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Archive for May, 2021

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

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

About the Festival Day:  John the Baptizer and Jesus, the two great figures of salvation history, now come together in the Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45), both of whom conceived their children under miraculous circumstances. Thus John is brought into the presence of Jesus while they are still in their mothers’ wombs.

This presence of the Lord causes a response by the child John as he leapt in Elizabeth’s womb. John’s response to the presence of Jesus, the Messiah, foreshadows John’s own role as forerunner. Already now, a new creation is beginning, and a baby still in the womb hails the new creation’s inception. Foreshadowed in John’s leap are the miracles of Jesus, who will cause all creation to leap at His presence: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). The incarnate presence of the Messiah also evokes a response from Elizabeth, who proclaims Mary’s blessedness. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) provides the theological significance of this meeting as Mary sums up her place in salvation history. Mary’s song is a hymn to God for His gracious gifts to the least in this world, whom He has lifted up out of lowliness solely because of His grace and mercy.

“… it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”—St. Irenaeus of Lyons (died AD 202)

Reflection:  The understanding from Irenaeus of the contrast between Mary and Eve has obviously been around for a long time.  It has become a liturgical and theological centerpiece of Eastern Orthodox churches.  This dovetails well into Martin Luther’s understanding that the greatest miracle is not that Mary conceived but she believed: through faith

Many years ago, everyone was all agog about WWJD bracelets:  What Would Jesus Do. So, as Jesus did, I should do miracles like raising the dead, preach to multitudes, and be crucified and rise again from the dead? Hardly. Or, just be a good moral person like Jesus in my actions.  We don’t need Jesus to be told that as we have God’s Law and I have not done that and left so much undone. WWJD was an example of self-righteousness. BWJD: Behold What Jesus Did!

Another take on this bracelet: A friend and colleague said those bracelets should have on them: WWMD, What Would Mary Do.  She believed as the Word of the angel came into ear and into her heart (Romans 10:17).  She received with the meekness the implanted Word (James 1:21). Mary and Elizabeth are the first Church as the Church is the body of Christ, so Mary bore the Christ. is the Church.  Mary bore the Word made flesh, as does the Church if she is faithful in all things to the Lord, as was Mary, even at times not understanding because of the weakness of the flesh (Luke 1:34). The Lord is sheer gift.  And so when Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s child, John, lept in her womb.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word alone.  The Church was there in the hill country of Judea that is temple of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord has visited us in Holy Baptism and makes at least weekly visits in the Holy Communion and every Word that proceeds from His mouth. We are visited by dear brothers and sisters in both our tribulations and our joy. We are made His through His Word alone in Holy Baptism and in faith.  In the most humble of homes, the beauty of holiness shone within and without.  St. Luke 1: 45: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Indeed!  And so are you! As Elizabeth visited Mary and their Lord, so visit Him this day and every day in Word, in Holy Communion, in Prayer.  Blessed Festival Day! 

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Bede (673-735), was born in Northumbrian and was the last of the early church fathers and the first to compile the history of the English church. .

About the year 680, at the age of seven, a boy was sent by his parents to the monastery of Monkwearmouth, in the country known today as Ireland by his family to be educated later by Abbot Ceolfrith, recognized as saintly. The abbot and the boy  were at the monastery in Jarrow  and most likely the boy had become a monk. In 686, plague broke out at Jarrow. The only two surviving monks were capable of singing the full offices; one was Ceolfrith and the other a young boy, who according to the anonymous writer had been taught by Ceolfrith. The two managed to do the entire service of the liturgy until others could be trained. The young boy was almost certainly Bede.  In the middle of a lock down of a virus, the courage and bravery of the Abbot and Bede during a plague, should shame us today who want to stay away from Church. There is no ‘virtual Church’, only the Church, the Body of Christ, a body of virtue in the Holy Spirit.  The fruit of their faith in Christ endures. We thank the Lord for this pastor.

The most learned man of his time, he was a prolific writer of history, whose careful use of sources provided a model for historians in the Middle Ages. Known best for his book, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, he was also a profound interpreter of Scripture; his commentaries are still fresh today. His most famous disciple, Cuthbert, reported that Bede was working on a translation of John’s Gospel into English when death came, and that he died with the words of the Gloria Patri on his lips. He received the title “Venerable” within two generations of his death and is buried in Durham Cathedral as one of England’s greatest saints.

My times are in your hand (Ps. 31). We know what the Lord’s hands look like:  imprinted with nails as His feet. The Lord Himself in the flesh knew and knows the uncertainty of the times marked by trial and temptation, sore abuse and scorn of sinners, us.  By His hands He has delivered us and Bede and Ceolfrith. Another church body has as it’s motto, God’s Work, our hands but it should read, God’s Work, Christ’s Hands.  My times are in your hand.   This is a meaning of our Lord’s Ascension: His hands, the nail imprinted hands can now be everywhere at the right hand of the Father bringing the message of Savior and His so great a salvation by His forgiveness to the world, a timorous, prideful, fearful, vengeful world.

Bede died on the Feast of the Ascension, Thursday, 26 May 735, on the floor of his cell, singing “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”. He was buried at Jarrow. Bede wrote the hymn, A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing, centered on our Lord’s Ascension.

Let us pray…Heavenly Father, when he was still a child You called Your servant Bede to devote his life to serve You in the venerable disciplines of religion and scholarship.  As he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of Your truth to his generation, grant that we may also strive to make You known in all the world in our various vocations;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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I have learned a few things from watching the situation comedy,”The Big Bang Theory” and one is the meaning of vexillology:  the study of flags.   In the Church Year, the color is red for Pentecost, symbolizing the fire of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire that rested on the Apostles.  Here is the Altar for our congregation Concordia Lutheran:

We put up the flags  as a reminder that beginning at Pentecost, and continuing to this day, 2,000 years later, the nations hear the Word of God in their own language (Acts 2:  6 and 11)

In flags, likewise red can mean blood but also valor and strength.  Valor and strength means risking one’s life in defense of a nation. Courage to witness to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. There are martyrs in many lands.

Note the many flags with the color red!  Jesus died for the life of the world.  Many of the flags of the world can be a salutary reminder of that God so loved the world, He gave His only-begotten Son.  In an intimate connection, red can remind us of the Holy Spirit:  The Holy Spirit who is God before time and in the beginning,  “…was hovering over the face of the waters.”  The Holy Spirit who descended on the 120 Galileans gathered in Jerusalem and then gave the gift of language to speak the Gospel for all the nations gathered there for Pentecost (Acts 2: 6-11).  The Holy Spirit, as the Son taught concerning the Spirit, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16: 14).  The Holy Spirit’s book is the Bible and the core curriculum  is Christ for us and for our salvation.  The Lord sends out the Apostles as witnesses (John 16:27), with the Spirit to forgive and retain sin (John 20: 21-23).  He sent them baptizing and teaching  “all nations”  (Matthew 28: 19-20).  As we are baptized in the Name of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are baptized in the Holy Spirit.  This is for all nations as even the secular flags of the world give mute witness to the Lord of all nations.

I think we need this reminder more than ever as recorded in Holy Scripture:

Revelation 7 “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

We need this reminder ever more these days with all the false charges of racism, skin is sin and the like. One race is not better than another. Privilege will not be wiped out by force but by humility that all races are sinners and Jesus died for us all. The Pentecost testimony to Christ is across all tribes and peoples and languages, which means races, all the colors and shades of mankind’s skin. Christ is the Lord of all nations for our salvation. This also reminds me of all our brothers and sisters around the world from Brazil to Siberia to Uganda to China to our shores. Truly, the Spirit of the Lord fills the world, Alleluia. The Holy Spirit witnesses to the Son in  His blood of the New Testament given in Baptismal waters for faith in Jesus Christ.

Article 7: Sermon for Reformation Sunday 2017

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Pentecost Sunday around the world in 2021 | Office Holidays

The miracle of Pentecost is not merely a past historical event. The Spirit’s wondrous activity goes on in the Church today.

   The  Church has observed this day as one of the most important festivals of the year. But unlike Christmas or Easter, Pentecost doesn’t have the cultural attachments that remind us of its significance, like Christmas or Easter. Without cultural traditions behind it, we may wonder how to celebrate Pentecost. Why do we observe Pentecost at all?

   The Church celebrates the Festival of Pentecost as the fulfillment and conclusion of the Easter season. The name Pentecost, meaning “the fiftieth day,” originally referred to the Jewish Festival of Weeks, the time of thanksgiving for first fruits and the ingathering of the harvest (cf. Ex. 34:22).

   In the liturgical worship of the first fruits,

“…the farmers would present their baskets before the priests in the temple courts.  Each farmer would step forward and say the liturgy of recitation (Dt. 26:3: ‘I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’). He would remove the basket from his shoulder and tip it toward the priest.  The priest took hold of the basket and the two of them swayed it back and forth as a “wave” offering. Then the farmer would recite in Hebrew, A wandering Aramean was my father” (Dt. 26: 5-10)  He would leave the basket, bow before the Lord, and make way for the next farmer.

   “But a controversy arose about the recitation. The priest would  have to lead the people who could not speak Hebrew. He would say a part in Hebrew, and the person making the offering would repeat it. This apparently embarrassed people. They stopped bringing their offering.  As a result, the priests decided that they would lead all the people in the recitation whether or not they knew Hebrew. In this way, they continued to receive everyone’s offering but also retained Hebrew as the language of temple services.” (Lutheran Study Bible)

   The Christian Church retained the name of Pentecost to mark the completion of the 50-day period after Easter—and the first in-gathering of believers into the Church.  The Pentecost Season is the longest one in the Church, this year ending on November 21, The Last Sunday of the Church Year-the 26th Sunday after Pentecost. The color is green during the Sundays after Pentecost, as in growing in faith and love.  Today it is red for the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The color red is also color for the martyrs, but it does not stand for their blood, but their faithful witness in the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ.

From a Pentecost Sermon by Pr. Hermann Sasse, preached in Erlangen, Germany, 1940:   “…Pentecost is the celebration of a different Spirit,-a Spirit that is something entirely different  than the spirit of creatures, the spirit of men and their creation…

Men who were filled with the Holy Spirit were by no means particular heroes of faith. It was quite to the contrary. We remind  ourselves  of what was said about this in the sermon for Easter, and the Ascension Epistle. It is not written anywhere in the Bible that Andrew, Thomas, Bartholomew, and Simon the Zealot believed more, hoped more, or had more love than other Christians. And still, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” [Acts 2:4].

“…there does seem to be a requirement for the reception of the Spirit. “They were all together  in one place” [Acts 2:1]. That is what it says at the beginning of this story. They had to be together in order for Pentecost to happen. If each remained in  their own house, each in their own rooms, there would not have been a Pentecost. Also, on the day of Christ’s ascension it was already said: “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer [and supplication]” (Acts 1:14). And what is here a prerequisite for Pentecost is also a consequence of Pentecost, an effect by the Holy Spirit. “And [they were] day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes” (Acts 2: 46). (emphasis added)

  The miracle of Pentecost is not merely a past historical event. The Spirit’s wondrous activity goes on in the Church today.

   The  Church has observed this day as one of the most important festivals of the year. But unlike Christmas or Easter, Pentecost doesn’t have the cultural attachments that remind us of its significance, like Christmas or Easter. Without cultural traditions behind it, we may wonder how to celebrate Pentecost. Why do we observe Pentecost at all?

   The Church celebrates the Festival of Pentecost as the fulfillment and conclusion of the Easter season. The name Pentecost, meaning “the fiftieth day,” originally referred to the Jewish Festival of Weeks, the time of thanksgiving for first fruits and the ingathering of the harvest (cf. Ex. 34:22).

   In the liturgical worship of the first fruits,

“…the farmers would present their baskets before the priests in the temple courts.  Each farmer would step forward and say the liturgy of recitation (Dt. 26:3: ‘I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’). He would remove the basket from his shoulder and tip it toward the priest.  The priest took hold of the basket and the two of them swayed it back and forth as a “wave” offering. Then the farmer would recite in Hebrew, A wandering Aramean was my father” (Dt. 26: 5-10)  He would leave the basket, bow before the Lord, and make way for the next farmer.

   “But a controversy arose about the recitation. The priest would  have to lead the people who could not speak Hebrew. He would say a part in Hebrew, and the person making the offering would repeat it. This apparently embarrassed people. They stopped bringing their offering.  As a result, the priests decided that they would lead all the people in the recitation whether or not they knew Hebrew. In this way, they continued to receive everyone’s offering but also retained Hebrew as the language of temple services.” (Lutheran Study Bible)

   The Christian Church retained the name of Pentecost to mark the completion of the 50-day period after Easter—and the first in-gathering of believers into the Church.  The Pentecost Season is the longest one in the Church, this year ending on November 21, The Last Sunday of the Church Year-the 26th Sunday after Pentecost. The color is green during the Sundays after Pentecost, as in growing in faith and love.  Today it is red for the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The color red is also color for the martyrs, but it does not stand for their blood, but their faithful witness in the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ.

From a Pentecost Sermon by Pr. Hermann Sasse, preached in Erlangen, Germany, 1940:   “…Pentecost is the celebration of a different Spirit,-a Spirit that is something entirely different  than the spirit of creatures, the spirit of men and their creation…

Men who were filled with the Holy Spirit were by no means particular heroes of faith. It was quite to the contrary. We remind  ourselves  of what was said about this in the sermon for Easter, and the Ascension Epistle. It is not written anywhere in the Bible that Andrew, Thomas, Bartholomew, and Simon the Zealot believed more, hoped more, or had more love than other Christians. And still, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” [Acts 2:4].

“…there does seem to be a requirement for the reception of the Spirit. “They were all together  in one place” [Acts 2:1]. That is what it says at the beginning of this story. They had to be together in order for Pentecost to happen. If each remained in  their own house, each in their own rooms, there would not have been a Pentecost. Also, on the day of Christ’s ascension it was already said: “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer [and supplication]” (Acts 1:14). And what is here a prerequisite for Pentecost is also a consequence of Pentecost, an effect by the Holy Spirit. “And [they were] day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes” (Acts 2: 46). (emphasis added)

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KFUO Radio on Twitter: "#HymnOfTheDay for #Exaudi Sunday for #OneYear  #Lectionary friends: We sing the awesome characteristics of our ascended  Lord Jesus Christ.… https://t.co/kA9i7lTHNw"

Gospel Reading:  St. John 17:11b–19

The entirety of John 17 is the Lord’s Prayer to the Father in the Holy Spirit for His apostles.  He prays, 

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” 

Jesus has given the Apostles, the Father’s Word as Jesus is the Word of the Father made flesh, full of grace and truth. I give you my word, is a solemn and good  promise. Jesus gives us more.  Jesus gives us God’s Word, nay, even more, His Father’s Word.  Jesus has the words of eternal life, to whom else should we turn? The word of God is the words of the Bible.  And when He ascended,

“…he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,(Ephesians 4 11-13)

He said He will not leave the apostles orphaned…nor us. In His Ascension He promises He is with us and plants the Father’s Word into our souls, our hearts and minds as He could ever be on the shores of Galilee. We have His Word, and we have His Father’s Word, the truth which sets us free.  And here in this Gospel we have the saying that the Church is in the world but not of the world. What kind of world?

15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 

You may remember some of the spy movies during the Cold War, when some American crosses over into the Soviet Union and a brusque guard commands, Let me see your papers.  When on a Lutheran college trip to Russia and Eastern Europe in the ‘70s, I can testify that is no fiction. Our train from Poland into the Soviet Union, at the border in the middle of the night was stopped  and armed Soviet soldiers boarded on the train into Russia literally rifling through our train seats,  some suitcases etc. looking for contraband, such as Bibles and Fascist literature. Let me see your passport. For all my progressivism, I began to realize that we had crossed the border from freedom into slavery.  Jesus sends out His Apostles fully aware that He is sending them into enslaved lands even our land, our beloved nation. 

Jesus prays they be kept from the evil one, because the world is God’s good creation but  without faith, hope and love, without God and hope, it became the “world” and has as it’s ruler  the devil.  Jesus sends them into a world that has hated them.  Too long too many churches have wanted to be loved by world, accepted by the world, adopting their morals, life styles of the rich and famous…it is the stuff of the news and the world pats those churches on the back and says that’s nice, go sit over there.  Too long have churches wanted to hate the world and worldly people.  Jesus did not send the Apostles into the world to hate the people in it, but even to love your enemies and pray for those who persecuted you.  Jesus died for His enemies, us.  “When the devil is mocked, he sheds the blood of the mockers. When God was mocked, He shed His blood on the mockers.” (Pr. Hans Fiene).  

The evil one desires to blur the border between the Church and the world with our complicity.  He first did so at the border around a tree, of the knowledge of good and evil, as if the knowledge of the Lord were not enough.  He blurred it by asking, Did God say?  Eve and Adam were complicit and said, Yes to the devil’s lie as he misrepresented the truth of God’s Word. The line was blurred, and sin entered the world and made the world worldly. 

Jesus sent the apostles into this dark world for the life of the world, with the light of His Word of His death and resurrection, if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any they are retain.  He sent them out with message of repentance and forgiveness, of washing in Holy Baptism in the Name of the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all He has commanded and Lo, He says, I am with you always even unto the end of the age. And the devil like those Russian soldiers will rifle through your heart, telling you do not believe enough, have not done enough, and say, I know that devil but I have a mighty Lord who died and rose and ascended for me and He is with me, even to the end. 

When a church begins to look, act and feel like the age we live in, like the world, then it is lost all over again.  Ala Psalm 1 for today: When a church walks the counsel of  the wicked from the counsel of so many TV shows, blogs and magazines, such as, “follow your heart”, “you are your own best friend”, “look out for number 1”, “be all that you can be”, then its bound to fall. When a Christians stands in the way of the sinners, then its way is the dead end of hell. When Christians sit in the seat of the scornful denying Scriptural truth with worldly friends then it will become fat and indolent in its conceits. When Christians walk the wide and easy path, it will lead to destruction. Walking, sitting and standing then that church is on a road to nowhere.  Our delight is in His Law, in His Word, every Word of the Bible. When crossing the threshold of a church building, no one has to show his papers and the guest cannot help but bring in his wrong, with us, for Jesus’ forgiveness. And however religious a church building may look, into a building where the Word is not preached in all it’s saving purity and soundness, that church will only extend worldly darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great the darkness will be, warned our Lord. And you have beheld the light of His Word, clearly Law and Promise and the light of  the knowledge of God shining in the face of Christ.

The Lord clearly sends out the apostles with the understanding that you are going into the world, the cosmos, which is against God, in the world, but not of the world, into slave lands.    No one will say explicitly, Let me see your papers, but the world will do so implicitly, rifling into the heart:  “Are you trying to impose your morality?”  “Who do you think you are?  God almighty?!” “You think you are better than me?”  No, we are not angels, but neither are we beasts (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus), as we are the Lord’s own in Baptism. 

We have no papers to show, no certificate from Synodical headquarters that we have attained a certain level of holiness, and we are reluctant to show our good works because they are not even our own…we can only show the Cross, Jesus. Christ is our freedom to be His servants in the world. Thomas More was King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor.  More did not go along with his King’s lust for a divorce by making himself the head of the church and More was beheaded. Just before he died, St. Thomas More said,  “I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” And we are the king’s better servants because we are God’s first (Fr. Neuhaus). 

Jesus says, “And you will be my witnesses.”  Paul wrote of the apostles that we are Christ’s ambassadors.  Yet, ambassadors of a disputed sovereignty. Jesus sent out the Apostles to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth, across so many borders, languages, cultures.  All three of today’s lessons are about witness and testimony. Jesus told the Apostles: You are my witnesses into the world. The Church and her people follow His outstretched arm. Ours is not to master the public but to make public the Master. Someone may be dying to hear a good word this week, tell of Christ, give your witness when asked for a defense of the hope that is in you, but do with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

The odds are stacked against the church maybe in order to show from whom comes the power of Pentecost. As a 2nd century Christian wrote a Roman official about the Christians: 

 “They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land.” 

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

How are we sanctified, that is, made holy? By all the good stuff we do? We won’t make it. We are made holy in the truth of His forgiveness in the Father’s Word that He has given us is the truth. And so God’s Word is prayer. All three lessons for today refer to prayer.  The name of this Sunday is Exaudi, as in Exaudi, Domini!  Hear us, O Lord. Listen to my voice.   The apostles, and Mary and Jesus’ brothers between Ascension and Pentecost, next Sunday, were 9 days in prayer, praying the Psalms.  John wrote His congregation and encouraged them to pray that they will be heard. Thy Kingdom Come. This has  been answered when the Lord takes hold of your heart through His Word of His forgiveness crossing the border with His mercy.  But it has not been answered fully, but it will be, when Christ comes again as He was taken up into the cloud, He will return.  He taught us the Gospel of praying in the Our Father. John 17 is His prayer, one of many, and the Lord did not just pray once for the Church. 

And more importantly, approaching the 2,000th year of the Lord’s reign,  of His sitting at the right hand of the Father, we are taught in Romans 8:

If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Exaudi, Domini!  It is not our prayers alone but in union with the Lord’s Prayer, “interceding for us”, the ascended Lord, at the right hand of the Father which is everywhere His Word and people are.   “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

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Let us pray…O Lord, almighty and everlasting God, You commanded us to pray and have promised to hear us. Mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may direct and govern our hearts in all things that we may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of Your Name; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever. Amen.

New Testament Reading: Luke 18:1-17 The Parable of the Persistent Widow

‘And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary! ‘For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, ‘yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”‘ ‘And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. ‘And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 11 tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will find faith on earth?

“…The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth”   (Exodus 34:6, KJV)

 The translation of 1 Corinthians 13: 4 is usually:  “Love is patient…”   The word for “patient” is the Greek: makrothuma.   Another rendering of makrothuma and its related words is “long-suffering”.  A form of  “long-suffering” is in our Lord’s parable of the Persistent Widow,  Luke 18: 1-8.  The King James Version renders the verse,  “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?”  “Bear long with them” is a form of makrothuma, that is, the Lord long-suffers with His people as they are invited and called by the Lord to consistent and daily prayer to Him. In 2 Timothy 3: 14—4: 15, 4: 2, the Apostle  encourages his fellow pastor, “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience (long-suffering, makrothuma) and teaching.”

 Rev. Lockwood in his commentary on 1 Corinthians states that makrothuma,

“…is marked “not so much in the expression as in the extension of emotion, the drawing out, taming, literally the ‘lengthening’ (makro-) of emotion.  The Christian is not short-tempered, but longsuffering with others.” 

Christian long-suffering obvioiusly is not a self-cultivated virtue! It is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5: 22.  Makrothuma comes from and has it’s roots in the Lord’s long-suffering, bearing long with us all.  St. Paul knew that: “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1: 16) It is clear that the Lord’s encouragement in the upcoming Gospel reading to prayer is likewise rooted and grounding in the Lord’s makrothuma

Makrothumia (Long-suffering) is so needed in this short-tempered world we live in.  I personally know this. Again, Rev. Lockwood comments on 1 Corinthians 13: 4, love is long-suffering: 

“In the fast-paced, achievement-oriented world entering the third millennium, when the spirit of the age tempts churches to look for quick and impressive results, it is salutary to reflect on the priority Paul accords to the love which expresses itself in being longsuffering, a love that can wait (cf. 1 Cor 1:7; 11:33; James 5:7-8).”

I assert that “long-suffering” is almost a synonym for the divine love/charity, the Lord’s perfect makrothumia.  A love that can wait:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. Psalm 62: 

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I am with you always, even unto the end of age (St. Matthew 28) which also means today. The quote below Biblically testifies to the personal and communal way the Lord is intimately with His Church to the end of the age, Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord VIII:27-30, The Lutheran Confessions:

…now He has ascended, not merely as any other saint, to heaven, but, as the apostle testifies [ Eph. 4:10 ], above all heavens, and also truly fills all things, and being everywhere present, not only as God, but also as man [has dominion and] rules from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth; as the prophets predict, Ps. 8:1,693:1f ; Zech. 9:10, and the apostles testify, Mark 16:20, that He everywhere wrought with them and confirmed their word with signs following.

28 Yet this occurred not in an earthly way, but, as Dr. Luther explains, according to the manner of the right hand of God, which is no fixed place in heaven, as the Sacramentarians assert without any ground in the Holy Scriptures, but nothing else than the almighty power of God, which fills heaven and earth, in [possession of] which Christ is installed according to His humanity…in deed and truth, sine confusione et exaequatione naturarum, that is, without confusion and equalizing of the two natures in their essence and essential properties;

29 by this communicated [divine] power, according to the words of His testament, He can be and truly is present with His body and blood in the Holy Supper, to which He has directed us by His Word; this is possible to no other man, because no man is in such a way united with the divine nature, and installed in such divine almighty majesty and power through and in the personal union of the two natures in Christ, as Jesus, the Son of Mary.

30 For in Him the divine and the human nature are personally united with one another, so that in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Col. 2:9, and in this personal union have such a sublime, intimate, ineffable communion that even the angels are astonished at it, and, as St. Peter testifies, have their delight and joy in looking into it [ 1 Pet. 1:12 ]; all of which will shortly be explained in order and somewhat more fully.

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Lessons: Acts 1: 1-11 Psalm 47 Ephesians 1: 15-23 St. Luke 24: 44-53

Image result for The Ascension of the Lord

The last Thursday we were gathered together as His Church in the Divine Service was Maundy, or Holy Thursday, during Holy Week.  Holy Thursday is “the night in which He was betrayed” and He took bread and the cup, gave thanks and gave us His Body and Blood in bread and wine.  “Maundy” is related to Latin word for “command”:  He commanded His Supper of His real Presence and commanded us to wash each other’s feet in loving service on that night. Ascension, 4o days after Pascha, or Easter, is always a Thursday.  He bodily and  spiritually ascended into heaven to be with us, heaven come to earth, in the Sacrament of Holy Communion which He instituted some 43 days ago, on the Thursday before Good Friday. The two Thursdays are intimately connected in Jesus Christ because the ascended Lord, bodily and spiritually, deigns to be with us in His Supper, proclaiming His death until He comes again.

Thursday is kind of a non important day in the secular world:  not like Saturday and Sunday the weekend or like Monday the first day of the work week, or like Wednesday, “hump day” or Friday, TGIF (Indeed!).  Yet, our Lord did something every day of the week to hallow it, especially Thursday.  The world does not recognize any longer Maundy Thursday and Ascension Thursday. The Church Year is a tool to teach us the Word.  Thursday is good reminder of our Lord’s ascended Body which come to us, This is my Body.  The Church Year is like post-its for the soul.  Sadly, even the Church does not give much heed to Ascension.  I have had many discussions with pastors, “Do you do anything on Ascension?”  “Nah, no one comes.”  As if numbers were the only reason for Liturgy and not the Word of God, Incarnate, preached and written.  Funny:  we don’t ‘have’ Ascension, but we want the ascended Lord to have us! He does and we grab hold of Him in faith.

Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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“…we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Acts 2: 10b

Cyril (826-69) and Methodius (c. 815-85) were brothers who came from a Greek family in Thessalonica. The younger brother took the name “Cyril” when he became a monk in 868. After ordination, Cyril became librarian at the church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. In 862 the brothers were sent by the emperor as missionaries to what is now the Czech republic, where they taught in the native Slavic tongue. Cyril invented the alphabet today know today as “Cyrillic,” which provided a written language for the liturgy and Scriptures for the Slavic peoples. This use of the vernacular established an important principle for evangelical missions. (Bio source: LCMS, Commemorations)

In an informative article in the May/June 2013 edition of Touchstone, “The Thessalonian Brothers:  The Legacy of the Mission of Cyril and Methodius 1,150 Years Later”, on the way to Rome in 867, the brothers stopped in Venice,

“…to debate Western clerics who insisted on the tradition of using only Hebrew, Greek, and Latin for worship, which the Slavonic sources deride as the “trilingual heresy” or “Pilatian heresy” (after Pilate’s use of those three languages for the sign on Christ’s cross (John 19:20) ).  (Cyril) is said to have responded with St. Paul’s words:  “that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord” (Phil. 2: 11)  

Further, it is written in Revelation 14: 6,

There are 5 other references in Revelation to “languages” or “tongues”. Cyril and Methodius translated the Bible for the Slavic people to read it.  Constantine (“Cyril”) was quite talented.  He became a librarian, then a professor of philosophy, then a monk and  eventually a missionary.  Methodius was a ruler of a Slavic province, then a contemplative monk and then with his brother Cyril a missionary.  Cyril invented an alphabet in order to translate the Bible to teach and preach God’s Word to Slavic people. From the Touchstone article:

Most Slavic philologists believe that the alphabet devised by Cyril was Glagolitic, and that the Cyrillic named for him was developed later by his disciples, as it is clearly based on the Greek alphabet. Glagolitic is, to the modern Western eye, “exotic,” consisting of various combinations of triangles, circles, arcs, and straight lines.

This is an example of Glagolitic:

According to the Touchstone article, Glagolitic was, “…”an entirely new invention and showed (Cyril’s) keen ability to distinguish and represent the phonological structure of the Slavic language very precisely.”

Even though Cyril did not invent the Cyrillic alphabet as it is used in Russia, the largest country on earth, nevertheless it is fitting that the alphabet and language resulting from the saint’s work is so named.

The Touchstone article is a good read and the narrative of Cyril and Methodius should be made into a movie complete exile, monks, religious controversy, political fights of princes, imprisonment and even torture…of Methodius,

Would the cruelty of any layman, not to say a bishop, indeed of any tyrant, exceed your temerity? Would [it] go beyond your bestial ferocity when you imprisoned our brother and fellow bishop Methodius, tortured him for a long time in open air in sharpest cold and frightful rains, removed him from the affairs of the church which were entrusted to him, and went so far in your frenzy that you would have struck him with a horsewhip . . . had you not been prevented by others?

This still goes on in many parts of the highly developed world like China and various African nations. In the 9th century most of Europe was pagan.  The brothers were sent into a dark world, as were the Apostles.  Jesus sent out the Apostles to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the end of the earth, across so many borders, languages, cultures.  Jesus told the Apostles: You are my witnesses into the world. The Church and her people follow His outstretched arm. Ours is not to master the public but to make public the Master (Pr. Helmut Thielicke). Someone may be dying to hear a good word this week, tell of Christ, give your witness when asked for a defense of the hope that is in you, but do with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Too long too many churches have wanted to be loved by world, accepted by the world, adopting their morals, life styles of the rich and famous…it is the stuff of the news and the world pats those churches on the back and says that’s nice, go sit over there.  Too long have churches wanted to hate the world and worldly people.  Jesus did not send the Apostles into the world to hate the people in it, but even to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute..  Jesus died for His enemies, us.  “When the devil is mocked, he sheds the blood of the mockers. When God was mocked, He shed His blood on the mockers.” (Pr. Hans Fiene).  

Cyril and Methodius did what they did because they were called to do so armed only with the Word of God as we are.  These brothers’ example can teach us the way we can live the translated life from death to Christ. The Word of God is translated so  we are “translated” into His kingdom (see Colossians 1: 13), and changed by the Gospel of grace for sinners through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We thank the Lord for ministry of Cyril and Methodius and for all missionaries and Bible translators.

COLLECT
O God, who enlightened the Slavic peoples
through the brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius,
grant that our hearts may grasp the words of your teaching,
and perfect us as a people of one accord
in true faith and right confession.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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Cantata BWV 168 - Details & Discography Part 1: Complete Recordings

I think there is more poetry, profundity which is based upon solid Biblical and Lutheran theology to guide our lives in Christ than a 1,000 praise hymns.–Pr. Schroeder

The Libretto of Cantata BWV 168l—J. S. Bach
Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort:
Give an account of yourself! Word of thunder

Give an account of yourself! Word of thunder
that splits apart the very rocks,
word, at which my blood runs cold!
Give an account of yourself! My soul, go forward!
Ah, you must give back to God
his belongings, body and life,
Give an account of yourself! Word of thunder!

It is only the property of someone else,
what I have in this life;
spirit, life, courage and blood
and office and rank are the gift of my God.
They are mine to manage
and faithfully to look after
what has been entrusted to me by lofty hands.
Ah , but alas! I shudder with horror
when I look into my conscience
and see that my accounts are so full of faults !
Day and night
the things that God has lent to me
I have wasted with cold thoughtlessness.
How can I, righteous God, flee from you ?
I cry aloud beseechingly:
You mountains, fall! You hills, cover me
from God’s angry judgement
and from the lightning of his countenance!

Capital and interest,
my debts great and small
must one day be settled.
Everything for which I remain in debt
is written in God’s book
as with steel and diamond.

And yet, my frightened heart, live and do not despair!
Step joyfully before the court !
And if your conscience overcomes you
and you have here to stay silent,
then look to your guarantor
who does away with all your debts!
It is paid and fully discharged,
what you, O Man, remain owing in your account;
Blood of the Lamb- O great love! –
has crossed out your debt
and made a settlement between God and you.
It is paid, you are cleared!
Meanwhile,
because you know
that you are a steward,
take care and do not forget
to use Mammon prudently,
to do good to the poor,
and then, when time and life come to an end,
you will rest safely in the shelter of heaven.

Heart, tear apart the chains of Mammon,
Hands, scatter your goods !
Make my deathbed soft,
build for me a firm house
that remains forever in heaven
when the earth’s goods turn to dust.

Strengthen me with your joyful spirit,
heal me with your wounds,
wash me with the sweat of your death
in my last hours;
and take me then, whenever it pleases you,
in true faith from this world
to be with those you have chosen.

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