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Posts Tagged ‘Bonhoeffer’

 

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.  Yet, the question,as asked by our Lord, did bring out the rumors about Him and they were just that rumors, conjecture, innuendo.

Jesus himself puts the decisive question, for which the disciples had been waiting: “Who do people say that the Son of man is?” Answer: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Opinions, nothing but opinions; one could extend this list of opinions as much as one wanted. . . some say you are a great man, some say you are an idealist, some say you are a religious genius, some say you are a great champion and hero, who will lead us to victory and greatness. Opinions, more or less serious opinions– but Jesus does not want to build his church on opinions. And so he addresses himself directly to his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” In this inevitable confrontation with Christ there can be no “perhaps” or “some say,” no opinions but only silence or the answer which Peter gives now: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  

From Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s 1933 Sermon on today’s Gospel, preached in the Trinity  Church, Berlin, when Nazism was in the ascendancy and everyone thought this was a consummate good.

Yet, the question is still pointed, and points to us:  Who do you say that I am?   There is a correct answer, the confessional answer, which points us ever in faith to Jesus Christ:  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Peter was declared blessed, not simply right in answering but the confessing answer.  The confession of Faith was not revealed by flesh and blood but “by My Father in Heaven” through every Word Jesus taught and preached and every Word which healed and created faith.  Flesh and blood love to reveal stuff and love to hear about ‘new revelations about the IRS, the NSA, the true confessions of celebrities, the stuff of gossip columns, tabloids  like the National Enquirer, the ‘skinny’ on someone in the news.  All of those revelations are the consequences of breaking God’s Law and appeal to man’s fallen pride, as simply, as “Oh, I’m not that bad.”    The daily news is the revelation of death.  The good news of Jesus Christ is the revelation of life in the midst of death. The revelation of the Lord’s forgiveness in an unforgiving world.  No one confesses Jesus is the Lord except by His Life lived on God’s terms, which means in His Son, Jesus Christ, by His grace and leave, by His Blood shed for them and for us all. 

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, he who had thought too highly of  himself. Paul’s confession of sin was also of the godly sorrow. Called by Christ Jesus, both knew by faith His forgiveness of them and each and everyone of us. Both confessed Jesus is Lord. Both were martyred, tradition says on this day, in Rome, remembering that Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them.

Does the Lord build His Church on the rock called Peter or on the rock of the confession of faith,  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?  This is a false choice. It is built upon Peter confessing Christ as the whole Church is called.  Once we veer away from the Lord’s certain call of the Cross to confess Him as Lord, then we are lost in men’s opinions. Yet,

…it does indeed seem very uncertain ground to build on, doesn’t it? And yet it is bedrock, for this Peter, this trembling reed, is called by God, caught by God, held by God.  “You are Peter,” we all are Peter; not the Pope, as the Roman Catholics would have it; not this person or that, but all of us, who simply live from our confession of faith in Christ, as the timid, faithless, fainthearted, and yet who live as people sustained by God. (Bonhoeffer, same sermon quotes throughout the sermon)

Yes, when a bishop is elected pope, they say to him:  You are Peter. No, y’all are Peter.  Not the rock from Peter, but Peter from the Rock and the Rock is Christ.  “…Paul from Saul, the lamb from the wolf”.  You are from Christ.   You are from the Rock. 

Simon and Garfunkle song from the 60s lyric:

I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries

Simon and Garfunkle’s song is about man alone, like a rock, like an island, avoiding all pain and sorrow.  We live in a “my music, my pictures, my documents” kind of world in which there is no morality, only what I want.  Christ is the rock who bore all pain and sorrow, the Rock from which blood flowed, tears flowed and water flowed.  “My God, My God Why have you forsaken Me?”  Jesus Christ became the utterly alone island bearing our sin, all immorality, which separates us from God and all, the rock, the cornerstone cast out by the builders.  He alone can give the keys of the kingdom to Peter and the whole Church.  The Keys of His reign is forgiveness.“God has always done His greatest deeds in the world through hopeless minorities as seen from human eyes.” Last line of Sasse’s last Letter to Lutheran Pastors.  Like Peter and Paul by whom His grace and peace shone forth into a dark world through the Word of the Lord.  Maybe we are beginning to understand some more of Bonhoeffer’s Sermon of 1933, preached in Berlin’s Trinity Church means:

In the midst of the creakings and groanings of a crumbling and tottering church structure, which has been shaken to its very foundations, we hear in this text the promise of the eternal church, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail; of the church founded on a rock, Christ has built and which he continues to build throughout all time.

The gates of hell have prevailed against denominations built on human ideas about Christ, how to implement the truth, as if it were a human tool. The sign of the Church is not the dollar sign, but the Sign of the CrossThe Lord builds His Church through Peter and Paul and all the saints, not through their flesh and blood but by the Confession of Christ, His Word, the Word made flesh and this is the very work of the Holy Spirit.  I will let Pr. Bonhoeffer have the last word of this sermon.

But it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province.

Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

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In a 5/31/14 Wall Street Journal book review of new biography of Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory by Charles Marsh, the reviewer spends a sizable portion of his article on Marsh’s assertion, summed up by the reviewer:  “Dietrich  Bonhoeffer was gay”. Even saying that, note, makes the picture above suspect. Now the reviewer says that the author does not quite say that but that something funny was going on between Bonhoeffer and his best friend, confessor, fellow pastor and eventual biographer, Eberhard Bethge.  For instance that Bonhoeffer had an “unanswered longing” for community was an indication of his homosexual bent. So that would mean a man’s desire to shoot firearms must mean he is a murderer?  I do not think so. They wrote tender letters to each other.  Even if one has an inclination does not mean a man will act upon it. In a Lincoln biography, an author said that Lincoln and, I think it was, Herndon, had a homosexual tryst, indicated by sharing beds (which would have been customary on the road in the 19th century) . Anytime two men are close, then they are probably homosexual these days, as liberal theologians  assert in same fashion that since David and Jonathan were close, as Jonathan loved David as “his own soul” (1 Sam. 18: 1), that they also were lovers.  But I will let C. S. Lewis weigh in here.  He is by today’s corrupt standards, political incorrect, but as Lewis wrote, it is we who are out of step.  The following quotes are from his The Four Loves,the chapter on Friendship:

To say that every Friendship is consciously and explicitly homosexual would be too obviously false; the wiseacres take refuge in the less palpable charge that it is really – unconsciously, cryptically, in some Pickwickian sense – homosexual. And this, though it cannot be proved, can never of course be refuted. The fact that no positive evidence of homosexuality can be discovered in the behaviour of two Friends does not disconcert the wiseacres at all: “That”, they say gravely, “is just what we should expect.” The very lack of evidence is thus treated as evidence; the absence of smoke proves that the fire is very carefully hidden. Yes – if it exists at all. But we must first prove its existence. Otherwise we are arguing like a man, who should say “If there were an invisible cat in that chair, the chair would look empty; but the chair does look empty; therefore there is an invisible cat in it.” A belief in invisible cats cannot perhaps be logically disproved, but it tells us a good deal about those who hold it. Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is neccessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best.

Bonhoeffer and Bethge had much in common and were brothers in Christ side by side.  They certainly had a common interest, actually interests:  Christ and faith, and the fight for faith and against Nazism.  Lewis continued:

The homosexual theory therefore seems to me not even plausible. This is not to say that Friendship and abnormal Eros have never been combined. Certain cultures at certain periods seem to have tended to the contamination. In war-like societies it was, I think, especially likely to creep into the relation between the mature Brave and his young armour-bearer or squire. The absence of the women while you were on the warpath had no doubt something to do with it. In deciding, if we think we need or can decide, where it crept in and where it did not, we must surely be guided by the evidence (when there is any) and not by an a priori theory. Kisses, tears and embraces are not in themselves evidence of homosexuality. The implications would be, if nothing else, too comic. Hrathgar embracing Beowulf, Johnson embracing Boswell (a pretty flagrantly heterosexual couple) and all those hairy old toughs of centurions in Tacitus, clinging to one another and begging for last kisses when the legion was broken up… all pansies? If you can believe that you can believe anything. On a broad historical view it is, of course, not the demonstrative gestures of Friendship among our ancestors but the absence of such gestures in our own society that calls for some special explanation. We, not they, are out of step.

 

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The way the Church is built and builds has been a disputed topic for some time now. The many and sundry blueprints for the Church at corporate (district and synodical offices) have been promulgated to “grow the church”, e.g. church growth.  There are as many ‘new’ ideas to ‘grow the Church’ put forward as there are many fears that we are not growing and we are going to die.   This ‘new’ plan will save the Church!  Wrong.  The Church is saved and is being saved by the One Who alone finally builds His Church: ” And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (St. Matthew 16: 18)  Anything else is the beginning of sheer unbelief, just as Peter wanted to prevent the Lord from the Cross.

The Scriptures contain the building plans, building materials and the identity of the builders for the Church:

Builders :  The Lord is clear He is the builder of His Church.  The Lord also calls builders, such as the Apostles and then pastors and He calls, instructs and encourages the  builders to use the best materials available.

Building materials: The gold, silver and precious stones of His Word:  the Word of the Bible, Law and Promise, the Word of God in the Sacraments, the Word in prayer, the Word of rebuke and consolation.

Building plans, blueprint: The Scripture is quite clear on the Lord’s blueprint as He He builds His Church:    a Temple formed, reformed and conformed (see  1 Corinthians 6:19,1 Peter 2:5 Romans 8:29, to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:46-48). 

The past two Sundays after the Epiphany the Epistle readings are  1 Corinthians 3:1-9  and 1 Corinthians 3:10-23.

The following passage from 1 Corinthians is quite illustrative of the Lord’s builders, building materials, and blueprint for His Church and I will be exploring this Text with you:

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. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

 16 Do you not know that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in YOU17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and YOU are that temple.

In  verse 15 the translation “skilled” is in Greek, sophia, as “wise”, e.g. as in philosophy, literally “love of wisdom”.  The Apostle clearly identifies the “wisdom” given him:  the wisdom of  the Crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21 ). God’s wisdom is most assuredly not human wisdom.  The Medieval Ages could not have been simply the “dark ages”, as they developed the architectural plan of a sanctuary that proclaims clearly the Cross of Jesus Christ:

The Greek word for “master builder” is the one from which we have our word, “architect”.  Paul, Apollos and many others build. Paul laid the foundation of the Church in Corinth which is the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, not religious experience, human wisdom, man’s plans and the like.  Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by the original builders (Israel) and men, cast out, has become the chief cornerstone (cf. Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11 Ephesians 2:20).  The Apostle laid this foundation by the only means Christ gave to His Apostles and His apostolic Church:   preaching “Christ and Him crucified”, 1 Corinthians 1:23.  Our preaching is cross-shaped as missionary work and evangelism:  

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2: 2)

and

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 3: 1)

The Sacraments are likewise cruciform, see  Romans 6:3-5;   1 Corinthians 11:26.  The stones for His Church are not quarried out of granite, but out of Jesus Christ, now “living stones” , see 1 Peter 2:5. Peter (Rock) from Christ, not Christ from Peter.

The two lists of construction materials that the Apostle lays out side by side,

gold, silver, precious stones”

and

“wood, hay and straw” .

Those two contractors’ lists are strikingly different  The first list is obviously more valuable than the second and it is clear from the text, the desirable materials.  Gregory Lockwood in the Concordia Publishing House Commentary on 1 Corinthians notes that the first list were the building materials for the Temple.  It is so obvious in the Apostle’s comparison that the Temple building materials endure because they are non-combustible.  Fire will not burn them but  fire will test everyone’s work.  Further, it is plain to see that the Temple of which St. Paul writes is the Church.  The Greek pronoun “you” is plural, as we say here in the South: y’all.  There is no Church of one, no ‘super-Christians’, but a communion, a “spiritual house” being built  Lockwood comments:

In addition (and this is most important in the context), these three more valuable items are noncombustible, whereas the materials in the second group are all combustible. The OT refers to gold, silver, and precious stones as building materials used in the tabernacle and the temple. Thus Paul anticipates the temple imagery of 3:16-17.7

The precious, noncombustible materials represent preaching, teaching, and pastoral care that rest upon the Gospel. The combustible items signify teaching and methods motivated by human “wisdom” (1:17-22; 2:1-5, 13; 3:19) and therefore at odds with God’s “wisdom” (1:24, 30; 2:6-7)—the doctrine of Christ.

Wood, hay, straw…one match, it’s ablaze and gone.  Let’s say that synodical and district offices are akin to a contractor’s office, then the only task for which they are to oversee is to see that the building materials are the gold, silver and precious stones of His Word and Sacraments of His Church, as outlined in Scripture and the Confessions. The Word endures to eternity and from eternity and in time and space, flesh and bone.  The Word  is not ephemeral like wood, hay and straw of human wisdom, plans, schemes, techniques and tactics.  We point to the Word of promise, not to church programs.  Episcopos, or bishop, the role of district president, literally means “oversight”, not “overlook”. Bishops, pastors and district presidents are not to be designing new blueprints,nor using substandard building materials.

We cannot keep on using substandard building materials as we have done now for decades, quick let’s have a ministry, get some funding and 5 piece band.  The Lord builds His house, not a coffee house, to sell people a little Christ with their capuccino.   We do not package and sell the Word of God, peddling it, then the Word becomes  a commodity and the Lord’s House becomes  a whore house:

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.(2 Corinthians 2: 17)

We are not messing around with a weekend carpentry job finishing the basement.  One reason to use easier materials is that the “job gets done” and many a weekend carpenter has worked with wood and that’s fine for finishing a basement.  Using the inferior “plans of mice and men”, of human wisdom and that work will not last.  Building by using substandard materials and they tend to collapse and people die.    Yet, it makes pastors feel useful and the job is done quickly.   The basement, the foundation has been laid and it is precious in God’s sight.  The original builders rejected the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  what the Lord is building and which is precious in His sight.  “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”  The Law of God is frightening as well it should be. We are using sound building materials, that is “sound doctrine”.

The other aspect of the two groups of building materials is this:  I opine that “gold, silver and precious stones” not only are more costly, but harder to work with than wood, hay and straw.  Gold and silver take time to smelt and burn the dross. Pearls were not cultivated then, but one had to dive into the depths of the ocean to find them. In fact finding one, one sells all he has to buy it.  This triumvirate lasts as the Word of the Lord  endures forever.

Our calling is not to master the public but to make public the Master.  What is the Church to do?  Like seed, cast His Word to all (see St. Matthew 13: 1-23).  Ours is not to figure out how it will work but to trust He is at work in His Word according to His Word.  We are to confess Christ.  

Pastor Bonhoeffer preached it well in 1933, in Berlin, about building the Church and confession Jesus Christ:

…it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

 

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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

Memory Verse:  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)

Prayers:  

  • for the obscure and the forgotten and the unknown in the work of the Church
  • for the gift of holiness, which is the creation and gift of God
  • for faithful continuation of the apostles’ preaching of the Gospel to all the world
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.   Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor a Church in captivity to the world, but held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free.  The actual Reformation Day is this Thursday (2013), Luther and the Reformers and many who heard the Gospel clearly preached, also did not follow a worldly church and worldly doctrine.  Upcoming is All Saints Sunday and Day, and the saints did not look to the world for their light but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6):

“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.

A blessed feast day to all in the Lord!

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“Wherever there is still a weighing up and calculation of guilt, there the sterile morality of self-justification usurps the place of the confession of guilt which is made in the presence of the form of Christ. Not the individual misdeeds but that form of Christ is the origin of the confession of guilt, and for that reason the confession is not unconditional and entire; for Christ subdues us in no other way more utterly than by his having taken our guilt upon himself unconditionally and entirely, declaring himself guilty and freeing us form its burden.” (Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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VERSE:   The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. John 12:23b

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS

Isaiah 50:5-10

Psalm 36:5-10

Hebrews 9:11-15

Matthew 26:1-27:66                                                                                                                          

or John 12:1-23

Cross Reflections:  A few years back I saw an ad for this kind of hand-held olive wood cross with this ad copy, ““Shaped to comfortably fit into the palm of your hand as you pray and meditate, crafted to inspire you with its deep meaning in your faith.” 

A cross, the Roman means of brutally executing criminals at the time of Christ and after, was not meant to fit comfortably into the palm of my hand or yours. This is the stuff of Play Doh Christianity.   Just the opposite. Hands were nailed to a cross.  I am leery of anyone then who pitches me  a cross, crafted by some guy for what he thinks will inspire me, and this is faith in faith not faith in the One who died on the Cross for sinners.  This ‘palm cross” is only  a religious sentiment misses the meaning of the Cross in the New Testament.  I like the hymn section entitled, Cross and Comfort. His Cross was not for comfort or fitting comfortably into the world but that we be comforted and fit into His hand, forgiven, loved before the foundations of the world. His Cross is not for the palm of my hand but that I am, through His forgiveness, made fit by His grace through faith into His hand:  “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49: 16a).  His hands still marked by the nails of His crucifixion which is our salvation. 

The Lord  the Master,  dies instead of the servants

In place of the debtors, the Faithful One; 

The Physician dies for the good of the patient; The Shepherd rescues His sheep,

The King dies for the sins of His subjects;

The Peace-maker for the warriors;

The Creator dies for His creation;

God Himself wins man’s salvation!

What now should the servant, the debtor,

the sick one, the sheep, the nation, the multitude do? What should the creatures, mankind, do?

In love extol his Redeemer!

(from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ (published 1663)
“Either I determine the place in which I will find God, or I allow God to determine the place where He will be found. If it is I who say where God will be, I will always find there a God who in some way corresponds to me, is agreeable to me, fits in with my nature. But if it is God who says where he will be, then that will truly be a place which at first is not agreeable to me at all, which does not fit so well with me. That place is the cross of Christ. And whoever will find God there must draw near to the cross in the manner which the Sermon on the Mount requires. That does not correspond to our nature at all; it is, in fact, completely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only the New Testament but also the Old. (Is. 53!) In any case, Jesus and Paul understand it in this way — that the cross of Jesus fulfills the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The entire Bible, then, is the Word in which God allows himself to be found by us. Not a place which is agreeable to us or makes sense to us a priori, but instead a place which is strange to us and contrary to our nature. Yet, the very place in which God has decided to meet us.”  Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

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“It is very presumptuous and wrongheaded to think that a man has to become entangled deeply in the guilt of life in order to know life itself, and finally God.  We do not learn to know life and built from our own experience, but only from God’s judgment of mankind and His grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer commentary on Psalm 119: 9

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