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Bio:  Moving from the Old World to the New, Muhlenberg established the shape of Lutheran parishes for America during a 45-year ministry in Pennsylvania. Born at Einbeck, Germany, in 1711, he came to the American colonies in 1742. A tireless traveler, Muhlenberg helped to found many Lutheran congregations and was the guiding force behind the first American Lutheran synod, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, founded in 1748. He valued the role of music in Lutheran worship (often serving as his own organist) and was also the guiding force in preparing the first American Lutheran liturgy (also in 1748). Muhlenberg is remembered as a church leader, a journalist, a liturgist, and—above all—a pastor to the congregation in his charge. He died in 1787, leaving behind a large extended family and a lasting heritage: American Lutheranism.

During the American War of Independence, Muhlenberg’s home in Trappe was full of fugitives; he wrote in his journal: ‘The name of Muhlenberg is greatly disliked and abused by the British and Hessian officers in Philadelphia, and they threaten prison, tortures, and death, so soon as they can lay hands upon me.’

Pastor Muhlenberg’s  sons were  leaders in American public life. His son John Peter Gabriel left his pastorate in Woodstock, Virginia and became a general under Washington and later in life served as congressman and senator from Pennsylvania.  He announced his intention to serve in the Continental Army and the cause of political freedom from the pulpit when he took off his preaching robe to reveal his uniform saying there is a time to pray and a time to fight.  One of Pennsylvania’s statues in Statuary Hall in the U. S. Capitol depicts this moment .  It might be legend but it illustrates that we are called to serve as citizens in the two kingdoms, the temporal, that is, our nation and the eternal, the reign of God in Jesus Christ. John’s brother, Frederick Augustus Conrad,  also a Lutheran pastor became a member of the Continental Congress and became the first speaker of the House of Representatives in the new nation under the new Constitution.

(Sources:  Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Philip Pfatteicher,  Diary Review: Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Pastor Muhlenberg wrote an extensive journal which is a record of his pastoral ministry but also the times and his heart.  His journals are in three volumes. In this selection, we see his ministry, times and his heart:

1748. November 5.  I am worn out from much reading; I am incapacitated for study; I cannot even manage my own household because I must be away most of the time. The Reverend Fathers called me for only three years on trial, but the dear God has doubled the three years and upheld me all this time with forbearance. I write this not out of any discontent of slothfulness, but out of the feeling of spiritual and physical incapacity and a yearning desire to achieve a little more quietude where I could gather my thoughts better, spend more time with my wife and children, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

When the Lord called Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul), He told him  that He would show him how much he must suffer for Christ’s Name (Acts 9: 16).  Pr. Muhlenberg knew the role of the pastor.  It is not about “your best life” now, but the Lord’s eternal life now and to the kingdom come in the preaching and teaching of the Word of Christ. Someone decided that October is pastor appreciation month.  It is appropriate with today’s commemoration and the Feast of the Reformation, October 31 when a pastor said before King and Church:  Here I stand, I can do no other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  Pr. Muhlenberg was a captive to no man but to the Word of God, so are also all true and faithful pastors. Give thanks to the Lord for your pastor and thank him!

“People are…warned that the term faith does not mean simply a knowledge of history, such as the ungodly and devil have [James 2: 19].  Rather, it means a faith that believes, not merely the history, but also the effect of the history.  In other words, it believes this article:  the forgiveness of sins.  We have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness through Christ.” (Augsburg Confession XX 19-26)

Today’s Daily Lectionary New Testament reading is St. Matthew 8: 1-17 which includes the narrative of the healing of the centurion’s servant.  The Lord exclaims that he had never seen such faith in all of Israel.  St. John Chrysostom has this faithful commentary on this reading:

“…though (the centurion) has such great faith, he still accounted himself to be unworthy.  Christ, however, signifying that the centurion was worthy to have Him enter into his house, did much greater things, marveling at him and acclaiming him and given him more than he had asked.  For he came indeed seeking for his servant bodily healing, but went away, having received a kingdom…and not by this alone did He honor him, but also by indicating upon whose casting out he is brought in.  For now from this time forth, Christ proceeds to make known that salvation is by faith, not by works of the Law.”

St. John Chrysostom’s last sentence is one of many testimonies that the church fathers also taught salvation by faith, but not out of their reasoning apart from Scripture alone. In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation this is a salutary reminder that some editions in 1580 of the Book of Concord included a catalogue of testimonies  listing quotes from the Church Fathers pertaining to the doctrine of justification.

The New Testament reading for today is clear that a thoroughgoing uncircumcised Gentile, a Roman Centurion, was not part of God’s covenant with Israel and yet, by faith in Christ, on account of Christ alone, the centurion’s servant is healed and the centurion counted himself unworthy. The kingdom is never earned, it is always given.

It is a high vocation to be a Translator of Scripture. This is a good day to pray for all translators, missionaries, seminarians and Biblical professors.

Concordia and Koinonia

“To be a Christian is a great thing, not merely to seem one. And somehow or other those please the world most…please Christ least…. Christians are made, not born.”-St. Jerome

St. Jerome’s Vulgate Translation:  St. John 1: 1

In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum
            In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.

In ipso vita erat et vita erat lux hominum
            In him was life: and the life was the light of men. 

Prayer of the Day

O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. May those who continue to read, mark, and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of…

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Quote by St. Jerome

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