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Archive for March, 2021

Holy Wednesday

COLLECT OF THE DAY: Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:Isaiah 62:11-63:7 Psalm 70  Romans 5:6-11 St. Luke 22:1-23:56 or St. John 13:16-38

Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory is set in the 1920s Mexico when the Roman Catholic Church has been suppressed.  Priests are not allowed to say Mass.  The main character is an unnamed priest, given to whiskey, who goes about the country saying clandestine Masses.  In the scene quoted below he is in a shed and a mestizo is crawling in the shack and grabs the priest’s ankles.  He wants the priest to hear his confession about adultery and “boys”, as his confession comes forth between his yellowed teeth, the priest reflects:

“How often the priest had heard the same confession–Man was so limited: he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater the glory lay around the death; it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or civilization–it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.” 

Greene is illustrating the Scripture text appointed for Holy Wednesday from Romans:

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

In the prayer of the day, we pray, ”Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil”.    In Advent there is a collect with the petition that “our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found.”  Fix:  eyes on Jesus, as in Hebrews 12: 1-2 or corrected/ healed.  Which is it?  I suppose the former but the former makes for the latter.  Faith is our eyes fixed upon Him, in the depths, height and breadth of His love stretching out from the Cross to us  and we are fixed, healed.  We come to Him burdened to be released, hungry to be fed, thirsty to be quenched.  Sin, death and the devil dogs us when we are not  steadfast in faith.  Our true condition apart from Him is just as it is written in Romans 5:  weak, sinner, enemy.  His power and glory has been shown upon the Cross and on the third day and today. Indeed, it took a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt. We can’t even invent a new sin, but in Christ, there is always new ways to love and serve.

He bows His head on the timber-trunk of the cross to kiss us in love. He stretches out His arms in order to embrace us in love. He prays for His crucifiers because He suffered out of love for them. His side is opened up with a spear so that the flame of heartfelt love might break forth from it, “so that we through the wound’s opening may behold the mystery of the heart.” In love He longs for us, and thus He said: I thirst [that is,] for your salvation.”By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.” (Pr. and Prof. Johann Gerhard)

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Holy Tuesday

First Christian Reformed | Drawn to Jesus | Episode 21 - John 20:24-31 -  From Doubt to Belief
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.-St. John 12: 32

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins;  through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings:  Isaiah 49: 1-7  Psalm 71: 1-14  1 Corinthians 1: 18-31  St. John 12: 23-50

“What, then has Christ acquired with His suffering?  …that through Christ’s wounds we were made whole. Therefore, St. Bernard correctly states that Christ’s suffering is of the greatest consequence;  for just as the death of the saint is precious to the Lord, Psalm 116, how much more will not the death of this most holy, innocent Son of God be precious to Him.  This element must threaded through the entire passion history, for the kernel and beneficial contemplation of the passion is embodied in it.  Thus Christ’s soul was grieved unto death so that we might rejoice forever.  Christ sweated bloody sweat and struggled in the throes of death so that we need never despair in the agony of death.  Christ was led to captivity so that we would not have to eternally captive to the devil. Christ was bound so that He could rescue us from the bonds of sin and hell… ” (from An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ by Rev. Prof. Johann Gerhard)

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The Prayer of the Day

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

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

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

The Ending of the First Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary, preached by Gregory Thaumaturgus

Most of the holy fathers, and patriarchs, and prophets desired to see Him, and to be eye-witnesses of Him, but did not attaint hereto. And some of them by visions beheld Him in type, and darkly; others, again, were privileged to hear the divine voice through the medium of the cloud, and were favoured with sights of holy angels; but to Mary the pure virgin alone did the archangel Gabriel manifest himself luminously, bringing her the glad address, Hail, thou that art highly favoured! And thus she received the word, and in the due time of the fulfilment according to the body’s course she brought forth the priceless Pearl.

Come, then, you too, dearly beloved, and let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, Arise, O Lord, into Your rest; You, and the ark of Your sanctuary. For the holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary. 

Arise, O Lord, into Your rest. Arise, O Lord, out of the bosom of the Father, in order that You may raise up the fallen race of the first-formed man. Setting these things forth, David in prophecy said to the rod that was to spring from himself, and to sprout into the flower of that beauteous fruit. 

Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline your ear, and forget your own people and your father’s house; so shall the King greatly desire your beauty: for He is the Lord your God, and you shall worship Him. 

Hearken, O daughter, to the things which were prophesied beforetime of you, in order that you may also behold the things themselves with the eyes of understanding. Hearken to me while I announce things beforehand to you, and hearken to the archangel who declares expressly to you the perfect mysteries.

Come then, dearly beloved, and let us fall back on the memory of what has gone before us; and let us glorify, and celebrate, and laud, and bless that rod that has sprung so marvellously from Jesse. For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary the mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David: For Joseph went up, says he, from Galilee, unto a city of Judea which is called Bethlehem, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child, because they were of the house and family of David.

And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; and she brought forth her son, the first-born of the whole creation, and wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who is covered with light as with a garment. She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who made every creature. She laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim, and is praised by myriads of angels. In the manger set apart for dumb brutes did the Word of God repose, in order that He might impart to men, who are really irrational by free choice, the perceptions of true reason. In the manger from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide participation in spiritual sustenance for men who live like the beasts of the earth.

Nor was there even room for Him in the inn. He found no place, who by His word established heaven and earth; for though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor, and chose extreme humiliation on behalf of the salvation of our nature, in His inherent goodness toward us. He who fulfilled the whole administration of unutterable mysteries of the economy in heaven in the bosom of the Father, and in the cave in the arms of the mother, reposed in the manger. Angelic choirs encircled Him, singing of glory in heaven and of peace upon earth. In heaven He was seated at the right hand of the Father; and in the manger He rested, as it were, upon the cherubim. Even there was in truth His cherubic throne; there was His royal seat. Holy of the holy, and alone glorious upon the earth, and holier than the holy, was that wherein Christ our God rested. To Him be glory, honour, and power. together with the Father undefiled, and the altogether holy and quickening Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of the ages. Amen.

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“A Meditation on Christ’s Passion”, vol. 42 Luther’s Works, cited in The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Monday of Lent 5: After man has become aware of his sin and is terrified in his heart, he must watch that sin does not remain in his conscience, for this would lead to sheer despair. Just as [our knowledge of] sin flowed Christ and was acknowledged by us, so we pour this sin back on him and free our conscience of it. Therefore beware, lest you do as those perverse people who torture hearts with their sins and strive to do the impossible, namely, get rid of their sins by running from one good work or penance another, or by working their way out of this by means of indulgences You cast your sins from yourself and onto Christ when you firmly believe that his wounds and sufferings are your sins, to be borne and paid for by him, as we read in Isaiah 53 [:6],

The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” St. Peter says, “in his body has he borne our sins on the wood of the cross” [I Pet. 2:24]. St. Paul says, “God has made him a sinner for us, so that through him we would be made just” [Il Cor. 5:21].

You must stake everything on these and similar verses. The more your conscience torments you, the more tenaciously must you cling to them. If you do not do that, but presume to still your conscience with your contrition and penance, you will never obtain peace of mind, but will have to despair in the end. If we allow sin to remain in our conscience and try to deal with it there, or if we look at sin in our heart, it will be much too strong for us and will live on forever. But if we behold it resting on Christ and [see it] overcome by his resurrection, and then boldly believe this, even it is dead and nullified. Sin cannot remain on Christ, since it is swallowed up by his resurrection. Now you see no wounds, no pain in him, and no sign of sin. Thus St. Paul declares that “Christ died for our sin and rose for our justification” [Rom. 4:25].

The Lord has given means to cast out sins upon Jesus for our forgiveness:  Confession and Absolution, as rightly taught in The Small Catechism:

How Christians should be taught to confess

What is Confession?

Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

What sins should we confess?

Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.

Which are these?

Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?

Explanation of Confession

A Short Form of Confession

[Luther intended the following form to serve only as an example of private confession for Christians of his time. For a contemporary form of individual confession, see Lutheran Worship, pp. 310–11; see Lutheran Service Book, pp. 292–93.]

The penitent says:

Dear confessor, I ask you please to hear my confession and to pronounce forgiveness in order to fulfill God’s will.

I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. In particular I confess before you that as a servant, maid, etc., I, sad to say, serve my master unfaithfully, for in this and that I have not done what I was told to do. I have made him angry and caused him to curse. I have been negligent and allowed damage to be done. I have also been offensive in words and deeds. I have quarreled with my peers. I have grumbled about the lady of the house and cursed her. I am sorry for all of this and I ask for grace. I want to do better.

A master or lady of the house may say:

In particular I confess before you that I have not faithfully guided my children, servants, and wife to the glory of God. I have cursed. I have set a bad example by indecent words and deeds. I have hurt my neighbor and spoken evil of him. I have overcharged, sold inferior merchandise, and given less than was paid for.

[Let the penitent confess whatever else he has done against God’s commandments and his own position.]

If, however, someone does not find himself burdened with these or greater sins, he should not trouble himself or search for or invent other sins, and thereby make confession a torture. Instead, he should mention one or two that he knows: In particular I confess that I have cursed; I have used improper words; I have neglected this or that, etc. Let that be enough.

But if you know of none at all (which hardly seems possible), then mention none in particular, but receive the forgiveness upon the general confession which you make to God before the confessor.

Then the confessor shall say:

God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith. Amen.

Furthermore:

Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness? Yes, dear confessor.

Then let him say:

Let it be done for you as you believe. And I, by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace.

A confessor will know additional passages with which to comfort and to strengthen the faith of those who have great burdens of conscience or are sorrowful and distressed.

This is intended only as a general form of confession.

What is the Office of the Keys?

The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

Where is this written?

This is what St. John the Evangelist writes in chapter twenty: The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:22–23)

What do you believe according to these words?

I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.

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In this episode of MASH, there is a gung ho commander who wants to win in battle at all costs, using dangerous battle tactics. Hawkeye wants to stop him. The commander comes down with a stomach ache and it’s diagnosed as gastritis, but Hawkeye has another idea: say that the commander has a bad appendix (he doesn’t), take it out, so that he is put out of commission to ostensibly stop him from going into battle and so preventing others from dying needlessly in a reckless battle. This scene is both the climax and the denouement of the episode and it raises all sorts of questions of ethics, including sex change operations, which are not politically correct even to discuss these days.

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Hermann Sasse, Erlangen, c. 1933

“In these months the French are celebrating the 150th anniversary of their great revolution of 1789. We Lutheran Christians in Germany, in whose vocabulary the word ‘revolution’ scarcely exists, probably have difficulty in understanding how people can celebrate an event which, from the purely human perspective, was a terrible outbreak of sin, and from a Christian perspective, was a dreadful judgment on humanity. But the French revolution is one of the most powerful events in world history, which has affected all Western nations, including Germany, and even the whole world. The revolution threw an idea into the world like one would throw a match into a pile of kindling. It is an idea which has burned in the hearts of millions of people for the 150 years since, which they took to as to a new Gospel, so that the idea directed their lives and whole nations gambled their destiny on it. It is the idea of the equality of all people.

“According to this idea, all people are by nature created equal. The differences among people that give rise to hardship are human constructs. So, let us do away with them! Everybody should be equal – in power, wealth, and destiny. If someone should surpass his contemporaries in his achievements, off with his head, that all may be equal again! This doctrine of the French revolutionaries, like the doctrines of the Bolsheviks, seems to us to be ridiculous.”


From a sermon preached by Rev. Professor Hermann Sasse, on the Second Sunday of Trinity, 18th June, 1939.
Text: Romans 10:1-13.

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St. Joseph icon by Theophilia on DeviantArt

Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 7:4-16 Psalm 127 Romans 4:13-18 St. Matthew 2:13-152:19-23

Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, from the house of Your servant David You raised up Joseph to be the guardian of Your incarnate Son and the husband of His mother, Mary. Grant us grace to follow the example of this faithful workman in heeding Your counsel and obeying Your commands; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  St. Joseph has been honored throughout the Christian centuries for his faithful devotion in helping Mary raise her Son. Matthew’s Gospel relates that Joseph was a just man, who followed the angel’s instructions and took the already-pregnant Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24). In the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus is referred to as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). This suggests that Joseph had building skills with which he supported his family. Joseph was an important figure in the early life of Jesus, safely escorting Mary and the child to Egypt (Matthew 2:14) and then settling them back in Nazareth once it was safe to do so (Matthew 2:22). The final mention of Joseph is at the time the twelve-year-old Jesus visits the temple in Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 2:41-51). Joseph, the guardian of our Lord, has long been associated with caring parenthood as well as with skilled craftsmanship.

Reflection:  

This is a good feast day to read and recite the Small Catechism, and in particular, the 4th Commandment:

Honor your father and your mother. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.

An interesting quote for St. Joseph’s feast day:

“…we can talk all we want here in Washington about issues like education and health care and crime; we can build good schools; we can put money into creating good jobs; we can do everything we can to keep our streets safe — but government can’t keep our kids from looking for trouble on those streets. Government can’t force a kid to pick up a book or make sure that the homework gets done. Government can’t be there day in, day out, to provide discipline and guidance and the love that it takes to raise a child. That’s our job as fathers, as mothers, as guardians for our children.”

President Obama spoke those words in initiating a national fatherhood initiative.  I do not know about his program today but in the quote, he did say something that is akin to the Christian orthodox understanding of government and the family: the government cannot raise a child, only a family fully can with a Father. An aside: Now others, such as churches build good schools, and entrepreneurs and investors put money into businesses which create good jobs,  and private health care provide good health care (see the R and D that led  to the covid shot:  only by private pharma could it be done, not government) and they all can do better than any government because that is their calling, it is not government’s…but the government alone is to protect us from crime and preserve temporal peace.  The former president was right that government can protect families and encourage fatherhood. We do not want government day in and day out in our lives! President Obama indicates that only the vocation of fathers by which families are raised, and runaway fathers are an abomination.

So, this is a good feast day to reflect on the vocation of fatherhood.  Fathers have fallen on hard times. This is not new.  The narrative of the birth of Jesus features two earthly fathers:  Joseph, the step-father of Jesus and King Herod the Great and the contrast between these two fathers is great. We can learn what it means to be a father from Joseph.

The Lord told Joseph to flee because  King Herod the Great, outsmarted by the magi, set out to kill all Bethlehem’s male children under the age of two in order to kill a threat to his throne.  Herod the ‘Great’ obeyed himself. Joseph obeyed the Lord.  

Herod had 17 children and he had many of them executed, along with his wife.  After his death, the kingdom was divided into four regions and four of his sons became rulers of those tetrarchs. Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded. Joseph never executed anyone. Runaway fathers can destroy families…even at home.  Herod was a man of vengeance and war, Joseph walked in the way of peace. We name many of our sons, Joseph, I have yet to meet a ‘Herod’.

Not one thing that Joseph ever spoke is recorded in the Scripture.  He was quietly obedient to the Lord as Jesus’ stepfather and guardian, and husband to his wife. When he found out that his betrothed, Mary was pregnant, without him, he decided to quietly divorce her to save her shame. Later, he fled to Egypt with his family, at great risk, trouble and cost. He took care of  his family. He brought them to worship in Jerusalem and at the synagogue in Nazareth every Saturday.  I can’t imagine that Herod  took his sons to synagogue.  Joseph did as the head of the household should so do.

Joseph’s stepson Jesus was known as, “the son of the carpenter”, thereby showing how much Jesus reflected the labor of his stepfather.  He had other children, one of whom, James would become a pillar of the Church in Jerusalem: James.  James’ Epistle is part of the canon of the New Testament.  We only know Herod by his edicts and programs of terror. His sons carried out the sins of their father.  Joseph’s most known Son, Jesus, would bear the sins of all fathers and mothers and by this Son, all sons and daughters are forgiven to be baptized as our Father’s sons and daughters. 

Herod the Great and Joseph is certainly a contrast in two diametrically opposed types of fathers.   One obeyed his own lusts and flesh, thus the devil, and corrupted his family.  Though without it ever being said in Scripture, I think it is true to say that Joseph loved his children as a Father should.

Herod was merely a biological father.  Joseph obeyed in true faith the Lord and His Word and guided his family by truly being a father according to the 4th Commandment. Though not Jesus’ biological father, but as many stepfathers, a true father and  more than a father than Herod! 

Herod, in our day, would be the stuff of the media, the internet, fame and power.   He would confirm the feminist false critique that all men  are oppressive of women. Today,  Joseph probably would be considered a narrow-minded and dogmatic redneck and if even so:  Whom would you want as your father?

Herod the Great did not point his life toward the Lord, the Almighty Father.  Joseph did and still does. 

I think March 19th should be  the Church’s Fathers’ Day.

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Hesed |  "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!"
Psalm 107: 1 | image tagged in bible,jesus,love | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

PSALM 107 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to a city to dwell in
;

hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.

He led them by a straight way
    till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    prisoners in affliction and in irons,

11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
    and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
    they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
    and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;

18 they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
    his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
    and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,
    springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
    because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
    a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
    and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
    and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
    and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
    and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
    and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Psalm 107 is a liturgical psalm extolling the Lord’s hesed, that is His loyal love/steadfast love/mercy in redeeming and saving men and women in very concrete situations of adversities in life. Hesed is usually translated as “steadfast love”, as in the English Standard Version used above. Hesed is one of the Biblical Hebrew words that is not easily translated. The Lord’s hesed is the central focus in each other four groupings and so I have highlighted each with four different colors. They can be so designated because of the liturgical repetitions and refrains in each of the four sections. Note in the first group, vss. 4, 6 and 8, the phrases: 4 Some wandered in desert wastes,/Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,/Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, These phrases are repeated in the next three groups (Only the word “some” is repeated, then followed by who the some are.)

These four groups can be summed up as: 1. Those in hunger and thirst; 2. Those in darkness and gloom; 3. Those in sin and affliction; 4. Those in storm at sea. At the center of these four groups is the Lord and His hesed, steadfast love. Dr. James Luther Mayes in his commentary on the Psalms wonderfully sums it up and shows Psalm 107 and its connections with both the Old Testament and Jesus Christ:

The language of God the redeemer and the returnees as the redeemed is characteristic of Isaiah 40—66 (e.g., Isa. 51: 10; 62: 12; 63:4; 35:9). The redeemed have been assembled from the dispersion (v. 2). The types of adversity must symbolize the corporate experience of the people who had wandered hungry and thirsty for the salvation of God “in the great desert of the world”; had been imprisoned in the exile, had been terminally ill because of their transgressions, and “had been all but swallowed up in the vast sea of the nations”… In the Gospels, Jesus feeds the hungry in the wilderness, frees those possessed from the bonds of demons, heals and forgives the sick, and quiets the storms (Mark 6:30—44; 3:20—27; 2:1—12; His wonders correspond to those of the Old Testament salvation history and so extend it and identify with it. The four cases are really open paradigms of deliverance into which any and all who have benefited from God’s saving work can enter. Hunger and thirst, darkness and gloom, sin and affliction, storm and sea all belong to the general symbolic vocabulary with which the redeemed portray the trouble from which they have been saved. The psalm as a whole is the great summary song of thanksgiving for salvation by all the redeemed.

I see these 4 groups as around the Cross of Christ, and the risen Lord, as on Good Friday those groups had their representatives: from the Mother of Our Lord to the Roman soldiers. Jesus Christ is the epicenter of our lives in the Lord. We all hunger and thirsty, physically and spiritually. We have known darkness and gloom. We have sinned and so been afflicted. We have been at sea in the storm of life wondering it there is a distant shore. Now praying and reading Psalm 107, it seems like the Lord’s answers come quickly, but the Psalm does not imply a time schedule. It might be long, might be short, yet for those who love Him who first loved us and redeemed us, by His hesed, He will answer as He has in the fulness of time in His beloved Son.

And note that in each of these four groupings there is a judgment of the Lord: for instance, those who were in darkness and prison and shackled, because, “...for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.” The pattern of Psalm 107 is rather reminiscent of The Book of Judges. They were bowed down in hard labor, like Israel during the time of the judges worshiping false gods, spurning the sound words of God, and then Israel was conquered by another nation and put into hard labor. They pray and repent and the Lord frees them by sending them His Word via a judge. Such hardships can teach us to trust in the Lord and His Word for the Lord’s hesed, as HIs grace is before, during and after our lives that we can return to Him abounding in hesed, The Cross is His power to salvation.

I have used the word “groups” loosely. Today groups are the stuff of identity politics. Groups are white, black, Hispanic, LGBTQ, etc. etc. ad nauseum, divided by the elites into their categories of good and evil according to the alien and atheist ideology of social marxism. In Psalm 107, I think this is indicated in the “princes”:

When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes

It is the self-appointed princes, and elites who diminish and bring low “…through oppression, evil and sorrow”. We are seeing this these days. The princes and elites want to say there are hard line sociological groups, e.g. whites, blacks, etc. under the rubric of identity politics. The prince and elites will make them equal, even equality of outcomes which is tyranny. And the Lord, “…pours contempt” on them, maybe, so we don’t have to as our anger never makes for righteousness of God(See James 1:20). So when it comes to the truth, there are really no hard line”four groups” around the Cross, but four aspects of the all inclusive group nature of mankind: sinful and fallen, grouped together in their suffering. And then there is the inclusivity that excludes sin (See the 10 Commandments) in His bloodied forgiveness: The Lord’s hesed, steadfast love/agape for all the dark world (St. John 3: 16) in the work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, here is a theme for Lent and our lives in the Lord from Psalm 107:

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

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St Patrick's Confession, a Sinner, and Patron Saint of Ireland

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three,
Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord!

Hymn # 172 from Lutheran Worship

Let us pray… God of grace and might, we praise You for your servant Patrick, to whom You gave gifts to make the good news known to the people of Ireland. Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 62: 1-7; Psalm 48; Romans 10: 11-17; St. Luke 24: 44-53

Bio:  Patrick is one of the best-known of the missionary saints. Born to a Christian family in Britain around the year 389, he was captured as a teenager by raiders, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a herdsman. After six years he escaped and found his way to a monastery community in France. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities. He strongly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a time when it was not popular to do so. His literary legacy includes his autobiography, Confession, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today. Patrick died around the year 466.  Read more about St. Patrick’s biography here, citing quotes from his Confession.

Reflection:The Church’s mission is Baptism.  St. Patrick, missionary Bishop, knew that. From his Confession:

In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord—so many thousands of people.

The Lord did not send Patrick to the land of Eire to establish Irish national identity, drink green beer (itself a heresy!), get drunk in a pub, and have another reason for “hooking-up”.  He came to preach the Christ who sets us free from all of that and all sin and death. Even though, this holy day has become secularized, it is still  somewhat marked by joy, not lust like St. Valentine’s day, nor the demonic as on Halloween, or even greed at Christmas, but joy.  The origin of joy is in the Lord who has redeemed us by His Son in Baptism.  We thank the Lord for the baptizer of Eire, St. Patrick!  Thank the Lord as His baptism continues and abides no thanks to foes who deny it.

He wrote a majestic poem that became a hymn on Holy Baptism (see above). Ireland had been evangelized prior to Patrick but it was through this servant of the Lord that the Faith was rooted.  Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was to the baptized who had wandered down false paths and dead ends to return to the waters. Patrick’s preaching of Christ was for the baptized to walk in the newness of life in Christ as a baptized son or daughter. Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was for the pagan to come to the waters, to bind unto themselves the strong Name of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ commanded His Church to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity, not in the Church’s name, nor Patrick’s nor Luther’s, but God’s Name.  The baptism mission of the Church is obviously not fads and fashions, techniques and clever tactics to “get people into Church”.  The Baptism is always into Jesus Christ and His Cross (see Romans 6: 1ff). From St. Patrick’s Confession of his amazing joy in the Lord:

So be amazed, all you people great and small who fear God! You well-educated people in authority, listen and examine this carefully. Who was it who called one as foolish as I am from the middle of those who are seen to be wise and experienced in law and powerful in speech and in everything? If I am most looked down upon, yet he inspired me, before others, so that I would faithfully serve the nations with awe and reverence and without blame: the nations to whom the love of Christ brought me. His gift was that I would spend my life, if I were worthy of it, to serving them in truth and with humility to the end.

Patrick did not water down Holy Baptism!  He did not water down the doctrine and practice of the Church to “reach people”.  His goal was not ‘outreach’ to people but preach the Word so that people call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved, and that means:  Holy Baptism.   Patrick knew that he was a “jar of clay” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7), as he knew that the surpassing power was the Lord’s, the One who baptized him:

Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.

The Church wears the “green” day in and day out, in the bloom of summer, in the dead of winter:  greening in the watering of His forgiveness by His grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8). When we forget our baptismal sojourn in the Holy Spirit and in His Word the Holy Scriptures, then we are lost. Patrick had a strong faith in the strong Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He was no debater of the age, but proclaimer of the age to come. Yes, wear the green today but do not forget to pray and make the sign of the Cross giving thanks to Lord our God, for the missionary bishop who baptized many. The Lord’s Cross points us home to the Holy Trinity.  

(More on St. Patrick here and here)

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May be a cartoon of text that says 'WHY STUDY THE Book OF NUMBERS?! THIRTY-SIX CHAPTERS OF SELF-CENTERED PEOPLE WHO WHINED EVERY TIME THEY DIDN'T GET THEIR WAY! GIVE US SOMETHING RELEVANT! = FLÉTCHER'

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