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Let us pray…O King of glory, Lord of hosts, uplifted in triumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father; for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Sermon at Concordia Lutheran Mission: There is a movie about Jesus Christ, entitled “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. Without doubt the true story of God becoming man,sending His only begotten Son to be born of the virgin Mary, attended by a cast of thousands but only seen by shepherds, grow up, learn His step father Joseph’s trade as the “son of the carpenter”, be baptized in the Jordan like a sinner, who knew no sin to bear the sin of the world, preach, teach, do mighty deeds and signs, touch the world, then be rejected, betrayed and denied and just as He said: then be crucified, and on the third day rise from the dead, is the greatest true story ever told, ever lived. In fact St. John tells us that all the books in the world can not contain what He said and did…

But the narrative did not stop there…and it is a story, the greatest and it is a story of an adventure. We heard on Ascension Thursday the first lesson from the beginning of Acts.  We note with wonder that the Lord ascended into heaven but that was just the beginning…the powerful deed was the Lord’s Word, He send out the apostles:  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  The Lord had equipped them by teaching them day and day out for three years, the volumes of God’s Word.  He told them He was sending them into hostile territory, not safe, facing persecution and death to bring the Word of life to dying people.  He then tells them He Himself would equip them in the Holy Spirit to the ends of the earth as His witnesses, Greek word of witness, martyrs. A Jewish diplomat and theologian Pinchas Lapide said the only accounting of Christianity is that Jesus did bodily rise from the dead, but I think more.  12 Galilean fishermen and others go into the world, the Roman Empire with message of Christ and Him crucified.  What would a Las Vegas bookie put the odds for them to succeed?

In Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo has been charged by Gandalf to bring the ring of power to Rivendell…and eventually to Mount Doom…Frodo is accompanied by his gardener and friend, Sam-wise Gamgee. When not far from their home in the Shire, the two of them are walking through a field, and Sam stops dead in his tracks. Frodo turns around and asks him, What is it, Sam? “The next step I’ll take will be the farthest from home I have ever been.”  Sam then crossed his Rubicon.  Can you imagine the Apostle Peter, his whole lived on the shores of the Sea of Galilee…would preach in Rome and there be crucified upside down. Thomas was said to have evangelized in India. 11 of the12 apostles were martyred.

Later in Lord of the Rings, when all is hopeless, their world is being destroyed by evil, these two small hobbits on aseemingly fool’s errand, Frodo burdened by ring, Sam, what’s the use. Sam:

“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

 The apostles kept going because they had something to hold on to.  Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Kept=imprison, that’s keeping something close.  And more, Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. The church kept the truth as the Lord kept them…us. An adventure…advent, to come, to draw near, that is the Lord.

The disciples kept His Word as He kept them safe, their souls and their bodies unto the Day.  Jesus prayed for His disciples. He interceded, prayed for them all.  He still does. Romans 8: “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”   Christ is ascended. He is ascended, indeed, allelulia!  The Lord sent His disciples into the world, but, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”  verses 16-17, as Jesus prays for His apostolic Church and the disciples. 

 The Apostle Peter’s encouragement is needed today as it was then:

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

From the Ascension to Pentecost, the Apostles, Mary and women joined together in prayer, not a marathon church council meeting nor a Synod or district assembly.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  It is not that in Christ Jesus we are NOT going have anxiety.  We will. It is what it is done with it:  according to God’s Word.  Note:  The Word first says we can cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares FOR YOU.  Luther wrote that the words FOR YOU are the Gospel, the good news of Jesus. Casting is praying.   He can take it.  He has on the Cross.  All our anxieties take us away from the Lord and each other.  And the devil uses them as such .  The devil knows that anxieties are his segue way into something worse, that is temptation and sin. The devil wants you to always be looking inside and not outside for help, that is, to the Lord.  Anxieties are not the last word:  Jesus Christ and His forgiveness and grace in His Church is the first Word and the last Word.

Be sober-minded; be watchful.

Sober-minded in regards to what is happening in the world. As I read religion articles in the secular news, they are mostly anti-religion articles, especially, anti-Christian, even antichrist articles.  Watchful yes and sober-minded about it all because no one can respond to it all.  

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The devil in false doctrine, remembers, does not want you to know that Jesus died and rose for you and your salvation:  period.  He will always be trying to turn that period into a comma and all the while sounding mighty pious and religious and spiritual about the whole thing, again see Islam and Mormonism.

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Temptation is common to the brotherhood through the world.  In the  wealthy city, of Wenzhou in China,  which has many Christians, the State had ordered all the crosses to be removed from church buildings because of “building codes”, all of a sudden.   A few years back, In Sudan, a Muslim woman, Meriam Ibrahim,  married to a Christian, Daniel,  herself became a Christian.  She was condemned to death for conversion, accused of “apostasy”.  She was pregnant when arrested and she gave birth in prison while her legs were shackled. Even so, she gave birth to her daughter.   In our country too many want to remove all mention of the Cross of Christ from the public square or even churches lifting up the cross and the preaching of the Crucified right out of churches.  The devil devours, he does not take little bites. Steadfast in the faith is steadfast in the doctrine, the sound doctrine as Jesus intercedes, prays,  for us all.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Meme of the Day

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Let us pray…O Lord, almighty and everlasting God, You commanded us to pray and have promised to hear us. Mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may direct and govern our hearts in all things that we may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of Your Name; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever. Amen.

New Testament Reading: Luke 18:1-17 The Parable of the Persistent Widow

‘And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary! ‘For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, ‘yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”‘ ‘And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. ‘And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 11 tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will find faith on earth?

“…The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth”   (Exodus 34:6, KJV)

 The translation of 1 Corinthians 13: 4 is usually:  “Love is patient…”   The word for “patient” is the Greek: makrothuma.   Another rendering of makrothuma and its related words is “long-suffering”.  A form of  “long-suffering” is in our Lord’s parable of the Persistent Widow,  Luke 18: 1-8.  The King James Version renders the verse,  “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?”  “Bear long with them” is a form of makrothuma, that is, the Lord long-suffers with His people as they are invited and called by the Lord to consistent and daily prayer to Him. In 2 Timothy 3: 14—4: 15, 4: 2, the Apostle  encourages his fellow pastor, “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience (long-suffering, makrothuma) and teaching.”

 Rev. Lockwood in his commentary on 1 Corinthians states that makrothuma,

“…is marked “not so much in the expression as in the extension of emotion, the drawing out, taming, literally the ‘lengthening’ (makro-) of emotion.  The Christian is not short-tempered, but longsuffering with others.” 

Christian long-suffering obvioiusly is not a self-cultivated virtue! It is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5: 22.  Makrothuma comes from and has it’s roots in the Lord’s long-suffering, bearing long with us all.  St. Paul knew that: “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1: 16) It is clear that the Lord’s encouragement in the upcoming Gospel reading to prayer is likewise rooted and grounding in the Lord’s makrothuma

Long-suffering is so needed in this short-tempered world we live in.  Again, Rev. Lockwood comments on 1 Corinthians 13: 4, love is long-suffering: 

“In the fast-paced, achievement-oriented world entering the third millennium, when the spirit of the age tempts churches to look for quick and impressive results, it is salutary to reflect on the priority Paul accords to the love which expresses itself in being longsuffering, a love that can wait (cf. 1 Cor 1:7; 11:33; James 5:7-8).”

I assert that “long-suffering” is almost a synonym for the divine love/charity, the Lord’s perfect makrothumia.  A love that can wait:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. Psalm 62: 5

M.V.P.D.

It seems that Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory (BBT) foretold the covid lock down and the ultimate way of surviving:

Sheldon did this, after a few physical mishaps, in order to prolong his life. Maybe we should all have mobile virtual presence devices and stay in bed, like Sheldon? With this political lock down, we are doing the about the same, except it does not work. The Lord has made us body/soul to live in His creation and yes death is there. This BBT episode is a reductio ad absurdum argument* for us. This very funny clip shows us the fallacy inherent in the lock down. By artificially prolonging our lives by sequestering ourselves, we’re actually not living as the Lord intended. We are actually committing a slow individual and societal suicide. Death may be near, and the risen Lord is nearer still.

*Reductio ad absurdum, (Latin: “reduction to absurdity”), in logic, a form of refutation showing contradictory or absurd consequences following upon premises as a matter of logical necessity and so showing the theory/practice is a fallacy, e.g. artificial prolongation of life or even a lock down, a ‘quarantine’ of well people.

Within the Novena

The Acts of the Apostles 1:  …they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers,(emphasis my own)

In the Roman Catholic Church, a “novena” is any designated 9 day period of prayers for “special intentions”. “Novena” is a Latin cognate of the number 9 for the number of the days of prayers  from Ascension Day to Pentecost:  nine days.  The Apostles, the women, Jesus’ brothers and the Mother of Jesus “…with one accord devoting themselves to prayer”.  “Novena” describes this special period prayer before the 3rd great Feast Day of the Church, Pentecost, the first two being Christmas and Easter. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit poured out onto the Church in her mission to follow the Savior’s outstretched arm as His witnesses, “…  in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8b)  In, with and under the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit the Church lives and points to Christ.

We are within the novena before Pentecost.  The world needs, “…light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).   We need to pray for Christ’s Bride the Church.  The Lord sent out the Apostles into the world. He full well knew what they would be against.  He sent them out into the world but not to be of the world nor “out of this world”, so that the world hear the saving Word. 

Let us pray…Lord Jesus, Your Kingdom continues to be in our midst as You come to us now through holy water, holy words, and holy food.  Help us to see that Your Kingdom is a kingdom of suffering, but that through suffering, we will be prepared to enter into glory when You return on that final day, for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A Reflection:  Part of today’ Old Testament Reading is Numbers 11: 24-29. The Lord’s concern in response to the disciples’ question about the man casting out demons in Christ’s Name is like Moses’ response about Eldad and Medad receiving the Holy Spirit outside the Tent of Meeting:  Would that all people be prophets and the Lord’s Spirit be upon them! The Lord’s will is all people to be saved in the sheer gift of Himself to know Him and love Him and love our neighbors aright. 

“As a true servant of God, who was not jealous for his own honor, but desired only the extension of God’s influence and power, Moses wished only for a further extension of the Lord’s gift of grace. A little more of this same Spirit in our days would help to solve many of the problems of the Church.” (From The Popular Commentary (1924), by Dr. Paul Kretzmann, Lutheran Pastor and Scholar)

The Lord’s solution of political problems is not pastors, ministers and priests offering political solutions to people who suffer from the spiritual problem of sin.  The Lord’s solution is salvation in teaching and preaching Christ, His Cross, His resurrection and ascension, His Word of Law and Promise. Not a pope nor a president telling us pollution is bad, or abortion for that matter, but God’s Word and teaching thus sayeth the Lord from the  Bible.  The greatest apostolic ministry is not first casting out demons, that is, rare, but receiving a cup of water because, beloved in the Lord, “you belong to Christ”.  You belong to Christ. This means the person giving the cup of water to one of Jesus’ own, is beginning to believe through the grace of God in, through and with His Son Jesus Christ and that is quite a reward.

The quote is from the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Article VIII, The Person of Christ, para. 27-30, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Lutheran Church.

But now He does, since He has ascended, not merely as any other saint, to heaven, but, as the apostle testifies [ Eph. 4:10 ], above all heavens, and also truly fills all things, and being everywhere present, not only as God, but also as man [has dominion and] rules from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth; as the prophets predict, Ps. 8:1,693:1f ; Zech. 9:10, and the apostles testify, Mark 16:20, that He everywhere wrought with them and confirmed their word with signs following. 28]Yet this occurred not in an earthly way, but, as Dr. Luther explains, according to the manner of the right hand of God, which is no fixed place in heaven, as the Sacramentarians assert without any ground in the Holy Scriptures, but nothing else than the almighty power of God, which fills heaven and earth, in [possession of] which Christ is installed according to His humanity, realiter, that is, in deed and truth, sine confusione et exaequatione naturarum, that is, without confusion and equalizing of the two natures in their essence and essential properties; 29] by this communicated [divine] power, according to the words of His testament, He can be and truly is present with His body and blood in the Holy Supper, to which He has directed us by His Word; this is possible to no other man, because no man is in such a way united with the divine nature, and installed in such divine almighty majesty and power through and in the personal union of the two natures in Christ, as Jesus, the Son of Mary. 30] For in Him the divine and the human nature are personally united with one another, so that in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Col. 2:9, and in this personal union have such a sublime, intimate, ineffable communion that even the angels are astonished at it, and, as St. Peter testifies, have their delight and joy in looking into it [ 1 Pet. 1:12 ]; all of which will shortly be explained in order and somewhat more fully.

Image result for The Ascension of the Lord

Lessons:

Acts 1: 1-11 Psalm 47 Ephesians 1: 15-23 St. Luke 24: 44-53

Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
    He was manifested in the flesh,
   vindicated by the Spirit,
       seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
       taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3: 16

Ephesians 3:   14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The Lord’s Church, His Body  of whom He is our head, is multi-dimensional: “…the breadth and length and height and depth”.  The Lord’s Ascension is the fulfillment of the Church in Him that is not merely 3 dimensional, but 4 dimensional, that is, in space and  time.  The Ascension of our Lord is about:

looking back

looking up

looking out

looking forward.

  •  Looking back to the entire record of the Bible and the Lords’ saving acts in Israel and now in Jesus Christ for Israel and the entire world, so we are strengthened in our souls through faith by His grace revealed in history.  The Bible is God’s own Word inspired by the Lord and  recorded by men that we may know the Way.
  •  Looking up in faith in prayer to the Lord as He ascended, so we may know where He is leading us.  The Church, and the world, does not live in the time after Christ,  but in the time under Christ. Christ Jesus is Prophet, Priest and King and from His three fold office we receive grace upon grace.  Prophet:  He preaches His Word to all creation.  Priest:  Our Great High Priest officiates at His Table His Body and Blood.  King:  He rules His Church and creation by His Word as we are waiting for the coming of the Kingdom in all its fullness. He calls Pastors and Preachers to bring His Word to your ears and hearts, and in the Sacraments to your body and soul.
  •  Looking out for each other is the service that fellow pilgrims and companions offer to one another.  “Watch out” is caution.  The Lord’s looks out for us in His Law, in which the Lord warns “Watch out” and as the crucified and ascended Lord watches over us ever promising: “I am with you always even to the end of the age” (St. Matthew 28). Looking out for one another is to encourage each other as we see the Day approaching.
  •  Looking forward for the Kingdom coming, begun in Jesus Christ is our God-given hope and faith. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 11, as oft as we eat of this Bread and drink of this Cup (Holy Communion) we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  The vain world thinks this is it, that is, this world and this life as it thinks it has life in itself. It does not.  Christ is crucified, Christ is risen, Christ is ascended, Christ will come again. We look to the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 11) to the Day. 

“Sursum Corda”, literally, Hearts Lifted, as in Lift up your hearts, we lift them up to the Lord.  He has done the heavy lifting.  He intercedes for His Body on earth so our minds are set in hope on things above. His love is for us all in all space and time, in all dimensions.

On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build
By: Josua Wegelin

On Christ’s ascension I now build
The hope of my ascension;
This hope alone has always stilled
All doubt and apprehension;
For where the head is, there as well
I know his members are to dwell
When Christ will come and call them.

Since Christ returned to claim his throne,
Great gifts for me obtaining,
My heart will rest in him alone,
No other rest remaining;
For where my treasure went before,
There all my thoughts will ever soar
To still their deepest yearning.

Oh, grant, dear Lord, this grace to me,
Recalling your ascension,
That I may serve you faithfully,
Adorning your redemption;
And then, when all my days will cease,
Let me depart in joy and peace
In answer to my pleading.

Hymn # 150 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Etlich Christlich lider

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