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Archive for February, 2016

Quote of the Day

Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5: 15 by Mark A. Seifrid, The Pillar New Testament Commentary:  The Second Letter to the Corinthians:

The apostle is not speaking here of dedication to Christ, but of liberation by Christ, the joyous reality of being possessed savingly by Christ as Lord…A life for Christ…is contained within the new life from Christ that Paul describes here. A life in service to Christ is nothing other than the ongoing reception of Christ’s gift of himself. It does not constitute a “return gift:’ which would be nothing other than a fresh self-assertion, an isolation of one’s self and life from Christ. Knowingly or unknowingly, we would thereby seek to pay off our debt and to bring Christ under obligation to us. Gifts are given to be received, not to be repaid. They thereby establish and define relationships. In the presence of Christ, we may happily remain beggars.

 

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The Fourth Petition:  Give us this day our daily bread.

We have lived for many years under unstable government which I think may be by design.  The current President has more than a passing familiarity with Saul Alinsky’s  Rule for Radicals for community organizing.  Disclosure:  I have not read that book.  A pastor friend told me years ago, in the ’80s, that one of the principles of Alinsky was: “You have to disorganize in order to organize”. You have to rile things up, keep people off balance, in order for you, community organizer, to implement social change.   It sounds wrong  because it is as it is forthrightly dishonest, but the attempt is to keep things unstable in order for you, Community Organizer, for the purpose to bend  the city and her people to your principles.  The scary thing is if, and it is an IF, President Obama has intentionally done so. If he has,  it is dishonest…to say the least.

Nevertheless, my read of these past 7-8 years has been  a time of instability.  All Presidents, and those who govern, want stability, otherwise we the people can not function, but instability, coupled with the changes information wrought now in cyber-time, can cause a societal nervous breakdown. This breakdown began in earnest in the 1960’s. The current President from the get-go has put forth one social change legislation, either for Congress, or by his own unconstitutional hand,  from marriage to just war to the economy to life itself in the womb, which has led to a nation being off balance and riled up. It is my opinion that every President in the past, along with the Congress and the Supreme Court, Democrat and Republican wanted stability, that is. temporal peace, domestic and international so that we the people, well, can live and get on with our lives. This posting is obviously my most politically partisan entry to date: I do not think the current President, or possibly the next one, has this at heart:  stability.

I thought of all this because of Dr. Martin Luther’s comment in The Large Catechism, on the Lord’s Prayer 4th Petition, Give us this day our daily bread. The emphasized portions are my own:

But this petition is especially directed also against our chief enemy, the devil. For all his thought and desire is to deprive us of all that we have from God, or to hinder it; and he is not satisfied to obstruct and destroy spiritual government in leading souls astray by his lies and bringing them under his power, but he also prevents and hinders the stability of all government and honorable, peaceable relations on earth. There he causes so much contention, murder, sedition, and war, also lightning and hail to destroy grain and cattle, to poison the air, etc.  In short, he is sorry that any one has a morsel of bread from God and eats it in peace; and if it were in his power, and our prayer (next to God) did not prevent him, we would not keep a straw in the field, a farthing in the house, yea, not even our life for an hour, especially those who have the Word of God and would like to be Christians.

Churches first let in the devil many years ago by denying Scripture and Christian doctrine, and I think the synagogue also, with Christians, denied the Torah, the Law of God to the detriment of both church, synagogue and our nation. We wanted to feel spiritual rather than to be actually spiritual. We have sowed the wind, now we are reaping the whirlwind. We ceased to be the salt of the earth and as the Lord taught, when salt has lost it’s saltness, it is good for nothing, but to be trampled under the feet of men. How many people, in our God given nation, do not eat their “morsel of bread from God and eats it in peace”?  How many times has the devil prevented and hindered, “…the stability of all government and honorable, peaceable relations on earth” especially these days?  How many times has government consented to this terror? And then when the devil has done his worse, how many times have we cried “peace, peace when there is no peace”  and tried to accommodate ourselves to live in the Age of Terror?  How many times do we think about our pleasure, at whatever cost, from AIDS to drug addiction to unending lust for more and more stuff, pleasures and like, and do not think about our neighbor and his need?

We do not need primarily a presidential election to set things right, but I hope in some ways it does so that we can eat our bread in peace. We need repentance, day by day,and this is Lent in which returning to the Lord your God, for He gracious and merciful and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, is the theme, but not only of this portion of the Church year, but all our days under the Lord. We do not first and foremost need a president elected to save we the people, but to turn ever to the Elect One, the Lord Jesus Christ who has, and cry, Lord, have mercy!

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Quote of the Day

“People will argue fiercely about which is the best car, beer or political party. But when it comes to churches, one is supposed to be as good as another.”

Rev. Prof. Kurt Marquardt

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One of the symbols of St. Matthias is a pair of dice because the Disciples cast lots to decide who would take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1: 15-26).  The only time he is mentioned in the Bible is at the time of his selection.

 Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 


 

Lessons:  Isaiah 66: 1-2  Psalm 134  Acts of the Apostles 1: 15-26   St. Matthew 11:  25-30

St. Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. According to the Early Church Fathers, Matthias was one of the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-20. After the ascension, Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the vacancy in the Twelve resulting from the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16-25). Early Church tradition places Matthias in a number of locations. Some historians suggest that he went to Ethiopia; others place him in Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion. Martyred for his faith, Matthias may well have met his death at Colchis in Asia Minor, around AD 50. The Church of St. Matthias at Trier, Germany, claims the honor of being the final burial site for Matthias, the only one of the Twelve to be buried in Europe north of the Alps.

The Greek word for “lots”, as in casting lots for Matthias, is “kleros”. Regarding the casting of lots, these  comments and study are from Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s Commentary (1921) on Acts 1: 26:

The prayer of the disciples is a model of its kind. “The petitioners had a single object for which they bowed before the Lord, and to the proper presentation of this they confine their words. They do not repeat a thought, nor do they elaborate one beyond the point of perspicuity…. So brief a prayer on so important an occasion would in this voluble age be scarcely regarded as a prayer at all.” 4) Having thus sanctified the occasion with the Word of God and with prayer, the disciples were ready to proceed to the selection of the twelfth apostle. To do this, they gave forth their lots. Just how this was done is not certain. But it is probable that the usage prevailing in the Old Testament was observed. “Tablets on which the names of Joseph and Matthias were written, were employed; these were shaken in the vase or other vessel in which they had been deposited, and the lot which first fell out furnished the decision.”. 1 Chron. 24, 5; 25, 8; Lev. 16, 8; Num. 34, 13

The method is secondary to prayer as Dr. Kretzmann pointed out. Acts 1:

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

Their prayer is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching that prayer should be simple for we will not be heard for our many words” (cf. St. Matthew 6: 7).  They also followed Jesus as He prayed before selecting the 12 Disciples and exhorting to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out harvesters into His field (St. Matthew 9: 37-38;  St. Luke 6:  12-16) .    After the selection of Matthias, lots were never used again.  It is prayer that is absolutely essential.  Also, preceding the selection of the unique and unrepeatable Office of Apostle, as in all offices, there were qualifications:  an apostle saw the risen Jesus Christ (Acts 1: 22) and more importantly, to replace Judas, this selection was to be done as it was according to Scripture (Acts 1: 24).   Scripture and prayer go hand in Hand.

The Greek word “kleros”, “lots”, is the basis of our English words “cleric”/clerical”, that is, a pastor or minister  and “clerk”/”clerical. A pastor is not a chance or a gamble though for many a congregation they might tell you otherwise!  It can be when the pastor does not keep his office, preaching and teaching the Word of God, caring for souls and administering the Sacraments, especially when the pastor denies and ignores sound doctrine and engages in immorality.  Then the pastor goes against the prayer of the Church for the Lord’s call to him. Jesus knew this:  Judas. 

The pastor in preaching Law and Promise will not possess every talent a congregation wants and even he wants!  The congregation may not like his preaching and even hate it as did the synagogue in Nazareth wanted to kill Jesus (Luke 4)!  Yet, the pastor is called.  Since the selection of Matthias, “kleros” came not to mean a chance, but a calling, a vocation:  the cleric.  Now the related word, “clerk” is considered by some to be a menial vocation, as in “menial clerk” or “minor clerk, as a clerk in a store.  It did mean at one time an educated person who could read and write to clerk in a store in a time of greater illiteracy.  Pastors and clerks had education in common. Yet, it is also are reminder that pastors are not to lord it over their flocks but like a clerk are called to serve. Pastors are called not to serve customers, but the flock the Word of God and the Sacraments from God (cf. St. John 21: 15-17).  Clerk can also be a vocation as both clerks and clerics serve the neighbor each in their own calling.  And like St. Matthias, a cleric may not have fame, as a clerk but like the Apostle Matthias, he will have served the Name of the Lord.

Lord, your abiding presence mysterious made the choice;
For one in place of Judas the faithful now rejoice.
From all such false apostles your holy Church defend,
And by your parting promise be with us to the end.
(“By All You Saints in Warfare,” Lutheran Service Book, 517, v.13)

A Writing by Dr. Martin Luther,from Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, volume 27,Luther’s Works:

. . . Christ wanted no one to be made an apostle by men or the will of men but as the result of a call from Him alone. For this reason the apostles did not dare elect Matthias; they gained his appointment from heaven in answer to their prayer. And it was from heaven that God called Paul himself and made him an apostle, in particular through the voice of the Holy Spirit. “Set apart for Me,” He says, “Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them.” Thus Paul boasts in Rom. 1: If. that he was set apart for the Gospel of God,    inasmuch as he himself, together with Barnabas, was set apart for the uncircumcised and the Gentiles, while the rest of the apostles were sent to those who were circumcised.

Note also that Paul makes the name “apostle” so emphatically expressive of an office and of dignity that he uses it as a participle and says “an apostle, not from men,” which means “sent, not from men”. . . . All these facts aim to make you see with what care Christ has established and fortified His church, lest anyone rashly presume to teach without being sent by Him or by those whom He has sent. For just as the Word of Cod is the church’s first and greatest benefit, so, on the other hand, there is no greater harm by which the church is destroyed than the word of man and the traditions of this world. God alone is true, and every man a liar. Finally, just as David once left behind all the means by which Solomon was to build the temple, so Christ has left behind the Gospel and other writings, in order that the church might be built by means of them, not by human decrees.

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Meme of the Day

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Intro:   Polycarp’s martyrdom on this date around AD 156 deeply impressed the nascent Church and can not be glossed over.   Polycarp was a link between the time of the Apostles and post-apostolic era.  He was martyred when he was 86 years of age by being burned,and when the flames did not hurt him, he was stabbed in the heart.  Eyewitness accounts said the smell was of baking bread.  His name means, “much fruit”.  Below is a short bio from The Apostolic Fathers edited by Jack Sparks of the Eastern Orthodox Church:

“Take the oath and I will let you go,” said the proconsul. “Revile Christ.”

“I have served Him eighty-six years,” replied Polycarp, “and in no way has He dealt unjustly with me; so how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Thus the aged and much revered bishop spoke, in full knowl­edge of the outcome. His martyrdom was sealed. His life had stretched from the days of the apostles till the middle of the second century, and on a February day in about 156 he moved on with honor to the church enrolled in heaven.

We first meet Polycarp as the relatively young bishop of Smyrna when the aging Ignatius of Antioch was on his way to mar­tyrdom. It was in Smyrna that Ignatius made that famous rest stop on his final journey, and Polycarp was the only individual on record to whom the great martyr ever addressed a personal letter. In the years that followed, Polycarp gathered Ignatius’ letters and passed them on to others.

Irenaeus, who was bishop of Lyons in the latter half of the second century, tells us that Polycarp was a disciple of the apos­tle John and indeed knew others who had seen the Lord in the flesh. The witness of Irenaeus is important because he appar­ently grew up in Smyrna. What he says of Polycarp indicates that the bishop of Smyrna was most concerned about the pres­ervation of the orthodox faith. One incident he reports demon­strates the severity of Polycarp’s attitude toward heresies and heretics. Polycarp, says Irenaeus, once met the heretic Marcion on the streets. “Do you recognize me?” asked Marcion. “In­deed,” replied Polycarp, “I recognize you as the firstborn of Satan!” (Adv. haer 3:3,4).

Though Irenaeus hints at several letters by Polycarp, only  one has come down to us. That letter is to the church at Philippi and reflects the same concern for truth and orthodoxy we have already mentioned. His letter is filled with, indeed almost made up of, quotes from the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles of the New Testament, as well as the letters of Clement and Ignatius. Some critics have sneered at Polycarp because he is so uncreative and offers no new theological insight. We can be glad he was the way he was. Through Polycarp we have not only a link with the ear­liest days of Christianity, but a faithful transmission of apostolic doctrine as well. No, he was not creative. He was a loyal disci­ple of Christ and the apostles.

Near the end of his life Polycarp made a visit to Rome to dis­cuss with Bishop Anicetus a number of church matters, appar­ently including the date of Easter. The Eastern churches were still celebrating Easter on the exact date of Jewish Passover, while Rome was using a specified Sunday each year. Neither agreed to change, but their fellowship was not disturbed. Before he left Rome, Polycarp, at the invitation of Anicetus, led in the celebration of the Eucharist. The two men parted in full agree­ment to leave their respective traditions as they were.

Last of all we have an eyewitness account of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Perhaps by request, the church at Smyrna pre­pared a full account, to be sent to the church at Philomelium and other places. This clear and simple testimony of the martyrdom of an aged saint should bring tears to the eyes of any believer. Some have questioned the record because of the miraculous ac­count of the means of his death. But there is great danger in rejecting a miracle on the grounds that “such things just don’t happen.” Some have done so and thus have rejected the mira­cles of the Scriptures.

Polycarp’s last prayer is characteristic of the man and a clear testimony of his faith. He concluded with, “I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ your beloved Son through whom to you with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory now and forever. Amen.”

Below is a selection from The Martyrdom of Polycarp.  Please note that the first Christians were accused of “atheism” because they would not sacrifice to the false god of Caesar, and so they were considered as not believing and thus imperiling the ‘divine’ order of the Empire and the Emperor.

“…the police captain, Herod, and his father, Nicetes, met (Polycarp); they transferred him to their carriage and sitting down beside him tried to persuade him, saying: “Why, what is wrong with saying, ‘Caesar is Lord,’ and sacrificing, and so forth, and thus being saved?” At first he did not answer them, but when they persisted, he said: “I am not going to do what you advise me.”  Since they had failed to persuade him, they uttered threats and hurriedly pulled him off so that as he was descending from the carriage he scraped his shin. And without turning around, he walked along briskly as though he had suffered no injury. As he was led into the stadium with the uproar so great that it [the announcement of Polycarp’s apprehension] was not heard by many….

 Now a voice from heaven came to Polycarp as he was entering the stadium: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man!” (Josh. 1:6,7,9.) No one saw the speaker, but many of ours heard the voice. And then as he was brought forward, there was a great uproar now that they heard that Polycarp had been apprehended. So when he was brought forward the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp; and when he admitted it, he tried to persuade him to deny, saying: “Respect your age” and all the other things they usually say: “Swear by the Genius of Caesar, change your mind, say, ‘Away with the atheists.’ ” Polycarp looked sternly at the whole crowd of lawless heathen in the stadium, indicating them with a wave of the hand, groaned and looked up to heaven, and said: “Away with the atheists!” When the proconsul persevered and said: “Take the oath and I will let you go; revile Christ,” Polycarp replied: “I have served him eighty-six years and in no way has he dealt unjustly with me; so how can I blaspheme my king who saved me?”

 Since he persisted and said: “Swear by Caesar’s Genius,” he answered: “If you vainly expect that I will swear by Caesar’s Genius, as you suggest, and pretend to be ignorant who I am, listen (to what I say) openly: I am a Christian. If you want to learn the teaching of Christianity, name the day and hear (about it).”  The proconsul said: “Persuade the people.” Polycarp replied: “To you indeed I have considered myself accountable; for we have been taught to render fit honor to rulers and authorities appointed by God in so far as it is not injurious to us [cf. Rom. 13:1,7;1 Pet. 2:13ff]; as for these, I do not consider myself bound to make my defense before them.”

Comment:  Note that what the Christians were asked to do, burn a little incense to Caesar and swear by him is really a ‘small thing’, as it was pitched toward the Church.  As the proconsul said, what is wrong with saying, Caesar is Lord?  Indeed!  It might seem such a small thing to “go with the flow”, do what others are doing which seems so much fun and the like.  But it’s not a ‘small thing’ and Polycarp knew what it meant:  denying Jesus Christ who saved him.  

I like Fr. Sparks’ comment that Polycarp’s one letter shows he was not creative.  He quoted the Bible. No, he was not creative. He was a loyal disci­ple of Christ and the apostles.”   I took a course in seminary, “Creative Ministry”.   We make ministry ‘creative’?  No, the Lord does.  He re-creates us through His Ministry of Word and Sacraments through His called pastors and bishops.  Polycarp was not creative:   he was faithful.  He was a faithful servant of Jesus.  Satis est.  That is enough and Christ will fill us by His grace for us sinners.

Let us pray:  O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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