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Collect of the Day:

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jonah, 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.

About Jonah:

A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour’s walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria(Jonah 1:2). His reluctance to respond and God’s insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah’s name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (Jonah1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. Jonah’s three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew12:39-41). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Jonah, after Ninevah’s repentance unto life in the Lord’s grace, parks himself outside of the great city and we are told he is angry. Dr. Reed Lessing (professor OT, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in his commentary Jonah), points out that  the 4 times the word anger appears (really: the Hebrew is more  “infuriate”), it is in the last chapter and it’s subject is Jonah!  Why was he angry?  Finally, after all the action in the first 3 chapters we find out that his anger is coupled with the reason why he fled to Tarshish and away from  the Lord’s call, from Dr. Reed’s translation:  “For this reason I previously fled toward Tarshish because I knew you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in loyal love, and changing your verdict about evil.”  Jonah fled because of God’s grace! After all, like Jonah, we want to see the bad guys get it in the end!  So Jonah fled because  Jonah really not want to destroy the Gentile Assyrians!  Jonah’s true confession of the Faith (“…you are a gracious and merciful God, etc.) becomes in Jonah’s heart and mouth his accusation against the Lord! Jonah wanted the Lord to wring their necks dead.  The Lord does not want anyone to die, but repent and live….again, including Ninevah, Jonah and you and I.

When Ninevah, from the King down, repents, the Lord forgives and changes His mind about His judgment towards them.  The Lord takes no pleasure in  the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from their evil to the Lord and live (see Ezekiel 33:11). It seems that Jonah wanted to take pleasure in the death of the unrepentant wicked in Ninevah. There are many movies and TV shows when someone is so wicked, I want to see him die a horrible death, a satisfying death to me. If you know the movie, just think of the last scene of “Diehard”.  If the evil man in that movie repented, would I be joyful? No, sadly, disappointed. I’d want my ticket money back! The Lord buys us back with His mercy in His Son Jesus, His blood shed for sinners, like the Ninevites, Jonah and you and I.

From Dr. Lessing’s commentary on Jonah:

We simply stand under God’s overflowing grace like rain, allowing its cool refreshment to fill our dry cracks. Then we pick up the bucket and dump it on someone else. Grace flows from Yahweh not on those who attempt to earn it, but on those who confess their need for it. The Spirit-empowered response is then to share it. But Jonah is like the angry older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:28-30): he views God’s lavish welcome for undeserving sinners who repent as an insult to his “deserving” self. The prophet has yet to embrace the Law and Gospel character of God expressed in James 2:13: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

For further learning, listen to this Issues, Etc. interview of Dr. Reed Lessing, author of The Commentary on Jonah. He is interviewed by Issues’ host Pr. Todd Wilken:

2643. Old Testament Prophet Jonah – Dr. Reed Lessing, 9/21/22

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“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

Concordia and Koinonia

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…

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          Note: Pr. Eric Malmstrom (Our Savior Lutheran, Lynchburg, VA) substituted for me at Concordia Lutheran as my wife died on September 1. I needed to hear God’s Word and commune in His Body and Blood.–Pr. Schroeder

The Lessons:

Old Testament Deuteronomy 30:15–20

            15“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Epistle Philemon 1–21

            1Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

            To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

            3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

            4I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints, 6and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

            8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. 15For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

            17So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

            21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Gospel Luke 14:25–35

            25Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

            34“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Sermon

Today’s Gospel lesson is one of those texts that doesn’t contain much Gospel. It’s a Gospel lesson that doesn’t sound very Gospely. Our text is all about the cost of discipleship. It is even difficult for us to hear. It’s shocking. Everywhere else we are told to love. We are told to love our neighbor. We are even told to love our enemies. Here we are told to hate. In even stronger language, we are told that if we do not hate our closest neighbors (spouse, children, parents, etc.), and even our own lives, we cannot be one of the Lord’s disciples. If we do not bear our own cross, we cannot be one of the Lord’s disciples.

Our lesson today immediately follows a beautiful parable of grace. In the parable of the Great Banquet when those invited to the feast refuse to come the master fills his hall with the poor, the lame, the blind, the good, and the bad. The Lord’s Banquet Hall will be filled. It will be filled with the likes of you and me. Not because we are so pious, living lives free from sin. It will be filled with the likes of you and me because of the graciousness of the Father. We are there because of the gracious promises of Christ.

Prior to that our Lord speaks of humility. He tells us to take the lowest seat when we come to dinner. Do not take the seat of honor. Assume always that you are not the honored guest. Assume that others are greater than you. He tells us to invite those who cannot repay in-kind when we host a dinner. He speaks of humility and generosity.  

What follows is the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. That is, Christ seeks us out. He finds the lost. He finds the wayward. Again, a beautiful lesson of grace and forgiveness.

So, our text feels a little out of place. It even seems a little, un-Christ-like. Let’s see if we can’t make a little sense of it.

This teaching is actually the beginning of a long section of teaching by Jesus as he travels. Following Christ doesn’t come easy. After the feeding of the 5,000 and other miracles it may even seem that following Jesus means an endless supply of free bread, free fish, free wine, free healthcare. In the Parable of the Sower, we learn that as the Word is sown some come to faith and bear fruit. Others hear the word and fall away. There will be trials. There will be temptations. There will be cares of this world. The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh will all conspire to lead us away from Christ and His promises.

Matthew’s account of the same event softens it a little bit. He says that anyone who loves these more than Christ cannot be a disciple. This is the sense of the word “hate” here. However, we can’t avoid the harshness of the text. Tragically, faith in Christ does come between family members. We hear some say that they are afraid to convert or join a particular church because they would upset family members. We hear others say they would rather give up their faith rather than spending eternity without their unbelieving spouse.

Many are forced to make a choice. One can easily imagine what it was like for our original hearers. For hundreds of years their families were faithful Israelites. They faithfully went to the temple year after year. To follow Christ would be a radical departure from family and friends. To follow Christ would mean a grizzly death.

One must even hate their own life, take up their cross and follow Jesus. This imagery would not be lost on the original audience and it is not lost on us. To follow Christ means that we can expect to die with Christ. This is true in the theological sense and in the real physical sense. Many would face martyrdom for the faith.

Suffering is not something we like to talk about. But Christ tells us here, we can expect to suffer. To bear one’s cross means to accept whatever hardship comes our way with grace and humility. This can be emotional suffering, physical suffering, social suffering, financial suffering, etc. Suffering connects us to Christ. Suffering connects us to the cross. Although it may not always feel like it, we never suffer alone.

In 1 Cor 12, Paul speaks of the Body of Christ being made of many members with Christ as the head. This is more than just a metaphor. When one member is in pain, the whole body feels it. When the least member suffers, Christ, the head suffers. The physical and emotional scars that we bear are our Jesus scars. They are the same wounds that Christ bore in His flesh on the cross. When we suffer it gives us a laser focus on Christ. It reminds us that Jesus suffered so much more for my sins. It reminds us that Christ will return. When he returns there will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more cancer, no more death.

As Jesus continues with His instruction, He uses the example of a builder constructing a tower and king going off to war. One must fist sit down and consider the cost before building a tower or going off to war. Again, in the Parable of the Sower there are many who come to faith and yet fall away because of the cares of this world. There are many who fall away because of troubles and tribulation.

Sadly, we see this happen. Many who graduate from the seminary preach Christ crucified, faithfully administer the sacraments, comfort the sick and the dying, and yet (for one reason or another) they leave the ministry and even leave the faith. The cost for them is too high. We see this happen with others as well. They enthusiastically come to faith, but quickly fall away.

Jesus’ words are harsh: 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. 34“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Following Christ means renouncing ALL that you have. Without faith, you are not even worthy of the manure pile.

What is not so readily apparent in our Gospel text is that Jesus is telling us what He does for your salvation. While we fail to renounce all, this is exactly what Christ does for you!

Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani! My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me? Christ did not cry out these words from Psalm 22 on the cross because He thought it was fitting for the occasion. He was feeling the hatred of God the Father. Loving you, above all else, He bore the weight of your sin setting you free.

Christ forsook all that He had for you. He set aside His divine nature, putting on humanity. Fully God and fully man He lived a perfect life in your stead. Fully God and fully man He took the punishment you deserve. Seated at the right hand of God the Father, He freely hands out grace and the forgiveness of sins to all who believe.

Jesus counted the cost before waging war. He was vastly outnumbered. He knew that there would be no atonement without blood. He knew what sort of death He would face. He knew that you were a sinner and would continue to sin. He knew all this, looked at you in love, and decided that you were worth the cost.

As we all know, Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. On the third day He rose again just as we too will rise again. We may wait for the second coming in the paradise of heaven but true paradise awaits in the new heavens and the new earth. A world without sin; a world without war and bloodshed; a world without pain and suffering; a world without death.

This is the beauty and the scandal of the Gospel. On the day of judgment, we don’t have to tally up all of our sins and all of our good deeds and hope that the scale tips in our favor. The decision is already made. The good works of Christ, the promises of Christ have canceled your debt of sin. He paid the cost. You enjoy everlasting life, today. You rest safely in the arms of Your Savior, today.

Our Gospel text this morning looks pretty harsh. At first glance it looks as if the cost of discipleship is too high. We must hate those closest to us and renounce all that we have. If this were your first introduction to the Christian faith, I doubt anyone would still remain. But as we consider this text in light of Christ it takes on a whole new meaning. It becomes a text filled with wonder: “What wonderous love is this?” What wondrous love is this, Oh my soul! That caused the Lord of bliss To bear the dreadful curse for my soul (LSB 543).

Christ counted the cost to wage war for your salvation. He counted the cost to build a tower. He was willing to suffer the pain of being on the receiving end of God’s wrath. He counted the cost and He decided that you are worth it. It is indeed finished. You are free. Your sins are forgiven. You have everlasting life in Christ. Amen.

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My Wife’s Obituary

On September 1, 2022, my beloved wife of thirty-five years died in our home after her valiant struggle with cancer for a year and a half. Our three children are here with me. I have not posted about her cancer here on Concordia Lutheran Mission Blog, so I know this will come as a shock to many as I refrain from sharing the personal, except faith in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life. This is the obituary.

Natalie Anne Schroeder

Natalie Anne Schroeder, 59, of Lexington, fell asleep in Christ on Thursday, September 1, 2022, around 9:00am. She was born December 21, 1962, in Mineola, Long Island, New York. She was the  daughter of Anita Louise Crooks and the late Edward James Crooks. She carried on with life in her valiant struggle with cancer for a year and a half.

Surviving are her husband of 35 years, Rev. Mark Schroeder; children, Luke Aaron Schroeder, Talitha Anne Schroeder and Abraham Edward Schroeder; sister, Elizabeth Ferrara (Vincent); brother, Joshua Crooks (Penny); sister-in-law, Jeanne Marie Ellis (Stan); nephews, Timothy Ellis (Meagan), Nicholas Ferrara (Katherine), and Mason Crooks; nieces, Jessica Ellis, Gabriella Ferrara, Courtney Crooks, and McKenzie Crooks.

Natalie was Baptized at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Williston Park, N.Y., and she was a life-long confessional Lutheran.  She was a faithful daughter and sister in her Christian family. As a Christian Wife and Mother, she faithfully cared and served her family in her God-given vocation.  Her other God-given vocation was a chemist, and her last place of employment was Micron Biosystems (now Volac).  Natalie’s passionate avocation was music:  singing in choirs and playing organ.  She was the faithful organist of Concordia Lutheran Mission since its founding in 2010 and did so till the cancer symptoms made that impossible in the last month. Natalie was a faithful supporting wife for her husband in his vocation as a Lutheran pastor.  She sang with the Rockbridge Choral Society for twenty years and it was her joyful duty to join together to sing the greats, especially J.S. Bach.  The sound of her practicing at her piano was never far away in the Schroeder house. 

Natalie had many friends both here and in England. Her college friend Teresa Roberts (Waynesburg, PA) wrote to Natalie every day via the mail the past year and a half.  She was thankful for Teresa’s support and the support and care of her friends Laura Righter and Maura Chodkowski.

If you do not want to give flowers but would like to donate, we ask that you donate to Concordia Lutheran Mission for its ministry and mission. We ask also for continued prayers in the days ahead.  We are thankful for all the prayers and support Natalie received in the past year and a half.

The Funeral and Rite of Christian Burial for Natalie Schroeder will be conducted 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, September 7, 2022, at Ben Salem Presbyterian Church with Rev. Aaron Yaeger, and Rev. Eric Malmstrom (Our Savior Lutheran, Lynchburg, VA) officiating.  Interment will follow at Green Hill Cemetery with the Committal.  The pallbearers will be Abraham Schroeder, Talitha Schroeder,  Luke Schroeder, Josh Crooks, Beth Ferrara, and Laura Righter. Family will receive friends one hour prior to the service at the church.

 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14

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“(Monica) was brought up in modesty and sobriety. She was made by You obedient to her parents rather than by them to You.”–The Confessions of St. Augustine

Concordia and Koinonia

St. Monica Prayer Card

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

From The Confessions of Augustine of Hippo:

(Monica) was brought up in modesty and sobriety. She was made by You obedient…

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Readings: Proverbs 3: 1-8 Psalm 121 2 Corinthians 4: 7-10 St. Luke 22: 24-30 or St. John 1: 43-51

About St. Bartholomew, Apostle:  St. Bartholomew (or Nathanael, as he is called in St. John’s Gospel) was one of the first of Jesus’ twelve disciples. His home was in the town of Cana, in Galilee (John 21:2), where Jesus’ performed His first miracle. He was invited to become one of the Twelve by Philip, who told him that they had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. (John 1:45). Bartholomew’s initial hesitation to believe, because of Jesus’ Nazareth background, was quickly replaced by a clear, unequivocal declaration of faith, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). He was present with the other disciples (John 21:1-13) when they were privileged to see and converse and eat with their risen Lord and Savior. According to some Early Church Fathers, Bartholomew brought the Gospel to Armenia, where he was martyred by being flayed alive.

Reflection:  In 2013, in an Italian town an 83 year old widow ‘restored’  a beloved painting of Christ (see above)  in an Italian church.  The painting  depicts the moment when Pontius Pilate said to the crowds in the mood for a crucifixion, Behold the Man!  See John 19:5  Or as it is the Latin Vulgate: Ecce Homo. She  obviously botched the restoration!   The Italian press said the painting should  be called, Ecce mono, Behold the monkey! People were saying she should be sued.  The elderly woman who did this, had the permission of the parish priest and she said she had the best of intentions. A year later the town was elated over the botched restoration because of publicity it caused bringing in many tourists into the town of Borja, a rather unremarkable town.  The mayor of Borja said it put the town on the map!

Many people have the best of intentions in redoing the image of Christ to burnish His meaning for us, but it becomes a botched job and yes, done with the best of intentions. As C. S. Lewis famously and correctly wrote:  

“There have been too many historical Jesuses – a liberal Jesus, a pneumatic Jesus, a Barthian Jesus, a Marxist Jesus. They are the cheap crop of each publisher’s list, like the new Napoleons and new Queen Victorias. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation.” 

These new “Jesuses”, like social warrior Jesus, or prosperity preacher Jesus, do put their preachers and theologians and artists on the map of publicity for a while, like in the town of Borja, or back in the ’60s when a theologian declared God is dead, or the artist putting a crucifix in a vial of urine, or various Christian despising atheists, or supposed Christian theologians declaring their views on the Christ as not being God. You won’t risk ridicule over your version of Jesus, only the real One.

Like a monkey, people think they have trained Jesus to do their bidding for what they suppose are the solutions to our problems.  In one congregation that I served the Word, we wanted a booth at local festival, but the leadership balked at the possible brochures I had regarding the Lord: “Too strong” “Might be offensive”.  In other words, a Thomas Kincaide version of the Light of the World.  But they had the best of intentions!  Remember the saying that the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

The botched restoration filled the village coffers of Borja…for a time.   But a solution is not the same as salvation. Solutions are temporal and if according to the world, not truthful…to say the least! Then we end up with a distorted version of the Lord, as distorted as the erstwhile restoration above and we can only say, Ecce Mono.

There is an ancient tradition that The Apostles’ Creed was written by the Apostles and each wrote 1/12 of the Creed.  This has no basis in historical fact, but on this Apostle’s Day, it shows there is only one authorized version of the Lord Jesus Christ:  His chosen apostolic witnesses, like Bartholomew (or Nathanael), accurately recorded the work and Word of Jesus, the Son of the Father, the Word made flesh, in the  inspired Four Gospels and the entire corpus of the New Testament. The Creeds are the accurate summaries of the Holy Scripture.  

 “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nathanael began to give his confession, his apostolic witness: He is the Son of God, King of Israel.  Yet, Jesus deepens Nathanael’s confession  with the prophecy of Golgotha and the Resurrection:  Heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.  This refers to Jacob’s dream of a ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. See:  Genesis 28:11-13.  Jacob called the spot Bethel, literally House of God.  Jesus is the House of God (see John 2: 21).  The Apostolic Witness is to the Incarnation and His Crucifixion and Resurrection.  This witness, this Good News, for sinners was clearly preached by the 12.  When the Savior and His work is clearly taught and preached, according to the Bible, received and yes, eaten and drunk, by hungry and thirsty sinners (see Matthew 5:6then the Holy Spirit is working faith in you.  This is the clear picture of Christ and needs no restoration by the likes of me or  a theologian with a 100 doctorates.  Do not trust any theology that deviates by invention and innovation the clear apostolic witness in the Bible.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an Apostle to preach the blessed Gospel.  Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

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Collect of the Day: 

O God, enkindled with the fire of Your love, Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux became a burning and a shining light in Your Church. By Your mercy, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline and may ever walk in Your presence as children of light; through Jesus Christ. our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Bernard: A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the twelfth century AD, Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of twenty-two. After two years, he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some sixty-eight daughter houses. Bernard is remembered not only for his charity and political abilities but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by St. Bernard. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Addendum:   His zeal for the truth of the Gospel and the faith quelled many heresies.  But, “…in 1146-1147 Bernard led the preaching of the second Crusade and was sharply disappointed by its failure.” In historical retrospection, his eloquent preaching of the Crusade was misplaced.  Yet, “In his zeal he attacked the luxury of the clergy, the persecution of the Jews, and the abuses of Roman Curia.  Renowned as a great preacher, he brought to an end the pre-scholastic era, and he is sometimes called ‘the Last of the Fathers.’” (quotes from Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Philip Pfatteicher)

Bernard most importantly and clearly preached and taught salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Many years ago, I picked up in a used book store volume 2 of Bernard’s sermons on The Song of Songs.  He applied the love poetry to the Church and Jesus, her Head and Husband.  It was one of the volumes that led me back to the orthodox Lutheran faith.  This first quote is cited in  the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, The Book of Concord:  The Lutheran Confessions:  

For it is necessary first of all to believe that you cannot have remission of sins except by the indulgence of God, but add yet that you believe also this, namely, that through Him sins are forgiven thee. This is the testimony which the Holy Ghost asserts in your heart, saying: “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” For thus the apostle judges that man is justified freely through faith.

The Confessors in the Book of Concord point out that many of the crowd want to imitate the saints’ works, but not their faith and so falsely thinking  a man can be saved by works.  Bernard knew by faith that he and the whole Church are are saved  alone by grace alone through Christ alone and works flow forth. Faith is the root, love is the fruit and both are encouraged and grow in Christ.  

Out of Christ’s love, one with the Father in the Holy Spirit, comes the stillness in Him, listening to the Word, learning the Word, loving the Word, so living the Word.  In the following quote is an antidote for our much loquacious world, when everyone now blogs and posts every notion that comes into one’s head:

The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself. He knows that a curse is on the man who allows his own property to degenerate. And if you think my opinion worthless, then listen to one who is wiser than I: “The fool,” said Solomon, “comes out with all his feelings at once, but the wise man subdues and restrains them.” Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom the streams of heavenly doctrine flow to us, that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled; they are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.—St. Bernard of Clairvaux

In a similar vein, in the 17th Century, Johann Gerhard reflected: “Silence of the mouth is an excellent thing for peace of heart.”  We think that somehow that all our words, quick opinions, and shallow analyses will make for a better world, when it is the Word made flesh, the Word of Scripture, Who can alone change the heart, give life to body and soul, and hope to a dark sin-sick world. Indeed:  

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.
 Psalm 12: 6

Finally and most importantly, Bernard knew the exact source of all faith, hope and love:  the  work of the Word made flesh alone upon the Cross Who saved as  this great hymn based upon a poem by Bernard proclaims.  As you read the lyric or listen to it, think of  the body of Christ and Christ our Head, our Sacred Head in the midst of the martyrdom of Middle Eastern Christianity taking place at this time and not forget to pray and speak out for the persecuted Church.  As the Lord said to Saul on the road to Damascus:  “And (Saul) said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9: 5):

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676  Text: Is. 50: 6
Author: Paul Gerhardt
Based on the Latin poem “Salve caput cruentatum”
By Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, asc.

1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #172 

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, Your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise You for the gifts of grace imparted to Your servant Johann, and we pray that by his teaching we maybe led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

About Johann Gerhard:  Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) and the most influential of the seventeenth-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (twenty-three large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the superintendent of Heldburg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

A Reading from Pr. Gerhard, cited in The Treasury of Daily Prayer, A Prayer by Pr. Gerhard:

You, most faithful God, perform the duties of a faithful and skillful doctor in healing the mortal wounds of my soul. You heal them by the wounds of Your Son. there is danger that the healed wounds will be reopened, but Your Spirit prevents this with grace like a poultice.

After receiving the forgiveness of sins, so many people return to their former way of living.  By repeating their sins, they offend God all the more grievously. We see so many who were freed from the yoke of sin only to return to the bondage that once held them. So many of those who have been led out of the spiritual Egypt look back to its fleshpots of carnal pleasures (Exodus 16:3). After recognizing Christ, they flee the defilement of the world but become entangled in it again as they return to their former evil ways (2 Peter 2:20). They were freed from the bonds of Satan through conversion. Trapped again by Satan’s bonds, they hold fast to the deception of evil spirits. Their last state is surely worse than their first (Luke 11:26). It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, for them to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Peter 2:21). They are like dogs that return to their vomit or like pigs that wallow in muck after they are washed (2 Peter 2:22).

The same can happen to me if You do not keep me on the good path through Your powerful grace and the effective working of Your Holy Spirit.  The same evil spirit that captured them attacks me. The same world that seduced them entices me. The same flesh that secured them lures me. Only Your grace protects me against these attacks and with with the power necessary for victory.  Your  strength supplies the power I  need in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). You my  spirit the strength to restrain the passion of the flesh. Whatever is good in me comes from You, the font of all good things, because in me, by nature, there is nothing but sin. I have to acknowledge that all the good works I do—which are nevertheless impure because of the corruption and imperfection of my flesh—are gifts of Your grace. I will give You thanks forever because of Your immeasurable gift to me. Amen.—Johann Gerhard  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy, translated by Pr. Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

Reflection:  Pr. Gerhard is one of my favorite theologians because he prayed with the Church, he preached and taught the Scriptures with the Church and desired to give praise to God alone through His mercies in Jesus Christ for him and us all.

His sermons are wellsprings of Scripture.  As one pastor wrote in a volume of Gerhard’s sermons:  “He saw the New Testament through Old Testament eyes”, as the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.  Rev. Prof. Gerhard lived and breathed the Scriptures as they are the very words of the Holy Spirit writ into His creation for our redemption in Jesus Christ. We learn doctrine and life from Jesus Christ, as sound doctrine is life:

My sheep here My voice He says, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give them eternal Life. Just as Christ’s  teachings are a complete rule of faith, so also is His life a clear, complete mirror for every good work. Learn from Me, He says in Matt, 11-29, as if to say: You have enough to learn about My love, about My patience, My humility, meekness, friendliness to do you for the rest of your lives. As a result, you will well forget about the commandments of men with which you serve God fruitlessly and in vain, Matt. 15:9. O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, highly praised in all eternity: Give us all such an obedient, willing heart for following the voice of Christ in doctrine and life. 

You can read more quotes from Pr. Gerhard here for your edification in Christ Jesus:

On Holy Communion:

What can be more intimately united to the Lord than His own human nature, which He hath taken, in His incarnation, into fellowship with the adorable Trinity, and thus made the treasury of all the blessings that heaven has to bestow? What is so intimately joined to Him as His own body and blood? With this truly heavenly food He refreshes our souls, who are as miserable worms of the dust before Him, and makes us partakers of His own nature; why then shall we not enjoy His gracious favor? Who ever yet hated his own flesh (Ephesians 5:29)? How then can the Lord hate us, to whom He giveth His body to eat and His blood to drink? How can He possibly forget those to whom He bath given the pledge of His own body? How can Satan gain the victory over us when we are strengthened and made meet for our spiritual conflicts with this bread of heaven ?

On Christ’s Crucifixion and the Church:

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife ; but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and will as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth ; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. V. 26).

On John the Baptist and Steadfastness:

 “…John’s (the Baptist) steadfastness is held up as an example to be followed by all faithful teachers—indeed also by all true Christians. John was not a reed. He did not allow himself to be deterred from the pathway of truth and from his calling by the world’s cunning and temptation.  So also Christians are not to be fickle and erratic like a reed.  Rather, they are to be grounded like pillars and columns in the house of God.   1 Tim. 3: 15, Rev. 3: 12ff

On Peter’s Denial and God’s Power:

 “We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall (i.e. his denial), in order that we avoid the same. He was entirely too daring (presumptuous)–meaning that it all depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he noticed others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain. Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our own faith, or on our good intentions. God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.”

On Meditation: 

“Let holy meditation produce in thee a knowledge of thy true condition, and this lead thee to conviction of sin, and conviction beget in thee a spirit of devotion, and this indite thy prayer. Silence of the mouth is an excellent thing for peace of heart.  

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O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou Bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

(The Lutheran Hymnal, “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones”, #475)

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and foreve

The Mother of the Lord:  

St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen of specific incidents in her life being recorded:

  • her betrothal to Joseph;
  • the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah;
  • her visitation to Elizabeth,
  • the mother of John the Baptizer;
  • the nativity of our Lord;
  • the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men;
  • the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple;
  • the flight into Egypt;
  • the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee;
  • her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John;
  • and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Acts 1                                                                                                

Thus, she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Readings for the Day:  Isaiah 61:7-11Galatians 4:4-7Luke 1:39-55

A Reflection:  I think the Roman Catholic problem with Mary is that they make much too much of her which has no Scriptural warrant.  I think the Lutheran problem with Mary has been we make much too little of her importance which likewise has no Scriptural warrant.  We should not pray to her, and neither should we think we have prayed her away.

The Scripture records what she prayed:  “My soul doth magnifies the Lord.”  The problem with many Roman Catholics and Lutheran we do not magnify the Lord as did the Virgin Mary. Too much ‘theology’ magnifies how good we are, not the goodness of the LORD. What or who do we magnify in our lives?  I find my own question embarrassing.  Think of what the world magnifies:  fame, wealth, power and the temple of the  self and I have wanted it all.  Not Mary.  For instance: Mary did not “shop till she dropped”.  Her Son was not a choice but her Child. All births are God’s planned parenthood for us. She loved her Son.  She magnified the Lord as she had faith.  She magnified, made big in her life God’s grace to her in bearing the Only-Begotten Son of God.  She bore her Savior and yours as God came to her, Emmanuel, God with us.

“Granting that the blessed Mary prays for the Church, does she receive souls in death, does she conquer death [the great power of Satan], does she make alive? What does Christ do if the blessed Mary does these things? Although she is most worthy of the most ample honors, nevertheless she does not wish to be made equal to Christ, but rather wishes us to consider and follow her example [the example of her faith and her humility].” (The Book of Concord, Invocation of the Saints)

A colleague of mine once said during the fad of “WWJD” bracelets (What Would Jesus Do) that it actually should be “WWMD”:  what would Mary do?  Good question.  The answer?  She heard the Word of God, the Word of grace.  She believed and obeyed.  She was a faithful wife. She prayed.  She suffered.  She served her Lord and her neighbor in her vocation as Mother and Wife.  It was all the Lord’s work toward her and the fruit of her faith.  And like any child, wanted or not, is a gift of God’s good creation. And Mary’s greatest gift is still the fruit of her womb, Jesus. She is the model of the faithful believer, even the whole Church. “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”--Galatians 4: 19

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Concordia and Koinonia

Theology and Doxology
Wednesday of Epiphany 5
8 February 2017
Theology and doxology are inseparable. Praise of God and faith in Him must spring from speaking about God using the Word of God. The Word’s own claims of power unto salvation drive us to confess the truth of the word that we obediently convey to the world in the discipline of theology. The Word of God is never a dead letter, rather being spirit and life, it gives life and salvation to us who are dying and by nature damned sinners.

Who, when granted such a salvation, would not break forth in paeans of glory to the God who becomes man for our sakes in Christ? Who would not praise the one who breaks the darkness? Who would not offer prayers to honor the God who debases Himself in our Lord Jesus for our sakes? Theology that does not echo…

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