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THOUSANDS OF IRAQI CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE PALM SUNDAY IN QARAQOSH


This is Qaraqosh, a Christian city in Iraq. In 2014, it was overrun by ISIS terrorists who looted the town, destroyed churches, and deported indigenous people. After the liberation, more than 4800 Assyrian families returned. This picture was taken as people attend the 2019 Palm Sunday mass.

Monday in Holy Week

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”  St. John 12: 23b

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings:  Isaiah 50:  5-10  Psalm 36: 5-10  Hebrews 9:  11-15  St. John 12: 1-23

There was a famous televangelist, Robert Schuller, who’s TV show was entitled, “The Hour of Power”. He was more a proponent for positive thinking than he was of the Gospel.  His hour of power was all about positive thinking.  He even gave away the “Positive Thinker’s Bible” in which all the positive passages were in the color blue. I wondered if the 10 commandments and the cross were in blue.

Jesus also spoke quite a few times of the coming “hour”:  John 2:4John 7:30John 12:27John 16:32,John 17:1.   The hour would be suffering and death, humiliation and shame, then on the third day rise from the dead. Rev. Schuller said that the passages about Jesus’ crucifixion just showed that He had positive thoughts by which He would get through this.  It was not positive thoughts that led Jesus through it.  It was His love of mankind, for me and for you  and our redemption in His blood that Jesus led us the way through the valley of the shadow of death and sin.  He came to do the Father’s will.  

There is more to life in this world than this life lived on our terms.  Even positive thinking is a symptom of the sin of Adam.  Such positive thinking helps to alleviate symptoms but not the root cause:  man separated from his God. Man can not bridge the chasm, only the One who true God and true man has. Thinking apart from the Lord leads us down many a rabbit hole:  first the hole seems utopian but rabbit holes are terrible dead ends. That fruit always looks good but it is cursed.  And in the faith and life in Christ we can admit we have failures and weaknesses, as we did in the prayer above.  The Lord knows as He cares for you and He bears you up.  The second Adam, the man from heaven came to this hour to bear our sin and be our Savior.  

The hour was the  Triduum,  or The Three Days:  the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. The Triduum is the culmination of the Lenten journey.  All of our positive thoughts, as nice and good as they can be, won’t lead us through.  Christ is the good Seed planted into the earth, His death and now risen to bear much fruit:  faith in Him, love of Him, hope in Him to bear fruit as He is the vine and we are the branches (cf. St. John 15).  He leads us through as He is the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12: 1-2), not us!

“We are bound together by faith, not by experience.” From Life Together

Concordia and Koinonia

“Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life.”

Biographical Introduction:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on Feb. 4, 1906, in Breslau, the sixth of eight children, along with his twin sister, Sabine.  His father Karl  was a leading professor of neurology and psychiatry; his mother was the granddaughter of a distinguished church historian. When Dietrich was 6, his family moved to Berlin. He was educated at the universities of Tübingen (1923-1924) and Berlin, where he was awarded a doctorate in 1927 at the age of only 21.  He surprised his family by his choice of theology and becoming a pastor as his vocation.

Early Career

Bonhoeffer’s doctoral dissertation, The Communion of Saints(1930), introduces some of his most characteristic emphases: a passionate concern that Christianity be a concrete reality within the real world of men; a wholly Christ-centered approach to theology, grounded entirely in the New Testament; and an intense preoccupation with the Church as “Christ existing as community.”…

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“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our heart this fire of Your Love!”

Rev. Pastor Johann Gerhard:  

Whoever preaches forgiveness of sins without preaching repentance is not holding to Christ’s  command. For He sets both together: repentance and forgiveness of sins. Wherever there is a broken and shattered heart, there Christ wants to live, Isa. 57:15, and wants to impart His blessings which He won through His death and resurrection. He, indeed, calls sinners to Himself, but (He calls them) to repent, Matt. 9:13. True repentance is the pathway by which sinners come to grace.

We were widely separated from God by sin, Isa.5. Just as the Lord Christ promised His Apostles the Promise of the Father—that is, He wanted to send them the Holy Spirit and clothe them with Power from on high—so also He proffers to us the comforting promise that He does not want to leave us orphaned or comfortless; instead, He desires to send into our hearts the Holy Spirit, who makes us strong in the inner man and comforts us in every anxious doubt.

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Text: St. Luke 20: 9-20

The farmers in the vineyard were tenant farmers. They were renting the land.  The owner entrusted his land to them as stewards of it, managers not masters.  So when the owner, after a considerable time, at the right time sends a servant to collect the fruit of the harvest that is the Owner’s due, the tenants proceed to beat the owner’s servant and send him away empty…as if the harvest belonged to them! Not once but three times.  What was the owner thinking about?  After one time, I would have clobbered those thugs. Just like the Father of the prodigal son, who just gives his inheritance, before his death, to his sons, I can not think myself into the Owner of the vineyard, I can’t imagine being the Owner.  We rejoice in the fact that the Lord does not think like his fallen creatures!  The owner of this vineyard is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. His patience means repentance.  

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation—and again, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter.

So two more times the Owner sends His servants. Jesus is recounting in a thumbnail sketch   the time of the Lord’s Sending of the Prophets. He sent His prophets.  Moses was a prophet and the formal age of the prophets begins with Elijah and lasted about 4 centuries.  With the prophet Elijah, the times had changed.  The King’s Wife, Jezebel, was a Sidonian and worshiped Baal…in Israel and Israel went along with it. Her husband, King Ahab, allowed this foul idolatry. When Elijah began preaching there was a first in Israel:  the Word of the Lord and his prophet became the minority in the promised land!  The Lord is macrothumia, translated as “patience” but actually better translated as “long-suffering” with Israel in those long centuries of the divided kingdom.  As in the parable, the Lord sent prophet after prophet. As long as there is life, there’s repentance and then hope.  Yet, when the Lord returns the time of repentance in these last days will come to an end and then the day of Judgment and the new heavens and earth.

And then at the right time, the Kairos,  the owner decides, I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.

1.When Jesus is baptized, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

2. When Jesus is transfigured and the voice of the Father sounds forth on the mount, This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, adding Listen to Him. 

3.  In this parable, is the 3rd time in  Luke we read “beloved son”: 

Three times…it is clear the owner of the vineyard is the Father and His beloved Son is Jesus Christ. Dearer to the Lord is His Son than even Benjamin was to Jacob. He gives His Son to the ungrateful and the spiteful.

One of the first words we learn as children is MINE.  The tenants were saying MINE. Israel really thought they owned the kingdom. And today many church bodies think they own the vineyard, the kingdom. Like this parable, it would be like if my wife and I, leasing a house, decided, let’s kill the landlord so we get the house! In what world could that happen?! Answer: In a world bent in upon itself.  Oh, the landlord has come to collect the rent, so we will kill him and get the inheritance of the building!  But as it is clear in Isaiah 5, the vineyard is the Lord’s:

Let me sing for my beloved
    my love song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded wild grapes…

Then a little later in the chapter:

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
    is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
    are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
    but behold, bloodshed;
for righteousness,
    but behold, an outcry!

They killed Him, cast Him out of the vineyard…as He would be crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem.    The builders cast Him out and killed Him, killed by both Jew and Gentile.  He was killed that the Old Adam, clinging to sin, is killed and the new creation arises in Baptism.  In fulfillment of Scripture, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  The beloved Son clearly warns, rejecting Him, the beloved Son is crushing. “…how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”, as it is written in Hebrews.  “These solemn words of warning (from the parable) may well be brought to the attention of many people in our days that think the world has outgrown the old Gospel of salvation through the redemption of the blood of Jesus.”(Dr. Paul Kretzmann, his commentary on the Bible,1905)

We are included into His vineyard, His temple, as His temple, His house, His people through the blood of the beloved Son alone. In Him we are baptized, the youngest and oldest, from the first day to the last day and to the everlasting Day, the mentally able and mentally disabled, fast to learn and slow to learn, men and women, all colors and races.

Now many did listen to Jesus but have their own plans for the vineyard and for building the Church apart from His Word and His Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the beloved Son. Psalm 3:  Salvation belongs to the Lord. Tenant Israel forgot that. We don’t own salvation, the Savior does. When the Church forgets we that too are all tenant farmers in the Lord’s vineyard, as He is the vine and we are the branches, then we think life comes from us, but it’s death.  Salvation belongs to the Lord so we belong to the Savior and love Him for His mercy and grace to us on Golgotha. The Apostle Paul owned it, that is a co-owner of Israel, Paul recited his credentials in Israel, impeccable.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— But he counted all as skubula,

When Peter confessed Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lord said that upon Peter’s confession, “I will build my church”. He knows what He is doing. The Lord is quite capable.    The apostle Paul wrote Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Church, not the varieties of religious and spiritual experiences everyone has had, not the pope nor Luther.  The Church is His Body, His bride for our life He died.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127, verse 1 and in this Psalm the word speaks of two houses:  Jerusalem and families. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  The Lord, in His death and resurrection, in repentance and faith, has the building plan, for His Church and for your families in the Church.  If we build either house, on our own, the results will be less than true, false…in vain. Unless the LORD builds the Church, they labor in vain those who build it.  You are His church, His Temple, His vineyard.  Look what happens when plans and modes are rushed in for the Church and the family. It is infinitely easier to build a church building, than it is the Church of Jesus Christ.  Only He can build the Church, His Body.  After Peter confessed that Jesus is the Son of the living God, our Lord declared, Upon this rock, this confession, I will build My Church.  The world has all sorts of plans for Church and family.  For the Church, the world says, why don’t you get your doctrine up to date? 

“Everything will be quite different when you as a Church cease to have such an entirely different flavor – when you cease to practice preaching which is the opposite of what the world around you preaches. You really must suit your message to the world; you really must bring your creed into harmony with the present. Then you will again become influential and powerful.”

So preached Pr. Martin Niemoller in Berlin in 1933 as the Nazis began their persecution of the Church. 

There is no plan for His Church except Him, Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit  in the glory of God the Father, the plan for Church and family laid out in the Scriptures. 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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“It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.

Let me tell you something, friend, it is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth, than to be loved for telling a lie. It is impossible to find anyone in the Bible who was a power for God who did not have enemies and was not hated. It’s better to stand alone with the truth, than to be wrong with a multitude.

It is better to ultimately succeed with the truth than to temporarily succeed with a lie. There is only one Gospel and Paul said, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed”.”

(Excerpts from Pastor Adrian Rodgers’ talk at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in 1996; Pr. Rodgers was president of the Southern Baptist Convention)

1. O little flock, fear not the Foe
Who madly seeks your overthrow;
Dread not his rage and power.
What though your courage sometimes faints,
His seeming triumph o’er God’s saints
Lasts but a little hour.

2. Be of good cheer; your cause belongs
To Him who can avenge your wrongs;
Leave it to Him, our Lord.
Though hidden yet from mortal eyes,
His Gideon shall for you arise,
Uphold you and His Word.

3. As true as God’s own Word is true.
Not earth nor hell with all their crew
Against us shall prevail.
A jest and byword are they grown;
God is with us, we are His own;
Our victory cannot fail.

4. Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer;
Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare,
Fight for us once again!
So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise
A mighty chorus to Thy praise,
World without end. Amen.

Hymn #263 The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Luke 12:32

Reflection: A slightly different translation of this 16th Century hymn is in the Lutheran Service Book and it’s hymn number is 666. In our congregation, Concordia Lutheran Mission, we have commented on that number. As the number 13 is not used in some buildings, maybe orthodox hymnals should not use 666? Nah. Given the lyric, this is an appropriate number as it is the Church’s increasing struggle with the mark of the beast, the anti-Christ: Revelation 13:18. 1 John 2:18: Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” Hell’s crew are roaming seeking someone to devour and sadly they are finding the satanic fishing too good. The Church and the Rule of Christ have Christ as our champion. It does not seem that the Lord goes with us in the battle. In the older, more liberal Lutheran Book of Worship (ca. 1978), there is no hymn section “The Church Militant”. The hymn section for “The Church” was renamed “Community in Christ”: turning wine into water. Maybe too many Christians have not fought the good fight of faith because they have surrendered to the world and the flesh. The Lord cannot fight with us when Christians fight against Him…or if we think the fight is against flesh and blood. Our help is in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. The Church who knows they are the Church, the harbinger and prophet of the Kingdom must pray:


Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer;
Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare,
Fight for us once again!
So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise
A mighty chorus to Thy praise,
World without end. Amen.

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