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The following quotes are from a section of Pr. Johann Gerhard’s sermon, Invocavit Sunday on fasting, the text is: St. Matthew 4: 1-11.  Our Lord said, “When you fast…”, not “if you fast”,  but He nor the Scriptures give times and days for fasting.  When churches have done so, then it tends to be legalistic and a religious work that people consider as saving.  Further, considering that when you fast, as in individual prayer and giving to the poor, it is to be done in private, because the aim of fasting is the Lord (see St. Matthew 6: 4, 6, 18).   Fasting is a good discipline for Christ’s disciples and I think Pr. Gerhard’s preaching and teaching teaches the evangelical way of fasting:

Fasting from the lusts of the flesh:

Christ wanted to teach true fasting with His example: It does not consist of a person refraining from certain foods at certain times and regarding that as being meritorious and as a satisfaction for sin. Instead, the following is a true, God-pleasing fast, namely, “The primary, great universal fast,” as Augustine calls it, is a person abstains from the lusts of the flesh which strive against the soul, I Pet. 2:11, where a person then does not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, Gal. 5:16. Also, all members can fast in this manner if they do not give in to the servitude of impurity, but instead to the weapons of righteousness, Rom. 6:13 and 19.

Daily fasting:

Following this there is a daily fast: moderation. With it is observed an appropriate restraint in eating and drinking in order that one becomes adept at praying, skillful at his calling, and in the exercise of godliness. Also, this is of such a vital, essential necessity that Christ speaks with words worthy of reflection and contemplation: However, you be on guard so that your hearts do not become burdened with gobbling food and boozing, lest this final Day comes upon you like an ensnaring trap, Luke 21:34-35. If it were not of the utmost importance, Christ never would have used such stern words.

Fasting for Prayer and Reception of the Holy Communion:

Finally, there is a mourning and prayer fast, especially for when a person amidst general or specific misfortunes—or also when confronted with imminent common need—initiates a fast so that he may all the more be humbly devoted to prayer in acknowledgment of his sin. So also it was a fine practice with the ancient fathers that prior to the high Festivals and prior to the observance of the most worthy Lord’s Supper they would abstain from food and drink on the day before, or only ate one meal. They did this in order to become all the more adroit at prayer, at repenting and pondering the divine Word. Yet, here one dare never prescribe any specific, general rule, nor designate any specific times. Each person has to examine himself and thereby see to it that he also attend to the body so that he does not become lascivious, cf. Rom. 13 and 14.

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

READINGS

Daniel 3:8-28

Psalm 2

Acts 13:26-33

St. Luke 24:36-49, with comments

“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!” ( Rev. Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard, +1637)

36As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 

Comment:  In the Gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Pascha), St. John 20: 19-31, the Lord says three times, “Peace to you” to the disciples.  This is a greeting and more than a greeting:  the truth of His once and for all Sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross:  peace with God is made.  Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He has reconciled us to God (Romans 5:9-11). Peace is not a feeling and so it is not accomplished by us between the Lord and us, only by Christ Jesus.  

In both the lesson for this day and the 2nd Sunday of Easter, the Good Shepherd goes in search of His lost sheep after the Crucifixion.  The disciples are doubting, frightened by arrest and execution, trembling, after all “They all forsook Him and fled”Mark 14:50  before the Crucifixion.  Please note, the Lord does not come in judgment, pointing His finger for what they have done but He comes in His peace, seeking His lost sheep.  He does not point at them, He points to His wounds. He finds them…you. See Luke 15!

This lesson continues right after the narrative of the Road to Emmaus.  This is a different time, God’s time in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  “Time cannot separate disciples from their risen Lord or from Easter’s promise of resurrection for them too.  The church  now lives in the eternal Sabbath rest of Easter Sunday.” (Prof. Arthur Just,Commentary on Luke, CPH)

37But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Luther:  “…the disciples…are frightened by Him, and think it  is a spirit.  From these words we learn that it is not a new thing that people may see spirits.  For the Lord himself does not deny that spirits make themselves visible,but rather confirms it by making a distinction between the spirits and Himself.  He says to the disciples, Why are you frightened and thinking such things?”  And so the Lord says:

 39See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 

Comment: The sign in sign language for Jesus is pointing to the print of the nails!

Jesus shows His hands and side in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter as well.  His wounds are connected to His Word and so to them and to us:  “it is I Myself”.   The Greek is emphatic and is literally rendered, “it is I AM myself”.  In a similar fashion the Lord says the same in the I AM passages in John’s Gospel: I am the bread of life, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the light of the world, I am the resurrection and the life, and that is also “I AM” as God is the great I AM, the Word became flesh (John 1:14).   The true God alone has wounds, the wounds of the Cross for us and our salvation.  See the poem, Jesus of the Scars by World War I veteran Edward Shillito. Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith all bled but being not the Incarnate Word they could not bleed for you in love of you for your eternal life.  They can only give precepts, the Lord us His person. 

One of the ways the Gospel is summed up is Fear Not as the Lord asks here, why are your hearts troubled.  Gerhard:

“…we should remember that He allowed His hands and feet to be nailed to the timber-trunk of the cross for our sake.  He let His side be opened up with a spear so that we similarly might be able to peer into His heart to see how it burns with heartfelt love towards us.”

41And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate before them.

Gerhard:  

Just as in those days the Lord Christ ate with His disciples as He appeared to them alive, so also when Christ will reveal Himself from heaven, so also will it sequentially occur that He will receive His believing disciples to Himself so that they eat and drink at His Table in His kingdom Lk. 22:30—not earthly and perishable food, but rather the Bread of Heaven, the imperishable food of beholding the Divine, Ps. 17:15-1 will be satiated when I awake in conformity to Your image. Ps. 36:9,10—For by You is the living fountain. They will drink of the rich loving kindness of Your house, and You will give them to drink of voluptuousness [pleasure) as from a river.

 44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 

Comment:  The pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection is the pattern of the apostolic message He gives to “all nations” for the apostles to proclaim:  “repentance and forgiveness of sins”.  I hear too often in the media about the Church about “what the Church says” and it is usually on morality. With the election of the new pope, this is abundantly clear.  Morality is Biblical but so is the disciples not acting morally courageous:  me, too.   As the Lord said that “the Law of Moses” is also “written about me”.  The 5 books of Moses is also the Gospel, the Lord who frees His people out of the house of bondage.  St. Luke alone tells us that in the Transfiguration Jesus and Moses and Elijah discuss His “departure” (Luke 9:31).  Departure” is the translation of the Greek, exodun, exodus! “The law and prophets” point to Him as He fulfilled perfectly the Law and the Prophets(Matthew 5:17) so that as all of the Scripture points to Him (John 5:39) The Law not only and merely contains our carnal instincts but the Law is spiritual as it shows us our sin and the Gospel proclaims our Savior that we can turn toward Him daily. This is daily living in Baptism.   Luther:  

“(Baptism) signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

We can so die and rise because He has.

48 You are witnesses of these things. 49And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.

Gerhard:  

Whoever preaches forgiveness of sins without preaching repentance is not holding to Christ’s  command. For He sets both together: repentance and forgiveness of sins. Wherever there is a broken and shattered heart, there Christ wants to live, Isa. 57:15, and wants to impart His blessings which He won through His death and resurrection. He, indeed, calls sinners to Himself, but (He calls them) to repent, Matt. 9:13. True repentance is the pathway by which sinners come to grace.

We were widely separated from God by sin, Isa.5. Just as the Lord Christ promised His Apostles the Promise of the Father—that is, He wanted to send them the Holy Spirit and clothe them with Power from on high—so also He proffers to us the comforting promise that He does not want to leave us orphaned or comfortless; instead, He desires to send into our hearts the Holy Spirit, who makes us strong in the inner man and comforts us in every anxious doubt.

Beloved in the Lord, we see here yet another revelation of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father sends the Son and the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit so that beginning in Jerusalem, the Word of so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:2-4) is preached into which we are baptized. The Holy Trinity is the one God, if you will a “conspiracy”:  literally con, with, “spirare” to breathe, (same root word for breath or  for spirit), literally” to breath together,  breathing as one the Word of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father into a sin-soaked, dark world.  

“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!

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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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