Archive for July, 2018

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.”

More on St. Robert Barnes is found here.

1 Samuel 15:  10-35 is about the Lord’s anger at King Saul, His anointed, by not killing King Agag after Israel conquered the Amalekites as the Lord commanded.  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. (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:  false doctrine, adultery, same-sex ‘marriage’, violence, greed as “good”, gossip, atheism and the like.  It is no mercy not to warn each other of the eternal danger of going down the wide and easy path that leads to destruction. No wonder we are in such bad shape.  If Robert Barnes had compassionately disobeyed his calling, agreeing the King’s divorce, 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. He was obedient to the Law of God as it pertains to marriage and divorce, even King Henry the VIII’s wrong desire for a divorce.  Luther knew this.  Robert Barnes was also compassionately committed to His King, Henry the VIII, as a faithful citizen.  

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 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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Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Martha was busy with much serving.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mere mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of it,  results in mere activism and busy-ness and as evidenced in Martha:  resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See  Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her:   “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”. Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person. Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world. Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Image result for Mark 6:45–56

Text: St. Mark 6: 45-56

Previously in Mark chapter 6, Jesus fed the 5,000 men, and the women and children. Jesus had fed the crowds bread and the crowds were led. In the desolate place of the feeding of the 5,000, the Scripture reports that the crowds say down on “green grass”. We too live in the wilderness. We need to pray. Jesus fed them among the religious leaders and as today: they feed people with their opinions and punditry, instead of God’s Word.  False religious leaders starve the soul. Jesus fed them in the desolate place, and they were satisfied. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  The crowd was drawn to Him for His divine power, but He had other people to lead to green pastures and so to feed.  So, after such a powerful deed, Jesus had to compel the disciples to leave. The Shepherd of the Sheep, the pastor, caringly dismissed the crowd, not just abruptly leaving them.  

Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing,
Fill our hearts with joy and peace.
Let us each, Thy love possessing,
Triumph in redeeming grace.
Oh, refresh us, Oh, refresh us,
Traveling through this wilderness!

In the wilderness, Jesus needed, as before, to spend time in prayer with His Father. On the hill overlooking the lake, in the darkness and loneliness, He prayed and obtained new strength from above for His spirit. In many a difficult position, in many a hard problem, before many a bitter experience, the best way, the surest method of getting the necessary strength is to bring it to the Lord in prayer.

There on the mountain Jesus saw that His disciples were painfully trying to make headway against contrary winds. In the darkness, how could Jesus see the disciples’ plight in the boat?  Not with His physical eyes. He knew their plight. He was with them every inch of the way; but He did nothing to help them. The odds against the disciples were great on the sea, but they really had seen nothing yet. It is often good for the believers to be buffeted by adverse winds of life. It is only by overcoming difficulties and by conquering in the hard places that Christian character is formed.  Sometimes we may wonder do we need so much character building! The Lord knows what we need more than we do and even before we do. We are masters of knowing what we want to make us happy.  The Lord knows what we need to draw us by His grace and to know the joy of His salvation for us and our neighbor.  And His saving is not for this world alone but for that distant shore.

Jesus walking on the water meant to pass by the disciples.  Could Jesus be so cold that He would pass by the disciples in their distress of body and soul?  In Exodus 33 Moses asked to see the Lord. The Lord said that men could not see the Lord’s face and live.  So, the Lord let His glory “pass by” Moses. Here is the Lord again and His glory passes by. Yet, in the Lord’s incarnation, the disciples beheld His face, full of grace and truth, and they lived to report the story, but even more, they were made alive to proclaim the Gospel.  

Even more:  true man and true God walks upon the water.   His divinity is on display and the disciples seem to try some immediate theologizing in their terror.  A ghost is lightweight and so only a ghost could walk on water. Many portrayals of ghosts show them as translucent, you can see them and see through them. Let’s go with that. Yet they saw Jesus!  You can see through a ghost. The disciples couldn’t see through Jesus. Many make Jesus into what they want: a teacher, even a great one, a revolutionary, a social justice warrior and the like. This started in Nazareth when the hometown folks confidently said, ‘We know who you are!” Many are still saying the same: we can see right through Him.  They still think He’s a ghost! It’s no ghost and no ghost got into the boat with the disciples. No ghost was born of the virgin Mary. No ghost was circumcised on the 8th day.  No ghost preached the Sermon on the Mount.  No ghost lifted the dead son of the widow of Nain to life.  No ghost said, This is My body, This is My blood. No ghost was jailed.  No ghost had a crown of thorns thrust upon His head. No ghost was nailed to the Cross.  No ghost ascended into heaven. No ghost spoke with Paul on the road to Damascus. No ghost could promise, I will be with you always even unto the end the age and no ghost will come again in glory and power.

Phantasms solicit fear, the Lord encourages, Take heart! Phantasms want fear, the Lord says, Fear not! Why can we take heart and not fear?  In between, “Take heart” and “Fear not” is IT IS I, as in I AM. A ghost wants to scare people away. When Jesus gets into the boat, the disciples don’t jump ship! With His disciples in the boat, the wind stopped. Perfect love casts away fear. We can’t see through Him and He sees us through. He saw Noah and his family through the flood and gave the sign of the covenant, a rainbow. He saw the disciples through the water of rebirth in Holy Baptism. He saw the disciples through the waters and would give the sign of the eternal covenant:  His Body and Blood. No ghost breathed on the Apostles and said, Receive the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness or retention of sin. This is His promise which sees us through as well. The disciples’ hearts were “hardened” as they could not fathom the depths of the man who came into the boat with them. They would begin to when they saw no ghost risen from the dead. They saw the print of the nails and then the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon them and many, many others and they would proclaim: Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  In His Cross and Resurrection, we are signed, sealed and delivered.

The woman with the flow of blood touched the “fringe” of His garment (Luke 8: 40-48). Matthew tells us that many touched the same (14: 36) and the crowds did as well at the end of today’s Gospel reading. In The Lutheran Study Bible is the following footnote for “fringe”:  

May refer to the tassel that Israelite men were to wear on the four corners of their out garment. 

This garment in later Judaism is called a tallit.  Jesus would have worn such. This is commanded in Israel and is instructive for us:

Numbers 15:  38-39:

38“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. 39And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. (emphasis my own)

The crowds did not follow their own hearts and eyes, they sought out Jesus. They touched the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well. As Jesus prayed, so they did as well, and we also.  They brought the sick to Jesus. Those who are sick not only in body but in spirit as well. Can we do any less? Jesus’ fringe reminds us to remember all the commandments and promises of God, that is, all the Words of God. Jesus reminds, Do this in remembrance of Me.  We are fed by the Lord every one of His Words and so are led.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

When I was at  Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee (now Concordia University, Mequon Wisconsin), I took the one credit course on Lutheran Hymnody.   Professor “Ollie” Ruprecht pointed out that Bach’s library had around 80 volumes in it. Prof. Rupprecht pointed out that books were quite expensive and about 60  of those volumes were books of orthodox Lutheran theology.  Orthodox Lutheran theology is all about proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.  And so did Bach through music in the beauty of holiness.

One of Bach’s most marked set of volumes was Abraham Calov’s 3 book set of Luther’s Bible, with Calov’s commentary.  Bach, spending a large part of a year’s salary, purchased a 7 volume edition of Luther’s writings which Calov has based his commentary.  Calov wrote regarding Luther:

“It hinders a preacher greatly if he wants to look around and concern himself with what people want to hear and not hear.”

Bach double-marked that sentence for emphasis (Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines).  We need to double-mark that quote today.  

That sentence also sums up Bach’s understanding of music.  He would mark on his scores AMG, ad mairorem Dei, to the greater glory of God. He has been called, after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 5th evangelist.  In his day, he was not known beyond Germany. After his death,  his music was rediscovered.  His output for 27 years in Leipzig for 4 churches was massive.  Bach’s music still preaches.Bach’s texts usually were the Bible as he put the Scripture to music. This is true Christian music.

In his day, the Enlightenment, ‘modern’ music was suppose to reflect how the composer felt and what the people wanted to hear.  Sound familiar?  On NPR, they will have a segment that I call OMS, the obscure musical segment when the artist intros his/her work and tells us what “he is trying to do”, or what he was feeling at the time of composition. Not for J. S. Bach:  it was to proclaim the Gospel which is the sheer beauty of the Lord. Bach did not listen to what people wanted, but what he heard was the Lord’s commands and promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and he knew the Lord’s second best gift, music.  “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise” (Luther).   Bach’s talent at the organ and as a composer was wanted by the Church and he was not popular in the courts of public taste, but being popular in the world is never the goal, Christ is.

Only two of Bach’s works were ever published in his life time. In the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received.The Word of the Lord endures forever and the Lord gave Johann a gift that he did use to His greater glory  and the joy of the Church, which is always,  “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring”. In an episode of M*A*S*H, Radar falls for a nurse who is quite cultured and loves classical music.  He goes to Hawkeye and Trapper for lessons about classical music.  Hawkeye gives Radar the names of some composers and then says, “…then if she mentions Bach, just say, ‘Ahhh, Bach’”. We also can say, Ahhh, Bach! And better:  thank you Lord for music!

Thank-you Lord for Bach and all church organists, choir directors, choirs and musicians who also through music, especially Bach’s, proclaim the eternal Gospel. Open the ears and hearts of church councils, parish councils and sessions to pay their organists well as they lead Your holy people in the Divine Service.  Amen.

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Prayer of the Day

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 


Acts 11: 27-12: 5  Psalm 56   Romans 8: 28-39  St. Mark 10: 35-45

About:  St. James and his brother John, sons of Zebedee and Salome (see Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40), were fishermen in the Sea of Galilee who were called with Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22). In the Gospel lists of Jesus’ disciples, James is listed following Peter and preceding John. Together these three appear as leaders of the Twelve. Because James precedes John, it is reasoned that James is the elder of the brothers. The Book of Acts records that James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I, probably between AD 42 and 44 (Acts 12:1-2). Thus James is the first of the Twelve to die a martyr and the only apostolic martyrdom recorded in the Bible. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  Our Lord equipped His apostles for suffering (see Matthew 10:17-19).  Matthew 10 is the Lord’s sermon to the Apostles after He called them.  He equips the apostolic Church with the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the redemption Jesus would win for us all upon the Cross.  James the Elder (or Greater) was the first apostolic martyr.

There was a TV show called “Fame” about a performing arts high school in New York City with the show’s title theme song and this lyric:

I’m gonna live forever, 
Baby remember my name…
source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/famelyrics.html

We live in an age in which we want to have glory and fame, wealth and power and the guarantee of such  is “mammon” (Matthew 6:24).  We want to be number 1,even in the churches.  We lust to be the successful, vibrant congregation(s) and like the world, the church wants fame. The Church gave up a good reputation for fame.  So many churches sacrificed doctrine and morality to be “relevant”, to be popular, that  is, fame. The petition from the Collect of the Day is especially poignant in these days: 

Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone.

We want fame so that we will be forever remembered, that is eternal.  This is as old as Babel: build the great skyscraper and we will make a name for ourselves and have eternal security (Genesis 11: 4). False gods have no memory since they are not real. A false god can not give eternal life. We remember James as he was faithful servant of Jesus Christ and Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. We name our sons James, not Herod.  The LORD remembers His people (Psalm 105:42)

James and his brother John were especially susceptible to that lust for glory as they wanted to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand when He came in power (see today’s Gospel reading).  Jesus named James and his brother John “Boanerges”, that is the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), possibly because of their impetuous nature and temperament.  James and John  asked the Lord, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (today’s Gospel reading). This verse maybe is the first example of the false, “name it and claim it”  practice of magically using prayer to get what I want. The disciple can not demand of His Lord what the Lord gives only by His command and grace. They also  asked Him to sit on His right and left hand when He came in glory.  At the beginning, during Jesus’ earthly ministry it was a rough start for James! We all have these moments! The prayer of repentance that these moments do not become a lifetime of habit. We pray for faithful preachers and teachers and parents to call us back to the Lord.

James and John did  sit on His left and right hand:  in martyrdom. They were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and preached Christ.  As Jesus taught them that in the reign of God it is not about being number 1, lording it over others, but serving each other under the Lord. Jesus was and is number 1 and He took the lowest place:  a cross for all the sons of thunder.  For as Jesus taught, the Lord Himself, “… came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (vs. 45).  As Americans we crave to be number 1 but whom we remember in our lives are those who gave of their lives for us and who taught us Christ. James no longer sought his own fame, but proclaimed the Name above all names that at the name of Jesus every knew will bow (see Philippians 2)  He gave His life for us and for our salvation and John the Elder preached Jesus Christ.

O Lord, for James we praise You, Who fell to Herod’s sword;  He drank the cup of suff’ring And thus fulfilled Your Word.  

Lord, curb our vain impatience For glory and for fame.  Equip us for such suff-rings As glorify Your Name. (“By All Your Saints in Warfare, Lutheran Service Book, #518, stanza 21)

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Alleluia. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” Alleluia.


Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, restored Mary Magdalene to health and called her to be the first witness of His resurrection. Heal us from all our infirmities, and call us to know You in the power of Your Son’s unending life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

READINGS:  Proverbs 31:10-31  Psalm 73:23-28  Acts 13:26-31  St.John 20:1-2, 10-18

From a sermon on the Gospels by Gregory the Great: 

            When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds; but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.

            We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

            At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God;  When shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

            Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

            Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so He calls her by name, as though He were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching. (Quoted in Festivals and Commemorations, Augsburg Publishing House, 1980,  Pr. Philip H. Pfatteicher)

Post-Script:  Jesus called Mary Magdalene by name and the Gospel narrative of the Crucifixion and the  Resurrection illustrates our Lord as the Good Shepherd:  

The good shepherd lays down his life ; for the sheep

that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name(St. John 10: 11 b, 10b, 3b)

The Lord has called you when He baptized you in His Name, Father, +Son and Holy Spirit.  Alleluia!

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Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem — including Ezekiel — to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-16).

Ezekiel’s priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example, Ezekiel 9-10and 40-48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1–32). Jerusalem would certainly fall and the exiles would not quickly return — the just consequences of their sins.

Especially in the early part of the book, much of what the Lord “said” to His people was delivered in the form of action prophecies. In these, Ezekiel acted out representations of coming events pertaining to the fall of Judah, the destruction of the temple, and the seeming end of the Davidic line of kings. These action prophecies included the eating of the scroll (3:1-2), being struck with dumbness (3:22-27), sketching of the city of Jerusalem (4:1-3), lying on one side and then the other (4:4-8), eating restricted rations cooked on a fire of dried dung (4:9-17), and shaving his hair and beard with a sword before dividing the hair (5:1-4). Some seem a bit strange at first glance, once we understand their meaning and context, their messages are quite easily comprehended.

Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that his people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom (Ezekiel 33-48).

Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel’s prophecies was later employed in the Revelation to Saint John. Among these are the visions of the four living creatures as seen in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18: 23

Ezekiel called a thing what it was.  He did not call sinfulness, “dysfunctional behavior”, he called it wickedness, as did his brother prophets.  The question of morality is not about psychology but spirituality. The only way the word wicked is said in our day is maybe, “Oh, that was wicked”, that is, something that is actually good. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, we do not need a big brother state to enforce “newspeak”.  

The divinely inspired prophet leveled the Word of God at wickedness, but not only toward other nations, but primarily his own nation, Israel.  All the prophets primarily  preached.

Was Israel wicked?  Answer:  Yes.  

By what standard did the prophets know Israel was wicked?  Answer:  The Law of God.  

Was the Lord and His prophet’s goal to destroy Israel in it’s wickedness?  Answer:  No, but as we read above, the goal was repentance and life in His Name.

The Church in the United States is wicked and full of dead men’s bones.  Marriage between man and woman is denied.  Abortion is promoted.  Divorce is winked at.  The poor are extolled while we worship our unappeasable appetites.  Celebrity is likewise extolled and adored while saintliness is considered antiquated, in other words, Christians are practicing idolaters.  Good works as salvation via social activism is openly promoted while faith is assumed.  At church assemblies people know more about Robert’s Rules of Order, than the Lord’s rules, that is, the Law of God.  The newest fad of  ‘theology’ is read or lectured and the Bible is denied. Christians are more interested in updating their Facebook status than in improving their hearts and souls through the Word of God.  A comfortable Christ is preached but not the crucified Christ. We worship on our derrieres on padded pews and want our worship likewise padded, but not desiring the comfort of the Gospel for sinners.  As there really are no ‘sinners’, no one is wicked.  

I think it was unintentional prophecy when the Lutheran Book of Worship came out and the verses  from 1 John 1 was incorporated into public Confession and Absolution:

 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Church  in the United States has done a good job in making Christ a “liar”, in His so great a salvation, but it is obviously the churches which have been fooling themselves.  The churches are wicked. The Lord God sent His Son into our wickedness and it is His Cross that moves us to see what wickedness has wrought:  so great a Savior.  The following quote is from Spiritual Meditations by Pastor Johann Gerhard:

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife, but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and will as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth ; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. V. 26).

 Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Ezekiel, 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.

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