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Archive for November, 2018

“God does not justify ungodliness but the ungodly.”

Concordia and Koinonia

Introduction:  On this date in 2004, at a joint chapter retreat of the Society of the Holy Trinity in HickoryNorth Carolina,  a dear mentor and friend, Pastor Louis A. Smith died.   He was born in New Jersey and married to Helen.  They have four daughters.  Lou could preach in German, sight translate Greek and Hebrew and knew other languages. He was a campus minister, parish pastor, writer and spent three years teaching the Confessions in Namibia.  He loved British football.  He was also the funniest person I ever knew.  He knew the Lutheran Confessions as he knew the stats for his beloved N. Y. Yankees…even better! He was a faithful pastor and theologian of the Church. He is a major reason why I stayed in the Lutheran Church, leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and reunited with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The following quotes are…

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Noah Icon

Icon of Noah in the Baptistry, Kramer Chapel, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN

Almighty and eternal God,  according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all.  Grant that we may be kept safe and secure  in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life,through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20).  Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would. (From LCMS website)

Genesis 6:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 

The first mortal sin was murder when Cain killed his brother Abel. This image is of a sculpture at the Chrysler Art Museum, Norfolk, VA, entitled The First Funeral. The murder was not the result of gun violence but the violence in the heart, that is, the will.  Anger and violence unleashed upon the earth by Adam and Eve wanting to control good and evil, but it is evil that controls.   When the Lord sees the violence upon the earth, the violence is not some statistic for analysis , but the flesh and blood of sin and the mourning that results from violence. The act of violence is preceded by the thought and the word, as when the Lord says to Cain,

“Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Anger precedes the murder and as the Lord Jesus clearly taught anger at one’s brother is murder.  “We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed.”  Cain did not seek the Lord to help him rule over his anger and quell it in the Lord’s mercy.  Cain was set on being merciless as he sought to quench his anger but killing it’s supposed cause:  his brother. Murder never solves and stops anger. This only starts the downward spiral of vengeance (see Genesis 4: 22-24).  So when the Lord looked upon His own beloved and good creation, he saw the scene of Cain multiplied by the thousands desiring to kill in anger and then murdering. 

We are living in an angry world that has institutionalize anger as the raison d’etre, the reason of the existence of the subject matter of so much in the media, radio, conversation, internet, especially blogs and Facebook.  Why so much violence that we look upon?  The Old Adam desires it.  The Lord makes in us His righteousness through grace received by faith in His Son. 

 James 1: “19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

If anger produced the righteousness of God, then we would be living in the most pious age of mankind, but we are not.  (For a full treatment on the Biblical understanding of anger, a must read: The Myth of “Righteous Anger”: What the Bible Says About Human Anger by Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, Professor of NT at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO)

God’s judgment came upon mankind through the Lord’s Word of Law to the earth: the flood.  The Lord’s grace came to mankind in the One the Lord sent for  the earth:  His Son Jesus who as our brother would be killed by our sin.  He alone produces the righteousness of God in our hearts and souls and quenches the fire of anger in our hearts. We can not control our anger as we ought.  As Noah and his family came through the flood, so we have come through the flood of Holy Baptism to rest in the holy ark of Christ’s Church to go forward in the new covenant, Christ’s testament of His body and blood for sinners.  Cling in faith in the Lord and his promise fulfilled in your baptism: “Baptism, which corresponds to this (Noah and the flood), now saves you”(1 Peter 3: 20-22). Pray and we are encouraged by the Lord to pray.

O God,
because without you we are not able to please you,
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

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Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

1. If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.

 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing?

  1. What can these anxious cares avail thee,

    These never-ceasing moans and sighs?

    What can it help if thou bewail thee

    O’er each dark moment as it flies?

    Our cross and trials do but press

    The heavier for our bitterness.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

  1. Be patient and await His leisure

    In cheerful hope, with heart content

    To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure

    And His discerning love hath sent,

    Nor doubt our inmost wants are known

    To Him who chose us for His own.

 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

  1. God knows full well when times of gladness

    Shall be the needful thing for thee.

    When He has tried thy soul with sadness

    And from all guile has found thee free,

    He comes to thee all unaware

    And makes thee own His loving care.

  2. Nor think amid the fiery trial

    That God hath cast thee off unheard,

    That he whose hopes meet no denial

    Must surely be of God preferred.

    Time passes and much change doth bring

    And sets a bound to everything.

 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

  1. All are alike before the Highest;

    ‘Tis easy to our God, we know,

    To raise thee up, though low thou liest,

    To make the rich man poor and low.

    True wonders still by Him are wrought

    Who setteth up and brings to naught.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

  1. Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,

    Perform thy duties faithfully,

    And trust His Word, though undeserving,

    Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.

    God never yet forsook in need

    The soul that trusted Him indeed.

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Concordia and Koinonia

“The entire Bible tells us that Christians are called to be involved in the world.  But again, we have to understand what is meant by that.  We are there to give testimony about a justification which washes away sin but which never makes it legitimate…”

“If God loved the world, it is because the world was not lovable and good. If God reconciled the world to himself, it is because the world was in a state of rebellion and rejection. It is not yet the Kingdom.  The works of the world remain works of darkness, but darkness into which a light has come, which does not validate or justify the darkness.”

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), The False Presence of the Kingdom (first published in 1963).  Mr. Ellul  was a French sociologist and member of the Reformed Church in France

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“Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord…”

Concordia and Koinonia

Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr’s death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God’s redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. (from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, see Blogroll…

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Heather’s Grandmother from Texas made this banner for Heather’s Confirmation.  The Sermon Text is also Heather’s Confirmation verse which was hung on the Mission’s free standing cross made from last year’s Christmas tree.

Hebrews 10:  23:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.   κατέχωμεν τὴν ὁμολογίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἀκλινῆ, πιστὸς γὰρ ὁ ἐπαγγειλάμενος:

The Greek word for “confession” is  ὁμολογία.  ὁμο” , homo, means the“same”.  “λογία” or “word”, as in the Word of God.  When we confess our hope we are saying thesame Word.  Heather is about to confessthe faith delivered to the saints once and for all.  This confession is not first our work. It always the very work of the Holy Spirit through preaching and teaching of the Word ofGod.  Heather will confess for her ownthe ancient words of the Apostles’ Creed. She will be saying the same words the Church has been saying for 2,000years, old and yet ever new and renewing. The confession of hope is the confession Jesus is the Lord.  “Jesus is the Lord” is seed of faith whichthe Holy Spirit waters with the Word to the glory of God the Father.  Our hope is in the Lord who made heaven andearth.  The confession of hope is theconfession of faith.

In Luke chapter 5, Jesus encourages Peter and his fellow fishermen to let their nets into the deep, after a night of catching nothing, Peter did so.  They found their nets breaking for the weight of the huge catch. They had to get another boat and yet both boats began to sink. When Peter, overwhelmed by the great miracle, Peter falls to his knees at the presence of Jesus, he addresses Jesus for the first time as “Kyrie”, LORD. This confession is at the same time a confession of his sinfulness: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). In deepest humility only can we acknowledge Jesus as Christ and Lord. On the other hand, the confession of faith is praise of God. It is prayer.

Please note:  In the Bible, Confession of faith, the confession of sin the confession of the praise of God and these three confessions belong together and, “… a threefold cord is not quickly broken”.

There is an old saying which is true that “Confession is good for the soul”.   A character in a sci fi TV show said,  “They say confession is good for the soul. Good thing none of us have one anymore.”  That is a frightening quote as well it should be.

36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?

Jesus is saying we can lose our soul which is eternal death. The world beckons with it’s allures and we make the devil’s bargain:  sell our soul. A man can give nothing in return for his soul. The Lord gives, and the Lord alone: The wrong has beent aken by Jesus, the lamb of God, upon the Cross. As it is also written in Hebrews: 

 “…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.” 

In the confession of sin, we are saying, homologia, the same word which is about the iniquity of our sin.  Even more we are hearing the homologia, the same Word of Grace in the forgiveness of our wrong and trespassi n the Lord’s Holy Name because of Christ upon the Cross. And so in the Divine Service, immediately follows the Entrance Hymn, a hymn of praise. We praise You, we confess You to be the Lord.

  1. there is the Confession of faith, “Confession is good for the soul”
  2. and there is the confession of sin ,“Confession is good for the soul”
  3. and the confession of the praise of God, and “Confession is good for the soul”.

These days we need the encouragement to “hold fast the confession of hope”.  Why? Three aspects of hope that I came up with:

  1. Hope points us to the Kingdom come, not our rule, our fiefdoms and our anxieties over them. Will Australia and the United States last forever?  We sweat over this question. No, the Lord every week in the Divine Service points us away from ourselves.  Our Father who are in heaven Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever. 
  2. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  Romans 5: 5 Hope does not fail, because the love of God as He is faithful does not fail, even when we do.
  3. Confession is verbal.  The confession of hope will encourage a fellow Christian, and the proclamation of faith can bring an unbeliever to faith.

Confession of faith is not only entwined with confession of sin and the praise of God, a three-fold cord, Confession is also in this world dangerous. Look at the martyrs and prophets.  All  the first church buildings were built where a saint in Christ made his or her good confession and was martyred. 

The confession of faith to confess Christ is dangerous. It involves a risk of life. Still more dangerous is it to deny Christ. This can happen very easily, as is indicated by the fact that Peter, the first confessor, became the first to deny his Lord, as in which later incurred ex-communication. More dangerous is it because eternal death may follow. For we confess not only before a human judgment seat, but also before the judgment seat of God. Confession and denial follow us into eternity. There the earthly confession will be followed by the heavenly confession, not only by the eternal praise of God in the church triumphant, but also by the confession of Christ: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” As our confession is the answer to the question of our Lord,so His confession will be the answer to every faithful confession made here on earth.

A confirmand is asked a pointed question:  Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? And there is only one answer, one confession of prayer:  I do, by the grace of God.  How can we answer such a question?   Only His grace can foil the tempter’s power.  This grace in which we stand is the only way we can make such a vow.  The three fold cord of the confession of faith, sin and praise is the Holy Spirit’s tether to hold us tight to the dear Lord Jesus Christ.  The before and after of today’s sermon text spells out the Lord’s amazing grace:

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

Not by the sacrificial blood of animals, your blood, not mine, not even the blood of the martyrs:  God’s blood.

 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

The way has been paved, opened for us, into the house  of God, the living temple named by the Lord the Church, His body.  The kingdom of heaven is open to all believers.

 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

I’m not a priest.  I’m a pastor as are many who are called. There is one priest, a great priest, the great high Priest, who gives us the Sacrament of His very body and blood which Heather will receive for the first time this day. The great high priest presides over His house, not bishops and pastors, we are but stewards of His grace.

 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,

The phrase from the confession of sin, Let us draw near with a true heart is gloriously plagiarized from Scripture. A true heart confesses his sin, confesses his faith in the One who by His blood washed us clean and praises Him for His amazing grace.

with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 

Heather, your mother and father had you baptized. And evil conscience cleansed, and body  washed with the pure water of His Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Lord’s baptizing us is  one way work to you, to us all.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

The Lord’s Word is profoundly simple as to the reason we can confess His Holy Name:  “he who promised is faithful”.  We will have doubts and misgivings and even denials…

 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 

            Encourage,related in Greek to comfort, exhort, counsel. Let us do so as this little Mission moves to her new location.  We are all encouraged by this confirmation this day as a fitting way for the last Sunday here. The confession of the Fait hin the Holy Trinity who baptizes us points us ever in hope “and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

(The insight of the three fold confession of faith, sin, and praise is from an essay by Rev. Dr. Hermann Sasse which can be read here.)

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Elizabeth  of Hungary, born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given in an arranged political marriage, she became wife of Louis of Thuringia (Germany) at age 14.Her spirit of Christian generosity and charity pervaded the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Their abode was known for hospitality and family love.Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy, even giving up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at age 20, she arranged for her children’s well-being and entered into life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

I work part time as the local chaplain for a hospice.  Note that the words hospice, hospital and hospitality all are related.  Their root word is “hospes”, that is host.  All three of these related words have to do with being a host.  As a chaplain, I am a guest in many homes of dying family member and the family member is my host.  A hospital, the host,  welcomes guests…quite a different understanding than patients!  Many a hospital guest will note the care of especially the nursing staff, as do hospice patients,because they are welcomed and taken care of.   Hospitality is a requirement of a pastor and a bishop:  to welcome friends and strangers to his home as guests.  It is hard work to be a host: food,linen and beds, wounds of body and soul.  

 It is easy to say that government should take care of the  refugee, immigrant or the foreigner and pat one self on the back that I am caring!  It’s another thing to actually love your neighbor, one to one,  as Christ has served us and serves us daily.  Elizabeth of Hungary knew that.  She was royal as a faithful wife and mother and as one who served the poor.

For instance, Luther and his wife and family were quite hospitable in opening their home to all sorts of people. The Luthers would have at a given moment, 30 -40 guests at table:  seminarians, refugees from religious persecution, visiting professors and pastors. It says in the Bible a pastor is be hospitable.  It is not first for the next guy’s home, but our own.  I see this sign on churches and nice houses in our town:

sign

Maybe the hosts of these homes and churches do welcome the immigrant, the stranger,the persecuted.  Again, it’s easy to say I back some politically correct policy and never welcome a stranger into my home.

Elizabeth of Hungary, and Martin Luther in the quote below teach us in word and deed the Biblical understanding of hospitality and it is hands on, not hands off letting someone else doing it, especially government! After all, our salvation was and is “hands on”, nail-imprinted Hands.  

Reflection by Dr. Martin Luther:
This is … an outstanding praise of hospitality, in order that we may be sure that God Himself is in our home, is being fed at our house, is lying down and resting as often as some pious brother in exile because of the Gospel comes to us and is received hospitably by us. This is called brotherly love or Christian charity; it is greater than that general kindness which is extended even to strangers and enemies when they are in need of our aid…. For the accounts of the friendships of the Gentiles, like those of Theseus and Hercules, of Pylades and Orestes, are nothing in comparison with the brotherhood in the church; its bond is an association with God so close that the Son of God says that whatever is done to the least of His is done to Himself. Therefore their hearts go out without hypocrisy to the needs of their neighbor, and nothing is either so costly or so difficult that a Christian does not undertake it for the sake of the brethren, … But if anyone earnestly believed that he is receiving the Lord Himself when he receives a poor brother, there would be no need for such anxious, zealous, and solicitous exhortations to do works of love. Our coffers, storeroom, and compassion would be open at once for the benefit of the brethren. There would be no ill will, and together with godly Abraham we would run to meet the wretched people, invite them into our homes, and seize upon this honor and distinction ahead of others and say: “O Lord Jesus, come to me; enjoy my bread, wine, silver, and gold. How well it has been invested by me when I invest it in You!” 

For our Daily Prayers:  

for the poor

for the sick and suffering

for the unemployed

Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary.  She scorned her bejeweled crown with thoughts of the thorned one her Savior donned for her sake and ours, that we too, might live a live of sacrifice, pleasing in Your sight and worthy of the Name of Your Son, Christ Jesus, who with the Holy Spirit reigns with You forever in the everlasting kingdom. Amen.

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