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Collect of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son. Grant us such faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that we may never be found wanting in Your sight; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  

All four Gospels mention St. Thomas as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John’s Gospel, which names him “the Twin,” uses Thomas’s questions to reveal truths about Jesus. It is Thomas who says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” To this question Jesus replies, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). John’s Gospel also tells how Thomas, on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, doubts the report of the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Later, “doubting Thomas” becomes “believing Thomas” when he confesses Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:24-29). According to tradition, Thomas traveled eastward after Pentecost, eventually reaching India, where still today a group of people call themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Thomas was martyred for the faith by being speared to death. (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

 Reflection on St. Thomas and this Verse: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.  St. John 20: 29

 We may think that our Lord’s only Beatitudes are those recorded in St. Matthew 5 at the  beginning of His Sermon on the Mount.  No, they are throughout the Gospels including this one to Thomas and us all.  In a sense, Thomas was privileged in his doubt to be an example of the maxim “seeing is believing”.  But our Lord’s beatitude directs us to the more Biblical understanding of the centrality of the Word of God:  hearing is believing.

14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  (Romans 10)

The Lord was preparing Thomas and his brethren for the apostolic Ministry of preaching and teaching the Word of God, the Word of His Gospel to repentant sinners for many to hear and so believe.  Even what Thomas and the apostles saw that first evening of the new creation were wounds of a crucifixion.  Not glorious by any stretch of worldly imaginations  but glorious in love’s pure light who died for sinners…as Thomas, as you, making faith.  His wounds are preached scars of our forgiveness in the One Who alone is the way, the truth and life, no one else, as Thomas also heard.  Pastors are called to preach the blood, preach the manger, preach the cross: preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  And Thomas was called to preach His wounds! From His side flowed water and blood (John 19:34), Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  Pastors are called to administer the Sacraments.  Thomas’ eyes were blessed in seeing but his feet were beautiful in the sermon he preached: Jesus Christ.

Crown him the Lord of love.
Behold his hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above, 
In beauty glorified.
No angels in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bend their burning eyes
At mysteries so bright.

Rev. Edward Shillito was an English minister who survived the horrors of artillery, machine guns, and trench warfare during World War I. I think his poem “Jesus of the Scars ” is a fine commentary on Thomas and his faith in these dark days:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars we claim Thy grace.

If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are; have no fear;
Show us Thy Scars; we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

In Medio Ecclesiae: Wounds of Christ

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New Testament Reading for Today:  Hebrews 13: 1-21

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Earlier on in the Gospels, Jesus sent forth the 12 disciples to preach and cast out demons.  Jesus also sent out the 72.  Jesus sent the disciples to teach all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Holy Trinity.  He promised He would be with always even unto the end of the age.  Jesus sent the 11 disciples on the first day of the week, breathing on them the Holy Spirit in His forgiveness, St. John 20:

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Christ’s message is forgiveness.  He sent them out, knowing fully well that they are frail clay vessels so that others may know that the glory is not from them but from the Lord.  

He stills sends out His pastors with the very same message, in the very same power of the Holy Spirit. Like Luther preached that if you found out that in such and such church God was speaking, everyone would flock to it.  Well, preached Luther, there are such Churches, where and when the Gospel is preached by a pastor.  We do not have a “Word-less” Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit preaches the Word through the words of a pastor. Jesus said to Peter three times: Feed My Sheep.  Don’t feed them the thin pasturage of the world and it’s vain philosophies.  The ministers come with the same message as during Bright Week:  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  Hear the message every Sunday with His People to be strengthen in faith toward God and in fervent love of others.  As Martin Chemnitz, the “Second Martin”,  taught from Scripture that the voice of the Christ is the Gospel preached by a faithful and faithfully called Pastor:

He who hears you, hears Me; he who rejects you, rejects Me,” (Luke 10: 16)…This saying of Christ contains the sweet teaching and consolation that when the ministers of the Word prove from the Word of God what they teach, they are to be heard in no other way than as if the voice of God were speaking to us from heaven. For God is present with the ministry and speaks to us through that medium, and it is efficacious, as the Baptist says: “I am the voice of one calling.” For it is God who calls through the Baptist. In 2 Cor. 13:3 Paul says: “You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me.” Thus in 2 Cor. 5:20 he says: “God makes His appeal through us.” But how? By “entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” So we read in Is. 59:21: “My Spirit which is upon you and My words which I have put in your mouth, etc.” This teaching wins true reverence for the ministry and inclines the minds to obedience, according to the saying, Heb. 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” When the ministers bring and set forth the Word of God, the hearers accept it not as the word of men, but as it is indeed, the Word of God, as Paul says in 1 Thess. 2:13. And it is most comforting that we can truly conclude that when we hear the Word of God out of the mouth of the minister, the Son of God Himself is with us, speaks to us, and is efficacious through that Word. For upon this depends what Christ declares: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven,” “whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” But this dignity, reverence, obedience, and efficacy of the ministry depend on this, that it brings and sets forth the Word of God.

—Martin Chemnitz

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“Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life.”

A Reflection:

During the Nazi years, the Nazis developed the “German Christian Church” which fused Nazism and Christianity, or more precisely:  the neo-paganism of the “blood and soil” mythology loved by the Nazis under the name of Christianity. (See:  2 Timothy 3:4-6

Two of the phrases used by the German Christians were  “practical Christianity” and “positive Christianity”.  In our time  so-called practical and positive Christianity is espoused  in many quarters today.  It is the grist of much Christian publishing.  These folks say that  such preaching should be about, for instance, “real life” and practical living, not  the real life we have in Christ Jesus, and most decidedly not the Cross and true repentance.  They say that this fills pews and sadly it does. I am not saying these folks are Nazis.  But the Old Adam does not want to die to sin, to live in Christ, but live and flourish on his own terms.

 Any Christianity which is a fusion with whatever nation and culture it is in, ‘German-Christian’, ‘American Christianity’ is a sell out. The true Church does not sell out because it has been bought for a price.  If Christianity and the Church is about moral uplift, a positive message and the like, then  it is like putting a band-aid on a corpse.  Our Lord faced our sin and death and died that we might live.  We also must so serve  His Word from Pulpit, Podium, Prayers and Sacrament in face of  the death and horrors of our times. As did Pr. Bonhoeffer.   No band-aids, only the Cross (see  1 Corinthians 2:2).  Bonhoeffer knew that and the Lord’s salvation is as hard-as-nails love for sinners, Pr. Bonhoeffer lived it with many others in the minority in the Truth which alone sets us free (see John 8:30-32). Easter Bunny ‘Christianity’ folds in the face of persecution. The apostles did not risk martyrdom because they felt forgiven or for a new religious spirituality or program.  Christ raised them with us in His Body. Christ is risen. –Pr. Schroeder (More on Pastor Bonhoeffer here)

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Yom Hashoah - Community Synagogue of Rye

The quote below is from an excellent article, “Roots of Religious and Secular Fundamentalism” By Yosef Y. Jacobson:

Elie Wiesel who gripped the world’s imagination with his book “Night,” a personal testimony of life and death in Auschwitz, once asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe (or Rabbi), who himself lost many members of his family in the Holocaust, how he could believe in G‑d after Auschwitz. If G‑d existed, Wiesel asked, posing the single greatest challenge to faith, how could He ignore 6 million of His children de-humanized and murdered in the cruelest of fashions?

The Rebbe shed a tear and then replied, “In whom do you expect me to believe after Auschwitz? In man?”

Rabbi Jacobsen outlines his reasoned approached, based upon Scripture of the way the Holocaust came to be. It is as old as Adam that the serpent (devil) said to he and his wife that if they eat the fruit they will be like God:

While religion embodied the vision of man standing in a continuous relationship with G‑d, the essence of the Enlightenment represented the vision of man without G‑d. It was a vision already introduced during the first days of creation near the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, by the most sophisticated animal of the time, the serpent. “You shall be like G‑d,” it promised Eve (Gen. 3:5). Man could, and ought to, replace G‑d. Left to his own vices, the thinking went, the human being will achieve greatness.

So the result:

Without G‑d, we cannot objectively define any behavior as good or evil. As difficult as it is to entertain, no one can objectively claim that gassing a mother and her children is any more evil than killing a mouse. It is all a matter of taste and opinion. The validity and effectiveness of “You shall not murder” can be sustained only if it is predicated on the foundation of faith in a universal moral creator who gave humanity an absolute and unwavering definition of what constitutes good vs. evil. When the vision of the sacred dies in the soul of a person, he or she is capable of becoming a servant of the devil.

Just look at the destruction of children in the womb as ‘fetal tissue’; or the ease by which some governors let the elderly die from covid, and the ease by many who can kill with the swift pull of a trigger or various other round ups and exterminations of whole cultures, races etc. in our time, e.g. the rounding up of the Uighurs in China by the atheists into reeducation camps and forced sterilization of Uighur women. As if such murder is like killing a mouse and yet many say killing any animal is the same as murdering a man.

The saying, Never Again is applicable again and again. We can’t forget. Save us Lord, from ourselves! Stir up faith in You alone!

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Text:  Hebrews 11

Today’s Epistle reading is the Roll Call of the Heroes of Faith in Jesus Christ with the theme verse, the 11: 1-2L

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Our weekly newspaper’s post-Easter edition has this photo on the front cover:

When I glanced at it, I thought a local park or businesses had this event. Was I ever wrong!  It was a church who hosted this event, on Holy Saturday, for children to hunt pre-Easter Easter eggs and there was this caption:  “Easter celebrations were a little more “normal” this year than last…”

The quotation marks around normal were in the text. This celebration is sadly normal in our culture.  The bunny will not call us to repentance and proclaim our risen Lord.  Maybe the rabbit in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is a better bunny in that regard!  Christians must reject the “normal” of all such secular celebrations and not participate in them ever and for that matter all the worldly ‘new normals’ floating about like ‘tootsie rolls’ in a pool.  This particular congregation is of a denomination that possibly rejects Halloween celebrations with it’s leaning towards demonology and death.  They should reject this event as well we all must. For a congregation to foist such an event is a participating in a lie.  The Easter bunny is simply not the central figure in Holy Pascha:  The Lord Jesus Christ is.  A bunny will never lead anyone to the Lord, only His Word and Sacrament does such in the authority of the Holy Spirit.

Further, this type of event is not more “normal” for Easter.  Every true and faithful celebration of Easter, or Holy Pascha, is not normal by any stretch as we are proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth, true man and true God risen from the dead.  Resurrection, and with it:  faith, hope and love in Him, is so out of the “normal” of sin, death in and of the world!

Hebrews 11 witnesses through the saints who did not seek the “normal” of this world (and it’s sad as so many churches succumbed to the world in this evil and adulterous generation),  nor desired it as we so tend to do:  “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11: 12    I pray the Lord not be ashamed of us. 

In a home bound call at a  congregation where I was newly installed, I did what a pastor is called to do:  preach and administer the Sacrament of the Altar.  When I finished, the woman exclaimed, “This is just like Church!” No organ but the harmony of the Gospel.  No vestments, but our Christening robe of Baptism.  No Easter lilies, but the Easter message.  No crowds, just 3 of us, 2 or more is enough of the faithful for the Lord (Matthew 18:19).  There was no Easter bunny in that humble home, but the Lord was there, flowing forth from the Font of all blessings:  He is risen!  

In the Hall of Heroes of the Faith, note that all the saints therein were looking forward in hope, in the hope of Christ to come.  They had no cathedrals, except the Temple not made with human hands:  Jesus Christ (John 2:211 Corinthians 3:17 ).  We pray many will hear the Word and come to faith.  But if faith is only for this world, or even for our congregation alone, or nation, or class or race,  then we are of all people the most to be pitied:  but Christ is raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:18-20).  It is clear from Hebrews 11:  Faith not only clings to Christ for what He has done for us but what He will do:  Thy Kingdom Come, based upon the Rock of our salvation, what He has done from womb to tomb to the Resurrection.   

“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!”

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Yes, Lord, You Know That I Love You”| National Catholic Register

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ,  You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light. Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:   Acts 3:13-15, 17-19  Psalm 61   Colossians 3:1-7 or 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 St. John 21:1-14

Reflection on the Gospel LessonJohn 21: 1-14:  Here are  some of the many narratives involving Peter:  

  • After Jesus walked on the water, Peter almost commanded the Lord in Peter’s disbelief: But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14)
  • Peter denied Jesus three times (all four of the Gospels).
  • The risen Lord asked Peter 3 times, Do you love me more than these? 3 times the Lord said, “Feed My sheep”(John 21)
  • Peter does not want to go to the Gentile Centurion, Cornelius’ home because Peter would eat unclean animals.  3 times a sheet is lowered with unclean and clean animals.

I asked a Bible class: how would you characterize Peter?  “Impetuous” “Acts before thinking” “Trusts himself”   Not exactly the meaning of the name Jesus gave Simon:  Peter, meaning in Greek “rock”. There is this reflection from Johann Gerhard:

“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.”

I know I am more like Peter when he saw the waves and the Rock sank.  He was a good guy, but even our goodness, apart from God, also needs Christ’s redemption, His Body and Blood, His forgiveness every step of the Way. It is my good heart and good intentions that can wreak the greatest damage in congregations, families and nations because one does such on the goodness of “me”.  At the extreme, every tyrant, political or spiritual, want to do good.

I find it interesting the repetition of “three” to convict and convince Peter:  three times Jesus saying feed my sheep.  Three times the sheet of animals in the vision were let down to convince Peter to go to a Gentile’s home and dine there so Cornelius and his household could be saved by faith!  It took a lot to change his mind which means:  The Lord appropriately renamed Simon, “Rock”.  Peter was steadfast.  He was stalwart in his faith and actions, even when they were misguided, but even that wrong way can be changed by the Lord. We all by fallen nature tend to look inward and not outward to our Lord. As Peter we all have good qualities that the Lord through our living has formed in us and then comes to redeem those qualities for faith and love in Jesus Christ. Even our best qualities are not saving, if they were, we would not need a Savior.

After Peter denied Jesus three times, the arrested Jesus simply looked at Peter and he wept bitterly.  Peter finally knew his good heart was not enough, his decisions for Jesus did not bridge the gap between himself and the Lord, Peter the Rock could be not steadfast.  Only the Lord’s hand, His Word saved him…again and again and again!  You as well. The Lord is our salvation.

Back in Luke 5 and the miraculous catch of fish, when the boat begins to sink because of the haul of fish, Peter jumps into water and falls before the Lord, “Depart from me O Lord for I am a sinful man.” First, note that Jesus did not answer Peter’s prayer in the affirmative!  Peter would discover the depths of his sin and the greater depths of the forgiveness and mercy  in Jesus, the heart of His Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  After the resurrection, Peter would forget this, but the Lord brought Him back to Himself in true repentance.  And in this scene from John 21, Peter once more throws himself into the depths, impetuously, impulsively, because he loved the Lord, for by His love  Peter, you, me and everyone we meet has been redeemed. Peter was a rock.  Now may His Word open their hearts to their Redeemer and  by faith be saved knowing the depths of His truth and grace for sinners and also for me and for thee as well day by day.  We pray…

O Lord Jesus Christ, look upon me, a poor sinner, with Your eyes of mercy, the same eyes of mercy with which You looked upon Peter in the assembly-room, upon Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and upon the malefactor on the cross. Grant to me also, O You, almighty God, that with Peter I bemoan my sin from the heart, with Mary Magdalene sincerely love You, and with the malefactor on the cross may live eternally with You in Your kingdom. Amen. (Johann Gerhard)

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Collect of the Day

We give thanks to You, O God, creator and fashioner of the universe, for the work of Your servants Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach; and we pray that by the vigor and strength of their creations you would open our eyes to the wonder of life, the glories of creation, and the exploration of our place in the world; through Your son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About: Lucas Cranach (1472-1557), a close friend of Martin Luther, was a celebrated painter of portraits and altar pieces and a producer of woodcuts of religious subjects. Albrecht Duerer (1471-1528), a native of Nuernberg, Germany, was one of the most learned of Renaissance artists and also an ardent admirer of Martin Luther. He was considered tHis paintings and woodcuts include examples of the splendor of creation and skilled portrayals of biblical narratives. Both Cranach and Duerer are remembered and honored for the grandeur of their works of art that depict the glory and majesty and the grace and mercy of the triune God.

“Who can exhaust all the virtue and power of God’s Word? The Holy Scriptures, sermons, and all Christian books do nothing but praise God’s Word, as we also do daily in our reading, writing, preaching, singing, poetizing, and in painting. This blessing abides and sustains us when the temporal blessings vanish and when through death we part from them and from one another. This blessing does not leave us or depart from us; it goes through death with us, tears us out of it, and brings us to eternal life, where there is neither death nor fear of dying.” – Martin Luther

This Durer piece is probably his most widely known work:

After Durer's Praying Hands Art Print by Peter Jochems

Lucas Cranach’s Wittenberg Altarpiece, in the Church in which Luther preached, portrays the Church nourished in Word and Sacrament which is based upon Christ’s death and Resurrection and prayer and Baptism, Altar and Absolution all go together in the crucified and risen Lord:

How Did Christians 500 Years Ago “Do Church”? | Painting, Medieval ...

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

READINGS:  Daniel 3:8-28  Psalm 2  Acts 13:26-33  St. Luke 24:36-49

From Today’s Appointed Gospel Reading:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (emphasis added)

Whatever happened to repentance? The call to repentance is hardly heard in churches these days, while “fulfillment”, “your best life now” and feel good preaching fills too many pulpits, air waves and cyberspace.  While wickedness, a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah of false teaching and practice runs unabated in church and society. The crucified and risen Lord is clear: The pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection is the pattern of the apostolic message He gives to “all nations” for the apostles to proclaim:  “repentance and forgiveness of sins”.   The Law not only and merely contains our carnal instincts but the Law is spiritual as it shows us our sin and the Gospel proclaims our Savior that we can turn toward Him daily.

 The first attack by false preachers is the Law, a question as old as the devil, “Did God say?” (Genesis 3).  The devil misuses Scripture to his own purpose when he tempted the Lord in the wilderness.  Jesus’ recourse was clear: “It is written”. He knew the Bible while we live in a time of Bible-denying ‘scholars’ and ‘scholarship’.  Once the Law is denied, so is the necessity of Christ Jesus and the call to repentance go hand in His wounded hand.  The word still stands, “… repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name (Christ’s)…” to us all. Rev. Professor Johann Gerhard (+17 August 1637) wrote:

Whoever preaches forgiveness of sins without preaching repentance is not holding to Christ’s command. For He sets both together: repentance and forgiveness of sins. Wherever there is a broken and shattered heart, there Christ wants to live, Isa. 57:15, and wants to impart His blessings which He won through His death and resurrection. He, indeed, calls sinners to Himself, but (He calls them) to repent, Matt. 9:13. True repentance is the pathway by which sinners come to grace.

There is also daily living in Baptism.   Luther:  

“(Baptism) signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

We can so die and rise because He has. We must hold fast to Christ’s command.  This is for our encouragement. The “and” in “repentance and forgiveness of sins” is important as that conjunction is not an additive but connective.  Repentance without Christ’s forgiveness is tyrannical. Forgiveness without repentance is license and fantastical.  Repentance and forgiveness of sins go together in the preaching of Christ for the balm and healing of our lives through faith by grace.  Repentance and forgiveness harvests in the Lord His resurrection life. The opening of our minds is effected by the center of the whole Bible, Jesus Christ and He holds the key to the opening of our minds: His death and resurrection for our grace, mercy and peace in His forgiveness, in the Name of the Father, +Son and Holy Spirit! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed, Alleluia!

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“CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD, TRAMPLING DOWN DEATH BY DEATH AND UPON THOSE IN THE TOMBS: BESTOWING LIFE!

Introduction to Bright Week: The Eastern Orthodox Churches have a great custom by calling the first week of the Paschal (Easter) Season “Bright Week”.  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has complete sets of propers (appointed Scripture readings, graduals, etc.) for Easter Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday which indicates that the first week of the 50 Days of the Paschal Season are significant as reported in the Bible.  Bright Week is a great way to begin the 50 Days of Pascha leading to Pentecost, as we look at what our risen Lord taught His Church for her life and mission into the world and still does.   Easter, like Christmas, is not only a day each, but  a season each.

COLLECT OF THE DAY

O God, in the paschal feast You restore all creation. Continue to send Your heavenly gifts upon Your people that they may walk in perfect freedom and receive eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

READINGS: Exodus 15:1-18 or Daniel 12:1 c-3  Psalm 100 (antiphon: v. 5) Acts 10:34-43 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8  Luke 24:13-49

VERSE:  Alleluia. Christ Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Alleluia. 2 Tim. 1:10

As  Lent is time of preparation for seekers to be Baptized, then the Paschal Season is a time for the newly baptized, and the ‘oldly’ baptized as well, to be instructed in the Way of the Lord more fully.  St. Basil the Great wrote it well regarding Baptism in Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection:

“This is what it means to be born again of water and Spirit: the water accomplishes our death, while the Spirit raises us to life. This great sign of baptism is fulfilled in three immersions, with three invocations, so that the image of death might be completely formed, and the newly baptized might have their souls enlightened with divine knowledge. If there is any grace in the water, it does not come from the nature of the water, but from the Spirit’s Presence, since baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience (1 Peter 3: 21)  The Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) resurrection: gentleness, endurance, freedom for the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to, acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of what resurrectional life should be like seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned.”  (from On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great; emphasis my own)

 Reflection:   St. Basil gives both a good encouragement and exhortation. The way of the Baptismal life is engendered by repentance and forgiveness as the Lord made plain on the road to Emmaus with His disciples who did not recognize Him.   The Lord taught them and then in the fullness of time, the disciples  saw it was the  Lord in the breaking of the bread as He gives us His bread for our journey as His Body, His Church.  In His Word, the Lord Jesus gave them a heart to be taught and to burn with the fire of His life and love.  In the disciples’ despair the Lord Jesus lifted them up. His Word, Incarnate, Written, Taught and Preached  is always central, foremost in our life together for His formation of His resurrectional life in us as His baptized children. The risen Lord was indeed both encouraging and exhortative on the road to Emmaus, then and today in His Word and Sacrament.  He still is! As it is written, Hebrews 3:  13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 

 “A child listens to his parents, from whom he was conceived and born, speaking to him with heart-felt desire and love. If you are born of God, then you will gladly listen to God the Lord speaking to you in His Word-especially regarding the resurrection of Christ, by which He has brought such precious gifts along for for us…O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!” ( Rev. Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard, +1637)

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Good Friday!

Sanctuary CLM Lent 2017.JPG

“LIFT HIGH THE CROSS, THE LOVE OF CHRIST PROCLAIM”

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinful men to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  (Is. 53:4)

But if any honest Christian wants to know why the Lord suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He “become a curse” otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written “Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.” Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all, and by it “the middle wall of partition” is broken down and the call of the Gentiles comes about. How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched? Here, again, we see the fitness of His death and of those outstretched arms: it was that He might draw His ancient people with the one and the gentiles with the other, and join both together in Himself.  even so, He foretold the manner of His redeeming death, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Myself”  Athanasius of Alexandria

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