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Posts Tagged ‘Incarnation’

“The Hospitality of Abraham”: this portrayal shows Abraham and Sarah waiting on the Lord at the Oaks of Mamre Enter a caption

Prayer of the Day

Lord and Father of all, You looked with favor upon Sarai in her advanced years, Putting on her a new name, Sarah, and with it the promise of multitudinous blessings from her aged womb. Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah, that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Intro:  Sarah was the wife (and half sister) of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (Genesis 11:29;20:12). In obedience to divine command (Genesis 12:1), she made the long and arduous journey west, along with her husband and his relatives, from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran and then finally to the land of Canaan. She remained childless until old age. Then, in keeping with God’s longstanding promise, she gave birth to a son and heir of the covenant (Genesis 21:1-3). She is remembered and honored as the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac, the second of the three patriarchs. She is also favorably noted for her hospitality to strangers (Genesis 18:1-8). Following her death at the age of 127, she was laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah(Genesis23:19), where her husband was later buried.  (Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection:  The icon above is entitled The Hospitality of Abraham.  It is the illustration of the visit by the 3 angels to Abraham and Sarah at the Oaks of Mamre, as recorded in Genesis 18.  The 3 angels turn out to be none other than the Lord Himself! (see the beginning of verse 1).  Abraham treats them royally to food.  Now to be fair, this icon should probably be called the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah! After all, she also help prepared the food (vs. 6).  The Lord came to give a birth announcement to this aged couple,

“The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

And you may remember the problem:  they were both pushing a 100!  When the Lord says the above, this follows:

And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

The Lord does not strike Sarah dead! The Lord did say,  you did laugh.  Was the Lord laughing?  We do not know.  When she did give birth,

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.”

The name Isaac means “laughter”!  When Abraham was told that he would have a son at the century mark, he”… fell down laughing…” in the Presence of the Lord (see Genesis 17: 17).  A number of years ago, PBS had a documentary on comedy, “Dear God: Next Time Choose Someone Else: the Legend of Jewish Comedians”.  One comedian said all Jewish humor is from the texts cited!  Laughter is in the Bible.  There are two types of humor:  derision and joy. The Lord will have the last laugh: “He who sits in the heavens laughs;the Lord holds them in derision” (Ps. 2), that is the nations and the wicked. This is the Lord’s derisive laughter of judgment.   And there is the laughter of sheer joy, of birth in the midst of death:  the birth of Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s son, their son, their only son (see Genesis 22: 2).  The Father gave His only begotten Son for us and for He was born to be our Savior! Sin, death and the devil are laughed to derision  by the sheer joy of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  God has made laughter for us!

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Joy describes the wedding at Cana and it should describe any wedding.  Nowadays, we probably do not understand the joy that day in Cana.  In Jesus’ day, in Israel, after a man and a woman found each other, their fathers would come together for conversation to arrange the wedding and marriage.  They would write marriage covenant. The young man and woman would say to each other, Today, You are my husband, Today you are my wife.  Then the families then would have a betrothal dinner.  The couple were considered married. This is why as  Matthew’s Gospel begins, we read Joseph and Mary were betrothed and when Mary is found to be with child by the Holy Spirit, Joseph decided to quietly divorce her.  Betrothal only began a couple’s wedding journey.  She would then wear a veil to indicate in the town square that she was betrothed.  He would go back home to his family’s home and begin to add a room to their home for he and his bride.  This could take up to year to build.  When the room was built, the groom would send his groomsmen, complete with shofar, the ram’s horn, to go his bride’s home for her.  They would not know the hour when this would occur.  As the groomsmen approached the bride’s home, they might blow the ram’s horn.  With joy the bride and her party would go with the groomsmen to the groom’s home.  There in the privacy of their new room, husband and wife consummated their marriage, with the groomsmen standing guard outside.  Her veil was put aside.  The couple became one flesh.  Then began the wedding party which would last up to 7 days.

 This is exactly the time of the wedding at Cana.  The Lord knew what was going on…besides, He created marriage.  He brought His joy to the wedding of the man and the woman and added to their joy.  It takes time to make a couple.  One flesh is not an overnight or a hook-up.  Never was. In Luther’s day the church gave it’s approval to being a monk or nun as the holiest way of living. No, preached Luther, we find nothing in the Bible about monks or nun but right away in Genesis, we read of husband and wife.  Mary and her Son went to the wedding in Cana and He added more joy with the best wine.  Marriage is the estate ordained by God and is the basis of all authority.  Government, at it’s best is to protect  marriage not add to it by redefining it.  But government is only doing what so many churches have done:  redefine marriage or approve living together.  What Luther preached in his day is the same in our day:  “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.” No kidding, Fr. Martin! I would guess that about 9 months after the wedding in Cana, the joyful couple had their first child.  Jesus would not have attended the move-in of a woman to live with her guy or  given consent to hooking-up or my biological clock is ticking, single-parenthood on purpose.  Churches, or Christians,  have said this is not so bad, and even God pleasing.  It is not. He does not want a child to fear abandonment because of different living arrangements.  He does not want a child aborted to fit a life-style.  The Old Adam likes, no, lusts after new ‘life-styles’. Once I was talking with my father-in-law about hooking-up and like and he quipped, I guess I was born at the wrong time.  Back in the ’60s, the  “new morality” was touted but as one conservative put it, it is actually the old immorality.  Christ was baptized for this…to save us from ourselves and sin, death and the power of the devil.  Our Lord protects husbands and wives with two commandments:  Honor your father and your mother and You shall not commit adultery. He protects, we wreck. The Lord loves the life He created, each and everyone of us, and wants it to continue and when fallen into disrepair He has sent His Son. He went to a wedding.

 Yes, a cross is laid on marriage, as it is written, there will be troubles in marriage. Yes.  If all the money of a  lifetime were put before a worker, like winning the lotto, it would not be considered to be enough.  But the Lord gives us money, our salary, we wonder if will we make ends meet. He will change water into wine as we manage and serve in our households.  This is God pleasing. If we are but godly and pious and let Him do the caring (Luther).  There will be enough so that faith is engendered, hope renewed and love quickened. When the wine ran out, they had enough by our Lord’s quiet sign of changing water into wine. The Christian home is faithful.

His Cross, His forgiveness in the home is the sign bar none of His forgiveness.  Husband and wife need His forgiveness day by day along with their children.  Forgiveness is bread on the table.  It is bread here today to be eaten, His body.  He commands all who would be His children to be washed in Holy Baptism and for the Christian household to walk wet in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit engenders His gifts bar none, more important gifts and fruits than any received this past Christmas. His gifts are:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   The Christian home is crucified and it’s member walk in the newness of life.  This newness is fostered and nurtured in confession and absolution. The Christian home is a confessional of sin, confesses Christ and confesses His praise by their service.

 Even His Mother cannot prescribe the time in which the Lord will help. Neither can we.  We come to the end of our rope, and cry out, Lord, help…in a situation like a wedding in which the wine has run out!  Jesus clearly teaches here for our sake, He will provide at the right time.  He did at the wedding at Cana.  He served the best wine. Mary said, Do whatever He says.  This is a good reminder to us all in all walks of life and especially in our homes.  Do whatever He tells you as in when you prayer, say, Our Father Who art in heaven.  Take and eat, take and drink.  Meditate on My Word.  The Christian home is a house of prayer.

 You have saved the best wine to the last. This could be a lesson for husband and wife.  When we first start seeing someone, we put our best foot forward, dress nice, best manners and personality…then marriage and my wife gets to know me. And one’s less charming aspects come to the fore quite quickly.  But of the Lord it can always be said, you have saved the best wine till now. His blood shed for repentant  sinners joyful in His forgiveness. We are told the master of feast knew could taste this was the best wine.  He probably did not know the first and original Master of the Feast was present with His disciples.  Jesus is the Master of the feast, this feast He founded.    My hour has not yet come, He told His Mother.  Jesus repeats this phrase, “my hour” a few times in the Gospel.  He changed water into wine, but this was not the glory.  His presence, message and person pointed to another glory, the glory of the only-begotten Son who died on the Cross for sinners in His love which conquers death.   He changes wine into His blood for us all. Taste and see that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. The taste for sin is all too real and the taste of His joy in the family knows no bounds and He has overcome the world.  So the Christian home serves Jesus Christ. 

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

 

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From an Epiphany Sermon by St. Ambrose:

What are these gifts, offered in true faith? Gold, as to a King; incense, as to God; myrrh, for the dead. For one is the token of the dignity of a king; the other the symbol of the divine majesty; the third is a service of honour to a Body that is to be buried, which does not destroy the body of the dead, but preserves it. We also who read and hear these things, let us, Brethren, offer similar gifts, from our treasures. For we have  treasures, in earthen: (II Cor. iv. 7). If you consider that which you are as being, not from thee, but from Christ: how much more ought you not to consider that which you own as being, not yours, but Christ’s?…

The Magi come by one way, and return by another. For they who had seen Christ, had come to know Christ; and they returned more truly believing than they came. The way is twofold: one that leads to destruction, and the other that leads to the Kingdom. There is the way of sinners, that leads to Herod: this way is Christ by which we return to our country. For here we have no lasting dwelling, as it is written: My soul hath long been a sojourner (Ps. cxix. 6). Let us turn away from Herod- ruler for a while of an earthly power, that we may come to the everlasting dwelling of our heavenly country.

From an Epiphany Sermon by St. John Chrysostom:

And after they had offered their gifts the Magi were warned that they should not return to Herod, and they went back another way into their country. In this they give us an example of virtue and faith, so that we too, having once known and adored Christ our King, and having forsaken the road that we formerly travelled, that is the way of our past errors, and travelling now another road with Christ as Guide, may return to our true country, which is Paradise, from which Adam was driven forth. Of this country the psalmist says: I will please the Lord in the land of the living (Ps. cxiv. 9).

 

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David, the greatest of Israel’s kings, ruled from about 1010 to 970 BC. The events of his life are found in 1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2 and in 1 Chronicles 10-29. David was also gifted musically. He was skilled in playing the lyre and the author of no fewer than seventy-three psalms, including the beloved Psalm 23. His public and private character displayed a mixture of good (for example, his defeat of the giant Goliath [1 Samuel 17]) and evil (as in his adultery with Uriah’s wife, followed by his murder of Uriah [2 Samuel 11]). David’s greatness lay in his fierce loyalty to God as Israel’s military and political leader, coupled with his willingness to acknowledge his sins and ask for God’s forgiveness (2 Samuel 12; see also Psalm 51). It was under David’s leadership that the people of Israel were united into a single nation with Jerusalem as its capital city. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  David was born in Bethlehem. Beth-le-hem means “house of bread”.   The Lord promised David that the throne of Israel would never lack a descendant of David upon it….and the Lord told Israel through the prophets that the house of David and Jerusalem would be desolate because of desolation of their idolatry and immorality;  then in 587 B.C. the Babylonian Empire captured Israel and brought her into exile and destroyed the Temple.  The Lord is true to His promise that a royal Davidide would sit on the throne forever.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Bread of Life born in the House of Bread. The genealogies in Luke and Matthew’s Gospels testify to His lineage.  Joseph, the Lord’s Stepfather was of the house of David.  

The first multi-part mini-series that was a mega hit was “Roots”, the story of Kunta Kinte and his family from West Africa.  They were captured by slavers and Kinte became a slave in the United States.  The mini-series was about his family and his descendants.  Commentators at the time noted that the “Roots” popularity had to do with rootless American society.  Few grow up and stay in the place they were born.  We forget who we are. Genealogical studies and websites are very popular.  Baseball’s whole goal is to go home.  Worse, we forget Who’s we are.  Christ Jesus has roots deep into in Israel and creation as the genealogies in Matthew and Luke testify.  Unto us a Son is born.  He made us part of the genealogy of Israel, adopted as the Lord’s sons and daughters, grafted into the olive tree of Israel (cf. Romans 11:  16-18). Here is an excellent article on St. Matthew’s Genealogy at Brothers of John the Steadfast.  

The true King rooted Himself in Israel and His creation for us wandering and lost.  Jesus is King David’s Lord and Jesus was so before He was born. When Jesus’ ancestor according to the flesh was hungry,  the priests gave David holy bread, the Bread of the Presence.  Jesus is the Lord of life.  He gives us our daily bread and gives us the Bread of His Presence.  We come as sinners in repentance and in need of His forgiveness so to receive worthily.  Come into His Presence  every First Day of the Week to receive the Bread  of Life, His Body and whenever the Sacrament is offered.The Church is Bethlehem, the House of Bread. 

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St. Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), was one of the Church’s first seven deacons. He was appointed by the leaders of the Church to distribute food and other necessities to the poor in the growing Christian community in Jerusalem, thereby giving the apostles more time for their public ministry of proclamation (Acts 6:2-5). He and the other deacons apparently were expected not only to wait on tables but also to teach and preach. When some of his colleagues became jealous of him, they brought Stephen to the Sanhedrin and falsely charged him with blaspheming against Moses (Acts 6:9-14). Stephen’s confession of faith, along with his rebuke of the members of the Sanhedrin for rejecting their Messiah and being responsible for His death, so infuriated them that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen is honored as the Church’s first martyr and for his words of commendation and forgiveness as he lay dying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60).

Reverent hearts, it is an old, laudable custom to commemorate St. Stephen on the second day of Christmas. For just as the innocent children were the first martyrs after Christ’s birth, so also St. Stephen was the first after Christ’s ascension to praise our glorious King Jesus with his blood. Our predecessors used to say, Heri natus est Christus in mundo, ut hodie Stephanus nasceretur in coelo. “Yesterday Christ was born in the world, so that today Stephen would be born in heaven.” This is speaking rightly and truly of the fruit of Jesus Christ’s birth. If the Christ Child had not been born, the entire world would be lost. Thus Stephen’s sleep in death and entrance through the open heaven to the glory of God in eternal life will show us well what great usefulness and goodness we have from the incarnation and birth of the Child Jesus.

Stephen means a “garland” or a “crown.” Think here of our beautiful Christmas consolation. Whoever believes in the name of Jesus is righteous before God and can expect a glorious crown. Devout Christians are “virgins” before God (Matthew 25:1; Revelation 14:4) and have four different virgin garlands. The first is the garland of righteousness gifted. Second is the garland of righteousness begun. The third is the garlandof all kinds of cross and thorns. The fourth is the glorious garland of perfect righteousness.

The ancient teachers of the Church say that the Lord Jesus loved Stephen in life, in death, and after death. First, in life, for He filled him with His Spirit, with heavenly wisdom, and faith unfeigned. Second, in death, for He offered him heaven opened and waited for his soul. Third, after death, for He gave him the garland of glory and set up for him a famous commemoration until the Last Day. These are the beautiful flowers of Christmas. Those who truly love our glorious King Jesus Christ shall be certain of God’s grace in life, in death, and after death. They shall not die, but live, and proclaim the work of the Lord.—Valerius Herberger

 Acts 6: And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen… This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.

The freedmen, or literally, the liberated ones, were possibly descendants of manumitted slaves.  So maybe for them to hear that they will be freed freely in Jesus Christ would have been galling and going against the ‘freedom’ they had sought in their own synagogue and earned for themselves, but in Christ they were truly manumitted, eternally. In front of them and the high priest, in his speech, more like a sermon,  (Acts 7) Deacon Stephen went through Israel’s history.  He  pointed out the way the Lord led them in freedom for Israel only to reject the Lord’s Word and finally that happened to the Messiah Jesus and they resisted the Holy Spirit and the prophets who spoke by the Holy Spirit, and did not keep the Law.  The people did not want to hear any more and they stoned him to death.   Here was a man full of the Holy Spirit who was in love with the One born yesterday Who alone can free, what no law could free.  We could sing today, On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Himself:  Jesus Christ.  “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60).And the Lord said before He died, “Father, in Thy hands I commend my spirit” and “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”. 

It is recorded that Stephen’s face shined like an angel’s (6: 15).  “Angel” means “messenger”.  Stephen was a messenger of the message of glad tidings of Jesus Christ. People will misunderstand both the message and the messenger and think by killing the messenger, they will kill the message, but they can’t.  Pope Francis does not want his church to evangelize the Jews, funny, since that is what Stephen did.  Even if Church and State try to stop the message, it has not worked yet, for the Lord, even through the blood of His saints, wants all men to come to the knowledge of Christ and His Name to free all men and women.

Hymnody

Jesus! Name of priceless worth

To the fallen of the earth

For the promise that it gave,

“Jesus shall His people save.”

—Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love (LSB 900:3)

Prayer of the Day

Heavenly Father, in the midst of our sufferings for the sake of Christ grant us grace to follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified on our behalf and pray for those who do us wrong; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Quote from Rev. Philipp Nicolai (1553-1608 ( Lutheran Pastor and Hymnwriter (notably, he wrote “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying”, text and tune, LSB #516; quote is cited in The Treasury of Daily Prayer (Concordia Publishing House)

“Heavenly love is also noticeably strengthened by the eternal vision of the divine essence.  “We will see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2) similarly, Christ prays, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, (to see My Glory)” (John 17: 24) He also says of the angels, “Their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 18:10]. And David says, “When shall I come, that I may see the face of God?” [Psalm 42:2]; “1 shall behold Your face in righteousness” [Psalm 17:15], “for with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see the light” [Psalm 36:9].

            Now since God is love itself and reveals His essence in heaven visibly, so that angels and men behold His face, what do they behold and see in God with their pure eyes besides pure love? And what is the majestic brightness of the divine essence other than pure flames of love and brightness of love, which with great joy shines out and gives light to all the citizens of heaven? What could give joy and life to the children of God more than the dear vision of this most beloved essence?

            If there is a beautiful human face on earth that can draw the eyes of many people to itself like a magnet attracts iron, and if the vision of trusted friends—parents and children, husband, wife, groom and bride—is so lovely and pleasant that it gives joy to the heart, though human beings are not love itself but only have loving tendencies toward their friends: how many hundred thousand times dearer and lovelier must the beautiful essence of God be, who is love itself, and the bright, uncovered face of our heavenly Father and of His only-begotten Son, our most-beautiful and most-friendly bridegroom Jesus Christ, as well as of the Holy Spirit in eternal life!

 

 

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Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You created Adam in Your image and gave him Eve as his helpmate, and after their fall into sin, You promised them a Savior who would crush the devil’s might. By Your mercy, number us among those who have come out of the great tribulation with the seal of the living God on our foreheads and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Adam was the first man, made in the image of God and given dominion over all the earth (Genesis 1:26). Eve was the first woman, formed from one of Adam’s ribs to be his companion and helper (Genesis 2:18-24). God placed them in the Garden of Eden to take care of creation as His representatives. But they forsook God’s Word and plunged the world into sin (Genesis 3:1-7). For this disobedience, God drove them from the garden. Eve would suffer pain in childbirth and would chafe at her subjection to Adam; Adam would toil amid thorns and thistles and return to the dust of the ground. Yet God promised that the woman’s Seed would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:8-24). Sin had entered God’s perfect creation and changed it until God would restore it again through Christ. Eve is the mother of the human race, while Adam is representative of all humanity and the fall, as the apostle Paul writes, “For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). (From the LCMS website)

Reflection, by Valerius Herberger (21 April 1562 – 18 May 1627):  

In the midst of paradise stands the tree of life. From this, Adam [and Eve were] driven away so that [they] would not eat of it but instead would die according to God’s judgment on account of the sin [they] committed. But the cross of Christ is the noble tree of life on which hangs the noble fruits that bring us eternal life. “No forest produces such foliage, blossoms, sprouts.” Whoever consoles himself with the precious merit of Jesus Christ shall live, even though he die. “And whoever lives and believes in Him shall never die” (John 11:26). Because of their sins, Adam [and Eve and their] children were locked out of paradise, but through the key of the holy cross, it will be opened once again to all repentant Christians. Crux Christi clavis Paradisi, that is, “The cross of Christ is the key of paradise,” says John of Damascus. To this, the fathers of the Church relate the key of the house of David, which can open so that no one can shut [Isaiah 22:22]. Let all evil spirits be defied, who would like to lock heaven to us, which the Lord Jesus opened by His cross and death.

—Valerius Herberger

Tomorrow’s Great O Antiphon is about the Key of David:

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open: Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

Adam and Eve were stopped by the Lord from eating of the tree of eternal life.  They were locked out by the Lord.  Why?  The Lord’s mercy that they would not have to live eternally in sin.  Sin locks us out of the Lord’s paradise, being with Him. He alone can open the door and He has…through the door He opened in the conception of His only begotten Son in the womb of the virgin Mary.  His forgiveness opens the door as He is the door to eternal life, freed by grace through faith.  Jesus is the Adam from heaven to rescue those in the sin of the man of the earth, the first Adam.   “The cross of Christ is the key of paradise.”

Hymnody

Glory be to Him who loved us,

Washed us from each spot and stain; Glory be to Him who bought us,

Made us kings with Him to reign! Glory, glory

To the Lamb that once was slain! —Glory Be to God the Father (LSB 506:2)

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