Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

There was a rock station yesterday giving away a free divorce for Valentine’s Day   and Planned Parenthood encouragesabortions for Valentine’s Day, or as the President said in support of abortion, no woman should be punished for having a child.   The morning after Valentine’s Day might include the “morning after” pill to stop gestation, or ‘freedom’ from one’s spouse by yet another divorce or a stranger in bed after a “hook-up”. What has become of love and marriage, or is it marriage and then love?  For a solid reflection on that question read Chad Bird’s article in The Federalist, “Giving Away a Divorce on Valentine’s Day”.  Valentine’s Day is a far cry from the little known Saint Valentine.

Someone wrote a graffiti, “Love is Enough” and another person wrote, “No, it’s not”…especially the way “love” is understood these days as only lust.  The Gospel lesson for tomorrow, the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, includes Matthew 5:26-28.  Jesus goes to the heart, the will. As the country lyric has it correctly about himself and us all: “I’ve looked for love in all the wrong places”.  There  is only person and place to look for the meaning of love and His Name is Jesus Christ and the place is His Cross.  Luther’s Seal may be the best Valentine’s Day card: His Cross in our hearts killing sin, hence, black, but making our hearts alive and beating.  Love for loveless shown. Luther also wrote that ring around it is gold, the color of heaven, but it is also the color of a wedding ring, complete with the purity of a white rose.  He can make the foulest clean.  Hear His Word and receive His Sacrament tomorrow on the Lord’s Day. A blessed morning after Valentine’s Day!

Read Full Post »

The TV sitcom, The Office is about just that:  an office.  ‘Dunder-Mifflin’ is a company that sells paper for businesses.  That’s it.  What made this sitcom such a hit? What was the “com” in the “sit” (situation), i.e. comedy?  The boss, ‘Michael Scott’, was always desirous to be more than a boss of an office whose goal is simply better sales and service.   Michael wanted the office, that is, his co-workers, to be friends or even more: a family. He wanted to be their friend, counselor, cheerleader, big brother.  And so, Michael insinuated himself into the lives of the employees.  I found this sit-com to be at times very funny and at times painfully exasperating to watch Michael at “work”.  He went beyond the stated goal of the office:  selling paper and providing a friendly and efficient service.

I assume that the reason this caught on is that many who work in other offices in other companies and corporations find this as well:  the corporation/office going beyond its stated goals.  Please notice how many times the word “community” is invoked in the media, not about a town or a congregation but for corporations, people of similar likes, government, etc.  A community are people living in closer, well, communion, with each other.  Certainly, mother and son is a closer communion than employer/employee.  The sitcom “The Office” with it’s various crossovers of the limits of an office that sells paper could be humorous…but the crossovers of the God given limits of various offices can be downright tragic.

In the Book of Concord: The Lutheran Confessions (from here on, BoC), the Reformers teach the Biblical understanding of “office”.  Their first concern is the office of Pastor/priest.  In the time of the Reformation, Church and society both thought that the office of monk or nun, and with it, celibacy was a superior way to attain to heaven.   As in another sitcom when an Italian waitress’ son says he wants to be priest, she declares:  “I have a get-of-hell card!”  First, there is no office by which one simply doing it attains heaven, then Jesus Christ died for no reason.   Second:  The Reformers noticed that monk/nun is not found in Scripture but on the first pages of the Bible you read about marriage between man and woman, husband and wife and so father and mother.

Monk is a man-made office.  Parent is a God-given office.   Mother and Father are offices. This may sound funny in our ears.  When I think of “office”, I immediately think of a place…but it is more than a place.  I opine that the BoC put into our vocabulary a word as crucially important:  vocation.  Vocation is practically a synonym for office in the BoC..  Mothers, fathers, children, husbands and wives are God given vocations, offices.  In fact derived from them are teachers and governing authorities.  There are also vocations in work. God gives work as well.  All are true callings. These are offices in creation, in the created orders of this world.  In the Kingdom of God, through His Church, He established the office of pastor. These are all God pleasing vocations by which we serve God and neighbor.

In The Small Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther, he listed “The Table of Duties” for the various offices/vocations. The duties of each said office is described by the appropriate Scripture passages.   In the Catechism, the Scripture verses are printed out but for sake of space I only include the citation but each is worth reading.

For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers. 1 Tim. 3:2ff ; Titus 1:6

What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors. 1 Cor. 9:14;Gal. 6:61 Tim. 5:17-18; Heb. 13:17

Concerning Civil Government. Rom. 13:1-4

What Subjects Owe to the Magistrates. Matt. 22:21; 1 Pet. 2:13f; 1 Tim. 2:1f; Titus 3:1;Rom. 13:1,5ff

For Husbands. Col. 3:9 1 Pet. 3:7

For Wives. 1 Pet. 3:6Eph. 5:22

For Parents. Eph. 6:4

For Children. Eph. 6:1-3

For Male and Female Servants, Hired Men, and Laborers. Eph. 6:5ff ; Col. 3:22

For Masters and Mistresses. Eph. 6:9Col. 4:1.

For Young Persons in General. 1 Pet. 5:5-6

For Widows. 1 Tim. 5:5-6

For All in Common. 1 Tim. 2:1-2

Rom. 13:8ff

Notice the following aspects of the offices/vocations above:

  1. Overlap  I am a Father, Husband, Pastor, Son, Citizen.  I hold 4 offices and called to each one.  At various times, one office will take precedence over the others.  Your 9-5 job is not your only calling nor  even the most important!
  2. Service  Each office renders a service to our neighbors:  family, friends, co-citizens of both the kingdom of God and the kingdoms, nation wherein we dwell.  Within our vocations we serve and love our neighbor. Our vocations do not save us.  Only the absolutely unique of Messiah, as He fulfilled that vocation perfectly, has saved us.  Our vocations do not save us but they help and serve our neighbors.
  3. Limitations  Each office/vocation has limitations.  Just like a physical office has walls, there are boundaries to each office/vocation with each office’s respective duties.  For instance: A  civil authority does not preach the Gospel.  This is a confusion of offices.
  4. Trespasses of Office  A trespass is just that: a crossing over of a boundary, a limitation and this causes problems that are both humorous and tragic.

Part II

It is trespasses of offices/ vocations that cause sin.  For instance, when the offices  of say, Mother and  Son are crossed, and a mother lays with her son, this is gross violation of office.  Or when a teacher has intercourse with her student.  This is an egregious example but we know it happens, but a lot of the confusion of office sounds good initially but is a  gross denial of the office.

The holder of an office is to serve the office in behalf of others, according to the principles of that office, not for the office to serve the holder of it.  In Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer on “The Fuhrer Principle”, or Leader principle prevalent in Germany at the turn of the last century and imbibed fully by Adolph Hitler. Bonhoeffer’s critique of this principle is actually quite simple: “The Leader is completely divorced from any office, he is essentially and only the ‘the Leader’”. Bonhoeffer points out that “office” restricts any leader from acting on his own accord, or charisma because the man who fills the office is accountable before “penultimate authorities” such as “Reich or state” which are all accountable to God. The purpose of any office, in politics or church  is to be of service. But once, as in the Fuhrer Principle, the great divorce between man and office the following occurs:

“If he understands his function in any other way than as it is rooted in fact, if he does not continually tell his followers quite clearly of the limited nature of his task and of their own responsibility, if he allows himself to surrender to the wishes of his followers, who would always make him their idol—then the image of the Leader will pass over into the image of the mis-leader, and he will be acting in a criminal way not only towards those he leads, but also towards himself.”

This idolatry has become endemic in a media age. So-called ‘evangelists’ have so-called ‘ministries’ with their names before the word “ministry”. I have thought “Mark Schroeder Ministries” has a great alliterative ring to it and it does. The Old Adam wants others to be attached to the personality and so control others by the dark urges of unregenerated flesh. Now at first this all appears to be “good”. The congregation wants a pastor with a winsome personality, a charismatic presence in the pulpit (or walking up and down the aisles) who is a friend to all. The pastor buys into it. And so do presidential candidates: “We are the ones we have been waiting for” (Candidate Obama). For instance, previous Presidents in televised addresses to the nation speak from  the Oval Office, but our current President did so from the East Room of White House, with it’s hallway, complete with columns as backdrop. Then with these idolatries of varying degrees, the office is disregarded and this is “criminal”, breaking the Law of God and the laws of men, in our nation, The Constitution. An important Scripture verse in regards to the purpose of the pastoral office in our day, as in was in the charismatic milieu of the Roman Empire is 2 Corinthians 4:5.

In a previous congregation, a woman who was smart legal secretary, an accountant, wife and mother took on the responsibility of church treasurer.  We were talking on the phone and she lamented that she wished she could do more for the congregation but she was swamped.  I reminded her about her offices, not mentioning the word “office” and I said that is the way you serve the Lord.  After a pause, she said, Thanks Pastor, it’s like big weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Knowing our calling and the calling and offices of others can go along way to know who we are and what God expects of us.  We will violate our offices and so Luther in The Small Catechism, in the Order of Confession, instructs clearly and rightly, which is to say Biblically, about vocations and our not keeping them and so please note: most of the Order of Confession and Absolution is about our offices/vocations:

What sins should we confess?

Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the confessor we should confess those sins alone which we know and feel in our hearts.

Which are these?

Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, a man-servant or maid-servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any one by words or deeds; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted aught, or done other injury.

Pray, Propose to Me a Brief Form of Confession.

Answer.

You should speak to the confessor thus: Reverend and dear sir, I beseech you to hear my confession, and to pronounce forgiveness to me for God’s sake.

Proceed!

I, a poor sinner, confess myself before God guilty of all sins; especially I confess before you that I am a man-servant, a maidservant, etc. But, alas, I serve my master unfaithfully; for in this and in that I have not done what they commanded me; I have provoked them, and caused them to curse, have been negligent [in many things] and permitted damage to be done; have also been immodest in words and deeds, have quarreled with my equals, have grumbled and sworn at my mistress, etc. For all this I am sorry, and pray for grace; I want to do better.

A master or mistress may say thus:

In particular I confess before you that I have not faithfully trained my children, domestics, and wife [family] for God’s glory. I have cursed, set a bad example by rude words and deeds, have done my neighbor harm and spoken evil of him, have overcharged and given false ware and short measure.

And whatever else he has done against God’s command and his station, etc.

But if any one does not find himself burdened with such or greater sins, he should not trouble himself or search for or invent other sins, and thereby make confession a torture, but mention one or two that he knows. Thus: In particular I confess that I once cursed; again, I once used improper words, I have once neglected this or that, etc. Let this suffice.

But if you know of none at all (which, however is scarcely possible), then mention none in particular, but receive the forgiveness upon your general confession which you make before God to the confessor.

Then shall the confessor say:

God be merciful to thee and strengthen thy faith! Amen.

Furthermore:

Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?

Answer.

Yes, dear sir.

Then let him say:

As thou believest, so be it done unto thee. And by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive thee thy sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Depart in peace.

But those who have great burdens upon their consciences, or are distressed and tempted, the confessor will know how to comfort and to encourage to faith with more passages of Scripture. This is to be merely a general form of confession for the unlearned.

Only in Jesus Christ’s absolution, which is absolute, can we proceed.  God grant it in our dark days!

Read Full Post »

Prayer of the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

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

1 Samuel 2: 9, from The Song of Hannah

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture:

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

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

 

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

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

Collect of the Day:

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

7Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

Nathan said this after a story of adultery, murder, lies, deception and betrayal by King David, God’s man.  David saw a beautiful woman while he strolled on the roof of his palace.  He sent for her and they lay together.  So seemingly harmless, a little midafternoon enjoyment, except both David and Bathsheba were already married but not to each other.  What could it hurt?  Like a certain fruit in Eden, “…it was a delight to the eyes”.   Eventually Bathsheba sends word, I’m pregnant.  Her husband Uriah the Hittite is fighting for the armies of the Lord under King David.  David concocts a simple scheme:  he gives a gives a furlough to Uriah to go home to his wife in the middle of battle, so he can make love to his wife.  The scheme is transparent:  Uriah will think he is the father.  Uriah refuses because as an honorable soldier he tells the King he cannot leave his men, and so sleeps outside the palace, and does not go home.  Then David invites Uriah to the palace, let him party and drink, get drunk so he goes down to make love with his wife.  But he refuses again because of solidarity with his men.  When Uriah refused the second time, David has another simple, but this time deadly scheme.  David tells one of his generals to put Uriah on the front lines where the fighting is the heaviest.  It works:  Uriah is killed in battle. Now that solves the problem…maybe for David, for the moment, as men and women will think, but it does not solve the problem. The Lord’s solution is David’s salvation. 

 The Lord sends one of his prophets to bring the Word of God.  This where the Old Testament reading begins when Nathan the prophet tells King David  the story of the poor man with the ewe lamb that he and his family loved dearly.  A traveler comes to a rich man’s home and the rich man wants to give him the best:  lamb. He does not want to kill one of his herd. The rich man takes the poor man’s lamb and slaughters it. David is enraged, stating that the rich man should die because he showed no pity, no love.  Nathan:  You are that man.  The Lord’s accusing Word of Law screams into David’s ears and heart.  The hammer of God’ Law thunders as it did on Sinai when the Lord finds out sinners in their trespasses.  More than when Saul threw his spear at the shepherd boy David and nailed his cloak to the wall, David escaped.  Here David could not escape.  There is no exit under the Law of God.  David knew this well when he wrote, Psalm 32, today’s Psalm:

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

 

 5I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin

David groaned under the weight of what he did. The Lord’s hand was heavy upon him.  I think the cover-up is as worse as the trespass because one trespass is compounded with lies.  David could not cover up any longer.  He confessed. He knew he did wrong before Nathan ever came. Everyone does but in the preaching of God’s word of Law and Promise, David could get it out, into the open:  confess. There is a suffocating selfishness in man that only the Holy Spirit can ventilate.  The rich man slaughtered the poor man’s lamb for his appetite and his table, as David slaughtered the poor man for his bed.  The Lamb of God, the best,  was slaughtered for our appetites for what is not ours, for what cannot fill the heart, for what we covet and cannot nor should not have.  You are that man.  We are that man. He is the God who bore our weight of wrong upon His body and soul, the sinless one in the sinners’ stead.

The woman who came washing Jesus’ feet was declared a sinner by Jesus’ host the Pharisee, Simon.  “If you knew what kind of woman is touching you…” Jesus knew and so did the woman. Simon was not telling them anything they did not know: Jesus knew as He is true God, the woman knew by God’s true law. She knew for a long time.  But now she confessed it with her love for Jesus as He fully and freely forgave  her.  She knew the hammer of the Law and in Christ Jesus she had heard the depth of God’s forgiveness in Christ.  Still to be heard in the future at this time was the hammer of  the nails into His hands. Simon was telling them something about himself: he looked down on her. He was not like her…but he was. He did not welcome Jesus.  He gave Him no kiss. He did not wash His feet.  He was above it all, he loved little because maybe Simon thought he was without sin. When we think we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but when we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1).   Jesus physically looked down on her but He did not look down upon her.  He came to lift her up out of her transgression, freed.   You are that woman. We are that woman, His bride the Church.   Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…He takes care us His bride.  He has, He will.  The woman washing His feet with her hair is rather extravagant, out there, extreme, but so is His forgiveness, as extravagant, out there, extreme is the Cross to cover sin and death in His blood;  because sin is extreme and out there. He made us His saints, faith holding Christ from head to toe.  We have no land but until the Day our souls are His holy land to protect with His Word as He covers us in His Sacraments and Word. 

 The Bible is not the record of heroes and good people.  Rev. William Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, in Florida  and grandson of Billy and Mrs. Graham gets it:

“…the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. That’s not a typo. The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people. Far from being a book full of moral heroes to emulate, what we discover is that the so-called heroes in the Bible are not really heroes at all. They fall and fail, they make huge mistakes, they get afraid, their selfish, deceptive, egotistical, and unreliable. The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with his rescue; our sin with his salvation; our failure with his favor; our guilt with his grace; our badness with his goodness.

 As we heard in the lessons today:  the woman at the feet of Jesus, King David, Paul…all crucified in Christ, raised to be with Him, dwell in Him.  Confession and absolution is key, the office of the keys of His reign, to free those in imprisoned, to lock out transgression in confession and absolution. His absolution, forgiveness is absolute.  It comes in two forms:  public rite and private rite.  With one another as His saints who sin we can confess and forgive.  Here in the penitential rite and sometimes with a pastor.  The Lord has given us this key. And when temptation comes a calling, don’t answer? No answer with prayer, Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  You are the man.  You are the woman.  In Christ Jesus all that changes.  You are His man.  You are His woman. Faith holds Him head to toe, crucified and lifted us up in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

Read Full Post »

Lessons:

Isaiah 11: 1-5

Psalm 138

Romans 12: 9-16

St. Luke 1: 39-56

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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

Scripture Readings
2 Samuel 7:4-16
Romans 4:13-18
Matthew 2:13-152:19-23

Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, from the house of Your servant David You raised up Joseph to be the guardian of Your incarnate Son and the husband of His mother, Mary. Grant us grace to follow the example of this faithful workman in heeding Your counsel and obeying Your commands; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Reflection:  I think  March 19th, Joseph, Guardian of Jesus should be observed by the Church as Fathers’ Day, as the following reflection by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon in Touchstone magazine makes clear and as does the issue of Touchstone on St. Joseph also makes clear.  (BTW:  Touchstone is an excellent Christian and orthodox magazine).

There is something strongly impressive in the Bible’s final remark on the life of St. Joseph: “Then [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. . . . And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:51–52). The Son of Godwas raised, that is to say, as any little boy should be raised, growing day by day in the practical and moral skills of life, the formation of character, even as he grew in height and build. While God’s Son assumed humanity in his mother’s womb, it was Joseph who taught him what it means to be a man. Thus, Joseph was to leave the forming mark (charakterin Greek) of his own manhood on the God-Man. Jesus, in his hometown, was known as “the carpenter’s son” (ho tou tektonos huios—Matt. 13:55).

Few if any writers have shown as much exegetical insight into St. Joseph, I think, as Bernard of Clairvaux, who preached a homily on this saint back in the twelfth century. Bernard spoke of Joseph as “the man of virtue,” who “deserved to be so honored by God that he was called, and was believed to be, the father of God” (meruit honorari a Deo ut pater Dei et dictus et creditus sit).

Detecting the subtle suggestions dropped in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Bernard compared St. Joseph to his Old Testament counterpart, Joseph the Patriarch. Both men, Bernard noted, were men of chastity, unwilling to touch women who did not belong to them. Each man, likewise, was driven into Egypt by the ill will (invidia) of others, in the first case by the older sons of Jacob, and in the second by King Herod.

Both men were given divine messages in their dreams. The older Joseph “provided grain, not only for himself, but for all the people,” while the later Joseph “received for safekeeping the Living Bread from heaven, both for himself and for the whole world.”

In the biblical genealogies, Jesus’ lineage is traced back to David, not through his mother, but through Joseph, to whom Jesus had no biological relationship (Matt. 1:16; Luke 3:23–31). Thus, Jesus inherited the messianic title “Son of David,” not through Mary, but through the man who served him, literally,in loco parentis (in place of parents).

Bernard was impressed by Joseph’s Davidic lineage:

Truly of the house of David, this man [vir iste] Joseph truly descended from the royal stem, noble in lineage, more noble in mind. . . . Indeed was he ason of David, not only in flesh, but also in faith, in holiness, in devotion. The Lord found him, as it were, another David, a man after his own heart, to whom he could safely commit the most secret and most sacred purpose [arcanum] of his heart—to whom, as to another David, he manifested the deep and concealed things of his wisdom, and whom he would not permit to be ignorant of the Mystery which none of the princes of this world have known. To him it was given to see what many kings and prophets had longed to see, but had not seen, and to hear, but had not heard. And he was given, not only to see and to hear, but also to carry, to lead, to embrace, to kiss, to nurture, and to guard. (Super Missus EstHomiliae2.16)

Every vocation is unique, surely, in the sense that the Good Shepherd calls each of his sheep by its own proper name. Still, there was something more particularly unique about the vocation of St. Joseph.

Just how does a man learn the proper form and method for being the foster-father of God’s Son and the spouse of that divine Son’s virgin mother? One suspects that there were no manuals on the subject. Joseph was obliged simply to follow God’s call wherever it led. Like Abraham, “he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). And if Abraham, in thus following God by faith, is called “our father” (Rom. 4:12), there must be some sense in which St. Joseph serves as our foster-father.

With so distinctive and demanding a vocation, we might excuse Joseph if, on occasion, he sometimes felt anxious and insecure. The available evidence, however, indicates that this was not the case. Joseph appears four times in the Gospel of Matthew, and every single time he is sound asleep. Whatever troubles Joseph endured, they did not includeinsomnia. Joseph’s vocation was not simply difficult; it was impossible. Consequently, he realized that all of it, in the end, depended on God, not himself.

(Taken from Christ in His Saints)

Read Full Post »

There was a Valentine and the caption of this cartoon fairly well sums up what we know of him.  Pr. Abrahamson has an excellent article over on the blog Brothers of John the Steadfast to show from original source material that the Church did not adapt the martyrdom of Valentine to compete with pagan customs of the 3rd century,  Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Valentine’s Day.  This is his conclusion and then I have a reflection:

So much imaginative legend has grown up around St. Valentine that today it may be hard to separate fiction from truth. This leaves us to consider why it is that we have Saint’s days in our liturgical calendar. The purpose is that we may use their example of clinging to Christ against all the storms this world can throw at them, their examples of holding fast to the doctrine of Christ for the salvation of their souls, their examples of love for God and love for neighbor in spite of their own sinfulness in this sin stained world.

Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Christ lived and died this example. He rose again to show He conquered Satan, Sin, and Death.

It wasn’t until the 1750s A.D. that men began to create the notion that the choice of St. Valentine’s day had other motivations than just the fact that February 14th was the day he was believed to have died.

This article is an effort to remove the chaff from the kernel that we may “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” without giving “heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.”

Reflection:  My opinion is. with the current disestablishment of the Church, and the rise and desire for non-ritual worship services, that the void has been filled for such rites and rituals by the secular and idolatrous culture.  Valentine’s Day is now associated, not even with romantic love, but pure lust. Valentine’s Day has become the ‘high holy day’ of coitus and coitus is it’s ‘sacrament’.    In a society in which marriage is disparaged with every turn, so “love” has been debased with every turn.  I like sit-coms on TV.  Valentine’s Day becomes the plot in many especially for “hooking-up”.  It may be my imagination but as a kid, fifty years or so ago, Valentine’s Day was just a sentimental time.  No longer.  But even love as a mere sentiment of the arrows of  “cupid”, the god Eros is dangerous, remembering Eros was the false god of ‘love’ that is  lust and from that name we have our word “erotic”. 

St. Valentine is also about love, God’s love, agape in Jesus Christ.  This is one of those rare times that Valentine’s Day falls in Lent, the day right after Ash Wednesday.  Love is not neutral.  It is a good, an ultimate good. (1 Corinthians 13: 13 ).  But sinners like me don’t love as we ought.  Jesus came in love to redeem our love and cure and heal it.  I’m sure Saul of Tarsus thought he loved: the Torah, his people and the like and he wanted to murder Christians but Jesus revealed to Him  His true love, even to one as Saul:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 6-8

Paul’s use of the 1st person plural pronouns “we” and “us” was honest and he found out about love, true love: He loved sinners to death, His death on the Cross.  Luther on the difference between agape/charity and our love :

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

The Apostle wrote in Romans 6:1ff that when we were baptized we were baptized into His death…our love is also crucified so  that His true love take root in repentance and forgiveness and our hearts are made alive.  Paul and Valentine were both martyrs for our true Love.

I send you all a Valentine, from Martin Luther, his seal:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »