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Archive for February, 2013

I recently  found this “share” on facebook:

I think Greek/Roman mythology is simple: it is  a projection of the overweening pride of the Old Adam writ large.  Greek/Roman mythology is a ‘divine’ soap opera.  Hubris or pride is only a small part of the pie graph above.  I think this is incorrect.  It should be entirely red. The pie graph should be simple:  basically  pride is 100% and this is the cause of “prophecy that couldn’t be avoided”(see Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, etc.) and the cause of  envy over someone being better, that is having more talent, money, popularity;  and the cause of Zeus’ inability to keep his pants on (actually his toga down). Note, we can do some thing to prevent this on our own externally, like keeping one’s “zipper closed”.  So note, above illustrates 21st century thinking:  we can do nothing to keep the zipper up, we just can’t help ourselves, so pass out condoms at the next high school assembly.  We can keep the zipper up and the “hissyfits” of envy from our lips…but that does not solve the problem. I still WANT  to do things  against God’s Law, like adultery, anger, jealousy and the like. Lust and envy shows the state of the our hearts (see Matthew 15:17-19).  Lust and envy are marks of hubris/pride. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18  Jesus Christ has borne the destruction and arrogance of us all:  by the preaching and teaching of the Word of Law and Gospel, He gives us a heart transplant by faith in Him, by His grace.  He was killed and lives that He can pour the only salve that cures our souls and bodies and churches and societies:  His forgiveness marked with the print of the nails. His forgiveness is for my neighbor as well, like the one I am envious of, and/or lustful towards. His forgiveness alone cures temptation’s power:

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (or, the evil one).

Amen!

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A Cartoon

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"They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" Exodus 32:8

“They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” Exodus 32:8
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence
Paul Simon  

Last evening (February 24th), Seth McFarlane,  host of the Oscars  said:  

“It’s Sunday, everybody’s dressed up,” he told the glittering crowd. This is like church, only with more people praying.”

Sadly, McFarlane’s joke cuts to the bone because it is probably true, but it did not stop there, the Oscars had a ‘sermon’. First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise ‘visit’ via satellite on the Academy Awards show  and said,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“(This year’s movies) taught us that love can endure against all odds and transform our lives in the most surprising ways. And they reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage to believe.”

In other words: movies  teach and so create belief, and “transform our lives”. This  is a pale imitation of the Word of God by which the Holy Spirit creates true faith, see Romans 10:17.   But what kind of idolatrous belief?  Answer: belief in the number one god which is the self. McFarlane rightly said everyone is praying…but not to the one true God.  If that is the belief then what is the “love”.  Answer:  sexual immorality.  Idolatry and sexual immorality go hand in hand down the wide and easy path to perdition (see 1 Corinthians 10: 1-3). 

 I guess what the Mrs. Obama wants us to dig  into is our “lives”.  It sounds to me, dig into your self and this is the message from the First Lady.  The self is closely tied in with the other idol vying as number 1:  mammon, or money. It all looks so good but the Oscars are white-washed tombs, all glittery on the outside, but inside  filled with dead bones and rot (see Matthew 23:27)  

Just looking at the picture above from last night awards ceremony, it sure looks like a pagan temple which the idolaters of old would be envious.  Their sign is a golden statue. Psalm 115:

 4 Their idols are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
5They have mouths, but do not speak;
   eyes, but do not see.
6They have ears, but do not hear;
   noses, but do not smell.
7They have hands, but do not feel;
   feet, but do not walk;
   and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them;
   so do all who trust in them.

 9O Israel, trust in the LORD!

And the Word became flesh: mouth, ears, hands, throat, heart and soul and true God.  “Oscars” do not save nor do they love.  The Lenten message is simple:

Matthew 4:17
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The Cross of Jesus Christ is the sign, bar none, of true faith and true love.  It is obvious we need His Word now more than ever in these dark days.

1. When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that harm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

3. See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

4. Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a tribute far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

                  The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #175

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Text:  St. Luke   13: 31-35

In two of the Orders of the Divine Service in our worship book, we sing as offertory verses from Psalm 116, including these verses:

I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O
Jerusalem.

The foretaste of the Jerusalem to come down from heaven, adorned as a Bride for her Husband, the Lord, is when the Holy Spirit gathers us  to hear His Word and to eat and drink His Word, His body and His blood. He does as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.  Even today this spot and this time is Jerusalem. 

At the time of Israel, especially in the history of Genesis through Deuteronomy, there were no nations, but there were cities and kings ruled cities.  Today city may offer many things, places of worship,  business, restaurants, parks, opera houses, theaters and the like…also back then.  The attractions pale in comparison to the reason for them. A city was a reflection of her king in the lives of his people.  If he were wise and benevolent so could the citizens be…or not.  If he were firm in justice and strong in mercy so could his citizens be…or not.  The King of Jerusalem is such, the Lord God, but His people rebelled against His decrees of His just law and His ever firm grace, mercy and peace.  They sought other gods.  They rebelled against His Word.  They stoned the prophets and those the King sent to Jerusalem.  They knew how to look out for number 1, spiritually and materially.  Their goodness, centered on themselves, became sin. This is as old as Adam in us all.  Fallen man turns the best into the worst all the while it looks the best on the outside.

Therefore, the King sent His Son, the rightful heir. Jesus said this is where I must go: Jerusalem, no other place. He said, this is why I have come.  Jesus came to forgive the worst and turn us to the best, Himself, His reign, His rule, His grace, mercy and peace for rebellious sinners that they repent and return day by day to the founts of His grace on life’s way, His way. It was to Jerusalem, the Lord said He must go.  Pharisees, you can not detain Me.  Herod Antipas will not stop Me. You will not.  Tell that fox, today, tomorrow and the next day I finished my course, my race. Death is His destination but not His eternal resting place so our resting places are not eternal.  He is risen.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday , today and forever(Hebrews 13:8).

 Stay the course. Jesus stayed the course.  He said He would and He did.  We heard last week that the devil tempted Him so Jesus would not go on, not suffer and die for sinners.  The devil did not want that to happen.  He did not want heaven unleashed on earth as in Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.  The devil did not want God’s reign to set up colonies in all the devil’s kingdoms. The Pharisee’s by their good intentions to help  Jesus would have likewise stopped Him.  Jesus does not need our help to save us.  Jesus is our help Who has saved us and will do so.  Christ is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Our self-made and unchecked self-righteousness points other to us that they may see how “good” we are and then we have our reward. (Matthew 6:5). Nothing beginning with “I” can ever lead to eternal life…except, Lord, forgive. Lord, have mercy.  Be Thou my Hope and Stay.

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Nothing can originate in us apart from the Lord.  As Jesus said, I am the vine you are the branches. Apart from Me you can do nothing.

Stay on the Way. “It’s the journey that counts that not the destination.” What nonsense.  “Tell that to your children in the back seat of the car on a long road trip going to Grandma and Grandpa’s.  Oh, by the way, children, we are just going to keep on driving.”  Life is a journey with a destination. We diminish the destination because we want to go our own way.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
  (Isaiah 53: 6)

The prophet Isaiah spoke this Word some 5 centuries before Christ on earth. Human nature on it’s own is lost and condemned. All we…not some, not just the ‘bad’ people, but all we.  Every one.  Lost.   The Lord makes this clear in His Law but He did stop there but pressed on.  Luther:

 I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. (emphasis my own)

 “…and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. 

Jesus went to Jerusalem to get all our iniquity laid on Him, the pure Lamb of God.  The people wanted to do in Jeremiah.  Jezebel was out for Elijah’s blood.  The King  told Amos, get out of here.  His Law and His prophets preached:  Mend your ways, the way you are walking. You are lost.  His Law spiritually and explicitly shows us the same message as  the road sign, WRONG WAY does.  A destination means accountability that we stay on the way, the path, the road of Life.   Our citizenship is from heaven, from which we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul was inspired to write so that his brothers and sisters in the Lord keep steadfast on the Way.  There are two ways:  death or life.  Life lived in the belly, belly faith is death, glorying in shame. They are enemies of the cross, enemies  of His love and mercy and refuse to be gathered under the shadow of His wings, the shadow of His cross. Paul wrote that in tears.  The way of life, eternal life, the way, the truth and the life who is Jesus Christ has found us by His Cross.  His cross is a sign for all freed travelers that He keeps us on the way.  

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be;
Let that grace now like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

 Stay on the Way as The Way is our Stay.  The Bible tells us to run the race looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-3) The way is our stay every step of the way He has gone, every temptation He knew and every sin He bore in His sinless body and soul, true Man and true God. So we can,

Pray on the Way. Every word Jesus taught, every Word in Scripture and we

Pray the Way.  Pray as He prays with us, for us and in us in His Church, His Jerusalem on the way.

 We are resident aliens here.  In the 2nd century an unknown Christian wrote to a high Roman official Diognetus explaining his fellow Christians, the Church,

 They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.  They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.”They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.

 Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

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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.  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 have heard of “creative ministry”.  We create the ministry?  No, the Lord does.  He re-creates us.  Polycarp was not creative, he was faithful.  He was a faithful servant of Jesus.  Satis est.  That is enough and Christ will fill us by His grace for us sinners.

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.

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But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
Philippians 2: 20

In preparation for this coming Sunday (2nd Sunday in Lent), as I read the Philippians verse above, I thought of the quote below. It is from The Letter to Diognetus, 2nd Century, from an unknown Christian to a high Roman official.  

For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life. This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do.  Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.  They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.”They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.

Lord God Almighty, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your is leading us and Your love supporting us;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

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