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Archive for September, 2020

St. Jerome’s Vulgate Translation:  St. John 1: 1:

In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum  In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.

In ipso vita erat et vita erat lux hominum   In him was life: and the life was the light of men.

Collect of the Day: O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. May those who continue to read, mark, and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Jerome, Translator of Holy Scripture:  Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea around AD 345. At a young age, he went to study in Rome, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian Desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople, Jerome settled in Bethlehem. from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the Western Church for more than 1,o00 years. Considered one of the great scholars of the Early Church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem, but his remins were eventually taken to Rome. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  Jerome is remembered for the translation of the Bible into Latin, but he was also rigorous as to the way the clergy minister the Scripture and Sacraments to Christ’s people in a culture with great wealth and poverty. 

A clergyman, then, serving Christ’s church, must first understand what his name means; and then, when he realizes this, must endeavor to be that which he is called. For since the Greek word kleros means “lot,” or “inheritance,” the clergy are so called either because they are the lot of the Lord, or else because the Lord Himself is their lot and portion. Now, one who in his own person is the Lord’s portion, or has the Lord for his portion, must so bear himself as to possess the Lord and to be possessed by him. He who possesses the Lord, and who says with the prophet, “The Lord is my portion,” (Ps. 16: 5; 73: 26) can hold to nothing beside the Lord.

Jerome continued in this letter to a fellow priest, Nepotian, that a pastor should not hold on to riches and the favors of the wealthy.  The pastor will then hold onto desiring the favor of the world, rather than serving the Lord’s people with His Word.  Favoring the wealthy, the pastor forgets the poor. The pastor holds the Lord as his portion and that includes His Word, especially the Holy Scriptures.  In a sense, a seminary has only one book it’s library:  the Bible. The remainder of the library emanates from Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone.  Jerome did not translate the Bible into Latin because he considered that language holy.  Future generations would incorrectly consider Latin as such.  Jerome translated the Bible into common language of the Roman Empire which stretched across the Mediterranean.  Jerome knew the call of the Lord to spread “the eternal Gospel”:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. Revelation 14: 6

If pastors do not hold the Lord and His Word as their portion then neither will the congregation.  If pastors do not study His Word, then the congregation will not be fed the Word, but be susceptible to eat the junk food of  the world. I have been told that at one time one of the requirements for a bishop was to memorize the Psalms.  When pastors have at the ready the Scripture, then they can counsel the flock so prone to wander.  May the Lord raise up in our time faithful pastors of the Word and faithful translators of the Scripture so that the Holy Spirit wields the sword of the Word to defend His people and so that others may hear the Word of Christ and be saved (cf. Ephesians 6: 17/ Romans 10:  14-17)

From Jerome’s Letter to Heliodorus:

“The day will come when this corrupt and mortal body shall put on incorruptibility and become immortal. Happy the servant whom the Lord then shall find on the watch. Then at the voice of the trumpet the earth with its peoples shall quake, and you will rejoice. When the Lord comes to give judgment the universe will utter a mournful groan; the tribes of men will beat their breasts; kings once most mighty will shiver with naked flanks; Jupiter with all his offspring will then be shown amid real fires; Plato with his disciples will be revealed as but a fool; Aristotle’s arguments will not help him. Then you the poor rustic will exult, and say with a smile:

“Behold my crucified God, behold the judge. This is he who once was wrapped in swaddling clothes and uttered baby cries in a manger. This is the son of a working man and a woman who served for wages. This is he who, carried in his mother’s arms, fled into Egypt, a God from a man. This is he who was clad in a scarlet robe and crowned with thorns. This is he who was called a magician, a man with a devil, a Samaritan. Behold the hands, ye Jews, that you nailed to the cross. Behold the side, ye Romans, that you pierced. See whether this is the same body that you said the disciples carried off secretly in the night.”

O my brother, that it may be yours to say these words and to be present on that day, what labor now can seem hard?

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Sermon for the Feast of St Michael & All Angels | Strands of Life

Collect of the Day: Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Appointed Scripture Readings: Daniel 10:10–14; 12:1–3 Psalm 91 (v. 11) Revelation 12:7–12 Matthew 18:1–11 or Luke 10:17–2

About St. Michael and All Angels:    The name of the archangel St. Michael means “Who is like God?” Michael is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (12:1), as well as in Jude (v. 9) and Revelation (12:7). Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against the forces of evil. In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight against and defeat Satan and the evil angels, driving them from heaven. Their victory is made possible by Christ’s own victory over Satan in His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Revelation 12:10). Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the other chief angels or archangels who surround the throne of God. Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians at the hour of death. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

A person dies and then has to earn his wings and thus becomes an angel.  Since all angels are female, even a man on earth once he has earned his wings becomes female and then sprouts huge wings.  Then the angel spends most of the time playing the harp surrounded by little cupids.

The previous paragraph is pure bunk, but it is the stuff of popular reimagining of the Biblical reportage of angels. Man mythologizes, God only tells the truth. Nowhere in the Bible is it ever written that a person dies and then earns his wings becoming an angel and sprouting wings. Here’s is some of God’s own truth in the Bible about angels:

1.. The only angels who have wings are the seraphim with six wings (Isaiah 6: 1ff) and the cherubim who are portrayed with wings on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25: 19).  The seraphim and cherubim are not necessarily a higher rank of angel but a special kind.  Given the Biblical reportage, the seraphim and cherubim surround the presence of God, the Holy One in the Holy Place (e.g. The Ark of the Covenant). Because the seraphim and cherubim have wings, does not mean that all angels have wings. 

2.  Angels are never reported as playing harps but they do worship the Lord (Rv 7:11–12).

3.  The Hebrew and Greek words for angels are masculine.

4. They are spiritual beings but when the Lord sends them, they have bodies and when they come to man, they are not cute but terrifying and this is the reason when the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, he first had to say, Fear not!

This is the most important point for us:  5. The word “angel” literally means messenger.  They bring God’s Word to man.  In Orthodox icons, John the Baptist is portrayed at times with wings (!) to tell us he had a very important message/Word of God to bring us:  The Messiah is around the corner. The angels were present when God gave Moses and Israel the Law on Mt. Sinai:  Acts 7:53 Hebrews 2:2.  The angel(s) were present to give the greatest message in the history of mankind:  The Savior would be conceived in the Virgin’s womb(St. Luke 1: 26-38);  Angels gave the message to shepherds that the Savior is born in the city of Bethlehem (St. Luke 2: 8-20);  Angels told the women at the tome that the Savior is risen from the dead!( St. Matthew 28: 1-8) and the angels will accompany the Lord when He comes again in His glory (St. Matthew 25: 31).  

The angels were key in the Lord giving His one Word of Law and Promise to His crown of creation, man and woman.  You can learn more about angels here and here.

We can do angel’s work here below when we tell of Jesus Christ in opening our mouths and giving the Good Message of the Savior and their salvation and then when joined together with the angels in the Divine Service, the Holy Communion of His Body and Blood:

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through Him Your majesty is praised by all the holy angels and celebrated with one accord by the heavens and all the powers therein. The cherubim and seraphim sing Your praise, and with them we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying:

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might: heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

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“What Are You Doing, O Man?”

By Larry Beane on Sep 25, 2020 02:46 pm
As a postscript to my post “I Promise to Get You Out of Here…”, here is an excerpt from a sermon by St. John Chrysostom (hat tip: Eric Obermeyer):
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Tales from a Mother: God's Mercy - Jonah 4:6-7 | Prophet jonah, Book of  jonah, Jonah bible

Collect of the Day: Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jonah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

About Jonah:

A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour’s walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria(Jonah 1:2). His reluctance to respond and God’s insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah’s name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (Jonah1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. Jonah’s three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew12:39-41). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

Many years ago, when I first read Jonah on my own, no longer in Sunday School, I was amazed by it!  Now if you have not read it (it’s short, more like a short story), this is a spoiler alert. IF you have not read/re-read Jonah, then drop what you’re doing and read it!

Notice that in chapters 1-3, we are not told why Jonah runs away when the Lord called him to preach to the great capital of the Assyrian Empire, Ninevah.  Oh, Jonah was reluctant prophet, we were taught.  Yes, he was, but  reluctance is the result, not the cause.  We are not told why he was reluctant.

When Ninevah, from the King down, repents, the Lord forgives and changes His mind about His judgment towards them.  The Lord takes no pleasure in  the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from their evil to the Lord and live (see Ezekiel 33:11).  So Jonah, after Ninevah’s repentance unto life in the Lord’s grace, parks himself outside of the great city and we are told he is angry. Dr. Reed Lessing (professor OT, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in his commentary Jonah), points out that  the 4 times the word anger appears (really:  infuriated),it is in the last chapter and it’s subject is Jonah!  Why was he angry?  Finally, after all the action in the first 3 chapters we find out that his anger is coupled with the reason why he fled to Tarshish and away from  the Lord’s call, from Dr. Reed’s translation:  “For this reason I previously fled toward Tarshish because I knew you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in loyal love, and changing your verdict about evil.”  Jonah fled because of God’s grace! After all, like Jonah, we want to see the bad guys get it in the end!  So Jonah fled because He did not destroy the Gentile Assyrians!  Jonah’s true confession of the Faith (“…you are a gracious and merciful God, etc.) becomes in Jonah’s heart and mouth his accusation against the Lord! Is your evil because I myself am good? (see  Matthew 20:1:  literal translation of the second question!). Yes.  Ask any congregation, ‘do you want to grow?’ and the answer is yes.  But I would maintain we may  not want this to happen  to the point of those people joining who don’t deserve it like we who have “…borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat”  (Matthew 20: 12) and they receive the same, even the most wicked and at the 11th hour:  the Lord’s free gift of grace to all who hunger and thirst, and repent and turn to the Lord (see Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20: 1-16).  From Dr. Lessing’s commentary:

We simply stand under God’s overflowing grace like rain, allowing its cool refreshment to fill our dry cracks. Then we pick up the bucket and dump it on someone else. Grace flows from Yahweh not on those who attempt to earn it, but on those who confess their need for it. The Spirit-empowered response is then to share it. But Jonah is like the angry older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:28-30): he views God’s lavish welcome for undeserving sinners who repent as an insult to his “deserving” self. The prophet has yet to embrace the Law and Gospel character of God expressed in James 2:13: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

One last thought:  Jonah ran away twice.  The Lord never runs away and He sought Jonah twice.   Blessed Jonah’s Day!

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The Calling of St. Matthew | Georgetown University Library

Prayer of the Day:

O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About St. Matthew: St. Matthew, also known as Levi, identifies himself as a former tax collector, one who was therefore considered unclean, a public sinner, outcast from the Jews. Yet it was such a one as this whom the Lord Jesus called away from his occupation and wealth to become a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13). Not only did Matthew become a disciple of Jesus, he was also called and sent as one of the Lord’s twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). In time, he became the evangelist whose inspired record of the Gospel was granted first place in the ordering of the New Testament. Among the four Gospels, Matthew’s portrays Christ especially as the new and greater Moses, who graciously fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew5:17) and establishes a new covenant of salvation in and with His own blood (26: 27-28).  Matthew’s Gospel is also well-known for the following:

  • The Visit of the Magi (2: 1-12)
  • The Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 5-7)
  • The Institution of Holy Baptism and the most explicit revelation of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28: 16-20:  Matthew begins with Baptism (John’s) and ends with Baptism and so continues the Lord’s Church)

Tradition is uncertain where his final field of labor was and whether Matthew died naturally or a martyr’s death. In celebrating this festival, we therefore give thanks to God that He has mightily governed and protected His Holy church through this man who was called and sent by Christ to serve the sheep of His pastures with the Holy Gospel.

“St. Matthew was an excellent, noble man–not only one of the 12 fountains of consolation, the apostle of Jesus Christ of paradise, a holy evangelist, whose  words flow d from the great fountain in paradise, Jesus Christ.  He not only praised the Lord in his heart and with his tongue but also put his quill to paper and wrote his account as a memorial…pay attention so that everything in and about you is directed toward the glory of the Lord, according to David’s example in Psalm 103:2. In the kingdom of God it is said…”Strive with every skill and word, to please your Savior, Christ the Lord.”   None of Mother evangelists described the history of  the Lord Jesus to such an extent as Matthew. He also has many beautiful passages that cannot be found in the others.”

Here the Lord Jesus says (Matthew 11:27-29), “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

And again (Matthew 18:19-21), “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.”

And in Matthew 28:19-20, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

These three passages, which should cause the legs of all devout Christians to run quickly to the Church, were written only by Matthew.—Valerius Herberger  (Quotes above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

Matthew was a despised collector of taxes.  He reports Jesus saying:  “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” Many of you know that tax collectors were second class citizens, at best and to make matters worse,  they were collaborators with the occupying enemy, the Roman Empire, in collecting taxes. They were lumped together with sinners and here with whores! Matthew knew he was part of that group and yet his  name literally means “gift of God”. 

We do not know what Matthew thought and felt as he heard Jesus speak about one such as Matthew entering the Kingdom before the super-religious of his day.  Since there is more joy in heaven among the angels over one sinner repenting, as our Lord said, I would guess Matthew knew joy.  He had been forgiven in Christ Jesus, the very Son of God.    Of Matthew, Mark and Luke who record the list of the 12 Apostles, only Matthew lists himself with his former job:

Matthew 10: 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

He could have written: Matthew the former tax collector, but he did not. Just think:  The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to write the Gospel and of course, the words above.  He wrote the continuation of the Scriptures. It seems Matthew never forgot who he  was and Who’s he was.  He was justified by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ, and not by his deeds, but by His deed. And out of the faith in Jesus came forth in Matthew the fruit of love in the Gospel he wrote. From keeping ledgers as an accountant, to reporting the ledger of Jesus Christ stamped:  Debt Forgiven.  Matthew became his own name “gift of God” because of  Jesus because Jesus called him from his scales for money, and gave Matthew the gifts of heaven, Thou the true Redeemer art.  Jesus’ gifts are showered on you as well, no matter how high or low your circumstances. We give thanks to the Lord for all His mercy toward us sinners and tax collectors.

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Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248.During the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. (From the LCMS website)

Regarding his martyrdom, from The Penguin Dictionary of Saints “When persecution began again in 258, under Emperor Valerian, St Cyprian was one of the first victims. There is an account of what happened compiled directly from contemporary documents. Cyprian was first examined by the proconsul, and on affirming his adherence to the one true God, and refusing to divulge the names of his priests, he was exiled to Curubis. When a new proconsul came into office, Cyprian was brought up for trial in Carthage. He again refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. Accompanied by a tumultuous crowd, he was led to the field of Sextus; there he knelt in prayer. He gave a generous gift to the executioner, blindfolded himself, and his head was struck off.”        

Reflection:  St. Cyprian lived before the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 312 which made Christianity a legal religion of the Empire.  From the time of our Lord’s Ascension to that time the Church went through persecution from social ridicule to martyrdom.  In 250, under Emperor Decius, with the threat of death, many Christians denied the faith, gave-up fellow Christians to the authorities or when told to burn incense to Caesar bought letters called,  libelli, or certificates, that they had done so. Based upon 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, the Church prayed for Caesar, but did not pray to Caesar (see the 1st Commandment).  

When the persecution ended, many wanted to return to the Church. My speculation is those who denied the faith were regarded as traitors.   One party wanted them to be re-baptized or one Novatus said they committed apostasy and were not saved.  He denied absolution to the repentant.  Novatus’ heresy, Novationism, was also condemned in The Augsburg Confession because he denied absolution/forgiveness to repentant and contrite (1).   The Bishop of Rome , Pope Stephen I said that once baptized, still baptized and like Saul and Judas a Christian can be lost. The Church agreed Biblically that a time of penitence, that is, repentance would return one to the flock.  The Biblical understanding is absolution for the penitent restores one to the Church.   This crucial understanding of repentance and absolution is reflected in the true Reformation understanding: “Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practice what we began before, but abandoned.”(The Large Catechism).

Two of the lessons we can learn from St. Cyprian are:

1. Cyprian and all the martyrs remind us that faith in Jesus Christ matters. Even in the midst of persecution, Cyprian and the Church debated right doctrine and the resulting right practice. They did not soften doctrine in order to be accepted by society and culture or by those who denied Christ and a lot was at stake: their lives but more: true doctrine which is eternal life. There were those who denied Christ and so ‘saved’ themselves, but those who sell out doctrine and faith and true worship are not saving  the Church, and removing themselves from the Savior.  

2. Cyprian and the Church took seriously  the right Biblical way of ministering to those who denied Christ and they sought the true way:  repentance.  Cyprian was beheaded for the faith, for true worship, for right doctrine and practice.  

The beheading of Cyprian has a relevance in the news these past years of Islamists beheading  Christians. We are so readily led to  water down doctrine and the faith to “reach out” to the world which fits the devil’s game plan.  We need the courage of a Cyprian and the love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit to minister in the Name of the Lord to our neighbors:

“…having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Colossians 3:1-4]. Let us, then, who in Baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ’s.”  –Cyprian of Carthage

Remove the pow’r of sin from me/And cleanse all my impurity/That I may have the strength and will/ Temptations of the flesh to still.—Renew Me, 0 Eternal Light (LSB 704:2)

Endnote:

(1From The Augsburg Confession: Article  XII, Of Repentance:  “Our churches teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of  the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance. They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost.Also those who contend that some may attain to such  perfection in this life that they cannot sin. The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance. They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own. 

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9/11

The cross at Ground Zero | RiverheadLOCAL

Fr. Pierre de Chardin was a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, a theologian and a paleontologist.  He eventually succumbed to teaching false doctrine  which Lutherans and Roman Catholics agree is false, but when he was a young priest, Fr. de Chardin served as a stretcher bearer in the French Army in the front lines of World War I.  He wrote many letters to his cousin who was the head mistress of a Catholic girls school.  Excerpt of these letters are in The Making of Mind:  Letters from a Soldier-Priest 1914-1919.

He wrote to his cousin about a terrible battle named for its locale, Froideterre hill.  He has this reflection:

I don’t know what sort of monument the country will later put on Froideterre hill to commemorate the great battle.  There’s only one that would be appropriate:  a great figure of Christ. Only the image of the crucified can sum up,  express and relieve all the horror, and beauty, all the hope and deep mystery in such an avalanche of conflict and sorrows.

And in the ruins of the World Trade Center, these twisted steel beams were found in the shape of a cross.  This cross was put up right in the ruins and Mayor Guiliani had pedestal built for it. Eventually the cross, or the Ground Zero Cross was put into the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Only the image of the crucified can sum up,  express and relieve all the horror, and beauty, all the hope and deep mystery in such an avalanche of conflict and sorrows. Where it once stood on the empty footprint of the World Trade Center, was on a cemetery. Today the names of the deceased are read to remember.  I think a crucifix is an even better reminder as it specifically draws one to the God who bore the sin of the world:  in His flesh:  Jesus Christ who bore the sin of our flesh.   The crucifix is not an idol but a pointed reminder of the cost of the sin of this world:  God’s own Son in death.  The Son ever points us to the Father and He to us and the salvation of the world, the One who bore our sin,  He bore its pain, the sinless One in the sinners’ stead.  The Cross is ground zero, showing us the zero sum of sin and the risen Lord fills us up with the fulness of His mercy and hope.

God’s Law says to sin Never Again, but we do transgress again and again.  God’s Gospel says to sinners, I have sacrificed my whole life for your forgiveness, and I do not die, never again to die.  I am risen bearing the marks of the Cross, ever again for you to live.   “We preach Christ and Him Crucified”, again and again.  We are baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection that we are His again. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ died on this day. We receive the gifts of His Body and Blood in the Holy Communion, again and again to strengthen faith and thereby quicken love. We confess our sin and receive His forgiveness again and again. We pray to the Lord for this world regarding terrorism, Lord, never again. Not only terrorism from abroad but in our own country.  We pray for those who mourn that the Lord comfort them in all their sorrows, again and again, with the comfort we ourselves have received from the Lord.  We give thanks for the firemen, police, emergency works, soldiers, sailors and airmen who protect our country and died for our constitutional freedoms, again and again.  We give thanks for the firemen and police who  went into the burning World Trade Center to seek and save the lost. We pray the Church be the cruciform sign of His mercy in a merciless world, again and again, that we say to the devil and his empty promises, never again and live as His people, “…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2: 15)

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ARMOR OF GOD | Moreno Hills SDA Church Blog

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  St. Matthew 6:13

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.-Ephesians 6: 13

I need Thy presence every passing hour:
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me.
-“Abide with Me”

“We must remember that we fight not with flesh and blood but against the powers of darkness and spiritual deception (Eph. 6:13). Because the deceptiveness of temptation far exceeds our strength (really, our weakness), there is great danger in underestimating its power lest we give in to temptation, are overcome by it, and so drown in perdition. Therefore, first of all we pray asking that Satan not have freedom to tempt us as much as either he would or could.  We also ask that he tempt us much only as as God permits and gives permission (Job 1: 12).  . We pray that our heavenly Father not cast us off and deliver us to the lusts, to the treasons, and to the power of this Tempter. We pray that he would remove and temper the temptation and not allow us to be tempted  past that which by his grace and gift we are able to bear (l Cor. 10:13).

Now this petition contains a general confession  for the weakness and infirmity this life in the whole Church, that is the children of God. When we pray that we may not give in to temptation nor be overcome by it, we acknowledge and confess that by own strength we are not able to resist temptations. We acknowledge that this the work of God’s grace. We acknowledge that after we have received new spiritual strength through our rebirth, God’s grace and strength directly follow.

Martin Chemnitz, as quoted on Treasury of Daily Prayer, pages 698-699, 7 September (published by Concordia Publishing House)

Triune God, Be Thou Our Stay;
O let us perish never!
Cleanse us from our sins, we pray,
And grant us life forever.
Keep us from the evil one;
Uphold our faith most holy;
Grant us to trust Thee solely
With humble hearts and lowly.
Let us put God’s armor on,
With all true Christian running
Our heav’nly race and shunning
The devil’s wiles and cunning
Amen, amen! This be done;
So sing we, Alleluia!

“Triune God, Be Thou Our Stay”, LSB 505:1

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Meme of the Day

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Prayer of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, You raised up Gregory of Rome to be a pastor to those who shepherd God’s flock and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people. Preserve in Your Church the catholic and apostolic faith that Your people may continue to be fruitful in every good work and receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

One of the great leaders in Europe at the close of the sixth century, Gregory served in both the secular and sacred arenas of his era. As mayor of Rome, he restored economic vitality to his native city, which had been weakened by enemy invasions, pillage, and plague. After he sold his extensive properties and donated the proceeds to help the poor, he entered into full-time service in the Church. On September 3, A.D. 590 , Gregory was elected to lead the church in Rome.

As Bishop of Rome he oversaw changes and growth in the areas of church music and liturgical development, missionary outreach to northern Europe.  From Festivals and Commemorations by Pr. Pfatteicher:

“Gregory’s use of monks as missionaries to the Anglo-Saxons was his single most influential act in determining the future of Christian culture and institutions. In 597 he sent Augustine of Canterbury and forty monks to evangelize Britain. The story told by Bede is that Gregory saw some fair-haired slaves in Rome and, being told that they were Angles, is said to have replied, “Not Angles but angels” and decided that they must be Christianized.”

He also established a church-year calendar still used by many churches in the western world today. His book on pastoral care became a standard until the 20th century. And having read most of St. Gregory’s reflections on Pastoral Care, it is too bad that it is no longer considered a “standard”.  One reads in it a humble man, a humble pastor, a humble Christian.  As St. Gregory preached on Ezekiel: “So who am I to be a watchman, for I do not stand on the mountain of action but lie down in the valley of weakness?” (Adapted from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod web-site, Commemoration Biographies)

Reflection:  

The following quote is from St. Gregory’s Sermon for the 2nd  Sunday in Advent, text, St. Matthew 11: 2-10. He shows that in our ‘small ways’ we too can be like John the Baptizer with the Message for a friend. The only stat I cite regarding evangelism is that the majority of people who join a congregation do so because a family or friend invited them.  Historical reminder:  the Church spread by the Word of the Gospel going from mouth to ear for the first 2 centuries of the Church as the Church was illegal and persecuted. Here is eloquent testimony and encouragement to so invite a friend or family member, just as Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see” (John 1:46)

You… who live in the Tabernacle of the Lord, that is, in the Holy Church, if you cannot fill up the goblets with the teachings of holy wisdom, as well then as you can, as far as the divine bounty has endowed you, give to your neighbors spoonfuls of the good word!

And when you consider that you have yourself made some little progress, draw others along with you; seek to make comrades on the road to God. Should one among you, Brethren, stroll out towards the forum or the baths, he will invite a friend whom he thinks is not busy to keep him company. This simple action of our ordinary life is pleasant to you, and if it be that you are going towards God, give a thought not to journey alone. Hence it is written: He that heareth, let him say: come (Rev. xxii. 17); so let him who has heard in his heart the invitation of divine love, pass on to his neighbors around about him, the message of the invitation. And though a man may not have even bread wherewith to give an alms to the hungry;  yet, what is still more precious  is able to give who possess but  tongue. For it is a greater to strengthen with the nourishment of a word that will feed the mind for ever, than to fill with earthly bread a stomach of perishable flesh.

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