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Archive for April, 2019

FOR YOU

 “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

ByMICHAEL BRENDAN DOUGHERTY

“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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Image result for Jesus washing the disciples feet icon

COLLECT OF THE DAY

O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:

Exodus 24:3-11, Psalm 116:12-19, 1 Corinthians 11:  23-32, St. Matthew 26:  17-30

or

Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:12-19, 1 Corinthians 11:23-32, John 13:1-17, 31b-35

“Maundy” is derived from the Latin “mandatum”, or commandment (as in “mandate”).  On this 1st of the 3 days of our salvation, Triduum, the Lord Jesus gave 2 commandments:

1.  When He washed His disciples feet He said, A new commandment that you love one another.  The sense of the Greek is that the new commandment is SO THAT you love another, which would mean the new commandment is to wash each other’s feet.  IN that way we love each other and show forth His love to all.  

2. When He broke the bread and gave the Cup, He gave us His body and blood with the words, “Do this”.  The Holy Communion is not optional, but a command.  In Jewish tradition the 2 candles on the dining table represent:  Command and Remembrance.  Yes! “Do this, in remembrance of Me.”  As we are to serve one another the Lord serves us His Body and Blood till He comes again in glory.  His Church is called to serve the Dinner:  the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Mass and serve one another. In St. Luke’s reportage of this holy evening and giving of the Holy Cmmunion(chapter 23), he tells us this:
“24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” He is still with us as One Who serves as He is risen!

The two sets of readings for this holy day are about the vertical and horizontal dimension of the Holy Communion of the Church:  kneeling to receive the Sacrament of the Altar and kneeling to wash each other’s feet. In many of the icons of the Lord washing Peter’s feet, Peter has his hand to his forehead as if he saying, “Oh, my!” (see the image above!). We might say, I’ll kneel to no man! I’m too proud and yet when I am sick or down, I am so glad when a friend in Christ is there to serve me in knelt-felt Christ-like love. Here is the Lord who knelt to all men to save us from our selves lost in sin and death. This is the Lord God who knelt to wash His disciples feet, His creatures’ feet.  The Lord who knelt to feed us His Body and Blood. The Lord who knelt in prayer. Can we do any less? He calls us to Himself as His kneeling Church.

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COLLECT OF THE DAY:

Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:  Isaiah 62:11-63:7  Psalm 70   Romans 5:6-11  John 13:16-38

This is the eve of the Triduum, the Three Days:  Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, or the Great Sabbath. It was on this day that Judas made his arrangements with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and at the last  Passover meal on Thursday Judas left the Passover meal in order  to complete the betrayal (John 13:25-27).

Romans 5:6-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

It is clear from this appointed Epistle Lesson for this Holy Wednesday the description of  mankind’s condition before the coming of Christ:  “weak” , “ungodly”, “sinners”, “enemies”.  The Apostle Paul clearly uses the first person plural pronoun as he doesn’t just think he had been weak, ungodly and the like, but he knew it.

Such descriptors, as the enlightened say today, is not good for our self-esteem.  It seems we have self-esteemed ourselves into a fantasy world in which our unregenerate flesh shows itself again and again in lust and rage and greed. We cannot look into that mirror on the wall for too long, telling us we are the fairest of all, and not become insane or worse, evil.  We will even dare to die for a good person, cause or country, but even that’s against the grain of the Old Adam. It took God to die for us, the half-hearted, when we were “weak” , “ungodly”, “sinners”, “enemies”, God loves the unloving:

My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me,
love to the loveless shown,
that they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
my Lord should take frail flesh and die?

Or as C. S. Lewis wrote: “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

Our lives in Christ our transformed and reformed in His reconciliation…alone.

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

COLLECT OF THE DAY:

Almighty and everlasting God,grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:  Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14;  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (26-31);   John 12:23-50

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

Reflection:  Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?  What is our “draw”?  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.  

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, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).  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.  If there is no preaching of Christ and Him crucified, then the preaching of human religious works follows.  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.
Christians from almost day one of the Church would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies.  And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped. Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls.  The Cross is the sign of the love stronger than death and in Him: “…we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8: 37). Christ Jesus is the Draw.
“…ponder what sin is, and what kind of anguish will result for those who do not seek forgiveness for sin in Christ and protection from the wrath of God. Here stands God’s Son, who carries (upholds) everything by the power of His Word, Heb. 1, who is of the same essence with His heavenly Father. One might think that He will readily overcome and easily bear the burden of sins and divine wrath, and it will be for Him a light, little blade of straw. But look here, how this holy Soul agonizes; indeed, the more you reflect on Him, the better you will comprehend what a huge burden sin is. With the unrepentant, sin is regarded as an insignificant thing. Some intend to atone for it with their own deeds.  However, this sad spectacle (of the Cross) knocks down all these thoughts.  For, if (sins) were such insignificant matter, why was Christ Himself thus permitted to grieve (over them)?”   (from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ;published 1663)

“By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.”

(from the Litany, as cited by Pr. Gerhard, ibid)

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