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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Prayer of the Day

O God, who alone knits all infants in the womb, You chose improbable servants—old and childless—to conceive and parent the forerunner of Christ and, in so doing, demonstrated again Your strength in weakness. Grant us, who are as unlikely and unworthy as Zechariah and Elizabeth, the opportunity to love and serve You according to Your good and gracious will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

About Zechariah and Elizabeth:  Zechariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Zechariah, a priest in the Jerusalem temple, was greeted by the angel Gabriel, who announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially, Zechariah did not believe Gabriel’s announcement because of their old age. For his disbelief, Zechariah became unable to speak. After their son was born, Elizabeth named their son John.  Zechariah conformed his wife’s choice, and his ability to speak was restored.  In response, he sang the Benedictus, a magnificent summary of God’s promises in the Old Testament and prediction of John’s work as forerunner to Jesus (Luke 1: 68-79). Zechariah and Elizabeth are remembered as examples of faithfulness and piety. (Modified from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  The Gospel according to Luke begins with the birth of John and Jesus.  As part of the warp and woof of the narrative is the praise of God in what could be called Psalms:

  1. The Magnificat, Mary’s Song of Praise:  St. Luke 1: 46-55
  2. The Benedictus, Zechariah’s Song of Prophecy, St. Luke 1: 67-69
  3. The Gloria in Excelsis Deo, the Song of the Angels, St. Luke 2: 14
  4. The Nunc Dimittis, the Song of Simeon, St. Luke 2: 29-32

The titles of these psalms is from the Latin Vulgate translation and reflect an old tradition of naming a psalm after the first word in the song:  1. Magnify;  2. Blessed; 3. Glory in God in the highest;  4. Now depart.  All of these songs have been included in either the Prayer offices of the Church and/or the Divine Service.

In their old age, like another “unworthy and unlikely” couple centuries before,  Abraham and Sarah, the priest and his wife would have a son:  the son to be the forerunner of the very Son of God, the Messiah.  What almost becomes overlooked by the faithful and diligent reader of the Word is that the Lord’s promises come through married couples and their families: Adam and Eve, Noah and his wife, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel and Leah and throughout all generations to Zechariah and Elizabeth and another unlikely couple:  Joseph and Mary.  Why does the Lord do so?  I do not think we know directly from Holy Writ but we do know the Lord created marriage and family,and it was good.  And given the state of the family, yes, even in the Bible, the contrast between His saving promise and our utter need for His salvation is clear!  Only He can breach the gap and has. He did not want His love of His good creation,  in bondage to sin, to end but be extended in His redeeming in the fullness of time: the gestation and birth of His only-begotten Son.  His promise of redemption could only find it’s home in a family for the generations of humankind.  Therefore,  Zechariah had much to sing about in the  praise and blessing of  the Name of the Lord in  his  marriage to Elizabeth!

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
   for He has visited and redeemed His people
69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of His servant David,
70 as He spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies
   and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
   and to remember His holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
   whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (St. Luke 1)

How do we know salvation and the Lord who is our Savior:  Answer: “by the forgiveness of our sins” The Benedictus is the song sung every day  in Matins. As John paved the way for the coming of Jesus the Christ, so by the Lord’s promise fulfilled to Zechariah, we each and every day in prayer, in the Benedictus, prepare our selves for the work of the Messiah in our vocations, and we too are “improbable servants”.   Matins is good way to begin the day.

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“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
    but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
    for not by might shall a man prevail.

1 Samuel 2: 9, from The Song of Hannah

Hannah was the favored wife of Elkanah, the Ephraimite, and the devout mother of the prophet Samuel. He was born to her after years of bitter barrenness (1 Sam 1:6–8) and fervent prayers for a son (1:9–18).After she weaned her son, Hannah expressed her gratitude by returning him for service in the House of the Lord at Shiloh (1:24–28). Her prayer (psalm) of thanksgiving (2:1–10) begins with the words, “My heart exults in Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord.” This song foreshadows the Magnificat, the Song of Mary centuries later (Lk 1:46–55). The name Hannah derives from the Hebrew word for “grace.” She is remembered and honored for joyfully having kept the vow she made before her son’s birth and offering him for lifelong service to God. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

God the Father Almighty, maker of all things, You looked on the affliction of Your barren servant Hannah and did not forget her but answered her prayers with the gift of a son. So hear our supplications and petitions and fill our emptiness, granting us trust in Your provision, so that we, like Hannah, might render unto You all thankfulness and praise, and delight in the miraculous birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Reflection:  In high school (I graduated in ’72),  I was the president of the social science club (I was a class-A nerd!) and the club went  to hear Dr. Paul Ehrlich speak at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on his huge best seller Population Bomb in which he argued Malthusian horrors of overpopulation, decreased productivity and rising prices resulted in a global crisis bar none.  His book has been reprinted 20 times.  None of his predictions came true.  Just think how many ‘scientific’ doomsday scenarios grip the public media.  He argued for ZPG:  zero population growth, that is replacement breeding, 2 or less children. I even remember in high school being relieved it was only my sister and I in our family.  This thinking has permeated Western civilization to the point Biblical scholars debunk the Lord’s imperatives to be fruitful and multiple in Genesis 1.  When in a liberal Lutheran church body (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)I heard in an evangelism presentation that we can not count on families (or what’s left of them) filling the church.  Such a ‘tactic’ was derided as “bedroom evangelism”.      

I thought of these terrible reminiscences in reading in Hannah’s brief bio above about her “bitter barrenness”.  “Bitter barrenness” surely described Hannah’s soulful plight and ours as well.  When Elizabeth was greeted by her kinswoman Mary, she exclaimed blessed is the “fruit of your womb”. The Visitation is sheer joy.  We want wombs no longer fruitful.  We want barrenness, bitter barrenness as a way to ‘solve our problems’, but it has not.  ZPG in Europe will result in the demise of those once Christian populations, but it also is a cause of the demise of life and joy.  Pro-life is more than no abortion.  Pro-life means children.  Our solutions to problems both actual and perceived become even greater problems.  In Hannah’s bitter barrenness, she prayed. The Lord answered her prayer and she conceived and named her son Samuel, literally God hears.  There was good news in the bedroom of Hannah and Elkanah and in the bedroom of Joseph and Mary.  We must take the Lord at His Word of promise to be fruitful because on this Labor Day (9/1/13), parenthood is the highest vocation in creation which is blessed by the Lord with His Word in the 4th Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.  No children means no honor.  We live in a shameful age.  Christians must be as Hannah and be Samuel, trusting in the Lord: He hears.

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About Monica, Mother of Augustine: A  native of North Africa, Monica (AD 333-387) was the devoted mother of St. Augustine. Throughout her life, she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy, on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some Church Year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

From The Confessions of Augustine of Hippo,Pastor and Hippo, feast day, August 28th:

(Monica) was brought up in modesty and sobriety. She was made by You obedient to her parents rather than by them to You. When she reached marriageable age, she was given to a man and served him as lord. She tried to win him for You, speaking to him of You by her virtues through which You made her beautiful, so that her husband loved, respected and admired her. She bore with his infidelities and never had a quarrel with her husband on this account. For she looked forward to Your mercy coming upon him, in hope that, as he came to believe in You, he might become chaste….

Another gift with which You endowed at good servant of Yours, in whose womb ou created me, my God, my mercy (Ps. 58:18), was that whenever she could, she reconciled dissident and quarrelling people. She showed herself so great a peacemaker that when she heard from both sides many bitter things, Monica would never reveal to one anything about the other unless it might help to reconcile them….

At the end, when her husband had reached the end of his life in time, she succeeded in gaining him for You. After he was a baptized believer, she had no cause

to complain of his behavior, which she had tolerated in one not yet a believer. She was also a servant of Your servants: any of them who knew her found much to praise in her, held her in honor, and loved her, for they felt Your presence in her heart, witnessed by the fruits of her holy way of life. She had “testimony to her good works” (1 Timothy 5:10). She had brought up her children, enduring travail as often as she saw them wandering away from You. Lastly, Lord—by Your gift You allow me to speak for Your servants, for before her falling asleep we were bound together in community in You after receiving the grace of Baptism—she exercised care for everybody as if they were all her own children. She served all as if she was a daughter to all of us. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

Scripture:

Proverbs 31: 10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1: 5

 

Reflection:  Monica’s husband was an adulterer.   She stayed with him.  She was faithful. She probably took literally the Epistle reading:   Ephesians 5:21-23.   She wanted her husband to be her head…but in Christ Jesus.  She is not the model in our day of the liberated woman!  Thank, God.  Her strength was her Lord and she prayed for the conversion of both her husband and their son.  I am not saying that a wife in an abusive marriage should stay.  Monica was not physically abused.  She was, though, spiritually and emotionally hurt by her feckless husband and faithless son.  She persisted in prayer for them.  Both were baptized.  Her son became one of the most important theologians and pastors whose writings influenced one young monk in the Order of St. Augustine:  Martin Luther.   Augustine’s feast day is tomorrow. Freedom in Christ is praying for someone who may not even want your prayers.  

P.S. Sometimes I think a day like this one should be for the Church, Mother’s Day.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son. Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, through the patriarch Isaac You preserved the seed of the Messiah and brought forth the new creation.  Continue to preserve the Church as the Israel of God as she manifests the glory of Your holy Name by continuing to worship Your Son, the child of Mary;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

About Isaac:  Isaac, the long promised and awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, was born when his father was 100 and his mother 91. The announcement of his birth brought both joy and laughter to his aged parents (so the name “Isaac,” which means “laughter”). As a young man, Isaac accompanied his father to Mount Moriah, where Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, prepared to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (Gen. 22:1–14), and thus pointing to the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Isaac was given in marriage to Rebekah (24:15), and they had twin sons, Esau and Jacob (25:19–26). In his old age Isaac, blind and feeble, wanted to give his blessing and chief inheritance to his favorite—and eldest—son, Esau. But through deception Rebekah had Jacob receive them instead, resulting in years of family enmity. Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried by his sons, who by then had become reconciled, in the family burial cave of Machpelah (35:28–29). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  The enduring legacy of the Lord’s Word to the prophets is that His Word is given through marriage(s) and families, culminating in a Holy Family in Bethlehem.  These families do have their moments!  As when Rebekah schemes to have her favorite son Jacob receive Isaac’s blessing.  Funny how the Lord works things out but after all it was the Lord who named the son of the promise to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Laughter (Genesis 17:19)  Just think: Father and Mother calling to their son, “Dinner time, Laughter”.

One of the single longest chapters in Genesis is chapter 24 and it is all about the way the Lord arranged the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.  It is a moving love story.  In some ways, the main character is Abraham’s unnamed servant who acts as the Lord’s matchmaker.  We are told he prayed as the chapter proceeds. This is significant because this is the first time in Genesis when someone else, besides Abraham, prays to the Lord of Abraham!  Truly, Abraham is the father of faith.  It is  easy to gloss over, but important. The servant’s prayer is for a wife for Isaac as the Lord wills for His creation.  This long chapter is about marriage between man and woman and through marriage and family, His will of creation continues and so does redemption:  the Son of Mary, the step-son of Joseph.

Today marriage is under assault as no other time but this is just the outworn post-enlightenment understanding of the so-called “new morality” of the ’60s, which is really the old immorality dressed up to look hot.  It’s hot…hotter than hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, you can no more make a new value than you can a new primary color.  Luther said it well, “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.”  (Luther’s Sermon on John 2: 1—11, 1533, Luther’s House Postils, vol. 1)  The commemoration of Isaac is another good day to remember that before the Fall, the Lord gave us marriage, and here is more Luther on this crucial and central part of our lives, culture, society and Church:

  • “So here all will depend on a sound knowledge and understanding of what this “What God has joined together,” is trying to say. It does not say, “What joined itself together,” but, “What God has joined together.” The joining together is easily seen, but men refuse to see that it is to be God who does the joining. As soon as a joining together has come about by the parties’ own efforts, they immediately want to hang God’s name over it as a cloak to hide their shame, and say that God did it. This is misusing and dishonoring God’s name and is contrary to the second commandment. The verse itself clearly indicates that two kinds of joining take place, one by God, the other without God. Joining without God means that which is done by us ourselves without his word and commandment; joining without God means that which is ourselves alone without his word and commandment. Now we have taught so often that we should do nothing unless we have the express approval of God’s word; God himself has nothing to do with us, nor we with him, except through his word, which is the only means by which we recognize his will, and according to which we govern our actions.”  On Marriage Matters”, LW volume 46, The Christian in Society
  • “’Let the marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.’ Hold fast to that, those of you who are married. St. Augustine writes in one place concerning married people, that even if one of them is somewhat weak, etc., he should not be afraid of the sudden and infallible Day of the Lord; even if the day of the Lord were to come in the hour when man and wife were having marital intercourse, they should not be afraid of it. Why is this so? Because even if the Lord comes in that hour he will find them in the ordinance and station in which they have been placed and installed by God.”From Luther’s Sermon ‘A the Marriage of Sigismund von Lindenau, 1545, LW 51
  • “For here (in marriage) God says to the man: You are my man; and to the woman: You are my woman.” –ibid
  • “…let’s learn this object lesson well, so that each of us willingly and contentedly serves and supports the estate of marriage which our Lord himself ordained and honored and created to be a wellspring and source of all other estates on earth. For every king and ruler support the establishing of households, or marriage (they themselves have stemmed from the estate of marriage), because there would be neither people nor means to support government were people not to marry. For the householder, father, or mother, must lay the foundation upon which all estates in the world, from the loftiest to the lowliest are sustained. For this reason our Lord God has caused the marriage estate to be a wellspring of every gift that belongs to our life and existence, as Scripture states: ‘Eve is the mother of every human being.’” (ibid)

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Lessons:

Isaiah 11: 1-5

Psalm 138

Romans 12: 9-16

St. Luke 1: 39-56

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

About the Festival Day:  John the Baptizer and Jesus, the two great figures of salvation history, now come together in the visit to Elizabeth by the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:39-45), both of whom conceived their children under miraculous circumstances. Thus John is brought into the presence of Jesus while they are still in their mothers’ wombs. This presence of the Lord causes a response by the child John as he leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. John’s response to the presence of Jesus, the Messiah, foreshadows John’s own role as forerunner. Already now, a new creation is beginning, and a baby still in the womb hails the new creation’s inception. Foreshadowed in John’s leap are the miracles of Jesus, who will cause all creation to leap at His presence: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). The incarnate presence of the Messiah also evokes a response from Elizabeth, who proclaims Mary’s blessedness. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) provides the theological significance of this meeting as Mary sums up her place in salvation history. Mary’s song is a hymn to God for His gracious gifts to the least in this world, whom He has lifted up out of lowliness solely because of His grace and mercy.

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

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

Reflection:  The understanding from Ireanaeus of the contrast between Mary and Eve has obviously been around for sometime.  It has become a liturgical and theological centerpiece of Eastern Orthodox churches.  This dovetails well into Martin Luther’s understanding that the greatest miracle is not that Mary conceived but she believed: through faith.  Many years ago, everyone was all agog about WWJD bracelets:  What Would Jesus Do.  A friend and colleague said those bracelets should have on them: What Would Mary Do.  She believed as the Word of the angel came into ear and into her heart (Romans 10:17).  She received with the meekness the implanted Word(James 1:21). Mary and Elizabeth are the first Church as the Church is the body of Christ, so Mary bore the Christ. is the Church.  Mary bore the Word made flesh, as does the Church if she is faithful in all things to the Lord, as was Mary, even at times not understanding because of the weakness of the flesh (Luke 1:34). The Lord is sheer gift.  And so when Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s child, John, leaped in her womb.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word alone.  The Church was there in the hill country of Judea.  The temple of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We are made His through His Word alone in Holy Baptism and in faith.  In the most humble of homes, the beauty of holiness shone within and without.  St. Luke 1: 45: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Indeed!  And so are you! As Elizabeth visited Mary and their Lord, so visit Him this day and every day in Word, in Holy Communion, in Prayer.  Blessed Festival Day!  

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In the 1750s, the House of Burgesses, in Williamsburg, Virginia,  heard a sermon preached by Rev. William Stith, On the Sinfulness and Pernicious Nature of Gaming.  Gaming is a synonym for gambling.  His text was the 10th Commandment:  Thou shalt not covet.  One of his points was gambling oppresses the poor.

First Point:   Let’s say that a rich person and a poor person both spend the same amount on gambling, such as lotto  tickets,  but the poor person will use a greater percentage of his income on gambling. This is fact.  The following is from The Week magazine (4/26/13), in the “Noted” section:

Americans spent $50.4 billion on state lottery tickets and video kiosks in 2009. Households with take-home incomes of less than$13,000 average $645 a year on lottery tickets—about 9 percent of their income. Eleven states raise more from lotteries than from corporate taxes.

“Oh, it’s just a dollar.”  They add up billions. And please note that 10% is  a tithe to the Lord.  Many of us are gleefully giving a tithe to the State while we grouse about paying taxes (and that the Lord wants us to do!  See Romans 13:5-7).

Second Point:   gambling is unproductive.  Many a time, standing in line to pay for gas, waiting for someone buying tickets and scratching off his card, while I wait, paying for a service, e.g. gasoline, which in it’s production and selling  has hired many workers, while the lotto is simply a vice  administered by civil servants (and then one can buy a cold six pack to go and we are rightly horrified about drinking and driving…another post)

Third Point:  Not only is the lottery about the 9th and 10th Commandments but also the 7th, You shall not steal.  Lotteries are State sponsored theft.  These commandments have  to do with private  property.  First: the Lord is concerned about property, yes, private property.  Second: As Luther taught on the 9th and 10th Commandments:  ” For we are so inclined by nature that no one desires to see another have as much as himself…” We become envious of another’s property.  We covet.  The envy is hid under the cries of ‘fairness’ and “I deserve it.”  Then second:  one makes plans to get the neighbor’s stuff.  If not that, then a cheat to get it all without work or vocation:  gambling.  Note in lotto fever: rich and poor snap up the tickets.  It’s a proof of original sin which is unrestricted according to economic class. Again Luther,

“…these commandments are especially directed against envy and miserable avarice, God wishing to remove all causes and sources whence arises everything by which we do injury to our neighbor, and therefore He expresses it in plain words: Thou shalt not covet, etc.”  

I maintain that the state-sanctioned promotion of gambling has done injury to the body politic, especially the specific state lotteries.  We can get something for nothing even though the odds are broadcast clearly as astronomical in winning. This can lead to the education of the idea that  I deserve better and I don’t have to work for it. And the State becomes more total in it’s desire to fill that bill from cradle to the grave.   “What the hell?!”  Indeed, what the hell.  After lottery overhead, the profit  is to go to education but we are only educating the citizenry to gamble…and become indolent.   

I do not think that any of this can be recriminalized at this time.   I could say per the Bill of Rights that I have the right to choose to spend my money as I wish.  This is true, but until our time, the only place one could gamble was Los Vegas and now it is legal to do so at the gas station.  We consider smoking a vice and it can not be advertised.  Gambling and lotteries are also a vice. Maybe there should be no advertising for the vice of gambling by the state for lotteries.  

Nary a protest was heard, in my recollection, as state-sponsored gambling became legal, state by state.  (The only state that does not  have any gambling, lottery, parimutuel, charitable, reservation, race track is Utah).  Yet many Christians rightly decry abortion and  same-sex marriage. Note that these changes in civil law on marriage, life and property happened at the same time.  God’s Word makes it incumbent  for us to speak the truth in love…but as it is now, we can not turn back the tide in civil law.  Hans Brinker does not have his finger in the dike and we are flooded.  What’s going on?

 Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his unfinished Ethics, written  in the middle of World War II, speaks about utter demise of the “form of Jesus Christ” in Western Europe and world and what has replace Christ is the “void” and godlessness. Bonhoeffer saw it and remember when it started it was considered a consummate good.  Even when Christians try to “…build the world with Christian principles”, it ends up with capitulation to the world.  So I would say both conservative and liberal, in doing so, eventually succumbs to the world spirit, the zeitgeist,the void which only operates in the moment of the self’s embrace of the void.  And as, 

“A sign of the deep forgetfulness the present time is the film which is erased from the viewer’s memory as soon as it is over.”  

We could update this by changing “film” to what I am doing here:  cyberspace, cyberspace, deleted from the memory as soon as it is over.  Bonhoeffer continues:

Events which are of profound significance for the history of the world and the most monstrous and unheard-of crimes are alike incapable of leaving any trace in the oblivious soul. The future is made a game of hazard. Lotteries and bets seek in the future only for the improbable chance, swallowing up almost inconceivable sums of money and often the livelihood of the workman. With the loss of past and future, life fluctuates between the bestial enjoyment of the moment and an adventurous game of chance. An abrupt end is put to any kind of inner self-development and to any gradual attainment of personal or vocational maturity. There is no personal destiny, and consequently there is no personal dignity. Serious tensions and inwardly necessary periods of waiting are not sustained. This is apparent in the field of labor and in the erotic field like. 

In “going for the gusto”, “seizing the day”, it’s all about ME, the SELF.  We become frightened we won’t have enough and then enough is never enough.  I supposed many pray while queing up to buy a lottery ticket, when the only prayer any of us need is Jesus’: “Give us this day our daily bread.” The problem here is cleary stated in James 4:

2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Oh, Church we can not be friends with the world.  Our passion is the Passion of Jesus Christ Who became the friend of sinners and tax collectors and bettors and debtors.

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Johann Sebastian Bach, the great confessional Lutheran musician composed for churches and for all four seasons…of the Church Year:  Advent/Christmas, Lent, Easter and the Sundays after Trinity (or what we call the Pentecost season).  It seems Lent dominated his compositions.  He would write Lenten themes for the Sundays after Pentecost for instance.  Why?  The cross of Jesus Christ, His suffering, crucifixion, death and burial is for the whole year, everyday of our lives. We are remembering this evening not only a one-time event in the distant past, but His crucifixion is ever near, as  present as He is risen, He gives us the fruits of His Cross, His grace and peace,  received by faith.   When we consider that the 4 Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that 50% of them is about this the Lord’s last week alone, it’s clearly all about the Cross, clearly what drove Him there, our sin and our separation from our Father, and clearly He seeks and finds us to draw us to Himself.

 It is not good to put ourselves in the center of church life.  On the top of this sermon is a painting of Luther preaching as depicted by Lucas Cranach. Here is my incorrect depiction of Cranach’s painting

Cranach not for you

with the congregation front and center, not Jesus Christ, for then the death of Jesus Christ is put behind us and there is no forgiveness.  Then the preacher is only pointing judgment’s finger at the congregation, telling you how to live or winning a congregations’ vote. We do not preach the Christian, but Christ for you. The preacher is then suppose to tell you how to live.  Now if you want to know the way the Lord wants us all to live, read the 10 commandments and especially Luther’s Small and Large Catechism and you will find out we fail.  Jesus Christ is not behind. It cannot be because God’s Word the Scripture will not allow it. His Cross is front and center, as John the Baptizer preached at the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry, Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  As Luther is depicted in the correct Lucas Cranach painting.  Cranach was friends with the Luthers.  Lucas portrays himself in the back row of the congregation. Luther’s wife and her children are in the front row.  We think we know our best interests by ourselves, but the Lord shows us His death of our sin, His life who is the life of all the living. Luther and all true Christian preachers point not to us but to the Lord in all His work and in all His Word.

  • It is written in 1 Corinthians that we preach Christ and Him crucified, not preached, past tense, but today and everyday for needy sinners to receive His mercy in the day to day sameness of things.  Paul said, I am the chief of sinners, not I was, as he wrote to Timothy.  Matthew makes clear as he lists the apostles, including himself, he alone identifies himself in the Gospel he wrote, “Matthew, tax collector”.  Even though Matthew never collected taxes again, yet like Paul, he knew he was a sinner for whom Christ Jesus died and rose. The Lord calls His Church to preach a present tense crucified and risen Savior for present tense sinners. 
  • It is written that our baptism, Romans 6 is into His death and resurrection. 
  • It is written of the Lord’s Supper that as oft we eat and drink we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  In fact, the Atonement upon the Cross, the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation of sinners, broken and hurting under the weight and burden  of the Law, is clearly connected by Jesus in His Words of Institution:  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (St. Matthew) Anyone who says the Lord’s Supper is not His Body and Blood does not know the Scripture and the Sacrament of the Altar but also Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  They want a different Jesus, a glorious Jesus but His glory is yet to come when He comes again, as He promised.  We want God the way we want Him, a sugar daddy, an empowerer of our plans…then we do not have the Lord but a divine double of ourselves, as idol and our idols keep us cozy in our sins.

On April 9, 1945, Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis.  He preached to the centrality of the Cross.

Either I determine the place in which I will find God, or I allow God to determine the place where He will be found. If it is I who say where God will be, I will always find there a God who in some way corresponds to me, is agreeable to me, fits in with my nature. But if it is God who says where he will be, then that will truly be a place which at first is not agreeable to me at all, which does not fit so well with me. That place is the cross of Christ.

Pr. Johann Gerhard taught the riches of His blood upon the Cross for you: 

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

  •  Some say I wish Christmas is every day.  It is.  Everyday Christ can be born us as He bore ours sins upon the tree. 
  • Everyday is Good Friday as His cross is the life giving green wood in the paradise of His saints: you. 
  • Everyday is Easter as He is risen from the dead to give us the all the benefits of His death, His blood, His life as He sees we can benefit. 
  • Everyday is Pentecost as the Holy Spirit teaches us Jesus in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, written, spoken and Incarnate to walk in Him, daily dying and rising.  Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

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