Archive for March 17th, 2015

Note that the text from Numbers 21:4–9, about the bronze serpent, cited by Jesus, is in the right hand panel of Lucas Cranach’s painting, Law and Promise. Jesus has fulfilled this type of the Christ.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

 The dog is sick and the boss is a pain. Just had car problems and late for work.  Your husband or wife seems to be on another planet.  Life has not turned out according to expectations.  The children are leaving home in more ways than physically.  The professor is loading on more work and didn’t like your last paper.  The last trip to the doctor was frightening.  Internet is down and so are you. It is one of those days.  One of those days and you need a lift.  Ever have one of those days, when you just need a lift?  We all have those days and there will be others.  There are many promises for a lift from bourbon to religion to food to the latest spirituality fad.  All of those “days” makes one  focus hard…hard on ourselves.  The Old Adam’s egocentricity hunkers down inside the dark cave of heart and soul and seeks there some sort of lift.  But there is no light in a cave especially in the ‘man cave’ of the Old Adam.  At best it will seem like light but it will be illusory light of idolatry, a phantasm.  As much as many are afraid of the dark, yet spiritually love the dark. “…and people loved the darkness” As Jesus said people do not want their deeds be exposed. In government and politics this need for light in the darkness of the political processes comes under the rubric of “transparency”.  As much as politicians of all persuasions extol “transparency”, unless it is enforced by the rigid rules, it won’t happen.  Dealings under the table, in the secrecy of e-mails, in hushed corners of the capitol…in families, work places, on the street, in college hall ways. Luther on this text:

“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.”

Do not look into yourselves, your spiritualities, your religious feelings, your felt belief, for salvation. Sinners ruined by the fall should not look to the fall and their fallenness, but to Jesus Christ and He draws you forth to Himself in a love that endures and is stronger than even death. As He was lifted up so He lifts us up in the Word preached, taught and administered in His Sacramental life of His church, His very Body.  There is no death now in Jesus Christ, so we may believe into Him, our lives hid Him, not hiding evil, His charity drawing forth the man and woman in Christ to so love.   It, evil has been confessed, as did the people of Israel confess, “We have sinned against Moses and the Lord…” Yes, the saying is true and worthy of full acceptance:  confession is good for the soul for the Lord draws forth the venom in His charity healing the heart of man.  Jesus is the antidote.  And they prayed for the intercession of Moses for their lives, so if the prayer of the Lawgiver prevailed, now much more the Lord of the lawgiver prevails for you and for me! Jesus lifted up upon the Cross is the lift… the lifting off of our shoulders, our hearts, souls and minds, the darkness of the world which so easily envelopes the man caves of the Old Adam. The world is God’s good creation now minus faith and love.   Man seeks to be like god, powerful, but not powerful to love rightly, but always the tendency to love wrongly.  Into this world, the dark planet, the light has shined.  It is the light of God’s pure love in His Son Jesus.  Not that God loved the world, but so loved the world, He gave His only begotten-Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish have eternal life. It wasn’t a cosmic Teddy Bear that the Lord loved, but this world bent in upon itself.  I think John 3: 16, as Luther said is the Gospel in a nutshell, but it has to cited with John 3:15:  The Cross, His Crucifixion, otherwise we do not know where and when His love of the world, so loved,was  poured forth. He draws forth the prisoner from the darkness to faith and love.  Faith in the Lord is so that we love aright.  Faith, then love and always is in that order.  If it is love, then faith, there isn’t a chance for salvation.  Only by grace you have been saved through faith…alone. “This is not your own doing;  it is the gift of God”. Christmas was not one of the those days, but our re-birthday as Christ was born.  Good Friday was not one of those days, but all our days wrapped up together in that one day.  Easter was not one of those days, it is the day of resurrection and our hope in Christ Jesus for the day that will also not be one of those days:  the day of resurrection of the dead.

The preposition in the phrase from today’s Gospel, “whoever believes IN Him”, has the force of “into”.  The one believing into Him have eternal life.  He draws forth this total enjoyment and commitment of faith.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself, as the Lord said later. Faith based not upon my FELT belief, but upon the Cross and his sacrifice upon the Cross:  lifted up, for all to see. Jesus upon the Cross is the sign of the unmistakable love of the Father for the world.  As unmistakable as when Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.  It is not the cross which heals but the One upon. Israel saved that bronze serpent and it became a place of sacrifice to a false god that King Hezekiah rightly destroyed.  No, “the rugged cross”, but the preaching of Christ Jesus and Him crucified for us. Those who have been shown their spiritual death in their darkness, as the Israelites, had to make no decision for Jesus.  It was look or die. It was trust and live. It was a “no-brainer”. If you have a snake bite, you need someone to suck out the poison, the venom.  Jesus has.

But people do have a deadly choice:  keep their works in the dark because those works are evil, not wrought in Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Bitten by the lusts and hatreds of this world in the flesh in the power of the devil: not into Jesus Christ, but into themselves.  Why is it so important to believe into the Name of the only begotten Son of God?  Because in Him there is the absolute of our absolution, our forgiveness, His grace, mercy and peace for us all:  eternal life unto the resurrection unto eternal life. His life is as hard and enduring and more so than even the nails driven into His hands.  So the sinner may gaze upon Him and His Cross, as did the people of Israel at the serpent, and live: You are forgiven. 

Crosses are ugly and none uglier than the one upon which the beloved and only begotten Son was nailed.  Today’s Gospel is part of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus about being born from above, born from above in water the Spirit, that is, baptism.  The Holy Spirit blows not of His own accord apart from the Word, and the Word made flesh. It is at the Cross and through the tomb the Holy Spirit witnesses, teaches and extols Jesus the Christ. Looking upon Christ Jesus in His Word and Sacraments is not a one shot deal, His crucified and risen life is our daily baptism.  And if a metal snake on a pole, with God’s promise attached to it could so draw forth their sin so that they may live, how much more the Son of God upon the Cross, His blood from the thorns blinding His eyes, thirsting and thirsting for you,  can draw forth the sinner to His arms of everlasting mercy!

Come to Calvary’s holy mountain, Sinners, ruined by the fall; Here a pure and healing fountain Flows for you, for me, for all, In a full perpetual tide, Opened when our Savior died.

So many times in the Psalms is the imperative, “Lift up”.  Like beginning of Psalm 131 I lift up my eyes to the hills.     From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord,     who made heaven and earth. Lift up is part of the Divine Service.  Sursum corda.  Habemus ad Dominum.  Translated, Lift up your hearts, We lift them up to the Lord.  Literally translated:  Hearts lifted!  We have to the Lord.  In David’s Psalm, after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband,Uriah, killed, prayed:  a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.   Sursum corda!  These hearts, our lives.  It is not finally about “Its been one of those days” but its this one heart and the one Lord who sees our distress and knows it.  Dead in trespasses and wrathful, Christ died for the life of the world by His life in the world.  The Lord is our lifting up.   Even our good deeds are not wrought in us, but in Christ, wrought in God, that He has prepare beforehand to be our way of life, so that we are pious and God-fearing, loving the Lord and serving our neighbor in His love.  Baptism is our daily walk, as the Scriptures are our prayer. Looking upon Christ Jesus in His Word and Sacraments is not a one shot deal:  His crucified and risen life is our daily baptism. Sursum corda.  In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.    

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The following quote is by John Bunyan.  Bunyan was the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, a Christian allegory which became one of the most popular Christian writings ever.  The quote is cited in Treasury of Daily Prayer (CPH) for one of the 40 days in Lent.  I think this is truly evangelical Lenten counsel:

I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:

(1) An inclination to unbelief.

(2) Suddenly forgetting the love and mercy that Christ shows us.

(3) A leaning to the works of the Law.

(4) Wanderings and coldness in prayer.

(5) Forgetting to watch for that which I have prayed for.

(6) A tendency to murmur because I have no more, and yet a willingness to abuse what I have.

(7) I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust themselves upon me so that “When I would do good, evil is present with me.”  (see Romans 7: 13-25) These things I continually see and feel and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God orders them for my good:

(1) They make me abhor myself.

(2) They keep me from trusting my heart.

(3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.

(4) They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus.

(5) They press me to pray to God.

(6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.

(7) And they provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me and carry me through this world. Amen.


“Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to Thy cross I cling”

“Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me” (#761, Lutheran Service Book)

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I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three,
Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord!

Hymn # 172 from Lutheran Worship

Let us pray… God of grace and might, we praise You for your servant Patrick, to whom You gave gifts to make the good news known to the people of Ireland. Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 62: 1-7; Psalm 48; Romans 10: 11-17; St. Luke 24: 44-53

Bio:  Patrick is one of the best-known of the missionary saints. Born to a Christian family in Britain around the year 389, he was captured as a teenager by raiders, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a herdsman. After six years he escaped and found his way to a monastery community in France. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities. He strongly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a time when it was not popular to do so. His literary legacy includes his autobiography, Confessio, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today. Patrick died around the year 466.  Read more about St. Patrick’s biography here, citing quotes from his Confessio.

Reflection: The Church’s mission is Baptism.  St. Patrick, missionary Bishop, knew that. He wrote a majestic poem that became a hymn on Holy Baptism (see above). Ireland had been evangelized prior to Patrick but it was through this servant of the Lord that the Faith was rooted.  Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was to the baptized who had wandered down false paths and dead ends to return to the waters. Patrick’s preaching of Christ was for the baptized to walk in the newness of life in Christ as a baptized son or daughter. Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was for the pagan to come to the waters, to bind unto themselves the strong Name of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ commanded His Church to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity, not in the Church’s name,nor Patrick’s nor Luther’s, for that matter.  The baptism mission of the Church is obviously not fads and fashions, techniques and clever tactics to “get people into Church”.  The Baptism is always Jesus Christ.  Patrick did not water down Holy Baptism!  He did not water down the doctrine and practice of the Church to “reach people”.  His goal was not ‘outreach’ to people but preach the Word so that people call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved, and that means:  Holy Baptism.   Patrick knew that he was a jar of clay” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7), as he knew that the surpassing power was the Lord’s, the One who baptized him:

Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.

The Church wears the “green” day in and day out, in the bloom of summer, in the dead of winter:  greening in the watering of His forgiveness by His grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8). When we forget our baptismal sojourn in the Holy Spirit and His Word the Scriptures, then we are lost. Yes, wear the green today but do not forget to pray and make the sign of the Cross giving thanks to Lord our God, for the missionary bishop who baptized many. The Lord’s Cross points us home to the Holy Trinity.  From Patrick’s  Confession:

 In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord—so many thousands of people.

Rev. Mark Schroeder
Concordia Lutheran Mission (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

2271 Sycamore Avenue (entrance on Beech Avenue, Suite F, second floor, chair lift avaible)
Buena Vista, VA 
Sundays: 9:30 Bible Class
Divine Service:  10:30AM

Concordia and Koinonia
The Mission’s mailing address:
Concordia Lutheran Mission
2017 Forest Avenue P.O.# 1012
Buena Vista, VA 24416

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