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Archive for February, 2019

Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one, holy catholic, and apostolic Church, in the renewal of its life in fidelity to Your Word and promise. Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Bio:  Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.  After the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the papal church wrote a response to it, the Confutation.  Once again, Melanchthon was called upon to write a defense of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession and The Apology of the Augsburg Confession are the first two confessions in The Book of Concord (1580). Melanchthon died on April 19, 1560.

The Augsburg Confession is the first of the documents in The Book of Concord:  The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Lutheran pastors vow to teach and preach according to the Confessions as the Confessions correctly teach and confess the Biblical faith of Justification by Grace alone, by faith alone. 

In our corner of the world, one of our weekly newspapers has a church directory.  The local Roman Catholic congregation describes quite clearly their doctrine:

“Assisted by Divine Grace, we have both the ability and the responsibility to live moral lives, taking as our standard of behavior the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.”

Note that the statement is saying an assist by Divine Grace to do the law to save ourselves. The statement lumps the Beatitudes with the Law. And so the Beatitudes are also Law, whereas, they are pure Gospel. One of the summaries of the Biblical Doctrine of Justification is “sola gratia”, by grace alone. But obviously the Roman doctrine says Jesus did not do a good enough job, in fact, you O man,you O woman,are still in the driver’s seat.  We are not assisted by divine grace, but saved by grace alone, by Christ alone. “It is finished”, the Lord said on the Cross:

Ephesians 2:  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Grace and faith in Jesus Christ makes the good works as He has created us to do so but the works do not create the faith:  they help and serve our neighbor.  Only His good work creates faith, not our works, and so we are justified, made right with God by what God, His Son, did on the Cross and through the Resurrection for us all: His good and perfect work. 

We do not know the extent of our good works, we only know God’s good work. (Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, +1945).  When we look to ourselves for salvation then we are looking the wrong way.  Melanchthon and the blessed Reformers knew Whom to point:  Jesus Christ. Lutheran pastors are to preach and teach according to the Confessions, kind of like in  the original TV “Star Trek”: they are our “prime directive”.   Like John the Baptist, the Reformers pointed to Jesus Christ: “Behold, the Lamb of God! He takes away the sin of the world.” (see John 1:29)  Galatians 2: 21  “…for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” But Christ Jesus died for a purpose:  you.  Brother Philip (he was not ordained) wrote the charter of freedom in Christ in it’s true meaning, but even he did not exhaust the “unsearchable riches” of Jesus Christ for you (see Ephesians 3:7-9)  In the Apology of Augsburg Confession, he wrote and so we confess: 

“For (Christ) is the mediator continually and not just at the beginning of our justification.” 

He continues to work through the Holy Spirit in the Word, preach, taught and prayed, and through the Sacraments in the Church, the Church which is  faithful to His doctrine.  He continues the work of justification so that we can continue the walk of good works, the walk of the Holy Spirit.  John 15: 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

May the Lord Jesus rule us with His Holy Spirit so that we may confess what is right and Christian and keep the same most consistently for His glory and our eternal salvation and blessedness, and also for that of other people. Amen.

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The Law does not save but shows we need saving.

Concordia and Koinonia

About Philemon and Onesimus:  Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. Although the name “Onesimus” means “useful,” Onesimus proved himself “useless” when he ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (Philemon 18).  Somehow Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome), and through Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After confessing to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, he was directed by Paul to return to his master and become “useful” again. In order to help pave the way for Onesimus’ peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and “to receive him as you would receive me” (v. 17), “no longer as a slave…

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About St.Valentine:  There were several Christians named Valentine and three of them were martyred. Valentine was a common name back in the 3rd-4th centuries. An historical article of the devolution of a Christian saint into the current secular day  is this excellent  and thorough article by Pr. Abrahamson   Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Valentine’s Day. I cite the pastor’s article

One likely prospect is St. Valentine of Rome: 

“The Roman Martyrology records: “At Rome, on the Flaminian Way, in the time of Emperor Claudius, the birthday of St Valentine, priest and martyr, who after having cured and instructed many persons, was beaten with clubs and beheaded.” Again, nothing about romance, love, or marriage. The highest virtue this man exhibits is one to encourage all Christians, holding on to the faith of Christ in the face of torture and death.”

The pastor’s conclusion about St. Valentine:  

“So much imaginative legend has grown up around St. Valentine that today it may be hard to separate fiction from truth. This leaves us to consider why it is that we have Saint’s days in our liturgical calendar. The purpose is that we may use their example of clinging to Christ against all the storms this world can throw at them, their examples of holding fast to the doctrine of Christ for the salvation of their souls, their examples of love for God and love for neighbor in spite of their own sinfulness in this sin stained world.

Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Christ lived and died this example. He rose again conquering Satan, Sin, and Death.

It wasn’t until the 1750s A.D. that men began to create the notion that the choice of St. Valentine’s day had other motivations than just the fact that February 14th was the day he was believed to have died.

This article is an effort to remove the chaff from the kernel that we may “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” without giving “heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.”

Reflection:  The Lord’s Church universally taught the true love of God and between each other, with the highest expression of love being marriage. This quote is from the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, Church England:

DEARLYbeloved friends, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of his congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is an honorable state, instituted of God in Paradise, in the time of man’s  innocence, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy state Christ  adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of saint Paul to be honourable among all men, and therefore is not to be enterprised, nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding ; but reverently, discretely, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for the which matrimony was ordained.

Without the Biblical norms of  teaching us true love of God and each other, especially in marriage, in the public square, that the void has been filled for such rites and rituals by the secular and idolatrous culture. We now extol the “carnal lusts” as good. Valentine’s Day is now associated, not even with romantic love, but pure lust. Valentine’s Day has become the ‘high holy day’ of hooking up and coitus is it’s ‘sacrament’.  And from my little corner in the world, no one seems any happier but just the opposite.   In a society in which marriage is disparaged with every turn, so “love” has been debased with every turn.  It may be my imagination but as a kid, fifty years or so ago, Valentine’s Day was just a sentimental time.  No longer.   Even though the love of a man and a woman is extolled in Scripture as God’s gift, as in, The Song of Songs, and is good but sin can make the best the worst.

St. Valentine is also about God’s love, agape in Jesus Christ and love between husband and wife. Love is not neutral.  It is a good, an ultimate good. (1 Corinthians 13: 13 ).  But we don’t love as we ought. Jesus came in love to redeem our love and cure and heal it.  I’m sure Saul of Tarsus thought he loved: the Torah, his people and the like and he wanted to murder Christians but Jesus revealed to Him  His true love, even to one as Saul:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 6-8

Paul’s use of the 1st person plural pronouns “we” and “us” was honest and he found out about love, true love: He loved sinners to death, His death on the Cross.  Luther on the difference between agape/charity and our love :

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

The Apostle wrote in Romans 6:1ff that when we were baptized we were baptized into His death…our love is also crucified so  that His true love take root in repentance and forgiveness and our hearts are made alive.  Paul and Valentine were both martyrs for our true Love.

I send you all a Valentine, from Martin Luther, his seal:

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Concordia and Koinonia

About Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos:Aquila and his wife, Priscilla (Prisca), Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul, traveled widely. Because of persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tent-making:

Acts 18:  1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Please note: it was because of Roman persecution of Jews that Paul met this faithful couple in the Lord! And so they met in Corinth in which the…

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Image result for peter kneeling before jesus in the boat

Text: St. Luke 5: 1-11

The Gospel for today can be divided into three parts.  Two boats are not being used because the fishermen are washing their nets, in other words, they are done for day and we’ll find out a little done in. After Jesus heals so many, the crowds are “pressing in on Him” and we are told, “…to hear the word of God” and the Lord taught the people, “…from the boat”.  In a Church sanctuary where the people sit is called the “nave”.  The Latin root word for nave is “navis”, that is, ship.  We also have our word “navy” from the Latin.  Jesus is in the boat preaching and in the nave preaching the pure Word of God as a pastor is called to do so.  Earlier when all were seeking Him to stay in Capernaum but Jesus I must go and preach, for that is purpose for which I have come. From the boat, with the Word of God in the center, the boat is the Communion of the Word.

In the second part of the Gospel, Peter tells the novice Fisherman, when he says to Peter go out again and let down our nets into the deep, we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing, “…But at your word I will let down the nets.”  Peter has an up and down record of faith in the Gospels, like we all but here he has the stirrings of faith.  He has seen Jesus healing so many that something is up with this man. But at Your word…we take people at their word.  Why?  Because they have shown themselves by word and deed to be trustworthy and so we take them at their word. Faith is trust and Jesus  has shown

 Peter bowed down and knelt in fear.  If Peter had only said, “Depart from me”, it would have been funny:  Please get off the boat you’re sinking us!  But Peter realized something else when he sees the catch: I am a sinful man.  Notice that Jesus does not at this occasion preaches God’s Law, no dos and don’ts.  Peter sees the overwhelming beneficence and benevolent gifts of God!  This is like the feeding of the 5,000.  He is receiving nothing he could have imagined and ask for, after a night of catching no fish. He, a sinner, is overwhelmed by the goodness of God. I pray with many hospice patients thanks for the roof over our head, the clothes on our back and food on our table. In today’s Old Testament lesson, Isaiah the priest sees in the Temple with his mortal eyes the thrice-Holy God.  In the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, we sing,

Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Love and purity are one in the one Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Love and holiness go together. Isaiah was looking at the absolute holiness of the Lord.  And in 1 John,  it is written God is love.  Isaiah is looking at the absolute holiness of God’s love, love’s pure light. He realizes in an instant I am a man of unclean lips living in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my  eyes have seen the King, Sabaoth Lord.  The Lord then brought to Isaiah a burning coal from the Altar to touch the new prophet’s lips: your sins are atoned for.  I think that burning coal is a type of Christ Jesus atoning for our sin once and for all, like that burning coal. The Lord does not leave Isaiah but calls him.

Simon’s prayer to Jesus, depart from me was not answered in the affirmative.  Jesus did not depart from Peter but called Him and James and John. Jesus was in the boat with them.  One day Peter would bow down again to the Lord…in freedom in praise and prayer and the confession of faith: Jesus is Lord. Peter confessed His sin and Jesus would atone for it by His Word and His Life.  Jesus is in the boat, the nave today.  The Church is the communion of the absolved.

When going fishing, what do we usually do with the fish?  Dinner!   Right!  Eat ‘em.  Here in the third part of the lesson, the translation in the Gospel for “Catching”, as in catching fish, is ζωγρῶν, zogron,  and only St. Luke uses this word and it literally means, “caught alive”. Caught alive to be alive.  Out of the βάθος, the bathos (as in bathysphere), we are caught in the Gospel net of His love and mercy. In the depths, in over our heads, in  sin, sorrow and sickness, the Lord lets down the net of His Gospel, manned by His pastors and other church workers, to brought up and live in Him forever.   

I speculate.  If a Christian, in a thoroughly anti-Christian states like communist China or in the Islamic dictatorship of Iran, the living of two lives, as a Christian and a citizen of those countries,  must be sharp and hard.  On the right hand, the Christian has breathed the free air of the Holy Spirit, freed in Jesus Christ from sin, death and power of the devil.  On the left hand, the Chinese or Iranian Christian, breathes the foul air of despotism, a servant of the state, in the rule and reign of the powers and principalities, even scared for his life every day. In the ‘70s when I visited Communist East Berlin, part of a college group from then Concordia Senior College, we went to a Lutheran church.  The year before one of our professors met the janitor.  The janitor talked with our group while we were seated in the sanctuary about the real condition of the church in Communist East Berlin. He said that the Church does not leave the four walls of the church building.  There were other people in the sanctuary, and janitor kept on looking over his shoulder to see who was listening. After he talked, he said to us, let’s move over here in the nave.  The Christian caught by Christ out of the depths then lives in the depths.  Political tyranny is official in so many countries. 

Here the tyranny is not official but encroaching. In The Lord of Rings, Theodan, King of Gondor is literally possessed by the evil wizard Saruman.  Gandalf comes to set him free from his bondage to an evil one.  When Theodan is back to himself, Gandalf smiles and says to Theodan, Breath the free air, my friend. We have breathed the free and freeing air of the Holy Spirit, resuscitated in the Gospel, and yet the shackles of pornography, promiscuity, and all the false promises of the devil beckon each and every day.  Many Christians do look over their shoulder, lest someone is listening  to a Christian doctrine that could be construed and skewed as sexist or homophobic. The Twitter thought police are listening.

When called to speak the truth, we need to do so in love, and yet the Church is to speak the Truth.  An American abolitionist in 1852 famously said, Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.  I would add both political and spiritual freedom.  The Lord is ever vigilant.  We are to be vigilant, not vigilantes taking to the twitter mobs or the taking the law into our own hands.  For what it’s worth, the Bible verse as of late that I keep going back to is: Gal. 5: 1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  How is spiritual freedom nourished?  Short answer: the Word of the Lord and His Sacraments. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were partners, κοινωνοὶ, koinono with Simon. The Greek word for partners is related to the Greek word, koinonia, fellowship or communion. We are partnered with Christ’s Church, His Communion. Just think, though the nets were breaking, those brawny fishermen still brought in the nets! The Lord gives us strength and abilities to haul in the net. The Koinonia of the Church around the Crucified and Risen Lord Who is our freedom and our strength.

The price of freedom is also unceasing prayer:

For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
    but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138)

The Lord’s goal is catching men, ζωγρῶν,zogron, caught alive  out of the βάθος, depths, the deep of sin, death and the power of the devil to breath the free air. He calls His pastors and His ship, His Nave to go out into the deep to let down the Gospel net. The Church is the Communion of the Mission.

The Lord’s goal is catching men, ζωγρῶν, zogov, caught alive out of the βάθος, the depth of sin, death and the power of the devil with His gospel net. The problem  is we are in the same boat as Simon Peter,  I am a sinful man.  We are in the same boat and so is our Lord, our Captain in the well fought fight.   

THE CHURCH IS THE COMMUNION OF THE WORD.THE CHURCH IS THE COMMUNION OF THE ABSOLVED. THE CHURCH IS THE COMMUNION OF THE MISSION.

And Jesus is in the boat with us absolving, forgiving and uplifting us with His Word, turning to Him day by day in joyful repentance, for without Him, we can’t stay afloat.   We’ve been caught alive by absolution and forgiveness and filled with the Holy Spirit, alive in Christ to show someone where the fishing is good.

In the Name of the Father, and of the +the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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Link of the Day

NEW YORK, ABORTION, AND A SHORT ROUTE TO CHAOS

by Bishop Robert Barron January 29, 2019

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