Festival of St. Matthias, Apostle

February 24th, 2014 2 comments

After the Ascension of Our Lord, Jesus’ followers at Jerusalem chose Matthias to replace Judas: “And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26)” Apart from the information given in the first chapter of Acts (vv. 12-26), we know nothing about him. One extra-biblical account says that Saint Matthias was slain by cannibals in Ethiopia; another traditions claims that he was stoned and then beheaded by Jews in Jerusalem. This account lends itself to his customary symbol in religious art: The sword from his beheading is superimposed over a book or scroll representing Holy Scripture.

Scripture Readings for Today

Psalm 134
Isaiah 66:1-2
Acts 1:15-26
Matthew 11:25-30

Prayer

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Unremarkable Matthias

February 24th, 2014 1 comment

Unremarkable Matthias by Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Dearly Beloved:

Matthias is unremarkable. We have his feast on our Evangelical-Lutheran church year calendar simply because of this passage from Acts 1. From church history we know next to nothing of where he preached or what he did later. In Christian art he is often pictured with an axe, which means that Christians in ancient times believed that he was put to death by beheading, no doubt as a result of his bold confession of Jesus Christ as the Son of the one, true God, and his refusal to acknowledge and worship false gods. But our text tells us very little. We don’t learn anything about Matthias beyond his name. We even know more about the guy who wasn’t elected, since he has three names—Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus—while Matthias has only one name. Of course, we also know that Matthias accompanied the Lord Jesus and the Twelve and was a witness to the Lord’s resurrection. Matthias’ only claim to fame is that God chose him to be an apostle and sent him out to preach and administer sacraments and shepherd the flock of God. What can we learn from this? Not all of the men whom God chooses to preach, administer sacraments, and shepherd the church are remarkable. Most are pretty ordinary. Don’t be disappointed if your pastor is not the most dynamic or charismatic leader. Don’t be disappointed if he doesn’t have the business sense to manage a small corporation. Hold him to the qualifications set forth by Scripture. For the call of Matthias, what was important was that he have been a companion of Jesus and the Twelve from beginning to end, and that he be a witness of the resurrected Lord Jesus. For pastors today, their qualifications and duties are set forth in sufficient detail in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. For that matter, we should learn from this to measure anyone in any God-given office by God’s standards in Scripture, not by whatever our emotions, eyes, or reason would require. Hold all church workers to the standards set forth in Scripture. Be satisfied with governmental leaders who are doing their duty. Fathers and mothers don’t have to be perfect, as long as they are doing what God sets forth in His Word.

Now, the treachery of Judas must have been a shock to the disciples. Here was one that the Lord Jesus had hand-chosen to be one of His inner circle. And yet he turned, betrayed the Lord, and ended his miserable life with an evil hanging of himself. It must have seemed like God’s plans were being thwarted by evil. But they were not. God knew what He was doing. In the same way, at the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, God already knew what He would do: send His Son to become a human being, to die and rise and redeem the world, winning them back for God. God’s plan was to create holy humanity to enjoy His blessings. Adam and Eve’s sin did not thwart God’s plan. He sent His Son to make it happen. So also here, at the treachery of Judas, God’s plan was not thwarted. The Lord’s plan was to have Twelve apostles, sent out to the twelve tribes of Israel, to be the foundation of the Church through their preaching of Christ. And even though Judas fell away, God’s plan was not thwarted. Peter and the other apostles studied the Old Testament Scripture, and they found a prophecy of Judas’ betrayal in Psalms 69 and 109. And the prophecy in Psalm 109 included the instruction, “let another take his office.” To us this seems obvious. If the pastor embezzels the congregation’s money or has an affair, he is removed from office and another pastor is called and installed. But it was probably not obvious to the apostles how they should deal with the fall of an apostle. What kind of an office was this? Was it like the Old Testament priesthood or kingship, in which the office could become vacant and passed on to others, or was it more like the Old Testament prophetic office, which God raised up when and where he pleased, and which did not automatically pass on to others, unless God said explicitly that the prophet’s student should become a prophet, too? (This happened with Elijah and Elisha.) Peter and the other apostles study Scripture, and they find this Scripture: “Let another take his office.” So it is an office, and it can be vacant, and someone else can take it. That may not have been obvious at first. We too, should search the Scriptures to find God’s will. Don’t look to your feelings and emotions, your fears and worries, or your reason and senses to determine God’s will for your life. If you want to know what God’s plan is, don’t look at success in the world, either. If doors seem to be opening to you, this might not be God’s will and plan. It might just be the path of least resistance. Instead, search the Scriptures. If you find it there, you know it is God’s will. If you don’t find it there, then don’t claim that it is God’s will and plan. Peter and the other apostles studied Scripture.

Finally, there’s something shocking about the “call committee” or “voters’ assembly” which was formed for the purpose of electing a new apostle. It’s not what we might expect. First, only men were present, or at least only they were being addressed by Peter (vv. 15–16). The Greek makes this clear, since Peter says not just “brothers,” but in the Greek, ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, “men brothers.” Next, the qualifications for the new apostle were set forth by Peter, not by the congregation (vv. 21–22). The congregation did not go through a self-study process. They did not write up their own mission and ministry plan. They did not do a spiritual gifts inventory. Peter, as the leader, set forth the kind of man they were looking for, and clearly he was acting in accord with God’s will when he did so. Finally, nowhere does the text say that the congregation chose two out of many qualified candidates; in fact, Matthias and Joseph may have been the only two men qualified. It’s possible that this congregation of men did not nominate anyone. If they did, the text doesn’t make it clear. Finally, this congregation of men did not actually elect anyone either. The whole point of the passage is that the congregation did not choose, but God did.

Now, I’m not pointing out these differences from today’s LCMS call committees to say that our call committees or voters’ assemblies should be like this assembly of men around the apostles, in all respects. On the contrary, especially with the casting of lots, this is not something we should imitate. This is the only time in the New Testament where the casting of lots is used to select an apostle or pastor. The apostolic church afterwards abandoned this practice. After Pentecost it was never used again, and it is also not commanded to us that we practice it.

The reason I have pointed out these differences is to underline the main point of this Bible reading: that God chose Matthias to complete the Twelve and to be a witness of the resurrection. Matthias went forth and preached that Jesus conquered death for you, Jesus obtained forgiveness for you. God’s plan for your salvation is not thwarted by Judas, not by Adam and Eve, not even by your sins. Repent of your sins and believe in Christ, the same Christ whom unremarkable Matthias proclaimed. To Him be glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Sexagesima: Scripture Alone

February 23rd, 2014 2 comments

On the second last Sunday before the start of Lent, Sexagesima, the focus is on God’s work through His Word. The Sower sows the seed of His Word (Luke 8:4–15). This Word is living and powerful (Heb. 4:9–13) to conceive new life in those who hear it. But the planting of Christ is attacked by the devil, the world, and the flesh. Satan snatches the Word away from hard hearts. The riches and pleasures of this life choke off faith. Shallow and emotional belief withers in time of temptation and trouble. But see how Christ bears this attack for us! Christ’s cross was planted in the hard and rocky soil of Golgotha. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head. Satan and His demons hellishly hounded and devoured Him. Yet, through His dying and rising again, He destroyed these enemies of ours. Jesus is Himself the Seed which fell to the ground and died in order that it might sprout forth to new life and produce much grain. In Him, the weak are strong (2 Cor. 11:19–12:9). He is the Word of the Father which does not return void (Is. 55:10–13) but yields a harvest hundredfold. Lesson summary source.

The Appointed Scripture Readings for Today
The Introit: Ps. 44:1–2, 7–8; antiphon: Ps. 44:23, 25a, 26a
The Psalter: Psalm 84 (antiphon: v. 4)
Old Testament: Isaiah 55:10–13
Gradual: Psalm 83: 18, 13
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 11:19—12:9
Verse: Psalm 60:1-2, 5
Gospel: Luke 8:4–15

Let Us Pray
O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Luther on Luke 8:4-15
Christ’s Word plainly states that only a fourth part of the seed bears fruit, and  his own experience (to say nothing of John’s and the apostles’ experience) exhibits the fact that not everyone was ready to believe and accept the Word. The majority of the people are and remain evil and without fruit; only a limited number, a fraction, repent and come to faith. Therefore, to fault the doctrine and say that it is no good, amounts also to saying that the seed which falls by the wayside, on the rocks, and among the thorns is also not good. But we must turn this around and not blaspheme God. His Word is the seed which is being sown. This Word in truth is pure and good, and by its very nature can do nothing but bear fruit. The fact, however, that it does not bear fruit everywhere is not the fault of God and his Word but the fault of the soil which is not good, and in which, as a result, the seed must remain unproductive and decay. For the blame does not lie with the Word but with people’s hearts. They are unclean and impure, and either despise the Word or fall away from it under duress, or are choked by the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. So, let everyone learn from this parable that it will always be this way with the gospel: some will be converted but there are probably three times more who will take offense. Listen to God’s Word while you have it; the time may come when you would like to hear it, but it may not be there for you. Therefore, give ear to it diligently while you have it. For he who despises it is overcome by darkness (John 12:35). Source: Luther’s House Postils

Bach’s Cantata BWV 18 for this Sunday, with German/English words, is in the extended entry

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Commemoration of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, Bishop and Martyr

February 23rd, 2014 1 comment

The governor wants Polycarp to deny Christ, and promises if he will, his life will be spared. But the faithful bishop answers, “For 86 years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong; how then can I now blaspheme my King and Savior?”

Born around AD 69, Saint Polycarp was a central figure in the early church. Said to be disciple of the holy evangelist and apostle Saint John, he provides a link between the first generation of believers and later Christians, including Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, who later wrote of him. Saint Ignatius of Antioch also knew and wrote to him. His home town of Smryna (modern Izmir, Turkey) was one of the seven churches addressed in Revelation (see 2:8-11 for the details).

After serving for many years as bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was caught up in a local persecution of Christians. While willing to be martyred, others encouraged him to flee. However, he was later arrested, tried, and executed for his faith on 23 February c. AD 156. An eyewitness narrative of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, continues to encourage believers in times of persecution.

According to the ancient records, he was tried solely on the charge of being a Christian. When the proconsul urged him to save his life by cursing Christ, he replied: “Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” According the the customary reckoning of his birth and death, this means that he must have been baptized as an infant, raised as a Christian, and lived his entire life as in the Faith. His fidelity follows the encouragement given by the Lord to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (ESV)”

The following prayer is recorded as his immediately prior to the fire being kindled for his martyrdom:

Lord God Almighty, Father of Your blessed and beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of You, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in Your presence: I bless You that You have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before You today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as You, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise You, I bless You, I glorify You, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through whom be glory to You, with Him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.

We pray:

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

In the extended entry is a translation of the document The Martyrdom of Polycarp

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Commemoration of Martin Luther: Doctor and Confessor . . . Why is Martin Luther One of the Greatest Theologians in the Church’s History?

February 18th, 2014 7 comments

Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse answers the question well:

“Why is Luther the greatest in what has been a long line of teachers in the church who have proclaimed the Word of God from generation to generation? It is because none of the others understood the Word of God so profoundly. The Word of God is greater than human words, which have limitations. The time will come when nobody remembers Homer, or Shakespeare or Goethe, but the Word of God will endure forever. Human words can certainly accomplish much – the command of a powerful ruler or of a general can decide the fate of nations, but sooner or later their power ceases to be. No mere human word is almighty. But God’s Word is always living and active because it is the Word of the eternal, almighty God, the Word through which all things were created. It is the Word of the Judge of all who live. It is the Word of forgiveness, the Word of redemption, the Word which no human word can contradict. It is the Word which, as John says, has become flesh in Jesus Christ. He is himself the eternal Word of God; ‘his name’, it is written in Revelation (19:13), ‘is called the Word of God’. To proclaim the Word of God is to proclaim Jesus Christ. ‘To him all of the prophets bear witness’, according to the apostle Peter (Acts 10:43). ‘We preach Christ crucified’ says Paul in regard to the preaching of the apostles (1 Cor 1:23). He, Jesus Christ, is the content of the church’s preaching – that he is the Redeemer and the Lord is the proclamation of the teachers of the church from its very beginning. That is the message which has been handed down from one generation to another. The proclaimers come and go, but the proclamation itself remains the same: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. That and nothing else is the content of the Christian proclamation. Luther again and again reminded the church of this – a church which had forgotten it, and indeed which had almost buried the one Word of God under so many human words of religion and philosophy.

Luther is one of the great Christologists, the great witnesses to Christ in the church. Like the great theologians of the early church – an Irenaeus or an Athanasius – he stood in reverence before the great mystery of God’s revelation: ‘the Word became flesh’ (John 1:14); ‘great is the mystery of godliness, that God was manifest in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16). All of his life Luther stood prayerfully and reverently before the incomprehensible mystery of the person of Jesus Christ, ‘where God and man meet and all fullness appears’. What the Greek fathers of the 4th and 5th centuries acquired by deep study of Holy Scripture with reverent and prayerful meditation, what the ancient church confessed in her ecumenical councils and stated contrary to the reasoning of philosophy – that Jesus Christ is true God, God from God, Light from Light, very God of very God, of one being with the Father, and at the same time true man – Luther thought through these powerful truths and took them even further in his theology in connection with the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. However, he tried to speak of these things so clearly and simply that even the simplest Christian – yes, even a child – could grasp them. ‘He whom the world could not contain, lies on Mary’s lap. He who upholds all things becomes a little child’. That is the teaching of Nicea. Or we think of how Luther expressed the doctrine of Chalcedon, the teaching of the two natures of Christ, in his catechism – ‘I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord…’ This explanation of the second article of the creed has been called by some the most beautiful sentence in the German language – it is the most beautiful sentence in the German language, but not only because of its structure, which reveals a master of language, but also because of its content. Here we find the eternal Word of God, the eternal Gospel: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.

From a sermon given on Reformation Day 1943 in Erlangen, Germany.
HT: Pastor Mark Henderson

Martin Luther, Doctor, Confessor and Reformer of The Church: February 18

February 18th, 2014 6 comments

Luther_death-hand_mask
On this day, in 1546, in the town where he was born, Eisleben, Germany, Dr. Martin Luther died, at the age of 63. Fittingly, he died shortly after collapsing at the end of his last sermon, preached at St. George Church in Eisleben. He was carried to a house just across from the church and there was received by our Lord into his heavenly rest. What a remarkable man. Luther continues to be a man who attracts interest across the world, as well he should. How blessed are we who identify ourselves with what Luther believed, taught and confessed. The picture you see here was taken in Eisleben, in the house where Luther died. This is a copy of the plaster face and hand casts made shortly after Luther died, a common practice in his day. What is most fascinating to me is that his right hand, his writing hand, is shaped in death as if he was holding a pen. And no wonder. The literary output of Martin Luther is simply astounding. If there ever was proof of the old adage that "the pen is mightier than the sword" we find it in the life and work of Martin Luther.

Luther's life and work can be studied from many different perspectives, each shedding its own unique light on our understanding of Luther. I've spent my entire adult life studying Luther: his life, his writings, the history surrounding the Reformation, and the lives and work of his friends and foes. I have never found anything more profound produced by Luther than his Small Catechism and his hymns. For here, in my opinion, is where the heart of Luther is revealed for all to see. For me, the truly "essential Luther" is found in his explanation of the Apostles Creed, and in the first hymn he wrote for congregational use Dear Christians One and All Rejoice, both of which follow:

I believe that
God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my
body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and
all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto,
clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife
and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides
me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body
and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves
me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine
goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me;
for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and
obey Him. This is most certainly true.

I believe that
Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity,
and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who
has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased
and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from
the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with
His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and
death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under
Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness,
innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead,
lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

I believe that
I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ,
my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me
by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and
kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens,
and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps
it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian
Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all
believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the
dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting
life. This is most certainly true.

Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice
Written by Martin Luther, 1523

Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God has done,
How his right arm the victory won.
What price our ransom cost him!

Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay,
Death brooded darkly over me,
Sin was my torment night and day;
In sin my mother bore me.
But daily deeper still I fell;
My life became a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

My own good works all came to naught,
No grace or merit gaining;
Free will against God’s judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left only death to my share;
The pangs of hell I suffered.

But God had seen my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And mindful of his mercies great,
He planned for my salvation.
He turned to me a father’s heart;
He did not choose easy part
But gave his dearest treasure.

God said to his beloved Son:
"It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of my crown,
And bring to all salvation;
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with you forever."

The Son obeyed his Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother;
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my brother.
His royal power disguised he bore,
A servant’s form, like mine, he wore
To lead the devil captive.

To me he said: "Stay close to me,
I am your rock and castle.
Your ransom I myself will be;
For you I strive and wrestle;
For I am yours, and you are mine,
And where I am you may remain;
The foe shall not divide us.

"Though he will shed my precious blood,
Of life me thus bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the victory win;
My innocence shall bear your sin;
And you are blest forever.

"Now to my Father I depart,
From earth to heaven ascending,
And heavenly wisdom to impart,
The Holy spirit sending;
In trouble he will comfort your
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you.

What I on earth have done and taught
Guide all your life and teaching;
So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought
And honored in your preaching.
But watch lest foes with base alloy
The heavenly treasure should destroy;
This final word I leave you."

Cranach-lutherLuher's Signature

Questions All Lutheran Churchs Must Answer

February 16th, 2014 Comments off

The first question which all Lutheran churches of the world, without exception, should ask themselves, and which for the delegates in Minneapolis must have the priority before all others, is the question of the article by which the church stands and falls.

Do we still teach faith alone correctly? That means not only: do we still have a correct theological doctrine of justification, but also: do we still correctly preach the saving article, which is the gospel itself? Anyone who surveys the Lutheran churches of the world – the small and the large, the old national churches of Europe and the young churches in the mission fields, the small free churches of the Old World and the large ones of the New World – knows that this literally is a matter of life and death for the Lutheran church. The unity of the Lutheran church and of the church in general is also dependent upon it. With this in mind, the Formula of Concord (Sol. Decl. III, 6; BSLK 916; Müller 611) cites Luther’s well-known statement: “If this one teaching stands in its purity, then Christendom will also remain pure and good, undivided and unseparated; … but where this falls, it is impossible to ward off any error or sectarian spirit” (AE 14:37 on Ps. 117).

For Luther this article hangs inseparably together with that of the Lord’s Supper; this is so – as was repeatedly noted by M. Reu – because to it applied the statement: “The sacrament is the gospel;” we will discuss this below. Minneapolis will serve the true unity of the church and render a true service to the Lutheran churches of the world, if it with great emphasis impresses upon all Lutheran churches that here occurs the decision of life and death, the decision concerning the right of a Lutheran confessional church to exist.

What is preached from our pulpits? What do our children learn in religious instruction? Are we raising them to be people, who live by faith alone, grace alone, in daily repentance, from the daily forgiveness of sins? If here something or perhaps much remains to be desired, then the unique opportunity which just such a conference presents must be used, so that the necessary things are said in the document it sends out into the world. For everything there is to say about freedom and unity in Christ must have its solid foundation here.

Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors 44, Before Lent 1957.

Categories: Uncategorized

Septuagesima: Third Last Sunday Before Lent

February 16th, 2014 3 comments

The Scriptures Appointed for Septuagesima

Introit: Psalm 18:1–2a, 27, 32, 49; antiphon: Ps. 18:5–6
Psalter: Psalm 95:1-9 (antiphon: v. 6)
Old Testament: Exodus 17:1–7
Gradual: Ps. 9:9–10, 18–19a
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 9:24—10:5
Verse: Ps. 130:1–4
Gospel: Matthew 20:1–16

The people of Israel contended with the Lord in the wilderness (Ex. 17:1–7). They were dissatisfied with His provision. In the same way, the first laborers in the vineyard complained against the landowner for the wage he provided them (Matt. 20:1–16). They charged him with being unfair, but in reality he was being generous. For the Lord does not wish to deal with us on the basis of what we deserve but on the basis of His abounding grace in Christ. The first—those who rely on their own merits—will be last. “For they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Cor. 10:5). But the last, those who rely on Christ, will be first. For Christ is the Rock (1 Cor. 9:24–10:5). He is the One who was struck and from whose side blood and water flowed that we may be cleansed of our sin.

Luther on the Gospel Reading [see full comments below]

“When the Gospel comes and makes all alike, as Paul teaches in Rom 3,23, so that they who have done great works are no more than public sinners, and must also become sinners and tolerate the saying: “All have sinned”, Rom 3, 23, and that no one is justified before God by his works; then they look around and despise those who have done nothing at all, while their great worry and labor avail no more than such idleness and reckless living. Then they murmur against the householder, they imagine it is not right; they blaspheme the Gospel, and become hardened in their ways; then they lose the favor and grace of God, and are obliged to take their temporal reward and trot from him with their penny and be condemned; for they served not for the sake of mercy but for the sake of reward, and they will receive that and nothing more, the others however must confess that they have merited neither the penny nor the grace, but more is given to them than they had ever thought was promised to them. These remained in grace and besides were saved, and besides this, here in time they had enough; for all depended upon the good pleasure of the householder.”

We pray:

O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people that we, who justly suffer the consequence of our sin, may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The extended entry includes Bach’s Cantata BWV 92 for this day and Luther’s complete notes on the Gospel, from his Church Postil.

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Commemoration of Philip Melanchthon, Confessor

February 16th, 2014 11 comments

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointedto teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.

The Diaconate of the Ancient and Medieval Church by Caspar Ziegler

February 15th, 2014 Comments off

124448

A new book just published by Concordia Publishing House offers a translation of what is truly a spectacularly good study of the history of the office of Deacon in the early and medieval Church. It is really fascinating.

It is available now in both book and eBook formats.

Print

eBook/Kindle

View sample here

Step back in time and explore the positions of deacon and deaconess from apostolic times to the Reformation. Engaging nearly 500 primary sources, Caspar Ziegler’s detailed study illustrates the life of the Church as recorded by interpreters of canon law. Church workers and laity curious about how these vocations of mercy have evolved through the years will appreciate this translation of the historic text.


Features

  • Foreword by Matthew C. Harrison
  • An index of Latin and Greek terms relating to clergy and the diaconate
  • Hundreds of scholarly footnotes from many non-English, European resources
Categories: Uncategorized

Commemoration of Philemon and Onesimus

February 15th, 2014 1 comment

Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. Although the name “Onesimus” means “useful,” Onesimus proved himself “useless” when he ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (Philemon 18).  Somehow Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome), and through Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After confessing to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, he was directed by Paul to return to his master and become “useful” again. In order to help pave the way for Onesimus’ peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and “to receive him as you would receive me” (v. 17), “no longer as a slave, but as a beloved brother” (v. 16). The letter was eventually included by the church as one of the booksof the New Testament.

We pray:

Lord God, heavenly Father, You sent Onesimus back to Philemon as a brother in Christ, freeing him from his slavery to sin through the preaching of the Apostle St. Paul. Cleanse the depths of sin within our souls and bid resentment cease for past offenses, that, by Your mercy, we may be reconciled to our brothers and sisters and our lives will reflect Your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Commemoration of St. Valentine, Martyr

February 14th, 2014 7 comments

Having little, to nothing, to do with the sentimentalism of this day on the secular calendar, the real St. Valentine was quite a man, well worth remembering and commemorating on this day. A physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Claudius, Valentine become one of the noted martyrs of the third century. The commemoration of his death, which occurred in the year 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the early church of the West. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, he left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine’s Day in many nations.

We pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, You kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Your holy martyr Valentine. Grant to us, Your humble servants, a faith like Valentine’s and the power of love, that we who rejoice in Christ’s triumph may embody his love in our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

How Churches Came to Embrace Women’s Ordination and Then Homosexuality

February 14th, 2014 2 comments

web-of-deceipt

With just a few minor tweeks, this article speaks brilliantly to the tactics being pursued in any church body that has members pushing for the ordination of women. The way this kind of things works is that groups agitating for change in doctrine say that they are”just asking for more conversation” or “asking questions” or declaring that there never has been any sufficient discussion, blah, blah, blah. I added just a few words and phrases, in brackets, to make my point. The little group in my church body most openly pushing for the ordination of women has also published articles pushing for an acceptance of homosexuality.

2+2=4.

The truth – it’s just that simple.

Thomas Oden, writing in his book Requiem way back in 1995, explains how it happens. What follows from here is all a quote from an article I picked up from The Gospel Coalition. It begins in 3, 2, 1 …

 

The first step is always a study committee.

In response to claims for moral legitimization of behaviors widely thought displeasing to God, each of the mainline denominations has dutifully appointed elaborate study commissions to report back to the general legislative body on how the church might respond to [the ordination of women, and then, using the same exegetical methods by which clear texts forbidding women's ordination, the church then studied how to accept] homosexuality [determining it to be just another] form of sexual orientation, practice, and advocacy. (152)

If the first study committee comes back with a traditional reading of the text, or if the legislative body dismisses the committee’s progressive interpretation, you can always assign another study committee amidst outcries that the recalcitrant conservatives suffer from “[anti-women attitudes] and then homophobia and reactionary stupidity” (153).

And if the traditional view cannot be overturned right away, try dismissing the whole controversy by telling people (with no small amount of chronological snobbery) that saner Christians understand this is nothing worth fighting over.

The fact that [the ordination of women] and homosexual practice is not a weighty moral matter was asserted by the United Methodist Sexuality Report as a “consensus among Christian ethicists,” yet without any evidence to support this curious assertion. All the conspicuous Christian teachers who have resisted [the ordination of women] and same-sex intercourse (John Chrysostom, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other consensual ecumenical teachers) are weighed in the debate less heavily than selected modern proponents of moral relativism and utilitarian permissivism. (153)

The next step is admonish “the people of God to wait for a firm [theological] and ‘scientific consensus’” on the matter (154).

Then some leading lights in the denomination can offer new exegetical avenues for avoiding the traditional understanding of familiar texts. Three evasions in particular are quite popular.

The first evasion is that the normative moral force of all biblical texts on [the ordination of women] and same-sex intercourse may be explained away by their cultural context. This leads to the conclusion that any statement in the Bible can be reduced to culturally equivocal ambiguity and indeterminacy on the premise of cultural relativism…

The second evasion hinges upon a strung out interpretation on Romans 1:26-27…

The third evasion argues that when Genesis 1:27 declares that God created male and female, the text has no normative significance for how [the orders of creation have anything to say about the ordination of women] and then how sexual behavior is to be understood, since it is merely a distinction with no further moral meaning. (154-55)

If all else fails, the final step is to announce triumphantly and with a terrific celebration of grace that “Christ is, in an amoral fashion, the end of the law” and charge others with legalism if they don’t share in your antinomianism (156).

Sadly, Oden’s warning has been prescient.

With a lesbian minister installed in an RCA classis in New Jersey, more than twenty open and affirming congregations, a prominent professor at our more conservative seminary publishing a new revisionist book on homosexuality, and a number of overtures heading to Synod asking for new study committees, we in the RCA find ourselves in the middle of so much that Oden lamented.

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Commemoration of Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos

February 13th, 2014 Comments off

We pray
O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Job 9:1-35

Second Reading: John 4:46-54

Aquila and Priscilla were Jewish tentmakers, who left Rome (Aquila was a native of Pontus) in the Jewish persecution under Claudius, 49 or 50, and settled in Corinth, where they entertained St. Paul, as being of their trade, on his first visit to the town (Acts 18:1 ff.). The time of their conversion to the Faith is not known. They accompanied St. Paul to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19), instructed the Alexandrian Apollo, entertained the Apostle Paul at Ephesus for three years, during his third missionary journey, kept a Christian church in their house (1 Corinthians 16:19), left Ephesus for Rome, probably after the riot stirred up by the silversmith Demetrius (Acts 19:24-40), kept in Rome also a church in their house (Romans 16:3-5), but soon left that city, probably on account of the persecution of Nero, and settled again at Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:19).

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February 10th, 2014 Comments off

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