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Conversion of St. Paul

Lessons:  Acts 9:1-22 Psalm 67 Galatians 1:11-24 Matthew 19:27-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You turned the heart of him who persecuted the Church and by his preaching caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant us ever to rejoice in the saving light of Your Gospel and, following the example of the apostle Paul, to spread it to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About the Day:  St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascus is related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out for Damascus to arrest and bring believers to Jerusalem for trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

In the introduction above, Saul became Paul and became known, as “the great apostle”.  The ‘great’ Apostle disagreed!

“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1 Corinthians 15:8 

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ… Ephesians 3:8 (emphasis added)

Not the great, but the least!  He and the Church knew the reason:  “…because I persecuted the church of God.”  He went out of his way to imprison and kill followers of the Way and the Lord went out of His way and gave Paul eternal life in the Way. It is manifest that  God  had His purpose realized in His call to Saul of Tarsus to teach and preach to others:

1 Timothy  1:  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 

Paul became an excellent paradigm of the Lord’s transforming forgiveness:  Paul did become “the foremost” of the Lord’s “perfect patience” (from the Greek, literally, long-suffering!) for himself to show to others, “…who were to believe in (Jesus Christ) for eternal life.”

Paul knew his limitations as an apostle and a follower of Jesus:

10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 2 Corinthians 10

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 2 Corinthians 12:7

The Lord prevented Paul from getting too big for this britches. He knew humility in Christ his loving Lord so Paul could teach others the same:

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3

Again, Romans 13: : Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”  

As learned and intelligent as Paul was , he knew the pitfalls of price, such as the importance of knowledge can lead to overweening pride:    “Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) when pastoring the Corinthian church who prided themselves on their superior gifts and knowledge as if they had achieved those gifts. They were given by God, not earned by man, in the greatest gift ever given to the sinful world : the very Son of God for Paul’s and everyone’s repentance and forgiveness. Through all of the Lord’s call to Paul he was being taught the way of Christ in the Bible.

We can learn that where we are weakest, the Lord will teach us the most in His grace, mercy and peace, so we can serve and love others in Christ’s transforming forgiveness (Romans 12: 1 and following).  

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Christians Stand Trial In Finland Today For Affirming Men And Women Are Different

Historical trial – prosecutor demands fines (google translate in upper right corner)

Lord Jesus Christ, before whom all in heaven and earth shall bow, grant courage that Your children may confess Your saving name in the face of any opposition from a world hostile to the Gospel. Help them to remember Your faithful people who sacrificed much and even faced death rather than dishonor You when called upon to deny the faith. By Your Spirit, strengthen them to be faithful and to confess You boldly, knowing that You will confess Your own before the Father in heaven, with whom You and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen

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I Timothy 1-15 Photograph by Lea Rhea Photography

The Collect of the Day

Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds such as Timothy to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Appointed Lessons: Acts 16:1–5 Psalm 71: 15–24 (v. 6) 1 Timothy 6: 11–16 St. Matthew 24: 42–47

Bio:  St. Timothy had Christian believers in his family. His mother, Eunice, was a Christian woman and was the daughter of a Christian woman named Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). Acts records that St. Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and wanted Timothy to continue on with him (16:1-3). Over time, Timothy became a dear friend and close associate of Paul to whom Paul entrusted mission work in Greece and Asia Minor. Timothy was also with Paul in Rome. According to tradition, after Paul’s death, Timothy went to Ephesus, where he served as bishop and was martyred around AD 97. Timothy is best remembered as a faithful companion of Paul, one who rendered great service among the Gentile churches.

Reflection by  Fr. Valerius Herberger (21 April 1562-18 May 1627, German Lutheran preacher and theologian):

“Dearly beloved, today we celebrate the commemoration of St. Timothy. He was born in Lystra (Acts 16:2); his father was a pagan, but his mother, Eunice, born an Israelite, had accepted the Christian faith and had committed her son, Timothy, to be raised by her mother, Lois, who was also a Christian. So Timothy learned the catechism from his grandmother. See, dear parents, what the diligent training of children can do! Now since he was a good, excellent thinker, St. Paul accepted him as his colleague or chaplain, and since he improved himself daily, Paul eventually ordained him as bishop of Ephesus, where he was also killed by the raging pagans. St. Paul loved him dearly, which we can see from both epistles that he wrote to him. In 1 Timothy 1:2, he calls him his true son in the faith. From these two epistles, many passages shine forth like the stars of heaven:

1 Timothy 1:5: “The aim of the commandment is love from a pure heart and from a good conscience and from a faith unfeigned.”

1 Timothy 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out (inspired) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Since St. Paul and St. Timothy were dear friends, they were put beside each other in the calendar, and also on the day of St. Timothy, the Gospel of John 15:9-16 is read, which speaks of pure love and friendship.” (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection on the Day:  Our Lord’s Passion, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Friday is called by the Church, the Triduum, translated: The Three Days.  Today and the next two days is a kind of Triduum: Today, January 24th the Festival of St. Timothy; tomorrow, January 25th, the Festival of Conversion of St. Paul;  January 26th is  the Festival of  St. Titus.  All three of these saints were called by the Lord and His Church into the Holy Ministry. This is a triduum of the Holy Ministry. These three pastors shared in the unity of the faith and doctrine of Christ in His Church. They were faithful to the Word and not their religious ideas.  In the middle day of this pastoral triduum is the Apostle Paul and he is flanked by two pastors.  This triduum is a good time to reflect on pastors, pray for your pastor(s), rejoice in the Holy Ministry of the Church and your pastor feeding you the Word of God in Biblical teaching, praying, preaching and administering the Sacraments to all sorts of people in so many situations of life. Pray for your faithfulness to the Word of God which is inspired by the Holy Spirit in the Holy Scriptures. The Scripture passages cited above in the reflection by Valerius Herberger are good to set to memory.

Daily Bible Verses: April 2014

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Heavenly Father, You revealed to the apostle Peter the blessed truth that Your Son Jesus is the Christ. Strengthen us by the proclamation of this truth that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Confession of St. Peter:  The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of God in the New Testament would begin with the person of Peter, whose confession is the rock on which Christ would build His Church. But Peter was not alone (the “keys” given to him in Matthew 16:19 were given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:21-23). As St. Paul tells us, Peter and the other apostles take their place with the prophets as the foundation of the Church, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The confession of Peter, therefore, is the witness of the entire apostolic band and is foundational in the building of Christ’s Church. Thus the Church gives thanks to God for St. Peter and the other apostles who have instructed Christ’s Holy Church in His divine and saving truth. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Readings: Acts 4:8-13 Psalm 118:19-29  2 Peter 1:1-15  St. Mark 8:27-9:1

St. Matthew 16: 17: “ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὃτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψεν σοι ἀλλ’ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

The Greek word for “revealed” is the basis of our English word:  apocalypse.  Courtesy of the Word of God, “apocalypse”  has been part and parcel of English, except it is more known more as the adjective “apocalyptic”, as in the third definition from Merrian-Webster:  foreboding imminent disaster or final doom, as in an “apocalyptic event”.  Apocalypse means revelation and the Father in heaven revealed (‘apocalypsed”) His Son’s identity to Peter. Peter’s Confession is based upon the Father’s revelation/apocalypse. The Lord reveals His truth to little children and to St. John on the island of Patmos.  But compared to the Book of Revelation, how is the confession, Jesus is the Son of the living God, apocalyptic, portending a “final doom”?  This comes in the next exchange between Peter and the Lord:

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly.

The Cross and the Resurrection is the apocalypse, the revelation of the final doom of sin, death and the power of the devil as His risen Body who gives us eternal life and the hope of the new creation.  The apocalypse today fulfills the revelation on Mt. Sinai, Golgotha divides man’s history. God’s own Son in the flesh is apocalyptic in the joy of the Resurrection that Christ conquers death and sin.  This is St. Paul’s sermon and the sermon of the whole church that we preach Christ and Him crucified (cf. .1 Corinthians 1:23). That our Baptism is into His death and resurrection (Romans 6: 1ff) and in the Holy Communion, For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11), is likewise revelatory, apocalyptic. Holy Communion is intimately related to the completion of His apocalypse when He comes again in glory. It revelatory that as we follow Christ we bear His Cross, dying to the world and it’s treasure store and walking in the newness of life in Him (St. Mark 8: 34-38). Confession of sin and His forgiveness of it is likewise apocalyptic as the Law reveals us doom of sin and the Gospel the joy of forgiveness.  The Lord calls His Church to confess that there is salvation in Him alone and upon Christ the Rock, the Lord builds His Church.  We do not build it, the Lord does and we are living stones by which He builds His Church. He loves us whom He builds our faith to be holy and acceptable to Him our true spiritual worship.

The blessed Apostle Peter heard Jesus say to him, I will build My Church and Peter heard again the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and wrote for our edification (literally, building up) our life today awaiting His final apocalypse:

1 Peter 2 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

and

“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

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Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but ...

These are verses from Psalm 7, a strong song of feeling by King David.  These verses surely describe so many unrepentant people in the depths of evil:

12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
    he has bent and readied his bow;
13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
    making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
    and is pregnant with mischief
    and gives birth to lies.
15 He makes a pit, digging it out,
    and falls into the hole that he has made.
16 His mischief returns upon his own head,
    and on his own skull his violence descends.

My wife and I have been watching “Sharpe” about a doughty band of English sharp shooters in HRH’s Army, under the command of Lord Wellington, fighting the tyrant Napoleon.  The fighting portrayed looks like these verses and they are the tragedy of man who has cut himself off from his Lord.  In this regard so many names come to mind from man’s history: Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Jim Jones, Jeffrey Epstein…and those who followed them:  “…and on his own skull his violence descends” is graphic and historically true.  Yet, note who metes out the just punishment upon “the wicked man”:  God (vs. 12) and the wicked man himself (vs. 15)!  We do not administer the judgment of punishment, the Lord does!  We don’t or should not because, “Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord.  I will repay.” (Genesis 32: 35) Now we do need to do something:  speak and fight with the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God for the truth: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them”, Eph. 5: 11. And so speaking for the truth will get us into trouble: Ps. 7: 1,

 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
    save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
    rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

The Lord will deliver us through, not around, the wicked men, sometimes they will hurt us and He will punish. 

In all of this there is great temptation.  C. S. Lewis in his fiction, The Screwtape Letters, in Letter 10, Screwtape, a senior tempter from hell, advices in his nephew Wormwood, that one of the ways to get “your patient” to fall from God is the use of the future, as this time at it’s least real and where all temptation lies.  Screwtape advises:  

“…we want a man hag-ridden by the Future — haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth — ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other — dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see.

Always thinking about how we can avert evil and punish the wicked, and we end up wicked men. Visions of an imminent heaven or hell on earth is the stuff, left or right, 24/7 in all our media and then our ‘faith’ is dependent on our schemes, not the righteousness of God. Our faith is from God.

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
    and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.(vs. 17)

The Word of the Lord also encourages, Psalm 37: 7-8:

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

And the only way to resist in the slough of temptation to fret or wield punishment is “His righteousness”, that is Jesus Christ, who died for sinners:  all of us.

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We were baptized to pray, to call upon God aright, learning His Word which is His will for us and so leaning on His Word. The Lord invites us ever to prayer. He teaches prayer and the way to pray. He inspires our prayer. He intercedes for us.

Concordia and Koinonia

St. Luke 3: 21-22:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke alone reports that Jesus was praying before His baptism. His Baptism was unneeded because He had no need of repentance, as He was without sin, but He was baptized to bear the iniquity of us all. He was baptized in this mess of iniquity and wickedness, not to baptize this mess, but by cleansing us to get us out of the mess, out of the mess, cleansed in the water, to be His. His Baptism was unneeded by Him so we would need His Baptism. He baptized us to walk in…

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A Dane who defied the Nazis and became a martyr | Chanhassen Opinion |  swnewsmedia.com

On this date the body of Pastor Kaj Munk was found in a ditch in his homeland, Denmark.  He had been killed by the Gestapo.   He was shot through the head. His crime?  Preaching the Gospel in the teeth of the Nazis.  When someone thinks they are “preaching to power”, especially by passing some resolution at some church assembly/convention which will be disregarded like yesterday’s leftovers by the powers that be, and I think of true martyrs like Pr. Munk, then we must pay attention. He like John the Baptizer preached truly to the powers and principalities and suffered the Cross.  Here is a quote from Pr. Munk’s New Year’s Sermon which is quite the  antidote to the slappy-happy, sentimental Christianity in our day which I think is, to be blunt, pretty crappy. (For another quote from Pr. Munk see this post here)   Like the Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton said that every age has it’s saint…that is those who are opposite, as opposite as salt.  We need His  cure of our illness of  spiritual self-indulgence in the middle of decadence.

Do not trust too much in the preachers.  As a rule they are poorly paid.  They are brought up as humanists.  They have forgotten–or never learned–what Christianity is. They have imbibed lo-o-ove with the bottle milk in the cradle. In a world of men they too often plead the cause of the effeminate.  They “abstain from politics”.   They preach peace at any price for the uplift of the devil, who rejoices to see evil develop in peace. The Scriptures do not say: When your neighbor is smitten on one cheek it is your duty to hold him so that he may be smitten on the other cheek also. Do not trust the preachers until they wake up and remember that they are servants of the whole Gospel, and of the Prince of Peace who came not to bring peace but a sword; of Him who forgave Peter and permitted Judas to hang himself; of Him who was meek and humble of heart and yet drove the sacrilegists from the temple courts.

And do not trust the majority, which likes to take things easy and therefore is easy to please. . . . Do not trust the great neglected masses. I believe that the heart of the nation is strong, but it has become encased in fat. . . .

This is what our old nation needs; a rejuvenating power, God’s rejuvenating strength, that a new people may come forth, which is yet the old, worthy sons of the fathers. The gospel will have to teach the Danish nation to think as a great people; to choose honor rather than profit, freedom rather than a well paid guardianship; to believe in the victory of the spirit of sacrifice; to believe that life comes out of death, and that the future comes out of giving oneself;—in short, faith in Christ. What would it profit a people if it gained all the advantages of the world, but lost its soul?

The cross in our flag—it is long since we realized that it stands for something, and we have forgotten that now. And yet it is the cross that characterizes the flags of the North.—We have come to church —the few of us who go to church, and we have heard about the cross, about Christ’s example of suffering, and Christ’s words about self-denial and struggle. We have thought that this was all to be taken in a spiritual sense, and that it did not pertain to our time. We thought we were Christians when we sat in church and sang Amen. But No, No! We are Christians only when we go out into the world and say No to the devil, renounce all his works and all his ways, and say Yes to the Holy Spirit.

Lead us, thou cross in our flag, lead us into that Nordic struggle where shackled Norway and bleeding Finland fight against an idea which is directly opposed to all our ideas. Lead old Denmark forth to its new spirit. Not by the grace of others, or by their promises, shall Danneborg again become a free banner. For freedom only God can give; and he gives it only to those who accept its responsibilities. Lead us, cross in our flag, forward toward unity with other flags of the cross. With honor and liberty regained, the old Denmark in the young North-that vision looms before us this New year’s Day.  We who have vision will give ourselves to its realization.  We promise we will. May God he hear our vow and add His Amen!” (as quoted by Rev. Philip Pfaitteicher in Festivals and Commemorations)

From The Apocalypse, now called The Book of Revelation, chapter 7:

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
 15“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
   and serve him day and night in his temple;
   and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
    the sun shall not strike them,
   nor any scorching heat.
17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
   and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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After Durer's praying hands Drawing by Peter Jochems

Intro: In the three year lectionary of this church year, a majority of the Gospel readings for Sunday Divine Service are from The Gospel according to St. Luke. The evangelist emphasizes prayer as he reports our Lord in prayer at key events, such as, His Baptism by John the Baptizer. This emphasis continues in Luke’s second volume, The Acts of the Apostles. In this new year, it is good to learn some good advice from a brother who knew about the centrality of prayer:

When I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, “Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.” Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.…

Finally, mark this, that you must always speak the Amen firmly. Never doubt that God in his mercy will surely hear you and say “yes” to your prayers. Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain. Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, “Very well, God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.” That is what Amen means.

(From Concordia Publishing House. Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 33331-33338). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.)

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Image result for circumcision of jesus

Lessons: Numbers 6:22–27 Psalm 8 Galatians 3:23–29 St. Luke 2:21

Collect of the Day

Lord God, You made Your beloved Son, our Savior, subject to the Law and caused Him to shed His blood on our behalf. Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit that our hearts may be made pure from all sins; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Already on the eighth day of Jesus’ life, His destiny of atonement is revealed in His name and in His circumcision. At that moment, His blood is first shed and Jesus receives the name given to Him by the angel: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). In the circumcision of Jesus, all people are circumcised once and for all, because He represents all humanity. In the Old Testament, for the believers who looked to God’s promise to be fulfilled in the Messiah, the benefits of circumcision included the forgiveness of sins, justification, and incorporation into the people of God. In the New Testament, St. Paul speaks of its counterpart, Holy Baptism, as a “circumcisionmade without hands” and as “the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11). (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Eight days after a male Israelite’s birth, he is circumcised according to the Lord’s covenant with Abraham and Abraham’s descendants.  January 1st is 8 days after the birth of Jesus, December 25th.  This feast day stands in sharp contrast with the secular holiday of New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day. This feast day seems so stark, even a little bit on the squeemish side, as you look at the photo above:  an old man coming at an infant with a knife to cut off his foreskin! “What God proposes does not please the world, and what the world undertakes does not please God!” (Luther, sermon on Luke 2: 21)  But what is actually the odd holiday?  Remembering that our word “holiday”, is actually “holy day”.  No one intends to be holy on New Year’s Eve, just the direct opposite: drunkenness and hooking-up are the entrees on the New Year’s Eve menu, not covenant and Christ, yet this was the reason He was born, 

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4: 3-5)

Jesus, under the Law, Who needed no Law, yet loved the Word of the Law, went under the knife to begin shedding His blood, and one day His whole body would be under the  knife, upon the Cross…He is risen.  Circumcision is a bloody business, so is sin, so is our salvation and our Savior, who in His blood, has given us the “gift of eternal life”. 

As He was given the Name above all names (Philippians 2:9), so that we are no longer children, but His Sons and Daughters through “adoption”, that is, Baptism, born from above, in the Name of the Lord (Matthew 28:19John 3:5).

He was circumcised on the 8th day.  “The eighth day follows the Sabbath and a new week begins.  So also a new and different circumcision began when the infant Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day” (Luther’s Sermon on Luke 2: 21), that is:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2: 10-12)

The new year is basically not new but the wearied cycle of sin causing resolution.  Only Christ Jesus makes, not a new year, but a new people, through Him,

“…who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2: 14)

It is about repentance, not resolution.The new people can have daily and joyful repentance, looking to Him daily in Word and Sacrament, prayer, praise and thanksgiving,

“… 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: 2)

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New Year’s Meme

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