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Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Bio:  Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-200), believed to be a native of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), studied in Rome and later became pastor in Lyons, France. Around 177, while Irenaeus was away from Lyons, a fierce persecution of Christians led to the martyrdom of his bishop. Upon Irenaeus’ return, he became Bishop of Lyons. Among his most famous writings is Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies). This work condemned several errors but focused especially on Gnosticism, which denied the goodness of creation. In opposition, Irenaeus confessed that God has redeemed his creation through the incarnation of the Son. Irenaeus also affirmed the teachings of the Scriptures handed down to and through him as being normative for the Church. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer/CPH)

Reflection:  In the reading selected for this commemoration in  The Treasury of Daily Prayer, St. Irenaeus wrote regarding the heresies of his day and the truth of Scripture:

For error is plausible and bears a resemblance to the truth but requires to be disguised;  while truth is without disguise and, therefore, has been entrusted to children.

The shocking part of that quote is that the truth has “…has been entrusted to children”!  Not to the adults, not to the learned, not to theologians.  This is keeping with our Lord Jesus Christ who said,

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.    St.Matthew 11

and

2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.   St. Matthew 18

One of my favorite theologians is my wife.  She once commented that adults like to think in terms of “moral grays”, a child does not:  it is either right or wrong.  It is that way with the Gospel:   a child gets it. I have done wrong, God is great as He loved me upon the cross. Creation is good.  I have done wrong.   We are forgiven. This is truth without disguise.  The Father reveals His truth to children not the “learned and the wise”. The learned and wise are those who love the wisdom of God as a obedient and loving child his father and mother. Jesus Himself entrusts it to children:  even if the child is 100! It is in keeping with Irenaeus and his love of Scripture is the lyrics of the old Sunday School song:

Jesus loves me! This I know,  For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

 Yet, the undisguised truth of God’s Word has so much that even the most able minds can not understand it all.  In Irenaeus’ day there were the Gnostics who said creation is evil, spirituality is good. Plausible…except it is not the Scripture:  see Genesis 1! See Jesus Christ:  God became FLESH, His own creation!  It is the heretics, who have a enough of God’s own truth, to disguise and then complicate the truth of God’s own Word,  looking to themselves and a ‘superior’ spirituality.  It looks good but it is a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing (see Matthew 7:15).  Beware,  said the faithful Bishop Irenaeus.  Irenaeus also famously said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  How?  Answer:  Jesus loves me.  Upon Him, the solid rock, we can grow and be edified, built-up by the Holy Spirit.  A child can get it and it is entrusted to His children of all ages and for all the ages until He comes again.

Almighty God, You upheld your servant Irenaeus, giving him strength to confess the truth against every blast of vain doctrine.   By Your mercy, keep us steadfast in the true faith, that in constancy we may walk in peace on the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

 

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I know this is not Jeremiah, but the question from Nehemiah is certainly prophetic and in keeping with all the prophets–Pr. Schroeder

Biography:

The prophet Jeremiah was active as God’s prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah ca. 627 to 582 B.C. As a prophet he predicted, witnessed, and lived through the Babylonian siege and eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. In his preaching he often used symbols, such as an almond rod (Jer. 1:11-14), wine jars (13:12-14), and a potter at work (18:1-17). His entire prophetic ministry was a sermon, communicating through word and deed God’s anger toward his rebellious people. He suffered repeated rejection and persecution by his countrymen. As far as can be known, he died in Egypt, having been taken there forcibly. He is remembered and honored for fearlessly calling God’s people to repentance. (LCMS Commemoration Biographies)

Jeremiah 5:  When I fed them to the full,
    they committed adultery
    and trooped to the houses of whores.
They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
    each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord;
    and shall I not avenge myself
    on a nation such as this?

Jeremiah 2:  Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
    be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
    broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Our nation, and many denominations, like Israel, have “hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water”, such as abortion on demand, adultery on demand, more concern for whore houses than the Lord’s house, marriage between same sexes as a “right”, trying hard not to keep and ignore God’s Law, denial of Christ’s Atonement. When God’s people forsake the Lord, then the Lord is appalled. The Lord is then the voice of wrath in an “age of wrath” (Abraham Heschel).

We are living in an age of wrath but the Lord has not given us new birth to be children of wrath! (see Ephesians 2:3 and following).   As it is written in James’ Epistle:  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  If our anger did produce the righteousness of God, then the internet would be filled with the righteousness of God as would our political parties.What produces the righteousness of God?  James:    Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. The fruit of the Holy Spirit comes from the good seed of God’s Word, the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ who was planted into the earth and rose again, the vine to us so as His branches to bear much fruit.  The Word of God is pure doctrine, pure and good seed. 

 The Lord told Jeremiah when He called him:

 And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land.19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”

In other words, the preaching would not be received, but he had to preach for the Lord wanted to save His people from themselves.  Jeremiah would on more than one occasion feel very much alone and sorry for himself to the point he was sad he was even born (Jeremiah 20:14).  “When you have the truth, you are a majority of one.”  I think that statement is correct, but like Jeremiah it can be a lonely way for us as well, as Christ’s Church, when the spirit of the age is so spiteful and hateful.  Yet, the Church is called to preach Christ for the life of this world dead in it’s sin. Even when the majority of a Supreme Court, or the electorate or a Church denomination vote against God and His Word, they can not change His Word.  Jeremiah was a majority of one and by the way, (like Elijah who felt mighty alone, they had others helping them) because finally and fully:

Jeremiah 1:

 “…for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jeremiah, 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.

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The quote below is an entire article by Peter J. Leithart on First Things (the original article can be found here).

Four times in Revelation, John is directly told not to do something.

When he falls at the feet of Jesus, Jesus touches him with his right hand and says, “Do not fear” (1:17; Gr. me phobou).

When no one in heaven, earth, or under earth can be found to open the book, John begins to lament. One of the elders tells him, “Do not weep” (5:5; Gr. me klaie).

When he sees the harlot riding on a beast, he marvels. His guiding angel wonders at his wonder: “Why marvel?” (17:7; Gr. dia ti ethaumasas), he asks, with more than a hint of rebuke (cf. 13:3).

Twice at the end of the book, he falls at the feet of an angel and is told not to worship (19:10; Gr. ora me).

It’s a neat manual of discipleship: Do not fear. Do not lament. Do not marvel at the whore. Do not worship angels, but God.

And it’s a neat little summary of what is missing in the new Jerusalem, in the city where God dispels all fears, wipes all tears, where He alone is the Marvel who is worshiped.

One comment on Revelation 17: 7 and John marveling at Babylon the whore.  We tend to marvel, as did our brother John, the powers of this world and their magnificence.  Marveling at such power is hair’s breadth from worshiping the same.  The Lord, the Holy Spirit is clear:  do not marvel at evil.  For all its pomp and show the insides are putrefying death and hell.  Second comment: this verse verifies the reality of the Lord’s vision in the sense that John demonstrates in his marveling that he too is a sinner redeemed  in Christ.  This is no white-washed narrative but truthful as it is God’s Word.

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Elizabeth  of Hungary, born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given in an arranged political marriage, she became wife of Louis of Thuringia (Germany) at age 14.

Her spirit of Christian generosity and charity pervaded the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Their abode was known for hospitality and family love.

Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy, even giving up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at age 20, she arranged for her children’s well-being and entered into life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.

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

As I write this pious people are saying that we should welcome Syrian refugees and show them hospitality, after all, Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary were refugees refused hospitality the night before Jesus’ birth.  This understanding Luke 2 is currently in the blogosphere. This sentiment demonstrates a lack of understanding of both the Biblical text and hospitality. 
The  word translated as “inn”, in Luke 2,  in N.T. Greek is actually a house. It is not the same Greek word as in the prodigal of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan puts up the man in “inn”, an actual hostel for overnight lodging. The word in Luke 2 is a house, a home. Since Joseph was of the “house and lineage of David”, he probably had kin in Bethlehem. If you had family, it would have been shameful to stay at a hostel. And the house may have been quite full, yet Joseph’s kin put them up, but the Luke 2 does not tell us they stayed in the stable. Just when Mary gave birth. she laid Jesus in the “manger”, lit. a feeding trough, because there was no room in the inn. A family with a new born, and an exhausted Mary,needed a quiet place. The hospitality was given by Joseph’s kin to Mary and him and now their firstborn. Given that this keeps to the text a whole lot more, the other good impulse in the Christmas narrative is it is about family, and a Holy Family, but a family and God’s blessings come through families from Abraham and Sarah to Joseph and Mary.
In our world, we would expect the Roman government to have a federal program to put up families in new towns to fulfill the new IRS requirements. Let someone else be hospitable to family and the sojourner. It is easy to talk about how hospitable and caring we are when are not actually the ones doing the hands on hospitality! We feel real good when we tweet how caring we are. It is a different matter to care for our neighbor or family member with all their “stuff” in their needs, sorrows, peculiarities etc. “Love your neighbor as yourself”, sounds easy, after all I want to be loved when I’m cranky, poor, sick, etc, okay, Love your neighbor as your self”. Sure let government do that. Do we as Christians and as Americans even know how to be hospitable to even our own, let alone the sojourner, in our homes? I know this does not provide a solution to the Syrian refugee crisis, but it would be different to think about Christian congregations (as after the Vietnam War, congregations welcomed the Hmong people), synagogues and even mosques. As a pastor I would want the Syrians checked out thoroughly. Are their Syrian organizations who would be willing to help? Ex-pat Syrians who have already set up residency to help? Conservative and liberal we now think only government and talk about the need to “think outside the box”!

Elizabeth of Hungary, and Martin Luther in the quote below teach us in word and deed the Biblical understanding of hospitality and it is hands on, not hands off letting someone else doing it, especially government! After all, our salvation was and is “hands on”, nail-imprinted Hands.  Luther and his wife and family were quite hospitable in opening their home to all sorts of people.  One of the job descriptions of a bishop/pastor is hospitality: “Therefore a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable…” (1 Timothy 3:2)  It is not first for the next guy’s home, but our own. 

Reflection by Dr. Martin Luther:  

This is … an outstanding praise of hospitality, in order that we may be sure that God Himself is in our home, is being fed at our house, is lying down and resting as often as some pious brother in exile because of the Gospel comes to us and is received hospitably by us. This is called brotherly love or Christian charity; it is greater than that general kindness which is extended even to strangers and enemies when they are in need of our aid…. For the accounts of the friendships of the Gentiles, like those of Theseus and Hercules, of Pylades and Orestes, are nothing in comparison with the brotherhood in the church; its bond is an association with God so close that the Son of God says that whatever is done to the least of His is done to Himself. Therefore their hearts go out without hypocrisy to the needs of their neighbor, and nothing is either so costly or so difficult that a Christian does not undertake it for the sake of the brethren, … But if anyone earnestly believed that he is receiving the Lord Himself when he receives a poor brother, there would be no need for such anxious, zealous, and solicitous exhortations to do works of love. Our coffers, storeroom, and compassion would be open at once for the benefit of the brethren. There would be no ill will, and together with godly Abraham we would run to meet the wretched people, invite them into our homes, and seize upon this honor and distinction ahead of others and say: “O Lord Jesus, come to me; enjoy my bread, wine, silver, and gold. How well it has been invested by me when I invest it in You!”

For our Daily Prayers:  

for the poor

for the sick and suffering

for the unemployed

Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary.  She scorned her bejeweled crown with thoughts of the horned one her savior donned for her said and ours, that we too, might live a live of sacrifice, pleasing in Your sight and worthy of the Name of Your Son, Christ Jesus, who with the Holy Spirit reigns with You forever in the everlasting kingdom. Amen.

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World War II American Patriotic Anti-Nazi Poster public domain image: Vintage Patriotic Anti-Nazi Poster from 1943 World War II: THIS IS THE ENEMY in large text below an image of a menacing swastika sleeved hand driving a bayonet through the Holy Bible by artist Barbara Marks; published by the Office of War Information, Washington, D.C. printed 28 x 20 inch color lithograph by U.S. Government Printing Office: 1943-O-533688; a public domain image of a historic U.S.A. American Government Patriotism Symbol copyright free image of a patriotic WWII Anti-Nazi poster titled This is the Enemy. .

This World War II American anti-Nazi poster is definitely from a different era.  The concern clearly expressed is that the Nazis were the enemy of the Christian faith represented by the  Bible.  The Nazis were trying to kill the Bible, that is the Word of God.  In fact, the Nazis even produced their own Bible which is called “the Hitler Bible”.  Hitler and company did their own version of the commandments, Hitler’s 12 commandments.  

The federal government produced this poster in ’43, and 71 years later, government (federal, state and local) is trying to do what the Nazis could not.    A Houston mayor subpoenas pastors for their sermons because they brought a lawsuit against the city regarding LGBT style legislation for unisex public bathrooms.   Prayers in school and at public events forbidden. Anti-Zionism is just a mask of the new antisemitism. Universities and the military removing Bibles in their guest rooms, curtailing the Gideons. The social ostracization of churches who deny same-sex ‘marriage’ (pseudogamy, false marriage) as “homophobic”. I do not think that we are living a Nazi-like nation, but it must be remembered that when the Nazis began their campaign against Church and synagogue, many thought this was a good thing.  Those who did not,  said little or nothing…and churches saying nothing as if in the poster, now the Bible is the enemy and killing the Word is a good thing.  

The knife to Scripture was not  first wielded by secularist proponents, but by friends of the Bible:  19th and 20th Biblical scholarship.  The Biblical scholarship that denied Scriptural inerrancy and authority.  It was initially less like a knife and more like a scalpel, removing those living parts of God’s Word that do not comport with the secularist, worldly agenda:  ordination of men, abortion, greed,lust, same-sex marriage and the denial of gender, etc.  Again, this was done within the Church, by ‘friends’ who were (are) trying to make the Bible relevant, timely, palatable and all under the rubric of ‘doing good’.   Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus for Him to  use the Word for His own purposes for ‘doing good’, on the devil’s terms.  This is grim.  This is the struggle of our time, against the zeitgeist of the powers and principalities in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 6:12 ).

The most sung and loved of the sizable number of Reformation hymns is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Dr. Martin Luther, the last stanza, emphasis my own:

God’s Word forever shall abide, No thanks to foes who fear it;

For God Himself fights by our side with the weapons of the Spirit.

Were they to take our house, Goods, honor, child or spouse,

Though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.

The Kingdom’s ours forever!

 Jesus promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church.  Then Peter tried to deter Him from being crucified. Peter eventually denied Jesus three times.  The dark army was moving and it was met by the Lord of Hosts upon the Cross.  He is  risen.  He then sent the Church militant moved out into occupied territory with His Word alone.  

One of the periods of Christian history we tend to overlook is the two centuries, from AD33 to AD312 (The Edict of Milan), in which the Church grew greatly under mild and severe persecutions.  The Church had no churchly institutions.  No government to give them a hand to help, but the hand of government to hurt and martyr.  No Bill of Rights protected their religious freedom.  They lived in a society in which sexual immorality was taken for granted, from the almost pornographic statuary of Greece and Rome to acceptance of deviancies of all descriptions. The Church had the Bible, the Word, the Sacraments, prayer, faith, hope and love, weapons of the Spirit, the armor of God (Ephesians 6).  The Lord watched over His Church, His bride, His body and still does. 

It may be that the chastisements of the Church, mild and severe, are the Lord’s way of teaching us the faith anew.  His Word will not be killed, on purpose or by accident by the hand of mortal man,but the Word dies in our hearts when we seek other comforts and hopes, however pious looking. When the religion of the self’s symbol is the selfie and the mirror, rapt continually looking at ourselves, we do not see the enemy coming from behind. The Church had enemies and Jesus said, Love your enemies, yet they were still enemies. Love them, but do not surrender to them. It is those times when Christ and His Church seems to have had no enemies may be the times of faithlessness and apostasy.  When the Church is derided,denied and decried, then rejoice and be glad, said Jesus, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.This does not mean we are to be “nice” and not say anything when wolves in sheep’s clothing preach a false Gospel.  As a dear colleague liked to say, Nice is the enemy of the good.  Americans want to do right and when someone says I am hurt by what you Christians say or do,an American’s response: “Oh, we do not want to hurt anyone.”  The answer of “no”  maybe that is the very thing they and we need to hear and then the Yes of the Gospel of Jesus.

This World War II poster is scary.  When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned, he wrote his brother Pastor, Timothy this:  

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2)

Paul was bound but the Word is not. He was chained as criminal for the crime of preaching Christ which is no crime. Luther and the Reformers knew this. They knew the knife of those who denied the authority of Scripture alone.  They did not prevail. Luther and company did not prevail, the Lord did. He still will.  He calls us, as He did the blessed Reformers:  Confess Christ! Fear not, I am with you until the end of the age. You do not build the Church, I do.  You are to confess. Confess Christ as Lord! Confess Christ so that saints are remade in Baptism. All the saints surround the Church encouraging us to look to Jesus Christ alone, His grace alone, as  His baptized saints. 

Let us pray…Almighty and gracious Lord,  pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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St. Luke 1: 1-4:  

Since many have endeavored to reproduce a narrative concerning the events that have come to fulfillment among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and became ministers of the Word delivered these traditions to us, it seemed good to me also, after investigating from the beginning every tradition carefully, to compose systematically a narrative for your benefit, most excellent Theophilus, in order that you come to recognize completely the reliability concerning the words by which you have been catechized. (Dr. Arthur Just’s Translation)

 

Especially beloved in Luke’s Gospel are these texts unique in the Gospel: the parables of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 16:29-37), the prodigal son (Luke15:11-32), the rich man and Lazarus  (Luke16:19-31), and the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). Only Luke provides a detailed account of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:1-20) and he records the canticles, or psalm  of Mary (Luke 1:46-55),  of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79),and,

the angel’s song at the Birth of Christ announced to shepherd and the song Simeon (Luke2:29-32).

To show how Christ continued His work in the Early Church through the apostles, Luke also penned the Acts of the Apostles. More than one-third of the New Testament comes from the hand of the evangelist Luke.

 Luke wrote a bestseller that has been on the top of the charts for some 2,000 years.  He wrote extensively reporting the birth of Jesus.  His narrative of the Nativity are some of the verses that both believer and non-believer know about: And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  Luke reported a fact that in Christ Jesus’ birth is our new life.  Our new life, our baptism is not founded in us, and our souls, our spiritual experiences, our values, our lives,  even our faith but in His birth, His life, and His eternal life for our faith by His grace alone.  As Sgt. Joe Friday would say, The facts, Ma’am.  Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield, first chapter is entitled “I am born”.  “I am born” is a fact that of us all, and is historically important, but Dickens wants to tell us the meaning of David Copperfield being born.  A biographer will tell us the facts of a person’s life but in those facts will show us the meaning and significance of them.  So did Luke.

 Years ago in a pastors’ Bible study  I led with very new and very liberal Lutheran pastors, the text was St. Luke’s intro to his Gospel. I pointed out that Luke, in his magnificent opening, tells us that he investigated this matter, he interviewed eyewitnesses,  he systematically wrote the Gospel and then Luke tells us, based upon his interviews and investigation that Theophilus can be assured of the “certainty” of the account.  The word in Greek for “certainty” has connotations of firmness and reliability of the words by which Theophilus was catechized.  After my presentation, more than a few sniffed, Yeah, reliability, certainty, really?  Such is the state of too much education in our day.  “Question authority” has become the academic cliché but we can doubt the authority  which dogmatically asserts “question authority”.  St. Luke’s narrative has been with us for a long time, and if the Lord does not come in glory for another 2,000 years, the Gospel of St. Luke will still be guiding people to the Savior born of the Virgin Mary and singing with the angels: Glory to God in the highest.

The apostle Paul called Luke, “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4: 14). There was a 19th century British author and a physician.  He studied at the University of Edinburgh and one of his most influential professors was Dr. Joseph Bell.  Dr. Bell could keenly observe and remember the symptoms of a patient and putting the pieces together deducing the sickness with amazing accuracy. The British author was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Bell was a basis of Sherlock Holmes.  Dr. Luke had before him all sorts of narratives, with truth and fact, and falsehood and invention.  A doctor knows how to observe.  Dr. Luke put together all the pieces and connected them, all the facts of Christ Jesus and put them together to “compose systematically a narrative”, not for himself, but “for your benefit”. The Lord knows whom He chooses and He chose a doctor to write one of the Gospels. This narrative is certain and here are the ways we know that:

One:     It is clear from Luke’s introduction, in flawless Greek, he wants to give Theophilus an accurate account of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.  Luke knew the people who were there and he interviewed the “eyewitnesses”.  We were not there from the beginning, Luke was.  He probably knew Mary, Mother of our Lord.  He knew the apostles, including Paul.   Luke tells us he did this carefully. He is also a brother in Christ.  A brother in Christ is honest and trustworthy.  It is clear Luke did not write his Gospel for personal financial gain at all.  What did he stand to gain from writing a dishonest narrative?  Nothing. He wanted Theophilus to know the certainty of the Way in which he had been “catechized”, taught the Way, because Jesus Christ is our Savior.  Luke’s gain is only Christ’s gain:  a baptized and saved Theophilus and you as well. “The ‘us’ among whom these ‘things which have been accomplished’ (1:1-4) would be all the Christians whose testimony is borne in the narrative.” (Dr. Just’s Commentary) “For us and our salvation He came down from heaven”.

 Two:    Luke uses the word “catechized”.  The Gospels are history and as the history of our lives, there is meaning.  Theophilus was catechized, taught in the Way, as a “follower of the Way”, the meaning of the Word and Work of Jesus Christ.  Theophilus was taught God’s Word and  many were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.  The fruit of faith is shown in works of love.  “Theophilus” means “love of God”.  Many have asked, Who was Theophilus?  One answer:  all of us, the love of God.  We are all Theophilus. Luke writes, most excellent Theophilus.  “Excellent” was term of respect for a high, noble official.  God’s Word is for the poorest of the poor and the most elite of the elite!  God’s love in Christ had taught Theophilus and now Luke connects the dots for him and us. This history of Jesus is the good news, the Gospel which not only informs but forms us in His Word, sinners who are simultaneously saints by faith, given through grace.

“Paul says that in the Christian assembly, he prefers rational words, “five words of knowledge” than a thousand in tongues, so that he may “catechize” those present (1 Cor 14:19)…” (Dr. Just)

This faith comes through the gospel’s additional catechesis  that assures of certainty of the facts narrated regarding Jesus. “Catecheo”  (“to catechize, instruct, inform”) occurs four times in Luke-Acts (Lk 1:4; Acts 18:25; 21:21, 24) and three times in Paul (Rom 2:18; 1 Cor 14:19; Gal 6:6). Acts 18:25 has the same meaning as here: Apollos “had been catechized in the way of the Lord.” We can know the facts of the way a bike works, which is important, but the way we learn a bike is to learn to ride it, catechized in the way of the Lord and His heart towards us, for us, with us.

 Third:  We understand the truthfulness of Holy Scripture by Luke’s phrase, regarding the ministers of the Word,  “delivered these traditions to us…”  The use of the verb “delivered” is used by Paul (Luke was his companion on some of the Paul’s missionary journeys) for handing over the Words of Institution of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23) and the eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3)  Traditions here are not man-made traditions, but rabbinic traditions precisely delivered:  verbatim. These were tools for memory but also pointing out that without all our information technologies, the mind can remember a lot.   These brothers had the highest regard for the written and spoken Word of God and were not going to mess around with it, because man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  In Dr. Luke’s second book, Acts of the Apostles, there are the “we”sections, in which Luke was with the apostle Paul.  Paul refers in his letters to “my gospel”.  Paul’s Gospel sure well have been Luke’s.  Both Paul and Luke knew the other apostles, Mary, James, brother of the Lord, the 70 Jesus had sent out.

 Dr. Luke wrote the Scripture that proclaims, catechizes and informs and forms us  in, with and under Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father.  Behind me, toward your right, is a copy of a medieval manuscript of Luke chapters 1 and 2, the Magnificat  and the Nativity, pointing us to Christ and Him crucified, so that in the icon on the left is of the saints of whom Luke knew so many, who proclaimed in word and deed Christ Jesus, may live  and move in Him, in His forgiveness which He serves us in this Holy Communion.  As Luke tells us in the Institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “But I am among you as one who serves”.  He gives us the fruit of His Cross for us. The icon on the left and all pointing us to the center:

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Crucifix behind the Altar at Concordia Lutheran Mission

 All of Luke and Acts is a journey, a sojourning, as our lives. The Lord knows when we are lost, gone the wrong way, like the prodigal son.  He knows when we are hurt, even laying on the side of the road like the man in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  He knows when I am haughty and thinking I am spiritually better than anyone else like the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. He gives us the song of salvation to unlikely characters to find the Way, be healed, and pray:

Mary, a virgin,

Zechariah, an old man and his barren wife, Elizabeth that they would have a child, John the Baptist,

the angels singing to hard-working shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night,

and to the elderly Simeon…

and you.  In the Word that Luke penned, Jesus stands behind those Words to once again point us to Himself.    In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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 Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

About Abraham Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age seventy-five and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife, Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. When Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, they were blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham died at age 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament patriarchs—and for his righteousness before God through faith (Romans 4:1-12). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Reflection:  With the war, and the previous wars in the Middle East involving Islam, many assert that since Abraham is the father of faith, there are three Abrahamic religions:  Islam, Judaism and Christianity.  In Romans 4: 16, the Apostle Paul calls Abraham, “…the father of us all”, that is Jew and Gentile. The problem is that there is a stark difference in understanding the nature of faith between Christianity on the one side, and Judaism and Islam on the other. Here is the difference:  

For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.(Galatians 3: 18)

The basis of Judaism and Islam is law, or even man-made law. Keep it, you are saved, except the Law of God is whittled down into man-made rules and regs which appear strenuous and strict…. and keepable.  Faith is based upon the promise.  “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3 The law had not been given at this time, not until 430 years later (Galatians 3:17). When the Lord showed the stars in the sky to Abraham, the sign of the promise that Abraham would conceive a child, then did he believe.  Abraham seized the promise, God’s faithful Word of promise. Faith comes by the Word of promise, not the law.  Law is about no. Promise is about Yes, that finally and fully all the promises of God find their Yes in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).  

When it comes to the Law of God, we do not keep it.  The Law of God is for life, but does not give life, only God does. We usually do not have to go further than the first commandment to see in our wills that we worship and adore other people, place, things and devils as more important than the one true God. After the fall of Adam and Eve, murder, vengeance, violence, sexual immorality and idolatry entered the world.  Genesis chapters 3-11 are the sad news and it reads like a the daily news.  Then in chapter 12: 1, out of nowhere, the Lord calls Abram (as he was known then):  

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”So Abram went, as the Lord had told him

This is the Lord’s promises one after another:  four “I wills”.  Abraham obeyed by faith, not by the law, for faith comes by the Word of promise. Law is based upon “I will” and I don’t (Romans 7:15).  Promise, or Gospel, is based upon, God’s “I will” and all is done  (Romans 7: 24-25)  so that the fruit of faith abounds:  love, joy, peace…against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-24).

Abraham was truly a man by faith alone. How does faith come? Faith can not come by the Law. Law, even God’s Law, shows us His will, what is not permitted.  Law takes no faith. It’s spiritual use focuses inward upon our souls. False law, like the 5 pillar of Islam, creates false works faith. God’s Law also focuses us inward to spiritually to show us our sin.  True faith does not look inward, for then I see nothing but sin and death,but outward to the One who forgives and gives life.  It comes by preaching and teaching of the Word and the Word is Christ.  The Lord was with Abram and he heard and he believed.  Abraham never saw the fulfillment of his offspring as the stars in the sky: only one son, Isaac.  One son is enough and the one Son is more than enough. Still Abraham did not see for he walked by faith and not by sight, as we all do. He did not found a new religion but Abraham is  the father of Faith. In fact, he was not a Jew, but a believer in the God Who called him, and that is why the Lord renamed Abram, Abraham, literally, father of a multitude, of all those who believe in the Lord who forgives in the Seed of Abraham, Jesus and are now children according to the promise:  

15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed,who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

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