Archive for May, 2017

Almighty  and everlasting God, increase in us Your gifts of faith, hope and love that we may receive the forgiveness You have promised and love what You have commanded;  through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  

This day’s appointed New Testament reading is St. Luke 7: 36-50, “A Sinful Woman Forgiven”.   “A woman of the city, who was a sinner” comes and anoints Jesus’ feet with costly ointment and her tears, kissing them and drying them with her hair in the home of Simon the Pharisee.  Simon is aghast at this scene in his home.  

The Book of Concord, The Apology of the Augsburg Confession keenly observes:

The woman came with the opinion concerning Christ that with Him the forgiveness of sins should be sought. This worship is the highest worship of Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to Christ. To seek from Him the remission of sins was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. Now, thus to think of Christ, thus to worship Him, thus to embrace Him, is truly to believe. Christ, moreover, employed the word “love” not towards the woman, but against the Pharisee, because He contrasted the entire worship of the Pharisee with the entire worship of the woman. (Article V, 30)

Jesus says to the woman, Your faith has saved you.  He did not say that to the Pharisee. Simon was filled with  outward duties, religious works and the like but not in faith that Jesus is the Lord and with and in Him is the forgiveness of sins resulting in love.  Simon could show his duty toward Jesus, his house guest, but not love for he did not believe in the grace of God in His Son Jesus. The woman’s great debt was forgiven and she believed and so loved. Simon pointed out that this woman was a sinner but Simon could not confess that regarding himself.   “You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.” (vs. 45)

These are two types of worship:  the one is what I sacrifice to be good, the second is the One who is sacrificed so I am His and so good. AS there are two types of worship, so there are types of churches:  the church of the sinful woman and the church of Simon, the Pharisee.  In the first Church, the woman is not famous but infamous and her name not mentioned but she is known to the Lord.  The Church of the Pharisee, in this world, everybody knows the ‘holy’ by name on the streets and in the media of our day.  The first church is of faith, hope and love in the Savior, the only-begotten Son of God.  The second church is of rules, regs and sparkling spiritual personalities.  The first Church receives from the Lord, the second church always wants to get something out of God.  The first Church knows she receives all blessings from the Lord, the second church positions itself to get what it wants to be externally ‘holy’.  The true Church is the church of the sinful woman…and Paul and Peter and Lydia and Cornelius:  all who know their Savior as He in His love has saved us and so we love because He first loved us.  Then there is the spectacular churches of works. The first Church we are baptized into, the second church is of my choosing. These two churches will be until Christ comes again and then may we in Him be found.

Thou knowest all my griefs and fears,

Thy grace abused, my misspent years;

Yet now to Thee with contrite tears,

Christ Crucified, I come. 

(LSB 560:2)


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Quote from On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius:

“The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching.  Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life?  Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ?  If He is no longer active in the world, as He must needs be if He is dead, how is that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer for his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious?  If He did not rise, but is still dead, how is it that He routs and persecutes and overthrows the false gods, whom unbelievers think to be alive, and the evil spirits whom they worship?  For where Christ is named, idolatry is destroyed and the fraud of evil spirits is exposed; indeed, no such spirit can endure that Name, but takes to flight on sound of it.  This is the work of One Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God.

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Athanasius, and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

ReadingsActs 20:19-35   Psalm 71:1-8  2 Corinthians 4:5-14  St. Matthew 10:23-32

Athanasius was born in Alexandria in Egypt in A.D. 295. He served as a church leader in a time of great controversy and ecclesiastical disagreements. At the Council of Nicaea in 325, he defended Christian orthodoxy against the proponents of the Arian heresy, which denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ. During his 45-year tenure as bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius wrote numerous works that defended the orthodox teaching. His enemies had him exiled five times; on two occasions he was almost murdered. Yet Athanasius remained steadfast and ended his days restored fully to his church responsibilities. The
Athanasian Creed, though not composed by Athanasius, is named in his honor because it confesses the doctrinal orthodoxy he championed throughout his life.

Athanasius was exiled 5 times by his enemies!  I was told to leave one congregation once and that was enough for me.  Athanasius stood steadfast in the truth of Christ.  The meaning of  Athanasius standing firm is important for us today as C. S. Lewis makes clear, from his introduction to On the Incarnation by the saint: 

His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

Maybe the major difference between the 4th Century and today is the speed by which these days “those ‘sensible’ synthetic religions” come and go.  We are reaping the whirlwind and are living in the extreme weather of the zeitgeist.  The sure side of being on the “right side of history”, per Athanasius, is that the world will be against you. Athanasius only wanted to be on the right side of God and His Word and that put him on the wrong side of his culture and society.  The world wants to mold the saving doctrine to fit it’s agendas so the Word is nothing.  Yet, the Word of the Lord abides forever no thanks to foes who hate it. The commemoration of saints, as Athanasius, help us to stand firm.  It could also be said of this saint, Luther Contra Mundum!  He sang:

Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from your Son
And bring to nought all he has done.

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