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From St. Luke 24:  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.[1]

What we can do about His mercy toward His enemies, the powerless, that is, all of us (each by name) is as the angels said:  Remember what He told you.  What a joyous response:  You remembered!  What a sad response:  I forgot.

You tell a friend about your mother that she is sick.  Please pray for her, you ask your friend.   A week your friend asks you, How’s your Mom?  In your heart, you rejoice because your friend remembered.  You know your friend prayed for your Mom.  You doubly rejoice.  “Thanks for remembering”.  “And (the women) remembered (Christ’s) words.” 

Every Word, Christ spoke and taught, is as alive as He is.  We are not told what joy was the women’s.  They returned from the tomb with no idle tale, but the joy of proclamation:  Christ is risen!  Remembering is thanksgiving.  Jesus came through just as He said He would.  Jesus seeks to bring to Himself us all, as a shepherd seeks his lost sheep, as woman finding her lost coin, as a Father seeking and finding his lost son in the far country.  He went as far and as deep as hell, as He descended even into hell,

“(Hell) took a body and met God face to face.  It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen and fell upon the unseen.  O Death, where is thy sting?  O Hell, where is thy victory?”[2]

Our lives in Christ are one of remembrance of Christ.  The devil’s strategy is for us to forget.  We are baptized to remember His Word as it points out where we have gone astray and ever points us to the living Way Who is Christ, the crucified and risen Lord. 

Remembering is learning.  Tests in school, and trials in life, are to see if we do remember.  Tests and trials also are for us to remember our lessons and our Lord.  The purpose of school is not for us to feel good about the subject matter, but to learn it.  Jesus risen was taught by the angels and the women.  When we forget, we die.  Remember what He told you.  We must learn.  We are learning in Christ to love as He first loved us.  He had said three times, the Son of Man MUST suffer, be killed and rise again.  The women remembered because the angels reminded them, as do angels in our lives. A divine MUST all the way around is His death and resurrection and so acquiring and learning by faith His resurrected life for us and for our salvation.

“O Holy Trinity, You Self-sufficient Love, ignite also in our hearts this fire of Your Love.”[3]

Christ is risen!

[1] The angels instructing the women to remember, is reportage unique in St. Luke’s Holy Gospel.

[2]  Fom the Paschal Sermon by St. John Chrysostom read by the Eastern Orthodox at the Vigil

[3] Rev. Johann Gerhard (+1637)

 

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St. Luke 3: 21-22:  

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke alone reports that Jesus was praying before His baptism.  His Baptism was unneeded because He had no need of repentance, as He was without sin,  but He was baptized to bear the iniquity of us all.  He was baptized in this mess of iniquity and wickedness, not to baptize this mess, but by cleansing us to get us out of the mess, out of the mess, cleansed in the water,  to be His. His Baptism was unneeded by Him so we would need His Baptism. He baptized us to walk in the land of the living, and not to keep on sinning to live as religious liars to our Savior in the land of the dead.  He had no need for repentance and in a sense He had no need for praying, except He was found in the flesh to find us. Jesus did not need a prayer, but He needed to pray as He was in the flesh.   If Jesus needed to pray, who was without sin, how much more do we need to pray day by day who have this body of death?  Answer: a whole lot more. Better answer:  “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 8)  So the God who prays in the flesh knows how to help those whom He created and redeemed body and soul to pray.  And when we sin, God who is faithful and just forgives as we repent. He needed to pray in the flesh in order to serve us His so great salvation and He does today. From Luther’s Catechisms:

Mankind is in such a situation that no one can keep the Ten Commandments perfectly, even though he has begun to believe. Besides, the devil, along with the world and our flesh, resists our efforts with all his power. Consequently nothing is so necessary as to call upon God incessantly and drum into his ears our prayer that he may give, preserve, and increase in us faith and obedience to the Ten Commandments and remove all that stands in our way and hinders us from fulfilling them. That we may know what and how to pray,  our Lord Christ himself has taught us both the way and the words, as we shall see.” 

 He gives His Words of prayer to those He has baptized.  The Christian is the baptized pray-er.  The baptized hold in faith the Father through the Son for us all. For myself the Bible bears out my own experience with prayer, For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, as it is written in Romans 8. “Not the poverty of our heart, but the richness of God’s Word, ought to determine our prayer.” (Bonhoeffer, Psalms:  The Prayer Book of the Church).  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words… the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  The Holy Spirit’s weapon of choice for prayer is the Word of God. Prayer is the 3rd chief part of the Small and Large Catechisms, that is the Lord’s Prayer. The Lutheran Confessions include prayers and orders for prayer, the only Christian confession to include prayer orders.  The Lord’s Prayer is the Word of God for us to call upon the Lord.  The Psalms are the Word of God to call upon the Lord.  The Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms is the “opposite of taking (His Name) in vain” (Prof. John T. Pless), the Second Commandment. 

 What are the characteristics of baptized pray-ers and prayers?Formed by the Word and  Transformed by the Spirit,  Scripture, the Word of God  is the content our prayers and so living is praying and serving.

As Luther wrote, the Christ Himself is both the way and the words of prayer.  The Lord shows us the way of prayer.  His Way upon earth began with the physical Trinitarian invocation: 

That is why when I today am baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Son is there with his body, the Holy Spirit with his presence, and God the Father with his voice, to hallow it. (Luther)

 As the fullness of the Godhead was manifest in the epiphany at the Jordan River so the fullness of the Lord was at your Baptism.  The Name of the Lord associates intimately His Name with our Baptism, the only way and with the way of prayer also intimately that the way to begin prayer is in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Baptism and prayer, the Word of God are all together and have been ever since Jesus was baptized.  He is baptized for our forgiveness so that in Baptism we too are the Father’s beloved and He says on account of His Son:  You are my beloved child now.  I have made you my own by My Name and all my ways are your ways as the Son has hallowed you by faith through My Word. You call upon Me, Our Father as My dear children in this I take pleasure.

Luke tells us that at the Jordan River Jesus was praying. Luke reports more times of Jesus praying than the other three Evangelists:

  • Luke 5: 16 and 5:33, when He was alone praying
  • 6: 12, before choosing the 12
  • 9: 18, before Peter’s Confession
  • 9: 28, before the Transfiguration
  • 11: 1, before teaching the Lord’s Prayer
  • 19: 46, calls the Temple, “My House of prayer”
  • 22: 30, He told the disciples He was praying for their faith
  • 22: 40, many times in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Then from the Cross.

In the Lord’s life we read the way and the words of prayer, every step of His way upon earth and in heaven,”… Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us”(Romans 8).  He came to do the Father’s will.  He was baptized for a fight so we can fight the good fight of faith. He taught us to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Prof. John Pless:

When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are praying against our own will. We are not praying that God would conform His will (in heaven) to our will (on earth), but that He would align our will (on earth) with His will (in heaven). To pray this petition is to invite trouble!

Jesus was inviting trouble and after His baptism it shows:  Satan tempts Him from His Father’s will, as Satan does the Church. In Baptism we invite trouble, we invite the fight and need to for ourselves and others.

Our intellectual elites have been telling us for a generation that there are moral grays, no black and white.  Then they obfuscate and confuse good and evil, with the subtle suggestion to listen to their erudition to get us out, all around the battle of good and evil raged, clearly and has become worse.  In fact so many of their solutions are giving into to sin, see abortion. When the actual first Star Wars came out I was happy that the movie actually and clearly showed the struggle of good versus evil. Maybe that is Star Wars continuing attraction and that life is one of engagement in conflict. Spoiler alert: in the recent Star Wars, Fin, who only had a number as a name part of the Imperial Storm Troopers, sees the evil he was helping perpetuate, said No.  He flees. He meets a woman who asks him if he part of the resistance. “Yeah, sure”.  Fin did not know it existed. Baptized into the resistance. Many people think the Church is a social club, not the Church militant.  The Lord’s Church is the resistance, the loyal opposition. So, as the Apostle encourages, “…take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

Before Pentecost, Acts 1 and 2, the disciples and Mary and others were praying in the upper room. Most of the chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, we are told of someone praying.  Luke may have gathered so many reports of Jesus at prayer, along with the Church because He knew prayer’s importance in the good fight of faith. We were baptized to pray, to call upon God aright, learning His Word which is His will for us and so leaning on His Word.   The Lord invites us ever to prayer.  He teaches prayer and the way to pray. He inspires our prayer.  He intercedes for us.  The Church gathers together, as an arsenal, prayer:  the hymnbook and the good Book.  In the good Book in the Lutheran Study Bible includes the Small Catechism as does the Lutheran Service Book.  Set apart daily a time of prayer.  If  you say, I don’t have the time, pray, Be gone devil, I need to be with my Lord.  Jesus prayed before events in His life, He prayed during events in His life, He prayed after them.  He prayed at all times.  He prayed also out of need.  We can too, and I encourage you to do so, continue to do so and He fights by our side with the weapons of the Spirit,  In the Name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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St. Luke 2: 49:  And  he said to them,  “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

In the Old Testament reading, Solomon’s focus was not on himself and his prerogatives as king:  long life, riches and winning over his enemies.  His focus was on his people.  He prayed to the Lord for a wise and discerning will to govern this great people.  He knew that he could not rule knowing himself. His initial wisdom was the wisdom to say he needed help. His focus finally was on the Lord.

In the Epistle Reading, the Apostle Paul begins his epistle to the Ephesians in these magnificent verses, focusing his brothers and sisters in Christ, not upon themselves but on Christ, in the “heavenly places”.  The Lord does the choosing, the predestining, forgiving, redeeming and the lavishing of His grace for them, for us. 

And at the age of 12, before He grew into a man at 13, Jesus knew where He had to be.  Three times in the first 4 verses the place is mentioned:  Jerusalem, the place of God’s Word, His Name.

Now the situation here is NOT like Joseph was driving the car and said, “Son, how did your like Passover this year…son?! Son?!…Mary, I thought you were you going to get him at the rest stop..”  “I thought you did, Joseph!”  The Passover group from the towns were more like caravans, maybe 50 or so family and friends making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with thousands of Israelites going up to Zion, the Lord’s city and Temple.  In a group of that size, walking, strung out along the road, talking and laughing, it would have been quite possible to lose track of a 12 year old.    

Jesus purposely stays behind in Jerusalem. As we think on this Gospel that is the real problem we have with it.  Jesus on purpose stays behind as if He is breaking the 4th commandment, Honor your father and your mother, yes!  But the fourth commandment is the Lord’s intention to be the fourth one, as the first is, You shall have no other gods before Me. He had to be in His Father’s House.  and so He becomes lost to His parents.  

Mary and Joseph are traumatized and understandably so.  One thing about their Child:  He really could not get lost. In fact, He is the one who does the finding.  In Luke 15, the entire chapter is unique in his Gospel:  three parables of lost and found, the shepherd in search of His one lost sheep, the woman householder in search of her one lost silver coin, and a father in search of his one lost son.  Jesus, even at 12, is found where He is must be found:  His Father’s House, the first place we should all look. Jesus can be lost…by us.  “Just think what it would mean if we lost the child Jesus from our hearts!” “Christ is lost in actuality and reality by departing from pure doctrine, by unbelief and severe sins against conscience.” (Gerhard).   The problem is not doubt but doubt resulting in unbelief, no longer taking the Lord at His Word that He made you, He redeemed you, He sanctified you. Why do so many professors and teachers want to take us away from the Lord and faith?  The greatest scientists were Christians and many of the current crop are not. These professors want to be your guiding light and will admit no other light which is curious for people who prize open inquiry.  Then people run to and fro for all sorts of sub-Christian and anti-Christian doctrines and teachings looking for guidance.  Then men and women have supposed sanctions by  looking for salvation even in sin to whet our lusts for more in greed and sex.  We were looking for a god in all the wrong places, places that are agreeable to us and not where and when the Lord said He will be…as in the manger, in the  Temple and finally upon the cross. There were no other gods before Him, in the Temple on the day of His visitation.  The Lord’s first words in Luke are in the Temple, in Jerusalem and His last Words would be in the Temple and then outside the city of Jerusalem on Golgotha. Luke tells us that Jesus MUST be in the Temple, His Father’s House and the Lord will use that word again as in The son of Man must be betrayed, suffer, be crucified and rise again on the 3rd day.

There are other so-called ‘gospels’ from the 2nd and 3rd centuries called the “Gnostic Gospels” in which as a lad, Jesus causes a boy to fall off his donkey and die, then Jesus raises him.  Or another in which Jesus is playing in the mud, making mud birds and then causing them to come to life.  Jesus’ Church did not accept them because, The  Holy Spirit did not inspire them because they are factually false as seen by the fact that He did those ‘miracles’ all for Himself.  Jesus as a boy in the Temple, and keeping the 1st and 4th commandments, in that order, is what 12 year old Jesus did as His focus was not Himself but His Father and His Word.  He did not make His Father’s House into a playhouse for His amusement or an inflatable fun house, filled with sinners’ hot air.  The Lord’s House is filled with His breath and wind, that is, the Holy Spirit as His Word is there and finally, fully and for all:  the Word made flesh.  The Temple was the House of God’s Word and as He told Solomon: for My Name. So when Jesus entered the Temple He was coming home.  Jesus knew where He had to be, the locus of His entire life:  His Father’s will, as Solomon and Paul point us also in Christ to the Lord.  Without Jesus we are lost.  Without the Lord, Israel would still be found as slave people in Egypt.  Joseph and Mary had just come from the most important of all Old Testament holy days, the Passover.   Passover, pascha, the Greek and Hebrew word, is all about the Lord finding and saving His people.  The Lord’s finding His lost people is freedom.

The Christian’s focus is always the different locus.  When we make our selves the direct object of inquiry, the result is either one of two things:  despair, I am no good or overweening pride. His Word is ever our guide between despair and pride to show aright our right and to give us anew the grace of His forgiveness.  The locus is the Lord’s commandments and the promises fulfilled in Jesus.  Solomon went every to Gibeon to offer a 1000 burnt offerings and what Solomon finally needed was God’s Word, Law and Promise—showing us the way to go and now in Solomon’s Lord, the Way Himself in the lad who became a man, the man for all men. We are told that Solomon’s conversation with the Lord was a “dream”, but it was no nightmare!  We have nightmares aplenty in our day from selling fetal body parts to greed and lust.  The Christians’ focus is a different locus, place in life, home and work:  the home altar of His Word, the Catechism and it’s six chief parts.  We need orientation, noting that the word “orient” is the word for “east”, from whence has come our Savior, orienting us throughout our days ahead according to His Word.  “Christ especially wanted to assume the aging promise to show all mankind, not matter what their age, would have in Him a Savior” (Johann Gerhard). 

The Lord told Solomon that the Temple would the place for His Name, a different locus and on that day in the Temple Jesus, literally, “God saves”, His Name entered into the Temple to begin salvation.  Jesus’ focus was not Himself but His Father.

On The Circumcision and Name of Jesus, for the sermon, I remembered the probably only funny song by Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”.  It is a story song about “Sue’s” father giving him the name Sue.  And the way how he hated it all his life because it got him into fights…and hating his father who also left him and his mother when he was three.  One day he caught up with his Dad in a bar, they got into  fight and his dad told him the reason he Sue that name:

 And he said, “Son, this world is rough And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along So I give ya that name and I said goodbye I knew you’d have to get tough or die And it’s the name that helped to make you strong”

“And it’s the Name that helped to make you strong”.  The Name of Jesus will make us strong, tough, steadfast in the faith because He was and is strong.  He was born an infant and from day 1 bearing the sin of the world.  He fasted for 40 days and nights and was tempted by Satan three times and that would not be the last time. He walked to and fro all of Palestine, preaching, teaching,doing good and at every turn someone was out to get Him and finally they would.  He would be cast out of the Temple and crucified on Golgotha…a different locus is the focus of our salvation. He was tough, yet He was and is tender toward sinners who receive with child like faith, a faith He knew as a child.  He is tender, as a mother hen who gathers her brood, so we are saved and can be tender toward each other bearing each other’s burdens. His Name will make you strong as He has saved you to be His, strong in faith and in love serving, in His Name, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen!

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Jesus asked the crowd, What did you go out to see?  A reed shaken by the wind? Luther called pastors preaching to, “…temper the truth to the sensitive fastidiousness of fashionable hearers” “reed preachers”.  John was no reed-preacher. His sermons on marriage landed him in Herod Antipas’ prison and John’s head was handed to Herodias.

In the classic movie, Casablanca, set during World War II, in Casablanca, Morocco, the Nazis have not quite taken over the town. It was a French colony and the Renault is the Captain of the French police force.  Captain Renault stated succinctly his political philosophy and position:  “I blow with the wind and the prevailing wind is from Vichy”. Vichy was the French government collaborating with the Nazis.  Too many times, churches and her Christians collaborate with their Vichys, have “blown with the wind”, that is cooperating with the world. In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul wrote that the Lord gave us “apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” to teach and preach the Word, administer the Sacraments;   that is the “work of ministry”.  In that work of ministry that we have received, so we are grounded in Christ as we are founded by the Holy Spirit, in Him to the glory of God the Father.  “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”   Paul wrote to Timothy that in the last days, and these are the last day, when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  Captain Renault collaborated with the Nazis for his passions: women, drunkenness, gambling, and his own power. Those who are faithful to the Lord in oppressive times might lose their heads and those in good times who are faithful to the world and its passions, have handed their heads over to the devil.  

 John the Baptist sounded so harsh, You brood of vipers!  In movies, he is portrayed as screaming and hollering as he preached.  Maybe he was simply forceful for the Word of God comes like a hammer.  Maybe it is true that every age gets the saint it needs, for the saint acts like an antidote to the Vichy fashions of politics, religion and the like.  Every video clip I have seen of President Harry S. Truman, he seemed to be a real nice guy, except he was called “Give ‘em hell Harry”.  He was asked about the reason for that name, “I told the truth and they thought it was hell”.  For the proud and the boastful, for the self-secure and omni-competent, yes, Jesus and John’s message will seem like hell. Neither were reed preachers. But to the blind, the mute, the deaf, the dead and the poor they brought the good news of the God’s reign. 

“…in Christ’s kingdom things are different. He does not operate with strong, holy people but with weak, poor sinners of whom Christ said: “The blind receive their sight, the dead are raised up.” Now to raise the dead is a great miracle; but a far greater, wonderful miracle, one which does not receive the recognition, is that God has ordained a king to preach the gospel to sinners.”(Luther)

Then there are those preachers who teach that yes, Jesus will sure help you, it is by grace, but  do the good deeds to get into heaven, if you just do good works, are purpose driven, witness to 10 people this week, give God the glory everyday then you will really be a Christian.  I will call them “deed preachers” that by our deeds we can save ourselves by earning merit badges to heaven, when Christ Jesus in His Incarnation has done it all. They imagine that God owes them eternal life for their merits and holy life (Johann Gerhard).

And there are those who preach Jesus Christ for weary sinners, those who mourn, who are poor in spirit, who make for peace, all whom Jesus blessed in the Beatitudes.  The Church catholic and confessional which preaches Jesus Christ, the fullness of God, the fullness of man, who came down to heaven, who’s Advent we celebrate as He drew near in the Womb of the Virgin Mary. This is all summed up in the three Creeds of the Church.  The Church with those preachers are Creed preachers. 

Reed, deed or Creed preachers?  Reed, deed or Creed churches?  Reed, deed or Creed Christians?

John was no reed preacher, with his polling numbers in hand to tailor the message, to make millions and live in soft clothing in a mansion built by ministry dollars. Like Creflow Dollar who wanted his televangelist audience to donate for a new jet for the minister.   The mega-congregation minister in North Carolina who has million dollar plus mansion.

In Christ, reed, deed, creed, is reversed, creed, deed then reed.

Creed preaching is preaching God’s Word.  John preached the Creed that the Messiah is coming, the Coming One and out of the Creed, faith,  comes forth deeds, maybe not as great as John’s, but as the Christ the fruit of love, joy and peace endures in families, churches, societies and cultures.  John was steadfast in the Word.  He did not blow with the prevailing wind, yet he could be shaken. Living the creed in our daily vocations, but even if they are outstanding deeds, they do not save the soul, only one deed has and will,  the deed of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  But out of the creed, faith in His Word will come forth deeds, the good works that God has prepared beforehand to be our way of life.  Justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is not an excuse “…to pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4)  His grace, His love is the cause of faith, then love but only His love justified, made us right to do the right and the good.  As John the Baptist preached, bear fruits befitting repentance.   “In the case of our justification, which is the full and perfect acceptance of the believer unto eternal life, certain effects in our life, such as the new obedience, follow rather slowly because of the weakness of our flesh.” (Martin Chemnitz). 

Creed then deed which is taking care of the reeds. In Matthew 12, the Evangelist, inspired by the Holy Spirit, quotes Isaiah at the exact moment after Jesus cured the man with the withered hand and the Pharisees were plotting to destroy Him:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased…
20 a bruised reed he will not break

A bruised reed He will not break…not strong powerful Christians but bruised ones, as Jesus told John’s disciples, the blind, the leprous, deaf, the dead, and poor have good news preached to them, a  King who preaches to the poor the Gospel. We can add to the list the Beatitude list, poor in spirit, those who mourn, the persecuted and reviled on account of our King’s Name. Reeds, frail flesh, easily swayed, easily broken. Pastor Paul Kretzman from his 1918 commentary on the Isaiah passage in Matthew:

(Christ’s) spirit would be neither that of contention nor of blatant self-advertising after the manner of preachers that bring their names to the front, but forget the Gospel they were sent to preach. So gentle, sympathetic, and kind would His spiritual ministry be that those that are weak, whose faith was at the point of extinction, could depend upon His help. The bruised reed is carefully bound up until the contusion is healed; the weak Christian receives strength from above. The lamp of faith which is at the point of expiring will receive fresh oil from the Gospel. 

After the Roman soldiers, plaited the King’s crown of thornes, thrusting it on His head, they then gave Him a reed as His scepter and mocked Him kneeling before Him saying, Hail!  King of the Jews!  That reed is us to rule in mercy and the strength of the One who died for sinners and rose again.

A bruised reed he will not break, then it is written and quoted, a smoldering wick He will not quench, Christian’s faith who is not always strong, a smoldering wick.  He will bring to light by the light of His Word.

Today’s opening collect is a one sentence prayer:

 Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

This prayer is so needed these days by us all.

It is as if the Lord says:  My people please believe what I have done for you!  Show me your wounds and I show you My Hands, scarred for all time by the Cross and I give you life. 

Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

For those who mourn, Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.  

For those who do not know where to turn:  Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.

For the Church that she may preach His unvarnished truth the light of His Word:  Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

 Let us pray: 

Preserve your Word, O Savior,
To us this latter day,
And let your kingdom flourish;
Enlarge your Church, we pray.
Oh, keep our faith from failing;
Keep hope’s bright star aglow.
Let nothing from truth turn us
While living here below

 

 

 

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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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Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Lessons:  Jeremiah 26: 1-16; Psalm 43;  1 Peter 1: 3-9;  John 15: 12-21

 Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

About Saints Simon and Jude:  In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14—16); Acts1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or ‘Cannanaean”) and by Jude (or “Judas,” not Iscariot but “of James”), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as missionaries to Persia, where they were martyred. It is likely for this reason, at least in part, that these two apostles are commemorated on same day. Simon is not mentioned in New Testament apart from the lists of twelve apostles. Thus he is remembered and honored for the sake of his office, and thereby stands before us—in eternity, as his life and ministry on earth—in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We give thanks to God for calling and sending Simon, along with Jude and all the apostles, to preach and teach the Holy Gospel, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (John 4:1-2; Matthew 10: 28:16-20; Luke .24: 46-49).

Jude appears in John’s Gospel (14:22) on the night of our Lord’s betrayal and the beginning of His Passion, asking Jesus how it is that He will manifest Himself to the disciples but not to the world. The answer that Jesus gives to this question is a pertinent emphasis for this festival day: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Surely both Jude and Simon exemplified, in life and death, their love for Jesus and their faith in His Word. Not only are we thus strengthened in our Christian faith and life by their example, but, above all, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of the Lord in keeping His promise to them to bring them home to Himself in heaven. There they live with Him forever, where we shall someday join them.

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: The Prayer of the Day above speaks of the “glorious company of the apostles” but of course by any worldly standard they were not glorious.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4: 13)  Not exactly a job recruitment pitch for the apostolic Church, unlike the ‘ministries’ we see wearily promoted on TV. Simon and Jude have no extant writings, scant mention in the Bible, no founders  of  ‘great’ ministries,  but the Lord called them to the one holy, catholic and evangelical Ministry.  Their glory, like ours, is a borrowed one, a given one, one given to sinners: the love and mercy of Jesus Christ which by the Lord, the Holy Spirit, in prayer,  we can make known as His glory in clay jars (see 2 Corinthians 4:6-8)

It is Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who provides a good commentary on the Apostles Simon and Jude and the apostolic Church from his book, The Cost of Discipleship, in this reflection on the Beatitude from St. Matthew 5.  Remember and note:  everything Bonhoeffer wrote was in the time in Germany of the rise of Nazism and the descent into darkness, yet most in Germany thought this was ‘light’ and ‘goodness’, the Nazis put men back to work, Germans were feeling good about Germany again and the like.  I am patriotic but I do not worship our country and neither are we to despise it.  I find Pr. Bonhoeffer’s  writings prescient in that they are so relevant and close to the bone in our day:

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”…By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity: He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate  oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that  for all jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise.

Simon and Jude did not follow the world, nor a churches in captivity to the world, but held captive to the Word of God, Jesus Christ and so also free, freed to follow Him and free to serve.  Reformation Day is this Tuesday, 31 October (2017) and 500 years of apostolic preaching, teaching and serving.  Luther and the Reformers clearly preached the Word, not following a worldly church and worldly doctrine which does not save.  Too many churches preach fake good news, the Apostles preach the real good news of Christ Jesus for sinners, by grace alone, received through faith alone, known by Scripture alone.  Upcoming is All Saints Sunday, and the saints did not look to the world for their light and follow the glow of their “devices” but the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4: 6)

A blessed feast day to all in the Lord!

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Lessons:  Acts 15: 12-22a, Psalm 133, James 1: 1-12, St. Matthew 13: 54-58

Prayer of the Day:

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Biography: St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with other relatives of our Lord (except His mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

James repeatedly addresses in his epistle “my brothers”.  In 2: 15, he speaks about ‘a brother or sister” being poorly clad.  If “brothers”  refers to the entire congregation, sisters included, regardless of sex, then why would he add “sister” at 2: 15?  Wouldn’t “brothers” be enough at 2: 15?  Yes, it would have but the case has been made that “my brothers” refers to James’ brother pastors (1), therefore like Paul’s letters to Timothy, James is also a pastoral epistle, that is, addressed to a pastor or pastors. This is further corroborated in 3: 1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”  James wants to impress fellow pastors to be strict about the doctrine they teach.  In this chapter, he uses many analogies, one being the human “tongue” (verses 4-5):  

 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

A week from tomorrow  is October 31st, the Feast of the Reformation.  The blessed Reformers were very much concerned with the preaching and teaching Office of Pastor.   Priests at the time of the Reformation were beating congregations down with the Law, both God’s and man made churchly rules and regs that by them we can attain heaven.  It was a curse.  Pastors are called as  ordained Servants of the Word so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His single-Handed salvation of us all be preached for the increase of saving faith.  James further writes  that with the tongue we bless the Lord and curse our neighbors.  James was encouraging his brother pastors to be clear in preaching the Word, rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel so that a “harvest of righteousness” come to fruition in the making of “peace” (verse 18), God’s peace which surpasses all understanding.

 Many pastors/ministers/ priests,  at the time of the Reformation,  and now  concentrate the people’s attention on themselves and not Jesus Christ, even fleecing the flock to have mega-churches with mega-incomes. Dr. Scaer in his commentary on The Epistle of James:

“The problem of poverty in the congregations seems to have caused some members and especially the clergy to cater to the rich during the worship services in a most conspicuous way. The rich did not provide for the poor and, worse, were dragging members of the congregation into court, probably ecclesiastical ones. They did little, if anything, to provide for the support of the clergy, a problem later faced by Paul (2 Cor. 11:9; Acts 18:3).”

Has the Lord’s salvation come from the heart of Joel Osteen or your pastor or the Pope or your income? By no means! Pastors are called to preach Christ, not the Christian, and the riches of His grace for sinners.  The place of salvation is not the creature, but  the Creator who sent His only-begotten Son.  Preaching the Christian will set the ship of the Church (Latin: navis, ship and from it, nave, where a congregation sits), the wrong way, not Jesus Christ’s way.  Bitter jealousy and rivalry, over “ministries” will result (see verses 14-16) and will result in “every vile practice”, like a mega-church pastor building a million dollar home.  Many such pastors sell their books and preach their books, but not The Book, the Scriptures. Such bitter jealousy for more is not of the Lord, and as James wrote, saving wisdom, the Word made flesh comes from another source,

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. verse 17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 1: 17

Almighty God, grant to Your church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom which comes down from heaven, that Your Word may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people. In steadfast faith, we may serve You and in the confession of Your name, abide to the end through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

(1)  From James:  The Apostle of Faith commentary by Dr. David Scaer

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