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Archive for August, 2012

Introduction:  Billy Sunday was a baseball player who converted to Christianity and became one of the most popular evangelist of his day noted for his flamboyant style.  He was controversial.  The quote below is from For All the Saints, a Lutheran breviary done by Pr. Frederick Schumacher.  It is fourth reading for this day.  It struck me in terms of what I wrote on the feast day of Monica, and especially what her son, Augustine,  said about her. Also, we heard more than one testimonial about the importance of motherhood in the recently completed Republican National Convention.  But even more:  the unsentimental portrait of mothers in the Bible, from Eve to Mary.

 The biggest place in the world is that which is being filled by the people who are closely in touch with youth. Being a king, an emperor or a president is mighty small potatoes compared to being a mother or the teacher of children, whether in a public school or in a Sunday school, and they fill places so great that there isn’t an angel in heaven that wouldn’t be glad to give a bushel of diamonds to boot to come down here and take theirplaces.

Commanding an army is little more than sweeping a street or pounding an anvil compared with the training of a boy or girl. The mother of Moses did more for the world than all the kings that Egypt ever had. To teach a child to love truth and hate a lie, to love purity and hate vice, is greater than inventing a flying machine that will take you to the moon before breakfast. Unconsciously you set in motion influences that will damn or bless the new worlds out of chaos and transform them to God.

A man sent a friend of mine some crystals from the Scientific American and said: “One of these crystals as large as a pin point will give a distinguishable green hue to 116 hogsheads of water. There is a power in a word or act to blight a boy, and through him, curse a community. There is power enough in a word to tincture the life of that child so it will become a power to lift the world to Jesus Christ. The mothers will put in motion influences that will either touch heaven or hell. Talk about greatness!

Oh, you wait until you reach the mountains of eternity, then read the mothers’s names in God’s hall of fame, and see what they have been in the world. Wait until you see God’s hall of fame; you won’t see any Ralph Waldo Emersons, but you will see women bent over the washtub.

I want to tell you women, fooling away your time, hugging and kissing a poodle dog, caressing a “Spitz”, drinking society brandy mash and a cocktail and playing cards, is mighty small business compared to molding the life of a child.

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“…all authority flows and is propagated from the authority of parents…”

The quote above is from Martin Luther’s teaching on the 4th Commandment, Honor Thy Father and Mother, in The Large Catechism.    Luther’s understanding of the 4th commandment was commonplace in Western civilization and history.  It has come under attack for years now. In Luther’s day, the papal church held that other ways of living, that is, monasticism, were of greater ‘spirituality’ than of marriage.  As he taught the 6th commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

…this estate (of marriage)  should not be despised nor held in disrepute, as is done by the blind world and our false ecclesiastics (church officials), but that it be regarded according to God’s Word, by which it is adorned and sanctified, so that it is not only placed on an equality with other estates, but that it precedes and surpasses them all, whether they be that of emperor, princes, bishops, or whoever they please. For both ecclesiastical and civil estates must humble themselves and all be found in this estate

When by God’s grace, Luther re-discovered the Gospel, he also rediscovered marriage between man and woman and the centrality of the Christian home.  The “…blind world and false ecclesiacrats” (“ecclesiacrats’=denominational officials) in our day, in many denominations, especially in Protestantism,  assault marriage and the family unrelentingly:  abortion, living together, alternative ‘families’, same-sex marriage and the like, all as good for, or  equal to, marriage between man and woman.  The blind world certainly does, as Luther wrote in  another context: “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.” (Luther’s Sermon on John 2: 1—11, 1533, Luther’s House Postils, vol. 1)  

Note  the order of the commandments:  the 4th, the home, the 6th, marriage and in between, Thou shalt not murder.  Home and marriage is for life, not abortion and death,but helping our first neighbors, our families, our children to live and live well. Every impartial study I have read on the family points out that those raised in a two parent, mother and father, household fare better than in other type of household.  This does not mean that single-parent homes are to be disregarded but it is not encouraged as a way of life.  Single parent homes need the help of the church and all neighbors. Those who were divorced, spouse died or unmarried parent, generally want marriage. Marriage is the universal experience of humankind.  Luther:

For both ecclesiastical and civil estates must humble themselves and all be found in this estate…Therefore it is not a peculiar estate, but the most common and noblest estate, which pervades all Christendom, yea which extends through all the world.

But the blind world and false ecclesiacrats are harmful in this reality because they espouse ways that are sinful.  It is clear in our very DNA and the way we are made, as Luther wrote above, family and marriage “…extends through all the world.”

Luther clearly taught, based upon Scripture, that the purpose of government is to protect the family, not replace it.  He understood this is one of the purposes of the government:  to help the family, to serve families, not for families to serve the government.  I will be forthright.  Mr. Romney’s acceptance speech for his party’s nomination for the office of President prompted this reflection, especially when he said,

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.”

This is the first time I have heard any politician plainly state the proper of the government.  The proper role of government is servant, not master. I pray and hope Mr. Romney, as President, with the Congress, and the American people, can restore government to it’s proper constitutional role, which is the Biblical role.

In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, the rabbi is asked by his students, “Is there a proper blessing for the Czar?”  “A proper blessing for the Czar…hmmm. Ah!  God bless the Czar and keep him far away from us!”. 

Lord, keep this nation under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray.

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On Baptism

The following quote is from a solid article in the current edition of Touchstone magazine.  It is by Pr. Paul Gregory Alms (LCMS) and you can find the article here.-Pr. Schroeder

In one of the great baptismal scenes of the New Testament, we see the contrast between an entry into the Christian life that appears painless and miraculous and an entry that involves death with Christ in the waves. It is the story of Peter walking on the water. Peter sees Christ striding over the deep and gets the idea to do it himself. Calling on Jesus to enable him to follow, he steps out of the boat.

And he does walk on the waves. Peter is walking on the water, upright, proud, connected to Jesus. But the stormy deep claims her own. Peter must be swallowed by the water before he can truly follow Christ. He begins to sink. His baptism has begun. His false pride is drowned. Peter cries out, “Save me, Lord.”

Here is baptism. Man’sfoolish pride is extinguished in the water; the inexorable pull of death grabs at and claims its own; and the pitiful confession is forced out of lungs now filling with the waters of judgment: “Lord, save me.”


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Appointed readingsRomans 6:1-5Mark 6:14-29

About this day:   In contrast to the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (observed on June 24), this festival commemorates his beheading by the tetrarch, Herod Antipas. From the perspective of the world, it was an ignominious end to John the Baptist’s life. Yet it was in fact a noble participation in the cross of Christ, which was John’s greatest glory of all. Christ Himself said that there had arisen none greater than John the Baptist. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and also the herald of the New Testament. As the forerunner of Christ, John fulfilled the prophecy that the great prophet Elijah would return before the great and terrible day of the Lord. By his preaching and Baptism of repentance, John turned “the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” And in the footsteps of the prophets who had gone before him—in anticipation of the Christ whose way he prepared—this servant of the Lord manifested the cross by the witness of his death. (From theTreasury of Daily Prayer, p. 670.

Reflection:  let us remember why John the Baptizer was killed:

St. Matthew14: 3For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”  

John taught the sanctity of marriage to the powers that be.  This is what cost John his life and his life is a martyria, a witness, to the Word in and out of season.

Marriage has been “out of season” (see2 Timothy 4:1-3).  As the years rolled on, I spend more and more time in confirmation classes, on the 6th Commandment, than on the other nine:  You shall not commit adultery.  From The Small Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther:

What does this mean?–Answer.

We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.

In teaching this commandment,  I ask the class for the ways in which this commandment  is broken.  With more than a little bit of help by the teacher (!):  the dry-erase board fills up very quickly:  adultery, divorce,  “hooking-up”, living together, pornography, incest, masochism, sadism, masturbation, abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, bestiality,  polygamy, etc.  Now our sexuality is not virtuous, never has been since Eden.  And then I point out that we are forgiven in Jesus Christ, upon His Cross, He bore our sin and is our Savior.  I take the eraser and swipe through the black ink a cross.  One year a confirmand exclaimed, “That’s heavy”.   Yes!  His Cross was heavy, as heavy as our sin.

John the Baptist bore the brunt  in preaching the sanctity of marriage in his day. We must also and in marriage be helpmates one to the other, modeled after Christ and His Church, His Bride and modeling to the world the marriage of two Baptized sinners in Christ.

This may be the first time in Western European history that the list above has been legally sanctioned and for a good part of society  and culture accepted. We are living in a neo-pagan, neo-Roman world, as did our forebears in the Church did from AD33 to Edict of Milan in AD313 (seeEdict_of_Milan). Ever more we need Luther’s counsel in the Large Catechism on the 6th commandment:

But because among us there is such a shameful mess and the very dregs of all vice and lewdness, this commandment is directed also against all manner of unchastity, whatever it may be called; and not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, incitement, and means, so that the heart, the lips, and the whole body may be chaste and afford no opportunity, help, or persuasion to unchastity.

We need the lesson from John the Baptizer.  John was last of the prophets.  One of the verses that has haunted me is this one from Isaiah 52:11and it is cited by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:17:

Therefore go out from their midst,and be separate from them, says the Lord,and touch no unclean thing;then I will welcome you…

This verse may be the basis of the Amish way of life, at least in the movie ‘Witness'(!) Does this mean we need to be like the Amish? St. Augustine preached on the Prophet Jeremiah which speaks to the Lord’s prophet, John, the way the Church is and should be as in 2 Corinthians 6: 17:

How many and vehement rebukes did Jeremiah preach against the sinners and wicked ones of his people. Yet he lived among them, he entered into the same temple with them, celebrated the same mysteries; he lived in that congregation of wicked men, but by his preaching “he came out from among them.” This is what it means “to come out from among them”; this is what it means to not “touch the unclean thing.” It means not consenting to them in will and not sparing them in word. I say this of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets, who did not retire from the wicked people, lest they should desert the good who were mingled with that people. (emphasis my own)

“It means not consenting to them in will and not sparing them in word.”  The Lord has called His Church as the communion of His Will and Word, both of which are one.  As in the days of the Roman Empire, the Church did not consent with much of the pagan culture and touched not the unclean things. Do Christians fail in the sanctity of marriage?  Yes, but this can not be an excuse to continue touching unclean things and so sin (see  Romans 6:1-3) When we do sin, we know the terrors of hell and turn in repentance to the Lord Who died and rose for us.

This is still our vocation in marriage, according to the Lord’s Word of Law and Promise, not to touch the unclean thing.  Possible? Not on our own but only in Him are all things possible.  As John was a prophet, he did not spare them in the Word of God.  The Church can not either. Why?  As St. Augustine preached so that His people will be spared and I would add, as John and the Lord calls us:  to true repentance that sinners might turn to the Lord and live.

This means that marriage is a true good work by which the Lord preserves life in the world and by it He gives forgiveness:  see the Holy Family.  Marriage is a central means to love our neighbor.  From Luther’s Large Catechism:

God has also most richly blessed this estate above all others, and, in addition, has bestowed on it and wrapped up in it everything in the world, to the end that this estate might be well and richly provided for. Married life is therefore no jest or presumption; but it is an excellent thing and a matter of divine seriousness. For it is of the highest importance to Him that persons be raised who may serve the world and promote the knowledge of God, godly living, and all virtues, to fight against wickedness and the devil.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death. Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism, may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian: Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and aprolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Today is also the  second anniversary of  Concordia Lutheran Mission here in Lexington, VA.  On the Page on the top, you can read the history. The first Divine Service was at Grace Presbyterian Church and August 28th two years ago was a Saturday.  We had left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation, of which I had been pastor.  Two years ago I had not yet been accepted as a pastor in The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.   Our sponsoring congregation’s pastor and vicar presided and preached at that first service and did so until I was recognized as a pastor in the Synod.

Below is the sermon I preached last year on August 28th which was a Sunday.  FYI:  one couple in attendance decided not to return, one reason being the sermon below.  The wife deemed  it “too negative”. The italicized portions are related directly to the mission’s history.

Pentecost 11, 2011,  1st Year Concordia Lutheran Mission Anniversary: 

Text:  St. Matthew 16: 21—28 

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

The things of God can be rough stuff on the things of man:  crucifixion.  Who wants crucifixion?  Jesus did not.  He was being tempted by Peter right then and there and it wasn’t Peter alone, but the Adversary, the Accuser:  Satan.  Just before this, remember, Peter had confessed Jesus:  You the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Jesus pronounced the very blessing of heaven upon Peter for the Father had given him the answer: You are Peter and upon this your confession you and the apostles, the Church, are given the Keys of the Kingdom.  Peter had seen Jesus walk upon the sea.  The Apostles witnessed the feeding of the 5,000 and 7,000 men, not including women and children.  They had seen Him do great deeds of healing.  They saw the multitudes hanging on to Jesus’ every Word. And now with the identity of Jesus as not just ‘a christ’, but THE Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One this meant only one thing:  GLORY, ABSOLUTE GLORY.  Israel rules! Jesus and the 12 Apostles will be ensconced forever in Jerusalem, the Holy City.  Peter was sitting on top of the world. Now that would be the sign of the Lord, no there is only one sign this side of the new heavens and the new earth: the sign of the Cross.

When Jesus tells the apostles He goes to Jerusalem to be murdered, the disciples were thunderstruck by the news.  And Jesus tells them He will be murdered in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was not the land of Mordor with the dark lord. Jerusalem did not even have mean city streets like in many of our metropolises where murder is a threat. Jerusalem’s center was the Temple, the House of the Lord, with the Lord of Light. He said He would be murdered there?!   And this would be done by the religious leadership, if you will, by the church authorities.  The Church authorities thought they ran God’s Word and His Church, not the Lord ruling them. Could the church itself war against God’s Word?   We know the answer:  yes.  Over a year ago many of us so left a denomination purporting to be church.  We left because of it’s war against the Word of God.  Oh it looks nice on the outside but as the Lord said about the religious leadership of His time, they are whitened sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones full of decay and rot.  It is profoundly sad.  Am I overstating the case?  I do not think so. The gates of hell are doing their best, but they have not prevailed.  Many, including myself,have chronicled the central collapse of the authority of the Scriptures in so many areas of the Church. Now, one should not lightly and unadvisedly leave a church body.  By God’s grace alone,  I do not think we did. 

So!  Are we in the promised land?  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod?  When I had my last interview for acceptance as a pastor into The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at the Synod’s InternationalCenter outside of St. Louis, Missouri, one of my three interviewers was a district president who warned me, “You know the Missouri Synod has problems and it’s not perfect.” I smiled and said, “If it were perfect, that would mean the Lord has come with His kingdom and I don’t think He has and there would be no interview”  They all smiled or chuckled.  The district president’s caution was a good one.  In Christ, he could admit sin because of our Savior. He knows our church body is not perfect.  but I do not think I could ever hear that from some other liberal protestant church bodies and their ecclesiacrats.  I can  not imagine the Pharisees saying that but just the opposite, God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’  The district president, this pastor,  is obviously no Pharisee. Thank our Lord for His grace for us all!

Paul wrote to Timothy that Jesus came to save sinners of whom I am the foremost. Paul also wrote, we preach Christ and Him crucified.  None of those verses are in past tense, I was a sinner or we preached Christ and him crucified.  It is all about present-tense Savior for present tense sinners.  No one wants to bear a cross.  No one wants to be crucified.  The cross stands for one thing:  costly grace, His blood for your sin.  When the Lord says bear the cross if you would come after Him, means to take hold of your forgiveness that He freely gives like water to the thirsty, like bread to the hungry, like sight to the blind, like legs to those can not walk.  We want to be simply translated into glory here and now, no.  By His life alone we cannot translated into glory yet because we are not ready but we are transformed by the mercies of God.

The things of God are His grace, mercy and peace.  The things of man are me, myself and I.  The Lord’s grace, mercy and peace come at a price, the price of His own beloved Son. But the things of man–me, myself and I– comes too with a price:  temporal and eternal punishment, sorrow in this world and the next. After all even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.  The Lord does not want that for you, for Peter, for me.  When Peter rebuked him, tried to deter Him from the only Way for us and for our salvation, Peter was Satan, tempting Him.  It was a sharp temptation. It was a sharp temptation to use the best of His own creation for Himself alone.  All temptation is not to use evil things primarily, but good things, the good creation, for evil purposes.  Love, money, house, home etc. all for me.  I’ll save my life. But fool!  says the Lord, your soul is required of you this night.  The Kingdom, the power and the glory are used as MINE. then even Jersualem becomes the city of darkness and Mordor. But the THINE is the kingdom, the power and the glory and with Lord it is heaven even now on earth, coming into the world through the death, resurrection and life of Jesus the Christ. 

But at the time temptations look good, we may say:  Oh what the hell?  Indeed,  what the hell.  Here was the Man who knew the sharpest temptation imaginable:  not to justly die for people who lord it over others, want many rings of power and build their towers into the skies.  He was tempted in every way we are, yet was without sin.  Temptation is not sin, the succumbing to it is.  So He taught us, Lead us not into temptation.  Stop me from going there.  So Jesus’ rebuke of Peter.  So when He was tempted thrice by Satan in the wilderness, thrice did He say, It is written.  Only the God’s Word of grace, mercy and peace can fell the tempter’s power. Because Jesus was tempted, He can help those are who are tempted.  If we try to do it on our own, then we are looking the wrong way.  “There is no help or comfort except to run here and to take hold of the Lord’s Prayer, and thus speak to God from the heart: Dear Father, Thou hast bidden me pray; let me not relapse because of temptations. Then you will see that they must desist, and finally acknowledge themselves conquered.  Else if you venture to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsel, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil more space. For he has a serpent’s head, which if it gain an opening into which he can slip, the whole body will follow without check. But prayer can prevent him and drive him back. (Luther:  The Large Catechism)

 It is as if in today’s Gospel, there are two columns entitled:

Things of Man: 

having it all                            

eternal death

glory                                                   

my way

hell to pay

self-love

self-fulfillment

Things of God:

having the Lord

eternal life

suffering

His way

heaven given

love which serves

cross-bearing

love of the other

self-denial

But to get from column A to column B can not be traversed by us or any good decision, will or merit. Truly, we can not do that on our own steam.  “Nothing in my hand I bring, but only to Thy Cross I cling” It has been done so by He who went to Jerusalem to be murdered by our murders of soul and body.  And the cross-like life in the Lord is described well by St. Paul in the lesson from Romans 12: 9-21.  Here we see the fruit of love in the root of faith in the Lord in taking hold of our forgiveness.  “Do you desire to escape from an angry God?  Then fly to an appeased One:  fly nowhere from Him, only to Him.”(St. Augustine) He forms us into His life. And a Christian congregation will look like today’s second lesson. And truly, but by the grace of God go I.

 IN the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy  Spirit. Amen.

For further prayer and reflection:

The following quotes are Augustine’s sermons, from the four volume series, The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers:  A Manual of Preaching, Spiritual Reading and Meditation, translated and edited by M. F. Toal, D.D., 1996, Preservation Press:

Christmas Day:  Third Mass, John 1:   1—14, also addressed to the newly Baptized:

“For from the Gentiles we have come, and in our forefathers we worshiped idols of stone.  So we also have been called dogs (Mt. 25: 26)…But to you grace, has come.  As many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God.  See!  You have come here newly-born (by baptism):  he gave them power to be made the sons of God.  To whom did he give it? To them that believe in His Name.  And how do they become the children of God?  Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, now of the will of man, but of God. They are born of God, when they have received the power to become sons of God…The first birth is from a male and a female;  the second from God and from the Church.  Behold they are born of God…How has this come to be?  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.  Wondrous exchange!…Lift up your heart to the possession and enjoyment of higher things.  Do not stick fast in earthly cravings. You have been purchased at a price:  for your sake the Word was made flesh.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent, on John 6:  1—15:

“For the daily ordering of this whole world is a greater miracle than the feeding of five thousand men from five loaves.”

“We must also ask the miracles what is it they tell us of Christ:  for they have, if we understand it, their own manner of speech.  For as Christ is the Word of God, any deed of the Word is a sermon to us.”

Easter Sunday, on Mark 16: 1—8, addressed also to the newly Baptized:

“For this divine condescension cannot be truly understood, and human thought and language fails us, that without previous merit on your part this free gift has come to you.  And for this do we call it a grace:  because it is given gratis.  And what grace is this? That you are now members of Christ, Children of God; that you are brothers of the Only-Begotten!”

Second Sunday after Easter, on John 10:   11—16

“To you it is not said:  be something less than you are;  but rather, learn what you are. Know that you are weak, know that you a man, know that you are a sinner; know that it is He Who sanctifies you;  know that you are stained by sin.  Let the blemish in your soul be made manifest in your confession, and you shall belong to the flock of Christ.  For the confession of your sins invites the Physician to heal  you; just as when he who is sick say, ‘a am well’, he desires no help from the physician.  Did not the Pharisee and the Publican go up into the Temple?  The one boasted of how strong his soul was; the other shown his wounds to the Physician.”

Pentecost, on John 14:  23—31

But whom do you say that I am? And Peter as the leader of the others, one speaking for all of them, said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God (Mt. xvi).

This he said perfectly; most truly. Rightly did such an answer deserve to hear: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is inheaven. And I say to thee, because thou hast said this to me; thou hast spoken: now listen; thou hast confessed: receive in turn a blessing. Therefore: And I say to thee: Thou art Peter: because I am the Rock, thou art Peter; for the Rock is not from Peter, but Peter is from the Rock; because Christ is not from Christian, but Christian is from Christ. Arid upon this rock I will build My Church: not upon Peter (non supra Petruin) who thou art, but upon the Rock (sed supra petrain) Whom thou hast confessed. I will build My church: I will build thee, who in this answer are in your­self the figure of the Church.

16th Sunday after Pentecost, on Luke 14:  1—11

“Do you desire to escape from an angry God?  Then fly to an appeased One:  fly nowhere from Him, only to Him.”

The Feast of All Saints, on Matthew 5: 1—12

 “Riches can indeed perish; and would that they perished before they caused you to perish.”

 A Prayer Adapted from a Benediction by which St. Augustine ended at least two of his sermons:

 We turn to You, the Lord our God and as best as we can give we give You thanks.  We beseech You that in Your goodness You will hear our prayers and by Your power:  drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us Your holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end through Your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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About Monica, Mother of Augustine: A  native of North Africa, Monica (AD 333-387) was the devoted mother of St. Augustine. Throughout her life, she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy, on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some Church Year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

From The Confessions of Augustine of Hippo,Pastor and Hippo, feast day, August 28th:

(Monica) was brought up in modesty and sobriety. She was made by You obedient to her parents rather than by them to You. When she reached marriageable age, she was given to a man and served him as lord. She tried to win him for You, speaking to him of You by her virtues through which You made her beautiful, so that her husband loved, respected and admired her. She bore with his infidelities and never had a quarrel with her husband on this account. For she looked forward to Your mercy coming upon him, in hope that, as he came to believe in You, he might become chaste….

Another gift with which You endowed at good servant of Yours, in whose womb ou created me, my God, my mercy (Ps. 58:18), was that whenever she could, she reconciled dissident and quarrelling people. She showed herself so great a peacemaker that when she heard from both sides many bitter things, Monica would never reveal to one anything about the other unless it might help to reconcile them….

At the end, when her husband had reached the end of his life in time, she succeeded in gaining him for You. After he was a baptized believer, she had no cause

to complain of his behavior, which she had tolerated in one not yet a believer. She was also a servant of Your servants: any of them who knew her found much to praise in her, held her in honor, and loved her, for they felt Your presence in her heart, witnessed by the fruits of her holy way of life. She had “testimony to her good works” (1 Timothy 5:10). She had brought up her children, enduring travail as often as she saw them wandering away from You. Lastly, Lord—by Your gift You allow me to speak for Your servants, for before her falling asleep we were bound together in community in You after receiving the grace of Baptism—she exercised care for everybody as if they were all her own children. She served all as if she was a daughter to all of us.

Reflection:

Proverbs 31: 10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1: 5

St. Augustine’s prayer reflects autobiographical information I did not know  about the Bishop of Hippo and an autobiography that challenges  our  post-modern ‘sensibilities’.  Monica’s husband seem to be a “two-timer”.   She stayed with him.  She was faithful. She probably took literally yesterday’s Epistle reading:   Ephesians 5:21-23  She wanted her husband to be her head…but in Christ Jesus.  She is not the model in our day of the liberated woman!  Thank, God.  Her strength was her Lord and she prayed for the conversion of both her husband and their son.  I am not saying that a wife in an abusive marriage should stay.  It does not sound like Monica was physically abused.  She was, though, spiritually hurt by her feckless husband and faithless son.  She persisted in prayer for them and they may have known it! The Lord certainly did.  Both were baptized.  Her son became one of the most important theologians and pastors whose writings influenced one young monk in the Order of St. Augustine:  Martin Luther.   Freedom in Christ is praying for someone who may not even want your prayers.  

P.S. Sometimes I think a day like this one should be for the Church, Mother’s Day.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son. Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.

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