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A Meme

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About Samuel:  Samuel, last of the Old Testament judges and first of the prophets (after Moses), lived during the eleventh century BC. The child of Elkanah, an Ephraimite, and his wife Hannah, Samuel was from early on consecrated by his parents for sacred service and trained in the house of the Lord at Shiloh by Eli the priest. Samuel’s authority as a prophet was established by God (1 Samuel 3:20). He anointed Saul to be Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 10:1). Later, as a result of Saul’s disobedience to God, Samuel repudiated Saul’s leadership and then anointed David to be king in place of Saul (1 Samuel 16:13). Samuel’s loyalty to God, his spiritual insight, and his ability to inspire others made him one of Israel’s great leaders. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House.)

Almighty God, in Your mercy You gave Samuel to courage to call Israel to repentance and to renew their dedication to the Lord.  Call us to repentance as Nathan called David to repentance, so by the blood of Jesus, the Son of David,  we may receive the forgiveness of all our sins;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord

Reflection:  Samuel’s mother was Hannah.  Hannah was grief stricken that she had no children.  The Lord opened her womb and she gave birth to a son whom she named, Samuel, literally, “God hears”.  Hannah had no choice in the matter of his conception and birth. (1 Sam. 1)

In thankfulness for her son’s birth, she devoted him to the priesthood in Shiloh, under the priest Eli.  The infant Samuel had no choice. (1 Sam. 1: 11, 24.

When serving in Shiloh, in the middle of the night, while Samuel was sleeping, he heard his name being called.  Samuel thought it was Eli calling and Samuel ran to the priest and said, Here I am, you called, but Eli said it wasn’t him.  When this happened the third time, Eli realized that it was LORD calling the lad.  Then, the LORD laid out His plans for the immoral priesthood in Shiloh and Samuel was called to be the LORD’s prophet. Samuel was not angling to be a judge and a prophet. Again, Samuel had no choice. (1 Sam. 2)

Samuel was born into a time in Israel in which it was under the overpowering threat of the Philistines. The Philistines captured the Ark of God (1 Sam. 4: 1ff).  Eli’s sons, also priests, were immoral:  they stole the sacrifices for their stomachs and for their lust, hooked-up with women who came to worship in Shiloh.  Samuel had no choice in being born into this time.

It seems that in all of this, this was the Lord’s choosing, His will for Samuel to change the times in which Samuel was called by the Word of the Lord. Samuel would be a kingmaker as he anointed the first Kings of Israel:  Saul and David.  This too was the LORD’s choice.

We live in a time in which we think we have sovereign choice in so much of life.  We  think we are pro-choice in so many ways, but we cannot choose our families, our DNA, our sex, our intelligence nor our natural abilities.  We think we can choose our friends but even they are given to us. Like C. S. Lewis wrote,

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’”

The secret master of ceremonies was at work in Israel and Shiloh in Hannah and her son. We think we can re-invent ourselves, when it is the LORD re-orienting us to Himself as He did with Hannah and Samuel. Only the sovereign LORD has sovereign choice. Maybe the only choice any one us can make is what kind of toothpaste we want. Yet, we do make choices and they tend to be sinful, and even evil.  Pro-choice today means killing a child in the womb.  We are very pro-choice in breaking the 10 Commandments. And so, our perversion and illusion of choice, in the bondage of the will goes viral these days:  that I can choose my sex (downgraded to “gender”).  We rail against who we are which is no choice of our own.

We do not like the choices that have been given to us by the secret master of ceremonies.  When the Apostle Paul was called, still going by the name Saul, the Lord said to him by Paul’s testimony:

“And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

“It is hard for you to kick against the goads”.  What is a goad? An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. The LORD was pushing a reluctant Saul by His sovereign choice and Saul resisted.  When we do not like, don’t understand nor care for the LORD’s choices for us, we too kick against the goads and the more we do, the more we hurt and are exhausted. I have a tendency to kick against the goads.  So did Jonah, and so did Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:10). Maybe this is reason I like quote from The Lord of Rings when Frodo was despising the task set before him to bring the Ring to the Land of Mordor:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

And the Lord is our help and our salvation to do just that to do with the time as the LORD has called us. We resist who the LORD has chosen us to be as His own and where and when He has called us to serve and we only hurt ourselves. Hannah did not like being barren and the taunting of her husband’s other wife who had children.  She did not resist the wife and try to harm her.  Instead, Hannah took it to the LORD in prayer. Can we do any less?  And the Lord heard, “Samuel”.    

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Collect of the Day: 

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

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

Man can do many impressive things because we are created in the image of God.  Man’s reason and capabilities still have the broken fragments of the image of God in them and do great things so that wemarvel at our own ingenuity and invention, but they save only in time and for a time. The image is broken and the darkness of sin lies in the cracks. Any awards show on TV shows us applauding how great we are. Applauding our creations is finally clapping at a mirror.

There is an intimate urgency in man that cries:  there must be more. Our works do not save. That cry results either in pride or despair, better despair to hear the Gospel for our repair. Pride in our abilities is wrong as we think our talents come from our selves.    We have called our selves “Homo Sapiens” or “Wise Man” and “Homo Faber” or “Creator Man”.  We like to say that so in so, “re-invented himself”. We can invent or create ourselves. We are not self-created and our wisdom is seldom on display these days. As a species, we humans think more highly of ourselves than we ought (cf. Romans 12:3). The Lord holds before our eyes and hearts the perfect icon or image of Himself: His Son upon the Cross (cf. Colossians 1:15).  In Christ, by faith through His grace, we become “Homo Adorans”, worshiping man, worshiping the one true God, “…from Whom all blessings flow”.

Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of this:  

We must hate and shun that presumption which would lead us to glory in goods not our own, knowing that they are not of ourselves but of God, and yet not fearing to rob God of the honor due unto Him…. Ignorance is brutal, arrogance is devilish. Pride only, the chief of all iniquities, can make us treat gifts as if they were rightful attributes of our nature, and, while receiving benefits, rob our Benefactor of His due glory…

Our gifts are not rights due us, but gifts, are, well, gifts! We do need to fear “…to rob God the honor due unto Him”, because in faith in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, everything we see, hear, touch and smell we know by true faith are His gifts toward us and in the fullness of time our redemption in Christ, risen from the dead.  Bernard continued:

The Father of Christ, who makes all things new, is well pleased with the freshness of those flowers and fruits and the beauty of the field that breathes forth such heavenly fragrance. And He says in benediction, “See, the smell of My Son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed” (Gen. 27:27). Blessed to overflowing, indeed, since of His fullness have we all received (John 1:16).

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #172 
Text: Is. 50: 6
Author: Paul Gerhardt
Based on the Latin poem “Salve caput cruentatum”
By Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, asc.
Image result for The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself.

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

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

Readings for the day:  Isaiah 61:7-11; Psalm 45: 10-14; Galatians 4:4-7;  St. Luke 1:39-55

Let us pray:  

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

The Mother of Our Lord: St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen specific incidents in her life being recorded: her betrothal to Joseph; the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah; her visitation to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer; the nativity of our Lord; the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men; the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple; the flight into Egypt; the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee; her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John; and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Thus she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

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

The Scripture records what she prayed:  “My soul doth magnifies the Lord.”  What or who do we magnify in our lives?  I find my own question embarrassing to answer.  Think of what the world magnifies:  fame, wealth, power and in our day and time, the temple of the  self, that is , my feelings, my goodness, my friends,  ad nauseam, and I  have wanted it all.  Not Mary.  For instance: Mary did not “shop till she dropped”.   She and Joseph were given a child, as every family. Her Son was not a choice but her Child. She loved her Son.  She magnified the Lord.  She magnified, made big in her life God’s grace to her in bearing the Only-Begotten Son of God.  She bore her Savior and yours so the Savior, Jesus would bear our sins.

A colleague of mine once said during the fad of “WWJD” bracelets (What Would Jesus Do) that it actually should be “WWMD”:  what would Mary do?  Good question.  The answer?  She heard the Word of God, the Word of grace.  She obeyed.  She was a faithful wife. She believed.  She prayed.  She suffered.  She served her Lord and her neighbor.  It was all the Lord’s work toward her and the fruit of her good work, likewise the Lord’s and the greatest still is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. She is the model of the faithful believer, even the whole Church. “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”--Galatians 4: 19

The other feast days, featuring the Mother of Our Lord, The Annunciation (St. Luke 1: 26-38), The Presentation (Luke 2: 22-38, and The Visitation (Luke 1: 39-56, are actually festivals of Jesus Christ.”  And that’s the point! Mary is associated with them and she did magnify the Lord.  She never sought  attention for herself.   She knew she would be blessed (Luke 1: 48) but she did not seek adoration but adored Him born of her virgin womb. He was her Son and her Lord!  She knew humility.  This is not the stance of the neo-feminist woman of our day…or any man.   Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Orthodox professor (1921-1983) pointedly reflected, “In (Mary’s) humility and silence, she can hardly serve as patron for the noisy and arrogant feminism of our time.”

The sundry revolutions of the ’60s brought new vocabulary  and one of the vocables was counterculture, and from it, counter-cultural.  The ’60s counter-culture was an excuse of condoning immorality. Mary, Mother of our Lord, stands today as a true counter-cultural icon. Fr. Schmemann points out that Mary is understood in her instrumentality  (“Let it be according to Your Word…”) in the Lord’s plan of salvation that the Word became flesh for her, you and I. She was obedient in true faith.  But Fr. Schmemann tellingly points out that her obedience as a woman, 

“…is one of the main reasons for Mary’s “rejection” by many “modern” Christians:  she can hardly be construed as the symbol of that ‘liberation’ which stresses the absolute ‘right’ of man to dispose of his life and of his body in a manner which he himself chooses, to a ‘self-fulfillment’ which he himself determines.”  

This self-determination has culminated in licit abortion on demand as deadly self-fulfillment.  And Mary brought the Life of the world into the world.  Truly, she is counter-cultural.  Mary is the model of the godly life in Christ Jesus for women…and men!  Just as she told the servants at the Cana wedding, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2: 5), goes for us servants as well.  Lord, still our hearts and minds in the Sabbath of Your forgiveness by which You have redeemed us from the old way of death to live and breath in Your life, Your life which You first gave to Your Mother, so that this dark world may know You have come into our world for us and for our salvation and believing be saved.  As Mary. Amen.

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A Meme

Be yourself | "BE YOURSELF, NO MATTER WHAT" IS NOT GOOD ADVICE | image tagged in not funny | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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A Meme

Be yourself? | "BE YOURSELF, NO MATTER WHAT" IS NOT ALWAYS SAGE ADVICE | image tagged in angry | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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From Martin Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, Volume 3 of Luther’s Works (CPH, 1961):

Other sins — such as wrathfulness, impatience, and drunkenness — naturally bring shame because of their foulness. Those who indulge in them know that they have sinned. Consequently, they blush. But vainglory[1]and trust in one’s own wisdom or righteousness is a sin of such a kind that it is not recognized as a sin. Instead, men thank God it, as the Pharisee does in the Gospel (Luke 18:9-14); they rejoice it as in an extraordinary gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is an utterly incurable and devilish evil.

From this evil God preserved saintly Abraham by subjecting the glorious conqueror (see Genesis 14) to such an affliction that it is necessary to comfort him with a divine word. Although, as I have said, the nature of the trial is not certain, yet the circumstances prove that it was so severe that Abraham was utterly disheartened.

Perhaps Abraham was troubled about his offspring, as his words indicate. God had promised him the land of Canaan and an eternal blessing; but since Sarah was barren, and the hope of children was almost entirely denied, he thought: “Why is it that God, who is so merciful toward you, does not give you a son? Perhaps you have offended Him, and He has changed His mind.”

I dare not maintain that this was the affliction. Accordingly, I am going along with the general rule: that God makes His saints sad again after they have been gladdened, lest they become proud and smug; that after they have been made alive, He leads them down to hell, in order that He may lead them back from there. But if our surmise as to the specific and individual nature of the affliction now under consideration is not correct, we are not in error with regard to the general pattern.

The words “Fear not, Abram” are absolutely clear. They show the saintly man did have great fear and the very affliction of mistrust.  Otherwise why would God add: “I am your Shield; your shall be very great”? Therefore, Abraham thought: “Perhaps has chosen someone else, since He will fulfill this promise; and knows whether this very victory is everything He has promised you?”

When God withdraws His hand, the flesh creates for itself an odd dialectic and rhetoric. Against these battering-rams, so to speak, with which Abraham’s heart is pounded the Lord erects three grand bulwarks: “Fear not, Abraham, I am your Shield, your reward shall be very great” (Gen.15: 1)


[1] Definition of vainglory. 1 : excessive or ostentatious pride especially in one’s achievements. 2 : vain display or show : vanity.

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