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Archive for November 30th, 2016

“…the Bible is clear…the Biblical writers say what they mean and mean what they say. This, of course, does not mean that we immediately grasp what they say and mean. But the fault for that does not lie with the Biblical text. It lies with us; and that for any number of reasons. We might not yet have learned the grammar. We might not yet have learned the vocabulary or the particular idiom of an author. Luther’s struggle with the “righteousness” of God might be an example. He had imported a foreign notion of righteousness into the Biblical text and so misunderstood the text; to his own great pain. And it took a goodly amount of reading before the Bible could straighten him out. But in the end, the Bible’s clarity won the day”(from an address in my possession)”

(Pr. Smith died on this date, after taking ill at a Society of the Holy Trinity chapter retreat in Hickory, NC)

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Scripture Readings:

Ezk. 3:16-21
Rom. 10:8-18
John 1:35-42

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, by Your grace the apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple. Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

“If I feared the punishment of the cross, I would never have preached the mystery of the cross.”

About St. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was born in the Galilean village of Bethsaida. Originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, Andrew then became the first of Jesus’ disciples (John 1:35-40). His name regularly appears in the Gospels near the top of the lists of the Twelve. It was he who first introduced his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:41-42). He was, in a real sense, the first home missionary, as well as the first foreign missionary (John 12:20-22). Tradition says Andrew was martyred by crucifixion on a cross in the form of an X. In AD 357, his body is said to have been taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and later removed to the cathedral of Amalfi in Italy. Centuries later, Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland. St. Andrew’s Day determines the beginning of the Western Church Year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day.

Reflection:

“Reverent hearts, we hold the feast of the apostle Andrew in Christendom as the first in the [Church] Year not only because it falls near the season of Advent but also because Andrew was called first, before the other apostles, by the Lord Jesus. Even Durandus the bishop of Mende (13th century liturgist) , says, “The saints are be honored by imitation, not adored, as honor them as gods. They are to be honored with love, not adored with servitude.”

Now history tells us how St. Andrew. together with his fellows conducted their new office. Right away they left their nets and followed the Lord Jesus. And again, right away they left the ship and their father and followed Him. To them, Jesus is now the most precious one on earth—according to His mind they learn, according to His words they teach, according to His will they live, according to His decree they suffer and die. When St. Andrew was threatened with the cross, he said joyfully, “If I feared the punishment of the cross, I would never have preached the mystery of the cross.” Then when he saw the cross, he spoke, “Hail, precious cross, you who were dedicated by the body of Christ; may He receive me through you, who redeemed me through you.” And when he was living after three days on the cross, his hearers wanted to take him down by force, but he said, “Ah, let God take care of it! Do not make the peace of the Gospel suspect by your unnecessary revolt  against the government.” That was apostolic constancy and long-suffering! This is what it means to “leave everything and follow Christ,” all the way to the last catch of fish.”

Valerius Herberger  (21 April 1562-18 May 1627,a German Lutheran preacher and theologian;  cited in  The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by CPH; also bio above from same book)

St. Andrew, Apostle of Jesus Christ, lived and died, “…all the way to the last catch of fish”.  Andrew, alive in Christ, caught by Him, the great Fisherman, lived all the way to the end.  In Christ, Andrew knew by faith, the end was the beginning.  The cross was a door because of the One who died on it and off the cross, three days later, rose from the dead. 

There’s is a song refrain that has been making the rounds, “Every body wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.”   It is from a country song by Loretta Lynn.  The similar thought is expressed in a Kenny Chesney song and a rap by Ice Cube.  All three songs express another similar thought as to the reason why no one wants to die:  in spite of the sadness and sorrow here,

Lord I wanna go to heaven but I don’t wanna die/So I long for the day when I’ll have new birth still I love the livin’ here on earth (Loretta Lynn).

I think this may be true for us all, I still love the livin’ here on earth…but it leaves me thinking that this is not necessarily meet, right nor salutary.

The apostle Andrew knew of a different life that had taken hold of him. His brother Apostle, Paul, wrote it well:   “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1: 21).  Then the Apostle proceeds to write of his struggle, whether, “…to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” or stay here in the “flesh”(vs):

But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith. (vss. 24-25)

Andrew lived in, through and by Christ, till his last minutes on the Cross.  Is there something more precious than life itself?  Yes, Christ. But along with this song lyric is another self-centered thought abounding these days: “Grandma is looking down on us” etc., that is, everyone is going to heaven.  If that were true, then there should be no fear of death!  There is such fear because such a false hope belies what precedes grace, God’s just judgment.  My friend, mentor and colleague, Pr. Lou Smith, who died on this day, said it well:

“Proper (Godly)  repentance is not a sorrow or a terror or a vow to change, so that we can escape the divine death sentence. Proper (Godly)  repentance is to accept the rightness of the death sentence and to submit to it; to submit to being put to death under the law. And without the real Gospel that is never done.”

All those songs are really a testament to the Old Adam’s suffocating self-centeredness that only holiness can ventilate.  Ice Cube at least knew the reason for his desire not to go to Heaven:

Y’all thought I was soft as cotton
Everybody wants to go to Heaven
Messed around and forgot I was rotten
Everybody wants to go to Heaven
You know my resume

The Lord knows my “resume”. He knows Paul’s and Andew’s and Lou’s and mine and your resumes as well.  Christ came to rewrite our resumes in His blood for our repentance…our joyful repentance…to ventilate our lives with His holiness, by faith through grace.  He started to do this when He was conceived in the Virgin’s womb, amniotic fluid and blood to bear our sin and death and fear.  Life is not generic but has a Name: for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If my livin’ is only my name, then I am lost forever.  We die many times before our physical death, spiritual death, repeated because of Baptism in the sacrament of penitence. Contrary to Miss Lynn, we have the new birth.  Christ is specific, not generic spirituality:  His Body, His Blood, is life, eternal life (John 6).  In Advent, this is the actual message of the angels, not the gifts under the tree, but the Tree by which is given the gifts of heaven.

“Hail, precious cross, you who were dedicated by the body of Christ; may He receive me through you, who redeemed me through you.”

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