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The Wit & Wisdom of C.S. Lewis: C.S. Lewis on Reading the Old ...

The following quote is from Walter Hooper’s introduction to his collection of C. S. Lewis’ essays, Present Concerns:  Journalistic Essays which are a selection of Mr. Lewis’ articles in newspapers and magazines,:  

“’Who is Elizabeth Taylor?’ asked C. S. Lewis. He and I were talking about the difference between ‘prettiness’ and ‘beauty’, and I suggested that Miss Taylor was a great beauty. ‘If you read the newspapers,’ I said to Lewis, ‘you would know who she is.’ ‘Ah-h-h-h!’ said Lewis playfully, ‘but that is how I keep myself “unspotted from the  world”. ‘ He recommended that if I absolutely ‘must’ read newspapers I have a frequent ‘mouthwash’ with The Lord of the Rings or some other great book.

Mr. Hooper explains that Lewis thought the news in the media, as we call it now, was “possibly the most phantasmal of all histories”. When Mr. Hooper and C. S. Lewis would look at a newspaper’s headlines they would conclude, “…we hoped to goodness the news in it was phantasmal.”

I think C. S. Lewis was on to something and so it begs the question: Why is the news phantasmal?  Or as almost correctly stated in our time, “fake news”.  Now the only problem with the phrase  “fake news” is it has enough of truth and facts to give a given report plausibility. I suppose this has been going on for some time now, but it seems to be worse.  Since C. S. Lewis’ death in 1963, his use of “phantasmal”, that is, unreal, ghostly, twilight seems even more apropos than “fake”.  What has changed to make news more phantasmal?

  1. Sheer volume of news:  Beginning in the 19th Century with the advent of newspapers and magazines everyone could have a report of the daily events at their fingertips.  For instance, in the middle of the  19th Century New York City had 54 newspapers!  From newspapers and magazines to radio and movies (movies were preceded by news reels in the first half of the 20th Century) to TV, Internet and smart phones.  The sheer volume is massive and can be overwhelming.
  2. This leads automatically to this, Scandal and Sin:  the media does NOT report on daily happenings out of the goodness of their hearts to keep us informed!  What is the purpose of so much news?  Answer:  profit/money as expressed in the desire of increased readership/viewership so that more people are reached with advertisements and commercials.  So how do you increase readers/viewers?  There is an old newspaper saying, “If it bleeds, it leads”.  So, homicide can sell papers.  Sin sells. The purpose is not merely to inform but to incite, inflame and arouse so that we are transfixed on the ‘tube’ or our internet news feeds/social platforms, etc., to watch more and see more ads.  So, the reported news is not dispassionate but wants to incite the passions. At one time, it was said, “The headlines are screaming…” some salacious news or tragedy. I think we are being screamed at 24/7. Note that in any given conversation about an important topic the tendency is for us to say, “I feel that such and such…”, not “I think” and further:  feelings cannot be challenged. After all, they’re my feelings!  “I may make you feel but I can’t make your think”, Ian Anderson, his song, “Thick as a Brick”, Jethro Tull.  Now with improper editing, a video clip can incite the public feeling like no newspaper article ever could. When feelings are everything, and facts take the backseat, then the manipulation works in demonical precision. Remember:  All this sells their product to increase advertising revenues.
  3. Provincialism in TimeProvincialism is, “…concern for one’s own area or region at the expense of national or supranational unity.” C. S. Lewis, in his article, “Modern Man and His Categories of Thought”, wrote that one new category in our time is we do not believe that the thoughts of the ancients are needed and so no longer taught and so heeded:  the ancient thinkers like Plato and Aristotle. It is a fact that  for western civilization this has been taught for a thousand years.  (Note well:  The assault against our own western civilization is virulent and even violent right now).  As Lewis wrote in another work, we tend to only read the new books,  but we should be reading the old books (he even suggested not to read his books first!)  From Mr. Lewis’ article: “The effect of removing this education has been to isolate the mind in its own age: to give it, in relation to time, that disease which, in relation to space, we call Provincialism.”  I have called this Provincialism in Time which has resulted in the oft quoted, “History is bunk”. The thought that history begins when I was born.  Our time is the most important, we want to be on the “right side of history”, our own. The 24/7 news cycle reinforces this thought/feeling day in and day out. With minds that then tend toward mush, and so tyranny and its sundry political, cultural and social tyrants can walk right in and form those minds into hardened atheistic ideology. 

The above is problem and so the problem begs the question:  What can we do?

  1. “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
        and give me life in your ways.
    ”- Ps. 119: 37  The Lord answers prayer!  Lord, turn my eyes from watching worthless things on TV, on-line, in magazines.  The constant barrage can be stopped, not at its source, but at its target: you and I.  In Holy Baptism we say No to the devil, all his ways and all his pomp and pompousness.  We must pray as did the Psalmist, so we turn our eyes from beholding worthless things and be redirected day by day to the Lord:  “…give me life in Your ways”.
  2. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4: 8-9).  The Apostle redirects our thoughts to whatever is just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent. The Lord has not left Himself without a witness in creation (Acts 14:17). “Consider the lilies of the field…”  The Lord’s creation is good.  If a pagan creates a beautiful painting, it will uplift the mind and spirit.  The Apostle Paul quoted pagan poets (see Acts 17: 27-28).  The Lord’s Word in Christ lifts up even further:  even unto heaven.  We read for ourselves the lives of the saints in the Bible and they are worthy of imitation.  A saint’s life in Jesus Christ will run contrary many times with the world. “Think about these things” which means continuing education in the Word and in colleges and universities which still teach the ancient knowledge. Think about these things, pray about these things and practice these things.
  3. “(C. S. Lewis)  recommended that if I absolutely ‘must’ read newspapers I have a frequent ‘mouthwash’ with The Lord of the Rings or some other great book.”  We need strong mouthwash, eyewash and cleaning of the ear holes these days!  Lewis knew:  the frequent mouthwash of a great book.  We still have libraries.  The internet is a source of such. For instance, I found online Moby Dick by Hermann Melville in a PDF:  the whole book!  In a college Latin course, I translated a work by Cicero about books and he made this cryptic comment: ‘…and there is a book that will stay the night with you”.  There is: the Bible, God’s Word in God’s words. We read therein the cleansing of God’s people by His Word of grace and mercy.  We need a baptismal immersion in the Scriptures daily.

The Church needs to do  this together more than ever. Preaching will always be important, and so is education in Scriptures, the history of the Church, in the writings of Christian poets, painters, sculptors, architects etc. My Church body, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) has a venerable history of parochial education, pre-school through university and seminary. I think it is the only Protestant church body which has this as the Roman Catholic church. I pray we build more schools. We are seeing and reading about the collapse of state run school systems across our native land.  Our schools have been officially atheistic for over a generation.  The virus and the lockdown may be the judgment of God on the forsaking of the Lord.  Every congregation needs a pastor who actually teaches the Scriptures and not merely facilitate a discussion about the Bible and how we feel about it. I think the LCMS, to evangelize, should start more and more schools in the mode of classical Christian education, with a church, not the old model of building a church with a school.  I think the LCMS has the funds to do such.  There are three types of tables in every church:  The Lord’s Table, tables for pot-lucks and tables for learning the Scripture. May the Lord fill those tables with His Word and His people that we have life in His Name! This news is not phantasmal but eternally real.

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Saint Lawrence of Rome as a Model Deacon (St. Ambrose of Milan ...

Gracious Lord, in every age You have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of  Your Gospel and all the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.  Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel, like Your servant Lawrence, whose faithfulness led them to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to Your Son’s victory over sin and death, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jesus, priceless treasure, 
source of purest pleasure, 
friend most sure and true: 
long my heart was burning, 
fainting much and yearning, 
thirsting, Lord, for you. 
Yours I am, O spotless Lamb, 
so will I let nothing hide you, 
seek no joy beside you!
 

About Lawrence: 

Early in the third century A.D., Laurence, most likely born in Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Laurence to produce the “treasures of the church.” Laurence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young church. Almost immediately, the date of His death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.

Reflection:. St. Lawrence knew that the treasures of Christ’s grace are poured out for the  poor, the lame, the orphans and the widows, for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that is, the poor in spirit.   In the midst of Watergate in the 70s, Bob Woodward was told by his informant, “to follow the money”.  All of the world follows the money.  Lawrence did not “follow the money”: he followed His Lord and yours.  As a steward of Jesus Christ, His deacon, Lawrence well maintained earthly treasure, but gold does not make the Church, only the blood of Christ remakes us into His Church, members of His Body. St. Lawrence followed the Blood of our Lord which is for all, rich and poor.

When the Church and her Christians think the true treasures of the church are in the offering plates/big budgets  or our “creative ministries” or our programs, and not the Cross and Sacraments, Scripture and Service in His love, then,

“…we are in danger of losing the things that make the Church in favor of those who claim to make the Church.  Church leaders only gain legitimacy when they are the delivery point of the divine gifts.” (Pr. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH)  

Lawrence and many others so delivered the divine gifts and worldly gifts and were delivered up as martyrs and their witness heartens us.

The Roman Empire, that is, the world, only wanted the Church’s earthly treasure but finally the world wants to empty the Church of her divine treasure:  The Scriptures, the Sacraments, redeemed men and women, prayer, education, worship and the like…her people.  The world only wants to to be worshiped as the end and be all, and hates other claimants to its false worship.

Recently, on a front door of a church purporting to be Lutheran, a note reading: “Right now, LOVE looks like an empty building”. This congregation is part of a denomination that denies the marriage of man and woman alone and the inerrant Scripture, denies there is only male and female, accepts abortion, and sides with socialism and Marxism.  In their misguided zeal to protect themselves at all costs from covid, they think they are loving their neighbor by not having church. (And having a service can be done with the use of accepted health procedures.) I pray it continues to be empty! But ‘love’ can never look like an empty church building. For centuries, heretics have sincerely and secretly emptied the Church of her treasure by denying the Word of God, Law and Promise.  I think there are believers in this congregation and this is a cause of sadness and prayer.  Love never looks empty.  The world wants to empty the Church and too many denominations have been willing accomplices in pillaging the Church of her divine treasure by denying the inerrant Truth.  Lord, help us. And there may come a time, like for St. Lawrence that  the powers that be will come for us because we share both spiritual and material treasure and won’t give it up to the government/state and idolatrous ideologies. In Christ may we always give our witness as did St. Lawrence.

The Roman Emperor executed by grilling Lawrence alive and maybe many others without batting an eye.  Just think of the depth of depravity of sin! Animals do not kill each other for ideology or sport or enjoyment, but man does.  When the Church is driven out by a government, eventually the State becomes god and will not tolerate the one true God, but Lawrence served the poor in Jesus Christ.  We remember Lawrence but not the tyrant who had him murdered.  I have known Lawrences but I have never met anyone named Valerian or Nero, maybe someone would name their dog ‘Nero”. We remember what the Lord said to Saul on the road to Damascus:  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.(Acts 9: 4-5) 

Let us pray…May God turn the hearts of all who are abusing, raping, terrorizing, and killing our brothers and sisters throughout the world. May God bring to true repentance all who have denied true doctrine. May God bring them to faith in Christ, who has put away their murderous sins and won every gemstone of His Father’s love for them and us. May God fill our enemies with the Holy Spirit, that they may put down their swords and pick up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and  share the treasure of Christ’s kingdom with those whom they once sought to destroy.  Amen.

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Lutheran in SC: Joanna, Mary, and Salome, Myrrhbearers

Let us pray…

Mighty God, Your crucified and buried Son did not remain in the tomb for long. Give us joy in the tasks set before us, that we might carry out faithful acts of service as did Joanna, Mary, and Salome, offering to You the sweet perfume of our grateful hearts, so that we, too, may see the glory of Your resurrection and proclaim the Good News with unrestrained eagerness and fervor worked in us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Other appropriate prayers include: For a humble spirit; For strength during dark times; For the proud, that they might repent; For those facing dark times, that they may find their light in Jesus; For the Church at large, that we might share the love of Jesus with our humble service to others

Lessons: Psalm 45:1-9 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Luke 23:54-24:11 or Mark 16:1-8

Joanna, Mary, and Salome:  Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of Matthew (28:1), Mark (16:1), and Luke (24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Lk. 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alphaeus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Mt. 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.

Writing

“Why was Christ’s resurrection revealed to these women first? There are several answers.

  • First, God was keeping His ancient custom of choosing what is foolish, undistinguished, and despised in the eyes of the world in order to put the strong and lofty to shame. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-28) These women were despised not only due to the weakness of their gender but also because of Galilee, their homeland. (see John 1:46But God exalts them by revealing to them the resurrection of His Son, which is an excellent article of our faith.
  • Indeed, He even sends them to the apostles to share the message of Christ’s resurrection with them, so that they become, as the ancients say, like “apostles to the apostles” …
  • Third, in this way God wanted to prevent the accusations of the Jews. The high priests lied, saying that Christ’s disciples had stolen the body of their master. In order to provethe shamelessness and absurdity of this lie, it happened by God’s marvelous providence that these women came to the grave before the apostles. Now, it is highly unlikely that these few women could have stolen the body from a grave guarded by soldiers and closed by a large stone.
  • Fourth, through the woman Eve, death came to all human beings. On account of this, Christ wanted His resurrection, which brings us righteousness and life, to be told to others by women. At the fall of the first human being, these three worked together: the devil, who deceived; the woman, who proclaimed his talk further; the man, who ate and corrupted human nature. So also,Christ’s resurrection, these three worked together: Christ, who rose and redeemed human nature; the angel, who proclaimed the resurrection; and the women, who carried the joyful message further.

Now if Christ was pleased with the zeal of these women, which was yet bound together with significant weaknesses of faith, and did not let them come away from the tomb empty, how much less will He let those go away empty who in true faith seek Him who rules at the right hand of the Father!”—Martin Chemnitz (He has been called the “second Martin”, the first being Martin Luther;  all of the above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  

The holy women brought myrrh.  We remember myrrh every Christmas as the magi brought gifts of  “gold, frankincense and myrrh”.  The magi were hard-core pagan magicians and unexpectedly they bring expensive gifts for the King!  Myrrh was a costly ointment used for fragrance and especially for burial. The magi’s gift of myrrh was already pointing to the Lord’s death.

Myrrh covered the smell of death, but it is finally only perfume, a cover up and sin and death “stinks to high heaven”.   “While fallen human nature exults the proud, the arrogant, the conceited, and we even teach people how to be more so as we encourage them to be more self-confident and self-assertive, the Lord exalts the humble and opposes the proud (Luke 1:52; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 3:8).” (Pr. Rickert, from his posting on this commemoration). The faithful women bear myrrh to the tomb and unexpectedly they find out:  He is risen!  O Lord, the holy women came to anoint Your Body in the Tomb and You did anoint them, and us, eternally with Your Risen Life!  You anoint us with the grace of Your forgiveness in the anointing of the Holy Ghost! They did not have to anoint His Body!  As  Christ Jesus is the sweet fragrance of His Resurrection by which He has conquered death, no cover-up of death  but swallowing  up death, may we be the aroma of the risen Christ in this vain and violent world: Christ the death of death our foe, Christ the life of all the living.  

In the Song of Solomon, myrrh is used to scent the marital bed.  This can remind us that the Church is His bride. The Church is His body, see 1 Corinthians 12.  We are to serve another in His Church, His body, anointing each other in service and agape.  1 Corinthians 13 is the “love chapter”, the agape or the charity chapter in which we are enjoined in the service of each other, Christ’s living body as He is the head, in His charis, His grace by which we are anointed in the Holy Spirit by faith.  

Along with Joanna, Mary and Salome, we are joined with Paul and all the Church as the “aroma of Christ”:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2)

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Snøhetta's Times Square transformation officially opens

During the depths of the lock down, I heard on a classical radio station from New York City that it will be great to get back on to the streets when “everything is safe”.  Yes, it will be but when is “everything is safe” ever?  When has it ever been safe to walk around Manhattan?  Just walking across the street in Midtown is a risky venture of dodging cabs and cars.  Eating a knish from a questionable sidewalk vendor could cause gastric distress, to say the least.  Taking the subway is like riding a rolling petri dish!  Given that so many cities have been rocked with riots with bricks, hand held lasers, ball bearing flung out of slings, etc. as the new urban incoming, as in NYC, catching covid should not be high on the list of concerns of bodily harm.  Yet, it is. And once again, this morning, on the same radio station the announcer saying we can all get together when everything is “truly safe”.

We just have come off a decades’ long time of “helicopter parenting” and the “snowflake generation”: a generation doted on, hyper-protected and wealthy.  What was the goal of all that?  Safety. This may have been the prelude to lock down. We don’t live in a safe world, never have, since Eden.  A helicopter parent knows that, hence doing everything for protection.  Comes right down to it, the only way to be safe is never to go out…well, is permanent lock down, but even the lock down has not prevented covid as some ‘studies suggest’ that the Chinese virus is spread more at home.

We have forgotten that life is not safe and so we have become more and more risk averse. This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind and not do reasonable actions to protect ourselves and others, as wearing  mask when needed or sneeze into your elbow, or walk on the green and not in between or not run with scissors.  But when safety becomes our god, then risk, adventure, trying new things dissipate.  Worse we want the State to protect us  in order to be ‘safe’ with each other hectoring their neighbor and even ratting on them for not wearing a mask, and that safety has another name:  bondage, not freedom.

Political freedom is at stake…and alongside and greater than it, spiritual freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”-Galatians 5: 1.   Life finally cannot be 100% safe in this world, by the world.  All medical progress notwithstanding, the death rate still remains at one per person. Want to spend your life under the thumb of government intrusion to assuage your fears? Everything in  the media, left and right, is only to increase our fears for us to watch and be sold more stuff through the slick encouragement of commercials. C. S. Lewis said that after reading a newspaper, it’s good to read a good book, as a “mouthwash”.

The supposed insurance of safety at all cost on account of fear will be major cause of the overthrow of America.   Stand up for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Let no man tell you No in waving of the finger of selfish self-righteous. The Lord alone can be our rock and our refuge. Even more:  turn to the Lord.  He knows something about our fears, from Matthew chapter 6:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 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. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

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Image result for Mary, Martha and Lazarus icon

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 About Mary, Martha, and Lazarus: 

They were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).” On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Serve, Learn, Raised

Serve, Learn, Raised are the three verbs in the Collect of the Day above with the subjects being respectively Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  These three verbs describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the true Christian faith in Christ in making us holy, the work of sanctification, as we are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). 

The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Martha was busy with much serving.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mere mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of it,  results in mere activism and busy-ness and as evidenced in Martha:  resentment. It also makes us the saviors of the world, as many a political activists, left or right, demonstrate and sometimes will violence.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See  Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her:   “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”. Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person. Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world…

…and we are also Lazarus.  Nothing that Lazarus spoke is recorded in the Bible.  Lazarus was acted upon by the Lord:  raised.  Our salvation is utterly passive:  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Death is both spiritual and physical.  We were dead in our trespasses (Colossians 2:13). The spiritual and physically dead cannot raise themselves  Our words cannot create life only the Lord’s does.  I cannot raise me. It takes God Himself to do so in the resurrection of absolution/forgiveness. 

We are also told by the Evangelist St. John that,

 “ Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.”

They gave a dinner for Lazarus!  Oh, to be a fly on that wall!  This was just a week before Jesus Himself would give Himself up in crucifixion for the life of the world and rise for our justification (Romans 4:25). And in the night in which He was betrayed, He made a dinner for us all to be fed and watered by the Lord’s almighty nail imprinted hand:  The Lord’s Supper or the Mass or the Divine Service, the Holy Communion.  His body and blood us all as we are Martha, Mary and Lazarus, to serve Christ and our neighbor as Martha, learn Christ as Mary(cf. Ephesians 4:20) and be raised as Lazarus day by day and in the last day to eternal life (John 6:40}

31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders. (Psalm 107)

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“Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise” (Luther)

Concordia and Koinonia

Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where…

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Text: Matthew 13:44-52

One way these two parables have been interpreted is that the hidden treasure and the pearl are God’s grace.  God’s grace in Jesus Christ is priceless, in terms of worldly treasure, a pearl of great price, etc.  So the disciple needs and seeks God’s grace. It is worth everything, one’s whole living. It is but then the suggestion is we sell all that we have to buy God’s grace?!?  You better start coughing up the money now. Now there’s a new stewardship campaign. Sadly it would work to bring in money, gilt with guilt, but it does not work in terms of God’s grace in His Son.  Grace is free and frees. We can not buy God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  In fact, the only way I am downright joyful in buying something is when I can get it a half-price! Not an exorbitant price.  I want the kingdom of God at bargain basement prices. No half-price sale in these parables. What’s going on here? Selling everything to buy them. These two are nuts! 

The Lord said of Israel that they are his “treasured possession”, out of all the peoples on the earth.  In His parables about the reign of heaven it is about the reign of heaven in and with His beloved Son Jesus Christ.  He goes seeking and searching and finding, as in another parable like a shepherd in search of his lost sheep.  What is the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price? The hidden treasure and the pearl are His disciples:  you. What is that great price, everything to buy, actually buy back (meaning of the word, redeem):

1 Corinthians 6:  You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price.

1 Peter 1:  you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

 Dr. Luther’s Explanation of the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed:

“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”

Look at the people Jesus dug out and found! Who are you? “…redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering” Who did the Lord redeem dugout and found? For instance:  Mary Magdalene, possessed by seven demons, the last person to have festival in the Church… Abraham a pagan idolater from the city of Ur,  Moses who murdered two Egyptians, Ruth, a Moabite woman, Naaman the Syrian,  Jeremiah a teenager, Matthew a tax collector, Paul a persecutor of Christians…and the roll call of the saints goes on to this day.  Thank the Lord for so great a salvation!

Remember at this time of the Gospel narrative, things are going against Jesus and the 12. He tells them:  I found you.  With joy I brought you to Myself.  I dug you out. I fished you out.  We are taught by the Lord the importance of Him the Good Shepherd, finding us.

Finding a treasure or a pearl, is also in a different note in Luke. All of Luke 15 is about the Lord finding the lost, the lost coin, the sheep, the lost son. Then we hear of joy in a parable about the lost sheep.  There is more joy in heaven over one sinner repenting than 99 who do not.  The shepherd carried the 300 pound smelly sheep home to himself.  What was of great value, one life, is found, paid for, dug out. It seems ridiculous that a shepherd would leave 99 sheep to go in search of the one lost sheep, unless you are that one.

Notice that the Lord’s currency exchange is not the same as the United States or any country for that matter.  In the first parable, the man bought the farm to have the hidden treasure he found.  “He bought the farm” is a grim saying about dying.  Jesus bought the farm to have us, not with silver or gold, but His own precious blood. Priceless.  So is the price of one life: yours and your neighbor’s.  He is risen!  “Oh wondrous thought, He found me when I sought Him not!”  He catches the fish in His net and yes some will be unclean and unrepentant. As if He is saying:  “Fear not, again as in the parable of the wheat and the weed, I will sort it out.  I have caught you alive because you were buried and My will and My word is  to catch others alive.  The catch in this parable is but the refrain of  Lord’s call to the first apostles: “You will be fishers of men.”

Spread the net. ‘I, the Lord, take care of the birds of air, and are you not worth more than they?  I paid salvation’s price for you out of  My love which does not die, but is alive, as I live and breathe.’

You’re a gem…maybe but more like  a diamond in the rough.  We can be more than rough around the edges. The Church is a ship, a nave, navy:  On a ship it seems to be hard to get off the barnacles of wrong and evil. A gem is God’s creation and when lost and buried it is found and the Lord works  diamonds in the rough, it’s call sanctification so that His light shines more perfectly through. The Lord said of Israel, His treasured possession.  Was Israel in it’s desert wanderings a diamond in the rough?  Yes, big time.

We don’t have to go searching for heresy and heretics any more…may be the Church never had to.  Like the weeds among the wheat we have to point out the spiritual weeds and describe them according to Scripture which is very important to avoid not primarily those who teach but what is taught.  Many denominations seem to be more weeds than wheat, and they are, but there is wheat, pure and wholesome grain by faith in Jesus.  And amongst true confessional Lutheran church bodies there are weeds, lest we be puffed up in our own spirituality as if we made ourselves wheat. But our primary mission is to go searching for hidden treasure and pearls of great price. We are called to be on a treasure hunt, not only a witch hunt.

Matthew 13 is our Lord’s sermon of parables centered on the Word of His reign and the way it is spread…like seed upon the soil, like a net into the water. Between sowing the seed and the harvest, Christ’s coming and coming again, the search is for those who are hidden, buried, hiding. 

It takes time to dig up treasure, draw in the fishing net, mend the net and cast out again, keep the boat in good order: boat means church as in Nave, the area in a Church which a congregation sits: nave from Latin, Navis, ship (navy). and the price has been paid for the field, the field of the world:  Christ’s own blood.  He’ll help us, guide us, feed us, rebuke us, warn us, even show us where to dig,  on the search to find His people. One such person texted me last summer, “…how lucky I am to have found you guys”.  I wrote back that is wasn’t luck. He wrote back, “I know there is no coincidence.  I’m just extremely grateful.”

Sometimes, it’s like Wow, what a joy.  Sometimes it will be a slog.  There will be sorrow and joy. When the Apostle Paul said goodbye to the pastors of Ephesus, with prayers and tears, before his final journey, he told them, “…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”     And scribes in the Kingdom of God bring out of the Master’s house,  treasure both old and new, Old and New Testaments,  the Law of God and the Gospel of God, the whole counsel of God the bread of His Word and His Word in the bread, the wine, the Blood of the New Testament, the prayers of the saints, repentance, confession and absolution, the witness and true stories of the martyrs, the icons and art of redemption, the hymns of salvation, and a Presbyterian congregation who built their church out of rock over a century ago from the sinking sand by the Maury River and moved it upon  this rocky promontory which reminds us the Church is built upon the Rock, even when steeples are falling. Reminding us on Christ the solid rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

In a book like Treasure Island, any pirate story or movie, what are pirates always and zealously looking for? Yep, buried treasure and on the treasure map, what marks the spot? X marks the spot. X or change move the X, a cross.  Here’s one for whom the Lord was crucified, a treasure in the eyes of the Lord, a treasured possession, a treasure in the eyes of the Lord, a treasured possession.  Found…X marks the spot:  IN the Name of

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone.

Concordia and Koinonia

Image result for St. James the elder icon
Acts 12:
12About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.2He killedJames the brother of Johnwith the sword

Prayer of the Day

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the
first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. Pour
out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that
they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who
lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings: Acts 11: 27-12: 5 Psalm 56 Romans 8: 28-39 St. Mark 10: 35-45

About:St. James and his brother John, sons of Zebedee and Salome (see Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40), were fishermen in the Sea of Galilee who were called with Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22). In the…

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Image result for mary magdalene announcing the resurrection to the apostles

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, restored Mary Magdalene to health and called her to be the first witness of His resurrection. Heal us from all our infirmities, and call us to know You in the power of Your Son’s unending life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Readings:  Proverbs 31: 10-31   Psalm 73: 25-28  Acts 13: 16-31  St. John 20: 1-2, 10-18

About St. Mary Magdalene: Whenever the New Testament Gospels name the women who were with Jesus, Mary Magdalene is listed first (John 19:25 is the only exception), perhaps because she was the first to see the risen Savior alive. Luke 8:2 reports that Jesus had cured her of being possessed by seven demons. Through the centuries, she has often been identified with the repentant “woman of the city” who anointed Jesus’ feet as He sat at the table in the Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36—50). But there is no biblical basis for this identification of her with a penitent prostitute. Nor is she to be identified with Mary, the sister of Martha, in Bethany. According to the Gospels, Mary Magdalene saw Jesus die; she witnessed His burial; and, most important, she was the first to see Him alive again after His resurrection (John 20:  11-18). It is for good reason that Bernard of Clairvaux calls her “the apostle to the apostles”. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Witness in an Estranged and Strange Land

One of the qualifications of an apostle is that he is a “witness to the resurrection” (See Acts 1: 22). Since the Lord called men to be Apostles, Mary could not be a full Apostle, but as a witness to the resurrection she is a witness-apostle and not only to His resurrection but His crucifixion. She was there. 

In Israel, the Lord proclaimed through His prophet Isaiah to and for Israel, Isaiah 44: 8:

Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

The kingdom of Israel was a kingdom of witnesses to the one God, our Redeemer, Israel’s King and the Church’s King as well (see Isaiah 44: 6), that He is the Rock, the Rock of our salvation in Baal lands. 

Mary Magdalene became a witness by Whom she saw standing right in front of her, calling her by name (John 10: 3), the risen Lord bearing the marks of the Cross.  She thought he was the gardener, and in a sense, Mary was right:  He would cause her faith to grow by His Word and Sacraments. She was witness to the Living One in the land of darkness and death, and Who had already freed Mary Magdalene from her demons.

 In the nations, we may be called to give a witness to a crime when we have seen one, that is a witness to wrong. There are many such witnesses.

 Or we witness that this or that movie, book, play, game etc. is really good and proclaim that what I saw is just great. That’s okay as we are to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely,  commendable, has any excellence and is worthy of praise (see Philippians 4: 8).  This type of witness is needed more than ever in a land in which bad is extolled is good, where immorality is championed as the new ‘morality’, and falsehood elevated.

So even more, give witness to the One Who is perfectly honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and fully worthy of praise, who bore your wrong to make you strong in faith, as He did for Mary Magdalene. We can take heart from Mary Magdalene’s eyewitness, with all the witnesses of the Resurrection, as He is the resurrection and the life (John 11).  We have not seen Him but He has taught us by faith to know Him.  So, in these days we are witnesses by faith, as the Apostle Peter wrote: 

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1: 8)

This witness is unto eternal life and what a service to give to our neighbor!

The Proper Preface for Easter (Lutheran Service Book)

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God.

And most especially are we bound to praise You on this day for the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, the very Paschal Lamb, who was sacrificed for us and bore the sins of the world. By His dying He has destroyed death, and by His rising again He has restored to us everlasting life.

Therefore with Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, and with all the witnesses of the resurrection, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying:

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY LORD!

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The Church in the United States has done a good job in making Christ a “liar”, by saying there is no sin or we voted this or that sin out at our last church assembly/convention. The denial of sin denies His great salvation to transform man. The result is many churches fooling themselves and thereby calling God a liar.

Concordia and Koinonia

About Ezekiel: Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity(Ezekiel 1:3).In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem— including Ezekiel— to Babylon(2Kings 24:8-16). Ezekiel’s priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example,Ezekiel 9-10and40-48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1–32). Jerusalem would certainly fall and the exiles would not quickly return— the just consequences of their sins. Especially in the early part of the book, much of what the Lord…

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