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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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