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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

When I was at  Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee (now Concordia University, Mequon Wisconsin), I took the one credit course on Lutheran Hymnody.   Professor “Ollie” Ruprecht pointed out that Bach’s library had around 80 volumes in it. Prof. Rupprecht pointed out that books were quite expensive and about 60  of those volumes were books of orthodox Lutheran theology.  Orthodox Lutheran theology is all about proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.  And so did Bach through music in the beauty of holiness.

One of Bach’s most marked set of volumes was Abraham Calov’s 3 book set of Luther’s Bible, with Calov’s commentary.  Bach, spending a large part of a year’s salary, purchased a 7 volume edition of Luther’s writings which Calov has based his commentary.  Calov wrote regarding Luther:

“It hinders a preacher greatly if he wants to look around and concern himself with what people want to hear and not hear.”

Bach double-marked that sentence for emphasis (Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines).  We need to double-mark that quote today.  

That sentence also sums up Bach’s understanding of music.  He would mark on his scores AMG, ad mairorem Dei, to the greater glory of God. He has been called, after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 5th evangelist.  In his day, he was not known beyond Germany. After his death,  his music was rediscovered.  His output for 27 years in Leipzig for 4 churches was massive.  Bach’s music still preaches.Bach’s texts usually were the Bible as he put the Scripture to music. This is true Christian music.

In his day, the Enlightenment, ‘modern’ music was suppose to reflect how the composer felt and what the people wanted to hear.  Sound familiar?  On NPR, they will have a segment that I call OMS, the obscure musical segment when the artist intros his/her work and tells us what “he is trying to do”, or what he was feeling at the time of composition. Not for J. S. Bach:  it was to proclaim the Gospel which is the sheer beauty of the Lord. Bach did not listen to what people wanted, but what he heard was the Lord’s commands and promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and he knew the Lord’s second best gift, music.  “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise” (Luther).   Bach’s talent at the organ and as a composer was wanted by the Church and he was not popular in the courts of public taste, but being popular in the world is never the goal, Christ is.

Only two of Bach’s works were ever published in his life time. In the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received.The Word of the Lord endures forever and the Lord gave Johann a gift that he did use to His greater glory  and the joy of the Church, which is always,  “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring”. In an episode of M*A*S*H, Radar falls for a nurse who is quite cultured and loves classical music.  He goes to Hawkeye and Trapper for lessons about classical music.  Hawkeye gives Radar the names of some composers and then says, “…then if she mentions Bach, just say, ‘Ahhh, Bach’”. We also can say, Ahhh, Bach! And better:  thank you Lord for music!

Thank-you Lord for Bach and all church organists, choir directors, choirs and musicians who also through music, especially Bach’s, proclaim the eternal Gospel. Open the ears and hearts of church councils, parish councils and sessions to pay their organists well as they lead Your holy people in the Divine Service.  Amen.

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Artwork, such as this statue from St. Michael’s Church, Hamburg, Germany, portrays St. Michael casting out Lucifer, aka Satan, Father of lies, Devil etc., as recorded in Revelation 12: 7-12. Artists have added the Cross to the Scripture passage, though not recorded in Holy Writ in the Revelation passage. Yet, it is true: by Christ’s death and resurrection, the devil is put to flight in the Lord’s mercy toward us sinners.

Prayer of the Day

Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

About St. Michael and All Angels:    The name of the archangel St. Michael means “Who is like God?” Michael is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (12:1), as well as in Jude (v. 9) and Revelation (12:7). Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against the forces of evil. In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight against and defeat Satan and the evil angels, driving them from heaven. Their victory is made possible by Christ’s own victory over Satan in His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Revelation 12:10). Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the other chief angels or archangels who surround the throne of God. Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians at the hour of death. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

LessonsDaniel 10: 10-14  Psalm 91   Revelation 12: 7-12  St. Matthew 18: 1-11 or St. Luke 10: 17-20

Reflection on Revelation 19:   The angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

and

Hebrews 1: 14: Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

God’s Word is clear.   The Greek word for “angel”, literally means “messenger”.  In many icons, John the Baptist is portrayed with wings to remind us that John as the angels brought God’s Word to people on earth. Yet when angels bring God’s Word to mortals, there is knee-knocking fear because they reflect the glory of God.  This is why Gabriel first had to say to Mary, Fear not.  

The Scripture is equally clear:  angels are humble.  As it is written in Revelation 19, when John wants to worship the angel, the angel bluntly states, “You must not do that!”  Angels and saints in heaven are not to be worshiped, that is, prayed to and invoked, as too many churches do to this day.  I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God. Prayer is organically part of worship.  Since an angel did not want worship and prayer from John, since only the Lord is to be so worshiped and invoked in prayer,  then it would follow that the saints in heaven do not and should not be named in prayer.  Yet, the saints  as the angels are in the communion  around the throne of the Lamb  and as a whole, do pray for us, His Church, and those prayers are compared with incense ascending to the Lord, cf.  Revelation 5:8,Revelation 8:3,Revelation 8:4.   

It is also clear from the Bible:  Angels hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Further, we read in Hebrews angels serve us mortals.  Mortals, who by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, received through faith in the work of the Holy Spirit, are inheritors of salvation. Angels  are luminous servants and messengers of the Most High, are our fellow servants holding to the  witness of Christ!  In Greek, “Gospel” literally means  good message, the Gospel of Christ Jesus:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. Revelation 14: 6

We are not alone: I think when popular articles about UFOs and ETs, begin with, “we are not alone”, it is strange and sad science fiction comfort that is sought:  we are not alone in the vast universe. But the Lord has told us this for  centuries, the millenia:  we are not alone. This is God’s own truth.  His angels keep us safe and watch over us, serving us frail mortals.  The angels know they did not die for sinners.  The angels saw what happened when one of their own wanted to be worshiped as God, that is, Lucifer (literally, light bearer).  The angels know that God’s own Son did not die and rise for them, but for the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve, who fancy themselves as ‘stars’, wanting to be “like God”, following the angel hosts’ fallen brother’s lie (see Genesis 3). Again, the name  Michael means,  “Who is like God?”  Answer: not Michael, but the Son of Joseph, the Son of God: Jesus. The angels know they can not bring another Gospel (see Galatians 1:8), but they give witness to the Gospel of the Son’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, the “eternal Gospel”,  for us all to see and come to faith, see Revelation 14:6.

We are not alone. This is comfort to the Lord’s redeemed people that God is One, yet the Lord Himself is not alone.  “Glorious is God with His angels and saints, O Come, let us worship Him” (invitatory for daily prayer).  The Lord, the blessed and holy Trinity, wants His kingdom filled with the redeemed.  Every Holy Communion the pastor prays with the Congregation from the liturgy the Sanctus, the thrice-holy:   The Biblical insight is that when we tally how many were at worship on a given Sunday, we can not count, as the Congregation sings in the Sanctus (holy):

Pastor:   ” with angels and archangels and all the company heaven, lauding and magnifying Thy Holy Name, ever more praising Thee and saying,

Congregation: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, LORD GOD OF SABOATH , HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE FULL OF THY GLORY. HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST.” (part of the prefaces in the Divine Service).

We are not alone, we are baptized into the  Holy Communion, not by an angel from heaven, but from one of the Lord’s messengers, your pastor, in the  communion of the whole Church on earth and angels and archangels and  all the saints in heaven!

A blessed Feast Day to all!

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Lutheran Pastor and Professor Hermann Sasse observed that in the first two centuries of the Church, the pagan world had great and mighty religious rites, but compared to the Church, her rites were and are so simple:   bread, wine, water and through it all the Word of God and the crucified and Risen Christ.  Truly, what we  actually are, that is,  who we are is Who’s we are. It’s not scary and we don’t have to be scary.  Maybe it shows from Whom comes great a grace, so great a salvation.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  (2 Corinthians 4:6-8 English Standard Version)

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One of Aesop’s Fables

THE BEASTS of the field and forest had a Lion as their king. He was neither wrathful, cruel, nor tyrannical, but just and gentle as a king could be. During his reign he made a royal proclamation for a general assembly of all the birds and beasts, and drew up conditions for a universal league, in which the Wolf and the Lamb, the Panther and the Kid, the Tiger and the Stag, the Dog and the Hare, should live together in perfect peace and amity. The Hare said, “Oh, how I have longed to see this day, in which the weak shall take their place with impunity by the side of the strong.” And after the Hare said this, he ran for his life.

Even though the Lion had done nothing to threaten the lives of his subjects, not doing something bad is not the same as proving it, proving the Lion’s goodness, so the Hare ran.  There is a Lion who not merely laid down with the lamb, but He laid down His life for the Lamb…and the Hare, and the Panther and the Kid, the Tiger and the Stag, the Dog and the Hare.  In fact, the Lion became a Lamb, God’s Lamb, to reconcile all to Himself so that their warfare is ended. The Lion’s life is His Word to us all. The Lion’s life itself is the basis of the true Kingdom of the Lion.  This Lion is not a tame Lion but He has shown that He does not devour but gives Himself for the life of His kingdom and His animals, great and small.

The Apocalypse to John (Revelation), chapter 5:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

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My brother-in-law had this ale and was a little vexed by the name of the ale…but the problem is the use of the name in conjunction with the graphic:

The graphic shows what looks like  a drop of blood, with the word “ale”, going into a chalice.  Needless to say, no “brewer’s art” can do this.  I wonder what were the brewers thinking about?!  Ale is good, but it’s not the Word of God!  This borders on bad taste, at least. 

Yet it could be corrected:  change the word “ale” to “Christ” or a picture of a cross, showing that from the crucified and risen Lord Jesus comes the “Blood of the New Testament”, the Holy Communion.  Johnny Hart pictured this Biblical truth another way  in his comic “B.C.”:B.C. Empty Tomb CommunionAttend the Divine Service tomorrow,”… in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered”! (From Article VII, The Augsburg Confession)  His hands blessed the bread and gave the Cup of the new testament in His blood, as the Word is preached, FOR YOU!

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The Prayer of the Day

O  Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The Old Testament Reading for the Day: Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 45: 7-17

The Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 10: 4-10

The Gospel Reading for the DayLuke 1:26-38

The Annunciation of Our Lord:  The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that God has shown her favor and will use her as the means for the Messiah’s birth. So Mary conceives Jesus when the angel says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This same Spirit who hovered over the waters and brought forth creation (Genesis 1:2) will now “hover over” the waters of Mary’s womb to conceive the creation’s Redeemer. As the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, she conceives Jesus “through her ear” (as Martin Luther says). The one who is conceived is called Holy, the Son of God. This is the moment of the incarnation of our Lord. The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person’s conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Luther preached that the greatest miracle this day was not that the Virgin conceived, but she believed.  The conception was an oral one, through the ear.  “Let it be according to Thy Word” and this Word is the Word of the Lord, the Promise, the Gospel, the Good News.  The Annunciation, or the Announcement, was without fanfare, no media crowding about, no Tweets, no TV cameras in the hick town of Nazareth. This announcement was quiet as a silent night yet spoke and would speak volumes. This announcement is for the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary and this announcement is for the beloved Son’s tomb one day for us to hear another angel’s announcement: He is not here. He is risen!  These annunciations of the Word is for us to hear so that the Lord is conceived in us in the same faith as the Virgin Mary:  “Let it be according to Thy Word”:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10)

This announcement of the free and freeing forgiveness of sinners from the One. 

“…who was
 conceived
 by
 the 
Holy 
Spirit,
born
 of
 the
 virgin
 Mary,
suffered
 under 
Pontius
Pilate,
was
 crucified,
died
 and 
was 
buried.
He
 descended
 into
 hell.
The
 third 
day
 He 
rose
 again
 from 
the
 dead.
”(From the 2nd Article of the Apostles Creed)

This Annunciation has gone forth and still is  into the world: through the ear and into the heart, knowing the heart is a rusty tin can of sin,  and  made new in Jesus Christ by His grace alone, faith saving through the Word, taught, preached, administered in the Sacraments.  In the world of grand announcements and annunciation of sin and death, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary and Son of the Father, is for our  renunciation of the world, the flesh and the devil in the Annunciation to the Virgin. As Mary, we with the Virgin Mary,as His Church, share in the same faith as Mary in her Son, our Son as well, that prays: “Let it be according to Your Word”.  

 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9)

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Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s (1794-1872) depiction of the Israelites cross the Jordan River on dry ground as priests hold the Ark of the Covenant in the center of the river. From the Pitt Theological Library, Digital Archives, Emory University. Scripture Reference: Joshua 3

Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Joshua 3: 11

About Joshua:  Today we remember and thank God for His faithful servant, Joshua. Joshua, the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, is first mentioned in Exodus 17 when he was chosen by Moses to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. He was placed in charge of the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 33:11) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent to survey the land of Canaan (Num 13:8). Later, he was appointed by God to succeed Moses as Israel’s commander-in-chief. He eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and directed the Israelites’ capture of Jericho. He is remembered especially for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (Josh 24:1–27), concluding with the memorable words, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”(24:15). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Some may know he was “Israel’s commander-in-chief”. Some may know that the 6th book of the Bible is named after him.  Most people might know that “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho.”  The Battle of Jericho is recorded in chapter 6 and then follow 18 chapters of the Conquest of the Land.   Joshua and the Israelites fought against the seven nations:

the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, Hivites, Girgashites and the Perizzites.

Joshua and the Israelites fought many a bloody battle. Modern/post-modern ‘sensibilities’ do not like the Book of Joshua because it is so ‘militaristic’ and violent.  The Promised Land was given by the LORD but the people fought for it.  We think enemies can be won over to be  ‘nice’ like us. Give me a break.  The seven nations had “detestable practices” , such as “child sacrifices, the practice of divination or sorcery, and occult activity.  In addition, Leviticus 18 and 20 detail the rampant sexual depravity among the Canaanites.” (“The Peoples of Canaan, The Lutheran Study Bible, page 345). 

What follows after the entrance into the Land, the Crossing of the Jordan, the first circumcisions and Passover therein, and then the Battle of Jericho, in the next 18 chapters is quite a slog.  They,  and only the Israelites, then were engaged in both physical and spiritual warfare, physically killing the enemies.  Spiritually we must kill enemies, 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, againstthe spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6: 12, from the Epistle Reading for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (9/2/2012)

Yet they are enemies, the cosmic powers, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, even in the Church, giving their consent to sexual immorality   and covetousness.  This blind world does not see it but we can see the breaking of every commandment every day on our favorite television programs. We have seen it in ourselves by God’s Law and we cry out, Kyrie Eleison, Lord, have mercy.    By God’s grace alone in Jesus Christ, we see the Canaanite, Jebusite etc. occupation of our own souls.  The name “Joshua”, literally means “God Saves”.  Joshua in Hebrew is pronounced, Yeshua and transliterated into Greek it became Iesus, the very Name in the New Testament, then transliterated into Jesus.

Joshua of old led the Israelites through the waters of the Jordan into the promised land for the conquest.  Jesus Christ leads us through the waters of Holy Baptism into the promised land of eternal life and leads, “the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12: 2) for our struggles, the crucified and risen Lord before us, beside us, within us, around us. He is the new and living covenant of the Lord of all the living who went through the waters for us and our salvation. Yes, it is a slog when we see politicians approving abortion and the abortions of their conscience.  It is a slog when we see church bodies emasculate even the mention of  spiritual warfare as “too militaristic” so that a man and a woman does not stand in the battle.  It is a slog when in our lives we see so many fighting and fears within and without.  But Joshua took a stand with his house:  we will serve the Lord.  Jesus Christ took His stand and served the Lord to us all, the LORD God of Sabaoth for our battles and struggles to defeat the Hittites, the Canaanites etc.and now by His grace alone won over to the Lord.  He made us His own, forgiven and drafted into His army. Joshua delcared as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. In Baptism we renounce the devil and all his empty and false promises.   More than ever, we need the conscientious desicision of every family to say as Joshua did, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”, and not the false gods and practices of those around us, not only for our salvation but others to come to faith in Jesus Christ. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Your servant Joshua led the children of Israel through the waters of the Jordan River into a land flowing with milk and honey. As our Joshua, lead us, we pray, through the waters of our Baptism into the promised land of our eternal home, where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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