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In this interview you will learn much about the Doctrine of Vocations from an articulate journalist and Lutheran:

Vietnam, Luther, and the Doctrine of Vocation:

An Interview with Uwe Siemon-Netto

You may have seen this picture around Facebook lately. It is the Arabic letter “nun,” which roughly equates with the English letter “n.” It is being used as a symbol for the word “Nasari,” or Nazarene, in reference to Jesus of Nazareth, our God and Lord, of Whom Saint Nathanael once asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (St. John 1:46).

Indeed, a whole world of Good came from Nazareth, and Christians in Iraq are paying the price for their faith in that Good. The Mohammadan terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is using this symbol to mark the homes and churches of Christians throughout Iraq. Christians who fail to abide by antiquated laws mandating conversion, taxation, or death are evacuating the country in droves for fear of the latter. Over the weekend, Christian families were driven from Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, stripped of all money and valuables, while the city’s nearly two-miliennia-old church was set ablaze, along with all the sacred manuscripts in its library. The fanatics also destroyed the purported tomb of the Holy Prophet Jonah.

Although the terrorists intend this mark as one of shame and death (not dissimilar to the way the Romans viewed the Holy Cross), Christians around the world are displaying it in defiance and solidarity with our persecuted brethren in Iraq. We urge all of our followers to pray for the Christians of Iraq, as well as for the conversion of their deceived persecutors.

P.S. I heard a liberal commentator relate a saying amongst the Jihadists: “First, we go after Saturday’s children, then Sunday’s children.”  We remember also the virulent Islamic and Arabic anti-semitism that is rampant and has been for some time now.

 

Alleluia. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” Alleluia.

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, restored Mary Magdalene to health and called her to be the first witness of His resurrection. Heal us from all our infirmities, and call us to know You in the power of Your Son’s unending life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

READINGS:  Proverbs 31:10-31  Psalm 73:23-28  Acts 13:26-31  St.John 20:1-2, 10-18

 

From a sermon on the Gospels by Gregory the Great: 

            When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds; but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.

            We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

            At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God;  When shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

            Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

            Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so He calls her by name, as though He were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Marv, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching. (Quoted in Festivals and Commemorations, Augsburg Publishing House, 1980,  Pr. Philip H. Pfatteicher)

Post-Script:  Jesus called Mary Magdalene by name and the Gospel narrative of the Crucifixion and the  Resurrection illustrates our Lord as the Good Shepherd:  

The good shepherd lays down his life ; for the sheep

that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name (St. John 10: 11 b, 10b, 3b)

The Lord has called you when He baptized you in His Name, Father,  +Son and Holy Spirit.  Alleluia!

Iraq’s Waterless Christians: The Campaign to Expel a Religion

July 22, 2014 BloombergBusinessWeek

Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem — including Ezekiel — to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-16).

Ezekiel’s priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for exampleEzekiel 9-10and 40-48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1–32). Jerusalem would certainly fall and the exiles would not quickly return — the just consequences of their sins.

Especially in the early part of the book, much of what the Lord “said” to His people was delivered in the form of action prophecies. In these, Ezekiel acted out representations of coming events pertaining to the fall of Judah, the destruction of the temple, and the seeming end of the Davidic line of kings. These action prophecies included the eating of the scroll (3:1-2), being struck with dumbness (3:22-27), sketching of the city of Jerusalem (4:1-3), lying on one side and then the other (4:4-8), eating restricted rations cooked on a fire of dried dung (4:9-17), and shaving his hair and beard with a sword before dividing the hair (5:1-4). Some seem a bit strange at first glance, once we understand their meaning and context, their messages are quite easily comprehended.

Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that his people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom (Ezekiel 33-48).

Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel’s prophecies was later employed inthe Revelation to Saint John. Among these are the visions of the four living creatures as seen inEzekiel 1 and Revelation 4. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18: 23

Ezekiel called a thing what it was.  He did not call sinfulness, “dysfunctional behavior”, he called it wickedness, as did his brother prophets.  The question of morality is not about psychology but spirituality. The only way the word wicked is said in our day is maybe,  “Oh, that was wicked”, that is, something that is actually good. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, we do not need a big brother state to enforce “newspeak”.  

The divinely inspired prophet leveled the Word of God at wickedness, but not only toward other nations, but primarily his own nation, Israel.  All the prophets primarily  preached.

Was Israel wicked?  Answer:  Yes.  

By what standard did the prophets know Israel was wicked?  Answer:  The Law of God.  

Was the Lord and His prophet’s goal to destroy Israel in it’s wickedness?  Answer:  No, but as we read above, the goal was repentance and life in His Name.

The Church in the United States is wicked and full of dead men’s bones.  Marriage between man and woman is denied.  Abortion is promoted.  Divorce is winked at.  The poor are extolled while we worship our unappeasable appetites.  Celebrity is likewise extolled and adored while saintliness is considered antiquated, in other words, Christians are practicing idolaters.  Good works as salvation via social activism is openly promoted while faith is assumed.  At church assemblies people know more about Robert’s Rules of Order, than the Lord’s rules, that is, the Law of God.  The newest fad of  ‘theology’ is read or lectured and the Bible is denied. Christians are more interested in updating their Facebook status than in improving their hearts and souls through the Word of God.  A comfortable Christ is preached but not the crucified Christ. We worship on our derrieres on padded pews and want our worship likewise padded, but not desiring the comfort of the Gospel for sinners.  As there really are no ‘sinners’, no one is wicked.  

I think it was unintentional prophecy when the Lutheran Book of Worship came out and the verses  from 1 John 1 was incorporated into public Confession and Absolution:

 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Church  in the United States has done a good job in making Christ a “liar”, in His so great a salvation, but it is obviously the churches which have been fooling themselves.  The churches are wicked. The Lord God sent His Son into our wickedness and it is His Cross that moves us to see what wickedness has wrought:  so great a Savior.  The following quote is from Spiritual Meditations by Pastor Johann Gerhard:

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife ; but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and will as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth ; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. V. 26).

 Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Ezekiel, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 

The Prophet Elijah hiding in the cave

The prophet Elijah, whose name means “My God is Yahweh [the LORD],” prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel primarily during the reign of Ahab (874-853 BC).

Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of Yahweh. Elijah was called by God to denounce this  idolatry and to call the people of Israel, to the worship of Yahweh as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20-40). Elilia., was a rugged and imposing figure, living the wilderness and dressing in a garment of  camel’s hair and a leather belt (1 Kings 18:20-40).

He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. Many miracles were done through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17.17-24) and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1). At the end of his ministry, he was taken up into heaven while Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later, the prophet Malachi proclaimed that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6), a prophecy that was fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The narrative of Elijah begins at 1 Kings 17: 1 and ends with Elijah’s assumption into heaven, II Kings 2: 12.  

It was tumultuous ministry because it was a tumultuous time.  The Kingdom of Israel, after the death of Solomon, was divided into two kingdoms in 922 BC: Israel (Northern Kingdom) and Judah (Southern Kingdom) by the Lord due to the sin of Solomon and his son.  Please note how many were idolaters,  adulterers and murders:

Kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom)

Sexual immorality and violence go hand-in-hand with idolatry because idolatry focuses everything upon the Old Adam and it’s lust to power.  “…all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart” (Francis Thompson, +1907).  The Assyrian Empire conquered the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC.

 In the Northern Kingdom the Lord sent His prophets to proclaim His Word to a wayward Israel for 2 centuries.  Elijah was one of the greatest. The worse of the kings of the north was Ahab  with the power behind the throne,  his wife Jezebel, an idolater.  Elijah is introduced into the narrative without explanation and my guess is that his reputation preceded him.  In a confrontation  Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal that Ahab had allowed into the Lord’s Temple at the behest of his pagan wife, Jezebel.  

17When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 19Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18)

Elijah spoke the Truth to power and power did not like it. See John the Baptizer and King Herod Antipas. In our day, political and religious leaders have, “…abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals”, usually the Baals of their own fallen hearts.   In short, the LORD won through His chosen prophet and preacher of the Word against the false prophets.  But then Elijah hears that Jezebel wants to kill him, Elijah flees. Elijah  is overwhelmed.   He asks the Lord to take away his life (1 Kings 19:  4).  I think this is intra-Scriptural proof the utter historical veracity of the Bible:  a prophet is shown with all his faults as a fallen son of Adam. You can’t whitewash Old Adam, only the Lord can make him clean. Elijah hides himself in a cave.  The Lord knows where he is.  And after,  a great wind, an earthquake and fire, the Lord’s voice, His Word is heard in “a small still voice” (1 Kings 19: 12, KJV).  The next time we hear of Elijah is when he and Moses are speaking with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration about His “departure”, in Luke’s Gospel, literally, His exodus: not to flee from slavery but to free all those in slavery (Luke 9:29-31).  All come to faith, not primarily by the powerful deeds of Jesus, His miracles,  but by the small still anguished voice from the Cross:  “It is finished”.  The King upon the Cross did what no earthly kingly would ever do or could ever do:  die for His subjects, bearing their sins. Indeed, 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1;  emphasis my own)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elijah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,  who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 Text:  St.  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

The parable of the Sower is about the Sower.  A sower sows seed and he did so in a rather liberal manner by just casting the seed all over the place, all over the earth. The sower’s seed is the “word of the Kingdom”, the Word of God’s reign. After all, the Father causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust. After all every Word that proceeds from God, every Word of the Bible, by His Word every man can live.  Jesus asked the disciples, Who do men say that I am?  Some say one of the prophets, some say John the Baptist…The Sower is not sowing men’s words, men’s opinions about God, man made theologies and religions, but the Word of the Kingdom, God’s reign, His Church.  Jesus already taught the disciples to pray, Thy Kingdom Come. God’s Kingdom, His Reign through, with and under His Son Jesus Christ will come without our prayer but in this prayer petition we pray it comes also among us day by day, as Luther taught in the catechisms. Nations and kingdoms rule by force and sadly sometimes by  the love of force. The Lord’s reign comes by the force of His love which is grace and peace for burdened sinners.  Jesus reiterated John the Baptist’s sermon:  The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and  believe the good news.  The Church is Jesus’ seed company.

The Lord teaches that the  seed as the word of the Kingdom.  What is that word?  It is the Word of the Cross.  The reign of God does not come by glory but by suffering, the Cross. Seeds can only grow by being buried  in the soil.  Men and women are dead in His crucifixion and rise by the power of His indestructible life.  Hard-scrabble sinners seizing in faith Jesus Christ for the water of forgiveness in Baptism.  Into that hard-scrabble field He sent and went with His disciples, Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the eons.  He sent His disciples into a creation in “bondage to corruption”, as it is written in Romans, to spread the Word.  Amidst our own sin and sorrow, fightings and fears within and without, He has planted His Word, His seed.  Just think of the church throughout the world, His field in severe oppression in Islamic nations, in China, in Africa:  flourishing with enemies all about. The soil that is good is the soil that knows it cannot produce a plant, it needs a seed, good seed, from the Sower’s hand, His nail imprinted Hand, the Word of God’s grace and peace in Jesus Christ.  In His hand are the depths of the earth, His hands formed the dry land. Good soil knows it is soil.  The root word of “humility” is “humus”, soil.  Other soils, other people, other souls just won’t get it.

The Pharisees accused Jesus as a man healing people by the power of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons”.  Just before that charge, it is reported in Matthew 12: 14 that the Pharisees “…went out and conspired against Him, how to destroy Him.”  In chapter 11 the Lord’s cousin, John the Baptist had sent his disciples who did not really get it that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.  Two cities of which Jesus did many great deeds were unrepentant.  The times were hard and so was the soil. And here in chapter 13 sprouting up is our Lord’s Sermon of Parables: three quarters of them are all about seeds and plants growing.  This is what the reign of the Lord is like.  “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”  1 Corinthians 15:  43

A seed in the ground growing. Sown in weakness.  Sown in death.  Against amazing all odds. Even malicious enemies. There is no moral law which makes a seed grow.

Along the beaten path, the road very traveled, that every Tom, Dick and Harry walks, the easy path that leads to destruction,  the devil comes along and snatches the seed of the Word of God’s reign.  Others, will fall on rocky ground and the Word is received with joy but something goes wrong or someone makes fun of the person’s new faith, it withers and dies.   Then the thorns of the “cares of this world”, and “deceitfulness of riches” chokes “the word” and there is no fruit.  His teaching here to the crowd is also guide to the harvest in the Lord’s reign of what to look out for in tending the fields.  The crowd goes down that easy path to destruction, not to tag along.  Yes, there will be tribulations, but behold, as He said, You will have troubles in this world, but behold, I have overcome the world…and wealth’s deceitfulness, it deceives with false security. But in the good soil Jesus taught the seed will produce a harvest, bountiful and green.  The Lord sends forth His Word like the rain and the snow and He purposes for it His will for us and our salvation.  The Lord numbers the harvest, 100, 60 or 30 bushels of grain, not us. The Lord  does this,

“…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

Those who understand the Word and to understand the Word one stands under the Word, not over it.  If some preacher, preaching something about Jesus says, If you just have really strong faith, then your will have fill in the blank, usually wealth, health and power, then I would be fancying myself a faith that I stand over God’s Word. Faith is not about getting what we want, but receiving what the Lord gives:  His grace, mercy and peace for us all. The sower is not efficient in his sowing technique, called “broadcast sowing”.  He broadcasts the Word of the Kingdom with liberal abandon and those who get it marvel that His Word would grow in them, and ever more marvel at the wonders of His generosity and grace.  The broadcast continues.  He who has ears, let him hear, Jesus tells the crowd.  He is still working the crowd, actually, working the soil. His will is that all come to the knowledge of the truth.  In Matthew chapter 11, He invites, Come to Me all who are burden and heavy laden.  In chapter, five, “The poor in spirit are blessed, because the reign of heaven is theirs!”  Jesus will work the soil in it’s  hardness, thorns and rocks.  As a grain of wheat, proclaimed Jesus, remains alone, until it is planted in the soil and dies and comes to life again, it can not bear much fruit.  The Word made flesh is the Word of the reign of God planted in His Cross for us all. His death is our death, the death of the deeds of the body and the Holy Spirit makes alive His Church, His people, His soil, His souls, as He is risen from the dead.  I am the vine you are the branches, without Me you can do nothing..

Is it not written that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit? Faith is, then, a poverty of spirit, a hunger and thirst, a poor, empty heart opening toward God so that He can put His grace into it. When God bestows His grace upon us, we are born anew and become partakers of the new life.(Bp.Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God)

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