Archive for March 17th, 2019

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TEXTBrothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 4: 1)

St. Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to imitate him and  walk according to the example you have in us.  The Lutheran Confessions state we are to hold a three-fold honor to the saints of old:

“The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful businessmen, 5] Matt. 25:2123.

“The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see Peter forgiven after his denial, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20.

“The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 

It is clear this is from the Bible as seen in our Sermon Text. Patrick is an example of faith and virtue, always in that order  as faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the fount of the Holy Spirit forming in us virtue to the glory of the Father. The Lord forms His people in this world, through His Church. Bishop Patrick did not write in his Confession, I am so holy and look at all the good works which saved me,but  began by stating:  “I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many.” Bishop Patrick pointed to the Lord’s good work in Patrick.

The Church’s mission is Baptism.  St. Patrick, missionary Bishop, knew that. From his Confession:

“In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord—so many thousands of people.

The Lord did not send Patrick to the land of Eire to establish Irish national identity, drink green beer (itself a heresy!), get drunk in a pub and have another reason for “hooking-up”. He came to preach the Christ who sets us free from all of that and all sin and death and the power of the devil. His evangelism ‘campaign’ was Baptism:

“…one should, in fact, fish well and diligently, just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men[Matthew 4:19],” and again through the prophets: “Behold, I am sending forth many fishers and hunters, says the Lord [Jeremiah 16:16],” et cetera. So it behooved us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God, and so there might be clergy everywhere who baptized and exhorted a needy and desirous people. Just as the Lord says in the Gospel, admonishing and instructing: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of time [Matthew 28:19].”

He wrote a majestic poem that became a hymn on Holy Baptism as we sang this holy evening. Ireland had been evangelized prior to Patrick but it was through this servant of the Lord that the Faith was rooted.  Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was to the baptized who had wandered down false paths and dead ends to return to the waters. Patrick’s preaching of Christ was for the baptized to walk in the newness of life in Christ as a baptized son or daughter. Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was for the pagan to come to the waters, to bind unto themselves the strong Name of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ commanded His Church to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity, not in the Church’s name,nor Patrick’s nor Luther’s.  The baptism mission of the Church is obviously not fads and fashions, techniques and clever tactics to “get people into Church”.  Only the Lord ‘gets’ people into His Church. The Baptism is always into Jesus Christ and His Cross (see Romans 6: 1ff) and it is accomplished through those the Lord has called to preach, teach, baptize and preside at His Holy Table.

Patrick did not water down Holy Baptism!  He did not water down the doctrine and practice of the Church to “reach people”.  The land of Eire was pagan.  In 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul teaches that the gods and goddesses are demons.   Pagan means the thralldom of the powers of darkness, the demonic.  The Gospel saves us from wickedness around and about.  Way after Patrick, when there has been a mass murder as in the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, or someone wanting to cut off in their bodies their sexuality, or someone is beside herself with rage, we now say, They’re nuts, crazy, “have a problem”…in other words note how many times we all use psychological and therapeutic terms to describe evil. “He’s a narcissist.”  “She’s OCD”. “He is just insane.” “It’s not rational, that’s absurd.” Or irrational, yet the demonic is quite rational in it’s thinking in accordance with his falsehood and lies.   Some people do need the help of a trained  therapist, a counselor, but some need an exorcist.  Patrick was accompanied by exorcists.  The Church and the pagans had this in common:  they both knew there were wicked demonic powers at work but the Church did not BELIEVE in them for the One Lord in three  Persons conquered them and still does. Mr. Bury, his biography on St. Patrick (still in print) wrote in it, in 1905:

“…if Christianity had offered to men only its new theological doctrine with the hope of immortal life and its new ethical ideals, if it had come simple and unadorned, without an armory of mysteries, miracles, and rites, if it had risen to the height of rejecting magic not because it was wicked but because it was absurd, it could never have won half the world.

We can not accept the world’s philosophies and terms.  There is wickedness unleashed.  Pandemonium is unleashed. The word “pan-demonium”, means “all demons”. The power of the devil in men’s lives cannot be healed by therapeutic talk-therapies, but only cast out by the power of Christ.

Patrick’s God-given goal was not ‘outreach’ to people but preach the Word and out preach the devil,  so that people call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved, and the Lord’s means of grace:  Holy Baptism.   Patrick knew that he was a “jar of clay” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7), as he knew that the surpassing power was the Lord’s, the One who baptized him:

Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.

One of my favorite legends about Pr. Patrick was he was witnessing to a  powerful, pagan tribal chieftain who was stymied over the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  They were standing outside and Patrick bent over and plucked a shamrock and said, “The Trinity is like this shamrock:  3 leaves, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet one stem, one plant, one life”.  The color green is very closely associated with Patrick.

“Wearing of the green” and Everyone’s Irish are saying s on St. Patrick’s Day. “Wearing of the Green” was a protest song in an 18th century Irish rebellion. The Church must be in rebellion against the powers and principalities. “Wearing of the Green” can remind us of the color of the paraments  (altar cloths) for most of the Church year, that is, green during the many Sundays after Pentecost, which is during summer in the northern hemisphere.   Along with Patrick, we only come to life in the Lord, in Holy Baptism, in the Name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity.  Faith is the Lord’s utterly gracious gift.  It is evident in his Confession, Patrick knew his high calling despite his lowly station.  We are green and growing in Christ alone in the unity of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father (see Ephesians 4:12-14), baptized into His Name alone:   “…salvation is of Christ the Lord!” (St. Patrick’s Breastplate, “I Bind Unto Myself Today”, Lutheran Service Book, #604).   We are Irish in so far as a Christian is baptized into Christ Jesus along with our brother in the Lord, Pastor and Bishop Patrick.  Remember that Patrick was not even born in what we call Ireland!  We wear not the green of Ireland, but of our only Homeland coming into the world now by faith, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and when He comes again, then by sight.  Green is possible only because of the purple, the Lent of His sufferings and death, the Seed planted in the ground, see John 12:24and Mark 4:8.

The Church wears the “green” day in and day out, in the bloom of summer, in the dead of winter:  greening in the watering of His forgiveness by His grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8). When we forget our baptismal sojourn in the Holy Spirit and in His Word the Holy Scriptures, then we are lost. Patrick had a strong faith in the strong Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He was no debater of the age, but proclaimer of the age to come. Yes, wear the green today but do not forget to pray and make the sign of the Cross giving thanks to Lord our God, for the missionary bishop who baptized many. The Lord’s Cross points us home to the Holy Trinity.  

“But our citizenship is from heaven…” St. Paul knew a thing or two about citizenship. Twice in Acts, Luke reports that either Paul was beaten or about to be flogged, and he reminded the Roman soldiers, he was a Roman citizen.  The second time, the soldiers are aghast and they apologized to Paul and his apostolic company:  all Roman citizens.  With Roman citizenship came privileges, such as no torture or beatings.  Roman citizenship was obtained one of two ways:  born into it because of one’s parents or paying a hefty price for citizenship. Paul was born into it.  We can not purchase the price of citizenship of heaven by any financial means on earth.  The Lord freely paid for our citizenship by finishing His course for us by His blood shed upon the Cross and in Holy Baptism we are not born, but born from above into His rule, citizens of the Kingdom of God. The Lord does not willingly grieve or afflict His children; but they, as the apostles and martyrs can tell us, thi is a disputed citizenship.  We have no papers to prove our citizenship, except for the witness of Baptism, Bible and belief pointing us ever, as a compass, to our true homeland by His grace through the Holy Spirit. 

Friends of the Cross, the Lord by His resurrection has prepared our citizenship as we await Him from heaven.  Our salvation is fulfilled and on the Day will be completed.  Our bodies transformed to be like His glorious body. We ain’t seen nothing yet. When the Apostle wrote this to the Philippian Christians he used the full title and Name of the Lord:  the Lord Jesus Christ, the true ruler of our citizenry. His Name is the stamp and seal our citizenship.  Friends of the Cross, He is our strength for the journey by His love and mercy to finish our course.  “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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