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Archive for January, 2017

Image may contain: text The word compassion’s word origin is literally “to suffer with”.  Why is it we do not want to be compassionate?  Fr. Nouwen, in this quote at least, does gives what sounds like a  reason:  we do not have the “inner disposition”. But why do we not have that inner disposition?  

In Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans wrote about the summation of the 2nd Table of the Law:  “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  Luther basically says this is a very hard commandment to keep.  Luther’s explanation includes a chart to describe the hardness of keeping the commandment.  Paraphrasing, he points out that it is easy to love my neighbor when he is whole, healthy, wealthy, wise, caring, and in good spirits.  But when I am “weak, vulnerable, lonely, broken”, down and out, and so suffering, I still want to be loved.  So love your neighbor as yourself. It is hard to do so.  This is why we do not have the inner disposition.  We do not love our neighbor as we ought and that sentence is used in the confession of sin.

Some of the fleeing is due to love, in that I hate to see my family member  or friend suffering…so I flee or offer a quick fix.  It is harder to be still with my neighbor and just be there.  Sometimes that is enough and it can be the start of prayer.  I think there is only one way to be with our friend or family member in the  struggle of suffering: the only Way is Jesus Christ.  He went to the places where we are weak, vulnerable, broken and lonely…when we were sinners and enemies of God.  He has been and still is to find us, bear us, heal us.  Our motives do not come from my best intentions and inner dispositions but Christ:  

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2: 20)

Christ Jesus took 33 years of His life on earth to bear our sin and be our Savior.  He long suffered with us, for us and this means we do so with our neighbor.  It is only in the confession that we do not love as ought and Christ loves us as He does.  In Him, we can and be honest about the desire to flee or offer mere advice…and go the places where my neighbor suffers as I have been consoled…every step with prayer.

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When I read blogs, tweets and Facebook threads, it seem the righteous anger of men and women have no end, or is it self-righteous anger?   I think  this anger without end has another name:  hell.  Hell with be the result of such anger.  As the Lord Jesus solemnly warned against anger, see St. Matthew 5: 21-22).  This self-righteous anger results in quarreling. Quarreling is the stuff of so much ‘discussion’on the internet.  From today’s Epistle reading, 2 Timothy 2:  from the daily lectionary (LCMS) and the emphasis is my own:

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

As Pastor Andrew Preus  wrote in his article “Learning to Pray from the Imprecatory Psalms”

The devil would love to make us cry out curses with our own words and our own thoughts out of our own pride. James and John asked Jesus concerning the Samaritans who did not receive him, “Lord, should we tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:54)?” But the imprecatory psalms don’t have us call the fire down. They have us rather call God down. God is the one who brings vengeance (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19). And he does this in his own time and wisdom as he reveals his own patience toward us and all sinners (2 Pet 3:9). Therefore Jesus rebuked his overzealous disciples. What begins with anger against injustice can, if the devil and the flesh are given opportunity, turn into prideful curses that reflect the will of the beast (Rev. 13:13) rather than the will of God.

We must pray for the Lord to act in the face of evils He deplores,  but not to rely on our unending activism which just fuels the hell fire of anger and hate:  see St. Matthew 5: 22. As it is written in The Epistle of James, chapter 1:

 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

My anger (and  I am guilty of such) does not produce the righteousness of God only faith in Christ by the grace of His forgiveness produces God’s righteousness which is peace.  If man’s anger produced the righteousness of God we would have the most peaceful society in the history of mankind!  Yes, we are to correct our opponents as it is clear in Scripture but in “gentleness”.  If I can not respond in gentleness, and always with an eye towards the Lord’s work of changing the heart, on a blog posting or in a face-to-face conversation, then maybe I should fast from writing or speaking.  I should at those times be praying,

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. 

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“Over the darkling world the demonic powers had drawn a veil, to keep men from realizing that this was still God’s world. But God had pierced the veil by coming in Christ, who was “light from light” and the very radiance of the Father. By Him God had saved and illumined His darkling world, “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

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As a wise pastor once said, “Any sermon can claim to be Bible–based. But the Bible wasn’t nailed to the Cross to pay for your sins.” The central message of the Bible is Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners. If a sermon is really Bible–based, it will preach that Gospel.

(from Pr. Wilken’s article, “A Listener’s Guide to the Pulpit”;  Pr. Wilken is a parish pastor and host of Issues, Etc., a Lutheran radio talk show available on the internet)

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Bio: Given the added name of Chrysostom, which means “golden-mouthed” in Greek, Saint John was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church. Born in Antioch around the year 347, John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398, John Chrysostom was made Patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city there brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: “Glory be to God for all things. Amen.”

Writing

“He gave Himself a ransom,” he said, how then was He delivered up by the Father? Because it was of His goodness. And what does “ransom” mean? God was about to punish them, but He did not do it. They were about to perish, but in their stead He gave His own Son and sent us as heralds to proclaim the cross. These things are sufficient to attract all and to demonstrate the love of Christ. So truly, so inexpressibly great are the benefits that God has bestowed upon us. He sacrificed Himself for His enemies, who hated and rejected Him. What no one would do for friends, for brothers, for children, that the Lord has done for His servants; a Lord not Himself such a one as His servants, but God for men, for men not deserving. For had they been deserving, had they done His pleasure, it would have been less wonderful. But that He died for such ungrateful, such obstinate creatures, this it is which strikes every mind with amazement. For what men would not do for their fellow-men, that has God done for us!

—John Chrysostom

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

And since he did everything in order to teach us, and suffered everything for the same reason, so here also He willed to be led by the Spirit into the desert, to meet the devil in combat, and so that no one should be shocked if, after receiving baptism, he suffers even severer temptations: as though something strange had happened; but that he may learn to stand firm and endure with fortitude what happens according to the ordinary rule of our life.This is the reason you received arms; not to stand at ease, but to fight  (Sermon by St. John Chrysostom, on the Temptation narrative in Matthew 4: 1ff)

In Lord of the Rings, when Frodo was in the depths of despair about the burden of the ring and the struggle they were engaged, wondering what are we doing here…just plain what are we doing.  His friend Sam-wise Gamgee said to his dear friend that there is some good in this world, Mr. Frodo and it’s worth fighting for.  St. John Chrysostom thought so.  As it is written in the Bible, “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy).  St. John Chrysostom did so fight.  He fought not with a sword but the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (see Ephesians 6).  The good is Christ Himself, His blood and righteousness for us all.  The good is the Father of Christ and all of the Lord’s creation including you to set you free.  The good is the Lord, the Holy Spirit, ever teaching us the faith being sanctified by His grace. The good is His Church in the world, not of the world, but for the world and it’s salvation. 

St. John Chrysostom nailed it:  Jesus’ temptations are what is expected in bringing forth the truth of God’s Word.  Like Jonah, we want to run away from the Lord’s call.  Like Peter, we  deny the Lord.  Like Thomas, we doubt His eternal life, His resurrection.  When we go to see the doctor, we are a patient and are to have patience, but when it comes to sin and evil we must become impatient in our No to the devil and all his empty promises.  It always seems like the devil is winning but that is his strategy:  he lies to fool us.  Christ Jesus is no fool.  Like all the saints of yore, the only way is to stand fast in His Word and be steadfast,

“… with all true Christians running, our heav’nly race and shunning, the devil’s wiles and cunning, Amen, Amen! This be done, so sing we, ‘Alleluia!'” (“Triune God, Be Thou Our Stay”, LSB #505;  text:  Martin Luther). 

Prayer of the Day:

O God, You gave to your servant John Chrysostom grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, John fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to your church bishops and pastors who are like John in preaching and fidelity in their ministry of the Word to your people, and grant that we all be partakers of the divine nature through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You adn the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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“… Luther rediscovered Biblical truths concerning the Church, which had been forgotten. The history of  the Church is not simply the marching on of God’s people from  victory to victory. It is true, “the standard of the King proceeds.” But “Forth shines the mystery of the Cross.” The Cross is most certainly the  sign of victory, but the victory of Christ crucified. For He is always the Crucified, “Christos estauromenos,”  (“having been crucified” is the closest in English)as Paul calls Him (I Cor. 1:23 comp. 2 :2: Gal. 3:1). The perfect tense indicating an event which is lasting, and not only “staurotheis” (aorist/past tense, “crucified”) as He is called when the uniqueness of the historic event is emphasized, as in the Nicene Creed. Christ has remained the Crucified even as He who rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. Even in the Sacrament He gives us His  body, crucified and glorified simultaneously, and the blood shed on the cross. Christ’s triumph is always the triumph of the Crucified, hidden for human eyes under the cross and so are the victories of His Church. Already in the Fourth century serious Christians wondered whether Constantine’s victory in the battle at the Milvian Bridge in Rome had really been the triumph of Christ. When on the eve of St. Bartholomew, 1572, thousands of Protestants were killed in France, the Pope after a shock celebrated this event with a solemn Te Deum as a victory for the church. No one doubts today that he was mistaken. We all know that Christ triumphs also in the death of His saints. Peter and Paul conquered Rome not by converting Nero or making a concordat with him, but by dying there.” (Rev. Prof. Hermann Sasse, from a 1967 article; emphasis my own, Pr. Schroeder)

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Readings:Acts 20: 28-35Psalm 71: 1-14Titus 1: 1-9St. Luke 10: 1-9St. Titus, like Timothy with whom he is often  associated, was a friend and co-worker of St, Paul. Titus was a Gentile, perhaps a native of Antioch, who accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem when they brought assistance to the Christians in Judea during a famine (Acts 11:29-30; Galatians 2:1). It is not known if he accompanied Paul on his first or second missionary journeys, but Titus was with him on the third one, when he helped reconcile the Corinthians to Paul (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) and assisted with the collection for the Church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:3-6). It was probably on the return to Jerusalem that Paul left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:4-5). Afterward he is found working in Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). According to tradition, Titus returned to Crete, where he served as bishop until he died about AD 96. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  In 1539, Father Martin Luther wrote, On the Councils and Church.   The most noted section in it is the Seven Marks of the Church.  Luther asked a good question, 

The Creed teaches us that a people of God must be on earth and remain until the end of the world. This is an article of faith, which cannot cease until that comes which it believes, as Christ promises, “I am with you even unto the end of the world.” But how can a poor, erring man know where this Christian, holy people in the world is?(emphasis my own)

Luther’s answer to his own question is the 7 marks of the Church. By these 7 marks a “poor, erring man” can publicly see the Church and know where the Church is true to the Word. These are quotes from his treatise:

  1. First , This Christian, holy people is to be known by this, that it has God’s Word,

  2. Second . God’s people, or the Christian holy people, is known by the holy Sacrament of Baptism, when it is rightly taught and believed and used according to Christ’s ordinance.

  3. Third . God’s people, or a Christian, holy Church is known by the holy Sacrament of the Altar, when it is rightly administered according to Christ’s institution and is believed and received

  4. Fourth . The people of God, or holy Christians, are known by the keys, which they publicly use. Christ decrees, in Matthew 18:15 that if a Christian sins, he shall be rebuked, and if he does not amend his ways, he shall be bound and cast out; but if he amends, he shall be set free. This is the power of the keys

  5. Fifth . The Church is known outwardly by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices which they occupy.

  6. Sixth . The holy, Christian people is known by prayer and public thanksgiving and praise to God.

  7. Seventh . The holy, Christian Church is outwardly known by the holy possession of the Holy Cross.

Note: the sequence, Possession of God’s Word, Baptism, Holy Communion, Office of the Keys (public and private confession and absolution).  This is logically followed by someone to do numbers 1-4:  pastors and bishops.  The result is the public praise of God’s people and the possession of the holy cross, that is suffering.  I concentrate today, the Festival of St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor on number 5:  called and ordained Servants of the Word, pastors and bishops.

Christianity is the only religion on earth who calls their ministers Pastors: Pastor literally means “Shepherd”.  For instance, a congregation called “Good Shepherd” is in Spanish, “El Buen Pastor”.  A shepherd leads his flock to “good pastures”, see Psalm 23:2;  St. Mark 6: 39;  St. John 6: 1-14, 33-35.  He calls pastors to feed His flock with the Word preached and taught, baptizing,administering His Body and Blood, and forgiving repentant brothers and sisters, who also are sinners. We need to  eat and drink every day and every week, so we need Him. This was the vocation of Paul and his brother pastors  Timothy and Titus.

The past 3 days are respectively the Festivals of St. Timothy, St. Paul and St. Titus:  a pastor is a mark of the Church.   He can be less a mark and more a blemish if he does not preach and teach according to the Scriptures and leads a purposeful immoral life, or he wants to leave his mark on the Church.

In the TV show M*A*S*H, Fr. Mulcahy was always wondering was he really useful.   Hawkeye and the other surgeons tried to comfort Fr. Mulcahy that he was indeed useful.  In the  show, one barely sees him saying Mass on Sundays or even talking about it or preaching.  He does hear confessions but usually for the humor in it.  He is portrayed as psychological counselor. He never evangelizes the Korean villagers. It really is a sham portrayal of military chaplains.

 As a pastor I think many of us suffer from the  Father Mulcahy Syndrome.  Pastor must do something else:  therapist, CEO of church growth, social activist, community organizer and the like.  The pastor can assuage his conscience that he is indeed “useful”.

 In terms of this world, yes, I think pastors are useless:  the world of sin, death and the power of the devil  has no use for Word and Sacraments which means Jesus Christ!  “It’s not practical”  will think our pastor feeling the need to be useful.  I think that conclusion is sheer unbelief and unbelief is  the world and the flesh and devil’s desired outcome. This is a sore temptation to want to feel “useful”. I am complicit in that lust as well.

The devil knows that his Enemy’s Word is quite practical, for the practice of faith and the fruit of faith, love, His light in the darkness. Numbers 1-4 of Luther’s 7 Marks of the Church is deemed not enough, but it is. Neither are marks 6 and 7, and especially the mark of the Church under question. Do we really think the devil and the powers of darkness want the light of Christ in a world they claim as their own?    Paul, Titus and Timothy were not looking for adjuncts to heighten their need for usefulness in the Holy Ministry.  Your pastor needs prayer and encouragement to do the one thing needful, the good portion that will not be taken away:  preaching and teaching the Word written, spoken and incarnate (see St.Luke 10:41-42) and so live together in unity in His Word and Doctrine.

Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher. Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Acts 9:1-22  Galatians 1:11-24 Matthew 19:27-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You turned the heart of him who persecuted the Church and by his preaching caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant us ever to rejoice in the saving light of Your Gospel and, following the example of the apostle Paul, to spread it to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Day:  St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascus is related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out for Damascus to arrest and bring believers to Jerusalem for trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Introduction: After the Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself to Saul of Tarsus, Saul could no longer see.    The Lord blinds Saul and asks him, Why are you persecuting Me?  Who are?, Saul  asked.  I am Jesus. The Lord tells him where to go and it is not hell!  Luther in his House Postil (Sermon) for this Feast Day has a great insight on the importance of pastors  and where and when conversion occurs and we should always go:

“(Saul) was now ready to be taught. The man, who is called Jesus of Nazareth, is able to speak with such earnestness that it goes deeply to the heart. Paul would have despaired and died, had not Christ again pulled him to his feet and comforted him, as he now says:

Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (vs. 6)

Although he speaks with Paul directly from heaven above, God does not intend to put away the pastoral office or establish something extraordinary for him. Indeed, he might have spoken to him directly and revealed what he wanted him to do, but instead he directs him to go to the parish pastor in the city where he would hear and learn what he was supposed to do. Our Lord God does not purpose some special thing for each individual person, but gives to the whole world—one person like the next—his baptism and gospel. Through these means we are to learn how to be saved, and have no need to wait for God to reveal some new thing from heaven, or send angel.  For it is his will that we go to hear the Gospel preached by the pastor;  there we will find him, and in no other way…

 Thus Paul came into the light of the Word, to baptism, to the Holy Spirit, through Ananias who was no more than a finger compared with Paul, like a little candle in comparison with the sun. From him, this little wooden match, Paul was to take his light; from this little doctor the famous Doctor Paul was to hear what he was to do!

That is something we must really note well, so that we esteem the preaching office as we ought.  Paul receives his sight, his insight and the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of Ananias, so that he knows who Christ is, understands the power of baptism, and forthwith emerges as a changed man.

Reflection:  I would guess that if you ask a  fellow Lutheran and Christian, “When was Paul converted?”, the answer would be, ‘On the road to Damascus”  But based upon the Text and from it, Luther’s sermonic insight,  Saul’s conversion did not take place on  the road to Damascus but in the Word and the Font, prayed and administered by the pastor, Ananias.  What happened to Saul on the road was not his conversion but the apocalypse by the Lord to Saul, noting that  our word “apocalypse” is from the New Testament Greek, “reveal”, and “reveal”. This is  the word the Apostle Paul used in his letter to the Galatians: Galatians 1:16.  Similarly, when Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Lord said the Father revealed, literally, “apocalypsed” this to Peter.  I think this day should be called the Apocalypse to Saul.

 Saul is blinded for 3 days (vs. 9) as in the Lord in the tomb for 3 days.  Saul was blinded by his own sin and the Lord’s judgment of his sin in consenting to the arrest and murder of Christians, such as the first martyr, Stephen, see Acts 7: 60-8:1.  Only by the Word of the Gospel that Ananias administered in prayer was Paul able to see and in Baptism be saved, receiving Christ Jesus’ forgiveness in His death and resurrection (see Romans 6: 1-11!). This is when Saul of Tarsus is converted.

Note:  there is no “decision of Christ” at all!  As Paul well knew this when he wrote:  “The letter (of the Law) kills, and the Spirit gives life.” (see 2 Corinthians 3:6) There is no intervention of the choosing self, the Old Adam.   It is all the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes! Receive the Holy Ghost, says the Pastor on the street called straight. Paul had no choice for the Lord because He chose him, one “untimely  born”(see 1 Corinthians 15:7-9).   We look for God in all the wrong places.  We think salvation should be glorious, in our obedience, spiritual feelings, values, etc, but it is not, it is the Cross. Jesus does not give Saul any instruction but to go to the means of grace He Himself has appointed for Saul to be washed and saved:  Water and the Word (cf. St. Matthew 28: 18)

 When we think we “found God”, apart from His apocalypse (revelation) in His Word, then we will find ‘God’ who who will turn out to be the devil or a false god (and there is not much difference). Those so  wanting a revelation apart from the Holy Trinity will be disappointed, deluded and demonized. We have all sorts of people who consider themselves “spiritual” and even think the Lord has revealed Himself to them apart from His Word and Sacrament and then go on to  deny His means of grace and His Law.  “The ‘spirit’ told me that it was okay to______”. But the Lord directed Saul to the Font, as Paul would also direct the Lord’s people,  and as a  saint in your life also pointed the way to the Lord in His forgiveness for you:  not in the sky, but in the laver of regeneration. !   

1 Corinthians 6:

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.(emphasis my own)

 Thank Him for His amazing grace which causes the blind to see His love in the washing unto eternal life

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Prayer of the Day

Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds such as Timothy to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Psalm 71:15-24
Acts 16:1-5
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Matthew 24:42-47

Bio:  St. Timothy had Christian believers in his family. His mother, Eunice, was a Christian woman and was the daughter of a Christian woman named Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). Acts records that St. Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and wanted Timothy to continue on with him (16:1-3). Over time, Timothy became a dear friend and close associate of Paul to whom Paul entrusted mission work in Greece and Asia Minor. Timothy was also with Paul in Rome. According to tradition, after Paul’s death, Timothy went to Ephesus, where he served as bishop and was martyred around AD 97. Timothy is best remembered as a faithful companion of Paul, one who rendered great service among the Gentile churches.

Reflection by  Fr. Valerius Herberger (21 April 1562-18 May 1627, German Lutheran preacher and theologian):

Dearly beloved, today we celebrate the commemoration of St. Timothy. He was born in Lystra (Acts 16:2); his father was a pagan, but his mother, Eunice, born an Israelite, had accepted the Christian faith and had committed her son, Timothy, to be raised by her mother, Lois, who was also a Christian. So Timothy learned the catechism from his grandmother. See, dear parents, what the diligent training of children can do! Now since he was a good, excellent thinker,St. Paul accepted him as his colleague or chaplain, and since he improved himself daily, Paul eventually ordained him as bishop of Ephesus, where he was also killed by the raging pagans. St. Paul loved him dearly, which we can see from both epistles that he wrote to him. In 1 Timothy 1:2, he calls him his true son in the faith. From these two epistles, many passages shine forth like the stars of heaven:

  • 1 Timothy 1:5: “The aim of the commandment is love from a pure heart and from a good conscience and from a faith unfeigned.”

  • 1 Timothy 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

  • 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Since St. Paul and St. Timothy were dear friends, they were put beside each other in the calendar, and also on the day of St. Timothy, the Gospel of John 15:9-16 is read, which speaks of pure love and friendship.

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection:   Pr. Paul Kretzmann from his commentary on St. Luke 4:

 As long as faithful pastors speak in a general way in their preaching and admonishing, they have peace and are even praised. But if the same men dare to point to individual sins, they are accused of unjust criticism and condemnation. For it is a peculiarity of the truth that it embitters and makes enemies where it does not work conversion. There is no worse censure for a pastor than that which was spoken of one concerning his position in his congregation: We do not hurt him, and he does not hurt us.  

In 1 Timothy 6, the Apostle Paul warned Timothy about the love of money being a root of all kinds of evil (vss. 2-10).  He then exhorts Pastor Timothy to  “flee these things” and  “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  Next comes a verse unique in the Bible:

Fight the good fight of the faith.

It is clear that the reason pastors preach Law-less sermons is  financial:  a good pay package.  I too have been guilty of this. If the pastor does “not rock the boat”, he can keep his job. This goes for too many parish pastors of all denomination to the biggest televangelist.  This also means speaking the truth in love in admonishing a brother or sister in Christ  with the very attributes Paul encourages Timothy to pursue:  righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness!

This is a good fight to fight for the salvation of many.  Pray for your pastor. If needs be: contend with your pastor if he is preaching Law-less sermons, which will mean, hollow  feel-good bromides masquerading as Gospel.  In 1 Timothy in particular is the vocation description of a pastor and encouragement to a pastor (when you read “bishop”/”overseer”, read pastor).   If the pastor is feeding you his religious opinions or simply political statements, then ask to be fed the Word of God. 

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)

 

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Text:  1 Corinthians 1:10-18

The Lord made His disciples to be fishermen of men.  The Lord called Paul to be an apostle.  Paul spread the net of the Gospel and had a net full in Corinth.  The Lord caught some very lively fish in Corinth.  Corinth was a major seaport in the Roman Empire.  The Roman Empire ruled all.  The Empire was a bastion of the cult of personality.  Augustus Caesar identified himself in a kind of a public relations campaign as embodying the Empire and not that the Empire should exactly worship Augustus, but “the genius of Augustus”.  At that time, “genius” did not mean as we know it, a very talented and bright person, but one whom the spirit of the gods attended that person from birth.  We have another word related to “genius”:  “genie”, a guardian or protective spirit, semi-divine.  Romans worshipped that ‘spirit’, that is the, genius of Caesar. 

The Romans identified themselves with Augustus’ genius, or as we would say, personality.  The Corinthian Christians, fished out of the depths of idolatry and immorality, had a  hard time shaking this cult of personality.  They identified with human leaders, albeit Christian leaders, What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”        Note how many times “I” is written in that sentence.  It is an ego driven world. Paul heard they were quarreling about their religious geniuses they were following and who, of these, genies  was the best.  Some thought they were so spiritual, Oh, I follow Christ, also disdainfully looking down on their brothers and sisters in Christ, in the name of Christ!  They then put Christ on  par with Paul, Apollos and Peter.

I spend this sermon time on this because the parallels between then and now.  Nowadays, a Paul, Apollos or Peter might be tempted to become Christian TV stars, personalities, complete with mega churches, tweets and blogs and books. In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, back then, those teaching and preaching the evangelical faith of the true Catholicism of justification by grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, began to be called “Lutherans”.  Luther responded by saying do not name yourself after “this maggot fodder”, but if anything, call yourselves Christians, little Christs.   Many have compared the fall of the Roman Empire, because of immorality, especially sexual immorality with our own empire and it is a fair comparison but so is this one:  we worship personality, the genius of  so many, just like the Romans, that they are genie like, capable of fulfilling our wishes.  With the demise of influence of Christian faith and practice, accomplished with the help of many doctrinal Judases in the Church, may we see the Lord’s sheer grace and favor in Jesus our Lord alone! 

When the cult of personality affects and infects the Church, dividing the Church, we must heed Paul’s questions:  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  These are rhetorical questions:

  • Is Christ divided? What is the answer: NO!  Christ Jesus is one, true man and true God, with confusing or dividing the substance, not man alone, nor God alone, but one who was born of woman, the Word became flesh. Why?

  • Was Paul crucified for you? What is the answer?  NO!  Even if a Christian is martyred, he is not crucified for you, only Christ Jesus could be, and was,  crucified for you, because Christ is not divided!  He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made”. This is Who was upon the Cross.  And so reaching in His Word to you from His heart to your body and soul:

  • Or were youbaptized in the name of Paul? What is the answer?  NO!  Paul, you, me were baptized in God’s Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, caught from  all the nations in  the net of Holy Baptism, the preaching of the Word of God, the preaching of the Cross.  The net has been cast.

The Corinthians were thinking that they had the good sense to be caught by the fisherman Paul.  How can a fish decide to be caught?  And the Father has caught us.  By His Son who bought by His blood.  The Holy Spirit has taught us God’s Word and still does. The only thing a person can do in regards to Christ and His Word is not to be caught.   Dr. Walther preached it well:

“Of course, no one can produce faith in himself. God must do that. A person may be in such a state, such that he cannot believe and God is not willing to give faith to him. A person who still considers himself sound and righteous cannot believe. “One who is full loathes honey” (Proverbs 27:7). In the same way, the soul that is spiritually “satisfied” tramples on the honey comb of the consoling Gospel.”

Walther describes the worst state and that is thinking I don’t need salvation because I’m “sound and righteous”.  The cross of Christ makes no sense.  It’s all about then, spiritual rules and regs. We live in a spiritually self-satisfied era, trampling on the Gospel, going after human leaders, spiritual and political and celebrities who do not save.  Yet,  there is a dis-ease at the core biting and devouring.

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 Paul could still appeal to the Corinthians because there was still the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ though they were falling away big time as we read in 1 Corinthians.  We all need to be reminded that it is the cross by which the power of God ever reaches us and teaches us.  And to prove it, the Lord Jesus Christ called as His first disciples fishermen!  Not academics, not pundits, not politicians and rulers and successful business men but men who’s job it is to catch fish. No college or seminary degrees but for three years they had a seminary education like no other to show forth that the surpassing power comes not from man, but God.  They were not only taught good information from God’s Word but formation in that Word. “I will make you fishers of men…” Follow Me, He said.  Do not follow this vain world, the path that is easy and wide that leads to destruction and it does all the time as celebrities have their followings. I have  baptized you head to toe, body to soul.  After our Lord’s Resurrection, it was a continuing education in Christ and for us as well, as we walk in our Baptism, after Christ, toward Christ, in Christ. It is bearing your cross, dying to sin and rising and walking in the Spirit.

 What a fine kettle of fish is the Church! Every kind of fish imaginable and the net is not torn of the Church the very Body of Christ.  He catches us out of depths into His own most marvelous light and so walk in the light, the light of His Word, learning, praying, communing.

 Pr. Bonhoeffer preaching on Peter’s confession, during a time when the Church was under severe attack and persecution by all the ‘goodness’ the Nazis were doing:

Peter’s church, that does not mean a church of opinions and views, but the church of the revelation; not a church in which what “people say” is talked about but the church in which Peter’s confession is made anew and passed on; the church which has no other purpose in song, prayer, preaching, and action than to pass on its confession of faith…

When it is the church of “what people say” then people are led astray, no longer built on the rock of the confession that Jesus is Lord.  This confession is what we pass on to others, not gossip about God. You  can be, and maybe have been, part of a neighbor, friend or family members’ divine and eternal joy  in Christ by confessing Christ is your Lord.  You are the Lord’s talking, praying, serving Temple. The place with His people receiving the fruits of Jesus’ sacrifice, once and for all, for prayer, praise and thanksgiving, the place of His Word, His Name.  His Temple is all gift.  “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians) 

 

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