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Archive for October, 2019

Image result for e.t. halloween scene

The name “Halloween” is an English contraction of “Hallow” and “een”.  “Hallow” means to make holy, as in, “hallowed be Thy Name”, from the Lord’s prayer.  “Een” is “Eve”.  1 November has been All Saints Day for centuries.  In the Church, the eve before a feast or festival day begins the day, as it is written in Genesis 1: “…and it was evening and it was morning the first day”, and then 6 more times.  So in Judaism, Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday.  Halloween means All Saints Eve, the day before the great feast day of All Saints.

In an excellent article in The Federalist, Christians Used To Do Halloween Better Than Pagans by Holly Scheer, she refutes the incorrect scholarly bull that Christians adapted All Saints Day based upon pagan Celtic holidays like Samhain, a festival of death.  It can’t be because All Saints Day originated in the Mediterranean area of the Church to commemorate the lives of martyrs, centuries before Samhain and thousands of miles from the British Isles.  Mrs. Scheer cites this thoroughly researched article about the first origin of All Saints Day, then later the pagan ‘festivities’, which can be found here.

In another excellent article in The Federalist, Stop Turning Your Yard Into A Hellscape For Halloween by Joy Pullmann, she speaks about the horror of her young children seeing yards that magnify the macabre, evil and death.  One of her nearby neighborhoods had representations of severed heads hanging from street lamps.

Likewise, there has been a severe caution from our evangelical Christian neighbors about Christians of embracing evil and death and the devil at this time of the year.  Full disclosure: I am 65 years of age and I don’t remember such a fascination with evil.  My childhood remembrance of Halloween is that it was basically a time for children (under 13!) to go trick or treating. I don’t remember any huge adult intrusion into Halloween then, but we can see it now.  The depiction of this kind of Halloween is beautifully portrayed in the Halloween scene from “E.T.”.  For instance:  the only horror movies at the time were the old ‘30s black and white ones, such as, Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman.

What happened for this drastic change? Just as the pagans coopted All Saints Day for their evil, so has American culture, that is, people. But what changed in people?  Though, I can not prove it, as the churches in the late ‘50s and in the revolutions of ‘60s tried to be more and more relevant, denying Christian doctrines as basic as right and wrong, the wrong crept in.  In the ‘70s or so some liberal Protestant theologians declared we are the church “come of age”. We’re for social justice but not as part of the church’s mission but her only mission. We have shuffled off the superstitious past of believing in the 6 day creation, Biblical miracles, the devil and the  like.  This had been developing for well over a century and it came out of the closet with the complicit help of mainline church bodies, who are now the liberal/progressivist old-line:  and now we are afraid to send our daughters to the bathroom because some boy maybe in there with the costume of a girl. 

Just when we supposedly did away with such archaic notions of the devil, for instance, a blockbuster movie came out all about the devil: “The Exorcist”, release date,  December 26, 1973, a day after the annual celebration of the Savior’s birth.  It seems to me that this movie opened the floodgates ready to be opened. I don’t think the movie actually started the evil, but it was a signal for the powers and principalities to gear up.  After this, countless movies about the devil, the macabre and the like which are still flooding the imaginations of the young and the old.  Even our front yards and our children can be gruesome…and Halloween is not a simple fun time for kids to go trick or treating.  And when writing about Halloween, another aspect of the day, that it seems has not yet been written about is this: Halloween, along with Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day have been coopted as well, by adults, that is, sexually ‘liberated’ adults.  All three of those holidays were for kids and St. Patrick’s for celebrating an actual saint, and/or being Irish. Note that all three days have Christian origins!  Now as I have watched sitcoms, and read about these three days, they have become high (low) points to get drunk and get laid.  I call  them “hook-up holidays”. Again, maybe my memory is jaded, or I am naïve, but this did not occur when I was younger but now has become a feature of our decadent culture.

Mrs. Scheer wrote that we Christians reclaim Halloween…like Christmas? That hasn’t worked out too well.  I admire Mrs. Scheer’s positive chutzpah but I don’t share it.   A discipline lost is a discipline that is very hard to reclaim. As the influence of the Church has been and is  being curtailed and dismantled (even by Christians), we can still be the loyal opposition: loyal to the Lord and in opposition to the world by what we teach and do in our Lord’s calling to be the Church, His body.  Years ago, a rabbi wrote that the question is not the separation of church and state, but of church and God.  In a similar vein, we don’t need to reclaim Halloween etc. but to know we are reclaimed by the Lord to be His saints, then the “powers and principalities” (please see: Ephesians 6:12) have not won.  As there is no easy reclaiming of holy days, the actual basis of the word “holiday”, now become culturally profane days, and so there was no easy reclaiming of sinners:  see the Cross of Christ and His saints who did not love their lives in this world, even to death.  I agree with Mrs. Scheer in this: let us celebrate All Saints with all the joy of those who have been found by the Lord and help each other to do so.

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little luther

“Tiny Luther, what should I do to grow my Church?”

“First, don’t buy little toy figurines of me. And who said it’s your Church?  I’d rather you not be named after me.  We’re named after Christ. After all,  I’m recycling fodder.

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Image result for the Formula of Concord: the solid declaration

Erasmus, the great humanist scholar at the time of the Reformation, wrote “Freedom of the Will” and Martin Luther responded with “Bondage of the Will”. Luther argues from Scripture which makes it abundantly clear that we have no natural powers to save ourselves. Here is one citation from Ephesians 2:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The Apostle describe mankind’s state, yours and mine, as “dead” (vss. 1, 5) and as “children of wrath” (vs. 3). “…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” is graphically portrayed in the historical narrative Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead: only by the Word of the Christ can the dead Lazarus come from the tomb. Us as well. Christ gives us live and frees us. The Apostle wrote in to the Galatians this encouragement: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5: 1) He encourages the Baptized to walk in the Spirit (Romans 6:1). This does not mean we have free will but a freed will in Holy Baptism by Christ’s work in the work of the Holy Spirit. In The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article II, “Free Will” (The Book of Concord, Tappert, page 534, para. 56-68), the Lutheran Confessors sum up the “liberated will”. The last sentence truly teaches our condition and is a reminder of the importance of being fed the Holy Communion, hearing God’s Word and praying for freedom’s sake in Christ to be strengthened in faith and good works:

There is…a great difference between baptized people and unbaptized people because, according to the teaching of St. Paul, “all who have been baptized have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27), are thus truly born again, and now have a liberated will—that is, as Christ says, they have again been made free (St. John 8: 36). As a result, they not only hear the Word of God but also are able to assent to it and accept it, even though it be in great weakness. But since in this life we have received only the first fruits of the Spirit, and regeneration is not as yet perfect but has only been begun in us, the conflict and warfare of the flesh against the Spirit continues also in the elect and truly reborn. Again, there is not only a great difference between Christians, one being weak and the other strong in the Spirit, but even the individual Christian in his own life discovers that at one moment he is joyful in the Spirit and at another moment fearful and terrified, at one time ardent in love, strong in faith and in hope, and at another time cold and weak. (emphasis added)

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A common question asked about overwhelming historical events: Where were you when … Where were you when 9/11 happened?  We remember 9/11 and where we were, not because we were in the Twin Towers or downtown Manhattan, but we remember where we were even thousands of miles away because the event was earth shattering.  Maybe the more pertinent question is:  Where were you when Jesus died and rose? We remember Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, not because we were there, but He is here where we are, His baptized people. His death and resurrection, ascension to the right hand of the Father giving the life-giving Holy Spirit is world shattering.  He sits at the right hand of the Father to be present bodily with His people. This is the joy of faith in a joyless world. If a person was not alive when Kennedy was killed, nor September 11, 2001, then there can be no remembrance of where you were.

There is always remembrance of Jesus Christ because Christ is risen, He is risen indeed alleluia!  “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Answer: no. According to His Word, recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians, He is present to give us the full fruits of His Cross, His true body and blood, which for our sin He atoned before the throne of God, according to the plain and natural meaning of the words of Scripture. You can not give the “remission of sins” if the One who remits our sin is not present. We remember Him as He has remembered us in the gift of Himself when the Holy Communion is given for our forgiveness and sanctification: fed the bread of life for faith. “It is this Real Presence of the crucified and risen Lord, who gives us His true body and blood to eat and to drink, that lends to the REMEMBRANCE of His death a reality …such as we do not find otherwise in the recollection of a historic event.” (Hermann Sasse) 

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Concordia and Koinonia

Lessons:  Acts 16: 11-40;  Acts 9: 36-43;  Romans 16: 1-2

Prayer 

Filled with thy Holy Spirit, gracious God, thine earliest disciples served Thee with the gifts each had been given: Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity and Phoebe as a deaconess who served many. Inspire us today to build up Thy Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ;  who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

These women were exemplary Christians who demonstrated their faith by their material support of the Church.

  • Dorcas (also known as Tabitha) was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in the city of Joppa, especially for her making clothes for the poor. When Dorcas died suddenly, the members of her congregation sent to the neighboring city of Lydda for the…

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As we approach the Feast of the Reformation (Reformation Sunday, observed and the day itself: 31 October), we must remember that Luther and the blessed Reformers had a legitimate argument against their own church body: The Roman Catholic Church was teaching false doctrine when they denied the centrality of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith alone. This goes for any Christian church body.

Now the Roman Church is flirting with unadulterated paganism as have Protestant denominations, such as, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. For instance: A same sex blessing included pagan rites in 2010, (article about that ceremony found here) and from that article: “Biblical language for God, including Lord, was removed from the liturgy. Instead God was called Mother and female pronouns were used for God. The service also included elements of pagan and goddess worship reflecting the practice of some of the congregations of the new ELCA pastors.” As an ELCA pastor I have been at those kind of services: it’s no exaggeration and well documented. The denial of Scripture is the reason I left the ELCA and came back to The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Now the Roman Church is doing the same in the Amazon Synod, which is occurring at this time. The link to an article in The Federalist about that synod:

The Catholic Church’s Amazon Synod Is Flirting With Religious Syncretism

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Lessons:  Acts 15: 12-22a, Psalm 133, James 1: 1-12, St. Matthew 13: 54-58

Prayer of the Day:

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Biography: St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with other relatives of our Lord (except His mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection 1:

Hebrews 2 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Even though James was the Lord’s half-brother, or a cousin/kinsman, nevertheless he was the Lord’s brother. Indeed,

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17: 17)

As we read in the Hebrews 2 passage above, Jesus is our brother and He loves at all time and He was born for adversity.  The only difference between Jesus and James, and our brothers and sisters in our families and in our family in Christ:  Jesus is also our Lord.  Christ Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers as He has washed us in His crimson tide. He is the source of our family and our brother James is before the throne of God with all the saints and angels.  Jesus is our Lord and Brother born to bear the adversity of sin, death and the devil. “God is glorious with His angels and saints, O come let us worship Him” (versicle and response for the latter portion of the Pentecost Season).

 Reflection 2:  James was quite important in the early history of the Church as indicated in the Scripture references cited above in James’ bio. He  was witness to the Resurrection.  He believed.  In his letter, James did not assert his family lineage but his vocation:  “a servant (also translated as slave) of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”(chapter 1).  James, the half-brother of Jesus, was His servant as all who are baptized.  He knew that it was only by the “implanted Word”, could a man and a woman be saved:

 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1)

We live in an age of anger, even extreme anger. James wrote of anger.He encourages us to be “slow to speak, slow to anger”, as even our ‘righteous anger’ does not, “…produce the righteousness of God.”  So no matter how self-righteously I go on and on about this or that issue or cause, even issues and causes that are important, my words will not produce, create, and form in me the righteousness of God.  Self-righteousness only produces “filthiness and rampant wickedness”. There is only one Seed, the Seed of Abraham, died  and risen who can stanch the flow of anger and produce the righteousness of God: As James wrote, the implanted Word can save your soul. He implants in us faith in the Lord who imparts the wisdom of forgiveness.  Implanted into the womb of James’ mother, Mary.  James would have heard the narrative of the Annunciation by the archangel Gabriel to his Mother from his Mother!  James’ Lord is the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ. The same Word implanted by the careful and faithful  preaching and teaching of Christ  for us and for our salvation, as St. James so preached and taught. 

We sing of James, Christ’s brother/Who at Jerusalem/Told how God loved the Gentiles/And, in Christ, welcomed them.

Rejoicing in salvation/May we too, by God’s grace, Extend Christ’s invitation/To all the human race.

(“By All Your Saints in Warfare”, Lutheran Service Book, #518, stanza 27)

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