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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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About St.Valentine:  There were several Christians named Valentine and three of them were martyred. Valentine was a common name back in the 3rd-4th centuries. An historical article of the devolution of a Christian saint into the current secular day  is this excellent  and thorough article by Pr. Abrahamson   Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Valentine’s Day.

One likely prospect is St. Valentine of Rome: 

“The Roman Martyrology records: “At Rome, on the Flaminian Way, in the time of Emperor Claudius, the birthday of St Valentine, priest and martyr, who after having cured and instructed many persons, was beaten with clubs and beheaded.” Again, nothing about romance, love, or marriage. The highest virtue this man exhibits is one to encourage all Christians, holding on to the faith of Christ in the face of torture and death.”

The pastor’s conclusion about St. Valentine:  

“So much imaginative legend has grown up around St. Valentine that today it may be hard to separate fiction from truth. This leaves us to consider why it is that we have Saint’s days in our liturgical calendar. The purpose is that we may use their example of clinging to Christ against all the storms this world can throw at them, their examples of holding fast to the doctrine of Christ for the salvation of their souls, their examples of love for God and love for neighbor in spite of their own sinfulness in this sin stained world.

Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Christ lived and died this example. He rose again to show He conquered Satan, Sin, and Death.

It wasn’t until the 1750s A.D. that men began to create the notion that the choice of St. Valentine’s day had other motivations than just the fact that February 14th was the day he was believed to have died.

This article is an effort to remove the chaff from the kernel that we may “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” without giving “heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.”

Reflection:  The Lord’s Church universally taught the true love of God and between each other, with the highest expression of love being marriage. This quote is from the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, Church England:

DEARLY beloved friends, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of his congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is an honorable state, instituted of God in Paradise, in the time of man’s  innocence, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy state Christ  adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of saint Paul to be honourable among all men, and therefore is not to be enterprised, nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding ; but reverently, discretely, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for the which matrimony was ordained.

Without the Biblical norms of  teaching us true love of God and each other, especially in marriage, in the public square, that the void has been filled for such rites and rituals by the secular and idolatrous culture. We now extol the “carnal lusts” as good. Valentine’s Day is now associated, not even with romantic love, but pure lust. Valentine’s Day has become the ‘high holy day’ of hooking up and coitus is it’s ‘sacrament’.  And from my little corner in the world, no one seems any happier but just the opposite.   In a society in which marriage is disparaged with every turn, so “love” has been debased with every turn.  It may be my imagination but as a kid, fifty years or so ago, Valentine’s Day was just a sentimental time.  No longer.   Even though the love of a man and a woman is extolled in Scripture as God’s gift, as in, The Song of Songs, and is good but sin can make the best the worst.

St. Valentine is also about God’s love, agape in Jesus Christ and love between husband and wife. Love is not neutral.  It is a good, an ultimate good. (1 Corinthians 13: 13 ).  But we don’t love as we ought. Jesus came in love to redeem our love and cure and heal it.  I’m sure Saul of Tarsus thought he loved: the Torah, his people and the like and he wanted to murder Christians but Jesus revealed to Him  His true love, even to one as Saul:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 6-8

Paul’s use of the 1st person plural pronouns “we” and “us” was honest and he found out about love, true love: He loved sinners to death, His death on the Cross.  Luther on the difference between agape/charity and our love :

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

The Apostle wrote in Romans 6:1ff that when we were baptized we were baptized into His death…our love is also crucified so  that His true love take root in repentance and forgiveness and our hearts are made alive.  Paul and Valentine were both martyrs for our true Love.

I send you all a Valentine, from Martin Luther, his seal:

Aquila and his wife, Priscilla (Prisca), Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul, traveled widely. Because of persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tent-making, as the Apostle was likewise trained in that trade:

Acts 18:  1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tent makers by trade. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Please note that the Roman persecution and exile of the Jews was the historical cause by which Paul met this faithful couple in the Lord. The three of them met in Corinth where the Apostle evangelized.  The author of Acts, Luke, tells us that the three of them met because of their vocation, “tent makers by trade” (This means they were leather workers and as Paul was a trained Pharisee, it was customary for a Pharisee to have a trade).  Was it a historical accident that Paul met this Christian husband and wife?  We do not know in this concrete event in the Church’s history but we do know that the Lord is,

“…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1)

The Lord brings about His plan in ways that to the human eye are hidden but He is working to bring us His salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Later Luke tells us in his history of the early Church, Acts, that Silas and Timothy came to Corinth,  and so the Church was there in Corinth:  Apostle Paul,  Aquilla and Priscilla, Silas and Timothy.  There were not a “team”as this was not a sport’s game.  Our Lord promised where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name, so He is there.  It was not 5 of them in Corinth but also the Lord, the Temple of His Body to be revealed in the preaching and teaching of His Word, as the Apostle evangelized first  in the Corinthian synagogue.   Our Lord sent out the disciples two by two to preach and heal. Further, the Apostle Paul mentions Apollos eight times in 1 Corinthians.  Paul wrote the Corinthians that their following of human leaders, however ‘charismatic’, is fleshly.  Paul and Apollos worked in concert in the ministry of the Gospel:  

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3)

Dr. Lockwood in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (Concordia Publishing House) points out:  “…Apollos and Paul did not work independently of each other;  they formed a harmonious unit, one in purpose, one in fellowship      (Gal. 2: 9).”   In the Scriptures, evangelism is not a solo activity, but the mission of the Church in concert under her Lord (see 1 Corinthians 12: 1-26).  

The Apostle supported himself by making tents so he would not be a burden on the congregations he was called to serve (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 18), though, he was by no means against preachers receiving a salary so that their time could be fully devoted to freely preach and teach the word (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 1-8). In turn, Aquila and Priscilla  joined Paul in his mission of proclaiming the Gospel. The couple later traveled with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus:

Acts 18: 18: After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila

Priscilla and Aquila established a home in Ephesus that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity. Paul left them there as he went to  Caesarea, then Galatia and Phyrgia.  It was good that Priscilla and Aquila stayed in  Ephesus because of a visitor:

Acts 18: 24Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

This faithful couple taught the talented and highly educated Apollos regarding Baptism according to Christ’s command and promise.  The Christians in Corinth were so fleshly proud that many of them boasted they followed Apollos  and others(see 1 Corinthians 1:11-13), whereas   Apollos, with all his erudition, was obviously humble and had an ear as one being taught (see Isaiah 50:4). It is also important to note that the clear implication in the verses above that,  “the way of God”  to us all  is Baptism:  “…though he knew only the baptism of John”, which was  for repentance whereas Baptism commanded by Christ Jesus is for forgiveness, until He comes again (see St. Matthew 28:  18-20).  

Priscilla and Aquila were in business.  Business is a vocation in this world for people to serve their neighbor, but this is also a clear narrative demonstrating that in your daily vocation you may so teach the “…way of God” to those who want to know.  Priscilla and Aquila knew their catechism.

Then later, Apollos:

…wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.(Acts 18)

Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos are all remembered and honored for their great missionary zeal in the unity, the concord, of the Church.  No matter the greatness nor humility of the talent, we all need to be catechized and preached Christ and Him crucified, “…  showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”  This day is especially good to remember to always pray for all businessmen, tradesmen, day-laborers and to  pray for the Church’s mission and her missionaries in daily life that the Lord’s salvation be brought to those with ears to hear: “the poor in spirit”.

Let us pray…

Triune God, whose very Name is holy, teach us to be faithful hearers and learners of Your Word , fervent in the Spirit as Apollos was, that we may teach it correctly against those who have been led astray into false and error and that we might follow the example of Aquila and Priscilla for the good the Church You established here and entrusted into our humble care;  for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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