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Genesis 32: 27-28 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

For what it’s worth: It just struck me like a thunderbolt that Israel is only nation on earth given it’s name from the very mouth of God. ישראל: “Israel” means like El, God, Isra, wrestles or struggles: He who wrestles or struggles with God. In an age, when once again we see worldwide a rise in anti-Semitism, we would do well to remember Who named Israel. Not that the present day nation of Israel is without sin, but no means! Just as the new Israel, the Church is beset by sin as well. Yet, when we read and remember the Holy Scriptures, and the sad and violent history of anti-Semitism, we must remember the Lord who chose His ancient people. IN the millennia since King David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, the Lord set His heart upon Jacob and now Israel. We read about the Hittites, the Jebusites, etc. but have you ever met a Hittite? No, but you may know and are friends with Jews. His people persist because the LORD persists. Romans 9: They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

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Concordia and Koinonia

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for Your servant Philip the Deacon, whom You called to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Philip the Deacon: 

Philip, also called the evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve apostles and of the rapidly growing early Church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor (Acts 6:1-6). Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (Acts 8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian…

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Texts: “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”  (Habakkuk 2: 4) “Increase our faith! (St. Luke 17: 5)

Habakkuk had a lament.  It was lament in way Judah was going. What Habukkuk saw, and so laments, where is the Lord? Read these verses as if the Lord is describing our times:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
    and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted.

These verses from Habukkuk surely describes almost too perfectly our day and time.  The prophet points out to the Lord, “Violence!”  There is an organization in the Middle East called in English “The Islamic Resistance Movement.” In Arabic the group’s name is an acronym:  “Hamas”.  Hamas is a terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip, right next door to Israel.  Hamas in Arabic means zeal.  Hamas is also the Hebrew word for “violence”, as in Habakkuk. And you will not hear, not save, O Lord? The prophet prays for an answer and his lament is heard.  “A lover’s lament” is a sorrow over lost love or unrequited love. A lament comes from love.  My loved one is so ill.  The death of unborn.  Suffocating greed. I have done wrong.  Why is there wrong, where are You, O Lord of my salvation? Yes, we have laments before the Throne of grace.

Sinful man can all to easily transgress from lament to violence.  Our zeal can become violent and God’s Law says No to that and the Lord rebukes us.  The Lord hears our laments but does not respond in the affirmative to our hate.  True lament comes from faith, active in love, steadfast in hope in Lord all on account of Christ.

The Lord hears and answers the prophet’s lament but not as one would expect.  In Habakkuk is one of the few times we read the Lord saying write down my word.  The other time is the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai.  Engrave these words on stone or wood and run with them.  Be my messenger, be My angel. The Lord’s promise may seem slow as man measures slowness, but the promise will be fulfilled. The Lord said the soul of man is “puffed up”, literally swollen with pride like a tumor, not upright “within him”.

 What can save man?  “…but the righteous shall live by faith”.  Man can do much to right what is wrong in society and culture, but not his heart, soul and mind. Yet, our social solutions can become monstrous terrors: see communism and socialism. If I have beheld violence, so by God’s Law, I know the violence is adheres in my will. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  In the Spirit, we walk and run in Christ. “…the law knows how to obey but not how to help; the law can point out sin, but it cannot take sin away from people.” St. Caesarius of Arles (+542) “(The Lord)….saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”  Since the Lord’s purpose and grace are in Christ, “before the ages began”, we are saved by the Gospel alone in Christ alone, His grace was there for Habakkuk:  the just shall live by faith.

 “The just shall live by his faith. Here he says, first, that men are just by faith, by which they believe that God is propitious, and he adds that the same faith quickens, because this faith produces in the heart peace and joy and eternal life [which begins in the present life].”

How do we know the Lord is favorable toward us:  He has reconciled us in His Son, Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven is open to all believers. Look to the Cross and the fruits of the Cross which is forgiveness and so faith, hope and love.

A year ago, white Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, tired after a hard day’s work, entered into her apartment and a black man was inside watching TV and she shot him to death. This tragedy was compounded by the fact Officer Guyger walked into the wrong apartment.  This past week, she was sentenced to 10 years.  After sentencing, this courtroom scene took a surprising turn.  The victim’s brother Brandt Jean asked the Judge, Tammy Kemp for a favor. Brandt Jean, citing his Christian faith wanted to forgive her. The judge agreed.  Mr. Jean said, “”I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you” and then he asked the judge, “ “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug please?” Surprisingly the Judge agreed.  Then Judge Kemp, a black woman, came down to Amber, Judge Kemp gave Amber her Bible, and hugged her and whispered to her.  It was overheard and in what she said the Judge cited John 3: 16.  Sobs rang out in the courtroom. Outside the courtroom, protesters chanted, No justice, no peace.  A headline from The Babylon Bee, Christian satire website:  Media Warns Excessive Forgiveness Could Set Back Outrage Narrative Hundreds Of Years. 

Once again, the Lord teaches His disciples, us, His Church that if a brother sins, rebuke him, showing him his fault. If he repents  seven times, “you must forgive him”.  Welcome home even 7 times a day, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son? Not if you feel like it, most likely I won’t, but this is a must.  Excessive forgiveness!? Yes! Oh, I want to be forgiven, but forgive the dope who cut in front of me in line?!  Let alone forgive the woman who killed my brother. I think this seven times a day is connected to Psalm 119:  164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules. Truly, the Lord’s righteous rules are cause of the psalmist’s praise of the Lord. By His righteous rules we know we are to love the Lord with all our heart soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves.  But even more and deeper: By His righteous rules we can find out seven times a day, that we have not so loved our Lord and Savior nor our neighbors as ourselves…at least seven times! And you want to be forgiven, don’t you?  Then, love your neighbor as yourself. Ahh, there’s the rub. By His righteous rules , we know by His Law that my brother and yours, sins, and he is shown his sin, and he says, I repent, you must forgive him. What a lot of work. Jesus truly  teaches in the Gospel “excessive forgiveness”.

So when the disciples hear this teaching about forgiving seven times a day, as they  had heard the excessive mercy of a shepherd, a woman and a father in the parables of the lost sheep, coin and son, the apostles cry out in pray, “Lord, increase our faith!”  If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  Mulberry trees are deep-rooted. Did the Lord ever do a miracle of uprooting mulberry trees and planting them in the sea?  Planting something in sea is absurd.  I think that’s the point. Uprooting mulberry trees and planting them in the sea is so unnecessary. This kind of miracle is a snap, you see, compared to forgiveness which is so necessary and so much harder, infinitely more difficult. Compared to a mulberry tree,   behold how deep rooted sin is, entangling the soul, rotting souls, society and congregations.  And notice:  Jesus did not answer the apostles request.  The message of forgiveness in the Name of the Lord will be their divine task of plowing and shepherding.

“Lord, increase our faith!”  Did Jesus ever answer the apostles’ prayer?   Yes! On the Cross, the author of life whipped and spat upon, crowned with thorns, bleeding blood first in His sweat and then upon His sacred head now wounded, full of grief and shame. What a lot of work!  Excessive forgiveness can occur in the unlikeliest of places like a courtroom and it began in His Cross and by it the verdict is rendered: not guilty, FORGIVEN.  The Lord went into the depths of the rootedness of iniquity and wickedness even into hell.  Let’s talk about excessive forgiveness for sinners, for you and for me and His excessive forgiveness is so necessary, and just what the doctor ordered. Still does.  Our outrage culture needs His excessive forgiveness more than ever from the church as the salt of the earth with the message we can run with:  the just shall live by faith.  Forgiveness of sin, not though apologies for sin. Repentance of sin, not acceptance of it. Yes, faith by and in the justification of the ungodly but never justification of ungodliness. Only out of His rich mercy can we live in forgiveness of others.

The righteous will live by faith, by faith in the Lord who’s righteousness rules. This engraved message we can run for all to read and see.  It is the sum and substance and goal of the Bible. The message of the cross deflates our bloated pride and puts us in Jesus’ side.   Righteousness by faith is the trust that the Lord has fulfilled all righteousness in His suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection, His atonement. All of Scripture is about our atonement in Christ, He is the power to live, He is the only way to the Father, He is “…wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

 In the satiric Babylon Bee article, it is ‘reported’:

“What people have to understand is, if we keep toying around with all this grace and mercy stuff, this whole racial divide could come toppling down,” explained Brad Hunter of CBS News. “Are people really ready to say goodbye to that? I must say that, as a journalist, I, for one, am not.”

We have a hard time saying goodbye to our dearest souvenirs of hell. Man likes his outrage. “Lord, increase our faith!” “Look to Me, My hands, My side” and  the unfathomable riches of Christ are here today in His Word, the Scriptures, His Sacraments. Babylon Bee:

“What Brandt Jean did in that courtroom sets black people back hundreds of years. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say it sets us back about 2000 years,” said Janelle Taylor of ABC. “What year does he think this is? 33 AD?”

In Christ, crucified, risen and ascended, 33 AD is today, today is the day of salvation.

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Biography:  Pastor Muhlenberg was born in Einbeck, Germany in 1711, the seventh of nine children.  He graduated from Gottingen University and studied also at Halle, serving as schoolmaster.  Halle was the center for Pietism under August Hermann Francke who sent Muhlenberg to the new world. First he went to London for study and there had a gown made which became the pattern for English Lutheran clergy in America.

Pastor Muhlenberg came to the colonies  in 1742.  A tireless traveler, Muhlenberg helped to found many Lutheran congregations and was the guiding force behind the first American Lutheran synod, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, founded Sunday, August 14, 1748 in Philadelphia.  At this synod Muhlenberg submitted a liturgy which was ratified and remained the only authorized American Lutheran liturgy for 40 years(1). He valued the role of music in Lutheran worship (often serving as his own organist)  The transition from the state church of Germany to the free churches of America brought challenges and Pastor Muhlenberg wrote a model congregational constitution in 1762 which became the basis for local church government.  He preached in German, Dutch and English and it was reported with a powerful voice.  And during his pastoral ministry, Muhlenberg kept a journal of his travels and service, remembering that Pennsylvania was practically the frontier in those days.  

Muhlenberg and his sons were also leaders in American public life. His son John Peter Gabriel left his pastorate in Woodstock, Virginia and became a general under Washington and later in life served as congressman and senator from Pennsylvania.  He announced his intention to serve in the Continental Army and the cause of political freedom from the pulpit when he took off his preaching robe to reveal his uniform saying there is a time to pray and a time to fight.  One of Pennsylvania’s statues in Statuary Hall in the U. S. Capitol depicts this moment .  It might be legend, but it illustrates that we are called to serve as citizens in the two kingdoms, the temporal, that is, our nation and the eternal, the reign of God in Jesus Christ. John’s brother, Frederick Augustus Conrad,  also a Lutheran pastor became a member of the Continental Congress and became the first speaker of the House of Representatives in the new nation under the new Constitution.

Muhlenberg established the shape of Lutheran parishes for America during a 45-year ministry in Pennsylvania. Muhlenberg is remembered as a church leader, a journalist, a liturgist, and—above all—a pastor to the congregation in his charge.  He and has family also reflect the beginnings of our nation and service to the Constitution.  If your high school son or daughter needs to do a paper on the beginnings of our nation, the Muhlenbergs would make fine subject matter!   Pastor Muhlenberg died in 1787, in Trappe, Pennsylvania, leaving behind a large extended family and a lasting heritage: American Lutheranism. (Sources:  Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Philip Pfatteicher and The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection: 

Pastor Muhlenberg wrote an extensive journal which is a record of his pastoral ministry but also the times and his heart.  His journals are in three volumes. In this selection, we see his ministry, times and his heart:

1748. November 5.I am worn out from much reading; I am incapacitated for study; I cannot even manage my own household because I must be away most of the time. The Reverend Fathers called me for only three years on trial, but the dear God has doubled the three years and upheld me all this time with forbearance. I write this not out of any discontent of slothfulness, but out of the feeling of spiritual and physical incapacity and a yearning desire to achieve a little more quietude where I could gather my thoughts better, spend more time with my wife and children, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Pr. Muhlenberg had a hard go of it in the new world.  October is pastor appreciation month.  Pastors and people together get  tired and worn out and come to the brink of despair.  Dr. Luther has this evangelical encouragement:

 “Nearly all people are tempted by despair, and the godlier they are, the more frequently they are attacked with this weapon of Satan. What else should you do in this situation than say: ‘I know that I am baptized and that God, for the sake of His Son, has promised me grace. This promise will not lie, even if I should be cast into utter darkness. Therefore what Satan suggests to me is not God’s will; but God is testing me in this manner, that it may become manifest what is hidden in my heart. It is not that God does not know this, but that I do not know it. He Himself wants to make use of this occasion to crush the head of the serpent in me (Gn 3:15). For the heart of man is unsearchable; and the mind of the flesh, is enmity against God’ (Rm 8:7). Nor does man perceive this except through the word of the law, through which the head of the serpent is killed, in order that we may be made alive, as Scripture says (1Sa 2:6): ‘The Lord brings down to Sheol and raises up.’”

Pastor Muhlenberg was a missionary to our very young colonies and nation. The day has arrived in which we need faithful Christian missionaries to our nation again:  in our amoral and immoral nation in which so many think they know what Christianity is and have forgotten, even derided, her sound doctrines delivered by the Lord and His Apostles, that with them, we all repent and walk in the Lord.

Let us pray…

Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of Your people, we give You thanks for Your servant Henry Melchior  Muhlenberg, who was faithful in the care and nurture of the flock entrusted to his care.  So, they may follow his example and teaching of his holy life, give strength to pastors today who shepherd Your flock that, by Your grace may grow into the fullness of life intended for them in paradise;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit one God now and forever. Amen.

Pray often for your pastor and all pastors

(1) One of the great hopes and goals for American Lutheranism has been a unified liturgy and this was almost realized in the 1970s with the publication of the Lutheran Book of Worship, a project initiated by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).  Two of the Lutheran church bodies began to ordain women.  The LCMS kept to the Scriptures on ordination of women. This and other major doctrinal differences caused the then 3 Lutheran Church bodies to part ways and the LCMS did not authorize the LBW. (Those two liberal Lutheran Church bodies, along with the breakaway denomination from the LCMS merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in ’87 which has become a very liberal statist church totally identifiable with amoral American society and culture). Now in the Lutheran Church there can be a different ‘liturgy’ in each congregation and the doctrinal differences have widened and deepened.

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A Meme

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“…share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace,which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” “–from the Epistle Reading for Pentecost 17, Year C, 2 Timothy 1: 1-14

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O be our great delive’rer still, the Lord of life and death;

Restore and quicken, soothe and bless, with your life-giving breath.

To hands that work and eyes that see give wisdom’s healing power

That whole and sick and weak and strong

May praise you evermore.

-Your Hand, O Lord, in Days of Old (LSB 846:3

Let us pray…

O Lord, grant to Your faithful people pardon and peace that they maybe cleansed from all their sins and serve You with a quiet mind, through Jesus Christ,Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God,now and forever. Amen.

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Introduction:  Today’s appointed Psalmody is Psalm 119: 9-16.  Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (+9 April, 1945) in his unfinished commentary on the longest single chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, has these sharp observations on verse 9:

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to Your word.

Pr. Bonhoeffer: 

A young man here asks the question of his life, and he asks it not because of flaming idealism or enthusiasm for the good and noble in general, but because he has experienced the power of the Word of God and his own weakness. Does this question about the blameless and pure way sound inconsistent with youth, freedom and affirmation of life?  If so, it is only because we have become accustomed to a very godless conception of youth and are no longer able to understand the power and fullness of life which is found in innocence.  It is very presumptuous and wrongheaded to that a man has to become entangled in the guilt of life in order to know life itself, and finally God.  We do not learn to know life and guilt from own experience, but from God’s judgment of mankind and His grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.

In Bonhoeffer’s time, before World War II, after the utter devastation of the first World War, a youth movement began in Germany that was looking for a leader, (German: Führer) to lead them to a new day. In 1933, after Herr Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Bonhoeffer gave a radio address, “The Younger Generations’ Altered Concept of Leadership” based upon “Führer Princip”, that is, Leader Principle.  It was cut short, probably by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer later gave it again. He did not like this “leader principle”, as it had tones of a political/cultural messiah, Bonhoeffer:

“…the originally matter-of-fact idea of political authority has become the political, messianic concept of the Leader (Fuhrer) as we know it today. Into it there also streams all the religious thought of its adherents. Where the spirit of the people is a divine, metaphysical factor, the Leader who embodies this spirit has religious functions, and is in the proper sense the ‘messiah’.” (single quotes added)

Sound familiar? Every presidential election is now a ‘divine’ election. I wrote an article about this principle at Brothers of John the Steadfast.  

Yet it all started in a youth movement. Just as Pre-Nazi Germany had a large youth movement,we had one in our country the 1960s. Now well into the 21st Century, the younger generation is looking toward a political messiah and this time, a socialist/climate change messiah.  We recently saw the spectacle of a 16 year old in a rant before the UN about climate change and so many extolled her:  ‘How the youth teaches us!’, “How brave!” “What courageous wisdom!” may sum up their sentiment.  In both time periods, youth were extolled as the measure of the good and the noble and the pure.  

It seems to me that n Bonhoeffer’s comments on Psalm 119: 9, he is reflecting a saying of this new understanding of youth, that youth is “pure”. Such a secular philosophy denies original sin and sin is then allowed. Growing up in the 60s, I was told that you have to become thoroughly immersed in “living” to understand life.  No, says Bonhoeffer, based upon God’s Word:  we learn of life, it’s guilt and redemption only in God’s Word.  Only by God’s Word are we made pure by faith in Jesus Christ: young and old and in between.  

I was never directly taught that it is good to be innocent, actually pure, as it was derided as naiveté. Parents then assumed such, as did churches, but schools less and less, and the ‘revolution’, especially the sexual revolutionaries did not at all, but were leading the other way, and the flesh, urged on by the devil, gladly followed. Colleges have become large bedrooms. Certainly, the schools won’t teach purity and especially a peer group, even churches don’t, or will not.  

Look at what youth, unrestricted by any wisdom, Biblical or traditional, wrought in Germany…look at the mayhem in the streets in our day: Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Operation Wall Street, gang violence and the like.   Look what has happened with my generation dictating what we wanted and being heeded and the results:  drugs, pot, ‘free’ love, narcissism, abortion, STDs, AIDs, divorce, living together.  Look at what has been wrought: the denial of the family and my friends replacing my family. ‘Pure’ youth can not create purity. Only the pure and holy Lord God can so redeem. There was a song in the ’60s by The Who, “Talkin’ About My Generation” and we’re still doing it. If talking about the Boomers, Generations X, Y, Z, millenials, heeding the young and experienced, would make it better: It hasn’t. I am tired about talking about my generation…any generation as saviors of our time and this is idolatry. Let’s resume the conversation and prayer with the Lord. Bonhoeffer:

….we have become accustomed to a very godless conception of youth and are no longer able to understand the power and fullness of life which is found in innocence.

No one is good enough to be a savior, God.

Again Bonhoeffer:

“Not good intentions, burning ideals, nor even work and fulfillment of duty can keep the way pure, only God’s Word can do that.

We need the Word of Lord more than ever, beloved in the Lord.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to Your word.

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