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St. John Damascene! | Catholic saints, Mary catholic, True faith

John (ca. 675–749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theologian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around 716 he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726 issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymn writer (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches. His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom which was a massive compendium of truth from  previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John’s summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western churches.(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

O Lord, through Your servant John of Damascus, You proclaimed with power the mysteries of the true faith.  Confirm our faith so that we may confess Jesus to be true God and true man, singing the praise of the risen Lord, and so that by the power the resurrection we also attain the joys of eternal life;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Reflection:  If you have ever been in an eastern Orthodox Church, especially during the Divine Liturgy, you have seen people venerating icons by bowing to one and then kissing it. This can be disconcerting for many Christians. It was controversial in the days of John of Damascus and still can be.

John of Damascus was instrumental in the iconoclast controversy. He wrote On the Divine Images, which is  a defense of the practice of venerating icons.   Our word “iconoclast” as one who challenges cherished beliefs, seems to come from that time.  It is from two Greek words and literally means, “breaker of images”. During the early part of the Reformation, mobs stormed the Castle Church in Wittenberg, smashing statues of the Virgin Mary and other images.  Fr. Luther left his hiding placing in Wartburg to put a stop to that. John was of the opposite position to the iconclasts: an iconodule, “one who serves images”.  We live in an age in which we take a prideful pleasure in the breaking of icons yet the word “icon” is bandied about for all sorts of people as in such and such person is, “iconic” even when they do not reflect anything of the Lord and His will.

The Orthodox understanding of icons is this:  an icon is written.   Yes, it is painted but it written as a prayer, or a proclamation of the Word of God which is meet and right and salutary and so to do that was exhibited in a saint in Christ’s life.  The English word  word, “icon” is right from the New Testament and is translated as “image”  (Greek:  eikon, pronounced “icon”):

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:48-50

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:17-18

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:14-16

C. S. Lewis wrote that to God matter matters, after all He created matter.  We do not worship matter but the Creator of all things and through His creation His goodness is still seen in the things He created.  He became flesh to redeem those whom He created and loves.   Further, redemption is not dis-incarnate spirituality, He came to redeem His creation from it’s bondage to sin, decay and death.  He washes us in real water comprehended in His Word, His Name and in bread and wine, His body and blood.  His Word is preached and taught  into our hearts to sanctify us that we are more and more the icon of Christ in the world.  Our hope is in the life of the world to come.

The first use of “icon” or “image” is  in Genesis that man is made in the image of God (Gen. 2: 27) and to deform and murder that image is wickedness (Gen. 9:6). A current iconoclasm is gender transitioning and it is deformation of the imago Dei, the image of God. The image of God male and female and that is it.  It is wickedness to mutilate the body meant for the resurrection in Jesus Christ.  The Lord so thinks His creation good, that when fallen and disgraced, He graced us with the Image of His Presence, His Son Jesus Christ.  The Lord comes to save us, let us worship Him.  It is horrific to so mar the image of God in man. We need to fight the good fight for the image of God in man and the Man of heaven, Christ our Lord as did St. John of Damascus. We must remember the Lord’s goal for our life in Him:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be CONFORMED TO IMAGE OF HIS SON, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29; emphasis added)

and

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

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What Christmas Means To Me {Blogmas 2014} – Come Home For Comfort

Intro:  When I first read the title of this essay, I worriedly thought, ‘Did C. S. Lewis write a sentimental  piece on the meaning of Christmas?’  He did not, and I was sorry to have so readily misjudged him. Second thought I had:  ‘Did Mr. Lewis write about the meaning of the Incarnation as the meaning of Christmas?’  And here I was disappointed—but then again, he wrote so much about this true meaning that in such a short essay, it might have been difficult for him to write a Reader’s Digest piece on so broad and deep a subject.  Yet, I was not disappointed, for what it’s worth, by this essay.  Mr. Lewis usually surprises.

From God in the dock—Essays on Theology and Ethics by C. S. Lewis, published by William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. © 1970 The Trustees of the Estate of C.S. Lewis, first appearing December, 1957

Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business too have a ‘view’ on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business.

I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out — physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?

3. Things are given as presents which no mortal every bought for himself — gaudy and useless gadgets, ‘novelties’ because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

4. The nuisance. for after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don’t know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst, I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.

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St. Andrew the Apostle - Donora, PA
“If I feared the punishment of the cross, I would never have preached the mystery of the cross.“

Scripture Readings:  Ezekiel 3:16-21 Psalm 139: 1-12 Romans 10:8-18  St. John 1:35-42a

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, by Your grace the apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple. Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About St. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was born in the Galilean village of Bethsaida. Originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, Andrew then became the first of Jesus’ disciples (John 1:35-40). His name regularly appears in the Gospels near the top of the lists of the Twelve. It was he who first introduced his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:41-42). He was, in a real sense, the first home missionary, as well as the first foreign missionary (John 12:20-22). Tradition says Andrew was martyred by crucifixion on a cross in the form of an X. In AD 357, his body is said to have been taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and later removed to the cathedral of Amalfi in Italy. Centuries later, Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland. St. Andrew’s Day determines the beginning of the Western Church Year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day.

Reflection, by  Pr. Valerius Herberger  (21 April 1562-18 May 1627,a German Lutheran preacher and theologian

Reverent hearts, we hold the feast of the apostle Andrew in Christendom as the first in the [Church] Year not only because it falls near the season of Advent but also because Andrew was called first, before the other apostles, by the Lord Jesus. Even Durandus the bishop of Mende (13th century liturgist) , says, “The saints are be honored by imitation, not adored, as honor them as gods. They are to be honored with love, not adored with servitude.”

Now history tells us how St. Andrew, together with his fellows conducted their new office. Right away they left their nets and followed the Lord Jesus. And again, right away they left the ship and their father and followed Him. To them, Jesus is now the most precious one on earth—according to His mind they learn, according to His words they teach, according to His will they live, according to His decree they suffer and die. When St. Andrew was threatened with the cross, he said joyfully, “If I feared the punishment of the cross, I would never have preached the mystery of the cross.” Then when he saw the cross, he spoke, “Hail, precious cross, you who were dedicated by the body of Christ; may He receive me through you, who redeemed me through you.” And when he was living after three days on the cross, his hearers wanted to take him down by force, but he said, “Ah, let God take care of it! Do not make the peace of the Gospel suspect by your unnecessary revolt  against the government.” That was apostolic constancy and long-suffering! This is what it means to “leave everything and follow Christ,” all the way to the last catch of fish

St. Andrew was less an admirer of Jesus, and more a follower of the Lord.  Jesus said to Andrew and his brother Simon (Peter), “Follow me”.  Many worldlings admire Jesus but don’t follow him.  Many Christians as well,  yet even admiration can be turn into imitation. Andrew followed the Lord to Andrew’s own x-shaped cross.  The Lord had taught the apostles that this would happen. Andrew’s hearers wanted to take him down from the cross which would have been to revolt against the government to save himself, but as you read in the bio, Andrew said, “Ah, let God take care of it! Do not make the peace of the Gospel suspect by your unnecessary revolt  against the government.” That was apostolic constancy and long-suffering! This is what it means to “leave everything and follow Christ,” all the way to the last catch of fish.” 

Andrew heard the Lord said, Take up your cross and follow me.  We do not know the shape of our crosses, as Andrew did not know his literal x-shaped cross.  On this date, in 2014, a  dear mentor, Pastor Louis A. Smith, became painfully ill in his abdomen and at the hospital while being wheeled in for surgery died from a burst abdominal aorta.  We were at a retreat when this happened and to the end Lou was doing what the Lord called him to do: a Pastor teaching and by teaching of the Word giving support, challenge and comfort to the brethren, “…all the way to the last catch of fish”. 


Addendum: The following quotes are either from Pr. Smith’s sermons and articles or from my many conversations with him.  Talking with Lou epitomized Luther’s saying that the conversation and the consolation of the brethren is almost a sacrament.–Pr. Schroeder

“Most bad theology begins with bad taste.”

Note:  the NT Greek, episcopos,means oversight, and which is translated “bishop”.  We were talking about bishops in the ELCA and Pastor Smith said:  “Episcopos” means oversight, not overlook.”

Towards the end of her life, Pastor Smith’s mother lived with Lou and his wife Helen.  Mom was quite a handful for Pastor and Mrs. Smith because of her rather cantankerous personality.  Lou and I were talking about that and Lou said, “You know, it is really hard to keep the 4th Commandment”.

Me: “I’ve always had troubles with the “unity” or “Cana” candle ceremony in a wedding service and I can’t put my finger on why?”  Lou:  “Note:  you don’t need two candles to light one candle, so yeah, something is going on here.  The physical element of the sacrament of marriage is the two become one flesh.  Since most couples have already done that and so the ‘unity candle’ has been introduced  and has  become  an ersatz ‘sacrament’”.

“I’ve told Church Councils at meetings about my salary, that when it comes to preaching, baptizing and presiding, I do this for nothing.  Church council meetings:  This is what I get paid for.”

Me:  “I usually am flummoxed when asked, When did the Lord call you into the Ministry?” Lou:  “When you were ordained, Mark.”

Me:  It is said that Lutheran Church is a “confessing movement” in the church catholic.  Lou:  “I was not baptized into a movement but the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

“The interpretive task is not so much to understand the Word of the Bible as it is to stand under the Word of the Bible. It is, after all, not the Bible that is the puzzle that we need to solve. It is we who are the puzzle and the Bible that will solve us.” (from an address in my possession)

…both hunger and thirst make us aware of our mortality. Guess what? THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO! That is their theological meaning. Hunger and thirst are sacraments of our mortality. They are the felt reminders of the fact that we do not have life within us.” (from a  Lenten sermon)

“…I finally discovered the difference between a eulogy and a sermon.  Forgive me if I tell you what you already know. The difference is this:  In a eulogy, one person who purports to know another, stands up and says some nice things that are not necessarily true about a dead human being.  In a sermon, a person authorized by the Gospel of Jesus Christ says some true things that are not necessarily nice about a living God.”(from  a Lenten sermon)

“God does not justify ungodliness but the ungodly.”

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Noah Icon
Icon of Noah in the Baptistry, Kramer Chapel, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN

Almighty and eternal God,  according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all.  Grant that we may be kept safe and secure  in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20).  Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would. (From LCMS website)

Genesis 6:

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.

The first mortal sin was murder when Cain killed his brother Abel. This image is of a sculpture at the Chrysler Art Museum, Norfolk, VA, entitled

The First Funeral. The murder was not the result of stone violence but the violence in the heart, that is, the will.  Anger and violence unleashed upon the earth by Adam and Eve wanting to control good and evil, but it is evil that controls.   When the Lord sees the violence upon the earth, the violence is not some statistic for analysis , but the flesh and blood of evil deeds and the mourning that results from violence. The act of violence is preceded by the thought and the word, as when the Lord says to Cain,

“Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Anger precedes the murder and as the Lord Jesus clearly taught anger at one’s brother is murder.  “We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed.”  Cain did not seek the Lord to help him rule over his anger and quell it in the Lord’s mercy.  Cain was set on being merciless as he sought to quench his anger but killing it’s supposed cause:  his brother. Murder never solves and stops anger. This only starts the downward spiral of vengeance (see Genesis 4: 22-24).  So when the Lord looked upon His own beloved and good creation, he saw the scene of Cain multiplied by the thousands desiring to kill in anger and then murdering.

We are living in an angry world that has institutionalize anger as the raison d’etre, the reason of the existence of the subject matter of so much in the media, radio, conversation, internet, especially blogs and Facebook. I can angry if someone cuts me off on the road or in the grocery aisle.  Why so much violence that we look upon?  The Old Adam desires it. 

 James 1: “19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

If anger produced the righteousness of God, then we would be living in the most pious age of mankind, but we are not!

God’s judgment came upon mankind through the Lord’s Word of Law to the earth: the flood.  The Lord’s grace came to mankind in the One the Lord sent for  the earth:  His Son Jesus who as our brother would be killed by our sin.  He alone produces the righteousness of God in our hearts and souls and quenches the fire of anger in them. His Baptism douses that fire. Advent is about pentitence. We can not control our anger as we ought.  As Noah and his family came through the flood, so we have come through the flood of Holy Baptism to rest in the holy ark of Christ’s Church to go forward in the new covenant, Christ’s testament of His body and blood for sinners.  Cling in faith in the Lord and his promise fulfilled in your baptism: “Baptism, which corresponds to this (Noah and the flood), now saves you”(1 Peter 3: 20-22). Pray and we are encouraged by the Lord to pray.

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Share this:

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Triumphal entry into Jerusalem - Wikipedia

Sermon Text: And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road

The other time of the Church year today’s  Gospel of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is read is Palm Sunday.  

There is more than one advent. How many Advents are there?

  1.  Advent as the beginning of the Church year.  Advent means to come near, arrive, coming. The Advent Season is all about His first coming, His advent, beginning in the Blessed Virgin’s womb, the prophecies His coming and preparations for His Advent 
  2. The second advent is when He comes again in power and glory for those whose waiting and loving the hope of His appearing.
  3. And in between the two central Advents, pivots of human history,  thousands upon thousands of Advents, the Lord drawing near, arriving. As in today’s telling of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem…and before, inviting himself to Zacchaeus’ home, preaching in his hometown synagogue, at a Pharisee’s home, telling of a runaway son and his ever seeking Father welcoming the advent of his son. So many…and from there, in Acts of the Apostles: the centurion Cornelius’ home, a Roman jailer, a dealer in purple cloth, Lydia, Phoebe and Dorcas, Philip the Deacon…and you.  In your baptism, the Lord came to you, a personal Advent…and every time we do as He says, Take, eat, Take, drink, and in every prayer in your homes. His whole life is an Advent, drawing near. As Martha said to the Lord outside of her brother Lazarus’ tomb: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Then cleansed be every life from sin: make straight the way for God within, and let us all our hearts prepare for Christ to come and enter there. (Lutheran Service Book #344).

We are about to enter the season when we shop till  we drop, cooking, cleaning, buying…so much preparing. But how do we prepare for such a holy Guest, perfectly worthy of all honor and glory?  Answer: The crowds laid down their cloaks.

This laying down of the cloaks means the following four points:

First:  Laying down the cloak of deceit and wrong.  In the Advent in Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, the crowds  were coming to Him just as He approached Jerusalem,  “… the crowds laid down their cloaks, their spotted, soiled, sweat stained and sun-burned cloaks, even beautiful coats, at His feet”.  His feet which would be nailed to the cross so we walk in the newness of life. 

When we do wrong, the first impulse is to cloak wrong in secrecy and darkness.  When many are caught in the glaring spotlight of being publicly exposed, as they shamelessly exposing themselves behind locked door in sexual abuse or self-abuse, avoid the light of day.   Being caught by the media does not compare to being caught by the Lord.  We are not exempt from the world’s temptations which bear down upon us day and night in this time, the allure of wealth, fame and power, the small and real annoyances of everyday life, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it (Gen. 4:7).We cannot cloak our misdeeds. The light of day pales to the light of His Law into our hearts. We think the lusts, greed and anger in our minds are not known but from God no secrets are hid. We hide our sin, cloak it, as did Adam.  Asked the LORD: Where are you? I was naked and so I hid (Gen. 3).   Sin is nothing new under the sun and it’s not really news nor new.

As we heard from Isaiah today:  We have all become like one who is unclean,    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Laying down the cloak of deceit and wrong in the One who’s Advent in Jerusalem means we lay them down in confession and are clothed again in His forgiveness, cleansed, purer than snow.

Secondly,  laying down of the garment of sin reminds us we are clothed differently than the cut of the world’s cloth.  The old cloak of sin is cast down, stripped from us in true repentance in the Lord. He was stripped naked on account of man’s evil. As the Lord made Adam and Eve clothes, in Holy Baptism we are clothed in Christ, as it is written in Galatians 3: 27, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  Christ Jesus is the Church’s “Sunday best”.  He is your Sunday best. The Lord’s Sunday Best, His mercy, is for your neighbor as well. The Lord may dress us for success, but He ever dresses in faithfulness. The cloaks of sin can be laid down, when we see in mirror of God’s Law, the 10 commandments how filthy they become.  We lay that down in contrition and sorrow for His forgiveness to wrap us in His mercy.  He alone absolves, makes clean,

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Baptized into His Name, the Name above all names,  washed us in His forgiveness or absolution, robed in His righteousness alone. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…(Colossians 3).

Thirdly, laying down our cloaks of shame, we don’t have to worry about who we are, because we are His.  We don’t even need to fret, what good does it do, because the Lord will clothes us and remakes us His own. Yet we do. This is the Lord who chides us all about worrying about what we are to wear, And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (St. Matthew 6)

“…we similarly are to deny ourselves, to denounce our fame, throw away our glory, remove from ourselves praise of self-righteousness. We are to give all glory to Christ alone. We are to acknowledge that only this King is able to do the highest good. His name alone is worthy of all glory (Psa. 115:1).) (Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard).

Fourthly, the laying down of our cloaks even of beauty, reminds us of death, physical death, and the hope of the resurrection unto eternal life with Jesus. “ Now I lay me down to sleep…”  As it is written:

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5: 4-5

Our souls will not go on naked in eternity but in Christ, who rose bodily from the dead we too shall so rise bodily, further clothed.

Beloved in the Lord!  There are many of those who preach themselves, who present dreams and ordinances of men, who direct everything to the end of themselves being held in high esteem. But that should not be. Christ alone must be set upon the colt. He alone with His Spirit and Word should rule in the hearts of mankind. His glory alone should be sought and proclaimed…(Pastor Gerhard)

As it is written in Jude’s Epistle:

“In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Dressed in Christ, may He provide us opportunities so snatch others out of the fire with Your Word O Lord. save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Lord calls us and equips us with the weapons of the Spirit to wait, watch and prepare for His coming, engaged in His work of grace in our lives in our vocations, families, town and nation.

The Lord Jesus entered into the world in His first coming, His Nativity, so He could enter into Jerusalem and so He will come again a second time in the Resurrection on the last day.  Thy Kingdom come is for that Day and for this hour now. He entered into Jerusalem, so He enters His Church in his daily Advents between the 1st and 2nd Advents, and has made our bodies His temple receiving the fruits of His Cross, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, He prepares and repairs us.  Our Lord came down from heaven and died on the cross and has entered my heart.

Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.

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Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1863, from Abraham Lincoln

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

 I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

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His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107

I just came across a provocative title for a video about the Pilgrims, “Who Do We Thank?”  At one time the resounding majority answer at Thanksgiving would be God.  It still is…but for a minority these days. But this title is provocative because the answer for so many, non-Christians and even Christians can be muddled.  If we do not give thanks to the Lord, first, what is the use of thanksgiving.  Yet we do have this urge to give thanks. 

If not the Lord, then we give thanks to our Fathers and Mothers and ancestors for our daily bread?  In some ways, a hearty yes. They worked hard that we were born and grow up, fed our daily bread, provided a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, even being raised, well, right. Yet, for our parents to whom we give thanks?  Their parents? Then our grandparents’ parents etc., etc.?  If we go back far enough, to the “big bang” that scientists say began the universe?  It is rather difficult to give thanks to an interaction of physics with only accidental design…and on top of that the “big bang” is still a theory.

Going back like that sounds so much like various mythologies of the creation of  the gods and goddesses which goes back to prior deities, then before that to other deities, etc. etc…without end…or more like without beginning?  Yet, logic dictates there was a beginning.  What was before the “big bang”?  Impersonal forces can not create a world that is full of life and color and beauty.  An artist cares about the design he puts on a canvas to portray the attractiveness of design and color to grab the eye.  The artist puts a type of love into his work…so also the heavens and the earth, the universe and all that is therein sing of a love put into the whole shebang and we even need to fight for the good out of thankful love for it.

We can’t give  whole-hearted thanks to the State, my political party, my aspirational thoughts, my spirituality, scientific theories, accidents, media stars….though many of aforementioned want that thankfulness due only to God.  We sense such thankfulness is at best shallow. Thankfulness to the Lord at Thanksgiving, and any day of the week, is a counter-cultural response and whole-hearted.  I didn’t create the world, the sun, the moon, the stars, Dad and Mom, the waves on the beach or the beer and bread on my table.  The beginning is God and the end is God…and God in between.  As we give thanks to an artist for a beautiful painting, it is only logical we give thanks to the Creator for this living three dimensional, bodily and earthly, creation, His creation.  And when it fell into the chaos of wrong, He did something:  He sent forth His Son, “…begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary” (The Nicene Creed) to redeem not only me and you, but all creation and He will fulfill His purpose for all creation in Him.

Who do we thank?  You know the answer. Say it, pray it, share it.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107

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Image result for elizabeth of hungary

Let us pray…Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary.  She scorned her bejeweled crown with thoughts of the thorned one her Savior donned for her sake and ours, that we too, might live a life of sacrifice, pleasing in Your sight and worthy of the Name of Your Son, Christ Jesus, who with the Holy Spirit reigns with You forever in the everlasting kingdom. Amen.

Elizabeth  of Hungary, born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given in an arranged political marriage, she became wife of Louis of Thuringia (Germany) at age 14.Her spirit of Christian generosity and charity pervaded the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Their abode was known for hospitality and family love. Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy, even giving up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at age 20, she arranged for her children’s well-being and entered into life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The words hospice, hospital and hospitality are all related.  Their root word is “hospes”, that is host.  All three of these related words have to do with being a host.  When I was a hospice chaplain, I am a guest in many homes of a dying family member and his family were my host.  A hospital, the host,  welcomes guests…quite a different understanding than patients!  Many a hospital guest will note the care of especially the nursing staff, as do hospice patients, because they are welcomed and taken care of.   Hospitality is a requirement of a pastor and a bishop:  to welcome friends and strangers to his home as guests.  It is hard work to be a host: food, linen and beds, wounds of body and soul. The host may feel tired and diminished but the guest is replenished.  

It is easy to say that government should take care of the  refugee, the sick or the foreigner and pat oneself on the back that I am caring!  It’s another thing to actually love your neighbor, one to one,  as Christ has served us and serves us daily.  Elizabeth of Hungary knew that.  She was royal as a faithful wife and mother and as one who served the poor.

For instance, Luther and his wife and family were quite hospitable in opening their home to all sorts of people. The Luthers would have at a given moment, 30 -40 guests at table:  seminarians, refugees from religious persecution, visiting professors and pastors. It says in the Bible a pastor is be hospitable (1 Timothy 3: 2 ). All Christians are encouraged and commanded to show hospitality: Romans 12: 13.

Elizabeth of Hungary, and Martin Luther teach us in word and deed the Biblical understanding of hospitality and it is hands on, not hands off letting someone else doing it, especially government! After all, our salvation was and is “hands on”, nail-imprinted Hands. 

Reflection by Dr. Martin Luther:

This is … an outstanding praise of hospitality, in order that we may be sure that God Himself is in our home, is being fed at our house, is lying down and resting as often as some pious brother in exile because of the Gospel comes to us and is received hospitably by us. This is called brotherly love or Christian charity; it is greater than that general kindness which is extended even to strangers and enemies when they are in need of our aid…. For the accounts of the friendships of the Gentiles, like those of Theseus and Hercules, of Pylades and Orestes, are nothing in comparison with the brotherhood in the church; its bond is an association with God so close that the Son of God says that whatever is done to the least of His is done to Himself. Therefore their hearts go out without hypocrisy to the needs of their neighbor, and nothing is either so costly or so difficult that a Christian does not undertake it for the sake of the brethren, … But if anyone earnestly believed that he is receiving the Lord Himself when he receives a poor brother, there would be no need for such anxious, zealous, and solicitous exhortations to do works of love. Our coffers, storeroom, and compassion would be open at once for the benefit of the brethren. There would be no ill will, and together with godly Abraham we would run to meet the wretched people, invite them into our homes, and seize upon this honor and distinction ahead of others and say: “O Lord Jesus, come to me; enjoy my bread, wine, silver, and gold. How well it has been invested by me when I invest it in You!”

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To Think with Christ the King | Church Life Journal | University of Notre  Dame

Introduction: In the 1920s, with the rise of fascism and materialism, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King through his encyclical, Quas Primas  in 1925.  This coming Sunday, the last Sunday  after Pentecost is also the Feast of  Christ the King in many church bodies, including Lutheran churches and congregations.   It could surprise many Lutherans that Christ the King Sunday was established by a Pope! Now my church, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has dropped the designation “Christ the King” for the Last Sunday of the Church Year, nevertheless, this papal designation and the reason for “Christ the King” is still germane to our time.  The Bishop did say many good things in this encyclical.  Below is one quote from his teaching.  In the cusp of ‘Black Friday’ and Advent, this is a more than timely teaching:

The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God’s religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences. …we lament them today: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin. We firmly hope, however, that the feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior…

But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights….

While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights.

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Justinian & Theodora: Rise of a Farmer & a Striptease | The Nef Chronicles

Collect of the Day: Lord God, heavenly Father, through the governance of Christian leaders such as Emperor Justinian, Your name is freely confessed in our nation and throughout the world. Grant that we may continue to choose trustworthy leaders who serve You faithfully in our generation and make wise decisions that contribute to the general welfare of Your people, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Bio:  Justinian was emperor of the East from A.D. 527 to 565 when the Roman Empire was in decline. With his beautiful and capable wife, Theodora, he restored splendor and majesty to the Byzantine court. During his reign the Empire experienced a renaissance, due in large part to his ambition, intelligence, and strong religious convictions. Justinian also attempted to bring unity to a divided church. He was a champion of orthodox Christianity and sought agreement among the parties in the Christological controversies of the day who were disputing the relation between the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in A.D. 533 was held during his reign and addressed this dispute. Justinian died in his eighties, not accomplishing his desire for an empire that was firmly Christian and orthodox.

Please note that I wrote the reflection below 5 years ago when the Commemoration of Justinian was on the day after Islamic terrorist attacks in France. Sadly, I have only slightly adapted this 5 year old reflection.  Friends in Christ:  we need to remember these things.  We can not subject ourselves to cultural Alzheimer’s or cyber forgetfulness.  Just recently, there were decapitations in France by Islamic terrorists and terror in our own American cities in the time of increased government intrusion in to our lives.

Reflection: We  pray that our government will protect our right of religion as strongly as Justinian did for the Christian faith in the Roman Empire.  We also pray that the government protect us from tyranny of itself and others, especially in our day Islamic terrorists and the terror incited by Antifa and the organization Black Lives Matter.  Five years ago we saw and heard the reports of the coordinated terrorist attacks on the sovereign nation of France.  We saw what a cartoon in Charlie Hebdo provoked. The quote below is the one chosen for this Commemoration of Justinian in the Treasury of Daily Prayer (LCMS).  It is quite apropos because of the terrorist atrocities in France and the violence in our city streets coast to coast

The Lutheran Reformers taught that God’s Word points out to us that the Lord rules in two ways:  the kingdoms of His left hand, the nations, physically and temporally, and through the Kingdom of God in Christ, spiritually and physically.  Christians serve in both rules as the Lord is ruler of both.  This is our hope in the face of terror.  The quote is from Luther’s Commentary on Psalm 2. 

The office of Christ is described most clearly, namely, that He will not bear the sword, that He will not found a new state, but will be a teacher to instruct men concerning a certain unheard but eternal decree of God.

Therefore, even if other kings must also make laws and govern through laws, nevertheless their chief function is not to teach or to pass laws, but to punish evil men with the sword and to defend good men. They are consequently like lictors or hangmen of God. For, as Paul says, “they bear the sword to terrify the wicked and for vengeance” (Rom. 13:4). Their own duty is, therefore, not to teach, because they do not rule over consciences or hearts, but only to restrain the hands….

Christ left these things to the kings of the world; to His own people He says: “It shall not be so among you” (Matt. 20:26). For His kingdom stands in the Word, and His office is to teach. He left the care of swine to the kings of the world, for they have been provided with a staff with which they can drive cattle. But His office is … to preach, to tell of God’s decree. This definition of the kingdom of Christ is clear enough and the proper distinction. But few truly comprehend it. That harmful mixture of both kingdoms continually clings to people’s hearts to such an extent that it is difficult even for spiritual-minded to distinguish this kingdom properly from the kingdom of the world.  Nevertheless those who believe in another life after this life see that the services of kings and governors are ,necessary for them in this life, but that they need Christ the King for another and eternal life.

A tyranny of terror has been around since Mohammed and his religion began.  It is the “harmful mixture” of religion and politics.    Luther saw the terrible danger of the Church bearing the sword as it has from time to time as a betrayal of Christ and the Word of God and this is evident in Islam.  Islam bears the sword in the name of it’s god and wants to establish a religious empire over the entire world and now the communist Chinese regime has global aspirations in the name of Marx and Mao.  It is written in Romans 13 that the ruler,

“… is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

It is wrong when the ruler does bear the sword in vain, that is, to let temporal evil have another day.  Pray for the government, police and armed forces of France and NATO, and for our own government and armed forces, and police that Islamic terrorism and domestic terror be utterly stopped, as Nazism was crushed and looting and pillaging in our great American cites.  Still the anti-Christ of Islam and Antifa and company,  and it’s ideology is strong and will probably reappear and will be with us till Christ’s return; but as the Church we can do one more thing:  pray for the conversion of Muslims, conversion of Marxists, men and women for whom Christ also died and bore their sins as well as our own. Pray for godly government, not anti-truth and anti-Christ government, for rulers like Justinian and as American citizens, and Christians, promote and encourage good government.

Let us pray…We beseech thee also to save and defend all God fearing rulers; that under them we may be godly and quietly governed; and grant unto them whole Council, and to all that are put in authority under them, that they may truly and indifferently minister justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue. Lord, in Thy Mercy, hear our prayers.

O Lord, almighty and ever-living God,  You have given exceedingly great and precious promises to those who trust in You. Rule and govern our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that we may live and abide forever in Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.   Amen.

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