Archive for November 19th, 2019

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We have been studying Luke and Acts of the Apostles: “Journeying with Jesus”. For about 3 Sundays, in order to get into Acts, we looked at some of the lesser known people/saints in Acts as a way of entering the narrative of the early Church. We have studied: Dorcas (Tabitha), Lydia and Phoebe (Commemoration on October 25); Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos (Commemoration February 13) and Philip the Deacon (Oct. 11).

In the Lutheran Confessions, we are taught to give honor to the saints in three ways:

  • The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men, 5] Matt. 25:2123.
  • The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20.
  •  The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling.  These true honors the adversaries do not require. They dispute only concerning invocation, which, even though it would have no danger, nevertheless is not necessary.

So I asked three questions based upon the three-fold honor we are to give to the saints in learning to live in faith and love in Christ in His Church:

  1. What thanks to the Lord can we give for St. _______________?
  2. How is our faith strengthened by the example of St. ______________?
  3. What can we imitate from the life St.________________?

The class on Philip the Deacon centered on his narrative in Acts chapter 8 and especially to the facts that Philip preached in Samaria and then the conversion and Baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch.

These were the Bible class’ answers to question #3 regarding Philip the Deacon:

The above is what we learned for our walk in the Lord today and I will spell out our answers a bit more:

Know and Memorize the Scripture: The Ethiopian eunuch was reading the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, especially chapter 53. This chapter from 500 years before Christ, describes the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice almost verbatim! The Ethiopian eunuch did not understand it and so Philip taught Christ from this Old Testament passage. It was rare that anyone would be traveling with a scroll, as there were no mass produced books. This would not happen until the 16th century! Philip knew the Scriptures. I pointed out that when Jesus had fasted 40 days and nights,and the devil tempted Him, how did the Lord respond? Three times: “It is written“. Jesus memorized and knew the Bible and so did His servant Philip. I pointed out that under the brutal dictatorship of the communists in China Christians are memorizing the Bible. If Jesus memorized Scripture then we should as well so that the light of God’s Word is in the temples of our minds and souls.

The Obedience of Faith: Philip was obedient to his call as deacon to serve the poor, but when oppression came, he and Stephen adjusted and began to preach and teach. Philip was obedient by faith to the Word of God, Christ. This was not obedience to the Law to save ourselves, which we can’t do. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ for the obedience of faith to love and serve our neighbors (Romans 1: 5).

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness and Purity of Motive: I linked these two together. When by faith we know have no righteousness within, we hunger and thirst for it as Jesus taught in the Beatitude. He makes us pure. Philip was pure in his motives to single-mindedly serve the Lord. This is surely also a good thing to imitate.

Worship: I asked the question, What can we imitate in the Ethiopian eunuch? Worship was the answer. We are told in Acts that the Ethiopian when to worship in Jerusalem. What a distance that is, especially by even a fast chariot! He did not understand the Scripture and the Gospel, but he was taught enough in worship that he knew he did not know. In worship, we are taught the Word of the Lord, the Bible.

Prejudice: Now we did not learn prejudice from Philip! The use of the word is shorthand of just the opposite we learned from Philip’s life and ministry. He preached extensively in Samaria per Jesus’s express command to the Apostles just before His ascension to heaven (Acts 1: 8). Jesus Himself taught and preached in Samaria (John chapter 4). The Samaritans were Jewish heretics and despised by the Jews, nevertheless, Christ preached to them and He was preached for them. This fact give poignancy to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Then it was noted the Ethiopian was probably black and in Acts there is not a hint of racial bias and in fact, no where in the Bible. We learned that racial bias, or racism, is not inevitable. In Christ, today, it can be undone and we can learn to love our neighbors. Though heresy is not to be accepted, but in love of our neighbors the truth can be taught to others, even heretics, even ourselves! We come to faith only by the Holy Spirit in the love of God in Christ.

Witness: Philip was a witness, not to his faith, but to Jesus Christ as He had called him. The Lord gave him the opportunities to preach. Philip did not force his witness on others. As in a court of law, we can only give our witness when called to do so, also Christians but we must be prepared to do so: 1 Peter 3:15-16. Philip was a prime witness example as St. Paul described the importance of preaching, Romans 10:

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

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Elizabeth  of Hungary, born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given in an arranged political marriage, she became wife of Louis of Thuringia (Germany) at age 14.Her spirit of Christian generosity and charity pervaded the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Their abode was known for hospitality and family love. Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy, even giving up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at age 20, she arranged for her children’s well-being and entered into life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The words hospice, hospital and hospitality are all related.  Their root word is “hospes”, that is host.  All three of these related words have to do with being a host.  When I was a hospice chaplain, I am a guest in many homes of a dying family member and his family were my host.  A hospital, the host,  welcomes guests…quite a different understanding than patients!  Many a hospital guest will note the care of especially the nursing staff, as do hospice patients, because they are welcomed and taken care of.   Hospitality is a requirement of a pastor and a bishop:  to welcome friends and strangers to his home as guests.  It is hard work to be a host: food, linen and beds, wounds of body and soul. The host may feel tired and diminished but the guest is replenished.   

 It is easy to say that government should take care of the  refugee, the sick or the foreigner and pat oneself on the back that I am caring!  It’s another thing to actually love your neighbor, one to one,  as Christ has served us and serves us daily.  Elizabeth of Hungary knew that.  She was royal as a faithful wife and mother and as one who served the poor.

For instance, Luther and his wife and family were quite hospitable in opening their home to all sorts of people. The Luthers would have at a given moment, 30 -40 guests at table:  seminarians, refugees from religious persecution, visiting professors and pastors. It says in the Bible a pastor is be hospitable (1 Timothy 3: 2 ) All Christians are encouraged and commanded to show hospitality: Romans 12: 13.

Elizabeth of Hungary, and Martin Luther teach us in word and deed the Biblical understanding of hospitality and it is hands on, not hands off letting someone else doing it, especially government! After all, our salvation was and is “hands on”, nail-imprinted Hands.  

Reflection by Dr. Martin Luther:
This is … an outstanding praise of hospitality, in order that we may be sure that God Himself is in our home, is being fed at our house, is lying down and resting as often as some pious brother in exile because of the Gospel comes to us and is received hospitably by us. This is called brotherly love or Christian charity; it is greater than that general kindness which is extended even to strangers and enemies when they are in need of our aid…. For the accounts of the friendships of the Gentiles, like those of Theseus and Hercules, of Pylades and Orestes, are nothing in comparison with the brotherhood in the church; its bond is an association with God so close that the Son of God says that whatever is done to the least of His is done to Himself. Therefore their hearts go out without hypocrisy to the needs of their neighbor, and nothing is either so costly or so difficult that a Christian does not undertake it for the sake of the brethren, … But if anyone earnestly believed that he is receiving the Lord Himself when he receives a poor brother, there would be no need for such anxious, zealous, and solicitous exhortations to do works of love. Our coffers, storeroom, and compassion would be open at once for the benefit of the brethren. There would be no ill will, and together with godly Abraham we would run to meet the wretched people, invite them into our homes, and seize upon this honor and distinction ahead of others and say: “O Lord Jesus, come to me; enjoy my bread, wine, silver, and gold. How well it has been invested by me when I invest it in You!”

For our Daily Prayers:  for the poor, for the sick and suffering, for the unemployed, for the visitor and stranger

Let us pray…Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary.  She scorned her bejeweled crown with thoughts of the thorned one her Savior donned for her sake and ours, that we too, might live a life of sacrifice, pleasing in Your sight and worthy of the Name of Your Son, Christ Jesus, who with the Holy Spirit reigns with You forever in the everlasting kingdom. Amen.

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