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Archive for September 14th, 2015

About Holy Cross Day:

One of the earliest annual celebrations of the Church, Holy Cross Day traditionally commemorated the discovery of the original cross of Jesus on September 14, 320, in Jerusalem. The cross was found by Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In conjunction with the dedication of a basilica at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the festival day was made official by order of Constantine in AD 335. A devout Christian,Helena had helped locate and authenticate many sites related to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout biblical lands. Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Many Lutheran parishes have chosen to use “Holy Cross” as the name of their congregation. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

The Jewish new year begins right now, September 13-15 this year (2015) with Rosh Hashanah, literally, “head of the year”.  It was at this time, acccording to their traditions, God finished creating the heavens and the earth, the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.  The shofar, ram’s horn is sounded at this time.  Rosh Hashanah also corresponds to the beginning of the harvest time.  The Eastern Orthodox  Churches likewise begin the Church year at this time.  Let’s face it:  this is a quite appropos tradition as the year really begins when school, college and university begins anew! Ask many a Mom or Dad! New students, matriculation, studies, that is education continues.  We also celebrate today the Holy Cross.  In school,  minds and hopefully even souls are educated in this change of season.  We give thanks to the Lord for the harvest.  Needless to say, we urbanites and suburbanites, are insensible to the rhythms of seed-time and  then harvest. But Holy Cross can remind us the Lord will bring in His Harvest by His Sacrifice upon the cross:  hearing, learning and growing in the good news of forgiveness once and for all. Jesus Christ is the grain of wheat planted, dead and alive (See  John 12:24 ) The cross is like a shepherd’s staff by which He gathers us to Himself.  (See John 12:31-33).

In the 13th century,  when St Bonaventure was in great repute, teaching theology in Paris, and attracting a general esteem and admiration by his works, St Thomas Aquinas went one day to see him, and requested him to show him what books he used for his studies.

Then Bonaventure, conducting him to his little chamber, showed him some very common books that were on his table. But Thomas gave him to understand that he desired to see the other books from which he derived so many marvelous things.

Bonaventure  then showed him a small prayer chapel, with nothing in it but a crucifix: “There, Father,” said he, “is all my other books; this is the principal one from which I draw all I teach, and all I write.”  If my tongue does not teach and preach according to Christ and His Cross, and the Law of God, then the tongue is like rudder steering the ship in the wrong direction, like a bit that does not guide the horse, like a spark that simply inflames with fire, all heat and no light.  No human being can control the tongue, James wrote.  He knew Who controls the tongue to teach whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8) and finally and fully the center of all human history:  the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah for Jew and Gentile. We need education not merely to know but to serve as we have been served.  He teaches us to pray ever in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

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Just before today’s lesson, Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain and Jesus was transfigured, He shone with unborrowed light and no less than Moses and Elijah converse with Jesus upon the mountain.  The Father spoke from the numinous cloud of glory and said, This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.  This was a vision bar none. This was a powerful sign of heaven upon earth.  They come down from the Mountain of Transfiguration and the other nine disciples, in Jesus’ absence, are arguing with the crowds, and the scribes are arguing with the disciples.  We are not told what they are arguing about. Argument and dispute by themselves do not make faith, even righteous anger does not, “…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).    And so much of talk radio and television is someone yelling at us in anger about what is wrong.

The disciples could not cast out the “deaf and mute spirit” within the boy.  Peter, James and John were not with their brother apostles, but with them they would flee Jesus after His arrest.  You think Peter, James and John, after the Transfiguration, should have known better after the spiritual high bar none of the Mountain of Transfiguration, but miraculous signs do not create faith.  Neither does hardship, as in, “there are no atheists in foxholes (or as I heard it said, in ratlines)”.  Once the felt spiritual high is gone, and the hardship, as the feeling goes, so goes the supposed faith.

 So what creates and makes faith? Answer: the Word of God, and Jesus is the Word made flesh.   Faith is  not from us and we know what comes from the human heart. The Law of God comes not from us, but from God and shows us ourselves and what we can do in Christ in love of God and neighbor. Faith comes from Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Father, the one God and Lord.  The Father says:  Listen to Him.   

 When Peter, James and John, kneeling on the Mountain of Transfiguration look up, they see Jesus alone, that is, the Word made flesh. Today’s lesson is a lesson as Bible is always about:   the Word of God.  Listen to Him. The Word of God is not about spiritual self-satisfaction but for the Holy Spirit to ever make us holy, to enlarge heart, soul and mind in service to our neighbors, to teach the Gospel, the increase of virtue, not to be saved but because we are saved. The Word of God preached and taught among the towers of Babel today as the Church is to listen to Christ to live His Word in the current faithless generation. And a second time the crowds come running to Jesus when it seems they see Jesus is about to do another miracle and Jesus quickly heals the boy.  They came for the sign, but not for the Word of Christ.  And as Jesus said An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” that is. the sign of the Cross, the sign of His blood and our redemption.

St. Augustine:  “Look now, blessed Jesus, from your holy hill.[1] See your true believers with a throng about them who delight in nothing but to question and contradict and perpetually dispute. Open their eyes, O Lord, that they may see you, and being amazed at the beauty of your truth, come running to adore you.”

In a similar vein, when the Apostle Paul went to Athens and goes to the Areopagus, Mars Hill, Luke reports, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”  We do not know what the scribes and the disciples were arguing about.  We live in an age in which the delight “to question and contradict and perpetually dispute” now can happen in cyber-speed of the internet on countless blogs, discussion groups, chat rooms, articles upon articles.  There can be no cyber-Church, a virtual reality Church, there is only the Body of Christ, here and now and around countless altars and pulpits in the face to face learning in faith. Christ in His Word, His Body and Blood is our only hope in this faithless generation.  Jesus said to the people about the boy: Bring him to Me.   When in the midst of the arguing, they see Jesus down from the Mountain of Transfiguration:  the crowd comes running to Jesus.  May we ever run to Christ! May we ever run to Christ, not for a sign but for His grace, mercy and peace. May we ever run and walk and speak His Word!  May we not be ashamed of Him and His Word in this crooked generation!  May we ever speak His truth in His love!   May we ever learn Jesus Christ so that our ears are open to the Word and our mouths to teach and sing His Word.

They were faithless generation and today education is to teach us to have faith in ourselves but not faith in God: who is more trustworthy?  Men lie, God does not.  But men, even those not of faith, know there is truth.  The lessons are about education, listening, learning and living.  

 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 (Isaiah 50: 4-5a, Pentecost 16 O.T. Reading) 

The Lord God opened Isaiah’s ear and purpose of listening and learning is living as a servant to someone else, “…how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” Jesus spent time with the Father of his sick son.  He asked about him.  Jesus was sustaining him with a word and he was weary. In a youth group I served, there was young man with epilepsy.  It was his father that cared for him and was weary and worried about him.  It was a  long struggle. Jesus hung in with the Father and his son and us. Maybe the Father’s question to Jesus to “have compassion on us” was off.  Education is not only about “getting a job” but living a vocation in service to others. Itis also about compassion.

Jesus diagnosed the boy’s problem, “…you mute and deaf spirit”.  “O Lord open my lips and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise”, is the opening Psalm verse for Matins or Morning Prayer.  Jesus opened the ears of a deaf man and loosed his tongue.  Education, especially Christian education is about the Lord through His Word, as the Word is the Lord, to teach us to hear His Word, learning His Word and live His Word.  In the banalities of the internet Babel, the endless cacophony of sound bites from pundits, politicians and personalities, our culture has a mute and deaf spirit, as it made the boy, to fall into fire and water, out of control. We can not bring the culture and society  to the Lord, but He brings us to Himself in the good news of our salvation and is Lord of all. It is like Mom or Dad bringing their child to school.  Bring him to Me, said Jesus.  We were brought to the Lord’s house by either family or friend in the very work of the Holy Spirit because of Jesus upon the Cross, risen from the dead.  In Baptism, we first learned Christ, died in Him, rose in Him.  We can bring others to Him.  

The Lord does not call us to preach and teach ourselves but Christ and His Word of Law and Promise.  And James’ Epistle is about teaching and the way the pastors and the all of Christ’s Church are to be careful in what and who they teach and preach.

In the 13th century,  when St Bonaventure was in great repute, teaching theology in Paris, and attracting a general esteem and admiration by his works, St Thomas Aquinas went one day to see him, and requested him to show him what books he used for his studies.

Then Bonaventure, conducting him to his little chamber, showed him some very common books that were on his table. But Thomas gave him to understand that he desired to see the other books from which he derived so many marvelous things.

Bonaventure  then showed him a small prayer chapel, with nothing in it but a crucifix: “There, Father,” said he, “is all my other books; this is the principal one from which I draw all I teach, and all I write.”  If my tongue does not teach and preach according to Christ and His Cross, and the Law of God, then the tongue is like rudder steering the ship in the wrong direction, like a bit that does not guide the horse, like a spark that simply inflames with fire, all heat and no light.  No human being can control the tongue, James wrote.  He knew Who controls the tongue to teach whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things, (Philippians 4: 8) and finally and fully the center of all human history:  the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He teaches us to pray ever in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 


 

[1] Cf. Psalm 2:6; 3:4

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