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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Communion’

Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr’s death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God’s redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. (from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, see Blogroll on sidebar)

Reflection:  In the bio above and in the quote below the word “fix” is employed.  In the Prayer of the Day for the 5th Sunday after Easter, the Church prays,

“Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where trues are found, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord…”

Our hearts, that is,  our wills are fixed, that is, guided, repented, repaired in the fruit of the joys of His crucifixion and resurrection by our hearts fixed on Him,  His forgiveness for us, in us, with us, His life in our lives. His gift of life is His blood.  We can not repair our hearts, our wills on our own.  No one did heart surgery on himself, one needs a physician. We are fixed by fixing our hearts and eyes on Jesus Christ and that “fix” is prayer, the prayer of faith in the Lord, in Whom we are made one in Christian love and Pastor Clement made this clear:

From Pastor and Bishop Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians:

This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings, the protector and helper of our weakness (cf. Heb. 2: 17, 3:1, 4: 15)

Through him we fix our eyes on the heights of heaven, Through him we see mirrored the flawless and sublime countenance of God (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18), Through him the eyes of our heart have been opened, Through him our foolish and darkened understanding springs up to the light,Through him the Master has willed that we should taste immortal knowledge;

For “since he is the express image of his greatness, he is as much superior to angels as his title is superior” to theirs (cf. Heb. 1:3-4)

Let us then, men and brethren, engage in our service with complete earnestness under his faultless order. Let us consider those who serve under our military commanders, with what good discipline, subordination, and obedience they carry out orders.  Not all are prefects or tribunes or centurions or captains of fifty and so on, but “each in his own rank”(I Cor. 15:23)carries out orders under the emperor and the commanding officers. The great cannot exist without the small; neither can the small exist without the great: there is a certain mutuality in the whole, and this is beneficial to it. 

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, Your servant Clement of Rome called the Church in Corinth to repentance and faith to unite them in Christian love. Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless in Your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

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9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7

There was a famous TV preacher who wrote a book about the Beatitudes  entitled, “The Be Happy Attitudes”. What a crock!  Full disclosure:  I have not read said book.  I guess that the way to be ‘Be Happy Attitudes’ is by us thinking positive, happy thoughts and doing positive happy things. In it’s place, that’s okay but in terms of the Lord’s so great a salvation, it’s all on me but the clear sense of the Beatitudes, our blessing, our salvation, does not rest on me or you but upon the One who blesses that is the Lord. The problem is not unhappiness primarily but sin crucially. The false, ‘be happy attitudes’ are aspiration, our going up to God. The Lord’s Beatitudes are inspiration.  Inspiration is literally “in spirited”, hallowed, made holy by the Holy Spirit witnessing to the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, filling the lungs of our souls with the Spirit of His grace, mercy and peace.  All the saints in Christ have known this in Christ. 

The Lord who calls the least, the last and the lost into His reign seems to enjoy creating out of nothing, as He did the heavens and the earth.  On each day of creation, after creating out of nothing, by His Word, He said, “It is good”.  The Lord likewise redeemed the saints out of the nothingness of sin, death and the power of the devil, by His blood shed for us all.  The saints are the roll call of the least, the last and the lost. His redemption is good.  His blood is for our good. His blood made us His, justified by grace through faith, as He became sin.    

During an interview with a comedian, the topic was atheism and faith.  The comedian was asked are you believer?  After all, aren’t you a Roman Catholic?” “Yeah, I believe and I’m a Roman Catholic but with what’s been happening recently,  I believe the book but not the cast.”  I guess the “cast” being the priests, bishops etc. and I took the book to be the Bible, the Word of God. Not a bad answer.   I believe the book, the Word of God and more than that:  because of His Word toward us in Jesus Christ, the lodestar of the Bible is why I believe His book, His Word.  What is His Word toward us and all humankind?  It’s not a principle, a program, a holy political platform, an ideal that the Lord presents and proclaims to us but he comes to us in a very concrete person:  Jesus Christ. 

 The comedian went amiss though with his jibe at the “cast”.  The Bible is quite a cast of characters! 

  • Abraham, a pagan idolater to be father of nations;
  • Moses, murdered an Egyptian the same Moses who didn’t talk so well is given the Law to lead a people out of slavery by speaking God’s Word;
  • a prostitute, Rahab saves Israel in the fall of Jericho;
  • a Gentile woman, a Moabite, Ruth becomes the foremother of King David and Jesus Christ, David’s Lord; David, a shepherd boy; 
  • “I’m only a youth” Jeremiah, a teenager called to proclaim God’s unvarnished truth to a very wayward Israel;
  • Peter, James and John, fishermen called to be Apostles into the world with the light of Jesus Christ;
  • Paul, persecutor and would-be murdered of Christians…and it’s a cast of millions as we heard in the first lesson. They did this all by faith alone.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

God loves the world. It is not an ideal man that He loves, but man as he is; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find abominable in man’s opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, the real man, the real world, this is for God the ground for unfathomable love, and it is with this that He unites Himself utterly. God becomes man, real man. 

God became a real man so we can be real men and women. This cast I trust because they were (and are!) so very real and loved and called by the real Lord to be his real people, really knowing they are sinners at the same time made right, justified in Christ alone and His work, as worked out in our lives by the Holy Spirit.

Beatitudes are the blessing of Jesus Christ toward real men and real women.  If the Lord wanted to bless ideal men and women, he would have said, Blessed are the rich in spirit, Blessed are those who are positive Blessed are the warriors, Blessed are the powerful…If the Lord had wanted only ideal men to come to Him, He would still be sitting on that mount waiting to open His mouth till this day.  But open His mouth He did:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, mourning, etc…not exactly a recruiting poster for denominational Christianity purpose driven, positive thinking, your best life now as the purveyors of the national religion with their feet planted firmly in their time teach it. but real men and real women, the least the last the lost. “The Few, the Proud, the Marines” is a good recruiting ad but in the One who calls us its, the many, the lowly, poor in spirit, mourning at the way the world is to be His saints.  But there is a similarity between the marines and the saints in one way:  both are in formation.  The saints are not being conformed to the pattern of this present world but being transformed by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s tools are in arsenal of His Word:  faith, peace, prayer, salvation.  The saints are a work in progress, to be saints, but His work always.   Unlike the other Marine slogan, “Never given, always earned”, here it is Always given, never earned.  And also:  Always given, ever learned. 

This cast both then and now have a script, the Scripture, our lines, His inerrant Word to learn, pray, speak and live. The problem is when we are always adlibbing our own lines, thinking we know what the playwright really wanted to say and it’s look at me I’m pretty good.  “Oh, I want my part to really be moving” and we act out of character.  We should know our lines, and the Lord’s lines are good.  Man does not like the Playwright’s Script and rewrites it, but once that is done, it is no longer the real play and the Script-ure  is nothing to play around with.  When man starts rewriting the Bible, like Joseph Smith, Mohammed and liberal/progressive Christianity,  the result will always be a water downed version with lines that might be tough but will always be showing how holy we are. It’s called being a Pharisee, a hypocrite.  The Lord, blessed be His Name has given us His real lines for real people that eventually by faith through His grace we cherish in our hearts and souls and minds to live them in real living. When an actor auditions and does well he will receive a call back.  Now we receive callbacks from time to time, not when we have done well, but  we are called back when we have done not done well at all: flubbed our lines, tried to hog the stage, talked about others in the cast.  The Lord calls us back in true repentance, by His Law, the script that is totally demanding, to confess our bad acting and be forgiven by His grace alone.

This past Friday, Pr. David Ongwaye messaged me on Facebook about how I was doing and I told him I was making Scripture cards to go along with the candy we passed out on Halloween at the Mission. He wrote, Trick or treating?  I don’t know what you’re talking about!  I explained Trick or Treating to our Kenyan brother.  He wrote back:

“It must be enjoyable and such (a) show of kindness should always be the fruit of our spirit as Christians. That is why we are unique people!” I responded:  “That’s a good thought! I never thought of trick or treating that way!” Pr. Ongwaye:  “What else can we say! How can we be known to be Christ’s disciples if we can’t show our love to our neighbours!”.

His Church is cast of millions upon millions, that John could not count from every tribe, nation, tongue.  The saints love in word and deed.  Saints believe and saints live the faith always in Christ in the communion of saints. We remember those who have exited the stage who’s part in our lives sustained us and other saints granted by the Lord for major roles who of course weren’t acting at all.  They knew who they were because they knew Who’s they were: Jesus’ own. Jesus has promised there will be a cast reunion in the resurrection into the Kingdom come. This cast, His Church, His communion of saints, is not perfect, by any stretch and yet it is not an excuse to do bad but to love as we have been so loved. This communion of saints is not an ideal or utopian community but a real one, a real cast of characters.  In a stage rehearsals, the manager is there with the script feeding lines to the actors as they learn the script, so is the Holy Spirit.  The saints are not us vs. them but in Christ Jesus for us all.  A cast that does not lift high themselves, but lifts high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore His sacred Name.  We bear on our brows the sign of Him who died and rose for us all.  Lift high His Cross so others may know the Way, the Truth and the life, Jesus Christ.

 

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Quote of the Week

“I think instead of ‘In remembrance of Me’ being carved on altars it would be awesome to have, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” (John 12:21)

-Pastor Gaven Mize, Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, Hickory, North Carolina

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St. Mark 7:  27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (From the Gospel Reading for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, year B)

The Syro-Phoenician woman and Mother, as a Gentile had no right to the true table of the Lord in Israel.  She was outside the promises of the Lord.  And she knew that but her need compelled her which was her daughter’s horror: her daughter was demon-possessed.  Jesus crossed the border from the Promised Land to Gentile territory. The devil had taken hold of her daughter for what was coming out of her heart had defiled her:  “…out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit,  sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7). 

The Syro-Phoenician woman and Mother could not claim rights to the Lord’s Table.  She only wanted the crumbs.  Jesus drew her forth from the depths as she knelt before Him. She would not let Him go, oh, that I would have the faith of the Syro-phoenician woman, and the Samaritan woman at the well, the faith to serve as did the Samaritan on the road to Jericho! 

We do not deal under the table to fool people into the Church. The Lord calls His Church to tell people what’s for dinner.  It’s a six course meal:  the 10 commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism,  the office of the Keys, the Sacrament of the Altar,  and then the Table of Duties of the way the Lord instructs His people in their vocations in family and home, in the Church and in the 9-5 work week. 

The Syro-Phoenician Mom was now at the Table of the Lord as she did not even receive a crumb from Him, instead, Jesus gave Himself.   For her statement the Syro-Phoenician woman, literally “For your word”, the word of faith which would not let Jesus go, she could go her way to her daughter now restored, a family restored at the Table of the Lord, all fully members of His Church, at His table.

The Syro-Phoenician Mother “turned the tables” on the Lord and He “turned the tables” on the persistent Mother and  on the unclean spirit. He would turn the tables on sin, death and the  power of the devil upon the Cross as  He gave us the Sacrament upon His Table for peace in His Name so that the faithful by His grace “have a place at the Table”.  “Nothing in my hand I bring, but simply to Thy Cross I cling.”

As we began furnishing the mission here one of the immediate need were tables.  I realized that tables are very important to the Church.  There are three kinds of needed tables in a Church sanctuary and building:

  1. Tables for Bible class and Christian education so that the Word of God, the Scriptures are taught and learned, so that Lutherans can ask question and learns the answers from the Bible, and we grow in faith and love.
  2. Dining tables for church dinners, as a reminder here of the Lord’s prayer petition, “Give us this day our daily bread”, as we do in our homes daily. We are reminded that all creatures look to You O Lord for their food in due season and You open Your  hands and satisfy the desires of all living.
  3. And the most important table, the Lord’s so that He gives us His Body and Blood, for the confession of the faith and the feeding of our faith in Him, in the communion of His very Presence. He touches us with Himself, in His Word He opens, “…the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Gregory the Great).

All these tables point, not to our works, but His work. They are the Lord’s work tables:  His Word for us, His creation for us, His Body and Blood for us and our salvation.

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Crucifix and ChaliceWhen terribly sick, a person needs strong medicine, even a simple infection and a patient is told by the doctor to finish the antibiotic medication, even though the infection is gone. Seems like overkill, as in cancer treatments:  long course of  chemotherapy and/or radiation. Strong medicine.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! (Ephesians 4: 17-20)

One of the unholy trinities is the world, the flesh and the devil.  A world given over to “sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” and sensuality and impurity is paraded every day from internet porn to television shows to news reports on the results of sensuality and impurity:  std’s, murder, greed. The world’s cancer has metastasized.   We no longer legally sell human beings, human flesh, thank the Lord, but it is still sold and bought legally in the market places of wickedness as we have heard that human body parts of aborted babies are ‘harvested’ and  sold in the marketplaces of death. Christ came in the flesh to save us from our flesh. The Lord sent the strongest medicine that a sick world and men and women needs and could ever want on its own: the flesh and blood of the Father’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, God’s flesh:.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 14).  With no sin His flesh, the eternal Word cures us flesh and blood. In His flesh and body shines forth, “full of grace and truth”, His salvation for us all.  Now we cannot get more specific as to place and time, and now in Person, as the Incarnation, Christ’s flesh and blood.  His flesh alone has cured the fever and cancer in our flesh and in our spirits.  He has given His flesh upon the Cross, the Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world to make us His.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. No longer to be giving into the flesh day in and day out, but walk in the Holy Spirit, no longer tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and make no provision for the flesh.

 The Cross kills us in Christ’s flesh, as the flesh is death, the risen Lord makes alive and will, He made us alive spiritually, and will physically.  “…and I will raise him up on the last day”.   

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34: 18)

Not only is the world so darkened by the flesh turned in upon itself, but the world is always calling it new, selling it as new, but it is actually worn out, worse for wear.  It is false advertising. The Lord is clear:  deceitful lusts. Put on the new self, baptized cleansed. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  No longer wrapped up in our selves, but wrapped up in Jesus Christ, walking in the Holy Spirit, with God the Father, one God as He has made you His own. 

Beloved in the Lord!   The Lord cannot get any closer than flesh and blood, the Bread of life, Christ’s flesh and blood.  “God is the God of the humble, the miserable, the afflicted, the oppressed, the desperate and those who have been brought to nothing” (Luther) “For I will admit that Christ is wiser than my reason or I am. Give honor to Him who is speaking here, and let Him be wiser than you.”  Christ is the Bread of Life, feeding us Himself, every Word from the mouth of God.  The Lord knows how to reveal Himself.  Without the Bread of Life, we’re toast. He is the living bread.  Bread eventually grows stale, but God’s love in Christ never grows old and gets worn out.   One of the selling points on bread these days, “no artificial ingredients”, that is, nothing man-made, but what God has made. There is nothing artificial in the Christ, the Bread of life, nothing man-made, pure flesh, made by God, pure God, very God from very God.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34: 8)

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Bio:  Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the NewTestament more than any other Old Testament prophet. His name means “Yahweh *the Lord+ saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah. Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God’s Law,
condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing God’s grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah’s miraculous birth (Is 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (Is 2:1–5; 11:1–16), and his public ministry (Is 61:1–3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (52:13—53:12). The apostle John’s description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Isaiah 8:  11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

The following commentary is from Dr. R. Reed Lessing’s commentary on Isaiah when it was still in the works:

Vv. 11-15 – “With a strong hand” (cf. Ezek. 1:3; 3:14) the LORD warns Isaiah to see the situation from God’s perspective instead of that of man (cf. 5:20). Right thinking involves a fear of the LORD (v 13; cf. Prov. 1:7). Such faith finds safety, while rejection finds stumbling (vv 14-15). The function of the “stone” and “rock” are described in further detail in Isa. 28:16, Ps. 118:22; 1 Pet. 2:6. 

The Lord tells His prophet not to call a conspiracy what “this people” does nor fear what they fear.   We live in an age with so many conspiracies and conspiracy theories.  For instance:  after the 50th commemoration of the assassination of JFK, we were awash in those conspiracy theories once again…and the  conspiracies about global warming, creeping socialism, wars and rumors of wars.   Our conspiracies cause us fear and dread because we look at them from our supposedly  omnicompetent way of controlling them and we know we can not, though we deceive ourselves that we are so able. Instead in His Word we  look at them from the Lord’s perspective. The Lord’s guidance to Isaiah is not to fear them and this Word is also for us as Lutherans and Christians living in the United States.  Our only fear and dread is of the Lord! He has things in hand and His hand, His Word of Law shows us what will happen pursuing the dead ends of idolatries.  The Lord will be cause of many to fall and the good news:  many to rise on account of the Messiah whom Isaiah foretold.  

Isaiah was living in a time of rampant idolatry and wealth, sexual immorality and decadence and false prophets preaching “peace” and prosperity but it was not the Word of the Lord. “This people” are Isaiah’s own people. Luther commented that usually the Lord called Israel, “His people” but note here the Lord calls His people “this people” and that is the Lord’s Word of judgment. By their sin and self-righteousness they had cut themselves off from the Lord. The time of Israel  is very much alike to the time of the Church in 21st Century United States.We have many tele-preachers of ‘peace’ while greed and lust go unchecked.

 Isaiah and the prophets were set apart from their own people and yet by God’s Word, they were for their own people. Isaiah said the Lord’s strong hand was upon him as He spoke His Word.  The Church, if she is true to her Lord, will also be Isaiah:  set apart from this people because His strong hand, with the mark of the nails, is upon us as He speaks His Word.  The Word will be rejected  or accepted, but as Israel, “..they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 2: 5b). We are called not to pursue what the world pursues yet the Lord has called us to  serve this people.  We are called to honor the Lord as holy, certainly not ourselves as holy!  As He draws near in His final Advent, but even now He draws near to us in His Word and His Sacraments,  as the angels sang in front of Isaiah, the Church sings at the Holy Communion, and many will hear the song of the angels as Isaiah did and the shepherds because of our salvation in Jsus Christ:     

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

We pray…Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Isaiah, 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.

Isaiah, Mighty Seer, in Days of Old”
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

1. Isaiah, mighty seer, in days of old
The Lord of all in Spirit did behold
High on a lofty throne, in splendor bright,
With flowing train that filled the Temple quite.
Above the throne were stately seraphim,
Six wings had they, these messengers of Him.
With twain they veiled their faces, as was meet,
With twain in reverent awe they hid their feet,
And with the other twain aloft they soared,
One to the other called and praised the Lord:
“Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
Behold, His glory filleth all the earth!”
The beams and lintels trembled at the cry,
And clouds of smoke enwrapped the throne on high.

Hymn 249
The Lutheran Hymnal

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I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 

St. John 15: 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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