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

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

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

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Concordia and Koinonia

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

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Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one, holy catholic, and apostolic Church, in the renewal of its life in fidelity to Your Word and promise. Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Bio:  Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.  After the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the papal church wrote a response to it, the Confutation.  Once again, Melanchthon was called upon to write a defense of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession and The Apology of the Augsburg Confession are the first two confessions in The Book of Concord (1580). Melanchthon died on April 19, 1560.

The Augsburg Confession is the first of the documents in The Book of Concord:  The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Lutheran pastors vow to teach and preach according to the Confessions as the Confessions correctly teach and confess the Biblical faith of Justification by Grace alone, by faith alone. 

In our corner of the world, one of our weekly newspapers has a church directory.  The local Roman Catholic congregation describes quite clearly their doctrine:

“Assisted by Divine Grace, we have both the ability and the responsibility to live moral lives, taking as our standard of behavior the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.”

Note that the statement is saying an assist by Divine Grace to do the law to save ourselves. The statement lumps the Beatitudes with the Law. And so the Beatitudes are also Law, whereas, they are pure Gospel. One of the summaries of the Biblical Doctrine of Justification is “sola gratia”, by grace alone. But obviously the Roman doctrine says Jesus did not do a good enough job, in fact, you O man,you O woman,are still in the driver’s seat.  We are not assisted by divine grace, but saved by grace alone, by Christ alone. “It is finished”, the Lord said on the Cross:

Ephesians 2:  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Grace and faith in Jesus Christ makes the good works as He has created us to do so but the works do not create the faith:  they help and serve our neighbor.  Only His good work creates faith, not our works, and so we are justified, made right with God by what God, His Son, did on the Cross and through the Resurrection for us all: His good and perfect work. 

We do not know the extent of our good works, we only know God’s good work. (Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, +1945).  When we look to ourselves for salvation then we are looking the wrong way.  Melanchthon and the blessed Reformers knew Whom to point:  Jesus Christ. Lutheran pastors are to preach and teach according to the Confessions, kind of like in  the original TV “Star Trek”: they are our “prime directive”.   Like John the Baptist, the Reformers pointed to Jesus Christ: “Behold, the Lamb of God! He takes away the sin of the world.” (see John 1:29)  Galatians 2: 21  “…for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” But Christ Jesus died for a purpose:  you.  Brother Philip (he was not ordained) wrote the charter of freedom in Christ in it’s true meaning, but even he did not exhaust the “unsearchable riches” of Jesus Christ for you (see Ephesians 3:7-9)  In the Apology of Augsburg Confession, he wrote and so we confess: 

“For (Christ) is the mediator continually and not just at the beginning of our justification.” 

He continues to work through the Holy Spirit in the Word, preach, taught and prayed, and through the Sacraments in the Church, the Church which is  faithful to His doctrine.  He continues the work of justification so that we can continue the walk of good works, the walk of the Holy Spirit.  John 15: 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

May the Lord Jesus rule us with His Holy Spirit so that we may confess what is right and Christian and keep the same most consistently for His glory and our eternal salvation and blessedness, and also for that of other people. Amen.

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The Law does not save but shows we need saving.

Concordia and Koinonia

About Philemon and Onesimus:  Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. Although the name “Onesimus” means “useful,” Onesimus proved himself “useless” when he ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (Philemon 18).  Somehow Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome), and through Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After confessing to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, he was directed by Paul to return to his master and become “useful” again. In order to help pave the way for Onesimus’ peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and “to receive him as you would receive me” (v. 17), “no longer as a slave…

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About St.Valentine:  There were several Christians named Valentine and three of them were martyred. Valentine was a common name back in the 3rd-4th centuries. An historical article of the devolution of a Christian saint into the current secular day  is this excellent  and thorough article by Pr. Abrahamson   Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Valentine’s Day. I cite the pastor’s article

One likely prospect is St. Valentine of Rome: 

“The Roman Martyrology records: “At Rome, on the Flaminian Way, in the time of Emperor Claudius, the birthday of St Valentine, priest and martyr, who after having cured and instructed many persons, was beaten with clubs and beheaded.” Again, nothing about romance, love, or marriage. The highest virtue this man exhibits is one to encourage all Christians, holding on to the faith of Christ in the face of torture and death.”

The pastor’s conclusion about St. Valentine:  

“So much imaginative legend has grown up around St. Valentine that today it may be hard to separate fiction from truth. This leaves us to consider why it is that we have Saint’s days in our liturgical calendar. The purpose is that we may use their example of clinging to Christ against all the storms this world can throw at them, their examples of holding fast to the doctrine of Christ for the salvation of their souls, their examples of love for God and love for neighbor in spite of their own sinfulness in this sin stained world.

Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Christ lived and died this example. He rose again conquering Satan, Sin, and Death.

It wasn’t until the 1750s A.D. that men began to create the notion that the choice of St. Valentine’s day had other motivations than just the fact that February 14th was the day he was believed to have died.

This article is an effort to remove the chaff from the kernel that we may “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” without giving “heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.”

Reflection:  The Lord’s Church universally taught the true love of God and between each other, with the highest expression of love being marriage. This quote is from the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, Church England:

DEARLYbeloved friends, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of his congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is an honorable state, instituted of God in Paradise, in the time of man’s  innocence, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy state Christ  adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of saint Paul to be honourable among all men, and therefore is not to be enterprised, nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding ; but reverently, discretely, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for the which matrimony was ordained.

Without the Biblical norms of  teaching us true love of God and each other, especially in marriage, in the public square, that the void has been filled for such rites and rituals by the secular and idolatrous culture. We now extol the “carnal lusts” as good. Valentine’s Day is now associated, not even with romantic love, but pure lust. Valentine’s Day has become the ‘high holy day’ of hooking up and coitus is it’s ‘sacrament’.  And from my little corner in the world, no one seems any happier but just the opposite.   In a society in which marriage is disparaged with every turn, so “love” has been debased with every turn.  It may be my imagination but as a kid, fifty years or so ago, Valentine’s Day was just a sentimental time.  No longer.   Even though the love of a man and a woman is extolled in Scripture as God’s gift, as in, The Song of Songs, and is good but sin can make the best the worst.

St. Valentine is also about God’s love, agape in Jesus Christ and love between husband and wife. Love is not neutral.  It is a good, an ultimate good. (1 Corinthians 13: 13 ).  But we don’t love as we ought. Jesus came in love to redeem our love and cure and heal it.  I’m sure Saul of Tarsus thought he loved: the Torah, his people and the like and he wanted to murder Christians but Jesus revealed to Him  His true love, even to one as Saul:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 6-8

Paul’s use of the 1st person plural pronouns “we” and “us” was honest and he found out about love, true love: He loved sinners to death, His death on the Cross.  Luther on the difference between agape/charity and our love :

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

The Apostle wrote in Romans 6:1ff that when we were baptized we were baptized into His death…our love is also crucified so  that His true love take root in repentance and forgiveness and our hearts are made alive.  Paul and Valentine were both martyrs for our true Love.

I send you all a Valentine, from Martin Luther, his seal:

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Concordia and Koinonia

About Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos:Aquila and his wife, Priscilla (Prisca), Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul, traveled widely. Because of persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tent-making:

Acts 18:  1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Please note: it was because of Roman persecution of Jews that Paul met this faithful couple in the Lord! And so they met in Corinth in which the…

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