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Posts Tagged ‘Johann Gerhard’

 

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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On Good Shepherd Sunday, I ask one of the philosophical questions of the ages that have stumped many:  Do sheep have free will?  We usually understand “free” as in “free will” meaning free to do anything one wants.  Then yes, sheep seem to have free will:  on their own, they will do whatever they want and so they easily get lost, upset, terrified, wanting luscious green grass until overgrazing and the like kills them, prone to the thief and the robber. Yes, sheep, if not guided, led, called, cared for, do whatever they want and that means injury and death.  That definition of “free will”, doing whatever one wants, does not seem so free, does it?  There seems to be a willful stubbornness on the sheep’s part to do it my way and that is not free, but bondage, bondage of the will.  Do sheep have free will?  Answer:  No.  The sheep will go off on their own.  We all like sheep have gone astray, everyone to his own way, the inspired prophet Isaiah preached centuries before Christ. They knew sheep. Do we?    Yet, the will, the heart can be set free in the sight and care of the shepherd, trusting in Him alone:  to feed, to give drink, to be cared for, to be protected from enemies, from wolves to the weather. 

 Augustine: What is the voice of the shepherd? “And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name throughout all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 47) There is the voice of the shepherd. Recognize it and follow if you are a sheep.

 There is only way to enter the sheepfold, that is the Church:  going through the Good Shepherd.  He invites, guides and lets us in, night after night, day after day.  Sheepfolds were low stonewall enclosures which did not have wooden gates, they would probably rot too quickly exposed to the elements, but the shepherd himself was the gate, the door, as you can see an illustration of the same in the bulletin (see above). The shepherd night after night, laid his body on the line for his charge.  He would not flee the sheep when they were attacked.  A shepherd’s voice would reassure them in the storm raging in the night.  The Good Shepherd does not flee the sheep, nor fleece them, like the hawkers of false doctrines who smile pretty and talk about your best life now, that is your own life, not the Lord’s indestructible life He gives freely to His sheep. Jesus promises the abundant life, His life, His flesh and His blood, not our flesh getting everything I ever wanted. The Good Shepherd’s hand is imprinted with the mark of the nails.  This shepherd laid down His life for the sheep, for you. King David was first a shepherd as a lad. I do not think even King David would not have laid down his life by being crucified for his bleating, needy sheep.  The Good Shepherd has.  Like a sheep on a shepherd’s shoulder, you do not have to lug your sins around or pretend they do not exist or minimize their infection.  They are on the Good shepherd’s shoulders as He was nailed to the Cross. Jesus is quite clear, He is not any shepherd.  He and His Father are one, one God. He alone has carried the full brunt of the just Law of God and it’s punishment for our sake.

Jesus is saying this is what His Church is like:  a sheepfold.  Not grand and glorious is it?  People may think the magnificent church buildings of  Europe  and our nation are great to sight see, but will complain about the people who actual worship there are not a sight to see, “a bunch of hypocrites”.  Yes, that’s right, sinners, sheep. Kind of like a cop at a crime, nothing much to see here, move on…but don’t move on, taste and see the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever..   Isaiah and Jesus knew a lot about sheep, do we?  Sheep today think they smell pretty good, look good and think, yeah, I’m pretty good with this or that peccadillo to fix up. As Jesus said, there are wolves in sheeps clothing…but I think sheep in 3 piece business suits.   The Lord does not only forgives and bore our sins, but forgives sinners.  I like the icon on the front cover of the bulletin (see header above). He has bourne you into His sheepfold, the sin of the world is the weight of one man, Adam, a sinner

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.

 The first Christians on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit gathered them together, baptized into Christ Jesus, the Lord  showed them where to feed and be fed:  they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  Anything else is junk food, a cheat.  Luke tells us they  were joyful. Today is called both Good Shepherd and Jubilate Sunday, Jubilate as in jubilation, joy, the joy of being found, as they had been found out by Lord in His Law, He found them by dying and rising for them and us.  Jubilation and Good Shepherd do go together as when Jesus concludes the parable of the lost sheep, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Mothers and fathers give oversight to their children but they can not over look them and their actions.  The price of parenting is eternal vigilance.  Getting children from point A to  point B day after day safely, with much prayer so they won’t be lost is so akin to shepherding.  Keeping them away from the enemy, Satan, who has done quite a number on a culture astray.  Sheep going astray is not some prosaic, pastoral scene, sheep going astray means only thing:  death.  Parents bringing children to the Lord’s House, His sheepfold, not keeping them away from Jesus, their Good Shepherd, as parents were likewise brought to the Lord.  In my cynical moments, it seems that these days it is not 1 sheep who is lost, but 99, yet I do not know the ways the Lord is working, and He is working still.  With the Good Shepherd we need to rejoice in Him over one sinner who repents. There are parents in households and parents in the Church, pastors.

 …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. (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

 When I was pastor in Union City, NJ (second exit outside the Lincoln Tunnel), a congregation of Guatemalan Pentecostalists worshiped in the church’s basement.  The parsonage was next door, nevertheless, through thick masonry walls (ca.’30s), we could hear them singing but especially the preacher in our kitchen.  I became friends with Victor from his congregation.  One day I showed him the Sanctuary.  Victor asked, “Where’s the microphone?  The PA system?”  “We don’t have one.”  He was in incredulous.  We don’t have to yell at the flock,  except when there is danger. The voice of the Shepherd is peace for it is the Word of our forgiveness and peace. 

 My sheep here My voice He says, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give them eternal Life. Just as Christ  teachings are a complete rule of faith, so also is His life a clear, complete mirror for every good work. Learn from Me, He says in Matt, 11-29, as if to say: You have enough to learn about My love, about My patience, My humility, meekness, friendliness to do you for the rest of your lives. As a result, you will well forget about the commandments of men with which you serve God fruitlessly and in vain, Matt. 15:9. 0 God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, highly praised in all eternity: Give us all such an obedient, willing heart for following the voice of Christ in doctrine and life. (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

 The Good Shepherd has the wounds of the Cross and His sheep have wounds, but He has branded His sheep with His Cross, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road-St. Matthew 21: 7-8

 The other time of the Church year the Palm Sunday Gospel of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is read is the 1st Sunday in Advent.  Advent and Lent, beside rhyming, have this in common both are about the Incarnation, the , Word becoming flesh. The Lord shed the clothes of His equality with God, the form of God and took on human form, born of the Virgin Mary.  Advent points us to  the Word became flesh, the Son of Mary, wearing the mantle of mortality.  Now in Lent and Holy Week, as the weight of His flesh sat  upon that donkey, riding triumphantly to the defeat of sin and death, mankind’s sin and death, by bearing sin and death for us all.  The donkey bore Him who bore the sin of the world and the crowds laid their cloaks on the road. No donkey, no man can carry the sin of the world, except the Lamb of God, true man and true God, 100%, 100%.

Natalie and I both noticed that the Palm Sunday hymns all mention children and she asked where are children mentioned in the narrative of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem?  We heard it in the Matthew 21.  The children in the temple, right after the triumphal entry,  were crying out in the Temple, the Temple, the Lord’s House, Hosanna to the Son of David!  The chief priests and scribes were indignant that the children were singing to Jesus.  Earlier Jesus was indignant that the disciples were preventing the children from coming to Him.  He said, for to such belongs the Kingdom of heaven.  It is said, Christmas is for kids…so is Holy Week. All who receive His kingdom, His reign as a child, trusting our heavenly Father who sent His only begotten Son.

I think it is reasonable to suggest Mary and Joseph told Jesus the reason they fled to Egypt, because King Herod killed all the male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem.  The only begotten Son who said that if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Jesus to sin it would be better it if a millstone were put on his neck and he be thrown into the sea. We must remember that as we look at abortion, sexual and physical abuse of children, children left on their own with parents in the home.   Only in Matthew’s Gospel is it recorded Jesus’ prayer to the Father:

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

The wise and the learned, the scribes, elders, rulers don’t get it.  Grace is His gift and then to trust in true faith the One who entered Jerusalem to save us all.  The children made sweet hosannas sing.  If you don’t get grace you do not get grace, though His grace is abundant through the Gospel.  The children get it, as do all who know they can not save themselves.  The prayer just cited is part of our Lord’s invitation, come to Me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  The children, along with the lame and the blind Jesus healed in Temple get it.  They were coming to Him just as He approached, the crowds laid down their cloaks, their spotted, soiled, sweat stained and sun-burned cloaks, even beautiful coats,  at His feet.  This laying down of the cloaks can mean to us the following:

First, laying down the cloak of deceit and sin,

“…we similarly are to deny ourselves, to denounce our fame, throw away our glory, remove from ourselves praise of self-righteousness. We are to give all glory to Christ alone. We are to acknowledge that only this King is able to do the highest good. His name alone is worthy of all glory (Psa. 115:1). That’s how the blessed elect in heaven toss their crowns before the throne of Christ and say: O Lord, not us, rather You alone are worthy to receive praise and glory and might (Rev. 4:11).” (Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard)

 Secondly,  the laying down of the garment of sin reminds us that in Holy Baptism we are clothed in Christ, as it is written in Galatians 3: 27, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  Christ Jesus is the Church’s “Sunday best”.  He is your Sunday best.

It is written in Jude 23:

“In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people,devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

The Lord’s Sunday Best, His mercy, is for your neighbor as well.

 Thirdly,  The cloaks of sin can be laid down, when we see in mirror of God’s Law, the 10 commandments how filthy they become.  We lay that down in Confession and contrition.  He alone absolves, makes clean, as we prayed Psalm 51 some 40 days ago, this still is part of the Church’s prayer every day:

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Baptized into His Name, the Name above all names,  washed us in His forgiveness or absolution. When we are tempted, we call upon the Name of the Lord. When we fall, we call upon the Name of the Lord.

Fourthly, The laying down of our cloaks reminds us of death, physical death, and the hope of the resurrection unto eternal life with Jesus.  Our souls will not go on naked in eternity but in Christ, who rose bodily from the dead we to shall so rise.  As it is written:

 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5: 4-5

 Finally, this is the same Lord who chides us all about worrying about what we are to wear, And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (St. Matthew 6)

Fair is the sunshine,
Fair is the moonlight,
Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels in the sky.

 Jesus’ light would not shine this week. The One who was transfigured before Peter, James and John would be disfigured, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold beyond all recognition and human semblance.  Stricken, smitten and afflicted by God, a  Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53) would Himself willingly cast aside the beauty of His cloth, seamless and whole and die naked on the cross. The crowds and the children sang Hosanna, literally, Lord help, Lord save. The children knew only Jesus could so ride by Himself into Jerusalem.

 It’s as if the apostle wants to say: There are many of those who preach themselves, who present dreams and ordinances of men, who direct everything to the end of themselves being held in high esteem. But that should not be. Christ alone must be set upon the colt. He alone with His Spirit and Word should rule in the hearts of mankind. His glory alone should be sought and proclaimed…(Pastor Gerhard)

 The Lord Jesus entered into the world in His first coming, His Nativity,  so He could enter into Jerusalem and so He will come again a third time in the Resurrection on the last day.  Thy Kingdom come is for that Day and for this hour now. He entered into Jerusalem so He enters His Church daily, and has made our bodies His temple receiving the fruits of His Cross, the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord came down from heaven and died on the cross and has entered my heart. Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.

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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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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, Your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise You for the gifts of grace imparted to Your servant Johann, and we pray that by his teaching we maybe led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

About Johann Gerhard:  Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) and the most influential of the seventeenth-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (twenty-three large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the superintendent of Heldburg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

You, most faithful God, perform the duties of a faithful and skillful doctor in healing the mortal wounds of my soul. You heal them by the wounds of Your Son. there is danger that the healed wounds will be reopened, but Your Spriit prevents this with grace like a poultice…After receiving the forgiveness of sins, so many people return to their former way of living.  By repeating their sins, they offend God all the more grievously…

The same can happen to me if You do not keep me on the good path through Your powerful grace and the effective working of Your Holy Spirit.  The same evil spirit that captured them attacks me. The same world that seduced them entices me. The same flesh that secured them lures me. Only Your grace protects me against these attacks and with with the power necessary for victory.  Your  strength supplies the power I  need in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). You my  spirit the strength to restrain the passion of the flesh. Whatever is good in me comes from You, the font of all good things, because in me, by nature, there is nothing but sin. I have to acknowledge that all the good works I do—which are nevertheless impure because of the corruption and imperfection of my flesh—are gifts of Your grace. I will give You thanks forever because of Your immeasurable gift to me. Amen.—Johann Gerhard  (Selected from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy, translated by Pr. Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

Reflection:  Pr. Gerhard is one of my favorite theologians because he prayed with the Church, he preached and taught the Scriptures with the Church and desired to give praise to God alone through His mercies in Jesus Christ for him and us all.

His sermons are wellsprings of Scripture.  As one pastor in an introduction to a volume of Gerhard’s sermons wrote:  “He saw the New Testament through Old Testament eyes.”   He lived and breathed the Scriptures as they are the very words of the Holy Spirit writ into His creation for our redemption in Jesus Christ.

I could quote for a long time his sermons.  Here is one citation.  It is from the end of his sermon on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and it is , to say the least, timely:

For just as fire is an effective, active thing and always climbs upward, so also will the fire of love and devotion be effective and active in us, lifting up our hearts towards God. Just as these disciples, when they felt the power of Christ’s Word in the heart, prayerfully reached out and begged Him (since it was evening) to remain with them and come in with them, so also when the fire of the divine Word has properly warmed our hearts and ignited the fire of love in us, we too will beg Christ with sincere, believing prayer that He would remain with us. We will say with Jeremiah, ch.14:8—O Lord, You are the Comfort of Israel and its Helper in need. Why do you portray Yourself as if You were guest in the land and a stranger who abides inside only for the night ? We are in need of the same kind of petition and invitation. For it is applicable: 

1) To the “evening of tribulation,” [for] as all kind of dark, threatening clouds of misfortune break forth here, hardly any star shines any more [and] everything is full of tragedy and misery. 

2) To the “evening of doctrine.” The divine doctrines are darkened through various errors; Christ, the Son of Righteousness, is almost totally covered over by the thick clouds of false doctrine. 

3) To the “evening of the world.” The world has come to its “evening” and to a dead decline. Thus we do well to petition: O abide with us, Lord Jesus Christ, since it now is evening. But especially when the evening of life comes into play, when things decline into our life’s end and departure, we want to reach for Christ with sincere prayer, asking that He would abide with us, and ignite in us, amidst the darkness of death, the light of comfort and life. In keeping with His precious promises, He wants graciously to fulfill this in us, as we cling simply to Him. This is the kind of heart He wants to give us by His grace. Amen.

 

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Matthew 26:47

Why all the swords and staves? Weren’t (the disciples and Jesus] a poor, unarmed band? But (these precautions) were brought about by Judas’ evil conscience, which feared where there was nothing to be feared. So it still is with the enemies of the Church; even though they have in hand swords and staves, i.e., external power, yet their heart is never still (at peace) and is constantly filled with fear, for they carry their accuser in their hearts. This is also shown by the fact that they carry out their undertaking, not in the clear light of day, but rather in the darkness of night: Whoever does evil, such a one hates the Light, John 3. Their hearts were darkened and widely separated from the true light of divine knowledge. Therefore, they also love the outward darkness, which they use to their advantage.

Finally, we see from Judas and his gang that the enemies of the Church employ hypocritical deception. Judas kisses Christ, and yet leads with him swords and staves. Thus it still happens. The enemies of the Church exude honey-sweet words from embittered hearts, Psa. 55: Their mouth is smoother than butter, andyet they have war on their mind. Their words are more soothing than olive oil and yet are naked swords. This they learn from their father, the Devil, who, while seeking to destroy mankind, nevertheless deceives by means of a loving, outward appearance…

Psalm 37 states: If he falls, he will not be thrown away, for the Lord supports him with His hand. Just as a mother, when she sees that her dear child is about to fall, spreads out her hands so that it does not come to harm, so also does the Lord when His dear children—the true Christians—somehow stumble into sin. He supports (upholds) them so that they do not suddenly sink into hell. Instead, He sets them straight once again, and speaks in a friendly manner to the heart. God grant this to us also through Christ. Amen.

O  Lord Jesus Christ, You who willingly gave Yourself up into the hands of Your enemies in order to atone for my disobedience, help, so that I give myself to You with my whole heart to live, suffer, and die according to Your will. Amen.

From An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Pr. and Prof. Johann Gerhard

 

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, Your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise You for the gifts of grace imparted to Your servant Johann, and we pray that by his teaching we maybe led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

About Johann Gerhard:  Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) and the most influential of the seventeenth-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (twenty-three large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the superintendent of Heldburg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

You, most faithful God, perform the duties of a faithful and skillful doctor in healing the mortal wounds of my soul. You heal them by the wounds of Your Son. there is danger that the healed wounds will be reopened, but Your Spriit prevents this with grace like a poultice…After receiving the forgiveness of sins, so many people return to their former way of living.  By repeating their sins, they offend God all the more grievously…

The same can happen to me if You do not keep me on the good path through Your powerful grace and the effective working of Your Holy Spirit.  The same evil spirit that captured them attacks me. The same world that seduced them entices me. The same flesh that secured them lures me. Only Your grace protects me against these attacks and with with the power necessary for victory.  Your  strength supplies the power I  need in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). You my  spirit the strength to restrain the passion of the flesh. Whatever is good in me comes from You, the font of all good things, because in me, by nature, there is nothing but sin. I have to acknowledge that all the good works I do—which are nevertheless impure because of the corruption and imperfection of my flesh—are gifts of Your grace. I will give You thanks forever because of Your immeasurable gift to me. Amen.—Johann Gerhard  (Selected from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy, translated by Pr. Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

Reflection:  Pr. Gerhard is one of my favorite theologians because he prayed with the Church, he preached and taught the Scriptures with the Church and desired to give praise to God alone through His mercies in Jesus Christ for him and us all.

His sermons are wellsprings of Scripture.  As one pastor in an introduction to a volume of Gerhard’s sermons wrote:  “He saw the New Testament through Old Testament eyes.”   He lived and breathed the Scriptures as they are the very words of the Holy Spirit writ into His creation for our redemption in Jesus Christ.

I could quote for a long time his sermons.  Here is one citation.  It is from the end of his sermon on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and it is , to say the least, timely:

For just as fire is an effective, active thing and always climbs upward, so also will the fire of love and devotion be effective and active in us, lifting up our hearts towards God. Just as these disciples, when they felt the power of Christ’s Word in the heart, prayerfully reached out and begged Him (since it was evening) to remain with them and come in with them, so also when the fire of the divine Word has properly warmed our hearts and ignited the fire of love in us, we too will beg Christ with sincere, believing prayer that He would remain with us. We will say with Jeremiah, ch.14:8—O Lord, You are the Comfort of Israel and its Helper in need. Why do you portray Yourself as if You were guest in the land and a stranger who abides inside only for the night ? We are in need of the same kind of petition and invitation. For it is applicable: 1) To the “evening of tribulation,” [for] as all kind of dark, threatening clouds of misfortune break forth here, hardly any star shines any more [and] everything is full of tragedy and misery. 2) To the “evening of doctrine.” The divine doctrines are darkened through various errors; Christ, the Son of Righteousness, is almost totally covered over by the thick clouds of false doctrine. 3) To the “evening of the world.” The world has come to its “evening” and to a dead decline. Thus we do well to petition: O abide with us, Lord Jesus Christ, since it now is evening. But especially when the evening of life comes into play, when things decline into our life’s end and departure, we want to reach for Christ with sincere prayer, asking that He would abide with us, and ignite in us, amidst the darkness of death, the light of comfort and life. In keeping with His precious promises, He wants graciously to fulfill this in us, as we cling simply to Him. This is the kind of heart He wants to give us by His grace. Amen.

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