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Archive for March, 2017

When we read the news, it’s all bad…but the news is not ALL bad.  It can’t be because God’s creation is still good.  The 21st Century is certainly not off to a good start, but then again neither was the previous one.  Yet, there is still good in this world.  And one of the best inventions (for a  lack of  a better word) in the 21st century, in my opinion, is the flash mob:  when in public place, all of a sudden singers, instrumentalists, dancers assemble to perform in pedestrian spaces, e.g. as airports, train stations museums, malls.  Here’s one flash mob below.  I know it’s jumping Lent into Easter/Pascha, but it’s in a mall! Luther wrote, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” If you need an uplift that all is not bad, beside reading the Bible, go onto Youtube and look at flashmob videos. There is still good in the world and it’s worth fighting for and singing for.

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This painting illustrates the Lord’s Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (St.  Luke 16:  19-31).  The rich man goes to Hades and the Lazarus, who had nothing in this life is beside Abraham in paradise.  The rich man just wants cool water as he is in hell.  Abraham tells him there is a great chasm between us, implying that no one can cross it.

 Currently I am rereading The Lord of the Rings and what struck me in this illustration is that the Rich Man crawling on all fours looks like Gollum.  Further, even the depiction looks like Rivendell, the great city of the the elves, described as paradisaical and where the Rich Man is, looks like Mordor.  

Gollum held the ring of power for a long time till Bilbo Baggins defeated him in a game of riddles.  The ring of power gave Gollum an unnaturally long life and it held him in it’s power to lust only after it.  Gollum called the ring “my precious”.  This is the way of greed and riches that our gold and our money become “my precious”.  When Gollum is bereft of his precious his life falls apart. A man call fall apart with even a dip in the stock market. Gollum’s lust for it has no bounds, so us when we lust after money.  Idolatry separates man from his Lord and Creator. The inscription on the ring was beautiful in the Elven script:

Our script, money, is like the inscription is in the novels: beautiful but it  was the language of death:

One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them; One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

When the Rich Man asks Abraham  if someone could come back from the dead to warn his brothers, Abraham tells him:  They have the Law and the Prophets.  We have the warnings from Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the whole company of the prophets: When we ignore God’s Law, running away from it and thinking we will get away with it, then our wayward inborn lusts will takes us down and further down.  The precious wealth can give us unnaturally long life but to what end? No one can cross that chasm says Abraham, that is, only the Lord can cross that “great chasm”.  He has so that we may repent, steadfast in His Word and Grace, and stand tall.  We do not need any ring of power.  We have a treasure that is eternal.

1. Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Fount of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for Thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Naught I ask beside Thee.

2. In Thine arms I rest me;
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
Every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear.
Lightnings flash And thunders crash;
Yet, though sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

3. Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me
While I sing of peace.
God’s great power Guards every hour;
Earth and all its depths adore Him,
Silent bow before Him.

4. Hence, all earthly treasure!
Jesus is my Pleasure,
Jesus is my Choice.
Hence, all empty glory!
Naught to me thy story
Told with tempting voice.
Pain or loss, Or shame or cross,
Shall not from my Savior move me
Since He deigns to love me.

5. Evil world, I leave thee;
Thou canst not deceive me,
Thine appeal is vain.
Sin that once did blind me,
Get thee far behind me,
Come not forth again.
Past thy hour, O pride and power;
Sinful life, thy bonds I sever,
Leave thee now forever.

6. Hence, all fear and sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within.
Yea, whate’er I here must bear,
Thou art still my purest Pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!

Hymn #347, The Lutheran Hymnal

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The following quote is from Dr. Luther’s Sermon preached on the 1st Sunday after Trinity, 1535. The sermon text is St. Luke: 16:  19-31, “The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus”.  Dr. Luther understood this parable as a warning against greed: 

“…this warning spoken for the sake of the Pharisees on that occasion availed as little as do warnings addressed to rich and arrogant people of the world today. Unfortunately, as we know, such people most often think themselves pious and without greed. Vice has been turned into virtue. Greed nowadays has come to be viewed as talented, smart, careful stewardship. And as with greed, so sin in general is dressed up to look like virtue and not vice. Murder and harlotry, perhaps, are still considered sinful in some quarters, but other sins have in general come to be viewed more as virtues than vices. That is particularly the case with greed, now so dressed up and polished as no longer to be denominated as such. Neither prince nor peasant, nobleman nor average citizen is any longer considered greedy, but only upstanding, the common consensus being that the man who prudently provides for himself is a resourceful person who knows how to take care of himself.

The same holds true for other sins: Pride is no longer pride, or sin, but honor. The proud man is no longer deemed arrogant but honorable, a commanding person, worthy of respect, a credit to his generation. Anger and envy are no longer that, or sin, but righteousness, zealousness, and virtue. The man who storms, or is envious, or who loses his cool is now considered industrious, with a passion for what is fair, and justly angry when high-handed injustice is done to him. Thus there are no more sinners in the world, but—God have mercy!—the world is full of holy people. In Seneca’s words, when this happens, that vice is turned into virtue and honor, there no longer is hope or a way out; everything is lost.

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 St. John 9:  Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mudand said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

“In the ground we understand the law, and grace is designated in the saliva. What does the law effect without grace? What does the ground do without the saliva of Christ? What does the law do without grace, except make people still more guilty? Why? Because the law knows how to obey but not how to help; the law can point out sin, but it cannot take sin away from people. Therefore, let the saliva of Christ go down to the ground and gather together the earth. Let he who made the earth remake it, and he who created it reform and recreate it. Likewise, in the saliva is understood the word of God, his real human body on earth. For this reason let the saliva of Christ down in order that the law may be fulfilled. “He made clay with the saliva.” What is saliva mixed with clay, except the incar­nate Word? That blind man presented an image of the whole human race, and, therefore, the saliva was mixed with clay, and the blind man was made to see: the Word became incarnate, and the  world was illumined.”  Caesarius of Arle, Sermon 177.3, cited in Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scripture, John 1-10, Volume IVa, pages 324-325

The mud made by Jesus combining saliva and soil sounds well, yucky but not as nasty as the blindness of sin. All of God’s Word can teach us  couple of things as it did the preacher cited above.  (btw: The quote above from Caesarius’ sermon is  a great distinction of Law and Promise, predating the Reformation by a thousand years showing that this distinction is Biblical and was taught by the Church Fathers.)

 The mud Jesus made can also teach us this:

  • “Here’s mud in your eye” is a toast.  I did a quick Google research and the  basis of this toast might be this verse from St. John 9.  It means that the person wishes the other well-being as they drink.  The one toasting is saying, here’s the cure!  Now a drink is good but it doesn’t necessarily heal!  The Lord’s Word does heal as it did the blind man.

  • The faith of the Church and her Christians is not a magical or mythological faith.  If it were so, we would bringing bags of soil into the Sanctuary, spitting on it , so to heal people.  We don’t.  The Church never has, never will.  Some liberal Biblical scholars like to say the reason St. Mark include Jesus’ original Aramaic in healing people (such as, “Ephrathah”, “be opened” in healing a deaf man) is that the word was used as a kind of incantation. This does not hold water because of lack of historical verification. The Church is not Hogwarts! Likewise mud made in this way is not a magical potion.  It was Christ’s Word connected to that mud, a time-limited sacrament which healed the man.  It wasn’t the mud, it was the Lord of earth who did it and who has saved the world and you by His Word and the Word made flesh. But why such means?  Read on:

  • This mud teaches us that  the Lord always uses means to open us up to Himself.  The Sacraments use physical means: water, bread and wine. He uses His own good creation and the good creation of our hands from His gifts of wheat and grapes, also from His hand and man makes bread and wine. It is always His Word of command and promise connected with the physical means, which is the means of grace. 

  • Further, the means of grace teach us that spiritual and physical are not in two separate boxes, as the divinity and humanity of the Christ is not divided.  We are created body and soul,  a unity.  What affects the body affects the soul and vice versa.  The Lord’s salvation is for body and soul.  We believe in the resurrection of the body as Christ rose bodily.

  •  And the Lord  uses words as the means as in all of the Scripture to teach, preach and so point us to the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no direct telepathy from His mind to ourselves.  Unlike Mr. Spock, Jesus never did a Vulcan ‘mind-meld’.  The blind man was healed physically because of Jesus’ Word in the mud and the water of Siloam. The seeing man hears the Word of God, the Word of Christ and sees a second time, spiritually and the eyes of the mind  are opened:  “I believe”.  Believing is seeing. For the man who was blind, Jesus Christ is the eye-opener into the very mystery of the Lord’s love and His salvation as free gift, as it is for all the Baptized.  

The man washed in the pool  of Siloam, meaning sent.  He sent him there to be sent on his way, that is, the Way, the Truth and the Life, as a child of the light, as he was darkness (Ephesians 5: 8), as we all were born in spiritual blindness.  The Lord has washed you in Baptism.

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FOR YOU | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

The Prayer of the Day

O  Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The Old Testament Reading for the Day: Isaiah 7:10-14   Psalm 45: 7-17   The Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 10: 4-10 The Gospel Reading for the Day: Luke 1:26-38

The Annunciation of Our Lord:  The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that God has shown her favor and will use her as the means for the Messiah’s birth. So Mary conceives Jesus when the angel says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This same Spirit who hovered over the waters and brought forth creation (Genesis 1:2) will now “hover over” the waters of Mary’s womb to conceive the creation’s Redeemer. As the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, she conceives Jesus “through her ear” (as Martin Luther says). The one who is conceived is called Holy, the Son of God. This is the moment of the incarnation of our Lord. The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person’s conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

There have been two excellent dramas on television as of late:  The Crown, about the life of Queen Elizabeth II and Victoria, about the life of Queen Victoria.  They were both young women who were unlikely to become Queen, and even more unlikely that a virgin  bear the Son of God.  All three of these women are, well, women, not “shop till you drop” consumers, nor feminist distortions of womanhood as anti-womb and anti-man:  just the opposite.  They were  strong women not women aping men.  They knew their vocations took precedent over their personal feelings on the matter.  Let it be to me according to Thy Word.  I probably should not  like encouragement from the culture, but despite the times we are in, someone has discovered in Elizabeth and Victoria  as womanhood as it actually is.  Mary is the model bar none of womanhood.  Only a woman can bear a child and have the strength to do so and so nurture a child.   She was faithful. We need to hear more of Mary than we do Gloria Steinem.   And if dear reader, you don’t know who Gloria Steinem is, be glad!  Be ever more glad, though, that Mary heard the Gloria of the Annunciation so we can as well.

In exactly nine months from today, March 25th, will be Christmas.  On this day the Church rejoices that the angel Gabriel announced (and so, annunciation) that the Virgin Mary would conceive and bear a Child:  the Son of God.  When Gabriel announced this, Mary responded, Let it be according to your word.  So the Annunciation is the Incarnation. The Word became flesh.  The Feast of the Annunciation is always in Lent.  His birth is our death, our death to sin.  His resurrection is our life, our life in Him. There is more than one annunciation. We will hear the annunciation from the Cross, from the Lord’s mouth:  It is finished.   We will hear again the glad announcement, even more wondrous than the first to Mary:  He is risen!  We need to hear the Annunciation of the Promises of God fulfilled in His Son Jesus daily!  As Mary we need to hear the announcement of our forgiveness and His mercy toward poor sinners.  We need to hear the “for you” of  His Word especially in the Holy Communion, Absolution reminding us of our Baptism.  Others need to hear this Annunciation as well, dying to hear it. We will  hear the last Annunciation:  He comes again! In the midst of death, there is life (Luther).  

For Us  | FOR YOU | image tagged in christ crucified for us | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

FOR YOU | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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The Office of the Keys is the office of confession and absolution. This authority is located in Christ which He gives to His Church.  The proof texts of the Keys are these Bible verses:

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (St. Matthew 16)

“…He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (St. John 20)

18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (St. Matthew 18)

The Matthew 16 passage is in the narrative of Peter’s Confession of Christ.  Since Scripture interprets Scripture, the John 20 Resurrection narrative shows us that Jesus gave this authority in the Holy Spirit to all the apostles.  Peter is the representative of the Apostles but he is not superior to his brother apostles as the Lord made clear:

St. Matthew 20:  “…Jesus called them (the disciples)  to him and said,“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant…

 St. Matthew 18 in its entirety is Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness, one of five such sermons in this Gospel.  The Matthew 18:18 passage is the culmination of the preceding verses 15-17 which are His teaching about brother forgiving repentant brother.  It is clear that the binding and loosing is for the whole Church, that is, all the baptized. It is clear from the Lord that His perfect will is to have His forgiveness permeate all of the Church.  The Keys are not a personal possession dangling from the cincture of a pope or a priest, and for that matter, a pastor in his parish.   If pastors and priests use the Keys to lord it over their brothers and sisters in Christ, then they are abusing them. They are the possession of the whole Church as the Church is the Lord’s own body.  The Church is the land of reconciliation in an unforgiving world.  

There are two aspects in the use of the Key and who uses them.  “…the use of the keys is twofold, public and private”, as Luther makes plain based upon Scriptures.  The Apostles used the keys publicly in the midst of the Church as there are public sinners known by the Church (St. Matthew 18 17).  The goal is always forgiveness but if the baptized sinner is not repentant, then his sin is bound or retained.  This does not mean the end though, since the goal is always forgiveness and reconciliation.

Probably, the most commented upon type of public transgression within a congregation is adultery, such as living together.  The authority to bind is part of the mark of the Church that demonstrates publicly this is the true Church as these Gospel passages form and inform the Church. Too many congregations might have more empty pew spaces if the Gospel was lived out this way.

 Luther called The Office of the Keys one of the seven marks of the Church. This means that retention/binding of sin is also a mark of the Church. When forgiveness is withheld because of the person’s unwillingness to repent, then we become afraid this won’t be good for public relations.  Yes, that’s right:  it won’t be good for p.r.  This could be a reason that so much of the Church is in such disease/dis-ease:  we are not faithfully obedient to the Lord in also when needed retain sin.  Now, the goal is not  to get rid of the unrepentant since the Lord desires all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9;  1 Timothy 2: 3-5).   The disease in the Church is we do not preach, teach  and practice repentance!  Without repentance, then forgiveness, God’s own Cross-formed forgiveness, is then denied.  We excuse a brother’s sin and we leave him in it.  Jonah had to go to Ninevah as Christ had to come to us all.  The Lord does not want to leave a sinner in his prison rotting. We are good at excusing sin, but we are remade good by sin forgiven. 

A key unlocks a door.  Sometimes the poor sinner, knowing his own most grievous fault, which is known only to him, needs to meet privately with the Pastor  for confession and absolution. The man needs to hear from God’s own mouth His Word of absolution from the Pastor.  This is the private use of the Keys by the public minister in Christ’s Church.  What binds the sinner is unlocked in the Word of Absolution, Christ’s own forgiveness flowing from His riven side.

 Psalm 107

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
    and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
    they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
    and cuts in two the bars of iron.

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At the beginning of Genesis chapter 37, when Joseph’s brothers were out in the fields pasturing the flocks, Jacob sends  Joseph out to see how they are doing.  As Joseph goes into the wide expanse of Palestine, a man comes and speaks with Joseph.

15 And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

Since in the Valley of Hebron there might not have been many people walking about, some of the rabbis thought the man was an angel.  Only an angel would have been out there.    In addition, no less than the angel Gabriel  in Daniel 8:16  is called a man. Nevertheless, the man does have an aura of mystery about him, because he comes out of nowhere.  He seems to read Joseph’s face and his posture: he just knows  Joseph is seeking something or someone. The stranger sent Joseph to his brothers which began the whole story of Joseph being sold into slavery.  This is part of God’s plan.  Being made a slave is a curse.  We have curses in our lives and we want to curse even the Lord for them, or out ‘bad luck’ or whatever. The Lord can use them and not just to be a blessing for the person who is suffering but for the good of many…as in Joseph.

“What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers…”  Then as it turns out, Joseph years later, in a wholly different fashion, in Egypt,  or as he was known by the Egyptian name,  Zaphenath-paneah, as Pharoah’s second in command, Joseph would still seek his brothers…and he found them.  They repented and in repentance, Joseph forgave them.  In repentance and forgiveness Joseph found his brothers whom he sought so many years before his journey into slavery and freedom.

Joseph, as a lord in Egypt, freed his brothers in forgiveness. Joseph knew it was right to do so. His brothers repented:

“And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (chapter 50)

Jesus came as God incarnate to be our brother. Greater evil  was done to Jesus than Joseph.  Jesus bore the evils of those who would not have them as their brother, all of His creatures made in His image and His image was cracked and shattered in man.  He came seeking His brothers so that He keeps a people alive to this day. God meant it for good when we meant evil:

We fled Thee, and in losing Thee
We lost our brother too;
Each singly sought and claimed his own;
Each man his brother slew.

But Thy strong love, it sought us still
And sent Thine only Son
That we might hear His Shepherd’s voice
And, hearing Him, be one.

(LSB #569, In Adam We Have All Been One)

The Lord still seeks His brothers and sisters. He calls us in Lent and in all times to seek His brothers and sisters. Seek His brothers and sisters for consolation, prayer, conversation and encouragement, sharing joys and sorrows,  not only for them but also from them.  In an age that has all the cyber-means of centering one’s self on one’s self in mighty significant ways, seeking someone beside your self is the beginning of salvation.  The Christ in my brother is stronger than the Christ that is within me (Pr. Bonhoeffer).  

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2)

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