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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Intro:  These quotes are for busy pastors, looking for good quotes for tomorrow’s sermon and for laity who may be fed a thin gruel of me centered legalisms  instead of Christ centered Gospel.

The Holy Spirit creates and works all this through the divine Word, which He allows to be echoed in the Christian Church. It [the Christian Church] is His work place, where He, through the preaching-office (office of the ministry)—which is called the office of the Spirit in 2 Cor. 3:8—desires to be effectual and bring to completion this gracious work in the hearts of mankind.

Accordingly, since we heard about the Person and Office of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, so now follows the doctrine of the Christian Church in appropriate order. In the parable of today’s Gospel, the Lord Christ compares it [the Christian Church] to a sheep-fold. He compares the Holy Spirit to the Gate-guard, and Himself to the Door into this sheep pen, [as well as] to the Shepherd of the sheep. It is precisely for these reasons that these two items are placed side by side in the Third Article of our Christian faith, where we say: I believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. 

...We should not be overcome with wonder that Christ is likened simultaneously to the Door of the sheepfold and to the Shepherd, for that occurs because of the differing benefits and works of grace which Christ accomplishes in those who are His. In the same way that He on the timber-trunk of the cross (as He was offering Himself up to His heavenly Father) was at the same time the High-Priest, the Sacrifice, and the Altar, so also is He Himself the Door to the sheepfold and the Shepherd simultaneously.

This faithful Shepherd calls His sheep by name. He knows each one and leads all of them out to salutary meadows, as David extols in Ps. 23:1-3—The Lord is My Shepherd; I lack for nothing. He grazes me upon rich, green pasture and leads me to fresh water. He renews my soul; He leads me onto the right paths.

This Shepherd also goes before His sheep both with His holy teaching and with His holy life. He directs them on the right way through His Word and by His example. That’s why He also states in Matt. 16:24—Whoever would be My disciple (and My little sheep), let such one follow behind Me.

This same shepherd fidelity of the Lord Christ is prefigured for us by the fact that the holy Patriarchs often times were shepherds, as we, in particular, read about Jacob in Gen. 31:40 char he languished in Frost at night and in heat during the day, and no sleep came into his eyes.

To this point, everything has been about the Chief Shepherd. He, in turn, has under-shepherds, which consist of all faithful teachers and preachers. In keeping with Christ’s example, they are to faithfully graze the flock, direct them to the right Door, and guide the little lambs to Christ. Those who do otherwise, says Christ, are thieves and murderers, for they take away Christ’s glory; and they kill the souls of men through false doctrine, just as death devours little lambs in a poisoned pasture.

And since the Pharisees and Sadducees in particular falsified the doctrines, Christ consequently says of them: All who came before Me—that is, who came without Me and My deeds, who had not directed men to Me—were thieves and murderers. Here a shepherd must apply good caution and faithful zeal and not follow them, lest he poison the pasture for the perishing of souls. Instead, he should go to school with the Holy Spirit, the heavenly Doorkeeper, and take his word from the mouth of the Chief Shepherd, Christ. As Sr. Peter says in his first epistle, 4:11—If anyone speaks, that he speak the words of God.

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13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

In the 70s, symphony conductor and composer, Leonard Bernstein wrote a kind of an opera/musical called “Mass” which the story of the celebrant of a Roman Catholic Mass and his faith and loss of it, and restoration, told within the parts of the Christian Liturgy. .  The opening is “Simple Song”. Part of the song’s lyric has stuck with me now for years, “Sing like you like to sing; God loves all simple things. For God is the simplest of all” A simple man is a humble man.  Jesus said, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(St. Matthew 11).  God is the humblest of all, compared to the preening of his creation, man.  Man, wanting to be like God, will only say I am humble to impress someone.  Someone wrote, How odd of God to choose the Jews.  Only odd to man who thinks he’s god. He chose a people needing choosing, despite themselves, Israel.  He chose as His first disciples 3 fishermen. He began the Sermon on the Mount with beatitudes with the first Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  His blessing is simple. For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,     but the haughty he knows from afar. Psalm 138: 8 And before Sermon on the Mount,  the Lord simply called His first disciples.

One day Carl asked Jesus:
 

He called, the fishermen followed but it is in the Lord’s calling they followed, by His Word.   He baptized, we follow, all His Words from love your enemies to seek ye first the kingdom of God, coming to realize only by staying close to Him as He is to us, we are not straying. Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  His last beatitude before today’s Gospel, Blessed are you when you are persecuted.  The message of His forgiveness will not be received well in self-sufficient, self-made, self-invented world that is Olympic in it’s ambitions. 

You are and you are, the salt of the earth, the light of the world. The Lord loves simple things, after all He created them.  We take salt and light for granted yet without salt and light there would be no life on the earth.  The first thing the Lord created was light.  He created salt to sustain life.   Salt and light are so simple.  You are the salt of the earth, the light the word:  these are plain declarative sentences.  They are not imperatives, You must be the salt of the earth, you must be the light of world.  There is nothing to achieve in our Lord’s declarative statements but everything to receive by faith in His call to us all.  It is you He redeemed to be salt and light and they are meant to be in the earth, here and now. It makes not sense to light a candle and put it under a basket!  Maybe we, as a mission, should not be hidden away here in the Piovano room here in the library. 

 Jesus is describing His Church, His own Body.  Salt is bitter and is so different from that which it preserves, seasons and yes, saves.  Light is so different from darkness so that we can see the way and yes, be saved.  The Apostle Paul really only had one mission strategy:  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, so good that He died alone, shamed, bloody and naked on the cross to save us from even our selves.  So good, He rose again from the dead and gives us His Body and blood, taste and see the Lord is good, His mercy endures forever, as the psalmist prayed. The Cross is so different from the tasteless and dark world. If any pastor or minister in his preaching and sermons does not lead always to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he’s not doing his job.  The apostle Paul said we preach Christ and Him crucified, present tense.  Jesus Christ is the present tense Savior for present tense sinners.   His Word pierces the darkness as to who He saves us to be:  the salt of the earth, the light of the world.  Our righteousness is to exceed that of the Pharisees. And, as Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented on this lesson:  “…the disciple had the advantage over the Pharisee in that his doing of the law is in fact perfect. How is such a thing possible? Because between the disciples and the law stands one who has perfectly fulfilled it, one with whom they live in communion. They are faced not with a law which has never yet been fulfilled, but with one whose demands have already been satisfied.” The righteousness it demands is already there, the righteousness of Jesus which submits to the cross because that is what the law demands.  Jesus Christ was born under it that in Him we have the righteousness that comes by faith, exceeding the law.  He deepens our righteousness into our very hearts and will as we will see next week. 

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.” The cross is no talisman. His Cross is not about fitting comfortably into the world but that we be comforted and fit into His hand, forgiven, loved before the foundations of the world. Pastors, congregations, have tried so many ways to make the church tasty to attract new members, or maybe consumers.  A comedian once quipped that when he came back to church, in addition to communion, they now have a salad bar.  Trying to be tasty, we become tasteless.  Our calling is not to use the salt but not to lose the savor of His grace, mercy and peace in our lives.  Our good works in our Monday through Saturday life will point not to our selves but to Him, which we won’t even know we are doing pointing to Him who is our beatitude, our righteousness and peace. His Cross is not fitting comfortably into the world but that we be comforted and fit into His hand, forgiven, loved before the foundations of the world and we will look different than the world, in Him we point to him, who bore the Cross, we preach Christ and Him crucified, a present-tense Savior for present tense sinners, forgiven.  I conclude with a portion of a sermon preached by Pr. Johann Gerhard:

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!

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

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Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You bestowed upon Your servant Nicholas of Myra the perpetual gift of charity. Grant Your Church the grace to deal in generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and distressed and to plead the cause of those who have no helper, especially those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief. We ask this for the sake of Him who gave His life for us, Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About St. Nicholas:  Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. AD 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, though there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of modern Turkey) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of Sinte Klaas (Dutch for “Saint Nicholas,”in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.

(from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

 This reflection on St. Nicholas is by Orthodox priest and professor, Rev. Thomas Hopko from his book, The Winter Pascha (St. Vladmir’s Seminary Press) on “good St. Nicholas”.  I think it is “spot-on”:

We use that term “goodness” so lightly in our time. How easily we say of someone, “He is a good man” or “She is a good woman.” How lightly we say, “They are good people.” A teen-age girl takes an overdose of drugs, and the neighbors tell the reporters, “But she was always such a good girl, and her parents are such nice people!” A young man commits some terrible crime, and the same rhetoric flows: “But he was always such a good boy, and his family is so nice.”‘ A man dies on the golf course after a life distinguished by many years of profit-taking and martini-drinking, and the reaction is the same: “He was a good man, yeah, a real nice guy.” What do “good” and “nice” really mean in such cases? What do they describe? What do they express?

In Saint Luke’s gospel it tells us that one day a “ruler” came up to Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus answered him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone” (Lk18:18; see also Mk10:18). In Saint Matthew’s version it says that Jesus answered the man by saying, “Why do you ask Me about what is good? One there is who is good” (Mt19:17). However we choose to interpret Christ’s words, at least one point is clear. Jesus reacts to the facile, perhaps even sarcastic, use of the term “good” by referring it to its proper source. There is only One who is good, and that is God Himself. If you want to speak of goodness, then you must realize what—and Whom—you are talking about!

 Like God, and like Jesus, Saint Nicholas was genuinely good. Real goodness is possible. For, to quote the Lord again, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt19:26). A human being, even a rich human being who believes in God, can be genuinely good with God’s own goodness. “For truly I say to you,” says the Lord, “if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed … nothing will be impossible to you” (Mt17:20-21).The Messiah has come so that human beings can live lives which are, strictly speaking, humanly impossible. He has come so that people can really be good. One of the greatest and most beloved examples among believers that this is true is the holy bishop of  Myra about whom almost nothing else is known, or needs to be known, except that he was good. For this reason alone he remains, even in his secularized form, the very spirit of Christmas.

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Born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given as a bride in an arranged political marriage, Elizabeth became the wife of Louis of Thuringia in Germany at the age of 14. She had a spirit of Christian generosity and charity, and the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was known for its hospitality and family love. Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy and even gave up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at the age of 20, she made provisions for her children and entered into an austere life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world. (bio and quote below from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  The following quote from Luther.  Two comments:  what Luther writes here, he and his wife Katie lived.  They always had house guests at table:  priests seeking asylum, friends, poor university students and the like.  This was to the point that the budget was stretched.  Also:  in the Rule of St. Benedict, when a monk greeted a stranger at the door, he was to fall prostrate in front of the guest, because a stranger is Christ:  

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” (St. Matthew 25: 35)

Jesus came as a guest to His own house and He was not received, 

O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night? (Jeremiah 14: 8)

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest…abide with us:

This is … an outstanding praise of hospitality, in order that we may be sure that God Himself is in our home, is being fed at our house, is lying down and resting as often as some pious brother in exile because of the Gospel comes to us and is received hospitably by us. This is called brotherly love or Christian charity; it is greater than that general kindness which is extended even to strangers and enemies when they are in need of our aid…. For the accounts of the friendships of the Gentiles, like those of Theseus and Hercules, of Pylades and Orestes, are nothing in comparison with the brotherhood in the church; its bond is an association with God so close that the Son of God says that whatever is done to the least of His is done to Himself. Therefore their hearts go out without hypocrisy to the needs of their neighbor, and nothing is either so costly or so difficult that a Christian does not undertake it for the sake of the brethren, … But if anyone earnestly believed that he is receiving the Lord Himself when he receives a poor brother, there would be no need for such anxious, zealous, and solicitous exhortations to do works of love. Our coffers, storeroom, and compassion would be open at once for the benefit of the brethren. There would be no ill will, and together with godly Abraham we would run to meet the wretched people, invite them into our homes, and seize upon this honor and distinction ahead of others and say: “O Lord Jesus, come to me; enjoy my bread, wine, silver, and gold. How well it has been invested by me when I invest it in You!” (Luther)

Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary.  She scorned her bejeweled crown with thoughts of the horned one her savior donned for her said and ours, that we too, might live a live of sacrifice, pleasing in Your sight and worthy of the Name of Your Son, Christ Jesus, who with the Holy Spirit reigns with You forever in the everlasting kingdom. Amen.

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And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.  Luke 21: 38

“Note: Many a Christian of our days might learn a lesson from these people that got up unusually early and thronged to the Temple to hear the Lord, whereas many in our days act as though they were conferring a favor upon the Lord by appearing at His house some half hour after service has begun.”  (The Popular Commentary (1921), by Rev. Prof. Paul E. Kretzmann)

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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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Lessons:

The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine 7: 2—17   Psalm 149 1 John 3: 1—3 St.Matthew 5: 1—12

Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About All Saints’ Day: This feast is the most comprehensive of the days of commemoration, encompassing the entire scope of that great cloud of witnesses with which we are surrounded (Hebrews 12:1). It holds before the eyes of faith that great multitude which no man can number: all the saints of God in Christ—from every nation, race, culture, and language—who have come “out of the great tribulation … who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 14). As such, it sets before us the full height and depth and breadth and length of our dear Lord’s gracious salvation (Ephesians 3:17-19). It shares with Easter a celebration of the resurrection, since all those who have died with Christ Jesus have also been raised with Him (Romans 6:3-8). It shares with Pentecost a celebration of the ingathering of the entire Church catholic—in heaven and on earth, in all times and places—in the one Body of Christ, in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Just as we have all been called to the one hope that belongs to our call, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). And the Feast of All Saints shares with the final Sundays of the Church Year an eschatological focus on the life everlasting and a confession that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). In all of these emphases, the purpose of this feast is to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, that we might not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Reflection:

“Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door, and see all the people”

Some of you may remember the child’s rhyme about the Church above.  In The Large Catechism, Dr. Luther explains that when we think of “church”, we usually think of the church building, as “we are going to church”, but he points out that the only reason a sanctuary is called a “church”.  “But the house should not be called a church except for the single reason that the group of people assembles here.”  The people who assemble are the Church, the communion or the community, “the holy Christian Church” (Third Article of the Apostles Creed).  

The rhyme above could be redone:  “Here’s God’s House, here’s the steeple, open the door and see all God’s people.”  We have spent a lot of time of fussing over the church building, instead of concentrating on building up God’s people, His Church.  This is done by preaching, teaching, praying and administering Christ’s Word and Sacraments. As the Apostle Peter wrote:  “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2: 4-5). 

Further, this building up of Christ’s holy people, His baptized saints, is not according to our building specs, plans and blueprints. We are being built, passive tense. In my cynical moments, I have redone the rhyme above, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and where’s all the people?”.  And sadly stats and surveys have been documenting the downward spiral of church attendance.  Well-meaning Christians cry out: “We’ve got to do something!”   Then come the ways to save the church.  We seen what happens when men and women build the church according to their best laid plans of mice and men: see the Mormons, see the feminist church, e.g. as “womanchurch”.  Those are the more obvious examples of not building according to God’s Word. Over the years, I have seen “models of ministry” paraded before pastors’ groups, and new programs like mega-church.  Remember harvest gold refrigerators, kulats, dickies, and the like?  We most likely want to forget them all! As I do all those programs that steered us away from God’s Word.

 Fads don’t build up His Church, only the labor of love of God’s Word in His saints by faith through His grace alone in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton wrote that the Church is the democracy of the dead, those saints before us have a vote.  This is what All Saints is also about.  When we gather for Holy Communion, the pastor will pray, “…with angels and archangels, AND ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN…”, even with 2 or 3 gathered together, there are countless more!  The saints before us were built only by one way:  the Word of Law and Grace.  We are called to keep the faith with the dead, who live in Christ waiting together the day of the general resurrection.  

Yet, the saints labor and the saints who have died, “…from their labors rest” but who Thee by faith before the world, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blest, Alleluia!”(#677, For All the Saints, Lutheran Service Book). I think we are entering ever darkening days, in which the little flock will be persecuted…but that’s how it’s been in times past.  As in hymn lyrice, the saints confessed Jesus Christ.  This is our calling from the Lord to His Church this day and every day, for every day in Christ is All Saints Day.  I close with this quote from Pr. Bonhoeffer’s sermon from 1933 in Berlin after the Germans under the Nazis voted in “the whore of Babylon” the “German Church” totally compatible with National Socialism, that  is the Nazi ideology.  

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.

And the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. Death, the greatest heir of everything that has existence, here meets its end. Close by the precipice of the valley of death, the church is founded, the church which confesses Christ as its life. The church possesses eternal life just where death seeks to take hold of it; and death seeks to take hold of it precisely because it possesses life. The Confessing Church is the eternal church because Christ protects it. Its eternity is not visible in this world. It is unhindered by the world. The waves pass right over it and sometimes it seems to be completely covered and lost. But the victory is its because Christ its Lord is by its side and he has overcome the world of death. Do not ask whether you can see the victory; believe in the victory and it is yours.

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

 Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine,
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

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Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553), a painter at the time of the Reformation and a friend of the Luthers’, illustrated this distinction of law and promise.

Introduction:  After the Lutheran (evangelical) Reformers presented their Confession in 1530 to the Emperor in Augsburg (from then the document has been known as The Augsburg Confession, first book in The Book of Concord), the Papal theologians responded with The Confutation.  Philip Melanchthon was charged with a rendering a response to it:  The Apology (defense) of the Augsburg Confession, which became the second book in The Book of Concord.  In the longest article (IV)  of the Apology, “Justification”, we confess this treasure of the Reformation which the Reformers simply found again, as a pearl of great price: 

All Scripture ought to be divided into these two principal topics, the Law and the promises. For in some places it presents the Law, and in others the promise concerning Christ, namely, either when [in the Old Testament] it promises that Christ will come, and offers, for His sake, the remission of sins justification, and life eternal, or when, in the Gospel [in the New Testament], Christ Himself, since He has appeared, promises the remission of sins, justification, and life eternal.

So much has been rightly preached and taught on the distinction between Law and Promise, but simply put:  The Law kills the sinner (see the rich young man narrative in St. Mark 10: 17-22) and the Gospel makes alive (See St. Mark 10: 26-27).  By  His Law, we are found out(see Genesis 3:  9-10) and by the Gospel, Jesus Christ, the Lord finds us  to restore His lost sheep,  coin…son (see St. Luke 15).  

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553), a painter at the time of the Reformation and a friend of the Luthers, illustrated this distinction of law and promise. In terms of the arts, it is music that is most closely associated with the Reformation, but there was an outpouring of the visual arts as well.  

The idea behind this posting is from the blog, The World Wide Wolfmueller, blogger Pr. Wolfmueller, LCMS.  I asked him to use this and he gladly said yes.

Below is a black and white woodcut of Cranach the Elder entitled “Law and Grace”, full color above.    It’s a great lesson with children and adults to find  each of  numbered images.   There is  a profound difference and Christ Jesus alone by faith alone through grace alone puts us into the picture by His grace to all through faith.  

 Pr. Wolfmueller put numbers on the wood cut so we can identify each part of Cranach’s woodcut as  illustration of law and promise.  Use his woodcut for a class or for your family’s instruction to identify the various parts which are from the Bible.

We read left to right, likewise, it is always Law then Promise, so that the sinner may daily take hold of Jesus Christ Who has taken hold of us all.  

1. Adam and Eve, eating the forbidden fruit. Notice the snake wrapped around the tree.
2. Death and the devil, driving men to hell with the fear of death and the condemnation of the law.
3. That guy is you, goosed into hell because of your sin.
4. Here is Christ coming in judgment. Notice the flower (the Gospel) coming out of His mouth for those on His right, while the sword (the law) coming from His mouth for those on His left.
5. Moses, the lawgiver, holding the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are the verdict of our guilt and condemnation.
6. Hell, the desperate destruction of those who die apart from the blood of Jesus.
7. That’s you again, looking much happier on the Gospel side of the woodcut.
8. John the Baptist is preaching to you, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29), and point to Jesus, dying on the cross for you.
9. Here’s a picture of Moses again, this time with the tabernacle. There’s a cross out front with the bronze serpent out front to which the people look and are saved (see John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:7-9). I think there is manna scattered on the ground.
10. Here’s the angel preaching to the shepherds and announcing the birth of our Lord Jesus.
11. Baby Jesus, descending from heaven to the womb of Mary. Jesus is bringing His cross with Him!
12. Mary, blessed by the Lord, pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
13. Jesus on the cross, satisfying the wrath of God for all sinners. The Lamb in front indicates that this is a sacrifice, in fact, the atoning sacrifice. The Lord’s cloth is being blowing by the wind, indicating that the Holy Spirit brings the preaching of Christ to us.
14. Jesus, risen from the dead, preaching peace to you, and stomping death and the devil under His feet (Hebrews 2:14; Psalm 110:1, etc.)
15. The spear with which the devil was driving us to hell has been stripped away, and used against them.
16. The Holy Spirit brings the atoning blood of Jesus to you, in the preaching of the Gospel, in Baptism and in the Lord’s Supper. Here, in the Gospel, we have life and salvation.

How wonderful that we are those covered by the blood of Jesus, friends of God, and by the death of Jesus destined for the blessedness of the resurrection. (Pr. Wolfmueller)

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“Glorious is God with His saints and angels: Oh, come let us worship Him.”

Almighty God, we praise Your Name for Ignatius of Antioch, pastor and martyr.  He offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts so that he might present to You the pure bread of sacrifice.  Accept the willing tribute of all that we are and all that we have, and give us a portion in the pure and unspotted offering of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Ignatius: He was the bishop of Antioch in Syria at the beginning of the second century A.D. and an early Christian martyr. Near the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan (98–117), Ignatius was arrested, taken in chains to Rome, and eventually thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. On the way to Rome, he wrote letters to the Christians at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, and also to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. In the letters, which are beautifully pastoral in tone, Ignatius warned against certain heresies (false teachings). He also repeatedly stressed the full humanity and deity of Christ, the reality of Christ’s bodily presence in the Lord’s Supper, the supreme authority of the bishop, and the unity of the Church found in her bishops. Ignatius was the first to use the word catholic to describe the universality of the Church. His Christ-centeredness, his courage in the face of martyrdom, and his zeal for the truth over against false doctrine are a lasting legacy to the Church.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

 The Apostle Paul was probably martyred between A.D. 64-67.  Ignatius became the 2nd Bishop of Antioch in A.D. 69.   Antioch was the city from which Paul and Barnabas began their great missionary journey as recorded in Acts 13-14.  Ignatius is a direct link to the apostles and the apostolic doctrine.  (information from The Apostolic Fathers, edited by Jack Sparks)

Reflection:

One of first great crises of the earlier Church was when the last of the 12 Apostles died.  Who could ever replace them?  Already the Lord provided the answer: bishops.   When I hear the word “bishop”, visions of churchly finery come to mind:  croziers, mitres, elaborate vestments and the like.  Not in the 1st  century nor for next 2-3 centuries!  Bishop is the word used  to translate  the New Testament Greek:  episcopos which means “overseer”, one who provides oversight to the doctrine and faith of the congregation.  An “episcopos” preached and administered the Sacraments which means a bishop is  a pastor.  He presided at the Table of the Lord.   

In the Roman Empire, there were many gods and goddesses and their temples and shrines were massive and impressive and they held elaborate and overwhelming services in them.  A Christian episcopos presided over a simple meal of  bread and wine, announcing this is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  He preached the Word of Law and Gospel to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.  Nothing outwardly impressive, yet by such the Lord spread His Word as He had promised He would “to the ends of the earth”.   The Word of Jesus Christ was so spread against overwhelming odds without gimmicks, strategies, mission models, massive denomination budgets, etc.  (insight courtesy of Rev. Prof. Hermann Sasse)

For Ignatius the central  aspect of the Church was unity with the bishop, the pastor in the preaching and teaching of the Scripture and administration of the Sacraments, according to the Apostolic Doctrine set forth in the Holy Scriptures.:

“…it is fitting for you t run your race together with the bishop’s purpose–as you do.  For your presbytery–worthy of fame, worthy of God–is attuned to the bishop  like strings to a lyre.  Therefore by your unity and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung.”

The episcopos was to give oversight but not to overlook false doctrine.  Case in point:   Ignatius warns the Church in Smyrna about  the docetists. ‘Docetist’  means ‘appearance’ and they said that Jesus only appeared to be a man but was only God  and so they changed the clear meaning of Scripture and they denied the Body and the Blood.   And so Ignatius warns the Smyrnaens about them and their teaching on Holy Communion:

“They abstain from Eucharist and prayer because they do not acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, which the Father raised by his goodness. Those who deny God’s gift are dying in their squabbles; it would be better for them to love so that they may rise. It is fitting to keep away from such men and not to speak about them either privately or publicly, but to pay attention to the prophets and especially to the Gospel, in which the passion has been explained to us and the resurrection has been accomplished. Flee from divisions as the beginning of evils.”

What is the Biblical and evangelical understanding of the Lord’s Supper in relation to our lives and souls in His Church?

“Be eager, therefore, to use one Eucharist–for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup for union with the blood (cf. 1 Cor. 10: 16), one sanctuary, as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and the deacons my fellow slaves–so that whatever you, you do in relation to God (cf. 1 Cor. 10: 31;  Col. 3: 17)

Some have written that Christian doctrine evolved from the original sayings of Jesus  into the Christianity we have today. But given the chronological proximity of Ignatius to the Apostolic era, this can not be so and especially when we read his letters.  In them,  it is clear he and the earlier Church were continuing the apostolic doctrine as taught verbatim by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and were already combating heretics and their heresies.

Furthermore, the docetists believed Jesus was purely “spiritual” and He could not give us His Body and Blood.  Using an oft-used phrase in our day, they were not religious but ‘spiritual’ Sound familiar? Maybe Ignatius was too negative?  Maybe he should have ‘dialogued’ with them and formed a Bishop’s Study Task Force of Ecumenical Dialogue with Docetism?  Of course not.  Ignatius did a pastor’s work.   The heretics are actually the ones who want Christian doctrine to ‘evolve’, actually devolve into something totally different and more to their liking and their flesh and so it is no longer saving doctrine.   This is the devil’s work.   The only conversation is to warn and  the call to repentance and the true Faith clinging to Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father in His Church. As Ignatius wrote to the  Magnesians:

As, then, the Lord did nothing apart from the Father [cf. John 5:19; 8:28], either by himself or through the apostles, since he was united with him [cf. John 10:30; 17:11,21,22], so you must do nothing apart from the bishop and the presbyters. Do not try to make anything appear praiseworthy by yourselves, but let there be in common one prayer, one petition, one mind, one hope in love, in blameless joy—which is Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is better [cf. John 10:16; Eph. 4:3-6]. 2. All of you must run together as to one temple of God, as to one sanctuary, to one Jesus Christ, who proceeded from the one Father and is with the one and departed to the one [cf. John 8:42;14:12,28; 16:10,17].

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The appointed New Testament reading for today (10/14/13)  in the Daily Lectionary is  St. Matthew 12: 38-50.  This Lord’s comparison between Himself and Jonah is found here:  Matthew 12:38-40. Based upon these verses, and other verses. these are some of the similarities and differences between Jonah and Jesus for your edification and encouragement:

  • Both were sent to preach repentance (Jonah 3: 1;  St. Matthew 4: 17).
  • Both preached the Word to the Gentiles (John 4: 1-45).
  • Both spent three days and three nights in the belly of a beast.
  • Both Jonah and Jesus are “signs” to their generations and ours as well.

I think here is where the similarities end, as Jesus said,  “…behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (St. Matthew 12: 41)

  • Jonah fled from his calling to preach repentance.   Jesus did not but He  purposely sought to preach repentance (Matthew 4:17),  and He sent the Apostles to do the same (St. Luke 24: 47)
  • Jonah fled from the Presence of the LORD, Jesus always sought the Presence of His Father (Matthew 14:23;   Matthew 26:36Luke 2:49).
  • Jonah was embittered at God’s grace for the Ninevites that they repented and the Lord saved them (Jonah 4:2);  Jesus rejoices always over the repentance of one sinner (Luke 15).
  • Jonah lived in the belly of the great fish for 3 days and 3 night, Jesus did not so live (Luke 9:22).
  • Jonah was thrown into the deeps of the sea to save the sailors on that ship (Jonah 1);  Jesus was thrown into the depths by us all  thereby  forgiving us all and so saving all those who by faith believe on His Name (John 1:12-14) . 

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