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Archive for May, 2016

Lessons:

Isaiah 11: 1-5

Psalm 138

Romans 12: 9-16

St. Luke 1: 39-56

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Festival Day:  John the Baptizer and Jesus, the two great figures of salvation history, now come together in the visit to Elizabeth by the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:39-45), both of whom conceived their children under miraculous circumstances. Thus John is brought into the presence of Jesus while they are still in their mothers’ wombs. This presence of the Lord causes a response by the child John as he leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. John’s response to the presence of Jesus, the Messiah, foreshadows John’s own role as forerunner. Already now, a new creation is beginning, and a baby still in the womb hails the new creation’s inception. Foreshadowed in John’s leap are the miracles of Jesus, who will cause all creation to leap at His presence: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). The incarnate presence of the Messiah also evokes a response from Elizabeth, who proclaims Mary’s blessedness. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) provides the theological significance of this meeting as Mary sums up her place in salvation history. Mary’s song is a hymn to God for His gracious gifts to the least in this world, whom He has lifted up out of lowliness solely because of His grace and mercy.

“… it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”—Irenaeus of Lyons (died AD 202)

(The above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  The understanding from Ireanaeus of the contrast between Mary and Eve has obviously been around for sometime.  It has become a liturgical and theological centerpiece of Eastern Orthodox churches.  This dovetails well into Martin Luther’s understanding that the greatest miracle is not that Mary conceived but she believed.  Many years ago, everyone was all agog about WWJD bracelets:  What Would Jesus Do.  A friend and colleague said those bracelets should have on them, WWMD: What Would Mary Do.  She believed as the Word of the angel came into ear and into her heart (Romans 10:17).  She received with the meekness the implanted Word(James 1:21). Mary and Elizabeth are the first Church as the Church is the body of Christ, so Mary bore the Christ.  Because of the Christ in her womb, her body was the Church.  Mary bore the Word made flesh, as does the Church if she is faithful  to the Lord, as was Mary, even at times not understanding because of the weakness of the flesh (Luke 1:34). As Luther taught in the Large Catechism that the Church is a mother who begets every child through the Word of God.  As it is written:

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.Galatians 4:3-5

The Word of God made the virgin’s womb as He made all wombs and so:

Every child is gift. The Lord is sheer gift times two: God and man for all the diverse manner of women and men.  And so when Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s child, John, leaped in her womb when Elizabeth heard the greeting, the Word. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word alone.  The Church was there in the hill country of Judea.  The temple of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We are made His through His Word alone in Holy Baptism and in faith.  In the most humble of homes, the beauty of holiness shone within and without.  St. Luke 1: 45: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Indeed!  And so are you! The Church is made by His Word so that the Word be heard and sinners can hold fast to the Lord by His grace. As Elizabeth visited Mary and their Lord, so visit Him this day and every day in Word, in Holy Communion, in Prayer. He visits you with His Word, with His Baptism, with His Body and Blood!  Blessed Festival Day!  

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God's Love C. S. Lewis Quote

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With President Obama visiting Hiroshima, and the many comments about the Japanese during World War II, I remembered this evening Noah. Noah and his wife were members of a congregation that I served. She was bright and vivacious. Noah was somber. They were probably in their 80s and I would go to see them for home bound Holy Communion visits. They were much appreciative.

One time in a conversation, the subject somehow came up about the Japanese. He clearly hated the Japanese. I found out from Noah that in World War II Noah was on Death March to Bataan. He also was imprisoned on a Japanese prisoner of war ship. He talked some about it. I wish I could remember the details but clearly the Japanese prisoner of war ship was worse than the death march. I kept on visiting them with the Holy Communion.

One day, in my office, Noah’s wife called me, greatly distressed: “Pastor, Noah killed himself”. I went over to see Noah’s wife. She said he calmly told her that he needed to take out the garbage, and she heard a sound. Like gunfire. Noah was found dead by the garbage cans. I liked Noah. I felt so young in his presence. War had undone him as it has for so many. The United States did not start World War II but we helped finish it. Yes, by raining death from the skies. I thank God for Noah’s sacrifice, not by the garbage cans but in the sewage of a tyrannical power unleashed upon the earth.

 

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Ecclesiastes 3 English Standard Version (ESV)

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

This passage from Ecclesiastes is today’s Old Testament reading and the text was incorporated into a song by folk singer Pete Seeger.

There is an excellent Bible study on these verses from Pastor Eric Anderson, “Contentment Ecclesiastes 3:1-15”.  The gist of the interpretation is “You’re Not in Control, and that’s a Good Thing”.  Our times are in God’s hands:  a time for every purpose under heaven. St. Basil is quoted in the Bible study teaching that all those times will prompt us to pray:  

“It is necessary to bear in mind that for certain other tasks a particular time is allotted, according to the words of Ecclesiastes: “All things have their season.” For prayer and psalmody, however, as also, indeed, for some other duties, every hour is suitable, that, while our hands are busy at their tasks, we may praise God sometimes with the tongue (when this is possible, or, rather, when it is conducive to edification); or, if not, with the heart, at least, in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, as it is written (Col. 3:16). Thus in the midst of our work we can fulfill the duty of prayer, giving thanks to Him who has granted strength to our hands for performing our tasks and cleverness to our minds for acquiring knowledge, and for having provided the materials, both that which is in the instruments we use and that which forms the matter of the arts in which we may be engaged, praying that the work of our hands may be directed toward its goal, the good pleasure of God”

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Discuss Movie With Venerable Bede


Bede (673-735) was the last of the early church fathers and the first to compile the history of the English church. Born in Northumbria, Bede was given by his parents to a monastery in Northern England at the age of seven. The most learned man of his time, he was a prolific writer of history, whose careful use of sources provided a model for historians in the Middle Ages. Known best for his book, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, he was also a profound interpreter of Scripture; his commentaries are still fresh today. His most famous disciple, Cuthbert, reported that Bede was working on a translation of John’s Gospel into English when death came, and that he died with the words of the Gloria Patri on his lips. He received the title “Venerable” within two generations of his death and is buried in Durham Cathedral as one of England’s greatest saints.

Heavenly Father, when he was still a child You called Your servant Bede to devote his life to serve You in the venerable disciplines of religion and scholarship.  As he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of Your truth to his generation, grant that we may also strive to make You known in all the world in our various vocations;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

“Whenever we enter the church and draw near to the heavenly mysteries, we ought to approach with all humility and fear, both because of the presence of the angelic powers and out of the reverence due to the sacred oblation; for as the Angels are said to have stood by the Lord’s body when it lay in the tomb, so we must believe that they are present in the celebration of the Mysteries of His most sacred Body at the time of consecration.” + St.  Bede the Venerable

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Before we could cut and paste on a computer and internet, the way us old timers did things was to physically cut and save articles, cartoons, comics, articles.  I came across my newspaper clippings file recently and have combed through it for what I consider to be gems. Unfortunately, I did not date a lot of these clippings, but I guess the one below is from the  ’90s. Comments are welcome.

This is from Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury which was huge comic strip hit.  I do not know if it is still published, but this one is sadly timely even today:

 

Doonsbury

Doonsbury 2

“Church shopping” back in the ’90s started to become an art of the self to affirm and be positive about the self.  No doctrine or dogmatism, just me. As a commercial at the time had it:

People still do want it their way, have so since Eden and so many, like lemmings, have gone over the edge.  The woman wants a place to feel good about herself, and it sounds like the theme from hit sitcom, “Cheers” about a bar in Boston:

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

So what did the folks do, who are doing everything to make their way in the world, and trying to forget about life for awhile?  Drink beer and hang out in a bar.  I  would rather go to bar and be honest, than to use religion as a pretext and neither is a solution, let alone, salvation. 

People just don’t want sin, redemption, even if it is a soft-sell of the “occasional disincentive” but the reverend of the Little Church in Walden uses this disincentive for control.  He had it wrong:  redemption is for freedom in Christ.

 

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103_2575When I went to my final Colloquy interview in St. Louis for acceptance as a pastor into The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I went sight-seeing to some of my favorite places in St. Louis  and the Old Cathedral above is one of them. It is on the same grounds as the Arch (see photo below).  

When my wife saw this photo, not noticing the cross atop the steeple, she asked, Is this a synagogue?  The Hebrew is the tretragrammaton, the four letters, in Hebrew, transliterated in some Bibles, Yahweh, but generally translated as LORD.  The Latin is, “One God and Three”.  I think this is just brilliant to put on a Christian church building.  Unlike the Mormons, who put no cross atop their ‘temples’, or anywhere for that matter (like church-growth mega-churches!) , the Church lifts high the cross and the basis of the Cross is the  LORD: One God and Three, the sturdy doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

103_2577

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