Archive for June 12th, 2016

About the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, AD 325:  The first Council of Nicaea was convened in the early summer of AD 325 by Roman Emperor Constantine at what is today Iznik,Turkey. The emperor presided at the opening of the council. The council ruled against the Arians, who taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God but was created by the Father and was called Son of God because of His righteousness. The chief opponents of the Arians were Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and his deacon, Athanasius. The council confessed the eternal divinity of Jesus and adopted the earliest version of the Nicene Creed, which in its entirety was adopted at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381.

Reflection:  Some people see this history as simply and terribly as dogmatic Christians getting their way in a power play.  Others see a creed as simply fussy, nit-picking doctrine. But the Church knew that in the challenge of Arianism (and all heresies)  something is at stake:  the very basis of the Gospel and the authority of the Scriptures. This is why the blessed Reformers took their stand on the Word of God.  At stake was, and always is,  forgiveness of sinners received by faith in Jesus Christ:  the sinless One in the sinners’ stead ( 2 Corinthians 5:21).  In Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and the way the Lord accomplished this once and for all  was by sending His Son in the flesh, “very God from very God”, the only- begotten Son of God (1 John 4:9, KJV).  This is the sound doctrine of which the Apostle wrote to Timothy and Titus.  Doctrine is life, eternal life.   If the bishops and pastors had not convened and took a stand against false teaching, we would be lost but the Lord will not let us be lost, but found, and so we praise Him for His faithful Church.  Let us  pray:

Lord God, heavenly Father, at the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea, Your Church boldly confessed that it believed in one Lord Jesus Christ as being of one substance with the Father. Grant us courage to confess this saving faith with Your Church through all the ages; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The Scriptural foundation of the Nicene Creed as laid out below is  from an Orthodox website, so please note the lack of the phrase of “and the Son” regarding the Holy Spirit;  never the less, this is a good response to evangelicals and others who think the Creeds are suspiciously “catholic” and hence non-Biblical. First, the Creeds are Biblical and Biblical also means catholic, literally, “according to the whole” of God’s revelation of Himself.  As the Lutheran Reformers unrelentingly point out that catholic and Biblical are not mutually exclusive terms:

I believe in (Romans 10: 8-10; 1 John 4: 15)
One God (Deuteronomy 6: 4, Ephesians 4: 6)
Father (Matthew 6: 9)
Almighty, (Exodus 6: 3)
Creator of heaven and earth, (Genesis 1: 1)
and of all things visible and invisible; (Colossians 1: 15-16) and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, (Acts 11: 17)
Son of God (Matthew 14: 33; 16: 16)
begotten (John 1: 18; 3: 16)
begotten of the Father before all ages; (John 1: 2)
Light of Light (Psalm 27: I; John 8: 12; Matthew 17: 2,5)
true God of true God, (John 17: 1-5)
of one essence with the Father, (John 10: 30)
through Whom all things were made; (Hebrews 1: 1-2)
Who for us and for our salvation (I Timothy 2: 4-5)
came down from the heavens ((John 6: 33,35)
and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, (Luke 1: 35)
and became man. (John 1: 14)
Crucified for us (Mark 15: 25; I Corinthians 15: 3)
under Pontius Pilate, (John 1: 14)
He suffered, (Mark 8: 31)
and was buried; (Luke 23: 53; I Corinthians 15: 4)
Rising on the third day according to the Scriptures, (Luke 24: 1; 1 Cor. 15: 4)
And ascending into the heavens, (Luke 24: 51; Acts 1: 10)
He is seated at the right hand of the Father; (Mark 16: 19; Acts 7: 55)
And coming again in glory (Matthew 24: 27)
to judge the living and dead, (Acts 10: 42; 2 I Timothy 4: 1)
His kingodom shall have no end; (2 Peter 1: 11)
And in the holy Spirit, (John 14: 26)
Lord (Acts 5: 3-4)
the Giver of life, (Genesis 1: 2)
Who proceeds from the Father, (John 15: 26)
Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, (Matthew 3: 16-17)
Who spoke through the prophets; (I Samuel 19: 20; Ezekiel 11: 5, 13)
In one, (Matthew 16: 18)
holy, (I Peter 2: 5, 9)
catholic (Mark 16: 15)
and apostolic Church; (Acts 2: 42; Ephesians 2: 19-22)
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; (Ephesians 4: 5)
I expect the resurrection of the dead; (John 11: 24; I Cor. 15: 12-49)
And the life of the age to come. (Mark 10: 29-30)
Amen. (Psalm 106:48)

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7Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

Nathan said this after a story of adultery, murder, lies, deception and betrayal by King David, God’s man.  David saw a beautiful woman while he strolled on the roof of his palace.  He sent for her and they lay together.  So seemingly harmless, a little midafternoon enjoyment, except both David and Bathsheba were already married but not to each other.  What could it hurt?  Like a certain fruit in Eden, “…it was a delight to the eyes”.   Eventually Bathsheba sends word, I’m pregnant.  Her husband Uriah the Hittite is fighting for the armies of the Lord under King David.  David concocts a simple scheme:  he gives a gives a furlough to Uriah to go home to his wife in the middle of battle, so he can make love to his wife.  The scheme is transparent:  Uriah will think he is the father.  Uriah refuses because as an honorable soldier he tells the King he cannot leave his men, and so sleeps outside the palace, and does not go home.  Then David invites Uriah to the palace, let him party and drink, get drunk so he goes down to make love with his wife.  But he refuses again because of solidarity with his men.  When Uriah refused the second time, David has another simple, but this time deadly scheme.  David tells one of his generals to put Uriah on the front lines where the fighting is the heaviest.  It works:  Uriah is killed in battle. Now that solves the problem…maybe for David, for the moment, as men and women will think, but it does not solve the problem. The Lord’s solution is David’s salvation. 

The Lord sends one of his prophets to bring the Word of God.  This where the Old Testament reading begins when Nathan the prophet tells King David  the story of the poor man with the ewe lamb that he and his family loved dearly.  A traveler comes to a rich man’s home and the rich man wants to give him the best:  lamb. He does not want to kill one of his herd. The rich man takes the poor man’s lamb and slaughters it. David is enraged, stating that the rich man should die because he showed no pity, no love.  Nathan:  You are that man.  The Lord’s accusing Word of Law screams into David’s ears and heart.  The hammer of God’ Law thunders as it did on Sinai when the Lord finds out sinners in their trespasses.  More than when Saul threw his spear at the shepherd boy David and nailed his cloak to the wall, David escaped.  Here David could not escape.  There is no exit under the Law of God.  David knew this well when he wrote, Psalm 32, today’s Psalm:

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

 5I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin

David groaned under the weight of what he did. The Lord’s hand was heavy upon him.  I think the cover-up is as worse as the trespass because one trespass is compounded with lies.  David could not cover up any longer.  He confessed. He knew he did wrong before Nathan ever came. Everyone does but in the preaching of God’s word of Law and Promise, David could get it out, into the open:  confess. There is a suffocating selfishness in man that only the Holy Spirit can ventilate.  The rich man slaughtered the poor man’s lamb for his appetite and his table, as David slaughtered the poor man for his bed.  The Lamb of God, the best,  was slaughtered for our appetites for what is not ours, for what cannot fill the heart, for what we covet and cannot nor should not have.  You are that man.  We are that man. He is the God who bore our weight of wrong upon His body and soul, the sinless one in the sinners’ stead.


The woman who came washing Jesus’ feet was declared a sinner by Jesus’ host the Pharisee, Simon.  “If you knew what kind of woman is touching you…” Jesus knew and so did the woman. Simon was not telling them anything they did not know: Jesus knew as He is true God, the woman knew by God’s true law. She knew for a long time.  But now she confessed it with her love for Jesus as He fully and freely forgave  her.  She knew the hammer of the Law and in Christ Jesus she had heard the depth of God’s forgiveness in Christ who holds us all, head to toe.  Still to be heard in the future at this time was the hammer of  the nails into His hands. Simon was telling them something about himself: he looked down on her. He was not like her…but he was. He did not welcome Jesus.  He gave Him no kiss. He did not wash His feet.  He was above it all, he loved little because maybe Simon thought he was without sin. When we think we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but when we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1).   Jesus physically looked down on her but He did not look down upon her.  He came to lift her up out of her transgression, freed.   You are that woman. We are that woman, His bride the Church.   Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…He takes care of us His bride.  He has, He will.  The woman washing His feet with her hair is rather extravagant, out there, extreme, but so is His forgiveness, as extravagant, out there, extreme is the Cross to cover sin and death in His blood;  because sin is extreme and out there. He made us His saints, faith holding Christ from head to toe.  We have no land but until the Day our souls are His holy land to protect with His Word as He covers us in His Sacraments and Word. 

The Bible is not the record of heroes and good people. Heroes are without flaw and so there is only one Hero in the Bible:  Jesus Christ. As we heard in the lessons today:  the woman at the feet of Jesus, King David, Paul, you, me…all crucified in Christ, raised to be with Him, dwell in Him:  see Holy Baptism, your Baptism.  Confession and absolution is key, the office of the keys of His reign, to free those in imprisoned, to lock out transgression in confession and absolution. His absolution, forgiveness is absolute.  It comes in two forms:  public rite and private rite.  With one another as His saints who sin we can confess and forgive.  Here in the penitential rite and sometimes with a pastor.  The Lord has given us this key. And when temptation comes a calling, don’t answer? No answer with prayer, Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  You are the man.  You are the woman.  In Christ Jesus all that changes.  You are His man.  You are His woman. Faith holds Him head to toe, crucified and lifted us up in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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