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Originally posted on The First Premise:

images (6)Basic to every discussion about the Sacrament of Baptism is the recognition that Baptism is a sacrament, a means of grace in the strict sense. It is not just a more-or-less beautiful, more-or-less legitimate custom of the church just like confirmation, marriage, and burial. Thus all arguments collapse immediately that see in Baptism a symbolic action, perhaps the symbol of the prevenient grace [gratia praeveniens] that precedes all human action or a symbol of what makes “a church comprising all the people” [Volkskirchentum] in contrast with what Troeltsch calls “sects,” in the sense of a second form of Reformation church that emerged out of the radical Anabaptist movement…

A deeper understanding and a new appreciation of Baptism is only possible through a return to what Luther’s catechism, on the basis of the New Testament, in simple faith teaches about Baptism as the washing of regeneration. “Yet I do as a…

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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)

2 Reflections:  

One: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Mark 6: 3.  The normal Greek words  for  “brother” and “sister” are  used.  The Virgin Mary was understood early on as semper virgine, “ever virgin”.  Eventually, there also arose  the understanding hat Mary was immaculately conceived herself, that is, without the stain of original sin.  

I understand that even Luther believed in the doctrine semper virgine, except I do not think there is any Biblical basis for this doctrine.  Dr. David Scaer’s (professor at Concordia Theological Seminary/Ft. Wayne, IN) in his commentary, James: The Apostle of Faith, A Primary Christological Epistle for the Persecuted Church,(Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN)supports the understanding that James was the biological half-brother of Jesus:

“Later in the church’s history James, the Lord’s brother, would be deprived of any early prominence he enjoyed in the ministry of Jesus and the Jerusalem church by an evolving Mariology. Though the early church saw her and Joseph having their own children, she was later held to be a perpetual virgin. The real significance of the earthly family of our Lord was lost. Joseph and Mary gradually were regarded as the primordial celibate pair, and James and his full brothers and sisters had to be assigned to other parentage to safeguard their chastity. Even the thought that they were Joseph’s children by a previous marriage is no longer tolerable according to this view. James, the Lord’s brother, was relegated to the rank of cousin and was subsequently considered as one of the original 12 disciples, the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:2-3). The James who would later attain prominence in the early church was neither of the two disciples called James, sons of Zebedee and Alphaeus, but the James whose parents were Joseph and Mary. The conception and birth of James dispels any docetic (“seems like”) concept of the nuptial union between Joseph and Mary as an unnaturally sexless arrangement. It also assures us that Jesus was brought up in a home where natural sibling rivalries prevailed. Regardless of any competitive spirit among James and the other younger brothers, Jesus no more resented them than He resented His subjection to His parents (Luke 2:51).

The plain sense of the Scripture is that Joseph and Mary became one flesh in marriage and had there own children together. At this crucial time in our history, when marriage between a man and a woman has been so debated, debased and denigrated, the beauty of married love in a faithful husband and wife is to be lifted up, especially Joseph and Mary. People then, as indicated in Mark 6: 3, took offense at Him because He came from a family, and well-meaning churches have over the centuries, yet, the Scripture is the narrative of families from Adam and Eve, through the Patriarchs, Timothy’s family.  Families in the Lord can also, by faith, be holy families, made holy by the Son of Mary, the Son of God and His Sacrifice for all the families on earth (Genesis 12: 3). Nuptial love in marriage is holy love in Christ.  James wrote the following which describes marriage and the family, first without Christ and then in Him, the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1: 24):

16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3)

Two: James was quite important in the early history of the Church as indicated in the Scripture references cited above in James’ bio. He  was witness to the Resurrection.  He believed.  In his letter, James did not assert his family lineage but his vocation:  “a servant (also translated as slave) of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”(chapter 1).  James, the half-brother of Jesus, was His servant as all who are baptized.  He was humble.  He knew that it was only by the “implanted Word”, could a man and a woman be saved. As James wrote, the implanted Word can save your soul.  Implanted into the womb of James’ mother, Mary.  James would have heard the narrative of the Annunciation by the archangel Gabriel to his Mother from his Mother!  The Word made flesh. The same Word implanted by the preaching and teaching of Christ carefully and faithfully  for us and for our salvation.

 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1)

Originally posted on :

deathbedWe don’t spend enough time talking about death. It’s the subject that everyone is thinking about, everyone will experience, and very few bring up in polite conversation. Even when they are terminally ill, or have a loved one who is near death, people tend to avoid saying anything about what is uppermost in their minds. Death may be staring them right in the face, but they make small talk about everything from the weather to the Dallas Cowboys.

Let’s change that. And let’s start by talking about your deathbed. Most of us will know, or at least have a good idea, that our death is near. Picture yourself there. As you near the end of this earthly life, what would you like to look back on? What kind of legacy would you like to leave your family and friends? I have my list. It may seem strange to you, but…

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The Appointed Psalm from the Daily Lectionary is Psalm 138.  The last two verses are:

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

 “The outcome of salvation is a life of trust and prayer. Life with all its uncertainties and dangers goes on for the redeemed;  God’s salvation gives them reason to hope that what God has begun with them He will surely bring to completion. “I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1: 6) from Prof. James Luther May’s commentary, Interpretation:  Psalms.

Notice in these verses who drives the verbs for David: “You preserve my life”, “You stretch out Your hand”, “Your steadfast love…”.  Salvation is of the Lord. It is not David who drives the verbs of salvation!  David knew when he himself purposed what he wanted and the results as in his adulterous affair with Bathsheba.   David’s purpose is the Lord’s purpose, His good work.  The Lord’s good work would finally and fully be David’s Son according the flesh,  Jesus Christ, gratis, for the thanks because of His grace in forgiving you.  Jesus Christ is the good work of salvation.  The work of His hands is our creation, our redemption and our sanctification.  

And because of (God)you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Cor. 1: 30)

The Lord’s steadfast love alone steadies us.

 

Meme of the Day

We moved Concordia Lutheran Mission from Lexington to Buena Vista because we were led to find a great rental property.  We have now worshipped in our new location three Sundays, including today.  One of our members told me about going to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Sale store in Buena Vista and some of his finds for the Mission, but he also told me something else. Our brother was talking with the clerk and he told the clerk that he was looking for stuff for our new mission.  The  clerk responded by saying that you are the new mission which is against gays and women and won’t let them serve in church.  Our brother responded by saying, we’re not against homosexuals but homosexuality is against the Bible. The clerk responded by saying that he would not be able to help him.

In a small town, our reputation has preceded us without preaching against homosexuality or stating anything about  the Scriptures in the public square.  Yet, the reputation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod precedes and I am glad for that.  I asked our brother this morning to tell the congregation what happened, all 8 of us.  A fearful army indeed!  I then talked with the congregation after our brother told his story and we all had a chance to say something.    You can not be for the marriage of man and woman, or a pastorate of called men, without incurring the mistrust and even wrath and being labeled “homophobic” or “sexist” these days.  Then I thought of this passage and said we should all memorize this and take this Scripture to heart:

 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians  6)

The Law of God is plain in verses 9-11 and the Gospel begins with the word “And such were some of you.” Baptism is our washing and regeneration in Christ, made holy, justified.  My wife reminded me that the Lord came not to justify ungodliness but the ungodly.  It is the Word of Law and Promise that the world and the devil does not want to be heard because the Lord changes and saves us by His grace alone: And such were some of you. 

As I was about to leave the parking lot with our VMI ‘rat’ to go home, retired Pastor, Art Henne, came over to the car.  I opened the car door (the window doesn’t work!), and Art said to me, “You know, Mark, maybe this is the reason we are here.”

A blessed Lord’s Day to you and your pastor and your congregation!

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