Archive for March, 2017

Scripture Readings:
2 Samuel 7:4-16
Romans 4:13-18
Matthew 2:13-152:19-23

Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, from the house of Your servant David You raised up Joseph to be the guardian of Your incarnate Son and the husband of His mother, Mary. Grant us grace to follow the example of this faithful workman in heeding Your counsel and obeying Your commands; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Reflection:  I think  March 19th, Joseph, Guardian of Jesus should be observed by the Church as Fathers’ Day, as the following reflection by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon in Touchstone magazine makes clear and as does the issue of Touchstone on St. Joseph also makes clear.  (BTW:  Touchstone is an excellent Christian and orthodox magazine).

There is something strongly impressive in the Bible’s final remark on the life of St. Joseph: “Then [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. . . . And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:51–52). The Son of Godwas raised, that is to say, as any little boy should be raised, growing day by day in the practical and moral skills of life, the formation of character, even as he grew in height and build. While God’s Son assumed humanity in his mother’s womb, it was Joseph who taught him what it means to be a man. Thus, Joseph was to leave the forming mark (charakterin Greek) of his own manhood on the God-Man. Jesus, in his hometown, was known as “the carpenter’s son” (ho tou tektonos huios—Matt. 13:55).

Few if any writers have shown as much exegetical insight into St. Joseph, I think, as Bernard of Clairvaux, who preached a homily on this saint back in the twelfth century. Bernard spoke of Joseph as “the man of virtue,” who “deserved to be so honored by God that he was called, and was believed to be, the father of God” (meruit honorari a Deo ut pater Dei et dictus et creditus sit).

Detecting the subtle suggestions dropped in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Bernard compared St. Joseph to his Old Testament counterpart, Joseph the Patriarch. Both men, Bernard noted, were men of chastity, unwilling to touch women who did not belong to them. Each man, likewise, was driven into Egypt by the ill will of others, in the first case by the older sons of Jacob, and in the second by King Herod.

Both men were given divine messages in their dreams. The older Joseph “provided grain, not only for himself, but for all the people,” while the later Joseph “received for safekeeping the Living Bread from heaven, both for himself and for the whole world.”

In the biblical genealogies, Jesus’ lineage is traced back to David, not through his mother, but through Joseph, to whom Jesus had no biological relationship (Matt. 1:16; Luke 3:23–31). Thus, Jesus inherited the messianic title “Son of David,” not through Mary, but through the man who served him, literally,in loco parentis (in place of parents).

Bernard was impressed by Joseph’s Davidic lineage:

Truly of the house of David, this man  Joseph truly descended from the royal stem, noble in lineage, more noble in mind. . . . Indeed was he a son of David, not only in flesh, but also in faith, in holiness, in devotion. The Lord found him, as it were, another David, a man after his own heart, to whom he could safely commit the most secret and most sacred purpose of his heart—to whom, as to another David, he manifested the deep and concealed things of his wisdom, and whom he would not permit to be ignorant of the Mystery which none of the princes of this world have known. To him it was given to see what many kings and prophets had longed to see, but had not seen, and to hear, but had not heard. And he was given, not only to see and to hear, but also to carry, to lead, to embrace, to kiss, to nurture, and to guard. (Super Missus Est Homiliae2.16)

Every vocation is unique, surely, in the sense that the Good Shepherd calls each of his sheep by its own proper name. Still, there was something more particularly unique about the vocation of St. Joseph.

Just how does a man learn the proper form and method for being the foster-father of God’s Son and the spouse of that divine Son’s virgin mother? One suspects that there were no manuals on the subject. Joseph was obliged simply to follow God’s call wherever it led. Like Abraham, “he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). And if Abraham, in thus following God by faith, is called “our father” (Rom. 4:12), there must be some sense in which St. Joseph serves as our foster-father.

With so distinctive and demanding a vocation, we might excuse Joseph if, on occasion, he sometimes felt anxious and insecure. The available evidence, however, indicates that this was not the case. Joseph appears four times in the Gospel of Matthew, and every single time he is sound asleep. Whatever troubles Joseph endured, they did not includeinsomnia. Joseph’s vocation was not simply difficult; it was impossible. Consequently, he realized that all of it, in the end, depended on God, not himself.

(Taken from Christ in His Saints)

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Quote of the Day

He bows His head on the timber-trunk of the cross to kiss us in love. He stretches out His arms in order to embrace us in love. He prays for His crucifiers because He suffered out of love for them. His side is opened up with a spear so that the flame of heartfelt love might break forth from it, “so that we through the wound’s opening may behold the mystery of the heart.” In love He longs for us, and thus He said: I thirst [that is,] for your salvation.”By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.” (Pr. and Prof. Johann Gerhard)

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St. Patrick was so clear in his preaching of the Holy Trinity and devotion to the Lord, One in Three, Three in One, many have undertaken to explain the Holy Trinity.  Here is a video clip by Pr. Hans Fiene, Lutheran Satire  and a quote from 17th Century Lutheran pastor and theologian, Johann Gerhard basically saying the same thing about the various sundry  explanations of the blessed Holy Trinity.  Blessed St. Patrick’s Day!


BTW:  I don’t think St. Patrick in his few extant writings ever explained the Holy Trinity in the ways portrayed in this video!  But the satire is using the similes which have been used over the centuries in the mouth of the saint. But given his writings,  I am only guessing but St. Patrick would have confessed the Creeds as the correct teaching of the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

The Fathers employed a number of similes to explain (the Holy Trinity), such as the sun, in which there is light, heat, and radiance; or the human soul, in which there is intelligence, knowledge, and love; or an herb in which there is odor, taste, and effect; yet there is only one sun, one soul, and one herb. And there are other figures from nature which one can use. However, they do not provide a perfect understanding; for every figure is inferior to the actual thing it represents. It would no longer be a mystery if one could understand it. It would no longer be exceptional if there were an exact duplicate. If one could comprehend it, it would no longer by incomprehensible. As little as one can scoop up the entire ocean with a small spoon is as little as one can fathom this boundless mystery with human reason. God is exalted as high above all creation as our created intelligence is below the knowledge of God’s essence. If we do not even understand how we are born into this world, how can we expect to understand how God’s Son is begotten from all eternity? If we do not understand how the vital elements are processed in the chambers of our hearts and circulated through the arteries of our bodies, how can we at all understand how the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son?

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I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three,
Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord!

Hymn # 172 from Lutheran Worship

Let us pray… God of grace and might, we praise You for your servant Patrick, to whom You gave gifts to make the good news known to the people of Ireland. Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 62: 1-7; Psalm 48; Romans 10: 11-17; St. Luke 24: 44-53

Bio:  Patrick is one of the best-known of the missionary saints. Born to a Christian family in Britain around the year 389, he was captured as a teenager by raiders, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a herdsman. After six years he escaped and found his way to a monastery community in France. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities. He strongly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a time when it was not popular to do so. His literary legacy includes his autobiography, Confession, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today. Patrick died around the year 466.  Read more about St. Patrick’s biography here, citing quotes from his Confession.

Reflection: The Church’s mission is Baptism.  St. Patrick, missionary Bishop, knew that. The Lord did not send Patrick to the land of Eire to establish Irish national identity, drink green beer (itself a heresy!), get drunk in a pub and have another reason for “hooking-up”.  He came to preach the Christ who sets us free from all of that and all sin and death.

He wrote a majestic poem that became a hymn on Holy Baptism (see above). Ireland had been evangelized prior to Patrick but it was through this servant of the Lord that the Faith was rooted.  Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was to the baptized who had wandered down false paths and dead ends to return to the waters. Patrick’s preaching of Christ was for the baptized to walk in the newness of life in Christ as a baptized son or daughter. Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was for the pagan to come to the waters, to bind unto themselves the strong Name of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ commanded His Church to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity, not in the Church’s name,nor Patrick’s nor Luther’s, for that matter.  The baptism mission of the Church is obviously not fads and fashions, techniques and clever tactics to “get people into Church”.  The Baptism is always into Jesus Christ and His Cross (see Romans 6: 1ff). 

Patrick did not water down Holy Baptism!  He did not water down the doctrine and practice of the Church to “reach people”.  His goal was not ‘outreach’ to people but preach the Word so that people call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved, and that means:  Holy Baptism.   Patrick knew that he was a “jar of clay” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7), as he knew that the surpassing power was the Lord’s, the One who baptized him:

Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.

The Church wears the “green” day in and day out, in the bloom of summer, in the dead of winter:  greening in the watering of His forgiveness by His grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8). When we forget our baptismal sojourn in the Holy Spirit and in His Word the Holy Scriptures, then we are lost. Patrick had a strong faith in the strong Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He was no debater of the age, but proclaimer of the age to come. Yes, wear the green today but do not forget to pray and make the sign of the Cross giving thanks to Lord our God, for the missionary bishop who baptized many. The Lord’s Cross points us home to the Holy Trinity.  From Patrick’s  Confession:

 In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord—so many thousands of people

(More on St. Patrick here and here)

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The hand pointing to heaven was the sign in the 60s-70s for the “Jesus People”.  It signified Jesus is the one way to heaven.   If I stood on a busy street corner, with my index people pointing up, folks would start looking up to see what I was pointing to!  Is it a bird, is it a plane…Is someone jumping? Or asking what you are pointing to. “Jesus”  ”Ahh, I don’t see Him.”  Pointing to thin air.  Or doing such indoors pointing to  the ceiling. Stuck.

The one-way-to-Jesus sign went the way of the Dodo bird.  Jesus Christ is not thin air. The Christians who came up with it had pious intentions but for all of our inventions and ‘improvements’, especially in theology, the time-tested recipes are still the ones to be emulated for they have stood that test by being in accordance with the plain sense of the Bible, the Word of God, which lasts forever.  

The problem with the one-way sign is it’s ambiguity.  Making the sign of the cross is utterly unambiguous…it’s absolutely clear:  Jesus Christ died for me, a sinner and I’m a Christian. The sign of the cross signifies the cross alone while pointing up can mean many other things. The provenance of making the sign of the cross is ancient as  the early Church Fathers attested to the use of the sign of the cross. Tertullian (d. ca. 250) described the commonness of the sign of the cross:

“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross” (De corona, 30).

And hidden in plain sight for decades was Fr. Luther’s instruction in The Small Catechism to make the Sign of the Cross getting up in the morning and at bed time. 

The Cross of Christ Jesus is definite. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…as definite, the Lord taught, as Moses lifting up the bronze serpent it the wilderness (John 3: 1-17).   As definite as your name by which He has called you (John 10:3).  God loved every one, every cell He created and came to redeem.  The world loves the easy talk about universal Armageddons.  Jesus taught the universality of the Cross, so that sinners  be saved by faith in Him.  Our cross means dying to sin and rising in  the newness of life everyday:

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer:It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer: St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father,even so we also should walk in newness of life. (The Small Catechism, Holy Baptism)

Now that’s a definite plan! The sign of the Cross says by His grace we are part of His universal/catholic salvation, that the dying are held by His grace through faith in Him unto eternal life. 

The salvation is universal and objective…yet can be sadly ignored.  Jesus was pointing the way, foreshadowing to Nicodemus the signpost of salvation and even more Himself: the Savior.    The sign of the cross does not point to thin air, but the Holy One of Israel alone.  We are not stuck in our sins but freed from them in His Word to us, for us, in us, preach, taught and administered in the Sacraments. It points to the history of our salvation in the Lord as accurately recorded in the Bible.  The sign of the Cross is unmistakable.  No mistake that Jesus Christ died and rose for us all.  This was, “…according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:  23).  Definite.

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 “The world is a great book which, as it were, has three pages: the sky, the earth, and the sea, from which indeed we should learn that there is a God. Creation is vain and fleeting, for out of nothing it came into being and into nothing it will return; therefore, there must be a God who not only created things but who also sustains them. When one observes a beautiful building one concludes that there must have been an intelligent architect responsible for it. Should one not then also conclude from the great edifice of the world that there is a God? From the accomplishments of man one deduces that there is a soul within man that motivates him. Should one therefore not also deduce from the manifold works of creation that there is a God who is causing all of these things to happen?  This is why St. Augustine asserts that all the things of creation have, as it were, a voice which cries out that God exists.”

“This one true God is merciful, for Christ says that God has given us His Son out of love. All of nature bears witness to God’s benevolence, because He did not bring forth creation for His own sake, since within Himself He is perfect from all eternity, but He did this solely to share His benevolence with others. God’s benevolence is a precious fountain that pours forth unceasing gifts and blessings, yet itself is never diminished.”

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THE NEED FOR THE SAVIOR:  Before and After

…God’s Word testifies that the intellect, heart, and will of the natural, unregenerate man in divine things are not only turned entirely away from God, but also turned and perverted against God to every evil; also, that he is not only weak, incapable, unfit, and dead to good, but also is so lamentably perverted, infected, and corrupted by original sin that he is entirely evil, perverse, and hostile to God by his disposition and nature, and that he is exceedingly strong, alive, and active with respect to everything that is displeasing and contrary to God.

  • Gen. 8:22: The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

  • Jer. 17:9: The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked, or perverted and full of misery, so that it is unfathomable.

  • This passage St. Paul explains Rom. 8: The carnal mind is enmity against God.

  • Gal. 5:17: The flesh lusteth against the spirit; and these are contrary the one to the other.

  • Rom. 7:14: We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.

  • And soon after, 18:23: I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. For I delight in the Law of God after the inward man, which is regenerate by the Holy Ghost; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin.

 Now, if in St. Paul and in other regenerate men the natural or carnal free will even after regeneration strives against God’s Law, it will be much more obstinate and hostile to God’s Law and will before regeneration. Hence it is manifest (as it is further declared in the article concerning original sin, to which we now refer for the sake of brevity) that the free will from its own natural powers, not only cannot work or concur in working anything for its own conversion, righteousness, and salvation, nor follow [obey], believe, or assent to the Holy Ghost, who through the Gospel offers him grace and salvation, but from its innate, wicked, rebellious nature it resists God and His will hostilely, unless it be enlightened and controlled by God’s Spirit.

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