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Posts Tagged ‘apostles’

Appointed Scripture Readings:  Acts 15: 1-21   Psalm 46   Galatians 2: 1-10   St. Matthew 16: 13-19

 

About this Feast Day and St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles:   The festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is probably the oldest of the saints’ observances (dating from about the middle of the third century). An early tradition held that these two pillars of the New Testament Church were martyred on the same day in Rome during the persecution under Nero. In addition to this joint commemoration of their deaths, both apostles are commemorated separately: Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16) and Paul on January 25 for his conversion (Acts 9:1-19).

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of God in the New Testament would begin with the person of Peter, whose confession is the rock on which Christ would build His Church. But Peter was not alone (the “keys” given to him in Matthew 16:19 were given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:21-23). As St. Paul tells us, Peter and the other apostles take their place with the prophets as the foundation of the Church, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The confession of Peter, therefore, is the witness of the entire apostolic band and is foundational in the building of Christ’s Church. Thus the Church gives thanks to God for St. Peter and the other apostles who have instructed Christ’s Holy Church in His divine and saving truth. 

St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascusis related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out forDamascus to arrest and bring believers toJerusalemfor trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

Reflection:  Those who would remake the Church into what they want and desire, will eventually have Christ Jesus remade into their own image, that is, an idol.  Too many build the Church upon men’s opinions of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord’s question to the disciples, Who do men say that I am? was never intended by the Lord to be an eternal discussion question for so-called Bible studies in too many congregations. Every year, before Christmas and Easter, come the articles debunking some portion or portions of the Bible about Jesus, like clockwork.  The Lord’s question to Peter surfaced the rumors about Him and they were just that rumors, conjecture, innuendo. Peter and Paul knew that Christ  is the only Cornerstone of His Church and that all who were being baptized, were being built onto the Cornerstone,not the cornerstone upon them! See Acts 4:11,Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2: 5-7.  The Holy Spirit conforms us to the Lord’s specs in the blueprint of His Church,  by His mercy for sinners, not according to our specs and schemes for His Church.

Peter and Paul had differences between them and much in common.  Both Peter and Paul were Jews.  Peter was an uneducated fisherman, while Paul was a highly educated Pharisee who was taught at the feet of the great rabbi, Gamaliel. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning, the first of the Apostles.  Paul, as he said, was the last of the apostles.  Both were zealous for the Law. Yet, Peter denied Christ.  Paul persecuted the Church and consented to the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of “followers of the Way”.  Both knew they were sinners whom the Law could not save and that Christ alone does atone.  Peter,
 
61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him,“Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” 
 
“Behold of a sudden the lover is a liar. (Peter) finds out what he is; he who had thought too highly of himself” (St. Augustine).  Peter’s tears were of godly sorrow that leads to repentance.
Paul wrote to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.   Paul was blinded by his sin in the glory of crucified Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul finds out what he is and like Peter, Paul also thought so highly of  himself and Christ taught him well:
 
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12: 3)
 
Paul’s confession of sin was also of the godly sorrow. Called by Christ Jesus, Peter and Paul both knew by faith His forgiveness of them and each and everyone of us. Both confessed Jesus is Lord. Both built up the Church through the Word of God, as St. Paul wrote:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.
As the Apostle Peter wrote:
1 Peter
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Both built well with the Word of God upon the sure Cornerstone Jesus Christ. Neither Peter or Paul built the Church upon themselves, their spiritualities or the fads and fashions of this vain world. Both were martyred, tradition says on this day, in Rome. Remember and rejoice that  Peter and Paul, and all Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them in death, but ever preached and taught, the Way to heaven, in faith, not to kill the infidel, but that the infidel come to faith and  live eternally in Jesus Christ.

 

Prayer of the Day

Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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One of the symbols of St. Matthias is a pair of dice because the Disciples cast lots to decide who would take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1: 15-26).  The only time he is mentioned in the Bible is at the time of his selection.

 Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 


 

Lessons:  Isaiah 66: 1-2  Psalm 134  Acts of the Apostles 1: 15-26   St. Matthew 11:  25-30

St. Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. According to the Early Church Fathers, Matthias was one of the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-20. After the ascension, Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the vacancy in the Twelve resulting from the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16-25). Early Church tradition places Matthias in a number of locations. Some historians suggest that he went to Ethiopia; others place him in Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion. Martyred for his faith, Matthias may well have met his death at Colchis in Asia Minor, around AD 50. The Church of St. Matthias at Trier, Germany, claims the honor of being the final burial site for Matthias, the only one of the Twelve to be buried in Europe north of the Alps.

The Greek word for “lots”, as in casting lots for Matthias, is “kleros”. Regarding the casting of lots, these  comments and study are from Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s Commentary (1921) on Acts 1: 26:

The prayer of the disciples is a model of its kind. “The petitioners had a single object for which they bowed before the Lord, and to the proper presentation of this they confine their words. They do not repeat a thought, nor do they elaborate one beyond the point of perspicuity…. So brief a prayer on so important an occasion would in this voluble age be scarcely regarded as a prayer at all.” 4) Having thus sanctified the occasion with the Word of God and with prayer, the disciples were ready to proceed to the selection of the twelfth apostle. To do this, they gave forth their lots. Just how this was done is not certain. But it is probable that the usage prevailing in the Old Testament was observed. “Tablets on which the names of Joseph and Matthias were written, were employed; these were shaken in the vase or other vessel in which they had been deposited, and the lot which first fell out furnished the decision.”. 1 Chron. 24, 5; 25, 8; Lev. 16, 8; Num. 34, 13

The method is secondary to prayer as Dr. Kretzmann pointed out. Acts 1:

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

Their prayer is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching that prayer should be simple for we will not be heard for our many words” (cf. St. Matthew 6: 7).  They also followed Jesus as He prayed before selecting the 12 Disciples and exhorting to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out harvesters into His field (St. Matthew 9: 37-38;  St. Luke 6:  12-16) .    After the selection of Matthias, lots were never used again.  It is prayer that is absolutely essential.  Also, preceding the selection of the unique and unrepeatable Office of Apostle, as in all offices, there were qualifications:  an apostle saw the risen Jesus Christ (Acts 1: 22) and more importantly, to replace Judas, this selection was to be done as it was according to Scripture (Acts 1: 24).   Scripture and prayer go hand in Hand.

The Greek word “kleros”, “lots”, is the basis of our English words “cleric”/clerical”, that is, a pastor or minister  and “clerk”/”clerical. A pastor is not a chance or a gamble though for many a congregation they might tell you otherwise!  It can be when the pastor does not keep his office, preaching and teaching the Word of God, caring for souls and administering the Sacraments, especially when the pastor denies and ignores sound doctrine and engages in immorality.  Then the pastor goes against the prayer of the Church for the Lord’s call to him. Jesus knew this:  Judas. 

The pastor in preaching Law and Promise will not possess every talent a congregation wants and even he wants!  The congregation may not like his preaching and even hate it as did the synagogue in Nazareth wanted to kill Jesus (Luke 4)!  Yet, the pastor is called.  Since the selection of Matthias, “kleros” came not to mean a chance, but a calling, a vocation:  the cleric.  Now the related word, “clerk” is considered by some to be a menial vocation, as in “menial clerk” or “minor clerk, as a clerk in a store.  It did mean at one time an educated person who could read and write to clerk in a store in a time of greater illiteracy.  Pastors and clerks had education in common. Yet, it is also are reminder that pastors are not to lord it over their flocks but like a clerk are called to serve. Pastors are called not to serve customers, but the flock the Word of God and the Sacraments from God (cf. St. John 21: 15-17).  Clerk can also be a vocation as both clerks and clerics serve the neighbor each in their own calling.  And like St. Matthias, a cleric may not have fame, as a clerk but like the Apostle Matthias, he will have served the Name of the Lord.

Lord, your abiding presence mysterious made the choice;
For one in place of Judas the faithful now rejoice.
From all such false apostles your holy Church defend,
And by your parting promise be with us to the end.
(“By All You Saints in Warfare,” Lutheran Service Book, 517, v.13)

A Writing by Dr. Martin Luther,from Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, volume 27,Luther’s Works:

. . . Christ wanted no one to be made an apostle by men or the will of men but as the result of a call from Him alone. For this reason the apostles did not dare elect Matthias; they gained his appointment from heaven in answer to their prayer. And it was from heaven that God called Paul himself and made him an apostle, in particular through the voice of the Holy Spirit. “Set apart for Me,” He says, “Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them.” Thus Paul boasts in Rom. 1: If. that he was set apart for the Gospel of God,    inasmuch as he himself, together with Barnabas, was set apart for the uncircumcised and the Gentiles, while the rest of the apostles were sent to those who were circumcised.

Note also that Paul makes the name “apostle” so emphatically expressive of an office and of dignity that he uses it as a participle and says “an apostle, not from men,” which means “sent, not from men”. . . . All these facts aim to make you see with what care Christ has established and fortified His church, lest anyone rashly presume to teach without being sent by Him or by those whom He has sent. For just as the Word of Cod is the church’s first and greatest benefit, so, on the other hand, there is no greater harm by which the church is destroyed than the word of man and the traditions of this world. God alone is true, and every man a liar. Finally, just as David once left behind all the means by which Solomon was to build the temple, so Christ has left behind the Gospel and other writings, in order that the church might be built by means of them, not by human decrees.

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Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Lessons:  Jeremiah 26: 1-16; Psalm 43;  1 Peter 1: 3-9;  John 15: 12-21

 Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

About Saints Simon and Jude:  In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14—16); Acts1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or ‘Cannanaean”) and by Jude (or “Judas,” not Iscariot but “of James”), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as missionaries to Persia, where they were martyred. It is likely for this reason, at least in part, that these two apostles are commemorated on same day. Simon is not mentioned in New Testament apart from the lists of twelve apostles. Thus he is remembered and honored for the sake of his office, and thereby stands before us—in eternity, as his life and ministry on earth—in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We give thanks to God for calling and sending Simon, along with Jude and all the apostles, to preach and teach the Holy Gospel, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (John 4:1-2; Matthew 10: 28:16-20; Luke .24: 46-49).

Jude appears in John’s Gospel (14:22) on the night of our Lord’s betrayal and the beginning of His Passion, asking Jesus how it is that He will manifest Himself to the disciples but not to the world. The answer that Jesus gives to this question is a pertinent emphasis for this festival day: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Surely both Jude and Simon exemplified, in life and death, their love for Jesus and their faith in His Word. Not only are we thus strengthened in our Christian faith and life by their example, but, above all, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of the Lord in keeping His promise to them to bring them home to Himself in heaven. There they live with Him forever, where we shall someday join them.

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: The Prayer of the Day above speaks of the “glorious company of the apostles” but of course by any worldly standard they were not glorious.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4: 13)  Not exactly a job recruitment pitch for the apostolic Church, unlike the ‘ministries’ we see wearily promoted on TV. Simon and Jude have no extant writings, scant mention in the Bible, no founders  of  ‘great’ ministries,  but the Lord called them to the one holy, catholic and evangelical Ministry.  Their glory, like ours, is a borrowed one, a given one, one given to sinners: the love and mercy of Jesus Christ which by the Lord, the Holy Spirit, in prayer,  we can make known as His glory in clay jars (see 2 Corinthians 4:6-8)

It is Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who provides a good commentary on the Apostles Simon and Jude and the apostolic Church from his book, The Cost of Discipleship, in this reflection on the Beatitude from St. Matthew 5.  Remember and note:  everything Bonhoeffer wrote was in the time in Germany of the rise of Nazism and the descent into darkness, yet most in Germany thought this was ‘light’ and ‘goodness’, the Nazis put men back to work, Germans were feeling good about Germany again and the like.  I am patriotic but I do not worship our country and neither are we to despise it.  I find Pr. Bonhoeffer’s  writings prescient in that they are so relevant and close to the bone in our day:

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”…By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity: He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate  oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that  for all jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise.

Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor a churches in captivity to the world, but held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free, freed to follow Him and free to serve.  Reformation Day is this Tuesday, 31 October (2017) and 500 years of apostolic preaching, teaching and serving.  Luther and the Reformers clearly preached the Word, not following a worldly church and worldly doctrine which does not save.  Too many churches preach fake good news, the Apostles preach the real good news of Christ Jesus for sinners, by grace alone, received through faith alone, known by Scripture alone.  Upcoming is All Saints Sunday, and the saints did not look to the world for their light and follow the glow of their “devices” but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6)

A blessed feast day to all in the Lord!

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, Your Son revealed Himself to Philip and James and gave them the knowledge of everlasting life. Grant us perfectly to know Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the way, the truth, and the life, and steadfastly to walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

READINGS

Isaiah 30:18-21

Psalm 36:5-12 (antiphon: v. 8)   Ephesians 2: 19-22

St. John 14:1-14

St. Philip is mentioned in the lists of the apostles (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), but only in John’s Gospel is more told about him. Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee and one of the first disciples called after Peter and Andrew. Philip also was instrumental in bringing Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:43-51). It was to Philip that Jesus posed the question about where to buy bread to feed five thousand men (John 6:5). During Holy Week, Philip with Andrew brought some inquiring Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20-22). And on Maundy Thursday evening, Philip asked Jesus to show the Father to him and to the rest of the disciples (John 14:8). According to tradition, Philip went to labor in Phrygia and was buried there.

St. James was a son of Alphaeus and was also called “the Younger” (to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee, “the Elder,” whose festival day is July 25). His mother,Mary, was one of the faithful women who stood at the cross of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40). James is mentioned in the same apostolic lists as Philip, but there is no other mention of him in the New Testament. There is also no information regarding his field of labor or the circumstances of his death, except that he may have been martyred by being sawed in two.(The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

The Gospel Reading for today is part of our Lord’s teaching the disciples in the night in which He was betrayed, and so there is a poignancy  and urgency to these words of Christ Jesus.  In the next chapter, the Lord teaches,

I am the vine;you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (St. John 15: 5).

It is clear from the biography above that we do not know much about the “fruit” of these two Apostles, in fact, almost nothing from the Bible, yet tradition tells us that they went on to preach and teach the Gospel.  It is clear that the Apostles all would know the literalism of our Lord’s teaching:  “I am”, present tense, for He died for them and likewise rose for them, for us all.  “I am the vine”.  “I am”, said the Lord, today where you are in your life.  The Bible does not tell us of the fruit of Philip and James.  It is not necessary to be told except they abode in Christ the Vine.  Most  of us will not be remembered in the annals of history, yet in Christ the true vine we have fruitfulness. I think Philip and James would agree with what Luther preached on John 15:  1-11, “This fruit is not mine; it is the Vine’s”.  Luther on the saint’s life in everyday life:

“It is true that a Christian is not as impressive with his works and fruit as a schismatic spirit or an eccentric, for he does not choose any particularly striking works but confines himself to the ordinary tasks that come up in everyday life. The trouble is that the world is unable to see that these are works performed by a new person in Christ. Therefore one and the same work becomes different even in one and the same person, depending on whether it is performed before or after he has come to faith in Christ. Previously he was a thistle and a thorn; for he was not a part of the Vine and for this reason was unable to bear fruit, and all the works he performed were lost and condemned. But now that he is a Christian, the same work is a fine and precious grape — not because it was done in this or that manner, but because it issues from the good Vine, which is Christ.”

With praise and thanksgiving to God ever living,
The tasks of our everyday life we will face.
Our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring,
Embracing His children of each tribe and race.
With Your feast You feed us, with Your light now lead us;
Unite us as one in this life that we share.
Then may all the living with praise and thanksgiving
Give honor to Christ and His name that we bear.

(“Sent Forth by God’s Blessing”, stanza 2, #643, The Lutheran Service Book)

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So far we have heard the first part of Christian doctrine, (that is the 10 Commandments). In it we have seen all that God wishes us to do or not to do. The Creed properly follows, setting forth all that we must expect and receive from God; in brief, it teaches us to know him perfectly. It is given  in order to help us do what the Ten Commandments require of us, For, as we said above, they are set on so high a plane that all human ability is far too feeble and weak to keep them. Therefore it is as necessary to learn this part as it is the other so that we may know where and how to obtain strength for this task. If we could by our own strength keep the Ten Commandments as they ought to be kept, we would need neither the Creed nor the Lord’s Prayer.

Therefore, Martin Luther introduced the Apostles’ Creed.  The word “creed” is from the Latin word, “Credo”  or “I believe”.  The Creed begins with “I believe”.  A creed is statement of belief but note, it is not “I believed”, but present tense, “I believe”.  Why?  The object of belief and faith is the living God who is creating, redeeming and sanctifying us.  The Creed confesses the present tense of the Lord. 

These works of God are described, not in the past tense, but as happening now. God is still creating and caring. The Redeemer is now bringing under his rule those freed from the tyranny of the devil. The great works of God in the past are seen as works at the same time being done in and to us now. The goal of all the activity of God is the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Everything God does leads to this. Then the confession of faith becomes a jubilant witness to the wonderful works of God in Jesus Christ for us. The Creed, therefore, is not speaking of metaphysical facts, toward which a person can take a neutral attitude. On the contrary, a person who reads or says or hears it is directly addressed by the real, triune God, addressed—and this is the real intent of the Creed—by his saving and merciful love.Thus seen, the Creed becomes an exposition of the gospel. The revelation of what God really is, is gospel or good news for men. (Teaching Luther’s Catechism I, by Herbert Girgensohn) 

In a recent article, a philosopher professor saw a disturbing sign in his son’s second grade classroom: 

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.                                                   

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes. 

Believing is now  simply an opinion, not a fact, so not true.  The sages of the zeitgeist assert that the only truths are facts.  If that were true, then we could not live nor understand anything.  The Declaration of the United States has the memorable line, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..  Thomas Jefferson wrote those words and all those who signed the Declaration said what is written is true.  The Declaration declares what they wrote is truth, it is “self-evident”, as plain as the nose on your face.  Now if facts alone are true, then the Declaration is not true. I cannot prove by sight that the Creator has endowed these rights, yet the very nature of what humankind as it is created to be, attests to that truth.  The last sentence of the Declaration:  “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”.  If the American revolution failed, Jefferson and the founding fathers of our nation could have been executed for treason.  Those men risked their lives for truth.  If facts alone are truth…. 

None of us can prove that there is a Creator, after all, neither you nor I were there when God the Father, Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, said, “Let there be light”.  I also believe as truth the fact that Carol Schroeder gave birth to me on January 25th, 1954.  I don’t remember it at all.  I have witnesses of my birth:  my Mom and my Dad. That’s enough.  I can not “prove” it but they told me and I know it is true.  I did not see my birth with my own eyes. I believe it as true. I trust, believe in Mom and Dad, and that is a fact.  It is not my untruthful opinion. 

The Lord who created the heavens and the earth breathed His Word, as in the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures for many men to write it down.  Now that written Word, the Bible, from which the Creed is compendium of the Word, particularly, the Gospel, is true, because unlike other creeds, this Creed attests the Triune God creates, redeems and sanctifies, present tense,  for us.  As much as Emil and Carol Schroeder loved each other to have a child, so much more the Father of all love and mercy creates, redeems and sanctifies. 

 “I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth”.  Just think of the radical change of meaning if the word “Father” is dropped, “I believe in God the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”.  Most religions attest to that, but the Lord, our Father who art in heaven, the one God, has revealed His disposition toward us.  The living heart of the Creed is the Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Ghost.  To know God is to know his benefits (Phillip Melancthon) and the Creed is the witness that we are not self-created nor self-redeemed nor self-sanctified.  The Law of God has clearly shot out of the water self-creation by showing us the result of our self-creation:  sin and evil.  Truth is both fact and trust.  I believe that and I believe in.  The “For You” center of the Creed is Jesus Christ, who is both fact and the object of our trust, our Credo.  The Creed is: 

The greatest sign (signum), standing at the center, is the incarnate Son of God himself. The Creed thus acquires an aim and purpose directed toward us. Its ultimate aim and high point is not the revelation of the divine mysteries; it rather starts from the mysteries of God’s being and leads us to the works done in and for us. (Teaching Luther’s Catechism I, by Herbert Girgensohn) 

Women and men do not risk, “house, goods, honor, child or spouse” for an untruthful opinion.  Coptic Christians, 10 million in Egypt, are mostly poor day laborers.  For centuries, as second class citizens, brazenly tattooed on their wrists a cross and the cross is both fact and truth of the One who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,  crucified, died and was buried and on the third rose again. 21 Copts seem to have not denied the cross tattooed on their wrists…and so have thousands upon thousands not denied Christ from the Coliseum in Rome to the concentration camps to the ISIS crucifixions and beheadings…they  were martyred not for an opinion .  Now, in the Rite of Confirmation in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a confirmand is asked:  “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word and deed to remain truth to God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, even to death?  “I do,by the grace of God.” The sheer law of God overwhelms us with our knowledge of our sin, the sheer Gospel of the Creed overwhelms with the utter grace of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that we can pray, Our Father.  Next week the third Chief Part, the Lord’s Prayer.

 

 

 

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Most of the symbols of the 12 Apostles include a depiction of the instrument of their martyrdom. For Matthias it may have been an ax.

Lessons:  Isaiah 66: 1-2  Psalm 134  Acts of the Apostles 1: 15-26   St. Matthew 11:  25-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

St. Matthias, Apostle

St. Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. According to the Early Church Fathers, Matthias was one of the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-20. After the ascension, Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the vacancy in the Twelve resulting from the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16-25). Early Church tradition places Matthias in a number of locations. Some historians suggest that he went to Ethiopia; others place him in Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion. Martyred for his faith, Matthias may well have met his death at Colchis in Asia Minor, around AD 50. The Church of St. Matthias at Trier, Germany, claims the honor of being the final burial site for Matthias, the only one of the Twelve to be buried in Europe north of the Alps.

Reflection: From Luther’s Lectures on Galatians (see Galatians 1:  11-12), volume 27,Luther’s Works:

. . . Christ wanted no one to be made an apostle by men or the will of men but as the result of a call from Him alone. For this reason the apostles did not dare elect Matthias; they gained his appointment from heaven in answer to their prayer. And it was from heaven that God called Paul himself and made him an apostle, in particular through the voice of the Holy Spirit. “Set apart for Me,” He says, “Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them.” Thus Paul boasts in Rom. 1: , that he was set apart for the Gospel of God,  inasmuch as he himself, together with Barnabas, was set apart for the uncircumcised and the Gentiles, while the rest of the apostles were sent to those who were circumcised.

Note also that Paul makes the name “apostle” so emphatically expressive of an office and of dignity that he uses it as a participle and says “an apostle, not from men,” which means “sent, not from men”. . . . All these facts aim to make you see with what care Christ has established and fortified His church, lest anyone rashly presume to teach without being sent by Him or by those whom He has sent. For just as the Word of Cod is the church’s first and greatest benefit, so, on the other hand, there is no greater harm by which the church is destroyed than the word of man and the traditions of this world. God alone is true, and every man a liar. Finally, just as David once left behind all the means by which Solomon was to build the temple, so Christ has left behind the Gospel and other writings, in order that the church might be built by means of them, not by human decrees.(emphasis my own)

The building materials chosen will show for themselves on the Day if they were the Lord’s building materials or not (1 Corinthians 3:11-13.  The Gospel and other writings, that is the entirety of the Scripture, along with the Sacraments and from Word and Sacraments, preaching, teaching, praying, doing good works builds up the Church.  Through it all, it is finally and fully the Lord Who builds His Church (“I will build My Church”, see  St. Matthew 16:18).  

The apostle Matthias was a key building block in the Lord’s Church  (see 1 Peter 2:5, Ephesians 2:19-21). We do not know much about him.  This reminds me of The Tomb to the Unknown Soldier and the saying on it:  “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier known but to God”.  “Here rests in honored glory a saint known but to God”.  I hear on TV someone saying of someone who died, “I’ll remember him always”…as long as the “always” is that person’s life span. We can not remember “always”, that is forever.  The Lord remembers His saints, by name as He baptized them in His Name.  You and I won’t be remembered always on this earth and in this world.  We will all be unknown saints, yet built into the Lord’s Church, which He promised the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, when built with God’s Word, and not by human decrees building the church in their own image.  When parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends told you about Jesus, said as God said there is right and wrong, who forgave you in Christ as they were forgiven, you were being built up in the template of His Church, His temple, His Body. Except his name,we only know the name of Matthias and that he was chosen to replace Judas amongst the apostles.  For Matthias, your ancestors in the faith of the Church, like Matthias were called by the Lord in His death and resurrection, awaiting our Easter day.  Come, Lord Jesus. 

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Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Lessons:  Jeremiah 26: 1-16; Psalm 43;  1 Peter 1: 3-9;  John 15: 12-21

 Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

About Saints Simon and Jude:  In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14—16); Acts1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or ‘Cannanaean”) and by Jude (or “Judas,” not Iscariot but “of James”), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as missionaries to Persia, where they were martyred. It is likely for this reason, at least in part, that these two apostles are commemorated on same day. Simon is not mentioned in New Testament apart from the lists of twelve apostles. Thus he is remembered and honored for the sake of his office, and thereby stands before us—in eternity, as his life and ministry on earth—in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We give thanks to God for calling and sending Simon, along with Jude and all the apostles, to preach and teach the Holy Gospel, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (John 4:1-2; Matthew 10: 28:16-20; Luke .24: 46-49).

Jude appears in John’s Gospel (14:22) on the night of our Lord’s betrayal and the beginning of His Passion, asking Jesus how it is that He will manifest Himself to the disciples but not to the world. The answer that Jesus gives to this question is a pertinent emphasis for this festival day: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Surely both Jude and Simon exemplified, in life and death, their love for Jesus and their faith in His Word. Not only are we thus strengthened in our Christian faith and life by their example, but, above all, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of the Lord in keeping His promise to them to bring them home to Himself in heaven. There they live with Him forever, where we shall someday join them.

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: The Prayer of the Day above speaks of the “glorious company of the apostles” but of course by any worldly standard they were not glorious.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4: 13)  Not exactly a job recruitment pitch for the apostolic Church, unlike the ‘ministries’ we see wearily promoted on TV. Simon and Jude have no extant writings, scant mention in the Bible, no founders  of  ‘great’ ministries,  but the Lord called them to the one holy, catholic and evangelical Ministry.  Their glory, like ours, is a borrowed one, a given one, one given to sinners: the love and mercy of Jesus Christ which by the Lord, the Holy Spirit, in prayer,  we can make known as glory in clay jars (see 2 Corinthians 4:6-8)

It is Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who provides a good commentary on the Apostles Simon and Jude and the apostolic Church from his book, The Cost of Discipleship, in this reflection on the Beatitude from St. Matthew 5.  Remember and note:  everything Bonhoeffer wrote was in the time in Germany of the rise of Nazism and the descent into darkness, yet most in Germany thought this was ‘light’ and ‘goodness’, the Nazis put men back to work, Germans were feeling good about Germany again and the like.  I am patriotic but I do not worship our country and neither are we to despise it.  I find Pr. Bonhoeffer’s  writings prescient in that they are so relevant and close to the bone in our day:

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” With each beatitude the gulf is widened between the disciples and the people, their call to come forth from the people becomes increasingly manifest. By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity: He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate  oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that  for all jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise.

Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor a churches in captivity to the world, but held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free, freed to follow Him and free to serve.  The actual Reformation Day is this Saturday (2015)  Luther and the Reformers clearly preached the Word, not following a worldly church and worldly doctrine.  Upcoming is All Saints Sunday, and the saints did not look to the world for their light and follow the glow of their “devices” but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6)

A blessed feast day to all in the Lord!

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