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Posts Tagged ‘Baptism’

About Elisha: Elisha, son of Shaphat of the tribe of Issachar, was the prophet of God to the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 849-786 BC. Upon seeing his mentor, Elijah, taken up into heaven, Elisha assumed the prophetic office and took up the mantle of his predecessor. Like Elijah, Elisha played an active role in political affairs. He also performed many miracles, such as curing the Syrian army commander Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5) and restoring life to the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-7). A vocal opponent of Baal worship, Elisha lived up to his name, which means “my God is salvation.”  

 Elisha was the Lord’s prophet who by His Word many great deeds (miracles) were accomplished in Israel in the midst of it’s apostasies, Israel still heard the Word.  I think the greatest “miracle” was the healing of Naaman the Syria

n:  2 Kings 5. Naaman was a VIP and significantly, a Gentile and a leper.  Being a Gentile and a leper meant Naaman was unclean twice.  (And it be must be noted at this time in the news:  a Syrian).

 Naaman the Syrian went afar to find relief and he received even more.  Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, like  a 4 star general.   It just so happens he has a young Israelite girl that he had taken captive as a servant.   He hears from her that there is a “man of God” who might heal him in her country:  Elisha.  General Naaman goes to Israel with his entourage and eventually comes to Elisha’s home:  it would be like a limousine pulling up to a bungalow. “If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1: 40) Elisha tells Naaman to Go wash 7 times in the Jordan and you will be clean;  but Naaman responds to the prophet, “Can’t you just wave your hand and make me clean? Are not the rivers Pharpar and Abana in Syria better than the Jordan?” (fwiw:  I have seen the Jordan River and the Syrian rivers are probably better!)  Then we are told:

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (NIV;   this verse is not in all translations)

If the prophet had told you to do the 40 days of the purpose-driven life, wouldn’t you have done? If the prophet had told you to join a monastery and fast and pray, would you not have done it?  If the prophet told you to witness to a 100 Syrians about the God of Israel, would you not have done it? But just washing in a river?  Everyone does that!  Naaman finally does so as the Word of God spoken by Elisha told him.  Naaman made his decision for God? Hardly, he was at his wit’s end.  The General did as he was told without even faith in the Lord.  And he was cleansed…but this great deed is the more remarkable for what followed:

15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” 
16 But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.  
17 So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD. 18 Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing.” 
19 Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a short distance.

 Naaman confesses to Elisha his faith: I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.  Naaman wants to respond in the only way he probably knew how:  monetarily.  He wants to pay for his baptism.  Naaman urged Elisha to accept the gift.  No, says Elisha.  Why?  The greatest miracle for Naaman was faith.  But the story continues with Elisha’s servant Gehazi shaking down Naaman for money.  And Elisha’s response, the judgement of God, drives home the point:  you can not buy God’s grace and favor.  It is free. Gehazi becomes a leper.

The Lord creates the faith by His Word which alone heals.  There was greater healing that day in the Jordan:  Naaman’s soul.  Just think:  From an arrogant General to a humble believer saying to a foreigner, “your servant“!  From a non-believer to a worshiper of the true and only LORD in the midst of temple of Rimmon.  

“If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1: 40) What a simple, clean faith.  You can make me whole, You alone.  The leper (Mark 1)  knew he could not make himself clean.  Naaman did not make himself clean.  Only cats clean themselves.  We are not spiritual cats!  We can not clean our souls by our actions or words.  We must turn to water and soap, outside of us, to clean our bodies and so our souls.  I speak of the Word of God.  His Word is in the water, the water of Baptism as it was for that time-conditioned sacrament for Naaman.  “If you will, you can make me clean” “I will;  be clean” (Mark 1:40) This is the I will of His sovereign grace to sinners and His  Word is His will:  Baptism.  This Baptism’s authority comes from the Name of God (Matthew 28:18 ) and the great and powerful deed, central to all human history and each and every individual’s history:  His death and Resurrection (Romans 6: 1-11)

From Luther’s Small Catechism:

How can water do such great things?f

By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghostwhich He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christour Saviorthatbeing justified by His gracewe should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

“(Naaman) was made clean”

Gnd with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: 

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elisha, You continued the prophetic pattern of leaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

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Sermon Text:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

Psalm 127: 1

We receive periodically the “Liberty Journal”  from Liberty University in Lynchburg (for those not familiar a university founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder also of the “Moral Majority”:  Liberty is undergoing tremendous growth).  They have architectural plans to build the tallest building in Lynchburg:  “Independence Tower” in which to house their divinity school which  is a school to educate church workers, including pastors.  In the article about Independence Tower, “Standing Tall”, is a statement of Liberty University’s “…commitment to the uniquely American values of individual liberty, limited government, and Judeo-Christian principles.”  I agree that individual liberty and limited government are uniquely American values but not Judeo-Christian principles.  Moses and St. Paul were not Americans.  The Bible does not espouse “uniquely American values”, for this means our great nation lives by the 10 Commandments, and especially the first Table of the Law which all about the love of God and right worship, except the United States does not do so. It is not suppose to by governmental action and that is the uniquely American value. We the people do not want the government to build the Church nor interfere in the free exercise of the Church as it is the law of the land in the 1st Amendment.   I guess such a statement from Liberty, regarding our nation goes with the building of Independence Tower, as in America’s founding but a divinity school is not about independence, but dependence on Him who builds us up from the ground floor, the Cross.  

Adam and Eve bought into the serpent’s lie to “be like God”, which they already were, knowing good and evil, to build Independence Tower and eventually their ancestors would build the first independence tower in the plains of Shinar:  the people of Shinar built Babel to “make a name for ourselves”.  Now I do not want to equate Liberty University with Babel, but even our most sincere efforts for God and country are tainted by our own innate tendency toward idolatry. We must be careful on who does the building of the Church and the nation. Churches and nations still do want to make a name for themselves to secure the good. It is confusing to merge the two towers:  national and churchly.  When the churches do so, the idolatry is self-evident, but as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about life here and the life of the world to come, “”building from heaven,” “building from God, not made with hands.” 

“The verse” in the Liturgy is what we sing before the reading of the Gospel which is “Alleluia”, but there are verses appointed for each Sunday, usually a Scripture passage, which can be sung by the congregation or a choir.  The appointed verse for today is Psalm 127: 1a. Psalm 127 is one of the 14 Psalms of Ascent.  Families and extended families sung these Psalms as they went up, ascended to Zion, city on a hill, Jerusalem for the great feast days such as Passover.  Solomon wrote Psalm 127.  Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem so he knew about building, yet he knew, unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it build it in vain.  There are three types of building in this short Psalm:  our homes, the House of the Lord and the city, society and culture.  Church, home and nation are three interconnecting orders of creation.  

In today’s Gospel lesson we are told that the multitude is gathered around Jesus in a circle.  What or who is at the center? The Lord is whether confessed or not but here was the multitude gathered around Him and if the Son is there, so is the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is joy as Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”  What was the multitude doing to do the will of God?  First, foremost and central: hearing Jesus, hearing the Word of God.  He was building them up by His grace and healing for His people. They were not independent but dependent hanging on His every Word proceeding from His mouth, and being freed, dependent yet  independent at the same time from the tyranny of the world, the flesh and the devil. 

What is at the center of the orders of creation, Church, home and nation?  The Lord is…whether acknowledged or not. What does it sound like when the Lord is acknowledged?  We hear it in today’s Gospel.  Jesus’ relatives thought He was crazy and accusations fly like that or Jesus is Satan. Satan does not build but destroys and Jesus was binding that strong man to plunder his stolen house. He calls out Satan from men’s hearts to call us out to Himself.  What does it look like when the Lord is not acknowledged?  Adam thinks he is in the driver’s seat and as we heard in today’s Gospel, it is a curse. Adam thinks he can build a world apart from God. It is our kind of salvation without the Lord.  Life self-contained, as in humanism, and “…it provides for man no resources outside himself.”  Adam thinks he can progress and evolve on his own resources but if the weather turns bad, the sky is falling because there is no trust in the Lord who made Adam  and nature in the first place.  

Who is at the center?  It gets down to the basic crisis of our day:  creed or chaos. We do not want the government to build the Church, by any means, but when government and nation are hostile to the Church, we see the results around us.  We look at the waste of the wrath of our time and see life lived without the Lord in the center, without hope and God in the world (Ephesians). among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind .  The English poet W. B Yeats described our time, and for him it was after the wreckage of the first World War.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity 

It is darkness.  If I want to watch life without the Lord, see Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Walking Dead. “For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the cup of violence” (Proverbs 4: 17).   It is not that the center cannot hold, it is so many do not want to hold to the center, or even acknowledge the Lord. 

Insisting on doing evil and claiming Jesus does evil is the sin against the Holy Spirit.  “We are waging a war of religion.  Not a civil war between adherents of the same religions, but a life and death struggle between Christian and pagan.”  So wrote Dorothy L.Sayers in 1940 in England, in her essay, “Creed or Chaos?”  Chaos is all around us and has eaten into the very basis of creation, the order of the family.  The center is formed by the Creeds, the Center hearing His Word, praying His Word, teaching and preaching and eating and drinking and washed in His Word. We are baptized, secured by the Lord to eat His Body and drink the Cup of the New Testament in His Blood.  Allt hat’s not crazy, just read the news for crazy.  

The family going up to Jerusalem prayed,

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

This is our prayer as well as we ascend the steps here to this upper room.[i]The Lord builds the family, city and Church.  At every step prayer, every step His grace and mercy.   And here’s the truth if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  On our own, it is chaos. Beloved in the Lord, He has made His own so we labor at our work, in our households and in His House. The Lord builds. Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached it well in Berlin in 1933, in building the Church, and confessing Christ,  as the armies of darkness were again mustering their siren song of human salvation:

 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. 

And others will be built into His House.  We are not called to stand tall but to stand fast.  One of the hymn verses I go back to again and again is:

 Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from your Son
And bring to nought all he has done.

(Martin Luther)

He  was always and ever will be build by His Word, for His Word, in His Name as by His Name He called us out of darkness into His own most marvelous light and does so day by day, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

[i] Concordia Lutheran Missions meets in the second floor of the two story rehabbed old Buena Vista fire station.

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I 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. 

St. John 15: 5

A church had this sermon theme on its outside sign:  “A Fruitful Life Requires Jesus”. Love, the fruit and so proceed to the vine, the root, the source. No, it is the opposite in the Bible “Jesus requires the fruitful life.” From the vine comes the branches and the fruit.  From Christ comes the Christian. This is plain from the Gospel lesson for today. He uses the word abide some 8 times so that we have the fruitful life in Him.  It’s not, so you want to be a branch, find the vine. The inherent nature and purpose of  the Lord’s creation is to make fruit.  The gardener plants seed for one purpose:  produce, fruits and vegetable, as the Lord requires fruitfulness.  It is His doing and our tending, abiding in Him to plant, water and wait.   Notice the main difference in the two statements:  “A fruitful life requires Jesus”, the subject of “a fruitful life” is you and I, not the Lord.  We’re in charge.  “Do you really want the fruitful life?” “Here are the 5 steps to the fruitful life”, or others might preach that the fruitful life is a certain attainment of material prosperity, the “prosperity Gospel”, your best life now, etc. And so you need to accept Jesus to have the fruitful life,  then Jesus is our branch. Jesus does not grow out of us.  We grow out of Him! If we don’t, we will be unfruitful and cut off. 

Like I said, it’s just the opposite. We are the branches.   “The Lord Jesus requires the fruitful life”,   who is the subject?  Yes, the Lord.  “I am the Vine”, not you or I:  we are the branches, the Lord is Vine, and so the life of the grapevine.  His will, His word is that we are clean in His forgiveness.  His will, His word is that we know His peace.   His will, His word in a world bent in upon itself, fills  us with His love to so love others as He first loved us. His will, His word is  we are found in Him and to so find others as a Shepherd searching today for  His lost sheep.  His will, His Word is fruitfulness unto eternal life as we abide in Him, if we do not then we are cast aside.   His will is His Word in His words which are  His life for you, not your best life, but His life for you, knowing His love, His grace, mercy and peace. 

How do we know this? Answer: I heard it through the grapevine!  Jesus is faithful in all the words of the Bible.  Every word from the mouth of God is bread.  I heard it through the grape Vine:  This is my body, This is my blood.  

The saying,  “I heard it through the grapevine.” actually refers to gossip.  When someone passes on gossip it’s usually to help, I just thought you should know what they’re saying about you.  Or you should know about Sally so we can help Sally.  The false prophets and spirits are gossips about God in all their fine theories about the Lord who loves us.  They will say Jesus is not from God and He came in our flesh.  Test the spirits.  Hear them but do not listen to them that is obey them. The false spirits lead us from our Lord who so loves us. All those who deny Jesus came in the flesh are spreading gossip and rumors under the pretense to help  you.  The false spirits primarily say Jesus is not the incarnate God, come in the flesh. Gossips distort the truth.  They do not state it correctly.  Heretics are gossips. They speak as if they know but they do not, they trim the message to their own flesh and to acceptance in the world.  Jesus was a good teacher, a social revolutionary, a way to God and the like.  When the grapevine is the Lord Jesus we can hear and know that the Lord is good, His mercy endures forever.   His Word of forgiveness and grace cleanses us.  Abide in His Words He taught, His Words are true as is the entirety of the Word of God.

How does the Lord nourish our life as we abide in Him?  Answer: I hear it through the grapevine.   If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  Abide in Him and His words abiding in us and so it is logical to hear Him is to pray to Him and for Him and it is done.  This is child-like faith. We are heard as we hear Him,  the grapevine.  

“…everything has been heard, even though one does not know what has been heard. Even when Christ asked for His life, He was heard.  But the flesh does not recognize how the hearing takes place. Therefore every prayer is heard, and whatever we ask for happens, even though we do not recognize in what ways it happens… God sometimes hurls us into greater evils in order that He may put an end to the evils. And thus He has heard our prayer.” (Luther)

The Father will prune us.  He will cut off the suckers that take away from fructification.  The wild shoots.  Sin is a  sucker.  Sin sucks. It takes life away and deters the true Vine.  His pruning is confession and absolution. 

How are we made clean by His Word?  Answer:  Baptism and Faith. We heard today another witness in the Bible of a man made clean by Jesus:  the Baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch.  He heard the Word and the Word was poured over him in the waters of rebirth in Jesus Christ the true vine.  He heard it through the grapevine and Philip was no gossip, but he taught the Good News of Jesus who suffered and died and rose, as Isaiah prophesied 5 centuries before the Incarnation. And according to a reliable tradition, the Ethiopian eunuch did bear much fruit, even though there could never be fruit from his body.  He went home and may have told of the Gospel of Jesus as Philip told him. From early on,  Ethiopia became a Christian nation and today Ethiopia has one of the largest Lutheran church bodies on earth, a  whole lot bigger than all the Lutherans in the United States. I dare say, if we could ask the Ethiopian eunuch so how did you bear much fruit, tell us your secrets for the fruitful life?  His answer:  it was not me.  It was the Lord Jesus.  “This fruit is not mine; it is the Vine’s” (Luther, page 226 LW vol. 24).  He spread the truth, not gossip He was in charge of all the treasure of the Queen of Ethiopia and on that day, in the arranged meeting with Philip, the eunuch heard of the treasure beyond measure:  the unsearchable riches of Christ. 

How do we know this? Answer: I heard it through the grapevine!  Jesus is faithful in all the words of the Bible.   How does the Lord nourish our life as we abide in Him?  Answer: I hear it through the grapevine. He came in the flesh.

Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 

The Lord uses the word abide as an imperative, a command.  We are to keep His commandments, wrote the evangelist John.  And he wrote, “And His commandments are not burdensome”.  His commandments relieve our burdens. As His command,Come to all who are burden and heavy lade and I will give you rest…”  As His command, Take eat, take drink, this is My Body, this is My blood.  Forgive one another as I have forgiven you. Forgive your brother even 70 times 7 as I have forgiven you a humanly speaking unforgivable debt.  Love one another as I have first loved you.  Go ye therefore and teach all a nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I hear it through the Vine we are to love as He first loved us.  The devil hates the Holy Spirit’s fruit, especially the first one: love. We do not love to be saved but we have been so loved so we are saved to love. “We derive the greatest joy from the fact that we have people to love, either a wife or children, and we thank God, who gives us people to love.”-Martin Luther, commentary on 1 John 4: 11 And in all His freeing commands, it is the true Vine, Our Lord Jesus, we can do nothing without Him. 

I hear it through the grapevine. Look again at the picture of  the icon for this sermon. The icon with the depiction of the branch coming from the Lord’s side reminded me of the creation of Eve. It also shows Jesus squeezing grapes into a Chalice to be for His blood. Remember the Lord took a rib from Adam’s side to make a helpmate suitable for him, his wife to whom he would be married.  The Church is the bride of Christ.  We come from the Lord’s side by His grace and favor, His love just as when the Roman soldier pierced the Savior’s side, blood and water flowed out, so we are nourished in the Word of God, Baptism and Holy Communion.

 

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, Your Son revealed Himself to Philip and James and gave them the knowledge of everlasting life. Grant us perfectly to know Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the way, the truth, and the life, and steadfastly to walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

READINGS

Isaiah 30:18-21

Psalm 36:5-12 (antiphon: v. 8)   Ephesians 2: 19-22

St. John 14:1-14

St. Philip is mentioned in the lists of the apostles (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), but only in John’s Gospel is more told about him. Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee and one of the first disciples called after Peter and Andrew. Philip also was instrumental in bringing Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:43-51). It was to Philip that Jesus posed the question about where to buy bread to feed five thousand men (John 6:5). During Holy Week, Philip with Andrew brought some inquiring Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20-22). And on Maundy Thursday evening, Philip asked Jesus to show the Father to him and to the rest of the disciples (John 14:8). According to tradition, Philip went to labor in Phrygia and was buried there.

St. James was a son of Alphaeus and was also called “the Younger” (to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee, “the Elder,” whose festival day is July 25). His mother,Mary, was one of the faithful women who stood at the cross of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40). James is mentioned in the same apostolic lists as Philip, but there is no other mention of him in the New Testament. There is also no information regarding his field of labor or the circumstances of his death, except that he may have been martyred by being sawed in two.(The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

The Gospel Reading for today is part of our Lord’s teaching the disciples in the night in which He was betrayed, and so there is a poignancy  and urgency to these words of Christ Jesus.  In the next chapter, the Lord teaches,

I 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 (St. John 15: 5).

It is clear from the biography above that we do not know much about the “fruit” of these two Apostles, in fact, almost nothing from the Bible, yet tradition tells us that they went on to preach and teach the Gospel.  It is clear that the Apostles all would know the literalism of our Lord’s teaching:  “I am”, present tense, for He died for them and likewise rose for them, for us all.  “I am the vine”.  “I am”, said the Lord, today where you are in your life.  The Bible does not tell us of the fruit of Philip and James.  It is not necessary to be told except they abode in Christ the Vine.  Most  of us will not be remembered in the annals of history, yet in Christ the true vine we have fruitfulness. I think Philip and James would agree with what Luther preached on John 15:  1-11, “This fruit is not mine; it is the Vine’s”.  Luther on the saint’s life in everyday life:

“It is true that a Christian is not as impressive with his works and fruit as a schismatic spirit or an eccentric, for he does not choose any particularly striking works but confines himself to the ordinary tasks that come up in everyday life. The trouble is that the world is unable to see that these are works performed by a new person in Christ. Therefore one and the same work becomes different even in one and the same person, depending on whether it is performed before or after he has come to faith in Christ. Previously he was a thistle and a thorn; for he was not a part of the Vine and for this reason was unable to bear fruit, and all the works he performed were lost and condemned. But now that he is a Christian, the same work is a fine and precious grape — not because it was done in this or that manner, but because it issues from the good Vine, which is Christ.”

With praise and thanksgiving to God ever living,
The tasks of our everyday life we will face.
Our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring,
Embracing His children of each tribe and race.
With Your feast You feed us, with Your light now lead us;
Unite us as one in this life that we share.
Then may all the living with praise and thanksgiving
Give honor to Christ and His name that we bear.

(“Sent Forth by God’s Blessing”, stanza 2, #643, The Lutheran Service Book)

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The sacraments are called in other churches by names such as “observances” or “ordinances”.  The Sacraments are certainly are that, as they are to be observed because they have been ordered by the Lord, but the universal Church has rightly called Holy Baptism and Holy Communion primarily by the name:  sacrament. The Lord ordered the 10 Commandments to tell us what to do and not do.  His Sacraments is to tell us whose we are and what He has done for each of purposely:  for you.  I baptize you.

The literal meaning of the word origin is pledge or oath. A Roman soldier would give his sacramentum to Caesar and the Empire.  In my limited understanding, it seems that the pledge inherent in the Sacrament is not from us to God, but from the Lord to us.  In the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are the divine pledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, His promise of grace to us for the forgiveness of sins,the strengthening of faith, the enlivening of the bonds of fellowship in the Holy Spirit.  The Sacraments are not simply something we do, that is, observe and obey, but the Sacraments are the Lord’s means of grace to us that we joyously observe and obey.  His pledge to us is to be our God and we His people and strengthen us these jars of clay ready to receive the fullness of His grace. In German Holy Communion is called “Gottesdienst”, that is God’s Service for us, to us, in us, amongst us.  Likewise Holy Baptism is Gottesdienst. Luther, from The Large Catechism: 

…Baptism is divine, not devised nor invented by men. For as truly as I can say, No man has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer out of his head, but they are revealed and given by God Himself, so also I can boast that Baptism is no human trifle, but instituted by God Himself

From God’s Word in the ears,into the heart, the Lord builds the means, like an arch of His Word to support and encourage His Church.  What we hear we also taste and see:  the Sacraments. 

Baptism obviously uses water.  Water is needed for all on earth to survive.  It is the universal solvent as the steady drip of water can wear down rock and smooth out mountains.  And water brings nutrients into our bodies. The Lord uses matter to convey His work in Jesus Christ for us and for salvation.  Matter matters because God created it and it is good.  Now in God’s Word water recreates and it is the greatest of God’s Word which is connected to the water:  His Name, The Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Baptism is the Church’s family bath by which we are made His so that faith receives His grace. He washes us and the Lord knows we need washing!  Yes, Baptism is as lowly as a washing.  Baptism is not spectacular work like being Pope or going on a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s or serving on some high muckety-muck Synodical board. Even so Baptism is not a regular bath because as the Lord said that His Name, His Word is there and if we go against Baptism we go against God’s Word:  specifically that He has made us His own. He has washed His bride, His Church.

…as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5)

When get dirty as Christians, we are not like the hippies of old and try not to wash!  But we do not have to be baptized again, we just need to be washed:  we are washed but not all of us, said the Lord, as He washed the disciples’ feet. We look into the mirror of God’s Law and see what we have done, or should have done and are soiled.    The Apostles’ Creed points us to the water and there is the water again, the water and the Word of forgiveness. As we are baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity, so we forgive and are forgiven. There are 5 Wednesdays in Lent to cover the 6 Chief Parts and we can not cover by itself Confession and Absolution, but the Sacrament of Absolution is intimately connected with Baptism. From The Small Catechism:  

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer: It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

 

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I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three,
Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord!

Hymn # 172 from Lutheran Worship

Let us pray… God of grace and might, we praise You for your servant Patrick, to whom You gave gifts to make the good news known to the people of Ireland. Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 62: 1-7; Psalm 48; Romans 10: 11-17; St. Luke 24: 44-53

Bio:  Patrick is one of the best-known of the missionary saints. Born to a Christian family in Britain around the year 389, he was captured as a teenager by raiders, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a herdsman. After six years he escaped and found his way to a monastery community in France. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities. He strongly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a time when it was not popular to do so. His literary legacy includes his autobiography, Confessio, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today. Patrick died around the year 466.  Read more about St. Patrick’s biography here, citing quotes from his Confessio.

Reflection: The Church’s mission is Baptism.  St. Patrick, missionary Bishop, knew that. He wrote a majestic poem that became a hymn on Holy Baptism (see above). Ireland had been evangelized prior to Patrick but it was through this servant of the Lord that the Faith was rooted.  Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was to the baptized who had wandered down false paths and dead ends to return to the waters. Patrick’s preaching of Christ was for the baptized to walk in the newness of life in Christ as a baptized son or daughter. Bishop Patrick’s preaching of Jesus Christ was for the pagan to come to the waters, to bind unto themselves the strong Name of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ commanded His Church to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity, not in the Church’s name,nor Patrick’s nor Luther’s, for that matter.  The baptism mission of the Church is obviously not fads and fashions, techniques and clever tactics to “get people into Church”.  The Baptism is always Jesus Christ.  Patrick did not water down Holy Baptism!  He did not water down the doctrine and practice of the Church to “reach people”.  His goal was not ‘outreach’ to people but preach the Word so that people call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved, and that means:  Holy Baptism.   Patrick knew that he was a jar of clay” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7), as he knew that the surpassing power was the Lord’s, the One who baptized him:

Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity—benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.

The Church wears the “green” day in and day out, in the bloom of summer, in the dead of winter:  greening in the watering of His forgiveness by His grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8). When we forget our baptismal sojourn in the Holy Spirit and His Word the Scriptures, then we are lost. Yes, wear the green today but do not forget to pray and make the sign of the Cross giving thanks to Lord our God, for the missionary bishop who baptized many. The Lord’s Cross points us home to the Holy Trinity.  From Patrick’s  Confession:

 In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord—so many thousands of people.

Rev. Mark Schroeder
Concordia Lutheran Mission (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

2271 Sycamore Avenue (entrance on Beech Avenue, Suite F, second floor, chair lift avaible)
Buena Vista, VA 
24416
Sundays: 9:30 Bible Class
Divine Service:  10:30AM

Blog: 
Concordia and Koinonia
 
The Mission’s mailing address:
Concordia Lutheran Mission
2017 Forest Avenue P.O.# 1012
Buena Vista, VA 24416

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St. Mark 8:  “And He began to teach them that the Son of  Man must suffer many things…” 

One of the words that has become used a whole lot more in the computer age is “template”. 

noun:  1..  pattern, mold, or the like, usually consisting of a thin plate of wood or metal, serving as a gauge or guide in mechanical work

 2. anything that determines or serves as a pattern; a model 

Jesus is pointing His disciples to His Cross looming in the future and in the distance.  The Gospel of His prophecy of His death and resurrection will be the template of salvation. His cross, His suffering many things is the things of God, God’s mind and His mind is made-up:  He saved you and will. 

His Word is the template for your salvation, the joyous word of your forgiveness in Jesus Christ, the way of the Cross is the baptismal path.  And in the way that is just and so justifies, makes us right by faith.  This Gospel, in fact all the  Gospel, written and taught and preached and administered in the Sacraments is the template of His Cross.  I know I have pointed out before the floor plans of the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe and America is cross-shaped.  The cross is the template of the Church, His Temple, His Body.  This is the template of each life within Christ’s Body.  In today’s Gospel is the precise moment in which the Lord began to teach His suffering:   rejected, killed, buried and risen. 

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Our Lord asked a rhetorical question which begs no answer because it is self-evident that the question itself is  the answer:  when a man wants the whole world, he will lose his own soul in forfeit to get it. Satan certainly knows the Faustian bargain which is no deal!   We all get it.  Even folks who are not “religious” or spiritual get it.  We see it played out, repeatedly, in the courts of public media and opinion. It is the Faustian bargain.  Losing one’s soul for gaining the whole world is Satan’s real deal and the soul lost is hell…or even a piece of that pie. This is piously lamented as the succession of sports figures, movie and television stars, politicians and the like rise and fall is played out, shaking heads in self-righteous indignation thinking Oh it’s not me.  Yet, we know it can be. 

 “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:  33.   Jesus triumphs over Satan and the world. He teaches them He must suffer many things…the must is a must, it is a divine necessity. Why?!  Sin must be accounted for and the judgment of it.  God is the just judge.  And the suffering begins almost in the next verse:  His own disciple, Peter, who had just confessed Him as the Christ, rebuked the Lord. Rejected, killed, shamed is no way for a Messiah to act!  You are thinking like men that a glorious escape, which leaves iniquity, unaccounted. Therefore, Jesus suffers the torment of temptation from a disciple, a friend. He must for He must save Peter, you, and me. He has, you can count on that more than anyone can count on the stock market or the weather forecast. 

What is the world?  Answer:  it is God’s good creation, pulsating with His life and love.  Nevertheless, the “world” in the hands of  man bent on being God as Satan promised, the world became something else:

“In this creation, life is received in faith as the sheer unmerited gift of God and then shared as freely as it is given in love for the neighbor. If you take creation, subtract faith, and love from it, the remainder is “the world.” Take away faith and love and the creation becomes clueless about God and itself and ends up looking to itself and when it “gets religion”, as the saying goes, the world makes itself into a god. “A god,” says Luther “is whatever you look to as the source of your good.” In addition, what creation, minus faith and love, looks to for its good is itself. And just so, creation becomes “the world”. The “world”, theologically is the creation bent on being its own god.” (Pr. Louis Smith). 

“I’ve given you everything, the best years of my life” “I’ve scrimped and saved and what thanks I do I get?”  “Oh, this is to die for” And each one of us will but that is not the final chapter. 

God entered fully into the world, the Greek word for world is cosmos.  As in “cosmetics”.  The world apart from God, its Creator, knows how to look good, enticing, well, tempting; it is said we are “self-made” men and women.  But it is death. We look for easier and less astounding ways, the easy way out, but that is not just.  A trade-off, If I do this, then you will HAVE it all, that is the template of the world, and that is bartering, dealing not saving grace. God’s law kills us with that truth concerning iniquity.  Thinking the things of man, like Peter, our minds are made up. We want it all and want it now. You can, says someone, for a price, a steep price that looks like a deal at the start. However, the price is the soul.  Then one is sold. What can a man do?   For what can a man give in return for his soul? Another question, which is its own answer, a man can do nothing.  However, God can and has.  Bought for a price, a steep price.  What’s teh price, as the Elizabethans would say, “God’s blood”.  He became sin and died, a must.  The template of His Cross and Resurrection is not only seen but also first heard, Scripture is summed up by the Catechism and for us today, look at the back of the bulletin please, the 2nd article of the Creed:

What does this mean?  Answer:  I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.  He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and delivered me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death; in order that I may be wholly His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

This template is our daily life in Jesus Christ and it is baptismal and related to the 4th Chief part of the Catechisms, especially this Q and A:

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.  St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Another Elizabethan, Shakespeare wrote:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.”

The brave in Christ Jesus do die many deaths and will taste of life forever:  Jesus Christ.  Dying and rising is our wet walk in Baptism and not to be ashamed of it, but  proud of His love which has loved us to the end and will forever. His blood teaches us we are His.    St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York: unmistakably a cross, a cross in the midst of Vanity Fair, unashamed. Around it buildings tower over that church.  Cathedrals have spires:  and the cross points us to heaven. And as tall as the skyscrapers are in NYC round about finally only point to themselves.  Many of the cathedrals have at the entrance a baptismal font:  the way we enter and are His people.  Our cruciform lives pointing others to heaven:  Jesus died and rose for you.  Plainly.

 

 

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