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The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil. An octave is literal 8 days.  From the earliest time of the Church 8 is considered significant: 7 days of the creation, then on the 1st Day of the Week, the 8th day, the new creation:  Christ is risen!

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: 

O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

 O Adonai (O Lord)

O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

O Clavis David (O Key of David)

O Oriens (O Rising Sun)

O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)

 O Emmanuel.

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one – Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai,Sapientia – the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.  

Notably, the Great O Antiphons are the basis of the great Advent Hymn: O, Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

(The information above is cited from an article in Cyberbrethren)

December 17th:

O Sapientia:

Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).  St. Paul points out that, “… the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1: 25.  Jesus is the Wisdom of God.  He was weak to show forth the power of our salvation in every Word and Work He did and finally and fully in the weakness of the manger and Cross bearing our sin.    In Proverbs 8 and 9, Wisdom is personified as a woman:  

Wisdom has built her house;
   she has hewn her seven pillars.
2She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
   she has also set her table.
3She has sent out her young women to call
   from the highest places in the town,
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    To him who lacks sense she says,
5“Come, eat of my bread
   and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6Leave your simple ways, and live,
    and walk in the way of insight.”

She invites the simple to her table.  The Lord invites the simple to His Table to walk in His Way, the way of insight and live.

 

 Oh, come, Oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high, 
Who ordered all things mightily; 
To us the path of knowledge show, 
and teach us in her ways to go. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

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The oil was there for the taking by all ten virgins, the bridal party. The 10 virgins symbolize the Church. Someone amply supplied the oil for the virgins to meet the Bridegroom who came at an hour no one suspected. The oil was given for that purpose. In that time, oil was used for three purposes

  • for lamps, as in today’s Gospel
  • for medicine, as we read that the Samaritan took care of the man robbed and beaten on the Jericho road by pouring wine and oil upon his  wounds
  • for the face to make it shine, as it is written, Psalm 104: 15 , the Lord gives to us,

“…wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
    and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

For lamps, the oil filled the lamps , medicine and the face,that is,  for light, healing and joy.  And oil was used f or special and unique purpose:  the anointing with oil marked the investiture of the Kings of Israel, as Samuel anointed Saul and David as the Kings of Israel.Oil was administered by anointing. Remember that the title “Christ” means “anointed one”.  Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew, Messiah. Behold, One is here who greater than the prophets!  We read in Hebrews 1: 9:

But of the Son (Note:  capital “S”)  he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.

 The preacher in Hebrews is citing Psalm 45.  Psalm 45 is about the anointing of the King of Israel.  The kings of Israel were to be filled as lamps, with the oil of the Holy Spirit, so to heal the Lord’s people with His Word and to make the face shine with joy in the presence of the Lord.  But so many of the kings of Israel and Judah turned the hearts of Israel to false gods and immorality, personal and social and Israel went skipping into the utter and outer darkness. They did not serve the Lord but were dealers in falsehood.  Now, comes the King, “Of the Son”, who alone is the true King, who reigns “anointed” “with the oil of gladness beyond your companions”.  He was anointed beyond His companions, beyond the kings and prophets of Israel. As the prophets brought the Word of the Lord to Israel, so did Jesus Christ, but beyond, He is the Word made flesh.  He would be anointed by the spit of Roman soldiers, His sweat anointed His body as he was flogged and  as He bore the Cross, His tears were the anointing for the lost, His blood anointed His sacred head now wounded, with grief and shame bore down. He shed His blood not for His sins, for He had none, but ours and we are anointed in the Holy Spirit.  The bridegroom died for His bride, even when she spurned him: when no man heedeth, He interecedeth.

The wise virgins, when asked by the five foolish virgins, to give them some of there oil, could not. They would not have enough, the wise virgins responded. The noblest saint in Christ cannot believe for another person.  All the supposed saints’ merits, accrued in some sort of heavenly bank account, cannot substitute for your heart’s pain and sin to lay hold of Jesus Christ in faith in His grace toward you.  There is no substitute for the grace of God in Jesus, the anointed One.  He gives us faith to fill our lamps with the oil of His gladness, His salvation for sinners, His forgiveness, which all the saints carried with them, as the Lord bore them. When after the delay of the bridegroom coming at the hour no one could guess, at midnight, the wise virgins took extra oil with them.  They  were thinking in joy for the coming of the bridegroom.  He was delayed but they carried the oil that gave them light:  the Anointed One, Jesus Christ. He gives His grace amply for the taking.

 When the door is closed then, it is closed. As in the Great O Antiphon of Advent:

 O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;

you open and no one can shut;

you shut and no one can open:

Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,

those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death

 When He comes, when the author comes on stage the play is over. The door was closed on the foolish virgins. So harsh! We might say.  It is darkness for those who trust in themselves for salvation. When the 5 wise virgins said go into town to find oil, I have to ask where would they find oil merchants at midnight?  Of  course, none!  And that’s the point. There is no substitute for the Lord’s mercy toward us, for there is no mercy in the devil, in sin and wickedness.  There are dealers in the darkness and of the darkness who promise false gospels of prosperity, fame which is no more than idolatry.  Amos said that  the day of the Lord is darkness not light for those who follow false gods, thinking they do not need the oil of gladness in the Lord. Israel trusted in the mere doing of sacrifice and worship in the Temple to gain salvation in some sort of eternal barter system.  Those who “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” There is no second chances in some 1,000 years reign of Christ after a so-called rapture.  Here in this life unbelievers have a chance every minute of every day to look to the One who loved them and us all that He gave His life upon the Cross. Here in this life believers have a chance every minute of every day to look to the One who loved them and us all that He gave His life upon the Cross. So we can pray unceasingly.

 He taught this parable that we may  watch for His coming. He taught this parable that we be the wise Church, not the foolish church.  The foolish church puts human opinions, theologies and the like center.  The wise Church knows Who is the Center of the Church:  Jesus Christ.   He taught this parable for hope.   For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8: 24).  Hope is for us individually and together as His Body the Church.  Our Lord’s parable is not for some eternal stat that 50% will be saved, 50% damned, in some sort of non-Biblical double  predestination. He taught the parable of the virgins for us, His teaching is the Word of God, the Scriptures, “…which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 3: 15).  He taught the parable that we be wise for salvation in Him, carrying the oil of faith in His Word of promise to us all.  He taught this for hope in Him who soon after He taught this parable in the Temple would be cast out of Jerusalem to bear the hopelessness of death, yours and mine upon the Cross.  Paul wrote we Christians grieve but as those who have hope.  The hope is His salvation is for the soul and the body, that when He comes all the living and the dead, judged and saved in Him, will be caught up with Him as He leads us home, the new heavens and the new earth.

 God’s law will wake us up with its terror over sin and God’s Gospel made us alive in Christ.  Watchfulness for Christ Jesus  and the Gospel of  His death and resurrection is fourfold.  As the fourfold Gospel is confessed in the Smalcald articles of the Lutheran Confessions:

 We will now return to the Gospel, which not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin; for God is superabundantly rich [and liberal] in His grace [and goodness].

First, through the spoken Word by which the forgiveness of sins is preached [He commands to be preached] in the whole world; which is the peculiar office of the Gospel.

Secondly, through Baptism.

Thirdly, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Fourthly, through the power of the keys, and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together, etc

The mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren is for us to encourage each other in the oil of His forgiveness.  We do mourn those who die but as those who have hope.  We need to hear this word of forgiveness from each other in conversation and consolation.  The fourfold means of the Gospel gives us the three fold gifts of the Gospel as signified by oil:  light, healing and joy. 

  1. God’s Word is light:  His Law a light unto our path that may know His way and as Jesus is the Way, the only  Way, we are led by Jesus the Anointed, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. 
  2. His Word is healing and the balm of healing for broken and contrite hearts, which O Lord, you will not despise. 
  3. His Word is the joy, of not only knowing the truth, but knowing He who knows us better than we do ourselves.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:  20-21

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Heavenly Father,You revealed to the apostle Peter the blessed truth that Your Son Jesus is the Christ. Strengthen us by the proclamation of this truth that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Confession of St. Peter:

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

Readings:

Acts 4:8-13

Psalm 118:19-29 

2 Peter 1:1-15

Mark 8:27-9:1

Reflection:   The Greek New Testament for the confession of St Peter in St. Matthew has a word play.  The Roman Catholic Church asserts that when Jesus says to Peter, Upon this rock I shall build my Church, the Lord is referring to Peter as the rock, the foundation of the Church and subsequently the popes.  The Lord did not as He was referring to Peter’s confession.  The word play is the “Petros” (-os, masculine ending), i.e. Peter, “Rock “is Peter’s new name, but when Jesus says, “Upon this rock…”, the Greek is “petra”, neuter ending, that is Peter’s Confession.  All of the Church is to confess Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God,the sweet sound of salvation for sinners.  “…it is certain that the Church is not built on the authority of a man but on the ministry of the confession which Peter made, when he declare Jesus to the Christ, the Son of God” (The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of Pope, The Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions)

The Lord has called His apostolic Church to be faithful in confessing Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Lord.  Peter eventually led the way of the holy Apostles in preaching and teaching Christ.  Peter who had denied Christ, was faithful to Christ’s command to him, “Feed My Sheep”. Pastors are called  to be faithful in confessing Christ, to feed and lead His people so that others may hear of the Savior.  If pastors, ministers and priests trust their own thinking about Christ, and not the Word,   “…will lose Christ” (Luther). In a school, principles are worthless without the authority and care of a principled principal to educate with students.  Principles are words.  So likewise  a principal without sound principles is anarchy. The Lord’s pastorate is principled in the Word of Law and Promise to teach His people.  If they follow their own lesson plans, then there is anarchy.  What makes Christianity Christian is Christ so we can be Christians, taught and fed by faithful Christian pastors, as we are  built on the Rock of our salvation, Jesus the Christ, even when steeples are falling. As Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached on St. Matthew 16:  

What is the difference between Peter and the others? Is he of such heroic nature that he towers over the others? He is not. Is he endowed with such unheard-of strength of character?  He is not. Is he gifted with unshakable loyalty? He is not. Peter is nothing, nothing but a person confessing his faith, a person who has been confronted by Christ and who has recognized Christ, and who now confesses his faith in him, and this confessing Peter is called the rock on which Christ will build his church.  Peter’s church–that means the church of rock, the church of the confession of Christ. Peter’s church, that does not mean a church of opinions and views, but the church of the revelation; not a church in which what “people say” is talked about but the church in which Peter’s confession is made anew and passed on; the church which has no other purpose in song, prayer, preaching, and action than to pass on its confession of faith; the church which is always founded on rock as long as it remains within these limits, but which turns into a house built on sand, which is blown away by the wind, as soon as it is foolhardy enough to think that it may depart from or even for a moment neglect this purpose.

St. Augustine was a good catholic as was Luther.  St. Augustine knew from whence comes the Christian. 

“Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

St. Augustine: Upon this rock I shall build my faith; the faith you confess. Upon what you have said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God: I shall build my Church.

For thou art Peter.

Peter from the rock (petra); not the rock from Peter. So Peter, because of the Rock; as Christian, because of Christ.  Would you know after what rock (petra) Peter is called? Listen to Paul answering: “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, the Apostle of Christ says, “I would not have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea. And all did eat the same spiritual frod. And all drank the same spiritual drink; and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ (I Cor. x. i—k)”. From this rock Peter came.  (emphasis my own)

From a sermon by St. Augustine, delivered on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, from The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers,  (a Roman Catholic publisher)

 

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A church member asked me once, “Pastor, what do the 4 Advent candles mean?” I might have said that there is nothing in the Bible about it as there is nothing about Advent wreathes. Nothing wrong about them and some good as a wreath is without beginning and end and so is the Lord, the four candles signify time, God entering time, the right time for us all.  I told the fellow member I don’t know and she rather dogmatically stated what they stand for… well, I forgot the answer.  The answer usually go along this route:  the Advent Candles  stand for  Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, or something like that.  Hope, peace, joy and love are the first things we all want. But on a blog, a Roman Catholic priest, looking at the superficial slappy-happy, sentimental time that Advent/Christmas has become, suggested that the candles should stand for Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven!  The last things.  We want the first things first…without pain or struggle, without the Cross, without judgment, without His hard birth.  As Reformed theologian H. Richard Niebuhr wrote, 

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

But we are not without sin and that’s the point.  The Lord must reckon with that and He has.  The last things do come first, then in joyful repentance we accept our death sentence as true and see the true Lord born in a feeding trough (manger) through His death on the Cross. Only then do we receive the gifts of Peace, Joy, Hope and Love. The Lord went through the last things and will in the end of all things. The Lord’s last things make the first things last, otherwise it’s all tinsel, and Santa and sleighs and chimneys.  A fantasy Santa comes the chimney but the real Lord came down from heaven and went up on the Cross.  Feed on His Word in His feeding trough, manger, this week in the Church.

 

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The Lessons

The Text for the Sermon:  St. Luke 21:  5-36

Signs, signs, Everywhere there’s signs, Jesus said. They are signs about the end, the last day…and the beginning of the new heavens and new earth.  Can’t you read the signs?  Therefore, the Lord gives the disciples this crucial tutorial in reading help for the signs of His coming again. Signs point us in the right direction so that we do not get lost.  The world, the flesh and the devil want to darken the true path of righteousness of faith in Jesus Christ, especially as He is always near to those whom He has saved in Baptism and faith:  you, His Church.  As recorded in St. Matthew, our Lord Jesus refers to the signs as “birth pains”.  As the delivery gets closer so do the contractions, of the heavens and the earth, pain in child bearing:  in sea and sky, in persecutions, in wars and rumor of wars, in all that is anti-Christ.    Signs, everywhere signs…it is the sign of the those who say I AM the Christ that I concentrate.  And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.   First those who come in the Name of the Lord will say I AM, the Greek could be rendered as last week’s Old Testament lesson in Exodus of the burning bush when the Lord said to Moses: I AM sent you, I am who I am.  Then the false Christs will say, The time is at hand.  Don’t go after them.  Luther preached on the Gospel:

” This pertains not only to the Jews, but also to the whole world and, especially, the Christian church, which has been illumined by the light of the gospel. What will be its lot at the end of the world? When once the gospel has come into the world, Christ is saying, the devil will multiply the enthusiasts and the sects, false prophets and false teachers around the believers, so that those who view the world through spiritual eyes will wonder whether anyone will finally be saved. The seduction will be so pervasive and the false prophets will perform such great signs and wonders, that even the elect—were that possible—succumb to error.”

 In fact, John warned in his first Epistle that many “anti-Christs” will come.  Luther was being pastoral:  it will result in those with “spiritual eyes”, that is the eyes opened by Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection for sinners, “…will wonder whether anyone will finally be saved.”  All this begins bit by bit step by step with every accommodation of the truth of Scriptures and the Faith to make it palatable to the public because of being ashamed of the Gospel.  Today’s Hymn of the Day, Built on the Rock was misnamed in the Lutheran Book of Worship, Built on a Rock.  The change from the definite to the indefinite article  seems small but it is significant. This past week the reportage burning up the internet was 2 British comedians who are starting up atheist mega-churches.  In article about these atheist mega-churches a professor said:

 “When we think about religion in America, we talk about oh, belief in God, belief in Jesus, but for a lot of people, it’s the community. It’s the Sunday school, it’s the seeing people afterwards in the foyer or in the courtyard, it’s the having coffee”

“They want that kind of moral community that is about connecting with others and is about celebrating life, celebrating morals and ethics in a non-supernatural context”

 Hmm…it sounds like what goes for church in general in the United States:  a club with singing.  Salvation without the Savior…and no forgiveness, no grace, mercy and peace…no Cross, no heavy stone rolled away and no resurrection, no hope, no faith….just OUR love.  A community built upon our natural affections is like a wagon wheel with only the rim and spokes but no hub, no center, no core, but nature abhors a vacuum. Pretty soon there will be a hub,  Lo, here is the Christ!  And as happened at Mount Sinai, Exodus 32, man makes the golden calf of his desires when he denies there is God: political, entertainment, religious gods to whom we cry, You brought us out of Egypt, out of bondage.  The gods come from the womb of the people. The professor said such a church of the world is for people “celebrating morals”. Will such a religion have morals?  Yes, only the morals we want.  Only the morals that the political elites will permit. Only the beliefs we want.  Yet, it stands in the Bible, All Scripture is inspired by God not just the parts I find inspiring. 

 Jesus taught His tutorial on reading the signs in His last week on earth. After His triumphal entry He taught day by day in the Temple.Right after this, Judas betrayed Him to the chief priests.  Yes, signs, signs, everywhere there are and will be signs…but there is only one Sign which signifies salvation for the world in tumult and turmoil, in fear of the roaring of the seas:  the sign of the Cross.  In His holy body,

“…born of Mary,
That our sins and sorrows did carry,
And Thy blood for us plead
In all trial, fear, and need:
O Lord, have mercy!”

Read, learn and inwardly digest the sign of His Cross. The world’s terror is death, and death is the wages of sin.  Jesus knew the terror: take this cup away from Me, He prayed in Gethsemane. He received the wages of our sin: death and it was not the minimum wage.   All of the sin of the world was laid on the sinless Lamb of God.  All that mankind treasures as gods:  mammon, power, fame is smashed as the nails were driven into Him.  In His Holy Body is the end of the world, the flesh and the devil.  “In many and various ways God spoke to His people by the prophets, but IN THESE LAST DAYS He has spoken to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1).  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11) Here, not only the Pastor, but the whole Church in His congregations, you preach and proclaim His death for our salvation, because He died, yes! But more, He is risen. . This is the apocalyptic Supper:  His Body, His Blood.  All humankind would agree love is central, the Cross and His supper is proof of it. 

“Thy holy body into death was given,
Life to win for us in heaven.
No greater love than this to Thee could bind us;
May this feast thereof remind us!
O Lord, have mercy!”

No greater love than this…nothing we treasure as number 1, wealth, fame, power…things do not love. Even family and friends cannot so love, yet in Jesus Christ, love is made alive in His forgiveness, the fruit of faith for the faith of others.  All our idolatries are shattered  around His Cross shown for what they are:  death things, with no life in them. The almighty dollar did not die for you, but the Almighty God did.

 What do we do?  We do as the Lord commands: pray and witness. 

When we are asked to give an account of the hope that is in us, be prepared: know He loved and died for you.  He is the end of the world.  He will come again.  He will give you the words to say, you don’t have to prepare the script of the witness. He has provided the Script:  the Scripture…to invite others to His apocalyptic Supper…and He invites us to Himself daily in prayer for our lives in His Church to proclaim His death and resurrection for us all, the sign of His salvation once and for all. The Apostle’s inspired, God-breathed prayer is mine:

 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you andguard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aside from Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) is regarded as the most important theologian in the history of the Lutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the Church Fathers with a genuine love for the Church. When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of Scripture and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four-volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565-73), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession. A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Pastor Chemnitz has been called “The Second Martin”, in terms of his importance in the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church.  He is the principal author of The Formula of Concord, the last of the Confessions in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of Lutheran Church.  The Formula has two parts the Epitome and the Solid Declaration.  The Epitome is like that word, it is the epitome,the summation, kind of a Reader’s Digest of the confession.  The Solid Declaration is the unedited document. 8,188 theologians, ministers and teachers signed the Solid Declaration.  On June 25, 1580, the complete Book of Concord was put on sale:  exactly 50 years after the Presentation and reading  of the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V. The Book of Concord was complete and it is still the complete and correct exposition of the Word of God.

A Lutheran pastor vows to teach, preach and administer in accordance with The Confessions as they are the true exposition of the Scriptures, the Word of God.  A repeated phrase throughout the Formula is:  “We believe, teach and confess…”   This begins the affirmative theses.  Then there are the negative theses in which the Confessors condemn false doctrine. Post-moderns do not like this.  Post-moderns base their understanding of truth on what they experience and feel, our ‘free’ will…and such is a slippery slope, a Gadarene slide into the abyss ( Matthew 8:  28-31).  Saving faith is based upon sound doctrine.  “This doctrine is founded upon the Word of God…” (Solid Declaration , Article II, Free Will, paragraph 28, Tappert). 

An example from the Formula by Martin Chemnitz on the ‘we believe, teach and confess” is on Holy Communion based upon the Word of God. I have heard  many a person and have read many a book asserting  that they teach is “Biblical, nondenominational, non-sectarian Christianity” and then go on to  deny the Sacraments, such as Holy Communion as mere memorial, the Sacrament of the ‘divine absence’, not Presence.  His Body and Blood is for the weak and the trembling in faith to be strengthened as we repent, and turn toward the Lord and not ourselves!   Here is a quote from  The Formula of Concord, authored by Pr. Chemnitz on the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of the true Faith:

“…it must [also] be carefully explained who are the unworthy guests of this Supper, namely, those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, and without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives, and by their unworthy oral eating of the body of Christ load themselves with damnation, that is, with temporal and eternal punishments, and become guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

69] For Christians who are of weak faith, diffident, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the greatness and number of their sins, and think that in this their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and the benefits of Christ, and who feel and lament their weakness of faith, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience, they are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament [and sacred feast] has been especially instituted and appointed; 70] as Christ says, Matt. 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Also Matt. 9:12: They that be whole need not a physician, but they that be sick. Also [ 2 Cor. 12:9 ]: God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Also [ Rom. 14:1 ]: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye [ Rom 14:3 ], for God hath received him. For whosoever believeth in the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith, has eternal life [ John 3:15f. ].

71] And worthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ, which the distressed father of little faith [ Mark 9:24 ] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.”

 Let us pray…

Lord, God heavenly Father, through the teaching of Martin Chemnitz, You prepare us for the coming of Your Son to lead home His Bride, the Church, that with all the company of the redeemed we may finally enter in to His eternal wedding feast; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Johann von Staupitz (ca. 1469–1524), was vicar-general of the Augustinian Order in Germany and friend of Martin Luther, was born in Saxony. He studied at the universities in Leipzig and Cologne and served on the faculty at Cologne. In 1503 he was called by Frederick the Wise to serve as dean of the theological faculty at the newly founded University of Wittenberg. There he encouraged Luther to attain a doctorate in theology and appointed Luther as his successor to professor of Bible. During Luther’s early struggles to understand God’s grace, it was Staupitz who counseled Luther to focus on Christ and not on himself. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  When the publication of the 95 Theses spread throughout Europe, then Luther was in middle of a raging storm.  He corresponded with his father confessor.

On the twenty-fifth of November he sent word to Spalatin:

I am expecting the curses of Rome any day. I have everything in readiness. When they come, I am girded like Abraham to go I know not where, but sure of this, that God is everywhere.

Staupitz wrote Luther from Salzburg in Austria:

The world hates the truth. By such hate Christ was crucified, and what there is in store for you today if not the cross I do not know. You have few friends, and would that they were not hidden for fear of the adversary. Leave Wittenberg and come to me that we may live and die together. The prince [Frederick] is in accord. Deserted let us follow the deserted Christ. (From Here I Stand by Roland Bainton)

Up until his death, Fr. von Staupitz, wrote to Luther and he to him.  We do not know if Luther’s dear father superior ever accepted the evangelical doctrine but he sure seems to have known them and lived them.  

It is written in Proverbs 17: 17:

A friend loves at all times,
   and a brother is born for adversity.

And from Proverbs, 18: 24:

A man of many companions may come to ruin,
   but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Fr. Staupitz epitomized those Scripture passages.  Staupitz was obviously Luther’s mentor and with that Luther’s  friend and brother in Christ.  This is a good commemoration to thank and remember mentors in our lives, who have been closer than a brother and a brother born for adversity and hung in there with you.  All the Facebook friends in the world do not one dear brother in Christ Jesus make.  Between Martin and Johannes stood Jesus Christ and the dear Father Johannes showed Martin Jesus Christ so that Martin could see Him in the clear Word of Scripture.  “Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word”, penned and sang Luther.  He probably knew he was kept steadfast by his dear father confessor as a mentor has so done for you.  Fr. Staupitz knew the Word as he had been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Almighty, everlasting God, for our many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation.  In Your mercy, You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation.  Grant us a true confession so that dead to sin we may hear  the sweet  words of Absolution from our confessor as Luther heard them from his pastor, Johannes von Staupitz, and be released from all our sin;  through Jesus Christ, our lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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