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Archive for June 15th, 2015

Meme of the Day

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The Sundays during the Pentecost cycle develop three great themes.

  1. The first is Baptism and its graces. We are baptized and grounded in the graces of Baptism. Every Sunday is a reminder of Baptism and a small Easter.
  2. The second theme is preparation for the second advent of the Lord. It is treated in detail on the final Sundays of the season.
  3. The remaining theme, the burden of the Sundays midway after Pentecost, may be summarized as the conflict between the two camps. Although we are placed in the kingdom of God, we remain surrounded by the kingdom of the world. Our souls are laboring under Adam’s wretched legacy and waver continually to and fro between two allegiances.

By these three great themes the liturgy covers the whole range of Christian life. In Baptism the precious treasure of the Spirit was conferred. Through it we are God’s children and may call God Father. Through it we have become temples of the Holy Spirit, heirs and brothers of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Baptism has not translated us to a paradise without toil or trouble. Rather, we are sent out into a troubled world to work and struggle. We must guard the holy land of our souls against hostile attack. We must learn to know and conquer the enemy, and such is the task that will continue until we have taken our final breaths.

The Church serves as both the heroine, who teaches us the art of warfare, and our strong fortress and shield in the conflict. Through Holy Communion, she bestows aid that repeatedly frees the soul from the entanglements of temptation. How does she do this? Courage and strength and perseverance flow from the Word of God in the Service of the Word, and they flow in even fuller measure from Holy Communion. Of ourselves we are helpless creatures, wholly unable to withstand the attack, but in Holy commuion Another battles for us.  The Mightier, Christ, vanquishes the mighty.  By means of Holy Communion, we are enrolled in our  Captain’s forces.  And thus Christ’s battle becomes our battle and His triumph our triumph, and His wondrous strength renders us invincible.

(From  The Church’s Year of Grace by Fr. Pius Parsch-May 18, 1884 – March 11, 1954, quoted in The Treasury of Daily Prayer for 15 June)

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The Parable of the Seed Growing26 And (Jesus) said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

The only way to get seed into the earth is to spread it.  At the time of Christ, planting was broadcast seeding:  casting the seed prolifically upon the ground.  At the time there were no massive sprinkling systems, it was rain to water the ground.   Then the farmer goes to sleep.

We plow the fields and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God’s almighty hand,
who sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.

In one sense, Jesus is the Sower bar none.  He took a handful of disciples, sowers, fishermen and cast them out upon the earth.  They did not carry much in their bags slung over their shoulders, but the Word and Words of God and by that Word, life was given to the dead, friendship to enemies of God, light in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  They sowed the Gospel of the Reign of God in Jesus Christ. 

An important aside coming from today’s Gospel, as we are told about the farmer, “…sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.”  Except now we know a whole more on the how.  We know what is in a seed and it is amazing! Water, sun and time maybe are all triggers to begin the germination process with all sorts of reactions occurring in the seed.  Yet, the Lord in saying that the farmer “knows not how”, is not a statement of ignorance, but of wonder.  My Grandfather, a farmer one day said to me when I was a child, “Every year I plant my crops and ever year I am still surprised something comes up!”  With an 8th grade education Grandpa probably knew the “how” of germination, after all he first taught me about the last ice age in Minnesota that created the coal black, humus rich soil of Minnesota, but he was still amazed at germination.  Science does not explain the Creator away, but can increase the wonder and joy of what we take for granted as the Creator designed it all down to the DNA.  “Man shall not perish for lack of information but appreciation”, wrote Rabbi Abraham Heschel.  Those seemingly inert, dead seeds come to life.  We think an atomic bomb is so powerful and it is and it is horrific and yes, one of them can change the earth and  we marvel at this work of men’s hands, but just think of the power in a seed, good seed.  Seeds change the earth every year, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” , as the Lord promised after the Deluge. We do not need to sweat “climate change” but neither do we intentionally treat the Lord’s gift of the planet as a garbage can. 

Just think of the power in a seed.  Seeds look so insignificant.  We take them for granted.  Like a mustard seed, so many are so small yet in it’s DNA, in the smallest of seeds is the life of the world.  The Gospel, the Word of God looks so insignificant in the world.  The preaching and teaching of the Gospel is considered insignificant to the world,

It is despised in the sight of those that prefer the philosophy and wisdom of this world. But when it comes to results, to spiritual life and strength, then human wisdom cannot even come into consideration. For the Word of God alone can take hold of a man’s heart and renew it entirely, change his entire life and manner of thinking. And the same effect may be observed in the history of the Church. A mere handful of disciples assembled in the upper room in Jerusalem has grown to a body whose size is such as to be known to God only, although even the number of those that profess Christianity is very large. That fact is a source of constant comfort to all believers, whether they be pastors or not: their labor cannot be in vain, since they have the living Word to deal with. (Dr. Paul Kretzmann)

I think one reason the hell-bound world despises the preaching of the Word of the Gospel, and derides it as supposedly as insignificant as a seed is that the Word will actually change people

Many Christians are saying that in these United States with the tide turning against the Church, we may have to retreat into our own Christian ghettos. Maybe…but looking at the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, I do not think we are suppose to only hunker down. “The sower went out to sow…” “…a farmer scatters seed upon the earth…” (Mark 4). The seed is the Word (Mark 4: 14). Yes, the times are rough…but just consider those 12 Apostles going into the Roman Empire, not exactly receptive politically or spiritually to Word of the Kingdom! Jesus sent out the 12 and excep John, all were brutally martyred and the Word spread, as a seed, insignificant to the world, yet it changed the world, people, like a mustard seed, “…when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With a lot of strange birds in it like Catholics and Lutherans, Baptists and Evangelicals and Orthodox!   “Even a seven year old child knows what the Church is: namely, holy believers, lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd.” (The Lutheran Confessions).  Now a nation may choose a ghetto for us in order to keep the Church contained, but I do not think we should ever choose our own ghettos, the Lord does not want us to.

In today’s Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel has a similar parable to Jesus’ about a sprig planted in Israel which becomes “a noble cedar” also for all the birds of the air to nest in.  This parable is preceded by two similar parables.  The first one a sprig is taken by a great eagle from the land and planted in  “… a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants”, that is Babylon.  Israel was carried off by the great eagle, Nebuchanezar of Babylon.  Second parable, a seed was planted in Israel from Israel in order to grow and flourish. This was Zedekiah, a son of David, planted by the Babylonian king.  Zedekiah would have flourished but the Lord said he despised his and the Lord’s covenant as Zedekiah made a deal with Pharaoh and Egypt for his armies to protect Judah.  It did not turn out well at all for Zedekiah and Judah.  Pharaoh gave tepid support and Zedekiah would die in Babylon. Then today’s third parable points to the Messiah, the Christ, growing so that “birds of every sort will nest”. 

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

We cannot trust power politics to save the day any longer.  We were never suppose to.  We must speak the Word, live the Word, pray the Word, love the Lord and serve and love our neighbors.

“Jesus now pictures the life that is in the seed, as life which has the power of growth and development unto maturity in itself. … All that a man does is ‘to throw the seed on the earth,’ and that is all he can do. The seed itself does all the rest.”

C. H. Lenski also commented on the Gospel:

“Many have lost faith in this divine seed and sow other seed of human hybridizing. They will never get anything but weeds from their sowing, flourishing weeds perhaps, but only weeds after all. Some grow overanxious when they preach the Word and fear that it will not do its work unless they keep helping it on in some manner. But all their added efforts only hinder the Word in its normal work. Complete trust in the Word is the only reaction that does justice to it.”

The seed of His Word does not our genetic modification.  It is good seed already and ready. Pure seed, pure doctrine, sound doctrine:  He has planted you by streams of living water as He said in Psalm 1.  One English Biblical scholar said in a lecture I attended that Psalm 1 was written during the Babylonian exile.  The “streams of water” (vs. 3) is the Hebrew also for canals, as in the canals coming off the Tigris and Euphrates.  The Lord will accomplish that which He purposes for His Word (Isaiah 55).  Israel could live even in a foreign land.  As for the Church and Her Christians, “Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land.”   And the foreign nature of a sinful world will affect and infect even a family, a nation, the Church but we do not need to transplant ourselves into false doctrines and ways to thrive, as Zedekiah did.  All in the seed is all the power of God to grow and grow us, watered by God’s almighty hand, fed by the every Word of God.  The Apostle Peter warned at the end of his second letter that many would deny the Word,

…which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

 

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