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Concordia and Koinonia

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Heavenly Father,You revealed to the apostle Peter the blessed truth that Your Son Jesus is the Christ. Strengthen us by the proclamation of this truth that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings:

Acts 4:8-13

Psalm 118:19-29 

2 Peter 1:1-15

Mark 8:27-9:1

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of…

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1 Corinthians 3: 10-17, then Commentary by Dr. Gregory Lockwood, Commentary on 1 Corinthians, Concordia Publishing House

Image result for cathedral blueprint

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in YOU17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and YOU are that temple. (emphasis added)

From Gregory Lockwood’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians on the building materials:
“gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw”

“ In addition (and this is most important in the context), these three more valuable items are noncombustible, whereas the materials in the second group are all combustible. The OT refers to gold, silver, and precious stones as building materials used in the tabernacle and the temple. Thus Paul anticipates the temple imagery of 3:16-17.7

The precious, noncombustible materials represent preaching, teaching, and pastoral care that rest upon the Gospel. The combustible items signify teaching and methods motivated by human “wisdom” (1:17-22; 2:1-5, 13; 3:19) and therefore at odds with God’s “wisdom” (1:24, 30; 2:6-7)—the doctrine of Christ.

A Prayer of Unbelief

I was watching a rerun of the Big Bang Theory and as the final credits were whizzing by, I caught the Name, “God”, went back and found this, “My Prayer”. Since this is clearly from “Chuck Lorre Productions”, this ‘prayer’ might be by Mr. Lorre, the producer of The Big Bang Theory. It is definitely worth reading…and screaming out for comment…and prayer!

The episode in question in which “My Prayer” was attached is from 2018, during the midterm elections. The clear goal of this prayer is a favorable election for the Democrat Party. As it turns out, the Democrat Party did retake the House but not the Senate. So I guess that God partially answered Mr. Lorre’s prayer? We do not know but we do know, reading this ‘prayer’ that it is problematic.

First: God is not “beyond all names”. He has given us His Name to call upon Him in prayer and the most tender and powerful being, Father, as in The Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the one God. As in, Our Father who art in heaven. Mr. Lorre does not know Who God is, as he states that ‘god’ might be an “ineffable quantum situation”. I guess some sort of Sheldon-like physics problem? Yet, atheistic Sheldon would vociferously deny that possibility.

Second, Mr. Lorre is correct that God is omnipotent but we do not know Who the Lord is by His omnipotence but by His revelation, fully His Son. Mr. Lorre is groping for God, even trotting out King James English and employing the pronoun, “thy”, as if that would someone get God’s attention.

Third, Mr. Lorre’s motivation for his prayer seems to be his hatred of the current President, Donald J. Trump, that he is a hate-filled fascist and he even cheats at golf! Hatred is not the fertile soil of faith and prayer. I still do not see the brown shirts beating up Jews. Yet Christians and Israelites have prayed for a whole lot worse types of leaders, e.g. as Jeremiah encouraging the exiles in Babylon (see Jeremiah 29: 1-9), to pray for that empire! Or St. Paul encouraging the church to pray for rulers, even Caesar, even Nero (see 1 Timothy 2: 1-4).

After the diatribe in his ‘prayer’, Mr. Lorre gets kind of snotty, well, thy will be done and all that but he wants the divine to use His omnipotence to bend the wills of people towards Mr. Lorre’s desired outcome to influence, “…hearts or the parietal lobe”. This lobe of the brain is the source of sensory and language information, in other words, that God would do a little mind control, as people mark their ballots. This is not like the prayer, Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. The Lord is no mind control tyrant. There seems to be lurking the desire of too many to have some one control outcomes to our desired results enslaved to the whims of the flesh and the world.

Fourth, now which political party is for more freedom, more love and more compassion and which one is demagogic, hate-filled and fascist?

Fifth, an addendum to his prayer is for Bob Mueller, the special prosecutor who has been investigating President Trump’s ties with Russians and for any other impeachable offenses. Then Mr. Lorre throws in a joke about help for all “Bob Muellers”, “…just to be on the safe side.” I don’t get it. On the safe side of ‘god’? Yet, it is clear he appeals in the end to partisan “Old Testament wrath” against those he seems to despise. Yet the Lord’s wrath is rather inclusive: Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Suppression of the truth is rampant these days. And in Christ, the Lord hath had mercy on all in His beloved Son Jesus. The Lord who, “… desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Is the Lord concerned about Chuck Lorre? Answer: yes and each different Bob Mueller and every person.

This prayer comes from sheer unbelief. It is sad and even moronic. It comes from unrighteousness. Mr. Lorre does not have a clue to who the Lord is. I pray he does and that he hears the Gospel of Jesus. Mr. Lorre’s prayer cries for prayer.

It is also clear that hatred and rage in politics distorts and warps so many. Mr. Trump is not the moral equivalent of Nero or Hitler. I think this is reason the Church must read, mark and confess and inwardly digest those hard parts of the New Testament from our Lord: about turning the other cheek, pray for our persecutors, saying No to the world, the flesh and the devil, overcoming evil with good and putting on the whole armor of God. Yet, it is still a fight, the good fight of faith. We can let our own rage so distort us as the Old Adam hangs about our neck, and so we need to pray for Christ’s peace. We fall hostage in sin to our own anger and that’s the reason there is so much in the Bible about anger. As in, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1: 20). Only God’s Word can produce the righteousness of God through the atoning sacrifice of His Son.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but the powers and principalities. Mr. Lorre’s prayer is not a prayer but a political statement from the powers and principalities addressed to the unknown God, or the God unknown to Mr. Lorre (See Acts 17: 15-34). Yet in Acts 17, the Apostle, in the face of sneers and contempt, preached the truth of God’s Word.

Image result for baptism

“ The Holy Spirit appears in the lovely form of an innocent dove. Among all birds, a dove is known for its gentle nature, peaceful and not aggressive. So the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the friendliest of forms to show that he is not wrathful toward us, but wants to help us become holy and rescue us through Christ.”

“Heaven which before was closed, is opened by Christ’s baptism and a window and door now stand open for us to see through. No longer is there a barrier between God and us, since God himself descends at the Jordan. The Father lets his voice be heard, the Son sanctifies baptism with his body, and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. Is this not a great manifestation, a truly great sign of how very precious baptism is to God, that he does not abstain from it?” 

“Who would not execrate an unthankful and joyless person who is unwilling to take to his heart the Son who here stands at the Jordan and lets himself be baptized as a sinner? The one upon whom the Spirit lights in the form of a dove? and the Father’s voice in closest proximity? No doubt there were also countless holy angels present. For where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveal themselves, all the heavenly host must also be present. This was the ultimate manifestation.

Image result for Baptism of Jesus with angels icon

“These are things a person ought to learn well, so that the word is not separated from baptism, or from the water with which one baptizes, but we confess that it is ordained of God to cleanse us for Christ’s sake from sin and save us from eternal death. What else is there that God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit desire? Each and every sinner needs baptism, so that his sin might be washed away; whoever is in death needs baptism that death might be swallowed up, for baptism has God-given power to cleanse from sin and to bury death.

“Upon this we are baptized; and even though we have fallen into sin and have done wickedness, yet will our baptism and its promises remain firm and sure. Only, we need to repent and not persist in sinning. For these two things are mutually exclusive: to yearn for forgiveness and then cling to our sins and refuse to leave them. We need to repent and say in true faith, God has plunged me into the baptism of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; to him I return, and I trust that my sins are taken away, not for my sake or any other creature’s, but for the sake of the man, Christ, who commanded and ordained baptism and let himself be baptized as a sinner.

Quotes from Dr. Luther’s Epiphany House Postil, Third Sermon, 1534, Text: St. Matthew 3: 13-17, Sermons of Martin Luther: The House Postils, volume 1, published 1996; editor, Eugene F. A. Klug

Romans 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (emphasis added)

In the Apostle’s inspired teaching on the role of God’s Law in the Lord’s plan of salvation, Paul makes a keen observation. First, it is self-evident that the “work of the law is written in their hearts”, that is, the Gentiles, which means myself and probably most of you reading this. Second, God’s law is written into the “conscience”. Third, the conscience “bears witness” to the eternal and enduring validity of God’s Law, that is, everyone has a conscience. Fourth, the substance of the witness to God’s Law are the Gentiles’,“…conflicting thoughts that accuse or even excuse them.” It is on that part of the verse I will concentrate.

I remember cartoons which show a character with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, as the character’s moral conflict, “conflicting thoughts” to do right or wrong. The actual conflict is the “…conflicting thoughts that accuse or even excuse them”. Everyone thinks and knows what is right as the Law is written into our heart. We know what is right and good but the further conflict is we should do the good, but we do the very thing we hate: see Romans 7: 13-25. The Lord’s spiritual use of His law is to accuse us that we don’t do the good. As the blessed Lutheran Confessors correctly taught: Lex semper accusat, the Law always accuses.

It is also self-evident that the conscience is fallen and in sin from the get-go and cannot stand the accusatory, blazing and penetrating, piercing light of God’s Law, by itself. The conscience cannot tolerate long the spiritual accusation that I must do good but I don’t want to,and I have not and there is, “hell to pay”. So the fallen conscience makes for itself a placebo cure for our conflicting thoughts that we must do God’s Law, “even excuse them”, that is, us. We come up with all sorts of excuses for ourselves and we hear them everyday, from others and ourselves:

“Oh, no one is perfect.”

“Everyone is doing it”

“We all make mistakes.”

“God will understand after all He forgives.”

“It’s not a big thing.”

“No one will notice.”

The excusing may be as simple as the shrug of the shoulders, “Whatever” and equally deadly. Maybe you have your own rendition of excuses. Note that many of the excuses above should have an exclamation mark, so emphatic is the excuse because of the Law’s accusation and our “conflicting thoughts”. The point here is this: they are our excuses trying to soften the Law’s just accusation. The Lord does not excuse us. He is not a self-indulgent Father: “Oh, that’s okay, do better”. There is no wiggle room for the Old Adam under the perfect light of God’s Law. There is no excuse. The Lord does not excuse, He forgives. The Lord does not excuse from the cross. The Holy Spirit points us ever to Jesus Christ.

After excusing ourselves,the next move of the accusing and excusing conscience is pointed to someone else: “Look, look at what that guy did! I’m not that bad!” Pride is always comparison: not only that I am better than the other person, but I am not as bad as my neighbor. As it is written:

Romans 2: 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

The inner Pharisee lurks and needs to be put to death. It revolves around the self. Every Gentile carries within “a secret miniature of the Last Judgment” (Rev. Prof. Martin Franzmann) and the Lord on “that day”, the day of judgment the Lord will expose the secrets of men. We can not hide from God as Adam and Eve tried to do. He did not shed His blood on the cross to excuse us. There is no escape no matter the fine tuning of the excusing machinations of the conscience, because He judges the sinner… and the only Way out is God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, from the accusing and excusing conscience to the conscience purified (see 1 Peter 3: 21):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Concordia and Koinonia

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church your eternal being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons. May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea,Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  Basil and the two Gregorys, collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers, were leaders of Christian orthodoxy in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later fourth century. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers; Gregory of Nazianzus was their friend. All three were influential in shaping the theology ratified by the Council of Constantinople of 381, which is expressed in the Nicene Creed. Their defense of the doctrines of…

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Image result for young frankenstein stay close to the candles

In one of the many funny scenes in Mel Brooks’, “Young Frankenstein”, Frau Blucher encourages Dr. Frankenstein, Inga and Igor, as they go up the castle’s narrow steps, with no railing, to “Stay close to the candles. The stairway can be… treacherous”, except, the candles are not lit!

Yes, the stairs can be treacherous. Yes, stay close to the candles but if they are not lit…sounds like, in a more serious vein that the problem is correctly stated but the vain and various and many solutions and salvations of man are like those candles: nice show but no light. Scientism, selfism, and spiritualisms are all candle with no light.

Epiphany Season is about the light and the light has a name: Jesus Christ. Stay close to the light because the world, the flesh and the devil are treacherous. We need this encouragement in these dark days. Remember as the Lord tells us in His Word, Ephesians 5: 8: “…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”. We stay close to the Lord in the means He has given us: Baptism and Holy Communion and along side and through the Sacramental life of the Church, He feeds us His Word, written, preached and taught, through prayer and godly conversation. Like a long lit votive candle’s wax becomes clear near the flame, the Lord purifies His children to stay their falling, and when fallen to pick them up again in joyous repentance and forgiveness. Stay close to the Light and the Light will guide you along the Way and will light the way for a fellow family member and friend to their Lord and God.

O Christ, our true and only Light,
Enlighten those who sit in night;
Let those afar now hear Thy voice
And in Thy fold with us rejoice.
LSB #839, “Mission and Witness” hymn section

LSB #839, “Mission and Witness” hymn section

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