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Today in the United Kingdom is Mothering Sunday. The Lord bless all the Mums in the UK!

Originally posted on Concordia and Koinonia:

“(The Church) is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God”

(The Large Catechism, from Luther’s teaching on the 3rd Article of The Creed)

I was reminded in my studies today that this Sunday, 4th Sunday in Lent, Laetare,  (“Rejoice with Jerusalem!”, from the Introit, Isaiah 10a and 11a, for this Sunday)  is in the United Kingdom, “Mothering Sunday”.It was on this Sunday when everyone  in the UK would return to the church in which they were baptized, their “mother church” and it eventually became the UK’s Mother’s Day, but unlike our Mother’s Day, I like the direct connection of their Mothering Day with the Church, Baptism and Lent, and the family. I came across this article by Pr. Ristau, (he has a different theme  than this article: worth reading!) in which he extensively quotes Meditation XXIII, “The Dignity of the…

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There are 7 petitions in the Lord’s Prayer which the Lord has taught us.  The petitions are definite:  The Lord’s Name, His Kingdom, His Will, Our daily bread, Our Trespasses, Our lives prevented from temptation, Our deliverance from the evil one. The first three petitions correspond with the first table of the Law, God’s relation with us, love of the Lord,  vertical in dimension.  The second 4 petitions, our relations with each other, love of the neighbor, horizontal in dimension, corresponds with the 2nd Table of the Law.  The first three petitions’ dominant pronoun is “Thy” and second four “ours” and “us’, and always in that order:  Thy and us.  The Lord has given us His Name, His Kingdom, or reign, His Will as His Church’s backbone so that we can live in the world and in the world to come. The church backbone is Jesus Christ so His Church, His Body, His temple may serve the Lord and neighbor, steadfast, not swept away by every wind of doctrine. His vertebrae is as firm as the Cross:  atonement for sin, reconciling God and man, and His arms reaching out for all men to the ends of the earth. In this world, the Lord knows we need our daily bread, our sins forgiven, our souls prevented from temptation and our soul and body delivered from evil and the evil one.  He has shown us the way we are to live in the 10 commandments, all that He given us in the Apostles’ Creed so be His people,  and now the need to pray in the way of Jesus Christ, life of all the living,  as our help and stay. 

The longest book in the Bible is Psalms.  Psalms are prayers.  It is in the middle of the Bible.  Here doctrine takes wing.  “You took the words right out of my mouth”.  “God takes the initiative and puts into our mouths the very words we are to use.” (Luther).  Lord we  can take the words right out of Your mouth.  You have taught us to pray.  You have given us Your words to pray and Your Word that You hear the prayer of faith.  O Lord, You have prayed, not in heaven, but upon the earth, in the world turned against you.  O Lord, the only begotten Son of the Father as a true man, You were tempted in every we are, knowing the darkness of the evil one.  You hungered for daily bread, needing every Word of God as bread. You called upon Your Father for His will to be done, that is the sin of the world to be taken away in Your sinless body for us and for our salvation. You prayed to Your Father in heaven so that we can pray, Our Father who art in heaven. You O Jesus are our prayer.  The Lord’s Prayer is the Gospel.  

Billy Joel wrote a song, Second Wind and it has this interesting lyric:

You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only things that you can truly call your own

As in our trespasses, our temptations.  The Lord who has forgiven us nailed to the Cross took upon Himself what  He did not own: our trespasses and made them His own, all of them.  We can own up to what we owe the Lord because of His loving kindness, as we turn to Him day by day.

 

In another sense, Mr. Joel was wrong in his assertion that mistakes or trespasses are the only things we can truly call our own.  We can call bread, what we need to live, as our own, our daily bread, our own.  Dad and Mom make a living, buy a house, pay for the food. Their children, who have not paid a dime for any of it, still can call it our house, our table, our home.  Our own.  So also our Father in heaven gives us our daily bread as our own.  He gives us His every word as our daily bread, our own.  He has given us forgiveness and in that forgiveness, by grace as a gift, that we are His own. He has given us His own Son so that we may pray, Our Father Who art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy Name.  Amen.

I came across the meme above as I looked for one for the previous article on the 6th Petition. I think the meme above is kind of snarky, anti-meme, that is, anti  Christ.  ‘Okay, You want us not to go into temptation, so just tell it where it is…(Got Him!)”.  Our Father has told us already the exact locations of temptation:  the flesh, the world and devil.  The Lord shows us precisely what temptation is,  by the mirror of the 10 Commandments and the temptation to break each and every commandment…and have. So in the Lord’s Prayer, before we even get to the last petitions about temptation and evil, we have prayed:  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”.  In Christ’s forgiveness for the tempted and the fallen, including folks who write snark, we pray, Lead us not into temptation.  Temptation:  We’ve been there and done that and Jesus Christ has been there and borne that. We need to have this prayer petition at the ready at all times…especially in reading “clever” stuff!

From Dr. Luther’s The Small Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, Explanation of the 6th Petition, “Lead us not into temptation”

“Temptation…is of three kinds, namely, of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. 

For in the flesh we dwell and carry the old Adam about our neck, who exerts himself and incites us daily to unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, avarice and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him, and, in short, to all manner of evil lusts which cleave to us by nature, and to which we are incited by the society and example of other people and by things  we hear and see, which often wound and inflame even an innocent heart.” (emphasis my own)

The society and example of other people in our day and time is seen, heard, read and felt  on television, radio and the internet.  For instance: The whole purpose of  advertising has one clear goal and that is coveting.  This means breaking the 9th and 10th commandments to inculcate the desire, even the lust, to want more,to buy more, to have joy and happiness. Even the innocent heart can be so inflamed! And as it is written, “Covetousness is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5and we are back to the 1st Commandment.  It is one vicious circle. All the breaking of the Law is to steal from God’s glory…. and from His help in the time of temptation and trial.   The society of advertisers know this intrinsically as the lust of the flesh inheres in us all.  A DVR sure does help in order to fast forward through the commercials!  But that is only a stop gap measure.  The encouragement today is the last paragraphs of Pr. Luther’s explanation of the 6th petition:

 “…we Christians must be armed and prepared for (the devil’s) incessant attacks. Then we shall not go about securely and heedlessly as if the devil were far from us but shall at all times expect his blows and parry them. Even if at present I am chaste, patient, kind, and firm in faith, the devil is likely in this very hour to send such a shaft into my heart that I can scarcely stand, for he is an enemy who never stops or becomes weary; when one attack ceases, new ones always arise.

At such times your only help or comfort is to take refuge in the Lord’s Prayer and to appeal to God from your heart, “Dear Father, Thou halt commanded me to pray; let me not fall because of temptation.” Then you will see the temptation cease and eventually admit defeat. Otherwise, if you attempt to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsels, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil a better opening. For he has a serpent’s head; if it finds an opening into which it can slip, the whole body will irresistibly follow. But prayer can resist him and drive him back.”

Joseph and Jesus

“…the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their maliceand hate” (Sir Thomas More)

Today’s Old Testament reading is Genesis 37 which is the beginning of the narrative of Joseph.  The Joseph narrative continues till the end of Genesis, chapter 50. Joseph is crucial in the narration of salvation history.

Joseph’s tale begins when he was 17 years of age.  Joseph is the beloved son of Jacob.  Jacob had 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel and of the 12 sons Joseph is Jacob’s beloved son, his favorite.  Jacob had two wives, Rachel and Leah and two concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah and they were the mothers of the 12 (cf. Genesis 35:  22b-26).  Of the 4 mothers, Jacob’s favorite wife was Rachel.

From the get-go in chapter 37, Joseph had dreams and his dreams signified that his mother and father, and pointedly, his 11 brothers would bow down to Joseph.  Joseph was already the favorite and Jacob gave him a “coat of many colors” and so Joseph’s brothers, “…hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.” (vs.4).

The brothers 11 wanted to kill Joseph but the oldest said no.  They eventually sold Joseph into slavery for 20 shekels of silver (vs. 28) and he went into a foreign land, Egypt, as a slave…a slave who would eventually free his brothers some 20 years later.  The brothers 11 told their father Jacob that Jacob was killed by a “fierce animal” and they dipped Joseph’s robe in goat’s blood to ‘prove’ Joseph’s death.  The brothers 11 also killed their Father’s heart with grief.

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers into a type of death.

Jesus was betrayed by His brothers into death itself.

Joseph was a free man and became a slave to serve his brothers.

Jesus was utterly free and became a slave to serve his brothers.

Joseph was tempted to sin by Potiphar’s wife and was led out of temptation.

Jesus was tempted every way we are, yet was without sin so that He may help us in the trial.

Joseph was spared execution by his brothers, Jesus was not.

Joseph was embalmed, “…and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (the last verse of Genesis), and Jesus was put into a tomb but the tomb could not hold Him.

There are probably more comparisons which you can make.

At the beginning of Genesis chapter 37, when Joseph’s brothers were out in the fields pasturing the flocks, Jacob sends  Joseph out to see how they are doing.  As Joseph goes into the wide expanse of Palestine, a man comes and speaks with Joseph.

15 And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

 Reasoning that out in the Valley of Hebron there might have not been many people walking about. Some of the rabbis thought the man was an angel, no less than Gabriel because in Daniel 8:16, Gabriel is called a man.  Nevertheless, the man does have an aura of mystery about him, because he comes out of nowhere, knows Joseph, though Joseph does not seem to know him and  by sending Joseph to his brothers begins the whole story of Joseph being sold into slavery.  “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers…”  Then as it turns out, Joseph years later, in a wholly different fashion, in Egypt,  or as he was known by the Egyptian name,  Zaphenath-paneah,as Pharoah’s second in command,Joseph would still seek his brothers.

Joseph, as a lord in Egypt, freed his brothers. Joseph knew it was right to do so. His brothers repented:

“And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today. (chapter 50)

Jesus came as God incarnate to be our brother, and evil, greater than done to Joseph, was done to the only begotten Son of God, the Beloved, to keep a people alive to this day. God meant it for good.  The Lord still seeks His brothers and sisters. 

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2)

 

On this day 40 Roman soldiers, who were Christians, were executed by the Empire for their faith.  In our centuries of martyrs, we must remember them and the martyrs of old who gave the full measure of their lives in their blood as witness (martyr) to the blood of Jesus Christ and His love.  This is their story:

 

So far we have heard the first part of Christian doctrine, (that is the 10 Commandments). In it we have seen all that God wishes us to do or not to do. The Creed properly follows, setting forth all that we must expect and receive from God; in brief, it teaches us to know him perfectly. It is given  in order to help us do what the Ten Commandments require of us, For, as we said above, they are set on so high a plane that all human ability is far too feeble and weak to keep them. Therefore it is as necessary to learn this part as it is the other so that we may know where and how to obtain strength for this task. If we could by our own strength keep the Ten Commandments as they ought to be kept, we would need neither the Creed nor the Lord’s Prayer.

Therefore, Martin Luther introduced the Apostles’ Creed.  The word “creed” is from the Latin word, “Credo”  or “I believe”.  The Creed begins with “I believe”.  A creed is statement of belief but note, it is not “I believed”, but present tense, “I believe”.  Why?  The object of belief and faith is the living God who is creating, redeeming and sanctifying us.  The Creed confesses the present tense of the Lord. 

These works of God are described, not in the past tense, but as happening now. God is still creating and caring. The Redeemer is now bringing under his rule those freed from the tyranny of the devil. The great works of God in the past are seen as works at the same time being done in and to us now. The goal of all the activity of God is the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Everything God does leads to this. Then the confession of faith becomes a jubilant witness to the wonderful works of God in Jesus Christ for us. The Creed, therefore, is not speaking of metaphysical facts, toward which a person can take a neutral attitude. On the contrary, a person who reads or says or hears it is directly addressed by the real, triune God, addressed—and this is the real intent of the Creed—by his saving and merciful love.Thus seen, the Creed becomes an exposition of the gospel. The revelation of what God really is, is gospel or good news for men. (Teaching Luther’s Catechism I, by Herbert Girgensohn) 

In a recent article, a philosopher professor saw a disturbing sign in his son’s second grade classroom: 

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.                                                   

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes. 

Believing is now  simply an opinion, not a fact, so not true.  The sages of the zeitgeist assert that the only truths are facts.  If that were true, then we could not live nor understand anything.  The Declaration of the United States has the memorable line, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..  Thomas Jefferson wrote those words and all those who signed the Declaration said what is written is true.  The Declaration declares what they wrote is truth, it is “self-evident”, as plain as the nose on your face.  Now if facts alone are true, then the Declaration is not true. I cannot prove by sight that the Creator has endowed these rights, yet the very nature of what humankind as it is created to be, attests to that truth.  The last sentence of the Declaration:  “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”.  If the American revolution failed, Jefferson and the founding fathers of our nation could have been executed for treason.  Those men risked their lives for truth.  If facts alone are truth…. 

None of us can prove that there is a Creator, after all, neither you nor I were there when God the Father, Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, said, “Let there be light”.  I also believe as truth the fact that Carol Schroeder gave birth to me on January 25th, 1954.  I don’t remember it at all.  I have witnesses of my birth:  my Mom and my Dad. That’s enough.  I can not “prove” it but they told me and I know it is true.  I did not see my birth with my own eyes. I believe it as true. I trust, believe in Mom and Dad, and that is a fact.  It is not my untruthful opinion. 

The Lord who created the heavens and the earth breathed His Word, as in the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures for many men to write it down.  Now that written Word, the Bible, from which the Creed is compendium of the Word, particularly, the Gospel, is true, because unlike other creeds, this Creed attests the Triune God creates, redeems and sanctifies, present tense,  for us.  As much as Emil and Carol Schroeder loved each other to have a child, so much more the Father of all love and mercy creates, redeems and sanctifies. 

 “I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth”.  Just think of the radical change of meaning if the word “Father” is dropped, “I believe in God the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”.  Most religions attest to that, but the Lord, our Father who art in heaven, the one God, has revealed His disposition toward us.  The living heart of the Creed is the Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Ghost.  To know God is to know his benefits (Phillip Melancthon) and the Creed is the witness that we are not self-created nor self-redeemed nor self-sanctified.  The Law of God has clearly shot out of the water self-creation by showing us the result of our self-creation:  sin and evil.  Truth is both fact and trust.  I believe that and I believe in.  The “For You” center of the Creed is Jesus Christ, who is both fact and the object of our trust, our Credo.  The Creed is: 

The greatest sign (signum), standing at the center, is the incarnate Son of God himself. The Creed thus acquires an aim and purpose directed toward us. Its ultimate aim and high point is not the revelation of the divine mysteries; it rather starts from the mysteries of God’s being and leads us to the works done in and for us. (Teaching Luther’s Catechism I, by Herbert Girgensohn) 

Women and men do not risk, “house, goods, honor, child or spouse” for an untruthful opinion.  Coptic Christians, 10 million in Egypt, are mostly poor day laborers.  For centuries, as second class citizens, brazenly tattooed on their wrists a cross and the cross is both fact and truth of the One who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,  crucified, died and was buried and on the third rose again. 21 Copts seem to have not denied the cross tattooed on their wrists…and so have thousands upon thousands not denied Christ from the Coliseum in Rome to the concentration camps to the ISIS crucifixions and beheadings…they  were martyred not for an opinion .  Now, in the Rite of Confirmation in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a confirmand is asked:  “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word and deed to remain truth to God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, even to death?  “I do,by the grace of God.” The sheer law of God overwhelms us with our knowledge of our sin, the sheer Gospel of the Creed overwhelms with the utter grace of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that we can pray, Our Father.  Next week the third Chief Part, the Lord’s Prayer.

 

 

 

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