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Lessons:

Acts 1: 1-11

Ephesians 1: 15-23

St. Luke 24: 44-53

Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
    He was manifested in the flesh,
   vindicated by the Spirit,
       seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
       taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3: 16

  • Jesus was born of the house and lineage of David,  descended, according to the flesh, from King David.

  • His Mother was a devout Jew.  His step-Father also a faithful son of Israel. They observed all the required sacrifices in the Temple.

  • Jesus was born in the city of David, Bethlehem.

  • On His 8th day of life, according to the Covenant the LORD God established with Abraham and his descendants, Jesus was circumcised.

  • Jesus taught in the synagogue of Nazareth.

  • Jesus observed the great Festivals of Israel, in particular, The Pesach, the Passover.His last meal was Passover.

  • Jesus kept the Sabbath.

  • By His Word through His touch He healed the sick, the blind, the deaf, the mute, the dead.

  • By His Word He multiplied wine and bread.

  • His hands blessed and broke the bread.

  • His hands were bound as a common criminal.

  • His head was crowned with thorns shedding His blood.

  • He was a carpenter and bore the work of another carpenter:  the cross.

  • His hands and feet were nailed to the cross.

  • His side was pierced by a Roman spear and blood and water flowed out.

  • He was laid in a tomb.

  • And as He said, on the third day He rose again.

  • For for 40 days,  in His resurrected body He ate and drank and showed the Apostles, His brother, 500 at one time His hands and His side.

  • On the 40th Day, He ascended into heaven: with the scars of the cross, the mark of the circumcision, the hands that healed and broke the bread blessed His apostles one last time…a true man, a Jewish man, was taken up into heaven and sits upon the right hand of God the Father.  Jesus is true God before all worlds were created.

His ascension is man’s exaltation.  As much as we exalt ourselves, at the expense of others, we do so to distance ourselves from others. He is exalted to be close to us all to lift us up by His Word and Sacraments. He is exalted to be near to us, Emmanuel, God with us, “This is My Body”  “This is My Blood”, His Word in our ears then our hearts.   His exaltation is His humiliation and in that humiliation His love and mercy for Israel and the whole human race is poured out through His life and crucifixion and resurrection.  He humiliated Himself to bring us close to His bosom and He ascended and is exalted to be close to us all.For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,  but the haughty he knows from afar.How high is heaven?  Very far away for the proud and self-exalted. But near for the lowly, for those who pray by looking up to Him Who came down for all. 

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
   and your right hand delivers me. (Psalm 138)

Seated on the right hand of the Father, and the Father’s right hand Man, true Lord,  is everywhere. How did the risen Jesus bodily come into locked rooms?  He was already there.  Where He is, there is His people.  His right hand has delivered us:  Thanks be to Jesus Christ!

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I heard a speaker this past week, a respected member of the town here, give a presentation. In her presentation she told an anecdote about her deceased husband. He was Methodist minister and then a professor at a local university.  He was sent to India to teach a course. His wife told us that one day in India a Hindu came to her husband stating that he wanted to become a Christian. The professor and minister encouraged the Hindu to stay in his own religion and, “…make it better”.   She quipped that my husband was not much of missionary with a laugh. This story was part of her rendition of her husband’s larger theme to stay in your own religion and “make it better”. 

A couple of thoughts on making religion better:

  1.  In Acts 17: 16-31 (Epistle Reading,Easter 6/Year A) when St. Paul preached to the  pagan philosophers in the Areopagus in Athens. If the 12 Apostles, and countless other Christians, gave the professor’s advice, “stay in your pagan philosophy and the worship of the ‘unknown god'”, I would not be writing about this nor preaching the forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, and so the love and light of the Lord be spread throughout the whole earth.  We can thank the Lord, there were no professors like this one in the agora that day in Athens. There are too many of them nowadays.  The prof’s wife’s presentation was for a  group of 25 or so.  And most chuckled along with her.  This is what is scary:  this can sound smart and witty and even good and so the devil can have a toehold. We would be worshiping the “unknown god”, not the God who sent His Son into this dark world; and as the Apostle said, we worship Whom we know.

  2. Becoming a Christian in Hindu India might cause all sorts of tension and division with family, culture and society (see Matthew 10:34-36).  It did so for the millions upon millions, the myriads upon myriads who were baptized in the first centuries of the Church.  The Church would have helped the new Christian in his new set of circumstances as he could help his brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord told His disciples this would happen because we no longer worship false gods (see Matthew 10: 16-42;  and 1 Peter 1:17-19;  1 Peter 4:3-5).  We are different than the world we live in (see Matthew 5: 13)  and all man-made religion is a way of coping with the world by taking religion and “making it better”. 

  3. What does it look like when a man or a woman “makes religion better”?  In a nutshell:  it looks like, for instance, Mormonism, Islam,  and Christian Scientist.  Muhammad,  Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy  (respectively, the founders of Islam, Mormonism and the Christian Scientist Church) all had ‘revelations’ to make a religion better, that is, what they did was mold religion to be the way they wanted it. The founders of those religions kept enough of the Christian doctrine to try to fool people.  It will always be legalistic, and against God’s Law, as they take God’s Law and rewrite it to make it shine with their version of holiness. “Oh, look, at those Muslims praying five times a day!”  “Oh,what  fine Mormon family!”  “Oh, they trust God so much to heal themselves!”   Prayer, family and healing are all God-given gifts but they do not save, but are the fruit of salvation.  Only by keeping God’s Law perfectly can one be saved and none has done so. So by making religion “better”, the Law is simply dumbed down: to make it easier, as the Law is rewritten and at the same time to substitute religious disciplines not given by the Lord to make it hard to do.  Only one Person ever kept God’s Law perfectly so to fulfill God’s Law for us that we believe in Him. My three examples of  man-made religions are some of the most known of the countless of the new and improved religions that have been invented since Eve and Adam wanted to be like God.  Many of them are televangelists. They did not make religion better, they made faith worse by denying it.  Legalism is faithless as it is devoid of the grace of God in Jesus and any religion that is faithless is also atheistic. 

  4. Finally, we can not forget the Scripture in which the Apostle warns of those who want ot make Christianity better by changing it to suit the doctrine to themselves and the times we live in and it will appear as “light”:                                                                                                                                                                                        12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11)

    We are called to remain steadfast in the apostolic doctrine as Paul wrote above.  We must continue to undermine the false claims of the “boasted mission” the false apostles preach and do so, so that even they might repent and come again as sinners for whom Christ shed His blood. 

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Meme of the Day

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God's Love | "WHOEVER HAS SEEN ME HAS SEEN THE FATHER."
JOHN 14: 9 “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON..." JOHN 3: 16 | image tagged in crucified jesus | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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Dirty Sex

Probably the most loved and one of the most quoted Bible passages is, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19: 18b), and rightly so.  The Lord quotes it as the summation of the Law and the Prophets, see Mark 12:30-31.  St. Paul ends The Epistle to the Romans with doctrine for the Church, on the summation of the second table of the Law:

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Note that the beloved Apostle first spells out the second table of the Law before he sums it up.  The details are important. 

Portions of Leviticus 18 are the Old Testament reading for this day, and here is part of the lection:

20 And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her. 21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean,25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.

This was called at one time, dirty sex.  Here the Bible could be “rated X”.  We like “love your neighbor” but the post-modern worldlings do not like at all this passage from Leviticus and it’s clear the reason:  they approve of such things.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1;  emphasis added).

The Lord calls a thing what it is: unclean.  It is dirty and we all know it, and many deny that filth and are raging in their vociferous denials. Woody Allen said, “Is sex dirty?  Only when it is being done right”.  Mr. Allen is wrong.  At one time he would have been considered dirty.  The love of a husband and wife, and it’s goal, is not filth, but union, pure pleasure and joy.

First note that what we are seeing today is no aberration of the norms of the past.  As it was in the first century it is today.  As it was in Eden so it is everyday.  Deviancy has become the ‘norm’.  The aberrations are not according to human reasoning, but the Lord’s teaching.  Second, it is clear what our response is and this too is not according to our norms. Here is the immediate context of the “love your neighbor” text in Leviticus 19:

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

My first response is my own moral superiority and vengeance! I am the chief of sinners, wrote the Apostle and we are all part of that tribe. AS Christ’s own, we have been washed and cleansed in His blood in Holy Baptism. We needed so to be washed and do everyday, just like our daily bathroom ablutions.  Hate will not cleanse anyone…including you and I.  We are called to “reason frankly” with our neighbors. Vengeance in thought, word and deed profits nothing:  from the seclusion of our feelings to what we say on a blog, or plan to do someone who is unclean. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  1 Corinthians 16:  13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.  Third, the Lord’s cleansing is for all people.  He desires all people to be saved (cf. Matthew 28: 19-20;  1 Timothy 2: 1-4).  We are not to “show someone the door”, get out!  We are to show someone the Door and He says: come in!

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10: 9)

 

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All Biblical translators and copyists love the truth of God’s Word verbatim and will do nothing to betray the Lord. They did not have to put a “spin” on God’s Word!

Concordia and Koinonia

“…we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Acts 2: 10b

Cyril (826-69) and Methodius (c. 815-85) were brothers who came from a Greek family in Thessalonica. The younger brother took the name “Cyril” when he became a monk in 868. After ordination, Cyril became librarian at the church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. In 862 the brothers were sent by the emperor as missionaries to what is now the Czech republic, where they taught in the native Slavic tongue. Cyril invented the alphabet today know today as “Cyrillic,” which provided a written language for the liturgy and Scriptures for the Slavic peoples. This use of the vernacular established an important principle for evangelical missions.

In an article in the May/June 2013 edition of Touchstone, “The Thessalonian Brothers:  The Legacy of the Mission of Cyril and Methodius 1,150 Years Later”, on the way to Rome in 867, the brothers…

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