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Posts Tagged ‘atonement’

In the Gospels Palm Sunday begins the Week we call holy.  In John’s Gospel, the Triumphal Entry begins at 12:  12 and the events of Holy Week, all take place either in Jerusalem or close by, then fulfilled in the Resurrection and in John  ending at 21:  35.  Eleven chapters to report our Lord’s three years of public ministry and 9 chapters to cover 8 days!  The Lord was quite busy in those 8 days:

  • The Parable of the Two Sons, Matthew 21: 28-32
  • The Parable of the Tenants, Matthew 21: 33-46
  • The Parable of the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22:  1-14
  • Paying Taxes to Caesar, Matthew 22:  15-22
  • Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection, Matthew 22:  23-33
  • The Great Commandment, Matthew 22:  34-40
  • Whose Son Is the Christ?, Matthew 23: 41-46
  • The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet, John 13
  • The Doctrine of the Crucifixion, John 12: 27-36
  • The Giving of the Holy Spirit, John 14:  15-30,16: 4-15

This is not an exhaustive list.  Please note that much of the time Jesus is teaching in the Temple.   He was not condemned for His good works,  but His teaching, the doctrines He taught. This goes for the Church as well, if she is faithful to the Lord. He was crucified for the doctrine that He and the Father are equal and the Church is mocked for teaching this truth.  So many false religions, such as Islam and Mormonism likewise deny the truth of the Incarnation and the Savior of the world because of human pride that man can save himself by works of the law.  So Islam and Mormonism make up religious rules that are easier to keep than the Decalogue, but yet are hard.  In our neck of the woods, there are two Mormon ward houses, with cross-less steeples and I have seen the Temple outside of D.C, and that steeple has the angel Moroni.  This week is so crucial that all four Evangelists spend a bulk of their Gospels on reporting these seven days.  The Church, following the Word and Word made flesh, has rightly made Holy Week and Pascha (Easter) the focal point of the whole Church year.  Many Muslims want to eradicate from the face of the earth all mention of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  It is the teaching and preaching of the Cross that the Church is persecuted, not her deeds of corporate mercy.   Indeed, this connection between teaching and civil punishment is foretold in Isaiah. Indeed,  Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled:

Isaiah 50: 5-8

 The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.

The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
    He who vindicates me is near.

Years ago, in the old newspaper column, “Dear Abby”, Abby had a special piece, “Forgiveness Week Cures All Ills”.  Someone had arbitrarily designated that week for forgiveness.     The true forgiveness week has already been designated by the Lord by every doctrine He taught, by every conflict He had, by every ounce of sweat and blood that poured forth from His sacred Head with grief and shame weighed down.  It must give us pause that it took the Lord only 6 days to create us and the heavens and the earth and 33 years culminating in this Week to redeem us!  Hear,pray, learn, eat and drink the Lord’s Word with His Church this Holy Week.  

Jesus, I will ponder now
On Thy holy Passion;
With Thy Spirit me endow
For such meditation.
Grant that I in love and faith
May the image cherish
Of Thy suffering, pain, and death,
That I may not perish.

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Gospel Lesson:  St. John 2: 13-25, The Cleansing of the Temple

Sermon Text:  verse 21:  “But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”

When our Lord refers to himself as “this Temple”, note that it is not “this body”.   The Temple is one in which the Lord dwells, so Jesus said, “this Temple”. Jesus is the Temple and in three days He raised it up.” 1 Cor. 5: 1: For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. that is, eternal, durable, forever (Mark 14: 58).  When Jesus was on trial for His crucifixion, one of the accusations was quite alike to today’s Gospel, We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’  (Mark 14: 58).  Again in the night of betrayal, when the disciples did not understand Jesus’ pronouncement He was leaving, Jesus answered him, “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  And again that same night in response  to the same apostolic fear, the Lord said to them, and us:  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:2  .  The Apostle Peter wrote to the congregations of the diaspora, 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.”(1 Peter 2: 5). The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12: 27The apostle Paul wrote to the super spiritual Corinthians, who were committing the sin of heresy  and the heresy of sin, they  were so spiritual what they did in the body did not matter, such as hooking up with prostitutes: 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:17  No should be a temple, no would be a temple, no you got to be a temple, no you better be a better Christian so you are the Lord’s temple, not you should be the Church,  it was the flat out indicative statement of God’s grace:   you ARE  THAT TEMPLE; you are the  Body of Christ. 

For the first centuries of the Church, the Church, the Temple of the Lord’s Body, was being built all over the Roman empire and without actual church buildings.  The Altar was there, as was the Baptismal font and the pulpit without the physical objects, for the physicality of the Church was there:  This is my body, this is my blood, as you are the body of Christ, you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The Temple was built without human hands but for human hands to receive His  Sacraments, hands lifted or fold in prayer, hands to help the neighbor in need. On a Sunday we don’t go to Church, we go as His Church to His Word and Sacraments, to the Divine Service. 

When Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, the King and the people of  Israel brought into the Holy of Holies the Ark of the Covenant for within the Ark was the covenant, the 10 Commandments.  The boundaries of the Temple are love of God and love of neighbor as detailed in the 10 commandments.  The cleansing of the Temple is confession and absolution, the sacrament of  repentance for what we have done and left undone in thought, word and deed.  The word Lent means “spring”, Lent is the springtime of the Church and homes used to have spring cleaning. The Jews wanted to know by what sign Jesus was cleansing the temple.  “But was there a need for a sign before putting a stop to their evil practices and freeing the house of God from such dishonor? Was not the fact that he had such great zeal for the house of God the greatest sign of his virtue?”  When we go the doctor we are patients, but when it comes to trespass and evil, we must be impatients.  Zeal for His Father’s House consumed Jesus, it ate Him up.  It would consume Him. On another occasion the Lord was asked by what sign He was speaking and working, An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”  That is the sign of the Cross, as Jonah was in belly of the beast for 3 days and 3 nights for not preaching God’s Word, Jesus would die, descend into hell itself because He preached God’s Word, the Father’s House, the Temple.  The Temple in Jerusalem was for the sacrifice of animals for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus cast out all the sacrificial animals, for behold, He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  His Temple is His sacrificed once and for all for the Temple for us.  He is the Temple not made by human hands who cleanses the Temple. 

As for those Jews who believed in Him because of His signs, not for Himself, for what He was offering: Himself for the life of the world:  His body, the fullness of the Godhead pleased to dwell in Christ Jesus.   The Old Adam knows how to look out his own interests. Jesus knows what is in man.   There are many in the Church who look after their own interests and not for the interests of Christ and the brothers and sisters. When Christians no longer  love the Temple the Lord raised up from the dead, from our ashes and sin and sorrow, and the resurrection is  grace, sheer gift, that is, the Lord Himself,  then people are busy making new blueprints of the way they think His House should be:  a mall, a bank, a club.  Then the Lord’s House is reduced to a house of cards or a house of trade and that is plainly wrong. 

The Lord has called and baptized His Temple, us, to look out for the interests of Jesus Christ and others (Philippians 2: 4 and 21).   Jesus did not look to His own interests, but in perfect submission, in perfect islam, as only true Man and true God could perfectly submit, He saved us and will save us.  The Law is perfect and only the One who is perfect perfectly submitted to the Law and fulfilled it.  He alone revives us, cleanses us. This is our Father’s home…from which there are many a runaway son or daughter.  The Lord cast out trade from the Temple, but He does not drive sinners in by a whip.  False prophets, evangelists and christs do so drive by a whip of their own religious rules and accompanied  by the magnetism of their legalistic personas. See Mohammed. It is spiritual terror.  The Law of God can whip us into external shape;   but the draw of His perfect sacrifice that alone draws all men to Himself. His Cross is our Passion, we preach Christ and Him crucified, no longer is the Law of God the center of the Temple, Christ is the holy of holies. We need to be eaten up by what is going on in the Church and that is why we left to form the mission. St. Augustine’s encouragement is for us today:

“Let the zeal for God’s house consume every Christian wherever he or she is a member…. In your house you busy yourself in trying to prevent things going wrong. In the house of God, where salvation is offered, ought you to be indifferent? … Do you have a friend? Admonish him gently; a wife or husband? Admonish them too…. Do what you are able, according to your station.”

His draw is His Cross, and His Cross is the sign, the three days, of the Passover of the Lamb of God, of His love and mercy for the life of the world, your life, and His passion is our passion. “..whoever wants to call upon God, regardless of where he may be in the world, must turn his face heavenward to Christ, not to Jerusalem or Mecca or a saint no matter how spiritual, and thus come to Christ, the real and true temple. For Christ is the proper mercy seat (Romans 3: 25), with whom sheer mercy, love and kindness is found.” (adapted from Luther’s sermon on today’s Gospel reading)

 

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Fulton-Sheen-Meme

Restating the quote: people are never to be used as means but as ends.  All this is the second Table of the Law:  love your neighbor as yourself.   When I read such law statements, I go, Ommmm, or Amen or whatever, absolutely agreeing. I assuage my conscience as I agree.  Agreeing is not doing. The Law shows me that  I do love things, yes more than God and my neighbor.  The bishop’s quote is a good law statement I don’t keep.  When it gets down to it, there has only ever been one person who only loved people and used things, perfectly, absolutely: Jesus Christ. In Him there is a daily repentance to Him who gave up all things and took up all our sin. His love is our only hope to so love as He first loved us.

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Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament prophet. His name means “Yahweh [the Lord] saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah.

Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God’s Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing the Lord’s grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah’s miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (2:1-5; 11:1-16), and his public ministry (61:1-3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (52:13-53:12).

The apostle John’s description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.

Reflection:  The fact that Isaiah’s name means “The Lord saves”, Isaiah knew that Isaiah did not save but need His saving! Isaiah knew the day would come in which both Jew and Gentile would be saved in the perfect Son born of the Virgin. From Isaiah chapter 6:  The Narrative of Isaiah’s Call:

 1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said:

    “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

 4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, You have enriched Your Church with the proclamation of the Gospel through the evangelist Mark.  Grant that we may firmily believe these glad tidings and daily walk according to Your Word;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings:

Isaiah 52: 7-10

Psalm 146

2 Timothy 4: 4-18

St. Mark 16: 14-20

Bio:  St. Mark was the author of the second Gospel, which he composed, according to some Early Church Fathers, when the Christians inRomeasked him to write down the preaching of the apostle Peter. Mark, also known as John Mark, was originally fromJerusalem, where the house of his mother Mary was the center of the earlyJerusalemChurch(Acts12:12). He was brought fromJerusalemby Paul and Barnabas toAntioch(Acts12:25), and it was from this city that they set out on the first missionary journey. When Paul and Barnabas were preparing to go on the second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them again, but Paul objected because Mark had left them during the first journey. Barnabas took Mark and went toCyprus, while Paul took Silas as his new companion (Acts15:37-40). Later, Paul reconciled with Mark and was working with him again (Colossians4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy4:11). Finally, Mark was found laboring with Peter in Rome (1 Peter5:13). Tradition says that Mark was instrumental in founding the Church in Alexandria, becoming its first bishop, and, also that he suffered a martyr’s death.

Writing for St. Mark, Evangelist:

We shall add, as being a matter of primary importance, a tradition regarding Mark who wrote the Gospel, which [Papias] has given in the following words: “And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterward, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the needs [of his listeners], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. That is why Mark made no mistake when he wrote these things as he remembered them. Above all else, he took special care not to omit anything he had heard and not to put anything fictitious into what he wrote.”

—Fragments of Papias  (Greek: Παπίας) (writing in the first third of the 2nd century) was a bishop of the earlyChurchcanonized as a saint.)

Commentary on Three Key Verses in St. Mark’s Gospel:

I.  “The Son of Man has come . . . to give
his life as a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:45)

“In what way is our Lord’s death salvific? In Mark 10:45, Jesus describes his death as… “ransom” or  “redemption.” (Greek:  lutron) As many have noted, the term “Ransom”  is an echo of the Exodus story, where the Lord redeems his people Israel out of the bondage of slavery. For instance, in Exodus 6:6 the Lord says to Moses, “I will redeem (form of lutron) you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” This is the same way the term is used in Luke’s Benedictus, where Zechariah sings, “Praise be the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and made a redemption [ lutron ] for his people” (Luke 1:68).

“Even as the death of Jesus broods over the Gospels, so also death broods over the Exodus. The children of Israel were not only redeemed out of Egypt, but they were also saved from the destruction of the firstborn. This came at a price: namely, the blood of the Passover lamb. Those whose doors were not marked by the lamb’s blood lost their firstborn to death. It is significant, therefore, that each of the Gospels, Mark  included, frames Christ’s death within the Passover tradition (Mark 14:l). Mark pictures Jesus’ death in terms of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb (Mark 14:12). Christ is the first-born, the spotless lamb whose blood is shed so that we may escape death. (Dr. Peter Scaer’s paper, The Atonement in Mark’s Sacramental Theology)

II. Mark 1: 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

and

Mark 15: 37-38  And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

“Only St. Mark uses a particularly word rendered, that the heavens were “torn apart” and it is a violent ripping apart and from that Greek word we have our:   Schism.  Now it is clear in all of the Bible that the only way the barriers come down is through atonement.  “Atonement is, at its very heart, the bridging of the gap between God and man and the breaking down of barriers.” (Peter Scaer: PS).   “Only the high priest walked beyond a heavy massive curtain, the veil that separated God and man, into the Holy of Holies, only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  In order to enter past this curtain, the high priest was required to offer a sin offering and a burnt offering. In a type of Old Testament Baptism, he would then bathe his body in water and put on holy garments (Leviticus 16). Then he would sprinkle blood upon the mercy seat, thereby making atonement for the uncleanness of the people.”  St. Mark who tells us that as Jesus died that the temple curtain was torn in two, as do Sts. Luke and Matthew,  but only St. Mark uses the exact same word as in today’s Gospel of the heavens torn apart as He comes up out of the water:

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

“Perhaps there is no more telling symbol of this than the temple curtain which is the final barrier that separates God’s people from his immediate presence…In Jesus’ Baptism, the wall of separation is violently ripped open. Jesus is baptized unto the death. The tearing open of the heavens is an expression of God’s desire to be at one with humanity, with you and I, as well as a vivid picture of the price that would have to be paid. Mark would have us know our Lord’s entire ministry is a passion story, whereby he tears open the curtain of separation between God and man, and ensuring an everlasting Yom Kippur, that is, a Day of Atonement.”(PS)It is only from the Lord’s side can atonement, literally, at-one-ment, has happened once and for all upon the Cross:

15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron. (Psalm 107)

Only by the Lord’s theophany could this happen in the fact of theJordan.

“That is why this day is called Epiphany, the Festival of the Manifestation, because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit manifest themselves. The Holy Spirit appears in the lovely form of an innocent dove. Among all birds, a dove is known for its gentle nature, peaceful and not aggressive. (And when Noah wanted to know if there was dry ground after the rains had ceased, he finally sent out a dove who returned with an olive branch in it’s beak.  The sign of shalom, peace once more with God was made through His  grace) So the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the friendliest of forms to show that he is not wrathful toward us, but wants to help us become holy and rescue us through Christ.” (Luther)

 We are baptized into Christ Jesus totally, as it is written in Romans 6: 1.  

We can walk wet in our baptism day after day which is a daily dying and rising in Him. It is a daily rescue for us and one another.

We are called to walk wet, we walk wet when we confess our sin and in His Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are forgiven.

We walk wet when we begin the day in His Name, the Father who speaks, the Son who was baptized and the Holy Spirit descends. 

We walk wet when we pray.  

We walk wet when we read for ourselves that Christ Jesus died and rose for us, that the heavens were torn apart and the veil of the temple was as well and that the Kingdom of heaven is open to all believers. 

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. (from my sermon for the Baptism of our Lord, 2012-Pr. Schroeder)

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