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Archive for October, 2018

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This World War II American anti-Nazi poster is definitely from a different era.  The concern clearly expressed is that the Nazis were the enemy of the Christian faith represented by the  Bible.  The Nazis were trying to kill the Bible, that is the Word of God.  In fact, the Nazis even produced their own Bible which is called “the Hitler Bible”.  Hitler and company did their own version of the commandments, Hitler’s 12 commandments.

The knife to Scripture was not  first wielded by the Nazis or the Communists, but by friends of the Bible, so-called:  19th and 20th Biblical scholarship which devolved into the Biblical scholarship that denied Scriptural inerrancy and authority.  It is less like a knife and more like a scalpel, removing those living parts of God’s Word that do not comport with the secularist, worldly agenda:  the creation account in Genesis, ordination of men, abortion, greed,lust, same-sex marriage and the denial of gender, etc. and the purpose became Biblicide. Again, this was done within the Church, by ‘friends’ who were (are) trying to make the Bible relevant, timely, palatable and all under the rubric of ‘doing good’.   Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus for Him to  use the Word for His own purposes for ‘doing good’, on the devil’s terms.  This is the struggle of our time, against the zeitgeist of the powers and principalities in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 6:12 ).

The most sung and loved of the sizable number of Reformation hymns is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Dr. Martin Luther, the last stanza:

God’s Word forever shall abide,
no thanks to foes, who fear it;
for God himself fights by our side
with weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house,
goods, honor, child, or spouse,
though life be wrenched away,
they cannot win the day.
The kingdom’s ours forever!

And the powers and principalities and the prince of darkness want to take away one of the Church’s greatest weapons of the Spirit in her arsenal:  the Bible. The Bible then becomes the enemy to those in power and those who go with the flow.

This World War II poster is scary.  When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned, he wrote his brother Pastor, Timothy this:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2)

Paul was bound but the Word is not. He was chained as criminal for the crime of preaching Christ which is no sin. Luther and the Reformers knew this. They knew the knife of those who denied the authority of Scripture alone.  They did not prevail. Luther and company did not prevail, the Lord did. He still will.  He calls us, as He did the blessed Reformers:  Confess Christ! Fear not, I am with you until the end of the age. You do not build the Church, I do.  You are to confess. Confess Christ as Lord! Confess Christ so that saints are remade in Baptism. All the saints surround us in Christ’s Body, the Church encouraging us to look to Christ alone, His grace alone, as  His baptized saints.

Let us pray…Almighty and gracious Lord,  pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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Sermon Text from John 8: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”

We are now in the 501 year of the Reformation.  The 500th was to be a big deal.  There was even a new movie about Luther, “Luther:  the Idea that Changed the World”, the fourth one since the 1950s.  The 500th year of the Reformation naturally turned to Martin Luther.  Did Martin Luther with “The Idea that Changed the World”, want to change the world?  Hardly.  It was not a mere idea that Luther had that began the reformed.  We are not baptized into an idea alone, but Christ alone. Pastor and Doctor Martin Luther rediscovered the Gospel of Jesus that Christ is the only Way of salvation, without works, for sinners. Luther preached, taught and sang Jesus.  Carly Simon sang: “You think this song is about you don’t you, don’t you.” But Luther knew this song was not about him, but he sang the song of Jesus Christ The Reformation was not about Luther, as Luther wrote:

I ask that people make no reference to my name; let them call themselves Christians, not Lutherans. What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine. Neither was I crucified for anyone. St. Paul, in I Corinthians 3, would not allow the Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine but Christian. How then should I – poor stinking maggot-fodder than I am – come to have people call the children of Christ by my wretched name? Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christian whose doctrine we have. The pope’s men rightly have a factious name because they are not satisfied with the doctrine and name of Christ and want to be with the pope, who is their master. I have not been and will not be a master. Along with the church I have the one general teaching of Christ who alone is our master. Matt. 23:8.  (Martin Luther, “A Sincere Admonition to All Christians to Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion” (1522), Luther’s Works, Vol. 45, p. 70)

Our instruction is from the Scriptures as confessed in the Lutheran Confessions, The Book of Concord. The Book of Concord was written by several Reformers, including Luther.  We do not follow everything Luther wrote in the some 60 volumes of his writings so far translated into English.  If so, we would follow what he wrote about the Jews, but we don’t;  but when Luther wrote and preachd about the Law and Promise, we do. Our church body, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod got it right with their 500th anniversary slogan:  “The Reformation:  It’s Still About Jesus”.  It surely is about His Name, His Work, His continuing mission.

Luther preached: “He sent forth His word, and thus healed them, not: “He accepted our work, and thus healed us”. John 8: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.  Ahh, but you still have to obey!  Certainly!  If a doctor prescribes on his pad a prescription to make you well, you will certainly obey it!  The doctor, if you will, sends forth his word, and that is what heals, as you trust and have faith in your doctor. It is the obedience that comes by faith…ALONE.   We don’t go the doctor when sick,  and call him and say, hey look at all I did to heal myself!  And the doctor says, you have no need of physician, I am called and trained to heal the sick. Abide in My Word, live in the Word of God, My Word, pray the Word, eat and drink the Word, serve the Word.  You will be free, knowing we practiced sin and you will be freed. Those who believed in Jesus said to Him: Hey, we’ve never been enslaved to anyone.. We’re pretty good, oh except, Israel never enslaved to anyone else?  Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia and Rome.  But worse, eternally worse,  than political slavery, the spiritual slavery to Baals and false gods, idolatry and immorality, like all mankind.  We’re living in a time that needs to hear the Scripture, as in Psalm 12,

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

Asserting we have never been enslaved because we kept our noses clean is DIY, do it yourself religion and DIY religion is the prescription to all sorts of mischief and evil:  for instance, Protestant indulgences.   Just send your offering to my television ministry and you will be rich, that is, free from poverty and low income. You give me $100 bucks and God will give you a $1000, that is the lie of buying off God. Fake good news.   He bought us.

Since Lord of all sent forth His Son, like a physician to the sick in soul and spirit with wrong, for our healing, all should  flock to the dear Jesus.  We can’t heal ourselves of breaking God’s Law.  We know the soul weighted with the “should haves, would haves, could haves, must haves” and there is no escape. Only in Jesus who bore all the shoulds, the woulds and coulds, the musts of God’s Law are fulfilled.

 Nothing in my hand I bring but simply to Thy grace I cling.  This is what the Church forgot.  The blessed Reformers did not invent the doctrine of justification by faith alone through grace alone on account of Christ alone from whole cloth. This central doctrine is in the Scriptures ALONE from the get go,  even from creation  IN the beginning was the Word.  The church had come up with a DIY, do it yourself, religion, Oh, you have sinned,  you are forgiven but say 10 Hail Marys and see me in the morning, and that’s  a bad prescription: pre-script-tion. In fact another name for a prescription is “script”, root word of Scripture. They had added to Scripture false prescriptions as Scripture, e. g. the papacy.  The Council of Florence, 1439 said that he is,

“…the true Vicar of Christ, and the Head of the whole Church, and the Father and Teacher of all Christians; and that to him in blessed Peter was delivered by our Lord Jesus Christ the full power of pasturing, ruling, and governing the whole Church.”

The Pope replaces Jesus as the head of the Church. Sorry, Lord, guess you are not really at the right hand of the Father. The papacy is like an absolute monarchy. Jesus pastures, rules and governs the whole Church, yes, as our King but also the Good Shepherd, the Lamb who bore the sin of the world.  If it isn’t become clear yet, it should be in these days:  There is no hope in the Pope.  The pope is a bad prescription for what ails us. “If the Son sets you free…” Not the pope, nor Luther.  Nor spiritual fads, or human traditions and doctrines.   

Now a slogan is limited.  Yes, it is all about Jesus and  if so, Who is Jesus? Here is an excellent phrase you could add to your vocab if you don’t know it:  “the whole megillah”, not gorilla! The “whole megillah” is like the phrase, “the whole ball of wax”, that is everything is included in what you are talking about.  I bring up this phrase because of the word “megillah”.  “Megillah” is a Hebrew word meaning “scroll”, as in the megillah of the Torah, the first five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Jesus is the Word made flesh, the whole megillah. He is the whole megillah, the Word of the Father, made flesh, incarnate from the virgin’s womb all the way to the tomb and beyond, He is risen. Only He who the whole megillah, the Word made flesh, the One in whom the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell, could bear the sin of the world, not in the abstract but in human flesh, our flesh, to set us free flesh and spirit.  When He said, on the cross, It is finished, that is sin and death, He meant it because He did it, freely and for all..  It was not, It is finished BUT…

In Houston, one can visit the Rothko Chapel. Mark Rothko (1903-1970) was an abstract artist who was commissioned by Houston art collectors John and Dominique de Menil to create a “meditative space” employing his paintings.  The Rothko Chapel was completed in 1971, a year after the artist committed suicide.

Lutheran Gene Veith visited there and wrote:

“Described by its website as “a sacred space” open to all, for all faiths and all religions, the chapel is made of rather nondescript masonry and concrete.  Inside are eight walls surrounding benches.  On each wall are black panels, the artwork painted by Rothko.”

“You meditate by contemplating the black paintings.  There is no color.  Nothing organic or alive.  No windows to the outside.  No symbols or representations or anything that references anything in the world.  No meaning.  Nothing aesthetic.”

“Of course there wouldn’t be.  Rothko was an abstract artist.  But his chapel is a monument to religious abstraction.  This is “spirituality”:  disembodied, oblivious to anything physical or human.  Staring in the grey, empty space at the black panels is like shutting your eyes. Mr. Veith calls it the chapel of contemporary spirituality.”

A sister in Christ commented on this ‘chapel’:

That it is-Contemporary Spirituality. The void, emptiness, nothingness seems to permeate today’s world. And yet, there is brightness. Jesus, the Light of the World, shines through. He draws us through His Word, shows us the truth, and warms us with His love. Praise and thanks to God for His glorious love to us in Jesus!

Churches are filled with light, and flowers, and candles, and stained glass reflecting the Lord who created, redeemed and sanctifies us.

Today is also the Festival of St. Simon and St.Jude, two of Jesus’ apostles. Jude appears in John’s Gospel (14:22) on the night of our Lord’s betrayal and the beginning of His Passion, asking Jesus how it is that He will manifest Himself to the disciples but not to the world. The answer that Jesus gives to this question is a pertinent emphasis for this festival day: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Abide with us fast falls the eventide. Surely both Jude and Simon exemplified, in life and death, their love for Jesus and their faith in His Word. Not only are we thus strengthened in our Christian faith and life by their example, but, above all, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of the Lord in keeping His promise to them to bring them home to Himself in heaven. There they live with Him forever, where we shall someday join them.

Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor churches in captivity to the world, looking to the darkness, the black panels of false doctrine and despair, but held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free, freed to follow Him and free to serve.   Luther and the Reformers clearly preached the Word, not following a worldly church and worldly doctrine which does not save.  Too many churches preach fake good news, the Apostles preach the real good news of Christ Jesus for sinners, by grace alone, received through faith alone, known by Scripture alone.  They proclaimed the Name above all names. Next week is  All Saints Sunday, and the saints did not look to the world for their light and follow the glow of their spirituality but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6) Praise and thanks to God for His glorious love to us in Jesus!

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Dr. C. F. W. Walther

IntroductionA controversy that beset the nascent  Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod  (LCMS) was the use of the name “Lutheran”.  People said that we worship Luther or revere him as a prophet.  The first president  of the LCMS and first president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Dr. C.F.W. Walther responded in an article in Der Lutheraner in 1844.  I think this article is highly instructive for us beyond the presenting controversy.  In this quote, we see the reason we should separate ourselves from the less than salutary writings by the Reformer such as about the Jews but be instructed by him when he was in agreement with the Scriptures.

“…we do not call ourselves Lutherans after him in the same way that we are called Christians on account of Christ. We are not called such because we believe in Luther. As highly as we treasure this vigorous witness, in our church we still do not accept so much as a word in matters of faith simply because Luther said it. Rather, we accept his words only in the instance that it can be shown written clearly in the Word of God. We do not accept him as any apostle or prophet but rather we know that he was subject to error and sin like other men. He is not the head of our church. He is not our pope. Therefore whoever accepts everything in blind faith simply because Luther said it is separated from the true Lutheran church as far as earth is from heaven and day is from night.

Just as Luther refused any improper esteem in the church so our church has not improperly honored him. Just as it says in the beginning of the Formula of Concord, which is one of the most important public confession of the orthodox Lutherans:

We believe teach, and confess that the one rule and guide, according to which all doctrine and teachers should be judged is the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and new Testaments alone. Other writings of old and new teachers whatever their name should not be considered equal to the holy Scriptures, but rather all of them together one with another are subject to it and together are taken only as witnesses of how much and at which places after the time of the apostles such doctrine of the apostles and prophets were kept.

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Article of the Day

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Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Lessons:  Jeremiah 26: 1-16; Psalm 43;  1 Peter 1: 3-9;  John 15: 12-21

 Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

About Saints Simon and Jude:  In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14—16); Acts1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or ‘Cannanaean”) and by Jude (or “Judas,” not Iscariot but “of James”), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as missionaries to Persia, where they were martyred. It is likely for this reason, at least in part, that these two apostles are commemorated on same day. Simon is not mentioned in New Testament apart from the lists of twelve apostles. Thus he is remembered and honored for the sake of his office, and thereby stands before us—in eternity, as his life and ministry on earth—in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We give thanks to God for calling and sending Simon, along with Jude and all the apostles, to preach and teach the Holy Gospel, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (John 4:1-2; Matthew 10: 28:16-20; Luke .24: 46-49).

Jude appears in John’s Gospel (14:22) on the night of our Lord’s betrayal and the beginning of His Passion, asking Jesus how it is that He will manifest Himself to the disciples but not to the world. The answer that Jesus gives to this question is a pertinent emphasis for this festival day: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Surely both Jude and Simon exemplified, in life and death, their love for Jesus and their faith in His Word. Not only are we thus strengthened in our Christian faith and life by their example, but, above all, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of the Lord in keeping His promise to them to bring them home to Himself in heaven. There they live with Him forever, where we shall someday join them.

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: The Prayer of the Day above speaks of the “glorious company of the apostles” but of course by any worldly standard they were not glorious.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4: 13)  Not exactly a job recruitment pitch for the apostolic Church, unlike the ‘ministries’ we see wearily promoted on TV. Simon and Jude have no extant writings, scant mention in the Bible, no founders  of  ‘great’ ministries,  but the Lord called them to the one holy, catholic and evangelical Ministry.  Their glory, like ours, is a borrowed one, a given one, one given to sinners: the love and mercy of Jesus Christ which by the Lord, the Holy Spirit, in prayer,  we can make known as His glory in clay jars (see 2 Corinthians 4:6-8)

It is Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who provides a good commentary on the Apostles Simon and Jude and the apostolic Church from his book, The Cost of Discipleship, in this reflection on the Beatitude from St. Matthew 5.  Remember and note:  everything Bonhoeffer wrote was in the time in Germany of the rise of Nazism and the descent into darkness, yet most in Germany thought this was ‘light’ and ‘goodness’, the Nazis put men back to work, Germans were feeling good about Germany again and the like.  I am patriotic but I do not worship our country and neither are we to despise it.  I find Pr. Bonhoeffer’s  writings prescient in that they are so relevant and close to the bone in our day:

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”…By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity: He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate  oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that  for all jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise.

Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor a churches in captivity to the world, but held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free, freed to follow Him and free to serve.  Reformation Day is this Wednesday, 31 October (2017) and 500 years of apostolic preaching, teaching and serving.  Luther and the Reformers clearly preached the Word, not following a worldly church and worldly doctrine which does not save.  Too many churches preach fake good news, the Apostles preach the real good news of Christ Jesus for sinners, by grace alone, received through faith alone, known by Scripture alone.  Upcoming is All Saints Sunday, and the saints did not look to the world for their light and follow the glow of their “devices” but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6)

A blessed feast day to all in the Lord!

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Let us pray…

HATE CRIME: 8 Dead, 6 More Injured At Synagogue Shooting and the count is now 11

 

We pray for the Tree of Life Synagogue as they witnessed the merciless and brutal murder of fellow members of the Covenant on Sabbath in their synagogue.  We pray for the families of those murdered.  Let us ever remember as the Church the call of the Holocaust:  never again! Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

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Article of the Day

The Chapel of Contemporary Spirituality

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