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Archive for August, 2020

In the three year lectionary, the Epistle lesson is Romans 13: 1-10 for this coming Sunday (6 September, Labor Day Weekend, 2020) and this is the classic text about the role of government: “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

The you-tube video below is of Tennessee State Rep. John Deberry speaking recently to their legislature in General Assembly. This is an impassioned plea which speaks to the meaning of Romans 13 for both black and white people. Please note that Representative is from Memphis where Dr. King was assassinated. Mr. Deberry is also a witness to the civil rights history of the ’50s and ’60s and it’s meaning then and for today in the face of unprecedented racial violence in our cities incited by black and white people. It is over ten minutes long and worth every second!

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Saint Augustine Of Hippo Quotes | St augustine quotes, Augustine of hippo,  Inspirational words of wisdom

O Lord God, the light of the minds that know You, the life of souls that love You, and the strength of the hearts that serve You, give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and loving You we may fully serve You–for to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian:

Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer,Concordia Publishing House)

Concordia Lutheran Mission, who sponsors this blog, and your scribe here, Pastor Schroeder, want to let you know that today is the 10th Anniversary of Concordia Lutheran Mission.  We became a mission in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod after 20 or so of us left a heretical Evangelical Lutheran Church congregation here in Lexington, VA. This congregation was my last pastorate in the ELCA. You can read about our history:  see the tab above:  Concordia Lutheran Mission’s History.

 In conjunction with Pr. Keith Beasley, of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Roanoke), we began the Mission with the first Divine Service on this date, August 28th.  I was not aware at the time it was  the Commemoration of St. Augustine.  I do not think Pr. Beasley was likewise aware of today’s commemoration when he came up to preside at that first Divine Service.  The Commemoration of St. Augustine is a good one to begin a Lutheran mission and congregation.  Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk.  He taught and confessed the Biblical doctrine of the “unilateral grace of God” against the Pelagians who said you have to cooperate to be saved. As St. Augustine preached to the a group of the newly Baptized, about Christ coming to us, His “divine condenscension”:  

“For this divine condescension cannot be truly understood, and human thought and language fails us, that without previous merit on your part this free gift has come to you.  And for this do we call it a grace:  because it is given gratis.  And what grace is this? That you are now members of Christ, Children of God; that you are brothers of the Only-Begotten!”(emphasis my own)

This is apt as it is based on Scripture as are the Lutheran Confessions:

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 4)

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. (Ephesians 2)

In the bio above, St. Augustine is described as a, “fierce defender of the orthodox faith”.  I had to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as did other brothers and sisters,  because I too defend the orthodox and evangelical faith, but I know I am no Augustine.  It’s hard to so defend when so many don’t want to hear the truth…but this is a sign that we were on track. In a recent part time job,  I was of accused as being rigid  as a Christian and a Pastor, and this from a former secret service agent!  Did that agent have to follow unbending protocols and procedures to protect the President of the United States even if the agent hates the President’s political views?  I think rigidity is important in protecting the first family, or our nation, or marriage and preaching the truth of the Scriptures.

Concordia Lutheran Mission, this little ship, founded on this date, has floundered and yet by His grace, Concordia Lutheran is celebrating her Tenth Anniversary and is afloat.  We have received a warm Christian welcome from the Congregation of Ben Salem Presbyterian Church to use their Sanctuary:  The Divine Service at 9:15am and Bible School at 10:45am. The congregation has gone out of their way to accommodate us and help us in their hospitality which is a great Christian virtue.

St. Augustine’s great work is the City of God.  I sadly admit that I have not read it.  His metaphor of the City of God (actually, more than a metaphor!) and the city of man are in stark contrast.  St. Augustine and God’s people, and the Roman Empire, were facing the collapse of the empire. The wild pagans of the north were to come and lay waste the City of Rome itself.  I pray I am exaggerating, but as I write the wild paganism, even worse, the nihilism of atheistic political ideologies and their fanatical supporters are burning and looting several great American cities. The immorality of abortion goes on and now infanticide is promoted as is every sexual perversion that can be described. Greed is rampant. Unbelief stalks churches. Denial of sound Christian doctrine is accepted.   Maybe the Wuhan virus is God’s just judgment.  We are learning again the Scripture that here we have no enduring city: For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14)..  We have been baptized into a different city, the eternal Zion and so we have hope:

 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3: 20-21).

The cities of our land need the City of God and the Word of the Great King, slain for hate-filled citizens, us all, risen for our justification, that citizens of the City of God to go forth with His Word.  Please pray for Concordia Lutheran Mission, myself as Pastor in the Church, my wife (the organist here!) and the Church in these dark days that with you, around the world, we may proclaim our great King:

“… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2: 9-10)

Please the appointed verses selected from Psalm 48 for this day in rejoicing in the Lord:

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
    the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God
    has made himself known as a fortress.

For behold, the kings assembled;
    they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
    they were in panic; they took to flight.
Trembling took hold of them there,
    anguish as of a woman in labor.
By the east wind you shattered
    the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
    which God will establish forever. 

Let us pray…

We turn to You, the Lord our God and as best as we can give we give You thanks.  We beseech You that in Your goodness You will hear our prayers and by Your power:  drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us Your holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end through Your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

(A prayer adapted from a benediction by which St. Augustine ended at least two of his sermons)

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St. Monica Prayer Card

About Monica, Mother of Augustine: A  native of North Africa, Monica (AD 333-387) was the devoted mother of St. Augustine. Throughout her life, she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy, on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some Church Year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

From The Confessions of Augustine of Hippo:

(Monica) was brought up in modesty and sobriety. She was made by You obedient to her parents rather than by them to You. When she reached marriageable age, she was given to a man and served him as lord. She tried to win him for You, speaking to him of You by her virtues through which You made her beautiful, so that her husband loved, respected and admired her. She bore with his infidelities and never had a quarrel with her husband on this account. For she looked forward to Your mercy coming upon him, in hope that, as he came to believe in You, he might become chaste….

Another gift with which You endowed at good servant of Yours, in whose womb You created me, my God, my mercy (Ps. 58:18), was that whenever she could, she reconciled dissident and quarrelling people. She showed herself so great a peacemaker that when she heard from both sides many bitter things, Monica would never reveal to one anything about the other unless it might help to reconcile them….

At the end, when her husband had reached the end of his life in time, she succeeded in gaining him for You. After he was a baptized believer, she had no cause to complain of his behavior, which she had tolerated in one not yet a believer. She was also a servant of Your servants: any of them who knew her found much to praise in her, held her in honor, and loved her, for they felt Your presence in her heart, witnessed by the fruits of her holy way of life. She had “testimony to her good works” (1 Timothy 5:10). She had brought up her children, enduring travail as often as she saw them wandering away from You. Lastly, Lord—by Your gift You allow me to speak for Your servants, for before her falling asleep we were bound together in community in You after receiving the grace of Baptism—she exercised care for everybody as if they were all her own children. She served all as if she was a daughter to all of us. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

Scripture:

Proverbs 31: 10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1: 5

Reflection:  Monica’s husband was an adulterer.   She stayed with him.  She was faithful. She probably took literally the Epistle reading:   Ephesians 5:21-23.   She wanted her husband to be her head…but in Christ Jesus.  She is not the model in our day of the liberated woman!  Thank, God.  Her strength was her Lord and she prayed for the conversion of both her husband and their son.  I am not saying that a wife in an abusive marriage should stay.  Monica was not physically abused.  She was, though, spiritually and emotionally hurt by her feckless husband and faithless son.  She persisted in prayer for them.  They were far from the Church and her Lord.  We read and listen to the reports about our children leaving the Church under the banner “spiritual not religious”.  And with that, not wanting children or families.  I wonder how I went wrong as a parent.  What did Monica do?  She prayed in faith to the Lord.   We pray for our children to return to You, O Lord.  Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord…We look to You for our forgiveness. Monica is the saint to remind us of prayer.  Her husband and son were baptized.  Maybe our prayers won’t be answered in our life time.  

Monica’s son became one of the most important theologians and pastors whose writings influenced one young monk in the Order of St. Augustine:  Martin Luther.   Augustine’s feast day is tomorrow. Freedom in Christ is praying for someone who may not even want our prayers.  

P.S. and FWIW:  I think a day like this one should be for the Church to serve as Mother’s Day.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son. Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.

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Psalm 12:3,4 KJB 🙏 | Psalm 12, Psalms, King james bible

The appointed Psalmody for 19 August, 2020 in the daily lectionary is Psalm 12.  It is about language.

At the end of a calendar year, there is now the annual report of new words added to the English language.  In a sense, we voted those words by our use of them.  Some stick around, others go the way of the do-do bird.  This demonstrates a current understanding of language and that is language is the result of a kind of democracy  that we create the  language.  This means language has little or no correlation with truth over us.  Given that so many ‘important’ words go extinct because they no longer can represent any kind of truth…they can even sound corny.  For instance: By the time I was thirteen or so (the ‘60s), my peers and I were already making fun of saying “groovy”.  Groovy is a slang colloquialism popular during the late 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. It is roughly synonymous with words such as “cool”, “excellent”, “fashionable”, or “amazing”, depending on context (Source: Wikipedia). I do not think anyone says “groovy” these days. Or “the cat’s pajamas”.  Or words like “he” or “she” are altered to the point we need new pronouns, according to the supposed LGBT cultural majority.  In fact, there are supposedly 52 pronouns in this ‘cisgender’ age:

  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Cis
  • Cisgender
  • Cis Female
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Cisgender Female
  • Cisgender Male
  • Cisgender Man
  • Cisgender Woman
  • Female to Male
  • FTM
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Intersex
  • Male to Female
  • MTF
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Non-binary
  • Other
  • Pangender
  • Trans
  • Trans*
  • Trans Female
  • Trans* Female
  • Trans Male
  • Trans* Male
  • Trans Man
  • Trans* Man
  • Trans Person
  • Trans* Person
  • Trans Woman
  • Trans* Woman
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Two-Spirit

(Source: ABC news)

Please note that this article was published in 2014.  In the 16 years (many lifetimes now in the cyberspeed age), this probably has morphed as well, but the confusion has not for too many people.  These made-up ‘pronouns’ (note:  they really can even work as pronouns! “The neutrois said to me…”) do not represent the simple biological truth:  male and female but correspond to man-made philosophy.

I think this all started with the clamor for ‘inclusive language’.  I have a book, More Than Words by a Roman Catholic nun, and she two pages of different ‘inclusive’ names for God, like “Warm Center” or “Baker Woman God”.  This was published in the first wave of ‘inclusive’ language but the only thing not included in ‘inclusive’ language is truth. Some of the goals were practical but they weren’t enough for the sociological tyranny of the  language police.  This all has been summed up in a Bible verse, from Psalm 12:

May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
    the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
    our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, in his reflections on the Psalms (Christ in the Psalms), writes this about Psalm 12:

“…words are necessarily taken to mean whatever the present living members of a society say that they mean, so that the study of language really becomes a branch of sociology. In fact, sociology textbooks themselves make this claim explicitly. Moreover, this notion of speech is so taken for granted nowadays as nearly to assume the rank of a self-evident principle. Nonetheless, it is deeply erroneous.

It is also egregiously dangerous to spiritual and mental health, for such a view of language dissolves the relationship of speech to the perception of truth, rendering man the lord of language without affirming the magisterial claims of truth over man. Declared independent of such claims, language submits to no tribunal higher than arbitrary social dictates. Human society, no matter how sinful and deceived, is named the final authority over speech, which is responsible only to those who use it, subject to no standards above the merely social. That is to say, in this view words must mean what people determine them to mean, especially such people as cultural engineers, political activists, feminist reformers, news commentators, talk-show hosts, and other professionals who make their living by fudging the truth.

This current notion of language was well formulated in the declaration of the proud and rebellious in (Psalm 12) in a passage manifestly portending the mendacious times in which we live: “With our tongue we will prevail. Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”

Many have prevailed but we do not cut off the flattering lips, the Lord does. He does want us to teach the truth that  frees us from the old and new tyrannies, even when we invite disdain and virulent arguments. We have the pure soap that cleanses our tongues and our lips and our minds, and protects us:  His Word.

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord;
    “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

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Image result for bernard of clairvaux quotes

Collect of the Day: 

O God, enkindled with the fire of Your love, Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux became a burning and a shining light in Your Church. By Your mercy, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline and may ever walk in Your presence as children of light; through Jesus Christ. our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Bernard: A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the twelfth century AD, Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of twenty-two. After two years, he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some sixty-eight daughter houses. Bernard is remembered not only for his charity and political abilities but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by St. Bernard. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Man can do many impressive things because we are created in the image of God.  Man’s reason and capabilities still have the broken fragments of the image of God in them and do great things so that wemarvel at our own ingenuity and invention, but they save only in time and for a time. The image is broken and the darkness of sin lies in the cracks. Any awards show on TV shows us applauding how great we are. Applauding our creations is finally clapping at a mirror.

There is an intimate urgency in man that cries:  there must be more. Our works do not save. That cry results either in pride or despair, better despair to hear the Gospel for our repair. Pride in our abilities is wrong as we think our talents come from our selves.    We have called our selves “Homo Sapiens” or “Wise Man” and “Homo Faber” or “Creator Man”.  We like to say that so in so, “re-invented himself”. We can invent or create ourselves. We are not self-created and our wisdom is seldom on display these days. As a species, we humans think more highly of ourselves than we ought (cf. Romans 12:3). The Lord holds before our eyes and hearts the perfect icon or image of Himself: His Son upon the Cross (cf. Colossians 1:15).  In Christ, by faith through His grace, we become “Homo Adorans”, worshiping man, worshiping the one true God, “…from Whom all blessings flow”.

Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of this:  

We must hate and shun that presumption which would lead us to glory in goods not our own, knowing that they are not of ourselves but of God, and yet not fearing to rob God of the honor due unto Him…. Ignorance is brutal, arrogance is devilish. Pride only, the chief of all iniquities, can make us treat gifts as if they were rightful attributes of our nature, and, while receiving benefits, rob our Benefactor of His due glory…

Our gifts are not rights due us, but gifts, are, well, gifts! We do need to fear “…to rob God the honor due unto Him”, because in faith in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, everything we see, hear, touch and smell we know by true faith are His gifts toward us and in the fullness of time our redemption in Christ, risen from the dead.  Bernard continued:

The Father of Christ, who makes all things new, is well pleased with the freshness of those flowers and fruits and the beauty of the field that breathes forth such heavenly fragrance. And He says in benediction, “See, the smell of My Son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed” (Gen. 27:27). Blessed to overflowing, indeed, since of His fullness have we all received (John 1:16).

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #172 
Text: Is. 50: 6
Author: Paul Gerhardt
Based on the Latin poem “Salve caput cruentatum”
By Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, asc.

Image result for The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself.

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Aardvark Alley: + Johann Gerhard, Theologian +

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, Your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise You for the gifts of grace imparted to Your servant Johann, and we pray that by his teaching we maybe led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

About Johann Gerhard:  Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) and the most influential of the seventeenth-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (twenty-three large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the superintendent of Heldburg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

A Reading from Pr. Gerhard, cited in The Treasury of Daily Prayer:

You, most faithful God, perform the duties of a faithful and skillful doctor in healing the mortal wounds of my soul. You heal them by the wounds of Your Son. there is danger that the healed wounds will be reopened, but Your Spriit prevents this with grace like a poultice…After receiving the forgiveness of sins, so many people return to their former way of living.  By repeating their sins, they offend God all the more grievously…

The same can happen to me if You do not keep me on the good path through Your powerful grace and the effective working of Your Holy Spirit.  The same evil spirit that captured them attacks me. The same world that seduced them entices me. The same flesh that secured them lures me. Only Your grace protects me against these attacks and with with the power necessary for victory.  Your  strength supplies the power I  need in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). You my  spirit the strength to restrain the passion of the flesh. Whatever is good in me comes from You, the font of all good things, because in me, by nature, there is nothing but sin. I have to acknowledge that all the good works I do—which are nevertheless impure because of the corruption and imperfection of my flesh—are gifts of Your grace. I will give You thanks forever because of Your immeasurable gift to me. Amen.—Johann Gerhard  (Selected from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy, translated by Pr. Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

Reflection:  Pr. Gerhard is one of my favorite theologians because he prayed with the Church, he preached and taught the Scriptures with the Church and desired to give praise to God alone through His mercies in Jesus Christ for him and us all.

His sermons are wellsprings of Scripture.  As one pastor in an introduction to a volume of Gerhard’s sermons wrote :  “He saw the New Testament through Old Testament eyes”, as the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.  Rev. Prof. Gerhard lived and breathed the Scriptures as they are the very words of the Holy Spirit writ into His creation for our redemption in Jesus Christ. We learn doctrine and life from Jesus Christ, as sound doctrine is life:

My sheep here My voice He says, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give them eternal Life. Just as Christ’s  teachings are a complete rule of faith, so also is His life a clear, complete mirror for every good work. Learn from Me, He says in Matt, 11-29, as if to say: You have enough to learn about My love, about My patience, My humility, meekness, friendliness to do you for the rest of your lives. As a result, you will well forget about the commandments of men with which you serve God fruitlessly and in vain, Matt. 15:9. O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, highly praised in all eternity: Give us all such an obedient, willing heart for following the voice of Christ in doctrine and life. 

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ISAAC (patriarch), patriarch | World Biographical Encyclopedia

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, through the patriarch Isaac You preserved the seed of the Messiah and brought forth the new creation.  Continue to preserve the Church as the Israel of God as she manifests the glory of Your holy Name by continuing to worship Your Son, the child of Mary;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

About Isaac:  Isaac, the long promised and awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, was born when his father was 100 and his mother 91. The announcement of his birth brought both joy and laughter to his aged parents (so the name “Isaac,” which means “laughter”). As a young man, Isaac accompanied his father to Mount Moriah, where Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, prepared to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (Gen. 22:1–14), and thus pointing to the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Isaac was given in marriage to Rebekah (24:15), and they had twin sons, Esau and Jacob (25:19–26). In his old age Isaac, blind and feeble, wanted to give his blessing and chief inheritance to his favorite—and eldest—son, Esau. But through deception Rebekah had Jacob receive them instead, resulting in years of family enmity. Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried by his sons, who by then had become reconciled, in the family burial cave of Machpelah (35:28–29). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  The enduring legacy of the Lord’s Word to the prophets is that His Word is given through marriage(s) and families, culminating in a Holy Family in Bethlehem.  These families do have their moments!  As when Rebekah schemes to have her favorite son Jacob receive Isaac’s blessing.  Funny how the Lord works things out but after all it was the Lord who named the son of the promise to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Laughter (Genesis 17:19)  Just think: Father and Mother calling to their son, “Dinner time, Laughter”.

One of the single longest chapters in Genesis is chapter 24 and it is all about the way the Lord arranged the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.  It is a moving love story. The main character is Abraham’s unnamed servant who acts as the Lord’s matchmaker.  We are told he prayed as the chapter proceeds. This is significant because this is the first time in Genesis when someone else, besides Abraham, prays to the Lord of Abraham!     It is  easy to gloss over, but important. The servant’s prayer is for a wife for Isaac as the Lord wills for His creation.  This long chapter is about marriage between man and woman and through marriage and family, His will of creation continues and so does redemption:  the Son of Mary, the step-son of Joseph.Truly, Abraham is the father of faith. And faith comes by the promises of God fulfilled finally and fully in Jesus Christ, the promise fulfiled. The Lord fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah in their son Isaac, and then in Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob and unto us the Son is born, unto us the Child is given (cf. Isaiah 9: 6).  Jesus Christ is the laughter of God overcoming sin and death as He is risen.  

Today marriage is under assault as no other time but this is just the outworn post-enlightenment understanding of the so-called “new morality” of the ’60s, which is really the old immorality dressed up to look hot.  It’s hot…hotter than hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, you can no more make a new value than you can a new primary color.  Luther said it well, “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.”  (Luther’s Sermon on John 2: 1—11, 1533, Luther’s House Postils, vol. 1)  The commemoration of Isaac is another good day to remember that before the Fall, the Lord gave us marriage and family, it is part of His creation and in Christ, creation itself is renewed waiting for the new heavens and the new earth and the marriage feast of the Lamb (see Revelation 19:9) .

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Nativity icon by Liesbeth Smulders | Natividade de jesus ...

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou Bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

(The Lutheran Hymnal, “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones”, #475)

The Mother of the Lord:  

St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen of specific incidents in her life being recorded:

  • her betrothal to Joseph;
  • the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah;
  • her visitation to Elizabeth,
  • the mother of John the Baptizer;
  • the nativity of our Lord;
  • the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men;
  • the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple;
  • the flight into Egypt;
  • the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee;
  • her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John;
  • and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit.                                                                                                

Thus she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

St. Luke 1 

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (emphasis added)

St. Luke in his Gospel and in his history of the early church, Acts of the Apostles, has the most complete references to the virgin Mary.  Therefore it has been speculated for centuries  that one of the “eyewitnesses” that St. Luke consulted was none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.  For what it’s worth, I think this is reasonable.  

Even more important than identifying Luke’s eyewitnesses, according the texts of all four Gospels, plus Acts, Mary was present and she was a witness, an eyewitness, to her Son Jesus Christ.  She was a faithful and true witness to all of her Son’s life, death, resurrection, ascension and His giving of the life-giving Holy Spirit.  She saw with her eyes the angel Gabriel as he brought the message that she would be with Child.  She saw Him born!  She saw their guests at the manger, the shepherds and the Magi.  She and her husband watched their Son grow up and they took Him every year to Jerusalem for Passover…of course, I could go on.  The result of her first witness,after the angel Gabriel’s Annunciation, was praise:  My soul doth magnify the Lord.   Her whole life of witness was to magnify, make big the Lord for others to see.

Mary’s witness is our witness.  Christians will speak of giving, “their witness to Jesus”, though with our physical eyes we have not seen Him.  As another faithful witness to the Lord, the Apostle Peter, wrote:  

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.(1 Peter 1)

How did they come to such faith without seeing?  Answer:  The Word of God was preached to them and the Holy Spirit created faith.  Americans in particular like to say, “seeing is believing”, but the Scripture passage above points us to the fact that believing is greater than seeing.  As the Lord Himself said to Thomas, Peter and the Apostles, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (St. John 20). Our witness is the borrowed witness of belief or faith. It is based upon the faithful witness of Mary and many others to the earthly and heavenly ministry of Jesus Christ.

Many saw Jesus in His earthly ministry but did not believe and lay hold of the promises of God fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and this is sad. They thought they could save themselves or didn’t need saving.  Not St. Mary.  Her Son is her Savior as well.   Faith does not point to faith but to Jesus Christ.  Whether faith is weak or strong, it is nevertheless faith, the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit also conceives Christ within us in the hearing of the Word of God.  Mary is mother of faith which points to her Son.  She is quite transparent. Her witness is to her Son and her instruction is for us as well:  “Do whatever he tells you” (St. John 2: 5). Mary did not seek praise for herself. She praised the Lord because of His favor toward her and she gives her witness in praise and adoration:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name. (St. Luke 2)

Our witness can do no less than to magnify the Lord, in the favor He shown us in His Son Jesus through His crucifixion and resurrection and magnify Him in word and deed and this done only through Him, with Him and in Him.

Let us pray:  

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Lord, still our hearts and minds in the Sabbath of Your forgiveness by which You have redeemed us from the old way of death to live and breathe in Your life, Your life which You first gave to Your Mother, that this dark world know You have come into our world for us and for our salvation. Amen.

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The Wit & Wisdom of C.S. Lewis: C.S. Lewis on Reading the Old ...

The following quote is from Walter Hooper’s introduction to his collection of C. S. Lewis’ essays, Present Concerns:  Journalistic Essays which are a selection of Mr. Lewis’ articles in newspapers and magazines,:  

“’Who is Elizabeth Taylor?’ asked C. S. Lewis. He and I were talking about the difference between ‘prettiness’ and ‘beauty’, and I suggested that Miss Taylor was a great beauty. ‘If you read the newspapers,’ I said to Lewis, ‘you would know who she is.’ ‘Ah-h-h-h!’ said Lewis playfully, ‘but that is how I keep myself “unspotted from the  world”. ‘ He recommended that if I absolutely ‘must’ read newspapers I have a frequent ‘mouthwash’ with The Lord of the Rings or some other great book.

Mr. Hooper explains that Lewis thought the news in the media, as we call it now, was “possibly the most phantasmal of all histories”. When Mr. Hooper and C. S. Lewis would look at a newspaper’s headlines they would conclude, “…we hoped to goodness the news in it was phantasmal.”

I think C. S. Lewis was on to something and so it begs the question: Why is the news phantasmal?  Or as almost correctly stated in our time, “fake news”.  Now the only problem with the phrase  “fake news” is it has enough of truth and facts to give a given report plausibility. I suppose this has been going on for some time now, but it seems to be worse.  Since C. S. Lewis’ death in 1963, his use of “phantasmal”, that is, unreal, ghostly, twilight seems even more apropos than “fake”.  What has changed to make news more phantasmal?

  1. Sheer volume of news:  Beginning in the 19th Century with the advent of newspapers and magazines everyone could have a report of the daily events at their fingertips.  For instance, in the middle of the  19th Century New York City had 54 newspapers!  From newspapers and magazines to radio and movies (movies were preceded by news reels in the first half of the 20th Century) to TV, Internet and smart phones.  The sheer volume is massive and can be overwhelming.
  2. This leads automatically to this, Scandal and Sin:  the media does NOT report on daily happenings out of the goodness of their hearts to keep us informed!  What is the purpose of so much news?  Answer:  profit/money as expressed in the desire of increased readership/viewership so that more people are reached with advertisements and commercials.  So how do you increase readers/viewers?  There is an old newspaper saying, “If it bleeds, it leads”.  So, homicide can sell papers.  Sin sells. The purpose is not merely to inform but to incite, inflame and arouse so that we are transfixed on the ‘tube’ or our internet news feeds/social platforms, etc., to watch more and see more ads.  So, the reported news is not dispassionate but wants to incite the passions. At one time, it was said, “The headlines are screaming…” some salacious news or tragedy. I think we are being screamed at 24/7. Note that in any given conversation about an important topic the tendency is for us to say, “I feel that such and such…”, not “I think” and further:  feelings cannot be challenged. After all, they’re my feelings!  “I may make you feel but I can’t make your think”, Ian Anderson, his song, “Thick as a Brick”, Jethro Tull.  Now with improper editing, a video clip can incite the public feeling like no newspaper article ever could. When feelings are everything, and facts take the backseat, then the manipulation works in demonical precision. Remember:  All this sells their product to increase advertising revenues.
  3. Provincialism in TimeProvincialism is, “…concern for one’s own area or region at the expense of national or supranational unity.” C. S. Lewis, in his article, “Modern Man and His Categories of Thought”, wrote that one new category in our time is we do not believe that the thoughts of the ancients are needed and so no longer taught and so heeded:  the ancient thinkers like Plato and Aristotle. It is a fact that  for western civilization this has been taught for a thousand years.  (Note well:  The assault against our own western civilization is virulent and even violent right now).  As Lewis wrote in another work, we tend to only read the new books,  but we should be reading the old books (he even suggested not to read his books first!)  From Mr. Lewis’ article: “The effect of removing this education has been to isolate the mind in its own age: to give it, in relation to time, that disease which, in relation to space, we call Provincialism.”  I have called this Provincialism in Time which has resulted in the oft quoted, “History is bunk”. The thought that history begins when I was born.  Our time is the most important, we want to be on the “right side of history”, our own. The 24/7 news cycle reinforces this thought/feeling day in and day out. With minds that then tend toward mush, and so tyranny and its sundry political, cultural and social tyrants can walk right in and form those minds into hardened atheistic ideology. 

The above is problem and so the problem begs the question:  What can we do?

  1. “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
        and give me life in your ways.
    ”- Ps. 119: 37  The Lord answers prayer!  Lord, turn my eyes from watching worthless things on TV, on-line, in magazines.  The constant barrage can be stopped, not at its source, but at its target: you and I.  In Holy Baptism we say No to the devil, all his ways and all his pomp and pompousness.  We must pray as did the Psalmist, so we turn our eyes from beholding worthless things and be redirected day by day to the Lord:  “…give me life in Your ways”.
  2. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4: 8-9).  The Apostle redirects our thoughts to whatever is just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent. The Lord has not left Himself without a witness in creation (Acts 14:17). “Consider the lilies of the field…”  The Lord’s creation is good.  If a pagan creates a beautiful painting, it will uplift the mind and spirit.  The Apostle Paul quoted pagan poets (see Acts 17: 27-28).  The Lord’s Word in Christ lifts up even further:  even unto heaven.  We read for ourselves the lives of the saints in the Bible and they are worthy of imitation.  A saint’s life in Jesus Christ will run contrary many times with the world. “Think about these things” which means continuing education in the Word and in colleges and universities which still teach the ancient knowledge. Think about these things, pray about these things and practice these things.
  3. “(C. S. Lewis)  recommended that if I absolutely ‘must’ read newspapers I have a frequent ‘mouthwash’ with The Lord of the Rings or some other great book.”  We need strong mouthwash, eyewash and cleaning of the ear holes these days!  Lewis knew:  the frequent mouthwash of a great book.  We still have libraries.  The internet is a source of such. For instance, I found online Moby Dick by Hermann Melville in a PDF:  the whole book!  In a college Latin course, I translated a work by Cicero about books and he made this cryptic comment: ‘…and there is a book that will stay the night with you”.  There is: the Bible, God’s Word in God’s words. We read therein the cleansing of God’s people by His Word of grace and mercy.  We need a baptismal immersion in the Scriptures daily.

The Church needs to do  this together more than ever. Preaching will always be important, and so is education in Scriptures, the history of the Church, in the writings of Christian poets, painters, sculptors, architects etc. My Church body, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) has a venerable history of parochial education, pre-school through university and seminary. I think it is the only Protestant church body which has this as the Roman Catholic church. I pray we build more schools. We are seeing and reading about the collapse of state run school systems across our native land.  Our schools have been officially atheistic for over a generation.  The virus and the lockdown may be the judgment of God on the forsaking of the Lord.  Every congregation needs a pastor who actually teaches the Scriptures and not merely facilitate a discussion about the Bible and how we feel about it. I think the LCMS, to evangelize, should start more and more schools in the mode of classical Christian education, with a church, not the old model of building a church with a school.  I think the LCMS has the funds to do such.  There are three types of tables in every church:  The Lord’s Table, tables for pot-lucks and tables for learning the Scripture. May the Lord fill those tables with His Word and His people that we have life in His Name! This news is not phantasmal but eternally real.

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Saint Lawrence of Rome as a Model Deacon (St. Ambrose of Milan ...

Gracious Lord, in every age You have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of  Your Gospel and all the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.  Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel, like Your servant Lawrence, whose faithfulness led them to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to Your Son’s victory over sin and death, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jesus, priceless treasure, 
source of purest pleasure, 
friend most sure and true: 
long my heart was burning, 
fainting much and yearning, 
thirsting, Lord, for you. 
Yours I am, O spotless Lamb, 
so will I let nothing hide you, 
seek no joy beside you!
 

About Lawrence: 

Early in the third century A.D., Laurence, most likely born in Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Laurence to produce the “treasures of the church.” Laurence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young church. Almost immediately, the date of His death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.

Reflection:. St. Lawrence knew that the treasures of Christ’s grace are poured out for the  poor, the lame, the orphans and the widows, for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that is, the poor in spirit.   In the midst of Watergate in the 70s, Bob Woodward was told by his informant, “to follow the money”.  All of the world follows the money.  Lawrence did not “follow the money”: he followed His Lord and yours.  As a steward of Jesus Christ, His deacon, Lawrence well maintained earthly treasure, but gold does not make the Church, only the blood of Christ remakes us into His Church, members of His Body. St. Lawrence followed the Blood of our Lord which is for all, rich and poor.

When the Church and her Christians think the true treasures of the church are in the offering plates/big budgets  or our “creative ministries” or our programs, and not the Cross and Sacraments, Scripture and Service in His love, then,

“…we are in danger of losing the things that make the Church in favor of those who claim to make the Church.  Church leaders only gain legitimacy when they are the delivery point of the divine gifts.” (Pr. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH)  

Lawrence and many others so delivered the divine gifts and worldly gifts and were delivered up as martyrs and their witness heartens us.

The Roman Empire, that is, the world, only wanted the Church’s earthly treasure but finally the world wants to empty the Church of her divine treasure:  The Scriptures, the Sacraments, redeemed men and women, prayer, education, worship and the like…her people.  The world only wants to to be worshiped as the end and be all, and hates other claimants to its false worship.

Recently, on a front door of a church purporting to be Lutheran, a note reading: “Right now, LOVE looks like an empty building”. This congregation is part of a denomination that denies the marriage of man and woman alone and the inerrant Scripture, denies there is only male and female, accepts abortion, and sides with socialism and Marxism.  In their misguided zeal to protect themselves at all costs from covid, they think they are loving their neighbor by not having church. (And having a service can be done with the use of accepted health procedures.) I pray it continues to be empty! But ‘love’ can never look like an empty church building. For centuries, heretics have sincerely and secretly emptied the Church of her treasure by denying the Word of God, Law and Promise.  I think there are believers in this congregation and this is a cause of sadness and prayer.  Love never looks empty.  The world wants to empty the Church and too many denominations have been willing accomplices in pillaging the Church of her divine treasure by denying the inerrant Truth.  Lord, help us. And there may come a time, like for St. Lawrence that  the powers that be will come for us because we share both spiritual and material treasure and won’t give it up to the government/state and idolatrous ideologies. In Christ may we always give our witness as did St. Lawrence.

The Roman Emperor executed by grilling Lawrence alive and maybe many others without batting an eye.  Just think of the depth of depravity of sin! Animals do not kill each other for ideology or sport or enjoyment, but man does.  When the Church is driven out by a government, eventually the State becomes god and will not tolerate the one true God, but Lawrence served the poor in Jesus Christ.  We remember Lawrence but not the tyrant who had him murdered.  I have known Lawrences but I have never met anyone named Valerian or Nero, maybe someone would name their dog ‘Nero”. We remember what the Lord said to Saul on the road to Damascus:  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.(Acts 9: 4-5) 

Let us pray…May God turn the hearts of all who are abusing, raping, terrorizing, and killing our brothers and sisters throughout the world. May God bring to true repentance all who have denied true doctrine. May God bring them to faith in Christ, who has put away their murderous sins and won every gemstone of His Father’s love for them and us. May God fill our enemies with the Holy Spirit, that they may put down their swords and pick up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and  share the treasure of Christ’s kingdom with those whom they once sought to destroy.  Amen.

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