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Archive for March, 2019

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TEXTBrothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 4: 1)

St. Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to imitate him and  walk according to the example you have in us.  The Lutheran Confessions state we are to hold a three-fold honor to the saints of old:

“The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful businessmen, 5] Matt. 25:2123.

“The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see Peter forgiven after his denial, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20.

“The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 

It is clear this is from the Bible as seen in our Sermon Text. Patrick is an example of faith and virtue, always in that order  as faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the fount of the Holy Spirit forming in us virtue to the glory of the Father. The Lord forms His people in this world, through His Church. Bishop Patrick did not write in his Confession, I am so holy and look at all the good works which saved me,but  began by stating:  “I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many.” Bishop Patrick pointed to the Lord’s good work in Patrick.

The Church’s mission is Baptism.  St. Patrick, missionary Bishop, knew that. From his Confession:

“In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord—so many thousands of people.

The Lord did not send Patrick to the land of Eire to establish Irish national identity, drink green beer (itself a heresy!), get drunk in a pub and have another reason for “hooking-up”. He came to preach the Christ who sets us free from all of that and all sin and death and the power of the devil. His evangelism ‘campaign’ was Baptism:

“…one should, in fact, fish well and diligently, just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men[Matthew 4:19],” and again through the prophets: “Behold, I am sending forth many fishers and hunters, says the Lord [Jeremiah 16:16],” et cetera. So it behooved us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God, and so there might be clergy everywhere who baptized and exhorted a needy and desirous people. Just as the Lord says in the Gospel, admonishing and instructing: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of time [Matthew 28:19].”

He wrote a majestic poem that became a hymn on Holy Baptism as we sang this holy evening. Ireland had been evangelized prior to Patrick but it was through this servant of the Lord that the Faith was rooted.  Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was to the baptized who had wandered down false paths and dead ends to return to the waters. Patrick’s preaching of Christ was for the baptized to walk in the newness of life in Christ as a baptized son or daughter. Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was for the pagan to come to the waters, to bind unto themselves the strong Name of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ commanded His Church to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity, not in the Church’s name,nor Patrick’s nor Luther’s.  The baptism mission of the Church is obviously not fads and fashions, techniques and clever tactics to “get people into Church”.  Only the Lord ‘gets’ people into His Church. The Baptism is always into Jesus Christ and His Cross (see Romans 6: 1ff) and it is accomplished through those the Lord has called to preach, teach, baptize and preside at His Holy Table.

Patrick did not water down Holy Baptism!  He did not water down the doctrine and practice of the Church to “reach people”.  The land of Eire was pagan.  In 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul teaches that the gods and goddesses are demons.   Pagan means the thralldom of the powers of darkness, the demonic.  The Gospel saves us from wickedness around and about.  Way after Patrick, when there has been a mass murder as in the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, or someone wanting to cut off in their bodies their sexuality, or someone is beside herself with rage, we now say, They’re nuts, crazy, “have a problem”…in other words note how many times we all use psychological and therapeutic terms to describe evil. “He’s a narcissist.”  “She’s OCD”. “He is just insane.” “It’s not rational, that’s absurd.” Or irrational, yet the demonic is quite rational in it’s thinking in accordance with his falsehood and lies.   Some people do need the help of a trained  therapist, a counselor, but some need an exorcist.  Patrick was accompanied by exorcists.  The Church and the pagans had this in common:  they both knew there were wicked demonic powers at work but the Church did not BELIEVE in them for the One Lord in three  Persons conquered them and still does. Mr. Bury, his biography on St. Patrick (still in print) wrote in it, in 1905:

“…if Christianity had offered to men only its new theological doctrine with the hope of immortal life and its new ethical ideals, if it had come simple and unadorned, without an armory of mysteries, miracles, and rites, if it had risen to the height of rejecting magic not because it was wicked but because it was absurd, it could never have won half the world.

We can not accept the world’s philosophies and terms.  There is wickedness unleashed.  Pandemonium is unleashed. The word “pan-demonium”, means “all demons”. The power of the devil in men’s lives cannot be healed by therapeutic talk-therapies, but only cast out by the power of Christ.

Patrick’s God-given goal was not ‘outreach’ to people but preach the Word and out preach the devil,  so that people call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved, and the Lord’s means of grace:  Holy Baptism.   Patrick knew that he was a “jar of clay” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7), as he knew that the surpassing power was the Lord’s, the One who baptized him:

Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.

One of my favorite legends about Pr. Patrick was he was witnessing to a  powerful, pagan tribal chieftain who was stymied over the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  They were standing outside and Patrick bent over and plucked a shamrock and said, “The Trinity is like this shamrock:  3 leaves, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet one stem, one plant, one life”.  The color green is very closely associated with Patrick.

“Wearing of the green” and Everyone’s Irish are saying s on St. Patrick’s Day. “Wearing of the Green” was a protest song in an 18th century Irish rebellion. The Church must be in rebellion against the powers and principalities. “Wearing of the Green” can remind us of the color of the paraments  (altar cloths) for most of the Church year, that is, green during the many Sundays after Pentecost, which is during summer in the northern hemisphere.   Along with Patrick, we only come to life in the Lord, in Holy Baptism, in the Name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity.  Faith is the Lord’s utterly gracious gift.  It is evident in his Confession, Patrick knew his high calling despite his lowly station.  We are green and growing in Christ alone in the unity of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father (see Ephesians 4:12-14), baptized into His Name alone:   “…salvation is of Christ the Lord!” (St. Patrick’s Breastplate, “I Bind Unto Myself Today”, Lutheran Service Book, #604).   We are Irish in so far as a Christian is baptized into Christ Jesus along with our brother in the Lord, Pastor and Bishop Patrick.  Remember that Patrick was not even born in what we call Ireland!  We wear not the green of Ireland, but of our only Homeland coming into the world now by faith, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and when He comes again, then by sight.  Green is possible only because of the purple, the Lent of His sufferings and death, the Seed planted in the ground, see John 12:24and Mark 4:8.

The Church wears the “green” day in and day out, in the bloom of summer, in the dead of winter:  greening in the watering of His forgiveness by His grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8). When we forget our baptismal sojourn in the Holy Spirit and in His Word the Holy Scriptures, then we are lost. Patrick had a strong faith in the strong Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He was no debater of the age, but proclaimer of the age to come. Yes, wear the green today but do not forget to pray and make the sign of the Cross giving thanks to Lord our God, for the missionary bishop who baptized many. The Lord’s Cross points us home to the Holy Trinity.  

“But our citizenship is from heaven…” St. Paul knew a thing or two about citizenship. Twice in Acts, Luke reports that either Paul was beaten or about to be flogged, and he reminded the Roman soldiers, he was a Roman citizen.  The second time, the soldiers are aghast and they apologized to Paul and his apostolic company:  all Roman citizens.  With Roman citizenship came privileges, such as no torture or beatings.  Roman citizenship was obtained one of two ways:  born into it because of one’s parents or paying a hefty price for citizenship. Paul was born into it.  We can not purchase the price of citizenship of heaven by any financial means on earth.  The Lord freely paid for our citizenship by finishing His course for us by His blood shed upon the Cross and in Holy Baptism we are not born, but born from above into His rule, citizens of the Kingdom of God. The Lord does not willingly grieve or afflict His children; but they, as the apostles and martyrs can tell us, thi is a disputed citizenship.  We have no papers to prove our citizenship, except for the witness of Baptism, Bible and belief pointing us ever, as a compass, to our true homeland by His grace through the Holy Spirit. 

Friends of the Cross, the Lord by His resurrection has prepared our citizenship as we await Him from heaven.  Our salvation is fulfilled and on the Day will be completed.  Our bodies transformed to be like His glorious body. We ain’t seen nothing yet. When the Apostle wrote this to the Philippian Christians he used the full title and Name of the Lord:  the Lord Jesus Christ, the true ruler of our citizenry. His Name is the stamp and seal our citizenship.  Friends of the Cross, He is our strength for the journey by His love and mercy to finish our course.  “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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A quote from the beginning of The Confession of St. Patrick:

“Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.”

Intro: The quote below is from the novel The Hammer of God by Bp. Bo Giertz. It is about three different time periods of the life of a congregation in Sweden. The following scene is upon the arrival of the new young curate, (a second pastor in a parish), Pastor Fridfeldt with his new rector (lead pastor) who is old and rheumatic.  Pr. Fridfeldt is a “believer” who has been “awakened” during a revival. Please note it’s similarity to the quote above by St. Patrick!

Pr. Fridfeldt:But Sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved.”

Senior Rector: “You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. You see, my boy,” he continued reassuringly, as he continued to look at the young pastor’s face, in which uncertainty and resentment were shown in a struggle for the upper hand, “It is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, to give him one’s heart and commit oneself to him, and that he now accepts one into his little flock; it is a very different thing to believe in him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief. One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks his walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with him. That is how it is’”

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“I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ; he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.

I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people—and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers.

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“And if my own do not want to know me, well and good, “a prophet is not honored in his own country.” Indeed, perhaps we are not “from the same sheepfold,” or possibly we do not have “one and the same Father for our God.” As he says, “He who is not with me, is against me” and he who “does not gather with me, scatters.” We are at cross purposes: “One destroys; another builds.” “I do not seek things that are mine.” Not by my grace, but it is God “who has given such care in my heart,” so that I should be among “the hunters or fishers” whom God foretold “in those final days.” Jn. 4:44 Jn. 10:16 Eph. 4:6 Matt. 12:30 Ecclus. 34:23I Cor. 13:5 11 Cor. 8:16

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And they have conquered (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12:11

About Perpetua and Felicitas and their Companions:

At the beginning of the third century, the Roman emperor Septimus Severus forbade conversions to Christianity. Among those disobeying that eo their faith with such conviction that the officer in charge became a follower of Jesus. No saints are more uniformly honored in all the early calendars and martyrologies than these African martyrs. In 202 the emperor Septimus Severus forbade conversions to Christianity and harsh per­secution ensued. Arrested in Carthage were Vibia Perpetua, a noble­woman from Thuburbo, twenty-two years old; her infant child; Felic­itas, a pregnant slave; Revocatus, a slave; Saturninus; Secundulus.  There were ­all catechumens. Later their catechist, Saturus, was arrested also. While under house arrest they were baptized.After making arrangements for the well-being of their children, Perpetua and Felicitas were executed on March 7, 203. Tradition holds that Perpetua showed mercy to her captors by falling on a sword because they could not bear to put her to death. The story of this martyrdom has been told ever since as an encouragement to persecuted Christians. Here is the record of the martyrdom:

First the heifer tossed Perpetua and she fell on her back. Then sit­ting up she pulled down the tunic that was ripped along the side so that it covered her thighs, thinking more of her modesty than of her pain. Next she asked for a pin to fasten her untidy hair: for it was not right that a martyr should die with her hair in disorder, lest she might seem to be mourning in her hour of triumph.Then she got up. And seeing that Felicitas had been crushed to the ground, she went over to her, gave her her hand, and lifted her up. Then the two stood side by side.. . . but the mob asked that their bodies be brought out into the open that their eyes might be the guilty witnesses of the sword that pierced their flesh. And so the martyrs got up and went to the spot of their own accord as the people wanted them to go, and kissing one another they sealed their martyrdom with the ritual kiss of peace. The others took the sword in silence and without moving, especially Saturus, who being the first to climb the stairway, was the first to die. For once again he was waiting for Perpetua. Perpetua, however, had yet to taste more pain. She screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat. It was as though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself were willing.

Amen.
Reflection: An early Christian writer, Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220) famously penned “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  The first church buildings were erected over the sites of martyrdom, as was the case of Perpetua and Felicitas  after Christianity became a legal religion after AD312.
We erect church buildings in our day after a church building committee has taken in consideration all sorts of factors but this one is major: visibility with good parking.  Now parking is important and convenient. But it is a sobering reminder that the first basilicas, etc. were not built according to convenience, but to honor the witness of the martyrs. Martyrdom is not convenient, only expedient for the persecutor, or  so such a person, government etc. thinks.

For a long time now we have marketed convenience in our churches. This convenience Christianity was to make it easier for a person to join. I remember an eastern European Lutheran pastor, who served under the atheistic, Communist East Germany, saying he was rather shocked by padded pews here in our country. Now we are shocked that ‘all of a sudden’, Christians are no longer welcome to the world’s table. We issued convenient entreaties for our churches and our services, and ‘ministries’, only to discover no one cared.

Why? As we made church life a bowl full of cherries, so we made convenient the Lord’s precious truths. The invitation on many church street signs has, “Everyone Welcome”. It’s is true, but it became “everyone welcome” without repentence and catechesis (education). The Lord’s Supper became a happy meal, not the giving of His Body and Blood for forgiveness and strengthening of faith and sanctification. Would anyone risk martyrdom for our inalienable right to pot-lucks, picnics and positive experiences? We wanted to fit in and found out we were not faithfully fit. We put the light of the Lord under a bushel basket. Biblical illiteracy is at an all time low.

Perpetua and her companions were bright with Christ’s own light, that is the joy of the grace of forgiveness in the God who died and rose for us all: this is the heart of Lent. I heard a janitor in a Lutheran church in East Berlin, under the thumb of Communism, state that at that time Church does not leave the four walls of the church building. We still do not have those constraints. Maybe Perpetua and her companions were bringing the light of the Gospel outside of their Services where it was lit. Lord, bring forth in our lives a witness to your Gospel, your salvation , to You, O Savior of mankind.

Ah, most valiant and blessed martyrs! Truly are you called and chosen for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord! And any man who exalts, honors, and worships his glory should read for the consolation of the Church these new deeds of heroism which are no less signifi­cant than the tales of old. For these new manifestations of virtue will bear witness to one and the same Spirit who still operates, and to God the Father almighty, to his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom is splendour and immeasurable power for all the ages. Amen.

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What is Lent?

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