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Archive for the ‘Justification’ Category

            

The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

Luke 16 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The manager of the rich man’s estate knew he was up to his eyeballs in debt especially when the manager was found out and reported to the owner.  The man squandered possessions not belonging to him.  “Squander” is the exact same verb in Greek used by the Lord to describe the prodigal son’s stewardship of his father’s inheritance that the son demanded before his father died:  the son wasted, squandered it, in a far country. He blew it.  The manager or the steward, like the runaway son, blew away what wasn’t theirs to begin with.  The steward quickly realizes he’s not in shape to dig and has too much pride to beg.  He comes up with clever scheme with the master’s debtors. Yes, his master has demanded the books, the ledger, but he is still acting in the name of his boss.  He summons the first debtor who owed the master 100 measures of olive oil.  100 measures is approximately 875 gallons.   Walmart brand extra virgin olive oil:  101 ounces, not even a gallon, $19.28.  Even by today’s prices that’s one heck of debt: about $17,500.  The second debt owes at least 1000 bushels of wheat and that can make a lot of bread, and costs allot of bread.  He reduced both debts.  The manager is about to become homeless and wants to ingratiate himself into the master’s debtors lives so they show him hospitality, welcome him.  Interesting word, “ingratiate”:   there are many words with the same Latin root, gratia, that is grace.  The steward smartly, in his own enlightened self-interest, and wrongly, cooked the books, so to ingratiate, put himself in their good graces  and so save his can.  He knew he did wrong and he is feeling really sorry about it.  He wants to save himself.

 And eventually, if one of those debtors accepts the fired manager into their ‘good graces’, eventually the guest will be told when push comes to shove:  Hey, I know you wiped clean half my debt and I took you when you were down and out and now you owe me you, you owe me big time. Now if I can ingratiate myself to someone, and he accepts my ingratiation, all along it is not grace. It is only more legal problems and debt.  This is not grace.   Grace is gift, unearned, free.  No if, ands or buts.  Jesus knew a lot about debt and He taught us to pray, forgive us our debts as we forgive those who owe us and ever more grace toward repentant debtors.

 We live in a time of staggering debt. For instance:   the national student loan debt is now greater than the national credit card debt.  This should come as no news to anyone here today.  We are more concerned about building up bigger houses than building up solid homes. We want to drive in fancier cars than to walk in the shoes of another. The federal government wants to raise the debt ceiling again.  I can get my head around a debt of $17,500 but trillions?  In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the parable of another servant who owes his master ten thousand talents.  A talent was a weight of silver worth 20 years wages, in another words a debt worth about 1,600 lifetimes.  I can’t get my head around that but it scares me and well it should.

 The enormity of debt becomes real when it affects those around us quite personally. It is only by God’s Law we begin to realize the enormity of going in over our heads.  At first it sounds good, after all don’t you deserve it, the sly voice of the devil whispers.    Then the Law shows us who have been obeying and serving:  mammon, money.  The Pharisees were lovers of money. Jesus said they exalt it.   This is the number 1 idol on earth. One of the qualifications in 1 Timothy of a bishop or a pastor is not being a lover of money.  But as for the steward, we have all been called to give an account.  People talk about  their personal sexual lives on “Dr. Phil” or “The Tonight Show”, brag about it on Facebook, but reveal our incomes?  Now that’s personal…and perverse in every way. It’s personal because where our love is there is our heart.  Our love is in our wallets and banks.  It’s like the story of the man in church who went into full panic when the offering plate came around and he only  had a hundred dollar bill in his wallet.  We know what we hold on to tenaciously.  Modesty?  No way.  People want money to be profiled as tough, sexy, smart, rich. Again, perverse.  Mammon can not save.  We want and we don’t have because we spend it on our passions.  Look at our society today.  See how the world worships work, plays at its worship and works at its play.  Is it any wonder that our world is confused, disordered, tired, stressed out, anxious, lonely and lost?  The world is ever knocking at our doors and our hearts. No one on his deathbed ever said, Pastor, I confess that I should have spent more time on my business.  The day of accounting is today.  And the day of salvation. All have squandered  and frittered away so much.  We can’t repay. 

 Like the steward and the prodigal son, all has been given, gratis.  And squandering away even a fortune, Jesus knows the debt. Unlike the shrewd steward, He came to pay the debt, not just pay it down.    The steward only wiped part of the debt of the other vendors. The sons of this world know how to deal with their own.  The sons of light cannot so deal, in fact none of us can in the sight of God.  I owe a king’s ransom. The King has paid the ransom: all of it. Debt forgiven.  We write debt into our lives with our own handwriting.  He paid the debt not on paper with  but on wood with nails with  His own blood. 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

He paid the debt 100%. The record of debt has been stamped, paid in full, gratis.

 The Lord’s goal for us all is clear and concise, better than any corporate or congregational mission statement:  The Lord, “…desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”.   We come to faith by the preaching of Jesus Christ and we know His will:  “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…” FOR ALL. He paid what no man or woman could ever pay:  the bankruptcy of the human heart. You are forgiven. Don’t restructure your debt with the false promises of gurus and pundits and bad advice.  Don’t repair  the debt the Lord has already forgiven you. Don’t raise the debt ceiling of sin, saying it’s not so bad when you know it is. But when we go in debt again, turn to Him and the grace He offered in your Baptism by His death and resurrection settles the account again. He paid it not with silver or gold, but by His blood. 

 He calls us to Himself single-minded and heartened in Him.  He is single-minded in finding the lost and making the dead alive. If that steward was single-minded in self-preservation, let us be single-minded in the Lord’s salvation. So, let us use what we have that others may have what we have been given and together we be received into our eternal home. Let us build better homes and help each other to do so.  Not to raise the debt ceiling but raise our voices in witness to His grace and mercy for us all. Let us be single-minded and of one mind in the Holy Spirit to receive His gifts every Sunday without which we are poor indeed. Let us pray for all authorities and those in power that we have peace, so that many come to the Lord.  Let us actually help those down and out and not wait for the government to do so who will pay with one hand and take with both hands. Jesus Christ paid the debt and gave us an eternal inheritance. He paid it with both hands nailed to the wood.  Mammon only leads to death.  Christ Jesus has led us to eternal life. A famous atheist novelist when she died, people brought the floral bouquets in the shape of dollar signs at her funeral.  That sign can’t go far. It’s a dead-end sign.  But the sign of His Cross points us to our eternal inheritance and to our debt forgiven once and for all, ever returning to His grace given in Baptism, forgiven, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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General Intro to Commemorations of Old Testament:  The introduction of Old Testament saints into the cycle of commemorations in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is most welcome because it is most Biblical.  We may not think of the Old Testament worthies as “Saint”, but think again!  Hebrews 11 has been called the “hall of heroes”, or I call it the roll-call of the saints in Christ and all of them as recorded in the Old Testament!  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, they put “St.” in front of the OT saints, so:  St. Jonah!  It is these saints who first cheer us  on and encourage us saints in Christ Jesus to persevere, as recorded in Hebrews 12, the crescendo of the roll-call:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

 

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jonah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

About Jonah:

A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour’s walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria(Jonah 1:2). His reluctance to respond and God’s insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah’s name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (Jonah1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. Jonah’s three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew12:39-41). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

Many years ago, when I first read Jonah on my own, no longer in Sunday School, I was amazed by it!  Now if you have not read it (it’s short, more like a short story), this is a spoiler alert. Just skip the rest of the reflection!  Read/re-read  Jonah  and come back for the reflection. 

Did you read/re-read Jonah?  Notice that in chapters 1-3, we are not told why Jonah runs away when the Lord called him to preach to the great capital of the Assyrian Empire, Ninevah.  Oh, Jonah was reluctant prophet, we were taught.  Yes, he was, but  reluctance is the result, not the cause.  We are not told why he was reluctant.

When Ninevah, from the King down, repents, the Lord forgives and changes His mind about His judgment towards them.  The Lord takes no pleasure in  the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from their evil to the Lord and live (see Ezekiel 33:11) So Jonah, after Ninevah’s repentance unto life in the Lord’s grace, parks himself outside of the great city and we are told he is angry. Dr. Reed Lessing (professor OT, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in his commentary Jonah), points out that  the 4 times the word anger appears (really:  infuriated),it is in the last chapter and it’s subject is Jonah!  Why was he angry?  Finally, after all the action in the first 3 chapters we find out that his anger is coupled with the reason why he fled to Tarshish and away from  the Lord’s call, from Dr. Reed’s translation:  “For this reason I previously fled toward Tarshish because I knew you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in loyal love, and changing your verdict about evil.”  Jonah fled because of God’s grace! He fled because He did not destroy the Gentile Assyrians!  Jonah’s true confession of the Faith (“…you are a gracious and merciful God, etc.) becomes in Jonah’s heart and mouth his accusation against the Lord! Is your evil because I myself am good? (see  Matthew 20:1:  literal translation of the second question!). Yes.  Ask any congregation, ‘do you want to grow?’ and the answer is yes.  But I would maintain we may  not want this to happen  to the point of those people joining who don’t deserve it like we do who have “…borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat”  (Matthew 20: 12) and they receive the same, even the most wicked and at the 11th hour:  the Lord’s free gift of grace to all who hunger and thirst, and repent and turn to the Lord (see Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20: 1-16/ Matthew 20 ).  From Dr. Lessing’s commentary:

We simply stand under God’s overflowing grace like rain, allowing its cool refreshment to fill our dry cracks. Then we pick up the bucket and dump it on someone else. Grace flows from Yahweh not on those who attempt to earn it, but on those who confess their need for it. The Spirit-empowered response is then to share it. But Jonah is like the angry older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:28-30): he views God’s lavish welcome for undeserving sinners who repent as an insult to his “deserving” self. The prophet has yet to embrace the Law and Gospel character of God expressed in James 2:13: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

One last thought:  Jonah ran away twice.  The Lord never runs away and He sought Jonah twice.   Blessed Jonah’s Day

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About Holy Cross Day:

One of the earliest annual celebrations of the Church, Holy Cross Day traditionally commemorated the discovery of the original cross of Jesus on September 14, 320, in Jerusalem. The cross was found by Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In conjunction with the dedication of a basilica at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the festival day was made official by order of Constantine in AD 335. A devout Christian,Helena had helped locate and authenticate many sites related to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout biblical lands. Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Many Lutheran parishes have chosen to use “Holy Cross” as the name of their congregation. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

According to one story, Helena actually found 3 crosses and to determine which was the true cross, her son, the Emperor brought a dead person and they figured that if it’s the true cross and it touched the dead man, the man would come back to life and sure enough…

In Medieval Europe, there are many relics of the ‘true’ cross in the many, many cathedrals and churches.  Luther is attributed as quipping that there are so many relics of the true cross, you could rebuild Noah’s Ark (!)    The Cross is not a relic.  The true treasure of the Cross is Jesus Christ.  It is not the cross that’s important, but the One Who died upon it.  The cross can be denigrated into a superstitious amulet.     We become so fixated on it, when our eyes and hearts should be  fixed on the One Who was crucified upon it.  Protestants fall prey to this:  for instance, see the hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross”.  So a crucifix is a much more salutary Biblical pointer to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, than is an empty cross. Yet, even an empty cross, made of  mangled I-beams from the wreckage and horror of the World Trade Center, gave hope to so many.  And the Cross is a scandal as shown that the WTC Cross was taken away. “…but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block (literally in the Greek, “skandalon”, scandal) to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 1 Corinthians 1:22-24  It is not the thing but the the preaching of Christ crucified that is the central.  Many Lutheran Churches are named Holy Cross because the true point of pilgrimage is not a relic of the true Cross but where the Crucified is truly preached and His Sacraments administered for the faith and love of His people.  Who else than the One who died midst the wrecks of time has gathered our sin and our sorrow into His Heart?

I think the 4th century historical basis of this day is “over-the-top”.  Then again, God dying on a tree for you and for me, to atone for the sin of the entire world is  “over-the-top”… such is His love shown and given, changes us.  Holy Cross Day points us in this unlikely time of year of what happened upon the Cross and the reasons for it:

First:   as indicated, it comes at this time of the year:  the beginning of the school year, autumn is a week away, the harvest will be brought in. In Judaism and Eastern Orthodoxy, September is the beginning of their liturgical years.   It is appropriate:  life continues in the deadening of the year.  In school,  minds and hopefully even souls are educated in this change of season.  We give thanks to the Lord for the harvest.  Needless to say, we urbanites and suburbanites, are insensible to the rhythms of seed-time and  then harvest. But Holy Cross can remind us the Lord will bring in His Harvest by His Sacrifice upon the cross:  hearing, learning and growing in the good news of forgiveness once and for all. Jesus Christ is the grain of wheat planted, dead and alive (See  John 12:24 ) The cross is like a shepherd’s staff by which He gathers us to Himself.  (See John 12:31-33)

Second:   The reminder of the Lord’s crucifixion is not to relegated to Good Friday alone.  Sadly, many Protestants don’t even bother with Good Friday.  The way of His suffering, death and resurrection, the only Way,  is our daily forgiveness, salvation and bread unto eternal life. Making the sign of the cross upon our bodies is a good reminder that in Christ Jesus is our hope of salvation, body and soul,  the Resurrection unto eternal life. Luther said every morning, make the sign of the cross and say, IN the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Third:   The quote on the photo up top, We preach Christ and Him crucified  (see 1 Corinthians 1:22-24), is in present tense. St. Paul wrote to Timothy that “I am the chief of all sinners”, present tense. The present tense Savior is for present tense sinners to live faithful lives in Him, His Body the Church.  Pastors are called by the Lord to so preach.  Repentance is not a one time deal, but a daily life of dying and rising in Him. (see Matthew 16:23-25) His forgiveness, by the sign of His Cross, is our daily nourishment to live with ourselves and each other.  Our lives are hid in His (see:   Colossians 3:2-4)

Fourth:  He calls His whole Church on earth to Himself so that the very life of the Church proclaims the Cross. The Church is witness to Jesus Christ. The Christians of Medieval Europe had it spot-on when they built the great cathedrals in the shape of a Cross and at the entrance is the Baptismal Font,the way we die and rise in Christ Jesus to walk  in the Spirit (Romans 6: 1ff):  

We are to point as John the Baptizer did to the Lamb of God, as the blessed Martin Luther did, as all faithful preachers do:

If the Church  and her pastors and preachers do not then we are only pointing to ourselves and Jesus Christ is relegated to the background, as the wrong picture, ‘icon’ shows.   Jesus Christ does not “lead from behind”, Hebrews 12:1-3:

In the Orthodox Church this day is called, “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross”.  This does not necessarily mean a facile triumphalism or a theology of glory.  It is the exaltation of Jesus Christ and not to be ashamed of His sacrifice for us all, for the whole world (see Romans 1:15-17,  Hebrews 12:1-3) What the worldlings exalt in this sin-soaked world, which our Old Adam applauds,  can not compare to the exaltation of His love for sinners (see Romans 5:7-9) .  A blessed Holy Cross Day!

“Lift high the Cross, the love of Christ, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore His sacred Name.”

Let us pray…

Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God,  now and forever.

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About St. Bartholomew, Apostle:  St. Bartholomew (or Nathanael, as he is called in St. John’s Gospel) was one of the first of Jesus’ twelve disciples. His home was in the town of Cana, in Galilee (John 21:2), where Jesus’ performed His first miracle. He was invited to become one of the Twelve by Philip, who told him that they had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. (John 1:45). Bartholomew’s initial hesitation to believe, because of Jesus’ Nazareth background, was quickly replaced by a clear, unequivocal declaration of faith, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). He was present with the other disciples (John 21:1-13) when they were privileged to see and converse and eat with their risen Lord and Savior. According to some Early Church Fathers, Bartholomew brought the Gospel to Armenia, where he was martyred by being flayed alive.

Reflection:  Maybe you heard last year about this botched ‘restoration’ of a beloved Image result for botched painting restoration italypainting in a Spanish church.  The painting  depicts the moment when Pontius Pilate said to the crowds in the mood for a crucifixion, Behold the Man!  See John 19:5  Or as it is the Latin Vulgate:  Ecce Homo.  The Italian press are saying the painting should now be called, Ecce mono, Behold the monkey! The elderly woman who did this, had the permission of the parish priest and she said she had the best of intentions.

Many people have the best of intentions in redoing the image of Christ to burnish His meaning for us, but it becomes a botched job and yes, done with the best of intentions. As C. S. Lewis famously and correctly wrote:  

“There have been too many historical Jesuses – a liberal Jesus, a pneumatic Jesus, a Barthian Jesus, a Marxist Jesus. They are the cheap crop of each publisher’s list, like the new Napoleons and new Queen Victorias. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation.” 

Then we think we have trained Jesus to do our bidding for what we think are the solutions to our problems.  But a solution is not the same as salvation.  Then we end up with a distorted version of the Lord, as distorted as the erstwhile restoration above and we can only say, Ecce Mono, a trained monkey at that.

There is an ancient tradition that The Apostles’ Creed was written by the Apostles and each wrote 1/12 of the Creed.  This has no basis in historical fact, but on this Apostle’s day, it shows there is only one authorized version of the Lord Jesus Christ:  His chosen apostolic witnesses, like Bartholomew (or Nathanael), accurately preached what is authoritatively recorded in the  inspired Four Gospels and the entire corpus of the New Testament.  

Look at Nathanael: When Nathanael was told by Philip that he had found the Messiah, Nathanael famously quipped:  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  (John 1: 46).  He did not know what he was saying.  After Jesus meets Nathanael, He comments that he is an Israelite in whom there is no guile.  Nathanael seems to have been dumbstruck, How do you know me?  Jesus said before I called Philip, I saw you under the fig tree.  This really gets him!  Nathanael answered him:  

 “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nathanael began to give his confession, his apostolic witness:  He is the Son of God, King of Israel.  Yet, Jesus deepens Nathanael’s confession  with the prophecy of Golgotha and the Resurrection:  Heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.  This refers to Jacob’s dream of a ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. See:  Genesis 28:11-13.  Jacob called the spot Bethel, literally House of God.  Jesus is the House of God (see John 2: 21).  The Apostolic Witness is to the Incarnation and His Crucifixion and Resurrection.  This witness, this Good News, for sinners was preached by the 12, clearly.   When the Savior and His work is clearly taught and preached, according to the Bible, received and yes, eaten and drunk, by hungry and thirsty sinners (see Matthew 5:6then the Holy Spirit is working faith in you.  This is the clear picture of Ecce Homo and needs no restoration by the likes of me or even a theologian with 100 Phds.  Do not trust any theology that deviates by invention and innovation the clear apostolic witness in the Bible.  

Please pray…

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an Apostle to preach the blessed Gospel.  Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

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Collect of the Day: 

O God, enkindled with the fire of Your love, Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux became a burning and a shining light in Your Church. By Your mercy, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline and may ever walk in Your presence as children of light; through Jesus Christ. our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Bernard: A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the twelfth century AD, Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of twenty-two. After two years, he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some sixty-eight daughter houses. Bernard is remembered not only for his charity and political abilities but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by St. Bernard. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Addendum:   His zeal for the truth of the Gospel and the faith quelled many heresies.  But, “…in 1146-1147 Bernard led the preaching of the second Crusade and was sharply disappointed by its failure.” In historical retrospection, his eloquent preaching of the Crusade was misplaced.  Yet, “In his zeal he attacked the luxury of the clergy, the persecution of the Jews, and the abuses of Roman Curia.  Renowned as a great preacher, he brought to an end the pre-scholastic era, and he is sometimes called ‘the Last of the Fathers.'” (quotes from Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Philip Pfatteicher)

As that last quote leads us to the fact that Bernard is cited approvingly in The Book of Concord:  The Confessions of the Lutheran Church six times.  He clearly preached and taught salvation by grace through faith.  Many years ago, I picked up in a used book store volume 2 of Bernard’s sermons on The Song of Songs.  He applied the love poetry to the Church and Jesus, her Head and Husband.  It was one of the volumes that led me back to the orthodox Lutheran faith.  Here are some of his quotes.  The first is a citation from The Book of Concord:

For it is necessary first of all to believe that you cannot have remission of sins except by the indulgence of God, but add yet that you believe also this, namely, that through Him sins are forgiven thee. This is the testimony which the Holy Ghost asserts in your heart, saying: “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” For thus the apostle judges that man is justified freely through faith.

The following quote is the perfect one for all those who espouse opinions, theologies and especially those who blog!

The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself. He knows that a curse is on the man who allows his own property to degenerate. And if you think my opinion worthless, then listen to one who is wiser than I: “The fool,” said Solomon, “comes out with all his feelings at once, but the wise man subdues and restrains them.” Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom the streams of heavenly doctrine flow to us, that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled; they are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.—St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Finally and most importantly, this great hymn based upon a poem by Bernard.

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676  Text: Is. 50: 6
Author: Paul Gerhardt
Based on the Latin poem “Salve caput cruentatum”
By Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, asc.

 

1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

2. Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee
And flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
That once was bright as morn!

3. Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
Their color, once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished
The splendor that was there.
Grim Death, with cruel rigor,
Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou has lost Thy vigor,
Thy strength, in this sad strife.

4. My burden in Thy Passion,
Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression
Which brought this woe on thee.
I cast me down before Thee,
Wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee;
Redeemer, spurn me not!

5. My Shepherd, now receive me;
My Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O Source of gifts divine!
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love,
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.

6. Here I will stand beside Thee,
From Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me!
When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish
In death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

7. The joy can ne’er be spoken,
Above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken
I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of life, desiring
Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring,
I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

8. What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.

9. My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
Oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own!

10. Be Thou my Consolation,
My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well!

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #172 

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, Your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise You for the gifts of grace imparted to Your servant Johann, and we pray that by his teaching we maybe led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

About Johann Gerhard:  Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) and the most influential of the seventeenth-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (twenty-three large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the superintendent of Heldburg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

You, most faithful God, perform the duties of a faithful and skillful doctor in healing the mortal wounds of my soul. You heal them by the wounds of Your Son. there is danger that the healed wounds will be reopened, but Your Spriit prevents this with grace like a poultice…After receiving the forgiveness of sins, so many people return to their former way of living.  By repeating their sins, they offend God all the more grievously…

The same can happen to me if You do not keep me on the good path through Your powerful grace and the effective working of Your Holy Spirit.  The same evil spirit that captured them attacks me. The same world that seduced them entices me. The same flesh that secured them lures me. Only Your grace protects me against these attacks and with with the power necessary for victory.  Your  strength supplies the power I  need in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). You my  spirit the strength to restrain the passion of the flesh. Whatever is good in me comes from You, the font of all good things, because in me, by nature, there is nothing but sin. I have to acknowledge that all the good works I do—which are nevertheless impure because of the corruption and imperfection of my flesh—are gifts of Your grace. I will give You thanks forever because of Your immeasurable gift to me. Amen.—Johann Gerhard  (Selected from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy, translated by Pr. Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

Reflection:  Pr. Gerhard is one of my favorite theologians because he prayed with the Church, he preached and taught the Scriptures with the Church and desired to give praise to God alone through His mercies in Jesus Christ for him and us all.

His sermons are wellsprings of Scripture.  As one pastor in an introduction to a volume of Gerhard’s sermons wrote:  “He saw the New Testament through Old Testament eyes.”   He lived and breathed the Scriptures as they are the very words of the Holy Spirit writ into His creation for our redemption in Jesus Christ.

I could quote for a long time his sermons.  Here is one citation.  It is from the end of his sermon on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and it is , to say the least, timely:

For just as fire is an effective, active thing and always climbs upward, so also will the fire of love and devotion be effective and active in us, lifting up our hearts towards God. Just as these disciples, when they felt the power of Christ’s Word in the heart, prayerfully reached out and begged Him (since it was evening) to remain with them and come in with them, so also when the fire of the divine Word has properly warmed our hearts and ignited the fire of love in us, we too will beg Christ with sincere, believing prayer that He would remain with us. We will say with Jeremiah, ch.14:8—O Lord, You are the Comfort of Israel and its Helper in need. Why do you portray Yourself as if You were guest in the land and a stranger who abides inside only for the night ? We are in need of the same kind of petition and invitation. For it is applicable: 

1) To the “evening of tribulation,” [for] as all kind of dark, threatening clouds of misfortune break forth here, hardly any star shines any more [and] everything is full of tragedy and misery. 

2) To the “evening of doctrine.” The divine doctrines are darkened through various errors; Christ, the Son of Righteousness, is almost totally covered over by the thick clouds of false doctrine. 

3) To the “evening of the world.” The world has come to its “evening” and to a dead decline. Thus we do well to petition: O abide with us, Lord Jesus Christ, since it now is evening. But especially when the evening of life comes into play, when things decline into our life’s end and departure, we want to reach for Christ with sincere prayer, asking that He would abide with us, and ignite in us, amidst the darkness of death, the light of comfort and life. In keeping with His precious promises, He wants graciously to fulfill this in us, as we cling simply to Him. This is the kind of heart He wants to give us by His grace. Amen.

 

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Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum

My soul magnifies the Lord

by Johann Sebastian Bach

Readings for the day:  Isaiah 61:7-11Galatians 4:4-7Luke 1:39-55

Let us pray:  

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The Mother of Our Lord: St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen specific incidents in her life being recorded: her betrothal to Joseph; the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah; her visitation to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer; the nativity of our Lord; the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men; the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple; the flight into Egypt; the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee; her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John; and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Thus she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  

I think the Roman Catholic problem with Mary is that they make much too much of her which has no Scriptural warrant.  I think the Lutheran problem with Mary has been we make much too little of her importance which likewise has no Scriptural warrant.  We should not pray to her and neither should we think we have prayed her away.

The Scripture records what she prayed:  “My soul doth magnifies the Lord.”  What or who do we magnify in our lives?  I find my own question embarrassing to answer.  Think of what the world magnifies:  fame, wealth, power and in our day and time, the temple of the  self, that is , my feelings, my goodness, my friends,  ad nauseam, and I  have wanted it all.  Not Mary.  For instance: Mary did not “shop till she dropped”.  Her Son was not a choice but her Child. She loved her Son.  She magnified the Lord.  She magnified, made big in her life God’s grace to her in bearing the Only-Begotten Son of God.  She bore her Savior and yours.

A colleague of mine once said during the fad of “WWJD” bracelets (What Would Jesus Do) that it actually should be “WWMD”:  what would Mary do?  Good question.  The answer?  She heard the Word of God, the Word of grace.  She obeyed.  She was a faithful wife. She believed.  She prayed.  She suffered.  She served her Lord and her neighbor.  It was all the Lord’s work toward her and the fruit of her good work, likewise the Lord’s and the greatest still is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. She is the model of the faithful believer, even the whole Church. “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”--Galatians 4: 19

The other feast days, featuring the Mother of Our Lord, The Annunciation (St. Luke 1: 26-38), The Presentation (Luke 2: 22-38, and The Visitation (Luke 1: 39-56, are actually festivals of Jesus Christ.”  And that’s the point! Mary is associated with them and she did magnify the Lord.  She never sought  attention for herself.   She knew she would be blessed (Luke 1: 48) but she did not seek adoration but adored Him born of her virgin womb. He was her Son and her Lord!  She knew humility.  This is not the stance of the neo-feminist woman of our day…or any man.   Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Orthodox professor (1921-1983) pointedly reflected, “In (Mary’s) humility and silence, she can hardly serve as patron for the noisy and arrogant feminism of our time.”

The sundry revolutions of the ’60s brought new vocabulary  and one of the vocables was counterculture, and from it, counter-cultural.  The ’60s counter-culture was an excuse of condoning immorality. Mary, Mother of our Lord, stands today as a true counter-cultural icon. Fr. Schmemann points out that Mary is understood in her instrumentality  (“Let it be according to Your Word…”) in the Lord’s plan of salvation that the Word became flesh for her, you and I. She was obedient in true faith.  But Fr. Schmemann tellingly points out that her obedience as a woman, 

“…is one of the main reasons for Mary’s “rejection” by many “modern” Christians:  she can hardly be construed as the symbol of that ‘liberation’ which stresses the absolute ‘right’ of man to dispose of his life and of his body in a manner which he himself chooses, to a ‘self-fulfillment’ which he himself determines.”  

This self-determination has culminated in licit  abortion on demand as deadly self-fulfillment.  And Mary brought the Life of the world into the world.  Truly, she is counter-cultural.  Mary is the model of the godly life in Christ Jesus for women…and men!  Just as she told the servants at the Cana wedding, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2: 5), goes for us servants as well.  Lord, still our hearts and minds in the Sabbath of Your forgiveness by which You have redeemed us from the old way of death to live and breath in Your life, Your life which You first gave to Your Mother, so that this dark world may know You have come into our world for us and for our salvation and believing be saved.  As Mary. Amen.

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Lessons for July 30th:
Psalmody: Psalm 50:1-6
Additional Psalm: Psalm 130
Old Testament Reading: 1 Samuel 15:10-35/ New Testament Reading: Acts 24:24-25:12

The Lessons for this day are from The Treasury of Daily Prayer.  They do not reflect the Commemoration of Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr.   I included the appointed lessons  because of the reflection below by  Pr. Murray  in his wonderful book of meditations with the Church Fathers for daily prayer:  A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year (Concordia Publishing House)

 Pr. Murray is reflecting on the Old Testament lesson (listed above) in which the Lord ordered King Saul, after winning a battle, to kill all his opponents including the King, Agag.  Because Saul spared King Agag, the Lord forsook Saul as King and regret ever having trusted him!  This is a rough lesson by our modern/post-modern sensibilities.

 Meditation by Pr. Murray

There can be no free form holiness that comes from our own hearts. We often define and act on our own set of pious principles in seeking our own righteousness. This is purely a rebellion against the clear and unchanging will of God in the Law. There can be no holiness apart from the specific commands of a holy God. Our revision of the divine Law arises from seemingly righteous principles. Perhaps Saul spared Agag (1 Samuel 15) out of a desire to be compassionate and gracious, which God Himself claims to be (Psalm 86:15). Why shouldn’t Saul be able to get in on the compassion act? Simply because he had a direct command from God to do otherwise.

A veteran pastor was confronted by two married couples whom he considered pious members of his parish. They announced to him that they were swapping spouses and wondered if he might unite them in a double wedding. They argued that their spouse swap was loving and that, after all, the Holy Spirit had let them know that this was a good thing. He strongly suggested to them that they could not ignore the Sixth Commandment, and that maybe their spouse swap was merely self-serving. Our impieties are often perpetrated for pious reasons; love and compassion being common among those pious reasons. We even argue that God agrees with us. Like Saul, who as a worldly ruler considered it his prerogative to spare Agag, our pieties tend to benefit ourselves. We must flee from creating our own righteousness and remain tied down to the clear Word of God.

“Saul saw fit to use compassion when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain (1 Samuel 15:9-11). However, he deserved to have his disobedient compassion, or, if you prefer it, his compassionate disobedience, rejected and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow man in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. Truth, by the mouth of the Incarnate Himself, proclaims as if in a thundering voice, ‘Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). And in order to except martyrs from this sentence, to whose lot it has fallen to be slain for the name of Christ before being washed in the Baptism of Christ, He says in another passage, ‘Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39)” (Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin, 2.17; emphasis my own). 

Further Reflection: In the St. Augustine quote above, the Bishop of Hippo disapprovingly observes that one could call what Saul did as “compassionate disobedience.”     Compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His unvarnished Word.  We do a lot of that in our day and win the roaring approval of the world:  adultery, same-sex ‘marriage’, violence, greed as “good”, gossip, virulent atheism and the like.  No wonder we are in such bad shape.  If Robert Barnes had compassionately disobeyed his calling, yes, he would have saved his life…but not his soul.  It is not easy but Jesus said much about bearing one’s cross and self-denial.  If we obey the self, we certainly can not obey the Lord. No, His will is hard to understand and that’s why He calls our obedience in Jesus Christ faith.  We think by our compassionate disobedience that we are saving lives…no, we are losing lives…even our own and those we love. This is not our calling.–Pr.Schroeder

Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr

Bio:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany, he became friends with Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled Sententiae. Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529, Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest … this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes.”

 Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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I think the state motto of New Hampshire is right on the money as it is about political freedom but not in regards to spiritual freedom.  Spiritual freedom is “Die and live Free”.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6: 3-4)

We have been baptized, therefore we are baptized.  We are dead to sin and so live in Christ.

 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5: 1, NKJV)

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