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On this date, Neil Armstrong became the first man to land on the moon. I was 15 and visiting my Grandparents in southern Minnesota, on their farm. Grandpa was born in 1900. Relatives were visiting, talking about the crops, their aches and pains, who died or who was recently married: “Yeah, she was a Knutson.” I was sitting in adjacent dining room, close to the black and white TV watching the only station that came in, channel 12, KATO, from Mankato. It was CBS and him: Walter Cronkite. The time was drawing close and my elders were yapping away, paying no attention to one of the greatest events in history about to happen. When they landed and they began to open the door, I became disrespectful to my elders: “Would you be quiet, man is about to land on the moon!” They all became quiet, now all looking at the TV as we heard the voice of Neil Armstrong crackling a quarter million miles away: “One small step…” After which, my kin resumed talk about the weather, who died…Just then Grandpa came over and said to me, “Mark, Let’s go outside.” It was a clear night and a full moon and Grandpa and l looked up. And Grandpa said with wonder: “There’s two men walking up there.” And this from a man who when he was 15, in 1915, was plowing those fields behind a team of horses.

The speed of technological change is astounding from 1900 to 2018.  Never in the history of the world has the speed of change been so great. One author called this, “Future Shock”.  It is shocking and when older even more shocking. It’s hard to keep up.  Just think, this very article will be read by people around the earth. This was not possible to do from home some 20 years ago but we can not be constantly amazed by all of this.  Adoring the creation of our hands is idolatry.  The greatest thing of all is the Lord who gave us the mind and brains to make stuff to relieve hardship, explore, wonder and wander. Even greater is love and His love.

When Armstrong landed on the moon, then President, Richard Nixon said this was the greatest event in the history of the world.  To which, his friend and chaplain, the Rev. Billy Graham, said he disagreed.  Rev. Graham said the greatest event in the history of the world is the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. We can go to the moon but even more the Lord comes to us, crucified and risen, with His forgiveness. We do not need to take moon walks, but ever to walk with Lord.

Quote of the Day

A Lutheran pastor and theologian, Kurt Marquart, wrote in an 1978 article on Liturgy the following trenchant comment on the Church and youth in the Church:

Who, after all, could respect an institution which is, after two thousand years’ experience, so confused about its functions as to say, in effect: “Dear children, help us! We are no longer sure about what we ought to be doing. Perhaps you might have some good ideas?” Who could possibly take seriously the play-worship prefixed with that horrid word, “experimental”? The fact is that no healthy, viable society lets its children arbitrate its values. It is for the elders of the tribe to guard its cultural heritage and to transmit it solemnly to the younger generation–never vice versa. Also in our society the problem is not with the youth but with their elders. 

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Ruth 1  But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Collect of the Day

We pray…

Faithful God, You promised to preserve Your people and save Your inheritance, using unlikely and unexpected vessels in extending the genealogy that would bring about the birth of Your blessed Son. Give us the loyalty of Ruth and her trust in the one true God, that we, too, might honor You through our submission and respect and be counted among Your chosen people, by the grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, who reign together with You, now and forever.

Ruth of Moab, the subject of the biblical book that bears her name, is an inspiring example of God’s grace. Although she was a Gentile, God made her the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), and an ancestress of Jesus himself (Mt 1:5). A famine in Israel led Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem to emigrate to the neighboring nation of Moab with their two sons. The sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after about ten years, Elimelech and his sons died (Ruth 1:1–5). Naomi then decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah listened to Naomi’s but Ruth refused, replying with the stirring words: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). After Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech, agreed to be Ruth’s “redeemer” (Ruth 3:7–13; 4:9–12). He took her as his wife, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:13–17), thus preserving the Messianic seed. Ruth’s kindness and selfless loyalty toward Naomi, and her faith in Naomi’s God, have long endeared her to the faithful and redounded to God’s praise for his merciful choice of one so unexpected.

 This short book…”… of David’s great-grandmother,” tells the charming story of Ruth the Moabitess, who lived in the days when the Judges ruled in Israel…

“One of the sweetest stories in the Bible, showing that even in the blackest period God has men and women who love and serve Him:

  • In Boaz we have the model rich man of his age; every act and word shows his deep faith in God.

  • In Ruth we have an example of modesty and patience, coupled with a remarkable belief in the true God.

  • In Naomi we have a specimen of a good woman, whose religion shows itself in fidelity to all her duties.”

“One chief purpose of the book seems to be the tracing of the genealogy of David to the Moabitess Ruth, whose name it bears… This information gains in significance if we remember that the genealogy of David is at the same time that of Jesus Christ. The story therefore goes to show how Ruth the Moabitess, by birth an alien to Israel, was chosen to become an ancestress of the Savior. Her reception into the communion of Israel also testified to the fact that even in the days before Christ Gentiles might be admitted to the kingdom of God if only they received the promises of the covenant in true faith.

As the genealogy here recorded ends with David’s name, it is improbable that the book should have been written before David had become a person of influence and renown among the people of the covenant. We find an additional reason for this assumption in chap. 4, 7, where the author explains a peculiar custom, which had fallen into disuse in his days. – The author remains unknown to us; but it has been suggested that David himself might well have penned this account of a significant episode in his family history,” and the record concerning Christ’s ancestors was thus completed. From Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s 4 Volume Commentary on the Bible

Reflection:  In the Collect of the Day, we prayed the Lord, “…give us the loyalty of Ruth”.  “Loyalty” is from “loyal”.  Here is the dictionary definition of “loyal”

loyal

1unswerving in allegiance: such as

a faithful in allegiance to one’s lawful sovereign or government 

were loyal to the king

b faithful to a private person to whom faithfulness is due 

loyalhusband

c faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product 

loyal churchgoer (Merriam-Webster online)

After praying the Collect, I wondered: What has ever become of loyalty? I think people are loyal, loyal like Ruth to her mother-in-law and the God of Israel and Orpah’s chosen people. There are loyal husbands, wives, citizens, Christians.  The problem is not that loyalty no longer exists, because if it was gone, the chaos and mayhem would be over the top.  Yet, at times, we know and see that society and church are clearly over the top.  The general problem not that virtue is extinct like the do-do bird, but  virtue is no longer extolled, educated and encouraged:  in families, churches and schools.   This includes loyalty.  Why? Substitute ‘virtues’ have been taught, such as: ‘sensitivity’, ‘openness’,’inclusivity’.  True virtue, based upon the 10 Commandments, are directed toward our neighbors, like the loyalty of Ruth to Orpah, and Orpah’s God and people.  Fake virtues, as listed are about me and letting anything happen and occur.  Loyalty is ‘open’ to the neighbor but according to wisdom and agape.  Loyal means at time to point out a fault to someone we love.  The fake virtues do not.  I can fancy those fake virtues.  True virtue is taught in the real world, and this learning is bearing the cross, dying to self and rising in Christ Jesus.  The real world is the school of the Holy Spirit in His Church in the world, but not of it. Note that fake virtues are basically Godless as they are humanly invented.  The fake virtues spring,

“…from the Enlightenment, from rationalist humanism, from the notion that man is the center of all that exists, and that there is no Higher Power above him.” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn;  more of his quote found here)

Ruth knew by faith in God’s grace toward her, even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death that there is a “Higher Power”.  The Lord opened her ears and her heart and she learned loyalty, 

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“Western society in principle is based on a legal level that is far lower than the true moral yardstick, and besides, this legal way of thinking has a tendency to ossify. In principle, moral imperatives are not adhered to in politics, and often not in public life either. The notion of freedom has been diverted to unbridled passion, in other words, in the direction of the forces of evil (so that nobody’s “freedom” would be limited!). A sense of responsibility before God and society has fallen away. “Human rights” have been so exalted that the rights of society are being oppressed and destroyed. And above all, the press, not elected by anyone, acts high-handedly and has amassed more power than the legislative, executive, or judicial power. And in this free press itself, it is not true freedom of opinion that dominates, but the dictates of the political fashion of the moment, which lead to a surprising uniformity of opinion. (It was on this point that I had irritated them most.) The whole social system does not contribute to advancing outstanding individuals to the highest echelons. The reigning ideology, that prosperity and the accumulation of material riches are to be valued above all else, is leading to a weakening of character in the West, and also to a massive decline in courage and the will to defend itself, as was clearly seen in the Vietnam War, not to mention a perplexity in the face of terror. But the roots of this social condition spring from the Enlightenment, from rationalist humanism, from the notion that man is the center of all that exists, and that there is no Higher Power above him. And these roots of irreligious humanism are common to the current Western world and to Communism, and that is what has led the Western intelligentsia to such strong and dogged sympathy for Communism.”

(“My Harvard Speech in Retrospect” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; National Review, 25 June, 2018 edition)

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Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.

 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing?

  1. What can these anxious cares avail thee,
    These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
    What can it help if thou bewail thee
    O’er each dark moment as it flies?
    Our cross and trials do but press
    The heavier for our bitterness.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

  1. Be patient and await His leisure
    In cheerful hope, with heart content
    To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure
    And His discerning love hath sent,
    Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
    To Him who chose us for His own.

 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

  1. God knows full well when times of gladness
    Shall be the needful thing for thee.
    When He has tried thy soul with sadness
    And from all guile has found thee free,
    He comes to thee all unaware
    And makes thee own His loving care.
  2. Nor think amid the fiery trial
    That God hath cast thee off unheard,
    That he whose hopes meet no denial
    Must surely be of God preferred.
    Time passes and much change doth bring
    And sets a bound to everything.

 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

  1. All are alike before the Highest;
    ‘Tis easy to our God, we know,
    To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
    To make the rich man poor and low.
    True wonders still by Him are wrought
    Who setteth up and brings to naught.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

  1. Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
    Perform thy duties faithfully,
    And trust His Word, though undeserving,
    Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
    God never yet forsook in need
    The soul that trusted Him indeed.

 

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We pray…Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Isaiah, 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.

Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament prophet. His name means “Yahweh [the Lord] saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah.

Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God’s Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing the Lord’s grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah’s miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (2:1-5; 11:1-16), and his public ministry (61:1-3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (52:13-53:12).

The apostle John’s description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.

Scripture Reflection: Isaiah 8: 11-15

Isaiah 8:  11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

The following comments are from Dr. R. Reed Lessing’s commentary on Isaiah when it was still in the works:

Vv. 11-15 – “With a strong hand” (cf. Ezek. 1:3; 3:14) the LORD warns Isaiah to see the situation from God’s perspective instead of that of man (cf. 5:20). Right thinking involves a fear of the LORD (v 13; cf. Prov. 1:7). Such faith finds safety, while rejection finds stumbling (vv 14-15). The function of the “stone” and “rock” are described in further detail in Isa. 28:16, Ps. 118:22; 1 Pet. 2:6. 

Reflection:

The Lord tells His prophet not to call a conspiracy what “this people” does nor fear what they fear.  “This people” are Isaiah’s own people. We live in an age with so many conspiracies and conspiracy theories. For instance:  after the 50th commemoration of the assassination of JFK, we were once again awash in those conspiracy theories. We read daily the conspiracies about global warming, creeping socialism, wars and rumors of wars.   Our conspiracies cause us fear and dread because we look at them from our supposedly  omnicompetent way of controlling them. We don’t and can’t control the conspiracies, though we deceive ourselves that we are so able. Instead in His Word the Lord has us look at them from the His perspective. The Lord’s guidance to Isaiah is not to fear them and this Word is also for us as Lutherans and Christians living in the United States.  Our only fear and dread is of the Lord! He has things in hand and His hand, His Word of Law shows us what will happen pursuing the dead end of idolatry.  The Lord will be cause of many to fall and the good news:  many to rise (see St. Luke 2: 34)  

Isaiah was living in a time of rampant idolatry and wealth, sexual immorality and decadence and false prophets preaching “peace” and prosperity but it was not the Word of the Lord.  Isaiah and the prophets were set apart from their own people and yet by God’s Word, they were for their own people. Isaiah said the Lord’s strong hand was upon him as He spoke His Word.  The Church, if she is true to her Lord, will also be Isaiah:  set apart from this people because His strong hand, with the mark of the nails, is upon us as He speaks His Word of Law and Promise.  We are called not to pursue what the world pursues yet called to  serve this people.  We are called to honor the Lord as holy, certainly not ourselves as holy!  As He draws near in His final Advent, but even now He draws near to us in His Word and His Sacraments,  as the angels sang in front of Isaiah, we also say at the Altar:    

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

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But there is one thing that I have never from my youth up been able to understand. I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record…Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.

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