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Archive for February, 2019

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And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.
  St. Luke 9: 33

Peter offering to build three tents would suggest that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were equals.  As many teach these days the Lord is equal to Mohammed and Buddha.  Jesus shone  alone  with unborrowed light and Moses and Elijah did not, neither did Buddha nor Mohammed.  And none of them died for sinners.  The voice of the Father puts His seal upon His Son by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, the one God.  This faith we must cling  to and keep as without  it we are lost and can not be saved. So Jesus brings Peter, and James and John, with their darkness into the light to be enlightened. “The Voice did not say:  ‘These are my beloved sons.  For One only is the Son; others are adopted.”—St. Augustine. The Christian is adopted in Holy Baptism.

 “…He asked them:  Whom do men say that the Son of man is, they said to Him: Some say Elijah;  some others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.  And so He led them up into a high mountain, and showed that he was not Elijah, but the God of Elijah;  that neither was He Jeremiah, but He had sanctified Jeremiah in his mother’s womb; that neither was He one of the prophets, but the Lord of the prophets, and he had that had sent them.”—St. Ephrem

But in another sense, He is not equal to Elijah, Moses, nor Mohammed.  In fact, He became less than Mohammed and Buddha and Joseph Smith and you and I.  The One who is greater than all became less than Moses and Elijah.  The One transfigured would be disfigured beyond recognition. as one from whom men hide their faces (Isaiah 53) He became sin who no sin. Jesus is the Way of the Lord to us.  He is love’s pure light shining on us in the darkness of sin and sadness, in the lowest place, on another hill called Skull, He bore the darkness of us all. We look to that forlorn mount where He bore our sin and not the mount of the Transfiguration.  We look to our hope from that Hill, not Capitol Hill. We look to Him the true temple, not these temples. He knew what He was doing when He took Peter, James and John up to the high mountain so it was clear as to the One who would be walking the way to the Cross and another set of three, the third day when Peter, James and John would finally report what happened that day on the high mountain apart. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, on the earth to lead us to heaven.

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Text: St. Luke 6: 27-38

Sixteen of the verbs in the Gospel Lesson are in the imperative mood: Love, do good, bless, pray, offer, give, do not demand, do, Judge not, etc.   If a deed is to be done, and it’s imperative, it is of central importance and urgent. Imperative is a command, not a gentle nudge.  All those imperative verb forms, love, do good, bless, pray, etc.  are all good and powerful actions.  The problem is the object of those verbs:  people who hate you, strike you on the face, steal the shirt off your back…your enemies.  There not the sort of people, I want to love! And Jesus is saying that’s the point.  Jesus says to love your enemies twice in this lesson. Jesus sums up these imperatives with another imperative:  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.  Why is this so imperative? 

First, these verbs and those on the receiving end of them, describe who the Lord is:  “…and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”  That’s mighty unsettling especially when  I think:  have I been ungrateful and downright nasty in thought, word and deed?  The Lord has been kind to me as well. But my first urgent imperative when someone has down me wrong is what?  Strike back!  Not turn the other cheek!  That’s unnatural!  But unnatural to the nature of sinful flesh.  In Genesis, Cain who killed his brother, had a son, Lamech.  To his wives one day, he boasts:

I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
    then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

I can see Lamech strutting as he said this!  I killed a man for “striking me”.  Now that’s a comeuppance.  This is not the Lord’s nature…neither for the redeemed in Christ. The Lord even protected Cain so he would not be revenged. The imperative to “Be Merciful” is the face that We live in an unmerciful, vengeful world. The cycle of vengeance and comeuppance can only be broken by the Lord’s mercy. Only God’s mercy in the Church’s preaching and teaching of the Word and the Word producing mercy in mercy’s perfect deed, Jesus Christ in us, can break the cycles of hate and revenge. The Lord is merciful.

Second, these verses and so many verses in the Bible, in the Lord’s words and deed we find out the exact nature of The Lord’s being:  mercy and grace. Your Father is merciful. Three times in this lesson the word “grace” is employed. “Hey, I didn’t hear or read the word “grace” in these lessons?”  You were listening!  In these three verses, the word translated as benefit or credit,is charis, grace:

  1. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit χάρις is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 3
  2. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit χάρις is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
  3. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit χάρις is that to you?

What does this mean?

In a Big Bang Theory episode, it’s Christmas and Penny gives the freakishly brilliant Sheldon, physicist, a gift.  For Sheldon, Horrors! Sheldon hates gift giving because of the law of reciprocity.  If I receive a gift, then I should give a gift of the same monetary value. Sheldon just expresses the tit for tat world with scientific precision.  We live in a tit for tat world. We know this:  You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.  “One good turn deserves another.”  And one bad turn deserves another But why did Penny give Sheldon a gift?  She cares for him and just wanted to give him a gift.  She expected nothing in return. We keep even the good stuff amongst ourselves in this tit for tat world.  That’s okay but the Lord wills His charis to spread to others, not hidden under a bushel basket, but the candle set on highest place in the house.  Even to those who don’t want it in our-let’s-make-a deal world.  It’s easy for us to be judging others, as we think the Lord must be like, to eternal damnation. But to live as the Lord in grace toward others is so different, to give just because it’s good and our neighbor needs it…as I do. That’s the thrust of these imperatives. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  We are to extend God’s charis, grace to and for others which will also redound to God’s grace we have also received. The Lord command His grace to be announced in Christ to all.

Third:    A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the short story “The Devil and Daniel Webster”.  It’s about Jabez Stone. Jabez is a down on his luck loser.  He’s barely making ends  meet until a stranger, Mr. Scratch, meets him with an offer.  If he would sign this paper he held, for seven years Jabez will have wealth, but then Mr. Scratch will come back to claim…Jabez’ soul.  It was an offer Jabez could not refuse.

The time comes, all too quickly, and Mr. Scratch is about return. Jabez approaches the great 19th century orator Dan’l Webster to plead his case before Mr. Scratch, that is, the devil. So the day arrives, midnight and Dan’l Webster is told by Mr. Scratch there will be a judge and jury…of the worse and most notorious of the 18th century:  murderers, traitors, molesters and the like. Dan’l Webster looked over these miscreanst:

It got to Dan’l in the end, and he began to heat, like iron in the forge. When he got up to speak he was going to flay that stranger with every trick known to the law, and the judge and jury too. He didn’t care any more what happened to Jabez Stone. He just got madder and madder, thinking of what he’d say. And yet, curiously enough, the more he thought about it, the less he was able to arrange his speech in his mind. Till, finally, it was time for him to get up on his feet, and he did so, all ready to bust out with lightnings and denunciations…

But before he started he looked over the judge and jury for a moment, such being his custom. And he noticed the glitter in their eyes was twice as strong as before, and they all leaned forward. Like hounds just before they get the fox, they looked, and the blue mist of evil in the room thickened as he watched them. Then he saw what he’d been about to do, and he wiped his forehead, as a man might who’s just escaped falling into a pit in the dark. For it was him they’d come for, not only Jabez Stone. He read it in the glitter of their eyes and in the way the stranger hid his mouth with one hand.

And here is the important part:

And if he fought them with their own weapons, he’d fall into their power; he knew that, though he couldn’t have told you how. It was his own anger and horror that burned in their eyes; and he’d have to wipe that out or the case was lost..

If we fight with the devil’s own weapons, and sin’s own weapons, we fall into their power. The case is lost and so are the lost! Dan’l Webster had to wipe out his own anger.  I think we live in an age of rage.  If we see the anger and horror of sin and evil in others,  it is in us as well and can flare up.  Love your enemies.  We are called to take up wholly and holy different weapons…of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, walking in the sturdy shoes of God’s peace in Christ. 

God’s mercy is for the weak and God’s mercy is by no means weak. The same man who preached our Gospel would love His enemies, us all, and bear the Cross and the weight of the sin of this world, as only God Himself can and did in the flesh in strength, power and majesty bearing our weakness of the strength of our flesh to despise.  We so need to disconnect from the weapons of the world in our struggle against the powers and principalities. We need to diffuse so many situations.  Wiping out anger is nigh on impossible to do. Twice in the 20th century the Lord’s command to Love your enemies was taken literally by a Hindu and a Christian, an Indian lawyer who practiced Law in South African, Mohandas K. Gandhi and a Baptist preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. The Lord commands us to love our enemies to diffuse the smoldering bombs of vengeance and anger but it can only be done in “…your Father who is merciful”.  The working out of the Father’s mercy is long and arduous.  Look at the 20 years, after Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers who wanted to murder to him. They are reconciled.  Christ alone is our peace.

How? 

pray for those who abuse you.  When we pray for those who abuse us are not let off the hook of God’s moral law and civil law.  Those who harass and mock, when prayed for, changes us.  Here too is someone for whom Christ died for and forgives, even when His forgiveness is rejected.  There are 16 imperative verbs in the Gospel lesson.  There is another place where the Lord employed the imperative, the prayer He taught us:  “Our Father, who art in heaven . . . hallow your name, bring your kingdom, give us bread, forgive our debts, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil.” We are not commanding God. It suggests that in the struggles in this world, prayer is an imperative. Even constantly.  Pray at all times.  Struggle not against flesh and blood but the cosmic rulers in the heavenly places. So did Joseph pray and did not forget in the strange land of Pharoah’s Egypt. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. 

Only God’s mercy in the Church’s preaching and teaching of the Word and the Word producing mercy in mercy’s perfect deed, Jesus Christ in us, can break the cycles of hate and revenge. Why? The Lord is merciful.

We are to extend God’s charis, grace to and for others which will also redound to God’s grace we have also received. Why?  The Lord is full of grace.

The Lord commands us to love our enemies to diffuse the smoldering bombs of vengeance and anger but it can only be done in “…your Father who is merciful”.  Look to Him upon the Cross and bearing the marks of the nails. Why?  Christ alone is our peace

Grace, mercy and peace in the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding guards your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The Greek word “kleros”, “lots”, is the basis of our English words “cleric”/clerical”, that is, a pastor or minister and “clerk”/”clerical. A pastor is not a chance or a gamble though for many a congregation they might tell you otherwise!

Concordia and Koinonia

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 of the Apostles 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…

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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. You can find out more about the Saint here (Issues, etc.) and here.

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 ‘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, and for us first; 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 or beheaded. So many, in society, and many churches want behead the head of the Church, His Body. 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.  On February 21, 2015, 21 Coptic Christians, in Libya were beheaded by ISIS on the shores of the Mediterranean. The ISIS terrorists demanded they renounced the Christian faith. They did not and ISIS derided them as, “People of the cross”. May we be so accused and with Polcarp, we can not blaspheme our King who has saved us but ever preach, teach and proclaim Him.

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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James (left) and Griffin are new cadets at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). After the ratline for a full semester, break-out was the first weekend in February. Congratulations and blessings on a job well done! Now they will be entering into Confirmation Instruction to be confirmed in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Please pray for these new cadets and confirmands and the fine educational and military work of VMI. Pray for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and her mission here, Concordia Lutheran Mission, and our ministry to college students.

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In 1943, C. S. Lewis had published an essay, “Equality”. You can find it here, along with a quote from The Screwtape Letters. These quotes are from “Equality”:

“Where men are forbidden to honor a king they honor millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead — even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served — deny it food and it will gobble poison.”

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Concordia and Koinonia

Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s scriptural studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wart­burg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith…

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