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Archive for the ‘Justification’ Category

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for Your servant Philip the Deacon, whom You called to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Philip the Deacon:  Philip, also called the evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve apostles and of the rapidly growing early Church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor (Acts 6:1-6). Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (Acts 8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa. In the town of Caesarea, he was host for several days to the apostle Paul, who stopped there on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:8-15). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Biblical Reflection Points on Philip in Acts 8: 26-40 (see caption above):

  1. Philip, like Stephen, was called to be a Deacon to serve the widows and like Stephen also preached and served the Gospel.  Philip administered the measurable riches of man for the widows and the poor and also the “immeasurable riches” of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:7) and both are crucial stewardship.
  2. There are two Biblical Greek words for time: kairos and chronos.  The latter is measurable time.  The former is immeasurable time, the time of fulfillment, the eternal moment of God’s “today”.  Philip preached to the Ethiopian Eunuch but Philip did not button-hole the court official so he could give his “witness”.  It was the kairos, God’s time.  True preaching of the Word is according to God’s time. He knows best and we need to be ready for it (1 Peter 3:15).
  3. The court official is reading Isaiah 53, prophesied some 500 years before Christ.  The chapter is almost a biography of His Passion.  I read a conservative rabbi’s understanding of Isaiah 53.  Basically, it made no Scriptural sense to him, because a veil was over his heart and eyes.  It won’t be removed  until the Gospel is preached and he so comes to faith in Christ Jesus.  It was removed for the eunuch by the called deacon preaching the Gospel. Isaiah 53 is preaching Christ and Him crucified.
  4.  Some people wrongly think that the Old Testament=Law and New Testament=Gospel.  This lesson, among thousands of passages, disproves those false equations!
  5. The Ethiopian did not understand the Scripture.  This is a perfect illustration of Romans 10:   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!”                                                         Once again:  this was the right time.
  6. Please note the sequence:  Word, then Sacrament, specifically the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. The court official asks what is to prevent Baptism. Indeed!  The Greek verb for “prevent”  or “hinder”  is the same one Jesus used when the disciples rebuked the parents from bringing their children to Him for a blessing, (Mark 10:14).  This high court official of Queen Candace received the kingdom, freely given, in Baptism as a child.  Indeed, all baptisms are baptisms of children and infants, even for an adult. The man went away “rejoicing”. This old song illustrates the eunuch’s rejoicing:   “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak and He is strong. Yes!  Jesus loves me. Yes! Jesus loves me! Yes!  Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so.
  7. Queen Candace and her court probably heard of Jesus Christ from the eunuch.  From then till now, Christianity has been strong in Ethiopia, beginning with the Ethiopian Coptic Church..  One of the largest Lutheran Church bodies in the world is in Ethiopia: Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (Place of Jesus) with 5.3 million members (note:  our nation’s Lutheran membership is about the same and we are larger in population and note that Mekane Yesus severed ties with the liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has been in discussions with the LCMS).  From one Ethiopian eunuch the Gospel spread to Africa.  We do not know in our lifetimes the impact will be of preaching Jesus Christ.  If the “numbers are not there”, the Lord’s Word will go forth according to His purposes, not ours (Isaiah 55:11).  He guides our paths.  Let us pray…

Almighty God, to know You is to have eternal life. Grant us o know Your Son as the way,the truth, and the life,and guide our footsteps along the way of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives  and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

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 About Abraham:  Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age seventy-five and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife, Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. When Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, they were blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham died at age 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament patriarchs—and for his righteousness before God through faith (Romans 4:1-12). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Reflection:  Mountains are places of revelation in  the Bible, from Sinai to Golgotha.  In Genesis, in the narrative of Abraham, there is likewise a mountain of revelation, an unnamed mountain in the land of Moriah (Gen. 22: 2).  There the Lord commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord. Genesis 22:2

We must remember that the whole narrative up until chapter 22 has been God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a great people and so be a blessing to many in spite of the fact that Abraham and his wife Sarah were of great age.  Abraham thought it so absurd, flying in the face of reality, that when the Lord reissued the promise, Abraham fell down laughing. Genesis 17:17   In Genesis 18, at the Oaks of Mamre, when the Lord tells Abraham that soon Sarah would be pregnant, she laughed.    They named him Isaac, which means laughter!  And now the Lord tells him to offer up his son, his only son.

We must also remember that the Lord promised other blessings to Abraham, such as He would be Abraham’s “shield”.  Genesis 15:1  He saved Abraham’s kin from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He guided Abraham in his battle against the five kings.  He blessed Abraham and Sarah will great flocks.  The Lord was faithful to His promise.  In fact, it is the Lord’s promise alone that made Abraham righteous as Abraham believed and had faith in the Lord’s promises, not Abraham’s works of holiness and spirituality. His faith received the holiness of God’s righteousness.

“But when God commands that Abraham’s son should be taken away, He leaves no hope but simply confronts Abraham with a contradiction.  And God, who formerly seemed to be his best friend, now appears to have become an enemy and a tyrant.” (Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, chapter 22). Now the Lord appeared to be unholy. When everything in sight runs contrary to our expectations for and of God in sickness, poverty, war and famine, He appears to be a tyrant and we are tempted with despair. Most of the time, it does not take much to be tempted to look away from His promises.  A pastor looks at himself and his congregation, falling asleep, sneezing, contentious, small, and the like.  He then thinks of a Bible verse,  such as, “…but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”,  (1 Peter 2: 9), I think, ‘This is a holy nation, a royal priesthood?! Doesn’t look that way to me!’  But men look on appearances but God upon the heart.  Abraham also looked on the appearance of things, such as his aged body, but he clung in faith and love to God’s promises and His commands and maybe that’s why, against all appearances, Abraham did what he did when the Lord commanded him to take his son, his only son and offer him up on a mountain in Moriah. He trusted the Lord at His Word that he knew by faith, against all appearances, He would be true to His promise, that Isaac would live. And though His only-begotten Son, He did not spare, but was killed for our atonement, like that ram in substitution for Isaac, His Son rose again from the dead. As the Apostle Paul wrote centuries later about the faithfulness of the Lord:

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

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

for he cannot deny himself.

 (2 Timothy 2: 8-13)

Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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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.”

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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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