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Translation: “In this Sign, You Will Conquer”

Introduction: Constantine I served as Roman Emperor from A.D. 306 to 337. During his reign the persecution of Christians was forbidden by the Edict of Milan in 312, and ultimately the faith gained full imperial support. Constantine took an active interest in the life and teachings of the church and  called the Council of Nicaea in 325 at which orthodox Christianity was defined and defended. His mother, Helena(ca. 255-329), strongly influenced Constantine. Her great interest in locating the holy sites of the Christian faith led her to become one of the first Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Her research led to the identification of Biblical locations in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and beyond, which are still maintained as places of worship today.

From The Ecclesiastical History of Christianity by Sozomen (Salminius Hermias Sozomenus[a] (Greek: Σωζομενός; c. 400 – c. 450 AD), also known as Sozomen was a historian of the Christian Church.)

Chapter 3. By the Vision of the Cross, and by the Appearance of Christ, Constantine is led to embrace Christianity.— He receives Religious Instruction from our Brethren.

“We have been informed that Constantine was led to honor the Christian religion by the concurrence of several different events, particularly by the appearance of a sign from heaven.

“When he first formed the resolution of entering into a war against Maxentius, he was beset with doubts as to the means of carrying on his military operations, and as to the quarter whence he could look for assistance. In the midst of his perplexity, he saw, in a vision, the sight of the cross shining in heaven. He was amazed at the spectacle, but some holy angels who were standing by, exclaimed, Oh, Constantine! By this symbol, conquer! And it is said that Christ himself appeared to him, and showed him the symbol of the cross, and commanded him to construct one like it, and to retain it as his help in battle, as it would insure the victory.

“Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, affirms that he heard the emperor declare with an oath, as the sun was on the point of inclining about the middle of the day, he and the soldiers who were with him saw in heaven the trophy of the cross composed of light, and encircled by the following words: By this sign, conquer.

“This vision met him by the way, when he was perplexed as to whither he should lead his army. While he was reflecting on what this could mean, night came; and when he fell asleep, Christ appeared with the sign which he had seen in heaven, and commanded him to construct a representation of the symbol, and to use it as his help in hostile encounters. There was nothing further to be elucidated; for the emperor clearly apprehended the necessity of serving God.

“At daybreak, he called together the priests of Christ, and questioned them concerning their doctrines. They opened the sacred Scriptures, and expounded the truths relative to Christ, and showed him from the prophets, how the signs which had been predicted, had been fulfilled. The sign which had appeared to him was the symbol, they said, of the victory over hell; for Christ came among men, was stretched upon the cross, died, and returned to life the third day. On this account, they said, there was hope that at the close of the present dispensation, there would be a general resurrection of the dead, and entrance upon immortality, when those who had led a good life would receive accordingly, and those who had done evil would be punished. Yet, continued they, the means of salvation and of purification from sin are provided; namely, for the uninitiated, initiation according to the canons of the church; and for the initiated, abstinence from renewed sin. But as few, even among holy men, are capable of complying with this latter condition, another method of purification is set forth, namely, repentance; for God, in his love towards man, bestows forgiveness on those who have fallen into sin, on their repentance, and the confirmation of their repentance by good works.

Reflection:  I do not know the historical accuracy of the account above. We do know that the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity by the 4th Century. This was after over 2 centuries of persecution, sometimes wicked and bloody as the Lord taught the Apostolic Church before His Ascension in AD 33. The Lord had not left His Church orphans but was with His Church.  At the eve of the Battle of Milvian Bridge, it is estimated that up to half the Roman Empire was Christian. The growth of the Church was a miracle bar none. For over 2 centuries, the Church lived in a world that thrived on conquering and living off the conquests of gold and human flesh.  Christians already knew what Constantine saw about the Cross of Christ, “By this Sign You Will Conquer”, but even more:  

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8: 37

Let us pray and sing:

1. O little flock, fear not the Foe
Who madly seeks your overthrow;
Dread not his rage and power.
What though your courage sometimes faints,
His seeming triumph o’er God’s saints
Lasts but a little hour.

2. Be of good cheer; your cause belongs
To Him who can avenge your wrongs;
Leave it to Him, our Lord.
Though hidden yet from mortal eyes,
His Gideon shall for you arise,
Uphold you and His Word.

3. As true as God’s own Word is true.
Not earth nor hell with all their crew
Against us shall prevail.
A jest and byword are they grown;
God is with us, we are His own;
Our victory cannot fail.

4. Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer;
Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare,
Fight for us once again!
So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise
A mighty chorus to Thy praise,
World without end. Amen.

Hymn #263 The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Luke 12:32

The Work of the Holy Spirit:  The Apostle Peter Baptized Cornelius | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Text:  St. John 16:  When the Spirit of truth comes,  he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you

 I’ve been an unofficial tour guide here and when my parents lived in Vienna, Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. for our guests, family and friends.  As a tour guide, I want to show our guests all the highlights of an area. Here, Lee Chapel, the W and L, VMI, the VMI museum, the art stores in downtown and the like. The Lord uses the word “guide” to describe the work of the Holy Spirit.  The word guide in New Testament Greek is: ὁδηγήσει, literally to guide along the road, way, kind of a tour guide. To guide along the road, odos, as in  I am the Odos, The Road, The Way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me”.

 A tour guide, by showing the best of town, city or nation gives the assertion that this is the entire truth of the area.   No tour guide is going to show you the low lights of a town or city or nation. Oh, here are the slums where all the poor people live.  I could take you out in Rockbridge County for a tour of rural poverty. In many cities, Oh, over there is the abortion clinic.  Over there is where prostitution is rampant.  Here in this house there was a gruesome murder.  The old Adam does not like the whole truth, in fact, he cannot take the truth of where he lives…especially how he lives and has lived.  The Lord then comes quickly with the message of forgiveness and eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ. For the Lord came to His house and our homes.

The tour guide, the Holy Spirit, unlike a human tour guide, will show you all the sights, high and low. The Holy Spirit spoke by the prophets from Moses to Malachi preaching the Word of God to a wayward Israel in its depths, so that we too may be guided by the Lord.  He filled Saul and David to rule according to the Word of God, but when David committed adultery and was ruled damned by  his sin, the Holy Spirit showed him his sin through Nathan the prophet so David repented.

Thus David is rebuked by Nathan, and in his terror he says 56 (Il Sam. 12:13), “I have sinned against the Lord.” This is contrition. Then he hears the absolution (Il Sam. 12: 14), “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” This voice encourages David and by faith it sustains; justifies, and quickens him.

His Law shows that the Lord goes not forget sin and through Jesus Christ, His Gospel forgives sinners. 

A human tour guide does not like to show the bad sights.  He wants to cast a blind eye toward such.  The Holy Spirit, who leads into all the truth, points out the bad sights. The Lord has no blind eye. The Holy Spirit tour-guides you into all the truth. The truth is both  Law and Gospel, the Word of God. The principle is the 10 Commandments, the guide of right and wrong which shows us when we have strayed off the right path and what the right path is. 

“Isa. 28: 21, “The Lord will be wroth, to do his deed—strange is his deed! and to work his work—alien is his work!” He calls it God’s alien work to terrify because God’s own proper work is to make alive and console. But he terrifies, he says, to make room for consolation and quickening because hearts that do not feel God’s wrath in their smugness spurn consolation.”

The Holy Spirit, the Guide, the very will of the Lord is to show us all the highlights, all the light and glory of Jesus Christ.  Through the hard and narrow gate of the Law showing us the terror of God’s wrath towards sin, the Lord teaches us His proper work, what He wants to do:  show us Jesus and His wounds which are the immeasurable riches of His grace. He leads us to the day when the kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. 

The Lord, the Holy Spirit, has a guidebook with which He is intimately known and shows us the way: The Bible.  Your word is a lamp to my feet/and a light to my path. (Psalm 119: 105)

St. Paul wrote to Timothy regarding this guidebook:

 “…continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3)

The Lord guided Timothy by His Word growing up with the goal always of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. He taught Timothy out of His guide Book from the time he was born.  The Lord’s guide Book is replete with the journeys and travels of the narratives of the frailties and fears, faith and hope, repentance and forgiveness of people like you and me.  The Holy Spirit warns:  “Bridge out!”  “Detour”, “Dead-end”, “Wrong Way”.  He exhorts, This way, the one Way.   Through it all and now in the fullness of Jesus Christ, the Lord the Holy Spirit declares all that Jesus taught and did, and shows us the things to come, the new heavens and the new earth. A tour guide is particularly important in a foreign country: he can speak the language.  The Holy Spirit is well versed in the language of the Kingdom of God that we hear in “…our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2).  Through His Word, the Holy Spirit who inspired this Book will equip us for freedom in Jesus Christ in faith, not to go my way, which is death, but His way, which is eternal life, trained in Christ’s righteousness alone, equipped for every good work to help and serve our neighbor.   

The Holy Spirit guides, teaches, glories in the Word made flesh Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Law by which we know we were lost, afraid, and dead in our sin, at our wit’s end, a dead end.  He became lost for our sake, crucified, dead and buried and risen to find us, as He found the disciples. He cried out in dereliction, My God, my God why have you forsaken me?   Sin is death and no tour guide in this world will ever show you this sight and teach you this.  The Holy Spirit does as He points the crucifixion of the Author of Life. Jesus said I am the Way, the Road, the path. His crucifixion is where and when the Holy Spirit will always guide us where in His perfect freedom Jesus Christ went to die, to lay down His life, to take it up again.  The lowest of the low lights in all history is where the depths of God’s love was poured out for us all.  

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! 

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.

Along His way we meet people groping in the darkness, they too need the guidance of His Word, His forgiveness. How can you tell who the tour guide is in a city in the midst of his fellow travelers?  Easy:  the tour guide is holding up an umbrella, a sign, a flag for the group to see and follow.  For the way is always marked by the Cross, the signpost of freed travelers. The Holy Spirit lifts high the Cross of Christ for all to see and so follow our Lord!  No thanks to foes who hate and hide the Cross. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.  The Apostle Paul  portrayed the Crucifixion of Christ as if he, in effect  put it in on a billboard for all to see, so we know the Way (Galatians 3:1). We cannot find our way without a guide and we have one, and the Holy Spirit is all truth, a compass, lodestar, a non-failing GPS.   His Word in His words are “trustworthy and true” and His Word is solid and certain, as solid and certain as the nails in His hands which finally could not hold Him:  Jesus Christ.   

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Presiding over the death of a church. . .

I know it is heresy today but the Church will not die because we have always done it that way before. ” -Pr. Peters

Meme of the Day

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Quote of the Day

'"Of those times in which the life of the church was not very much disturbed by concern for pure teaching and by alarm concerning false teaching, it may be said that they do not belong to the great ages of the church. On the contrary, the church is always in danger of dying when it ceases to wrestle for truth and to pray that the Lord may guard it against the devil's wiles and false teaching." From Here We Stand (1938) by Hermann Sasse'

“Of those times in which the life of the church was not very much disturbed by concern for pure teaching and by alarm concerning false teaching, it may be said that they do not belong to the great ages of the church. On the contrary, the church is always in danger of dying when it ceases to wrestle for truth and to pray that the Lord may guard it against the devil’s wiles and false teaching.” From Here We Stand (1938) by Hermann Sasse

I receive a Roman Catholic catalog of items for liturgy and for worship items for home use. I came across this ad first thing when I received the most recent catalog:

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The description of this statue of “Sleeping St. Joseph” reeks of false doctrine:

1. “St. Joseph is said to have received messages from heaven while he was asleep”: incorrect. In the Bible it is written that the Lord communicated to Joseph through dreams, see Matthew 1:20, not “it is said” as if this is some kind of rumor or pious tradition the ‘church’ has accepted. The writer of this ad description does not seem to know it was through dreams, as recorded in the Bible.

2. It is likewise not recorded in the Bible that anyone invoked or prayed to a saint. We pray to the Lord in the Name of Jesus, no other name. From The Augsburg Confession, Article XXI, The Cult of Saints:

“…the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. 3] He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2:14] If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc. “

The result of this non-Biblical worship practice is sheer idolatry that a statue of St. Joseph, (channeling the saint!?) can grant your “prayer requests” (Are the larger size statues more effective?) . The invocation of the saints is not a part of the pure doctrine of the Bible as confessed by the Lutheran Reformers and another reason I am a confessional Lutheran. But one may ask: Why make a big deal out of this? Yes, this is just one ad in one liturgical/worship catalog but the results can be larger, in this case idolatry. This ad is also indicative of the many falsehoods in Roman Catholic doctrine and practice.

This sleeping Joseph statue also describes the state of too many churches, not only the Roman Catholic church! Taking the Lord’s Word of Law and Promise and domesticating it, and the Kingdom of God which the Word announces in Jesus Christ, and whittling it down to our size, we only whittle new gods: See Isaiah 44: 9-22. Whittling down the Word only produces falsehoods and/or immoral practices. While ‘Joseph slept’, the Roman Catholic church, and so many other now formerly orthodox churches, allowed for, for instance, so much adultery: marriage and remarriage, living together, abortion as birth control, same-sex marriage (See St. Matthew 13: 24-30). We remade the Lord’s announcement of the reign of God into a cozy affair of only getting our way with the Lord instead of Him having His Way with us, for us and our salvation AND the salvation of our neighbor. Praying to a saint won’t accomplish the Lord’s Mission in His Church.

First Anecdote:

I just came back from the Virginia Military Institute.  At Concordia Lutheran

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Mission, two VMI Fourths (whom we civilians call “freshmen”) and I tried to meet once again for a confirmation class at Preston Library.  This is now at least the third, maybe the fourth time we have tried to meet and between either professors changing class times, or confinement or other factors, we have not met.  I am wanting to finish the 2nd Commandment with them. At least one time, one of the cadets finding out he could not meet about fifteen minutes before the beginning of class. I have found this frustrating. I thought tonight was going to be a lock but we forgot because it’s finals week, every spare room and study is being used!  Next, the three of us stood outside of Schipp Hall and we planned our next move to have a class this coming weekend before end of the academic year next week.

I do not bring this up to kvetch about our bad luck or VMI but to speak of my amazement at the dogged determination of these two cadets wanting Confirmation Instruction and trying again and again to make the class. Every weekend they try to make it to the Divine Service.  These two VMI cadets breathe new life into the old saying:  “Giving it the old college try”. 

Second Anecdote:

Several years ago, when I was the pastor of the ELCA congregation in Lexington, we had a snow storm of some size.  My wife and I realized we could make it into town to have Holy Communion.  We did not cancel.  We

maybe had a dozen for the Service.  I remember being fully vested and looking down snow covered South Main Street with no cars at all.  What to my wondering eyes, I saw two people walking down main street in the snow and the cold. As they approached  these two people were two of our Washington and Lee students, Jacob and E. W. coming to Holy Communion!  The distance is far enough to pick up students and cadets because it is at least 20 minute walk in good weather. I thought Washington and Lee needed to be heard from for this article!  It was so heartening to see them…btw, they were usually at the Service every Sunday.

Third Anecdote:

My Father-in-law, Ed, suffered from Parkinson’s and in the last years of his life, he could no longer speak and he would “freeze up”or he had amazing and scary bursts of vitality.  Anita, my Mother-in-law, brought Ed faithfully to the Divine Service every week and she did so to the last Sunday before Ed died.

These folks did not and do not “blow off” Christian education nor Christian worship.  They knew where they were “fed”. They have gone to some lengths to be with the Communion of Saints and then to think of our brothers and sisters in the Lord doing so under the penalty of imprisonment or death. We usually encourage people to come to Church for their own spiritual good and that’s true enough. Yet, when one goes to Church, this is an encouragement and a witness to others, a silent witness, to the centrality of Pulpit, Table, Font and Classroom for our lives in the Lord. “Oh, he’s there every Sunday”, as if that is nothing:  it’s not!  A saying:  The Lord’s People at the Lord’s Altar Every Sunday. And thank the Lord for those in your life who have encouraged you!

Maybe you have stories about a friend or family member and their devotion to the Lord in Church service/Bible class attendance. Please share them below in the comments section.

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