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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, Your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise You for the gifts of grace imparted to Your servant Johann, and we pray that by his teaching we maybe led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

About Johann Gerhard:  Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) and the most influential of the seventeenth-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (twenty-three large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the superintendent of Heldburg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

A Reading from Pr. Gerhard, cited in The Treasury of Daily Prayer:

You, most faithful God, perform the duties of a faithful and skillful doctor in healing the mortal wounds of my soul. You heal them by the wounds of Your Son. there is danger that the healed wounds will be reopened, but Your Spriit prevents this with grace like a poultice…After receiving the forgiveness of sins, so many people return to their former way of living.  By repeating their sins, they offend God all the more grievously…

The same can happen to me if You do not keep me on the good path through Your powerful grace and the effective working of Your Holy Spirit.  The same evil spirit that captured them attacks me. The same world that seduced them entices me. The same flesh that secured them lures me. Only Your grace protects me against these attacks and with with the power necessary for victory.  Your  strength supplies the power I  need in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). You my  spirit the strength to restrain the passion of the flesh. Whatever is good in me comes from You, the font of all good things, because in me, by nature, there is nothing but sin. I have to acknowledge that all the good works I do—which are nevertheless impure because of the corruption and imperfection of my flesh—are gifts of Your grace. I will give You thanks forever because of Your immeasurable gift to me. Amen.—Johann Gerhard  (Selected from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy, translated by Pr. Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

Reflection:  Pr. Gerhard is one of my favorite theologians because he prayed with the Church, he preached and taught the Scriptures with the Church and desired to give praise to God alone through His mercies in Jesus Christ for him and us all.

His sermons are wellsprings of Scripture.  As one pastor in an introduction to a volume of Gerhard’s sermons wrote:  “He saw the New Testament through Old Testament eyes.”   He lived and breathed the Scriptures as they are the very words of the Holy Spirit writ into His creation for our redemption in Jesus Christ.

I could quote for a long time his sermons.  Here is one citation.  It is from the end of his sermon on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and it is , to say the least, timely:

For just as fire is an effective, active thing and always climbs upward, so also will the fire of love and devotion be effective and active in us, lifting up our hearts towards God. Just as these disciples, when they felt the power of Christ’s Word in the heart, prayerfully reached out and begged Him (since it was evening) to remain with them and come in with them, so also when the fire of the divine Word has properly warmed our hearts and ignited the fire of love in us, we too will beg Christ with sincere, believing prayer that He would remain with us. We will say with Jeremiah, ch.14:8—O Lord, You are the Comfort of Israel and its Helper in need. Why do you portray Yourself as if You were guest in the land and a stranger who abides inside only for the night ? We are in need of the same kind of petition and invitation. For it is applicable:

 1) To the “evening of tribulation,” [for] as all kind of dark, threatening clouds of misfortune break forth here, hardly any star shines any more [and] everything is full of tragedy and misery. 

2) To the “evening of doctrine.” The divine doctrines are darkened through various errors; Christ, the Son of Righteousness, is almost totally covered over by the thick clouds of false doctrine.

 3) To the “evening of the world.” The world has come to its “evening” and to a dead decline.

Thus we do well to petition: O abide with us, Lord Jesus Christ, since it now is evening. But especially when the evening of life comes into play, when things decline into our life’s end and departure, we want to reach for Christ with sincere prayer, asking that He would abide with us, and ignite in us, amidst the darkness of death, the light of comfort and life. In keeping with His precious promises, He wants graciously to fulfill this in us, as we cling simply to Him. This is the kind of heart He wants to give us by His grace. Amen.

We need to pray, as never before, for marriages for our children and guide them by example and teaching the Lord’s gift of marriage.

Concordia and Koinonia

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, through the patriarch Isaac You preserved the seed of the Messiah and brought forth the new creation.  Continue to preserve the Church as the Israel of God as she manifests the glory of Your holy Name by continuing to worship Your Son, the child of Mary;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

About Isaac:  Isaac, the long promised and awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, was born when his father was 100 and his mother 91. The announcement of his birth brought both joy and laughter to his aged parents (so the name “Isaac,” which means “laughter”). As a young man, Isaac accompanied his father to Mount Moriah, where Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, prepared to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (Gen. 22:1–14), and thus…

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O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou Bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

(The Lutheran Hymnal, “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones”, #475)

The Mother of the Lord:  

St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen of specific incidents in her life being recorded: 

  • her betrothal to Joseph;

  • the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah;

  • her visitation to Elizabeth,

  • the mother of John the Baptizer;

  • the nativity of our Lord;

  • the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men;

  • the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple;

  • the flight into Egypt;

  • the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee;

  • her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John;

  • and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit.                                                                                                    

Thus she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

St. Luke 1 

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (emphasis added)

St. Luke in his Gospel and in his history of the early church, Acts of the Apostles, has the most complete references to the virgin Mary.  Therefore it has been speculated for centuries  that one of the “eyewitnesses” that St. Luke consulted was none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.  For what it’s worth, I think this is reasonable.  

Even more important than identifying Luke’s eyewitnesses, according the texts of all four Gospels, plus Acts, Mary was present and she was a witness, an eyewitness, to her Son Jesus Christ.  She was a faithful and true witness to all of her Son’s life, death, resurrection, ascension and His giving of the life-giving Holy Spirit.  She saw with her eyes the angel Gabriel as he brought the message that she would be with Child.  She saw Him born!  She saw their guests at the manger, the shepherds and the Magi.  She and her husband watched their Son grow up and they took Him every year to Jerusalem for Passover…of course, I could go on.  The result of her first witness,after the angel Gabriel’s Annunciation, was praise:  My soul doth magnify the Lord.   Her whole life of witness was to magnify, make big the Lord for others to see.

Mary’s witness is our witness.  Christians will speak of giving, “their witness to Jesus”, though with our physical eyes we have not seen Him.  As another faithful witness to the Lord, the Apostle Peter, wrote:  

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.(1 Peter 1)

How did they come to such faith without seeing?  Answer:  The Word of God was preached to them and the Holy Spirit created faith.  Americans in particular like to say, “seeing is believing”, but the Scripture passage above points us to the fact that believing is greater than seeing.  As the Lord Himself said to Thomas, Peter and the Apostles, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (St. John 20). Our witness is the borrowed witness of belief or faith. It is based upon the faithful witness of Mary and many others to the earthly and heavenly ministry of Jesus Christ.

Many saw Jesus in His earthly ministry but did not believe and lay hold of the promises of God fulfilled in Christ Jesus.  They thought they could save themselves or didn’t need saving.  Not St. Mary.  Her Son is her Savior as well.   Faith does not point to faith but to Jesus Christ.  Whether faith is weak or strong, it is nevertheless faith, the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit also conceives Christ within us in the hearing of the Word of God.  Mary is mother of faith which points to her Son.  She is quite transparent. Her witness is to her Son and her instruction is for us as well:  “Do whatever he tells you” (St. John 2: 5). Mary did not seek praise for herself. She praised the Lord because of His favor toward her and she gives her witness in praise and adoration:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name. (St. Luke 2)

Our witness can do no less than to magnify the Lord, in the favor He shown us in His Son Jesus through His crucifixion and resurrection and magnify Him in word and deed and this done only through Him, with Him and in Him.

Let us pray:  

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Lord, still our hearts and minds in the Sabbath of Your forgiveness by which You have redeemed us from the old way of death to live and breathe in Your life, Your life which You first gave to Your Mother, that this dark world know You have come into our world for us and for our salvation. Amen.

Gracious Lord, in every age You have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of  Your Gospel and all the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.  Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel, like Your servant Lawrence, whose faithfulness led them to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to Your Son’s victory over sin and death, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

About Lawrence: Early in the third century AD, Lawrence, most likely from Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage Church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the Church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lawrence to produce the ‘treasures of the Church.’ According to tradition,  Lawrence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year AD 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young Church because he was a Roman citizen tortured and executed by Roman authorities.  Almost immediately, the date of this death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.  (adapted from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH).

“…the Roman emperor Valerian began a vigorous persecution of the church, aimed primarily at the clergy and laity of the upper classes. All of the properties of the church were confiscated and assemblies for worship were forbidden. On August 4, 258 the Bishop of Rome, Sixtus II who had just become bishop the year before, and his deacons were apprehended at the cemetery of Callistus where they were celebrating the liturgy, and all except Lawrence were summarily executed and buried in the same cemetery…Lawrence, who knew of the location of the Church’s treasure, was tortured and then executed on August 10. (Festivals and Commemorations by Pr. Philip Pfatteicher)

Image result for treasure mapReflection:I would think Lawrence knew the location of the Church’s treasure! He knew exactly where it was as in the old pirate maps: when X marks the spot, that is the Cross of Jesus Christ.  He knew that the treasures of Christ’s grace is for the  poor, the lame, the orphans and the widows, for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that is, the poor in spirit.   In the midst of Watergate in the 70s, Bob Woodward was told by his informant, “to follow the money”.  All of the world follows the money.  Lawrence did not “follow the money”: he followed His Lord and yours.  As a steward of Jesus Christ, His deacon, Lawrence maintained earthly treasure probably well but gold does not make the Church, only the blood of Christ remakes us.

When the Church and her Christians think the true treasures of the church are in the offering plates/big budgets  or our “creative ministries” or our programs, and not the Cross and Sacraments, Scripture and Service in His love, then,

“…we are in danger of losing the things that make the Church in favor of those who claim to make the Church.  Church leaders only gain legitimacy when they are the delivery point of the divine gifts.” (Pr. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH)  

Lawrence and many others so delivered the divine gifts and were delivered up as martyrs and their witness heartens us.

The Commemoration of St. Lawrence, in our time is quite timely, to say the least, given the martyrdoms that have occurred  in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.  It is hard to contemplate Lawrence being killed by being roasted live on fire.  It is hard to believe a 5 year old boy being cut in half by ISIS.  We hear that ISIS is full of anger and hatred…but are they?

Were the Nazis full of hatred and anger when they murdered 6 million Jews and 5 milion Gypsies, Communists, homosexuals and Christians? Probably at one time.  In a seminary seminar course on the Holocaust we studied the fact that initially the Nazis  took Jews in train cars to isolated areas and then gunned them down burying them in mass graves. The Nazi State soon realized this was using too much ammunition, time and effort, too many vital war assets. Eventually they improved the ‘extermination’ of Jews and others with the invention of Zykon-B gas and high tech ovens to burn the bodies efficiently into ashes.  There was no more anger and hatred, just cold-blooded technological efficiency.  

ISIS could cut a boy in half with disinterested efficiency and many other brutalities.  We exterminate some 2 million  infants a year in abortion with medical technology that is suppose to save lives and then ‘harvest’ the organs and sell them.  Dr. Mengeles are active in our country daily.  The Roman Emperor probably executed many others by grilling them alive without batting an eye.  Just think of the depth of depravity of sin!  Animals do not kill each other for ideology or sport or enjoyment, but man does.  When the Church is driven out by a government, eventually the State becomes god and will not tolerate the one true God, but Lawrence served the poor in Jesus Christ.  We remember Lawrence but not the tyrant who had him murdered.  I have known Lawrences but I have never met anyone named Valerian or Nero, maybe someone would name their dog ‘Nero”. We remember what the Lord said to Saul on the road to Damascus:  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.(Acts 9: 4-5) 

May God turn the hearts of all who are abusing, raping, terrorizing, and killing our brothers and sisters throughout the world. May God bring them to faith in Christ, who has put away their murderous sins and won every gemstone of His Father’s love for them. May God fill our enemies with the Holy Spirit, that they may put down their swords and share the treasure of Christ’s kingdom with those whom they once sought to destroy.  Amen.

(prayer by Pr. Fiene)

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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. 14If 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: 

 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.

The way the Church is built and builds has been a disputed topic for some time now. The many and sundry blueprints for the Church at corporate (district and synodical offices) have been promulgated to “grow the church”, e.g. church growth.  There are as many ‘new’ ideas to ‘grow the Church’ put forward as there are many fears that we are not growing and we are going to die.   This ‘new’ plan will save the Church!  Wrong.  The Church is saved and is being saved by the One Who alone finally builds His Church: ” And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (St. Matthew 16: 18)  Anything else is the beginning of sheer unbelief, just as Peter wanted to prevent the Lord from the Cross.

The two lists of construction materials that the Apostle lays out side by side,

“gold, silver, precious stones”

and

“wood, hay and straw” .

Those two contractors’ lists are strikingly different  The first list is obviously more valuable than the second and it is clear from the text, the desirable materials.  Gregory Lockwood in the Concordia Publishing House Commentary on 1 Corinthians notes that the first list were the building materials for the Temple.  It is so obvious in the Apostle’s comparison that the Temple building materials endure because they are non-combustible.  Fire will not burn them but  fire will test everyone’s work.  Further, it is plain to see that the Temple of which St. Paul writes is the Church.  The Greek pronoun “you” is plural, as we say here in the South: y’all

The Scriptures contain the building plans, building materials and the identity of the builders for the Church:

  • Builders :  The Lord is clear He is the builder of His Church.  The Lord also calls builders, such as the Apostles and then pastors and He calls, instructs and encourages the  builders to use the best materials available.

  • Building materials: The gold, silver and precious stones of His Word:  the Word of the Bible, Law and Promise, the Word of God in the Sacraments, the Word in prayer, the Word of rebuke and consolation.

  • Building plans, blueprint: The Scripture is quite clear on the Lord’s blueprint as He He builds His Church:    a Temple formed, reformed and conformed (see  1 Corinthians 6:19,1 Peter 2:5,  Romans 8:29, to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:46-48). 

In  verse 15 the translation “skilled” is in Greek, sophia, as “wise”, e.g. as in philosophy, literally “love of wisdom”.  The Apostle clearly identifies the “wisdom” given him:  the wisdom of  the Crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21 ). God’s wisdom is most assuredly not human wisdom.  The Medieval Ages could not have been simply the “dark ages”, as they developed the architectural plan of a sanctuary that proclaims clearly the Cross of Jesus Christ as seen above.

The Greek word for “master builder” is the one from which we have our word, “architect”.  Paul, Apollos and many others build. Paul laid the foundation of the Church in Corinth which is the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, not religious experience, human wisdom, man’s plans and the like.  Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by the original builders (Israel) and men, cast out, has become the chief cornerstone (cf. Matthew 21:42Acts 4:11 Ephesians 2:20).  The Apostle laid this foundation by the only means Christ gave to His Apostles and His apostolic Church:   preaching “Christ and Him crucified”, 1 Corinthians 1:23.  Our preaching is cross-shaped as missionary work and evangelism:  

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2: 2)

and

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 3: 1)

The Sacraments are likewise cruciform, see  Romans 6:3-5;   1 Corinthians 11:26.  The stones for His Church are not quarried out of granite, but out of Jesus Christ, now “living stones” , see 1 Peter 2:5. Peter (Rock) from Christ, not Christ from Peter.  There is no Church of one, no ‘super-Christians’, but a communion, a “spiritual house” is being built.

Wood, hay, straw…one match, it’s ablaze and gone.  Let’s say that synodical and district offices are akin to a contractor’s office, then the only task for which they are to oversee is to see that the building materials are the gold, silver and precious stones of His Word and Sacraments of His Church, as outlined in Scripture and the Confessions. The Word endures to eternity and from eternity and in time and space, flesh and bone.  The Word  is not ephemeral like wood, hay and straw of human wisdom, plans, schemes, techniques and tactics.  We point to the Word of promise, not to church programs.  Episcopos, or bishop, the role of district president, literally means “oversight”, not “overlook”. Bishops, pastors and district presidents are not to be designing new blueprints,nor using substandard building materials.

We cannot keep on using substandard building materials as we have Image result for church as a coffee housedone now for decades, quick let’s have a ministry, get some funding and 5 piece band.  The Lord builds His house, not a coffee house, to sell people a little Christ with their cappuccino.   We do not package and sell the Word of God, peddling it, then the Word becomes  a commodity and the Lord’s House becomes  a whore house:

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.(2 Corinthians 2: 17)

We are not messing around with a weekend carpentry job finishing the basement.  One reason to use easier materials is that the “job gets done” and many a weekend carpenter has worked with wood and that’s fine for finishing a basement.  Using the inferior “plans of mice and men”, of human wisdom and that work will not last.  Building by using substandard materials and they tend to collapse and people die.    Yet, it makes pastors feel useful and the job is done quickly.   The basement, the foundation has been laid and it is precious in God’s sight.  The original builders rejected the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  what the Lord is building and which is precious in His sight.  “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”  The Law of God is frightening as well it should be. We are using sound building materials, that is “sound doctrine”.

The other aspect of the two groups of building materials is this:  I opine that “gold, silver and precious stones” not only are more costly, but harder to work with than wood, hay and straw.  Gold and silver take time to smelt and burn the dross. Pearls were not cultivated then, but one had to dive into the depths of the ocean to find them. In fact finding one, one sells all he has to buy it.  This triumvirate lasts as the Word of the Lord  endures forever.

Our calling is not to master the public but to make public the Master.  What is the Church to do?  Like seed, cast His Word to all (see St. Matthew 13: 1-23).  Ours is not to figure out how it will work but to trust He is at work in His Word according to His Word.  We are to confess Christ.  

Pastor Bonhoeffer preached it well in 1933, in Berlin, about building the Church and confession Jesus Christ:

…it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

 

The Most Dangerous Place to Live

The Subtle Perils of the Past

by Greg Morse

“While the past is an exquisite place to visit, it is a menacing place to live.”

AImage result for bread of lifere you a “foodie”?  A foodie is someone with a particular interest in food.  We all have a particular interest in food especially when we’re hungry! We are all foodies. We’re also all “drinkies” especially when thirsty!  I came across this definition of a foodie, “A person who enjoys eating food, unlike everyone else, who hates food, thinks it’s disgusting, and would never consider eating it”. Have you ever met anyone who would never consider eating?  Of course not.

“Now there is a connection between our fallen humanity as flesh and the sheer physicality of human bodily existence. And the connection lies in our mortality. As a friend and colleague would remind me that all medical progress notwithstanding, the death rate remains at one per person. Or as Isaiah put it, “All flesh is grass”. It looks good enough when it is well watered. But just wait until August and watch it wilt and die under the Sun’s scorch. The gift of life given by God is not immortal. That is to say, it cannot survive on its own. Its survival depends on things outside itself. The oxygen that we breathe comes from the air around us. The water that we drink is equally outside of us. And food as well comes to us from beyond.

And therefore, it is sheer terror to have the wind knocked out of you and to struggle to catch your breath, And both hunger and thirst make us aware of our mortality. Guess what? THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO! That is their theological meaning. Hunger and thirst are sacraments of our mortality. They are the felt reminders of the fact that we do not have life within us.” (adapted from a sermon by Rev. Louis Smith+)

The world thinks it has life in itself.  The world thinks it is self-invented, self-made, self-sufficient, instead of given and good.  So much the world thinks it is it’s own creator, weather variations are enough for the world to cry out, The sky is falling!  We must save the planet! This is true, this dark planet must be saved, but we don’t do the saving and we have not done the saving.  We think that if we just eat more and drink more, we will be better.  That doesn’t work either.  When everything you ever wanted to eat and drink is not enough yet we think it will be is the spiritual problem…and it points to the source of our well-being is well beyond ourselves. The Source came to us and still does.

The feeding of the 5,000 is the background of this lesson.  The crowd in Capernaum’s synagogue hightailed it to Jesus because of  bread. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”  They even wanted to make Him king because of the loaves.  They had their fill of the loaves but it wasn’t enough.  Jesus begins to point them to the place, more the Person who can give food that fills and true drink which quenches. The seal of the Father, the seal of the Holy Spirit is upon Him. Christ is signed, sealed and delivers us in His grace, mercy and peace.

New York chef, Anthony Bourdain had a show entitled “No Reservations”.  He traveled around the world with a main purpose being of eating and thereby introducing the particular nation and its cultures.  His show’s intro by Mr. Bourdain: “I’m Anthony Bourdain. I write.  I travel. I eat.  And I’m hungry for more.” For what its worth I liked Mr. Bourdain.  In traveling, writing and eating, he hungered for more.  Never filled. Mr. Bourdain killed himself.  A noose does not stave the hunger nor a bullet quench the soul. Starving to death and dying of thirst is very clear to see but spiritual thirst and hunger is not so clearly seen. In fact, it looks good:  it looks like what we see on TV and on the internet.  Warning!  More is never enough.  The hunger is not stilled and the thirst for life is not quenched.  “I can’t get no satisfaction and I’ve tried and I’ve tried” (Mick Jagger). “More” is never enough.

Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well when He was thirsty and the Lord He spoke of water that will fill the soul.  The heart is such a spacious thing that even 600 worlds can not fill it.  We live in a “consumer culture” in which obsolescence is planned so that the items we buy will wear out quickly so we can buy a new product.  But our fellow humans know themselves and us quite well:  we actually want more and more, so yeah, let it wear out, I want something new.  We live in a “consumer society”.  Even people are consumables in sexual lusts and “conquests”.  Even people are consumables, stepping stones for our ambitions for ‘life’. People get used and then worn out The Samaritan woman had 5 husbands and her current man was not her husband.  The Samaritan woman had quite a thirst!  The crowd had a quite a hunger. Note that in the conversation with the Samaritan women, and in His preaching today, there is not a hint of condemnation from Jesus.  Jesus does not condemn her nor them because He came not to condemn the world but that the world be saved through Him (John 3:17).  He offered them Himself. He is divine love made food, made life for man.

Christ’s bread is the meal of His Word and it is not a TV dinner. It is not a TV dinner for our own private nourishment. It’s not about putting on the feed bag.  We are men and women not horses.  We were made and redeemed to dine with each other in Christ Jesus, the Host. We weren’t made then redeemed to dine alone.  I came across an ad on Facebook for a beer festival at a Roman Catholic Shrine of St. Anthony, with “Divine Food, Divine Beer” called “Revive”.  That’s about right:  revive. The ad has a typo, this festival is at “The Shine of St. Anthony”. We need to be revived and so shine with Christ’s own light every week and day, fed by His almighty Hand, both bread for the body and bread for the soul.  We are encouraged from God’s Word in Ephesians, I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

“You are what you eat”.  This was first said by a German materialist philosopher.  Yet, it is also a Christian understanding as we hear the Lord’s sermon in John 6 beginning today and for the next two Sundays. In the Bible the food that man eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live, is given to him by God, and it is given as communion with God. John 6 is about Christ Who is the divine love made bread, made life for man, inviting others to His Table. In fact the whole Bible points to the Bread of Life.  “Perishable food is transformed into the body which eats it;  this food, however, transforms the person who eats it into what it is itself, and makes him like itself, spiritual, alive, and eternal.”  (Martin Luther)

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Lord, give us this bread always. 

The invitation stands: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

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