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Archive for February, 2020

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Text:  2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10  20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Let us pray…”O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!”(Rev. Prof. Johann Gerhardt)

Maybe you have heard the phrase:  cancel culture.  Cancel culture  is a form of public humiliation or shaming that aims to hold individuals and groups accountable for actions perceived to be offensive by other individuals or groups, who then call attention to this behavior, usually on social media. The person who has been called out has shared a questionable or unpopular opinion, or has had behavior in their past that is perceived to be either offensive, this person is “canceled”; they are completely boycotted by many of their followers or supporters, often leading to massive declines in celebrities’ (almost always social media personalities) careers and fanbase. There usually follows an abject apology which never seems to work.  Cancel culture is also called outrage culture.

And the Church is regularly condemned as bigoted and hateful!  The Lord does not want nor will to cancel anyone but all come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-5).  Cancel culture does not admit repentance and so there is no forgiveness.  The Godless cancel culture is the result of  the sin  of the utter personal and societal rejection of Christian truth, Law and Promise.  No righteousness, only self-righteousness.  No, faith, only despair.  No hope, only hatred.  No love, only lust. No Jesus, only us. In a sense the Church is a cancel culture, in that, the Lord does cancel sin,

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians)

The Lord’s Church is not cancel culture. Just the opposite. The Lord’s Body, His Church is the land of repentance and  reconciliation ,baptism and forgiveness. The Apostle Paul knew his cancel culture as he consented to the execution of Christians and arrested Christians.  The Lord Jesus seized Paul to save him by Christ’s Blood.  And the Apostle wrote, “we are ambassadors for Christ”. An ambassador is a representative from another country, who speaks on behalf of his government, ruler.  The ambassador is invested with the authority to do so and Apostle Paul is ambassador, yes, from a foreign country this world:  The Kingdom of God. The sad and bitter and utterly lonely cancel culture needs the message from another world, the scent of a flower which does not fade, the song which does not end, the good news  coming into the world through the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  Our citizenship is from heaven (Philippians 3:20), not from here. We need this land more than ever. This is the Apostle’s appeal, entreaty Be ye reconciled with God.  Rev. Paul Kretzmann in his whole Bible Commentary (1917):

In behalf of Christ, then, we are ambassadors, as though God were entreating through us. Christ’s representatives they are, bringing the Word, the offer of reconciliation to men, the earnest entreaty of God to accept His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus: We pray you in behalf of Christ, Be reconciled to God!

And the pastor captures the amazing nature of the Lord’s call to be reconciled:

What a strange situation: The holy, righteous God, who has been insulted times without number by the countless sins of the men of all times, begs for reconciliation; the almighty, jealous God, who is able to punish every sin with the condemnation of hell, offers instead the fullness of His love and everlasting life and bliss! That surely is a mystery of the Gospel beyond all understanding; that is a message which should impress the most hardened sinner with the unutterable glory of the love of God. And lest anyone have doubts as to the fact of reconciliation, as to the possibility of a full and complete atonement under such conditions, the apostle explains the miracle in one sentence: Him who knew not sin for us He made sin, in order that we might become righteousness of God in Him. In this way was the miracle of the atonement brought about.

Lent was and still is a baptismal journey to the Lord’s miracle of atonement.  We are formed in His Word as citizens and ambassadors of this other country of repentance and reconciliation.  Reading the conclusions of many of the Epistles, which are encouragement and exhortation to good works coming from His good work:  pray for those who persecute you, turn no man evil for evil, love as you have first been loved, cast off the works of darkness, etc. This is different from the cancel cultures of all times. 

My Mom one day showed me her report card from elementary school in the 30s.  She chuckled and said, Mark, look at this:  it was Mom’s grades in “citizenship”. In this world, we need such courses in citizenship and civics more than ever!  In the Kingdom come, the Church alone is the work of the Holy Spirit forming us as citizens in His rule and Kingdom. Our sin called out and we called to our Lord reconciled. Lent is about growth in virtue, not to be redeemed, as we are the Lord’s redeemed by His Passion alone. Who we are is Who’s we are. Who’s we are is who we become which is maturing in Christ, or sanctification. We are shriven and forgiven. The ashes remind of sin which cancels life, as sin is death.  The Cross is the power of Christ’s life, eternal life as He is risen.

So, we don’t want to tell you about ourselves, but we are called to tell you of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is not so much about acceptance, but His forgiveness. Yes, in His Church you will meet whores, idolaters, adulterers, men who practiced homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, who were a long way from home and God’s reign in Jesus. And such were some of us. But we were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (From 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) We’re not perfect but forgiven. Oh, wondrous thought! He found us even when we sought Him not! We don’t preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen for you!

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The Divine Service with Imposition of Ashes, 6:00 pm at Ben Salem Presbyterian Church, Buena Vista, VA

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Lent is about that growth, not to be redeemed, as we are the Lord’s redeemed by His Passion alone. Who we are is Who’s we are. Who’s we are is who we become which is maturing in Christ, or sanctification. We are shriven and forgiven

Concordia and Koinonia

“Shrove” is not a word in much use these daysexcept for today: Shrove Tuesday:

Shrove, past tense of shrive:Shrive; verb(usedwithobject),shroveorshrived,shrivenor shrived,shriving.

  • imposepenanceon(asinner).
  • grantabsolutionto(apenitent).
  • heartheconfessionof(aperson).
  • to hear confessions.
  • togotoormakeconfession;confessone’ssins,astoapriest.

Several years back, people in droves bought the book about Christian ‘spirituality’,The Purpose-Driven Life, but I suppose that few would buy a book titled, “The Shriven Driven Life”. So many supposedly ‘Christian’ books are about how to be deliriously happy, your “best life now” without the reality that life in the Lord is a shriven life: repentant, confessing sins and the need for the Lord’s absolution. The old 11th Century Hymn,“Alleluia, Song of Gladness”to the point, third stanza (another translation):

Alleluia we deserve not
Here to chant forevermore;
Alleluia our transgressions
Make us for a while give o’er;
For the holy time is coming
Bidding us our sins deplore.

Shrive is from the German, “to write”. His…

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It is the Lord who chooses Apostles, Bishops and Pastors. He establishes the Office.

Concordia and Koinonia

One of the symbols of St. Matthias is a pair of dice because the Disciples cast lots to decide who would take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1: 15-26).  The only time he is mentioned in the Bible is at the time of his selection.

 Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 


Lessons:  Isaiah 66: 1-2  Psalm 134  Acts of the Apostles 1: 15-26   St. Matthew 11:  25-30

St. Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. According to the Early Church Fathers, Matthias was one of the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-20. After the ascension, Matthias…

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Born c. 69, Polycarp was a central figure in the early church. A disciple of the evangelist John, he linked the first generation of believers to later Christians. After serving for many years as bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was arrested, tried, and executed for his faith on February 23, c. 156. An eyewitness narrative of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, continues to encourage believers in times of persecution. You can find out more about the Saint here (Issues, etc.) and here.

To our ears, the crowd’s cry, “Away with the atheists”, as a denial of Christianity may sound strange.  The understanding in those days was the gods and goddesses of the many city states and of the Roman Empire were considered to be integral and essential to the welfare of city and Empire.  If they were not worshiped, then it was thought city and Empire would be adversely affected.  The Christians were denying the existence of all the mythologies of the gods and goddesses, so they were considered atheists.  Even worse they were considered to be trouble-makers, disturbers of order and against the very fiber of the culture, and so, “away with the atheists”. 

Christians in our days are considered to be a type of atheist in the religions of sex and self.  For instance,  many consider it ‘hate speech’ to publicly state marriage is between man and woman only.  If Christians do not buckle under to the new regime and it’s fanatical dogmatism of sex and self, then we are the disrupters of the order and ‘goodness’. If Christians do not give obeisance to the dictates of lust and narcissism, efforts have been made to curtail this nation’s first amendment rights.  We do deny the enslavement of the bodies and souls of our fellow citizens to the false gods of slave and sex, and for us first; but with Polycarp, we are called to confess Christ as Lord and we are His people for freedom of friends and family from those gods and goddesses. (Here is a link to very good sermon by Dr. Peter Scaer on this enslavement, from the daily chapel service, 2/21/20 at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN.  The Reading of the Sermon Text begins at marker 14.00 and the Sermon at 17.00, followed by the singing of the Te Deum Laudamus. In it he refers to the 2nd century of the Church when the Roman Empire required citizens to burn a little incense to the “genius of Caesar”.  If they did not, execution loomed.  This is what happened to St. Polycarp)

Unlike Polycarp at that time, no one in our beloved nation has been burned at the stake or beheaded. So many, in society, and many churches want behead the head of the Church, His Body. We have seen in the Middle East another anti-Christian Islamic movement, ISIS, putting to death in horrible ways many of our brothers and sisters.  On February 21, 2015, 21 Coptic Christians, in Libya were beheaded by ISIS on the shores of the Mediterranean. The ISIS terrorists demanded they renounce the Christian faith. They did not and ISIS derided them as, “People of the cross”. May we be so accused and with Polcarp, we cannot blaspheme our King who has saved us but ever preach, teach and proclaim Him.

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Let us pray:  O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Icon of the 21 Coptic Martyrs
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The 21 Coptic Martyrs

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Meme of the Day

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor, possible text that says 'A man asked a priest: If God is everywhere, why do go to Church? The priest replied: The whole atmosphere is filled with water; but when you want to drink you have to go to a fountain or a well. rocnoAb CABdW TEMLEGOTICOR മമ'

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Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s scriptural studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wart­burg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. Luther died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Lessons:

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

In Martin Luther’s Commentary on The Sermon on the Mount (Luther’s Works, Volume 21, CPH), on St. Matthew 5:8, the 6th Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”, he asks, what does it mean to be “pure in heart”.  How does one become pure in heart?  He cites our Lord in St. Matthew 23: 27 speaking to the Pharisees that they are “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and al uncleanness” and compared them to the monks of his day. You can change the outside and everyone thinks you are pure but inside, in the heart, that is, the will, is where we are made pure.  Still, how does that occur?

Then Luther, cites that,

“…this is the way it is with our clergy today. Outwardly they lead a decent life, and in the churches everything is conducted with such excellent taste and formality that it is beautiful to behold. But He does not ask for such purity. He wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly the person may be a drudge in the kitchen, black, sooty, and grimy, doing all sorts of dirty work.”

We look around and can say that as well as false doctrine is taught and sexual and societal immorality abounds and is extolled in our idolatrous and adulterous generation and in churches, and outwardly beautiful people and churches are inwardly filled with real filth.

Luther:

“But He does not ask for such (outward) purity. He wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly the person may be a drudge in the kitchen, black, sooty, and grimy, doing all sorts of dirty work.”

As a hospice chaplain, I visited many very poor, dirty homes.  One such home, in early spring and in the first room had pens with baby ducks in it.  The yard was thoroughly full of junk with more than one Confederate flag flying.  The house was dirty and ramshackle.  The granddaughter guided me through the maze of dark rooms to the patient’s room, her Grandfather’s. His room was done in Nascar memorabilia galore. In the corner was the gun safe.  He had lived here for most of his life and raised a family in this house…home. His home was grimy, with barnyard animals, aesthetically tacky and so politically incorrect, i.e. ‘racist’. After introductions,  the granddaughter left the room, and I asked this typical, clinical question to a new patient: How would you describe your spirituality? Without a hesitation, he said, “Jesus”.  He knew where his purity, and his faith and hope and love lay and came to life.

Luther:

Then what is a pure heart? In what does it consist? The answer can be given quickly, and you do not have to climb up to heaven or run to a monastery for it and establish it with your own ideas. You should be on your guard against any ideas that you call your own, as if they were just so much mud and filth. And you should realize that when in the monastery is sitting in deepest contemplation, excluding the world from his heart altogether, and thinking about the Lord God the way he himself paints and imagines Him, he is actually sitting — if you will pardon the expression — in the dung, not up to his knees but up to his ears. For he is proceeding on his own ideas without the Word of God; and that is sheer deception and delusion, as Scripture testifies everywhere.

What is meant by “pure heart” is this: one that is watching and pondering what God says and replacing its own ideas with the Word of God. This alone is pure before God, yes, purity itself, which purifies everything that it includes and touches. Therefore, though a common laborer, a shoemaker, or a blacksmith may be dirty and sooty or may smell because he is covered with dirt and pitch, still he may sit at home and think: “My God has made me a man. He has given me my house, wife, and child and has commanded me to love them and to support them with my work.” Note that he is pondering the Word of Cod in his heart; and though he stinks outwardly, inwardly he is pure incense before God. But if he attains the highest purity so that he also takes hold of the Gospel and believes in Christ — without this, that purity is impossible — then he is pure completely, inwardly in his heart toward God and outwardly toward everything under him on earth. Then everything he is and does, his walking, standing, eating, and drinking, is pure for him; and nothing can make him impure.

So it is when he looks at his own wife or fondles her, as the patriarch Isaac did (Gen. 26:8), which a monk regards as disgusting and defiling. For here he has the Word of God, and he knows that God has given her to him. But if he were to desert his wife and take up another, or neglect his job or duty to harm or bother other people, he would no longer be pure; for that would be contrary to Cod’s commandment. But so long as he sticks to these two — namely, the Word of faith toward God, which purifies the heart, and the Word of understanding, which teaches him what he is to do toward his neighbor in his station everything is pure for him, even if with his hands and the rest of his body he handles nothing but dirt.

Therefore be on guard against all your own ideas if you want to be pure before God. See to it that your heart is founded and fastened on the Word of God.

What was the joy of Martin Luther’s discovery, actually rediscovery of the pearl of great price, in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in creation, redemption and sanctification? Answer: the Word of God and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, our very Holy Spirit-uality. A hospice patient knew where his spirituality was found. This is our joy as well.

Let us pray: O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day, and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ’s faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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