Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Confession and Absolution’ 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.

Read Full Post »

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Heavenly Father, You revealed to the apostle Peter the blessed truth that Your Son Jesus is the Christ. Strengthen us by the proclamation of this truth that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of God in the New Testament would begin with the person of Peter, whose confession is the rock on which Christ would build His Church. But Peter was not alone (the “keys” given to him in Matthew 16:19 were given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:21-23). As St. Paul tells us, Peter and the other apostles take their place with the prophets as the foundation of the Church, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The confession of Peter, therefore, is the witness of the entire apostolic band and is foundational in the building of Christ’s Church. Thus the Church gives thanks to God for St. Peter and the other apostles who have instructed Christ’s Holy Church in His divine and saving truth. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Readings:

Acts 4:8-13

Psalm 118:19-29 

2 Peter 1:1-15

St. Mark 8:27-9:1

Jesus called Simon “Peter”, or “Rock”.  A rock by itself is generally not of much use, maybe as ballast or a weapon.  Upon the rock of Peter’s Confession, Jesus said He would build His Church.  For a rock to be used in building it needs to be chiseled.  Jesus spend three years on earth chiseling Simon Peter.   Peter, like all Christians, are chiseled and hewn by the Lord to be built into His spiritual temple built upon the only cornerstone, Christ Himself:

1 Peter 2: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.

Peter had a lot of rough edges as we all do.  His particular rough edge is well described by Pr. Johann Gerhard in describing Peter’s fall, after he said he would never forsake Jesus, speaks about Peter’s rough edge which is mine as well:

We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall, in order that we should avoid the same.  he was entirely too daring (presumptuous)-meaning that it al depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he notice others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain (see Matthew 26: 33)  Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our faith, or on our good intentions.  God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.  Indeed we should always keep in our heart the admonition which Christ gave to Peter and the other disciples: Watch and pray, so that you do not fall into temptation.

As when Peter start sinking into the deep when he walked on the water to Jesus, but he saw the storm, and began to sank, Peter was looking to himself for faith. “Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, who did for all the world atone.” (“Salvation Unto Us Has Come”)  The Lord continued chiseling Peter’s rough edges after His Ascension, see Acts 11: 1-12b. Faith is finally not look what I can do, but true faith is look at what Jesus has done!  And the Apostle Peter did so preach and he fed Christ’s Sheep the Gospel.

Read Full Post »

Here is an interesting idea by Pastor William Cwirla:

“Rather than Friendship Sunday, we should consider Enemy Sunday. Invite an enemy to church. Pray for them. Give them a free lunch.”

After all, it is written as the Lord said:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (St. Matthew 5)

When we get right down to it, isn’t this what the Great Week, Holy Week is all about, that is the Crucifixion and the Lord praying, forgive them for they know not what they do?

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Invite your enemies. Invite your mother-in-law.  Invite the guy who said the church is filled with hypocrites.  Invite the atheist professor whom you could not best in class.  Invite the guy who ran into your car and told you to go to hell. Invite the friend who blabbed your deepest secret all over facebook.  After all, His death reconciled you and I as well, that is, God’s enemies.  “Oh, oh, but…I am…”  What’s the end of that sentence?  No “buts” at His Cross, only His enemies. God is plain in His Word. He is plain in His judgment…and His mercy through His bloody love at the cross. He invited you and it’s not your good sense that accepted the invitation but your need for His forgiveness.  

So, I think Pastor Cwirla is on to something:   Enemy Sunday.

Read Full Post »

Collect of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son. Grant us such faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that we may never be found wanting in Your sight; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  

Appointed Scripture for this day:  

Judge 6:  36-40

Psalm 139: 1-12

Romans 10: 8b-15

St. John 1:  35-42a

All four Gospels mention St. Thomas as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John’s Gospel, which names him “the Twin,” uses Thomas’s questions to reveal truths about Jesus. It is Thomas who says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” To this question Jesus replies, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). John’s Gospel also tells how Thomas, on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, doubts the report of the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Later, “doubting Thomas” becomes “believing Thomas” when he confesses Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:24-29). According to tradition, Thomas traveled eastward after Pentecost, eventually reaching India, where still today a group of people call themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Thomas was martyred for the faith by being speared to death.

 (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

 Reflection on St. Thomas and this Verse:

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.            St.John 20: 29

 We may think that our Lord’s only Beatitudes are those recorded in St. Matthew 5 at the  beginning of His Sermon on the Mount.  No, they are throughout the Gospels including this one to Thomas and us all.  In a sense, Thomas was privileged in his doubt to be an example of the maxim “seeing is believing”.  But our Lord’s beatitude directs us to the more Biblical understanding of the centrality of the Word of God:  hearing is believing.

14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  (Romans 10)

The Lord was preparing Thomas and his brethren for the apostolic Ministry of preaching and teaching the Word of God, the Word of His Gospel to repentant sinners for many to hear and so believe.  Even what Thomas and the apostles saw that first evening of the new creation were wounds of a crucifixion.  Not glorious by any stretch of worldly imaginations  but glorious in love’s pure light who died for sinners…as Thomas, as you, making faith.  His wounds are preached scars of our forgiveness in the One Who alone is the way, the truth and life, no one else, as Thomas also heard.  Pastors are called to preach the blood, preach the manger, preach the cross: preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  And Thomas was called to preach His wounds! From His side flowed water and blood (John 19:34), Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  Pastors are called to administer the Sacraments.  Thomas’ eyes were blessed in seeing but his feet were beautiful in the sermon he preached: Jesus Christ.

Crown him the Lord of love.
Behold his hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above, 
In beauty glorified.
No angels in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bend their burning eyes
At mysteries so bright.

Read Full Post »

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, Your servant Clement of Rome called the Church in Corinth to repentance and faith to unite them in Christian love. Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless in Your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr’s death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God’s redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. (from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, see Blogroll on sidebar)

Reflection:  In the bio above and in the quote below the word “fix” is employed.  In the Prayer of the Day for the 5th Sunday after Easter, the Church prays, “Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where trues are found, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord…”.  I like to play off that word “fix”.  Our hearts, that is,  our wills are fixed, that is, guided, repented, repaired in the fruit of the joys of His crucifixion and resurrection:  His forgiveness for us, in us, with us, His life in our lives.  We can not repair our hearts, our wills on our own.  No one did heart surgery on himself, one needs a physician.  We are fixed by fixing our hearts and eyes on Jesus Christ and that “fix” is prayer, the prayer of faith in the Lord, in Whom we are made one in Christian love.

From Pastor and Bishop Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians:

This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings, teh protecotor and helper of our weakness (cf. Heb. 2: 17, 3:1, 4: 15)

Through him we fix our eyes on the heights of heaven, Through him we see mirrored the flawless and sublime countenance of God (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18),

Through him the eyes of our heart have been opened, Through him our foolish and darkened understanding springs up to the light,

Through him the Master has willed that we should taste immortal knowledge;

For “since he is the express image of his greatness, he is as much superior to angels as his title is superior” to theirs (cf. Heb. 1:3-4)

Let us then, men and brethren, engage in our service with complete earnestness under his faultless order. Let us consider those who serve under our military commanders, with what good discipline, subordination, and obedience they carry out orders.  Not all are prefects or tribunes or centurions or captains of fifty and so on, but “each in his own rank”(I Cor. 15:23)carries out orders under the emperor and the commanding officers.The great cannot exist without the small; neither can the small exist without the great: there is a certain mutuality in the whole, and this is beneficial to it. 

Read Full Post »

Johann von Staupitz (ca. 1469–1524), was vicar-general of the Augustinian Order in Germany and friend of Martin Luther, was born in Saxony. He studied at the universities in Leipzig and Cologne and served on the faculty at Cologne. In 1503 he was called by Frederick the Wise to serve as dean of the theological faculty at the newly founded University of Wittenberg. There he encouraged Luther to attain a doctorate in theology and appointed Luther as his successor to professor of Bible. During Luther’s early struggles to understand God’s grace, it was Staupitz who counseled Luther to focus on Christ and not on himself. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  When the publication of the 95 Theses spread throughout Europe, then Luther was in middle of a raging storm.  He corresponded with his father confessor.

On the twenty-fifth of November he sent word to Spalatin:

I am expecting the curses of Rome any day. I have everything in readiness. When they come, I am girded like Abraham to go I know not where, but sure of this, that God is everywhere.

Staupitz wrote Luther from Salzburg in Austria:

The world hates the truth. By such hate Christ was crucified, and what there is in store for you today if not the cross I do not know. You have few friends, and would that they were not hidden for fear of the adversary. Leave Wittenberg and come to me that we may live and die together. The prince [Frederick] is in accord. Deserted let us follow the deserted Christ. (From Here I Stand by Roland Bainton)

Up until his death, Fr. von Staupitz, wrote to Luther and he to him.  We do not know if Luther’s dear father superior ever accepted the evangelical doctrine but he sure seems to have known them and lived them.  

It is written in Proverbs 17: 17:

A friend loves at all times,
   and a brother is born for adversity.

And from Proverbs, 18: 24:

A man of many companions may come to ruin,
   but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Fr. Staupitz epitomized those Scripture passages.  Staupitz was obviously Luther’s mentor and with that Luther’s  friend and brother in Christ.  This is a good commemoration to thank and remember mentors in our lives, who have been closer than a brother and a brother born for adversity and hung in there with you.  All the Facebook friends in the world do not one dear brother in Christ Jesus make.  Between Martin and Johannes stood Jesus Christ and the dear Father Johannes showed Martin Jesus Christ so that Martin could see Him in the clear Word of Scripture.  “Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word”, penned and sang Luther.  He probably knew he was kept steadfast by his dear father confessor as a mentor has so done for you.  Fr. Staupitz knew the Word as he had been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Almighty, everlasting God, for our many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation.  In Your mercy, You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation.  Grant us a true confession so that dead to sin we may hear  the sweet  words of Absolution from our confessor as Luther heard them from his pastor, Johannes von Staupitz, and be released from all our sin;  through Jesus Christ, our lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Read Full Post »

The Weimar Altarpiece, 1555, by Lucas Cranach the Younger
Please note that Luther and the Reformers wanted to be “seen” in only place at the foot of the Cross in adoration of Jesus Christ as Luther points to the Bible which pointed them and points us to the Lord.

“Some two years ago I wrote a little book on indulgences, which I now deeply regret having published. For at the time I still clung to the Roman tyranny with great superstition and held that indulgences should not be altogether rejected, seeing they were approved by the common consent of men… I beg both booksellers and readers to burn what I have published on that subject.”—Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520

This is the way Martin Luther, a scant 3 years after he posted 95 Theses thought about them.  His 95 Theses were too ROMAN Catholic, not adhering and agreeing to the clear Word of Bible in regards to say, purgatory.  They were not truly catholic which means not Biblical.  “Catholic” literally means “according to whole”, the whole of God’s Holy Word.  It is historically incorrect to say that on October 31st, the Church was reformed.  It may have begun but the real reformation of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church began on June 30th, 1530 when the princes and electors presented to His Serene Majesty, Emperor Charles V, The Apology of the Augsburg Confession.  They, that is the princes and electors along with the confessors of the Faith, Luther, Melancthon, et. al., did not reform the Church:  The Word of God alone did that, does that and will.  Our calling is to preach and teaching His Word as clearly as possible.

On this day, we celebrate all together too much one man, Martin Luther. If you want a fuller article on my appraisal of this day, please read my article Ad Fontes!  Doctrine at Brothers of John the Steadfast.

What was all the fuss about back in the 16th Century that caused a schism?  Answer: Justification.  On this day, justification by grace had not been spelled out. The Lutheran Confessions is why I am a Lutheran and also a catholic.  The Confessions contain Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms which are to be prayed:  The Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, Holy Communion, prayed, meditated upon, taught, in response to Jesus Christ so we may be still and receive His Word for the strengthening of faith.

In my amateur historical understanding, the center of the fuss was over the following article in The Augsburg Confession presented on this day, these 2 sentences caused the furor:

Article IV: Justification.

Our churches also teach that men cannot be justified before God  by their own strength, merits, or works but are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith when they believe that they are received  into favor and that their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, who by his death made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight (Rom. 3, 4).

 The papal theologians had been teaching and preaching for too long:  Christ, yes, faith in Him, yes, but Christ plus something else:  works. “We do our best and God does the rest.”  No, we have not done our best and the Law shows us this.  The Gospel, the Lord’s one work of universal (catholic)  salvation in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ means that the whole papal system of rosaries, pilgrimages, indulgences can not save one.   Christ alone has, by grace alone known by Scripture alone in the life of His Church.  Even the Law of God can not save (see Galatians 2:19 Galatians 2:21, Ephesians 2:6-8 ).

The papal church knew Article IV meant the undoing of the system.   When the papal theologians responded to the Augsburg Confession with their Confutation, then Melancthon wrote The Apology of the Augsburg Confession and Melancthon’s apologia (defense) of Article IV, Justification, was the longest. These two sentences summed up, not the faith of the Reformers, but the faith as taught, preached and written in the Bible.  These two sentences undermined the institutional church’s hegemony on the lives of catholics/Christians with a system of works, obligatory works to gain salvation.  

The Reformers presented on this day their Confession, based soundly  upon the Scripture and the 3 Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles, Nicene and Athansasian), that salvation in Jesus Christ is sheer gift for sinners who can not attain heaven by anything we can ever do.  The Fathers at Augsburg began this Confession of the catholic Church with the Creeds to demonstrate that Justification is the key of Scripture and had been taught and preached and administered since the Apostles through all the ensuing centuries, but lost and forgotten by the papal church.

 Further, the Reformers were as catholic as Augustine was in the teaching of justification in Christ alone.  The Confessors at Augsburg were not really trying to “change” the Church, or leave the Church, but change it back to the way it was according to the Gospel.  It was a conservative reformation. They did not want to start a new church, as did Calvin and Zwingli.  The orthodox confessional Church is catholic.  It was a reformation not a revolution, yet this conservative reformation had revolutionary aspects for a tradition that confused itself as the truth, both Roman Catholic and Protestantism:

The Lutheran Church has not the slightest theological interest in this antithesis between Catholicism and Protestantism. It does not know to which side it belongs. If only there were a clear-cut contradiction between true and false doctrine in the antithesis! But this does not happen to be the case. For there are heresies in Protestantism which are just as dangerous as those of Catholicism. Lutheran theology differs from Reformed theology in that it lays great emphasis on the fact that the evangelical church is none other than the medieval Catholic Church purged of certain heresies and abuses. The Lutheran theologian acknowledges that he belongs to the same visible church to which Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine and Tertullian, Anthanasius and Irenaeus once belonged. The orthodox evangelical church is the legitimate continuation of the medieval Catholic Church, not the church of the Council of Trent and the Vatican Council which renounced evangelical truth when it rejected the Reformation.For the orthodox evangelical church is really identical with the orthodox Catholic Church of all times. (Here We Stand (1932) by Rev. Hermann Sasse, Lutheran theologian and professor, at the time publication at the University of Erlangen)

This lively iconographic image shows Word and Sacraments, the Preaching of Christ and Him crucified, freely given rein by the Word for the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people for their faith and faith active in love.

Let us pray…

Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg. Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Read Full Post »

            

 The following is from Dr. Luther’s Sermon on Christ the  Good Shepherd, St. John 10:  1-18: 

      This is fundamental: Christ knows his sheep and, in turn, the sheep know Christ. It, therefore, follows that for the sake of faith, Christ alone should be preached to his little sheep, that he has given his life for the sheep and they are to emulate his example with works of love. A faithful preacher, therefore, should present nothing other to his people than Christ only, so that people learn to know him, who he is, and what he gives, and do not wander away from his word of promise, “I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep,” but believe that he alone is to be esteemed as the true Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. That is what should be preached to the people, so that they may learn to know their Shepherd. Thereafter, then, we must emphasize the example of how Christ for our sake did all and suffered all, so that we, in turn, for the sake of the Word might willingly do and suffer all. Even as he carried his cross, we, too, should carry our cross. These two topics need to be preached in Christ’s kingdom. Whoever hears, understands, believes, and embraces it is a sheep in Christ’s fold and affirms: I hear and know the voice of my Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who declares: I died for you and rescued you from the wolf with my blood and death. Thus Christ speaks, and this I believe, and I know of no other shepherd. Moreover, and as a result, I do for my neighbor as Christ has done, and, if necessary, I will suffer for his sake, and if I am beaten for this, I remember that he also was beaten. His is the voice I hear, and I follow it.

             But if a wolf, the devil or a false teacher, comes and alleges that it isn’t enough that you believe in Christ and faithfully perform the routine, your vocation and station, but must run to St. James, become a monk, and so on, this is the ongoing pitch of the pope[1], that Christ’s words, “I am the good shepherd, I lay down my life for the sheep” are not sufficient; but people must be taught to perform their own good works like indulgences, alms, pilgrimages, the monastic life, and be careful to become their own shepherds and thus protect themselves. The little sheep replies: I do not know that voice; I hear a wolf, a devil, and a false teacher, each of whom wants to tear me from my Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and devour me; from them I flee away and refuse to listen to them.

 


[1] Luther’s examples here are in some ways dated. Yet, the pope has gained new prominence in the media age that trumps personality over character as quasi-divine. Pope is a man-made office. It has no divine institution behind it. His pitch is still works-righteousness to the point that the current pope has said about non-believers, “If they just do good, then they will go to heaven”. If that is so, then the Lord Jesus was crucified for no good reason.   And there are other “popes”:  televangelists,  mega-church pastors and the like who all have an “ongoing pitch”: if you just buy into my  theology, buy my book, do what it says, then God will be with you.  Never trust “If, then” statements when it comes salvation. Beloved in the Lord, don’t run to your rosary, your spirituality“your best life now”, “your purpose driven life” and all the false prophets:  they will not cover your sin with the blood of Jesus.  Run to your Good Shepherd. As Luther preached above:  you do not have to become your own shepherd.  As Jesus preached and His preacher Luther reiterated, The Good Shepherd has called you.

Read Full Post »

Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons for the Day:

Psalm 147:1-7
Isaiah 35:5-8
2 Timothy 4:5-15
Luke 10:1-9

Biblical Bio:   

St. Luke, the beloved physician referred to by St. Paul (Colossians4:14), presents us with Jesus, whose blood provides the medicine of immortality. As his traveling companion, Paul claimed Luke’s Gospel as his own for its healing of souls (Eusebius). Luke traveled with Paul during the second missionary journey, joining him after Paul received his Macedonian call to bring the Gospel to Europe (Acts16:10-17).  Luke most likely stayed behind in Philippi for seven years, rejoining Paul at the end of the third missionary journey inMacedonia. He traveled with Paul to Troas, Jerusalem, and Caesarea, where Paul was imprisoned for two years (Acts 20:5-21:18). While in Caesarea, Luke may have researched material that he used in his Gospel. Afterward, Luke accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:16). Especially beloved in Luke’s Gospel are:

  • the stories of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 16:29-37),
  • the prodigal son (Luke15:11-32),
  • the rich man and Lazarus  (Luke16:19-31),
  • and the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).
  • Only Luke provides a detailed account of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:1-20)
  • and the canticles of Mary (Luke1:46-55),
  • of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79),
  • and, Simeon (Luke2:29-32).

To show how Christ continued His work in the Early Church through the apostles, Luke also penned the Acts of the Apostles. More than one-third of the New Testament comes from the hand of the evangelist Luke.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  

St. Luke, the beloved physician (see Colossians 4: 14) traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys (see Acts 16: 10-17;  20: 5—21:18; Acts 27: 1—28: 16).    Luke wrote both the Gospel that bears his name and Acts of the Apostles. 

 In Luke 9: 51 we are told, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem…”(New King James) And the phrase “it came to pass” means a solemn change in the direction of the narrative.  It begins anew the Lord’s journey, from heaven above to earth He came was a relative breeze compared to where He was going. From that verse Jesus’ destination is razor sharp:  Jerusalem and the Cross.  All the Gospel readings this summer have been from this section of the Gospel 9: 51 to the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, beginning at 19: 29.  It is a meandering journey with many incidences and people and places and confrontations and comforts. Luke was told the Lord’s travel itinerary for the Church: 

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1)  

The destination in Acts is Paul’s arrival under arrest in Rome.  The Gospel is spreading “…to the end of the earth.”  Luke/Acts is like one extended travelogue.  In Luke/Acts, we meet all sorts of people: centurions, lepers, the blind and the deaf, fishermen, children, mothers, fathers, Pharisees, the rich, the poor,  a business woman, a Roman jailer, kings,  a soothsayer, pagan priests,  idolaters…etc.  There is sub genre of novels called “picaresque” which is journey narrative with lovable rogues, people of a lower station of life as the protagonists.  An example is Huckleberry Finn.  Jesus is no rogue but many of  those whom He called, saved and healed were just that!  Luke 15 is the three parables with one simple and powerful theme:  the lost are found.  Luke and Acts is about people who lost their way and worse, lost the way of life…and being found.

Our forebears traveled great distances to arrive to these good shores.  We still love to travel:  get in the car and “hit the road”.  “The road ever leads onward” (JRR Tolkien) applies to us. Getting on the interstate or the secondary roads and the scenic routes  and all of them are marked with signs:

Wrong Way, Do Not Enter…driving we would not do so, but in life we are tempted and many times go the wrong way, as did the Saul of Tarsus.  Jesus set Saul in His way, not merely the right way, but the living way. The Roman jailer was about to kill himself, definitely the wrong way but the Lord through His Apostle prevented the deadly deed and  by His grace, eternally more:  see Acts 16: 25-34.

Repentance  is literally making a u turn, going the right way.  The sign above does not exist at all in the Bible. U-turns are always possible in  the Lord’s grace for us all, to us all, every day.

As Christians we have to yield the right of way, our ways, to help someone else get through.  Paul yielded to the Lord, but not to falsehood.

Here the Lord is adamant:  do nothing to the little ones to cause them to sin.  It would better to put a millstone around one’s than to cause of the little ones to stumble.  Receive the Kingdom as a child. See Luke 17:2  Luke 18:17                                                                                                                                   

 We all have known dead ends.  Funny thing: so many dead ends we keep on pursuing: drugs, money, fame, sex, power, pornography etc, ad nauseum.  We keep on going down dead ends.  St. Paul knew this very well: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.   Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.   I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.   For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.   But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”  (Romans 7: 19ff)  Think St. Paul knew about going down dead ends, even after his conversion and baptism? 

Paul needed to turn back. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans  7: 24-25)  He was going the wrong way. We all come to the dead end of death, but in Christ the hope and promise is the  journey continues.  There is only One keeps us on the road:   Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit through His Word. And truly, this is when the saying is applicable: “But by the grace of God, go I”.

St. Luke saw many people re-directed from death, sin and the power of the devil because of Jesus Christ. Finally, there is only one sign in Luke and Acts, indeed the whole Bible to which we are pointed and which points us in the right direction to which the true Church always points:

“Nothing in my hand I bring but simply to Thy Cross I cling.”

Read Full Post »

On an episode of ‘The Big-Bang Theory’, Sheldon’s born-again Mother from Texas was visiting her son and his roommate Leonard when she regaled them with her recent “born-again ocean cruise” with activities like “Jonah and whale-watching”.  Her favorite on-board activity was “Gunning with God”, in which you wrote your sins on a skeet then off the side of the ship, blasted them away with a 12 gauge shotgun.

This reminded me of my first congregation I served as a pastor, the assistant pastor (This congregation was and still is in The Lutheran Church-MIssouri Synod).  At Ash Wednesday, the practice was for everyone to write their sins on slips of paper.  An old metal flower vase was prepared with paper towels soaked with flammable liquid, then the senior pastor and I knelt before the vase, as we led a litany of confession, with us putting the slips of paper, along with last years palms  to the fire with  the response to the effect, We commit our sins to the flame of the Holy Spirit,,,later we took the ashes, mixed them oil for the cross anointing during distribution of Communion (that’s another story!) 

I thought at the time, well, this is pretty cool…and yet kind of weird.  Watching that Big-Bang episode, it hit me like a ton of bricks what was wrong with the practice on Ash Wednesday burning of slips of paper (or skeet-shooting sins)  with our sins written  on them:

First and crucial:  neither skeet-shooting sins nor burning the words of sin on a slip of paper are Biblical at all which leads to the following observations:

  • This practice is not commanded nor promised by the Lord.
  • Our “record of debt” has been recorded on one place:  His Cross.  See Colossians 2:14
  • Creativity is a gift from God reflecting His creative Word, but in liturgy His Word alone is to have full reign to create and recreate, our creativity cannot.  Our creativity can make music, art, literature, for which we thank the Lord,but our creativity cannot absolve sinners.  “Creative liturgy” makes no Biblical sense.
  • It is confusing:  were our sins forgiven when we burned them? No, not really, because there still was the Word of Absolution, so why do it?  Sheldon’s Mom probably thought her sins were forgiven when she shot them away.  It would be an interesting poll to ask the worshipers at my first congregation on those Ash Wednesdays: in the Liturgy when were your sins absolved/forgiven? Such a practice is catechetically confusing. But you and I can not shoot nor burn our own sins away, only the Lord can do that as He has done so once and for all on Golgotha.
  • Faith comes by what is heard, not seen as in “burning sin on paper” (see   2 Corinthians 5:7Romans 10:17). His Word alone forgives, through the Word He has given us.  The Lord has given us the way to forgive:  confession and forgiveness.  This is much more difficult than a gimmick!  It is dangerous to use non-Biblical means because they can lead the faithful down the wrong road and wrong roads can seem the right way but we are still lost. The motto of the Reformation sola Scriptura, Scripture alone is more than a motto:  His Word shows us when we have made a wrong turn and sets us on the right path to Him.

St. John 20:  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

1 John 1: 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

St. Matthew 18: 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you havegained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: