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Gracious Lord, in every age You have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of  Your Gospel and all the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.  Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel, like Your servant Lawrence, whose faithfulness led them to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to Your Son’s victory over sin and death, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

About Lawrence: Early in the third century AD, Lawrence, most likely from Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage Church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the Church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lawrence to produce the ‘treasures of the Church.’ According to tradition,  Lawrence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year AD 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young Church because he was a Roman citizen tortured and executed by Roman authorities.  Almost immediately, the date of this death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.  (adapted from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH).

“…the Roman emperor Valerian began a vigorous persecution of the church, aimed primarily at the clergy and laity of the upper classes. All of the properties of the church were confiscated and assemblies for worship were forbidden. On August 4, 258 the Bishop of Rome, Sixtus II who had just become bishop the year before, and his deacons were apprehended at the cemetery of Callistus where they were celebrating the liturgy, and all except Lawrence were summarily executed and buried in the same cemetery…Lawrence, who knew of the location of the Church’s treasure, was tortured and then executed on August 10. (Festivals and Commemorations by Pr. Philip Pfatteicher)

Image result for treasure mapReflection:I would think Lawrence knew the location of the Church’s treasure! He knew exactly where it was as in the old pirate maps: when X marks the spot, that is the Cross of Jesus Christ.  He knew that the treasures of Christ’s grace is for the  poor, the lame, the orphans and the widows, for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that is, the poor in spirit.   In the midst of Watergate in the 70s, Bob Woodward was told by his informant, “to follow the money”.  All of the world follows the money.  Lawrence did not “follow the money”: he followed His Lord and yours.  As a steward of Jesus Christ, His deacon, Lawrence maintained earthly treasure probably well but gold does not make the Church, only the blood of Christ remakes us.

When the Church and her Christians think the true treasures of the church are in the offering plates/big budgets  or our “creative ministries” or our programs, and not the Cross and Sacraments, Scripture and Service in His love, then,

“…we are in danger of losing the things that make the Church in favor of those who claim to make the Church.  Church leaders only gain legitimacy when they are the delivery point of the divine gifts.” (Pr. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH)  

Lawrence and many others so delivered the divine gifts and were delivered up as martyrs and their witness heartens us.

The Commemoration of St. Lawrence, in our time is quite timely, to say the least, given the martyrdoms that have occurred  in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.  It is hard to contemplate Lawrence being killed by being roasted live on fire.  It is hard to believe a 5 year old boy being cut in half by ISIS.  We hear that ISIS is full of anger and hatred…but are they?

Were the Nazis full of hatred and anger when they murdered 6 million Jews and 5 milion Gypsies, Communists, homosexuals and Christians? Probably at one time.  In a seminary seminar course on the Holocaust we studied the fact that initially the Nazis  took Jews in train cars to isolated areas and then gunned them down burying them in mass graves. The Nazi State soon realized this was using too much ammunition, time and effort, too many vital war assets. Eventually they improved the ‘extermination’ of Jews and others with the invention of Zykon-B gas and high tech ovens to burn the bodies efficiently into ashes.  There was no more anger and hatred, just cold-blooded technological efficiency.  

ISIS could cut a boy in half with disinterested efficiency and many other brutalities.  We exterminate some 2 million  infants a year in abortion with medical technology that is suppose to save lives and then ‘harvest’ the organs and sell them.  Dr. Mengeles are active in our country daily.  The Roman Emperor probably executed many others by grilling them alive without batting an eye.  Just think of the depth of depravity of sin!  Animals do not kill each other for ideology or sport or enjoyment, but man does.  When the Church is driven out by a government, eventually the State becomes god and will not tolerate the one true God, but Lawrence served the poor in Jesus Christ.  We remember Lawrence but not the tyrant who had him murdered.  I have known Lawrences but I have never met anyone named Valerian or Nero, maybe someone would name their dog ‘Nero”. We remember what the Lord said to Saul on the road to Damascus:  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.(Acts 9: 4-5) 

May God turn the hearts of all who are abusing, raping, terrorizing, and killing our brothers and sisters throughout the world. May God bring them to faith in Christ, who has put away their murderous sins and won every gemstone of His Father’s love for them. May God fill our enemies with the Holy Spirit, that they may put down their swords and share the treasure of Christ’s kingdom with those whom they once sought to destroy.  Amen.

(prayer by Pr. Fiene)

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Image result for cathedral blueprint

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in YOU17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and YOU are that temple. (emphasis added)

From Gregory Lockwood’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians: 

 In addition (and this is most important in the context), these three more valuable items are noncombustible, whereas the materials in the second group are all combustible. The OT refers to gold, silver, and precious stones as building materials used in the tabernacle and the temple. Thus Paul anticipates the temple imagery of 3:16-17.7

The precious, noncombustible materials represent preaching, teaching, and pastoral care that rest upon the Gospel. The combustible items signify teaching and methods motivated by human “wisdom” (1:17-22; 2:1-5, 13; 3:19) and therefore at odds with God’s “wisdom” (1:24, 30; 2:6-7)—the doctrine of Christ.

The way the Church is built and builds has been a disputed topic for some time now. The many and sundry blueprints for the Church at corporate (district and synodical offices) have been promulgated to “grow the church”, e.g. church growth.  There are as many ‘new’ ideas to ‘grow the Church’ put forward as there are many fears that we are not growing and we are going to die.   This ‘new’ plan will save the Church!  Wrong.  The Church is saved and is being saved by the One Who alone finally builds His Church: ” And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (St. Matthew 16: 18)  Anything else is the beginning of sheer unbelief, just as Peter wanted to prevent the Lord from the Cross.

The two lists of construction materials that the Apostle lays out side by side,

“gold, silver, precious stones”

and

“wood, hay and straw” .

Those two contractors’ lists are strikingly different  The first list is obviously more valuable than the second and it is clear from the text, the desirable materials.  Gregory Lockwood in the Concordia Publishing House Commentary on 1 Corinthians notes that the first list were the building materials for the Temple.  It is so obvious in the Apostle’s comparison that the Temple building materials endure because they are non-combustible.  Fire will not burn them but  fire will test everyone’s work.  Further, it is plain to see that the Temple of which St. Paul writes is the Church.  The Greek pronoun “you” is plural, as we say here in the South: y’all

The Scriptures contain the building plans, building materials and the identity of the builders for the Church:

  • Builders :  The Lord is clear He is the builder of His Church.  The Lord also calls builders, such as the Apostles and then pastors and He calls, instructs and encourages the  builders to use the best materials available.

  • Building materials: The gold, silver and precious stones of His Word:  the Word of the Bible, Law and Promise, the Word of God in the Sacraments, the Word in prayer, the Word of rebuke and consolation.

  • Building plans, blueprint: The Scripture is quite clear on the Lord’s blueprint as He He builds His Church:    a Temple formed, reformed and conformed (see  1 Corinthians 6:19,1 Peter 2:5,  Romans 8:29, to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:46-48). 

In  verse 15 the translation “skilled” is in Greek, sophia, as “wise”, e.g. as in philosophy, literally “love of wisdom”.  The Apostle clearly identifies the “wisdom” given him:  the wisdom of  the Crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21 ). God’s wisdom is most assuredly not human wisdom.  The Medieval Ages could not have been simply the “dark ages”, as they developed the architectural plan of a sanctuary that proclaims clearly the Cross of Jesus Christ as seen above.

The Greek word for “master builder” is the one from which we have our word, “architect”.  Paul, Apollos and many others build. Paul laid the foundation of the Church in Corinth which is the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, not religious experience, human wisdom, man’s plans and the like.  Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by the original builders (Israel) and men, cast out, has become the chief cornerstone (cf. Matthew 21:42Acts 4:11 Ephesians 2:20).  The Apostle laid this foundation by the only means Christ gave to His Apostles and His apostolic Church:   preaching “Christ and Him crucified”, 1 Corinthians 1:23.  Our preaching is cross-shaped as missionary work and evangelism:  

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2: 2)

and

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 3: 1)

The Sacraments are likewise cruciform, see  Romans 6:3-5;   1 Corinthians 11:26.  The stones for His Church are not quarried out of granite, but out of Jesus Christ, now “living stones” , see 1 Peter 2:5. Peter (Rock) from Christ, not Christ from Peter.  There is no Church of one, no ‘super-Christians’, but a communion, a “spiritual house” is being built.

Wood, hay, straw…one match, it’s ablaze and gone.  Let’s say that synodical and district offices are akin to a contractor’s office, then the only task for which they are to oversee is to see that the building materials are the gold, silver and precious stones of His Word and Sacraments of His Church, as outlined in Scripture and the Confessions. The Word endures to eternity and from eternity and in time and space, flesh and bone.  The Word  is not ephemeral like wood, hay and straw of human wisdom, plans, schemes, techniques and tactics.  We point to the Word of promise, not to church programs.  Episcopos, or bishop, the role of district president, literally means “oversight”, not “overlook”. Bishops, pastors and district presidents are not to be designing new blueprints,nor using substandard building materials.

We cannot keep on using substandard building materials as we have Image result for church as a coffee housedone now for decades, quick let’s have a ministry, get some funding and 5 piece band.  The Lord builds His house, not a coffee house, to sell people a little Christ with their cappuccino.   We do not package and sell the Word of God, peddling it, then the Word becomes  a commodity and the Lord’s House becomes  a whore house:

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.(2 Corinthians 2: 17)

We are not messing around with a weekend carpentry job finishing the basement.  One reason to use easier materials is that the “job gets done” and many a weekend carpenter has worked with wood and that’s fine for finishing a basement.  Using the inferior “plans of mice and men”, of human wisdom and that work will not last.  Building by using substandard materials and they tend to collapse and people die.    Yet, it makes pastors feel useful and the job is done quickly.   The basement, the foundation has been laid and it is precious in God’s sight.  The original builders rejected the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  what the Lord is building and which is precious in His sight.  “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”  The Law of God is frightening as well it should be. We are using sound building materials, that is “sound doctrine”.

The other aspect of the two groups of building materials is this:  I opine that “gold, silver and precious stones” not only are more costly, but harder to work with than wood, hay and straw.  Gold and silver take time to smelt and burn the dross. Pearls were not cultivated then, but one had to dive into the depths of the ocean to find them. In fact finding one, one sells all he has to buy it.  This triumvirate lasts as the Word of the Lord  endures forever.

Our calling is not to master the public but to make public the Master.  What is the Church to do?  Like seed, cast His Word to all (see St. Matthew 13: 1-23).  Ours is not to figure out how it will work but to trust He is at work in His Word according to His Word.  We are to confess Christ.  

Pastor Bonhoeffer preached it well in 1933, in Berlin, about building the Church and confession Jesus Christ:

…it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

 

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The Most Dangerous Place to Live

The Subtle Perils of the Past

by Greg Morse

“While the past is an exquisite place to visit, it is a menacing place to live.”

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AImage result for bread of lifere you a “foodie”?  A foodie is someone with a particular interest in food.  We all have a particular interest in food especially when we’re hungry! We are all foodies. We’re also all “drinkies” especially when thirsty!  I came across this definition of a foodie, “A person who enjoys eating food, unlike everyone else, who hates food, thinks it’s disgusting, and would never consider eating it”. Have you ever met anyone who would never consider eating?  Of course not.

“Now there is a connection between our fallen humanity as flesh and the sheer physicality of human bodily existence. And the connection lies in our mortality. As a friend and colleague would remind me that all medical progress notwithstanding, the death rate remains at one per person. Or as Isaiah put it, “All flesh is grass”. It looks good enough when it is well watered. But just wait until August and watch it wilt and die under the Sun’s scorch. The gift of life given by God is not immortal. That is to say, it cannot survive on its own. Its survival depends on things outside itself. The oxygen that we breathe comes from the air around us. The water that we drink is equally outside of us. And food as well comes to us from beyond.

And therefore, it is sheer terror to have the wind knocked out of you and to struggle to catch your breath, And both hunger and thirst make us aware of our mortality. Guess what? THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO! That is their theological meaning. Hunger and thirst are sacraments of our mortality. They are the felt reminders of the fact that we do not have life within us.” (adapted from a sermon by Rev. Louis Smith+)

The world thinks it has life in itself.  The world thinks it is self-invented, self-made, self-sufficient, instead of given and good.  So much the world thinks it is it’s own creator, weather variations are enough for the world to cry out, The sky is falling!  We must save the planet! This is true, this dark planet must be saved, but we don’t do the saving and we have not done the saving.  We think that if we just eat more and drink more, we will be better.  That doesn’t work either.  When everything you ever wanted to eat and drink is not enough yet we think it will be is the spiritual problem…and it points to the source of our well-being is well beyond ourselves. The Source came to us and still does.

The feeding of the 5,000 is the background of this lesson.  The crowd in Capernaum’s synagogue hightailed it to Jesus because of  bread. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”  They even wanted to make Him king because of the loaves.  They had their fill of the loaves but it wasn’t enough.  Jesus begins to point them to the place, more the Person who can give food that fills and true drink which quenches. The seal of the Father, the seal of the Holy Spirit is upon Him. Christ is signed, sealed and delivers us in His grace, mercy and peace.

New York chef, Anthony Bourdain had a show entitled “No Reservations”.  He traveled around the world with a main purpose being of eating and thereby introducing the particular nation and its cultures.  His show’s intro by Mr. Bourdain: “I’m Anthony Bourdain. I write.  I travel. I eat.  And I’m hungry for more.” For what its worth I liked Mr. Bourdain.  In traveling, writing and eating, he hungered for more.  Never filled. Mr. Bourdain killed himself.  A noose does not stave the hunger nor a bullet quench the soul. Starving to death and dying of thirst is very clear to see but spiritual thirst and hunger is not so clearly seen. In fact, it looks good:  it looks like what we see on TV and on the internet.  Warning!  More is never enough.  The hunger is not stilled and the thirst for life is not quenched.  “I can’t get no satisfaction and I’ve tried and I’ve tried” (Mick Jagger). “More” is never enough.

Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well when He was thirsty and the Lord He spoke of water that will fill the soul.  The heart is such a spacious thing that even 600 worlds can not fill it.  We live in a “consumer culture” in which obsolescence is planned so that the items we buy will wear out quickly so we can buy a new product.  But our fellow humans know themselves and us quite well:  we actually want more and more, so yeah, let it wear out, I want something new.  We live in a “consumer society”.  Even people are consumables in sexual lusts and “conquests”.  Even people are consumables, stepping stones for our ambitions for ‘life’. People get used and then worn out The Samaritan woman had 5 husbands and her current man was not her husband.  The Samaritan woman had quite a thirst!  The crowd had a quite a hunger. Note that in the conversation with the Samaritan women, and in His preaching today, there is not a hint of condemnation from Jesus.  Jesus does not condemn her nor them because He came not to condemn the world but that the world be saved through Him (John 3:17).  He offered them Himself. He is divine love made food, made life for man.

Christ’s bread is the meal of His Word and it is not a TV dinner. It is not a TV dinner for our own private nourishment. It’s not about putting on the feed bag.  We are men and women not horses.  We were made and redeemed to dine with each other in Christ Jesus, the Host. We weren’t made then redeemed to dine alone.  I came across an ad on Facebook for a beer festival at a Roman Catholic Shrine of St. Anthony, with “Divine Food, Divine Beer” called “Revive”.  That’s about right:  revive. The ad has a typo, this festival is at “The Shine of St. Anthony”. We need to be revived and so shine with Christ’s own light every week and day, fed by His almighty Hand, both bread for the body and bread for the soul.  We are encouraged from God’s Word in Ephesians, I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

“You are what you eat”.  This was first said by a German materialist philosopher.  Yet, it is also a Christian understanding as we hear the Lord’s sermon in John 6 beginning today and for the next two Sundays. In the Bible the food that man eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live, is given to him by God, and it is given as communion with God. John 6 is about Christ Who is the divine love made bread, made life for man, inviting others to His Table. In fact the whole Bible points to the Bread of Life.  “Perishable food is transformed into the body which eats it;  this food, however, transforms the person who eats it into what it is itself, and makes him like itself, spiritual, alive, and eternal.”  (Martin Luther)

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Lord, give us this bread always. 

The invitation stands: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

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Crucifix and Chalice

Man is a hungry being. But he is hungry for God. Behind all the hunger of our life is God. All desire is finally a desire for Him. To be sure, man is not the only hungry being. All that exists lives by “eating.” The whole creation depends on food. But the unique position of man in the universe is that he alone is to bless God for the food and the life he receives from Him. He alone is to respond to God’s blessing with his blessing.

Schmemann, Alexander (2010-03-31T23:58:59). For the Life of the World (Kindle Locations 138-141). St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition.

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Suggested Lection:

Psalm 45:1-9
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 23:54-24:11 or Mark 16:1-8

Joanna, Mary, and Salome:  Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of Matthew (28:1), Mark (16:1), and Luke (24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Lk. 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alphaeus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Mt. 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.

Writing

Why was Christ’s resurrection revealed to these women first? There are several answers.

  • First, God was keeping His ancient custom of choosing what is foolish, undistinguished, and despised in the eyes of the world in order to put the strong and lofty to shame. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-28) These women were despised not only due to the weakness of their gender but also because of Galilee, their homeland. (see John 1:46But God exalts them by revealing to them the resurrection of His Son, which is an excellent article of our faith.

  • Indeed, He even sends them to the apostles to share the message of Christ’s resurrection with them, so that they become, as the ancients say, like “apostles to the apostles” …

  • Third, in this way God wanted to prevent the accusations of the Jews. The high priests lied, saying that Christ’s disciples had stolen the body of their master. In order to provethe shamelessness and absurdity of this lie, it happened by God’s marvelous providence that these women came to the grave before the apostles. Now, it is highly unlikely that these few women could have stolen the body from a grave guarded by soldiers and closed by a large stone.

  • Fourth, through the woman Eve, death came to all human beings. On account of this, Christ wanted His resurrection, which brings us righteousness and life, to be told to others by women. At the fall of the first human being, these three worked together: the devil, who deceived; the woman, who proclaimed his talk further; the man, who ate and corrupted human nature. So also,Christ’s resurrection, these three worked together: Christ, who rose and redeemed human nature; the angel, who proclaimed the resurrection; and the women, who carried the joyful message further.

Now if Christ was pleased with the zeal of these women, which was yet bound together with significant weaknesses of faith, and did not let them come away from the tomb empty, how much less will He let those go away empty who in true faith seek Him who rules at the right hand of the Father!

Martin Chemnitz (He has been called the “second Martin”, the first being Martin Luther;  all of the above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  

The holy women brought myrrh.  We remember myrrh every Christmas as the magi brought gifts of  “gold, frankincense and myrrh”.  The magi were hard-core pagan magicians and unexpectedly they bring expensive gifts for the King!  Myrrh was a costly ointment used for fragrance and especially for burial. The magi’s gift of myrrh was already pointing to the Lord’s death.

Myrrh covered the smell of death, but it is finally only perfume, a cover up and sin and death “stinks to high heaven”.   The faithful women bear myrrh to the tomb and unexpectedly they find out:  He is risen!  O Lord, the holy women came to anoint Your Body in the Tomb and You did anoint them, and us, eternally with Your Risen Life!  You anoint us with the grace of Your forgiveness in the anointing of the Holy Ghost! They did not have to anoint His Body!  As  Christ Jesus is the sweet fragrance of His Resurrection by which He has conquered death, no cover-up of death  but swallowing  up death: Christ the death of death our foe, Christ the life of all the living.  

In the Song of Solomon, myrrh is used to scent the marital bed.  This can remind us that the Church is His bride. The Church is His body, see 1 Corinthians 12.  We are to served another in His Church, His body, anointing each other in service and agape.  1 Corinthians 13 is the “love chapter”, the agape or the charity chapter in which we are enjoined in the service of each other, Christ’s living body as He is the head, in His charis, His grace by which we are anointed in the Holy Spirit by faith.  

Along with Joanna, Mary and Salome, we are joined with Paul and all the Church as the “aroma of Christ”:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2)

Let us pray…

Mighty God, Your crucified and buried Son did not remain in the tomb for long. Give us joy in the tasks set before us, that we might carry out faithful acts of service as did Joanna, Mary, and Salome, offering to You the sweet perfume of our grateful hearts, so that we, too, may see the glory of Your resurrection and proclaim the Good News with unrestrained eagerness and fervor worked in us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Bio:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany, he became friends with Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled Sententiae. Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529, Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious dinner guest and house guest … this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes.”

More on St. Robert Barnes is found here.

1 Samuel 15:  10-35 is about the Lord’s anger at King Saul, His anointed, by not killing King Agag after Israel conquered the Amalekites as the Lord commanded.  Saul was commanded to slay all the conquered but Saul spared Agag.  St. Augustine’s commentary on this lesson:

“Saul saw fit to use compassion when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain (1 Samuel 15:9-11). However, he deserved to have his disobedient compassion, or, if you prefer it, his compassionate disobedience, rejected and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow man in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. (Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin, 2.17; emphasis my own). 

In the St. Augustine quote above, the Bishop of Hippo disapprovingly observes that one could call what Saul did in sparing King Agag as “compassionate disobedience.”     Compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His unvarnished Word is the way of too many churches these days.  We do a lot of that in our day and win the roaring approval of the world in “extending mercy” to what the Lord has commanded as wrong:  false doctrine, adultery, same-sex ‘marriage’, violence, greed as “good”, gossip, atheism and the like.  It is no mercy not to warn each other of the eternal danger of going down the wide and easy path that leads to destruction. No wonder we are in such bad shape.  If Robert Barnes had compassionately disobeyed his calling, agreeing the King’s divorce, yes, he would have saved his life…but not his soul. He was obedient to the good news of Jesus Christ as clearly confessed by the Lutheran Fathers. He was obedient to the Law of God as it pertains to marriage and divorce, even King Henry the VIII’s wrong desire for a divorce.  Luther knew this.  Robert Barnes was also compassionately committed to His King, Henry the VIII, as a faithful citizen.  

We read these days about many such martyrs overseas. A martyr encourages our confession of Jesus Christ,the Word made flesh and the same Word written in Scripture, Law and Promise.     It is not easy but Jesus said much about bearing one’s cross and self-denial.  If we obey the self, we certainly can not obey the Lord.   We think by our compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His Word  that we are saving lives…no, we are losing lives…even our own and those we love. Our calling as His Church is the same as Robert Barnes was faithful in his vocation, but Kings Saul and Henry VIII were not.

 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
    and shall not be put to shame,
 for I find my delight in your commandments,
    which I love. (Psalm 119: 46-47)

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