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Archive for the ‘Apostles’ Category

Romans 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (emphasis added)

In the Apostle’s inspired teaching on the role of God’s Law in the Lord’s plan of salvation, Paul makes a keen observation. First, it is self-evident that the “work of the law is written in their hearts”, that is, the Gentiles, which means myself and probably most of you reading this. Second, God’s law is written into the “conscience”. Third, the conscience “bears witness” to the eternal and enduring validity of God’s Law, that is, everyone has a conscience. Fourth, the substance of the witness to God’s Law are the Gentiles’,“…conflicting thoughts that accuse or even excuse them.” It is on that part of the verse I will concentrate.

I remember cartoons which show a character with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, as the character’s moral conflict, “conflicting thoughts” to do right or wrong. The actual conflict is the “…conflicting thoughts that accuse or even excuse them”. Everyone thinks and knows what is right as the Law is written into our heart. We know what is right and good but the further conflict is we should do the good, but we do the very thing we hate: see Romans 7: 13-25. The Lord’s spiritual use of His law is to accuse us that we don’t do the good. As the blessed Lutheran Confessors correctly taught: Lex semper accusat, the Law always accuses.

It is also self-evident that the conscience is fallen and in sin from the get-go and cannot stand the accusatory, blazing and penetrating, piercing light of God’s Law, by itself. The conscience cannot tolerate long the spiritual accusation that I must do good but I don’t want to,and I have not and there is, “hell to pay”. So the fallen conscience makes for itself a placebo cure for our conflicting thoughts that we must do God’s Law, “even excuse them”, that is, us. We come up with all sorts of excuses for ourselves and we hear them everyday, from others and ourselves:

“Oh, no one is perfect.”

“Everyone is doing it”

“We all make mistakes.”

“God will understand after all He forgives.”

“It’s not a big thing.”

“No one will notice.”

The excusing may be as simple as the shrug of the shoulders, “Whatever” and equally deadly. Maybe you have your own rendition of excuses. Note that many of the excuses above should have an exclamation mark, so emphatic is the excuse because of the Law’s accusation and our “conflicting thoughts”. The point here is this: they are our excuses trying to soften the Law’s just accusation. The Lord does not excuse us. He is not a self-indulgent Father: “Oh, that’s okay, do better”. There is no wiggle room for the Old Adam under the perfect light of God’s Law. There is no excuse. The Lord does not excuse, He forgives. The Lord does not excuse from the cross. The Holy Spirit points us ever to Jesus Christ.

After excusing ourselves,the next move of the accusing and excusing conscience is pointed to someone else: “Look, look at what that guy did! I’m not that bad!” Pride is always comparison: not only that I am better than the other person, but I am not as bad as my neighbor. As it is written:

Romans 2: 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

The inner Pharisee lurks and needs to be put to death. It revolves around the self. Every Gentile carries within “a secret miniature of the Last Judgment” (Rev. Prof. Martin Franzmann) and the Lord on “that day”, the day of judgment the Lord will expose the secrets of men. We can not hide from God as Adam and Eve tried to do. He did not shed His blood on the cross to excuse us. There is no escape no matter the fine tuning of the excusing machinations of the conscience, because He judges the sinner… and the only Way out is God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, from the accusing and excusing conscience to the conscience purified (see 1 Peter 3: 21):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

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“So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.” – Acts 9:17-19. This is one of the scenes from the window of St Paul’s life in Melton Mowbray.

Acts 9:1-22  Galatians 1:11-24 Matthew 19:27-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You turned the heart of him who persecuted the Church and by his preaching caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant us ever to rejoice in the saving light of Your Gospel and, following the example of the apostle Paul, to spread it to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Day:  St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascusis related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out for Damascus to arrest and bring believers to Jerusalem for trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

Suggested Reading from the Book of Concord: Large Catechism IV 56-67

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

 I would guess that if you asked a knowledgeable fellow Lutheran and Christian when was Paul converted, the answer would be, ‘On the road to Damascus”  But based upon the Text and from it, Luther’s sermonic insight,  Saul’s conversion does not take place on  the road to Damascus but in the Word and the Font, prayed and administered by the pastor, Ananias.  What happened to Saul on the road was not his conversion but the apocalypse by the Lord to Saul, noting that  our word “apocalypse” is from the New Testament Greek, “reveal”, and “reveal” is the word the Apostle Paul used in his letter to the Galatians: Galatians 1:16.  

 Saul is blinded for 3 days (vs. 9) as in the Lord in the tomb for 3 days.  Saul was blinded by his own sin and the Lord’s judgment of his sin in consenting to the arrest and murder of Christians, such as the first martyr, Stephen, see Acts 7: 60-8:1.  Only by the Word of the Gospel that Ananias administered in prayer was Paul able to see and in Baptism be saved, receiving Christ Jesus’ forgiveness in His death and resurrection (see Romans 6: 1-11!!!).

Note:  there is no “decision of Christ” at all!  As Paul well knew this when he wrote:  “The letter (of the Law) kills, and the Spirit gives life.” (see 2 Corinthians 3:6) There is no intervention of the choosing self, the Old Adam.   It is all the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes! Receive the Holy Ghost, says the Pastor on the street called straight.  We look for God in all the wrong places.  We think it should be glorious, but it is not, it is the Cross. Jesus does not give Saul any instruction but to go the means He Himself has appointed for Saul to be washed and saved:  Water and the Word (cf. St. Matthew 28: 18) (1)

Recently I re-watched Woody Allen’s  movie, Love and Death, which is  his funny take on 19th century Russian novels and his character continually asks for ‘vision’, a revelation, for the proof of the existence of God. Luther compared the “enthusiasts” to the way the Lord Himself has appointed the means of His salvation, His Word and Sacraments. (2)   Those so  wanting a revelation will be disappointed, deluded and demonized. We have all sorts of people who consider themselves “spiritual” and even think the Lord has revealed Himself to them apart from His Word and Sacrament and then go on to  deny His means of grace.  But the Lord directed Saul to the Font, as Paul would also direct the Lord’s people, as did the Lord,  and as a  saint in your life also pointed the way to the Lord in His forgiveness for you:  not in the sky, but in the laver of regeneration. (3)  Thank Him for His grace which causes the blind to see His love in the washing unto eternal life! (see 1 Corinthians 6:11)  Saul knew his washing quite well!

FOOTNOTES:

(1)  From Luther’s Sermon on, Acts 9,  The Conversion of St. Paul

Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (vs. 6)

Although he speaks with Paul directly from heaven above, God does not intend to put away the pastoral office or establish something extraordinary for him. Indeed, he might have spoken to him directly and revealed what he wanted him to do, but instead he directs him to go to the parish pastor in the city where he would hear and learn what he was supposed to do. Our Lord God does not purpose some special thing for each individual person, but gives to the whole world—one person like the next—his baptism and gospel. Through these means we are to learn how to be saved, and have no need to wait for God to reveal some new thing from heaven, or send angel.  For it is his will that we go to hear the Gospel preached by the pastor;  there we will find him, and in no other way.

(2)  From Luther’s Sermon on, Acts 9,  The Conversion of St. Paul

Those who seek for some special revelation get what they deserve, namely, the devil. The enthusiasts—Carlstadt, Muentzer, and others like them—gather in a corner waiting there for the Lord God and the Holy Spirit. The devil dupes them into thinking that they can importune our Lord God to give them a special direct revelation. Our Lord God, thereupon, purposely sends them a delusion, according to which the devil comes to them in the form of an angel to punish them. Our Lord God did not mandate anything extraordinary for Paul to do, for he, after all, had heard the physical voice of Christ, the Lord, and he was to become a foremost preacher. Instead he is told to go into the city and to hear Ananias. So, get up and go! he says. Nothing special beyond this is done, no further instruction there along the road, no baptism, just the directive to go where his Word and baptism are to be had. And Paul willingly complies with the Lord’s directive, although he does not yet know where and by whom this will all happen. (emphasis my own)

(3) From Luther’s Sermon on, Acts 9,  The Conversion of St. Paul

After the Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself to Saul of Tarsus, Saul could no longer see and this is where we read Luther’s  House Postil (Sermon) for this Feast Day.  Then I will comment on it, especially the bold-faced sections,  and the day:

“(Saul) was now ready to be taught. The man, who is called Jesus of Nazareth, is able to speak with such earnestness that it goes deeply to the heart. Paul would have despaired and died, had not Christ again pulled him to his feet and comforted him, as he now says:

At this juncture, then, our Lord God sends Ananias to meet Paul, to preach the Word to him and baptize him; he lays his hands upon him and says:  Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way as thou tamest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (vs. 17)

Thus Paul came into the light of the Word, to baptism, to the Holy Spirit, through Ananias who was no more than a finger compared with Paul, like a little candle in comparison with the sun. From him, this little wooden match, Paul was to take his light; from this little doctor the famous Doctor Paul was to hear what he was to do!

That is something we must really note well, so that we esteem the preaching office as we ought.  Paul receives his sight, his insight and the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of Ananias, so that he knows who Christ is, understands the power of baptism, and forthwith emerges as a changed man.

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Edward Burne-Jones, “St. Timothy and His Grandmother Lois” (c. 1872), Vyner Memorial Window in Oxford Cathedral.

Prayer of the Day

Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds such as Timothy to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Psalm 71:15-24
Acts 16:1-5
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Matthew 24:42-47

Bio:  St. Timothy had Christian believers in his family. His mother, Eunice, was a Christian woman and was the daughter of a Christian woman named Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). Acts records that St. Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and wanted Timothy to continue on with him (16:1-3). Over time, Timothy became a dear friend and close associate of Paul to whom Paul entrusted mission work inGreeceandAsia Minor. Timothy was also with Paul inRome. According to tradition, after Paul’s death, Timothy went to Ephesus, where he served as bishop and was martyred around AD 97. Timothy is best remembered as a faithful companion of Paul, one who rendered great service among the Gentile churches.

Reflection by  Fr. Valerius Herberger (21 April 1562-18 May 1627,  German Lutheran preacher and theologian)

Dearly beloved, today we celebrate the commemoration of St. Timothy. He was born in Lystra (Acts 16:2); his father was a pagan, but his mother, Eunice, born an Israelite, had accepted the Christian faith and had committed her son, Timothy, to be raised by her mother, Lois, who was also a Christian. So Timothy learned the catechism from his grandmother. See, dear parents, what the diligent training of children can do! Now since he was a good, excellent thinker,St. Paulaccepted him as his colleague or chaplain, and since he improved himself daily, Paul eventually ordained him as bishop ofEphesus, where he was also killed by the raging pagans.S t. Pau lloved him dearly, which we can see from both epistles that he wrote to him. In 1 Timothy 1:2, he calls him his true son in the faith. From these two epistles, many passages shine forth like the stars of heaven:

  • 1 Timothy 1:5: “The aim of the commandment is love from a pure heart and from a good conscience and from a faith unfeigned.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
  • 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Since St. Paul and St. Timothy were dear friends, they were put beside each other in the calendar, and also on the day of St. Timothy, the Gospel of John 15:9-16 is read, which speaks of pure love and friendship.

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection:  According to tradition, Timothy, Preacher of the Gospel, was martyred.  Today in the 3 year Lectionary the Gospel lesson is Jesus in Nazareth in their Synagogue and eventually the congregation wanted to kill Him.  There is a Jewish saying, “A rabbi who’s congregation does not want to throw him out is no rabbi;  and a congregation that does throw him, that rabbi is no man”.  Today with all the “super-pastor” mega stars, it is hard to imagine a congregation wanting to kill  a pastor…or before that, throw him out.  I have been told to leave a congregation and I somewhat know the feeling.  What is it about pastors that some congregations want to stop their ministry as they did Jesus Himself?!  Pr. Paul Kretzmann from his   commentary on today’s Gospel, St. Luke 4:

The attempt to kill the Lord: V. 28. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, v. 29. and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong. V. 30. But He, passing through, the midst of them, went His way, v. 31. and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath-days. V. 32. And they were astonished at His doctrine; for His word was with power. 

Up to this point the congregation had listened to Jesus, though with growing indignation, since He dared to expose and flay their national vice, their self-righteous pride. But now their indignation, which filled them to overflowing, carried all reason and common sense before it. The entire population shared in the movement. Rising up, they cast Him out of the synagogue, out of the city. And then they deliberately laid hold upon Him and led Him to a precipice of the hill on which their city was built, a place where there was a steep, sheer drop into the valley below, their intention being to throw Him down bodily. Theirs was the action of people that have lost all semblance of calm reasoning, whom insane wrath has deprived of the ability to think right and to consider the consequences, a typical mob, such as are the rule to this day under similar circumstances. As long as faithful pastors speak in a general way in their preaching and admonishing, they have peace and are even praised. But if the same men dare to point to individual sins, they are accused of unjust criticism and condemnation. For it is a peculiarity of the truth that it embitters and makes enemies where it does not work conversion. There is no worse censure for a pastor than that winch was spoken of one concerning his position in his congregation: We do not hurt him, and he does not hurt us. (emphasis my own).

I think that a mob is the aggregate of the self-righteous.  Eventually a mob would prevail in their will on the greatest preacher who ever lived.  The sermon made flesh bore the sin of the mob to set us free from self-righteousness.  Timothy knew what his fellow pastor, the Apostle Paul preached:

 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Philippians 3).

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And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The Word made flesh prays the Word to His Father as only His only begotten Son could.  John 17 is the Lord’s prayer based upon His last sermon in His earthly ministry. :

 In the Transfiguration hymn, “How Good Lord to be here”, we sing

How good, Lord, to be here!
Your glory fills the night;
Your face and garments, like the sun,
Shine with unborrowed light.

The Lord Jesus’ glory is unborrowed glory.  It is not on loan. It is not mortal. His glory is not reflected glory. He is not like the moon.  The Son is like the sun. He is the glory of the only-begotten Son in the love of His Father by whom He has so loved the world. He had this glory as He prayed, “…before the world existed”.   

 Many do not believe the Lord’s prayer that He was before the world existed.  These religions are:

Islam

Mormonism

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Strains of Liberal Protestantism

A heretic of the early Church, Bishop Arius, announced there was a time when Christ was not.  The upshot of all these heresies is that Jesus Christ did not accomplish our salvation once and for all, contrary to today’s Gospel and the entire witness of the Bible, God’s Word.  Note that Islam, Mormonism, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses then conveniently add new ‘scripture’.  The 10 Commandments show us exactly what is needed to do good and before that to be good.  It’s hard to get past the 1st Commandment most days:  No other gods before Me, when my heart is set on everything but the Lord. As St. Augustine forthrightly confessed:  “What am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction?”  Look at liberal Protestantism I do not mean numbers of congregants dwindling alone but the dwindling and even the destruction of the sound doctrine of justification by grace through faith..  I use to buy into the liberal lie that the Bible in it’s every Word  is not the Word of God, but it contains the Word of God.  Sounds so pious.  I can dismiss God’s Law as caution and warning, and so it finally means that the reason for our lives  to glory in the blood of Jesus is dismissed. Reformed theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, in the 50s, said it well:  “A God without wratch brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross”.  Liberal Protestantism talk and preach much about the grace of God, but as foretold in the Bible, in the book of Jude:  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality andd eny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Grace becomes license and yet you have to do something so the programs of social activism, consciousness raising and the like.  A lot of this is what goes for government.   So the Old Adam cuts down God’s Law to fit its self, write new scriptures so that say, the 5 pillars of Islam, I just do it and I’m good to go.  Tailor made law. Even civil law is not tailor made!  But as we attempt to tailor civil law to fit immorality, then confusion reigns as does division.

Yes, this is legalism and as one pastor, Matt Richards,  put it well:   “Legalists do not dismiss Christ, they trust Him a lot; however, they don’t trust Him alone. They want a comma after Jesus, not a period.”  There is always a comma, an ellipse:  dot dot dot. True prayer ends with a period.  Jesus is putting a period in His prayer to the Father of His work in the lives of the disciples and Israel and the entire world.  The period will be His Cross and the period to sin in His Forgiveness continuing in His resurrection and ascension. The Cross is the Lord’s Amen for us and for our salvation.

 The disciples kept His Word as He kept them safe from the world, the flesh and the devil.  Jesus prayed for His disciples. He interceded, prayed for them all.  He still does. Romans 8: “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.”   Christ is ascended. He is ascended, indeed, allelulia!  The Lord sent His disciples into the world, but to be of the world. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”  verses 16-17, as Jesus prays for His apostolic Church and the disciples.  The Lord assured the full witness of the Resurrection in the 12 Apostles as the beachhead of the Word of the Gospel into the world.  Jesus is now glorified in the presence of His Father.  It is the glory of love’s pure light.  He shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome nor understood it.  The world seeks it’s own glory to be powerful, Christ’s glory seeks us to find us and others.  Jesus began the prayer of John 17 today after He finished His farewell sermon, the last verse of chapter 16: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  We will have tribulation but take heart in the absolutely pure heart who overcame the world. 

 The Apostle Peter’s encouragement is needed today as it was then:

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

From the Ascension to Pentecost, the Apostles, Mary and women joined together in prayer, not a marathon church council meeting nor a Synod or district assembly.Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  It is not that in Christ Jesus we are NOT going have anxiety.  We will. It is what it is done with it:  according to God’s Word.  Note:  The Word first says we can cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares FOR YOU.  Luther wrote that the words FOR YOU are the Gospel, the good news of Jesus. Casting is praying.   He can take it.  He has on the Cross.  All our anxieties take us away from the Lord and each other.  And the devil uses them as such .  The devil knows that anxieties are his segue way into something worse, that is temptation and sin. The devil wants you to always be looking inside and not outside for help, that is, to the Lord.  Anxieties are not the last word:  Jesus Christ and His forgiveness and grace in His Church is the first Word and the last Word.

Be sober-minded; be watchful.

Sober-minded in regards to what is happening in the world. As I read religion articles in the secular news, they are mostly anti-religion articles, especially, anti-Christian, even antichrist articles.  Watchful yes and sober-minded about it all because no one can respond to it all.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The devil in false doctrine, remembers, does not want you to know that Jesus died and rose for you and your salvation:  period.  He will always be trying to turn that period into a comma and all the while sounding mighty pious and religious and spiritual about the whole thing, again see Islam and Mormonism.

 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Temptation is common to the brotherhood through the world.  In the  wealthy city, of Wenzhou in China,  which has many Christians, the State has ordered all the crosses to be removed from church buildings because of “building codes”, all of a sudden.  In Sudan, a Muslim woman, Meriam Ibrahim,  married to a Christian, Daniel,  herself became a Christian.  She was condemned to death for conversion, accused of “apostasy”.  She was pregnant when arrested and recently she gave birth in prison while her legs were shackled. Even so, she gave birth to her daughter.   In our country too many want to remove all mention of the Cross of Christ from the public square or churches lifting up the cross and the preaching of the Crucified, right out of churches.  The devil devours, he does not take little bites. Steadfast in the faith is steadfast in the doctrine, the sound doctrine as Jesus intercedes, prays,  for us all.

 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

READINGS

Daniel 3:8-28

Psalm 2

Acts 13:26-33

St. Luke 24:36-49, with comments

44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.

Rev. Pastor Johann Gerhard:  

Whoever preaches forgiveness of sins without preaching repentance is not holding to Christ’s  command. For He sets both together: repentance and forgiveness of sins. Wherever there is a broken and shattered heart, there Christ wants to live, Isa. 57:15, and wants to impart His blessings which He won through His death and resurrection. He, indeed, calls sinners to Himself, but (He calls them) to repent, Matt. 9:13. True repentance is the pathway by which sinners come to grace.

We were widely separated from God by sin, Isa.5. Just as the Lord Christ promised His Apostles the Promise of the Father—that is, He wanted to send them the Holy Spirit and clothe them with Power from on high—so also He proffers to us the comforting promise that He does not want to leave us orphaned or comfortless; instead, He desires to send into our hearts the Holy Spirit, who makes us strong in the inner man and comforts us in every anxious doubt.

Comment:  The pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection is the pattern of the apostolic message He gives to “all nations” for His Church to proclaim:  “repentance and forgiveness of sins”.  I hear too often in the media about the Church about “what the Church says” and it is usually on morality.  Morality is Biblical but so is the disciples not acting morally courageous:  me, too.   As the Lord said that “the Law of Moses” is also “written about me”.  The 5 books of Moses also contains  the Gospel, that is, the Lord who frees His people out of the house of bondage, not by their will, but according to the Lord’s Word.  St. Luke alone tells us that in the Transfiguration Jesus and Moses and Elijah discuss His “departure” (Luke 9:31).  “Departure” is the translation of the Greek, exodun, exodus! “The law and prophets” point to Him as He fulfilled perfectly the Law and the Prophets(Matthew 5:17) so that as all of the Scripture points to Him (John 5:39The Law not only and merely contains our carnal instincts but the Law is spiritual as it shows us our sin and the Gospel proclaims our Savior that we can turn toward Him daily. This is daily living in Baptism.   Luther:  

“(Baptism) signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

We can so die and rise because He has baptized us into Himself in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The key to understanding the Scriptures is the unilateral grace of God to the disciples, to us, to the whole world.

Beloved in the Lord, we see here yet another revelation of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father sends the Son and the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit so that beginning in Jerusalem, the Word of so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:2-4) is preached into which we are baptized. The Holy Trinity is the one God, if you will a “conspiracy”:  literally con, with, “spirare” to breathe, (same root word for breath or  for spirit), literally” to breath together,  breathing as one the Word of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father into a sin-soaked, dark world.  

“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!”

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Christ’s passion is for us.  The Passion of Jesus Christ is not reserved for Holy Week only. His whole life is His passion.  His passion is for us and for our salvation.  His felt first His passion, in the first drops of His blood in His circumcision.

His passion is not for material wealth, but the riches of His grace for us all. 

His passion is not to seek to be loved, but to love.

His passion is not to be served, but to serve. 

His passion is not to be number 1 but to give His life as a ransom for many.

His passion is not for the eternal death of sinners but that sinners repent and come to Him, as He said:  His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

His passion is not for sin but for sinners. 

His passion is not to fool people, but lead His People.

His passion is not to expel people and so lose them but to find the lost.

Lent is about avoiding sinful passions to see more clearly His Passion; and His  Passion makes us clean and clear. The passions of men are for greed, lust, vengeance, for themselves the Lord’s Passion is for grace, mercy and peace for us and for our salvation.   His passion is not for the words of men but the Word of God. 

He laid it in on the line: I am the Resurrection and the life.  He is not at all like Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith etc. laying out new principles and programs for one to follow.  I am, He says many times in the Gospel:  I am the Bread of life, I am the Light of the World, just before today’s lesson, I am the Good Shepherd.  He went and found Lazarus dead to show forth His Word: I am the resurrection and the life.  Jesus Christ is no principle nor program, though He is principled. No principle can console in death’s dark vale, only the One Man for all man, His passion for His friends. He did what the Law and no law can do:  change the heart, soul and mind.  He fulfilled every law and the prophets.  How?  The Word became flesh, all of our flesh, every atom of it.  I am the Resurrection and the Life, then in public ministry, but today He is the I am.  He fully and finally laid Himself on the line, so to follow Jesus Christ to the day in which there will be no sunset. “No greater love hath a man than this that He lay down His life for His friends”.  He said He has authority to lay down His life and take it up again.  He has.

His Passion is our passion. Here in John 11, we see His passion pointedly in the tumult of battle with the last enemy, death.  He sees death and sorrow and mourning and it is reported that Jesus was visibly moved, shakento  the divine depths, indignant that death had undone so many.  He saw the terror of death in His loved one’s eyes. We can so easily gloss over in the narrative of the raising of Lazarus is He loved him and his sisters.  He who knew what is in the heart of man, saw the terror and fear in their hearts. We all know that terror, the fear of death.  Martha told the Lord the obvious that it has been four days and there will be an odor.  Death stinks.  No amount of the smells invented by man can cover death’s stink. Mortal man does not control death’s terror, and neither does moral man.  Sin is death and as we cannot control death and so it follows, we cannot control sin.  Maybe externally we can refrain, but not in the heart unless we buy the lies of the super spiritual:  do this, do that then you will be free. Law cannot set one free.  This only results in pride or despair. Lord’s hates both in His grace toward us. Better despair so that to the Lord, we may repair. The only we are repaired from the effect of sin which is death is by the Lord entering the fray. Jesus went inside.  Move the stone, He said, at the tomb.  He crossed the border from life to death, so that He crossed from death to life to lead the way looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, so we can lay down the sin which so easily entangles the race. He would be in His tomb very soon.

His passion was not  to possess those whom He met.  He loved people and used things perfectly.  Man tends to use people and love things. Our passions are for many things, sports, jobs, family, cars, television, food…and the myriad and sundry ways of breaking the 1st commandment, though He alone has given all that for our need, and even for our passion.  But when such passion becomes more than our need for the Lord, then we have a false god. He crossed into the valley of the deities, and unlike any other god, Jesus Christ, true Son of the Father, died and rose so we are baptized into Him, as His passion is our passion.

His passion is our compassion.  We live and work amongst people we like and love and dislike and hate.  Yet for all them God so loved the world He gave His begotten Son that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.  His passion is the cause of our compassion for our neighbor, not only His Law, but His blood shed for us all.  It is disorienting to see His Cross for someone we do not like, even hate. Yet, His passion orients us into His Way as He is the truth and the life, to see according to His Word.  We may wish someone’s eternal damnation but that is not the Lord’s goal, as He is compassionate with us every step of the way.  Seeing His cross is the only to forgive, die  and rise and bear our cross.

 His passion is for each of us.  This Lent we have heard 4 conversation Jesus has had with people, centering each time on one person:Lent 2, Jesus and Nicodemus, Lent 3, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman,Lent 4, Jesus and the Man born Blind, today, Lent 5,  Jesus and Lazarus

In other words:  Jesus and a Proud Man, Jesus and a Heretical and Adulterous Woman,Jesus and a Blind Man,  Jesus and a Dead Man.  There surely seems to be downward trajectory of the persons involved from pride to heresy/adultery to blindness to death,  and that’s the way of it in Adam and Jesus is going downward every step of the way with them and for them, and He will take them up from His tomb, every step of the way.

Spiritual tombs and physical tombs, now, the spiritual, and on that day, the physical tomb, as Lazarus’ was rent so all will be rent.  Yes, these are conversations between Jesus with many people involved, however, looking ahead in hope in Christ Jesus, the series is not complete: Jesus and Nicodemus,  the Samaritan Woman, the Man born blind, today,  Jesus and Lazarus and  every Day of the Year Jesus and YOU!  Passiontide is about Jesus and you and me, His passion for each of us, for our neighbor, every step of the way, our way, in His way.  Next week Sunday, Palm Sundaym begins the great week, Holy Week, the culmination of His passion on earth. It took 6 days to create the heavens and the earth, it took 33 years for the Lord to redeem it.  We need to hear, pray, and sing His passion and invite a neighbor to so sojourn and walk.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8)

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In my last posting, Faith:  A Family Affair I commented on the daily lection for that day from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy.  The daily readings from 2 Timothy concluded 1 February 2014.   The focus of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy centers on the Word of God, the Scriptures  as the Apostle encourages Timothy to, “…follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”  (1: 13) The “sound words” (literally “healthy words”, “clean words”) are the Scriptures.  God’s Word is clean (cf.Psalm 19:8-10).  His Word in Holy Baptism, over which He has placed His Name, cleanses (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10-12 ).   

The Apostle begins his  epistle by gently reminding his brother pastor that Timothy was taught the faith from his mother and grandmother, and further he was ordained a pastor to preach and teach the Word of God “in and out of season”, when it is favorable or not:  see 2 Timothy 4:1-3.  In another word of encouragement, the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy, again reminding him of the faith which was kindled by the Scriptures:

3: 14 But as for you,continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Immediately after the verses above, the Apostle writes the concise statement of the origin and purpose of the Scriptures in the life of pastors and people in the Body of Christ, His Church:

3: 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God 

The more usual translation of “breathed out” is “inspired”.  Lutheran Pastor and Professor, Dr. Paul Kretzmann, in his Popular Commentary (1924) describes the verse from 2 Timothy as both witness to veracity of the Scripture and to the correct way of understanding “inspired/God breathed”:

What the apostle has stated concerning the Holy Scriptures, of the power of God in them, of their glorious purpose and blessing, he now summarizes in a powerful sentence, which is a strong bulwark for the inspiration of the Old Testament. He writes: All Scripture, inspired by God, is also profitable. The term used by the apostle is so general that it seems to include not only the books of the Old Testament, as in use in the Jewish Church, but also the writings then being penned by inspiration of God, the gospels and the letters of the various apostles and evangelists. At any rate, there can be no doubt that the so-called Old Testament canon is the inspired Word of God. St. Paul writes that Scripture was inspired by God, not in the manner of a mechanical transmission, but in such a way that God breathed His holy Gospel, His Word, into the minds of the writers, incidentally making use of their intellect, of their mental ability and equipment, in producing a series of books which plainly show the peculiarities of the writers, and yet are, word for word, the product of God Himself.

Please note that both the Muslims, who say that an angel dictated word for word the Koran to Mohammed (dictation theory),  and the Mormons both believe in  a “mechanical transmission” of their false works-righteous, false doctrinal books, even to the point that Joseph Smith said it was literally mechanical: “golden-plates” and “crystals” to see them aright!  Natural man, without Gospel, only invent more works-righteous religions. There is nothing mysterious about that at all, Look at me!  How I saved me!    The Scriptures lead us continually to Jesus Christ, the mystery of His love seeking the lost, kindling faith. The “peculiarities of the writers” show us the way the Lord found them in their lives.  A shepherd, David, writes the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23.  The priest in the Temple, Isaiah, is cleansed in the Temple to preaching the cleansing Word of God.  The murderer of Christians, Saul, is called to preach Christ and Him crucified thus making Christians and so in Christ, eternal life, not eternal death.  Each of their differences are read in their writings, yet all preach and teach the one Word of God.

Please note purpose of Scripture as Paul continued,

and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.

Reproof and correction is hardly part of too many pastors’ and congregations’ understanding of Scripture and the life in Christ Jesus.  We are supposed to be continually “affirmed”.  No one says “no” and we don’t want to be the Church of “no”, in other words, we don’t want to teach God’s Law.  The word “heresy” is from the Greek which literally means “choice”.   “All Scripture…”, Law and Promise, and not just the parts we like.  Scripture is teaching the Lord’s sound doctrine of Law and  Promise.  Scripture is for teaching Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  Scripture for reproof and for correction, showing us where we have strayed and missed the mark, to warn us, Woe! and Whoa!  The Lord’s salvation is at stake!  Scripture is for training in righteousness, the alien righteousness given us by grace through Jesus Christ that we are His, that His alien righteousness, foreign to sin and the Old Adam, have a home here  and now for every good work,the fruit of faith which is love.  And all of this, teaching, reproof, correction, training is the Lord’s package deal in His written Word.  

Paul addresses and false doctrine in this letter.  Paul gives a necessary concrete example of false doctrine in their day in time, in the Epistle:

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (chapter 2)

“…their talk will spread like gangrene.”  Gangrene is a powerful image of death spreading because of false doctrine.  If the resurrection has already happened, then one is sinless, and so sin won’t affect a resurrected body, so have fun.  Scary, isn’t it?  It just leads, “…into more and more ungodliness”.   The denial of the historicity of Scripture is a cottage industry in academia and has been for over  a century. Just look at the way the Scriptures have been put into a paper shredder by modern Biblical scholars, as in there is no bodily resurrection, beginning with Jesus Christ.  If there is no Resurrection, there is no judgment and no salvation, so go for the all the gusto today. Yes, we can see it all around in us the culture but I think it began in churches where the devil does his best work.

C. S. Lewis’ fantasy allegory, The Great Divorce is about a bus ride from Hell to heaven for the inhabitants of the former to meet the celestial people of Heaven.  In one conversation, two former priests in the Anglican Church, who were friends meet.  Dick, from heaven and his friend, the bishop in hell.  The ‘bishop’ speaks first:

Ah, Dick, I shall never forget some of our talks. I expect you’ve changed your views a bit since then. You became rather narrow-minded towards the end of your life: but no doubt you’ve broadened out again.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that you weren’t quite right. Why, my dear boy, you were coming to believe in a literal Heaven and Hell!”

“But wasn’t I right?”

“Oh, in a spiritual sense, to be sure. I still believe in them in that way. I am still, my dear boy, looking for the Kingdom. But nothing superstitious or mythological. . . .”

“Excuse me. Where do you imagine you’ve been?”

“Ah, I see. You mean that the grey town with its continual hope of morning (we must all live by hope, must we not?), with its field for indefinite progress, is, in a sense, Heaven, if only we have eyes to see it? That is a beautiful idea.”

“I didn’t mean that at all. Is it possible you don’t know where you’ve been?”

“Now that you mention it, I don’t think we ever do give it a name. What do you call it?”

“We call it Hell.”

“There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.”

“Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don’t go back you may call it Purgatory.”

“Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you’ll tell me why, on your view, I was sent there. I’m not angry.”

“But don’t you know? You went there because you are an apostate.”

“Are you serious, Dick?”

“Perfectly.”

“This is worse than I expected. Do you really think people are penalised for their honest opinions? Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken.”

“Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?”

“There are indeed, Dick. There is hidebound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed-they are not sins.”

“I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.”

“Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.”

“What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came-popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?”

Paul is writing also about “sins of the intellect”.  He warns about the incessant quarreling about words, i.e. see the endless threads of endless blogs. “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. ” 2 Timothy 2: 14  I am more and more convinced that hell is an endless  thread of an endless blogging, just as the bishop wanted to continue the endless dialogue about doctrine only to deny it.  “Before God, who searches hearts and minds, he was to remind the ministers of their duty. They should exclude, as altogether useless and unprofitable, the custom of striving with words, of quarreling endlessly, 1 Timothy 1:5-7 ; Titus 3:9” (Kretzmann).  The Lord does not want us revolving  around ourselves, but go to Him, His Word, His Grace, His Mercy, for in Him our sin is forgiven and our lives quickened.  Remembering what the Word says:

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering,bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2)

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Scripture Readings:

Ezk. 3:16-21
Rom. 10:8-18
John 1:35-42

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, by Your grace the apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple. Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

“If I feared the punishment of the cross, I would never have preached the mystery of the cross.”

About St. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was born in the Galilean village of Bethsaida. Originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, Andrew then became the first of Jesus’ disciples (John 1:35-40). His name regularly appears in the Gospels near the top of the lists of the Twelve. It was he who first introduced his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:41-42). He was, in a real sense, the first home missionary, as well as the first foreign missionary (John 12:20-22). Tradition says Andrew was martyred by crucifixion on a cross in the form of an X. In AD 357, his body is said to have been taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and later removed to the cathedral of Amalfi in Italy. Centuries later, Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland. St. Andrew’s Day determines the beginning of the Western Church Year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day.

Reflection:

 Reverent hearts, we hold the feast of the apostle Andrew in Christendom as the first in the [Church] Year not only because it falls near the season of Advent but also because Andrew was called first, before the other apostles, by the Lord Jesus. Even Durandus the bishop of Mende (13th century liturgist) , says, “The saints are be honored by imitation, not adored, as honor them as gods. They are to be honored with love, not adored with servitude.”

Now history tells us how St. Andrew. together with his fellows conducted their new office. Right away they left their nets and followed the Lord Jesus. And again, right away they left the ship and their father and followed Him. To them, Jesus is now the most precious one on earth—according to His mind they learn, according to His words they teach, according to His will they live, according to His decree they suffer and die. When St. Andrew was threatened with the cross, he said joyfully, “If I feared the punishment of the cross, I would never have preached the mystery of the cross.” Then when he saw the cross, he spoke, “Hail, precious cross, you who were dedicated by the body of Christ; may He receive me through you, who redeemed me through you.” And when he was living after three days on the cross, his hearers wanted to take him down by force, but he said, “Ah, let God take care of it! Do not make the peace of the Gospel suspect by your unnecessary revolt  against the government.” That was apostolic constancy and long-suffering! This is what it means to “leave everything and follow Christ,” all the way to the last catch of fish.”

Valerius Herberger  (21 April 1562-18 May 1627,a German Lutheran preacher and theologian

 (The above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by CPH)

A Second Reflection:  Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and his X-shaped cross is on the Union Jack of the United Kingdom.   When I look at the icon  above and the flags, I think of searching for buried treasure with the map which has an “X”, as in,   “X marks the spot”.  Our map is both the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions to show us where “X marks the spot”:  first, a manger then later the Cross. This where and when our salvation occurred.  The Bible is the true compass to show us the Way (see   John 5:39).   This is where true treasure is buried and worth digging up and selling all to have and hold as we have been held:   Matthew 13:44-46.  Other religions purport to have maps leading us to the divine.  The Biblical faith alone shows us where the Lord came down to us and for us and our salvation because without Him we are dead and lost  (see   Luke 15 and Ephesians 2:1):  again, X marks the spot.

Scripture is the Map.    We read in Romans:    “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15: 4)      The Apostle Paul wrote to his brother and fellow pastor:     “…continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2  Timothy 3: 14-17)    We recognize saints like Andrew because they were good guides for the Lord’s Church, faithful to the Word Incarnate, written and spoken, “equipped for every good work”,  to show us the Way to the new heavens and the new earth through the valley of the shadow.

Introduction:  On this date in 2004, at a joint chapter retreat of the Society of the Holy Trinity in Hickory, North Carolina,  a dear mentor and friend, Pastor Lou is A. Smith died.  One of his last published writings was an essay,“How My Mind Has Changed” in Women Pastors? published by Concordia Publishing House.    It is the last essay in the book and his last.   The following quotes are either from Pr. Smith’s sermons and articles or from my many conversations with him.  Talking with Lou epitomized Luther’s saying that the conversation and the consolation of the brethren is almost a sacrament.

  • Note:  the NT Greek, episcopos,means oversight, and which is translated “bishop”.  We were talking about bishops in the ELCA and Pastor Smith said:  “Episcopos” means oversight, not overlook.”
  • “Most bad theology begins with bad taste.”
  • Towards the end of her life, Pastor Smith’s mother lived with Lou and his wife Helen.  Mom was quite a handful for Pastor and Mrs. Smith because of her rather cantankerous personality.  Lou and I were talking about that and Lou said, “You know, it is really hard to keep the 4th Commandment”.
  • Me: “I’ve always had troubles with the “unity” or “Cana” candle ceremony in a wedding service and I can’t put my finger on why.”Lou:  “Note:  you don’t need two candles to light one candle, so yeah, something is going on here.  The physical element of the sacrament of marriage is the two become one flesh.  Since most couples have already done that and so the ‘unity candle’ has been introduced  and has  become  an ersatz ‘sacrament’”.
  • “I’ve told Church Councils at meetings about my salary, that when it comes to preaching, baptizing and presiding, I do this for nothing.  Church council meetings:  This is what I get paid for.”
  • Me:  “I usually am flummoxed when asked, When did the Lord call you into the Ministry?” Lou:  “When you were ordained, Mark.”
  • Me:  It is said that Lutheran Church is a “confessing movement” in the church catholic.  Lou:  “I was not baptized into a movement but the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
  • “The interpretive task is not so much to understand the Word of the Bible as it is to stand under the Word of the Bible. It is, after all, not the Bible that is the puzzle that we need to solve. It is we who are the puzzle and the Bible that will solve us.” (from an address in my possession)
  • …both hunger and thirst make us aware of our mortality. Guess what? THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO! That is their theological meaning. Hunger and thirst are sacraments of our mortality. They are the felt reminders of the fact that we do not have life within us.” (from a  Lenten sermon)
  • “…I finally discovered the difference between a eulogy and a sermon.  Forgive me if I tell you what you already know. The difference is this:  In a eulogy, one person who purports to know another, stands up and says some nice things that are not necessarily true about a dead human being.  In a sermon, a person authorized by the Gospel of Jesus Christ says some true things that are not necessarily nice about a living God.”(from  a Lenten sermon)
  • “God does not justify ungodliness but the ungodly.”

When we seek relief
From a long-felt grief;
When temptations come alluring,
Make us patient and enduring;
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more.

(“Jesus, Lead Thou On, Lutheran Service Book #718, stanza 3)

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Lessons:

The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine 7: 2—17   Psalm 149 1 John 3: 1—3 St.Matthew 5: 1—12

Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About All Saints’ Day: This feast is the most comprehensive of the days of commemoration, encompassing the entire scope of that great cloud of witnesses with which we are surrounded (Hebrews 12:1). It holds before the eyes of faith that great multitude which no man can number: all the saints of God in Christ—from every nation, race, culture, and language—who have come “out of the great tribulation … who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 14). As such, it sets before us the full height and depth and breadth and length of our dear Lord’s gracious salvation (Ephesians 3:17-19). It shares with Easter a celebration of the resurrection, since all those who have died with Christ Jesus have also been raised with Him (Romans 6:3-8). It shares with Pentecost a celebration of the ingathering of the entire Church catholic—in heaven and on earth, in all times and places—in the one Body of Christ, in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Just as we have all been called to the one hope that belongs to our call, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). And the Feast of All Saints shares with the final Sundays of the Church Year an eschatological focus on the life everlasting and a confession that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). In all of these emphases, the purpose of this feast is to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, that we might not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Reflection:

“Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door, and see all the people”

Some of you may remember the child’s rhyme about the Church above.  In The Large Catechism, Dr. Luther explains that when we think of “church”, we usually think of the church building, as “we are going to church”, but he points out that the only reason a sanctuary is called a “church”.  “But the house should not be called a church except for the single reason that the group of people assembles here.”  The people who assemble are the Church, the communion or the community, “the holy Christian Church” (Third Article of the Apostles Creed).  

The rhyme above could be redone:  “Here’s God’s House, here’s the steeple, open the door and see all God’s people.”  We have spent a lot of time of fussing over the church building, instead of concentrating on building up God’s people, His Church.  This is done by preaching, teaching, praying and administering Christ’s Word and Sacraments. As the Apostle Peter wrote:  “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2: 4-5). 

Further, this building up of Christ’s holy people, His baptized saints, is not according to our building specs, plans and blueprints. We are being built, passive tense. In my cynical moments, I have redone the rhyme above, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and where’s all the people?”.  And sadly stats and surveys have been documenting the downward spiral of church attendance.  Well-meaning Christians cry out: “We’ve got to do something!”   Then come the ways to save the church.  We seen what happens when men and women build the church according to their best laid plans of mice and men: see the Mormons, see the feminist church, e.g. as “womanchurch”.  Those are the more obvious examples of not building according to God’s Word. Over the years, I have seen “models of ministry” paraded before pastors’ groups, and new programs like mega-church.  Remember harvest gold refrigerators, kulats, dickies, and the like?  We most likely want to forget them all! As I do all those programs that steered us away from God’s Word.

 Fads don’t build up His Church, only the labor of love of God’s Word in His saints by faith through His grace alone in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton wrote that the Church is the democracy of the dead, those saints before us have a vote.  This is what All Saints is also about.  When we gather for Holy Communion, the pastor will pray, “…with angels and archangels, AND ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN…”, even with 2 or 3 gathered together, there are countless more!  The saints before us were built only by one way:  the Word of Law and Grace.  We are called to keep the faith with the dead, who live in Christ waiting together the day of the general resurrection.  

Yet, the saints labor and the saints who have died, “…from their labors rest” but who Thee by faith before the world, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blest, Alleluia!”(#677, For All the Saints, Lutheran Service Book). I think we are entering ever darkening days, in which the little flock will be persecuted…but that’s how it’s been in times past.  As in hymn lyrice, the saints confessed Jesus Christ.  This is our calling from the Lord to His Church this day and every day, for every day in Christ is All Saints Day.  I close with this quote from Pr. Bonhoeffer’s sermon from 1933 in Berlin after the Germans under the Nazis voted in “the whore of Babylon” the “German Church” totally compatible with National Socialism, that  is the Nazi ideology.  

it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province.
Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

And the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. Death, the greatest heir of everything that has existence, here meets its end. Close by the precipice of the valley of death, the church is founded, the church which confesses Christ as its life. The church possesses eternal life just where death seeks to take hold of it; and death seeks to take hold of it precisely because it possesses life. The Confessing Church is the eternal church because Christ protects it. Its eternity is not visible in this world. It is unhindered by the world. The waves pass right over it and sometimes it seems to be completely covered and lost. But the victory is its because Christ its Lord is by its side and he has overcome the world of death. Do not ask whether you can see the victory; believe in the victory and it is yours.

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

 Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine,
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

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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;  John 15: 12-21

Memory Verse:  Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

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)

Prayers:  

  • for the obscure and the forgotten and the unknown in the work of the Church
  • for the gift of holiness, which is the creation and gift of God
  • for faithful continuation of the apostles’ preaching of the Gospel to all the world
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 glory in clay jars (see 2 Corinthians 4:6-8)
  
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 I 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.   Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor a Church in captivity to the world, but held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free.  The actual Reformation Day is this Thursday (2013), Luther and the Reformers and many who heard the Gospel clearly preached, also did not follow a worldly church and worldly doctrine.  Upcoming is All Saints Sunday and Day, and the saints did not look to the world for their light but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6):

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” With each beatitude the gulf is widened between the disciples and the people, their call to come forth from the people becomes increasingly manifest. 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.

A blessed feast day to all in the Lord!

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