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Archive for March, 2015

 

COLLECT OF THE DAY:

Almighty and everlasting God,grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14;  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (26-31);   John 12:23-50


  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32

Reflection:  Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?  What is our “draw”?  I have  asked that question and that is more than a simple admission, it is more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels?  etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit, see John 15:5.  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “draw” is figurative of the pull on a man’s inner life, usually called the soul, the heart, the mind, that is, body and soul.    The Greek word in it’s more pedestrian sense means to haul, drag, draw something, such as a sword.   The crucified true man and true God compels, draw forth men and women to Himself.  Sadly, many will simply walk away from the crucified Lord, thinking they can get by.  But to those who confess they are dead, Christ gives life to those in the tombs .  Jesus had said to Nicodemus that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so will the Son of Man be lifted up,John 3:14. The Israelites were biting and devouring in each other and complaining against God and His anointed, Moses.  God appointed poisonous snakes to bite and devour them, as an outward sign of their inward, soul sin.  Moses prayed.  The Lord said take a bronze serpent and lift it up in the middle of the camp and whoever looks upon will be healed.  If you were dying this would be compelling and draw you forth.  The bronze serpent was not magic but God attached His Word of promise to that snake.  Upon the Cross it was the Word made flesh, nailed to the Cross, Incarnate and the beginning of the fulfillment of the Incarnation to draw off the poison of the dying.  Compelling.

“When I study God’s Word, I find that Christ not only has the form of a serpent without venom;  but I also feel a power in Him which will cure me of venom…Even a cow could stare at the serpent—but how could that help her?…It was not an angel, a principality, or any of the world’s mighty who became incarnate and died for us—no, both the angelic and the human nature would have been too weak—but it was the divine nature that assumed humanity. It was Christ who adopted our flesh and blood that we might be saved through Him.”(Luther)

In the verse John 3:14 and in this one for Holy Monday, Jesus used the word “lifted up”.   People manufacture “worship experiences” to give an emotional “lift” in order to “draw” people to church.  From what I have seen, read and heard, the centrality of the Crucified is diminished and can disappear. Christ Jesus can no longer draw people to Himself.  This is not Biblical.  It is written that our preaching IS, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).  H0ly Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ).  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In His Body given unto death is our life:  ALONE.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness.  And so the Christians from almost day one would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies.  And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped.  Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls. He draws us with our heavy hearts, hearts burden with cares and worries, with iniquity.  Lift up your hearts. We lift them up unto the Lord. He who was lifted up can lift us up in, by and with  the utter grace of His forgiveness.   He is the Draw Who alone saves.

He bows His head on the timber-trunk of the cross to kiss us in love. He stretches out His arms in order to embrace us in love. He prays for His crucifiers because He suffered out of love for them. His side is opened up with a spear so that the flame of heartfelt love might break forth from it, “so that we through the wound’s opening may behold the mystery of the heart.” In love He longs for us, and thus He said: I thirst [that is,] for your salvation.”By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.” (Pr. and Prof. Johann Gerhard)

O Lord Jesus Christ, You are the One who became a curse on the timber-trunk of the cross for us. Make us partakers of this divine blessing. Let Your holy blood flow over us so that we thereby are washed of our sins and are given to drink of eternal life. O You eternal High Priest, let Your intercession redound to our good, so that in the power of the same we may benefit from Your holy suffering and may obtain forgiveness of sins. Amen.

(Prayer by Johann Gerhard)

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Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

Collect for the Day:

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament LessonIsaiah 50:5–10

Psalm of the Day: Psalm 36:5–10; antiphon: v. 9

Epistle Lesson1 Peter 2:21–24

Gospel Lesson:  St. John 12:1–23

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  (John 12: 23b “…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12: 43).

The glory that comes from  the Old Adam always praises the glory of man. As a pastor wrote after “the Oscars” ceremony:  Idolaters worshiping their idols as their idols receive an idol. This is as old as Babel.

  And all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart. (Francis Thompson)

We think that man’s glory will last the ages, as the 1,000 Year Reich proclaimed, but even the vainglorious ancient Romans knew something of the transitory nature of earthly glory:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” (General George S. Patton)

“In the cross of Christ I glory, tow’ring o’er the wrecks  of time”. Not all glory is fleeting: The glory that comes from God glorifies His Son in love for us all, and His love is before the foundations of the world, ancient yet ever new (Ephesians 1: 4-5).  The Holy Monday Gospel is the severe contrast between the poverty of the glory that comes from man with the glory that comes from God. 

The evangelist John and many other eye witnesses of the Word testified, “…we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’(John 1: 14). The glory coming from God is His extravagant and costly mercy, as seen “when Mary anointed the Lord’s feet”.  Judas was pinching pennies,not understanding such love, nor the Giver at the table.  Judas and the Pharisees magnifies the Adamic  lust after the glory of this world.  Judas could not understand Mary’s joy that her brother Lazarus was alive by the Word of Jesus.   Like Judas, the Old Adam is a thief, stealing to get ahead, attempting to rob God of the glory for one’s self.   As old as Eve (Genesis 3: 5). The glory coming from God is finally the costly blood of His Son for those who are poor in spirit to anoint our heads and feet with His forgiveness (Matthew 5: 3).Human reason, unaided by the revelation of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, can not understand such love. As  Mary anointed the Lord’s Body for His burial, the Lord has anointed us with His blood so our sin, our self itself is buried with Him, and that as He is risen,we too may walk in the newness of life (Romans 6: 4).  As our Lord said after His anointing:

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (St. Mark 14)

We do not proclaim any good news of the rich and famous, Caesars and presidents, for there is none. In the whole world we remember what Mary did.  After the dust collects on trophies and awards and diplomas, they are forgotten but we remember with joy those who loved us. The Lord’s  love and mercy is never in the black, but always in the red, that is, in His blood.  A slave stands behind our ears who is the Lord of heaven and earth and says, ‘The glory of this world is fleeting, but  behold, I am with you even unto the end of age’ (Matthew 28: 20). 

O Lord  Jesus Christ, You who were anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, give me grace so that I may sprinkle Your feet with penitent tears and may thus be enabled to anoint the members of Your spiritual body—especially the needy and suffering ones—with the oil of compassion and gentle kindness. Amen.  (prayer by Pr. Johann Gerhard)

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In the Gospels Palm Sunday begins the Week we call holy.  In John’s Gospel, the Triumphal Entry begins at 12:  12 and the events of Holy Week, all take place either in Jerusalem or close by, then fulfilled in the Resurrection and in John  ending at 21:  35.  Eleven chapters to report our Lord’s three years of public ministry and 9 chapters to cover 8 days!  The Lord was quite busy in those 8 days:

  • The Parable of the Two Sons, Matthew 21: 28-32
  • The Parable of the Tenants, Matthew 21: 33-46
  • The Parable of the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22:  1-14
  • Paying Taxes to Caesar, Matthew 22:  15-22
  • Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection, Matthew 22:  23-33
  • The Great Commandment, Matthew 22:  34-40
  • Whose Son Is the Christ?, Matthew 23: 41-46
  • The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet, John 13
  • The Doctrine of the Crucifixion, John 12: 27-36
  • The Giving of the Holy Spirit, John 14:  15-30,16: 4-15

This is not an exhaustive list.  Please note that much of the time Jesus is teaching in the Temple.   He was not condemned for His good works,  but His teaching, the doctrines He taught. This goes for the Church as well, if she is faithful to the Lord. He was crucified for the doctrine that He and the Father are equal and the Church is mocked for teaching this truth.  So many false religions, such as Islam and Mormonism likewise deny the truth of the Incarnation and the Savior of the world because of human pride that man can save himself by works of the law.  So Islam and Mormonism make up religious rules that are easier to keep than the Decalogue, but yet are hard.  In our neck of the woods, there are two Mormon ward houses, with cross-less steeples and I have seen the Temple outside of D.C, and that steeple has the angel Moroni.  This week is so crucial that all four Evangelists spend a bulk of their Gospels on reporting these seven days.  The Church, following the Word and Word made flesh, has rightly made Holy Week and Pascha (Easter) the focal point of the whole Church year.  Many Muslims want to eradicate from the face of the earth all mention of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  It is the teaching and preaching of the Cross that the Church is persecuted, not her deeds of corporate mercy.   Indeed, this connection between teaching and civil punishment is foretold in Isaiah. Indeed,  Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled:

Isaiah 50: 5-8

 The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.

The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
    He who vindicates me is near.

Years ago, in the old newspaper column, “Dear Abby”, Abby had a special piece, “Forgiveness Week Cures All Ills”.  Someone had arbitrarily designated that week for forgiveness.     The true forgiveness week has already been designated by the Lord by every doctrine He taught, by every conflict He had, by every ounce of sweat and blood that poured forth from His sacred Head with grief and shame weighed down.  It must give us pause that it took the Lord only 6 days to create us and the heavens and the earth and 33 years culminating in this Week to redeem us!  Hear,pray, learn, eat and drink the Lord’s Word with His Church this Holy Week.  

Jesus, I will ponder now
On Thy holy Passion;
With Thy Spirit me endow
For such meditation.
Grant that I in love and faith
May the image cherish
Of Thy suffering, pain, and death,
That I may not perish.

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This past March 15, the ides of March, there was a little heralded 30th anniversary.  On that day, a now defunct Massachusetts computer company registered and announced the first dot-com domain ever:  symbolics.com, without much fanfare because who knew at the time what a dot-com was.  This humble beginning was the herald of great change.Thirty years later, there are some three billion people on the internet.  The internet  generates $1.3 trillion in e-commerce sales, all relying on the internet, and all largely attributable to three little letters: .com.

So many years ago, another announcement or annunciation in a backwater town, Nazareth, that a virgin, Mary, would give birth to “the Son of the Most High”, “the Son of God” and Gabriel even gave the Name of the Child to be born to Mary:  Jesus, literally, God saves. This was a little heralded annunciation at the turn of the eons. Yet, this announcement of this Birth has meant the rebirth of billions upon billions of people over the pilgrimage of the Lord’s Church.  The Church and her members do not rely on something as ephemeral as the internet, always changing, but on Jesus Christ, “…the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13: 8). He is the same in His grace, mercy and peace for those burdened by the weight of sin.  This is all attributable to 5 little letters in English:  Jesus, literally,God saves.  For you He came.   

When Jesus was born there was a much louder annunciation, the birth announcement, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  Then the angelic hosts sang, Glory to God in the highest, but this announcement was a private audience:  lowly shepherds who had no spirituality to seize heaven, as heaven seized them.  And as the messenger of the Most High said to them:  for you is this Son.  He is not for Mary alone, but for you.

And in the night in which He was betrayed He gave us the meal of His absolute absolving Presence for our forgiveness and faith, palpable in bread and wine.  Luther on the Sacrament of the Altar:

“…a promise is attached to the commandment… which should most powerfully draw and impel us. Here stand the gracious and lovely words, “This is my body, given for you,” “This is my blood, poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, I have said, are not preached to wood or stone but to you and me; otherwise Christ might just as well have kept quiet and not instituted a sacrament. Ponder, then, and include yourself personally in the “you” so that he may not speak to you in vain.” (italicized words original)

In the quiet annunciation of the Words of Institution the Lord gives us Himself and in the Sacrament sums up all the “for yous”:

  • The “for you” of His Incarnation, conception, birth and growing up.
  • The “for you” of every Word He taught. 
  • The “for you” of His miracles and deeds He did.
  • The “for you” of all the works of the Lord recorded in all the Bible in creating, redeeming and sanctifying Israel and us.   
  • Then the “for you” crying from the cross, It is finished. 
  • And the “for you”, He is risen, He goes ahead of you. All of those “for yous” are summed up in the precise means of grace the Lord has established for us in the Sacrament of the Altar.

“In this sacrament he offers us all the treasure he brought from  heaven for us, to which he most graciously invites us in other places, as when he says in Matt. 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will refresh you.”(Luther) 

 We are dependent creatures, we live only by food and drink taken inward from outside of us.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  If someone does not eat, we know that person is sick. Again Luther: 

“What shall I do if I cannot feel this need or  experience hunger and thirst for the sacrament?” Answer: For persons in such a state of mind that they cannot feel it, I know no better advice than to suggest that they put their hands to their bosom and ask whether they are made of flesh and blood. If you find that you are, then for your own good turn to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians and hear what are the fruits of the flesh: “The works of the flesh are plain: adultery, immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.” If you cannot feel the need, therefore, at least believe the  Scriptures. They will not lie to you, and they know your flesh better than you yourself do.” 

As the Blessed Virgin Mary said, Let it be to me according to Thy Word.  Amen.

 

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Pro-Life!

From Martin Luther’s  Sermon on The Annunciation of Our Lord:

“That day, that moment when Mary assented to the angel Gabriel’s announcement, Christ was conceived. In that hour when she said, “Be it unto me according to thy word,” she conceived and became the mother of God; and Christ, therewith, became true God and true man in one person. Even though he is a tiny fetus, at that moment he is both God and man in Mary’s womb, an infant, and Mary is the mother of God.”

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“Mary laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim and is praised by myriads of angels. In the manger set apart for irrational animals, the Word of God lay, in order that He might impart to men, who are really irrational by free choice, the true reason and understanding. In the manger from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide men who live like the beasts of the earth with spiritual food.”

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus  (died circa A.D. 270-275)

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The Prayer of the Day

O  Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The Old Testament Reading for the Day: Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 45: 7-17

The Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 10: 4-10

The Gospel Reading for the DayLuke 1:26-38

The Annunciation of Our Lord:  The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that God has shown her favor and will use her as the means for the Messiah’s birth. So Mary conceives Jesus when the angel says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This same Spirit who hovered over the waters and brought forth creation (Genesis 1:2) will now “hover over” the waters of Mary’s womb to conceive the creation’s Redeemer. As the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, she conceives Jesus “through her ear” (as Martin Luther says). The one who is conceived is called Holy, the Son of God. This is the moment of the incarnation of our Lord. The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person’s conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Luther preached that the greatest miracle this day was not that the Virgin conceived, but she believed.  The conception was an oral one, through the ear.  “Let it be according to Thy Word” and this Word is the Word of the Lord, the Promise, the Gospel, the Good News.  The Annunciation, or the Announcement, was without fanfare, no media crowding about, no Tweets, no TV cameras in the hick town of Nazareth. This announcement was quiet as a silent night yet spoke and would speak volumes. This announcement is for the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary and this announcement is for the beloved Son’s tomb one day for us to hear another angel’s announcement: He is not here. He is risen!  These annunciations of the Word is for us to hear so that the Lord is conceived in us in the same faith as the Virgin Mary:  “Let it be according to Thy Word”:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10)

This announcement of the free and freeing forgiveness of sinners from the One. 

“…who was
 conceived
 by
 the 
Holy 
Spirit,
born
 of
 the
 virgin
 Mary,
suffered
 under 
Pontius
Pilate,
was
 crucified,
died
 and 
was 
buried.
He
 descended
 into
 hell.
The
 third 
day
 He 
rose
 again
 from 
the
 dead.
”(From the 2nd Article of the Apostles Creed)

This Annunciation has gone forth and still is  into the world: through the ear and into the heart, knowing the heart is a rusty tin can of sin,  and  made new in Jesus Christ by His grace alone, faith saving through the Word, taught, preached, administered in the Sacraments.  In the world of grand announcements and annunciation of sin and death, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary and Son of the Father, is for our  renunciation of the world, the flesh and the devil in the Annunciation to the Virgin. As Mary, we with the Virgin Mary,as His Church, share in the same faith as Mary in her Son, our Son as well, that prays: “Let it be according to Your Word”.  

 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9)

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