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Archive for February 13th, 2017

Aquila and his wife, Priscilla (Prisca), Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul, traveled widely. Because of persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tent-making, as the Apostle was likewise trained in that trade:

Acts 18:  1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tent makers by trade. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Please note that the Roman persecution and exile of the Jews was the historical cause by which Paul met this faithful couple in the Lord. The three of them met in Corinth where the Apostle evangelized.  The author of Acts, Luke, tells us that the three of them met because of their vocation, “tent makers by trade” (This means they were leather workers and as Paul was a trained Pharisee, it was customary for a Pharisee to have a trade).  Was it a historical accident that Paul met this Christian husband and wife?  We do not know in this concrete event in the Church’s history but we do know that the Lord is,

“…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1)

The Lord brings about His plan in ways that to the human eye are hidden but He is working to bring us His salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Later Luke tells us in his history of the early Church, Acts, that Silas and Timothy came to Corinth,  and so the Church was there in Corinth:  Apostle Paul,  Aquilla and Priscilla, Silas and Timothy.  There were not a “team”as this was not a sport’s game.  Our Lord promised where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name, so He is there.  It was not 5 of them in Corinth but also the Lord, the Temple of His Body to be revealed in the preaching and teaching of His Word, as the Apostle evangelized first  in the Corinthian synagogue.   Our Lord sent out the disciples two by two to preach and heal. Further, the Apostle Paul mentions Apollos eight times in 1 Corinthians.  Paul wrote the Corinthians that their following of human leaders, however ‘charismatic’, is fleshly.  Paul and Apollos worked in concert in the ministry of the Gospel:  

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3)

Dr. Lockwood in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (Concordia Publishing House) points out:  “…Apollos and Paul did not work independently of each other;  they formed a harmonious unit, one in purpose, one in fellowship      (Gal. 2: 9).”   In the Scriptures, evangelism is not a solo activity, but the mission of the Church in concert under her Lord (see 1 Corinthians 12: 1-26).  

The Apostle supported himself by making tents so he would not be a burden on the congregations he was called to serve (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 18), though, he was by no means against preachers receiving a salary so that their time could be fully devoted to freely preach and teach the word (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 1-8). In turn, Aquila and Priscilla  joined Paul in his mission of proclaiming the Gospel. The couple later traveled with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus:

Acts 18: 18: After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila

Priscilla and Aquila established a home in Ephesus that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity. Paul left them there as he went to  Caesarea, then Galatia and Phyrgia.  It was good that Priscilla and Aquila stayed in  Ephesus because of a visitor:

Acts 18: 24Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

This faithful couple taught the talented and highly educated Apollos regarding Baptism according to Christ’s command and promise.  The Christians in Corinth were so fleshly proud that many of them boasted they followed Apollos  and others(see 1 Corinthians 1:11-13), whereas   Apollos, with all his erudition, was obviously humble and had an ear as one being taught (see Isaiah 50:4). It is also important to note that the clear implication in the verses above that,  “the way of God”  to us all  is Baptism:  “…though he knew only the baptism of John”, which was  for repentance whereas Baptism commanded by Christ Jesus is for forgiveness, until He comes again (see St. Matthew 28:  18-20).  

Priscilla and Aquila were in business.  Business is a vocation in this world for people to serve their neighbor, but this is also a clear narrative demonstrating that in your daily vocation you may so teach the “…way of God” to those who want to know.  Priscilla and Aquila knew their catechism.

Then later, Apollos:

…wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.(Acts 18)

Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos are all remembered and honored for their great missionary zeal in the unity, the concord, of the Church.  No matter the greatness nor humility of the talent, we all need to be catechized and preached Christ and Him crucified, “…  showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”  This day is especially good to remember to always pray for all businessmen, tradesmen, day-laborers and to  pray for the Church’s mission and her missionaries in daily life that the Lord’s salvation be brought to those with ears to hear: “the poor in spirit”.

Let us pray…

Triune God, whose very Name is holy, teach us to be faithful hearers and learners of Your Word , fervent in the Spirit as Apollos was, that we may teach it correctly against those who have been led astray into false and error and that we might follow the example of Aquila and Priscilla for the good the Church You established here and entrusted into our humble care;  for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Matthew 5:21-37

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Anger is as old as Cain.  When Cain saw that his brother, Abel’s, sacrifice was more pleasing to the Lord, Cain became angry. The Lord asked Cain,

“Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4)

Cain’s anger in his heart became the first murder and the first funeral.  Yet Cain had died before he murdered.  He could have lived and also his brother. He could have repented.  Anger is the dark beast crouching in our hearts daily from road rage to political rage to family rage.  When the Lord did not destroy Ninevah because they repented, Jonah became angry because God is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  

 Jesus introduces each topic in His Sermon with:  You have heard that it was said…but I say to you.  He, the author of 10 Commandments, is teaching the Lord’s spiritual use of the Law.  Any murderers here?  The political use of the Law is external keeping man from murder by punishments. Actually murdering someone is far worse than anger, but anger is the beginning.  Externally none of has murdered and so we are off the hook?  Jesus shows the internal source of anger, from the heart apart from the Lord. 

 Unending lust is accepted, as in internet pornography but we have also accepted anger as okay under the deception of righteous anger.  It is self-righteous anger because it can make me feel  good at being angry at someone who is not as moral as I am.  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 32:35Rom 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.

A popular news commentary show had a segment, “Mad as hell”, as in “mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any longer.”   There was a  popular video game, Angry Birds in which the player can make the birds into deadly projectiles to destroy herds of pigs who stole their food. Steal my dinner and I will be forever trying to kill you. Even our birds are angry and I think those fictional birds are just a sad reflection of the heart and will of man. We even enjoy our anger, or as Sheldon’s Mom said when the Big Bang crew offered to take her to Rodeo Drive, one of the most expenseive shopping avenues in the world, “Well, I can’t spend 12 thousand dollars on a handbag, but it’s free to look upon those who do with righteous condemnation.” Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs:

I am quite convinced that the United States of America in the twenty-first century is a profoundly angry culture, and in contemporary discourse anger (often labeled “outrage”) is almost regarded as a virtue. When someone with whom we agree “goes off on” someone with whose position we disagree, we applaud the anger, the belittling, the demeaning words. One factor that seems clearly (at least to me) to be at work behind the distressing number of shootings and mass murders in our country is the generally angry and violent tone of significant aspects of our culture.[2] As Christians, if I am correct about this, we find ourselves living in an angry culture, and there is a great danger that the culture’s catechesis about anger will affect and infect the church.

In Genesis 4, another descendants of Adam and Eve, Lamech boasts to his wives about killing a man for simply offending him and then goes on with his taunt, he will take vengeance 70 times 7.  And the seven times seventy means never ending and I think this is the basis of our Lord answering Peter’s question, How many times should I forgive my brother…7 times?  No, said the Lord, 70 times 7: Not never ending vengeance, but forgiveness.  Think about road rage. Most police calls are for domestic violence.   So what’s the solution?  Take a course in  “anger management”.  Doesn’t seem many can manage their anger. So the solution is from the outside in?  No wonder we are also a drug society, mask the symptoms, smoke a joint, be on narcotics and now heroine is making a big comeback, that will curb the anger…for awhile.  

When I read blogs, tweets and Facebook threads, it seem the  self-righteous anger of men and women have no end.   I think  this anger without end has another name:  hell. Hell with be the result of such anger.  This self-righteous anger results in quarreling. Quarreling is the stuff of so much ‘discussion’ on the internet.  2 Timothy 2:  

  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.(emphasis my own) 

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:   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 and deliver us from the evil one. 

 The solution is the Lord’s salvation from the outside in, the Holy Spirit working in us through the word of Law and Promise to show us our anger and show us our Savior. Becoming angry at pro-abortion supporters won’t stop abortion.  We pray the Lord will. Refrain from anger, and forsake wrathFret not yourself; it tends only to evil.   Just ask my wife if a fret!  Our Savior who bore  the anger, spite, spit and malice of mankind and He is behind the words of His Prayer:  forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against.  The means Jesus lays out:  reconciliation.

When I was in college at Concordia Senior College, ’74-’76 preparing for the Ministry, there was weekly Holy Communion services in the Kramer Chapel.  It was at that time we were introduced to a new part of the liturgy:  sharing of the peace.  The verses for today’s sermon were read, at each service, before the sharing of the peace: 

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

In Christ, we are reconciled to the Lord.  Every cell of His holy body into death was given that we have life in heaven.

In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!

As I can get angry behind the wheel, in the living room, at work, listening to the radio and watching the news, reading the paper, and as I have on purpose angered someone else, no wonder then the Lord encourages us to pray at all times!  We like to say we need to slow down:  Lord, make us quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, abounding in Your steadfast love.

‘Forgive our sins as we forgive,’
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.

 

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