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Archive for April, 2018

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“Our Savior calls Himself, “The Lily of the Valley” (Song of Solomon 2: 1); and He seems to use this figure because He, the noblest of flowers, grows and flourishes, not on the lofty mountain-tops, that is, in hearts lifted up with pride, but in the humbler vales, that is, in the lowly and contrite minds of the godly.  For truly the humble soul is the seat and couch of Christ where He delights to makes His abode as St. Augustine puts. True grace does not make one proud, but humble. Thou are not a partaker of the true grace of God, if thou walkest not in humility of heart.  The streams of divine grace flow downwards, not upwards.  As nature’s streams seek the lowlands, so those of divine grace flow down into lowly hearts.”

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Concordia and Koinonia

“For what devil induces us who are called Christians and are baptized to renounce Baptism and Christ and to seek for ourselves works of our own apart from Christ? Those who do this do not want to live, work, and act like other, ordinary Christians; they want to attract open-mouthed admiration on the part of the public with their special, novel, and self-chosen deeds.”


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Sanctuary CLM Lent 2017

“Christians who are conformed to the world introduce into the Church the value judgments and concepts of the world.  They believe in action.  They want efficiency.  They give first place to economics, and they think that all means are good (for the spread of the Church, goes without saying!)…The Protestant thinks to adopt the means which the world employs.  Since he finds those means useful in his profession, or in his leisure time, they stand so high in his estimation that he cannot see why he should not introduce them into the Church and make the things of the spirit dependent upon them.”

(False Presence of the Kingdom, published 1963, Chapter 2, “Making the Church Worldly”, pages 47-48;  Jacques Ellul, French sociologist and a member of the Reformed Church in France )

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“Had Christ been crucified a hundred thousand times and had nothing been said about it, what profit would the act of His being brought to the cross have brought? But when I come to this, I must draw this act into history and publish it for all the world. Also, if anyone had seen this, he would not have thought that the work of redemption was taking place there. The work is fulfilled on the cross, but no one knows of the redemption except the Father and the Son. Therefore, to the act also the use of the act must be added, that it may be declared through the Word and that one may hold it by faith and, thus believing, may be saved.
 
“Paul’s intent, then, is this: to the work of redemption belongs the Word of preaching, which does nothing else but impress the work of redemption. ‘You [Luther] have urged this passage beyond measure. Answer me. You credit the remission of sins to the Gospel, to Baptism, and to Scripture. But the forgiveness of sins lies in the shedding of the blood.’ Who has placed those words in your mouth so that you know that this is the redemption from sins? You did not see it on the cross. You heard it, but through the Word. They say: ‘Christ completed the redemption with a single work.’ Yes, but He distributes it, applies it, and tells it by testimony. There is a testimony in Baptism. We are baptized into Christ. His Word is present. I am baptized into Christ the Crucified. In Baptism, therefore, there is a use of redemption-an application of its use. In this way the Gospel is the spoken Word, but it gives and brings this that Christ is, etc. Thus, the Word of God brings out the remission of sins. Therefore, there is remission of sins in the Gospel. This one fact-that Christ died once for all, etc.-is divulged and spread in the Word. Thus, there is remission of sin in the Sacrament.”
Martin Luther,  

Lectures on 1 Timothy, 2.6

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, You have enriched Your Church with the proclamation of the Gospel through the evangelist Mark.  Grant that we may firmly believe these glad tidings and daily walk according to Your Word;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings: Isaiah 52: 7-10 Psalm 146  2 Timothy 4: 4-18  St. Mark 16: 14-20

Bio:  St. Mark was the author of the second Gospel, which he composed, according to some Early Church Fathers, when the Christians in Rome asked him to write down the preaching of the apostle Peter. Mark, also known as John Mark, was originally from Jerusalem, where the house of his mother Mary was the center of the early Jerusalem Church (Acts12:12). He was brought from Jerusalem by Paul and Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 12:25), and it was from this city that they set out on the first missionary journey. When Paul and Barnabas were preparing to go on the second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them again, but Paul objected because Mark had left them during the first journey. Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas as his new companion (Acts 15:37-40). Later, Paul reconciled with Mark and was working with him again (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11). Finally, Mark was found laboring with Peter in Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Tradition says that Mark was instrumental in founding the Church in Alexandria, becoming its first bishop, and, also that he suffered a martyr’s death. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Early non-Biblical Attestation to the Authorship of St. Mark from Papias (early first third of the 2nd Century):

We shall add, as being a matter of primary importance, a tradition regarding Mark who wrote the Gospel, which [Papias] has given in the following words: “And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterward, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the needs [of his listeners], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. That is why Mark made no mistake when he wrote these things as he remembered them. Above all else, he took special care not to omit anything he had heard and not to put anything fictitious into what he wrote.”

—Fragments of Papias, a bishop of the early Church)

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

St. Mark alone uses a pointed verb for both our Lord’s Baptism and when the curtain of the temple divided. From this Greek verb,  σχίζω, schiso, we derived our word, “schism”.  The heaven were ripped asunder when Jesus came up out the Jordan and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove.  The temple curtain was likewise torn,ripped-asunder.  The Temple curtain was, as seen below, a large curtain between the Holy Place Image result for the temple curtain tornand the Holy of Holies.  The Holy of Holies held in the first temple, the Ark of the Covenant. Only the great High Priest, properly cleansed by sacrifices and ablutions, could enter into the Holy of Holies once a year, on the Day of Atonement.  Knowing these facts, the Book of Hebrews  is understood in its many references to Jesus as the High Priest, e.g.:

when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9)

Jesus, the great High Priest, did not need to be made holy and offer sacrifice for the sin of the world, yours and mine, as He is the Holy One of God who offered Himself as the Sacrifice, once and for all, so that  by faith through grace He makes us holy.

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5)

When  the temple curtain which is the final barrier that separates God’s people from his immediate presence is torn open, the Kingdom of God is open to all believers (see the Te Deum Laudamus in Matins).  In Jesus’ Baptism, the wall of separation is violently ripped open. Jesus is baptized unto the death. The tearing open of the heavens is an expression of God’s desire to be at one with humanity, with you and I, as well as a vivid picture of the price that would have to be paid. “Mark would have us know our Lord’s entire ministry is a passion story, whereby he tears open the curtain of separation between God and man, and ensuring an everlasting Yom Kippur, that is, a Day of Atonement.” (Dr. David Scaer). 

On the Eve of the Festival of St. Mark, thirty-five years ago, I was ordained into the Holy Ministry of the Church.  Maybe the main directive for every pastor is to show people and God’s people the open door to heaven by and through teaching and preaching the Word of God, and the right administration of the Sacraments. The goal of every Christian is to show people to the church door, through which, the Lord said He is present in His Word and in His Sacraments.  As Jesus said, I am the door of the sheep.  When we say to someone, Let me show you door, it is a rebuke to tell the person to get out.  In Christ, when a pastor says, let me show you the Door, he is guiding you to the gate of eternal life with the door marked with His own blood.  

15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron. (Psalm 107)

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The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.   He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

So there will be one flock, one shepherd.   St.John 10: 16c

There is one flock, one shepherd.  ‘Hey, wait a minute, pastor, ONE flock?  Hardly.  There are so many denominations, church bodies and the like.’  Jesus was wrong?  By no means!   Still a fair question is: which is the real church?!  Which one is the real flock?  This is so perplexed a young man in Palmyra, New York in the 19th century, he came up with an answer, another church body!  This time he said this was the real thing:  the Mormon church.  There are two major church bodies that assert they are the alone saving church: Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  Which one?  So which is the real church, the real flock, the actual bride? 

First, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod does not confess that we are the alone saving church. If we say you must join this or that church to be saved, then man has put a condition on grace, God’s free gift, for us wandering, bleating sheep. It is another demand of some kind as necessary in addition to faith.  The only condition of entrance is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep, with the authority from His Father, to take it up again. John 10 is the Lord’s testament to His dying, ever living love for sheep lost and lone to bring us together.

Second, divisions are as old as the New Testament: 

when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1 Corinthians)

Even divisions can serve the Lord’s purposes for us and our salvation! Joseph was divided from his 11 brothers who sold Joseph into slavery.  And as Joseph said them years later, you meant this for evil, but God meant it for good as you can see.  We do not seek division, but acknowledge it and we pray for healing of the divisions in the Church, but not according to man’s desire, theology, and expertise, but according to the Lord who builds His Church through sound doctrine. The Church is His new creation by water and the word, we cannot make a new creation.

Third:  so was Jesus wrong about “one flock, one shepherd”? If we don’t see the visible, denominational unity, then the Lord was wrong?  By no means!  Not only does the one flock have one good Shepherd, the Church is the bride of Christ and He does not have many brides. The Lord  is not a polygamist.

If there is not one flock, then when we confess the Creeds, I believe in ONE holy Christian Church,  we are outright lying. We confess the truth, not lies, so there is ONE catholic and apostolic church. IN the great hymn, The Church’s One Foundation, there is this stanza,

Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

The word “one” is used 6 times in that one stanza. Are we lying about this one Church, the one Flock, the one Bride?  We are not. “…thank God, a seven-year old child knows what the Church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.  So children pray, ‘I believe in one holy Christian Church.’” Elect from every nation and every denomination!  In every church, small “c”, church body, the Lord has worked faith. C.F.W. Walther, founded of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod said it well:

No one must be induced to join the Lutheran Church because he thinks that only in that way he can get into the Church of God. There are still Christians in the Reformed Church, among the Methodists, yea, among the papists. We have this precious promise in Is. 55, 11: “My Word shall not return unto Me void.” Wherever the Word of God is proclaimed and confessed or even recited during the service, the Lord is gathering a people for Himself. The Roman Church, for instance, still confesses that Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross to redeem the world. That is truth sufficient to bring a man to the knowledge of salvation. Whoever denies this fact is forced to deny also that there are Christians in some Lutheran communities in which errors have cropped out. But there are always some children of God in these communities because they have the Word of God, which is always bearing fruit in converting some souls to God.

Then why am I a Lutheran in the Missouri-Synod?  I speak personally. I belong to the Lutheran Church for the sole reason that I want to side with the truth. I quit the Church to which I belonged when I found that it harbors errors with which I do not wish to be contaminated. I do not wish to become a partaker of other men’s sins, and by quitting a heretical community I confess the pure and unadulterated truth. I adapted my statement from Dr. Walther.   When I read this, finally my mind was convinced, I had to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  The Lord saves us through His pure Word, both Law and Promise.  His Word saves because the Word became flesh.  The Law of God points out my sin and the Word of the Gospel, of the kingdom, points me and ever orients me to the Savior.  When I was in Concordia Junior College, I was visiting my grandparents in Minnesota.  I was visiting with my Aunt Birdie. Her husband was my uncle Elroy, and like my Father, grew up in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  I was one of my Aunt Birdie’s favorite nephews.  I was putting down the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and for the first time she became sharp with me, “Mark, you know I was raised in the Mennonite church and I knew Jesus is my Savior, but when I married your Uncle, and became a Lutheran, I knew why.”  What did my Aunt Birdie know?  Answer: the pure doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ in the correct interpretation of Holy Scripture in the Lutheran confessions. The reason is pure doctrine. 

Paul Kretzmann wrote in his commentary in 1914 on today’s sermon text:

There may be various folds, though one flock. The dreams of unionism find no support in this passage. The “holy Christian Church, the communion of saints,” has been gathered in the world ever since the first proclamation of the Gospel, and all the true believers in Christ form the great invisible Church. But there is not a word here of uniting visible church organizations into one great, powerful body.

The “unionism” of which he wrote became what we know as “ecumenism”. 1910 was the beginning of the ecumenical movement in Scotland.  Where are we ecumenically?  We have least common denominator denominationalism, as ecumenism. In other words, the way many church bodies got together was tossing out what they believed in, that is doctrine, and in the spirit of the times, becoming the Progressivist Church in America. It became informed more by man’s theology that God’s Word.  So the allowance of gay unions, abortion, partisan power politics, quota systems but the bottom line:  the jettison of the Bible as authoritative and inerrant.  

How do we respond? Form another church body?  Form another theological platform? Go the blogs?!  The internet and social networking?!  By no means! We are taught today from 1 John:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

that he laid down his life for us is the Church’s message and eternal life. Was Mohammed the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep? Buddha?  Confucius? Lao T’ze?  Joseph Smith?  Even if they did, did they take up their life again to give us eternal life, by grace through faith? Hardly. Jesus did. This is what we tell of God’s good and perfect and complete work in His Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Then flowing out of the Lord, we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  In deed and truth, means to teach and preach the truth in Christ in the love of God.  Pastor and Professor spells it out clearly the way we are taught the Way:

My sheep here My voice He says, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give them eternal Life. Just as Christ’s teachings are a complete rule of faith, so also is His life a clear, complete mirror for every good work. Learn from Me, He says in Matt, 11-29, as if to say: You have enough to learn about My love, about My patience, My humility, meekness, friendliness to do you for the rest of your lives. As a result, you will well forget about the commandments of men with which you serve God fruitlessly and in vain, Matt. 15:9. O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, highly praised in all eternity: Give us all such an obedient, willing heart for following the voice of Christ in doctrine and life. (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

The Law is but a mirror bright to bring the inbred sin to light.  The Gospel is a mirror clear to bring good works to neighbors near.

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.(Hebrews)

 

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“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of  the sheep” (St. John 10:7)

My sheep here My voice He says, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give them eternal Life. Just as Christ’s  teachings are a complete rule of faith, so also is His life a clear, complete mirror for every good work. Learn from Me, He says in Matt, 11-29, as if to say: You have enough to learn about My love, about My patience, My humility, meekness, friendliness to do you for the rest of your lives. As a result, you will well forget about the commandments of men with which you serve God fruitlessly and in vain, Matt. 15:9. O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, highly praised in all eternity: Give us all such an obedient, willing heart for following the voice of Christ in doctrine and life. 

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