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Archive for March 25th, 2020

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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. Romans 10

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  By His Word made flesh, the Lord opens our ears to reach our hearts.  This is true for the Virgin Mother as well. On this day the Church rejoices that the angel Gabriel gave the announcement (and so, annunciation) to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a Child:  The Son of God. Christ is conceived both physically and spiritually through the ear, that is, aural conception.

When Gabriel announced this, Mary responded, Let it be according to your word. She responded by the obedience that comes by faith. As the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, she conceives Jesus “through her ear” (as Martin Luther says). The one who is conceived is called Holy, the Son of God. This is the moment of the incarnation of our Lord.    So the Annunciation is the Incarnation: The Word became flesh.  I think there are only two times in which one of the Lord’s messengers, that is, an angel, gave to a woman, or a man, the name of their child in the womb: first John, then Jesus.  God saves is the meaning of the Name of Jesus.  And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2: 21

With the corona virus, we have been bombarded daily, even hourly, even by the minute in this internet age, with one bad announcement after another.  In these annunciations, what comes through the ear produces fear in our flesh.  We still have difficulty in use of the cyber-speed of the internet age.  Remember for many of us, this is still relatively new. We thought TV by itself was hard to handle, now this difficulty has increased.  The 8th commandment, You shall not bear false witness against you neighbor, and we can hear hourly false witnesses about both neighbors and events.  The Lord opens our ears to His salvation and closes our ears to the work of the devil.  Listen to what the Lord is saying, He is speaking peace, and renounce the false witnesses we hear. 

We need to listen to true and faithful witnesses and we will know them.  For instance, in government, those who are pursuing good goals for protecting the citizens, and not for their own greedy ends and ideological programs.  And we need to listen to each other, especially to hear the annunciations of husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friend, who say in one way or another I love you, I am here for you, I am praying for you, how can I help. It’s the “for you” that is crucial, as it is in the Bible, I am with you always even to the end of the age. It is the Lord’s annunciations we need to hear for us and our salvation.

For various calendar reasons, the first Christians reasonably thought that today was the first Good Friday, March 25th.  And exactly nine months from today is Christmas.  Some scholars think this is how Christmas Day was determined. And so, the Feast of the Annunciation is always in Lent. Christmas in Lent. Today, shone the first light of Christmas. WE need the Lord’s pronouncements in this twilight zone. String some Christmas lights outside to remind of the Annunciation which leads to our Savior. Fill your  ears not with fake news, but the good news. His birth is our death, our death to sin.  His resurrection is our life, our life in Him. There is more than one annunciation. We hear the annunciation from Lazarus’ tomb, Come out. We will hear the annunciation from the Cross, from the Lord’s mouth:  It is finished.   We will hear again the glad announcement, even more wondrous than the first to Mary:  He is risen!  We need to hear the Annunciation of the Promises of God fulfilled in His Son Jesus daily!  As Mary we need to hear the announcement of our forgiveness and His mercy toward poor sinners.  We need to hear the “for you” of  His Word especially in the Holy Communion, Absolution reminding us of our Baptism, which is also the Lord’s annunciation, I baptize you in My Name. We need to hear the for you of God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures and faithful preachers in the sermon, for you, Christ for you.  Others need to hear this Annunciation as well, dying to hear it. We proclaim and confess the annunciation, He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead. We pray the annunciation, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.  We will  hear the last Annunciation:  Arise from the tomb, the Day has arrived! In the midst of death, there is life (Luther).  

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The Prayer of the Day

O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Old Testament Reading for the Day: Isaiah 7:10-14   Psalm 45: 7-17   The Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 10: 4-10 The Gospel Reading for the Day: Luke 1:26-38

The Annunciation of Our Lord:  The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that God has shown her favor and will use her as the means for the Messiah’s birth. So Mary conceives Jesus when the angel says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This same Spirit who hovered over the waters and brought forth creation (Genesis 1:2) will now “hover over” the waters of Mary’s womb to conceive the creation’s Redeemer. As the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, she conceives Jesus “through her ear” (as Martin Luther says). The one who is conceived is called Holy, the Son of God. This is the moment of the incarnation of our Lord. The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person’s conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

There have been two excellent dramas on television in the last few years:  The Crown, about the life of Queen Elizabeth II and Victoria, about the life of Queen Victoria.  They were both young women who were unlikely to become Queen and rose to their vocation with nobility. Even more unlikely that a virgin  bore the Son of God and she did rise to her divine vocation with nobility as well.  All three of these women are not “shop till you drop” consumers, nor feminist distortions of womanhood as anti-womb and anti-man:  just the opposite.  They were  strong women not women aping men.  They knew their vocations took precedent over their personal feelings on the matter. Let it be to me according to Thy Word.  

I probably should not  like encouragement from the culture, but despite the times we are in, someone has discovered in Elizabeth and Victoria  as womanhood as it actually is: both were mothers, ruled their nation and at the same time, obeyed their husbands.  Mary is the model bar none of womanhood.  Only a woman can bear a child and have the strength to do so and so nurture a child.   She was faithful. We need to hear more of Mary than we do, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.–We’ve been inundated with reports about Cortez’s anti-life political policies. She does not shy away from the glaring spotlight of our decadent and immoral culture. Mary did not want the spotlight. Mary stood in the light of the Lord. The world’s spotlight is for idolatry alone. The Lord’s light is to show us the darkness of sin and evil and idolatries, and then the pure light of His atonement. His atonement is for our forgiveness. If we look at this blog a few years down the line, we hope it will be with a sigh, “remember Cortez”, but we will still be thanking the Lord for His Mother. And if dear reader, you don’t know who Cortez is, be glad!  If you do know who she is, a thought: Be ever more joyous, though, that Mary heard the Gloria of the Annunciation so we can as well.

In exactly nine months from today, March 25th, will be Christmas.  On this day the Church rejoices that the angel Gabriel gave the announcement (and so, annunciation) to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a Child:  the Son of God.  When Gabriel announced this, Mary responded, Let it be according to your word.  So the Annunciation is the Incarnation: The Word became flesh.  The Feast of the Annunciation is always in Lent.  His birth is our death, our death to sin.  His resurrection is our life, our life in Him. There is more than one annunciation. We will hear the annunciation from the Cross, from the Lord’s mouth:  It is finished.   We will hear again the glad announcement, even more wondrous than the first to Mary:  He is risen!  We need to hear the Annunciation of the Promises of God fulfilled in His Son Jesus daily!  As Mary we need to hear the announcement of our forgiveness and His mercy toward poor sinners.  We need to hear the “for you” of  His Word especially in the Holy Communion, Absolution reminding us of our Baptism.  Others need to hear this Annunciation as well, dying to hear it. We will  hear the last Annunciation:  He comes again! In the midst of death, there is life (Luther).  

“Mary laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim and is praised by myriads of angels. In the manger set apart for irrational animals, the Word of God lay, in order that He might impart to men, who are really irrational by free choice, the true reason and understanding. In the manger from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide men who live like the beasts of the earth with spiritual food.”St. Gregory Thaumaturgus  (died circa A.D. 270-275)

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Texts: Ephesians 5:8–14 John 9:1–41

They say in NYC, when the theatres shut down:  Broadway went dark.  No houselights. Broadway is dark. In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, the front page photo from Friday and there is no no traffic on Times Square. This has been some week when everything is going dark: restaurants, taverns, schools, theatres, colleges, museums, concert halls, etc, etc.  And going to the grocery store is like a trip to the twilight zone of empty shelves, emptied of many items not needed to curtail the coronavirus.  And in those stores, everyone is edgy, moving fast like it’s in New York but not to get somewhere but to get out, go home, and hunker down.  A whole thriving economy immensely slowing down.  Gas prices so low but nowhere to go. This has happened so quickly

My prayer is that we will all get through this soon enough. In fact, I have every reason to think so.

So, what do we do in the meantime? Well, medical workers are doing their jobs. Truck drivers are doing theirs, as are the cashiers at the grocery store. Firefighters must be on the ready, policemen on patrol. Hospice is till visiting the dying. Researchers are busy in their labs, and we pray and give thanks for them all. Pastors are visiting the sick and preaching, and where the Church can assembly our Lord is with us in His Body and Blood. So also teachers, nurses, doctors, car mechanics, factory workers, farmers are about their vocations—the list goes on and on. It’s funny how you see things differently when the chips are down. The evil of the day is sufficient, and while the sun shines, we will do what the Lord has given us to do. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. And that includes us here at Concordia Lutheran Mission and so many congregations.  The Light of the world seeks to make known His works in us as He did for the man born blind from birth, so seek ye His Kingdom, His rule.

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Quite frankly, with the frenetic shoppers at Kroger, I had a hard time walking as a child of light.   What is the fruit of light?

The window in the undercroft here, that is, the basement, was so dirty.  Last week Natalie cleaned it.  Haynes noticed, and said, there’s a flower out there! It seems to me, that after that window as cleaned, the room looks cleaner. The light of Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  It’s true, “cleanliness is next to godliness”.   We can clean our hands and it is the Lord alone who can cleanse the heart.  “You were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord”.  His forgiveness, grace, mercy and peace, is the fruit of His light who has cleansed us. Yet, as sinners, we still have blind spots.  The man born blind could see but not until Jesus found him and revealed Himself,   The fruit of the light is found in Jesus Christ and as is found in all that is good and right and true.  We will have darkness in the world, but behold, Jesus has overcome the world, a panicked world.  The Lord is the Author of all that good, right and true. It’s certainly not found in our flesh or the world. This is what we are encouraged to discern for the light of the world. 

The Pharisees, as all Pharisees, are those who trust in their works to save.  They are the ‘good’ people.  They will tell you as much  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (Luke 18:  9-14, Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector).  Works righteousness, tooting our own horn is kind of like the twilight…enough light but still darkness and blindness. Sounds so much of what goes for Christianity, sadly enough.  As a pastor I would want a congregation of fasters and especially tithers, that is, a congregation of Pharisees, but thank the Lord He does not grant that prayer.

I cannot imagine after being blind since birth and then seeing again to be so investigated by so many good people. I read this in a meme:   “Not going to church because of the ‘hypocrites’ is like not going to the gym because of “out of shape people”. I have heard folks say that I do not like to go church because of all the good people.  Sounds like too much like Christianity and that’s wrong.  Pharisees did not want to be forgiven people in Jesus Christ.  We are by His grace alone, a congregation of forgiven sinners.  We were darkness, not merely doing a dark thing or two, wrote the Apostle; and so walk as children of the light, that is, children of God baptized into Christ (Ephesians 5:8-14).  How can we walk as children of light?  Baptized, we are “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).  Only He can raise the dead, give light to the darkened, see the man born blind, see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Deborah, Saul of Tarsus, Peter, James, John, Lydia, the Philippians Jailer…you, me.  We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses whose eyes were opened by Jesus. We need His light, the light of the Word:  preached, taught, administered, prayed, served in order  to so walk, protected by the Lord according to His Word, against all enemies, even our flesh.  His Word is the light of the world. 

At the end of John 9, the seeing man is worshiping at the feet of Jesus and the Pharisees are still taking pot shots.  Jesus is protecting him.  We are told that Jesus went in search of the formerly blind beggar.  Jesus teaches, I am the Good Shepherd, I go search of the lost (John 10).  Jesus found the now seeing man.  He protects him from the barbs of the self-righteous and all the wolves seeking to devour the flock. Jesus and the worshiping and seeing man is the icon, the  picture of the Church.  With a large, clear 8 day candle, in particular, when lit for a awhile, the wax nearest the flame is clear, so also as we stay close to the Lord and His light and His light cleanses us.  Now with more time on our hands, it’s good to fold our hands in more prayer time.

Pray that our Lord will deliver us from all evil. Pray for doctors and nurses, for those who are struggling, or struggling to make ends meet. Pray for those who are alone, or those who feel alone. For leaders, that they might have wisdom. And also for those of the household of the faithful. Pray especially for our faithful pastors and congregations, that their work might continue. Even as we give thanks for so many faithful pastors and lay leaders, whose stories inspire us with their courage and kindness, ingenuity and fidelity.

And we pray all the more fervently that whatever happens, good or bad, that it would draw us closer to our Lord. That we would use this time to remember what really matters.

Whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we hear the words “Do this in remembrance of me.”So remember that His body has been given for you, His blood has been shed as a sacrifice for our sins, to propitiate the wrath of God.And remember that our Lord lives among us. And where two or three are gathered in His name, there shall He be.

And remember, just as surely as Christ was raised from the dead, we too shall be raised to live with him eternally. So the basics are covered. “For, thank God, today a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. For the children pray thus: I believe in one holy Christian Church.”(Book of Concord, Smalcald Articles)

And on that great day of resurrection, pestilence will be cured, and death will have been put to death. And social distancing will give way to the great communion, where in Christ we have communion with God and fellowship with one another.

And in a world of bad news, that’s good news indeed. Amen.

(Full disclosure: some portions of this sermon from a sermon by Dr. Peter Scaer, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN)

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