Archive for July, 2019

Biography:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge,England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled “Sententiae.” Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, Saint Robertus.” (The Treasury of Daily Prayer/CPH)

The following is a quote  by Luther (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer):

This Dr. Robert Barnes we certainly knew, and it is a particular joy for me to hear that our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest has been so graciously called by God to pour out his blood and to become a holy martyr for the sake of His dear Son. Thanks, praise, and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who again, as at the beginning, has granted us to see the time in which His Christians, before our eyes and from our eyes and from beside us, are carried off to become martyrs (that is, carried off to heaven) and become saints. 

Now, since this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes, heard at the time that his King Henry VIII of England was opposed to the pope, he came back to England with the hope of planting the Gospel in his homeland and finally brought it about that it began. To cut a long story short, Henry of England was pleased with him, as is his way, until he sent him to us at Wittenberg in the marriage matter.[1]

Dr. Robert Barnes himself often said to me: Rex mews non curat religionem, Sed est, etc. [“My king does not care about religion, but he is,” etc.]. Yet he loved his king and homeland so keenly that he willingly endured everything like that and always thought to help England .And it is indeed true that one who would not be optimistic toward his homeland and would not wish everything good for his prince must be a shameful rogue, as not only the Scriptures but also all our laws teach. He always had these words in his mouth: Rex mews, regem meum [“my king, my king”], as his confession indeed indicates that even until his death he was loyal toward his king with all love and faithfulness, which was repaid by Henry with evil. Hope betrayed him. For he always hoped his king would become good in the end.

Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.[2]

 Reflection:  The narrative of St. Robertus is an illustration of the Biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms as rediscovered by the blessed Reformers.  According to Romans 13, the Lord rules through temporal kingdoms, or nations, for the well-being of temporal order, peace, security and the like and then through His kingdom, His spiritual reign through the coming of His reign, in the crucifixion, Resurrection and ascension of His beloved Son, and His reign is eternal. As the Lord rules through both, Christians are citizens of both and St. Robert did want to serve his King. We are to do our best as Americans to be “optimistic” in regards to our “homeland” and “wish everything good” for our government, and that is enough.  The temporal kings (rulers, president, prime ministers and the like) are placed there by God but not as God!  When any government, or church, would tell us not to preach and teach Jesus Christ, in word and/or deed, nor the 10 Commandments, then we respond with the Apostle’s words:  “We must obey God rather than men”  (Acts 5:29). As Robert did and as Roman Catholic Thomas More, who did not agree with the King on the marriage matter said just before his execution, likewise ordered by King Henry VIII:  “The king’s good servant, but God’s first.”  So with St. Robert and as Christians we are the king’s better servants because our hope is not for this world alone.

We give thanks for the martyrs in our day in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya who obeyed the Lord and not the state.

“Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.

[1] The “marriage matter”, or the “great matter” was King Henry the VIII’s desire to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, and the only way a divorce was granted was by the Pope’s annulment of a marriage.  The Pope did not so grant, so the King, who had considered himself a devout Roman Catholic, eventually declared himself the head of the Church in England.  The monarchs of the United Kingdom have been the head of the Church of England ever since.  This struggle to separate the English Church from the Roman Church was a time of great turmoil resulting in more than the execution of St. Robert Barnes, such as the beheading of Henry’s faithful Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More. Luther was not for the divorce.

[2] As it is written in Ephesians, our struggle is not against flesh and  blood but against the powers and principalities in the heavenly places. Our prayer is for the Lord’s vengeance against wrongdoing and wrong doers, make no mistake about that, but not as Christians to slay the wicked! As Pastor Andrew Preus wrote in his article “Learning to Pray from the Imprecatory Psalms”:

“The devil would love to make us cry out curses with our own words and our own thoughts out of our own pride. James and John asked Jesus concerning the Samaritans who did not receive him, “Lord, should we tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:54)?” But the imprecatory psalms don’t have us call the fire down. They have us rather call God down. God is the one who brings vengeance (Deut 32:35Rom 12:19). And he does this in his own time and wisdom as he reveals his own patience toward us and all sinners (2 Pet 3:9). Therefore Jesus rebuked his overzealous disciples. What begins with anger against injustice can, if the devil and the flesh are given opportunity, turn into prideful curses that reflect the will of the beast (Rev. 13:13) rather than the will of God.”

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Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (St. John 11:5).” 

About Mary, Martha and Lazarus:  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”  On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”  When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).  Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  Many people think as Martha, It is what we offer to Jesus that matters. And He better notice and give me some help.  Mary knew better:  it was what  Jesus offered her that mattered and changed her and Martha, and you and I.  For instance:  When I was a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America it was said many times, “The word liturgy means “work of the people”.   The second syllable of “liturgy” is “ourgia”:  work.  I heard this so many times in 20 plus years…ad nauseam.  Then I reread The Apology of the Augsburg Confession and the word liturgy is given its right meaning.  Yes, ourgia, as in ergonomics, work, and the first syllable is public: the public works of God in His Word Sacraments for us and our salvation, not first our work. From The Apology:

“Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings; the righteousness of the law is that worship which offers God our own merits. It is by faith that God wants to be worshiped, namely, that we receive from Him what He promises and offers.”

There are two types of worship: the worship by the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of grace. Mary was at the feet of Jesus in the righteousness of His grace, His Word which forgives, heals and lifts us up.

Just think, this very article will be read by people around the earth. This was not possible to do from home some 20 years ago but we cannot be constantly amazed by all of this.  Adoring the creation of our hands is idolatry.  It is the Lord who gave us the mind and brains to make stuff to relieve hardship, explore, wonder and wander. Even greater is our Father’s love and mercy to save sinners by the giving of His Son and His love to still so serve our neighbor as the Lord is our God and our neighbor.

Our “ourgia” does not save us. Mary knew that.  Martha did not… at that time.  Martha would.  In John’s Gospel, Martha confesses Jesus is the Christ, chapter 11, after the death of her and sister’s brother.   This is the good portion, one thing that is needed that they both heard and believed.  Mary meets Jesus on the road and again falls at His feet and cries out that my brother would not have died if you had been here.  She knew whom to turn to as did Martha.  In the whole tangled mess of anxiety and trouble, the sisters turned not to themselves but Him and His Word. Our spirituality likewise is God’s Word, every Word in the Bible, every Word sung and prayed, every Word faithfully taught and preached, the one thing needful, daily repentance turning toward Him our Sabbath Lord.  Sabbath teaches we cannot save the world, let alone ourselves.  The one thing needful is His Word of grace, mercy and peace to do the one thing needed: being taught His Word and to help and serve our neighbor in our various vocations. We so serve not to be saved but because we are saved by grace, grace alone.

“You shall observe the worship day/that peace may fill your house, and pray./And put aside the work you do, /So that God may work in you.”/Have mercy, Lord!” (LSB #581)

 Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Luther on Music: Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions . . . which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them. No greater commendation than this can be found—at least not by us.

Bach was dubbed the 5th evangelist. This has been demonstrated in our day by the fact that Bach’s music is very popular in highly secularized Japan. Japan’s Christian population is a minority but Bach’s Christian (and Lutheran!) music has been popular in the Land of the Rising Sun for a long time. The hope is that Japan will be one day the Land of Rising Son…as well as here in the United States.

In an interview in Crux, a Roman Catholic website, with Uwe Siemen-Netto, a Lutheran and a journalist and theologian, he describes the reasons for the impact of Bach on the Japanese: How Bach’s music evangelized Japan by Mary Rezac (June 4, 2016).

Here is a quote from the article in Crux. Mr. Siemen-Netto’s answer is also an answer to the banality of ‘Christian’ music today in the light of the Gospel in the music of Bach:

Why is it that beauty, such as in Bach’s music, opens the mind and heart to God?

Of the members of the hard sciences, mathematicians tend to be the ones more inclined to be believers, and that is because of the beauty of mathematics.

Which leads us to Bach, because there’s a strong mathematical element in Bach’s music, so the beauty of God is reflected in the universe, it’s reflected in your surroundings…and it’s reflected, of course, in the music by which faith is brought to man.

One of the reasons that I am so ardently opposed to contemporary liturgies, or non-liturgical worship, is because in contemporary liturgies, you have these nonsense, asinine noises being made, and you have the altar replaced by a drum set, and people screaming about and shouting the same garbage, just repeating the same thing. That is not beauty, and I think it is counterproductive theologically to do that – this is my personal prejudice.

I am fervently in favor of a full liturgy that has been brought to us through the ancient Church. It’s the vehicle by which God might make himself known. To me it’s incomprehensible how anyone could say that the creation of the universe was a random operation when it’s so beautifully organized and structured, that’s just crap, it makes you sound so ridiculous, but it is not that which saves the world, it is a vehicle. Christ’s work at the cross for us has and is saving the world.

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This is the first Commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy soul, and with thy might according as you are able. The sign that you love God, is this, that you love your fellow man; and if you hate your fellow, your hatred is towards God. For it is blasphemy if you pray before God while you are wrathful. For your heart also convicts you, that in vain you multiply words: your conscience rightly judges that in your prayers you profit nothing.  Christ as He hung on the height of the tree, interceded for His murderers; and you (who are) dust, son of the clay, rage fills you at its will. You keep anger against your brother; and do you yet dare to pray? Even he that stands on your side, though he is not a neighbor to your sins, the taint of iniquity reaches unto him, and his petition is not heard. Leave off rage and then pray; and unless you would further provoke, restrain anger and then you shall offer supplications. And so, the other will not encounter you in fury, banish rage from that body, because it is held by lusts.

You have a spiritual nature; the soul is the image of the Creator; honor the image of God, by being in agreement with all men. Remember death, and be not angry, that your peace be not of constraint. If your life remains to you, cleanse your soul from wrath; for if it should go to Sheol with time, your road will be straight to Gehenna. Keep not anger in your heart; hold not fury in your soul; you hast not power over your soul, save to do that which is good. You have been bought with the blood of God; you have been redeemed by the passion of Christ; for your sake He suffered death, that you might die to your sins. His face endured spitting, that you might not shrink from scorn. Vinegar and gall, did He drink, that you might be set apart from wrath. He received stripes on His body, that you might not fear suffering. If you have been in truth His servant, fear your holy Lord; if you have been His true disciple, walk in your master’s footsteps. Endure scorn from your brother, that you may be the companion of Christ. Display not anger against man, that you be not set apart from your Redeemer.

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Acts 12:
12 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword

Prayer of the Day

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Readings: Acts 11: 27-12: 5  Psalm 56   Romans 8: 28-39   St. Mark 10: 35-45

About: St. James and his brother John, sons of Zebedee and Salome (see Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40), were fishermen in the Sea of Galilee who were called with Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22). In the Gospel lists of Jesus’ disciples, James is listed following Peter and preceding John. Together these three appear as leaders of the Twelve. Because James precedes John, it is reasoned that James is the elder of the brothers. The Book of Acts records that James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I, probably between AD 42 and 44 (Acts 12:1-2). Thus James is the first of the Twelve to die a martyr and the only apostolic martyrdom recorded in the Bible. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  Our Lord equipped His apostles for suffering (see Matthew 10:17-19).  Matthew 10 is the Lord’s sermon to the Apostles after He called them.  He equips the apostolic Church with the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the redemption Jesus would win for us all upon the Cross. The message of the Christ and His Cross will be met with opposition.  James the Elder (or Greater) was the first apostolic martyr.  

We want to witness glory and fame, wealth and power, especially in our lives, and the guarantee of such  is “mammon” (Matthew 6:24).  We want to be number 1,even in the Faith as the successful, vibrant congregation(s). So many churches sacrificed doctrine and morality to be “relevant”, to be popular, that  is, fame. The petition from the Collect of the Day is especially poignant in these days: 

Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone.

James and John keenly wanted to use divine power:

Luke 9:53-55 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them

James and his brother John were especially susceptible to that lust for fame as they wanted to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand when He came in power (see today’s Gospel reading).  Jesus named James and his brother John “Boanerges”, that is the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), possibly because of their impetuous nature and temperament.  James and John  asked the Lord, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (today’s Gospel reading). This verse maybe the first example of the false, “name it and claim it”  practice. The disciple cannot demand of His Lord what the Lord gives only by His command and grace. They asked Him to sit on His right and left hand when He came in glory.  James and John did  sit on His left and right hand:  in martyrdom. They were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and preached Christ.  As Jesus taught them that in the reign of God it is not about being number 1, lording it over others, but serving each other under the Lord.  The Lord Himself, “… came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (vs. 45).  

As Americans we crave to be number 1 but whom we remember in our lives are those who gave of their lives for us and who taught us Christ. James no longer sought his own fame, but proclaimed the Name above all names that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow (see Philippians 2)  The Lord gave His life for us and for our salvation and John the Elder preached Jesus Christ.

Lord, curb our vain impatience For glory and for fame.  Equip us for such suff-rings As glorify Your Name. (“By All Your Saints in Warfare, Lutheran Service Book, #518, stanza 21)

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Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, restored Mary Magdalene to health and called her to be the first witness of His resurrection. Heal us from all our infirmities, and call us to know You in the power of Your Son’s unending life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Readings:  Proverbs 31: 10-31   Psalm 73: 25-28  Acts 13: 16-31  St. John 20: 1-2, 10-18

About St. Mary Magdalene: Whenever the New Testament Gospels name the women who were with Jesus, Mary Magdalene is listed first (John 19:25 is the only exception), perhaps because she was the first to see the risen Savior alive. Luke 8:2 reports that Jesus had cured her of being possessed by seven demons. Through the centuries, she has often been identified with the repentant “woman of the city” who anointed Jesus’ feet as He sat at the table in the Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36—50). But there is no biblical basis for this identification of her with a penitent prostitute. Nor is she to be identified with Mary, the sister of Martha, in Bethany. According to the Gospels, Mary Magdalene saw Jesus die; she witnessed His burial; and, most important, she was the first to see Him alive again after His resurrection (John 20:  11-18). It is for good reason that Bernard of Clairvaux calls her “the apostle to the apostles”.

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved. (Quoted in Festivals and Commemorations, Augsburg Publishing House, 1980,  Pr. Philip H. Pfatteicher

Mary Magdalene was so distraught at the tomb that she did not recognize it was the Lord, but when He said one word, in a twinkling of an eye she knew who it was:

St. John 20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Earlier in St. John’s Gospel, the Lord teaches:

St. John 10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

The Lord calls us by name.  We are baptized into the Name of the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  He opens the door into His sheepfold, His Church. There is no other way to get in by our merits, works and/or spiritual experiences. Repentance is admitting the truth about our wrongs and sin, and confessing the freedom by which Christ has set us free. Mary Magdalene heard the Good Shepherd’s voice calling her by name and she called upon the Name  of the Lord in His so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3).  He calls you.  Mary Magdalene was called and she called  out to the disciples:  He is risen! (cf. St. John 20:  18).  The Lord calls us to do the same, both as the Church and when called upon, one to one (1 Peter 3:15). 

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Pro-Life Update

From National Review, July 29, 2019, page 6:

Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic operated on an unborn child last spring, to repair her spina bifida. She was delivered near full term on June 3, a little more than 13 weeks after the surgery. Darrell Cass, the lead surgeon, explained that the operation gave the patient her best chance of being able to walk and to “be as good as she can be with spina bifida.” It was a first for the Clinic, a renowned hospital with a global reputation, although doctors performed the first fetal surgeries nearly 40 years ago. The practice continues to grow and improve. About 20 hospitals in the United States offer the specific surgery now available at the Clinic. This development has obvious implications for the abortion debate. You don’t need us to spell them out. Advances in fetal surgery are an unalloyed good. Take a moment to salute them.

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About Ezekiel:  Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem — including Ezekiel — to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-16). Ezekiel’s priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example, Ezekiel 9-10and 40-48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1–32). Jerusalem would certainly fall and the exiles would not quickly return — the just consequences of their sins. Especially in the early part of the book, much of what the Lord “said” to His people was delivered in the form of action prophecies. In these, Ezekiel acted out representations of coming events pertaining to the fall of Judah, the destruction of the temple, and the seeming end of the Davidic line of kings. These action prophecies included the eating of the scroll (3:1-2), being struck with dumbness (3:22-27), sketching of the city of Jerusalem (4:1-3), lying on one side and then the other (4:4-8), eating restricted rations cooked on a fire of dried dung (4:9-17), and shaving his hair and beard with a sword before dividing the hair (5:1-4). Some seem a bit strange at first glance, once we understand their meaning and context, their messages are quite easily comprehended. Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that his people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom (Ezekiel 33-48). Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel’s prophecies was later employed in the Revelation to Saint John. Among these are the visions of the four living creatures as seen in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18: 23

Ezekiel called a thing what it was.  He did not call sinfulness, “dysfunctional behavior”, he called it wickedness, as did his brother prophets.  The question of morality is not about psychology but spirituality. The only way the word wicked is said in our day is maybe, “Oh, that was wicked”, that is, something that is actually good. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, we do not need a big brother state to enforce “newspeak”. We are sadly apt and proficient in perverting the plain meaning of words. 

The divinely inspired prophet leveled the Word of God at wickedness, but not only toward other nations, but primarily his own nation, Israel.  All the prophets primarily  preached.

Was Israel wicked?  Answer:  Yes.  

By what standard did the prophets know Israel was wicked?  Answer:  The Law of God.  

Was the Lord and His prophet’s goal to destroy Israel in it’s wickedness?  Answer:  No, but as we read above, the goal was repentance and life in His Name.

The Church in the United States is wicked and full of dead men’s bones.  Marriage between man and woman is denied.  Abortion is promoted.  Divorce is winked at.  The poor are extolled while we worship our unappeasable appetites.  Celebrity is likewise extolled and adored while saintliness is considered antiquated, in other words, Christians are practicing idolaters.  Good works as salvation via social activism is openly promoted while faith is assumed.  At church assemblies people know more about Robert’s Rules of Order, than the Lord’s rules, that is, the Law of God.  The newest fads of  ‘theology’ are published or lectured and the Bible is denied at dizzying speed in our cyber-culture. Christians are more interested in updating their Facebook status than in improving their hearts and souls through the Word of God.  A comfortable Christ is preached but not the crucified Christ. We worship on our derrieres on padded pews and want our worship likewise padded, but not desiring the comfort of the Gospel for sinners.  As there really are no ‘sinners’, no one is wicked.  

I think it was unintentional prophecy when the Lutheran Book of Worship came out and the verses  from 1 John 1 was incorporated into public Confession and Absolution:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Church  in the United States has done a good job in making Christ a “liar”,  by saying there is no sin or we voted this or that sin out at our last church assembly/convention.  The denial of sin denies His great salvation to transform man.  The result is  many churches fooling themselves and thereby calling God a liar.  The Lord called Satan, “the father of lies”.  This should give us pause.   The churches are wicked. The Lord God sent His Son into our wickedness and it is His Cross that moves us to see what wickedness has wrought: our death so the Savior can give us life by washing us in His blood shed for the wicked that we may repent.  The following quote is from Spiritual Meditations by Pastor Johann Gerhard:

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife, but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and will as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth ; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. V. 26).

 Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Ezekiel, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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Elijah in the cave

The prophet Elijah, whose name means “My God is Yahweh [the LORD],” prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel primarily during the reign of Ahab (874-853 BC).Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of Yahweh. Elijah was called by God to denounce this  idolatry and to call the people of Israel, to the worship of Yahweh as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20-40). Elilia., was a rugged and imposing figure, living the wilderness and dressing in a garment of  camel’s hair and a leather belt (1 Kings 18:20-40).He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. Many miracles were done through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17.17-24) and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1). At the end of his ministry, he was taken up into heaven while Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later, the prophet Malachi proclaimed that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6), a prophecy that was fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The narrative of Elijah begins at 1 Kings 17: 1 and ends with Elijah’s assumption into heaven, II Kings 2: 12.  

Elijah had a tumultuous ministry because it was a tumultuous time.  The Kingdom of Israel, after the death of Solomon, was divided into two kingdoms in 922 BC: Israel (Northern Kingdom or Ephraim) and Judah (Southern Kingdom) by the Lord due to the sin of Solomon and his son.  There were nineteen kings in the Northern Kingdom, of which seven were killed by their successors.

 In the Northern Kingdom, the Lord sent His prophets to proclaim His Word to a wayward Israel for 2 centuries.  Elijah was one of the greatest. The worse of the kings of the north was Ahab  with the power behind the throne,  his wife Jezebel, an idolater, a Sidonian. Jezebel brought her false gods into the Northern Kingdom and the King allowed it. Elijah is introduced into the narrative without explanation and my guess is that his reputation preceded him.  In a confrontation, Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal that Ahab had allowed into the Lord’s Temple at the behest of his pagan wife, Jezebel. Here was the King’s response: 

17When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.  (1 Kings 18)

Ahab was right that Elijah was troubling Israel.  Elijah was bringing the good fight of faith to the world of politics and religion. Ahab and Jezebel actions were not unexpected, but…

 “(They) are not really actions.  They are reactions.  Elijah is the aggressor, and so is the Church, if we do not forget ourselves.  The Church does mean to do harm to unbelief, injustice, and wickedness.  We mean to cast down every vain imagination and every thought that exalts itself against Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 10: 1-5), to proclaim the Gospel until all knees bow down and every tongue confess Jesus is the Christ.” (1 and 2 Kings, commentary by Peter Leithart)

Sexual immorality and violence go hand-in-hand with idolatry because idolatry focuses everything upon the Old Adam and our lust to power.  “…all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart” (Francis Thompson, +1907).  Spoiler alert:  The Assyrian Empire conquered the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC. The Babylonian Empire would do the same to Judah in 586 BC.   Before Israel and Judah were destroyed from the outside, they had destroyed themselves from the inside.

Elijah spoke the Truth to power and power did not like it:  read again the Gospels on John the Baptizer and King Herod Antipas. In our day, political and religious leaders have, “…abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals”, usually the Baals of their own fallen hearts.

When  Elijah finds out that Jezebel has sworn to kill him, he goes on a long journey to Mt. Sinai, the very mountain of God of the 10 Commandments.  He desires to die for Israel as Moses did. Elijah goes into a cave.  The Lord knows where he is.  And after,  a great wind, an earthquake and fire, the Lord’s voice, His Word is heard in “a small still voice” (1 Kings 19: 12, KJV).  The next time we hear of Elijah is when he and Moses are speaking with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration about His “departure”, in Luke’s Gospel, literally, His exodus: not to flee from slavery but to free all those in slavery (Luke 9:29-31).

We too follow the Baals of our fallen hearts. Jesus has come to save us from ourselves.  You can’t whitewash Old Adam, only the Lord can make us clean. All come to faith, not by the powerful deeds of Jesus, His miracles,  but by the small still anguished voice from the Cross, mercy’s greatest deed in world history,  which cries over the wastes and wrath of our times:  “It is finished”.  Finished are the idolatries over the  hearts of men resulting in sin and death. The King upon the Cross did what no earthly kingly would ever do or could ever do:  die for His subjects and bearing their sins to set us free, so we can be His sons and daughters.  Freed from sin and death, to take the fight of the Lord and His eternal life in our day and time to the principalities and powers. This thought frightens me, but as the Lord pointed out to Elijah that there were others with and for Elijah and the Lord: the 7,000 who have not knelt to Baal. The Lord has put us into His Church. The Lord’s weakness is greater than man’s greatest strengths for His encouragement and strength in the good fight of faith: 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.(1 Corinthians 1;  emphasis my own)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elijah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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The religion of environmentalism wants to “save the planet”, save the world, not ‘merely’ conserve our natural resources…but salvation of a planet.

This type of thought is not unique in human history.  The history of man is a graveyard of nations, tyrants and political philosophies trying to “save the world”. 

  • Communism promised that if the “workers of the world unite”, under the banner of Marxism then we will have no more economic equality in the “classless society”. 
  • The French Revolution sought the perfect society of liberty, equality and fraternity by casting out the superstitious doctrines of the Church.  They even made the Cathedral of Chartres into a “Temple of Reason”.  
  • There have been many utopian planners creating perfect micro societies over the centuries such as Jim Jones. 
  • Then there has been a long tragic history from Assyria to the Roman Empire to the Nazis, each creating their ‘perfect’ cultures that would last a 1,000 years.

What has been the usual result of all these philosophies and movements to create the perfect society?  Answer:  tyranny and destruction, sometimes on mass scales. The result has been the exact opposite of perfection.  For instance, the promise of the French revolution did not create liberty, equality nor fraternity in the Reign of Terror but slavery, elitism and hatred of man.

Then there are Christians inventing new ways to save the Church and the world, apart from Jesus Christ. Tactics, schemes, programs will get the people in! We spin our wheels in the mud of our ideas expecting to get the Church going! 

In terms of the nations of the world, one of the most salutary statements of governance is in the Preamble of Constitution of the United States, and this phrase: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”.  Note that it says we are trying to create a more perfect Union, not a perfect union! This is realistic in terms of this world politics. This may be one reason that the United States has avoided tyranny.  Now, with denial of Judeo-Christian Biblical ethic, elitists think they CAN create a perfect society devoid of all the “isms”, except of course, there own.  They have no God but the god they create to make for a perfect union. The word “utopia” and it’s word origin means “no place”! There has been no place for a perfect nation, culture or society.

All the above is summed up in the dictum:   The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.  We have to stop trying to save ourselves, but will we ever learn? Learn, yes, do:  Not on our own.

All of this is worldly salvation. There is salvation of the world by removing the choke-hold of worldliness from the heart of the man in the Man, Jesus Christ, true God who was crucified under the tyrannies of state and religion. The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world for our ‘salvation’.  The devil has not stopped showing us the same. The world is the world of man, apart from the Lord God, now bent in upon itself.  A Bible study of the word “world” (Greek: “cosmos”) is most instructive. The world is its own God.  We don’t have to save ourselves on our own.  Christ has and this is still the joyous news the Church proclaims for a more perfect union in the Lord till He comes in glory.

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