Archive for April, 2019

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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.


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


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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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


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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This is Qaraqosh, a Christian city in Iraq. In 2014, it was overrun by ISIS terrorists who looted the town, destroyed churches, and deported indigenous people. After the liberation, more than 4800 Assyrian families returned. This picture was taken as people attend the 2019 Palm Sunday mass.

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“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”  St. John 12: 23b

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings:  Isaiah 50:  5-10  Psalm 36: 5-10  Hebrews 9:  11-15  St. John 12: 1-23

There was a famous televangelist, Robert Schuller, who’s TV show was entitled, “The Hour of Power”. He was more a proponent for positive thinking than he was of the Gospel.  His hour of power was all about positive thinking.  He even gave away the “Positive Thinker’s Bible” in which all the positive passages were in the color blue. I wondered if the 10 commandments and the cross were in blue.

Jesus also spoke quite a few times of the coming “hour”:  John 2:4John 7:30John 12:27John 16:32,John 17:1.   The hour would be suffering and death, humiliation and shame, then on the third day rise from the dead. Rev. Schuller said that the passages about Jesus’ crucifixion just showed that He had positive thoughts by which He would get through this.  It was not positive thoughts that led Jesus through it.  It was His love of mankind, for me and for you  and our redemption in His blood that Jesus led us the way through the valley of the shadow of death and sin.  He came to do the Father’s will.  

There is more to life in this world than this life lived on our terms.  Even positive thinking is a symptom of the sin of Adam.  Such positive thinking helps to alleviate symptoms but not the root cause:  man separated from his God. Man can not bridge the chasm, only the One who true God and true man has. Thinking apart from the Lord leads us down many a rabbit hole:  first the hole seems utopian but rabbit holes are terrible dead ends. That fruit always looks good but it is cursed.  And in the faith and life in Christ we can admit we have failures and weaknesses, as we did in the prayer above.  The Lord knows as He cares for you and He bears you up.  The second Adam, the man from heaven came to this hour to bear our sin and be our Savior.  

The hour was the  Triduum,  or The Three Days:  the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. The Triduum is the culmination of the Lenten journey.  All of our positive thoughts, as nice and good as they can be, won’t lead us through.  Christ is the good Seed planted into the earth, His death and now risen to bear much fruit:  faith in Him, love of Him, hope in Him to bear fruit as He is the vine and we are the branches (cf. St. John 15).  He leads us through as He is the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12: 1-2), not us!

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“We are bound together by faith, not by experience.” From Life Together

Concordia and Koinonia

“Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life.”

Biographical Introduction:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on Feb. 4, 1906, in Breslau, the sixth of eight children, along with his twin sister, Sabine.  His father Karl  was a leading professor of neurology and psychiatry; his mother was the granddaughter of a distinguished church historian. When Dietrich was 6, his family moved to Berlin. He was educated at the universities of Tübingen (1923-1924) and Berlin, where he was awarded a doctorate in 1927 at the age of only 21.  He surprised his family by his choice of theology and becoming a pastor as his vocation.

Early Career

Bonhoeffer’s doctoral dissertation, The Communion of Saints(1930), introduces some of his most characteristic emphases: a passionate concern that Christianity be a concrete reality within the real world of men; a wholly Christ-centered approach to theology, grounded entirely in the New Testament; and an intense preoccupation with the Church as “Christ existing as community.”…

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“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!”

Rev. Pastor Johann Gerhard:  

Whoever preaches forgiveness of sins without preaching repentance is not holding to Christ’s  command. For He sets both together: repentance and forgiveness of sins. Wherever there is a broken and shattered heart, there Christ wants to live, Isa. 57:15, and wants to impart His blessings which He won through His death and resurrection. He, indeed, calls sinners to Himself, but (He calls them) to repent, Matt. 9:13. True repentance is the pathway by which sinners come to grace.

We were widely separated from God by sin, Isa.5. Just as the Lord Christ promised His Apostles the Promise of the Father—that is, He wanted to send them the Holy Spirit and clothe them with Power from on high—so also He proffers to us the comforting promise that He does not want to leave us orphaned or comfortless; instead, He desires to send into our hearts the Holy Spirit, who makes us strong in the inner man and comforts us in every anxious doubt.

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Text: St. Luke 20: 9-20

The farmers in the vineyard were tenant farmers. They were renting the land.  The owner entrusted his land to them as stewards of it, managers not masters.  So when the owner, after a considerable time, at the right time sends a servant to collect the fruit of the harvest that is the Owner’s due, the tenants proceed to beat the owner’s servant and send him away empty…as if the harvest belonged to them! Not once but three times.  What was the owner thinking about?  After one time, I would have clobbered those thugs. Just like the Father of the prodigal son, who just gives his inheritance, before his death, to his sons, I can not think myself into the Owner of the vineyard, I can’t imagine being the Owner.  We rejoice in the fact that the Lord does not think like his fallen creatures!  The owner of this vineyard is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. His patience means repentance.  

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation—and again, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter.

So two more times the Owner sends His servants. Jesus is recounting in a thumbnail sketch   the time of the Lord’s Sending of the Prophets. He sent His prophets.  Moses was a prophet and the formal age of the prophets begins with Elijah and lasted about 4 centuries.  With the prophet Elijah, the times had changed.  The King’s Wife, Jezebel, was a Sidonian and worshiped Baal…in Israel and Israel went along with it. Her husband, King Ahab, allowed this foul idolatry. When Elijah began preaching there was a first in Israel:  the Word of the Lord and his prophet became the minority in the promised land!  The Lord is macrothumia, translated as “patience” but actually better translated as “long-suffering” with Israel in those long centuries of the divided kingdom.  As in the parable, the Lord sent prophet after prophet. As long as there is life, there’s repentance and then hope.  Yet, when the Lord returns the time of repentance in these last days will come to an end and then the day of Judgment and the new heavens and earth.

And then at the right time, the Kairos,  the owner decides, I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.

1.When Jesus is baptized, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

2. When Jesus is transfigured and the voice of the Father sounds forth on the mount, This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, adding Listen to Him. 

3.  In this parable, is the 3rd time in  Luke we read “beloved son”: 

Three times…it is clear the owner of the vineyard is the Father and His beloved Son is Jesus Christ. Dearer to the Lord is His Son than even Benjamin was to Jacob. He gives His Son to the ungrateful and the spiteful.

One of the first words we learn as children is MINE.  The tenants were saying MINE. Israel really thought they owned the kingdom. And today many church bodies think they own the vineyard, the kingdom. Like this parable, it would be like if my wife and I, leasing a house, decided, let’s kill the landlord so we get the house! In what world could that happen?! Answer: In a world bent in upon itself.  Oh, the landlord has come to collect the rent, so we will kill him and get the inheritance of the building!  But as it is clear in Isaiah 5, the vineyard is the Lord’s:

Let me sing for my beloved
    my love song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded wild grapes…

Then a little later in the chapter:

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
    is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
    are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
    but behold, bloodshed;
for righteousness,
    but behold, an outcry!

They killed Him, cast Him out of the vineyard…as He would be crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem.    The builders cast Him out and killed Him, killed by both Jew and Gentile.  He was killed that the Old Adam, clinging to sin, is killed and the new creation arises in Baptism.  In fulfillment of Scripture, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  The beloved Son clearly warns, rejecting Him, the beloved Son is crushing. “…how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”, as it is written in Hebrews.  “These solemn words of warning (from the parable) may well be brought to the attention of many people in our days that think the world has outgrown the old Gospel of salvation through the redemption of the blood of Jesus.”(Dr. Paul Kretzmann, his commentary on the Bible,1905)

We are included into His vineyard, His temple, as His temple, His house, His people through the blood of the beloved Son alone. In Him we are baptized, the youngest and oldest, from the first day to the last day and to the everlasting Day, the mentally able and mentally disabled, fast to learn and slow to learn, men and women, all colors and races.

Now many did listen to Jesus but have their own plans for the vineyard and for building the Church apart from His Word and His Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the beloved Son. Psalm 3:  Salvation belongs to the Lord. Tenant Israel forgot that. We don’t own salvation, the Savior does. When the Church forgets we that too are all tenant farmers in the Lord’s vineyard, as He is the vine and we are the branches, then we think life comes from us, but it’s death.  Salvation belongs to the Lord so we belong to the Savior and love Him for His mercy and grace to us on Golgotha. The Apostle Paul owned it, that is a co-owner of Israel, Paul recited his credentials in Israel, impeccable.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— But he counted all as skubula,

When Peter confessed Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lord said that upon Peter’s confession, “I will build my church”. He knows what He is doing. The Lord is quite capable.    The apostle Paul wrote Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Church, not the varieties of religious and spiritual experiences everyone has had, not the pope nor Luther.  The Church is His Body, His bride for our life He died.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127, verse 1 and in this Psalm the word speaks of two houses:  Jerusalem and families. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  The Lord, in His death and resurrection, in repentance and faith, has the building plan, for His Church and for your families in the Church.  If we build either house, on our own, the results will be less than true, false…in vain. Unless the LORD builds the Church, they labor in vain those who build it.  You are His church, His Temple, His vineyard.  Look what happens when plans and modes are rushed in for the Church and the family. It is infinitely easier to build a church building, than it is the Church of Jesus Christ.  Only He can build the Church, His Body.  After Peter confessed that Jesus is the Son of the living God, our Lord declared, Upon this rock, this confession, I will build My Church.  The world has all sorts of plans for Church and family.  For the Church, the world says, why don’t you get your doctrine up to date? 

“Everything will be quite different when you as a Church cease to have such an entirely different flavor – when you cease to practice preaching which is the opposite of what the world around you preaches. You really must suit your message to the world; you really must bring your creed into harmony with the present. Then you will again become influential and powerful.”

So preached Pr. Martin Niemoller in Berlin in 1933 as the Nazis began their persecution of the Church. 

There is no plan for His Church except Him, Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit  in the glory of God the Father, the plan for Church and family laid out in the Scriptures. 

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

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“It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.

Let me tell you something, friend, it is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth, than to be loved for telling a lie. It is impossible to find anyone in the Bible who was a power for God who did not have enemies and was not hated. It’s better to stand alone with the truth, than to be wrong with a multitude.

It is better to ultimately succeed with the truth than to temporarily succeed with a lie. There is only one Gospel and Paul said, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed”.”

(Excerpts from Pastor Adrian Rodgers’ talk at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in 1996; Pr. Rodgers was president of the Southern Baptist Convention)

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