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Quote of the Day

From Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s Sermon on St. Matthew 25:  31-46, especially:  34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?”:  

A true Christian should be diligent in this with a humble heart, not seeking honor, fame, or reward. We see here that the elect themselves do not consider their works to be worthy of the superabundant reward they will receive. They did these works gladly with willing, humble hearts in ardent love. It is their nature to do good; they do not let the left hand know the good the right hand has done (Mat. 6:3). Thus, it is written in Revelation 4:10 that the elect will throw down their crowns “before the throne of the lamb” in true humbleness and say, “Lord, you are worthy to receive praise, honor, and power”;  that is, we are unworthy and our works do not deserve to bear such;  but the Lord has made us worthy and has given us these crowns out of mercy.

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

Reflection:  The longer quote below is by Luther.  What Luther wrote,  he and his wife Katie lived.  They always had house guests at table:  priests seeking asylum, friends, poor university students and the like. One of the Biblical qualification of a bishop, or a pastor, is  hospitality:  “Therefore a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable…” (1 Timothy 3:2)  A Hasidic story: A rabbi was seen giving money to drunken destitute man and a congregant said, “Rabbi, why are you giving money to someone so worthless and who will not repay?” And the rabbi replied, “The Lord gave it me, didn’t He?” Elizabeth and Martin knew that all is gift from God. Elizabeth and Martin welcomed in hospitality the stranger. As we contemplate Thanksgiving and ChristMass, our homes are the Lord’s, not  for our families alone  We are hospitable in service not to be saved but because we are saved. Come Lord Jesus, be our guest…abide with us. In the Rule of St. Benedict, when a monk greeted a stranger at the door, he was to fall prostrate in front of the guest, because a stranger is Christ:  

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

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

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

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

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

Quote of the Day

From Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs’ Commentary, Matthew 1: 1-11: 1, specifically 7:13-23:

…the first question to be asked is always, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (16:13). False prophets will be appealing, loving, engaging, and nurturing, but they will describe a different Jesus—different from the Son conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the Spirit’s power, different from the Jesus whom the Father anointed and uniquely chose to be his Servant to save the world through that Servant’s vicarious suffering, atoning death, and bodily resurrection. No human effort can be added to this work of the Servant; the sheep are lost and must be found by him to be saved (9:36; 10:6; 12:11; 15:24; 18:10-14). With men these things of salvation are impossible, but with God in Christ, all things are possible (19:26). Only Jesus drinks that cup (26:39), carries that cross (27:40-42), and offers his life as the ransom for the many (20:20-28). And only those who have nothing to offer to him, who are poor in spirit and lowly (5:3-5), will receive everything from him both now and at the end of this old aching world. Beware of false prophets, who offer any Jesus other than this one!

Three seemingly disparate events occurred on this date:  

1.  On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the armistice was signed ending World War I and this date became Veteran’s Day.  We remember all military, soldiers and sailors, who have defended our nation in war.  We thank them for their service and the best way to do that is, as is rightly encouraged in the media: THANK A VETERAN TODAY!2. On this date, Martin of Tours, Pastor and Bishop was buried in the city of Tours, France:

Martin was born about the year 316 in the town of Sabaria in the Roman province of Pannonia, present day Hungary, of a pagan family, his father a Roman legionary. He spent his boyhood in Pavia in Lombardy where he came under Christian influence, and at the age of ten he decided on his own to become a catechumen (a catechumen is a person preparing for Holy Baptism. When he was fifteen, being the son of a soldier, he was drafted to serve in the army. He was apparently a good soldier and popular with his comrades. One winter night when he was stationed in Amiens, Martin saw a poor old beggar at the city gate shivering in the cold, and, having nothing else to give him, he drew his sword, cut his own cavalryman’s cloak in two, and gave half to the man to wrap himself in. The next night Martin dreamed of Christ in heaven wearing his half-cloak and saying, “Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with his cloak.” The young soldier, however, found it increasingly difficult to combine his own ideal of a Christian life with the duties of the military. Eventually he decided to be baptized and asked to leave the army, since he was no longer willing to kill. Like his modern counterparts, this fourth century “conscientious objector” had difficulty proving he was not a coward, but finally he was released, now about twenty years old. (from Festivals and Commemorations by Philip Pfatteicher)  But sensing a call to a church vocation, Martin left the military and became a monk, affirming that he was “Christ’s soldier.” Eventually, Martin was named bishop of Tours in western Gaul (France). He is remembered for his simple lifestyle and his determination to share the Gospel throughout rural Gaul (present day France) (From Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

3.  On November 10th, 1483  a miner and his wife gave birth to a son.  Baptisms were done quickly due to infant mortality. The next day Hans and Margarette brought their son for Baptism, St. Martin’s Day.  So they named him Martin, as was the custom, after the saint’s day he was baptized.  The son baptized today was Martin Luther.

What do these 3 commemorations have in common? These two Christian saints and veterans is all about being a soldier.  We give thanks for those veterans who served in our armed forces.  I have heard many a veteran say that I did my duty and I came home.  War is hard, to say the least.  Many veterans do not want to say what happened over there.  They bore arms to defend our freedoms inscribed in the Constitution, the words of the charter of our political freedom. Martin of Tours left one army and joining the militia Christ, the army of Christ for the salvation of souls.  As bishop he did battle against the heresies of his day and served his people the green and eternal pasture of the Word of God.  He fought against the powers and principalities:  sin, death and the power of the devil. The man named after him, Luther, likewise did the same. Martin and Martin bore the weapons of the Spirit to defend the charter of our eternal salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth.  Martin and Martin did their duty, lived their callings.  

This day is united in thanksgiving for our freedom, political and spiritual.  We are freed from tyranny of political and spiritual despots and so freed to serve our neighbor, our nation and church, as free citizens of both that any tyranny is defeated.

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

 Lord God of hosts, Your servant Martin the soldier embodied the spirit of sacrifice. He became a bishop in Your Church to defend the catholic faith. Give us grace to follow in his steps so that when our Lord returns we may be clothed with the baptismal garment of righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns With You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

In January of 1975, on a college trip from Concordia Senior College, Ft. Wayne Indiana, I went on a three-week intermester tour of Eastern Europe studying the Church in Eastern Europe and Marxism.  We saw the above:  the Potsdamer Platz which had been the heart of Berlin, with the Berlin Wall going through it.  I remember thinking that this evil was always there and would be. This is the devil’s own lie.

 The Berlin Wall was built by the Communist East Germans to surround the free city of West Berlin so that East Germans stopped escaping to the west. Today, 25 years ago, 9 November, the wall came tumbling down.  

We visited an Evangelical (Lutheran) congregation in East Berlin. One of our profs met janitor in the previous year and the prof wanted us to meet him.  Our group sat in the middle of the nave while the janitor told us about what it was like to be a Lutheran and a Christian in East Germany.  All the while he was talking, there were people at the edges of the nave milling about and the janitor was looking to and fro, quite skittish…after awhile, he said let’s move over there…in a more isolated corner of the sanctuary.  One thing he said has stuck with me years later:  “You see, in East Germany, church never leaves the four walls of the building”.  This is the way the virulent secularists want the Church to be in our own day and time…but I write this also as introduction.

The link to the  article below is by Uwe Siemon-Netto.  He is an eye-witness to the rise of communism in East Germany and the fall of the wall. It is a must read.  “Oh, this can’t happen here”.  No probably not, that is in the exact same way…We give thanks to the Lord this day for the end of Berlin Wall, remembering always the Scripture passage:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. (Revelation 1)

“And the Wall Down Flat” by Uwe Siemon-Netto

Aside from Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz(1522-86) is regarded as the most important theologian in the history of theLutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the Church Fathers with a genuine love for the Church. When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of Scripture and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four-volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565-73), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession. A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Pastor Chemnitz has been called “The Second Martin”, in terms of his importance in the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church.  He is the principal author of The Formula of Concord, the last of the Confessions in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of Lutheran Church.  The Formula has two parts the Epitome and the Solid Declaration.  The Epitome is like that word, it is the epitome,the summation, kind of a Reader’s Digest of the confession.  The Solid Declaration is the unedited document. 8,188 theologians, ministers and teachers signed the Solid Declaration.  On June 25, 1580, the complete Book of Concord was put on sale:  exactly 50 years after the Presentation and reading  of the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V. The Book of Concord was complete and it is still the complete and correct exposition of the Word of God.

A Lutheran pastor vows to teach, preach and administer in accordance with The Confessions as they are the true exposition of the Scriptures, the Word of God.  A repeated phrase throughout the Formula is:  “We believe, teach and confess…”   This begins the affirmative theses.  Then there are the negative theses in which the Confessors condemn false doctrine. Post-moderns do not like this.  Post-moderns base their understanding of truth on what they experience and feel, our ‘free’ will…and such is a slippery slope, a Gadarene slide into the abyss ( Matthew 8:  28-31).  Saving faith is based upon sound doctrine.  “This doctrine is founded upon the Word of God…” (Solid Declaration , Article II, Free Will, paragraph 28, Tappert).

An example from the Formula by Martin Chemnitz on the ‘we believe, teach and confess” is on Holy Communion based upon the Word of God. I have heard  many a person and have read many a book asserting  that they teach is “Biblical, nondenominational, non-sectarian Christianity” and then go on to  deny the Sacraments, such as Holy Communion as mere memorial, the Sacrament of the ‘divine absence’, not Presence.  His Body and Blood is for the weak and the trembling in faith to be strengthened as we repent, and turn toward the Lord and not ourselves!   Here is a quote from  The Formula of Concord, authored by Pr. Chemnitz on the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of the true Faith:

“…it must [also] be carefully explained who are the unworthy guests of this Supper, namely, those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, and without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives, and by their unworthy oral eating of the body ofChrist load themselves with damnation, that is, with temporal and eternal punishments, and become guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

69] For Christians who are of weak faith, diffident, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the greatness and number of their sins, and think that in this their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and the benefits of Christ, and who feel and lament their weakness of faith, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience, they are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament [and sacred feast] has been especially instituted and appointed; 70] as Christ says, Matt. 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Also Matt. 9:12: They that be whole need not a physician, but they that be sick. Also [ 2 Cor. 12:9 ]: God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Also [ Rom. 14:1 ]: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye [ Rom 14:3 ], for God hath received him. For whosoever believeth in the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith, has eternal life [ John 3:15f. ].

71] And worthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ, which the distressed father of little faith [ Mark 9:24 ] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.”

 Let us pray…

Lord, God heavenly Father, through the teaching of Martin Chemnitz, You prepare us for the coming of Your Son to lead home His Bride, the Church, that with all the company of the redeemed we may finally enter in to His eternal wedding feast; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The oil was there for the taking by all ten virgins, the bridal party. The 10 virgins symbolize the Church. Someone amply supplied the oil for the virgins to meet the Bridegroom who came at an hour no one suspected. The oil was given for that purpose. In that time, oil was used for three purposes

  • for lamps, as in today’s Gospel
  • for medicine, as we read that the Samaritan took care of the man robbed and beaten on the Jericho road by pouring wine and oil upon his  wounds
  • for the face to make it shine, as it is written, Psalm 104: 15 , the Lord gives to us,

“…wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
    and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

For lamps, the oil filled the lamps , medicine and the face,that is,  for light, healing and joy.  And oil was used f or special and unique purpose:  the anointing with oil marked the investiture of the Kings of Israel, as Samuel anointed Saul and David as the Kings of Israel.Oil was administered by anointing. Remember that the title “Christ” means “anointed one”.  Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew, Messiah. Behold, One is here who greater than the prophets!  We read in Hebrews 1: 9:

But of the Son (Note:  capital “S”)  he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.

 The preacher in Hebrews is citing Psalm 45.  Psalm 45 is about the anointing of the King of Israel.  The kings of Israel were to be filled as lamps, with the oil of the Holy Spirit, so to heal the Lord’s people with His Word and to make the face shine with joy in the presence of the Lord.  But so many of the kings of Israel and Judah turned the hearts of Israel to false gods and immorality, personal and social and Israel went skipping into the utter and outer darkness. They did not serve the Lord but were dealers in falsehood.  Now, comes the King, “Of the Son”, who alone is the true King, who reigns “anointed” “with the oil of gladness beyond your companions”.  He was anointed beyond His companions, beyond the kings and prophets of Israel. As the prophets brought the Word of the Lord to Israel, so did Jesus Christ, but beyond, He is the Word made flesh.  He would be anointed by the spit of Roman soldiers, His sweat anointed His body as he was flogged and  as He bore the Cross, His tears were the anointing for the lost, His blood anointed His sacred head now wounded, with grief and shame bore down. He shed His blood not for His sins, for He had none, but ours and we are anointed in the Holy Spirit.  The bridegroom died for His bridegroom, when no man heedeth, He interecedeth.

 The wise virgins, when asked by the five foolish virgins, to give them some of there oil, could not. They would not have enough, the wise virgins responded. The noblest saint in Christ cannot believe for another person.  All the supposed saints’ merits, accrued in some sort of heavenly bank account, cannot substitute for your heart’s pain and sin to lay hold of Jesus Christ in faith in His grace toward you.  There is no substitute for the grace of God in Jesus, the anointed One.  He gives us faith to fill our lamps with the oil of His gladness, His salvation for sinners, His forgiveness, which all the saints carried with them, as the Lord bore them. When after the delay of the bridegroom coming at the hour no one could guess, at midnight, the wise virgins took extra oil with them.  They  were thinking in joy for the coming of the bridegroom.  He was delayed but they carried the oil that gave them light:  the Anointed One, Jesus Christ. He gives His grace amply for the taking.

 When the door is closed then, it is closed. As in the Great O Antiphon of Advent:

 O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;

you open and no one can shut;

you shut and no one can open:

Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,

those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death

 When He comes, when the author comes on stage the play is over. The door was closed on the foolish virgins. So harsh! We might say.  It is darkness for those who trust in themselves for salvation. When the 5 wise virgins said go into town to find oil, I have to ask where would they find oil merchants at midnight?  Of  course, none!  And that’s the point. There is no substitute for the Lord’s mercy toward us, for there is no mercy in the devil, in sin and wickedness.  There are dealers in the darkness and of the darkness who promise false gospels of prosperity, fame which is no more than idolatry.  Amos said that  the day of the Lord is darkness not light for those who follow false gods, thinking they do not need the oil of gladness in the Lord. Israel trusted in the mere doing of sacrifice and worship in the Temple to gain salvation in some sort of eternal barter system.  Those who “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” There is no second chances in some 1,000 years reign of Christ after a so-called rapture.  Here in this life unbelievers have a chance every minute of every day to look to the One who loved them and us all that He gave His life upon the Cross. Here in this life believers have a chance every minute of every day to look to the One who loved them and us all that He gave His life upon the Cross. So we can pray unceasingly.

 He taught this parable that we may  watch for His coming. He taught this parable that we be the wise Church, not the foolish church.  The foolish church puts human opinions, theologies and the like center.  The wise Church knows Who is the Center of the Church:  Jesus Christ.   He taught this parable for hope.   For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8: 24).  Hope is for us individually and together as His Body the Church.  Our Lord’s parable is not for some eternal stat that 50% will be saved, 50% damned, in some sort of non-Biblical double  predestination. He taught the parable of the virgins for us, His teaching is the Word of God, the Scriptures, “…which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 3: 15).  He taught the parable that we be wise for salvation in Him, carrying the oil of faith in His Word of promise to us all.  He taught this for hope in Him who soon after He taught this parable in the Temple would be cast out of Jerusalem to bear the hopelessness of death, yours and mine upon the Cross.  Paul wrote we Christians grieve but as those who have hope.  The hope is His salvation is for the soul and the body, that when He comes all the living and the dead, judged and saved in Him, will be caught up with Him as He leads us home, the new heavens and the new earth.

 God’s law will wake us up with its terror over sin and God’s Gospel made us alive in Christ.  Watchfulness for Christ Jesus  and the Gospel of  His death and resurrection is fourfold.  As the fourfold Gospel is confessed in the Smalcald articles of the Lutheran Confessions:

 We will now return to the Gospel, which not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin; for God is superabundantly rich [and liberal] in His grace [and goodness].

First, through the spoken Word by which the forgiveness of sins is preached [He commands to be preached] in the whole world; which is the peculiar office of the Gospel.

Secondly, through Baptism.

Thirdly, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Fourthly, through the power of the keys, and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together, etc

The mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren is for us to encourage each other in the oil of His forgiveness.  We do mourn those who die but as those who have hope.  We need to hear this word of forgiveness from each other in conversation and consolation.  The fourfold means of the Gospel gives us the three fold gifts of the Gospel as signified by oil:  light, healing and joy. 

  1. God’s Word is light:  His Law a light unto our path that may know His way and as Jesus is the Way, the only  Way, we are led by Jesus the Anointed, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. 
  2. His Word is healing and the balm of healing for broken and contrite hearts, which O Lord, you will not despise. 
  3. His Word is the joy, of not only knowing the truth, but knowing He who knows us better than we do ourselves.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:  20-21

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