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Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s scriptural studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wart­burg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. Luther died on February 18, 1546while visiting the town of his birth. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Lessons:

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Prayer of the Day

O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day, and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ’s faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

 

A few days before his death, Luther preached to a large congregation on  February 15, 1546.  This was his last sermon.The text was St. Matthew 11: 25-30

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

“…to the world it is very foolish and offensive that God should be opposed to the wise and condemn them, when, after all, we have the idea that God could not reign if he did not have wise and understanding people to help him. But the meaning of the saying is this: the wise and understanding in the world so contrive things that God cannot be favorable and good to them. For they are always exerting themselves; they do things in the Christian church the way they want to themselves. Everything that God does they must improve, so that there is no poorer, more insignificant and despised disciple on earth than God; he must be everybody’s pupil, everybody wants to be his teacher and preceptor. This may be seen in all heretics from the beginning of the world, in Arius and Pelagius, and now in our time the Anabaptists and antisacramentarians, and all fanatics and rebels; they are not satisfied with what God has done and instituted, they cannot let things be as they were ordained to be. They think they have to do something too, in order that they may be a bit better than other people and be able to boast: This is what I have done; what God has done is too poor and insignificant, even childish and foolish; I must add something to it. This is the nature of the shameful wisdom of the world, especially in the Christian church, where one bishop and one pastor hacks and snaps at another and one obstructs and shoves the other, as we have seen at all times in the government of the church to its great detriment. These are the real wiseacres, of whom Christ is speaking here, who put the cart before the horse and will not stay on the road which God himself has shown us, but always have to have and do something special in order that the people may say: Ah, our pastor or preacher is nothing; there’s the real man, he’ll get things done!”

 

Revelation 6:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

 

The following quotes are from a section of Pr. Johann Gerhard’s sermon, Invocavit Sunday on fasting, the text is: St. Matthew 4: 1-11.  Our Lord said, “When you fast…”, not “if you fast”,  but He nor the Scriptures give times and days for fasting.  When churches have done so, then it tends to be legalistic and a religious work that people consider as saving.  Further, considering that when you fast, as in individual prayer and giving to the poor, it is to be done in private, because the aim of fasting is the Lord (see St. Matthew 6: 4, 6, 18).   Fasting is a good discipline for Christ’s disciples and I think Pr. Gerhard’s preaching and teaching teaches the evangelical way of fasting:

Fasting from the lusts of the flesh:

Christ wanted to teach true fasting with His example: It does not consist of a person refraining from certain foods at certain times and regarding that as being meritorious and as a satisfaction for sin. Instead, the following is a true, God-pleasing fast, namely, “The primary, great universal fast,” as Augustine calls it, is a person abstains from the lusts of the flesh which strive against the soul, I Pet. 2:11, where a person then does not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, Gal. 5:16. Also, all members can fast in this manner if they do not give in to the servitude of impurity, but instead to the weapons of righteousness, Rom. 6:13 and 19.

Daily fasting:

Following this there is a daily fast: moderation. With it is observed an appropriate restraint in eating and drinking in order that one becomes adept at praying, skillful at his calling, and in the exercise of godliness. Also, this is of such a vital, essential necessity that Christ speaks with words worthy of reflection and contemplation: However, you be on guard so that your hearts do not become burdened with gobbling food and boozing, lest this final Day comes upon you like an ensnaring trap, Luke 21:34-35. If it were not of the utmost importance, Christ never would have used such stern words.

Fasting for Prayer and Reception of the Holy Communion:

Finally, there is a mourning and prayer fast, especially for when a person amidst general or specific misfortunes—or also when confronted with imminent common need—initiates a fast so that he may all the more be humbly devoted to prayer in acknowledgment of his sin. So also it was a fine practice with the ancient fathers that prior to the high Festivals and prior to the observance of the most worthy Lord’s Supper they would abstain from food and drink on the day before, or only ate one meal. They did this in order to become all the more adroit at prayer, at repenting and pondering the divine Word. Yet, here one dare never prescribe any specific, general rule, nor designate any specific times. Each person has to examine himself and thereby see to it that he also attend to the body so that he does not become lascivious, cf. Rom. 13 and 14.

About Shrove Tuesday

About the Day:  Shrove Tuesday is the night of “carnival”, see Mardi Gras!  “Carnival” from the Latin carne, “flesh”, as in “carnivore”,and “vale”, farewell, literally, farewell to the flesh. One more night of partying, before the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the 40 days of fasting.  Fasting is one mark of Lent. The other two marks of Lent are praying and almsgiving. The other name for today is Fat Tuesday.  The custom of church pancake suppers comes from emptying the kitchen shelves of eggs and milk by making pancakes, because the 40 days of Lent meant fasting from eggs, dairy, along with meat.  I think it is only the eastern Orthodox keep this fasting discipline.  

“Shrove” is not a word in much use these days, so here is a dictionary defintion, with the word’s origin:

Shrove, past tense of shrive:
Shrive; verb (used with object), shrove or shrived, shriven or shrived,shriving.
1.to impose penance on (a sinner).
2.to grant absolution to (a penitent).
3.to hear the confession of (a person).
verb (used without object), shrove or shrived, shriven orshrived, shriving. Archaic.
4.to hear confessions.
5.to go to or make confession; confess one’s sins, as to a priest.

Origin of “Shrive”before 900; Middle English shriven, schrifen, Old English scrīfan to prescribe,cognate with German schreiben to writeLatin scrībere; see scribe. (definition and etymology from Dictionary.com)

People in droves bought the book about Christian ‘spirituality’, The Purpose-Driven Life, but few would buy a book titled, “The Shriven Driven Life”. So many supposedly ‘Christian’ books are about how to be deliriously happy, your “best life now” without the reality a shriven life:  repentant, confessing sins and the need for the Lord’s absolution. the old 11th Century Hymn, “Alleluia, Song of Gladness” is to the point, third stanza (another translation):

Alleluia we deserve not
Here to chant forevermore;
Alleluia our transgressions
Make us for a while give o’er;
For the holy time is coming
Bidding us our sins deplore.

 Shrive is from the German, “to write”.  His Word written into our hearts and souls so to repent and live in Christ  We are in a spiritual war.  When we read, even view, the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians on the Libyan shore, “your best life now” is probably the beginning of atheism and such a shallow narcissistic idea. When the thief on the cross, to Jesus’ right, confessed and then prayed, Jesus, remember me when me when You come into Your Kingdom, he was shriven.  Jesus said:  Truly, today you will be with Me in paradise. Pope Francis said that some of those 21 Coptic Christians were praying, Jesus.  When we dwell on our own faults, we despair and the Lord says, Lift up your hearts: penitent, pained…and His promise to forgive.  

“Beat down Satan lower and lower and lift up Christ higher and higher” That is part of a hymn sung by Lutherans in Papua, New Guinea.  We can sing it because Jesus Christ has done the heavy lifting:  our sins in His Body on the Tree of the Cross.  It is ashes on the forehead but it is the Sign of the Cross.  Shriven. There is only One Who could literally cross the abyss from the Holy LORD to sinners in rebellion:  the One Who became our dust and ashes.  Jesus Christ is the second Adam, the man from Heaven.  (See 1 Corinthians 15:  45-49)  “In this Christian Church, He fully forgives my sins and sins of all believers.” (From Martin Luther’s explanation of the 3rd article of the Creed).  And when sin weighs you down, come to Jesus Christ where and when He said He will be:  This is My Body, This is My Blood.  If sins weighs you down, (and Satan wants to beat you lower and lower to drive you away from the Lord), pastors are called to hear confession in utter confidentiality  and offer the Lord’s own forgiveness to you personally in your ears and in your hearts (see St. John 20:  22-23;  1 John 1: 8-10). If death has undone you (T.S.Eliot), the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26), and enemies do not necessarily play fairly and death undid God,then flee to Him for refuge for His infinite mercy given in His Son. In the middle of the ashes, there is the Cross.  In the midst of death, there is Life.

 

Let us pray…

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. 
Selah

5I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Psalm 32

Meme of the Day

Meme of the Day

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Tertullian

Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one, holy catholic, and apostolic Church, in the renewal of its life in fidelity to Your Word and promise. Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Bio:  Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.  After the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the papal church wrote a response to it, the Confutation.  Once again, Melanchthon was called upon to write a defense of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession and The Apology of the Augsburg Confession are the first two confessions in The Book of Concord (1580). Melanchthon died on April 19, 1560.

Reflection:   He was Greek and Hebrew scholar.  Philip Melanchthon is an unlikely saint. He taught Luther the Greek of the New Testament (Koine or common Greek).  Like Luther,  Melanchthon was a professor and at the risk of profiling the man, he looks like an egghead professor.  The Lord’s saints are certainly not uniform but they are united in the one true Faith to confess Jesus is Lord.  Melanchthon was clear in the Augsburg Confession regarding the article by which the Church stands or falls:

Article I, Of God:  Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself…

Article IV, Of Justification:  Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins.  This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Professor Melanchthon demonstrates that the Faith confessed in the Nicene Creed is the justifying faith in what Christ has done for us in His death.  The faith is Biblical, confessional, evangelical and catholic.  If we could be justified, made right by our own “strength, merits, or works”, there would be no need for Jesus Christ.  Justifying our selves is the daily grind of news, op-ed pieces, talk show ‘confessions’, and the like and it is pitiful. It is as pitiful as Adam covering his shame with the sham clothes of fig leaves.  A saying that made the rounds a few years back was, “You can run but you can’t hide”,is truthful.  The Old Adam knows that.  Here is Jesus, true God and true man, searching as a father for his lost son, as a shepherd for the one lost sheep, as woman looking for her lost coin,  loving us to our death and raising us up by His indestructible life (Hebrews 7: 15-17).  His Passion is our passion as we approach Lent this week.  

“O Spirit, who did once restore The church that it might yet recall The bringer of good news to all: Breathe on your cloven church once more That in these gray and latter days There may be those whose life is praise, Each life a high doxology Unto the holy Trinity.”

(O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth, hymn by Martin Franzmann)

 

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