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Archive for December, 2016

David, the greatest of Israel’s kings, ruled from about 1010 to 970 BC. The events of his life are found in 1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2 and in 1 Chronicles 10-29. David was also gifted musically. He was skilled in playing the lyre and the author of no fewer than seventy-three psalms, including the beloved Psalm 23. His public and private character displayed a mixture of good (for example, his defeat of the giant Goliath [1 Samuel 17]) and evil (as in his adultery with Uriah’s wife, followed by his murder of Uriah [2 Samuel 11]). David’s greatness lay in his fierce loyalty to God as Israel’s military and political leader, coupled with his willingness to acknowledge his sins and ask for God’s forgiveness (2 Samuel 12; see also Psalm 51). It was under David’s leadership that the people of Israel were united into a single nation with Jerusalem as its capital city. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  David was born in Bethlehem. Beth-le-hem means “house of bread”.   The Lord promised David that the throne of Israel would never lack a descendant of David upon it….and the Lord told Israel through the prophets that the house of David and Jerusalem would be desolate because of desolation of their idolatry and immorality;  then in 587 B.C. the Babylonian Empire captured Israel and brought her into exile and destroyed the Temple.  The Lord is true to His promise that a royal Davidide would sit on the throne forever.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Bread of Life born in the House of Bread. The genealogies in Luke and Matthew’s Gospels testify to His lineage.  Joseph, the Lord’s Stepfather was of the house of David. He was born in real time to a real people, a people, Israel whom the Lord made His own and real in Law and Promise. Jesus’ family tree is of good stock.  This Christmas Tree is forever. Matthew’s Genealogy in the first chapter is illustrated above and David is prominent in it and yet the illustration shows the root of the tree: Jesus. Jesus said, I am the bread of life (John 6) and born in David’s city, Bethlehem, He is the House of Bread for His flesh is food indeed.

 

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, the martyred innocents of Bethlehem showed forth Your praise not by speaking but by dying.  Put to death in us all that is in conflict with Your will that our lives may bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  Matthew’s Gospel tells of King Herod’s vicious plot against the infant Jesus after being “tricked” by the Wise Men.  Threatened by the one “born King of the Jews,”  Herod murdered all the children in  and around Bethlehem who were two years old or younger (Matthew 2: 16-18).  these “innocents,” commemorated just three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth, remind us not only  of the terrible brutality of which human beings are capable but more significantly of the persecution Jesus endured from the beginning of His earthly life.  Although Jesus’ life was providentially spared at this time, many years later, another ruler, Pontius Pilate, would sentenece the innocent Jesus to death. (From:  The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: “Some accounts number them at more than ten thousand, but more conservative estimates put their number in the low dozens.” (from the Wikipedia article)  10,000 children or 1 child murdered is one child too many.  The image above by Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – 1337), is eerily prescient of  the many pictures of the bodies of Jews in piles in the concentration camps.  Their only crime was they were of the same religion as the One born this holy season.  It makes no sense.  Neither does the abuse of children sexually, physically and/or emotionally.

Herod was probably a functional atheist; he thought he ruled by his own right and authority.  He was his own god as all dictators and tyrants.  We read a lot about the atheism of a Christopher Hitchens, but he pales to the tyrants. With no fear of God in the multitude of  Herods, it seems in our days and centuries and it’s lack of the fear of the Lord, we are in the most functionally atheistic of all time.  We do what we please.  Children are expendable. We are own gods.

Judgement at Nuremberg is a movie  about the trials after World War II of the lower level Nazis, in particular, the judges who sent the ‘mental defectives’, and other “undesirables” to their deaths after a “legal trial”.  A  key character is the judge, Ernst Janning (played by Burt Lancaster).  He was known in the Weimar as one of the greatest legal minds in Germany.  He participated in the crimes against humanity for the Nazis.  In one of the last scenes of the movie, Herr Janning asks the main judge (played by Spencer Tracy) to come and visit him in his prison cell.  Janning wants to give a defense of his actions in Nazi Germany, but the Judge will have no part in it:

Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood… the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it, You must believe it!

Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it “came to that” the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

The death of one man or one child makes it easy for the autonomous, ‘kingly’, ‘great’ self to kill more and more.  It took one Child to reverse the sin of Adam.  The holy innocents unwilling death and the grief of Rachel, their mothers,  weeping for them who are “no more” fulfilled the Scripture that the Child of Mary would die as One for them all.

And so the Lord Jesus set great store about the faith of child which must be inviolate.  This is only speculation:  Jesus’ Mother and Step Father may have eventually told Him what had happened on the day of infamy in Bethlehem.  The Lord Jesus Christ taught as a man:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless youturn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

God’s love begins with one child, receiving that child into heaven, just as the murder of even one, spiritually and/or physically, begins the spiral into hell. We are to receive His children in His Name.

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Christmas on Sunday

Blessing | CHRISTMAS ON SUNDAY IS A  DOUBLE BLESSING: CHRIST'S BIRTH AND HIS RESURRECTION | image tagged in christian | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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  Almighty and ever-living God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son. Grant us such faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that we may never be found wanting in Your sight; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  

Appointed Scripture for this day:  

Judge 6:  36-40

Psalm 139: 1-12

Romans 10: 8b-15

St. John 1:  35-42a

All four Gospels mention St. Thomas as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John’s Gospel, which names him “the Twin,” uses Thomas’s questions to reveal truths about Jesus. It is Thomas who says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” To this question Jesus replies, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). John’s Gospel also tells how Thomas, on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, doubts the report of the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Later, “doubting Thomas” becomes “believing Thomas” when he confesses Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:24-29). According to tradition, Thomas traveled eastward after Pentecost, eventually reaching India, where still today a group of people call themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Thomas was martyred for the faith by being speared to death. (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

The first Latin words  of this Great O Antiphon is: “O Oriens”.  “Oriens” can be variously translated,”Dawn”, “Rising Dawn”, “Rising Sun”, “Dayspring” etc. “Oriens” is the Latin basis of our words, both noun and verb, “orient”.   We are oriented facing the east…for from the East has come our Savior. “Orient” can mean both “east’ and the “rising sun”. I find it most interesting the ancient understanding that we are found facing East, from which has come the Light of the Word. The west has been considered in Church history as the haunt of the demonic.  In the eastern Orthodox Churches, in a Baptism, the catechumen will face the west and the priest will physically turn him toward the east:

The sponsor, holding the child who is to be baptized, faces to the west (rear of the Church); as does the Priest, who asks the following questions thrice and they are to be answered each time by the sponsor.

PRIEST: Dost thou renounce Satan, and all his Angels, and all his works, and all his service, and all his pride?

SPONSOR: (Replies for the child) I do.

PRIEST: Hast thou renounced Satan?

SPONSOR: I have.

PRIEST: (Once) Breathe and spit upon him.

The sponsor, holding the child, then turns to face the east (toward the Altar); as does the Priest, who asks the following questions thrice and they are to be answered each time by the sponsor.

PRIEST: Dost thou unite thyself unto Christ?

SPONSOR: I do.

PRIEST: Hast thou united thyself unto Christ?

SPONSOR: I have.

PRIEST: (Once) Dost thou believe in Him?

SPONSOR: I believe in Him as King and God.

We all need to be so oriented.  We need to spit upon the devil and “his empty promises” (from the Lutheran Baptismal rite) who wants us lost, disbelieving in Christ and found in the devil’s unholy kingdom. Thomas was not with the apostles when the Lord  first appeared.  It was not until 8 days later that Thomas was  with the Apostles, the Church. Apart from Christ, and the apostolic Word,  Thomas was lost and in the dark. Apart from the utter grace of God, we are lost.  

Thomas was disoriented and firm in his disbelief and error. He was in a sense a thoroughly going modern man.  He did not believe the report of his fellow apostles, nor the faithful women.   Thomas said he would not believe unless he could put his hands in the Savior’s wounds.  When the Lord appeared in the locked room, the Lord invited Thomas to put his hands in His Wounds.  Then Thomas cried out, My Lord and my God. Thomas believed and he confessed Jesus is very God from very God who in His wounds bore the sin of the world.  His Wounds are the light of the Savior and our salvation, “…to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death”.  

We live in a disoriented time and culture that has lost its way, and lost its Way which chooses the way of death in its video games, its movies and in abortuaries.  May the Way of Christ, the truth and the life, be our light day by day orienting us toward His Kingdom!

Roman Catholic theologian,Hans urs von Balthassar wrote that in this dark,moonless night, it makes no sense not to use the flashlight the Lord has given us.  His means of Scripture, Prayer, Sacraments, Confession and Absolution, Preaching and Teaching of Law and Promise are the Holy Spirit’s means orienting us to Himself, the Christ, so we can ever find the Way as He did so for Thomas.  

O Lord, may we shine Your Word for others as well to find the Way Who finds us all.  O Lord, Your Word is lamp unto our feet, a light unto my path  and the light of our souls.

Oriens means East, the Rising Dawn, the Light of the World and Sun and Son: Christ was born for this.

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O God, our refuge and strength, You raised up Your servant Katharina to support her husband in the task to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your  Word. Defend and purify the Church today and grant that, through faith, we may boldly support and encourage our pastors and teachers of the faith as they proclaim and administer the riches of Your grace made known in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Katharina von Bora(1499–1552) was placed in a convent when still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523 she and eight other nuns were rescued from the convent and brought to Wittenberg. There Martin Luther helped return some to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Katharina and Martin were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and blessed with six children. Katharina skillfully managed the Luther household, which always seemed to grow because of his generous hospitality. After Luther’s death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenberg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died in an accident while traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague. Today is the anniversary of her death. (Collect and Intro fromThe Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The Luther Home

There were many people at one given time for dinner or to stay at the Luther’s home.  Students, pastors fleeing from oppression, friends and dignitaries were guests in Luther’s home and Frau Luther took care of them all, overseeing a house staff.  Luther would preach in their home, and the those sermons are called “hausepostilles”, or house sermons.  In a 3 volume edition of Luther’s Hauspostils is a little bit more about Katharina von Bora and the Luther house and home:

The Luther household was often quite extensive—a real test for Katie’s ingenuity at balancing the family budget!—because of relatives, students, and associates who were domiciled there or regularly present at Luther’s elbow for one reason or another… Luther had been a member of this monastic order since 1506 when he completed a one-year probationary novitiate, and in a sense he really felt he had not left it until June 13, 1525when he married Katharine von Bora, who had been a nun. Luther had lived in the old monastery ever since joining the faculty at Wittenberg in 1511. Here he had his living quarters, often preached for the Augustinian chapter, and eventually also delivered his lectures as professor of Biblical theology at the university. Elector Frederick the Wise had designated the old monastery to be the family home for Luther and Katie, as Martin affectionately called his bride. She was up to the challenge, and with him established a model parsonage family and home. Together they rejoiced over a circle of six children that gladdened their hearts, but then also saddened them when Elizabeth died as an infant and Magdalene as a vivacious teenager.

Reflection:

Katharina von Bora was by no means a modern or a post-modern woman.  She is the antithesis of the so-called ‘liberated’ feminist.  She did not seek to “find herself”.  She did not “shop till she dropped”.  She could not have fathomed having an abortion.  She was not  “self-fulfilled” and yet she could run a household the size of a small business. She was not looking to smash “glass ceilings”.  Self fulfillment is contrary to the Lord’s command to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me. If you have had a Mother or Father who denied themselves for your welfare, you are blessed.  As we are blessed in the Son of Mary who denied Himself to bear the cross for our salvation.

Frau Luther was no nun.   You can not find a word about nuns in the Bible but much about wives and mothers who were heroes of the faith in Old and New Testaments:  Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel…Mary.  She was not ‘holy’ by her self-chosen ‘spirituality’ and holy deeds  but made holy by her faith in Jesus Christ lived in her domestic vocation. Once again we are told that the Pope makes a saint, such as, Mother Teresa. No pope, man nor woman makes a saint, Jesus Christ does in baptism and faith according to His Work of Redemption for Katharina, Teresa, you and I.  

Katharina was the antithesis in some ways of a Mother Teresa because Katharina is the model of woman that pertains to all of humankind and those of the household of faith:  fathers and mothers and their children and the 4th and 6th Commandments.  We need to look more at a saint like Katharina than a Teresa.  

Read Proverbs 31: 10 (below) which is the book’s crescendo and it is a description of the strong wife and mother in the Lord.  I think it describes St. Katharina von Bora Luther. The Church is the bride of Christ, and the Lord and His bride, His body, takes care of His children as did Katharina. She gave birth to children as do all mothers including the Mother we rejoice also in:  the blessed virgin Mary.  

An excellent wife who can find?

    She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,

    and he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good, and not harm,

    all the days of her life.

13 She seeks wool and flax,

    and works with willing hands.

14 She is like the ships of the merchant;

    she brings her food from afar.

15 She rises while it is yet night

    and provides food for her household

    and portions for her maidens.

16 She considers a field and buys it;

    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

17 She dresses herself with strength

    and makes her arms strong.

18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

    Her lamp does not go out at night.

19 She puts her hands to the distaff,

    and her hands hold the spindle.

20 She opens her hand to the poor

    and reaches out her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,

    for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes bed coverings for herself;

    her clothing is fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates

    when he sits among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them;

    she delivers sashes to the merchant.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,

    and she laughs at the time to come.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,

    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

27 She looks well to the ways of her household

    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;

    her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women have done excellently,

    but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,

    and let her works praise her in the gates.

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Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You created Adam in Your image and gave him Eve as his helpmate, and after their fall into sin, You promised them a Savior who would crush the devil’s might. By Your mercy, number us among those who have come out of the great tribulation with the seal of the living God on our foreheads and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Adam was the first man, made in the image of God and given dominion over all the earth (Genesis 1:26). Eve was the first woman, formed from one of Adam’s ribs to be his companion and helper (Genesis 2:18-24). God placed them in the Garden of Eden to take care of creation as His representatives. But they forsook God’s Word and plunged the world into sin (Genesis 3:1-7). For this disobedience, God drove them from the garden. Eve would suffer pain in childbirth and would chafe at her subjection to Adam; Adam would toil amid thorns and thistles and return to the dust of the ground. Yet God promised that the woman’s Seed would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:8-24). Sin had entered God’s perfect creation and changed it until God would restore it again through Christ. Eve is the mother of the human race, while Adam is representative of all humanity and the fall, as the apostle Paul writes, “For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). (From the LCMS website)

Reflection, by Valerius Herberger (21 April 1562 – 18 May 1627):  

In the midst of paradise stands the tree of life. From this, Adam [and Eve were] driven away so that [they] would not eat of it but instead would die according to God’s judgment on account of the sin [they] committed. But the cross of Christ is the noble tree of life on which hangs the noble fruits that bring us eternal life. “No forest produces such foliage, blossoms, sprouts.” Whoever consoles himself with the precious merit of Jesus Christ shall live, even though he die. “And whoever lives and believes in Him shall never die” (John 11:26). Because of their sins, Adam [and Eve and their] children were locked out of paradise, but through the key of the holy cross, it will be opened once again to all repentant Christians. Crux Christi clavis Paradisi, that is, “The cross of Christ is the key of paradise,” says John of Damascus. To this, the fathers of the Church relate the key of the house of David, which can open so that no one can shut [Isaiah 22:22]. Let all evil spirits be defied, who would like to lock heaven to us, which the Lord Jesus opened by His cross and death.

—Valerius Herberger

Adam and Eve, in the Lord’s good creation, had a perfect culture of faith. Their wisdom was God’s wisdom, His Word.   But they fell to the serpent’s lie that they could be like God knowing good and evil.  And to know is to control and they could not.  So now the culture of Adam was removed from the perfect culture of Eden as they looked to their own reason, soul and hearts for wisdom. This culture of Adam is visualized in this Cranach woodcut, the Temptation of Eve:

Notice that the serpent has changed himself to look like Eve to entice her with herself!

 The ‘new’ culture, now of the Old Adam is the “cult of the self”(Rev. Pr. Scott Murray). It is the cult of the selfie.  It is the myth of Narcissus (a myth that speaks truth) as narrative of man and woman.  They were cast out by God but by their unbelief they had already cast themselves out.  Judgment is the Lord’s right speaking of  His just judgment. The sign of their ‘new’ culture is that they wanted to be clothed in order to hide their shame.   The Lord Himself finally clothes Adam and Eve.  He creates the new culture, the new creation in Him.  He did not forsake them as they forsook Him.  Clothed in the promise of Christ and His baptism they went forth and the Lord sent His Son, born of the blessed Virgin, so we can be baptized and clothed in Christ, His grace and peace, His forgiveness.  This clothing is never in the styles of world, but only of the Word in the world. The Father planted His Son in the cultures of man to show forth the light of His Word in the darkness.

  O divine Wisdom, incarnate of Mary by the Holy Spirit, become for me the power of God and the wisdom of God, that I might live in the light of Your Word. Amen. 

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