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From  Dr. C. F. W. Walther’s  Law and Gospel (first published 1888):

“Of course, no one can produce faith in himself. God must do that. A person may be in such a state, such that he cannot believe and God is not willing to give faith to him. A person who still considers himself sound and righteous cannot believe. “One who is full loathes honey” (Proverbs 27:7). In the same way, the soul that is spiritually “satisfied” tramples on the honey comb of the consoling Gospel.”

We can not get our fill of sugary stuff. Sugar and sugar substitutes are in our cereals, our fast food, salad dressings…just read random food labels.  This is not good for the body but also the artificially sweetened church and society we live in is not good for the heart, soul and mind.  We are told and sold: “Satisfaction Guaranteed”. We always need to have sweet things to think about, but especially feel about, so we can ‘feel good about ourselves’ and all the while knowing their is a gnawing bitterness.  We are told we are to consider ourselves as “sound and righteous” but this gnawing bitterness we deny.  Our bellies are full and the soul is empty. We bury the bitterness, that is our sickness and unrighteousness and it festers. Religious hucksters selling the sugary and saccharine ‘sweetness’ of their ‘messages’ to those with diabetes of the soul, who have no God given resistance to the bitterness of the world, the flesh and the devil.  No one hungers and thirsts for righteousness.   People spend a lot time and money on televangelists and the megachurch legalists, like Joel Osteen, and even the Pope, who give the poison of their sugar coated ‘spiritual’ pills to those who need medicine of  Law and Promise, the true diagnoses and the prognoses.  Dr. Walther’s quote surely gives the reason of our faithless times:  sated with the thought we are pretty good and all the while still needing another fix and only symptoms are treated.  

O Lord, fix our hearts where true joy is found in Thee!

Meme of the Day

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Pulpit of the Day!

This pulpit is in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Duszniki Zdrój, Silesia, Poland.  Below the picture is description of the pulpit from this website.  I wonder what it would be like to preach from this pulpit!?  Or hear a sermon preached from it!? It surely is a Biblical pulpit!

The most famous part of the church is the unique pulpit, in the shape of a big fish with a twisted tail and an open mouth, from which sermons were delivered. Such pulpits are common in Lusatia, Saxony and Bohemia; in Silesia there are only two more pulpits of this sort, both of which are much more modest. They refer to the biblical story of Jonah, who was saved by a giant fish (the scene of Jonah Thrown Into the Sea is depicted on a relief on the pulpit door). It is decorated with numerous sculptures – figures of the evangelists, Ezekiel’s Vision (the prophet, and figures rising from the graves), figures of the four Fathers of the Church, and – in the finial – Christ, whose blood drips into a goblet. The figures of Jonah, Ezekiel and Christ are related to the topic of the Resurrection (the prophet being spat out of the fish alive after three days in its stomach is considered to be the prefiguration of the Resurrection); the remaining figures depict preaching and interpreting the Word of God, and the Eucharist. The pulpit was constructed between 1720 and 1722, funded by the town council. 

We are told at the get go in The Book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, verse 1 and following:

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,

The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him. (KJV)

Ezekiel is currently the Old Testament readings in the daily prayer. Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon, a great superpower at that time.  The prophet was part of captive Israel a long way from home and the Temple. The major deportation of Israelites had occurred in 586 BC. The Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel in exile.  Ezekiel received visions and he was unrelenting in preaching God’s Word to a people in exile. The feeling of exiled Israel is expressed in this Psalm 137, after an elegant lament and sorrow, the Psalm concludes:

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
    blessed shall he be who repays you
    with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
    and dashes them against the rock!

There were no ‘support groups’ in exile.  Babylon was not a ‘safe place’. Ezekiel did no ‘hand-holding’ with his brothers in exile.  He preached the unvarnished Word of God and he was, by our soft 21st century philosophies and theologies, hard on them:

And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.

And yet after the Word of judgment there is the hope of grace.  For instance, in chapter 34, after Ezekiel denounces the “shepherd” who only fed themselves and not the people the pasture of God’s Word, it is written:

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

This is the hope of the Messiah.

By God’s Word, faithfully and forcefully preached, the people of Israel survived for the return from exile.  No human centered therapies can do this.  

I read recently an evangelical write that Jeremiah 29, and Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles is much discussed in evangelical circles on the way to remain faithful in a strange land.  The author then went on to wonder how many evangelicals will become “Babylonians”. We walk in danger all the way. Our land is becoming increasingly strange to many and no amount of Congressional, Presidential and judicial activism will stop the decline.  No amount of therapuetic and cultural wisdom and twaddle will save the Church. We have more than one Christian inspired ‘awakenings’ that promise hope and only give a fleeting feeling.  Ezekiel was given  the answer that he faithfully preached:

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. (Ezekiel 14: 6)

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. (Ezekiel 18: 30)

And another prophet preached to a wayward Israel, and still does to and for us:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.(St. Matthew 3:2)

Formed and conformed (Romans 12: 1ff) by the Lord in His Church we can take our stand in a weary land. The world will not take a stand except with the devil.  For the promise is the Lord washes us,as Ezekiel foretold of Baptism:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (Ezekiel 36: 25)

In joyful repentance, day by day, we walk clean in our Baptism and lead the parched, the thirsty, the dying to the waters of eternal life in Jesus the Christ as He leads us (cf. St. John 4Ezekiel 47:12) .

 

 

 

“For creatures, holiness comes from without; for the Spirit, holiness fills His very nature. he is not sanctified, but sanctifies.”

Concordia and Koinonia

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church Your eternal being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons. May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea,Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  Basil and the two Gregorys, collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers, were leaders of Christian orthodoxy in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later fourth century. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers; Gregory of Nazianzus was their friend. All three were influential in shaping the theology ratified by the Council of Constantinople of 381, which is expressed in the Nicene Creed. Their defense of the doctrines of…

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The game show, “Family Feud” has two families face off to see if they can guess the answers that a studio audience of a hundred top answers to a question.  Like, Who is the greatest American president? Washington says the one family, the studio audience answer, Washington, 89  also said so.  

On one show a question was, Who is most likely in hell?  Of course, the top answer was…Hitler.  Yes, you guessed it.  BTW, number 3 was Dean Martin. 

Anyway, that Feud question is just a variant of the perennial one who was the worst sinner that ever lived? Hitler is usually number one, Judas gets on top 10, so does Stalin, etc., etc. 

I do have an answer that may surprise you:  the worse sinner who ever lived was Jesus Christ.  He became a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, an idolater and the like as He bore the sin of world in His sinless body. Jesus was tempted in every way that we are but is without sin, as God’s Word tells us. He was absolutely pure yet bore our sins in Himself thus becoming, in a sense, the worse sinner who ever, ever lived.

John the Baptizer was incredulous that Jesus came to him to be baptized in a baptism of repentance.  John knew he needed Jesus to baptize him. John knew who he was!  No says, Jesus this is to fulfill all righteousness, the righteousness of God by which He justifies, makes right those who cannot in a million lifetimes self-justify (cf.Matthew 18:21-35).  

In response to the question, who is the worse sinner, no one ever says, Oh, yeah, that would be me.  I like the discussion of who is the worse sinner because it makes me feel good, I’m not so bad…not as bad as Adolph Hitler!  St. Paul jumped in with the right answer, I am the chief of sinners.  Paul knew that could not make himself right.  He knew that account of Jesus Christ, He made him right by grace received in faith.  Further note that when one discovers the  wrong by what was thought, said or did, there is no escaping, like deer caught in the headlights.  The overwhelming flood of feeling is I am the worse. It’s like the weight of the world is on you. “I can’t believe what I did”.  Believe it, says the Lord, and believe Me ever and always.  This is the beginning of contrition, sorrow over sin and believe My Son, My Christ.  He was circumcised when He did not need to be. He  was immersed into a baptism of repentance He did not need, baptized into a baptism of repentance He did not need so the need of forgiveness is fulfilled, all righteousness, so that you can repent and be saved, washed, as if all over again.

The wages of sin is death and Jesus did not receive the minimum wage, but all the wages, all our debt, once and for all.  The free gift is eternal life so we can live free in our Baptism ever turning toward Him, the Beloved Son (cf. Matthew 3: 13-17) as His beloved children in our Baptism in the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 26, Romans 6: 1-11).

 

When the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) was published in the ’70s for the church bodies that eventually would merge into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod ceased to support the publication of that worship book), it was heralded as a giant step toward unity. For many of us, not attentive to the subtle changes, and driven by enthusiasm, did not notice these changes were subtle and significant.  Here is one of those changes:  January 1st is the Circumcision and Name of Jesus but in the LBW “The Circumcision” was not included, it was lopped off.   January 1st, 8 days after Jesus’ birth, when we are told He was circumcised, the emphasis was only on His Name. 

Now I wrote that bit about “lopping off” with tongue in cheek but it was a circumcision of a venerable feast day’s title done by men.  Even a charge of antisemitism could be leveled:  taking away Jesus’ Jewishness that He was born under the Law.  Maybe in the antinomianism (anti-Law) the Church was falling into, we don’t want to be reminded that Luke and Matthew, in particular, go to lengths to show that Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah…and Jesus kept God’s Law.  It was their joy to do so, not to gain salvation. And a few decades later, so many churches stopped keeping God’s Law, especially when it comes to marriage and life.  

Maybe it is we don’t want to reminded that Jesus was not only a Jew but a man!  Oh no!  Sexism! Patriarchalism! And in a few decades later the very language of the Scripture, hymnody and liturgy would be gutted by the inclusive language knife.  

Now I do not know the reasoning for this change in the feast day on January 1st.  The pastors, liturgists and theologians probably were not in cahoots in some sort of gnostic heresy to make the Lord sound more androgynous…but then again, decades later, the man Jesus Christ would be “reimagined” as a feminist principle…not just lopping off His foreskin. No longer true man, and neither then is He true God.  But of course maybe they were hoping for this small change in the name of enlightenment  but this change would be one of many in the LBW, and throughout the Lutheran Church that would sink the Reformation clarity of Sola Scripture, by Scripture alone, as this “sola” conforms our liturgical life in the Lord.  The price of freedom in Christ is eternal vigilance.  He felt the sting of the law, and He did not need to, and one day the full sting of the Law:  death, even death on the Cross.  And decades later, many denied the blood atonement and they have a blood-less Christ, not the Savior who loves us to death. His Name is backed by His own blood, beginning on 1 January, the 8th Day. 

 

 

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