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Archive for July, 2017

This Joseph, mentioned in all four Gospels, came from a small village called Arimathea in the hill country of Judea. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem. He was presumably wealthy, since he owned his own unused tomb in a garden not far from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:60). Joseph, a man waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went to Pontius Pilate after the death of Jesus and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). Along with Nicodemus, Joseph removed the body and placed it in the tomb (John 19:38-39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus. (LCMS)

Reflection:  Joseph of Arimathea is a critical actor in the burial of Jesus. If a congregation were to do a Passion play, the role of Joseph would be a bit part, just one or two lines. Many an actor wants of course the lead. Yet, like any part in a play, big or small, each role is crucial. Most of us will ever and only have a bit part in the life we are called to lead, yet your part is crucial, even critical in the lives of someone else.  We will flub our lines and make missteps and miss our cue.  Yet, the Lord will teach us the role we are assigned and it takes practice, the practice of discipleship and Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus’ disciple.

Actors follow a script.  The Church has script as well:  Scripture. We need to learn our lines.   Joseph of Arimathea was looking for the Kingdom of God which means he heard the Word.  Jesus opens up the Scripture as every word is the Word of God.  Joseph followed the Script and Jesus followed the Script perfectly. Joseph loved the Lord and when you love someone you love what he says.  He also followed the stage directions,otherwise he would lost.  He did not ad lib lines that were not in keeping with the Scripture. He did not follow his own lines or run off stage.  He took care of the Body of Christ.  We also are to take care of His Body and care for His Body.  His Body is His Church (see 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27) and we are to take care of one another in the roles assigned to us by the Lord.  We are to have care for His Body in suffering or rejoicing (vs. 27).  The Lord cares for us in His Body by feeding us His Body and Blood (see 1 Corinthians 11: 22-24).  This cast is a cast of millions upon millions and each are dependent on each other. Jesus is the lead and this is not acting. It was not a stage cross to which He was nailed nor a fake styrofoam stone in front of the tomb.

Joseph of Arimathea was looking for the Kingdom of God and he buried Jesus’ Body.  When he put Jesus in his tomb, he may have thought that he was entombing the reign of God.  But even the large stone in front of his new tomb could not hold the Lord of life. He is risen.  By his service to the Lord, Joseph of Arimathea, helped form  The Apostles’ Creed: “and was buried and on the third day…”  Do not minimize nor maximize your calling in the Lord’s work. You just may have the ‘line’, the part that the Lord uses for His work of salvation. The Script is solid. 

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Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Bio:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany, he became friends with Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled Sententiae. Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529, Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious dinner guest and house guest … this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes.”

The  today’s Old Testament Daily Lectionary reading is 1 Samuel 15:  10-35.  It is not the reading  for the Commemoration of Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr.  The Old Testament reading is about the Lord’s anger at King Saul, His anointed, for not killing King Agag after Israel conquered the Amalekites.  Saul was commanded to slay all the conquered but Saul spared Agag.  St. Augustine’s commentary on this lesson:

“Saul saw fit to use compassion when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain (1 Samuel 15:9-11). However, he deserved to have his disobedient compassion, or, if you prefer it, his compassionate disobedience, rejected and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow man in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. Truth, by the mouth of the Incarnate Himself, proclaims as if in a thundering voice, ‘Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). And in order to except martyrs from this sentence, to whose lot it has fallen to be slain for the name of Christ before being washed in the Baptism of Christ, He says in another passage, ‘Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39)” (Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin, 2.17; emphasis my own). 

In the St. Augustine quote above, the Bishop of Hippo disapprovingly observes that one could call what Saul did in sparing King Agag as “compassionate disobedience.”     Compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His unvarnished Word is the way of too many churches these days.  We do a lot of that in our day and win the roaring approval of the world in “extending mercy” to what the Lord has commanded as wrong:  denial of doctrine, adultery, same-sex ‘marriage’, violence, greed as “good”, gossip, virulent atheism and the like.  No wonder we are in such bad shape.  If Robert Barnes had compassionately disobeyed his calling, yes, he would have saved his life…but not his soul. He was obedient to the good news of Jesus Christ as clearly confessed by the Lutheran Fathers. Luther knew this.  Robert Barnes was also compassionately committed to His King, Henry the VIII (yes, the same king who married six times and killed a few of his wives in order to have a male heir).  We read these days about many such martyrs overseas. A martyr encourages our confession of Jesus Christ,the Word made flesh and the same Word written in Scripture, Law and Promise.     It is not easy but Jesus said much about bearing one’s cross and self-denial.  If we obey the self, we certainly can not obey the Lord.   We think by our compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His Word  that we are saving lives…no, we are losing lives…even our own and those we love. Our calling as His Church is the same as Robert Barnes who was faithful in his vocation, but Kings Saul and Henry VIII were not.

 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
    and shall not be put to shame,
 for I find my delight in your commandments,
    which I love. (Psalm 119: 46-47)

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But what do you mean, Ahh, Bach?  Good question and the answer is in the music.  You can hear the answer!  Right now Lutheran Public Radio is have a Bach-a-thon of his chorales:  Lutheran Public Radio.

If you need a quiet moment, listen to this:

And I bet you didn’t know that Bach and organists know how to dance and this is slow dancing!

Or if you need a pick me up:

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

When I was at  Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee (now Concordia University, Mequon Wisconsin), I took the one credit course on Lutheran Hymnody.   Professor “Ollie” Ruprecht pointed out that Bach’s library had around 80 volumes in it. Prof. Rupprecht pointed out that books were quite expensive and about 60  of those volumes were books of orthodox Lutheran theology.  Orthodox Lutheran theology is all about proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.  And so did Bach through music in the beauty of holiness.

One of Bach’s most marked set of volumes was Abraham Calov’s 3 book set of Luther’s Bible, with Calov’s commentary.  Bach, spending a large part of a year’s salary, purchased a 7 volume edition of Luther’s writings which Calov has based his commentary.  Calov wrote regarding Luther:

“It hinders a preacher greatly if he wants to look around and concern himself with what people want to hear and not hear.”

Bach double-marked that sentence for emphasis (Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines).  We need to double-mark that quote today.  

That sentence also sums up Bach’s understanding of music.  He would mark on his scores AMG, ad mairorem Dei, to the greater glory of God. He has been called, after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 5th evangelist.  In his day, he was not known beyond Germany. After his death,  his music was rediscovered.  His output for 27 years in Leipzig for 4 churches was massive.  Bach’s music still preaches.Bach’s texts usually were the Bible as he put the Scripture to music. This is true Christian music.

In his day, the Enlightenment, ‘modern’ music was suppose to reflect how the composer felt and what the people wanted to hear.  Sound familiar?  On NPR, they will have a segment that I call OMS, the obscure musical segment when the artist intros his/her work and tells us what “he is trying to do”, or what he was feeling at the time of composition. Not for J. S. Bach:  it was to proclaim the Gospel which is the sheer beauty of the Lord. Bach did not listen to what people wanted, but what he heard was the Lord’s commands and promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and he knew the Lord’s second best gift, music.  “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise” (Luther).   Bach’s talent at the organ and as a composer was wanted by the Church and he was not popular in the courts of public taste, but being popular in the world is never the goal, Christ is.

Only two of Bach’s works were ever published in his life time. In the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received.The Word of the Lord endures forever and the Lord gave Johann a gift that he did use to His greater glory  and the joy of the Church, which is always,  “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring”. In an episode of M*A*S*H, Radar falls for a nurse who is quite cultured and loves classical music.  He goes to Hawkeye and Trapper for lessons about classical music.  Hawkeye gives Radar the names of some composers and then says, “…then if she mentions Bach, just say, ‘Ahhh, Bach’”. We also can say, Ahhh, Bach! And better:  thank you Lord for music!

Thank-you Lord for Bach and all church organists, choir directors, choirs and musicians who also through music, especially Bach’s, proclaim the eternal Gospel. Open the ears and hearts of church councils, parish councils and sessions to pay their organists well as they lead Your holy people in the Divine Service.  Amen.

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This week’s Daily Lectionary Old Testament readings are from 1 Samuel.  

Samuel was one of the last of the long line of Judges. The period of the judges (the history in the OT book of the same name) was a loose confederacy of the tribes of Israel with no central government. By Samuel’s time, the people wanted a different form of governance  for the reason they wanted a king “…like all the nations”.   The Lord, our Father, solemnly warns them of the pitfalls of wanting a king.  First, having a human king, means  rejecting the Lord as King (see vs. 8). Second: note the consequences for the affirmative answer to the people’s prayer below.  I have emphasized a key phrase in this section:

“…all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

Samuel’s Warning Against Kings

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. (military conscription and armaments manufacture) 

13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. (taxation) 

16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work.17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Commentary:  Wanting to be, “…like the other nations”,  sounds rather like a child or a teenager who wants something just to be like everyone else. Israel wanted to be like their pagan neighbors.  Israel wanted to be like their pagan neighbors, again and again by adopting their pagan gods and goddesses.  Now in our families, in the so-called enlightened times we are living in, to be like everyone else is also aping paganism. Think of the children offered to the Molech of the self by abortion. The rise of idolatry inevitably gives rise to immorality.  So in both politics and religion, Israel desired greatly for the ring of power to be placed on a king’s finger.  

Further, the Lord said Israel rejected Him as King.  Rejected, yes, but the good news is no one can dethrone the Lord as King.  This was not the only time this type of rejection came up.  The Lord speaks of the Wilderness Wanderings as He led them up but His own people rejected him again and again.  Israel probably would have preferred slavery in Egypt for “melons and cucumbers”, than freedom.  They wanted a bread king, a king who would fill their stomachs.  One of the Lord’s great temptations was so simple:  He fasted 40 days and nights, and the evangelists’ tell us, “He was hungry”.  Then that ruler of the dark realms tempted Him with bread.  Israel served other gods.  They wanted bread. The Lord’s new Israel, the Church, has a certain craving for other gods as well.   Rejecting the Lord as King, has meant the government, the State (note usually capitalized) becomes god.

Six times it is written of a king, “he will take” and the takings are old: heavy taxation, military conscription, a military-industrial complex and finally slavery. Governments tend to take, especially the State.  The United States’ people are more and more ceding such power, contrary to the Constitution, to the government.  Why?  

With the rise of atheism, the vacuum has been filled by other deities.  The problem has never been God in our politics, but too many gods (Peter Berger).  When the Church is forced out of the public square, then the State will become the Church (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus).  The god that is arising is the State.  The erosion of first amendment rights, in the name of stopping all ‘hate speech’, is going forward to the degree that, for instance, even to say marriage  between man and woman is hate speech.  At the end of the Soviet Empire, many Russians wanted a Stalin back to control their lives.  We Americans are not there yet, but we are getting closer.  Like Israel too many  want a King to, “go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8: 20)  We lust for a father figure to take care of us. The Church prays to Our Father who art in heaven, alone.  The State is an institution and who wants to live in a institution? We need to say with firm conviction, and without anger, we do not. In “Fiddler on the Roof”, the movie, a yeshiva student asks the rabbi, What is a blessing for the Czar?  The rabbi pauses and says, “God bless the Czar and keep him far away from us”. That’s about right. As the Lord’s Word says: kings “take”, they seldom give.  Ask an American Indian.  Following the Constitution, this is still the solution for government that is minimal.  But better: The Lord is our God.  He rules. He gives us freedom, political and spiritual to order our lives according to His Word.  The government can not do that and the kings of Israel, for the most part, did not do that either. 

For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver;
    the Lord is our king; he will save us.

Isaiah 33: 22

 

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Prayer of the Day

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Readings:

Acts 11: 27-12: 5  Psalm 56   Romans 8: 28-39  St. Mark 10: 35-45

About:  St. James and his brother John, sons of Zebedee and Salome (see Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40), were fishermen in the Sea of Galilee who were called with Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22). In the Gospel lists of Jesus’ disciples, James is listed following Peter and preceding John. Together these three appear as leaders of the Twelve. Because James precedes John, it is reasoned that James is the elder of the brothers. The Book of Acts records that James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I, probably between AD 42 and 44 (Acts 12:1-2). Thus James is the first of the Twelve to die a martyr and the only apostolic martyrdom recorded in the Bible. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  Our Lord equipped His apostles for suffering (see Matthew 10:17-19).  Matthew 10 is the Lord’s sermon to the Apostles after He called them.  He equips the apostolic Church with the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the redemption Jesus would win for us all upon the Cross.  James the Elder (or Greater) was the first apostolic martyr.

 We live in an age in which we want to have glory and fame, wealth and power and the guarantee of such  is “mammon” (Matthew 6:24).  We want to be number 1,even in the churches.  We lust to be the successful, vibrant congregation(s) and like the world, the church wants fame. There was even a TV show called “Fame” about a performing arts high school in New York City with the show’s title theme song and this lyric:

Fame! 
I’m gonna live forever, 
Baby remember my name…
source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/famelyrics.html

We want fame so that we will be forever remembered, that is eternal, but false gods’ have no memory since they are not real.  This is as old as Babel: build the great skyscraper and we will make a name for ourselves and have eternal security (Genesis 11: 4).  But no one remembers and “fame” is a false god that can not give eternal life;  but we remember James as he was faithful servant of Jesus Christ. We name our sons James, not Herod.  The LORD remembers His people. 

 James and his brother John were especially susceptible to that lust for glory as they wanted to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand when He came in power (see today’s Gospel reading).  Jesus named James and his brother John “Boanerges”, that is the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), possibly because of their impetuous nature and temperament.  James and John  asked the Lord, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (today’s Gospel reading). This verse maybe is the first example of the false, “name it and claim it”  practice of magically using prayer to get what I want. The disciple can not demand of His Lord what the Lord gives only by His command and grace. They also  asked Him to sit on His right and left hand when He came in glory.  At the beginning, during Jesus’ earthly ministry it was a rough start for James! We all have these moments! The prayer of repentance that these moments do not become a lifetime of habit. We pray for faithful preachers and teachers and parents to call us back to the Lord.

James and John did  sit on His left and right hand:  in martyrdom. They were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and preached Christ.  As Jesus taught them that in the reign of God it is not about being number 1, lording it over others, but serving each other under the Lord. Jesus was and is number 1 and He took the lowest place:  a cross for all the sons of thunder.  For as Jesus taught, the Lord Himself, “… came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (vs. 45).  As Americans we crave to be number 1 but whom we remember in our lives are those who gave of their lives for us and who taught us Christ. James no longer sought his own fame, but proclaimed the Name above all names that at the name of Jesus every knew will bow (see Philippians 2)  He gave His life for us and for our salvation and John the Elder preached Jesus Christ.

O Lord, for James we praise You, Who fell to Herod’s sword;  He drank the cup of suff’ring And thus fulfilled Your Word.  

Lord, curb our vain impatience For glory and for fame.  Equip us for such suff-rings As glorify Your Name. (“By All Your Saints in Warfare, Lutheran Service Book, #518, stanza 21)

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Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem — including Ezekiel — to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-16).

Ezekiel’s priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example, Ezekiel 9-10and 40-48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1–32). Jerusalem would certainly fall and the exiles would not quickly return — the just consequences of their sins.Especially in the early part of the book, much of what the Lord “said” to His people was delivered in the form of action prophecies. In these, Ezekiel acted out representations of coming events pertaining to the fall of Judah, the destruction of the temple, and the seeming end of the Davidic line of kings. These action prophecies included the eating of the scroll (3:1-2), being struck with dumbness (3:22-27), sketching of the city of Jerusalem (4:1-3), lying on one side and then the other (4:4-8), eating restricted rations cooked on a fire of dried dung (4:9-17), and shaving his hair and beard with a sword before dividing the hair (5:1-4).

Some seem a bit strange at first glance, once we understand their meaning and context, their messages are quite easily comprehended.Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that his people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom(Ezekiel 33-48).Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel’s prophecies was later employed inthe Revelation to Saint John. Among these are the visions of the four living creatures as seen inEzekiel 1 and Revelation 4. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18: 23

Ezekiel called a thing what it was.  He did not call sinfulness, “dysfunctional behavior”, he called it wickedness, as did his brother prophets.  The question of morality is not about psychology but spirituality. The only way the word wicked is said in our day is maybe, “Oh, that was wicked”, that is, something that is actually good. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, we do not need a big brother state to enforce “newspeak”. The divinely inspired prophet leveled the Word of God at wickedness, but not only toward other nations, but primarily his own nation, Israel.  

All the prophets primarily  preached.Was Israel wicked?  Answer:  Yes. By what standard did the prophets know Israel was wicked?  Answer: The Law of God.  

Was the Lord and His prophet’s goal to destroy Israel in it’s wickedness? Answer:  No, but as we read above, the goal was repentance and life in His Name.

The Church in the United States is wicked and full of dead men’s bones. Marriage between man and woman is denied.  Abortion is promoted. Divorce is winked at.  The poor are extolled while we worship our unappeasable appetites.  Celebrity is likewise extolled and adored while saintliness is considered antiquated, in other words, Christians are practicing idolaters.  Good works as salvation via social activism is openly promoted while faith is assumed.  At church assemblies people know more about Robert’s Rules of Order, than the Lord’s rules, that is, the Law of God.  The newest fad of  ‘theology’ is read or lectured and the Bible is denied. Christians are more interested in updating their Facebook status than in improving their hearts and souls through the Word of God.  A comfortable Christ is preached but not the crucified Christ for the comfort of His forgiveness. We worship on our derrieres on padded pews and want our worship likewise padded, but not desiring the comfort of the Gospel for sinners.  As there really are no ‘sinners’, no one is wicked, except the person(s) we do not like.  I think it was an unintentional prophecy when the Lutheran Book of Worship came out and the verses  from 1 John 1 were incorporated into public Confession and Absolution: 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Church  in the United States has done a good job in making Christ a “liar”.  Remember as the Lord taught:  Satan is the father of lies. The churches  have been fooling themselves and the word is not in us.  The churches are wicked. The Lord God sent His Son into our wickedness and it is His Cross that moves us to see what wickedness has wrought:  so great a Savior.  The following quote is from Spiritual Meditations by Pastor Johann Gerhard:

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife ; but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and will as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth ; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. V. 26).

 Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Ezekiel, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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