Posts Tagged ‘vocation’

Suggested Lection:

Psalm 45:1-9
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 23:54-24:11 or Mark 16:1-8

Joanna, Mary, and Salome:  Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of Matthew (28:1), Mark (16:1), and Luke (24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Lk. 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alphaeus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Mt. 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.


Why was Christ’s resurrection revealed to these women first? There are several answers.

  • First, God was keeping His ancient custom of choosing what is foolish, undistinguished, and despised in the eyes of the world in order to put the strong and lofty to shame. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-28) These women were despised not only due to the weakness of their gender but also because of Galilee, their homeland. (see John 1:46But God exalts them by revealing to them the resurrection of His Son, which is an excellent article of our faith.

  • Indeed, He even sends them to the apostles to share the message of Christ’s resurrection with them, so that they become, as the ancients say, like “apostles to the apostles” …

  • Third, in this way God wanted to prevent the accusations of the Jews. The high priests lied, saying that Christ’s disciples had stolen the body of their master. In order to provethe shamelessness and absurdity of this lie, it happened by God’s marvelous providence that these women came to the grave before the apostles. Now, it is highly unlikely that these few women could have stolen the body from a grave guarded by soldiers and closed by a large stone.

  • Fourth, through the woman Eve, death came to all human beings. On account of this, Christ wanted His resurrection, which brings us righteousness and life, to be told to others by women. At the fall of the first human being, these three worked together: the devil, who deceived; the woman, who proclaimed his talk further; the man, who ate and corrupted human nature. So also,Christ’s resurrection, these three worked together: Christ, who rose and redeemed human nature; the angel, who proclaimed the resurrection; and the women, who carried the joyful message further.

Now if Christ was pleased with the zeal of these women, which was yet bound together with significant weaknesses of faith, and did not let them come away from the tomb empty, how much less will He let those go away empty who in true faith seek Him who rules at the right hand of the Father!

Martin Chemnitz (He has been called the “second Martin”, the first being Martin Luther;  all of the above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  They brought myrrh.  We remember myrrh every Christmas as the magi brought”gold, frankincense and myrrh”. The magi were hard-core pagan magicians and unexpectedly they bring expensive gifts for the King!  Myrrh was a costly ointment used for fragrance.  In the Song of Solomon myrrh is used to scent the marital bed.  It was also used for burial of the dead to cover the smell of death, but it is finally only perfume, a cover up and sin and death “stink to high heaven”.   The faithful women bear myrrh to the tomb and unexpectedly they find out:  He is risen!  O Lord, the holy women came to anoint Your Body in the Tomb and You did anoint them, and us, eternally with Your Risen Life!  You anoint us with the grace of Your forgiveness in the anointing of the Holy Ghost! They did not have to anoint His Body!  As  Christ Jesus is the sweet fragrance of His Resurrection by which He has conquered death, no cover-up of death  but swallowing  up death: Christ the death of death our foe, Christ the life of all the living.  Along with Joanna, Mary and Salome, we are joined with Paul and all the Church to be the “aroma of Christ”:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2)

Let us pray…

Mighty God, Your crucified and buried Son did not remain in the tomb for long. Give us joy in the tasks set before us, that we might carry out faithful acts of service as did Joanna, Mary, and Salome, offering to You the sweet perfume of our grateful hearts, so that we, too, may see the glory of Your resurrection and proclaim the Good News with unrestrained eagerness and fervor worked in us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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O God, You are the strength of all who trust in You, and without Your aid we can do no good thing. Grant us the help of Your grace that we may please You in both will and deed; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Gospel reading appointed for this day in the Daily Lectionary of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is  St. Luke 16: 19-31, The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  The reflection below is by Pr. Scott Murray in his excellent devotional A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year.

After making a major donation, the rich often have the privilege of naming rights. For example, if they are giving the founding donation, the foundation bears their name. Their name is remembered in connection with the donation as long as the foundation exists. The name of a rich person is used much in the world. He or she is known and remembered for any number of reasons, some good and some not so good. In the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, God reverses the world’s order. Lazarus is named. The rich man is not. Our Father has written the name of Lazarus in the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8). While the rich man’s name was known in the world, tossed about by everyone who wanted to seem to be someone, Lazarus was unknown. He was “that beggar.”

How God turns the tables! He names the beggar and sends away the rich empty (Luke1:53). Here God has the naming rights, not us. He has named us with deep affection and with full result. When He calls us by name,

we are His (Isaiah 43:1). We are what He says we are. He never goes back on His word to us. We are not like the local sports arena that is named this one day and that the next. His naming rights are an absolute commitment to us. The world looks at us as spiritual beggars and incompetents, because our name is not thrown about in the marketplace. We may plead the truth of the world’s name. “We are beggars. This is true,” as Martin Luther confessed on his deathbed. But we are beggars in the hands of a gracious God for the sake of Christ. This poverty cannot be any richer. This beggary cannot be any better fed. This naming cannot be any more illustrious. Our names have been given and written by God.

Post-Script:  We buy into the fame of the name and are drawn to names like Buffet, Gates, Obama, etc., etc. ad nauseum.  This is as old as Babel: “…let us make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11: 4)    In the next chapter in Genesis, the LORD calls a  pagan, Abram and said to him:  “I will bless you and make your name great…”  (Genesis 12: 2) The LORD God has the naming rights!  “How God turns the tables!” Indeed!

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Intro:  The reflection below is from Rev. Paul McCain’s excellent blog Cyberbrethren.  It is a solid reflection on the Biblical and Lutheran doctrine of vocation. In the news we found out that Mr. Jobs was a Buddhist.  I learned from this reflection that Mr. Jobs was catechized  a Lutheran. And as a pastor a question which is often posed:   What about those folks who fell away from the faith and died?  Answer: The Lord in His grace is working even at the “11th hour” inviting us (see Matthew 20:8-10), or as Pr. McCain more eloquently states below:

Steve Jobs was a man given many great gifts by God, in His infinite wisdom. Lutherans who have a clear doctrine of vocation understand how God works through what we call “First Article” gifts. What does that mean? Martin Luther in his explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth” asserts that God has given, each of us, all our abilities and talents, everything we are, and everything we have is a gift from God. This is true of every human being. Steve Jobs was gifted with many of these “First Article” blessings. And it is through the gifts that God gives to all men, that He blesses the world with tools and technologies that help us. Steve Jobs was a person God chose to use to give us many of us these wonderful tools, tools now being used to communicate the Gospel of Christ worldwide in ways that we could hardly have even dreamed of just thirty or even twenty years ago. How we use those tools is the key.

Unlike some of my fellow Lutherans and Christians, who felt a need at Jobs’ passing to begin making pronouncements about his eternal destiny, I am not rushing to judgment. I can’t help but recall the saying once by Abraham Lincoln, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Can we learn from Steve Jobs’ errors and mistakes in life? Of course. Every bit as much as we must learn from our own. But must we, on the news of his passing, rush to condemn him and focus only on his faults and failings? No.

Steve Jobs was baptized and instructed in the Christian faith, so we can do a bit more than talk about “common grace,” we can also hope that God, in His own ways, at times and places of His choosing, may have worked in Steve’s life, at the last, a remembrance of the gifts from Christ He had received in His life. Unless you have been with a person in their last days, you have no idea what goes on in a person’s heart and mind in the closing days and moments of life. Let us pray God brought back to Steve the remembrance of what he had been taught as a young man in a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod confirmation class by my friend Rev. Dr. Martin Taddey, now deceased.

Let’s leave the judgement to God, and leave the judgmentalism to those who lack hope.

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“These women were exemplary Christians who demonstrated their faith by their material support of the Church. Dorcas (also known as Tabitha) was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in the city of Joppa, especially for her making clothes for the poor. When Dorcas died suddenly, the members of her congregation sent to the neighboring city of Lydda for the Apostle Peter, who came and raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36–41). Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, who worked at Philippi selling a famous purple dye that was so much in demand in the ancient world. She was also a “worshiper of God” at the local synagogue. When the Apostle Paul encountered her in prayer among other proselyte women, his preaching of the Word brought Lydia to faith in Christ. She and her friends thus became the nucleus of the Christian community in Philippi (16:13–15, 40). Phoebe was another faithful woman associated with the Apostle Paul. She was a deaconess from Cenchrae (the port of Corinth) whom Paul sent to the church in Rome with his Epistle to the Romans. In it he writes of her support for the work of the early Church (Rom 16:1).” (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Another Collect for this Day : 

 Filled with thy Holy Spirit, gracious God, thine earliest disciples served thee with the gifts each had been given: Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity and Phoebe as a deacon who served many. Inspire us today to build up thy Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ;  who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Reflection:  These holy women, who were made holy by Faith in Jesus, are acknowledged in the prayer above in their various vocations:  business woman and steward, charitable worker and deacon or deaconess, that is one who serves. Lydia was the first convert to the Faith in Europe.  And as a business woman who sold the dye of Royalty purple (BTW:  that’s why purple is the color used in Advent and Lent), she might have been quite well-to-do.   I am struck by the non-judgmental listing of “business’  alongside with a churchy sounding word, “deacon”.  These are all vocations from the Lord, yes, even business!   If it weren’t for business, there would be no jobs.  There is no occupation that is displeasing to the Lord, except those occupied with evil. Even a ‘churchy’ vocation can be used to serve self and not the Lord.  And business men and women can serve the Lord and His people, and not the self,  as can being a deacon or deaconess.  Daily repentance is turning toward the Lord our whole lives to serve Him and His people. 


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