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Sinners are such unlikely saints!

Concordia and Koinonia

 

Bio:  Jacob, the third of the three Hebrew patriarchs, was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, whose name means “deceiver,” was renamed “Israel,” which means “he strives with God” (Gen. 25:26; 32:28). His family life was filled with trouble, caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph (March 31). Much of his adult life was spent grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land. Prior to Jacob’s death during the blessing of his sons, God gave the promise that the Messiah would come through the line of Jacob’s fourth son, Judah  Genesis 49).

Reflection:

“The great Baptist preacher, Charles…

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Where and what is the strength and power of your salvation?  Christ, Christ assuredly has raised you up again.  He, the Good Samaritan, has healed you.  He, the good friend, has redeemed you with His life and set you free.  Christ, I say, Christ is He.  And so the strength of your salvation is the strength of Christ.

(Anselm of Canterbury, born: 1033, Aosta, Italy, Died: April 21, 1109, Canterbury, United Kingdom)

 

Run the straight race Thro’ God’s good grace;
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face.
Life with its way before us lies;
Christ is the Path and Christ the Prize.

“Fight the Good Fight with All Thy Might”
by John S.B. Monsell, 1811-1875, The Lutheran Hymnal

 

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 

In a podcast Scripture study on St. Mark 1:21-28, Dr. Nordling (Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN) points out that a great illustration of the verse above is from “The Lord of the Rings:  the Two Towers”.  Theodan King of Rohan is possessed by the evil wizard, Saruman, and Gandalf comes to cast out this unclean spirit.  The Greek word for “be silent” is literally “Be muzzled”. The power of the Word set the man free in the synagogue. Gandalf did some muzzling!

 

 

Bio: Given the added name of Chrysostom, which means “golden-mouthed” in Greek, Saint John was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church. Born in Antioch around the year 347, John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398, John Chrysostom was made Patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city there brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: “Glory be to God for all things. Amen.”

Writing

“He gave Himself a ransom,” he said, how then was He delivered up by the Father? Because it was of His goodness. And what does “ransom” mean? God was about to punish them, but He did not do it. They were about to perish, but in their stead He gave His own Son and sent us as heralds to proclaim the cross. These things are sufficient to attract all and to demonstrate the love of Christ. So truly, so inexpressibly great are the benefits that God has bestowed upon us. He sacrificed Himself for His enemies, who hated and rejected Him. What no one would do for friends, for brothers, for children, that the Lord has done for His servants; a Lord not Himself such a one as His servants, but God for men, for men not deserving. For had they been deserving, had they done His pleasure, it would have been less wonderful. But that He died for such ungrateful, such obstinate creatures, this it is which strikes every mind with amazement. For what men would not do for their fellow-men, that has God done for us!

—John Chrysostom

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

And since he did everything in order to teach us, and suffered everything for the same reason, so here also He willed to be led by the Spirit into the desert, to meet the devil in combat, and so that no one should be shocked if, after receiving baptism, he suffers even severer temptations: as though something strange had happened; but that he may learn to stand firm and endure with fortitude what happens according to the ordinary rule of our life.This is the reason you received arms; not to stand at ease, but to fight  (Sermon by St. John Chrysostom, on the Temptation narrative in Matthew 4: 1ff)

In Lord of the Rings, when Frodo was in the depths of despair about the burden of the ring and the struggle they were engaged, wondering what are we doing here.  His friend Sam-wise Gamgee said to his dear friend that there is some good in this world, Mr. Frodo and it’s worth fighting for.  St. John Chrysostom thought so.  As it is written in the Bible, “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy).  St. John Chrysostom did so fight.  He fought not with a sword but the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (see Ephesians 6).  The good is Christ Himself, His blood and righteousness for us all.  The good is the Father of Christ and all of the Lord’s creation including you to set you free.  The good is the Lord, the Holy Spirit, ever teaching us the faith being sanctified by His grace. The good is His Church in the world, not of the world, but for the world and it’s salvation. 

St. John Chrysostom nailed it:  Jesus’ temptations are what is expected in bringing forth the truth of God’s Word.  Like Jonah, we want to run away from the Lord’s call.  Like Peter, we  deny the Lord.  Like Thomas, we doubt His eternal life, His resurrection.  When we go to see the doctor, we are a patient and are to have patience, but when it comes to sin and evil we must become impatient in our No to the devil and all his empty promises.  It always seems like the devil is winning but that is his strategy:  he lies to fool us.  Christ Jesus is no fool.  Like all the saints of yore, the only way is to stand fast in His Word and be steadfast,

“… with all true Christians running, our heav’nly race and shunning, the devil’s wiles and cunning, Amen, Amen! This be done, so sing we, ‘Alleluia!’” (“Triune God, Be Thou Our Stay”, LSB #505;  text:  Martin Luther). 

Prayer of the Day:

O God, You gave to your servant John Chrysostom grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, John fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to your church bishops and pastors who are like John in preaching and fidelity in their ministry of the Word to your people, and grant that we all be partakers of the divine nature through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You adn the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(More Quotes from St. John Chrysostom, look here)

Quote of the Day

What kind of marriage can there be when the wife is afraid of her husband?  What sort of satisfaction could a husband himself have, if he lives with his wife as if she were a slave and not with a woman by her own free will?  Suffer anything for her sake, but never disgrace her, for Christ never did this with the Church. (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 20)

Acts 20: 28-35

Psalm 71: 1-14

Titus 1: 1-9

St. Luke 10: 1-9

St. Titus, like Timothy with whom he is often  associated, was a friend and co-worker of St, Paul. Titus was a Gentile, perhaps a native of Antioch, who accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem when they brought assistance to the Christians in Judea during a famine (Acts 11:29-30; Galatians 2:1). It is not known if he accompanied Paul on his first or second missionary journeys, but Titus was with him on the third one, when he helped reconcile the Corinthians to Paul (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) and assisted with the collection for the Church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:3-6). It was probably on the return to Jerusalem that Paul left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:4-5). Afterward he is found working in Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). According to tradition, Titus returned to Crete, where he served as bishop until he died about AD 96. 

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

The Epistle Reading:  Titus 1: 1-9

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer (or bishops), as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Reflection:    January 24th was the Feast Day of St. Timothy, yesterday, January 25th, the Conversion of St. Paul, today St. Titus and tomorrow the Commemoration of St. John Chrysostom, Preacher.  When I began at my third congregation, the first one in the south, I went to see a home bound man, in a wheelchair, at his home and when I came in, “The preacher man is here!”  These four days of feasts and a commemoration are all about preacher men.  

The Apostle Paul tells his brother Pastor Titus that through the preaching of Word that the fullness of the truth was “manifested”.  The Greek word is very much akin to the name of this liturgical season:  epiphany. God makes manifest His will of salvation by grace alone through the preaching of the Word which means the Lord calls preachers and calls them to be faithful in preaching as men of integrity according to the Gospel.  This is a good day to give thanks to the Lord for faithful preachers especially the men you have known, bringing the Word to pulpit Sunday after Sunday, at the hospital, in a home bound member’s home, in a school, in classes, at the grave.  As you give thanks to the Lord let your thanks be known to your pastor as well.

In The Large Catechism by Martin Luther, in his explanation of the 4th Commandment, Honor Your Father and Your Mother, Luther taught that there are three offices of fathers, and a fourth one:

“…we have three kinds of fathers presented in this commandment: fathers by blood, fathers of a household, and fathers of the nation. Besides these, there are also spiritual fathers—not like those in the papacy who applied this title to themselves but performed no fatherly office. For the name spiritual father belongs only to those who govern and guide us by the Word of God. St. Paul boasts that he is a father in I Cor. 4:15, where he says, “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”

The two words in the good work of being a father, or a mother, are the authority of “no” and “yes”.  You can’t do this, you should not do that, be careful and the like.  Yes, come, let us worship the Lord, Yes,the Lord has forgiven you, Yes, I love you and will care for you, No, you can’t go out Friday night, Yes, good job on the test.  

“Fathers of a nation”, that is government, usually only use the word “No”, the political use of the Law for restraining evil (cf.  Romans 13:4) .

“Fathers of a household” meant for Luther the household with staff, that is, maids and servants.  Since many of us do not have such (!), and watch Downton Abbey wishing we did (!), this portion of the catechism seems irrelevant, but some have suggested that the modern equivalent is our places of work and  our superiors at work.  The boss must also apply with wisdom “no” and “yes”. 

Then there are spiritual fathers. In Paul’s short epistle to Titus, describing the work of the elder/overseer, that is pastor, Paul uses the word rebuke three times, as in the first time in the Epistle reading above:

He (the pastor)  must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine (yes) and also to rebuke those who contradict it (no).

But in our forever affirming, self-esteeming, always should feel good culture and society, the role of pastor actually rebuking, saying “no”  to false doctrine is even actively despised.  This means that the reality of sound doctrine, that Christ saves sinners, is also blunted.  Some pastors like to think of themselves as “coaches”, constantly cheering on the team…but that’s a cheerleader and an actual  coach has plenty of rebukes! 

Pastors are not to relish in rebuking, as it is not pleasant to receive  discipline or to discipline, but for the sake of the “sound doctrine” it needs to be done at the right time.   The pastor is also “disciplined” in his comportment according the humility of knowing that the Lord loves me a sinner as well, but when that sinfulness is not acknowledged and confessed (cf.1 John 1:7-9), and false doctrines are sought to justify sinfulness, something has to be said. Pray for your pastor  as he teaches you God’s Word of No and Yes, Law and Promise for you to love and know Jesus Christ.  He has been installed to guide his flock to goal of “eternal life” according to the compass of, “…the trustworthy word as taught”. 

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