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From St. Luke 24:  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.[1]

What we can do about His mercy toward His enemies, the powerless, that is, all of us (each by name) is as the angels said:  Remember what He told you.  What a joyous response:  You remembered!  What a sad response:  I forgot.

You tell a friend about your mother that she is sick.  Please pray for her, you ask your friend.   A week your friend asks you, How’s your Mom?  In your heart, you rejoice because your friend remembered.  You know your friend prayed for your Mom.  You doubly rejoice.  “Thanks for remembering”.  “And (the women) remembered (Christ’s) words.” 

Every Word, Christ spoke and taught, is as alive as He is.  We are not told what joy was the women’s.  They returned from the tomb with no idle tale, but the joy of proclamation:  Christ is risen!  Remembering is thanksgiving.  Jesus came through just as He said He would.  Jesus seeks to bring to Himself us all, as a shepherd seeks his lost sheep, as woman finding her lost coin, as a Father seeking and finding his lost son in the far country.  He went as far and as deep as hell, as He descended even into hell,

“(Hell) took a body and met God face to face.  It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen and fell upon the unseen.  O Death, where is thy sting?  O Hell, where is thy victory?”[2]

Our lives in Christ are one of remembrance of Christ.  The devil’s strategy is for us to forget.  We are baptized to remember His Word as it points out where we have gone astray and ever points us to the living Way Who is Christ, the crucified and risen Lord. 

Remembering is learning.  Tests in school, and trials in life, are to see if we do remember.  Tests and trials also are for us to remember our lessons and our Lord.  The purpose of school is not for us to feel good about the subject matter, but to learn it.  Jesus risen was taught by the angels and the women.  When we forget, we die.  Remember what He told you.  We must learn.  We are learning in Christ to love as He first loved us.  He had said three times, the Son of Man MUST suffer, be killed and rise again.  The women remembered because the angels reminded them, as do angels in our lives. A divine MUST all the way around is His death and resurrection and so acquiring and learning by faith His resurrected life for us and for our salvation.

“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our hearts this fire of Your Love.”[3]

Christ is risen!

[1] The angels instructing the women to remember, is reportage unique in St. Luke’s Holy Gospel.

[2]  Fom the Paschal Sermon by St. John Chrysostom read by the Eastern Orthodox at the Vigil

[3] Rev. Johann Gerhard (+1637)

 

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St. Luke 3: 21-22:  

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke alone reports that Jesus was praying before His baptism.  His Baptism was unneeded because He had no need of repentance, as He was without sin,  but He was baptized to bear the iniquity of us all.  He was baptized in this mess of iniquity and wickedness, not to baptize this mess, but by cleansing us to get us out of the mess, out of the mess, cleansed in the water,  to be His. His Baptism was unneeded by Him so we would need His Baptism. He baptized us to walk in the land of the living, and not to keep on sinning to live as religious liars to our Savior in the land of the dead.  He had no need for repentance and in a sense He had no need for praying, except He was found in the flesh to find us. Jesus did not need a prayer, but He needed to pray as He was in the flesh.   If Jesus needed to pray, who was without sin, how much more do we need to pray day by day who have this body of death?  Answer: a whole lot more. Better answer:  “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 8)  So the God who prays in the flesh knows how to help those whom He created and redeemed body and soul to pray.  And when we sin, God who is faithful and just forgives as we repent. He needed to pray in the flesh in order to serve us His so great salvation and He does today. From Luther’s Catechisms:

Mankind is in such a situation that no one can keep the Ten Commandments perfectly, even though he has begun to believe. Besides, the devil, along with the world and our flesh, resists our efforts with all his power. Consequently nothing is so necessary as to call upon God incessantly and drum into his ears our prayer that he may give, preserve, and increase in us faith and obedience to the Ten Commandments and remove all that stands in our way and hinders us from fulfilling them. That we may know what and how to pray,  our Lord Christ himself has taught us both the way and the words, as we shall see.” 

 He gives His Words of prayer to those He has baptized.  The Christian is the baptized pray-er.  The baptized hold in faith the Father through the Son for us all. For myself the Bible bears out my own experience with prayer, For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, as it is written in Romans 8. “Not the poverty of our heart, but the richness of God’s Word, ought to determine our prayer.” (Bonhoeffer, Psalms:  The Prayer Book of the Church).  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words… the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  The Holy Spirit’s weapon of choice for prayer is the Word of God. Prayer is the 3rd chief part of the Small and Large Catechisms, that is the Lord’s Prayer. The Lutheran Confessions include prayers and orders for prayer, the only Christian confession to include prayer orders.  The Lord’s Prayer is the Word of God for us to call upon the Lord.  The Psalms are the Word of God to call upon the Lord.  The Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms is the “opposite of taking (His Name) in vain” (Prof. John T. Pless), the Second Commandment. 

 What are the characteristics of baptized pray-ers and prayers?Formed by the Word and  Transformed by the Spirit,  Scripture, the Word of God  is the content our prayers and so living is praying and serving.

As Luther wrote, the Christ Himself is both the way and the words of prayer.  The Lord shows us the way of prayer.  His Way upon earth began with the physical Trinitarian invocation: 

That is why when I today am baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Son is there with his body, the Holy Spirit with his presence, and God the Father with his voice, to hallow it. (Luther)

 As the fullness of the Godhead was manifest in the epiphany at the Jordan River so the fullness of the Lord was at your Baptism.  The Name of the Lord associates intimately His Name with our Baptism, the only way and with the way of prayer also intimately that the way to begin prayer is in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Baptism and prayer, the Word of God are all together and have been ever since Jesus was baptized.  He is baptized for our forgiveness so that in Baptism we too are the Father’s beloved and He says on account of His Son:  You are my beloved child now.  I have made you my own by My Name and all my ways are your ways as the Son has hallowed you by faith through My Word. You call upon Me, Our Father as My dear children in this I take pleasure.

Luke tells us that at the Jordan River Jesus was praying. Luke reports more times of Jesus praying than the other three Evangelists:

  • Luke 5: 16 and 5:33, when He was alone praying
  • 6: 12, before choosing the 12
  • 9: 18, before Peter’s Confession
  • 9: 28, before the Transfiguration
  • 11: 1, before teaching the Lord’s Prayer
  • 19: 46, calls the Temple, “My House of prayer”
  • 22: 30, He told the disciples He was praying for their faith
  • 22: 40, many times in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Then from the Cross.

In the Lord’s life we read the way and the words of prayer, every step of His way upon earth and in heaven,”… Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us”(Romans 8).  He came to do the Father’s will.  He was baptized for a fight so we can fight the good fight of faith. He taught us to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Prof. John Pless:

When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are praying against our own will. We are not praying that God would conform His will (in heaven) to our will (on earth), but that He would align our will (on earth) with His will (in heaven). To pray this petition is to invite trouble!

Jesus was inviting trouble and after His baptism it shows:  Satan tempts Him from His Father’s will, as Satan does the Church. In Baptism we invite trouble, we invite the fight and need to for ourselves and others.

Our intellectual elites have been telling us for a generation that there are moral grays, no black and white.  Then they obfuscate and confuse good and evil, with the subtle suggestion to listen to their erudition to get us out, all around the battle of good and evil raged, clearly and has become worse.  In fact so many of their solutions are giving into to sin, see abortion. When the actual first Star Wars came out I was happy that the movie actually and clearly showed the struggle of good versus evil. Maybe that is Star Wars continuing attraction and that life is one of engagement in conflict. Spoiler alert: in the recent Star Wars, Fin, who only had a number as a name part of the Imperial Storm Troopers, sees the evil he was helping perpetuate, said No.  He flees. He meets a woman who asks him if he part of the resistance. “Yeah, sure”.  Fin did not know it existed. Baptized into the resistance. Many people think the Church is a social club, not the Church militant.  The Lord’s Church is the resistance, the loyal opposition. So, as the Apostle encourages, “…take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

Before Pentecost, Acts 1 and 2, the disciples and Mary and others were praying in the upper room. Most of the chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, we are told of someone praying.  Luke may have gathered so many reports of Jesus at prayer, along with the Church because He knew prayer’s importance in the good fight of faith. We were baptized to pray, to call upon God aright, learning His Word which is His will for us and so leaning on His Word.   The Lord invites us ever to prayer.  He teaches prayer and the way to pray. He inspires our prayer.  He intercedes for us.  The Church gathers together, as an arsenal, prayer:  the hymnbook and the good Book.  In the good Book in the Lutheran Study Bible includes the Small Catechism as does the Lutheran Service Book.  Set apart daily a time of prayer.  If  you say, I don’t have the time, pray, Be gone devil, I need to be with my Lord.  Jesus prayed before events in His life, He prayed during events in His life, He prayed after them.  He prayed at all times.  He prayed also out of need.  We can too, and I encourage you to do so, continue to do so and He fights by our side with the weapons of the Spirit,  In the Name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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St. Luke 2: 49:  And  he said to them,  “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

In the Old Testament reading, Solomon’s focus was not on himself and his prerogatives as king:  long life, riches and winning over his enemies.  His focus was on his people.  He prayed to the Lord for a wise and discerning will to govern this great people.  He knew that he could not rule knowing himself. His initial wisdom was the wisdom to say he needed help. His focus finally was on the Lord.

In the Epistle Reading, the Apostle Paul begins his epistle to the Ephesians in these magnificent verses, focusing his brothers and sisters in Christ, not upon themselves but on Christ, in the “heavenly places”.  The Lord does the choosing, the predestining, forgiving, redeeming and the lavishing of His grace for them, for us. 

And at the age of 12, before He grew into a man at 13, Jesus knew where He had to be.  Three times in the first 4 verses the place is mentioned:  Jerusalem, the place of God’s Word, His Name.

Now the situation here is NOT like Joseph was driving the car and said, “Son, how did your like Passover this year…son?! Son?!…Mary, I thought you were you going to get him at the rest stop..”  “I thought you did, Joseph!”  The Passover group from the towns were more like caravans, maybe 50 or so family and friends making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with thousands of Israelites going up to Zion, the Lord’s city and Temple.  In a group of that size, walking, strung out along the road, talking and laughing, it would have been quite possible to lose track of a 12 year old.    

Jesus purposely stays behind in Jerusalem. As we think on this Gospel that is the real problem we have with it.  Jesus on purpose stays behind as if He is breaking the 4th commandment, Honor your father and your mother, yes!  But the fourth commandment is the Lord’s intention to be the fourth one, as the first is, You shall have no other gods before Me. He had to be in His Father’s House.  and so He becomes lost to His parents.  

Mary and Joseph are traumatized and understandably so.  One thing about their Child:  He really could not get lost. In fact, He is the one who does the finding.  In Luke 15, the entire chapter is unique in his Gospel:  three parables of lost and found, the shepherd in search of His one lost sheep, the woman householder in search of her one lost silver coin, and a father in search of his one lost son.  Jesus, even at 12, is found where He is must be found:  His Father’s House, the first place we should all look. Jesus can be lost…by us.  “Just think what it would mean if we lost the child Jesus from our hearts!” “Christ is lost in actuality and reality by departing from pure doctrine, by unbelief and severe sins against conscience.” (Gerhard).   The problem is not doubt but doubt resulting in unbelief, no longer taking the Lord at His Word that He made you, He redeemed you, He sanctified you. Why do so many professors and teachers want to take us away from the Lord and faith?  The greatest scientists were Christians and many of the current crop are not. These professors want to be your guiding light and will admit no other light which is curious for people who prize open inquiry.  Then people run to and fro for all sorts of sub-Christian and anti-Christian doctrines and teachings looking for guidance.  Then men and women have supposed sanctions by  looking for salvation even in sin to whet our lusts for more in greed and sex.  We were looking for a god in all the wrong places, places that are agreeable to us and not where and when the Lord said He will be…as in the manger, in the  Temple and finally upon the cross. There were no other gods before Him, in the Temple on the day of His visitation.  The Lord’s first words in Luke are in the Temple, in Jerusalem and His last Words would be in the Temple and then outside the city of Jerusalem on Golgotha. Luke tells us that Jesus MUST be in the Temple, His Father’s House and the Lord will use that word again as in The son of Man must be betrayed, suffer, be crucified and rise again on the 3rd day.

There are other so-called ‘gospels’ from the 2nd and 3rd centuries called the “Gnostic Gospels” in which as a lad, Jesus causes a boy to fall off his donkey and die, then Jesus raises him.  Or another in which Jesus is playing in the mud, making mud birds and then causing them to come to life.  Jesus’ Church did not accept them because, The  Holy Spirit did not inspire them because they are factually false as seen by the fact that He did those ‘miracles’ all for Himself.  Jesus as a boy in the Temple, and keeping the 1st and 4th commandments, in that order, is what 12 year old Jesus did as His focus was not Himself but His Father and His Word.  He did not make His Father’s House into a playhouse for His amusement or an inflatable fun house, filled with sinners’ hot air.  The Lord’s House is filled with His breath and wind, that is, the Holy Spirit as His Word is there and finally, fully and for all:  the Word made flesh.  The Temple was the House of God’s Word and as He told Solomon: for My Name. So when Jesus entered the Temple He was coming home.  Jesus knew where He had to be, the locus of His entire life:  His Father’s will, as Solomon and Paul point us also in Christ to the Lord.  Without Jesus we are lost.  Without the Lord, Israel would still be found as slave people in Egypt.  Joseph and Mary had just come from the most important of all Old Testament holy days, the Passover.   Passover, pascha, the Greek and Hebrew word, is all about the Lord finding and saving His people.  The Lord’s finding His lost people is freedom.

The Christian’s focus is always the different locus.  When we make our selves the direct object of inquiry, the result is either one of two things:  despair, I am no good or overweening pride. His Word is ever our guide between despair and pride to show aright our right and to give us anew the grace of His forgiveness.  The locus is the Lord’s commandments and the promises fulfilled in Jesus.  Solomon went every to Gibeon to offer a 1000 burnt offerings and what Solomon finally needed was God’s Word, Law and Promise—showing us the way to go and now in Solomon’s Lord, the Way Himself in the lad who became a man, the man for all men. We are told that Solomon’s conversation with the Lord was a “dream”, but it was no nightmare!  We have nightmares aplenty in our day from selling fetal body parts to greed and lust.  The Christians’ focus is a different locus, place in life, home and work:  the home altar of His Word, the Catechism and it’s six chief parts.  We need orientation, noting that the word “orient” is the word for “east”, from whence has come our Savior, orienting us throughout our days ahead according to His Word.  “Christ especially wanted to assume the aging promise to show all mankind, not matter what their age, would have in Him a Savior” (Johann Gerhard). 

The Lord told Solomon that the Temple would the place for His Name, a different locus and on that day in the Temple Jesus, literally, “God saves”, His Name entered into the Temple to begin salvation.  Jesus’ focus was not Himself but His Father.

On The Circumcision and Name of Jesus, for the sermon, I remembered the probably only funny song by Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”.  It is a story song about “Sue’s” father giving him the name Sue.  And the way how he hated it all his life because it got him into fights…and hating his father who also left him and his mother when he was three.  One day he caught up with his Dad in a bar, they got into  fight and his dad told him the reason he Sue that name:

 And he said, “Son, this world is rough And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along So I give ya that name and I said goodbye I knew you’d have to get tough or die And it’s the name that helped to make you strong”

“And it’s the Name that helped to make you strong”.  The Name of Jesus will make us strong, tough, steadfast in the faith because He was and is strong.  He was born an infant and from day 1 bearing the sin of the world.  He fasted for 40 days and nights and was tempted by Satan three times and that would not be the last time. He walked to and fro all of Palestine, preaching, teaching,doing good and at every turn someone was out to get Him and finally they would.  He would be cast out of the Temple and crucified on Golgotha…a different locus is the focus of our salvation. He was tough, yet He was and is tender toward sinners who receive with child like faith, a faith He knew as a child.  He is tender, as a mother hen who gathers her brood, so we are saved and can be tender toward each other bearing each other’s burdens. His Name will make you strong as He has saved you to be His, strong in faith and in love serving, in His Name, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen!

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Jesus asked the crowd, What did you go out to see?  A reed shaken by the wind? Luther called pastors preaching to, “…temper the truth to the sensitive fastidiousness of fashionable hearers” “reed preachers”.  John was no reed-preacher. His sermons on marriage landed him in Herod Antipas’ prison and John’s head was handed to Herodias.

In the classic movie, Casablanca, set during World War II, in Casablanca, Morocco, the Nazis have not quite taken over the town. It was a French colony and the Renault is the Captain of the French police force.  Captain Renault stated succinctly his political philosophy and position:  “I blow with the wind and the prevailing wind is from Vichy”. Vichy was the French government collaborating with the Nazis.  Too many times, churches and her Christians collaborate with their Vichys, have “blown with the wind”, that is cooperating with the world. In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul wrote that the Lord gave us “apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” to teach and preach the Word, administer the Sacraments;   that is the “work of ministry”.  In that work of ministry that we have received, so we are grounded in Christ as we are founded by the Holy Spirit, in Him to the glory of God the Father.  “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”   Paul wrote to Timothy that in the last days, and these are the last day, when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  Captain Renault collaborated with the Nazis for his passions: women, drunkenness, gambling, and his own power. Those who are faithful to the Lord in oppressive times might lose their heads and those in good times who are faithful to the world and its passions, have handed their heads over to the devil.  

 John the Baptist sounded so harsh, You brood of vipers!  In movies, he is portrayed as screaming and hollering as he preached.  Maybe he was simply forceful for the Word of God comes like a hammer.  Maybe it is true that every age gets the saint it needs, for the saint acts like an antidote to the Vichy fashions of politics, religion and the like.  Every video clip I have seen of President Harry S. Truman, he seemed to be a real nice guy, except he was called “Give ‘em hell Harry”.  He was asked about the reason for that name, “I told the truth and they thought it was hell”.  For the proud and the boastful, for the self-secure and omni-competent, yes, Jesus and John’s message will seem like hell. Neither were reed preachers. But to the blind, the mute, the deaf, the dead and the poor they brought the good news of the God’s reign. 

“…in Christ’s kingdom things are different. He does not operate with strong, holy people but with weak, poor sinners of whom Christ said: “The blind receive their sight, the dead are raised up.” Now to raise the dead is a great miracle; but a far greater, wonderful miracle, one which does not receive the recognition, is that God has ordained a king to preach the gospel to sinners.”(Luther)

Then there are those preachers who teach that yes, Jesus will sure help you, it is by grace, but  do the good deeds to get into heaven, if you just do good works, are purpose driven, witness to 10 people this week, give God the glory everyday then you will really be a Christian.  I will call them “deed preachers” that by our deeds we can save ourselves by earning merit badges to heaven, when Christ Jesus in His Incarnation has done it all. They imagine that God owes them eternal life for their merits and holy life (Johann Gerhard).

And there are those who preach Jesus Christ for weary sinners, those who mourn, who are poor in spirit, who make for peace, all whom Jesus blessed in the Beatitudes.  The Church catholic and confessional which preaches Jesus Christ, the fullness of God, the fullness of man, who came down to heaven, who’s Advent we celebrate as He drew near in the Womb of the Virgin Mary. This is all summed up in the three Creeds of the Church.  The Church with those preachers are Creed preachers. 

Reed, deed or Creed preachers?  Reed, deed or Creed churches?  Reed, deed or Creed Christians?

John was no reed preacher, with his polling numbers in hand to tailor the message, to make millions and live in soft clothing in a mansion built by ministry dollars. Like Creflow Dollar who wanted his televangelist audience to donate for a new jet for the minister.   The mega-congregation minister in North Carolina who has million dollar plus mansion.

In Christ, reed, deed, creed, is reversed, creed, deed then reed.

Creed preaching is preaching God’s Word.  John preached the Creed that the Messiah is coming, the Coming One and out of the Creed, faith,  comes forth deeds, maybe not as great as John’s, but as the Christ the fruit of love, joy and peace endures in families, churches, societies and cultures.  John was steadfast in the Word.  He did not blow with the prevailing wind, yet he could be shaken. Living the creed in our daily vocations, but even if they are outstanding deeds, they do not save the soul, only one deed has and will,  the deed of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  But out of the creed, faith in His Word will come forth deeds, the good works that God has prepared beforehand to be our way of life.  Justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is not an excuse “…to pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4)  His grace, His love is the cause of faith, then love but only His love justified, made us right to do the right and the good.  As John the Baptist preached, bear fruits befitting repentance.   “In the case of our justification, which is the full and perfect acceptance of the believer unto eternal life, certain effects in our life, such as the new obedience, follow rather slowly because of the weakness of our flesh.” (Martin Chemnitz). 

Creed then deed which is taking care of the reeds. In Matthew 12, the Evangelist, inspired by the Holy Spirit, quotes Isaiah at the exact moment after Jesus cured the man with the withered hand and the Pharisees were plotting to destroy Him:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased…
20 a bruised reed he will not break

A bruised reed He will not break…not strong powerful Christians but bruised ones, as Jesus told John’s disciples, the blind, the leprous, deaf, the dead, and poor have good news preached to them, a  King who preaches to the poor the Gospel. We can add to the list the Beatitude list, poor in spirit, those who mourn, the persecuted and reviled on account of our King’s Name. Reeds, frail flesh, easily swayed, easily broken. Pastor Paul Kretzman from his 1918 commentary on the Isaiah passage in Matthew:

(Christ’s) spirit would be neither that of contention nor of blatant self-advertising after the manner of preachers that bring their names to the front, but forget the Gospel they were sent to preach. So gentle, sympathetic, and kind would His spiritual ministry be that those that are weak, whose faith was at the point of extinction, could depend upon His help. The bruised reed is carefully bound up until the contusion is healed; the weak Christian receives strength from above. The lamp of faith which is at the point of expiring will receive fresh oil from the Gospel. 

After the Roman soldiers, plaited the King’s crown of thornes, thrusting it on His head, they then gave Him a reed as His scepter and mocked Him kneeling before Him saying, Hail!  King of the Jews!  That reed is us to rule in mercy and the strength of the One who died for sinners and rose again.

A bruised reed he will not break, then it is written and quoted, a smoldering wick He will not quench, Christian’s faith who is not always strong, a smoldering wick.  He will bring to light by the light of His Word.

Today’s opening collect is a one sentence prayer:

 Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

This prayer is so needed these days by us all.

It is as if the Lord says:  My people please believe what I have done for you!  Show me your wounds and I show you My Hands, scarred for all time by the Cross and I give you life. 

Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

For those who mourn, Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.  

For those who do not know where to turn:  Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.

For the Church that she may preach His unvarnished truth the light of His Word:  Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

 Let us pray: 

Preserve your Word, O Savior,
To us this latter day,
And let your kingdom flourish;
Enlarge your Church, we pray.
Oh, keep our faith from failing;
Keep hope’s bright star aglow.
Let nothing from truth turn us
While living here below

 

 

 

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9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7

There was a famous TV preacher who wrote a book about the Beatitudes  entitled, “The Be Happy Attitudes”. What a crock!  Full disclosure:  I have not read said book.  I guess that the way to be ‘Be Happy Attitudes’ is by us thinking positive, happy thoughts and doing positive happy things. In it’s place, that’s okay but in terms of the Lord’s so great a salvation, it’s all on me but the clear sense of the Beatitudes, our blessing, our salvation, does not rest on me or you but upon the One who blesses that is the Lord. The problem is not unhappiness primarily but sin crucially. The false, ‘be happy attitudes’ are aspiration, our going up to God. The Lord’s Beatitudes are inspiration.  Inspiration is literally “in spirited”, hallowed, made holy by the Holy Spirit witnessing to the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, filling the lungs of our souls with the Spirit of His grace, mercy and peace.  All the saints in Christ have known this in Christ. 

The Lord who calls the least, the last and the lost into His reign seems to enjoy creating out of nothing, as He did the heavens and the earth.  On each day of creation, after creating out of nothing, by His Word, He said, “It is good”.  The Lord likewise redeemed the saints out of the nothingness of sin, death and the power of the devil, by His blood shed for us all.  The saints are the roll call of the least, the last and the lost. His redemption is good.  His blood is for our good. His blood made us His, justified by grace through faith, as He became sin.    

During an interview with a comedian, the topic was atheism and faith.  The comedian was asked are you believer?  After all, aren’t you a Roman Catholic?” “Yeah, I believe and I’m a Roman Catholic but with what’s been happening recently,  I believe the book but not the cast.”  I guess the “cast” being the priests, bishops etc. and I took the book to be the Bible, the Word of God. Not a bad answer.   I believe the book, the Word of God and more than that:  because of His Word toward us in Jesus Christ, the lodestar of the Bible is why I believe His book, His Word.  What is His Word toward us and all humankind?  It’s not a principle, a program, a holy political platform, an ideal that the Lord presents and proclaims to us but he comes to us in a very concrete person:  Jesus Christ. 

 The comedian went amiss though with his jibe at the “cast”.  The Bible is quite a cast of characters! 

  • Abraham, a pagan idolater to be father of nations;
  • Moses, murdered an Egyptian the same Moses who didn’t talk so well is given the Law to lead a people out of slavery by speaking God’s Word;
  • a prostitute, Rahab saves Israel in the fall of Jericho;
  • a Gentile woman, a Moabite, Ruth becomes the foremother of King David and Jesus Christ, David’s Lord; David, a shepherd boy; 
  • “I’m only a youth” Jeremiah, a teenager called to proclaim God’s unvarnished truth to a very wayward Israel;
  • Peter, James and John, fishermen called to be Apostles into the world with the light of Jesus Christ;
  • Paul, persecutor and would-be murdered of Christians…and it’s a cast of millions as we heard in the first lesson. They did this all by faith alone.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

God loves the world. It is not an ideal man that He loves, but man as he is; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find abominable in man’s opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, the real man, the real world, this is for God the ground for unfathomable love, and it is with this that He unites Himself utterly. God becomes man, real man. 

God became a real man so we can be real men and women. This cast I trust because they were (and are!) so very real and loved and called by the real Lord to be his real people, really knowing they are sinners at the same time made right, justified in Christ alone and His work, as worked out in our lives by the Holy Spirit.

Beatitudes are the blessing of Jesus Christ toward real men and real women.  If the Lord wanted to bless ideal men and women, he would have said, Blessed are the rich in spirit, Blessed are those who are positive Blessed are the warriors, Blessed are the powerful…If the Lord had wanted only ideal men to come to Him, He would still be sitting on that mount waiting to open His mouth till this day.  But open His mouth He did:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, mourning, etc…not exactly a recruiting poster for denominational Christianity purpose driven, positive thinking, your best life now as the purveyors of the national religion with their feet planted firmly in their time teach it. but real men and real women, the least the last the lost. “The Few, the Proud, the Marines” is a good recruiting ad but in the One who calls us its, the many, the lowly, poor in spirit, mourning at the way the world is to be His saints.  But there is a similarity between the marines and the saints in one way:  both are in formation.  The saints are not being conformed to the pattern of this present world but being transformed by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s tools are in arsenal of His Word:  faith, peace, prayer, salvation.  The saints are a work in progress, to be saints, but His work always.   Unlike the other Marine slogan, “Never given, always earned”, here it is Always given, never earned.  And also:  Always given, ever learned. 

This cast both then and now have a script, the Scripture, our lines, His inerrant Word to learn, pray, speak and live. The problem is when we are always adlibbing our own lines, thinking we know what the playwright really wanted to say and it’s look at me I’m pretty good.  “Oh, I want my part to really be moving” and we act out of character.  We should know our lines, and the Lord’s lines are good.  Man does not like the Playwright’s Script and rewrites it, but once that is done, it is no longer the real play and the Script-ure  is nothing to play around with.  When man starts rewriting the Bible, like Joseph Smith, Mohammed and liberal/progressive Christianity,  the result will always be a water downed version with lines that might be tough but will always be showing how holy we are. It’s called being a Pharisee, a hypocrite.  The Lord, blessed be His Name has given us His real lines for real people that eventually by faith through His grace we cherish in our hearts and souls and minds to live them in real living. When an actor auditions and does well he will receive a call back.  Now we receive callbacks from time to time, not when we have done well, but  we are called back when we have done not done well at all: flubbed our lines, tried to hog the stage, talked about others in the cast.  The Lord calls us back in true repentance, by His Law, the script that is totally demanding, to confess our bad acting and be forgiven by His grace alone.

This past Friday, Pr. David Ongwaye messaged me on Facebook about how I was doing and I told him I was making Scripture cards to go along with the candy we passed out on Halloween at the Mission. He wrote, Trick or treating?  I don’t know what you’re talking about!  I explained Trick or Treating to our Kenyan brother.  He wrote back:

“It must be enjoyable and such (a) show of kindness should always be the fruit of our spirit as Christians. That is why we are unique people!” I responded:  “That’s a good thought! I never thought of trick or treating that way!” Pr. Ongwaye:  “What else can we say! How can we be known to be Christ’s disciples if we can’t show our love to our neighbours!”.

His Church is cast of millions upon millions, that John could not count from every tribe, nation, tongue.  The saints love in word and deed.  Saints believe and saints live the faith always in Christ in the communion of saints. We remember those who have exited the stage who’s part in our lives sustained us and other saints granted by the Lord for major roles who of course weren’t acting at all.  They knew who they were because they knew Who’s they were: Jesus’ own. Jesus has promised there will be a cast reunion in the resurrection into the Kingdom come. This cast, His Church, His communion of saints, is not perfect, by any stretch and yet it is not an excuse to do bad but to love as we have been so loved. This communion of saints is not an ideal or utopian community but a real one, a real cast of characters.  In a stage rehearsals, the manager is there with the script feeding lines to the actors as they learn the script, so is the Holy Spirit.  The saints are not us vs. them but in Christ Jesus for us all.  A cast that does not lift high themselves, but lifts high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore His sacred Name.  We bear on our brows the sign of Him who died and rose for us all.  Lift high His Cross so others may know the Way, the Truth and the life, Jesus Christ.

 

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Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Lessons:  Jeremiah 26: 1-16; Psalm 43;  1 Peter 1: 3-9;  John 15: 12-21

 Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

About Saints Simon and Jude:  In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14—16); Acts1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or ‘Cannanaean”) and by Jude (or “Judas,” not Iscariot but “of James”), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as missionaries to Persia, where they were martyred. It is likely for this reason, at least in part, that these two apostles are commemorated on same day. Simon is not mentioned in New Testament apart from the lists of twelve apostles. Thus he is remembered and honored for the sake of his office, and thereby stands before us—in eternity, as his life and ministry on earth—in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We give thanks to God for calling and sending Simon, along with Jude and all the apostles, to preach and teach the Holy Gospel, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (John 4:1-2; Matthew 10: 28:16-20; Luke .24: 46-49).

Jude appears in John’s Gospel (14:22) on the night of our Lord’s betrayal and the beginning of His Passion, asking Jesus how it is that He will manifest Himself to the disciples but not to the world. The answer that Jesus gives to this question is a pertinent emphasis for this festival day: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Surely both Jude and Simon exemplified, in life and death, their love for Jesus and their faith in His Word. Not only are we thus strengthened in our Christian faith and life by their example, but, above all, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of the Lord in keeping His promise to them to bring them home to Himself in heaven. There they live with Him forever, where we shall someday join them.

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

Reflection: The Prayer of the Day above speaks of the “glorious company of the apostles” but of course by any worldly standard they were not glorious.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4: 13)  Not exactly a job recruitment pitch for the apostolic Church, unlike the ‘ministries’ we see wearily promoted on TV. Simon and Jude have no extant writings, scant mention in the Bible, no founders  of  ‘great’ ministries,  but the Lord called them to the one holy, catholic and evangelical Ministry.  Their glory, like ours, is a borrowed one, a given one, one given to sinners: the love and mercy of Jesus Christ which by the Lord, the Holy Spirit, in prayer,  we can make known as His glory in clay jars (see 2 Corinthians 4:6-8)

It is Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who provides a good commentary on the Apostles Simon and Jude and the apostolic Church from his book, The Cost of Discipleship, in this reflection on the Beatitude from St. Matthew 5.  Remember and note:  everything Bonhoeffer wrote was in the time in Germany of the rise of Nazism and the descent into darkness, yet most in Germany thought this was ‘light’ and ‘goodness’, the Nazis put men back to work, Germans were feeling good about Germany again and the like.  I am patriotic but I do not worship our country and neither are we to despise it.  I find Pr. Bonhoeffer’s  writings prescient in that they are so relevant and close to the bone in our day:

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”…By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity: He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate  oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that  for all jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise.

Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor a churches in captivity to the world, but held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free, freed to follow Him and free to serve.  Reformation Day is this Tuesday, 31 October (2017) and 500 years of apostolic preaching, teaching and serving.  Luther and the Reformers clearly preached the Word, not following a worldly church and worldly doctrine which does not save.  Too many churches preach fake good news, the Apostles preach the real good news of Christ Jesus for sinners, by grace alone, received through faith alone, known by Scripture alone.  Upcoming is All Saints Sunday, and the saints did not look to the world for their light and follow the glow of their “devices” but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6)

A blessed feast day to all in the Lord!

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Lessons:  Acts 15: 12-22a, Psalm 133, James 1: 1-12, St. Matthew 13: 54-58

Prayer of the Day:

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Biography: St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with other relatives of our Lord (except His mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

James repeatedly addresses in his epistle “my brothers”.  In 2: 15, he speaks about ‘a brother or sister” being poorly clad.  If “brothers”  refers to the entire congregation, sisters included, regardless of sex, then why would he add “sister” at 2: 15?  Wouldn’t “brothers” be enough at 2: 15?  Yes, it would have but the case has been made that “my brothers” refers to James’ brother pastors (1), therefore like Paul’s letters to Timothy, James is also a pastoral epistle, that is, addressed to a pastor or pastors. This is further corroborated in 3: 1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”  James wants to impress fellow pastors to be strict about the doctrine they teach.  In this chapter, he uses many analogies, one being the human “tongue” (verses 4-5):  

 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

A week from tomorrow  is October 31st, the Feast of the Reformation.  The blessed Reformers were very much concerned with the preaching and teaching Office of Pastor.   Priests at the time of the Reformation were beating congregations down with the Law, both God’s and man made churchly rules and regs that by them we can attain heaven.  It was a curse.  Pastors are called as  ordained Servants of the Word so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His single-Handed salvation of us all be preached for the increase of saving faith.  James further writes  that with the tongue we bless the Lord and curse our neighbors.  James was encouraging his brother pastors to be clear in preaching the Word, rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel so that a “harvest of righteousness” come to fruition in the making of “peace” (verse 18), God’s peace which surpasses all understanding.

 Many pastors/ministers/ priests,  at the time of the Reformation,  and now  concentrate the people’s attention on themselves and not Jesus Christ, even fleecing the flock to have mega-churches with mega-incomes. Dr. Scaer in his commentary on The Epistle of James:

“The problem of poverty in the congregations seems to have caused some members and especially the clergy to cater to the rich during the worship services in a most conspicuous way. The rich did not provide for the poor and, worse, were dragging members of the congregation into court, probably ecclesiastical ones. They did little, if anything, to provide for the support of the clergy, a problem later faced by Paul (2 Cor. 11:9; Acts 18:3).”

Has the Lord’s salvation come from the heart of Joel Osteen or your pastor or the Pope or your income? By no means! Pastors are called to preach Christ, not the Christian, and the riches of His grace for sinners.  The place of salvation is not the creature, but  the Creator who sent His only-begotten Son.  Preaching the Christian will set the ship of the Church (Latin: navis, ship and from it, nave, where a congregation sits), the wrong way, not Jesus Christ’s way.  Bitter jealousy and rivalry, over “ministries” will result (see verses 14-16) and will result in “every vile practice”, like a mega-church pastor building a million dollar home.  Many such pastors sell their books and preach their books, but not The Book, the Scriptures. Such bitter jealousy for more is not of the Lord, and as James wrote, saving wisdom, the Word made flesh comes from another source,

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. verse 17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 1: 17

Almighty God, grant to Your church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom which comes down from heaven, that Your Word may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people. In steadfast faith, we may serve You and in the confession of Your name, abide to the end through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

(1)  From James:  The Apostle of Faith commentary by Dr. David Scaer

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St. Luke 1: 1-4:  

Since many have endeavored to reproduce a narrative concerning the events that have come to fulfillment among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and became ministers of the Word delivered these traditions to us, it seemed good to me also, after investigating from the beginning every tradition carefully, to compose systematically a narrative for your benefit, most excellent Theophilus, in order that you come to recognize completely the reliability concerning the words by which you have been catechized. (Dr. Arthur Just’s Translation)

 

Especially beloved in Luke’s Gospel are these texts unique in the Gospel: the parables of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 16:29-37), the prodigal son (Luke15:11-32), the rich man and Lazarus  (Luke16:19-31), and the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). Only Luke provides a detailed account of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:1-20) and he records the canticles, or psalm  of Mary (Luke 1:46-55),  of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79),and,

the angel’s song at the Birth of Christ announced to shepherd and the song Simeon (Luke2:29-32).

To show how Christ continued His work in the Early Church through the apostles, Luke also penned the Acts of the Apostles. More than one-third of the New Testament comes from the hand of the evangelist Luke.

 Luke wrote a bestseller that has been on the top of the charts for some 2,000 years.  He wrote extensively reporting the birth of Jesus.  His narrative of the Nativity are some of the verses that both believer and non-believer know about: And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  Luke reported a fact that in Christ Jesus’ birth is our new life.  Our new life, our baptism is not founded in us, and our souls, our spiritual experiences, our values, our lives,  even our faith but in His birth, His life, and His eternal life for our faith by His grace alone.  As Sgt. Joe Friday would say, The facts, Ma’am.  Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield, first chapter is entitled “I am born”.  “I am born” is a fact that of us all, and is historically important, but Dickens wants to tell us the meaning of David Copperfield being born.  A biographer will tell us the facts of a person’s life but in those facts will show us the meaning and significance of them.  So did Luke.

 Years ago in a pastors’ Bible study  I led with very new and very liberal Lutheran pastors, the text was St. Luke’s intro to his Gospel. I pointed out that Luke, in his magnificent opening, tells us that he investigated this matter, he interviewed eyewitnesses,  he systematically wrote the Gospel and then Luke tells us, based upon his interviews and investigation that Theophilus can be assured of the “certainty” of the account.  The word in Greek for “certainty” has connotations of firmness and reliability of the words by which Theophilus was catechized.  After my presentation, more than a few sniffed, Yeah, reliability, certainty, really?  Such is the state of too much education in our day.  “Question authority” has become the academic cliché but we can doubt the authority  which dogmatically asserts “question authority”.  St. Luke’s narrative has been with us for a long time, and if the Lord does not come in glory for another 2,000 years, the Gospel of St. Luke will still be guiding people to the Savior born of the Virgin Mary and singing with the angels: Glory to God in the highest.

The apostle Paul called Luke, “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4: 14). There was a 19th century British author and a physician.  He studied at the University of Edinburgh and one of his most influential professors was Dr. Joseph Bell.  Dr. Bell could keenly observe and remember the symptoms of a patient and putting the pieces together deducing the sickness with amazing accuracy. The British author was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Bell was a basis of Sherlock Holmes.  Dr. Luke had before him all sorts of narratives, with truth and fact, and falsehood and invention.  A doctor knows how to observe.  Dr. Luke put together all the pieces and connected them, all the facts of Christ Jesus and put them together to “compose systematically a narrative”, not for himself, but “for your benefit”. The Lord knows whom He chooses and He chose a doctor to write one of the Gospels. This narrative is certain and here are the ways we know that:

One:     It is clear from Luke’s introduction, in flawless Greek, he wants to give Theophilus an accurate account of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.  Luke knew the people who were there and he interviewed the “eyewitnesses”.  We were not there from the beginning, Luke was.  He probably knew Mary, Mother of our Lord.  He knew the apostles, including Paul.   Luke tells us he did this carefully. He is also a brother in Christ.  A brother in Christ is honest and trustworthy.  It is clear Luke did not write his Gospel for personal financial gain at all.  What did he stand to gain from writing a dishonest narrative?  Nothing. He wanted Theophilus to know the certainty of the Way in which he had been “catechized”, taught the Way, because Jesus Christ is our Savior.  Luke’s gain is only Christ’s gain:  a baptized and saved Theophilus and you as well. “The ‘us’ among whom these ‘things which have been accomplished’ (1:1-4) would be all the Christians whose testimony is borne in the narrative.” (Dr. Just’s Commentary) “For us and our salvation He came down from heaven”.

 Two:    Luke uses the word “catechized”.  The Gospels are history and as the history of our lives, there is meaning.  Theophilus was catechized, taught in the Way, as a “follower of the Way”, the meaning of the Word and Work of Jesus Christ.  Theophilus was taught God’s Word and  many were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.  The fruit of faith is shown in works of love.  “Theophilus” means “love of God”.  Many have asked, Who was Theophilus?  One answer:  all of us, the love of God.  We are all Theophilus. Luke writes, most excellent Theophilus.  “Excellent” was term of respect for a high, noble official.  God’s Word is for the poorest of the poor and the most elite of the elite!  God’s love in Christ had taught Theophilus and now Luke connects the dots for him and us. This history of Jesus is the good news, the Gospel which not only informs but forms us in His Word, sinners who are simultaneously saints by faith, given through grace.

“Paul says that in the Christian assembly, he prefers rational words, “five words of knowledge” than a thousand in tongues, so that he may “catechize” those present (1 Cor 14:19)…” (Dr. Just)

This faith comes through the gospel’s additional catechesis  that assures of certainty of the facts narrated regarding Jesus. “Catecheo”  (“to catechize, instruct, inform”) occurs four times in Luke-Acts (Lk 1:4; Acts 18:25; 21:21, 24) and three times in Paul (Rom 2:18; 1 Cor 14:19; Gal 6:6). Acts 18:25 has the same meaning as here: Apollos “had been catechized in the way of the Lord.” We can know the facts of the way a bike works, which is important, but the way we learn a bike is to learn to ride it, catechized in the way of the Lord and His heart towards us, for us, with us.

 Third:  We understand the truthfulness of Holy Scripture by Luke’s phrase, regarding the ministers of the Word,  “delivered these traditions to us…”  The use of the verb “delivered” is used by Paul (Luke was his companion on some of the Paul’s missionary journeys) for handing over the Words of Institution of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23) and the eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3)  Traditions here are not man-made traditions, but rabbinic traditions precisely delivered:  verbatim. These were tools for memory but also pointing out that without all our information technologies, the mind can remember a lot.   These brothers had the highest regard for the written and spoken Word of God and were not going to mess around with it, because man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  In Dr. Luke’s second book, Acts of the Apostles, there are the “we”sections, in which Luke was with the apostle Paul.  Paul refers in his letters to “my gospel”.  Paul’s Gospel sure well have been Luke’s.  Both Paul and Luke knew the other apostles, Mary, James, brother of the Lord, the 70 Jesus had sent out.

 Dr. Luke wrote the Scripture that proclaims, catechizes and informs and forms us  in, with and under Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father.  Behind me, toward your right, is a copy of a medieval manuscript of Luke chapters 1 and 2, the Magnificat  and the Nativity, pointing us to Christ and Him crucified, so that in the icon on the left is of the saints of whom Luke knew so many, who proclaimed in word and deed Christ Jesus, may live  and move in Him, in His forgiveness which He serves us in this Holy Communion.  As Luke tells us in the Institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “But I am among you as one who serves”.  He gives us the fruit of His Cross for us. The icon on the left and all pointing us to the center:

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Crucifix behind the Altar at Concordia Lutheran Mission

 All of Luke and Acts is a journey, a sojourning, as our lives. The Lord knows when we are lost, gone the wrong way, like the prodigal son.  He knows when we are hurt, even laying on the side of the road like the man in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  He knows when I am haughty and thinking I am spiritually better than anyone else like the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. He gives us the song of salvation to unlikely characters to find the Way, be healed, and pray:

Mary, a virgin,

Zechariah, an old man and his barren wife, Elizabeth that they would have a child, John the Baptist,

the angels singing to hard-working shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night,

and to the elderly Simeon…

and you.  In the Word that Luke penned, Jesus stands behind those Words to once again point us to Himself.    In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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COLLECT OF THE DAY: Lord Jesus Christ, whose grace always precedes and follows us, help us to forsake all trust in earthly gain and to find in You our heavenly treasure;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

What is the largest congregation  or church in the world?  Maybe you think of a mega-church.  The largest church is the Roman Catholic Church. Lutherans are the largest Protestant church in the world,  but none of them come close to encompassing almost all 6 billion people on earth.  This church calls for no conversion, no repentance. This god’s faith feels so natural. This church can do famously well and is quite powerful, influential and people die for it, or short of that, spending their whole lives in gaining this church’s god and this god’s altar is willingly erected in the heart.  Maybe each one of us has yearned for the god of this church. 

What is this church?  Answer:  The church of mammon, or money.  It does not love, care, die and rise for us and our salvation. This god does not make for love, but only loves what it makes. This god makes envy and jealously .  This god does not come from heaven, but comes from the lusts of the heart. There are no atheists in corporate boardrooms.  In fact, in this church, there are no atheists, no non-believers, as those who follow mammon are true believers and boast of their wealth and power.  In fact, there are no atheists, for, “…a god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need.  To have a god is nothing else that to trust and believe in him with our whole heart.”   Everyone has a god, as we were made for faith and love.  Faith and God go together.  False gods are dead ends, the true and living God and His Christ is eternal life.  No one ever on his death bed asked to hold his wallet one more time.  People save money but money cannot save. 

We can see that the rich young man was quite eager to talk with Jesus because the young man ran to Him and knelt before Him.  The young man ran and knelt before Jesus wanting to seal the deal on his goodness, cover all the bases, dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s”:  What must I do to inherit eternal life?  The rich young man certainly knew how to “do”, gain stuff.  All religions, excepted true Christian faith, are about doing to gain God. 

The young man must have heard about Jesus’ fame.  It had spread like wildfire through out the region.  People were saying He preached with authority unlike the scribes.  He had healed so many.  The young man came looking for Jesus for he was earnestly seeking something from the Lord.  His question shows us what it was: eternal life.  The bright young man knew this Jesus must have had some insight on eternal life. Maybe Jesus had the road map to eternal life that the young man could follow? Some new teaching that the young man could do, accomplish some extra commandments in order to obtain the biggest goal of all: eternal life.

Can you imagine a son coming up to his father and asking that question? What must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do to be put into your last will and testament?  Either Dad puts you into his will or not.  Jesus loved the young man.  The young man saw something in Jesus as his question indicated. His question was definitely sincere and it was sincerely wrong.  

The young man wanted to talk Torah, the Law of God, what must I do?  Jesus knew the routine.  Jesus answered with the Torah; He begins with the 2nd Table of the Law, runs through those commandments, which the Lord summed up on another occasion:   “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These I have done since I was a youth.  As if the second table of the law is a snap.  It is when it is only external actions. I am sure the young man had not murdered, stolen, committed adultery, and he did what Father and Mother told him to do.  However, internally, in heart, soul, and mind, I can barely make it through an hour without sinning.  Anger, covetousness, lust come to mind very easy.  You joyously do as Mother and Father command?  No wandering eye?  No anger?

When the Evangelist tells us the sterling fact that Jesus loved the young man, that’s when Jesus responded to the young man with the 1st Table of the Law:  Leave behind everything, sell all that you have which is all that has you, come follow Me. The rich young man went away disheartened, sorrowful, grieving. A man usually is sorrowful when someone one loves dies. Money is most common idol, Luther observed.  It is not money which is the root of all evil, but the love of money which is a root of all kinds of evil as it is written in the Scripture.. You cannot serve God and mammon.  He went away sorrowful because he finally knew he could not keep the Law of God to gain eternal life. None of us can.  The only way is Jesus Christ.  Jesus loved the young man so that he might die and live by faith alone in His grace alone. The young man would know Jesus’ love eventually…for sinners, like him, like me, like thee, like Paul, like Peter, like Moses, like David, like James. Ayn Rand, a Russian immigrant who came  to these blessed shores was for capitalism and against the totalitarian state and wrote novels about capitalism.  When she died her floral tributes were in the shape of dollar signs. Too many Christians these days are more concerned with dollar signs rather than the sign of the cross.  Dollars are for saving but they are not saving.  I have never seen a woman wearing a dollar sign necklace around her neck given by her husband. There is no love portrayed by a dollar sign, but upon the Cross…The young man and us all would know Jesus said tough things and did the toughest thing of all: crucified.  He died for sinners including the nice young man. The sign of His cross is traced upon our bodies and was sunk deep into the soil of His earth, like a treasure hidden in a field.

 Jesus put the full spiritual weight of God’s Law on the kneeling rich young man and the crush of the debt overwhelmed him. Jesus responded with the 1st Table of the Law. He loved him to do that. He did not choose the easy part, the part that won Him a popularity contest and votes. We are told He looked at the man, all the focus of heaven upon the young man. He loved him to do that.  Jesus knew the burden the young man had on his heart with his wealth.  For all our wealth as a nation or as individuals, we become quite disheartened when even a bit of it is lost. Martin Luther: “He who has money and property feels secure, happy, fearless, as if he were sitting in the midst of paradise.  On the other hand, he who has nothing doubts and despairs as if he never heard of God.” The Lord killed the young man so that the young man might live, so he leave behind the desire of his heart, his possessions, and cling to the One who loved him, who left  behind everything and took upon Himself everyone and everyone’s sin, and the sin of the entire world.  Jesus loved him and would love him and you to death, His death upon the cross.  Jesus had no pockets on the Cross.  He loved the rich young man to do that for him, for us all. 

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. This is the sharp retort by Jesus to the rich young man. At first it can take the Christian aback: I thought Jesus is God.  He is 100% God and 100% man.  When Jesus asks him if he has kept the law, in the young man next response, he began, “Teacher…” He learned quickly but probably did not understand.  Jesus gave it all up. … he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  (Philippians 2) As it is written in Scripture.  And in a few more verses, at 10: 34, Jesus will prophesy for a third time:  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.  Only by bearing the full weight of the Law and our sin, He has reconciled the crushing debt of the sin of the world, stamped it forgiven, all of us so that by faith we daily die and rise in Him, in His love by which He has loved us even when we have loved Him not.

The only way to inherit anything is for the testator to put you into the will and then die.  Beloved in the Lord!  He has written you into His will and testament, His last will and testament, not because we deserved, but we need it, no, more:  Him. Eventually all earthly inheritances run out.  Not the Lord’s:   He is risen, so, “…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Eternal life is not a good, a thing be had, eternal life is a Person, as in “I am the resurrection and life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11: 25)   Eternal life has a Name:  Jesus Christ, as He is risen, we too shall rise.

It is written Hebrews says that we are to encourage one another…so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin’s deceits are our flesh’s conceits to look to man-made gods, like Mammon or money to save, and so retreat from Him who alone has saved us.  And hardening here means absolutely every thing that makes it difficult to believe (Martin Luther).  The church of mammon is unrelenting in it’s pursuit of money to lure the Christian with its siren song to the rocky shoals of shipwreck. When the dollar sign lures and the signs of these dark times attract, only the sign of His Cross reminds us of His unconquerable love, we are more than conquerors in Him who loved us. So encourage:

From today’s Epistle Reading:

“…exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 1 4 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 

  • Exhort and Encourage each other to serve our neighbor in live and we soon discover in serving our neighbor that it is not a snap!  And I find out that I am not eminently lovable!  We will learn the truth of Jesus’ Word:  “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, without Me you can do nothing.”
  • Encourage each other in our prayers and to pray, as in Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Hold on to Him who has taken hold of you.
  • Encourage each other and others to come and hear the Word of God and receive His body and blood.
  • Encourage each other so our hearts are not hardened, sclerosis of the heart, turned into you self in desires that are never satisfied by the goods of this world, but opened up by His Word to us all.
  • Encourage each other to true repentance. We are to encourage each other daily every time we pray at table together.

Good encouragement is read in the prophet Amos. Seek good, not evil. The rich young man knew Jesus was actually good, so good Jesus did not hold onto it for our sake.  Seek the immeasurable good of God and His will for you always in Jesus Christ.  Seek good, do not seek goods…seek the Kingdom of God and as Jesus said regarding food, shelter and clothing, all these things will be yours as well.  But they perish but the Word of God endures for ever. He is risen.

The Word says:  Love good, hate evil… not love goods and so court with evil, and love and desire it.   We need a full-hearted and full throated love of the Gospel  in these dark days by the only sign by which we are all saved and will be, In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

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6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ St. Mark 10: 6-8

READINGS: Genesis 2:18–25  Psalm 128  Hebrews 2:1–13 (14–18)   Mark 10:2–16

COLLECT OF THE DAY: Merciful Father, Your patience and loving-kindness toward us have no end. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may always think and do those things that are pleasing in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The one flesh of marriage is manifest in the biology of a man and a woman, like two puzzle pieces put together by another as the Lord places together Adam and Eve,  man and woman.  The Lord gives marriage before the fall into sin.  Marriage is God’s gift.  Marriage is the fundamental order of creation, of authority, of the continuing of God’s good creation. Marriage and family have two commandments:  the 4th , “Honor your Father and your Mother”, Family  and the 6th, “You shall not commit adultery”, Marriage.  Marriage is concrete:  The two become one flesh.  As anyone doing jigsaw puzzles knows, you can put together two pieces that don’t fit and if you do, then you can break the pieces. This is what divorce is like and so is “hooking-up”. The maker did not make puzzle pieces to be incorrectly linked together…to say the least. Luther wrote:

“So here all will depend on a sound knowledge and understanding of what this “What God has joined together,” is trying to say.  It does not say, “What joined itself together,” but, “What God has joined together.” The joining together is easily seen, but men refuse to see that it is to be God who does the joining. As soon as a joining together has come about by the parties’ own efforts, they immediately want to hang God’s name over it as a cloak to hide their shame, and say that God did it. 

It was for the harness of the human heart, Moses gave this commandment about divorce, but divorce is not from the beginning, that is from creation:  Jesus goes to the beginning, after all He was there:  it is about marriage, man and woman become one flesh, two yet one, like jigsaw pieces.

The one flesh of marriage is denied in our day, even denigrated and forgotten. Divorce, living together, same-sex marriage, and abortion are the sinful symptoms of the denial and denigration of marriage, exacerbating the cause of that destruction of marriage. Even if ‘same-sex so-called marriage is civil law, St. John Chrysostom preached:   “God will judge you at the last day not by the civil law but by His law”.  While there is life, there is repentance on account of Christ.

    What is the cause of the destruction of marriage?  The reason will seem innocuous. One gay commentator wrote that marriage is, “…primarily a way in which two adults affirm their emotional commitment to one another.” Then it stands to reason the two adults can be any combination of genders.  No matter how you do the jigsaw pieces, only male and female can fit with one another.  Maybe with the availability of relatively easy contraception, marriage is seen more as an emotional commitment and that’s it.  It’s all about how we feel.  “Emotional commitment” as the basis of marriage is the operative cultural definition of marriage and is not limited to one gay commentator. When I watch sitcoms and there is a wedding, invariably the couple writes their own “vows”.   Those are not vows at all, but statements of emotional commitment. The phrase “emotional commitment” is bland and bloodless which has caused, as the Brits would say, bloody bad things. I have an emotional commitment to you and you to me, and to each other in Jesus Christ, but that does not mean we are married.  “Emotional commitment” as the sum and substance of marriage is denial and even destruction of marriage. We know what happens, “once the love has gone”. The primary divine purpose of marriage is the two become one flesh, not one soul or heart, ‘soul-mates’  or other flights of spiritualized sentimentality and cultural rot.   Man and woman become one flesh to have children and for the continuation of life and love.  “(The Lord)  forbade men to marry their  sisters or  daughters, so that our  love  would  not be limited  to members of our families,  and withdrawn from the  rest  of the  human race”(St. John Chrysostom).    

Another saying making the rounds is “love makes a family”, well, no as love is understood as only emotional commitment and warmth. It is not as that warmth can become really cold.  Marriage makes the family, between male and female, as the Lord has created us.  Once “emotional commitment” becomes the sole reason for marriage then divorce becomes simply (supposedly) “no fault”, but if marriage is based upon love, that is, loving feelings, those emotions  will soon fail, marriage is based upon God’s Word, vows, God’s and ours, so that we can learn to love even as we have first been loved.

Intimate of the first reason for marriage is the second, which God in His Word makes clear:  it is not good for the man to be alone. The Lord God gives a helpmate, one for another.  This too is not simply an “emotional commitment”. Once again, man can have an emotional commitment that he or she hates someone so much, they commit to murder.  Emotional commitments by themselves are not necessarily positive, to say the least.  The second reason for marriage is companionship.  The word “companion” has two Latin words: “com” and “panis”.  “Panis” is bread, “com” with, or share.  Husband and wife share bread together, serve one another, subordinate their desires in that service. If blessed with their children.  The home table is sacred. Sharing bread is service which is love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

We have been encouraged in our time to talk about sex…a lot.  C.S. Lewis wrote about this endless, almost pornographic dialogue:

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. 

Lewis first said this in radio talk in England during World War II.  If we need to see what America has become, Europe was well on the way before us, and we have sadly and terribly caught up. Marriage has become a mess. Moses knew that. God knows that and Jesus, God’s own Son, became flesh.

Again St. Mark show us two paintings, two scenes:    first scene, Jesus teaching marriage between man and woman and the second scene, back in the house in Capernaum, and once again children are present.  The sturdy orthodox Lutheran theologians speak of marriage and family, as in the first scene of today’s Gospel, as the order of creation.  Marriage and family are foundational, government at it’s best is to serve families, not for families to serve the illiberal immorality of the denial of marriage. Marriage and family have two commandments:  the 4th and the 6th. The messing up of marriage has now happened in cyber speed.

Then  in the house, fathers and mothers ask Jesus to bless their children.  The disciples were preventing them. St. Mark reports that Jesus literally snorted with indignation at them.  This Scripture is the one used at every Baptism in the Lutheran Church. When Jesus went back into the house, the movement is from the order of creation to the order of redemption in Jesus Christ.  Going into the house with the Lord it became the House of the Lord, Church. This is the proof text that the Lord baptizes infants, a holy new family, h-o-l-y, but according the Gospel of Christ, there is no adult baptism.  All baptism is baptism of children, of infants,  to be like a child, knowing on our own we make a mess of so much and can, but in Him we are saved and receive like a child all His gifts, as a child does from Mother and Father.  Children are not pure, but they trust. The Pharisees wanted to have an adult theological discussion in order, well, to finally get their way in salvation, find out what is permitted.    See how much one can get away with and then be good to go.  On our own we cannot be good to go. Jesus went all the way as He tasted death for us. He sanctified us and is our brother, and our Lord    Jesus blessing the children finally and fully, met our breakage of the Law at an intersection:  His Cross.  He enfolded into His arms the children that day and blessed them. He still does and has for you. 

Marriage is the Lord’s always new math: 1 + 1 equals 1.    Marriage is God’s gift to Adam and Eve.  Marriage begins the Bible and even as sin entered the world, the Lord did not abandon His gift of marriage to men and women.  The Bible is the history and story of marriage and families from the beginning to Abraham and Sarah  to Joseph and Mary and Christ and His Church and in the new creation when the heavenly Jerusalem descends as His bride. The stories of those families is checkered to say the least.  We can read for ourselves the messes the Patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob say made of their marriages.  The Lord gave His promise through many of those families. by sheer grace, not because of their deeds.   The Lord came, and sought His bride and slipped the pure gold wedding ring of His saving love on our finger, in true faith.  What is Mine is thine and what is Thine is Mine, He said in His eternal vow.

“(In marriage) you  are sacrificing yourself for  someone  to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself  up for the one who turned her back on Him and  hated  Him” (St. John Chrysostom)

All your brokenness of sin I have taken upon Myself and I give you all that I have:  grace, mercy and peace, the fidelity of love stronger than sin and death.  You divorce Me, but I will not divorce Thee.  How is marriage a mystery?  The two have become one.  This is not an empty symbol.   They have not become the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself. (St.  John Chrysostom)

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