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“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. John1: 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 life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Jerome, Translator of Holy Scripture:  Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea around AD 345. At a young age, he went to study in Rome, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian Desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople, Jerome settled in Bethlehem. from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the Western Church for more than 1,o00 years. Considered one of the great scholars of the Early Church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem, but his remains were eventually taken to Rome. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  We make much ado about miracles in the Bible as well we probably should, but there are some miracles that go totally unnoticed, as in:

For out of Zion shall go the law,
   and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2

and

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. Revelation 14: 6

From the least of the tribes and nations of earth comes forth the Word of God and specifically, the Word made flesh, “…to every nation and tribe and language and people.”   He has made known to all His Law and Gospel.  And there was a priest of Jesus Christ, one Jerome,  translating the Bible into a language by which all of Europe for 1,000 years could listen to the Word of God.  Vulgate Latin become the lingua franca, the common language of the Church.  It was not God’s language for God’s language, His Word, His tongue are the mighty deeds in Jesus Christ, as it clear in Acts 2:7-9, but they heard it  in  their own “native language”.  This is the Pentecost of translation begun in Jerusalem.  It has not stopped. The Bible is the perennial best seller in the world.  The Pentecost of His published Word was continued by Jerome and many others.

The Lord brought forth His Word out from Zion. This is the Lord’s great deed by which He civilized a world in, through and by  His Word as we await for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory.   Jerome facilitated the greatest publishing event in the history of the world that had already begun: The Holy Bible.  It is the Word alone which testifies God’s will for us.  If it was not, then Jerome would have translated human tradition for the world to read, but he did not.

It is a high vocation to be a Translator of Scripture.  The Bible or portions thereof have been translated into some 2, 287 languages.  This is a good day to pray for all translators, missionaries, seminarians and Biblical professors.  

The King James Version renders Mark 13: 10: “And the gospel must first be published among all nations”, and Isaiah 52:7 that blessed are the feet which, “publisheth salvation”. The word “publish” is from same Latin root as our word “public”. “Vulgate” from “vulgur” meant in Latin “public” as well.  The Lord makes public His Word.  It is not merely a private thing but for the whole world and our nation.  He calls His Church to continue this work till the consummation of all things so that many may call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved.

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Here is a little quiz to see what you know about angels. All the answers are true/false and you can find out the answers tomorrow, right here:

1)      The most reliable source about angels is Jewish folklore. 

2)      The word “angel” literally means  a woman with wings.

3)      Angels are created.

4)      Angels are ministering spirits to serve us.

5)      Human beings can “earn their wings” and become angels.

6)      Angels are dumb.

7)      There are ranks of angels, kind of like in the army.

8)      Lucifer, or the devil, is a fallen angel.

9)      We are to pray to angels because they are heavenly beings.

10)  There was war in heaven.

11)  Angels usually provoke fear in people.

12)  This is the best quiz on angels I have ever taken!

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2014-11-03 07.51.00

All Saints Sunday, 2014: I am presiding at the Altar, the Preacher was Pr. Keith Beasley of our sponsoring Congregation, Good Shepherd, Roanoke, VA

Today is the 5th anniversary of  Concordia Lutheran Mission here in Rockbridge County.   On the Page on the top, you can read the history. The header photo is about five years ago, when were meeting at the Library.  Some of the folks pictured, moved, went to college and others have joined since that photo.

The first Divine Service was at Grace Presbyterian Church, August 28th, the Commemoration of St. Augustine (We did not plan for that day because it is was the commemoration of St. Augustine, but it is appropos since his faithful teaching influenced Martin Luther!)   We had left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Lexington, of which I had been pastor. For several months many of us sojourned down to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church/Roanoke.  In conversation with Good Shepherd’s Shepherd, Rev. Keith Beasley, we realized the need for a mission in Rockbridge County. Pr. Beasley and Vicar James Prothro presided and preached at that first service and did so until I was recognized as a pastor in the Synod. Good Shepherd/Roanoke became our sponsoring congregation. Within a year I was accepted as a pastor awaiting call, by a colloquy committee of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  We left Grace Presbyterian, as they were moving, and we began worshiping in the Lexington Main Library, in their community room.  One year ago, we found out about a good rental property in the other main town in Rockbridge County, Buena Vista and this is where the Mission is now located.

We have not grown exponentially, yet, we have some new members.  In many ways, as my wife pointed out, after losing my full-time income as a pastor, leaving a church body, thinking about the prospect of selling our house, and a mission that is still tenuous, never the less, we have our house and the House of the Lord, His mission is still here after five years.  But by the grace of God, go we! 

We  left a denomination purporting to be church.  We left because of it’s war against the Word of God. It rejected marriage, marriage between man and woman alone.  In St. Augustine’s day, Rome fell and before that, Nero fiddled on his violin while Rome burned.  While our Romes burn today, churches have fiddled around with the Word of God.  Many churches look  nice on the outside but as the Lord said about the religious leadership of His time, they are whitened sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones full of decay and rot.  It is profoundly sad.  Am I overstating the case?  I do not think so. The gates of hell are doing their best, but they have not prevailed.  Many, including myself, have chronicled the central collapse of Biblical Scriptures in so many areas of the Church. Now, one should not lightly and unadvisedly leave a church body.  By God’s grace alone,  I do not think we did. 

So!  Are we in the promised land?  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod?  When I had my last interview for acceptance as a pastor into The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at the Synod’s International Center outside of St. Louis, Missouri, one of my three interviewers was a district president who warned me, “You know the Missouri Synod has problems and it’s not perfect.” I smiled and said, “If it were perfect, that would mean the Lord has come with His kingdom and I don’t think He has and there would be no interview”  They all smiled or chuckled.  The district president’s caution was a good one.  In Christ, he could admit sin because of our Savior. I do not think I could ever hear that from some other liberal protestant church bodies and their ecclesiacrats confessing their church is wrong, they can’t right now as they defend falsehood. The district president knows our church body is not perfect but it trusts and believes in the whole Word of God, the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions which teach, preach and confess the 6th Commandment and it’s meaning.   The district president, a pastor,  is obviously no Pharisee. Thank our Lord for His grace for us all!

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About St. Bartholomew, Apostle:  St. Bartholomew (or Nathanael, as he is called in St. John’s Gospel) was one of the first of Jesus’ twelve disciples. His home was in the town of Cana, in Galilee (John 21:2), where Jesus’ performed His first miracle. He was invited to become one of the Twelve by Philip, who told him that they had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. (John 1:45). Bartholomew’s initial hesitation to believe, because of Jesus’ Nazareth background, was quickly replaced by a clear, unequivocal declaration of faith, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). He was present with the other disciples (John 21:1-13) when they were privileged to see and converse and eat with their risen Lord and Savior. According to some Early Church Fathers, Bartholomew brought the Gospel to Armenia, where he was martyred by being flayed alive.

 “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

The apostle Bartholomew exclaimed after Jesus found and called him,  and especially after He said, I saw you under the fig tree, with great enthusiasm, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”   This is a clear confession but it is not complete.  Bartholomew went from Rabbi to Son of God, and then to the “King of Israel” which would have meant for any devout Jew, as Bartholomew, a temporal kingdom here and now. Christ Jesus is, but not in a political sense.  In John 6, when Jesus feeds the 5,000, the evangelist John alone tells us another reason the Lord went off to pray by Himself:  the crowds were trying to make Him king. The Lord would have none of that. In the Bible 2 Kingdoms are described, ruled by God’s right and left hand.  Left hand are the kingdoms, nations of this world by which the Lord rules (see Romans 13:4) and the Kingdom of His right hand, the reign of God in Jesus Christ coming spiritually  in the preaching and teaching of the Gospel.  When men confuse those two hands into one hand, tyranny is the result, even if it is ostensibly Christian.  If you want see false faiths fusing religion with the state:  See ISIS, for then a political kingdom can do anything in the Name of God with seeming impunity. The Lord will have none of that yet He will bring tyrants down from their thrones in this world with the sword, if needs be.  And at great cost. See Hitler who proclaimed the 1,000 year kingdom. 

The titulus, the plaque that Pilate put on the cross in 3 languages read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.   When the Lord, after being beaten is brought before Pilate and John alone tells us more of the conversation they had and it centers on Jesus  being King.  Jesus does not deny that He is King but the scope of His kingdom is a temporal one:  “My kingdom is not of this world.” This is the proof text showing the falsehood of the doctrine of the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth.  Jesus says to Bartholomew, You will see greater  things, the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Bartholomew, you will see upon the ladder of the Cross, God descending, the Word made flesh, the Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world into the depths of the darkness of iniquity.   When Jacob had his dream of a ladder to heaven, and just as Jesus said, Jacob saw the angels ascending and descending on it and the Lord stood above it and with Jacob, the Lord coming down the patriarch Jacob.  Jacob exclaims:

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

 Awesome means full of awe.  Bartholomew would see something greater, the house of God , the gate of heaven, Jesus Himself in His crucifixion and resurrection.  “The Kingdom of heaven is open to all believers” (Te Deum Laudamus).   As Jesus said in John 10, I am the gate of sheep, the door. He is the key to the Father’s heart.  “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”  Golgotha was the ultimate awesome place and when the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection is preached for us tired, hiding, running away  sinners (as Jacob did a lot of running), we see the Lord in His Word, the house of  God and the gate of heaven.  The vain idols of this world are seen for what they are:  despotic, deathly and done for, desperately lashing out.  This is why those who try to put God out of the public square can not tolerate those who do not go along, who are freed in Jesus Christ. Political tyrants can not tolerate the true King over men’s souls and bodies.

Bartholomew preached the sharp word of Law and Promise. He preached Christ for sinners.  It was not well-received by the powers that be.  According to tradition he was martyred by being flayed alive.  In a congregation I served, has behind the altar the 12 plaques of the Apostles and 11 of them were martyred.  The symbol is usually the means of their execution.  A fellow member told me that those plaques disgusted her and could they be taken down. I said no, they are good reminders of the cost of faith in Christ Jesus.  At the time, my problem was the opposite:  I never thought anyone would be flayed alive, but after ISIS, I believe.  The word of God is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).  He will reveal the thoughts of many (Luke 2:35).  He will heal of the lives of even more (Revelation 7:9).  The Lord sent Bartholomew was sent preaching and baptizing (Matthew 28). His Church is still so sent.

 

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As a pastor, I need to comment on Mr. Donald Trump’s answer to an interview question by Mr. Frank Luntz about Mr. Trump’s religious faith.  Here is the salient portion, from a CNN article:

“People are so shocked when they find … out I am Protestant. I am Presbyterian. And I go to church and I love God and I love my church,” he said.

Moderator Frank Luntz asked Trump whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions.

“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

Trump said that while he hasn’t asked God for forgiveness, he does participate in Holy Communion.

“When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,” he said. “I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”

First, I am glad Mr. Trump loves God and his church, that is, his congregation, but loving God and your congregation is not salvation.  The emphasis is on me, not on the Lord who is the Savior.  Basing everything on the self is as old as Adam.  Again, as old as Adam when the serpent dealt with Adam and Eve:  eat and you will be like God.   Mr. Trump sounds likes he has imported into the Christian faith his best-selling book title, The Art of the Deal.   Mr. Trump eats Holy Communion as a bargain base salvation:  eat the “little cracker”  and be saved and feeling “cleansed” is ex opere operatum, the work working the work.  The Reformers used that Latin phrase to describe the mechanical view of the sacrament without faith and repentance, and so the Lord’s forgiveness. Such a mechanical view is just an easier and nicer version of Islam’s five pillars of the faith:  Just do it. I will call it “little cracker” theology but Holy Communion is about the totality of the faith in the Lord, the blessed and holy Trinity. With our own religious reasoning, the old Adam is in the driver seat and the devil has his foot on the accelerator.   

Second, and more importantly, how did Mr. Trump come to these terrible conclusions?  My speculation is from poor Christian education, or catechesis, or a total lack of it, and I tend toward the latter conclusion.  If I were the minister welcoming Mr. Trump into the congregation, I surely would be teaching him tithing plus “proportional giving”!  And to forget about the rest of the Bible, that is most of it because it would just turn him off. This temptation has become part and parcel in congregational life as a response to decreased membership.  I uncritically bought into the slogan:  Get them involved before they join.  I found out in so many Lutheran congregations (ELCA) that people from other congregations never had an adult catechism class before joining…and most likely not in their previous church bodies as well.  This then describes the crisis of the Church in the 21st Century that has been well documented, that so many do not know the doctrines, even deriding doctrine as an impediment to church growth. Doctrine is not an impediment to church growth, but it is essential for growth in the love and knowledge of the Lord.  In a sense, I do not blame Mr. Trump for his conclusions if he has not been taught even the rudiments of Christian doctrine.  Mr. Trump is exhibiting the Old Adam: salvation by works, without grace, that is without Christ.

Third, without proper teaching of Law and Promise, Mr. Trump’s answer belies the lack of any understanding of sin and guilt.  Without the Law, then truly, per Mr. Trump, why bring God into it?  Another king, a real one, when he realized by God’s law, the depth of his sin, in committing adultery with Bathsheba, cried out and prayed,

  Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment. Psalm 51

King David avoided God and obviously did not bring “God into it”!  David had not asked God for forgiveness.  Thankfully, King David was found out and the Lord found him. Sadly, in Mr. Trump’s answer the Law has already  convicted him but the old Adam knows the art of the deal…and the dodge, I am not really guilty, I do my best.  You can only dodge the Lord’s just death sentence for so long. I was afraid and so I hid-Adam (Genesis 3).  No conviction from the Law in body and soul, that we are dead in our trespasses, and so no repentance…and finally no forgiveness, that is, no Jesus Christ, who is there from the beginning for the sinner: “Come to Me” (see Matthew 11:28.   Matthew 19:14 John 5:40  John 6:37  John 7:37 ) The Lord desires all to be saved, see 1 Timothy 2:4.

Finally, the difficulty in evangelization in our day and time is so many people, including many Christians will be satisified by Mr. Trump’s answer.  A great difficulty in evangelizing in our day is that so many people think they know what Christianity is but really don’t have a clue as does Mr. Trump.  This should challenge pastors and congregations in the Church, the Lord’s Body, to be ever be apt to teach and preach.

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Intro:  One of the current crazes among us Lutherans is Playmobil’s “Little Luther” figurines, from Germany.  In two years we will be observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  In an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon has conversations with a figurine of Mr. Spock whom Sheldon calls “Tiny Spock”. I wonder what Little Luther would say to a Lutheran Pastor…


“Little Luther,  you really did not answer my question yesterday: what should I do to grow the Church?”

little luther

“Pastor, I think you are holding the answer in your hand!”

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Text:  St. Mark 4:35–41

There is some rock song with the nutty refrain, “But I choose free will”.  “Free will” means we  choose God, the good etc. So why didn’t those disciples, since by free will, they supposedly chose God and His Christ, have great faith, that the Author of all good would care enough to save them?  The disciples had no faith as when they said to Jesus, don’t you care that we are perishing. Regarding those think they choose free will, “I might wish that  they had been in the boat with the disciples and experienced free will’s capacity in time of extremity and need.”  Those who boast in great faith are likely to be bold, impudent souls, like Peter, Let me walk on the water  to you, I won’t forsake you, etc. have such ‘great’ faith as long as the sea is calm and the weather is good.  When disaster strikes such faith sinks like a rock in the stormy gale.  “So much for ‘glorious’ free will then!” (Luther)

Even when disaster looms and the enemy looms like a flood about to sweep us, as the Psalmist prayed,

“…Blessed be the Lord, (not our good decisions about the Lord)
    who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped!

The Psalmist learned through the Lord’s salvation from the enemy, from disaster:

“Our help is in the name of the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.”

There are times we all know in our lives this is true…and there are times in the Lord saved us from disaster and we don’t know it but we will find out about in the Day. Either way, the Word is clear:  The Lord saves us from disaster.

If my faith is built on a feeling inside then the ride is going to be really rough.  The world, the flesh and the devil want us to be looking only one way:  inside, incurvatus se, curved in upon one self.  At the least the disciples were learning through the storm, they could not save themselves through it.  As the old saying, Man’s necessity is God’s opportunity.  They had enough faith to waken Jesus but not the faith to trust Him at His Word and in His Word as to Who He was and is, that even asleep, He cared more than they could of ever imagined at the time.  The disciples knew they had nothing then and there in themselves to save themselves.  If we did, Jesus would have been a spiritual coach, not the Savior of the world.  He is the Savior.  The Lord always wants us to look out and up, not in.

When disaster strikes the mad world, when it’s supposed free will utterly fails, it seeks someone or something to blame.  We can hear it again as we listened to the news reports about the murders in Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC.  It’s lack of gun control, lack of free mental health counseling, it’s Fox news, it’s video games.  Nine people, including their shepherd, murdered during Bible study and prayer.  The media is amazed as to the other response:  people inside and outside Emanuel A. M. E. praying.  These are men and women of faith, not flaying about looking for victims to blame, but praying to their Lord their sorrow, doubt and need. I would guess even praying for the murderer, who bears the blame, and as we heard the family members forgiving Dylann Roof.  Lord, save.  Kyrie eleison.  One day it will be known that as Jesus wanted to go to other  side that day in Galilee, and He guided the disciples through the storm to the other side, so it will be known He has guided His 9 daughters and sons to the other side, where there is no world media reporting, only the angels rejoicing. Indeed, “Our help is in the name of the Lord,  who made heaven and earth.”   The Lord saves us through disaster. 

We can understand the Lord who saves us from a disaster, and even through the disaster, but there is a third way He saves and it is contrary to all human reasoning and powers.  The Lord who saved the Psalmist, and with him Israel,  from the disaster of the torrents of the enemy, and saved the 12 disciples, and His Church, through the storm, would Himself be overwhelmed and all the flood of sin washed over Him who knew no sin.  He bore the filth of wrong to make us clean as His own to do the right in Christ alone, for as He said, without Me you can do nothing. The ship of His Body, true God, swamped with the deluge of our violence.  The Lord saves us from disaster. The Lord saves us through disaster. He became our disaster, not a disaster waiting to happen, but as it has happened.  

Je suis Charlie, became the slogan after the massacre in Paris at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo:  “I am Charlie”.  It can be said,  Je suis Dylann.  I am Dylann. We have met the enemy and he is us.  Now it is said about the murderer, he is just plain evil.  Maybe, but that means we’re off the hook, until God’s Law shows us we too are capable of all sorts of evil, as King David found out after he went into Bathsheba. When we see evil it is also to show it is within us.  When the Lord called out to Adam and Eve, Where are you?, He knew where they were:  hiding, running away.  When we do wrong, hiding and running away are the first impulse. Adam came out and said , I was afraid so  I hid.  He confessed his feelings of guilt, but not his guilt.  The Lord’s just judgment upon us  fell upon Him who is the judge of all, and this is the atonement.  The Lord has saved the world, us, by the disaster, the disaster of the Cross, when the sun did not shine and 3pm became as midnight, and the stars did not shine.  The disciples took Jesus into the boat, we are told, “…just as He was”, not knowing Who He was…and is.  He was nailed to the Cross, just as He was, bleeding, sweating, dying, just as He was bearing the disaster of sin and evil upon Himself. He was taken down from the Cross just as He was:  dead, dead in sin who knew no sin.  On the third day, He arose, just as He is:  the crucified and risen Lord of us all, carrying no sin, only our salvation.  Then the disciples knew the answer to their question in the boat:  “Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.”  He is natural man and absolutely God. Looking in is confession of sin, looking out and up is to the Word of Christ, Christ Jesus Himself, is for His forgiveness, absolution. The Lord saved us by the disaster.

We are all in the same boat, the Church and Christ is with us. The place in a Sanctuary where the Lord’s people sit, stand, even kneel in prayer to receive the Lord’s gifts is called the “nave”, from the Latin, “navis” or “ship”, from “navis” comes our word “navy”.    When the storms hit and the threatening waters start coming in, there is no way to bail it all out on our own, and…

“…it seems that He doesn’t see them, knows nothing of their trials, is indifferent about them, yes, as though they were not His worry—like here in the ship. He lies there sleeping and pays no attention to the weather, His disciples, or the ship. But He is with the ship even though He sleeps. Even though we think that Christ does not hear or see the thunderstorm, the wind, and the sea, He hears and sees it nonetheless. Therefore, we should make this a maxim: Even though He sleeps, Christ is in the boat.(Luther)

There is a Yiddish tale of men in a boat and the storm comes up and the boat is taking on water.  They start bailing but one man where he is sitting calmly  takes out a drill and begins to drill  a hole in the bottom of the boat to let out the water. A man yells at him, Why are you doing that, we’re sinking?  The man replied, But it’s under my seat.  Such is the suffocating selfishness that only holiness can ventilate and the Holy Spirit preaches and teaches us Jesus Christ. And when such happens, again, don’t look inside to your feelings as the norm, look to the One who is the Savior, so…

On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune—shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him…. A temptation arises- it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea. This is the moment to awaken Christ and let him remind you of those words: “Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.” (St. Augustine)

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

.

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