopted you as my brothers into My Father’s family,  the Spirit, the Comforter, the Paraclete.  Adoption is comfort as a child is adopted into a good home.  The Lord’s House is our good home. 

Galatians 3 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Note what it says in the written Word:  “heirs according to the promise”.  Heirs, inheriting the Lord’s treasures of faith, hope and love, the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Heirs, not according to the Law, by what we have done, but according to what we have done deserving nothing but God’s wrath, justly according to His Law. This is the Spirit of truth. We do not deserve the Lord’s inheritance, but the Lord alone knows fully we need His inheritance.  According to the promise, that is what Christ Jesus has done, baptizing you, making you His own, forgiving you, sealing you with the Holy Spirit, by, through, with and under His death and resurrection.

And again in the next chapter of Galatians, it is written:

 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4

 Whose we are is who we are.  No longer orphans in the world.   Jesus will not leave the disciples as orphans.  He does not leave us as orphans.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of adoption.  Jesus gladly tells them you will be adopted.  He tells them who their true Father is. 

 I speculate that back in the 1st century, and probably in the 19th century and the centuries before there were more orphans because of higher early mortality rates.  In fact the Lutheran Church had a notable orphanage in Roanoke, begun in 1888.   Yet there are today  many orphans, spiritual orphans. Children orphaned by parental abuse, emotional, physical and sexual. Children orphaned by their parents’ divorce wars.  Children prevented from coming to Jesus by them not being baptized, and a generation of those baptized, then hardly ever brought again to God’s House.  It is spiritual child abandonment.  Living in a culture in which children act like adults and adults act like children, that is, childish.  With the desire to be like children, the love of children becomes perverted. Children aborted as a diabolical perversion of ‘mercy’. Children orphaned by tyrannical wars, as in Syria.  Jesus is clear, that, “….whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”  He sends out His Apostles, breathing on them the Holy Spirit, to retain the sins of the unrepentant and to forgive the repentant in His mercy shed in His blood for all orphans.  He sends out His Apostles out to teach and baptize.

 Earlier in John’s Gospel, in our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus, He taught that unless one is born above or water and the Spirit, one can not see Kingdom of God.  Baptism, wrote the Apostle Peter, saves.  Baptism saves. It’s so plain, Baptism saves.  Baptism has Christ’s command and promise behind Baptism, in Baptism, through Baptism. In Baptism He has put His Name:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Consciences washed clean, raised by the Lord’s resurrection.  Baptism is Biblical, not only the act, but the effects of the Lord’s Word of Promise.   Baptism is the Lord’s own way  that the orphans of this world see His reign of grace, mercy and peace. The world only sees in Christians adherents of a suspect religion. The world does not know nor gets the Holy Spirit nor His work and the world doubts, at best, our adoption but we will gladly say it, “I am baptized into Christ, I’m a child of paradise.” (#594, Lutheran Service Book)  This is our witness to Jesus Christ:  our Baptism.  The Apostle Peter wrote that we are to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in us when asked, and to do so with “gentleness and respect”.  Our defense and witness is NOT how good we are, but how good God is in His grace in Jesus Christ for us sinners.

  The Lord’s Church is an orphanage and more than an orphanage: adopted in Holy Baptism, given the family Name, the Holy Trinity. Jesus taught that the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit.  The world seeks only it’s own glory, fame and power.  It is self-seeking and self-destroying.  The gods and goddesses, known and unknown, that the Apostle Paul saw that day in Athens, are demons, projections of the Old Adam writ large in lust and power. We do not have idol statues on the streets.  They are on TV now seeking human hearts. The gods are twisted and twisting.  The Holy Spirit seeks to find those lost in Athens.  The Lord, the Holy Spirit brings them into His good home, by the Office of the Holy Spirit, preaching and teaching Jesus Christ. Remember that Jesus knew the joy of being adopted on earth by Joseph.

Professor Naomichi Masaki, Concordia Seminary, Ft.Wayne said it well:    “When the Holy Spirit is doing His job, all we see and hear of is Jesus. When you clearly hear and see Jesus then you know that the Holy Spirit is at work.” The Church is living her vocation when all we see and hear of is Jesus.  Then you know the Holy Spirit is at work.  Living as Baptized children of God is not necessarily comfortable that is cushy and easy living as sons and daughters of the King, growing into full adulthood as the Lord’s sons and daughters, in this world.  The disciples were overcome with doubt and dark the night in which Jesus was betrayed.   The Lord is the Paraclete, and that word is translated as Helper, Comforter. The word Paraclete is related to the Greek words for encouragement or comfort.  Encouragement is comfort.  It literally means to stand along side of and the Holy Spirit dwelling within, our bodies temple of the Holy Ghost. Not comfortable but comforting in His forgiveness which He gives through His means of grace, the means of the Holy Spirit:  Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar. His Word is His promise.  He fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit, as it is written in Ephesians 6, “… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”

 In the Name of the Father and of the  +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The first small town my wife lived in is the one we now call home.  In the lead up to Memorial Day, the VFW were distributing “Buddy Poppies” and asking for a donation.  She had never heard of buddy poppies.  The story behind Buddy Poppies is a poem written by Dr. Major John McCrae, second in command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery during the Second Battle of Ypres in April and May 1915.  Below is the poem’s text and a video song version of it.   A buddy poppy is a good remembrance.

Dr. McCrae’s line, “If ye break faith with us who die\We shall not sleep” resonates with a Biblical truth:  the Church is a democracy of the dead where the dead have a voice (G.K. Chesterton).  We can not break faith with the dead then we are dead.  For  the Lord is the Lord of the living, not of the dead for all are alive to Him (Matthew 22: 31-33).  On Memorial Day we do not thank a veteran as we should on November 11th, on Memorial Day we thank God for those who gave the last full measure of their devotion.  Keeping faith with the dead, we keep faith with those who live:  the families and friends of those who died in defense of our Constitutional liberty.  As Lincoln said in his second Inaugural Address,

“…let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan”.

Remember the oath every member of the Armed Forces gives which begins:

“I,(name) do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

It is to defend a document, words on a page (as I heard one officer say at a commissioning).  Every nation will protect their nation. Our armed forces defend our constitutional liberty. In the history of nations, I think our Constitution set forth an idea that at the time was unique in the history of nations shines:  we do not go to war to protect our government, our king, our queen, even our property, we defend liberty.  Many died to defend our freedom. We thank the Lord for their defense. Freedom and liberty are Biblical words and they are worth fighting for. As it is inscribed on the Liberty Bell:  

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof Lev. XXV X  

Support the work of the VFW, the American Legion, Wounded Warriors, etc.  Pray for our soldiers and sailors, especially those in harm’s way.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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I have an article at Brothers of John the Steadfast blog for your edification and encouragement: “When I was a child…”  Check it out!

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