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Archive for September, 2019

A Reflection

On this day, the Commemoration of St. Jerome, who translated the Holy Scriptures into Latin and the Bible became accessible to millions upon millions, a reflection:

Churches used to send Bibles to other countries for evangelization. Now in these days in our country, when so many church bodies have left the morals and faith of the catholic Church, disregarding Scripture, maybe we should be sending Bibles to them.

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Concordia and Koinonia

“To be a Christian is a great thing, not merely to seem one. And somehow or other those please the world most…please Christ least…. Christians are made, not born.”-St. Jerome

St. Jerome’s Vulgate Translation:

 St. John 1: 1 In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum:   In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.In ipso vita erat et vita erat lux hominum:   In him was life: and the life was the light of men. 

Prayer of the Day

O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. May those who continue to read, mark, and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of…

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Texts: St. Matthew 18: 10, Hebrews 1: 8, Revelation 19: 9-10

Texts: St. Matthew 18: 10, Hebrews 1: 8, Revelation 19: 9-10

St. Matthew 18: 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven

This has been the verse to support the teaching about “guardian angels” assigned to each of us. But there is no verse that actually states Our Father in heaven assigns angels to each person at birth. Nevertheless, when our Lord teaches about His forgiveness and the little ones, that the little ones have “their angels”, our ears should be alerted as we see the importance the Lord puts on salvation for us all and gives us the same work to us in our time here on earth, as in the hymn verse:

To comfort and to bless,
To find a balm for woe,
To tend the lone and fatherless,
Is angels’ work below.

This verse about “their angels” is from the chapter of Our Lord’s Sermon on Forgiveness in Matthew 18.  The Lord wants the little ones to be saved, the lost, the lone, the last.  He comes to save them and place them, us,  under His wings as a mother hen protects her chicks under her wings.  To even cause of one of these little one to be separated from their Lord, Jesus said, It would be better if a millstone be tied around his neck and he be cast into the sea. Why do we have so many troubles, doubts and divisions and rancor and rage these days? This nation and so many others have murdered so many little ones in the womb, despising the little ones.  The millstone of God’s judgment is around us.

So much our Lord knows we are all little ones, standing in the need of prayer,  that in “…heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is heaven”.  The angels, these powerful, spiritual beings, reflecting our Father in heaven, “love’s pure light”, are concerned about the little ones. So much does the Lord want His little ones to repent and return home to Himself, He taught in Luke 15, Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  The angels of God share in the joy of God over one sinner, one little one, who has come to the Lord.“Guardian angels” is a moot point, yet, it is connected in the Bible with this passage, Hebrews 1: 8 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? So it is clear: Angels minister to us, serve us for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.  So the first aspect of angels is they SERVE.

What else has the Lord assigned angels to do? Revelation 19: 9-10

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Angels share with us this: they worship with us, God, and they hold to the testimony of Jesus:  worship and witness.

                                                                            Worship: 

1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  Isaiah 6: 1-4

The thrice-Holy is sung every time in the Divine Liturgy:  “…with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Thy Holy Name, ever more praising Thee and singing:  Holy, Holy, Holy:  the very song of heaven.  We sing the thrice-Holy just before the Word of Institution. Why do we so sing? The next part of the Thrice-Holy Communion Hymn is:  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. This is the Palm Sunday song as Jesus entered into Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise again. He comes to us in His Body and Blood in the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Witness:

Martyria, testimony of Jesus can be understood as  about Jesus or from Jesus. Which: yes to both. The angels witness about Jesus and from Jesus is clear. Note the angels witness in the life of our Lord upon earth and  gave the testimony from Jesus and about Him: 

  1. At His birth,

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

  • After His three temptations in  the wilderness, the angels comforted Him Matthew 4:11
  • Before His trial and crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.
  • At the empty tomb, angels announced to Mary Magdalene and Peter and John: He is not here, He is risen, Why do ye seek the living among the dead? Tell the message to all.
  • At the Lord’s ascension in heaven, two angels are present.

Serving, worshipping and witnessing:  what ties all three of this together in a tight bond?

Angels means messenger. The word, Gospel is euangelion”,  The word angel in Greek is the same root word in Gospel angelion:  message:  Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good message. The main task of the angels is to be a messenger to relay messages from the Lord to us.  The greatest message any angel or mortal could ever hear or announce, to a mortal, the virgin Mary of Nazareth, was assigned to a chief angel by name, Gabriel:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

115 Years ago, the New York Times added to it’s front page:  “All the news that’s fit to print”. No, it’s not. The Law of God and the Gospel of God are not fit to print in the New York Times nor any worldly media.  The Law of God witnesses to sin and evil, and the Holy Spirit to the One who saves us from both sin and evil. The picture above is from a church in Stuttgart, Germany showing St. Michael casting down the fallen angel, Satan and St. Michael is holding a cross. The Bible does not tell us that Michael was wielding a cross. Yet, this speaks the truth of the “eternal Gospel”, Christ’s death and resurrection by which we die to sin and the devil and live in Christ with the Good Message, the message of the angels, of our Lord’s triumph.

We are baptized to serve the Word of God for others.  We worship the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ.  We witness to the Word of God, the Word made flesh.  There are evil angels cast down to the depths who in their wrath confront us daily in these dark times with enslaving ideas about greed, life, marriage, the purpose of life.  As Philip Melanchthon wrote in a hymn regarding the evil one:

As he of old deceived the world
And into sin and death has hurled,
So now he subtly lies in wait
To undermine both Church and state.

We too can be and

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Their time is short…fallen angels, created beings, which means evil has an end, and that end began in the flesh of the Son of God.  The Word of God ties serving, worshiping and witnessing together in a tight and blessed bond, a bond that frees us from sin, death and power of the devil in the Name of Jesus.

John the Baptist has been portrayed many times in icons sporting a pair of wings but he wasn’t an angel, he was a messenger. When a friend or family member helps us we might say:“ You’re an angel”.  Again, angel means messenger, you and I are  like the angels when we tell of Christ and from Christ: His conception, His birth, His temptations, His ministry, every message, every Word from God, the Lord’s suffering, His crucifixion, His resurrection, the life of His saints from every nations, tribe and tongue. Give the Gospel, the Good Message to someone in need. Be an angel:  Serving, worshipping and witnessing the Word of God as the angels do above and here,  in the Name of…

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The appointed Gospel readings in the 3 year lectionary this year are from St. Luke. Recently, the Gospel was St. Luke 15: 1-10, the Parables of the Lost Sheep and Coin. The third parable is the one about the Prodigal Son, likewise lost. St. Luke 15 is a highlight of the Gospel as our Lord is answering the Pharisee’s accusation that He eats with sinners and tax collectors. The actual central characters in each parable (the Searching Shepherd, the searching Woman Householder and the Searching and Good Father) is our Lord teaching us: this is what the Lord is like and the reason He has come, to search and find the lost, that is sinners. Note that the purpose of each of the searches is repentance, 15:7 and 10, and the return of the lost son, his repentance is the dead now alive (vs. 32). Repentance is the purpose of St. Luke’s Gospels from beginning to end and continuing through St. Luke’s Volume 2: The Acts of the Apostles. This is the purpose of the Old and New Testaments: the joyful return of the lost in repentance. As the risen Lord instructed the disciples:  “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24).”

Too many Christians, conservative and liberal, get it all wrong as well in that Jesus is all about acceptance of sinners: no, the preaching of the good news of the kingdom is ever toward repentance.  I think this is a way to describe the divide in Christianity: The Tale of Two Churches, the Church of acceptance and the Church of repentance.  Which sounds better and sells better and is easier? Sure, acceptance.  “I accept you just the way you are”.  Just sign on the dotted line and you can remain in your sins.  The Lord is not cruel like that. 

We know we are lost when we know we have transgressed God’s Law and seen what we have done and left undone in the eyes of the Lord and our neighbor. And so the so-called ‘church’ of acceptance dumbs down the Law of God in order to make acceptance their central doctrine. They make the the path to destruction wide and easy and many are who find it (St. Matthew 7:13) . They do not preach the Word of Law and Gospel. They have done this to the point of accepting the LGBT, divorce, greed and abortion agenda. These are unbiblical doctrines. They deny the Doctrine of the Atonement.

Image result for wheat and the tares

The ‘church’ of acceptance is filled with ‘social justice warriors’, not spiritual warriors. They are the church of the broadminded and the repentant Church who repents daily is considered to be by them the church of the bigoted. Their central false dogma is tolerance not the truth which sets us free. The two churches look alike as the wheat and the tares (see Matthew 13:24-30) but we can not enforce pure doctrine, nor should we among them but faithfully and boldly preach and teach for the joyful salvation of all. His sound doctrine for all is to come to joyful repentance. Jesus came to find the lost and in finding the lost, the lost now found as they joyfully repented of their burdens of trespass and darkness. The Good Shepherd still does so and so He sent our His apostles to do the very same.   

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In this picture, St. Matthew is NOT saying, Look, at what I have written, but look to Jesus who has written me into the Book of Life and learn from Christ Jesus day by day in all He said and did for the life of the world. This book is not written about me or about thee, but about the Christ for thee.

Prayer of the Day:

O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About St. Matthew: 

St. Matthew, also known as Levi, identifies himself as a former tax collector, one who was therefore considered unclean, a public sinner, outcast from the Jews. Yet it was such a one as this whom the Lord Jesus called away from his occupation and wealth to become a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13). Not only did Matthew become a disciple of Jesus, he was also called and sent as one of the Lord’s twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). In time, he became the evangelist whose inspired record of the Gospel was granted first place in the ordering of the New Testament. Among the four Gospels, Matthew’s portrays Christ especially as the new and greater Moses, who graciously fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and establishes a new covenant of salvation in and with His own blood (26: 27-28).  Matthew’s Gospel is also well-known for the following:

The Visit of the Magi (2: 1-12)

The Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 5-7)

The Institution of Holy Baptism and the most explicit revelation of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28: 16-20). 

Tradition is uncertain where his final field of labor was and whether Matthew died naturally or a martyr’s death. In celebrating this festival, we therefore give thanks to God that He has mightily governed and protected His Holy church through this man who was called and sent by Christ to serve the sheep of His pastures with the Holy Gospel.

St. Matthew was an excellent, noble man–not only one of the 12 fountains of consolation, the apostle of Jesus Christ of paradise, a holy evangelist, whose  words flowed from the great fountain in paradise, Jesus Christ.  He not only praised the Lord in his heart and with his tongue but also put his quill to paper and wrote his account as a memorial…pay attention so that everything in and about you is directed toward the glory of the Lord, according to David’s example in Psalm 103:2. In the kingdom of God it is said…”Strive with every skill and word, to please your Savior, Christ the Lord.”   None of the other evangelists described the history of  the Lord Jesus to such an extent as Matthew. He also has many beautiful passages that cannot be found in the others.

Here the Lord Jesus says (Matthew 11:27-29), “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

And again (Matthew 18:19-21), “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.”

Andin Matthew 28:19-20“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

These three passages, which should cause the legs of all devout Christians to run quickly to the Church, were written only by Matthew.

—Valerius Herberger

(Quotes above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

 Reflection:  One word found only in St. Matthew is “church”.  Further, it is only in St. Matthew that his Gospel begins and ends in Baptism:   the Lord’s Baptism in the river Jordan and the Lord’s command and promise to baptize in God’s Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We teach Baptism of all people, infant to old age. Baptism is the Lord’s  forgiveness by which He builds us up and into His Church, His Body. We can return to our Baptism when day by day we repent and the new man arises.

Holy Baptism formally ends the written Gospel of St. Matthew but by no means does the Gospel end with the last verse of St. Matthew! The Lord said that His Baptism goes to the ends of the earth! We have brothers and sisters in Christ in the United States, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Siberia, Germany etc, etc.  The Gospel (written, preached, taught and administered in the Sacraments) and the Church and Baptism are all one by which Christ  builds His Church.  These are the means, the living tools of the Words of the Holy Spirit to build us up in His Church. The Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture and so St. Matthew and His Christians as well, and all creation.  


1. By all Your saints in warfare,
For all Your saints at rest,
Your holy name, O Jesus,
Forevermore be blest!
For You have won the battle
That they might wear the crown;
And now they shine in glory
Reflected from Your throne.

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist:

25. Praise, Lord, for him whose Gospel
Your human life declared,
Who, worldly gain forsaking,
Your path of suff’ring shared.
From all unrighteous mammon,
O raise our eyes anew
That we in our vocation
May rise and follow You.

3. Then let us praise the Father
And worship God the Son
And sing to God the Spirit,
Eternal Three in One,
Till all the ransomed number
Fall down before the throne,
Ascribing pow’r and glory
And praise to God alone.

(“By All Your Saints in Warfare”, Hymn #517, The Lutheran Service Book)

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Confessing to Plants

I bet you did not know that plants are sentient beings that you can confess to and ask forgiveness? If they are sentient beings, then they we should not be killing plants and stop world-wide herbicide! If you can stomach reading more about this, then read the Washington Post article which is quite appreciative about this ‘confession’ at Union Seminary in New York City: Progressive seminary students offered a confession to plants. How do we think about sins against nature? Worse: This is an example of the stupidity of idolatry, as in worshiping the golden calf, except this one is green, “…. because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1: 25) I am still shocked by this even after so many decades of denial of the Word of God and doing so now officially. So many SINO, Seminaries In Name Only, have officially denied the truth of the Scripture, as Israel did at the base of Mt. Sinai when they fashioned that golden calf, that they are giving aid and comfort, not to God’s good creation but the devil. Lord, have mercy.

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Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248.During the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. (From the LCMS website)

Regarding his martyrdom, from The Penguin Dictionary of Saints:  “When persecution began again in 258, under Emperor Valerian, St Cyprian was one of the first victims. There is an account of what happened compiled directly from contemporary documents. Cyprian was first examined by the proconsul, and on affirming his adherence to the one true God, and refusing to divulge the names of his priests, he was exiled to Curubis. When a new proconsul came into office, Cyprian was brought up for trial in Carthage. He again refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. Accompanied by a tumultuous crowd, he was led to the field of Sextus; there he knelt in prayer. He gave a generous gift to the executioner, blindfolded himself, and his head was struck off.”        

Reflection:  St. Cyprian lived before the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 312 which made Christianity a legal religion of the Empire.  From the time of our Lord’s Ascension to that time the Church went through persecution from social ridicule to martyrdom.  In 250, under Emperor Decius, with the threat of death, many Christians denied the faith, gave-up fellow Christians to the authorities or when told to burn incense to Caesar bought letters called,  libelli, or certificates, that they had done so. Based upon 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, the Church prayed for Caesar, but did not pray to Caesar (see the 1st Commandment).  

When the persecution ended, many wanted to return to the Church. My speculation is those who denied the faith were regarded as traitors.   One party wanted them to be re-baptized or one Novatus said they committed apostasy and were not saved.  He denied absolution to the repentant.  Novatus’ heresy, Novationism, was also condemned in The Augsburg Confession because he denied absolution/forgiveness (1).   The Bishop of Rome , Pope Stephen I said that once baptized, still baptized and like Saul and Judas a Christian can be lost. The Church agreed Biblically that a time of penitence, that is, repentance would return one to the flock.  The Biblical understanding is absolution for the penitent restores one to the Church.   This crucial understanding of repentance and absolution is reflected in the true Reformation understanding: “Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practice what we began before, but abandoned.”(The Large Catechism).

Two of the lessons we can learn from St. Cyprian are:

1. Cyprian and all the martyrs remind us that faith in Jesus Christ matters. Even in the midst of persecution, Cyprian and the Church debated right doctrine and the resulting right practice. They did not soften doctrine in order to be accepted by society and culture or by those who denied Christ and a lot was at stake: their lives but more: true doctrine which is eternal life. There were those who denied Christ and so ‘saved’ themselves, but those who sell out doctrine and faith and true worship are not saving  the Church, and removing themselves from the Savior.  

2. Cyprian and the Church took seriously  the right Biblical way of ministering to those who denied Christ and they sought the true way:  repentance.  Cyprian was beheaded for the faith, for true worship, for right doctrine and practice.  

The beheading of Cyprian has a relevance in the news these past years of Islamists beheading  Christians. We are so readily led to  water down doctrine and the faith to “reach out” to the world which fits the devil’s game plan.  We need the courage of a Cyprian and the love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit to minister in the Name of the Lord to our neighbors:

“…having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Colossians 3:1-4]. Let us, then, who in Baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ’s.”  –Cyprian of Carthage

Remove the pow’r of sin from me/And cleanse all my impurity/That I may have the strength and will/ Temptations of the flesh to still.—Renew Me, 0 Eternal Light (LSB 704:2)

Prayer of the Day:

Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Endnote:

(1) From The Augsburg Confession: Article  XII, Of Repentance:  Our churches teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of  the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost.

Also those who contend that some may attain to such  perfection in this life that they cannot sin.

The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.

They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own. 

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