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“The surest way to suppress our ability to understand the meaning of God and the importance of worship is to take things for granted…Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin.
― Abraham Joshua Heschel

What is most frightening in this Calvin and Hobbes comic is that the writer/artist does not bother to even consider a third way:  it is true we are not alone because the Lord with His angels is ever near that we may call upon Him. These cartoon characters are as bereft of wonder as is modern man that they can not even look at the stars and wonder at the wonder of it all and say, There is a Creator.  What is even more frightening is a materialistic universe without God. If this is a universe without the Lord, only matter, it means the universe is self-created which makes no sense. Creation only occurs by the hands of another.  The creation is made by Another:  the Lord God.  

“In beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”  Genesis 1: 1

(The Lord) determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147: 4

Meme of the Day

O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. May those who continue to read, mark, and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Jerome, Translator of Holy Scripture:  Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea around AD 345. At a young age, he went to study in Rome, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian Desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople, Jerome settled in Bethlehem. from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the Western Church for more than 1,o00 years. Considered one of the great scholars of the Early Church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem, but his remains were eventually taken to Rome. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  Jerome is remembered for the translation of the Bible into Latin, but he was also rigorous as to the way the clergy minister the Scripture and Sacraments to Christ’s people in a culture with great wealth and poverty.  

A clergyman, then, serving Christ’s church, must first understand what his name means; and then, when he realizes this, must endeavor to be that which he is called. For since the Greek word kleros means “lot,” or “inheritance,” the clergy are so called either because they are the lot of the Lord, or else because the Lord Himself is their lot and portion. Now, one who in his own person is the Lord’s portion, or has the Lord for his portion, must so bear himself as to possess the Lord and to be possessed by him. He who possesses the Lord, and who says with the prophet, “The Lord is my portion,” (Ps. 16: 5; 73: 26) can hold to nothing beside the Lord.

Jerome continued in this letter to a fellow priest, Nepotian, that a pastor should not hold on to riches and the favors of the wealthy.  The pastor will then hold onto desiring the favor of the world, rather than serving the Lord’s people with His Word.  Favoring the wealthy, the pastor forgets the poor. The pastor holds the Lord as his portion and that includes His Word, especially the Holy Scriptures.  In a sense, a seminary has only one book it’s library:  the Bible. The remainder of the library emanates from Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone.  Jerome did not translate the Bible into Latin because he considered that language holy.  Future generations would incorrectly consider Latin as such.  Jerome translated the Bible into common language of the Roman Empire which stretched across the Mediterranean.  Jerome knew the call of the Lord to spread “the eternal Gospel”:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. Revelation 14: 6

If pastors do not hold the Lord and His Word as their portion then neither will the congregation.  If pastors do not study His Word, then the congregation will not be fed the Word, but be susceptible to eat the junk food of  the world. I have been told that at one time one of the requirements for a bishop was to memorize the Psalms.  When pastors have at the ready the Scripture, then they can counsel the flock so prone to wander.  May the Lord raise up in our time faithful pastors of the Word and faithful translators of the Scripture so that the Holy Spirit wields the sword of the Word to defend His people and so that others may hear the Word of Christ and be saved (cf. Ephesians 6: 17/ Romans 10:  14-17)

Artwork, such as this statue from St. Michael’s Church, Hamburg, Germany, portrays St. Michael casting out Lucifer, aka Satan, Father of lies, Devil etc., as recorded in Revelation 12: 7-12. Artists have added the Cross to the Scripture passage, though not recorded in Holy Writ in the Revelation passage. Yet, it is true: by Christ’s death and resurrection, the devil is put to flight in the Lord’s mercy toward us sinners.

Prayer of the Day

Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

About St. Michael and All Angels:    The name of the archangel St. Michael means “Who is like God?” Michael is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (12:1), as well as in Jude (v. 9) and Revelation (12:7). Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against the forces of evil. In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight against and defeat Satan and the evil angels, driving them from heaven. Their victory is made possible by Christ’s own victory over Satan in His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Revelation 12:10). Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the other chief angels or archangels who surround the throne of God. Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians t the hour of death. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

LessonsDaniel 10: 10-14  Psalm 91   Revelation 12: 7-12  St. Matthew 18: 1-11 or St. Luke 10: 17-20

Reflection on Revelation 19:   The angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

and

Hebrews 1: 14: Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

God’s Word is clear.  When angels bring God’s Word to mortals, there is knee-knocking fear.  This is why Gabriel first had to say to Mary, Fear not.  Yet, the Scripture is equally clear:  angels are humble.  As it is written in Revelation 19, when John wants to worship the angel, the angel is clear, “You must not do that!”  Angels and saints in heaven are not to be worshiped, that is, prayed to and invoked, as too many churches do to this day.  I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.  Angels which are luminous servants and messengers of the Most High, are our fellow servants!  Angels hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Further, we read in Hebrews angels serve us mortals.  Mortals, who by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, received through faith in the work of the Holy Spirit, are inheritors of salvation.  I think when popular articles about UFOs and ETs, begin with, “we are not alone”, it is strange and sad science fiction comfort that is sought:  we are not alone in the vast universe.

But the Lord has told us this for  centuries, the millenia:  we are not alone. His angels keep us safe and watch over us, serving us frail mortals.  The angels know they did not die for sinners.  The angels saw what happened when one of their own wanted to be worshiped as God, that is, Lucifer (literally, light bearer).  The angels know that God’s own Son did not die and rise for them, but for the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve, who fancy themselves as ‘stars’, wanting to be “like God”, following the angel hosts’ fallen brother’s lie (see Genesis 3). Again, the name  Michael means,  “Who is like God?”  Answer: not Michael, but the Son of Joseph, the Son of God. The angels know they can not bring another Gospel (see Galatians 1:8), but they give witness to the Gospel of the Son’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, the “eternal Gospel”,  for us all to see and come to faith, see Revelation 14:6.

We are not alone. This is comfort to the Lord’s redeemed people that God is One, yet the Lord is not alone.  “Glorious is God with His angels and saints, O Come, let us worship Him” (invitatory for daily prayer).  The Lord, the blessed and holy Trinity, wants His kingdom filled with the redeemed.  I was reminded this morning of a Biblical insight in an eloquent article by Chad Bird, How a Small Rural Congregation Became a Megachurch Overnight”.  It is clear in Revelation that the angels with mortals worship the Lamb upon His throne. The Biblical insight is that when we tally how many were at worship on a given Sunday, we can not count, “angels and archangels and all the company heaven, lauding and magnifying Thy Holy Name, ever more praising Thee and saying, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, LORD GOD OF SABOATH , HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE FULL OF THY GLORY. HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST.” (part of the prefaces in the Divine Service). We are not alone, we are baptized into a holy communion.

A blessed Feast Day to all!

Text:  St. Matthew 21: 23-32, especially these verses:

For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

The Lord told the Parables of Vineyard just before and just after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  He was entering the vineyard of the Lord, Jerusalem.  The Lord planted  the true vine in the Temple by His Name abiding in the Temple during the time of David and Solomon.  The Parable of the Tenants in the vineyard is the climax of our Lord’s Parables of the Vineyard, which follows the today’s Parable of the Two Sons.  Vineyards are joyful places!  Rockbridge County has it’s share of vineyards and wineries.  Vineyards, then and now, were primarily for one purpose:  wine making.  This time of the year, autumn is that joyful time in a vineyard, the press of the grapes, after the growing season of careful pruning and tending to the vine, is the fruit of the harvest.  Israel is the Lord’s vineyard.  The Church is His vineyard.  The Lord calls His people into His vineyard. 

The Father called his sons to work in his vineyard. The first son who said No, afterward “changed his mind”.  In the parable, Jesus does not say what changed the first son’s mind. This lesson is bracketed by the holy example of John the Baptist. “For John came to you in the way of righteousness”.   The tax collectors and prostitutes said No to the Lord’s gracious call to work in His vineyard and changed their minds. What changed their minds?   Their minds were changed by John’s preaching and teaching. It was not John’s vestments of camel hair nor his diet of locusts and wild honey that changed their minds.  The Word of God changed the minds of the tax collectors and prostitutes.   They heard the Lord’s just Word of judgment over their sin.  They heard the gracious call of the coming Messiah, the Christ to enter into His vineyard, His reign, the kingdom come. Jesus said the tax collectors and prostitute believe in the Word and the Word changes minds,  puts a new heart within us, and the soul lives. 

The second son said I will but did not go.  “For John came to you in the way of righteousness”.  Note what Jesus said, “John came “to you”.  Jesus did not say John came “to them”.  It is as if the Lord said to the chief priests and elders: “My son, you can not find fault with John the Baptizer, as if he were some careless person of no value.  His life was godly.  His care for you was great, and yet you did not pay attention to him.”[1] The father loved both his sons. The second son said, Yes, I will work in the vineyard.   What changed the second son’s mind, that is the chief priest and elders, if you will, the church leadership, the pastors and priests, not to enter the vineyard?    Jesus tells us:  they did not believe the Word of God preached by John.  I think the chief priests and elders  knew the preaching of John was from heaven.  The chief priests and scribes could not bring themselves to see themselves as sinners also.  John’s Baptism was for all, including the religious elites. Those who think they are spiritual, apart from Christ Jesus, do not consider themselves as part of the ‘great unwashed’.  They knew if they said, “from heaven”, then they were implicated along with the scum of the earth, the tax collectors and whores.    The will of the Father is to believe in His Son whom He sent into the vineyard, who wills no one to be standing idle saying Oh, Look at my spirituality, my good works, how our program will save the church.  Instead, He calls by His Word which sets us on our feet in His certus sermo, certain word. God’s Word is free and frees.  Paul wrote from prison to his brother pastor that though Paul was bound, “But the Word of God is not bound”( 2 Timothy 2:9).

Not believing or believing the Word of God, written, spoken and fully, the Word made flesh is still the great divide in these gray and latter days.  The Word made flesh entered into Jerusalem on a donkey, into the vineyard of Jerusalem and He said three times before His triumphal entry, over the course of a year,  that the Son of Man was to be mocked and derided, spat upon, crucified, buried and rise again. The Word is mocked, derided and sinful man tries to crucify it and say with glee, The Bible is not true!  It is interesting to point out that Mormons do not do that to the Book of Mormon, nor Muslims with the Q’uran.  But many Christians and Jews, so called Biblical scholars do so to the written word of God with relish.  They teach at too many seminaries. Why?  Because the Bible is actually the truth of God’s own Word for us sinners.  The devil goes after only  the truth of his enemy above’s Word. 

Does the devil really want people to heed the Lord’s gracious call into His vineyard, His Word, the Word of His reign?  The way of righteousness is the way of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  This is our mind which is yours in Christ Jesus, as it is written in the great hymn from Philippians epistle for today.  He did not count equality with God as something to be grasped…it can not be grasped…He emptied Himself.   As C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape letters, his fiction of letters of Screwtape, chief tempter in hell to a sub-tempter. Screwtape can not stand, nor understand the Enemy Above’s “ inveterate love of those two legged vermin”.  The Lord does you know, loves you.  Human love finds that is which is pleasing to it, God’s love seeks, find  and creates what is pleasing to the Lord. I may find ‘love’, but God finds us, broken and half-hearted creatures.  True love does not seek anything for itself, but for you.  Again, the father in Jesus’ parable loved both his sons…as in another parable with a prodigal father and  two sons, the younger son who ran away and spent the father’s fortune on himself and the elder son.  He loved them both. The Lord’s parables are finally masterpieces of fiction, but by those masterpieces, the Lord does not portray at all a fiction:  the way of righteousness which is the Way of Jesus’ Cross.  Not a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…gift.  The Lord’s, “…every call, every urging, every impelling motivation, occurs solely for our own sake, so that we may work in the vineyard and also become partakers of the reward” (Johann Gerhard).   Is the reward salvation?  Yes, but Gerhard knew we cannot earn it, we can learn of it and by it. As we prayed Psalm 25: 1-10:

 

 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
  for you are the God of my salvation;
 for you I wait all the day long.

 

The reward is the Lord Himself.  Holding onto to sin, or a sin, is death.  Repentance is letting it go as He has bourn it upon the Cross.  As Ezekiel preached about sin, cast it away.  It was cast upon the Lamb of God.  He leads us more and more into His truth and teaches us in the fruitfulness of His vineyard in the faithfulness of Father’s Word incarnate in His Son: I am the vine ye are the branches…without me you can do nothing (cf. John 15:5).  “I am the way, the truth and the life, not comes to Father except by me” (John 14:6).

 

The way of the Cross is the sign of eternal life. The Lord’s resurrection validates His authority to forgive that we live.

 

The way of the Cross is His resurrection, “holding onto the word of life”(Philippians 2)  at His Table.

 

The way of the Cross is humility: “counting others as more significant than yourselves.”  Paul knew what it was like to think of himself as more significant than others.  As Jesus revealed Himself to Paul as the very God who counted others as more significant than Himself as He bore their sins, even Paul’s.  Paul counted, as he said, everything as loss and gladly in know Christ as Savior.  As we prayed Psalm 25: 1-10:

 

“He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.”

 

The cross is the way of righteousness, hearing and believing and so obeying His Word, dying to sin and arising in Christ in His forgiveness, “..that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2).

Where is the Lord’s Vineyard? It has been here in the community room of the Library and next week at the Old Buena Vista fire house.  It is true that the Church is not primarily a building but His people.  Wherever Christ is, there is His people.  As He promised, where 2 or 3 gather together in My Name, there I am (Matthew 18).  Where His Supper is, His Body and Blood, and His Word is His forgiveness in His Church, His vineyard.  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, keeps your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] adapted from a Johann Gerhard Sermon

The Parable of the Prodigal Son, St. Luke 15: 11-32

Hymn Stanza of the Day

The world seeks to be praised
And honored by the mighty,
Yet never once reflects
That they are frail and flighty.
But what I truly prize
Above all things is He,
My Jesus, He alone,
What is the world to me!

Above is the second stanza of  “What is the World to Me”, #730, Lutheran Service Book.  A longer and older version of this hymn can be found here.

The Lutheran Service Book includes on the bottom right hand the Scripture passages which are reflected in each hymn.  This hymn’s Bible basis are these linked passages:

John 2: 15-17

Philippians 3: 7-9

Psalm 73: 25

Romans 12: 2

We sang “What is the World to Me” this past Sunday and when we came to today’s stanza , and the phrase regarding the world as “frail and flighty”, I had to suppress a chuckle.  “Frail and flighty” are last words used to describe the world by the unregenerate Old Adam in it. It is usually “strong and mighty”.  

I think it is the word “flighty” that tickled my funny bone. “Flighty”   as in flitting about from one thing to another, always looking for something else;  synonyms are:    fickle, inconstant, mercurial, whimsical, capricious, skittish, volatile,impulsive.  What makes one laugh is the ironic truth behind any kind of joke or humor.  The world thinks it is strong and mighty, stable,  and never once reflects it is frail and flighty.  It seeks, “…to be praised”.  The Lutheran Book of Worship was begun in 1965 and then published in 1978.  “What is the World to Me” was not included in it.  Why?  My speculation is that this hymn was too much on target because the Lutheran churches were trying to be more acceptable to the world and note the time era of the construction of the LBW:  the 60s.  When a church tries to emulate the world then it too is flighty, that is,  in flight from God’s Word. 

The flightiness of the world is seen in the very medium with which I am communicating to you.  The internet is one thing after another, latest meme, update, important article, status update, all faster than a hummingbird going from flower to flower. Now this can be fun, but like any of men’s tools it can be a tool of devil to conform us to the world and continue in slavery.  A hummingbird is flighty in order to eat, while we are flighty in filling ourselves with world’s junk food of self-centered ‘wisdom’ to always be looking out for number #1. As it is written in the cited 1 John passage above, the world is, “…is passing away along with its desires”, yet the world and it’s rulers, both elected and non-elected, all the omni-competent elite, think the world centered on the world is going to last forever.  It won’t.  “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”  Yet this very world is the one the Lord so loved He gave His only-begotten Son (John 3:16) The will of God is to believe the One He has sent to save us from the world and to serve the Lord and our neighbor in the world .

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”  Idolatry is always worshiping what is seen, “the desires of the eyes”   while faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard is the Word of Christ (see Romans 10:17).  We can not hold a sound of a word, or the Word, in our hands, but instead the sound of the word comes into us. The Lord by His Word puts this struggle of the Word with the world in our hearts, souls and minds, that we are not conformed to the world, but are transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), which is yours in the crucified and risen the Lord (cf. Philippians 2:5 ff).

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