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One of the symbols of St. Matthias is a pair of dice because the Disciples cast lots to decide who would take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1: 15-26).  The only time he is mentioned in the Bible is at the time of his selection.

 Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 


Lessons:  Isaiah 66: 1-2  Psalm 134  Acts of the Apostles 1: 15-26   St. Matthew 11:  25-30

St. Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. According to the Early Church Fathers, Matthias was one of the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-20. After the ascension, Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the vacancy in the Twelve resulting from the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16-25). Early Church tradition places Matthias in a number of locations. Some historians suggest that he went to Ethiopia; others place him in Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion. Martyred for his faith, Matthias may well have met his death at Colchis in Asia Minor, around AD 50. The Church of St. Matthias at Trier, Germany, claims the honor of being the final burial site for Matthias, the only one of the Twelve to be buried in Europe north of the Alps.

The Greek word for “lots”, as in casting lots for Matthias, is “kleros”. Regarding the casting of lots, these  comments and study are from Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s Commentary (1921) on Acts 1: 26:

24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

The prayer of the disciples is a model of its kind. “The petitioners had a single object for which they bowed before the Lord, and to the proper presentation of this they confine their words. They do not repeat a thought, nor do they elaborate one beyond the point of perspicuity…. So brief a prayer on so important an occasion would in this voluble age be scarcely regarded as a prayer at all.” 4) Having thus sanctified the occasion with the Word of God and with prayer, the disciples were ready to proceed to the selection of the twelfth apostle. To do this, they gave forth their lots. Just how this was done is not certain. But it is probable that the usage prevailing in the Old Testament was observed. “Tablets on which the names of Joseph and Matthias were written, were employed; these were shaken in the vase or other vessel in which they had been deposited, and the lot which first fell out furnished the decision.”. 1 Chron. 24, 5; 25, 8; Lev. 16, 8; Num. 34, 13

The method is secondary to prayer. Nevertheless, the human element is removed as it is the Lord who chooses Apostles, Bishops and Pastors. He establishes the Office. Their prayer is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching that prayer should be simple for we will not be heard for our many words” (cf. St. Matthew 6: 7).  They also followed Jesus as He prayed before selecting the 12 Disciples and exhorting to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out harvesters into His field (St. Matthew 9: 37-38;  St. Luke 6:  12-16) .    After the selection of Matthias, lots were never used again.  It is prayer that is absolutely essential.  Also, preceding the selection of the unique and unrepeatable Office of Apostle, as in all offices, there were qualifications:  an apostle saw the risen Jesus Christ (Acts 1: 22) and more importantly, to replace Judas, this selection was to be done as it was according to Scripture (Acts 1: 24).   Scripture and prayer go hand in Hand.

The Greek word “kleros”, “lots”, is the basis of our English words “cleric”/clerical”, that is, a pastor or minister  and “clerk”/”clerical. A pastor is not a chance or a gamble though for many a congregation they might tell you otherwise!  It can be when the pastor does not keep his office, preaching and teaching the Word of God, caring for souls and administering the Sacraments, especially when the pastor denies and ignores sound doctrine and engages in immorality.  Then the pastor goes against the prayer of the Church for the Lord’s call to him. Jesus knew this:  Judas. 

The pastor in preaching Law and Promise will not possess every talent a congregation wants and even he wants!  The congregation may not like his preaching and even hate it as did the synagogue in Nazareth wanted to kill Jesus (Luke 4)!  Yet, the pastor is called.  Since the selection of Matthias, “kleros” came not to mean a chance, but a calling, a vocation:  the cleric.  Now the related word, “clerk” is considered by some to be a menial vocation, as in “menial clerk” or “minor clerk, as a clerk in a store.  It did mean at one time an educated person who could read and write to clerk in a store in a time of greater illiteracy.  Pastors and clerks had education in common. Yet, it is also are reminder that pastors are not to lord it over their flocks but like a clerk are called to serve. Pastors are called not to serve customers, but the flock the Word of God and the Sacraments from God (cf. St. John 21: 15-17).  Clerk can also be a vocation as both clerks and clerics serve the neighbor each in their own calling.  And like St. Matthias, a cleric may not have fame, as a clerk but like the Apostle Matthias, he will have served the Name of the Lord.

Lord, your abiding presence mysterious made the choice;
For one in place of Judas the faithful now rejoice.
From all such false apostles your holy Church defend,
And by your parting promise be with us to the end.
(“By All You Saints in Warfare,” Lutheran Service Book, 517, v.13)

Intro:   Polycarp’s martyrdom on this date around AD 156 deeply impressed the nascent Church and can not be glossed over.   Polycarp was link between the time of the Apostles and post-apostolic era.  He was martyred when he was 86 years of age by being burned.  Eyewitness accounts said the smell was of baking bread. From The Martyrdom of Polycarp:

POLYCARP PRAYS

So they simply bound him with his hands behind him like a distinguished ram chosen from a great flock for sacrifice. Ready to be an acceptable burnt-offering to God, he looked up to heaven, and said,

“O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of you, the God of angels, powers and every creature, and of all the righteous who live before you, I give you thanks that you count me worthy to be numbered among your martyrs, sharing the cup of Christ and the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and body, through the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received this day as an acceptable sacrifice, as you, the true God, have predestined, revealed to me, and now fulfilled. I praise you for all these things, I bless you and glorify you, along with the everlasting Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. To you, with him, through the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and forever. Amen.”

Then the fire was lit, and the flame blazed furiously. We who were privileged to witness it saw a great miracle, and this is why we have been preserved, to tell the story. The fire shaped itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, and formed a circle around the body of the martyr. Inside it, he looked not like flesh that is burnt, but like bread that is baked, or gold and silver glowing in a furnace. And we smelt a sweet scent, like frankincense or some such precious spices.

His name means, “much fruit”.  Below is a short bio from The Apostolic Fathers edited by Jack Sparks of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  It is well worth reading: 

“Take the oath and I will let you go,” said the proconsul. “Revile Christ.”

“I have served Him eighty-six years,” replied Polycarp, “and in no way has He dealt unjustly with me; so how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Thus the aged and much revered bishop spoke, in full knowl­edge of the outcome. His martyrdom was sealed. His life had stretched from the days of the apostles till the middle of the second century, and on a February day in about 156 he moved on with honor to the church enrolled in heaven.

We first meet Polycarp as the relatively young bishop of Smyrna when the aging Ignatius of Antioch was on his way to mar­tyrdom. It was in Smyrna that Ignatius made that famous rest stop on his final journey, and Polycarp was the only individual on record to whom the great martyr ever addressed a personal letter. In the years that followed, Polycarp gathered Ignatius’ letters and passed them on to others.

Irenaeus, who was bishop of Lyons in the latter half of the second century, tells us that Polycarp was a disciple of the apos­tle John and indeed knew others who had seen the Lord in the flesh. The witness of Irenaeus is important because he appar­ently grew up in Smyrna. What he says of Polycarp indicates that the bishop of Smyrna was most concerned about the pres­ervation of the orthodox faith. One incident he reports demon­strates the severity of Polycarp’s attitude toward heresies and heretics. Polycarp, says Irenaeus, once met the heretic Marcion on the streets. “Do you recognize me?” asked Marcion. “In­deed,” replied Polycarp, “I recognize you as the firstborn of Satan!” (Adv. haer 3:3,4).

Though Irenaeus hints at several letters by Polycarp, only  one has come down to us. That letter is to the church at Philippi and reflects the same concern for truth and orthodoxy we have already mentioned. His letter is filled with, indeed almost made up of, quotes from the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles of the New Testament, as well as the letters of Clement and Ignatius. Some critics have sneered at Polycarp because he is so uncreative and offers no new theological insight. We can be glad he was the way he was. Through Polycarp we have not only a link with the ear­liest days of Christianity, but a faithful transmission of apostolic doctrine as well. No, he was not creative. He was a loyal disci­ple of Christ and the apostles.

Near the end of his life Polycarp made a visit to Rome to dis­cuss with Bishop Anicetus a number of church matters, appar­ently including the date of Easter. The Eastern churches were still celebrating Easter on the exact date of Jewish Passover, while Rome was using a specified Sunday each year. Neither agreed to change, but their fellowship was not disturbed. Before he left Rome, Polycarp, at the invitation of Anicetus, led in the celebration of the Eucharist. The two men parted in full agree­ment to leave their respective traditions as they were.

Last of all we have an eyewitness account of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Perhaps by request, the church at Smyrna pre­pared a full account, to be sent to the church at Philomelium and other places. This clear and simple testimony of the martyrdom of an aged saint should bring tears to the eyes of any believer. Some have questioned the record because of the miraculous ac­count of the means of his death. But there is great danger in rejecting a miracle on the grounds that “such things just don’t happen.” Some have done so and thus have rejected the mira­cles of the Scriptures.

Polycarp’s last prayer is characteristic of the man and a clear testimony of his faith. He concluded with, “I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ your beloved Son through whom to you with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory now and forever. Amen.”

Comment:  “No, he was not creative. He was a loyal disci­ple of Christ and the apostles.” I like Fr. Sparks’ comment.  I took a course in “creative ministry”.  We create the ministry, make it creative?  When we do so, we take the honor away from the Creator and Redeemer of us all. Polycarp would give God alone the glory and love toward his neighbors. No, the Lord more than creates us, He re-creates us through the Ministry of bishops and pastors preaching and teaching faithfully God’s Word of  Law and Promise.  Polycarp was not creative, he was faithful servant of Jesus.  Satis est, it enough and Christ will fill us by His grace for us sinners to change our lives in His mercy day by day.

Let us pray:  O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Epistle Reading for this coming Sunday, Transfiguration is 2 Peter 1: 16-21, in which the Apostle gives his witness to the Transfiguration.  Just before this, the Apostle wrote the quote below.  I use the King James Version translation of the Text because it has a more literal rendering of the highlighted word below.  

12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.

13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;

14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.

15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

Here is a definition of “Tabernacle”:  σκήνωμα,n  \{skay’-no-mah}
1) a tent, a tabernacle  1a) of the temple as God’s habitation  1b) of the tabernacle of the covenant  1c) metaph. of the human body as the dwelling of the soul 

The word used by the Apostle has the same root as the emphasized words in  St. John 1: 14:  

 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

“Dwelt among us” is literally “tabernacled”.  The Apostle Paul teaches the Corinthians that your bodies are temple of the Holy Spirit.  The Apostle Peter in his first epistle teaches that we are like living stones are being built into a spiritual temple.  We are such on account of faith and Holy Baptism in and into Christ Jesus.  What do we do in this Temple?  First and foremost:  we hear, learn and inwardly digest God’s Word.  This encouragement from the Apostle Peter is amplified by the commentary below from Rev. Paul Kretzmann*, and Rev. Kretzmann concludes with an evangelical warning we need to hear in our day:

That Peter had not forgotten the commission of the Lord given to him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is shown in the solicitude which he here displays for the spiritual welfare of his readers: Therefore I shall be careful that you be reminded concerning these things, although you do know them and are established in the truth which is present with you. That was the conception which Peter had of his pastoral office, as it should be the idea of every true pastor, to make it his care, his business, ever and again to remind the believers of all these facts concerning their justification and sanctification. It is true, indeed, the Christians have learned these facts, they know them, but it remains true at the same time that they cannot learn them too well and that the eagerness of the true Christian to hear the fundamental truths over and over again will not diminish. They were established in the truth of the Gospel, they were firmly grounded in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity as they concerned their spiritual life, but they needed the strengthening influence of the apostolic admonition from day to day. Note: We need a better realization of these facts in our day, when so many professing Christians are showing the symptoms of spiritual satiety, which almost invariably is the forerunner of spiritual decay.

The world will not give us the culture of the Word.  It won’t be heard in most of our schools, colleges and universities…and even sadder, in our homes and in so many churches.  Nevertheless, we need to be brought daily to be put into remembrance of the promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

 

* I think Dr. Kretzmann’s commentary is quite accessible because it is on-line but also it is written in  non-scholarly, plain English. It is a go-to source.

Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s scriptural studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wart­burg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. Luther died on February 18, 1546while visiting the town of his birth. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Lessons:

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Prayer of the Day

O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day, and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ’s faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

Here you can see what it means to believe. It may indeed seem an easy matter, but it is in fact a high and great art. Therefore when you feel your sin, when your bad conscience smites you, or when persecution comes, then ask yourself whether you really believe. At such times one is wont to run to saints and helpers in cloisters and in the desert for succor and relief, crying: “O my dear man, intercede for me! O dear saint, help me! O let me live! I promise to become pious and to do many good works.” That is how a terrified conscience speaks. But tell me, where is faith? If you believe in the words of Christ, “None of them is lost whom Thou hast given Me” (John 17:12), then, as a Christian, you must say: “I acknowledge no saint here. I am a poor sinner deserving of death; but in defiance of sin and death I cling to Thee, and I will not let Thee go. I have taken hold of Thee, dear Lord Christ. Thou art my Life, and this is the Father’s will, that all who adhere to Thee have eternal life and be raised from the dead. In the meantime let my fate be what it will. I may be beheaded or burned at the stake.” No other life—whether it be called the monastic life or the life of St. Augustine or of St. John the Baptist—will arm a person for victory. Only faith in Christ can do so.—Martin Luther

Reflection:  One of the last words that Fr. Luther preached were:  “It is true.  We are all beggars.”  We are all beggars with the Lord Who has given us all things and above all things: His beloved Son Jesus Christ.  In the quote above, Fr. Luther makes that clear we only cling to Jesus Christ.  We can not go running to and fro to ‘saints’.  I realize that sounds in our 21st ears so antiquated:  it is, in a literal sense.  Yet, in our day and time, we do go running to ‘saints’, but we would not call them ‘saints’.  They are powerful personalities, preachers, presidents, especially on TV and in their number 1 bestsellers.  We do go running after the Rick Warrens, the Joel Osteens, the Robert Schullers, the Joyce Meyers, etc and if we do then we think we will really live,(so we think) and then we will have our best lives NOW, we will be purpose driven, we will be positive in all we do and win, we are the ones we have been waiting for.  We still say as Luther said in his day about such ‘seekers’, “I promise to become pious and to do many good works”, that is, the ‘good works’ the Warrens that the Osteens, the Schullers, the Meyers, etc. say we must do in the book we just plucked down $19.95 to be ‘spiritual’.  We still buy indulgences to get our lives out of our self-made purgatories, but we just spend our way deeper into the debt…of the devil.

Luther’s question haunts, “But tell me, where is faith?” The One in Whom you are baptized and believe, however weak your faith, did not sell you a book but has written your name in the book of life as He has made you His own.  He did not sell you nor sell you out, but has bought you, not with gold or silver, but His own precious blood.  (Romans 5:91 Corinthians 11:25Ephesians 1:7Colossians 1:20Hebrews 9:10-121 Peter 1:18-201 John 5:5-7)   No, I acknowledge I am no ‘saint’ like them. I am a poor sinner, deserving of death.  It is true, we are all beggars.  Oh, for a love that will not let me go. He won’t…Luther knew quite well that when he wrote the words above, he could have been burned at the stake.  He had no armor, save faith in Jesus Christ  (Ephesians 6:15-17) and it is more powerful than all the ‘spiritual’ books of self-chosen works piled together.  Here I stand.

The video below  was a promo for The Wittenberg Trail.  But I think it is also  a good description of the Lutheran Church in communion, not with the times we are in, but with the continuity of the Faith of all the ages in Word and Sacrament, as taught by Fr. Luther and the blessed Reformers–Pr. Schroeder

  

Bad Sign

On my way today to visit one of my hospice patients, I saw this church sign.  What comfort would there be if I were to ask my hospice patient so  what have you done for Jesus?  “Oh, not much B.?  I guess you’re eternally screwed.”
bv-church-signOne day the only thing that will matter to you is what Jesus has done for you. This day  even has a name:  Good Friday.  And a second  day:  Easter Sunday.  Luther said that the two key words in the Words of Institution are “for you”:  This is my body given for you.  This is My blood shed for you. The use of words “one day”  seems to suggest that means the Day of Judgment.  This also misses the point of the Bible.  It matters what Jesus has done for you is for today.  Our focus is always Jesus (see Hebrews 12: 1ff), and not looking everyday to see what we have done.  For when we look at what we have done, and with that, left undone, we also turn to Jesus:  Forgive me. We are encouraged and exhorted to do good works that God has prepared beforehand to be our way of life (Ephesians 2), but they are not our life: Christ is the life of all the living, death of death our foe.  Today the only thing that matters is what Jesus has done for you.

Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one, holy catholic, and apostolic Church, in the renewal of its life in fidelity to Your Word and promise. Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Bio:  Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.  After the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the papal church wrote a response to it, the Confutation.  Once again, Melanchthon was called upon to write a defense of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession and The Apology of the Augsburg Confession are the first two confessions in The Book of Concord (1580). Melanchthon died on April 19, 1560.

The Augsburg Confession is the first of the documents in The Book of Concord:  The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Lutheran pastors vow to teach and preach according to the Confessions as the Confessions correctly teach and confess the Biblical faith of Justification by Grace alone, by faith alone. 

Ephesians 2:  8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Grace and faith in Jesus Christ makes the good works as He has created us to do so but the works do not create the faith:  they help and serve our neighbor.  Only His good work creates faith, not our works, and so we are justified, made right with God by what God, His Son, did on the Cross and through the Resurrection for us all: His good and perfect work.  We do not know the extent of our good works, we only know God’s good work. (Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, +1945).  When we look to ourselves for salvation then we are looking the wrong way.  Melanchthon and the blessed Reformers knew Whom to point:  Jesus Christ. Lutheran pastors are to preach and teach according to the Confessions, kind of like in  the original TV “Star Trek”: they are our “prime directive”.   Like John the Baptist, the Reformers pointed to Jesus Christ: “Behold, the Lamb of God! He takes away the sin of the world.” (see John 1:29)  Galatians 2: 21  “…for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” But Christ Jesus died for a purpose:  you.  Brother Philip (he was not ordained) wrote the charter of freedom in Christ in it’s true meaning, but even he did not exhaust the “unsearchable riches” of Jesus Christ for you (see Ephesians 3:7-9)  In the Apology of Augsburg Confession, he wrote and so we confess: 

“For (Christ) is the mediator continually and not just at the beginning of our justification.”.  

He continues to work through the Holy Spirit in the Word, preach, taught and prayed, and through the Sacraments in the Church, the Church which is  faithful to His doctrine.  He continues the work of justification so that we can continue the walk of good works, the walk of the Holy Spirit.  John 15: 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

May the Lord Jesus rule us with His Holy Spirit so that we may confess what is right and Christian and keep the same most consistently for His glory and our eternal salvation and blessedness, and also for that of other people. Amen.

 

Concordia and Koinonia

About Philemon and Onesimus:  Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. Although the name “Onesimus” means “useful,” Onesimus proved himself “useless” when he ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (Philemon 18).  Somehow Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome), and through Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After confessing to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, he was directed by Paul to return to his master and become “useful” again. In order to help pave the way for Onesimus’ peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and “to receive him as you would receive me” (v. 17), “no longer as a slave…

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