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Archive for July 30th, 2017

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Bio:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany, he became friends with Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled Sententiae. Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529, Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious dinner guest and house guest … this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes.”

The  today’s Old Testament Daily Lectionary reading is 1 Samuel 15:  10-35.  It is not the reading  for the Commemoration of Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr.  The Old Testament reading is about the Lord’s anger at King Saul, His anointed, for not killing King Agag after Israel conquered the Amalekites.  Saul was commanded to slay all the conquered but Saul spared Agag.  St. Augustine’s commentary on this lesson:

“Saul saw fit to use compassion when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain (1 Samuel 15:9-11). However, he deserved to have his disobedient compassion, or, if you prefer it, his compassionate disobedience, rejected and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow man in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. Truth, by the mouth of the Incarnate Himself, proclaims as if in a thundering voice, ‘Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). And in order to except martyrs from this sentence, to whose lot it has fallen to be slain for the name of Christ before being washed in the Baptism of Christ, He says in another passage, ‘Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39)” (Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin, 2.17; emphasis my own). 

In the St. Augustine quote above, the Bishop of Hippo disapprovingly observes that one could call what Saul did in sparing King Agag as “compassionate disobedience.”     Compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His unvarnished Word is the way of too many churches these days.  We do a lot of that in our day and win the roaring approval of the world in “extending mercy” to what the Lord has commanded as wrong:  denial of doctrine, adultery, same-sex ‘marriage’, violence, greed as “good”, gossip, virulent atheism and the like.  No wonder we are in such bad shape.  If Robert Barnes had compassionately disobeyed his calling, yes, he would have saved his life…but not his soul. He was obedient to the good news of Jesus Christ as clearly confessed by the Lutheran Fathers. Luther knew this.  Robert Barnes was also compassionately committed to His King, Henry the VIII (yes, the same king who married six times and killed a few of his wives in order to have a male heir).  We read these days about many such martyrs overseas. A martyr encourages our confession of Jesus Christ,the Word made flesh and the same Word written in Scripture, Law and Promise.     It is not easy but Jesus said much about bearing one’s cross and self-denial.  If we obey the self, we certainly can not obey the Lord.   We think by our compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His Word  that we are saving lives…no, we are losing lives…even our own and those we love. Our calling as His Church is the same as Robert Barnes who was faithful in his vocation, but Kings Saul and Henry VIII were not.

 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
    and shall not be put to shame,
 for I find my delight in your commandments,
    which I love. (Psalm 119: 46-47)

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