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Scripture Readings:
2 Samuel 7:4-16
Romans 4:13-18
Matthew 2:13-152:19-23

Intro:  St. Joseph has been honored throughout the Christian centuries for his faithful devotion in helping Mary raise her Son. Matthew’s Gospel relates that Joseph was a just man, who followed the angel’s instructions and took the already-pregnant Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24). In the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus is referred to as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). This suggests that Joseph had building skills with which he supported his family. Joseph was an important figure in the early life of Jesus, safely escorting Mary and the child to Egypt (Matthew 2:14) and then settling them back in Nazareth once it was safe to do so (Matthew 2:22). The final mention of Joseph is at the time the twelve-year-old Jesus visits the temple in Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 2:41-51). Joseph, the guardian of our Lord, has long been associated with caring parenthood as well as with skilled craftsmanship.

Today’s Daily Lectionary Old Testament reading is Genesis 39: 1-23 is part of the narrative of Joseph in Egypt as a slave in Potiphar’s estate. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, but Joseph said no to her and she falsely accused him of sexual abuse.  Potiphar had Joseph put in prison and so today is a double Joseph day.  The step-Father of Jesus was likewise an admirable man. When Joseph found out that his betrothed Mary was with child, not his (he would not have had marital relations before marriage!), he wanted her to save face and so he decided to quietly divorce her (at the time betrothal was almost as important as the wedding/marriage).  Joseph of old was imprisoned and in a sense Joseph of the New Testament was in societal prison because of his beloved’s pregnancy.  The most important aspect of both Josephs is their obedience which comes by faith in the Lord (see Romans  ).

About the first Joseph, and the second Joseph, Dr. Paul Kretzmann commented,

“With a clean conscience and the Lord’s favor on their side, the believers are able endure not only false accusations, but even worse tribulations, the loss of liberty and life.”  

This is pertinent and relevant quote in a time of epidemic and pandemic.  Restricted to our homes, we don’t know what to do but obey the encouragement to watch more TV.  And our faith may be weak or strong. There are other responses as in the hymn verse (and hymn verses are also prayer):

Thy righteousness, O Christ,
Alone can cover me;
No righteousness avails
Save that which is of Thee.
To whom save Thee, who canst alone
For sin atone, Lord, shall I flee? (TLH #380)

As both Josephs, we can flee to the Lord for He has sought us and found us.  First, His law finds us out.  We can’t hide the fact we are sinners before the Lord.  We can maybe fool others (usually, not our spouses!), but not the Lord.  And the Lord Jesus finds to make us His own so we can repent:

Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners
confess unto Thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean,
and that we have sinned against Thee by thought, word, and deed.
Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy, seeking and
imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We flee for refuge to the Lord, not the TV.  In Christ, we are to serve and love our neighbor in our homes and those we can help.  Both Josephs did so and show us the way of the Lord even in times of quarantine and restriction.

Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, from the house of Your servant David You raised up Joseph to be the guardian of Your incarnate Son and the husband of His mother, Mary. Grant us grace to follow the example of this faithful workman in heeding Your counsel and obeying Your commands; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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St. Patrick was a teenager when he was captured and sold as slave in Ireland where he became a shepherd.  He did not know at the time that the shepherd was training to be a Shepherd (literal meaning of the word Pastor).  He was in solitude upon the hills of Eire.  He had time on his hands and he told us what he did:

After I arrived in Ireland, I tended sheep every day, and I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God. Faith grew, and my spirit was moved, so that in one day I would pray up to one hundred times, and at night perhaps the same. I even remained in the woods and on the mountain, and I would rise to pray before dawn in snow and ice and rain. I never felt the worse for it, and I never felt lazy – as I realise now, the spirit was burning in me at that time.

St. Patrick’s Confession

Patrick prayed a lot in his quarantine from the world.  As I write this, we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and for the first time there will be no revelries in the streets on St. Patrick’s Day. Many streets are deserted.  It is also Lent. Maybe, and I say maybe, the Lord has imposed Lent upon us to find out again what and who is truly central in our lives, what we don’t need and given us a time of prayer and Scripture reading, as He did for Patrick.  We are fasting from our revelries, given more to pray and pray to find ways to give alms and help those in need.

St. Patrick spent days outdoors in God’s gift of His creation, with our extra time, we can go outside and need not be hunkered down and pray to the Lord Who created us and in His Beloved Son, baptized and redeemed us.   From St. Patrick:

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea
around the old eternal rocks and redeem us.

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I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three,
Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord!

Hymn # 172 from Lutheran Worship

Let us pray… God of grace and might, we praise You for your servant Patrick, to whom You gave gifts to make the good news known to the people of Ireland. Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 62: 1-7; Psalm 48; Romans 10: 11-17; St. Luke 24: 44-53

Bio:  Patrick is one of the best-known of the missionary saints. Born to a Christian family in Britain around the year 389, he was captured as a teenager by raiders, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a herdsman. After six years he escaped and found his way to a monastery community in France. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities. He strongly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a time when it was not popular to do so. His literary legacy includes his autobiography, Confession, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today. Patrick died around the year 466.  Read more about St. Patrick’s biography here, citing quotes from his Confession.

Reflection:The Church’s mission is Baptism.  St. Patrick, missionary Bishop, knew that. From his Confession:

In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord—so many thousands of people.

The Lord did not send Patrick to the land of Eire to establish Irish national identity, drink green beer (itself a heresy!), get drunk in a pub, and have another reason for “hooking-up”.  He came to preach the Christ who sets us free from all of that and all sin and death.

He wrote a majestic poem that became a hymn on Holy Baptism (see above). Ireland had been evangelized prior to Patrick but it was through this servant of the Lord that the Faith was rooted.  Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was to the baptized who had wandered down false paths and dead ends to return to the waters. Patrick’s preaching of Christ was for the baptized to walk in the newness of life in Christ as a baptized son or daughter. Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was for the pagan to come to the waters, to bind unto themselves the strong Name of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ commanded His Church to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity, not in the Church’s name,nor Patrick’s nor Luther’s, for that matter.  The baptism mission of the Church is obviously not fads and fashions, techniques and clever tactics to “get people into Church”.  The Baptism is always into Jesus Christ and His Cross (see Romans 6: 1ff). From St. Patrick’s Confession:

Patrick did not water down Holy Baptism!  He did not water down the doctrine and practice of the Church to “reach people”.  His goal was not ‘outreach’ to people but preach the Word so that people call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved, and that means:  Holy Baptism.   Patrick knew that he was a “jar of clay” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7), as he knew that the surpassing power was the Lord’s, the One who baptized him:

Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.

The Church wears the “green” day in and day out, in the bloom of summer, in the dead of winter:  greening in the watering of His forgiveness by His grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8). When we forget our baptismal sojourn in the Holy Spirit and in His Word the Holy Scriptures, then we are lost. Patrick had a strong faith in the strong Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He was no debater of the age, but proclaimer of the age to come. Yes, wear the green today but do not forget to pray and make the sign of the Cross giving thanks to Lord our God, for the missionary bishop who baptized many. The Lord’s Cross points us home to the Holy Trinity.  

(More on St. Patrick here and here)

Quote of the Day

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“Where men are forbidden to honor a king, they honor millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead — even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served — deny it food and it will gobble poison.” C. S. Lewis

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Text:  2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10  20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Let us pray…”O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!”(Rev. Prof. Johann Gerhardt)

Maybe you have heard the phrase:  cancel culture.  Cancel culture  is a form of public humiliation or shaming that aims to hold individuals and groups accountable for actions perceived to be offensive by other individuals or groups, who then call attention to this behavior, usually on social media. The person who has been called out has shared a questionable or unpopular opinion, or has had behavior in their past that is perceived to be either offensive, this person is “canceled”; they are completely boycotted by many of their followers or supporters, often leading to massive declines in celebrities’ (almost always social media personalities) careers and fanbase. There usually follows an abject apology which never seems to work.  Cancel culture is also called outrage culture.

And the Church is regularly condemned as bigoted and hateful!  The Lord does not want nor will to cancel anyone but all come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-5).  Cancel culture does not admit repentance and so there is no forgiveness.  The Godless cancel culture is the result of  the sin  of the utter personal and societal rejection of Christian truth, Law and Promise.  No righteousness, only self-righteousness.  No, faith, only despair.  No hope, only hatred.  No love, only lust. No Jesus, only us. In a sense the Church is a cancel culture, in that, the Lord does cancel sin,

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians)

The Lord’s Church is not cancel culture. Just the opposite. The Lord’s Body, His Church is the land of repentance and  reconciliation ,baptism and forgiveness. The Apostle Paul knew his cancel culture as he consented to the execution of Christians and arrested Christians.  The Lord Jesus seized Paul to save him by Christ’s Blood.  And the Apostle wrote, “we are ambassadors for Christ”. An ambassador is a representative from another country, who speaks on behalf of his government, ruler.  The ambassador is invested with the authority to do so and Apostle Paul is ambassador, yes, from a foreign country this world:  The Kingdom of God. The sad and bitter and utterly lonely cancel culture needs the message from another world, the scent of a flower which does not fade, the song which does not end, the good news  coming into the world through the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  Our citizenship is from heaven (Philippians 3:20), not from here. We need this land more than ever. This is the Apostle’s appeal, entreaty Be ye reconciled with God.  Rev. Paul Kretzmann in his whole Bible Commentary (1917):

In behalf of Christ, then, we are ambassadors, as though God were entreating through us. Christ’s representatives they are, bringing the Word, the offer of reconciliation to men, the earnest entreaty of God to accept His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus: We pray you in behalf of Christ, Be reconciled to God!

And the pastor captures the amazing nature of the Lord’s call to be reconciled:

What a strange situation: The holy, righteous God, who has been insulted times without number by the countless sins of the men of all times, begs for reconciliation; the almighty, jealous God, who is able to punish every sin with the condemnation of hell, offers instead the fullness of His love and everlasting life and bliss! That surely is a mystery of the Gospel beyond all understanding; that is a message which should impress the most hardened sinner with the unutterable glory of the love of God. And lest anyone have doubts as to the fact of reconciliation, as to the possibility of a full and complete atonement under such conditions, the apostle explains the miracle in one sentence: Him who knew not sin for us He made sin, in order that we might become righteousness of God in Him. In this way was the miracle of the atonement brought about.

Lent was and still is a baptismal journey to the Lord’s miracle of atonement.  We are formed in His Word as citizens and ambassadors of this other country of repentance and reconciliation.  Reading the conclusions of many of the Epistles, which are encouragement and exhortation to good works coming from His good work:  pray for those who persecute you, turn no man evil for evil, love as you have first been loved, cast off the works of darkness, etc. This is different from the cancel cultures of all times. 

My Mom one day showed me her report card from elementary school in the 30s.  She chuckled and said, Mark, look at this:  it was Mom’s grades in “citizenship”. In this world, we need such courses in citizenship and civics more than ever!  In the Kingdom come, the Church alone is the work of the Holy Spirit forming us as citizens in His rule and Kingdom. Our sin called out and we called to our Lord reconciled. Lent is about growth in virtue, not to be redeemed, as we are the Lord’s redeemed by His Passion alone. Who we are is Who’s we are. Who’s we are is who we become which is maturing in Christ, or sanctification. We are shriven and forgiven. The ashes remind of sin which cancels life, as sin is death.  The Cross is the power of Christ’s life, eternal life as He is risen.

So, we don’t want to tell you about ourselves, but we are called to tell you of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is not so much about acceptance, but His forgiveness. Yes, in His Church you will meet whores, idolaters, adulterers, men who practiced homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, who were a long way from home and God’s reign in Jesus. And such were some of us. But we were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (From 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) We’re not perfect but forgiven. Oh, wondrous thought! He found us even when we sought Him not! We don’t preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen for you!

The Divine Service with Imposition of Ashes, 6:00 pm at Ben Salem Presbyterian Church, Buena Vista, VA

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