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Posts Tagged ‘Crucifixion’

At this time the Daily Lectionary Old Testament readings are from the prophet Jeremiah.  Yesterday’s lesson is Jeremiah 3: 6-4:2 in which we read:

The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore?

False gods were worshiped on “…every high hill and under every green tree”.  Before the building of Temple in Jerusalem, Israel and Judah had some hundred shrines.  After the Temple was built, these worship sites became infused with Canaanite idolatry, combining the worship of the one true God with false gods.  This is called “syncretism”.  Since Canaanite idolatry was a fertility cult for the male and female deities to unite and so ‘insure’ the fertility of the land for a good harvest;  and so there were cult prostitutes to unite with the heretical priest to manipulate the deities for their favor.  Israel could well have been both spiritually and physically playing the whore, though the distinction between physical and spiritual is not as distinct as we tend to think.

What is a whore?  A woman who sells her body to men for sex.  Israel had sold out to false gods and it sure seems it is usually for sex as idolatry leads ever to fornication.  The prophetic pattern against sin is always in this order: idolatry, then immorality.  False gods demand exorbitant fees, and as they are demons (see 1 Corinthians 10:20) , we sell our soul to them,  the faustian ‘bargain‘, and so lose our soul.  Israel was losing her soul as were the Christians in Corinth.  The devil’s best stratagem is not necessarily and initially direct appeals to the flesh but appeals to spirituality and the so-called refinements of sophisticated spirituality.   This is great cover up  which eventually leads to lusts of the flesh, e.g. divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage,”hooking-up”, orgies and drugs, pornography. We have seen this with churches one by one falling like dominos. 

The Lord first warned about the high places.  Israel bought into a lie, but the one true God can not be bought. He is truth as He is love.  Here we can see the utter reality of the Lord:  He can not be bought or need we to sell our souls to Him!  The false gods always want us to sell out our bodies and souls like a whore for the price of our freedom in Christ. He found and saved Israel, not Israel by herself at all.  He bought them and brought them with cords of love, Hosea 11:

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim* to walk;
    I took them up by their arms,
    but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of kindness,
    with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
    and I bent down to them and fed them.

 *Israel

And as the Lord spoke His Word through Jeremiah:

“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
    for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt,
    that you rebelled against the Lord your God
and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree,
    and that you have not obeyed my voice,
declares the Lord.

Return, faithless ChurchThe Book of Life_No Words.  

 

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Psalm 3 English Standard Version (ESV)

Save Me, O My God

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
    there is no salvation for him in God (1).

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill.

I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord!
    Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
    your blessing be on your people!


(1) St. Mark 15:  “So also  the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.”

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Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jonah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching 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.

Reading:  The Book of Jonah

About Jonah:

A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour’s walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria(Jonah 1:2). His reluctance to respond and God’s insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah’s name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (Jonah1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. Jonah’s three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew12:39-41). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House;  for more on Jonah go here.)

Reflection:

We simply stand under God’s overflowing grace like rain, allowing its cool refreshment to fill our dry cracks. Then we pick up the bucket and dump it on someone else. Grace flows from Yahweh not on those who attempt to earn it, but on those who confess their need for it. The Spirit-empowered response is then to share it. But Jonah is like the angry older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:28-30): he views God’s lavish welcome for undeserving sinners who repent as an insult to his “deserving” self. The prophet has yet to embrace the Law and Gospel character of God expressed in James 2:13: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (From Dr. Reed Lesssing’s Commentary on Jonah)

Jesus made a comparison between Himself and Jonah when He was asked for sign, see St. Matthew 12: 38-42.   Here are some more details of a comparison between Jesus and Jonah.

Jonah ran away and the Lord ran to His people.

Jonah ran away twice.   The Lord never runs away and He sought Jonah twice, as He sought Adam, you, more than twice.

The Lord put Jonah in the belly of the great fish because Jonah refused to preach repentance to Ninevah. The Lord was put in the belly of great fish, death, “the heart of the earth”, because He preached repentance.

The Lord heard Jonah cry out in prayer in the belly of the great fish  to be saved and he was heard. The Lord cried out, not for His salvation (as He did not need to), but ours and He was heard:  “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The Lord punished Jonah in the belly of the great fish. The Lord took on the punishment which He did not deserve, the chastisement of us all, that makes us whole (cf. Isaiah 53).  He was not punished for His sin, for He had none, but He became sin.

The Lord called Jonah to preach His Word. The Lord is the Word made flesh (St. John 1: 14), God’s own sermon to us all and in particular in His three nights in the heart of  the earth, preaching our salvation by faith through His grace through the Word of His blood (cf.Hebrews 12:24).

The Lord caused the great fish to spew Jonah out of the belly of the great fish. The Lord laid down His life to take it up again and death could not hold Him (John 10:18).

Jonah was disappointed and angry that the Ninevites repented and that the Lord did not destroy themJesus rejoices that so many came to faith and He sent out His apostles with the message of the Kingdom of God.

Jonah was swallowed by the great fish. Jesus swallowed up death itself.

 Behold, something greater than Jonah is here!  Allelulia!

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A voice says, “Cry!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
    and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40: 6-8

What we think is weighted with glory in this world is but a blade of grass in the Lord’s eyes, but the glory of His love for sinners in Jesus Christ, who bore the weight of the sin of the world in His Body, lifted upon the Cross, outweighs all this world’s vain glory.

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I am re-reading That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis, the third of Lewis’ space trilogy.  One of the main places in the novel is Belbury, the headquarters of the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments, or “the N.I.C.E.”.  The N.I.C.E is an institute that wants to take over England and the world and make it devoid of all ‘superstition’, especially the Christian faith.  A main character, Mark Studdock, has been selected to join the N.I.C.E.  He is an unbeliever. In this scene Mark is being programmed under the threat of violence to think “objectively,” meaning without influence of the “chemical reactions” that produce our moral (read emotive) judgments. The scientist in charge of his progress commands him to trample an almost life-size realistic crucifix. Mark hesitates… and puts his life in danger.

Mark was well aware of the rising danger. Obviously, if he disobeyed, his last chance getting out Belbury alive might be gone. The smothering sensation once again attacked him. He was himself, he felt, as helpless as the wooden Christ. As he thought this, he found himself looking at the crucifix in a new way—neither as a piece of wood nor a monument of superstition but as a bit of history. Christianity was nonsense, but one did not doubt that the man had lived and had been executed thus by the Belbury of those days. And that, as he suddenly saw, explained why this image, though not itself an image of the Straight and Normal, was yet in opposition to crooked Belbury. It was a picture of what happened when the Straight met the Crooked, a picture of what the Crooked did to the Straight—what it would do to him if he remained straight. It was, in a more emphatic sense than he had yet understood, a cross.

The Cross is the place where, “…the Straight met the Crooked” and in the midst of the ruins of World Trade Center workers found beams from the twin towers in the shape of a cross, see the header picture above of that cross.  The Straight met the Crooked and the sign of the cross shows, “…what happened when the Straight met the Crooked a picture of what the Crooked did to the Straight-and what it would do to him if he remained straight”.  It is only in the helplessness of the very Son of God is our help for those who mourn, for those who are angry, for those who make for peace, for those who protect us from evil.

President George W. Bush, at a service at the Washington National Cathedral, on September 14, 2001, observed:

Our purpose as a nation is firm. Yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed, and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there is a searching, and an honesty. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Tuesday, a woman said, “I prayed to God to give us a sign that He is still here.” Others have prayed for the same, searching hospital to hospital, carrying pictures of those still missing.

God’s signs are not always the ones we look for.

He has given us the sign that He is still here.  Even in the midst of tyranny, He will depose the tyrant and the terrorist.  In the midst of the rubble, His sign was still there. He calls to remain Straight, love our enemies but never surrender to them.  It was not the sign we were looking for, but the one we needed. He has entered our history and will lead us home. 

Collect of the Day

Most merciful Father, with compassion You hear the cries of Your people in great distress.  Be with all who now endure affliction and calamity, bless the work of those who bring rescue and relief, and enable us to aid and comfort those who are suffering that they may find renewed hope and purpose: through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

 

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Suggested Lection:

Psalm 45:1-9
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 23:54-24:11 or Mark 16:1-8

Joanna, Mary, and Salome:  Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of Matthew (28:1), Mark (16:1), and Luke (24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Lk. 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alphaeus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Mt. 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.

Writing

Why was Christ’s resurrection revealed to these women first? There are several answers.

  • First, God was keeping His ancient custom of choosing what is foolish, undistinguished, and despised in the eyes of the world in order to put the strong and lofty to shame. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-28) These women were despised not only due to the weakness of their gender but also because of Galilee, their homeland. (see John 1:46But God exalts them by revealing to them the resurrection of His Son, which is an excellent article of our faith.
  • Indeed, He even sends them to the apostles to share the message of Christ’s resurrection with them, so that they become, as the ancients say, like “apostles to the apostles” …
  • Third, in this way God wanted to prevent the accusations of the Jews. The high priests lied, saying that Christ’s disciples had stolen the body of their master. In order to provethe shamelessness and absurdity of this lie, it happened by God’s marvelous providence that these women came to the grave before the apostles. Now, it is highly unlikely that these few women could have stolen the body from a grave guarded by soldiers and closed by a large stone.
  • Fourth, through the woman Eve, death came to all human beings. On account of this, Christ wanted His resurrection, which brings us righteousness and life, to be told to others by women. At the fall of the first human being, these three worked together: the devil, who deceived; the woman, who proclaimed his talk further; the man, who ate and corrupted human nature. So also,Christ’s resurrection, these three worked together: Christ, who rose and redeemed human nature; the angel, who proclaimed the resurrection; and the women, who carried the joyful message further.

Now if Christ was pleased with the zeal of these women, which was yet bound together with significant weaknesses of faith, and did not let them come away from the tomb empty, how much less will He let those go away empty who in true faith seek Him who rules at the right hand of the Father!

Martin Chemnitz (He has been called the “second Martin”, the first being Martin Luther;  all of the above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  They brought myrrh.  We remember myrrh every Christmas as the magi brought”gold, frankincense and myrrh”. The magi were hard-core pagan magicians and unexpectedly they bring expensive gifts for the King!  Myrrh was a costly ointment used for fragrance.  In the Song of Solomon myrrh is used to scent the marital bed.  It was also used for burial of the dead to cover the smell of death, but it is finally only perfume, a cover up and sin and death “stink to high heaven”.   The faithful women bear myrrh to the tomb and unexpectedly they find out:  He is risen!  They did not have to anoint His Body!  As  Christ Jesus is the sweet fragrance of His Resurrection by which He has conquered death, no cover-up of death  but swallowing  up death: Christ the death of death our foe, Christ the life of all the living.  Along with Joanna, Mary and Salome, we are joined with Paul and all the Church to be the “aroma of Christ”:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2)

Let us pray…

Mighty God, Your crucified and buried Son did not remain in the tomb for long. Give us joy in the tasks set before us, that we might carry out faithful acts of service as did Joanna, Mary, and Salome, offering to You the sweet perfume of our grateful hearts, so that we, too, may see the glory of Your resurrection and proclaim the Good News with unrestrained eagerness and fervor worked in us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Biography:  born at the beginning of the second century, Justin was raised in a pagan family. He was student of philosophy who converted to the Christian faith and became a teacher in Ephesus and Rome. After refusing to make pagan sacrifices, he was arrested, tried and executed, along with six other believers. They were beheaded.  The official Roman court proceedings of his trial before Rusticius, a Roman prelate, document his confession of faith. The account of his martyrdom became a source of great encouragement to the early Christian community. Much of what we know of early liturgical practice comes from Justin.

Timeline

30

Crucifixion of Jesus; Pentecost

65

Peter and Paul executed

70

Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus

100

Justin Martyr born

165

Justin Martyr dies

180

Irenaeus writesAgainst Heresies

For Christians, such as this Lutheran pastor, the order of service from the 2nd Century, as described by Justin Martyr is quite familiar:

On the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a given city or rural district. The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then when the reader ceases, the president in a discourse admonishes and urges the imitation of these good things. Next we all rise together and send up prayers.

When we cease from our prayer, bread is presented and wine and water. The president (or Presiding Minister, that is, Pastor/Bishop) in the same manner sends up prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people sing out their assent, saying the ‘Amen.’ A distribution and participation of the elements for which thanks have been given is made to each person, and to those who are not present they are sent by the deacons.

Those who have means and are willing, each according to his own choice, gives what he wills, and what is collected is deposited with the president. He provides for the orphans and widows, those who are in need on account of sickness or some other cause, those who are in bonds, strangers who are sojourning, and in a word he becomes the protector of all who are in need.

In an excellent article by Pastor Mark Surburg, They worshipped when?!?, also quoted the Roman, and pagan, historian Pliny, who lived 50 years before Justin the Martyr, the following about Christians:

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when   called upon to do so.

Please note, as  Pastor Surburg commented that the early Church met “before dawn” and Justin says they met as long as time permits because Sunday was not a day off!  They seem to have lived in a 24/7 world. Our brothers and sisters in the Lord back 1,900 years ago woke up really early for the Divine Service on Sunday befodre they would go off to work.  As our culture and society becomes increasingly antogonistic to the Church, it will take faithfulness to receive His Word and Sacraments. Pr. Surburg:  

As the era of the post-Christian world continues to advance in our culture, we are encountering more and more situations that reflect the experience of our early Christian forefathers.  Sporting events, school activities and a growing list of other endeavors are scheduled for Sunday morning.  The faithful practice of the Christian faith will require an ever greater commitment.  It will require sacrifice in order put Jesus Christ first as the Lord of our life.  The saints who have gone before provide both a model and an encouragement.  They show us what Christians have done in order to be faithful, and they demonstrate how by his grace God enabled them to do this.

No wonder that the “memoirs of the Apostles” that were read would have included this Scripture from the Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 2:  111-12:

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 

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