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Alleluia. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” Alleluia.

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, restored Mary Magdalene to health and called her to be the first witness of His resurrection. Heal us from all our infirmities, and call us to know You in the power of Your Son’s unending life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

READINGS:  Proverbs 31:10-31  Psalm 73:23-28  Acts 13:26-31  St.John 20:1-2, 10-18

About St. Mary Magdalene: Whenever the New Testament Gospels name the women who were with Jesus, Mary Magdalene is listed first (John 19:25 is the only exception), perhaps because she was the first to see the risen Savior alive. Luke 8:2 reports that Jesus had cured her of being possessed by seven demons. Through the centuries, she has often been identified with the repentant “woman of the city” who anointed Jesus’ feet as He sat at the table in the Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36—50). But there is no biblical basis for this identification of her with a penitent prostitute. Nor is she to be identified with Mary, the sister of Martha, in Bethany. According to the Gospels, Mary Magdalene saw Jesus die; she witnessed His burial; and, most important, she was the first to see Him alive again after His resurrection (John 20:  11-18). It is for good reason that Bernard of Clairvaux calls her “the apostle to the apostles”. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House/read more about St. Mary Magdalene here)

Mary Magdalene had seven demons.  In the Bible, the number seven  is the number of completeness, in other words, Mary Magdalene was thoroughly a sinner.  A sinner comes to the tomb that first of the first day of the week, and to her, the risen Lord reveals Himself resurrected from the dead, bearing the marks of the cross of her salvation and yours.  In that time, a woman and a sinner, was a most improbable witness which authenticates the historical veracity of the Gospel record.  It was a forgiven sinner who was met by the Lord Jesus. The first woman, Eve, first tasted death wanting to be like God.  The second woman, Mary Magdalene, tasted eternal life, the Life of all the living, living in the Lord. 

“Why Mary of Magdala? She is the symbol of the unfaithful bride that God calls back to intimacy.” (Feast of Mary Magdalene 2021: Homily of Patriarch Pizzaballa)  The Lord through His prophets said that Israel was His bride, unfaithful, that He sought and besought time and time again.  Mary Magdalene is us, sinners to whom the Lord comes. Eve is a type of the Church without her Lord:  dead and without God and hope in the world.  Mary Magdala is a type of the Church, His bride, touched and saved by the risen Lord.

The church's one foundation 
Is Jesus Christ her Lord; 
She is his new creation 
By water and the Word. 
From heaven he came and sought her 
To be his holy bride; 
With his own blood he bought her, 
And for her life he died. 

Jesus called Mary Magdalene by name and the Gospel narrative of the Crucifixion and the  Resurrection illustrates our Lord as the Good Shepherd:  “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep that they may have life and have it abundantly…The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name(St. John 10: 11 b, 10b, 3b) And the Lord told Mary to witness to His brothers of His resurrection. This revelation of the resurrection to Mary Magdalene is, “..the invitation to become witnesses”, and, “… is addressed to all believers. We, forgiven sinners, are all called to become witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. In short, the path is clear, and Mary of Magdala expressly indicates it to us: to recognize ourselves as sinners; meet Christ and allow oneself to be forgiven by him; love him; recognize him alive in us; testify.” ( Patriarch Pizzaballa).  The Lord has called you by name when He baptized you in His Name, Father, +Son and Holy Spirit.  Alleluia!

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A Meme

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1 Kings 18: Elijah and Ahab
 17When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.  (1 Kings 18)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elijah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The narrative of Elijah begins at 1 Kings 17: 1 and ends with Elijah’s assumption into heaven, II Kings 2: 12.

The prophet Elijah, whose name means “My God is Yahweh [the LORD],” prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel primarily during the reign of Ahab (874-853 BC).Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of Yahweh. Elijah was called by God to denounce this  idolatry and to call the people of Israel, to the worship of Yahweh as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20-40). Elilia., was a rugged and imposing figure, living the wilderness and dressing in a garment of  camel’s hair and a leather belt (1 Kings 18:20-40).He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. Many miracles were done through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17.17-24) and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1). At the end of his ministry, he was taken up into heaven while Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later, the prophet Malachi proclaimed that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6), a prophecy that was fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Living in the Baal Lands

Elijah was in the minority of the true faith of Israel.  He had help but at times he felt alone (1 Kings 19: 4,10).  His own nation, the Lord’s chosen people, were being ruled by a King and his wife who introduced false religion into the promised land (1 Kings 16: 29-34). It must have been for the faithful Israelites, like Elijah, so strange, so not normal, even frightening that Baal worship was being so accepted by God’s own people.  Baalism was a fertility religion to ‘insure’ the fertility of the earth for a harvest.  By certain rituals, involving temple prostitutes, they thought they could influence Baal for the harvest.  This religion had the attraction of sexual promiscuity. Israel fell to Baalism many times in its history recorded in the Old Testament.  In the time of Elijah, Baalism was accepted by the King and his Queen, that is, the government while the true faith of Israel was oppressed.  Eventually, Queen Jezebel wanted Elijah’s death(1 Kings 19: 2).

With the threat of more lockdowns, pandemic, riots, the rise of Marxism, increasing animosity toward Christianity, false doctrine preached and taught in churches, atheism and idolatry, hatred of patriotism, the destruction of authority, we too seem to be living in a Baal land. King Ahab himself goes to visit Elijah and…

 17When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.  (1 Kings 18)

Elijah was risking his life even talking like this.  We will lose friends in sticking up for the Lord in Word and deed. Maybe our current time’s severe problems are God’s own judgment:  if we had been sticking up for the Lord and faithful to His Word,  telling of Him, living as seven days a week Christians, many more would be saved, and so strong in the Lord to remain steadfast in Him.  Maybe this time is our wake-up call. We are called to live a woke life in the Lord.

 Yet, people are troubled.  God’s Word came to Elijah and in a kind of parable in real life, His Word came through Elijah to another Sidonian (same as Jezebel), the widow of Zarephath! (1 Kings 17: 8-16).  The church is and will be accused of “troubling” our own country which has, “abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed…” false gods.  Yet He wills His Word for both Jew and Gentile, Christian and not Christian to be planted and lived (St. Matthew 13: 1-9).  Maybe like Elijah, like John the Baptist, “…the voice of one crying in wilderness” (St. Luke 3: 4), are saints for our time. We too will be saints crying in this wilderness.

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Image result for Ruth icon

Ruth 1  But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Collect of the Day

We pray…Faithful God, You promised to preserve Your people and save Your inheritance, using unlikely and unexpected vessels in extending the genealogy that would bring about the birth of Your blessed Son. Give us the loyalty of Ruth and her trust in the one true God, that we, too, might honor You through our submission and respect and be counted among Your chosen people, by the grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, who reign together with You, now and forever.

Ruth of Moab, the subject of the biblical book that bears her name, is an inspiring example of God’s grace. Although she was a Gentile, God made her the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), and an ancestress of Jesus himself (Mt 1:5). A famine in Israel led Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem to emigrate to the neighboring nation of Moab with their two sons. The sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after about ten years, Elimelech and his sons died (Ruth 1:1–5). Naomi then decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah listened to Naomi’s but Ruth refused, replying with the stirring words: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). After Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech, agreed to be Ruth’s “redeemer” (Ruth 3:7–13; 4:9–12). He took her as his wife, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:13–17), thus preserving the Messianic seed. Ruth’s kindness and selfless loyalty toward Naomi, and her faith in Naomi’s God, have long endeared her to the faithful and redounded to God’s praise for his merciful choice of one so unexpected.

 This short book…”… of David’s great-grandmother,” tells the charming story of Ruth the Moabitess, who lived in the days when the Judges ruled in Israel…“One of the sweetest stories in the Bible, showing that even in the blackest period God has men and women who love and serve Him: In Boaz we have the model rich man of his age; every act and word shows his deep faith in God. In Ruth we have an example of modesty and patience, coupled with a remarkable belief in the true God. In Naomi we have a specimen of a good woman, whose religion shows itself in fidelity to all her duties.”

“One chief purpose of the book seems to be the tracing of the genealogy of David to the Moabitess Ruth, whose name it bears… This information gains in significance if we remember that the genealogy of David is at the same time that of Jesus Christ. The story therefore goes to show how Ruth the Moabitess, by birth an alien to Israel, was chosen to become an ancestress of the Savior. Her reception into the communion of Israel also testified to the fact that even in the days before Christ Gentiles might be admitted to the kingdom of God if only they received the promises of the covenant in true faith.

As the genealogy here recorded ends with David’s name, it is improbable that the book should have been written before David had become a person of influence and renown among the people of the covenant. We find an additional reason for this assumption in chap. 4, 7, where the author explains a peculiar custom, which had fallen into disuse in his days. – The author remains unknown to us; but it has been suggested that David himself might well have penned this account of a significant episode in his family history,” and the record concerning Christ’s ancestors was thus completed. From Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s 4 Volume Commentary on the Bible

Reflection:  In the Collect of the Day, we prayed the Lord, “…give us the loyalty of Ruth”.  “Loyalty” is from “loyal”.  Here is the dictionary definition of “loyal”

loyal

1unswerving in allegiance: such as

faithful in allegiance to one’s lawful sovereign or government 

were loyal to the king

faithful to a private person to whom faithfulness is due 

a loyalhusband

faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product 

a loyal churchgoer (Merriam-Webster online)

After praying the Collect, I wondered: What has ever become of loyalty? I think people are loyal, loyal like Ruth to her mother-in-law and the God of Israel and Orpah’s chosen people. There are loyal husbands, wives, citizens, Christians.  The problem is not that loyalty no longer exists, because if it was gone, the chaos and mayhem would be over the top.  Yet, at times, we know and see that society and church are clearly over the top.  The general problem not that virtue is extinct like the do-do bird, but  virtue is no longer extolled, educated and encouraged:  in families, churches and schools.   This includes loyalty.  Why? Substitute ‘virtues’ have been taught, such as: ‘sensitivity’, ‘openness’, ’inclusivity’ and the like.  These are merely political not of the soul in real life. True virtue, based upon the 10 Commandments, are directed toward our neighbors, like the loyalty of Ruth to Orpah, and Orpah’s God and people.  Fake virtues, as listed are about me and letting anything happen and occur.  Loyalty is ‘open’ to the neighbor but according to wisdom and agape.  Loyal means at time to point out a fault to someone we love.  The fake virtues do not.  I can fancy those fake virtues.  True virtue is taught in the real world, and this learning is bearing the cross, dying to self and rising in Christ Jesus.  The real world is the school of the Holy Spirit in His Church in the world, but not of it. Note that fake virtues are basically Godless as they are humanly invented.  The fake virtues spring,

“…from the Enlightenment, from rationalist humanism, from the notion that man is the center of all that exists, and that there is no Higher Power above him.” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn;  more of his quote found here)

“To thine own self be true” is the advice from Polonius to his son Laertes as he was going to university. In the day of the selfie this is the only advice to loyal: to yourself, not anything outside of self. This is a mighty lonely world these days. There is no grace in the soul shut off from God yet the Lord gets through.

Ruth knew by faith in God’s grace toward her, even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death that there is a “Higher Power” but not generic, specific: the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in His grace towards Ruth and Boaz.  The Lord opened her ears and her heart and she learned loyalty, 

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From The Women's Desk on WBAI Radio: Clutter: A ...

In Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (winner of the 1977 Oscar Best Picture ), there is this scene, after Woody Allen has finished a stand-up set at a college (there are no longer any comedy performances at colleges and universities), and Allen has this exchange with a college reporter(?) who saw his act:

Allison (Carol Kane) : I’m in the midst of doing my thesis.

Alvy Singer (Allen) : On what?

Allison : Political commitment in twentieth century literature.

Alvy Singer : You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.

Allison : No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.

Alvy Singer : Right, I’m a bigot, I know, but for the left.

“I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype”. Great sarcasm! We are living in a society that has become expert at reducing each other to cultural stereotypes. Allen probably had fun with this as he poked fun at himself, “Right, I’m a bigot, I know, but for the left”. That makes it “okay” but Allen seems to have known that it doesn’t, so the humor. Now it’s no longer fun. Reducing someone to a stereotype is prejudice and prejudice means to pre-judge, reducing a neighbor to stat, a type, a sociological category, a skin color. If a I call a brother a “fool”, I’ll be liable to the fire of hell, taught Jesus (St. Matthew 5: 22) because I have in a stereotyped him, judged him. Now we do it all the time and it is trans-racial and prejudice is not the prerogative of white people. No wonder it is so hot these days and it’s not getting hotter because it’s summer.

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Collect of the Day: Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Isaiah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Isaiah’s ministry extended for at least 60 years (740-681). He began during the reign of Uzziah (785-733).  This was “the Silver Age of Israelite History” when both Judah and the Northern Kingdom of Israel reached the summit of their  material power, the height of their economic prosperity and the pinnacle of their territorial expansion, comparable only to the ear of David and Solomon, Israel’s “Golden Age.”  Uzziah died in 740 (6:1).  Then Isaiah interacted with the following kings; Jotham (750-731), Ahaz (735-715) and Hezekiah (714-695).  In all likelihood Isaiah lived through the reign of Manasseh (696-642).  Isaiah recorded Sennacherib’s death (Isa. 37:38) in 681 so his court life and prophetic ministry extended about sixty years.  These Assyrian kings during this time are Tiglath-pileser III (745-727), Shalmaneser V (727-722), Sargon II (722-705) and Sennacherib (705-681).  (from a notes by Dr. Reed Lessing, Professor of the Old Testament, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, for his commentary on Isaiah)

Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament prophet. His name means “Yahweh [the Lord] saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah.

Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God’s Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing the Lord’s grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah’s miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (2:1-5; 11:1-16), and his public ministry (61:1-3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (52:13-53:12).

The apostle John’s description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry. 

Isaiah the prophet was born of the tribe of Judah, and for this reason he calls the Lord Jesus his cousin. His name means “the salvation of the Lord.” He wrote a marvelously beautiful account of the Savior of the world. Mary must have been reading the seventh chapter, on the virgin mother of Jesus, when the angel Gabriel came to her. The forty-third, fifty-third, and sixty-third chapters shine forth from this book like pure jewels. Jerome said, “To me, Isaiah seems to have composed not a prophecy, but a Gospel.” Augustine said, “He could better be called an evangelist than a prophet.” In his youth, Augustine asked the bishop Ambrose for advice on what book in the Bible to read first. Ambrose replied that he should begin with Isaiah, since Isaial,i would supersede all the others in his prophecies of Christ. It is a wondrous  miracle that he named Cyrus or Cores, the liberator of the Israelites, by name two hundred years in advance (44:28; 45:1). Josephus writes that because of this, Cyrus was kind to the Israelites. Manasseh is thought to have had Isaiah cut into two parts with a wooden saw. Chrysostom (Cone. 33. super Matthaeum) lists the trivial reasons for Isaiah’s death:

(1) He compared Jerusalem with Sodom and Gomorrah.

(2) He boasted of having seen God, contrary to Moses in Exodus 38.

(3) He said, “Call upon the Lord while He is near” (55:6); but God is near to all who call upon Him, etc. It happened to Isaiah according to the proverb: “If you beat the dog, you can expect to be bitten.”-Valerius Herberger

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

Reflection:  The fact that Isaiah’s name means “The Lord saves”, Isaiah knew that Isaiah did not save but Isaiah needed His saving! Isaiah knew the day would come in which both Jew and Gentile would be saved in the perfect Son born of the Virgin.   When Isaiah saw the Lord “high and lifted up” in the Temple, he exclaimed:

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

God’s Word alone cauterizes and cleanses the original wounds of sin in Isaiah. Through Isaiah, the Lord said there would be the day when all would be cleansed of their moral filth:

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed. (Is. 53)

This was prophesied by Isaiah, in the power of Holy Spirit some 7centuries before Christ! The Apostle Peter knew this in Christ, quoting Isaiah 53): He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1Peter 2)

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How are such mighty works done by his hands?  The folks who knew Jesus growing up in Nazareth seem to have been surprised by His teaching and mighty works. There are other Gospels telling us that Jesus did “mighty works” even as a boy:  Jesus raised a boy from the dead whom he kind of accidentally killed;  or Jesus made birds out of clay and then breathed on them and made them come to life. These are in the Gnostic Gospels.  If those writings were historically true, then the Lord’s fellow congregants, seeing him do powerful deeds growing up, should have said, “Ahh, Jesus we always knew you are JUST divine. Up to your old tricks again?! Atta boy, JC.” No, just the opposite.  Jesus growing up obviously did not manifest Himself to them as those other writings incorrectly portray. I think this comparison points us to the historical truthfulness of the four Gospels. Even His own brothers and sisters may not have known where He was truly from. Mary and Joseph knew. They kept the true Messianic secret till their Son’s public ministry, as the main theme was not the miracles but the message. (And Jesus’ fellow country men did not like what they were hearing: see St. Luke 4: 16-30) He did manifest Himself to Israel, when the time was right and He did do so not selfishly, not even turning a rock into bread when He was so hungry,  but for the good of those He has come to save.  He is the only un-self-ish man to ever walk on earth.  The mighty deeds point  to the Gospel/Word of the Kingdom. The four Gospels  are true by the difficulty of the reading as those other writings are centered on his miracle working.  And he went about among the villages teaching.  This is the reason He came

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Prayer of the Day

Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Appointed Scripture Readings:  Acts 15: 1-21   Psalm 46   Galatians 2: 1-10   St. Matthew 16: 13-19

The festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is probably the oldest of the saints’ observances (dating from about the middle of the third century). An early tradition held that these two pillars of the New Testament Church were martyred on the same day in Rome during the persecution under Nero. In addition to this joint commemoration of their deaths, both apostles are commemorated separately: Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16) and Paul on January 25 for his conversion (Acts 9:1-19).

The New Testament tells us much about both apostles. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry and served as a leader among the disciples. Despite his steadfast faith, Scripture also records of his failures, such as his rebuke of Jesus (Matthew 16:21—23) and his threefold denial of his Lord (Matthew 26:69-75). Following Jesus’ ascension, Peter continued as a leader in the Church (Acts 1:15; 2:M; 15:7).

Paul, a devout Jew also known as Saul, entered the scene as a persecutor the Church. Following his miraculous conversion, in which the risen Christ Himself appeared to him, Paul became a powerful preacher of the grace of God. During his three missionary journeys (Acts 13-14; 16-18; 18-21), Paul traveled throughout modern-day Turkey and Greece. The New Testament account of his life ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16), though tradition holds that he went on to Spain before returning to Rome. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

1 Corinthians 3 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in YOU17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and YOU are that temple. (emphasis added)

From Gregory Lockwood’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians: 

 In addition (and this is most important in the context), these three more valuable items are noncombustible, whereas the materials in the second group are all combustible. The OT refers to gold, silver, and precious stones as building materials used in the tabernacle and the temple. Thus Paul anticipates the temple imagery of 3:16-17.7

The precious, noncombustible materials represent preaching, teaching, and pastoral care that rest upon the Gospel. The combustible items signify teaching and methods motivated by human “wisdom” (1:17-22; 2:1-5, 13; 3:19) and therefore at odds with God’s “wisdom” (1:24, 30; 2:6-7)—the doctrine of Christ.

Apostles Peter and Paul used the gold, silver and the precious stones of preaching, teaching and pastoral care that rests upon the Gospel to build the Church, a living building. In the same 1 Corinthians chapter, the Apostle Paul also wrote about the Church in Corinth and it’s Life, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:  6). How did the Apostles Peter and Paul plant and water? Answer: again God’s Word, the Word of Christ. Peter was charged by the Lord to feed His sheep Christ’s precious promises fulfilled. Peter did. Paul was charged by the Lord to bring His Name to the world. Paul did. How? The Word of Christ which made us, redeemed us and sanctifies us, as our Lord, even to laying down their lives.

How did they do it? This is further preached by Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his 1933 Sermon in Berlin, soon to be the Nazi’s capitol (read full sermon here):

It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

How? The Apostles Peter and Paul confessed Christ as Lord. Jesus told them to do so. We must as well.

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V.I. Lenin’s embalmed body is still in his tomb for visitors to see it. There has been discussion in Russia on removing it. Putin said nyet to moving Lenin’s body, and according to the Wikipedia article, Putin, “…opposed (to moving Lenin’s body), stating that a reburial of Lenin would imply that generations of citizens had observed false values during seventy years of Soviet rule.” Yes, that’s about right but no implication: they did have false values as adoring a corpse who in life as a god willingly enslaved a people and worked tirelessly to export his socialist utopia to the entire world. This is an apt description of false worship and a false and tyrannical god and the current Russian government is still continuing the Communist idolatry.

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worship and idolatry:money - YouTube

The quote of this article’s title is from Luther’s The Large Catechism and his teaching on the 1st Commandment: You shall have no other gods. I read an article this past weekend in the National Review and the author cited the novelist, David Foster Wallace‘s 2005 commencement speech to the graduating class at Kenyon College “This is Water”. In this funny and pointed address, which became very widely popular, he said something that corroborates Luther’s central understanding of mankind, all of us, in terms of the 1st Commandment and I think, original sin. Here is the pertinent section, and remember this is a well-regarded commencement address to graduating college seniors after a generation of progressivism, leftist politics and atheism:

“…in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation.

Yes, there is no atheism. We all have gods which we choose or which our innate desire to worship takes hold of and the god, as Mr. Wallace said, power, lust, money, et. takes hold of us. I could say a whole lot more on what he said that, “…the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” Even the so called ‘spiritual’ deities will also eat you alive. “JC” won’t. Molech ate his sacrifices alive, the Lord makes us alive. The Four Noble Truths, fine morals, but no morality ever so loved the world (John 3: 16). Yet, this comment is very much attuned with a relevant and similar comment by G. K. Chesterton, Roman Catholic, also a novelist said in 19th century:

“That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.”

Wiccan Mother goddess etc. and worshiping cats and crocodiles at least is not so curved in upon one Self, “…to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation (Wallace) and we think it’s utopia but as the word “utopia” literally means “no place”, it’s no place to be, it’s unreal, virtual and really cruel. Further, in his address, Wallace uses the words “default position” and “hard-wired” again and again to talk he ways we innately do this false worship. I think “default position” and “hard-wired” are good descriptors of original sin. I have written, preached and taught that advertisers know our innate desire to worship, which is woefully fallen and corrupt, and bank on it and go to the bank on the profits of our false worship, and Wallace corroborated my observation. It is not the gods that makes us idolaters but the desire to worship is corrupted by sin.

I think idolatry is the origin of original sin, “to be like God” (see Genesis 3!). Mr. Wallace aptly describes what our false worship does to us as we become the things we worship (see Psalm 115:4-8) and as things, only the Lord, the living God can breathe on us His Word to make us alive, forgiven of our idolatries.

For the entirety of David Foster Wallace’s commencement address, This is Water.

For a great satire on idolatry: Isaiah 44: 9-20

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