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Archive for February, 2018

Note about this video:  After the Rev. Billy Graham’s death, I was on the internet looking up articles about the evangelist and I came across this unlikely video.  Comedian and film director Woody Allen had a TV special in 1969 interviewing several people including the Rev. Billy Graham.  Some may not know that Mr. Allen started as a stand-up comedian, and he went on to become a famous movie director.  In the ’80s, Mr. Allen became infamous for his adulterous live-in ‘relationship’ with actress Mia Farrow.  Miss Farrow had an adopted daughter, Soon-Yi and Mr. Allen had an affair with her when she was in her teens in the ’80s.

Mr. Allen’s active libido became the plot line of more and more of his movies, so this interview with Rev. Graham is quite the set-up for a dust-up, but  Rev. Graham handled this as a Christian and a gentleman.  Note that in the interview Rev. Graham truly epitomized 1 Peter 3: 14-17.  And in addition, this video is funny as Rev. Graham had a good and  holy sense of humor. -Pr. Schroeder

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One of the symbols of St. Matthias is a pair of dice because the Disciples cast lots to decide who would take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1: 15-26).  The only time he is mentioned in the Bible is at the time of his selection.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Lessons:  Isaiah 66: 1-2  Psalm 134 Acts 1: 15-26   St. Matthew 11:  25-30

St. Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. According to the Early Church Fathers, Matthias was one of the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-20. After the ascension, Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the vacancy in the Twelve resulting from the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16-25). Early Church tradition places Matthias in a number of locations. Some historians suggest that he went to Ethiopia; others place him in Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion. Martyred for his faith, Matthias may well have met his death at Colchis in Asia Minor, around AD 50. The Church of St. Matthias at Trier, Germany, claims the honor of being the final burial site for Matthias, the only one of the Twelve to be buried in Europe north of the Alps.

In the reportage of Matthias’ election to the  Apostles a few things stand out:

1.  The Scriptural understanding that the Holy Spirit works only through the Scripture:   “…the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas” vs. 16. 

2.  Therefore, in order to replace the position that Judas forfeited, it is the Scripture that informs the Apostles that there should be a new apostle elected: “For it is written in the Book of Psalms…” vs. 20. 

3.  The importance of citing Scripture as  a proof text of the faith and practice of the Church, vs. 20.   

4. Based upon Scripture and Scriptures’ Lord, Jesus Christ, the qualifications for an Apostle is set forth:  he must have been with us the whole time in Christ’s earthly ministry and an eyewitness to the Resurrection, vss. 21-23.

5.  The casting of lots (a Biblical method mentioned many times in the Old Testament) is nevertheless secondary to the centrality of prayer before a decision of such magnitude! (vs. 24-25).  Scriptural authority alone proclaims the apostolicity of the Church’s faith and practice so that the saving truth of the Gospel be preached and taught.

Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240)  wrote,

  “…all doctrine that agrees with the apostolic churches, which are the molds and original sources, must be regarded as the truth that contains what was received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ,and Christ from God.  All doctrine must immediately be regarded as false that has the taste of being different from that which the churches received from the apostles, from Christ, from God. ” (As quoted in The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, for this feast day)

Those who have received the true apostolic doctrine of justification by grace received through faith knows that anything else tastes wrong.  If the Christian is preached to save himself in one iota, and does not preach the Christ for you is truly bad taste.   If good works are preached as necessary to save oneself, then that treaching is wrong but if good works are not encouraged in the life of the Church to serve one’s neighbor in love,  this also is  non-apostolic.  If the Sacraments of Baptism and the Altar are not encouraged and enjoined for the upbuilding of Christ’s holy people, per Christ’s command and promise, then it likewise is non-apostolic. 

I could go on!  I will sum up the true taste of the living doctrine from the Lord by His own word: 

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)

As Matthias was faithful in the care of the Lord’s lambs, pray for all pastors and ministers to feed His flock the truth as Jesus Himself said to Peter: Feed My Sheep.

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Born c. 69, Polycarp was a central figure in the early church. A disciple of the evangelist John, he linked the first generation of believers to later Christians. After serving for many years as bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was arrested, tried, and executed for his faith on February 23, c. 156. An eyewitness narrative of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, continues to encourage believers in times of persecution. Below is an excerpt from The Martyrdom of Polycarp and you can find out more about the Saint here.

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Now a voice from heaven came to Polycarp as he was entering the stadium: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man!” (Josh. 1:6,7,9.) No one saw the speaker, but many of ours heard the voice. And then as he was brought forward, there was a great uproar now that they heard that Polycarp had been apprehended. So when he was Image result for Polycarpbrought forward the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp; and when he admitted it, he tried to persuade him to deny, saying: “Respect your age” and all the other things they usually say: “Swear by the Genius of Caesar, change your mind, say, ‘Away with the atheists.’ ” Polycarp looked sternly at the whole crowd of lawless heathen in the stadium, indicating them with a wave of the hand, groaned and looked up to heaven, and said: “Away with the atheists!” When the proconsul persevered and said: “Take the oath and I will let you go; revile Christ,” Polycarp replied: “I have served him eighty-six years and in no way has he dealt unjustly with me; so how can I blaspheme my king who saved me?”

To our ears, the crowd’s cry, “Away with the atheists”, as a denial of Christianity may sound strange.  The understanding in those days was the gods and goddesses of the many city states and of the Roman Empire were considered to be integral and essential to the welfare of city and Empire.  If they were not worshiped, then it was thought city and Empire would be adversely affected.  The Christians were denying the existence of all the mythologies of the gods and goddesses, so they were considered atheists.  Even worse they were considered to be trouble-makers, disturbers of order and against the very fiber of the culture, and so, “away with the atheists”.  Christians in our days are considered to be a type of atheist in the religions of sex and self.  For instance,  many consider it is ‘hate speech’ to publicly state marriage is between man and woman only.  If Christians do not buckle under to the new regime and it’s fanatical dogmatism of sex and self, then we are the disrupters of the order and ‘goodness’. If Christians do not give obeisance to the dictates of lust and narcissism, efforts have been made to curtail this nation’s first amendment rights.  We do deny the enslavement of the bodies and souls of our fellow citizens to the false gods of slave and sex, but with Polycarp, we are called to confess Christ as Lord and we are His people for freedom of friends and family from those gods and goddesses. Unlike Polycarp at that time, no one in our beloved nation has been burned at the stake.  Yet we have seen in the Middle East another anti-Christian Islamic movement, ISIS, putting to death in horrible ways many of our brothers and sisters.  With Polcarp, we can not blaspheme our King who has saved us.

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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Meme of the Day

JUST GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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Psalm 12 English Standard Version (ESV)

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    Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
    for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
    with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
    the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
    our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord;
    “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

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The following is an excerpt from a 2013 interview of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia published in The New York magazine.  The judge was a devout Roman Catholic. After the interviewer asked about the judge’s belief of heaven and hell, the interviewer tried to change the subject but Scalia wasn’t biting and he kept on the topic of Christian and Roman Catholic belief.  The entire interview can be found here.  The section on Christian belief begins on page 4.  I included this interview section because it is good as the judge is blunt about our popular culture and it speaks to the truth of Scripture in terms of the Lenten and daily struggle against the devil and his empty promises.-Pr. Schroeder

 

Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.

You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.

Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

No.
It’s because he’s smart.

So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.

Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.

Right.
What happened to him?

He just got wilier.
He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
I was offended by that. I really was.

I’m sorry to have offended you! 
Have you read The Screwtape Letters?

Yes, I have.
So, there you are. That’s a great book. It really is, just as a study of human nature.

 

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About Philemon and Onesimus:  Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. Although the name “Onesimus” means “useful,” Onesimus proved himself “useless” when he ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (Philemon 18).  Somehow Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome), and through Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After confessing to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, he was directed by Paul to return to his master and become “useful” again. In order to help pave the way for Onesimus’ peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and “to receive him as you would receive me” (v. 17), “no longer as a slave, but as a beloved brother” (v. 16). The letter was eventually included by the church as one of the books of the New Testament.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH) The Book of Philemon  is the third shortest book in the Bible and it is one of the Apostle Paul’s Epistles and you can read it here.

 

“Oh, he’s useless…no good.”  “What a useless waste of time!”  “It’s useless.  I give up!”  At one time or another we have all said something like that and it is a word of judgment, of law: a judgment of others or of our selves. It appears that in the  house and home of Philemon, Onesimus was indeed useless.  He was not living up to his own name, Onesimus, “Useful”. We are not told in what ways he was useless as a slave.  Not obedient?  Slothful?  He had talents and abilities he did not use?   Maybe he did a lot of “brown-nosing”?  We do not know.  But he was useless. We do not know why Onesimus ran away.  Maybe he wanted to be free, but freedom, as bondage is of two types:  physical and spiritual and sometimes they cannot be readily separated.

A conjecture is, as the Lord caught up to Jonah as Jonah ran away and as Jonah,  Onesimus’ uselessness was catching up to him as he ran away and the Lord found him in a jail…with His Apostle!  Then what a conversation Onesimus and the Apostle must have had in that jail cell! The Apostle did not command that Onesimus be welcomed back by his owner, Philemon. The Church overly loves to legislate. At a wedding, a Roman Catholic said to me, What I like about the Lutherans they don’t have rules.  I chuckled and said, We find the 10 commandments quite sufficient.   In fact, it seems that the Apostle did not issue many rules and regs.   For instance:  When the Church in Corinth was allowing for prostitution, Paul did not appeal to the 6th Commandment, but of course he clearly points out what they were doing was sin.  But the remedy is not the Law but the Gospel:

18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6)

The Law does not save but shows we need saving.  Flee from immorality, wrote Paul. Onesimus  may have thought he was fleeing  from wrong but there is no escape from God’s Law. And the Gospel Word alone finds us as the Lord did through His Apostle. The Apostle’s appeal is to the Gospel by which the Lord forms us in His grace, mercy and peace and has redeemed us and our brother next to us, even a runaway slave the Apostle met in jail. His appeal is to Who’s we are and who has bought us, “…with a price”:  the blood of Christ.  The Law shows us when we are useless, the Gospel of the grace of Christ makes us useful through faith in Him by His grace:

I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. (Philemon)

Lord God, heavenly Father, You sent Onesimus back to Philemon as a brother in Christ, freeing him from his slavery to sin through the preaching of the Apostle St. Paul. Cleanse the depths of sin within our souls and bid resentment cease for past offenses, that, by Your mercy, we may be reconciled to our brothers and sisters and our lives will reflect Your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

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