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Archive for October, 2018

A Reformation Meme

old time religion | JUST GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION | image tagged in church,megachurch | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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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,and also by hymnody.  When 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 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s predecessor Lutheran denominations,  the forward states that they wanted the hymns to be more “devotional” and have a less of  a “didactic” content, that is not so ‘teachy’.   Nowadays, the search for the mere “devotional” devolves into a music that should make 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 and in the blessed Savior in His love for us, we love Him:

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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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 the Apostle Peter, who came and raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36–41).

  • Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, who worked at Philippi selling a famous purple dye that was so much in demand in the ancient world. She was also a “worshiper of God” at the local synagogue. When the Apostle Paul encountered her in prayer among other proselyte women, his preaching of the Word brought Lydia to faith in Christ. She and her friends thus became the nucleus of the Christian community in Philippi (16:13–15, 40).

  • Phoebe was another faithful woman associated with the Apostle Paul. She was a deaconess from Cenchrae (the port of Corinth) whom Paul sent to the church in Rome with his Epistle to the Romans. In it he writes of her support for the work of the early Church (Rom 16:1).

“One can say that in Christianity the extraordinary has become ordinary, but also the ordinary has become extraordinary, usual unusual, the common uncommon,that what all do has been transformed into priestly work and to a sacrifice that is offered to the most high God…. [T]he Lord Jesus was followed by a number of women whose names have come down to us. Kings are forgotten, emperors have fallen into the dust and there is no one to remember them; the names of these women, however, are still being mentioned. There are only a few things we know about them, and what is said seems insignificant to us. They made offerings  to the Son of Man from what they had …provided such little services, as he deserved before all others.  But because the common uncommon, thus these names are written in the Book of books.

…I said that because of Christianity uncommon has become common and the common uncommon the Spirit and the purpose and way it was done…. I point to Matthew 25. What does he say there by separating the sheep from the goats? Whom does he praise? Whom does He reproach? Whom does he call to inherit the kingdom of his Father? Does he call the heroes, who accomplished great things, the kings with their crowns and those who struck with their great swords and brought about great changes upon earth? What does He do? He names and praises the same common things that I have said Christianity has made uncommon. He says: “I was hungry” and so forth—”come, you blessed of my Father” (Mt 25:34)…. Thus, he asks for the food, for the drink, for the gift of oil and wine. He asks for all these common things, which I have said have become uncommon through his Spirit.—J. K. Wilhelm Loehe  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

One More Reflection:Do great things.  America will be number one again.  Be a winner. Make America great again.  This is the way the world thinks and we do as well.  Serving is not natural, that is, according to fallen human nature which is self-centered and ego driven, and so self-serving, damaged in the Fall, damaged beyond all human repair. When I re-read Pr. Loehe’s reflection above, this is not the Christianity I want. I want successful and powerful Christianity especially in our mission here.  I think that the lamentation, “America is no longer a Christian nation”,  is the lament over lost power and influence.  Christianity had the moral high ground for some time, but immorality was still committed.  

The Church had no political power and authority when Dorcas, Lydia and Phoebe lived upon this old earth. When it does boast political power, then the dangers abound.  As our Lord said to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not from this world.”  The Church did have power and still does:  the Word and Deed of Jesus Christ in the lives of His faithful people,the work of the Holy Spirit in those faithful to the Lord and His Scriptures in word and deed.  Kings and the mighty change the world according to their will and things get worse. They make news but it is really as “old as Adam”.  The faithful women did good things in Christ Jesus and Faith, according to the Lord’s gracious will and they were salt of the earth, and people believed in the Lord.  We think our smartphones are just wonderful and adorable, the gadgets of power and we listen to them.  We need to listen to our Lord in His Word Who alone can change our souls day by day  to love as He first loved us.  

These holy women, who were made holy by Faith in Jesus.  They are acknowledged in the prayer above in their various vocations:  business woman, charitable worker and  deaconess. For instance:  Lydia was the first convert to the Faith in Europe.  And as a business woman who sold the dye of royal and costly purple, she might have been quite well-to-do.   I am struck by the non-judgmental listing of “business’  alongside with a “churchy”  sounding word, “deaconess” in the prayer above.  These are all vocations from the Lord, yes, even business!   

Let’s look at the vocation in business since so many Christians turn their noses up at such but not their money! If it weren’t for business, there would be no jobs.  There is no occupation that is displeasing to the Lord, except those occupied with evil and vocations used for ignoble ends with sinful means.  Even a church vocation can be used to serve self and not the Lord and can become evil as witnessed by clergy sexual sins.  Business men and women can serve the Lord and His people, and not the self.  Daily repentance is turning toward the Lord our whole lives, our work and our wealth, to serve Him and His people. It is in our daily vocations that we can serve and love our neighbors as to Christ Himself, not to save ourselves, as Jesus has already done that, but that our neighbor be served and be pointed to the Savior.  Dorcas, Lydia and Phoebe did so by charity, hospitality and serving, not waiting for suspect government to help the poor, the stranger, the widow, but actual acts of of corporate mercy through their vocations as charity worker, deaconess ad business woman.  

Almighty God, You stirred to compassion the hearts of Your dear servants Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe to uphold and sustain Your Church by their devoted and charitable deeds. Give us the same will to love You, open our eyes to see You in the least ones, and strengthen our hands to serve You in others, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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

Prayer of the Day:

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.

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)

 

Reflection:  James was quite important in the early history of the Church as indicated in the Scripture references cited above in James’ bio. He  was witness to the Resurrection.  He believed.  In his letter, James did not assert his family lineage but his vocation:  “a servant (also translated as slave) of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”(chapter 1).  James, the half-brother of Jesus, was His servant as all who are baptized.  He knew that it was only by the “implanted Word”, could a man and a woman be saved:

 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)

James wrote of anger.  We live in an age of anger, even extreme anger.  He encourages us to be “slow to speak, slow to anger”, as even our ‘righteous anger’ does not, “…produce the righteousness of God.”  So no matter how self-righteously I go on and on about this or that issue or cause, even issues and causes that are important, my words will not produce, create, and form in me the righteousness of God.  Self-righteousness only produces “filthiness and rampant wickedness”. There is only one Seed, the Seed of Abraham, died  and risen who can stanch the flow of anger and produce the righteousness of God: As James wrote, the implanted Word can save your soul. He implants in us faith in the Lord who imparts the wisdom of forgiveness.  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!  James’ Lord is the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ. The same Word implanted by the careful and faithful  preaching and teaching of Christ  for us and for our salvation, as St. James so preached and taught. 

We sing of James, Christ’s brother

            Who at Jerusalem

Told how God loved the Gentiles

            And, in Christ, welcomed them.

Rejoicing in salvation

            May we too, by God’s grace,

Extend Christ’s invitation

            To all the human race.

(“By All Your Saints in Warfare”,Lutheran Service Book, #518, stanza 27)

 

 

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Quote from The Book of Concord:  The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, The Apology, Art. XXVII, Monastic Vows:  Emphasis added

In monastic vows chastity is promised. We have said above, however, concerning the marriage of priests, that the law of nature [or of God] in men cannot be removed by vows or enactments. And as all do not have the gift of continence, many because of weakness are unsuccessfully continent. Neither, indeed, can any vows or any enactments abolish the command of the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 7:2: To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Therefore this vow is not lawful in those who do not have the gift of continence, but who are polluted on account of weakness,  Concerning this entire topic enough has been said above, in regard to which indeed it is strange, since the dangers and scandals are occurring before men’s eyes, that the adversaries still defend their traditions contrary to the manifest command of God. Neither does the voice of Christ move them, who chides the Pharisees, Matt. 23:13f , who had made traditions contrary to God’s command.

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Meme of the Day

We will not be judged by civil law, but by God's Law | "God makes final rulings, not the Supreme Court" (from a bumper sticker) | image tagged in judgement | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons for the Day:

Psalm 147:1-7
Isaiah 35:5-8
2 Timothy 4:5-15
Luke 10:1-9

St. Luke, the beloved physician referred to by St. Paul (Colossians4:14), presents us with Jesus, whose blood provides the medicine of immortality. As his traveling companion, Paul claimed Luke’s Gospel as his own for its healing of souls (Eusebius). Luke traveled with Paul during the second missionary journey, joining him after Paul received his Macedonian call to bring the Gospel to Europe (Acts16:10-17).  Luke most likely stayed behind in Philippi for seven years, rejoining Paul at the end of the third missionary journey inMacedonia. He traveled with Paul to Troas, Jerusalem, and Caesarea, where Paul was imprisoned for two years (Acts 20:5-21:18). While in Caesarea, Luke may have researched material that he used in his Gospel. Afterward, Luke accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:16). Especially beloved in Luke’s Gospel are:

  • the stories of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 16:29-37),

  • the prodigal son (Luke15:11-32),

  • the rich man and Lazarus  (Luke16:19-31),

  • and the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).

  • Only Luke provides a detailed account of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:1-20)

  • and the canticles of Mary (Luke1:46-55),

  • of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79),

  • and, Simeon (Luke2:29-32).

To show how Christ continued His work in the Early Church through the apostles, Luke also penned the Acts of the Apostles. More than one-third of the New Testament comes from the hand of the evangelist Luke.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

It was Marshal McLuhan, a professor and one of the first to study the impact of television and media on human society and our minds, who said, The medium is the massage.  Media, television, radio, print, and now social media, are massaging educating us and forming us in ways that are opposite of the Lord’s instruction, but now in cyber-speed. The “powers and principalities” rule in the media and we are taught atheism, materialism, “the dictatorship of relativism”, all  under the lure of hedonism and narcissism, that the old Adam craves.  We live in a selfie age.  St. Luke wrote the Gospel to one “most excellent Theophilus”.  He no doubt was taught well in the ways of the Roman empire and society which is so like ours,  but now, out of the Lord’s Word and Work in and through Israel in the Old Testament the flower and fruit of Israel had been born of the Virgin Mary:  Jesus Christ.

In his introduction to the Gospel, St. Luke uses the word “catechized”.  The Gospels are history and as the history of our lives, there is meaning.  Theophilus was catechized, taught in the Way, as a “follower of the Way”, the meaning of the Word and Work of Jesus Christ.  Theophilus was taught God’s Word and  many were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.  The fruit of faith is shown in works of love.  “Theophilus” means “love of God”.  Many have asked, Who was Theophilus?  One answer:  all of us, the love of God.  We are all Theophilus. Luke writes, most excellent Theophilus.  “Excellent” was term of respect for a high, noble official.  God’s Word is for the poorest of the poor and the most elite of the elite!  God’s love in Christ had taught Theophilus and now Luke connects the dots for him and us. This history of Jesus is the good news, the Gospel which not only informs but forms us in His Word, sinners who are simultaneously saints by faith, given through grace.

“Paul says that in the Christian assembly, he prefers rational words, “five words of knowledge” than a thousand in tongues, so that he may “catechize” those present (1 Cor 14:19)…” (Dr. Just)

This faith comes through the gospel’s  catechesis  that assures of certainty of the facts narrated regarding Jesus. “Catecheo”  (“to catechize, instruct, inform”) occurs four times in Luke-Acts (Lk 1:4; Acts 18:25; 21:21, 24) and three times in Paul (Rom 2:18; 1 Cor 14:19; Gal 6:6). Acts 18:25 has the same meaning as here: Apollos “had been catechized in the way of the Lord.” We can know the facts of the way a bike works, which is important, but the way we learn a bike is to learn to ride it, catechized in the way of the Lord and His heart towards us, for us, with us. St. Luke followed Jesus Christ Who called him to follow him.  St. Luke not only followed the Lord but also, 

“…followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (St. Luke 1)

In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, Dr. Art Just makes the strong case that Luke’s Gospel is a catechism, as the Word of God and of His Christ, forms us as we are taught and are baptized followers of Jesus.  The Lord’s way is different from the world and it’s media. The way of the world is death.  The way of Christ Jesus is everlasting life.  As Luke joined Paul in his missionary journeys, we are part of that journey as well.   

The Gospel of Luke and Acts is most notably  in the literary structure of a travelogue. He bids us join Him everyday.  If lost, He will find you and the Church will welcome you.  Jesus caught up with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so does the Lord for you in the paths of life through this world. And the Lord taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we learn after the risen Lord revealed Himself to them, Luke reports:

32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (St. Luke 24)

May the Lord open to us the Scriptures to ever point out our sin and point us to our Lord who bore our sin to be our Savior as we journey through this wilderness, inviting others to the Way that leads us ever onward to the Lord.

Guide me ever, great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but you are mighty;
Hold me with your pow’rful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
Feed me now and evermore:
Feed me now and evermore.

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