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Constitution Day, is an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. It is normally observed on September 17, the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia. 

Years ago, I heard a Marine officer at the swearing in ceremony of new officers at the Virginia Military Institute tell the cadets to be sworn in that their final authority is not a man but “a bunch of words on the page”: The United States Constitution. Sadly, like the Holy Scriptures, so many want to put the Constitution through a paper shredder and reassemble to their own liking on the other end. All Americans, from the President to new commissioned officer make this oath in these or similar words:

I ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Many Americans from the farms of the Midwest to the cities of Los Angeles and New York have died to preserve the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. The Taliban is clear to see as a danger (I hope!) but what about certain community organizers and socialist/communists who want to bring about a utopian society? From the Constitution’s Preamble: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…” Note: a MORE perfect union, not a perfect union as this opens us up the greatest tyrannies: see the results of the French and Communist revolutions which had as their aim a perfect union. I maintain that those who are circumventing the Constitution are utopian terrorists.

As a Lutheran Pastor, in this blog, this may seem to be odd I recognize Constitution Day. I do so for three reasons:

1) The Constitution is the basis of our ordered and lawful republic and it is the best thing going for government to restrain a government’s monarchal aspirations and totalitarian aims. Remember the Lord Himself did not like the idea of a king in Israel, see 1 Samuel 8. The Constitution is God’s left hand to rule here.

2. The Founders knew human nature and it’s craving for idolatrous dictatorship and so wrote this document with three branches of government, plus the People and the States, to curb those aims and provide for freedom. One of my favorite lines from “Fiddler on the Roof”, a musical about 19th century Jews in the oppressive anti-Semitic czarist Russia: The students at the yeshiva ask the Rabbi is there a prayer for the czar? “A prayer for the Czar? Yes! God bless the czar and keep the czar far away from us!”. I think this sums up a lot of the Constitution.

3) As indicated, this constitutional republic is under assault as in no other time from not providing for the general welfare in cities by defunding the police, police standing down during the riots in the summer of 2020 to mask mandates, to teaching a myopic view of those who wrote Constitution were only slave owners with one purpose: so we can rule and impose our perfect society. I think the Founding Fathers knew human nature and it’s fallenness ala Jesus teaching:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  (St. Mark 7)

The founders knew explicitly or implicitly original sin. We are not the people to form a perfect union but given the severe limitation, yes, a MORE perfect union to stop our lust to want an absolute ruler. We are not the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Never before in the history of mankind has political freedom been the charter of a nation. We must fight all enemies, foreign and domestic forthrightly as Christians, without violence and malice and with charity for all.

TOP 25 QUOTES BY JAMES MADISON (of 548) | A-Z Quotes
Happy Birthday, James Madison! March 16, 1751 – Federalist Papers 51 & 53:  How The American People Hold Congress Accountable – Constituting America

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Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248.During the persecution of the roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. (From the LCMS website)

Regarding his martyrdom, from The Penguin Dictionary of Saints: 

“When persecution began again in 258, under Emperor Valerian, St Cyprian was one of the first victims. There is an account of what happened compiled directly from contemporary documents. Cyprian was first examined by the proconsul, and on affirming his adherence to the one true God, and refusing to divulge the names of his priests, he was exiled to Curubis. When a new proconsul came into office, Cyprian was brought up for trial in Carthage. He again refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. Accompanied by a tumultuous crowd, he was led to the field of Sextus; there he knelt in prayer. He gave a generous gift to the executioner, blindfolded himself, and his head was struck off.”

Reflection:  The time frame of St. Cyprian is that he lived before the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 312 which made Christianity a legal religion of the Empire.  From the time of our Lord’s Ascension to that time the Church went through persecution from social ridicule to martyrdom.  In 250, under Emperor Decius, with the threat of death, many Christians denied the faith, gave-up fellow Christians to the authorities or when told to burn incense to Caesar bought letters called,  libelli, or certificates, that they had done so. Based upon 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, the Church prayed for Caesar, but did not pray to Caesar (see the 1st Commandment).  Will we have to prove our loyalty as citizens by worshipping the false gods of the State and their apostate teachings and/or by giving up the names of fellow believers and then by not doing so risk friends, family, employment and even life? “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? I do, by the grace of God.” (One of the questions in the Lutheran rite of Confirmation (Lutheran Service Book, page 273) Cyprian was martyred for true worship.

 When the persecution ended, many wanted to return to the Church. Needless to say and to say the least, there were hard feelings.  One party wanted them to be re-baptized or one Novatus said they committed apostasy and were not saved.  He denied absolution to the repentant.  Novatus’ heresy, Novationism, was also condemned in The Augsburg Confession because he denied absolution/forgiveness.   The Bishop of Rome , Pope Stephen I said that once baptized, still baptized.  Others in North Africa disagreed but what was agreed upon that a time of penitence, that is, repentance would return one to the flock.  The Biblical understanding is  absolution for the penitent restores one to the Church.   This crucial understanding of repentance and absolution seems to be the basis of the true Reformation understanding: “Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practice what we began before, but abandoned.” (The Large Catechism).

“…having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Colossians 3:1-4]. Let us, then, who in Baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ’s.”  –Cyprian of Carthage

Remove the pow’r of sin from me/And cleanse all my impurity/That I may have the strength and will/ Temptations of the flesh to still.

—Renew Me, 0 Eternal Light (LSB 704:2)

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Quote/s of the Day – 16 September – The Memorial of Sts Cornelius & Cyprian  – AnaStpaul

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This audio is an interview of Dr. Veith by Pastor Todd Wilken Issues, Etc. This is not an interview regarding our emotions at 9/11, and after, but what we have learned from 9/11. I think this is a good overview, not only on 9/11 but the cultural decline and malaise from 20 years ago which helped me to gain more perspective on the question that as a Pastor I have heard myself and others query: How did we get in the mess we’re in? Here is the link to the interview.

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In the ruins of the World Trade Center, these twisted steel beams were found in the shape of a cross. This cross was put up right in the ruins and Mayor Guiliani had pedestal built for it. Eventually the cross, or the Ground Zero Cross was put into the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Excerpt  from President George W.  Bush’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, at the National Cathedral, September 14th,  2001:

Our purpose as a nation is firm. Yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed, and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there is a searching, and an honesty. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Tuesday, a woman said, “I prayed to God to give us a sign that He is still here.” Others have prayed for the same, searching hospital to hospital, carrying pictures of those still missing.

God’s signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own. Yet the prayers of private suffering, whether in our homes or in this great cathedral, are known and heard, and understood.

There are prayers that help us last through the day, or endure the night. There are prayers of friends and strangers, that give us strength for the journey. And there are prayers that yield our will to a will greater than our own.

This world He created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance, and love have no end. And the Lord of life holds all who die, and all who mourn. 

God’s signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own. Yet the prayers of private suffering, whether in our homes or in this great cathedral, are known and heard, and understood.

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Meme of the Day

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The Great Divorce - C. S. Lewis - Paperback

“Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured: but we shall not call blue yellow to please those who insist on still having jaundice, nor make a midden* of the world’s garden for the sake of some who cannot abide the smell of roses.” From The Great Divorce

*A dunghill or refuse heap. (The Free Dictionary, online)

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At a trip to Walmart, I came across the crayon collection above, “Colors of the World” supposedly representing the skin colors of “people from all around the world”. If you look at the bottom photo, top row, the second and third colors from the right, note those colors: I don’t know about you, but I have not met any blue or green people! Nor looking at the white colors because if a ‘white’ person was actually white, I hope he would be going immediately to see a doctor. And I have thought that the designation of the color “yellow” for Asians in general is really off as I have never seen any human being the same color as the mustard I put on my hot dog. Native Americans are certainly not “red” like a stop light. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and others, to emphasize the diversity of races, formed the “Rainbow Coalition”. Those colors above certainly don’t look like a rainbow.

In my thirties, I was part of board of a Lutheran organization and about 20 people served on it, mostly male, white, in their 60s and 70s and all with white hair. As I was wool gathering at a meeting I realized they/we aren’t white but actually pink and with white hair. Pink and white. And now my hair color qualifies me for the pink and the white. Huh, us white people are not really white, but generally, pink. And most black people are actually brown. It’s a “black and white issue” certainly is ameliorated by calling what it actually is a, “pink and brown issue”.

Now I did not look further at the crayon collection above to see what each color is named! I think I its time for another field trip to Walmart! My thought is that even the designation of the names of the shades of humankind are kind of, well, racist as they are at best proximations and are bad labels. I think Crayola, with this collection, has tried to do a good thing for children, but since all the names of the colors and shades of our skin, are off, maybe we should just stop using those names of colors for each other.

Here is a Christian song, you may have sung when young:

Jesus loves the little children/All the children of the world/Red, brown, yellow/Black and white/They are precious in His sight./Jesus loves the little children/Of the world.

Jesus died for all the children/All the children of the world/Red and yellow/Black and white/They are precious in His sight./Jesus died for all the children/Of the world.

Jesus rose for all the children/All the children of the world/Red and yellow/Black and white/They are precious in His sight./Jesus rose for all the children/Of the world./ (Source: https://sweetslyrics.com/american-songs/jesus-loves-the-little-children-lyrics

Even though this song uses the skin color designations that don’t seem to really work and may work against racial harmony, the very best we can say, in the Lord’s love, “They are all precious in His sight”. And isn’t that a better beginning to talk and pray about our differences?

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In 1946 Pastor Henry Gerecke of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Army Chaplain was given a difficult assignment: Protestant Chaplain at the military prison in Nuremberg ministering to the Protestants among the Nazi war criminals, such as Goering, Speer, von Ribbentrop etc. Five years after that, per army orders, the Pastor was allowed to write about his ministry to the Nazis, “I Walked to the Gallows with Nazi Chiefs”. You will learn or be reminded about the importance of the Catechism, true pastoral ministry, true repentance and through it all, the power of the Gospel.

You will also read in Pastor Gerecke’s account the true story of a vocation: a pastor. As another Lutheran lay theologian, Gene Edward Veith, has suggested that Labor Day is also Vocation Day. The paths to a vocation are sometimes quite a journey as a young man tries this job, and it fails or does not fit, tries another, yet another and then finally finds his vocation (literally, a calling). This is important to remember on Labor Day that also within a vocation, as Pastor Gerecke’s calling led him to become a military chaplain…then one day being assigned to offer spiritual and pastoral guidance to the most notorious and evil men who have walked on earth. He was taken aback by this responsibility as he did not think this would ever happen. You don’t know where the Lord will lead but He is faithful in His calling to you.

Pastor Gerecke’s account is must read and can be found here:

“I Walked to the Gallows with Nazi Chiefs”

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Hannah & Mary – The Bible Study
“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)

As you just read, Hannah’s name derives from the Hebrew word for “grace”.  The New Testament lesson for today is from Ephesians 2:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The hymn verse for today, from the Lutheran Service Book is,

“By grace God’s Son, our only Savior,

   Came down to earth to bear our sin.

   Was it because of thine own merit

   That Jesus died thy soul to win?

   Nay, it was grace, and grace alone,

   That brought Him from His heavenly throne.’

This is a day of grace.  Grace is the Lord’s utterly free gift  to save sinners through faith in the Lord’s once and for all atoning sacrifice.  Grace by itself is only lovely, as the Lord’s free gift for sinners: it is powerfully saving.  Grace is for the barren and embittered, the doubting and the dead, the least, the last and the lost, those lost in the sinners’ labyrinth.  Hannah knew as she sang her song that it brings low the haughty and raises up high those of low degree. She would have a child she who was barren.   Can your most ‘powerful’ spiritual works and philosophies stave off sin and death? Hannah’s Lord has and has for you: Jesus Christ. “What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?” (“Abide With Me”)

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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

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)

Writing: Joshua the son of Nun was the minister and successor of Moses, and the leader of the people of Israel who led them through the dry bed of the Jordan into the land of Canaan. He had the same name as our Savior, Jesus Christ [since in Hebrew “Joshua” and “Jesus” are the same name], and he was a type of Christ, who led the children of the promise of Abraham through the Jordan of this life’s troubles and of death into the restfulness of eternal life. . . . When Moses died, on the first day of the 2493rd year since the world’s creation, Joshua led the people of Israel into the land of Canaan, which was promised to their fathers. He won excellent and miraculous victories for God’s chosen ones. Having conquered the kings of Canaan, he distributed the land and finally died at the age of 110. In Hebrew his name is Yehoshua or Yosua, that is, “Savior,” “Helper.”In Greek his name is lesous or lesus.—David Chytraeus (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 3:10

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… or letting them “express themselves”. 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). Joshua and the Israelites had passed over into an occupied promised land.

What follows after the entrance into the Land, the Crossing of the Jordan, is 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.  The Church does not take up the physical sword per our Lord’s commands, but spiritually we must kill enemies…actually the Lord does: sin, death and the power of the devil.

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

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 7 Nations’ 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 Jew and Gentile as, “…the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12: 2). IN and for our struggles, the crucified and risen Lord leads 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.

We are living in an occupied land.  The 7 Nations of Idolatry, Profanation, Restlessness, Greed, Adultery, Anger and Covetousness hold sway and with everyday these evil nations hold more of the land and that means her people.  And it all looks good on our various screens. The Church of the New Testament went into a Roman world and they fought, not with Caesar’s swords but the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6).  The Lord’s orders are clear:  “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them ” (Rom. 12: 14) and “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.  There are so many other Scripture verses on how to live as the Church in occupied land and the point is that those who are held captive can see the way of Jesus Christ in our life together and come to the joyful repentance.

It is a long campaign and it is a slog.  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 and fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6: 12) . It is a slog when in our lives we see so many fighting and fears within and without.  It is a slog when we are overcome by the evil around us and think no one is with us: that is what the enemy wants us to think.  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 spiritual Hittites, Canaanites etc., and now by His grace alone  who has won us over to the Lord.  He made us His own, forgiven and drafted into His army. Joshua declared as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. In Baptism we renounce the devil and all his empty and false promises and cling by faith to all the promises of God which have their, Yes in Jesus Christ.  The Ark of New Testament in Jesus leads us through the waters going to the promised land of the new heavens and the new earth.  More than ever, we need the conscientious decision of every family, every father and husband 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 won for us by Christ Jesus but others to come to faith in Jesus Christ and be saved.

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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