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Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.Now the Lord God appointed a plant[b] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort.[c] So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

General Intro to Commemorations of Old Testaments:

The introduction of Old Testament saints into the cycle of commemorations in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is most welcome because it is most Biblical.  We may not think of the Old Testament worthies as “Saint”, but that is not so.   Hebrews 11 has been called the “hall of heroes”, or  the roll-call of the saints in Christ and all of them as recorded in the Old Testament!  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, they put “St.” in front of the OT saints, so:  St. Jonah!  It is these saints who first cheer us  on and encourage us saints in Christ Jesus to persevere, as recorded in Hebrews 12, the crescendo of the roll-call:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Now let’s look at St. Jonah:

A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour’s walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria(Jonah 1:2). His reluctance to respond and God’s insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah’s name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (Jonah1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. Jonah’s three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew12:39-41). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

Many years ago, when I first read Jonah on my own, no longer in Sunday School, I was amazed by it!  Now if you have not read it (it’s short, more like a short story). 

Notice that in chapters 1-3, we are not told why Jonah runs away when the Lord called him to preach to the great capital of the Assyrian Empire, Ninevah.  Oh, Jonah was reluctant prophet, we were taught.  Yes, he was, but  reluctance is the result, not the cause.  We are not told why he was reluctant.

When Ninevah, from the King down, repents, the Lord forgives and changes His mind about His judgment towards them.  The Lord takes no pleasure in  the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from their evil to the Lord and live (see Ezekiel 33:11) 

So Jonah, after Ninevah’s repentance unto life in the Lord’s grace, parks himself outside of the great city and we are told he is angry. Dr. Reed Lessing (professor OT, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in his commentary Jonah), points out that  the 4 times the word anger appears (really:  infuriated), it is in the last chapter and it’s subject is Jonah!  Why was he angry?  Finally, after all the action in the first 3 chapters we find out that his anger is coupled with the reason why he fled to Tarshish and away from  the Lord’s call, from Dr. Reed’s translation: 

“For this reason I previously fled toward Tarshish because I knew you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in loyal love, and changing your verdict about evil.” 

 Jonah fled because of God’s grace! He fled because the Lord did not destroy the Gentile Assyrians!  Jonah’s true confession of the Faith (“…you are a gracious and merciful God, etc.) becomes in Jonah’s heart and mouth his accusation against the Lord!  

When Jonah fled, maybe he thought he was in control of  his own destiny.  Maybe when Jonah preached God’s Word of Law, he thought he was in control:  ‘Now Ninevah will get what’s coming to it”, and quite frankly that sounds like something I would think.  Is your evil because I myself am good? (see  Matthew 20:1:  literal translation of the second question!). Yes.

Ask any congregation, ‘do you want to grow?’ and the answer is yes. But I would maintain we may  not want this to happen  to the point of those people joining who don’t deserve it like we do who have “…borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat”  (Matthew 20: 12) and they receive the same, even the most wicked and at the 11th hour:  the Lord’s free gift of grace to all who hunger and thirst, and repent and turn to the Lord (see Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20: 1-16/ Matthew 20 ).  From Dr. Lessing’s commentary:

We simply stand under God’s overflowing grace like rain, allowing its cool refreshment to fill our dry cracks. Then we pick up the bucket and dump it on someone else. Grace flows from Yahweh not on those who attempt to earn it, but on those who confess their need for it. The Spirit-empowered response is then to share it. But Jonah is like the angry older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:28-30): he views God’s lavish welcome for undeserving sinners who repent as an insult to his “deserving” self. The prophet has yet to embrace the Law and Gospel character of God expressed in James 2:13: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

One last thought:  Jonah ran away twice from the Lord when he took passage on the ship and when he sat outside of Ninevah waiting it’s destruction.  The Lord never runs away and He sought Jonah twice and you as well and maybe more times than you can count!   Blessed Jonah’s Day!

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jonah, 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.

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“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.”  St. Matthew 9: 9


Prayer of the Day:

O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About St. Matthew: 

St. Matthew, also known as Levi, identifies himself as a former tax collector, one who was therefore considered unclean, a public sinner, outcast from the Jews. Yet it was such a one as this whom the Lord Jesus called away from his occupation and wealth to become a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13). Not only did Matthew become a disciple of Jesus, he was also called and sent as one of the Lord’s twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). In time, he became the evangelist whose inspired record of the Gospel was granted first place in the ordering of the New Testament. Among the four Gospels, Matthew’s portrays Christ especially as the new and greater Moses, who graciously fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and establishes a new covenant of salvation in and with His own blood (26: 27-28).  Matthew’s Gospel is also well-known for the following:

  • The Visit of the Magi (2: 1-12)

  • The Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 5-7)

  • The Institution of Holy Baptism and the most explicit revelation of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28: 16-20). 

Tradition is uncertain where his final field of labor was and whether Matthew died naturally or a martyr’s death. In celebrating this festival, we therefore give thanks to God that He has mightily governed and protected His Holy church through this man who was called and sent by Christ to serve the sheep of His pastures with the Holy Gospel.

St. Matthew was an excellent, noble man–not only one of the 12 fountains of consolation, the apostle of Jesus Christ of paradise, a holy evangelist, whose  words flowed from the great fountain in paradise, Jesus Christ.  He not only praised the Lord in his heart and with his tongue but also put his quill to paper and wrote his account as a memorial…pay attention so that everything in and about you is directed toward the glory of the Lord, according to David’s example in Psalm 103:2. In the kingdom of God it is said…”Strive with every skill and word, to please your Savior, Christ the Lord.”   None of the other evangelists described the history of  the Lord Jesus to such an extent as Matthew. He also has many beautiful passages that cannot be found in the others.

  • Here the Lord Jesus says (Matthew 11:27-29), Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

  • And again (Matthew 18:19-21), “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.”

  • And in Matthew 28:19-20“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

These three passages, which should cause the legs of all devout Christians to run quickly to the Church, were written only by Matthew.

—Valerius Herberger

(Quotes above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

 Reflection:  One word found only in St. Matthew is “church”.  Further, i it is only in St. Matthew that his Gospel begins and ends in Baptism:   the Lord’s Baptism in the river Jordan and the Lord’s command and promise to baptize in God’s Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We teach Baptism of all people, infant to old age. Baptism is the Lord’s  forgiveness by which He builds us up and into His Church, His Body. We can return to our Baptism when day by day we repent and the new man arises.

Holy Baptism formally ends the written Gospel of St. Matthew but by no means does the Gospel end with the last verse of St. Matthew! The Lord said that His Baptism goes to the ends of the earth! We have brothers and sisters in Christ in the United States, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Siberia, Germany etc, etc.  The Gospel (written, preached, taught and administered in the Sacraments) and the Church and Baptism are all one by which Christ  builds His Church.  These are the means, the living tools jof the Words of the Holy Spirit to build us up in His Church. The Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture and so St. Matthew.  


1. By all Your saints in warfare,
For all Your saints at rest,
Your holy name, O Jesus,
Forevermore be blest!
For You have won the battle
That they might wear the crown;
And now they shine in glory
Reflected from Your throne.

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist:

25. Praise, Lord, for him whose Gospel
Your human life declared,
Who, worldly gain forsaking,
Your path of suff’ring shared.
From all unrighteous mammon,
O raise our eyes anew
That we in our vocation
May rise and follow You.

3. Then let us praise the Father
And worship God the Son
And sing to God the Spirit,
Eternal Three in One,
Till all the ransomed number
Fall down before the throne,
Ascribing pow’r and glory
And praise to God alone.

(“By All Your Saints in Warfare”, Hymn #517, The Lutheran Service Book)

Meme of the Day

Prayer of the Day:

Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248.During the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. (From the LCMS website)

Regarding his martyrdom, from The Penguin Dictionary of Saints:

 “When persecution began again in 258, under Emperor Valerian, St Cyprian was one of the first victims. There is an account of what happened compiled directly from contemporary documents. Cyprian was first examined by the proconsul, and on affirming his adherence to the one true God, and refusing to divulge the names of his priests, he was exiled to Curubis. When a new proconsul came into office, Cyprian was brought up for trial in Carthage. He again refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. Accompanied by a tumultuous crowd, he was led to the field of Sextus; there he knelt in prayer. He gave a generous gift to the executioner, blindfolded himself, and his head was struck off.”

Reflection:  St. Cyprian lived before the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 312 which made Christianity a legal religion of the Empire.  From the time of our Lord’s Ascension to that time the Church went through persecution from social ridicule to martyrdom.  In 250, under Emperor Decius, with the threat of death, many Christians denied the faith, gave-up fellow Christians to the authorities or when told to burn incense to Caesar bought letters called,  libelli, or certificates, that they had done so. Based upon 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, the Church prayed for Caesar, but did not pray to Caesar (see the 1st Commandment).

 When the persecution ended, many wanted to return to the Church. My speculation is those who denied the faith were regarded as traitors.   One party wanted them to be re-baptized or one Novatus said they committed apostasy and were not saved.  He denied absolution to the repentant.  Novatus’ heresy, Novationism, was also condemned in The Augsburg Confession because he denied absolution/forgiveness (1).   The Bishop of Rome , Pope Stephen I rightly said that once baptized, still baptized and like Saul and Judas a Christian can be lost. The Church Biblically agreed  that a time of penitence, that is, repentance would return one to the flock. The Biblical understanding is absolution for the penitent restores one to the Church.   This crucial understanding of repentance and absolution is reflected in the true Reformation understanding: 

“Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practice what we began before, but abandoned.”(The Large Catechism).

Two of the lessons we can learn from St. Cyprian are:

  1. Cyprian and all the martyrs remind us that faith in Jesus Christ matters. Even in the midst of persecution, Cyprian and the Church debated right doctrine and the resulting right practice. They did not soften doctrine in order to be accepted by society and culture or by those who denied Christ.  Much  was at stake as in their lives but even more: true doctrine which is eternal life. There were those who denied Christ and so ‘saved’ themselves, but those who sell out doctrine and faith and true worship are not saving  the Church. They remove themselves from the Savior.  

  2. Cyprian and the Church took seriously  the right Biblical way of ministering to those who denied Christ and they sought the true way:  repentance.  Cyprian was beheaded for the faith, for true worship, for right doctrine and practice.  

The beheading of Cyprian has a relevance in the news these past years of Islamists beheading  Christians. We are so readily led to  water down doctrine and the faith to “reach out” to the world which fits the devil’s game plan.  We need the courage of a Cyprian and the love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit to minister in the Name of the Lord to our neighbors:

“…having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Colossians 3:1-4]. Let us, then, who in Baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ’s.”  –Cyprian of Carthage

Remove the pow’r of sin from me/And cleanse all my impurity/That I may have the strength and will/ Temptations of the flesh to still.—Renew Me, O Eternal Light (LSB 704:2)


(1) From The Augsburg Confession: Article  XII, Of Repentance  (emphasis added):  Our churches teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of  the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost.Also those who contend that some may attain to such  perfection in this life that they cannot sin.The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.

They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own. 

Appointed Scripture Readings: Numbers 21:4-9   Psalm 40:1-11   1 Corinthians 1:18-25   St. John 12:20-35

Let us pray…

Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God,  now and forever.

One of the earliest annual celebrations of the Church, Holy Cross Day traditionally commemorated the discovery of the original cross of Jesus on September 14, 320, in Jerusalem. The cross was found by Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In conjunction with the dedication of a basilica at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the festival day was made official by order of Constantine in AD 335. A devout Christian,Helena had helped locate and authenticate many sites related to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout biblical lands. Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Many Lutheran parishes have chosen to use “Holy Cross” as the name of their congregation. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

“Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity.”  The popular understanding of the word “popular” is intimately connected with everything from TV shows to movie ‘stars’ to a favorite food.  Popularity means fame and desirability.    People want what you have.  The Holy Cross of Jesus, in that sense of the word “popular”, has never been terribly popular. The image below is the Palatine Graffito, maybe the earliest depiction of the crucifixion.

“Discovered in 1856, a well known graffito from the Palatine Hill in Rome, dated to the third century A.D., depicts a crucified figure with the head of an ass. Facing the crucified is a smaller, beardless man clad in a tunic, his left hand raised in supplication. A crudely lettered  inscription reads:…“Alexamenos worships (his) god.”” The drawing was discovered in one of the rooms of a building which served as a training school for imperial guards….(the) image was meant as a parody of the faith of a Christian convert by one of his fellow soldiers.  (“The Palatine Graffito: A Mimic Interpretation by L. L. Welborn, Fordham University, Macquarie University)

The mocking of Christ and the atonement has been around for a long time. This is a reminder of the “foolishness” of the Cross and the preaching of Christ and Him crucified in the first centuries of the Church as the Apostle Paul attests in today’s Epistle Reading:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.

God die a sinner’s death?  No way. IN our wisdom, we just can not wrap our heads around the crucified God and His love to bear our sin and be our Savior and so in many subtle ways the Holy Cross is derided in these day:

  • the doctrine of the atonement by His blood is not preached and taught in many churches, especially by feminists who believe Christ on the Cross was “divine child abuse”;  

  • mega-congregations do not have a cross in sight in their church buildings as church growth taught not to mention the cross as it is not an uplifting sign and we go to church for positive experiences and to feel good.

  • our good works save us. 

The derision of the sign that “God so loved the world” keeps on being promulgated.  The Cross of our Savior has been mocked even more crudely than the Palatine Graffito.  In 1986,  an artist’s work entitled “Piss Christ” in which a crucifix is in a container of the artist’s urine.  This work won accolades.

When I have listened to popular evangelical preachers, it always seems that the crucifixion of our Lord is at best, some past event by which the Lord redeemed the world. It is but His death and resurrection is needed by us everyday. but seldom is Christ and Him crucified preached and taught, and administered in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Altar as the Lord Emmanuel, God with us, for us today. The Epistle readings says “we preach”:  present tense.  In St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy, 1:15, the Apostle wrote:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (Emphasis added)

The meaning of Holy Cross Day is the Lord Jesus: a present tense Savior for present tense sinners. As Luther Biblically taught the present tense Savior for us today in Part IV of Baptism in the Small Catechism:

What does such baptizing with water indicate?–Answer.It indicates that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.  St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Fathereven so we also should walk in newness of life.

There are crosses everywhere especially on necklaces.  The cross is even much talked about in churches.  Cross, cross and yet there is no cross, that is, as Fr. Luther pointed out:  the drowning of the old Adam in “daily contrition and repentance”.  We need the eternal fruit from the Cross, Christ Himself, day by day. 

Helena who found the cross in Jerusalem was the mother of the Emperor (Caesar) Constantine.  Constantine said of the Cross: Hic Signo Vinces, “By this Sign, you will conquer”.  Even more, by this sign, we are conquered and are more than conquerors through Him who loved us  (Romans 8: 37) and gave Himself up for us all.

The Apostle Paul knew that the preaching of Christ and Him crucified, the Word of the Cross, is folly to those who are perishing, who deny it. He also knew in Corinth that the preaching of  Christ and Him crucified created faith in so many.  So,  why deny it?  By His crucifixion and resurrection, we are changed and the Old Adam with the devil’s assistance, will do their damn worse to stop the Lord’s salvation.  So we rejoice as the Scripture proclaims:

 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1: 25)

Scripture Verse for Today

Scripture Verse for Today

True Speech | A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

Proverbs 15: 4 | image tagged in proverb | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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