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Archive for May 31st, 2020

Pentecost Sunday around the world in 2020 | Office Holidays

Readings: Numbers 11:24–30  Psalm 25: 1-15 Acts 2:1–21 St. John 7:37–39

The Risen Lord Jesus Pours Out the Holy Spirit:  The Lord took “some of the Spirit” that was on Moses “and put it on the seventy elders” of Israel (Num. 11:25), and they “prophesied in the camp” (Num. 11:26). In the same way, our risen Lord Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit at the Feast of Pentecost — the 50th day and the “Eighth Sunday” of Easter. When “a sound like a mighty rushing wind” and “tongues as of fire appeared” and rested on each of the 12 apostles, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” and proclaimed “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:2–4, 11). The Lord Jesus grants this same Spirit to His Church on earth to proclaim Him glorified on the cross and risen victorious from the grave for us sinners. From His open heart, our crucified and risen Lord pours out His Holy Spirit in “rivers of living water” (John 7:38) and invites everyone who thirsts to come to Him and drink freely (John 7:37). Through this life-giving work of the Holy Spirit, we hear our pastors “telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11), and “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

Vexillology is the study of flags. What color on the flags above stand out?  

The header photo on top, and on your right is the Altar at Concordia Lutheran Mission for Pentecost.  In the Church Year, the color is red for Pentecost, symbolizing the fire of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire that rested on the ApostlesWe put up the flags as a reminder that beginning at Pentecost, and to this day, 2,000 years later that the nations hear the Word of God in their own language (Acts 2:  6 and 11). The Lord is the Lord of all nations.

Red is also the color for the Altar (paraments)  and Pastor (vestments) for the feast days of martyrs.  Red signifies blood.  In the flags of nations, shedding of blood can mean valor and strength.  Valor and strength risking one’s life in defense of a nation: remember D-Day. Red also signifies the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s fire to burn away the dross of sin (the Law) and lightened us with warmth of the light of the world, Jesus Christ, and for the valor and strength of the martyrs who confessed Christ with their blood.

The blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit is for you!  Jesus died for the life of the world. The many flags of the world with the color of red can be a salutary reminder that God so loved the world, He gave His only-begotten Son.  His blood covers the earth. In an intimate connection, red can remind us of the Holy Spirit:  The Holy Spirit who is God before time and in the beginning,  “…was hovering over the face of the waters.”  (Genesis 1). The Holy Spirit who descended on the 120 Galileans gathered in Jerusalem and then gave the gift of language to speak the Gospel for all the nations gathered there for Pentecost (Acts 2: 6-11).  The Holy Spirit, as the Son taught concerning the Spirit, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16: 14). 

The Holy Spirit’s book is the Bible and the core curriculum is Christ for us and for our salvation.  Many translations of the Bible have the words of Christ in the color of red. The Lord sends out the Apostles as witnesses (John 16:27), with the Spirit to forgive and retain sin (John 20: 21-23).  He sent them baptizing and teaching  “all nations”  (Matthew 28: 19-20): all races, tribes, tongues and peoples.  As we are baptized in the Name of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are baptized in the Holy Spirit.  This is for all nations as even the secular flags of the world give mute witness to the Lord of all nations shedding His blood for the life of the world and sending the Holy Spirit in His Church to preach the Blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit witnesses to the Son in His blood of the New Testament beginning in Baptismal waters, as John sums it up for us:

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify:the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.  (1 John 3)

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 20)

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Lessons: Isaiah 11: 1-5 Psalm 138 Romans 12: 9-16 St. Luke 1: 39-56

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities  is set in  London and Paris, powerful world capitals, during the seismic upheaval of the French Revolution.  Another familiar fiction title referencing twin power centers is from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the second book, The Two Towers.  The one tower  is in the land of Mordor and the other in Isengard:  the former  tower is in the dark abode of the dark lord, Sauron  and the latter, under the control of a ‘white’ wizard Saruman tempted and fallen into the lies of Sauron. Saruman’s is called the Black Tower.  Closer to home, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan were a conspicuous sign of corporate power and influence, no doubt the reason for them being a target for the murderers from the east.

Luke began his Gospel with the narrative of the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus and so the central figures are their Mothers: Elizabeth and Mary and the story of  their pregnancies.  Luke chapter 1 could be called, “The Tale of Two Wombs”.   

Reflect with me on the contrast between a tale of two cities and the Tale of Two Wombs.  Elizabeth bore John, the forerunner of the Christ, and Mary, the Mother of the Lord.  Both narratives have this in common: both are about power, but power of wholly/holy different kinds. Yes, power exerts influence over nations and peoples but Tolkien’s two towers  are about the power to wage war with the engines of war.    The blessed wombs of Elizabeth and Mary are about peace, the peace of God which surpasses understanding which keeps our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:7).  The cities and towers of this world offer temporal peace, the children of Elizabeth and Mary give eternal peace, not as the world gives. 

The influence of the two different twos make are considerable.  The former is terror over the hearts and minds of men and the latter comfort for sinners to repent from hatred and greed to the living God. The Gospel midst the terrors of nations is that war will one day cease and the peace of Kingdom of God will have no end.  The tale of two cities and towers are about death. The tale of the two wombs are about life, eternal life.

The figures of Saruman and Sauron fascinate us with their aura, even mysticism of the raw exercise of influence…and evil. The origin of the word “fascinate” is most interesting:

“1590s, “bewitch, enchant,” from Middle French fasciner (14c.), from Latin fascinatus, past participle of fascinare “bewitch, enchant, fascinate,” from fascinus “a charm, enchantment, spell, witchcraft,” which is of uncertain origin. Earliest used of witches and of serpents, who were said to be able to cast a spell by a look that rendered one unable to move or resist. Sense of “delight, attract and hold the attention of” is first recorded 1815.

“To fascinate is to bring under a spell, as by the power of the eye; to enchant and to charm are to bring under a spell by some more subtle and mysterious power. [Century Dictionary] (Online Etymology Dictionary)

The point is another comparison between the ‘twos of this world” and the two wombs, the true stories of Elizabeth and Mary, and it lies with us, the Old Adam and Eve wanting to be like God, controlling good and evil…or we think we can. We enjoy  and are fascinated by those who are apt at the exercise of power in this world, but the tale of two wombs is  not fascinating because this is power sadly foreign in the world of sin: the power to create life and recreate life.

“Fascinate” has to do with being bewitched, under a spell.  Man needs something to break that spell.  In the stillness of the Visitation we drawn away from spells of the evil one. In Luke chapter 1, is the Verbal icon of  the sheer beauty of these two women. It is my opinion that the thousands of painting and icons of the Visitation are mute proof of the joy of this embrace.  There is no joy in Mordor nor at a guillotine, and joy abounded when Mary visits Elizabeth. When Mary goes to see Elizabeth, her kinswoman, the encounter is celebrated with this feast day:  The Visitation.  This visitation is no “power lunch”, no high stakes conference.  The Visitation is beautiful because of the great grace of God unveiled in their wombs for the fallen sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  There is no beauty in Mordor nor at a guillotine because it is devoid of agape, of love.  There is power  in the Visitation: the power to save and give life not to destroy and take life. If the fascination of the Old Adam is a spell and the enchantment of evil (and I think it is), then the Visitation begins to break the spell.    This is the true story of the light shining in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1) The spell is broken finally and fully at the Cross of the Son of Mary. He breaks the power of sin and evil and gives eternal life.

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