Archive for April, 2019

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Recently, I watched again a segment of a TV series entitled “A.D: The Bible Continues”, produced by NBC and I remembered the reasons I did not continue to watch it the first go around. “A. D: The Bible Continues” begins with the events recorded by St. Luke in The Acts of the Apostles, chapters 1 and 2 and following. Acts is the history of the beginnings of the Church and her mission into the world. Watching A.D. again provided me an opportunity to reflect on the actual Biblical narrative and what transpires when the Biblical narrative is changed in a dramatic presentation, and the effect such a presentation may have on viewers.

First, a short recounting of Acts 1 and the beginning of Acts 2:

50 days after Easter Sunday, The Day of Resurrection, the Church remembers and celebrates Pentecost, when as the Lord promised, the Holy Spirit would be sent.

In Acts, in chapter 1, Jesus ascends into heaven. He promises them that the Apostles will receive power when the Lord gives the Holy Spirit as they wait in Jerusalem. St. Luke tells us that in Jerusalem that 120 are gathered:

“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120)”

Note and mark well that the 120 were, “devoting themselves to prayer”.
They were joined for the 9 days between the Ascension and Pentecost for daily prayer (These 9 days of prayer are a special devotion in the Roman Catholic Church called a “Novena”, 9 days). They also selected a new apostle to replace Judas (Acts 1: 15-26) in the reading of apt Scripture by the Apostle Peter (vs. 20) and in solemn prayer (vs. 24-25).

Then the 120 were gathered together in one place (Acts 2:1) and that place may have been the Temple when the Holy Spirit is given.

The video clip below is from the television series, “A.D. The Bible Continues: Pentecost” and it depicts Pentecost and part of the lead up to it. After this clip, I compare and contrast this clip with the Biblical narrative and this portrayal of Pentecost:

There are two differences between the nonfictional account of Acts and the fictional account from the TV series:

  1. In the movie, it is the Apostles alone but in Acts, it is 120 persons of note in the Church.
  2. In Acts, they devote themselves to prayer for the 9 days. In the movie, AD, it is one day and then it is the Lord’s Prayer repeated as part mantra and part tent revival recitation that seems to trigger the gift of Pentecost. Before this scene, it is in conversation between Peter and his daughter that the Apostle decides, Oh gee, we should be praying! The Apostles, in Acts, just begin to pray, well, as Jesus did and any Jew would have done. We do not know what the 120 were praying but we can take an educated, Biblical guess. They were Jews and they would have prayed the Psalms. In fact, the Psalter became the first prayer book of the Church. In the Lutheran Service Book, the Psalms are at the beginning of our hymn book. Further, a good Jew would pray 3 times a day. They may have been fasting. They may have confessed three times a day, the Shema in Deuteronomy 4: 4. Indeed, they may have prayed the Lord’s Prayer and probably did because the Lord said to do so. Further, as Peter cited Scripture before the selection of Matthias, they may have read daily Scripture passages and recited sayings and deeds of the Lord Jesus, from their three years of being with the Lord, which would in a few years form the New Testament. In the movie, the 12 are in the upper room kind of hanging out, somewhat in fear,waiting for the signal of this giving of the Spirit, while the portrayal of non-Biblical political intrigue is occurring between the Temple and Roman authorities. Further,the 120, as Jews, would probably have their heads covered as was the Jewish prayer custom. In the movie, generally speaking they do not act as devout Jews.
  3. In the TV show, Pentecost looks like a meteor coming down from the skies, or a divine UFO, zapping them, as if the Lord is a cosmic divine blast from a badly done Avengers-type scene. It is not depicted as in the Bible as tongues of fire resting on each. Notice that the fire encircles them as they continue their ‘chanting’ of the Lord’s Prayer in enthusiastic, pentecostalist fervor. Prior to the Pentecost scene in A.D., the Ascension shows ‘heaven’ as a bunch of clouds and standing on several of them are men: patriarchs? saints? prophets? It sounds trite but it is true: This is not in the Bible. This picture of heaven reminded me more of something from the Mormons, than the Scriptures.

I do not write this article just to criticize a badly done semi-Biblical TV drama to be avoided and yes, it should be avoided. In my opinion, this TV series dramatizes the 12 as a group of hippy, Jesus people, about to start a ’60s style Jesus movement in the 1st century not knowing what they are doing. This is not St. Luke’s sober and solemn account of the actual beginning of the Church and the Lord’s apostolic mission to bring the Gospel into the world, even to the end of the world.. I think that these false portrayals can have detrimental effect on the mind and intellect.

This is a warning and the prime reason for this posting. The devil wants us to doubt the Bible. Sometimes a creepy or dark TV show or movie can leave me afterwards having a hard time to shake it off. Even well-meaning portrayals which are still unsound ones of the Biblical accounts have enough of a patina of truth to fool the viewer that is hard to shake-off. These shows can give the mind false information and doctrine that can color our reading of the Bible. We have had many even more popular renditions of the Lord and His Church than A.D. over the years: Jesus as a clown in the musical Godspell; Jesus as a superstar in the Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice musical, Jesus Christ Superstar; the false narrative of the end time series, Left Behind, that the Lord will whisk Christians away as Jesus is some sort of fearful deity. A.D. shows the disciples as that almost current and proverbial, “rag-tag” group of men who will themselves (!) change the world. In fact, the movie is based on a book, “A.D.: The Bible Continues: the Revolution that Changed the World“, by Dr. David Jeremiah (emphasis added). St. Luke carefully names the 12 again in Acts 1 but the T.V. series makes out to be per the book title: rag-tag revolutionaries.There is nothing rag tag about the Apostles! If the false portrayals are felt as real, then the actual Biblical narrative will seem unreal, when it is just the opposite! If so, the devil has done his clever work. I prefer to stick with the sacred Text without the re-interpreters who change the Bible to look like what they think or are.

Modifying a quote from C. S. Lewis:

Any movie or T.V. show which bases itself on a supposed “historical Jesus” to be dug out of the Gospels and then set up in opposition to Biblical and Christian teaching is suspect. There have been too many of these Jesuses—a liberal Jesus, a spiritual Jesus, a hippy Jesus, a Marxist Jesus and accordingly ‘his’ followers. They are the cheap crop of each year of what’s new from Hollywood, like the new Lincolns and new Washingtons. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation. (The original quote can be found in this article.)

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St. John 20: And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Why are those who have not seen, and believe, blessed by the Lord?  Because they have heard the Word of the Lord and the Holy Spirit preaches the Word of Christ, and all the Words of God, into our bodies and souls to quicken us, that is, make us alive by faith through His grace. On our own we are dead and unspiritual.

So when the 11 disciples are huddled together on account  of the fear of the Jews, those disciples were unspiritual. How do we know this? 

Jesus taught, as recorded in John chapter 7,

38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

They had not yet received the Holy Spirit, for the Lord had not breathed the Spirit into them, till He is glorified, risen from the dead.  But to say these days that the disciples were unspiritual, and that only in Christ Jesus in His Sacrifice for the forgiveness of sinners, is one spiritual, is committing a secular heresy:  especially as this is applicable to all people.  As all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God, are not spiritual, that is Holy Spirit-ual, but in bondage to sin and subject to the dark powers.  What happens when unspiritual man thinks he is spiritual?  Yes, there are spiritual feelings and they are a nostalgia, a wistfulness, for something that is past and missing, a desire for something more that I can not get to, but know we need to, as…

 “…they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.”, so preached C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory   

Those feelings will not direct us to our heavenly home.  I may have a strong feeling about a destination I want to go to, say a city, a state, a park, but my feelings, however pristine I think they are, won’t guide me there. Let’s say, coming to a fork in the road: “Is this the right direction? Now which way should I go here?   I will consult my feelings” No. I need a guide, a map, an instruction to consult and to set us on the right path.  ‘You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word” (Luther)If I think my so-called spirituality is actual ‘spirituality’, my various and sundry readings, feelings, experiences etc., then my spirituality looks like Mark and not the Lord!  It’s the way I want to go and couple that with my fallen heart, for the heart is deceitful above all things, who can trust it (Jeremiah). As Jesus what comes out of the heart are murder, greed, evil thoughts, lust etc. and these defile. So when I follow my spirituality, then I follow me: a blind guide, and hang over it the patina of ‘spirituality’.  Peter really, at one time, believed in his strong faith and spiritual feelings and he sank into the Sea of Galilee and when he exclaimed in the night the Lord was betrayed:  I won’t deny you.  Oh, he was spiritual, so he may have thought.  And  in today’s Gospel, he and his brother apostles, are locked up in fear…till the Lord shows them His Wounds, and 11 disciples beheld His actual wounds and received the actual Holy Spirit.  And the Lord is clear, the Holy Spirit is not given for our religious jollies, but for and through the Word of forgiveness, that Jesus had just won in the costly and perfect Sacrifice for them and us all just 3 days prior in His hands and feet nailed to a cross, when He said from the cross, It is finished, and He breathed His last.  Three days later, He breathes this into them the Holy Spirit.  This is true inspiration.  In-spiritus.  So that He sends them with the quickening of His own Forgiveness. Just think, in 50 days after Easter, Peter would be preaching publicly in the Temple, as heard from Acts. He was arrested and faced even death. He would not do so because he made up this story: He saw the wounds. He saw his Savior and the Lord filled him and his brothers with the Holy Spirit to forgive sin.

Like the apostles, we do not make our spirituality, we are made spiritual, really, re-made spiritually in the actual wounds of Christ’s forgiveness. Christians are not self-made, but remade in Christ and Baptism. The Lord breathing into lifeless souls of the apostles and us all, He did this before: 

“…the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 3)

That first time was the order of creation, in today’s Gospel, the order of redemption in Jesus Christ.  We need the mouth to mouth resuscitation of the Holy Spirit even daily in His forgiving and cleansing breath.

“…this dignity, reverence, obedience, and efficacy of the ministry depend on this, that it brings and sets forth the Word of God” (Luther)…not the words of men. It is as if the Lord is saying, “You are not to teach and preach human dreams, but the doctrines of My heavenly Father.  I shall lay My words into your mouths so that you may present them to others.” (Gerhard) You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word (Luther) Jesus makes this clear on the work of the Holy Spirit:

John 6:63  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life

John 14:26:But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:26:“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

We do not have and worship a “Word-less” Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy spirit is utterly transparent as He gives life, helps us to remember, bears witness to Christ.  His Wounds are the sign that He bore the sin of all.

The Lord is the verbose Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit preaches the Word through the words of a pastor in faithful preaching and teaching and administering of the Sacraments.  Through the reading, hearing and praying of Scripture that the priesthood of all believers can do. The Scriptures are inspired, literally, in Spiritus, breathed in by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus did to make alive His disciples.

This message of the healing wounds of Christ was foretold by Isaiah 5 centuries before the Incarnation, as we heard Isaiah 53 on Good Friday:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

His wounds are the faithful Word of God’s forgiveness for each and every one of us.  He opens our prisons. He comes into our hearts.  Confession and absolution is aptly titled, The Office of the Keys.  If one resists the Holy Spirit, the door is locked and shut, and sin is retained as it is not repented. When a person does not see that God’s Law is showing him his sin, he can not possibly know His Savior.  Sin not repented is retained.  It is the prospect of eternal sadness but the Lord’s goal is not judgment and sadness.  If he repents, the door is open and joy floods through His Wounds of grace for us all. A sinner repenting is the Lord and His angels rejoicing. The message of the imparting of the forgiveness of sins, in Christ, is so needed in these dark days. “The Gospel is not only a report of the salvation earned by Jesus, but it is the application of this message, the imparting of the forgiveness of sins.”- Rev. Paul Kretzman As Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard preached on this Gospel:

“Also, when the apostles and all faithful teachers in this manner unlock or lock shut—forgive the sin or retain it—in accordance to God’s ordinance, such shall be efficacious and valid before God in heaven, whether it happens publicly or privately. Blessed are the teachers and preachers who do not all the keys to rust up, but instead use them in accordance with divine ordinance. Blessed also are the hearers who receive the Word of preaching as the Word of God.  Grant this to all of us through His Son, Christ. Amen.”

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New Testament Reading for Today:  Hebrews 13: 1-21

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Earlier on in the Gospels, Jesus sent forth the 12 disciples to preach and cast out demons.  Jesus also sent out the 72.  Jesus sent the disciples to teach all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Holy Trinity.  He promised He would be with always even unto the end of the age.  Jesus sent the 11 disciples on the first day of the week, breathing on them the Holy Spirit in His forgiveness:

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Christ’s message is forgiveness.  He sent them out, knowing fully well that they are frail clay vessels so that others may know that the glory is not from them but from the Lord.  

He stills sends out His pastors with the very same message, in the very same power of the Holy Spirit. Like Luther preached that if you found out that in such and such church God was speaking, everyone would flock to it.  Well, preached Luther, there are such Churches, where and when the Gospel is preached by a pastor.  We do not have a “Word-less” Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit preaches the Word through the words of a pastor. Jesus said to Peter three times: Feed My Sheep.  Don’t feed them the thin pasturage of the world and it’s vain philosophies.  The ministers come with the same message as during Bright Week:  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  Hear the message every Sunday with His People to be strengthen in faith toward God and in fervent love of others.  As Martin Chemnitz, the “Second Martin”,  taught from Scripture that the voice of the Christ is the Gospel preached by a faithful and faithfully called Pastor:

“He who hears you, hears Me; he who rejects you, rejects Me,” (Luke 10: 16)…This saying of Christ contains the sweet teaching and consolation that when the ministers of the Word prove from the Word of God what they teach, they are to be heard in no other way than as if the voice of God were speaking to us from heaven. For God is present with the ministry and speaks to us through that medium, and it is efficacious, as the Baptist says: “I am the voice of one calling.” For it is God who calls through the Baptist. In 2 Cor. 13:3 Paul says: “You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me.” Thus in 2 Cor. 5:20 he says: “God makes His appeal through us.” But how? By “entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” So we read in Is. 59:21: “My Spirit which is upon you and My words which I have put in your mouth, etc.” This teaching wins true reverence for the ministry and inclines the minds to obedience, according to the saying, Heb. 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” When the ministers bring and set forth the Word of God, the hearers accept it not as the word of men, but as it is indeed, the Word of God, as Paul says in 1 Thess. 2:13. And it is most comforting that we can truly conclude that when we hear the Word of God out of the mouth of the minister, the Son of God Himself is with us, speaks to us, and is efficacious through that Word. For upon this depends what Christ declares: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven,” “whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” But this dignity, reverence, obedience, and efficacy of the ministry depend on this, that it brings and sets forth the Word of God.

—Martin Chemnitz

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Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” St. John 12:  23-14

Jesus, the Grain of Wheat, in the ground, risen from the dead, bore fruit both today, tomorrow and yesterday:“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13: 8).  The Lord was bearing fruit through the hope of His coming, the promises of God fulfilled in Him, through out the time of the Old Testament, from the beginning, Genesis 1 and following. What is this fruit?  The saints in Christ. This is the roll call of faith in Hebrews 11.  So much of Hebrews is encouragement for discouraged brothers and sisters. The Epistle Reading for Today, from the Daily Lectionary:  Hebrews 12:  1-24. The writer calls it, “my letter of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:  22), and as it Scripture, for us as well:  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12)

In the marathon of faith in Christ, Christ before us, Christ beside us, Emmanuel, God with us we are surrounded, “…so great a cloud of witnesses”, of the saints in the Old Testament.  In these last days (Hebrews 1:2), this cloud has more billows of the saints who have died in Christ.  We do not perfect our faith by our works but in His Word to do the good works He has prepared beforehand to be our way of life. The saints do not point to themselves but ever and forever to the Lord: Christ is risen!  This cloud is not a storm cloud, but a cloud filled with the dew of Baptism, a rain cloud, on this parched earth.  The saints are the Lord’s “Word cloud”. We do not have to go searching for extra-terrestrials to assert with faith and hope that is in Christ:  we are not alone.  The cloud of witnesses is praying us on, to lay aside “every weight, and sin which clings to closely”, confessing the weight and so praying to the Lord ahead of us and beside us.  

G. K. Chesterton, Roman Catholic convert, novelist, writer:

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”

Reread the quote above and substitute “the Church”,  for “tradition”.  Even two or three are gathered together at the Lamb’s High Feast and there are more:  angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. We do not grow the Church, the Lord does.  No usher can count any congregation gathered by the Lord around His Altar.

Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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“And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” St. Mark 15

“Mark would have us know our Lord’s entire ministry is a passion story, whereby he tears open the curtain of separation between God and man, and ensuring an everlasting Yom Kippur, that is, a Day of Atonement.” -Dr. Peter Scaer

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, You have enriched Your Church with the proclamation of the Gospel through the evangelist Mark.  Grant that we may firmly believe these glad tidings and daily walk according to Your Word;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings: Isaiah 52: 7-10 Psalm 146 2 Timothy 4: 4-18 St. Mark 16: 14-20

Bio: St. Mark was the author of the second Gospel, which he composed, according to some Early Church Fathers, when the Christians in Rome asked him to write down the preaching of the apostle Peter. Mark, also known as John Mark, was originally from Jerusalem, where the house of his mother Mary was the center of the early Jerusalem Church (Acts 12:12). He was brought from Jerusalem by Paul and Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 12:25), and it was from this city that they set out on the first missionary journey. When Paul and Barnabas were preparing to go on the second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them again, but Paul objected because Mark had left them during the first journey. Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas as his new companion (Acts 15:37-40). Later, Paul reconciled with Mark and was working with him again (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11). Finally, Mark was found laboring with Peter in Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Tradition says that Mark was instrumental in founding the Church in Alexandria, becoming its first bishop, and, also that he suffered a martyr’s death.

The Treasury of Daily Prayer (Concordia Publishing House)

On the Eve of the Festival of St. Mark, thirty-six years ago, I was ordained into the Holy Ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  When we say to someone, Let me show you door, it is a rebuke to tell the person to get out. This is rather like the Lord telling us in His Law: you need to get out of the mess you are in. Then He shows us another door. Maybe the main directive for every pastor is to show people and God’s people the open door to heaven by and through teaching and preaching the Word of God, and the right administration of the Sacraments. This was done when the Temple curtain was torn asunder as Jesus died. The goal of every Christian is to show people to the church door, through which, the Lord said He is present in His Word and in His Sacraments.  As Jesus said, I am the door of the sheep.    In Christ, when a pastor says, let me show you the Door, he is guiding you to the gate of eternal life with the door marked with His own blood, the blood of the New Testament, as He is risen! And the curtain torn on Good Friday was more than cloth :

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10

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Almighty God,by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ,  You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light.Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory;through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever.

READINGS: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19   Psalm 61    Colossians 3:1-7 or 1 Corinthians 11:23-26    St. John 21:1-14

When the risen Lord visits the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, just as He said He would, Simon Peter and four fellow disciples are fishing, doing what they knew how to do.  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord from the beloved disciple, he put on his outer garment, for he was “stripped for work”, and out of the boat, he threw himself into the sea.

The Greek word for “stripped” is “gymnos”. Gymnos means naked. In ancient times, one competed in athletics naked. Peter was undressed, because he was working hard.  He was probably hot and sweaty. Once again, Jesus caused a miraculous catch of fish and because Peter is naked, he puts on “his outer garment”,  jumps into “the sea” to go to the Lord. He must have been quite soggy. 

Like Adam, like all mankind, Peter clothed himself because of his nakedness before the living God.  Peter had denied Him three times. Baptism is the reverse of this:  water is poured, or the catechumen is immersed into the water three times to wash away our sin in God’s most precious Word:  His Name.  When immersed, in the first centuries of the Church,  one went naked into the Baptismal waters  and then  a white garment was “put on”, signifying emerging clothed in Christ.  Peter putting on his outer garment to come to the Lord can remind us of the  many places Scripture we are to put on our Baptism, the new self in Christ.  The Greek verb is the same for each translation of it as “put on”: 

  1. Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
  2. Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
  3. 1 Corinthians 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
  5. Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
  6. Ephesians 4:24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
  7. Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
  8. Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
  9. Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
  10. Colossians 3:12  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
  11. Colossians 3:14  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

IN  the verses above we are variously told also to put on the armor of light, put on love, compassionate hearts, etc,  and in the Day of Resurrection we will be clothed in our “heavenly dwelling”.  I will go out on  limb here and say that the armor of light, the whole armor of God, putting on “love”, are all references to Baptism, and putting on Christ.  We are encouraged to put on what we have been given:  our Baptism into Christ. 

Peter and the disciples, sit on the sea shore and Jesus feeds them.  In the next scene, He charges Peter to feed His sheep.  The Lord feeds us Himself, His flesh and blood for the life of the world.  Baptism is followed by Holy Communion.  We can not go naked to the Lord and He clothed us in Himself as He clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden. We are not dressed for success, but for faithfulness. 

The verb “revealed” is used in the first and last verse of this Gospel lesson. The disciples are awed that Jesus arrives in Galilee.  Revelation, or manifestation, epiphany is the mark of the end of world  that has come upon us.  When we put on our daily Baptism, the new self, we are dressed for and in the end of the world who is Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  Reread the texts above for a description of our Christening robe and how different it is from the styles of the world.   We do not go out naked into the world or showing enough to sexually entice someone else. The Lord clothes us the shame of the Adamic nakedness as the Lord once clothed Adam and Eve (Genesis 3: 21).  Adam and Eve’s garments were just for this life. Clothed in Christ is His life for the new heavens and earth. And in the meantime, the Church will be different from the world as she is clothed in Christ and His armor of  light and love.  

O Lord Jesus Christ, look upon me, a poor sinner, with Your eyes of mercy, the same eyes of mercy with which You looked upon Peter in the assembly-room, upon Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and upon the malefactor on the cross. Grant to me also, almighty God, that with Peter I bemoan my sin from the heart, with Mary Magdalene sincerely love You, and with the malefactor on the cross may live eternally with You in Your kingdom. Amen. (Johann Gerhard)

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Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in tombs bestowing life.”-Orthodox Paschal Hymn

Introduction: The Eastern Orthodox Churches have a great custom by calling the first week of the Paschal (Easter) Season “Bright Week”.  A great way to begin the 50 Days of Pascha leading to Pentecost, as we look at what our risen Lord taught His Church for her life and mission into the world.   Easter, like Christmas, is not only a day each, but  a season each. In the Lutheran Church, we have midweek Lenten services but I think we should have midweek Paschal services in this bright season!

Further, as Lent is time of preparation for seekers to be Baptized, then the Paschal Season is a time for the newly baptized, and the ‘oldly’ baptized as well, to be instructed in the Way of the Lord more fully.  I forgot to post for Easter Monday, but if you would like to read Easter Monday in a previous posting, here is one such posting.


Almighty God,through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

READINGS: Daniel 3:8-28 Psalm 2 Acts 13:26-33 St. Luke 24:36-49

From Today’s Gospel Reading, Luke 24: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Continuous Distribution

Jesus sends out the disciples to bring the message of the Cross and Resurrection to “all nations” for “repentance and forgiveness of sin”. We do not go back to the Cross. We do not “take it to the Cross”. The Lord has given us the very means, as written in Scripture and taught by the Lord, to give us the very much needed fruit of the Cross today: Word and Sacraments. Martin Luther taught this Scripture truth:

“If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to suffering of Christ…in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find it in the Sacrament or the Gospel the Word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me tat forgiveness which was son on the cross…whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the Sacrament and obtain, comfort, not because of the bread and the wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the Word which in the Sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me. Is that clear enough?”

When we distribute the Holy Communion, there are a couple ways of doing such, and one way is “continuous distribution“. People come forth in a line(s) to receive the Body and Blood while standing: continuous distribution. The Lord calls His Church to the continuous distribution of His Word for our repentance, strengthening and growth in faith, and service to one another. We do not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We need His Word as Israel did manna. We can not time travel back to Golgotha, as this is impossible. Instead, the risen Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit gives us His Word today as today is the day of salvation because Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32, for Holy Tuesday

Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?   I  have asked that question and that is more than a simple admission and more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels?  etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit.  

What is our “draw”?  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ.   It is written that our preaching is Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24), not was.  Holy Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ), not “was”.  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26) and is His Body and Blood from the self-same Body and Blood given unto death is our life, not “was”.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness. No Cross, no Savior.  No Cross, no resurrection. No Savior, no salvation. No Savior and the good works He prepared to be our way of life. If there is no preaching of Christ and Him crucified, then the preaching of human works follows in order to ‘gain’ salvation; then there is no grace and Christ died in vain.  Our self-chosen works become a hollow spirituality.  In the national hospice organization, a chaplain is a “spiritual/slash/existential therapist”!  No law of God, then no Savior who fulfilled the Law. Evangelism is not only for those who have not heard of Christ, or those who have but have forgotten:  it is for every Christian as we tend to forget and need His forgiveness and life day by day.

I’m struck by how hollow American Christianity can be. I love that so many say that Jesus is Lord, but I wonder whether there’s a center, or whether the Easter bunny is hollow.

There was a time when Seder meals were all the rage, combining the Jewish Passover with Holy Communion.  I see Christians commenting on the tradition of it, how holy it seems to be, how it links us to the past. Really? Why do Christians find such solace in the Jewish rite? Perhaps, because they have no holiness of their own. Jesus told his disciples that he wanted to celebrate with them the Passover. The Passover. The term comes up over and over again. But what happens? The Passover meal passes into the Lord’s Supper as Jesus is the Passover Lamb:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5)

The Lamb of God offers finally not an unblemished lamb, but his own flesh as heavenly food.

American Christianity has no holy place. And we substitute our Founding Fathers for church fathers. We have no holy place, and we idolize the land of Israel. But there is a holy place, and it is not just a place of the spirit. It is a flesh and blood place, the place where our Lord feeds us with himself, his body and blood, in a holy of holies holier than any Old Testament priest could ever hope for. Why in the world would we hope to rebuild the temple? We just heard from the Epistle reading, Christ is with us, body and blood, wherever his Supper is celebrated. Notre Dame Cathedral has been called a “monument”, a national French monument.  I don’t go to the Lincoln Memorial to worship.  Yet, at Notre Dame Mass is said, confessions heard, people are baptized and the song of the Church goes on. Maybe, the secularists are telling us that Notre Dame is a monument to a dead idea;  maybe that’s what’s being said. That’s sad. But it’s not a mere monument. From Notre Dame to this little temporary Sanctuary sanctified by the Word and the Holy Spirit in the Lord’s Baptized sons and daughters.  Jesus was clear:  He is the Temple, not made with human hands.

Now, given that fact, the fact of our Lord’s bodily presence, we should act like it. We should sing, “Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand.” Our Lord comes to us, every week, wherever the Supper is rightly celebrated. Let’s celebrate that.

This sermon, Good Friday Meditations, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday sermons will reflect on the Questions from the Passion. IN this evening of the Lord’s Supper, when he said that one of you shall betray Me. The disciples asked:  Is it I, Lord?  In Da Vince’s famous painting, the Last Supper depicts this moment.

Is it I, Lord, for whom You took frail flesh, from the womb of Your Mother, and died for us?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You preached, and taught the Word of God as the Word made flesh for us and salvation?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You said from the Cross, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Is it I, Lord, for whom it can be said,  My sins crucified Thee.

Is it I, Lord, from whom You gave me my brothers and sisters in You, my Lord and my brother to encourage one another as we see Your Day approaching?

Is it I, Lord, that I should kneel in service to my brothers and neighbors?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You washed me in Holy Baptism and made Your own to be built as living stones into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You gave the Church the Office of the Keys for forgiving and binding my sins?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You give your Body and Blood in this Holy Supper?

And as St. Paul said, whenever we do as our Lord commanded in remembrance of him, we proclaim his death until he comes again. So it is, word and flesh belong together, and in our spiritualized and gnostic world, there is so much more we need to say and even more to pray. In 43 days, there is another important Thursday in the Church Year, Ascension Day. The two Thursdays are intimately connected in Jesus Christ because the ascended Lord, bodily and spiritually, deigns to be with us in His Supper, proclaiming His death until He comes again.  The Crucified and Ascended Lord commands His Gospel be preached and He will be with us:  This is my body, this is my blood. Lo, I am with you always even until the end of the age as He commanded baptism for all. When we confess and are forgiven, then as He said, Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am. He draws us forth by His Body and Blood and by the same draws forth the toxins in body and soul in joyful repentance and sends us forth to proclaim the deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His most marvelous light.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Meme of the Day

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Panhandling for Notre Dame Cathedral, (National Review, dated 1 September, 2017


“So what is the attitude to Notre Dame? Though the French state is its owner, it will not spend the money for necessary repairs.” 

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