Archive for June, 2018

Appointed Scripture Readings:  Acts 15: 1-21   Psalm 46   Galatians 2: 1-10  St. Matthew 16: 13-19

About this Feast Day and St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles:   The festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is probably the oldest of the saints’ observances (dating from about the middle of the third century). An early tradition held that these two pillars of the New Testament Church were martyred on the same day in Rome during the persecution under Nero. In addition to this joint commemoration of their deaths, both apostles are commemorated separately: Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16) and Paul on January 25 for his conversion (Acts 9:1-19).

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of God in the New Testament would begin with the person of Peter, whose confession is the rock on which Christ would build His Church. But Peter was not alone (the “keys” given to him in Matthew 16:19 were given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:21-23). As St. Paul tells us, Peter and the other apostles take their place with the prophets as the foundation of the Church, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The confession of Peter, therefore, is the witness of the entire apostolic band and is foundational in the building of Christ’s Church. Thus the Church gives thanks to God for St. Peter and the other apostles who have instructed Christ’s Holy Church in His divine and saving truth. 

St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascus is related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out forDamascus to arrest and bring believers toJerusalemfor trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

Reflection:  Those who would remake the Church into what they want and desire, will eventually have Christ Jesus remade into their own image, that is, an idol.  Too many build the Church upon men’s opinions of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord’s question to the disciples, Who do men say that I am? was never intended by the Lord to be an eternal discussion question for so-called Bible studies in too many congregations.

Every year, before Christmas and Easter, come the articles debunking some portion or portions of the Bible about Jesus, like clockwork.  The Lord’s question to Peter surfaced the rumors about Him and they were just that:   rumors, conjecture, innuendo. Peter and Paul knew that Christ  is the only Cornerstone of His Church and that all who were being baptized, were being built onto the Cornerstone,not the cornerstone upon them! See Acts 4:11,Ephesians 2:201 Peter 2: 5-7.  The Holy Spirit conforms us to the Lord’s specs in the blueprint of His Church,  by His mercy for sinners, not according to our specs and schemes for His Church.

Peter and Paul had differences between them and much in common.  Both Peter and Paul were Jews.  Peter was an uneducated fisherman, while Paul was a highly educated Pharisee who was taught at the feet of the great rabbi, Gamaliel. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning, the first of the Apostles.  Paul, as he said, was the last of the apostles.  Both were zealous for the Law. Yet, Peter denied Christ.  Paul persecuted the Church and consented to the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of “followers of the Way”.  Both knew they were sinners whom the Law could not save and that Christ alone does atone.  Peter,

 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him,“Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” 

 St. Augustine commented on the verses above, “Behold of a sudden the lover is a liar. (Peter) finds out what he is; he who had thought too highly of himself”  Peter’s tears were of godly sorrow that leads to repentance. 

Paul wrote to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.   Paul was blinded by his sin in the glory of crucified Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul finds out what he is and like Peter, Paul also thought so highly of  himself and Christ taught him well:

 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12: 3)

Paul’s confession of sin was also of the godly sorrow. Called by Christ Jesus, Peter and Paul both knew by faith His forgiveness of them and each and everyone of us. Both confessed Jesus is Lord. Both built up the Church through the Word of God, as St. Paul wrote:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 1 Corinthians 3:10

As the Apostle Peter wrote:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.(1 Peter)

Both built well with the Word of God upon the sure Cornerstone Jesus Christ. Neither Peter or Paul built the Church upon themselves, their spiritualities or the fads and fashions of this vain world. Both were martyred, tradition says on this day, in Rome. Remember and rejoice that  Peter and Paul, and all Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them in death, but ever preached and taught, the Way to heaven, in faith, not to kill the infidel, but that the infidel come to faith and  live eternally in Jesus Christ.

Prayer of the Day

Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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Bio:  Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-200), believed to be a native of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), studied in Rome and later became pastor in Lyons, France. Around 177, while Irenaeus was away from Lyons, a fierce persecution of Christians led to the martyrdom of his bishop. Upon Irenaeus’ return, he became Bishop of Lyons. Among his most famous writings is Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies). This work condemned several errors but focused especially on Gnosticism, which denied the goodness of creation. In opposition, Irenaeus confessed that God has redeemed his creation through the incarnation of the Son. Irenaeus also affirmed the teachings of the Scriptures handed down to and through him as being normative for the Church. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer/CPH)


Error, wrote Irenaeus, is, “…craftily decked out in attractive dress”.  We are living in these days amidst quite a fashion show of error and false doctrine, and so was Irenaeus.  The Lord warned us of wolves in sheep’s clothing and the “clothing” is ensconced in a nice book cover with a warm bio of the heretical author.  C. S. Lewis wrote it well:

“Any theory which bases itself on a supposed ‘historical Jesus’ to be dug out of the Gospels and then set up in opposition to Christian teaching is suspect. There have been too many historical Jesuses–a liberal Jesus, a pneumatic Jesus, a Barthian Jesus, a Marxist Jesus. They are the cheap crop of each publisher’s list, like the new Napoleons and new Queen Victorias. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation.”–C. S. Lewis, “Why I Am Not a Pacifist,” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 1949/2001), 88.

The only different aspect of these errors in our day, compared to the 2nd century, or even the 20th,  is the velocity by which they are published and now with the internet, it is in cyber-speed.  Further, these have infiltrated into church bodies with their guards down as many have denied creeds for deeds, only looking to themselves and not out to the Lord and His Word. The culture is forming churches, but the Church is called by her Lord to be the  salt of the earth in the message of the Gospel.  The Lord and His Gospel seasons and saves the earth.

In the reading selected for this commemoration in  The Treasury of Daily Prayer, St. Irenaeus wrote regarding the heresies of his day and the truth of Scripture:

For error is plausible and bears a resemblance to the truth but requires to be disguised;  while truth is without disguise and, therefore, has been entrusted to children.

I think the shocking part of that quote is that the truth has “…has been entrusted to children”, not to the adults, not to the learned, not to theologians.  This is in keeping with our Lord Jesus Christ who said,

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.    St.Matthew 11


2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.   St. Matthew 18

One of my favorite theologians is my wife.  She once commented that adults like to think in terms of “moral grays”, a child does not:  it is either right or wrong.  It is that way with the Gospel:   a child gets it. I have done wrong, God is great as He loved me upon the cross to save.  Creation is good.  I have done wrong.   We are forgiven. This is truth without disguise.  The Father reveals His truth to children not the “learned and the wise”. The learned and wise are those who love the wisdom of God as a obedient and loving child his father and mother. Jesus Himself entrusts it to children:  even if the child is 100! It is in keeping with Irenaeus and his love of Scripture is the lyrics of the old Sunday School song:

Jesus loves me! This I know,  For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

 Yet, the undisguised truth of God’s Word has so much in it that even the most able minds can not understand it all.  In Irenaeus’ day there were the Gnostics who said creation is evil, spirituality is good. Plausible…except it is not the Scripture:  see Genesis 1! See Jesus Christ:  God became FLESH, His own creation!  It is the heretics, who have a enough of God’s own truth, to disguise and then complicate the truth of God’s own Word,  looking to themselves and a ‘superior’ spirituality.  It looks good but it is a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing (see Matthew 7:15).  Beware,  said the faithful Bishop Irenaeus.  Irenaeus also famously said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  How?  Answer: Jesus loves me.  Upon Him, the solid rock, I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.  We can grow and be edified, built-up by the Holy Spirit.  A child can get it and it is entrusted to His children of all ages and for all the ages until He comes again. 

Almighty God, You upheld your servant Irenaeus, giving him strength to confess the truth against every blast of vain doctrine.   By Your mercy, keep us steadfast in the true faith, that in constancy we may walk in peace on the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jeremiah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


The prophet Jeremiah was active as God’s prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah ca. 627 to 582 B.C. As a prophet he predicted, witnessed, and lived through the Babylonian siege and eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. In his preaching he often used symbols, such as an almond rod (Jer. 1:11-14), wine jars (13:12-14), and a potter at work (18:1-17). His entire prophetic ministry was a sermon, communicating through word and deed God’s anger toward his rebellious people. He suffered repeated rejection and persecution by his countrymen. As far as can be known, he died in Egypt, having been taken there forcibly. He is remembered and honored for fearlessly calling God’s people to repentance. (LCMS Commemoration Biographies)

This is Jeremiah preaching on adultery:

Jeremiah 5:  When I fed them to the full,
    they committed adultery
    and trooped to the houses of whores.
They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
    each neighing for his neighbor’s wife

Jeremiah employs a simile to describe his fellow Israelites in verse 8.  Though I have never seen a stallion in heat, nevertheless I can imagine the picture. Note what Jeremiah did not write about his fellow Israelites: “I am SOOO angry”, “I am enraged”, “They can just go to hell” and other invective and expressions of feelings.  Jeremiah, inspired by the Holy Ghost, employs language to proclaim God’s Word.  He does not merely tell us how he feels. My wife once remarked that the song, “I love to tell the story” has it wrong: Don’t tell me how you feel, tell the story! We live in a time in which the use of language is at a very low ebb and the clear annunciation of our feelings are e-mailed, tweeted and posted in the daily sausage grind of the internet.  Invective and profanity are the staples of this sick diet.  Ian Anderson of the rock group, Jethro Tull, got it right in one of his song lyrics, “I may make you feel, but I can’t make you think.”  Jeremiah made people think and they didn’t seem to like it.  If someone says, “You’re a jerk”, I can blow it off or retort in like kind but that does no good.  As the good Book says, return no man evil for evil.  It is better to blow it off…and pray. 

The Word makes us think so as to respond not react.  The inspired prophets responded.  In fact, Jeremiah has a word named after him: “jeremiad”:

A long, mournful complaint or lamentation; a list of woes.”The jeremiads of puritan preachers warning of moral decay.” (Webster’s)

The Book of Jeremiah is not a jeremiad, but it is a sustained response to idolatry and immorality.  The Word of the Lord endures forever, but Israel’s sin, as our sin, does not. It will either bring us into hell, or into repentance and forgiveness by the preaching and teaching the Word of Law and Promise. We can outlast the times in the One Who fills us with His Word to respond, or simply not to respond in like kind to the filth that fills cyberspace.

James 3:

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Many think that, for instance, the United States opening up our embassy in Jerusalem is some sort of fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Hardly.  More of  a sign is the wrath of the last times in what we tweet, see, hear, post day by day. We are living in an age of wrath but the Lord has not given us new birth to be children of wrath! (see Ephesians 2:3 and following).   Jeremiah was not angry at people but let it be known God’s Word as wrath at sin. As it is written in James’ Epistle:  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  If our anger did produce the righteousness of God, then the internet would be filled with the righteousness of God as would our political parties.  What produces the righteousness of God?  James:  

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

The fruit of the Holy Spirit comes from the good seed of God’s Word, the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ who was planted into the earth and rose again, the vine to us so as His branches to bear much fruit.  The Word of God is pure doctrine, pure and good seed as Jeremiah and all the prophets preached. And so we pray,

Psalm 141: Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
    keep watch over the door of my lips!

This psalm is used evening prayer and note that in the Psalms how many prayers are employed to watch over and control the “tongue“!

Psalm 51:  O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.

This Psalm is used in morning prayer and it is a good prayer that what comes out of a mouth is the Lord’s praise, His Word for the love of the Lord and our neighbors!

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Concordia and Koinonia

Intro: The Augsburg Confession, the principal doctrinal statement of…Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Phillip Melanchthon. At its heart it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. Signed by leaders of many German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, on June 25, 1530. A few weeks later Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). In 1580 the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was included in the Book of Concord. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

This was the scene as described by a Reformation historian (The Book of Concord Historical Introduction) :

“The place where they assembled on Saturday, June 25, at 3 P.M., was not the courtroom, where the meetings of the Diet were…

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John’s (the Baptist) steadfastness is held up as an example to be followed by all faithful teachers—indeed also by all true Christians. John was not a reed. He did not allow himself to be deterred from the pathway of truth and from his calling by the world’s cunning and temptation.  So also Christians are not to be fickle and erratic like a reed.  Rather, they are to be grounded like pillars and columns in the house of God.   1 Tim. 3: 15, Rev. 3: 12—Johann Gerhard

“We see this everywhere among the smart professionals.  They gape at John the Baptist to see where he be Christ, Elijah, or a prophet.  They would be happy to have a Christ, Elijah or some prophets according to their liking.  Yes, but what the Lord God has in mind is this:  Man, you ought to accept Christ just as God sends him, not as you want him to be.”—Martin Luther, from a sermon for the 4th Sunday in Advent, 1532

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“The moment a group of Christians comes together, a synod is called or an assembly meets, they feel compelled to draw up a “political statement”.  It might be a petition to the government, or an appeal to the people, or a pastoral letter.  Over the past fifteen years these “statements” have been counted by the hundreds.  They repeat themselves endlessly!  Everyone knows full well that these statements are of no practical use.  They are not a way of influencing the government or public opinion.  Neither are they a Christian witness…

So today, it is far more important that the Church recover her sense of identity as the body of Christ, and that she draw the necessary conclusions from that fact, than that she should issue statements without weight or significance, statements which are in no sense a presence of the Kingdom, but which, more often than not, are a way of easing the collective conscience about events for which one feels responsible without being able to do anything about them…This need for statements is connected with another sign of making the Church political, namely the passion for latest thing…This passion which, in Christians as in others, come from an addiction to the press, television and radio, produces, alas, the same effects in them as in everyone else—political illusion.” (emphasis original)

(False Presence of the Kingdom, published 1963, Chapter 2, “Making the Church Worldly”, pages 47-48;  Jacques Ellul, French sociologist and he was a member of the Reformed Church in France )

Please note:  False Presence of the Kingdom was written in 1963.  Church bodies have been cranking out political statements since then and for a generation or more! I think the quote attributed to Albert Einstein is apropos: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” I think politics have only become worse with the incursion of well-meaning church pronouncements.  The result are churches that are more political, even political alone and politics have become religious. The result  is zeal grounded not in the truth, but in unredeemed desire and lust.

Christians know more about Robert’s Rules of Order than we do the Lord’s rule, say, the 10 Commandments.  I think Mr. Ellul is right that these statements do nothing and I would add, the world loves them. Why? Christians present their political opinions, which are most times in sync with the world and then the world does not have to hear, as we all do, the Word which condemns us (the Law) and the Word which saves us (the Gospel).   

How do we get off this treadmill going nowhere?  Again, Mr. Ellul:  Christians should stop our “addiction” to the media, the latest thing.  Christ’s Church is a lot older than the the latest thing! Since ’63 we have added internet, social networking and e-mail.  Churches trying to be ‘relevant’ have only become irrelevant. This non-stop thread of politics, and religion (and notice they go together but the real religion not necessarily so!) has been even a greater addiction and a long one. This is not only as Mr. Ellul wrote, a “political illusion” but an illusion which is  a delusion that we are doing something. The salt has lost it’s saltiness. 

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