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Archive for August, 2019

I also think it is significant that the Lord’s Day, the Third Day in which He rose again from the dead, is the 1st day of the week, NOT MONDAY! First things first to properly put into peace, not craziness, the work week: His Word of Law and Promise.

Concordia and Koinonia

Indeed, how did ‘our‘ Sundays get so crazy?!  This article in the 8/28/11 Parade magazine has  7 or so steps you can do to “take back YOUR weekend” (emphases my own).  The article points out that so many activities and chores are shoved into Saturday and Sunday. ‘Church’ is even listed at the end of the list as one of the activities. And of course, that is the last mention of ‘church’ in the article.

This article points to  the 3rd Commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

In his teaching on the Commandment, Martin Luther says that the general worker needs a day of rest, but that’s all it becomes.  Even worse for all sorts of folks who, “…sin against this commandment who grossly misuse and desecrate the holy day, as those who on account of their greed or frivolity neglect to hear God’s Word…

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We turn to You, the Lord our God and as best as we can give we give You thanks.  We beseech You that in Your goodness You will hear our prayers and by Your power:  drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us Your holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end through Your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.            

 (A prayer adapted from a benediction by which St. Augustine ended at least two of his sermons)

About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian: Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and aprolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  St. Augustine was contemporary to the fall of Rome.  This is from a summary of Augustine’s magnum opus, The City of God (Sparknotes: “St. Augustine: The City of God”) and what prompted the Bishop to write this book: 

In A.D. 410, a pivotal moment in Western history, the Vandals, under the command of their king, Alaric, captured the city of Rome. Rome was known as the Eternal City because the Romans thought that it would literally never fall, and the year 410 shook this belief to its foundations and ultimately led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world itself seemed to have been destroyed, and everyone sought answers about what to do and what to believe in. Those who adhered to the waning pagan faith were quick to blame the Christians, claiming that the gods had abandoned Rome because many Romans had forsaken them and taken the new faith. These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state, and they advocated forgiveness toward enemies.(emphasis my own)

One of the accusations that pagan Romans leveled at Christians was ‘atheism’. Why? Christians were not worshipers of the gods and goddesses of the Empire and so they were considered to be non-believers or atheists. Given the Roman definition, the Romans were correct about their accusation.

As the quote above indicates, Romans considered the gods and goddesses as instrumental for Rome’s success, and so the further charge of not being patriotic, or  traitorous atheism.  God and the state were considered one, even to the point that the State was god in the form of the Caesars who proclaimed themselves deities.  Christians did not serve the State as god. The revolution in Christ then and now is Christians prayed for Caesar but not to Caesar (Pr. Lou Smith).  The accusation that the Christians serve God rather than the state is one we hope will be heard in our day as well.

We are living in Roman times.  When God is removed from the public square then the State will become god, or the State will become the church (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus).  We might be there and while the world burns, churches fiddle as Nero did when Rome burned.  Churches fiddling around with changing worship services, dumbing down doctrine to no doctrine at all, accepting immorality as ‘alternative lifestyles’ or identifying the Christian faith as an American value. Then we wonder the reason no one knows basic Christian doctrine! If we were a Christian nation, then we would be persecuted.  Most ‘Christians’ do not need concern themselves about persecution.

St. Augustine, with the Church, out thought, out prayed and so by God’s grace alone, out lived the fall of an empire.  We see the shaking of the foundations in our day and time. We serve in the city of man as good citizens and as citizens in the Kingdom of God, the Reign of Christ through His Word coming into the world and finally when He comes in glory. The Lord’s Church cannot be fooling around any longer, we do not have the luxury to do so.  St. Augustine, as a faithful Pastor and theologian, meant he cared for God’s people through the Word and cared for the Word as a faithful theologian. We do not need mega-congregation super star pastors who write shallow best-selling books of works righteousness, but those who love the Lord and under Him, serve and care for that Word for all people in our earthly cities, by God’s grace in Jesus Christ for us sinners. We are great at feeling but in the Lord and His Word, may we better in thinking.  We are much afraid these days as I would guess the Romans were in their day as their civilization collapsed under the hubris of their insatiable flesh.  Before his conversion, Augustine knew about feeding the flesh.  His Mother, Monica, constantly prayed for her son. We can feed the flesh. We need to hear the Word of the Lord and in that Word spend time with saints like Augustine in the way they lived and what they preached, taught and prayed in Christ: 

For further and better reflection:

Christmas Day:  Third Mass, John 1:   1—14, also addressed to the newly Baptized:

“For from the Gentiles we have come, and in our forefathers we worshiped idols of stone.  So we also have been called dogs (Mt. 25: 26)…But to you grace, has come.  As many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God.  See!  You have come here newly-born (by baptism):  he gave them power to be made the sons of God.  To whom did he give it? To them that believe in His Name.  And how do they become the children of God?  Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. They are born of God, when they have received the power to become sons of God…The first birth is from a male and a female;  the second from God and from the Church.  Behold they are born of God…How has this come to be?  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.  Wondrous exchange!…Lift up your heart to the possession and enjoyment of higher things.  Do not stick fast in earthly cravings. You have been purchased at a price:  for your sake the Word was made flesh.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent, on John 6:  1—15:

“For the daily ordering of this whole world is a greater miracle than the feeding of five thousand men from five loaves.”

“We must also ask the miracles what is it they tell us of Christ:  for they have, if we understand it, their own manner of speech.  For as Christ is the Word of God, any deed of the Word is a sermon to us.”

Easter Sunday, on Mark 16: 1—8, addressed also to the newly Baptized:

“For this divine condescension cannot be truly understood, and human thought and language fails us, that without previous merit on your part this free gift has come to you.  And for this do we call it a grace:  because it is given gratis.  And what grace is this? That you are now members of Christ, Children of God; that you are brothers of the Only-Begotten!”

Second Sunday after Easter, on John 10:   11—16

“To you it is not said:  be something less than you are;  but rather, learn what you are. Know that you are weak, know that you a man, know that you are a sinner; know that it is He Who sanctifies you;  know that you are stained by sin.  Let the blemish in your soul be made manifest in your confession, and you shall belong to the flock of Christ.  For the confession of your sins invites the Physician to heal  you; just as when he who is sick says, ‘a am well’, he desires no help from the physician.  Did not the Pharisee and the Publican go up into the Temple?  The one boasted of how strong his soul was; the other showed his wounds to the Physician.”

Pentecost, on John 14:  23—31

But whom do you say that I am? And Peter as the leader of the others, one speaking for all of them, said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God (Mt. xvi).

This he said perfectly; most truly. Rightly did such an answer deserve to hear: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee, because thou hast said this to me; thou hast spoken: now listen; thou hast confessed: receive in turn a blessing. Therefore: And I say to thee: Thou art Peter: because I am the Rock, thou art Peter; for the Rock is not from Peter, but Peter is from the Rock; because Christ is not from Christian, but Christian is from Christ. Arid upon this rock I will build My Church: not upon Peter (non supra Petruin) who thou art, but upon the Rock (sed supra petrain) Whom thou hast confessed. I will build My church: I will build thee, who in this answer are in your­self the figure of the Church.

16th Sunday after Pentecost, on Luke 14:  1—11

“Do you desire to escape from an angry God?  Then fly to an appeased One:  fly nowhere from Him, only to Him.”

The Feast of All Saints, on Matthew 5: 1—12

 “Riches can indeed perish; and would that they perished before they caused you to perish.”

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St. Monica Prayer Card

About Monica, Mother of Augustine: A  native of North Africa, Monica (AD 333-387) was the devoted mother of St. Augustine. Throughout her life, she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy, on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some Church Year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

From The Confessions of Augustine of Hippo:

(Monica) was brought up in modesty and sobriety. She was made by You obedient to her parents rather than by them to You. When she reached marriageable age, she was given to a man and served him as lord. She tried to win him for You, speaking to him of You by her virtues through which You made her beautiful, so that her husband loved, respected and admired her. She bore with his infidelities and never had a quarrel with her husband on this account. For she looked forward to Your mercy coming upon him, in hope that, as he came to believe in You, he might become chaste….

Another gift with which You endowed at good servant of Yours, in whose womb You created me, my God, my mercy (Ps. 58:18), was that whenever she could, she reconciled dissident and quarrelling people. She showed herself so great a peacemaker that when she heard from both sides many bitter things, Monica would never reveal to one anything about the other unless it might help to reconcile them….

At the end, when her husband had reached the end of his life in time, she succeeded in gaining him for You. After he was a baptized believer, she had no cause to complain of his behavior, which she had tolerated in one not yet a believer. She was also a servant of Your servants: any of them who knew her found much to praise in her, held her in honor, and loved her, for they felt Your presence in her heart, witnessed by the fruits of her holy way of life. She had “testimony to her good works” (1 Timothy 5:10). She had brought up her children, enduring travail as often as she saw them wandering away from You. Lastly, Lord—by Your gift You allow me to speak for Your servants, for before her falling asleep we were bound together in community in You after receiving the grace of Baptism—she exercised care for everybody as if they were all her own children. She served all as if she was a daughter to all of us. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

Scripture:

Proverbs 31: 10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1: 5

Reflection:  Monica’s husband was an adulterer.   She stayed with him.  She was faithful. She probably took literally the Epistle reading:   Ephesians 5:21-23.   She wanted her husband to be her head…but in Christ Jesus.  She is not the model in our day of the liberated woman!  Thank, God.  Her strength was her Lord and she prayed for the conversion of both her husband and their son.  I am not saying that a wife in an abusive marriage should stay.  Monica was not physically abused.  She was, though, spiritually and emotionally hurt by her feckless husband and faithless son.  She persisted in prayer for them.  They were far from the Church and her Lord.  We read and listen to the reports about our children leaving the Church under the banner “spiritual not religious”.  And with that, not wanting children or families.  I wonder how I went wrong as a parent.  What did Monica do?  She prayed in faith to the Lord.   We pray for our children to return to You, O Lord.  We look to You for our forgiveness. Monica is the saint to remind us of prayer.  Her husband and son were baptized.  Maybe our prayers won’t be answered in our life time.  

Monica’s son became one of the most important theologians and pastors whose writings influenced one young monk in the Order of St. Augustine:  Martin Luther.   Augustine’s feast day is tomorrow. Freedom in Christ is praying for someone who may not even want our prayers.  

P.S. and FWIW:  I think a day like this one should be for the Church to serve as Mother’s Day.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son. Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.

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C.S. Lewis

“…we begin to notice besides our particular sinful act, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case.

When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now there may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. ”

― CS Lewis

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A Meme

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About Samuel:  Samuel, last of the Old Testament judges and first of the prophets (after Moses), lived during the eleventh century BC. The child of Elkanah, an Ephraimite, and his wife Hannah, Samuel was from early on consecrated by his parents for sacred service and trained in the house of the Lord at Shiloh by Eli the priest. Samuel’s authority as a prophet was established by God (1 Samuel 3:20). He anointed Saul to be Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 10:1). Later, as a result of Saul’s disobedience to God, Samuel repudiated Saul’s leadership and then anointed David to be king in place of Saul (1 Samuel 16:13). Samuel’s loyalty to God, his spiritual insight, and his ability to inspire others made him one of Israel’s great leaders. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House.)

Almighty God, in Your mercy You gave Samuel to courage to call Israel to repentance and to renew their dedication to the Lord.  Call us to repentance as Nathan called David to repentance, so by the blood of Jesus, the Son of David,  we may receive the forgiveness of all our sins;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord

Reflection:  Samuel’s mother was Hannah.  Hannah was grief stricken that she had no children.  The Lord opened her womb and she gave birth to a son whom she named, Samuel, literally, “God hears”.  Hannah had no choice in the matter of his conception and birth. (1 Sam. 1)

In thankfulness for her son’s birth, she devoted him to the priesthood in Shiloh, under the priest Eli.  The infant Samuel had no choice. (1 Sam. 1: 11, 24.

When serving in Shiloh, in the middle of the night, while Samuel was sleeping, he heard his name being called.  Samuel thought it was Eli calling and Samuel ran to the priest and said, Here I am, you called, but Eli said it wasn’t him.  When this happened the third time, Eli realized that it was LORD calling the lad.  Then, the LORD laid out His plans for the immoral priesthood in Shiloh and Samuel was called to be the LORD’s prophet. Samuel was not angling to be a judge and a prophet. Again, Samuel had no choice. (1 Sam. 2)

Samuel was born into a time in Israel in which it was under the overpowering threat of the Philistines. The Philistines captured the Ark of God (1 Sam. 4: 1ff).  Eli’s sons, also priests, were immoral:  they stole the sacrifices for their stomachs and for their lust, hooked-up with women who came to worship in Shiloh.  Samuel had no choice in being born into this time.

It seems that in all of this, this was the Lord’s choosing, His will for Samuel to change the times in which Samuel was called by the Word of the Lord. Samuel would be a kingmaker as he anointed the first Kings of Israel:  Saul and David.  This too was the LORD’s choice.

We live in a time in which we think we have sovereign choice in so much of life.  We  think we are pro-choice in so many ways, but we cannot choose our families, our DNA, our sex, our intelligence nor our natural abilities.  We think we can choose our friends but even they are given to us. Like C. S. Lewis wrote,

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’”

The secret master of ceremonies was at work in Israel and Shiloh in Hannah and her son. We think we can re-invent ourselves, when it is the LORD re-orienting us to Himself as He did with Hannah and Samuel. Only the sovereign LORD has sovereign choice. Maybe the only choice any one us can make is what kind of toothpaste we want. Yet, we do make choices and they tend to be sinful, and even evil.  Pro-choice today means killing a child in the womb.  We are very pro-choice in breaking the 10 Commandments. And so, our perversion and illusion of choice, in the bondage of the will goes viral these days:  that I can choose my sex (downgraded to “gender”).  We rail against who we are which is no choice of our own.

We do not like the choices that have been given to us by the secret master of ceremonies.  When the Apostle Paul was called, still going by the name Saul, the Lord said to him by Paul’s testimony:

“And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

“It is hard for you to kick against the goads”.  What is a goad? An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. The LORD was pushing a reluctant Saul by His sovereign choice and Saul resisted.  When we do not like, don’t understand nor care for the LORD’s choices for us, we too kick against the goads and the more we do, the more we hurt and are exhausted. I have a tendency to kick against the goads.  So did Jonah, and so did Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:10). Maybe this is reason I like quote from The Lord of Rings when Frodo was despising the task set before him to bring the Ring to the Land of Mordor:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

And the Lord is our help and our salvation to do just that to do with the time as the LORD has called us. We resist who the LORD has chosen us to be as His own and where and when He has called us to serve and we only hurt ourselves. Hannah did not like being barren and the taunting of her husband’s other wife who had children.  She did not resist the wife and try to harm her.  Instead, Hannah took it to the LORD in prayer. Can we do any less?  And the Lord heard, “Samuel”.    

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Collect of the Day: 

O God, enkindled with the fire of Your love, Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux became a burning and a shining light in Your Church. By Your mercy, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline and may ever walk in Your presence as children of light; through Jesus Christ. our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Bernard: A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the twelfth century AD, Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of twenty-two. After two years, he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some sixty-eight daughter houses. Bernard is remembered not only for his charity and political abilities but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by St. Bernard. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Man can do many impressive things because we are created in the image of God.  Man’s reason and capabilities still have the broken fragments of the image of God in them and do great things so that wemarvel at our own ingenuity and invention, but they save only in time and for a time. The image is broken and the darkness of sin lies in the cracks. Any awards show on TV shows us applauding how great we are. Applauding our creations is finally clapping at a mirror.

There is an intimate urgency in man that cries:  there must be more. Our works do not save. That cry results either in pride or despair, better despair to hear the Gospel for our repair. Pride in our abilities is wrong as we think our talents come from our selves.    We have called our selves “Homo Sapiens” or “Wise Man” and “Homo Faber” or “Creator Man”.  We like to say that so in so, “re-invented himself”. We can invent or create ourselves. We are not self-created and our wisdom is seldom on display these days. As a species, we humans think more highly of ourselves than we ought (cf. Romans 12:3). The Lord holds before our eyes and hearts the perfect icon or image of Himself: His Son upon the Cross (cf. Colossians 1:15).  In Christ, by faith through His grace, we become “Homo Adorans”, worshiping man, worshiping the one true God, “…from Whom all blessings flow”.

Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of this:  

We must hate and shun that presumption which would lead us to glory in goods not our own, knowing that they are not of ourselves but of God, and yet not fearing to rob God of the honor due unto Him…. Ignorance is brutal, arrogance is devilish. Pride only, the chief of all iniquities, can make us treat gifts as if they were rightful attributes of our nature, and, while receiving benefits, rob our Benefactor of His due glory…

Our gifts are not rights due us, but gifts, are, well, gifts! We do need to fear “…to rob God the honor due unto Him”, because in faith in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, everything we see, hear, touch and smell we know by true faith are His gifts toward us and in the fullness of time our redemption in Christ, risen from the dead.  Bernard continued:

The Father of Christ, who makes all things new, is well pleased with the freshness of those flowers and fruits and the beauty of the field that breathes forth such heavenly fragrance. And He says in benediction, “See, the smell of My Son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed” (Gen. 27:27). Blessed to overflowing, indeed, since of His fullness have we all received (John 1:16).

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #172 
Text: Is. 50: 6
Author: Paul Gerhardt
Based on the Latin poem “Salve caput cruentatum”
By Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, asc.
Image result for The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself.

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