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Archive for the ‘Liturgical year’ Category

The Epistle Reading for Today:  Hebrews 12:  1-24

Our Lord said in Holy Week,

“And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” St. John 12:  23-14

The seed of Jesus in the ground, risen from the dead, bore fruit both today, tomorrow and yesterday: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13: 8).  The Lord was bearing fruit through the hope of His coming, the promises of God fulfilled in Him, through out the time of the Old Testament, from the beginning, Genesis 1 and following.  This is the roll call of faith in Hebrews 11.  So much of Hebrews is encouragement for discouraged brothers and sisters.  The writer calls it, “my letter of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:  22), and as it Scripture, for us as well:  

“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, looking 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.” (Hebrews 12)

In the marathon of faith in Christ, Christ before us, Christ beside us, Emmanuel, God with us we are surrounded, “…so great a cloud of witnesses”, of the saints in the Old Testament.  In these last days (Hebrews 1:2), this cloud has more billows of the saints who have died in Christ.  This cloud is not a storm cloud, but a cloud filled with the dew of Baptism, a rain cloud, on this parched earth.  We do not have to searching for extra-terrestrials to assert with faith and hope that is in Christ:  we are not alone.  The cloud of witnesses is praying us on, to lay aside “every weight, and sin which clings to closely”, confessing the weight, praying to the Lord ahead of us and beside us.  G. K. Chesterton, Roman Catholic convert, novelist, writer:

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”

I substitute “Church” for “tradition”.  Even two or three are gathered together at the Lamb’s High Feast, there are more:  angels, archangels and all the company of heaven.  

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

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Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

Collect for the Day:

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament LessonIsaiah 50:5–10

Psalm of the Day: Psalm 36:5–10; antiphon: v. 9

Epistle Lesson1 Peter 2:21–24

Gospel Lesson:  St. John 12:1–23

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  (John 12: 23b “…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12: 43).

The glory that comes from  the Old Adam always praises the glory of man. As a pastor wrote after “the Oscars” ceremony:  Idolaters worshiping their idols as their idols receive an idol. This is as old as Babel.

  And all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart. (Francis Thompson)

We think that man’s glory will last the ages, as the 1,000 Year Reich proclaimed, but even the vainglorious ancient Romans knew something of the transitory nature of earthly glory:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” (General George S. Patton)

“In the cross of Christ I glory, tow’ring o’er the wrecks  of time”. Not all glory is fleeting: The glory that comes from God glorifies His Son in love for us all, and His love is before the foundations of the world, ancient yet ever new (Ephesians 1: 4-5).  The Holy Monday Gospel is the severe contrast between the poverty of the glory that comes from man with the glory that comes from God. 

The evangelist John and many other eye witnesses of the Word testified, “…we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’(John 1: 14). The glory coming from God is His extravagant and costly mercy, as seen “when Mary anointed the Lord’s feet”.  Judas was pinching pennies,not understanding such love, nor the Giver at the table.  Judas and the Pharisees magnifies the Adamic  lust after the glory of this world.  Judas could not understand Mary’s joy that her brother Lazarus was alive by the Word of Jesus.   Like Judas, the Old Adam is a thief, stealing to get ahead, attempting to rob God of the glory for one’s self.   As old as Eve (Genesis 3: 5). The glory coming from God is finally the costly blood of His Son for those who are poor in spirit to anoint our heads and feet with His forgiveness (Matthew 5: 3).Human reason, unaided by the revelation of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, can not understand such love. As  Mary anointed the Lord’s Body for His burial, the Lord has anointed us with His blood so our sin, our self itself is buried with Him, and that as He is risen,we too may walk in the newness of life (Romans 6: 4).  As our Lord said after His anointing:

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (St. Mark 14)

We do not proclaim any good news of the rich and famous, Caesars and presidents, for there is none. In the whole world we remember what Mary did.  After the dust collects on trophies and awards and diplomas, they are forgotten but we remember with joy those who loved us. The Lord’s  love and mercy is never in the black, but always in the red, that is, in His blood.  A slave stands behind our ears who is the Lord of heaven and earth and says, ‘The glory of this world is fleeting, but  behold, I am with you even unto the end of age’ (Matthew 28: 20). 

O Lord  Jesus Christ, You who were anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, give me grace so that I may sprinkle Your feet with penitent tears and may thus be enabled to anoint the members of Your spiritual body—especially the needy and suffering ones—with the oil of compassion and gentle kindness. Amen.  (prayer by Pr. Johann Gerhard)

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The Prayer of the Day

O  Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The Old Testament Reading for the Day: Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 45: 7-17

The Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 10: 4-10

The Gospel Reading for the DayLuke 1:26-38

The Annunciation of Our Lord:  The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that God has shown her favor and will use her as the means for the Messiah’s birth. So Mary conceives Jesus when the angel says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This same Spirit who hovered over the waters and brought forth creation (Genesis 1:2) will now “hover over” the waters of Mary’s womb to conceive the creation’s Redeemer. As the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, she conceives Jesus “through her ear” (as Martin Luther says). The one who is conceived is called Holy, the Son of God. This is the moment of the incarnation of our Lord. The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person’s conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Luther preached that the greatest miracle this day was not that the Virgin conceived, but she believed.  The conception was an oral one, through the ear.  “Let it be according to Thy Word” and this Word is the Word of the Lord, the Promise, the Gospel, the Good News.  The Annunciation, or the Announcement, was without fanfare, no media crowding about, no Tweets, no TV cameras in the hick town of Nazareth. This announcement was quiet as a silent night yet spoke and would speak volumes. This announcement is for the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary and this announcement is for the beloved Son’s tomb one day for us to hear another angel’s announcement: He is not here. He is risen!  These annunciations of the Word is for us to hear so that the Lord is conceived in us in the same faith as the Virgin Mary:  “Let it be according to Thy Word”:

How 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? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10)

This announcement of the free and freeing forgiveness of sinners from the One. 

“…who was
 conceived
 by
 the 
Holy 
Spirit,
born
 of
 the
 virgin
 Mary,
suffered
 under 
Pontius
Pilate,
was
 crucified,
died
 and 
was 
buried.
He
 descended
 into
 hell.
The
 third 
day
 He 
rose
 again
 from 
the
 dead.
”(From the 2nd Article of the Apostles Creed)

This Annunciation has gone forth and still is  into the world: through the ear and into the heart, knowing the heart is a rusty tin can of sin,  and  made new in Jesus Christ by His grace alone, faith saving through the Word, taught, preached, administered in the Sacraments.  In the world of grand announcements and annunciation of sin and death, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary and Son of the Father, is for our  renunciation of the world, the flesh and the devil in the Annunciation to the Virgin. As Mary, we with the Virgin Mary,as His Church, share in the same faith as Mary in her Son, our Son as well, that prays: “Let it be according to Your Word”.  

 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9)

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Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s (1794-1872) depiction of the Israelites cross the Jordan River on dry ground as priests hold the Ark of the Covenant in the center of the river. From the Pitt Theological Library, Digital Archives, Emory University. Scripture Reference: Joshua 3

Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Joshua 3: 11

About Joshua:  Today we remember and thank God for His faithful servant, Joshua. Joshua, the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, is first mentioned in Exodus 17 when he was chosen by Moses to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. He was placed in charge of the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 33:11) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent to survey the land of Canaan (Num 13:8). Later, he was appointed by God to succeed Moses as Israel’s commander-in-chief. He eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and directed the Israelites’ capture of Jericho. He is remembered especially for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (Josh 24:1–27), concluding with the memorable words, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”(24:15). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Some may know he was “Israel’s commander-in-chief”. Some may know that the 6th book of the Bible is named after him.  Most people might know that “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho.”  The Battle of Jericho is recorded in chapter 6 and then follow 18 chapters of the Conquest of the Land.   Joshua and the Israelites fought against the seven nations:

the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, Hivites, Girgashites and the Perizzites.

Joshua and the Israelites fought many a bloody battle. Modern/post-modern ‘sensibilities’ do not like the Book of Joshua because it is so ‘militaristic’ and violent.  The Promised Land was given by the LORD but the people fought for it.  We think enemies can be won over to be  ‘nice’ like us. Give me a break.  The seven nations had “detestable practices” , such as “child sacrifices, the practice of divination or sorcery, and occult activity.  In addition, Leviticus 18 and 20 detail the rampant sexual depravity among the Canaanites.” (“The Peoples of Canaan, The Lutheran Study Bible, page 345). 

What follows after the entrance into the Land, the Crossing of the Jordan, the first circumcisions and Passover therein, and then the Battle of Jericho, in the next 18 chapters is quite a slog.  They,  and only the Israelites, then were engaged in both physical and spiritual warfare, physically killing the enemies.  Spiritually we must kill enemies, 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, againstthe spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6: 12, from the Epistle Reading for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (9/2/2012)

Yet they are enemies, the cosmic powers, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, even in the Church, giving their consent to sexual immorality   and covetousness.  This blind world does not see it but we can see the breaking of every commandment every day on our favorite television programs. We have seen it in ourselves by God’s Law and we cry out, Kyrie Eleison, Lord, have mercy.    By God’s grace alone in Jesus Christ, we see the Canaanite, Jebusite etc. occupation of our own souls.  The name “Joshua”, literally means “God Saves”.  Joshua in Hebrew is pronounced, Yeshua and transliterated into Greek it became Iesus, the very Name in the New Testament, then transliterated into Jesus.

Joshua of old led the Israelites through the waters of the Jordan into the promised land for the conquest.  Jesus Christ leads us through the waters of Holy Baptism into the promised land of eternal life and leads, “the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12: 2) for our struggles, the crucified and risen Lord before us, beside us, within us, around us. He is the new and living covenant of the Lord of all the living who went through the waters for us and our salvation. Yes, it is a slog when we see politicians approving abortion and the abortions of their conscience.  It is a slog when we see church bodies emasculate even the mention of  spiritual warfare as “too militaristic” so that a man and a woman does not stand in the battle.  It is a slog when in our lives we see so many fighting and fears within and without.  But Joshua took a stand with his house:  we will serve the Lord.  Jesus Christ took His stand and served the Lord to us all, the LORD God of Sabaoth for our battles and struggles to defeat the Hittites, the Canaanites etc.and now by His grace alone won over to the Lord.  He made us His own, forgiven and drafted into His army. Joshua delcared as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. In Baptism we renounce the devil and all his empty and false promises.   More than ever, we need the conscientious desicision of every family to say as Joshua did, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”, and not the false gods and practices of those around us, not only for our salvation but others to come to faith in Jesus Christ. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Your servant Joshua led the children of Israel through the waters of the Jordan River into a land flowing with milk and honey. As our Joshua, lead us, we pray, through the waters of our Baptism into the promised land of our eternal home, where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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You will find a hundred thousand people who regard silver mined from the earth as a real treasure. They will not shrink from laboring night and day to acquire such a perishable treasure. Would to God that we could gradually train our hearts to believe that the preacher’s words are God’s Word and that the man addressing us is a scholar and a king. As a matter of fact, it is not an angel or a hundred thousand angels but the Divine Majesty Himself that is preaching there. To be sure, I do not hear this with my ears or see it with my eyes; all I hear is the voice of the preacher, or of my brother or father, and I behold only a man before me. But I view the picture correctly if I add that the voice and words of father or pastor are not his own words and doctrine but those of our Lord and God. It is not a prince, a king, or an archangel whom I hear; it is He who declares that He is able to dispense the water of eternal life.

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In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21: 25, the last verse of Judges)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53: 6)

In an article,  In Martin Luther’s Church the Pastor Asks: Where Have All the Protestants Gone?”, a German Lutheran pastor, Pr. Block,  states that during the time of Communism the churches were fuller then in Germany than today and he offers this explanation:

“Belonging to the church meant taking a stand, to say, ‘This is what I believe in and I take the consequences.’ Today people think, I’m lord of my own life, why do I need the church? 

The hymn “Lord to Thee I make confession” , the first verse is above in the clip-art, (Lutheran Service Book, #608) is from the 17th Century. The penitent’s sin is choosing for himself his way, disregarding the way of the Lord for him and to him.  Looking at the hymn verse and the Bible passages above, the only incorrect portion of Pastor Block’s quote is the implication that somehow this is new…and to say in times of temporal peace, I believe in the Lord, is still to take the consequences.

 Just read an article today that people have a hard time saying, “no” nowadays.  Again, we always have but maybe there is something to the fact it’s harder these days:  we all want to be liked and the moral compass of God’s Law is denied.  Pastors are not to say “no” any longer but be “affirming”…which ends up affirming wrong and that is not serving the neighbor in love.  

We all have gone the wrong way or tend to, go “my way”.  Reading novels, bios of famous people, people I have known, looking into the mirror of the Law of God and when the way is my own choosing, it is a dead end.   The Lord puts up the sign of His terrors to stop us in His Law:

Then He shows us the sign of our forgiveness that we repent in Him, as He has borne each and every wrong of each and every one us, as He calls us  by name, John 10:3:

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Joel 2: 12—19  Psalm 51: 1—13   2 Corinthians 5: 20b—6: 10       Sermon Text:  St. Matthew 6: 1—6,   16—21

Carly Simon’s 1972 hit song, “You’re So Vain” and this is the refrain:

You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you 
You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you 
Don’t you? Don’t You? 

Changed for Lent:

You’re so vain, you probably  think that Lent is about you

You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think that Lent is about you

Don’t you?  Don’t you?

I’m of sufficient age (60) that growing up Lutheran we never ‘did ashes’ or “give some thing up for Lent”.  It was deemed too “Catholic”, but of course Lutherans are catholics, reformed catholics or evangelical catholics.  But now when I hear a bunch of Lutherans stand around jibber jabbering about  what they “gave up the Lent”, as if they’re talking about the weather or sports, and then say, Oh, no I can’t have chocolate for Lent, first I want to scream, Yes, you can!  The Lord God has not inspired any Scripture passage,  ‘Ye shall give up chocolate for Lent, lest ye get spiritual pimples.’  The way “giving up something for Lent” has devolved, yes, churches and Christians seem to be teaching just this:  Lent is about us.  About our vows, our spiritual discipline, maybe even with the intention of giving up something so I will make me better, or I can make me more spiritual,  and it’s like spraying Bactine on a melanoma, it’s like putting a spiritualized band aid on the wounds of sin, death and the power of the devil,

Yet, let’s get straight, though,  what the Lord teaches, when you give alms, when you pray, when you fast, and He did not teach, if you give to the poor, if you fast, if you pray.  When not if.  If my purpose is to be seen by people, teaches Jesus, with giving to the poor, literally blowing my own horn, seen by others with my long verbal prayers or how somber and noble I am in fasting, then Jesus said:  you have your reward.  The Lord is clear He is our reward. The Lord is our reward.  Prayer, fasting and alms-giving are about three things very dear to us all:  words, food and money, all of which we get pretty passionate about and with.  The fasting, praying and almsgiving redirects their use toward the Lord our reward.    Lent is not about what we are passionate about, and if that’s the case, then Facebook is Lent 24/7.  Lent is all about the Lord’s Passion.

I have a series of black and white photos that I purchased from a well-known artist in East Northport, Long Island.  In 1952, the artist was in France.  France has many roadside shrines and one life size depiction of the Crucifix needed repair work. When the workers took down the “corpus”, that is the metal statue of the crucified Lord, they discovered a beehive inside and fled the site and so the artist came along and took the series of photos of the dead Christ on the ground.  One of those photos can be seen on the top of this post.  In the Lutheran Confessions, those who are hyper-spiritual are called in German the “schwarmer”, translated as “enthusiasts”, those who teach that by their vibrant spirituality they can give the Lord God Almighty a helping hand to save them.  He doesn’t need it.  He has in His nail-imprinted hands.  And schwarmer literally means “swarming”, as in bees.  Those bees that day in France drove the workers away and so does all of our spiritual enthusiasms.  Or the despair that I am not that schwarmer, enthused and the word “enthuse” literally means in God and so because I am not that spiritual, then there is despair. Those enthusiasms can drive people away. And so, You think that Lent is about you, don’t you?  It’s not about our passion but His Passion, His Word to you and I.   We can be very passionate about a great deal.  Some of it’s good as in love of a job well done, taking care of those we love, but our passions go overboard as in those three aspects of life most dear to us:  words, food and money.  Words used to damn someone, to trivialize life and a friend’s reputation in gossip.  Can you imagine a Christian of old seeing TV shows which have one purpose:  to watch people eat?  But of course, by God’s grace knowing sin and the Savior, they wouldn’t be too surprised.  Money is the number 1 idol on earth.  People watch the Oscars because it’s a parade of pretty  rich people we want to be.  A pastor noted that the Oscars are, “The idolatry of Americans watching their idols win actual idols.”. 

Words are also the Word of God in our prayer to the Lord. It is by food, bread and wine, He gives us His body and blood for famished souls in His forgiveness, in His Passion.  With money, even if we gain the whole world, we lose our souls and so He has bought us, not with silver or gold but His precious blood.  The Lord redirects our use of words, food and money, to Him and our souls and our neighbors in need.  On our own, our use of them is ashes and death. 

The only reason we can return, repent is “…He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. (Joel 2:13) When you know you are alarmed over your sin and terrified by the thought of your sins, when you know you justly deserve the Lord’s temporal and eternal punishment, that the Lord is angry with you:  this is godly sorrow.  When you realize that anything that you can do on your own, in your spirituality, will not cover the sin of your soul. When I  realize that giving up, say, chocolate or  whatever for Lent and again it’s like putting a band-aid a corpse, there is nothing I can do, save say, Lord, have mercy. When you despair over your misdeeds, not because civil law has caught you, but God’s Law has, this is godly sorrow.  The only reason for the reality of our return is the Lord, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The sign of the cross on your foreheads remind us of sin, dust we are and dust we shall return, the Lord’s just judgment.  And it is the sign of the One who died and rose for you, who lives to intercede for us all, who so loved the world that He gave Himself, and He is the Beloved of the Father before all worlds.   Fasting, praying, giving to the poor is to focus our communion with the Only One Who ever was crucified, died and rose for you and Who could and has.  The discipline of Lent is not to look into your soul to save yourself, but to look to the Lord who is your salvation and this is  the Faith,  and so to serve your neighbor in love.   Godly grief, good grief leading to repentance as is the repentance  which, “…leads to salvation without regret”.  (2 Corinthians 7:10) Just think:  Salvation without regret, without sorrow and the positive of that negative is one thing only:  joy.  No “I should haves”, “I could of”…that’s regret.  The Law of God shows us what we have done and not done, and the Gospel gives what He has done:  this is what Lent is all about.  He did in His costly sorrow, His good grief, the sinless One becoming sin that we become His righteousness (from tonight’s Epistle reading), His Life. In this sense Lent is about us because we are so vain and His paschal song is about us and our salvation.   “Get used to believe that Christ is a REAL Savior and that you are a REAL sinner…He was deadly serious when He sent His own Son into the world and sacrificed Him for our sake” (Luther)  The devil wants you to look inside, the Lord turns out to Himself in true repentance, it is a daily joyful repentance. This is Lent.    For in this Christian Church He fully forgives your sin and the sins of all believers.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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