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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

COLLECT OF THE DAY: Lord Jesus Christ, whose grace always precedes and follows us, help us to forsake all trust in earthly gain and to find in You our heavenly treasure;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

What is the largest congregation  or church in the world?  Maybe you think of a mega-church.  The largest church is the Roman Catholic Church. Lutherans are the largest Protestant church in the world,  but none of them come close to encompassing almost all 6 billion people on earth.  This church calls for no conversion, no repentance. This god’s faith feels so natural. This church can do famously well and is quite powerful, influential and people die for it, or short of that, spending their whole lives in gaining this church’s god and this god’s altar is willingly erected in the heart.  Maybe each one of us has yearned for the god of this church. 

What is this church?  Answer:  The church of mammon, or money.  It does not love, care, die and rise for us and our salvation. This god does not make for love, but only loves what it makes. This god makes envy and jealously .  This god does not come from heaven, but comes from the lusts of the heart. There are no atheists in corporate boardrooms.  In fact, in this church, there are no atheists, no non-believers, as those who follow mammon are true believers and boast of their wealth and power.  In fact, there are no atheists, for, “…a god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need.  To have a god is nothing else that to trust and believe in him with our whole heart.”   Everyone has a god, as we were made for faith and love.  Faith and God go together.  False gods are dead ends, the true and living God and His Christ is eternal life.  No one ever on his death bed asked to hold his wallet one more time.  People save money but money cannot save. 

We can see that the rich young man was quite eager to talk with Jesus because the young man ran to Him and knelt before Him.  The young man ran and knelt before Jesus wanting to seal the deal on his goodness, cover all the bases, dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s”:  What must I do to inherit eternal life?  The rich young man certainly knew how to “do”, gain stuff.  All religions, excepted true Christian faith, are about doing to gain God. 

The young man must have heard about Jesus’ fame.  It had spread like wildfire through out the region.  People were saying He preached with authority unlike the scribes.  He had healed so many.  The young man came looking for Jesus for he was earnestly seeking something from the Lord.  His question shows us what it was: eternal life.  The bright young man knew this Jesus must have had some insight on eternal life. Maybe Jesus had the road map to eternal life that the young man could follow? Some new teaching that the young man could do, accomplish some extra commandments in order to obtain the biggest goal of all: eternal life.

Can you imagine a son coming up to his father and asking that question? What must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do to be put into your last will and testament?  Either Dad puts you into his will or not.  Jesus loved the young man.  The young man saw something in Jesus as his question indicated. His question was definitely sincere and it was sincerely wrong.  

The young man wanted to talk Torah, the Law of God, what must I do?  Jesus knew the routine.  Jesus answered with the Torah; He begins with the 2nd Table of the Law, runs through those commandments, which the Lord summed up on another occasion:   “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These I have done since I was a youth.  As if the second table of the law is a snap.  It is when it is only external actions. I am sure the young man had not murdered, stolen, committed adultery, and he did what Father and Mother told him to do.  However, internally, in heart, soul, and mind, I can barely make it through an hour without sinning.  Anger, covetousness, lust come to mind very easy.  You joyously do as Mother and Father command?  No wandering eye?  No anger?

When the Evangelist tells us the sterling fact that Jesus loved the young man, that’s when Jesus responded to the young man with the 1st Table of the Law:  Leave behind everything, sell all that you have which is all that has you, come follow Me. The rich young man went away disheartened, sorrowful, grieving. A man usually is sorrowful when someone one loves dies. Money is most common idol, Luther observed.  It is not money which is the root of all evil, but the love of money which is a root of all kinds of evil as it is written in the Scripture.. You cannot serve God and mammon.  He went away sorrowful because he finally knew he could not keep the Law of God to gain eternal life. None of us can.  The only way is Jesus Christ.  Jesus loved the young man so that he might die and live by faith alone in His grace alone. The young man would know Jesus’ love eventually…for sinners, like him, like me, like thee, like Paul, like Peter, like Moses, like David, like James. Ayn Rand, a Russian immigrant who came  to these blessed shores was for capitalism and against the totalitarian state and wrote novels about capitalism.  When she died her floral tributes were in the shape of dollar signs. Too many Christians these days are more concerned with dollar signs rather than the sign of the cross.  Dollars are for saving but they are not saving.  I have never seen a woman wearing a dollar sign necklace around her neck given by her husband. There is no love portrayed by a dollar sign, but upon the Cross…The young man and us all would know Jesus said tough things and did the toughest thing of all: crucified.  He died for sinners including the nice young man. The sign of His cross is traced upon our bodies and was sunk deep into the soil of His earth, like a treasure hidden in a field.

 Jesus put the full spiritual weight of God’s Law on the kneeling rich young man and the crush of the debt overwhelmed him. Jesus responded with the 1st Table of the Law. He loved him to do that. He did not choose the easy part, the part that won Him a popularity contest and votes. We are told He looked at the man, all the focus of heaven upon the young man. He loved him to do that.  Jesus knew the burden the young man had on his heart with his wealth.  For all our wealth as a nation or as individuals, we become quite disheartened when even a bit of it is lost. Martin Luther: “He who has money and property feels secure, happy, fearless, as if he were sitting in the midst of paradise.  On the other hand, he who has nothing doubts and despairs as if he never heard of God.” The Lord killed the young man so that the young man might live, so he leave behind the desire of his heart, his possessions, and cling to the One who loved him, who left  behind everything and took upon Himself everyone and everyone’s sin, and the sin of the entire world.  Jesus loved him and would love him and you to death, His death upon the cross.  Jesus had no pockets on the Cross.  He loved the rich young man to do that for him, for us all. 

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. This is the sharp retort by Jesus to the rich young man. At first it can take the Christian aback: I thought Jesus is God.  He is 100% God and 100% man.  When Jesus asks him if he has kept the law, in the young man next response, he began, “Teacher…” He learned quickly but probably did not understand.  Jesus gave it all up. … he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  (Philippians 2) As it is written in Scripture.  And in a few more verses, at 10: 34, Jesus will prophesy for a third time:  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.  Only by bearing the full weight of the Law and our sin, He has reconciled the crushing debt of the sin of the world, stamped it forgiven, all of us so that by faith we daily die and rise in Him, in His love by which He has loved us even when we have loved Him not.

The only way to inherit anything is for the testator to put you into the will and then die.  Beloved in the Lord!  He has written you into His will and testament, His last will and testament, not because we deserved, but we need it, no, more:  Him. Eventually all earthly inheritances run out.  Not the Lord’s:   He is risen, so, “…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Eternal life is not a good, a thing be had, eternal life is a Person, as in “I am the resurrection and life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11: 25)   Eternal life has a Name:  Jesus Christ, as He is risen, we too shall rise.

It is written Hebrews says that we are to encourage one another…so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin’s deceits are our flesh’s conceits to look to man-made gods, like Mammon or money to save, and so retreat from Him who alone has saved us.  And hardening here means absolutely every thing that makes it difficult to believe (Martin Luther).  The church of mammon is unrelenting in it’s pursuit of money to lure the Christian with its siren song to the rocky shoals of shipwreck. When the dollar sign lures and the signs of these dark times attract, only the sign of His Cross reminds us of His unconquerable love, we are more than conquerors in Him who loved us. So encourage:

From today’s Epistle Reading:

“…exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 1 4 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 

  • Exhort and Encourage each other to serve our neighbor in live and we soon discover in serving our neighbor that it is not a snap!  And I find out that I am not eminently lovable!  We will learn the truth of Jesus’ Word:  “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, without Me you can do nothing.”
  • Encourage each other in our prayers and to pray, as in Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Hold on to Him who has taken hold of you.
  • Encourage each other and others to come and hear the Word of God and receive His body and blood.
  • Encourage each other so our hearts are not hardened, sclerosis of the heart, turned into you self in desires that are never satisfied by the goods of this world, but opened up by His Word to us all.
  • Encourage each other to true repentance. We are to encourage each other daily every time we pray at table together.

Good encouragement is read in the prophet Amos. Seek good, not evil. The rich young man knew Jesus was actually good, so good Jesus did not hold onto it for our sake.  Seek the immeasurable good of God and His will for you always in Jesus Christ.  Seek good, do not seek goods…seek the Kingdom of God and as Jesus said regarding food, shelter and clothing, all these things will be yours as well.  But they perish but the Word of God endures for ever. He is risen.

The Word says:  Love good, hate evil… not love goods and so court with evil, and love and desire it.   We need a full-hearted and full throated love of the Gospel  in these dark days by the only sign by which we are all saved and will be, In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

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I recently received an e-mail from our TV provider with this subject line: “Don’t let your Sundays go to waste!  Every game, every Sunday.  GET NFL SUNDAY TICKET”

If we don’t receive every game, every Sunday then the Lord’s day goes to waste? I don’t think so.  I like football but football is not the main attraction on a Sunday.  When Bill Clinton was president, The New York Times had an ad for their rag showing  Bill Clinton holding up a copy of the Times’ Sunday edition with the caption:  “Sunday was made for The New York Times”.  I don’t think so.  We go to waste without His forgiveness, His Body and Blood, His every Word in preaching and praise:  go to waste as in starving to death.  No wonder our nation is going to waste.  There are no tickets to buy in the Church, Christ’s own Body but His Cross the sign of our admission, His price, in repentance and His peace.  Indeed, don’t let the Lord’s Sunday go waste!

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Today’s New Testament Reading, in the Daily Lectionary is Ephesians 3: 1-21.  The comment is on verse 6:

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

I was talking years ago with my friend and colleague, Pr. Lou Smith, about evangelism.  He said that when the discussion comes up in a church council meeting, how do we get more people to come to church, I say that I am amazed that anyone is here at all (!)  Yes, it is a mystery.  There is no program or tactic to bring people to Church, and more specifically bringing them to Christ.  Here is a good article about true evangelism, “How to Make Your Church Irresistible”.  The Apostle Paul uses the word “mystery” six times in Ephesians, more than any book in the New Testament.  “…mystery…cannot be unravelled or understood by human ingenuity or study. It is not something that is mysterious but rather a revealed secret to be understood by all believing people and not just a few elite” (Ephesians:  An Exegetical Commentary, by Harold W Hoehner).  Maybe Lou was amazed because people in Church was not the result of his nor the Church Council’s doing, but the Lord’s work.  (Lou knew that! ) Yet we can participate in the divine joy of salvation by witnessing to Christ when asked (see 1 Peter 3:15).  As Pr. Treptow wrote in his article cited above:

The ascended Lord commissioned us, not as his salespeople charged with “getting people to say yes,” but as his witnesses. We simply speak the good news Jesus has given us to proclaim. The results of that preaching belong to the Lord. The Spirit creates faith when and where it pleases him.

And as Gregory the Great wrote millennia ago:

“You…who live in the Tabernacle of the Lord, that is, in the Holy Church, if you cannot fill up the goblets with the teachings of holy wisdom, as well then as you can, as far as the divine bounty has endowed you, give to your neighbors spoonfuls of the good word!” 

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Note:  This past Sunday (August 30) Bible Class resumed.  The appointed Epistle Reading is Ephesians 6:10-20 in which the Apostle Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to put on the whole armor of God with the armor’s various unitive components.  This past Sunday was also “Rat” Sunday in Lexington, VA, in which congregations welcome the new “rats” (first year students) at the Virginia Military Institute.  This lesson was quite appropos!  I led the Bible Class on this Reading but did not have time to go through the whole Epistle.  Below are my notes on the verses we did cover. This passage could be Scripture mini-course!-Pr. Schroeder


10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. “The power does not come from the believer but from an external source.”[i] The power is not as a pumped up football player, a great athlete or soldier in any army on earth, but in the One Who is the Lord God Sabaoth, literally, the Lord of the heavenly Armies who dispatched His beloved Son, an army of One, to quell the evil one and free us from Satan’s tyranny. This is not natural strength, but supernatural, from the Lord into our hearts, minds and souls by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  His might is His resurrection, the defeat of sin and death:  see Ephesians 1: 18-20. 

 11 Put on the whole armor    Greek: panopliav, “… the suit of armor of a Roman foot soldier.” [ii] Paul at the time of the composition of Ephesians was in Rome and under arrest, awaiting trial, and Luke tells us that Paul was guarded by a soldier.  Paul maybe became interested in the armor of a Roman foot soldier.  Paul may have asked about his guard’s panoply.    

 of God,  The armor of God does not come from Rome, but the Lord. This is the standard issue of every Christians.

 “In ordinary battles the generals do not arm women or children or the aged.  But our general, Christ the Lord, distributes this royal armory to all alike.  He then teaches them the stratagems of the devil.  This is what he means by the devil’s wiles” (Theodoret, ACC,volVIII, page 208)

that you may be able to stand against the schemes (Gk: μεθοδείας:  schemes, wiles, cunning)  of the devil.    What are the devil’s schemes?

  1. Lies:  He is a liar. The devil said he had the authority to give Jesus the kingdoms of his world.  He didn’t, he doesn’t.  He lied. He gives the same lie to the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  He lies.  John 8:44
  2. Camo: The devil comes “disguised” as an “angel of light” but that is a subset of lying. He looks good, the devil doesn’t come looking devilish, but offering “just what we need”.   2 Corinthians 11:14
  3. Temptation: He is the tempter.  By his tricks, his schemes he desires the fall of the Christian by working on the Christian’s Adamic desires “to be like God” (Genesis 3: 1ff) and from that his desires/lusts for more and more.
  4. Accusation: he accuses the brothers night and day. (Revelation 12:10)  These are spiritual temptations. It is the devil who whispers, Be a better Christian, You’re not you know.  Luther would retort:  Tell me something I don’t know, Satan.  But I have Christ as my Savior and to Him I shall flee!   

“Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things.” (Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”)

 12 For we do not wrestle

“…the struggle is not physical but supernatural. It is a spiritual battle against spiritual “Mafia.” The “Wrestling” in the Greek can also have the more general idea of “conflict, struggle.”‘ …it  occurs only here in the NT. With regard to its usage in this text, if Paul meant “battle, conflict” in conjunction with armor… “wrestling” … was used to indicate that the fully armored soldier was an accomplished wrestler who on occasion would be involved in close-quarter struggle against a cunning opponent.’ Due to the cunning schemes of the devil, believers need to be ready for both remote and close-at-hand assaults. (This is) a face-to-face encounter. The context determines whether it is friendly or hostile. In this context, it is a hostile conflict that is not directed toward or against …. “blood and flesh.” In other words, it is not a physical struggle or a wrestling match.’ In fact, nowhere in this passage is there any indication of a human struggle. Although throughout the paragraph the second person plural is addressed, here the personal pronoun …is the first person plural, which indicates Paul’s identification with the Ephesian believers in the spiritual conflict. It is a dative of reference (“the struggle with reference to us”) though it is translated as a possessive (“our struggle”).

… “but against the rulers, against authorities.” The conjunction … “but,” is adversative and introduces the opposite of physical struggle, namely, the spiritual struggle.” [iii]

against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

  14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,

Three points about the Belt of Truth:

  1.  The Roman soldier’s belt would have the scabbard for his sword.  God’s truth holds the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit.
  2.  Generally speaking, in Palestine and the Roman Empire, a belt was used to hold up the robes so that one would not trip on the robe!  Falsehood causes us to trip up and we fall.  Truth, God’s truth made flesh in Jesus, girds our loins, holds up the hem of our garment, that we walk in the way of the Lord. God’s truth is written literally in the Bible, in His Word and Life in Israel and the Church.  So girded, encircled by God’s truth, will not be comfortable but for His truth we are thankful we do not fall down. When we do, He will pick us up in His body, His militia Christi, the Church.
  3.  The Belt of Truth reminds me of weight belts I see guys wearing when I gothe gym. Their purpose is given in this quote from a web-site about weight-lifting: “A weight belt wraps around the lower waist and should be tightly secured. It is meant to stabilize the lower back and core by preventing the spine from bending.”  

That random quote speaks to the Lord’s belt of truth.  His truth will stabilize us, so that we are not, “…tossed to and from by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”(Eph. 4: 14).  It stabilizes the backbone.  A Roman Catholic theologian, Hans urs Von Balthassar, said that the Roman Catholic Church is accused of being “rigid”.  He pointed out that the Church is the Body of Christ and like a body has a backbone.  We are not called to be jellyfish!  The Church has a backbone, he went on to say, to bend and serve the world in His mercy. May the whole Christian Church on earth be accused of being rigid!    There are exercises  in working out to develop the body’s core. His truth protects and works the core, the  body’s core, the body of Christ, through His Word of Law and Gospel, so that we may serve the saving Word to others as we have been so girded.  

Integrity gird You round to impart/The truth of His Word As truth in your heart/His righteousness wearing As breastplate of mail/His victory sharing,  Be strong to prevail.  (“Be Strong in the Lord”, #665, stanza 3, Lutheran Service Book)

 and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 

 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. “The Roman legionaries wore heavy sandals (caliga, a  low half-boot) with soles made of several layers of leather averaging  ¾ inch thick, studded with hollow-headed hobnails. They were tied with leather thongs half-way up the shin and were stuffed with wool or fur in the cold weather…These were not running sandals but ones able to dig in with their hollow-headed hobnails an stand against the enemy.”

 With eagerness shod Stand firm in your place,

Or go forth for God With news of His grace;

No foe shall disarm you  Nor force you to yield,

No arrows can harm you  With faith as your shield.

 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, “shield” Greek only here in NT and related to Greek word for “door” in order to cover the whole man…and one’s fellow soldiers. “Close ranks”: Testudo= “tortoise”  with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one  “…before battle the shields were immersed in water, soaking the leather cover and canvas beneath the leather, which also aided in extinguishing the flaming missiles.”[iv]


[i] Ephesians:  An Exegetical Commentary, Hoehner

[ii] Matthew Henry: “To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without. A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary.”

[iii] Hoehne page 825

[iv] Ephesians:  An Exegetical Commentary, Hoehner page 848

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Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…  (Ephesians 5: 25)

 In last week’s lesson from Ephesians, the Apostle Paul reminds the Lord’s Church in Ephesus they all have a vocation from the Lord Himself:  faith by God’s grace in Jesus Christ and so to walk in love as He loved them and us.   The inspired Word says it better:

 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 But immediately he writes to them, and us, regarding sexual immorality, impurity, filthiness, crude joking, covetousness, foolish talk and later drunkenness.  These things should not even be “named among” them. Why?  Our Lord died and rose for us, gave Himself up for us.  Jesus Christ is “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”.  In comparison, to the Lord who bore our sins in His own body,  sexual immorality, covetousness etc. stinks, stinks to high heaven. Later in the lesson, Paul quotes Genesis that two become one flesh.  Sermon illustration: Two pieces of paper glued together just as the two become one flesh. If I try to tear them apart, what will happen?  Yes, it’s a mess. Then if I were to glue them to other pieces of paper, becoming one, and then ripping them apart…anyone who has been divorced knows this. And this is what sexual immorality looks like:  we are not made to hook-up again and again. One husband, one wife. There were people back then and now who approve of such in the Church:  God’ll understand, it is said. Yes, He does and that’s what is scary.   Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Imitate God, not the popular culture, as His beloved children in Baptism.  He has called you it says in Ephesians, to a high calling.

Immediately after those verses,  the Apostle  teaches his fellow Christians concerning, submission to another out of reverence for Christ and immediately launches into teaching Christian marriage. He repeats that Christ Jesus gave Himself up for His Church, like a joyous refrain.   What a contrast between marriage in Christ and sexual immorality, impurity, filthiness, crude joking, covetousness, foolish talk and drunkenness! But when  the lesson turns to submission and headship, then in our time all bets are off and this text is considered offensive.  What is really offensive, the goodly and Godly order of marriage in Christ or sexual immorality? 

We are blessed in this little mission with bright and intelligent members.  Most of us, if not all, have gone to college or are so attending or probably will.   But have any of us ever had a course in any school, even a university,  on Marriage?   Maybe “sex education” but not marital education: we can know the mechanics but not the meaning of marriage and the home.

 It is said that the cornerstone of a good marriage is communication.  It has been my experience that I can all together too well communicate to my wife what I am thinking and feeling and usually to her chagrin.  Yes, talking with one another in marriage is important. But cornerstone? Like a cornerstone, the basis of a building, holding it together.  No, I do not think so. Communication is good but communion, the Holy Communion of His Church is the living cornerstone, Jesus Christ for us all.

The cornerstone of a good marriage is love.  Usually, when the words “love and marriage” are linked it means something about love as emotion. So “love and marriage” are the names of two separate volumes.   If love is the basis of marriage, then marriage will not be built  upon a cornerstone but a blown-up beach toy riding on a storm in the ocean.  Love is crucial, love in service, that is, not a feeling alone, which flows from faith and hope and that love, His love in lived in our lives, endures.

The cornerstone of a good marriage is common likes.  Yes, that is helpful but not necessarily needful.  Yes, a married couple may love to go on long hikes but that does not mean they won’t argue on one of those long hikes!  Common likes are important and will draw man and woman together;   but it is the Lord who joins a man and a woman to each other.  Not us. What God has joined together.

So like a cornerstone, which is the basis of the building, holding it together, what is the cornerstone of a marriage?  Answer:   Jesus Christ and flowing from His riven side, water and blood, Baptism and Communion,  His grace, mercy and peace for sinners. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul wrote that the Church’s cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  Man and woman is like Christ and His Church.  Christian marriage is a house church. Marriage in Christ is made good by His forgiveness of His baptized man and woman, sinners washed in His Name.  Many people think that the 3 most important words in a marriage are, “I love you”.  Important yes, but even harder:  I forgive you.  Marriage is the house, home and hearth of His forgiveness.  A Christian marriage is a baptized one.  One of the controversial statements I made in a wedding sermon was, Today two sinners are getting married…and they are forgiven in Christ.  Forgiveness is as hard as nails, the nails that pierced His hands as He gave up his life for us.  His forgiveness is as hard as rock, a cornerstone that holds husband and wife together.  He holds you together, married or single.

 In Ephesians 5, a wife is to submit to her husband as to the Lord, verses 22-24.  It is the husband, though,  who in particular is subject to the Lord, the Lord made flesh, the Head of His Church:  Jesus Christ.  Submission but not domination… In fact, more verses are spent on the husband’s married service to his wife, as Christ also serves His bride the Church, than the wife to her husband! Verses 25-33.

It is the man, the husband who needs to be so submitted to his Lord!  Not that the woman, the wife, also needs be, but given the nature of literally fallen man to dominate, not serve in his role of dominion in submission to the Lord, it is of greater necessity. Regarding Ephesians 5: 25-33, a feminist quipped after hearing those verses that if followed, there would be no need for feminism(!). In the Biblical sense: there is no such need. Who is the real man? Some guy running around in tights with a mask and a cape? A make-out king? Who is the real man? Jesus Christ.

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

I think the image here is a great one for marriage in Christ and the Christian home.  Two rings on the cross.  It is to the cross that married and single turn to the proclamation of His forgiveness of us all.

 Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall,
Where Jesus Christ is all in all!
Yea, if He were not dwelling there,
How dark and poor and void it were!

Then here will I and mine today
A solemn covenant make and say:
Though all the world forsake Thy Word,
I and my house will serve the Lord!

 

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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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Appointed Scripture Readings:  Acts 15: 1-21   Psalm 46   Galatians 2: 1-10   St. Matthew 16: 13-19

Prayer of the Day

Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles

The festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is probably the oldest of the saints’ observances (dating from about the middle of the third century). An early tradition held that these two pillars of the New Testament Church were martyred on the same day in Rome during the persecution under Nero. In addition to this joint commemoration of their deaths, both apostles are commemorated separately: Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16) and Paul on January 25 for his conversion (Acts 9:1-19).

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of God in the New Testament would begin with the person of Peter, whose confession is the rock on which Christ would build His Church. But Peter was not alone (the “keys” given to him in Matthew 16:19 were given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:21-23). As St. Paul tells us, Peter and the other apostles take their place with the prophets as the foundation of the Church, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The confession of Peter, therefore, is the witness of the entire apostolic band and is foundational in the building of Christ’s Church. Thus the Church gives thanks to God for St. Peter and the other apostles who have instructed Christ’s Holy Church in His divine and saving truth. 

St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascusis related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out forDamascus to arrest and bring believers toJerusalemfor trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

Those who would remake the Church into what they want and desire, will eventually have Christ Jesus remade into their own image, that is, an idol.  Too many build the Church upon men’s opinions of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord’s question to the disciples, Who do men say that I am? was never intended by the Lord to be an eternal discussion question for so-called Bible studies in too many congregations. Every year, before Christmas and Easter, come the articles debunking some portion or portions of the Bible about Jesus, like clockwork.  The Lord’s question to Peter surfaced the rumors about Him and they were just that rumors, conjecture, innuendo. Peter and Paul knew that Christ  is the only Cornerstone of His Church and that all who were being baptized, were being built onto the Cornerstone,not the cornerstone upon them! See Acts 4:11,Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2: 5-7.  The Holy Spirit conforms us to the Lord’s specs in the blueprint of His Church,  by His mercy for sinners, not according to our specs and schemes for His Church.

Peter and Paul had differences between them and much in common.  Both Peter and Paul were Jews.  Peter was an uneducated fisherman, while Paul was a highly educated Pharisee who was taught at the feet of the great rabbi, Gamaliel. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning, the first of the Apostles.  Paul, as he said, was the last of the apostles.  Both were zealous for the Law. Yet, Peter denied Christ.  Paul persecuted the Church and consented to the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of “followers of the Way”.  Both knew they were sinners whom the Law could not save and that Christ alone does atone.  Peter,
61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him,“Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” 
“Behold of a sudden the lover is a liar. (Peter) finds out what he is; he who had thought too highly of himself” (St. Augustine).  Peter’s tears were of godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.   Paul was blinded by his sin in the glory of crucified Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul finds out what he is and like Peter, Paul also thought so highly of  himself and Christ taught him well:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12: 3)
Paul’s confession of sin was also of the godly sorrow. Called by Christ Jesus, Peter and Paul both knew by faith His forgiveness of them and each and everyone of us. Both confessed Jesus is Lord. Both were martyred, tradition says on this day, in Rome, remembering that Peter and Paul, and all Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them in death, but ever preached and taught, the Way to heaven, in faith, not to kill the infidel, but that the infidel come to faith and  live eternally in Jesus Christ.  

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