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Archive for October, 2017

World War II American Patriotic Anti-Nazi Poster public domain image: Vintage Patriotic Anti-Nazi Poster from 1943 World War II: THIS IS THE ENEMY in large text below an image of a menacing swastika sleeved hand driving a bayonet through the Holy Bible by artist Barbara Marks; published by the Office of War Information, Washington, D.C. printed 28 x 20 inch color lithograph by U.S. Government Printing Office: 1943-O-533688; a public domain image of a historic U.S.A. American Government Patriotism Symbol copyright free image of a patriotic WWII Anti-Nazi poster titled This is the Enemy.

 

This World War II American anti-Nazi poster is definitely from a different era.  The concern clearly expressed is that the Nazis were the enemy of the Christian faith represented by the  Bible.  The Nazis were trying to kill the Bible, that is the Word of God.  In fact, the Nazis even produced their own Bible which is called “the Hitler Bible”.  Hitler and company did their own version of the commandments, Hitler’s 12 commandments.

The knife to Scripture was not  first wielded by the Nazis or the Communists, but by friends of the Bible, so-called:  19th and 20th Biblical scholarship which devolved into the Biblical scholarship that denied Scriptural inerrancy and authority.  It is less like a knife and more like a scalpel, removing those living parts of God’s Word that do not comport with the secularist, worldly agenda:  the creation account in Genesis, ordination of men, abortion, greed,lust, same-sex marriage and the denial of gender, etc. and the purpose became Biblicide. Again, this was done within the Church, by ‘friends’ who were (are) trying to make the Bible relevant, timely, palatable and all under the rubric of ‘doing good’.   Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus for Him to  use the Word for His own purposes for ‘doing good’, on the devil’s terms.  This is the struggle of our time, against the zeitgeist of the powers and principalities in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 6:12 ).

The most sung and loved of the sizable number of Reformation hymns is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Dr. Martin Luther, the last stanza:

God’s Word forever shall abide,
no thanks to foes, who fear it;
for God himself fights by our side
with weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house,
goods, honor, child, or spouse,
though life be wrenched away,
they cannot win the day.
The kingdom’s ours forever!

And the powers and principalities and the prince of darkness want to take away one of the Church’s greatest weapons of the Spirit in her arsenal:  the Bible. The Bible then becomes the enemy to those in power and those who go with the flow.

This World War II poster is scary.  When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned, he wrote his brother Pastor, Timothy this:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2)

Paul was bound but the Word is not. He was chained as criminal for the crime of preaching Christ which is no sin. Luther and the Reformers knew this. They knew the knife of those who denied the authority of Scripture alone.  They did not prevail. Luther and company did not prevail, the Lord did. He still will.  He calls us, as He did the blessed Reformers:  Confess Christ! Fear not, I am with you until the end of the age. You do not build the Church, I do.  You are to confess. Confess Christ as Lord! Confess Christ so that saints are remade in Baptism. All the saints surround us in Christ’s Body, the Church encouraging us to look to Christ alone, His grace alone, as  His baptized saints.

Let us pray…Almighty and gracious Lord,  pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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Our word  “Halloween” is a contraction of the phrase:  “All Hallows Eve.  The word “hallow” as in the Lord’s Prayer:  “hallowed by Thy Name”.  The word “hallow” means to make holy or holy.  This day is so named because because tomorrow is All Saints Day when the Church remembers all the saints in Christ and  so today is the Holy Eve of November 1.  This custom of the evening of a saint’s day, or the big festivals of the church year, e.g. Christmas Eve, as the beginning of hte day has it’s roots in Genesis chapter 1 and the creation narrative: “…and it was evening and morning the first day”, etc.  Please note the sequence of evening, then morning.  In Judaism, evening begins the day, with the setting of the sun, and so the lighting of Shabbos candles at the table  at the setting of the sun on Friday to welcome in the Sabbath.  Christianity follows this practice to this day for it’s feast days including today (also the Eastern Orthodox churches always have Saturday Vespers).  The association of Halloween with ghosts, pumpkins, monsters, witches, trick or treating has a long complex history which if you want to read about this, here is a good article on origin of our Halloween practices. 

Halloween is about being scared and frightened by things that go bump in the night, ghosts, ax murders, witches and the like.  The current Netflix series, “Stranger Things” capitalizes on this but with the twist that this scary movie is centered on a questionable science center in the small Indiana town.  But what is truly frightening and terrifying?  Psalm 46 speaks to  terror, and unlike the frights of Halloween, the hope that quells the true terrors of our day.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

The Lord in His Word forthrightly tells us our fear: the utter instability in nature and the even more terrorizing is the  instability in the nations:  war and the instruments of war (bow, spear and chariots, the equivalent of that day to our nuclear weapons, bombers etc). “Indeed, historical insecurity seems to replace cosmic instability in Israel’s vision of reality…but the congregation knows that the LORD of hosts is also sovereign over national powers as well as cosmic”.

What are the terrors of our day?  The same as for the Psalmist and the people Israel:  “wars and rumors of wars” and the weather, i.e. ‘climate change’! These terrors make Halloween’s somewhat manufactured terrors pale in comparison. With ‘climate change’, the change from Psalm 46 to today is the false belief of so many that we can “save the planet”.  This  is looking the wrong way, that is, to ourselves which fits in this idolatrous generation. The LORD directs our attention to Himself in the Psalm’s refrain:

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46 inspired Martin Luther to write arguably the greatest hymn in Church history:  “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.  “LORD of hosts identifies the LORD as the divine warrior who leads the heavenly hosts against the cosmic and human foes to maintain his rule” The Lord destroys our weapons of war to make to make for peace and the Prince of peace came upon the field of our cosmic and human foes:

With might of ours can naught be done,
Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One,
Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabaoth Lord,
And there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.

The question arises in the face of our foes, what should we do?  We should do something, anything, right?!  The Psalmist has counsel to answer these questions and that is:  do nothing!

Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

If someone is trying to fill your cup with water, it makes no sense to keep moving it:  Be still. Be still in the “city of God” from whence comes,”…a river whose streams make glad the city of God”.  When I think of this river I am reminded of Holy Baptism.  The “city of God” may be a reference to Jerusalem but the city of God seems to be something other.  “The song does not invite trust in a place, but in a Presence who wills to dwell with people”, that is, Emmanuel, God with us.  The Church needs to be still in prayer before the Lord in these times of  terror so the LORD fills us with His Word to know and do His will as He with us, as He will be exalted in all the earth of our terrors.  

A blessed All Hallow’s Eve!

(All the quotes above are from Interpretation:  A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Psalms by Dr. James L. May)

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O Spirit, who didst once restore
Thy church that it might be again the bringer of good news to men,
Breathe on Thy cloven Church once more,
That in these gray and latter days
There may be those whose life is praise, each life a high doxology
To Father, Son and unto Thee.
(#843 LSB)

Concordia and Koinonia

In the ‘70s I went on a three-week college study tour of the then Soviet Union and some Eastern European cities.  In East Berlin, one stop was a history museum.  Since we were from a Lutheran College (Concordia Senior College, Ft. Wayne, IN) the museum guide especially wanted us to see the displays on Martin Luther and the Reformation.  The guide pointed out that Luther was lauded as precursor Marxist revolutionary as he stood against the ruling class.

Martin Luther has been lauded and hailed in other historical interpretations of the man which miss the mark:

  • In a similar fashion, hailed as a proto-Marxist revolutionary, Luther is understood as a populist leader and demagogue who rallied the masses against the tyranny of Rome and the prevailing ruling class. The accusation is he was an enemy of the Church and he was not. Luther was no populist/demagogue:  when the masses started…

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“Just at the time when the whole world seems to be going mad, when people in general seem to be under the influence of some evil power, some strange intoxication, then the Christians, and especially the true pastors, should maintain their vigilant self-possession; with clearness of view and judgment use all possible caution.”

(Rev. Paul Kretzamann, from his 1924 Bible Commentary).

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“The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise.” Pr. Bonhoeffer

Concordia and Koinonia

 

Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Lessons:  Jeremiah 26: 1-16; Psalm 43;  1 Peter 1: 3-9;  John 15: 12-21

 Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

About Saints Simon and Jude:  In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14—16); Acts1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or ‘Cannanaean”) and by Jude (or “Judas,” not Iscariot but “of James”), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as…

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“He assumed flesh and blood and bone like us, yet without sin, which is our lot. The devil hates to hear this joyful tiding, that our flesh and blood is God’s Son, yes, God himself, who reigns in heaven over everything. Formerly, each Sunday, we used to sing Nicea’s confession of faith, formulated at the Council of Nicea, in the words: Et homo factus est, “And he became man,” and everyone fell to his knees. That was an excellent, commendable custom and it might well still be practiced, so that we might thank God from the heart that Christ assumed human nature and bestowed such great and high honor upon us, allowing his Son to become man.”

 From Martin Luther’s Sermon for the Annunciation

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The Five Wise and 5 Foolish Virgins by William Blake

Almighty God, the apostle Paul taught us to praise You in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.We thank You this day for those who have given to Your Church great hymns, especially Your servants Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt. May Your Church never lack hymnwriters who through their words and music give You praise. Fill us with the desire to praise and thank You for Your great goodness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Bio: 

Philipp Nicolai (1556–1608) was a pastor in Germany during the Great Plague, which took the lives of 1,300 of his parishioners during a sixth-month period. In addition to his heroic pastoral ministry during that time of stress and sorrow, he wrote the texts for “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying” and “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” known, respectively, as the king and queen of the Lutheran chorales. 

Johann Heermann (1585–1647), also a German pastor, suffered from poor health as well as from the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). His hymn texts are noted for their tenderness and depth of feeling. 

Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676) was another Lutheran pastor who endured the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. By 1668 he lost his pastoral position in Berlin (for refusing to compromise his Lutheran convictions), and endured the death of four of his five children and his wife. He nevertheless managed to write 133 hymns, all of which reflect his firm faith. Along with Martin Luther he is regarded as one of Lutheranism’s finest hymn writers.(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  These pastors and hymn writers, with their congregations and families,  suffered plague, war and sickness.  What sustained these men through such turmoil, when the ground beneath them was shaking and then write some of the greatest hymns for the Church’s song?  They may have seen plague, war and sickness as God’s judgment and the Word of God makes us stop at His judgment so that we hear His grace in Christ who suffered our plagues, wars and sickness.  We have expectations of life being easy but not so long ago, man did not have such an expectation.  Expectation, though, is not hope. Such calamities remind us we can not fix the world so we can look again, not to our selves, but to where true joy is found: 

1. O Christ, our true and only Light,
Enlighten those who sit in night;
Let those afar now hear Thy voice
And in Thy fold with us rejoice. (Johann Heerman)

Faith can only have something or someone to seize for salvation and this is the justification of the sinner by Christ’s Atonement, the Savior, once and for all from the Cross, preached and taught into our ears and hearts, by sermons, yes!  But also by hymnody.  In this 500th Anniversary of Dr. Luther posting the 95 Theses, it was also hymnody that drove Luther’s hammer.  

In the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), the former worship book of the ELCA’s predecessor Lutheran denominations,  the forward states that they wanted the hymns to be more “devotional” and have a less of  a “didactic” content.   Nowadays, the search for the mere “devotional” devolves into a music that makes me feel a certain way. The didactic or teaching content of Lutheran hymnody is crucial because it is the objective Word of God written in Scripture sung in words and music so we can learn and learn to praise aright in heartfelt devotion.

Consider “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying”:  this hymn is the Parable of the Foolish and Wise Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13) set to music. It is usually sung in Advent, pointing to the time on earth when the Bridegroom arrived and the time to come when those who are eager for His appearing, He will come again.  It is didactic and  instructional. Those who teach the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth, the dispensationalist and millenialist false doctrine is shown for what it is in that magnificent hymn of Scripture by the true and correct doctrine of our Lord’s parousia, in Scripture, correctly taught. The virgins knew the bridegroom was coming, but they did not know when. He comes not when we expect it as 1000 year reign timetables lay out and get wrong. He comes at the fulfilled time for those who long for His appearing (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8).

At Concordia Junior College, I took a one credit course on hymnody. Professor “Ollie” Rupprecht pointed out that J.S. Bach had some 80 volumes in his library (quite an expensive acquisition in that day) and 60 volumes were on Lutheran Doctrine. This doctrine has been derided as too “sterile”.  It is not.  Like Jack Webb in Dragnet said: “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” The objective justification by the life, word and work of Jesus Christ is the reason to sing in the midst of the world when the “nations rage” and “kingdoms totter” (Ps. 46: 6). Through His grace alone, faith grabs hold of the promises by the work of the Holy Spirit alone.  Some say Lutheran Hymnody is so devoid of emotion:  it’s not. These hymn writers did not write these hymns to “reach people” but to teach and sing the Gospel:

8. What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee. (Paul Gerhardt)

We give thanks to the Lord, the Conductor of the  “choir immortal” (from “Wake, Awake”),   for all church organists (underpaid and being squeezed out by contemporary worship), church musicians, choirs and the Lord’s people who sing their praise of their Lord through hymns replete with the Scripture, that is, the Word of God and so the Holy Spirit.  Pray for your organist, choir director, choir members and church musicians in petition and  praise to the Lord and tell them all this  Sunday:  thanks!

“Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” (#516, Lutheran Service Book) by Philipp Nicolai

“O Christ, Our True and Only Light” (#839, Lutheran Service Book) by Johann Heerman

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (#450, Lutheran Service Book) by Paul Gerhardt

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These holy women, who were made holy by Faith in Jesus, are acknowledged in the prayer above in their various vocations: business woman, charitable worker and deaconess.

Concordia and Koinonia

Lessons:  Acts 16: 11-40;  Acts 9: 36-43;  Romans 16: 1-2

Prayer 

 Filled with thy Holy Spirit, gracious God, thine earliest disciples served Thee with the gifts each had been given: Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity and Phoebe as a deaconess who served many. Inspire us today to build up Thy Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ;  who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 These women were exemplary Christians who demonstrated their faith by their material support of the Church. Dorcas (also known as Tabitha) was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in the city of Joppa, especially for her making clothes for the poor. When Dorcas died suddenly, the members of her congregation sent to the neighboring city of Lydda for…

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“When the Festival of the Reformation shall come and shall wake no throb of joy in (the Church’s) bosom, her life will have fled. For if the Reformation lives through her, she also lives by it.”

-Charles Porterfield Krauth, (1823-1863), The Conservative Reformation

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Lessons:  Acts 15: 12-22a, Psalm 133, James 1: 1-12, St. Matthew 13: 54-58

Biography: St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with other relatives of our Lord (except His mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

James  was witness to the Resurrection and then James believed and the Scripture is clear that before the Resurrection, James did not believe.  James wrote later in his epistle that the implanted Word can save your soul.  Implanted into the womb of James’ mother, Mary.  James would have heard the narrative of the Annunciation by the archangel Gabriel to his Mother from his Mother!  He was part of the family we call holy. This begs the question:  How could James not believe, growing up in such a pious house?  Many parents wonder about that in their own families regarding their own children.  Even a true,pious, Christian home may have sons and daughters not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scripture does not tell us the reason James and his brothers did not believe and to speculate is fruitless as it is also fruitless for Christian mothers and fathers also to speculate about their unbelieving children.  I would guess that Mary and Joseph prayed daily for all their children. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”, Romans 10: 17.  The Old Adam won’t listen on his own until Christ Jesus reveals Himself, and even then the Old Adam is obstinate as a mule.  Yet, in the Lord’s time, He can have His way of grace and peace for us all who are also obstinate.  He implants His Word through the preaching of the Word. 

Not only did James believe the Word but his Brother called him into the holy ministry as servant of the Word. October 31st is the Feast of the Reformation thanking the Lord for 500 years of rediscovery of the centrality of the Word of God. The blessed Reformers were very much concerned with the preaching and teaching Office of Pastor.   Priests at the time were beating congregations down with the Law, both God’s Law and man made churchly rules, regulations and human traditions that by them we can attain heaven.  It was a curse.  Pastors are called as ordained Servants of the Word so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His single-Handed salvation of us all be preached for the increase of saving faith. James was called also as servant of the implanted Word. James further writes  that with the tongue we bless the Lord and curse our neighbors.  James was encouraging his brother pastors to be clear in preaching the Word, rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel so that a “harvest of righteousness” come to fruition in the making of “peace” (James 3:18), God’s peace which surpasses all understanding.

Many pastors/ministers/ priests,  at the time of the Reformation, then and now,  concentrate, the people’s attention on themselves and not Jesus Christ.  Has the Lord’s salvation come from the heart of Joel Osteen or your pastor or the Pope or Luther? By no means! Pastors are called to preach Christ, not the Christian.  Pastors are not called to preach themselves, only the Word of God. The Word preaches the Lord’s salvation through the humble tongues and pens of His called pastors. The place of salvation is not the creature, but  the Creator who sent His only-begotten Son.  The Reformers, as James, were not for the peddling of God’s Word for money (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17), but the preaching of God’s Word for salvation and the fruit of good works.  Preaching the Christian will set the ship of the Church (Latin: navis, ship and from it, nave, where a congregation sits), the wrong way, going in circles, endlessly revolving around the emptiness of the fallen self,  not Jesus Christ and His living way.  Bitter jealousy and rivalry, over “ministries” will result  and will result in “every vile practice”(James 3:16), like a mega-church pastor building a million dollar home and other pastors preach the good works of social activism and  those works alone to ‘save the world’.   Many such pastors sell their books and preach their books, but not The Book, the Scriptures. Such bitter jealousy for more is not of the Lord, and as James wrote, the saving wisdom, the Word made flesh comes from another source,

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

The Word made flesh. The same Word implanted by the preaching and teaching of Christ carefully and faithfully  for us and for our salvation.

 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. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1)

Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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