Archive for October, 2020

Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess untoThee that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against Thee by thought, word, and deed. Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

About Reformation Day: On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk posted ninety-five statements for discussion on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Dr. Martin Luther hoped that posting his theses would bring about an academic debate regarding repentance, the sale of indulgences, and other matters of concern within the Roman Catholic Church. However, Rome eventually excommunicated Luther, judging him to be a heretic. Luther’s reforms, centered on the teaching that a believer is justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, sparked religious reforms not only in the German states but also in many European countries. In 1667, Elector John George Il of Saxony standardized the custom of observing Luther’s October 31 posting of the Ninety-five Theses.

Psalm 46 is the Psalm Luther based his hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God:
God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress

So the first verse is about the dangers of nature but,

“The danger with which the psalmist is really concerned comes from the nations, and he moves on to that one in the second and third stanzas. The nations in their raging and kingdoms in their instability produce a historical chaos more dangerous than the cosmic one. Indeed, historical insecurity seems to replace cosmic instability in Israel’s vision of reality; note that the same language is used about seas and nations: seas and nations “rage,” mountains and kingdoms “totter.” But the congregation knows that the LORD of hosts is also sovereign over national powers as well as cosmic. (Interpretation: Psalms by James Luther Mays)

The Lord showed this in particular to Moses and the People of Israel as they neared the end of their sojourn to enter into the Promised Land in a hymn (Deut. 31: 32) and then sung, 32: 1-43. The Lord compares His protection of a wandering Israel and the various nations which were beaten back by His Word. He compared Himself as the Rock with the numerous “rocks”, that is idols, of the nations and as you read this think of our day and time:

“For they are a nation void of counsel,
    and there is no understanding in them.
29 If they were wise, they would understand this;
    they would discern their latter end!
30 How could one have chased a thousand,
    and two have put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
    and the Lord had given them up?
31 For their rock is not as our Rock;
    our enemies are by themselves.
32 For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
    and from the fields of Gomorrah;
their grapes are grapes of poison;
    their clusters are bitter;
33 their wine is the poison of serpents
    and the cruel venom of asps.

The nations are under God’s judgment as, is our nation.  We are tottering.  Fear is pandemic. There is historical chaos, as it was in the 16th Century when catholic Christians stood for the truth of salvation by grace alone through Christ alone received through faith alone were hounded. Christians today are hounded for standing up for marriage between man and woman alone, the sanctity of life from womb to tomb, for the Doctrine of the Atonement in Christ’s blood and for the 10 Holy Commandments from the Lord God.  We can smell and see the fear locked behind masks.  The tyranny of Godless Communism is arising in the east, torturing Christians and followers of other relgions in communist China as they plan their takeover of the world.  The wine of the world is the poison of serpents and the cruel venom of asps and we so readily imbibe such through the media and social media.

Into the wars and rumor of wars, and devastations of body and soul, The Christ has come and will come again.  “But the congregation knows that the LORD of hosts is also sovereign over national powers as well as cosmic powers.” There is no earthly city or fortress to which we may flee to lock down in safety.  As the Tabernacle led a wandering Israel through the forty years of the wilderness of the nations, God alone is our fortress:  “The song (Psalm 46) does not invite our trust in a place in a Presence who wills to dwell with people”.  And the hymn based upon the song of Psalm 46 is our prayer on this Reformation Day:

1. A mighty Fortress is our God,
A trusty Shield and Weapon;
He helps us free from every need
That hath us now o’ertaken.
The old evil Foe
Now means deadly woe;
Deep guile and great might
Are his dread arms in fight;
On Earth is not his equal.

2. With might of ours can naught be done,
Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One,
Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabaoth Lord,
And there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.

3. Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill,
They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none,
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

4. The Word they still shall let remain
Nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain
With His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child and wife,
Let these all be gone,
They yet have nothing won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

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St. Jude Thaddeus And St. Simon The Zealot, Apostles
 Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Lessons:  Jeremiah 26: 1-16; Psalm 43;  1 Peter 1: 3-9;  St. John 15: 12-21

About Saints Simon and Jude:  In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14—16); Acts1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or ‘Cannanaean”) and by Jude (or “Judas,” not Iscariot but “of James”), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as missionaries to Persia, where they were martyred. It is likely for this reason, at least in part, that these two apostles are commemorated on same day. Simon is not mentioned in New Testament apart from the lists of twelve apostles. Thus, he is remembered and honored for the sake of his office, and thereby stands before us—in eternity, as his life and ministry on earth—in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We give thanks to God for calling and sending Simon, along with Jude and all the apostles, to preach and teach the Holy Gospel, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (John 4:1-2; Matthew 10: 28:16-20; Luke .24: 46-49).

Jude appears in John’s Gospel (14:22) on the night of our Lord’s betrayal and the beginning of His Passion, asking Jesus how it is that He will manifest Himself to the disciples but not to the world. The answer that Jesus gives to this question is a pertinent emphasis for this festival day: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Surely both Jude and Simon exemplified, in life and death, their love for Jesus and their faith in His Word. Not only are we thus strengthened in our Christian faith and life by their example, but, above all, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of the Lord in keeping His promise to them to bring them home to Himself in heaven. There they live with Him forever, where we shall someday join them.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: The Prayer of the Day above speaks of the “glorious company of the apostles” but of course by any worldly standard they were not glorious.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4: 13)  Not exactly a job recruitment pitch for the apostolic Church, unlike the ‘ministries’ we see wearily promoted on TV. Simon and Jude have no extant writings, scant mention in the Bible, no founders  of  ‘great’ ministries,  but the Lord called them to the one holy, catholic and evangelical Ministry.  Their glory, like ours, is a borrowed one, a given one, one given to sinners: the love and mercy of Jesus Christ which by the Lord, the Holy Spirit, in prayer,  we can make known as His glory in clay jars (see 2 Corinthians 4:6-8).   The glory of God lasts forever.  “Sic semper gloria mundi”, this goes always the glory of the world. This old Latin saying is true. “The world seeks to be praised/And honored by the mighty/Yet never once reflects/That they are frail and flighty”  What is the Christians’ response?  The hymn stanza concludes:  “But what I truly prize/Aboe all things is He/My Jesus, He alone, What is the world to me!” (“What Is the World to Me”, Lutheran Service Book, #730)

It is Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who provides a good commentary on the Apostles Simon and Jude and the apostolic Church from his book, The Cost of Discipleship, in this reflection on the Beatitude from St. Matthew 5.  Remember and note:  everything Bonhoeffer wrote was in the time in Germany of the rise of Nazism and the descent into darkness, yet most in Germany thought this was ‘light’ and ‘goodness’, the Nazis put men back to work, Germans were feeling good about Germany again and the like.  I am patriotic but we do not worship our country, and neither are we to despise it.  I find Pr. Bonhoeffer’s  writings prescient in that they are so relevant and close to the bone in our day:

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”…By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity: He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate  oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that  for all jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise.”

Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor churches in captivity to the world, but the Church held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free, freed to follow Him and free to serve.  Reformation Day is this Saturday, 31 October (2020) and 500 years of apostolic preaching, teaching and serving: actually the continuation of apostolic preaching and teaching since AD 33 and Pentecost and the Lord’s command and promise to so preach and baptize and commune.    Luther and the Reformers clearly preached the Word, not following a worldly church and worldly doctrine which does not save.  Too many churches preach fake good news, such as, “Your best life now”, “The purpose driven life” etc. which are all worldly works righteous fake good news.  The Apostles preach the real good news of Christ Jesus for sinners, by grace alone, received through faith alone, known by Scripture alone.  Upcoming is All Saints Sunday, and the saints did not look to the world for their light and follow the glow of their “devices” but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6)

A blessed feast day to all in the Lord!

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Ignatius of Antioch Quote: “As for me, my charter is Jesus Christ, the  inviolable charter is His cross and His death and resurrection, and faith  thr...” (7 wallpapers) - Quotefancy

“Glorious is God with His saints and angels: Oh, come let us worship Him.”

 About Ignatius: He was the bishop of Antioch in Syria at the beginning of the second century A.D. and an early Christian martyr. Near the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan (98–117), Ignatius was arrested, taken in chains to Rome, and eventually thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. On the way to Rome, he wrote letters to the Christians at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, and also to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. In the letters, which are beautifully pastoral in tone, Ignatius warned against certain heresies (false teachings). He also repeatedly stressed the full humanity and deity of Christ, the reality of Christ’s bodily presence in the Lord’s Supper, the supreme authority of the bishop, and the unity of the Church found in her bishops. Ignatius was the first to use the word catholic to describe the universality of the Church. His Christ-centeredness, his courage in the face of martyrdom, and his zeal for the truth over against false doctrine are a lasting legacy to the Church.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The Apostle Paul was probably martyred between A.D. 64-67. Ignatius became the 2nd Bishop of Antioch in A.D. 69.   Antioch was the city from which Paul and Barnabas began their great missionary journey as recorded in Acts 13-14.  Ignatius is a direct link to the apostles and the apostolic doctrine.  (information from The Apostolic Fathers, edited by Jack Sparks)

From Ignatius Letter to the Romans: “From Syria to Rome I am fighting with wild beasts by land and sea, night and day, bound to ten leopards—that is, a company of soldiers—and when they are treated well they become worse. I become more of a disciple because of their mistreatment of me, “but not by this am I justified” [1 Cor. 4:4]…The prince of this age wants to abduct me and corrupt my mind set on God. None of you present must help him; instead, be on my side, that is, God’s. Do not speak of Jesus Christ and desire the world.

The journey of Ignatius was a long one during which he wrote many letters.  He was imprisoned and under guard.  He was considered to be an enemy of the State in which Ignatius loved his enemies and prayed for those who persecuted him. Yet, he knew by justifying faith in Jesus that this did  not justify and save Him: Christ’s Body and Blood did so and for y’all as well.  Ignatius also knew that the “prince of this age”, that is, the devil want abduct him and corrupt his mind.  We need to know that today for ourselves:

Media, television, radio, print, and now social media, are massaging, actually educating us, catechizing and deforming us in ways that are opposite of the Lord’s instruction, but now in cyber-speed. It’s the junk food of the devil. It only gives a placebo:  it feels good and then doesn’t heal.  Politics don’t save and remember the first thing about politics is that politics is not the first thing (Neuhaus). The “powers and principalities” rule in the media and we are taught atheism, materialism, “the dictatorship of relativism”, all  under the lure of hedonism and narcissism, that the old Adam craves, raves and all of it never saves. These are symptoms of the sickness unto death and the world offers the narcotics of false hope.

St. Ignatius was right that we not speak of Christ and desire the world.  Christ has put His Word, the sword of the Spirit to sever us from the desire of the world. The word “martyr” is literally witness. This is the Lord’s continuing work in us that we may give our “martyr”, witness to Christ alone.

Let us pray…Almighty God, we praise Your Name for Ignatius of Antioch, pastor and martyr.  He offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts so that he might present to You the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept the willing tribute of all that we are and all that we have, and give us a portion in the pure and unspotted offering of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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How to Make an Interesting Art Piece Using Tree Branches | eHow | Art, Lucas  cranach, Renaissance artists

Sermon Text: St. Matthew 22: 1-14

Once again, a parable in Holy Week and a pointed one, and this time the setting is not a vineyard but a wedding banquet. 

Now we do not use the phrase “wedding banquet” but the more ordinary, “wedding reception”, nevertheless, a wedding reception is probably the most elaborate, joyful, and traditional of any dinner to which we are ever invited.  It is probably the only time any of us are invited to a feast by an engraved invitation. If a United States President has marriageable children, the greater wedding feast would be the President’s invite to his son or daughter’s marriage in the White House.  Wow! What an invite! I give it to the Brits and their monarchy:  the broadcast of a wedding around the globe! And given the disdain and disgrace the old Adam has brought to marriage still, it is still a joyful feast. Invited to a royal wedding: What an invite that would have been! 

Once again, one of our Lord’s parable, The Parable of the Wedding Feast, may have been misnamed. It is the parable of the King Who Invites.  In the Lord’s parable, he does not invite to just a usual banquet, but the highest, more celebrative and magnificent feast imaginable:  a wedding feast and of the King’s own Son! What an invite that would have been!

From Luther’s Sermon on this Gospel reading:

Isn’t that a sweet proclamation? a magnificent, royal wedding feast? a more lavish and delectable meal than the choicest banquet on earth? What could possibly be a more gracious, sweet, and comforting message than the gospel’s proclamation to me, that God wants to be my gracious God and take me into heaven and that in His kingdom I am to sing and leap for joy forever? Shouldn’t a person hurry to get there? and be happy about the fellowship of the gospel and say, Praise and thanks be to God who has invited me to his royal, heavenly wedding!

Then those invited to give their excuses to the King why they can’t attend, no less! You would rearrange your life to attend, That would be just crazy and then criminal: some of the King’s servants are beaten and killed because of an invitation to a wedding banquet…and that’s part of the point of the parable of the King’s invitation to His Son’s wedding. Such behavior is plain nuts!

“…while the rest seized his servants, treated them SHAMEFULLY and killed them.” I think “shamefully” is a good translation of the Greek The Greek root word of shamefully  is “hubris” and from it we have the word Hubris, meaning pride. Now in ancient Greek hubris meant  the intentional use of violence to humiliate or degrade…Aristotle in his Rhetoric:

“Hubris consists in doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim…simply for the pleasure of it. Retaliation is not hubris, but revenge…Young men and the rich are hubristic because they think they are better than other people.”

Hubris fit into the shame culture of archaic and Classical Greece, in which people’s actions were guided by avoiding shame and seeking honor.  Sinful pride is active in thinking I am better than others to shame them. Those invited brought humiliation, degradation and even violence and murder to the King’s servants.  The shame!  No honor of the King, no honor to whom honor is due, no respect to those whom respect is due. In the Lord’s Parable of the King Who Invites, it is obvious that the King is no human King of his vineyard: the King is the Lord God.  He invites us and so many of his servants who bring the invitation are set upon.  In Shakespeare Macbeth messengers are killed because they bring a bad message but here in this parable, and in the life of our Lord:  a good message is brought, of utter joy in wedding and the messenger is killed! Insane.

Yet the King will have His banquet hall for the wedding feast of His Son filled. But first the King orders those who killed and shamed his servants who bore the joyous message of the wedding feast, that those who refused His invitation destroyed along with their city. Harsh?  On a human level, you’re all excited about some joyous news, great news, happy news and you tell someone who should share in the joy and are met with a shrug of the shoulders, and your friend or family member excuses himself, that’s nice, I got to baste the roast. He doesn’t even feign joy.  But to refuse so great a salvation by His grace filled invitation and calling alone to the King’s son wedding, then, “… how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2. Truly many are called but few are chosen. Refusing the Lord’s so great a salvation already means destruction. Acceptance means the joy of faith and love because He has invited us and clothed us in His Son by His grace alone in Holy Baptism and faith.

What does it mean NOT to have a wedding garment?

 “You have invited me, O King, to the wedding feast of your son. But I’m not going into your son’s wedding feast the way you want me with a wedding garment.  I go through life just the way I am and You want me to be myself, don’t you? The real me?  What’s wrong with what I am wearing? I don’t need your Son to be saved, though He was very fine spiritual teacher. I’m pretty good.”  “You are wearing the clothes of your own works, wrong, wrath and hubris.  Look at the shame you bring not only upon, but on yourself.  You are all puffed up.  Clothe your self in My Son.  He is true and faithful Bridegroom.  But you refuse, you’ll be cast off into, “… the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (St. Matthew 22)

The Bridegroom Himself, the Son of the King will be cast out as we heard the Lord say again and again leading up to Holy Week and the Cross.  Here we are entering the mystery of so great a salvation. St. John Chrysostom preached from a wedding sermon:  (In marriage) you  are sacrificing yourself for  someone  to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself  up for the one who turned her back on Him and  hated  Him.  He bore the shame of our wrong and wickedness.  We think the Lord’s sheer physical suffering was the worst, no, it was coupled with the shame and contempt of our hubris, bearing our weight of wrong to be our Redeemer.

Those, good and bad, those who don’t need a physician and those who do, are invited, waiting for the invitation, knowing they are not worthy. The proud think they are worthy and so are not. Now, as C. S. Lewis wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Mr. Lewis was right on target but to be thinking of yourself less means our thoughts and feelings need to be thinking about something else. The Lord has told us so in so many ways and shows us what we can think of, from today’s Epistle Reading, Philippians 4

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.

Walter Hooper, literary advisor of the estate of C.S. Lewis, lived with Lewis advising him and Mr. Hooper wrote this anecdote about him:

‘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.

Amen.  We need the wash of whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable , excellent, anything worthy of praise, please think about these things especially after watching the news, reading the angry, the trite and the trivial on twitter or facebook and especially participating in fits of rage.  There is still so much that is good in this world and it’s worth thinking about, praying about it, and learning it, fighting for. Even more so in God’s Holy Word, the Scriptures by which the Lord speaks to us deep in the soul alive in faith in the Bridegroom who paid the dowry completely of our salvation by His blood of love, shed for us, but not the love of blood. And we need to be as His Christians in fighting trim by steadfastness in His Word.

This woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder shows us the contrast between the true church and the false church and between the Feast of the Lord’s Supper and the feasts of the world and it’s pantheon of idols:

How to Make an Interesting Art Piece Using Tree Branches | eHow | Art, Lucas  cranach, Renaissance artists

Note that portrayed is Martin Luther preaching and note his hands: his right hand points to the Cross of Christ, the Bridegroom who dies for His wayward bride. His right is toward the false church but notice it’s position: downward, as if to say, take hold of my hand and hear the Word of God at the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). You are invited by the King’s Son. See the contrast between the cleanliness and order of the Lord’s House compared to the chaos threatening to devour the church (s) of this world. There are people under the Pulpit going from the false church to the true church. The Lord invites us week after week and after week. We can invite others to His House again and again and again. There will come the Day of Judgment when the door is closed, but today it is open to all believers and seekers to be clothed in Baptism, our wedding garment.

Yet, in the Holy Communion on the left side, we can not stay but follow the Way and go into the world…the world the Lord created and redeemed. There to think and act on those things which are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise in our vocations.

And note the Bible on the Pulpit: oddly, it is not pointed to the Preacher but to the world. God’s Word is pointed not only to us, but to the world and that Word can be prayed, spoken, read, and lived in the world and the world needs it so. The King Son invites us weekly to His Feast. Brought from the busy-ness of the world to the business of the King’s Son’s feast and that is to invite and invite and invite again.  

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 7)

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The Crazy Story of the Ethiopian Eunuch: A David Wantland Sermon – The  Episcopal Church of the Advocate

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for Your servant Philip the Deacon, whom You called to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Philip the Deacon:  Philip, also called the evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve apostles and of the rapidly growing early Church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor (Acts 6:1-6). Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (Acts 8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa. In the town of Caesarea, he was host for several days to the apostle Paul, who stopped there on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:8-15). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Acts 8: 26- 39

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation?For his life is taken away from the earth.”

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Biblical Reflection Points on Philip in Acts 8: 26-40

  1. Philip, like Stephen, was called to be a Deacon to serve the widows and like Stephen also preached and served the Gospel.  Philip administered the measurable riches of man for the widows and the poor and also the “immeasurable riches” of Jesus Christ and both are crucial stewardship.
  2. There are two Biblical Greek words for time: kairos and chronos.  The latter is measurable time.  The former is immeasurable time, the time of fulfillment, the eternal moment of God’s “today”.  Philip preached to the Ethiopian Eunuch but Philip did not button-hole the court official so he could give his “witness”.  It was the kairos, God’s time.  True preaching of the Word is according to God’s time. He knows best.
  3. The court official is reading Isaiah 53, prophesied some 500 years before Christ.  The chapter is almost a biography of His Passion.  I read a conservative rabbi’s understanding of Isaiah 53.  Basically, it made no Scriptural sense to him, because a veil was over his heart and eyes.  It won’t be removed  until the Gospel is preached and he so somes to faith in Christ Jesus.  It was removed for the eunuch. Isaiah 53 is preaching Christ and Him crucified.

 Some people wrongly think that the Old Testament=Law and New Testament=Gospel.  This lesson, among thousands of passages, disproves those false equations!

The Ethiopian did not understand the Scripture.  This is a perfect illustration of Romans 10:   14:  “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Once again:  this was the right time.

Please note the sequence:  Word, then Sacrament, specifically the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. The court official asks what is to prevent Baptism. Indeed!  The Greek verb for “prevent” is the same one Jesus used when the disciples rebuked the parents from bringing their children to Him for a blessing, when the Lord said, Do not prevent them from coming to me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of heaven.  This high court official of Queen Candace received the kingdom, freely given, in Baptism as a child.  Indeed, all baptisms are baptisms of children and infants, even for an adult. The man went away “rejoicing”. This old song illustrates the eunuch’s rejoicing:   “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak and He is strong. Yes!  Jesus loves me. Yes! Jesus loves me! Yes!  Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so.”  Philip preached and the Holy Spirit told the Ethiopian so from the Bible!

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“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3

 About Abraham:  Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age seventy-five and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife, Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. When Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, they were blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham died at age 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament patriarchs—and for his righteousness before God through faith (Romans 4:1-12). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Reflection: Abraham’s genealogy is stated in Genesis 11:  24—31 and the narrative proper of Abraham commence in Genesis 12: 1.  Up until this point in Genesis, in chapters 3-11,  everything is fairly well screwed-up after the Fall when Adam and Eve bit into the serpent’s lie, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:  ff):   

murder (Genesis 4:7-9)  vengeance (Genesis 4:23-25)     

first murderer builds first city  (Genesis 4:17)                                                                                                                                                                                                             

violence (Genesis 6:11)  

God’s judgment: The Flood 

drunkenness (Genesis 9:21)     

 skyscrapers for security and by that: “making a name for ourselves”  (Genesis 11:4)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

We can read Genesis chapters 3—11 every day, not only from the Holy Scriptures, but also in the so-called daily ‘news’, but it is really the ‘olds’: murder, vengeance, violence, drug abuse.  It’s as “old as Adam”.

With the Lord’s Call to Abraham, what was violent, vengeful and idolatrous, is replaced by what is human and humane in Abraham. And it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes! Not our doing!  The Lord does something new beginning in chapter 12, verse 1:   He calls Abram.   Why is the Lord’s Call the beginning of humanity and humaneness?  Here was a man, Abraham, who did not want to be like God.  He had faith.  He knew he was created and not the Creator:   Abraham was truly a man by faith alone. How does faith come?  It comes by preaching and teaching of the Word and the Word is Christ.  The Lord was with Abram and he heard and he believed.  Abraham never saw the fulfillment of his offspring as the stars in the sky: only one son, Isaac.  One son is enough.  Still Abraham did not see for he walked by faith and not by sight, as we all do. He did not found a new religion but Abraham is called the father of Faith. In fact, he was not a Jew, but a believer in the God Who called him. In fact, one of his descendants, Joseph, would also be a man of faith, not having faith in himself.  After Joseph is reconciled with his 11 brothers, after 20 some years of bitter family envy, lies and estrangement, he declared to them:  “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:  19)  I think Abraham could have asked that question as well.

I will go out on  limb here. A rough and tumble older guy said to me in the locker room at the “Y”, knowing I am a pastor:  “I don’t think we were made to behave.”  His statement took me aback but I wanted to agree.  I did not say anything in response at that time.  I think he was right.  Behaving has to do with Law, after sin entered the world.  The key verb in the guy’s statement was “made”, “created”, the Lord’s purpose for men and women, made in His image.  We weren’t made to behave but we were made to believe.  What the serpent sold Adam and Eve with was unbelief: “to be like God, knowing good and evil”, no longer trusting, hoping and loving their Lord, but only seeing themselves, and so separation from God and each other began, that is, sin which is death.  Thus they were ashamed of their nakedness.  Abraham believed.   Abraham certainly did not behave too well!  In order to insure a descendant, when Sarah could not conceive, she  gave Abraham her slave Hagar with less than satisfactory results until the Lord intervened. As He has for us all, in the descendant of Abraham according to the flesh:  Jesus.  As the Lord crossed the chasm to Abraham, now in Jesus Christ He has crossed the chasm of sin and death by His death and resurrection by His promise or Gospel alone.

Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Political, Theological, and Social Commentary Westminster Presbyterian

Psalm 80, Restore Us, O God

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
    Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
    and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!

4 O Lord God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
    and our enemies laugh among themselve

Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved

The Church is grafted into Israel Romans 11:24 and she is the “Israel of God” Galatians 6:16, woven into the very narrative of God’s Covenant with Israel and her stories (see 1 Corinthians 10: 1-5: note that the Apostle refers to Moses, etc. as “our fathers”).

We know that we are part of Israel more and more these days as the Lord makes, “…us an object of contention for our neighbors/and our enemies laugh among themselves”. We know of this contention for a Supreme Court nominee to the worker who is derided as being “close-minded” when she tells her co-worker that she is a Christian. Since the Lord makes us “an object of contention“, then this means the Lord’s will is for the Church, as Israel, to be so for our neighbors. The true prophets of Israel, e. g. as Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, were likewise a contention for their neighbors. Then we know that we are in the godly company of the patriarchs and prophets blest when we are derided. Our neighbors, as ourselves, all need to hear God’s saving truth and it will be contentious as the Lord contends for our salvation. Yet, as the remainder of the Psalm sings that the Lord planted His vine and those round about, “…burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face!” (vs. 16) But, “let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
    the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
18 Then we shall not turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call upon your name!
(vss. 17-18)

He has planted the eternal vine, the vine stock of Jesus Christ, Son of Man, God’s beloved Son: I am the Vine, you are the branches (See John 15). This Psalm’s subtitle identifies it as a “testimony”: Lord open thou our lips to make the good testimony of the Savior in our neighbor. So as Israel, with Israel, that only in the Lord is our salvation and so we pray for the third time in Psalm 80

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved

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How Do Squirrels Remember Where They Buried Their Nuts? | Live Science

I have stored up your word in my heart,/ that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119: 11

As we are in autumn, the squirrels are storing up acorns and nuts for the winter, so they have food when there is none.  According to this Psalm verse, it sounds as if we are to be spiritual squirrels storing up God’s Word in our hearts. I think so.  Sinning is starving to death in the soul.  God’s Word alone, written and Incarnate, can keep us safe from sin.  Further, we may be living in a time which the word of the Lord is rare (see 1 Samuel 3:  1):  rarely preached and taught, rarely obeyed and routinely derided and this occurs not only in the worldly culture but in the churches. When the Word is not heard in its fullness, it can be read and prayed.  During the times of famine of the Word of God, we need His Word stored up, “hid” (King James translation) so we may have sustenance in faith in the Lord and love for one another. Storing up the Word of the Lord suggests memorizing the Word:  verses and passages of both Law and Promise so the Lord guide us by the light of His Word in these dark days. “We should daily be engaged with God’s Word and carry in our hearts and upon our lips (Luther’s Large Catechism)”, for Thy Word is lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119: 105).

 O holy and most merciful God, You have taught us the way of Your commandments. We implore You to pour out Your grace into our hearts. Cause it to bear fruit in us that, being ever mindful of Your mercies and Your laws, we may always be directed to Your will and daily increase in love toward You and one another. Enable us to resist all evil and to live a godly life. Help us to follow the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to walk in His steps until we shall possess the kingdom that has been prepared for us in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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