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Thou, the Father’s only Son,
Hast o’er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?

Concordia and Koinonia

Ambrose was the Bishop of Milan from today’s date, December 7, beginning in 374 till his death in 397.  He was the first of great Church fathers to be born, raised and educated as a Christian (the others were pagans who converted) and in the western part of the Roman Empire in what is now Trier, France.   He studied the classics and the law at Rome and before he was thirty-three was named governor of Ligoria and Aemilia, with headquarters at Milan.  Milan at the time was the seat of the imperial court.  The bishop was an Arian.  Arianism is a Christian heresy.  Bishop Arius taught, “There was a time when Christ was not”, thus denying the plain teaching of Scripture, for instance, see John 1:1-3, and thus denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, His equality in the Godhead  and salvation in Him. (This is not far to the doctrine  that Jesus was a good teacher, for…

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Nicholas Meme

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You bestowed upon Your servant Nicholas of Myra the perpetual gift of charity. Grant Your Church the grace to deal in generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and distressed and to plead the cause of those who have no helper, especially those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief. We ask this for the sake of Him who gave His life for us, Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Nicholas of Myra, Pastor Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. AD 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, though there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of modern Turkey) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of Sinte Klaas (Dutch for “Saint Nicholas,” in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.

Over the centuries, the actual St. Nicholas has morphed into Santa Claus. Santa Claus has been used for ad campaigns for Coke and jokes. Santa Claus is a myth. St. Nicholas is not a myth. He was said to have slapped Bp. Arius because the bishop taught false doctrine and yet St. Nicholas was kind to children and the poor, as he was defender of pure doctrine. We need more St. Nicholas not Santa Claus. Santa Claus has a list of those who are naughty or nice. This myth is the reality, though, of saving ourselves through works: if you are nice, you’ll get great Christmas presents. The Lord has one list: the naughty, all of us and yet that same list tells us we are the Lord’s good creation, fallen yet good. And that same list is stamped Redeemed by the blood of Jesus, born on Christ Mass (Christmas). The goal of our lives is not niceness.

Nicholas was good in Christ, but not nice.  We encourage children to “be nice”.  It used to be “be good”.  E.T. got that right with Elliot. If a young woman was “good”, it meant, for instance, she was a virgin.  As a friend and colleague had as his screen saver, “Nice is the enemy of the good”.   “Have a nice day”  “No, thanks I have better plans”.  So does the Lord.

Nice is attainable as a kind of a law of nice deeds and feelings.  Nice Christians won’t stand up to false doctrine.  Nice Christians go along with the crowd, that is, the world and we have seen the result in many a Christian denomination. Good is related to God, as God is good, which also means He is Holy.  Nicholas knew that his goodness was predicated on the utter goodness of God in Christ in His Nativity for children, the fallen children of Adam and Eve.  It also meant that Nicholas stood for something.  The martyrs died for the good of the Gospel. No one was ever martyred for being nice.

A classical radio stations has a tag line at this time of year about their holiday music: Less Santa, more sanctus. I like that. Not bad for a secular station! Sanctus is Latin for Holy. I don’t think Nicholas would have said, yeah, I’m holy. Only could he say thus by virtue of faith in the One born of the Virgin Mary. The Lord makes us on the list of being transformed from naughty to holy, more precisely, from unholy to holy, wholly His. As Nicholas was the Lord’s and he laid hold of the Lord for His life and let us prepare for the Lord by doing the same. The result? One result is: less Santa and more Sanctus, as in: “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus exercituum plena est omnis terra gloria eius!” Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory! (from Isaiah 6: 3).

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St. Andrew - Orthodox Christian Network

“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 1:35-42

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:

 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.”—Valerius Herberger  (21 April 1562-18 May 1627,a German Lutheran preacher and theologian (The above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by CPH)

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). St. John 1

            Andrew brought his brother Peter to the Messiah.  Andrew was already a kind of an evangelist.  There is no better invitation on earth than inviting someone to Jesus.  Where is Jesus? Where He said He would be found: 

  • For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20 And the context here is confession and absolution of sins
  • Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6: 3-4 .  He is present in your Baptism, then and today, because you were baptized into His death, you have died and now live in Him as He is risen: today:  so we might “walk”, present tense, in “the newness of life”. If we get off the Way, then we are lost. His forgiveness restores us in joyful repentance.  Jesus is the newness of life. A present tense Savior for present tense sinners.
  • This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  1 Corinthians 11: 24-25.  He is present in the  Holy Communion as He has commanded His meal and promised to be there in an intimate way, till He comes again (see 1 Corinthians 11: 27
  • The Lord has given us His Word and the Sacrament of His Word (Holy Baptism, Holy Communion and Confession and absolution) as the where He meets us.  And where is the Word and the Sacraments given?  In His Church, personally as, 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 27.  His Church gathers on Sundays, feast days, commemorations, and other days for our faith in the Lord and love of neighbor.  “We have found the Messiah.”

In a sense Andrew did find Jesus but this finding seems to have been providentially orchestrated, as the Lord has a tendency of finding us (See Luke 15). Yes, Andrew had seen the Lord.  Many saw the signs he did and so were pointing to Jesus Christ for salvation.  Andrew was also there in the locked room, with Thomas, when the Lord told them,  Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (St. John 20).  If we can not seen the Lord how can we believe, after all “seeing is believing”? Answer: 

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 He has called His apostles, pastors, evangelists and in their own way, each follower of Jesus, to speak the Word of the Lord and faith comes through the ears and reaches the heart and makes faith. This is the calling the Lord gave to Andrew as an apostle. Now we are not apostles but we follow in their train.

Hearing is believing and this is the reason teaching and preaching are so crucial -from the Latin, crux, cross-cross shaped in His Church.  Today a dear mentor of mine, Pr. Lou Smith died.  He taught and preached the Word and administered the Sacraments of His Word in season and out of season.  He catechized me further in Law and Promise with the clarity the Word has.  As St. Andrew also so preached and taught. So with Lou, and Andrew and all the saints can say, We have found the Messiah, as He first found us!

(Quotes from Pr. Lou Smith can be found here, bottom of the post}

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“The Advent wreath began as a devotional practice in the 19th Century by the Ref. Johann Wichern. He used the Advent wreath as a way for children to count the days leading to Christmas. His Advent wreath had 24 candles instead of four candles.”

Concordia and Koinonia

For years now, the perennial number 1 posting during Advent here has been “The Meaning of the Advent Candles”‘. So many want to know their meaning. Do they stand for Joy, Peace etc.? I have suggested in at least two postings a meaning. Now, in the waning hours of Advent, as we await sunset, and the evening of Christmas, I will reveal THE Meaning of the Advent Candles.

I read in the most recent edition of The Lutheran Witness (December), something I did not know:

“The Advent wreath began as a devotional practice in the 19th Century by the Ref. Johann Wichern. He used the Advent wreath as a way for children to count the days leading to Christmas. His Advent wreath had 24 candles instead of four candles.”

Over time, the 24 candles were whittled down to 4 candles for the 4 weeks of the Advent Season. I bet…

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Thanksgiving Day is about freedom. The Pilgrims came to these shores for religious freedom and countless others have also come to the USA for religious freedom, and not only Christians. We give thanks to the Lord for our political freedom and even more, spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ (see Galatians 5: 1). Religious freedom is the first of the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Notice that freedom of religion is inextricably tied into “freedom of speech, or of the press” and the right to peaceably assemble.

The abolitionist Mr. Frederick Douglass, after a riot in Boston which prevented Negroes and abolitionists the opportunity to speak and assemble, issued, ““A Plea for Freedom of Speech in Boston”, 1860:

“Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power. Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are sure to tremble, if men are allowed to reason of righteousness, temperance, and of a judgment to come in their presence.”

The phrase, “Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers” is Biblical, Ephesians 6: 12. The powers that be, when they are the powers and principalities of anti-truth, as Mr. Douglass said, “tremble” at free speech. Yet free speech to do such must also be sound, truthful and gracious, as Scripture also avers, see 2 Corinthians 6:7 , Colossians 4:6 and Titus 2:8. This is the dread of tyrants, political and spiritual, such as, Satan, the world and our flesh. Truthful free speech is also meant to be freeing speech, to free us from both political and spiritual bondage. Mr. Douglass knew a thing or two about that. So give thanks to the Lord for free speech as Thanksgiving is not about how much turkey one can get into the mouth, but the mouth and tongue to confess the praise of God and speak the truth in love to tyrants and tyranny, as our forefathers have done.

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“Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31)

Concordia and Koinonia

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, Your servant Clement of Rome called the Church in Corinth to repentance and faith to unite them in Christian love. Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless in Your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was…

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Fort Wayne, IN Concordia Theological Seminary - Wyneken Ha… | Flickr

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 to counteract those heretical trends.  Today, the last Sunday  after Pentecost is also the Feast of  Christ the King in many church bodies, including Lutheran churches and congregations. It was in the Lutheran Book of Worship.  It may surprise many Lutherans that Christ the King Sunday was established by a Pope. Our church, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod did not designate  “Christ the King” for the Last Sunday of the Church Year. I think that the reason for “Christ the King” is still germane to our time.  The Bishop of Rome did say a few good things in this encyclical. Below are quotes from his encyclical which I think are instructive—Pr. Schroeder

“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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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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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.

About:  Justinian was emperor of the East from AD 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 as the groups disputed the relation between the divine and human natures in the person of Christ. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in AD 533 was held during his reign and addressed this dispute. Justinian died in his eighties without having accomplished his desire to forge an empire that was firmly Christian and orthodox.

Writing

“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 men 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.

               —Martin Luther

Concordia Publishing House. Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 27595-27596). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

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Lucas Cranach the Elder‘s painting, “The Allegory of Law and Grace, the Prague painting

“Now Scripture sets forth two kinds of teaching—Law and Gospel. The Law, in condemning sins and setting forth the gravest threats of God, is that hammer (Jer. 23:29) through which God breaks rocks, that is crushes the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humbles it, so that truly and earnestly acknowledging the multitude and magnitude of sins and of the wrath of God over sin, the mind begins to hate and detest sin, to fear the wrath and judgment of God so that it is unwilling to perish eternally underthem but sighs and struggles with groaning that it may be freed from them. There the Law indeed has and sets forth promises of life, but on condition of perfect fulfillment… The Gospel, however, teaches that what was impossible for the Law on account of the flesh, God provided by sending His Son (Rom. 8:3). Therefore it shows Christ, the Lamb of God, born under the Law for us, in order that He might make satisfaction to the judgment of God, revealed in the Law, by His obedience and suffering on our behalf. This Mediator the Father sets before us in the Gospel as a propitiation by faith in His blood through the remission of sins (Rom. 3:25). “For this is the will of the Father, that everyone who believes in the Son should not perish but have eternal life” (John 6:40). Thus the Gospel proclaims, offers and sets before contrite and terrified consciences the grace of God, reconciliation and remission of sins freely on account of the merit of Christ; and it is His will that everyone should lay hold of and apply this benefit of the Mediator to himself. The ministry of private absolution applies this general promise of the Gospel to the penitent individually, in order that faith may be able to state all the more firmly that the benefits of the passion of Christ are certainly given and applied to it. Moreover, in the use of the Lord’s Supper, Christ offers, applies, and seals, to all who receive it in faith, the New Testament with the precious pledges of His body and blood, namely, that God wants to be gracious with respect to our sins and to remember our iniquities no more.
               —Martin Chemnitz (Concordia Publishing House. Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 27319-27323). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.)

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