Thursday, December 30, 2010

Name of Jesus

Indeed, dear friends, seeing the accumulating sin of this nation and the mounting apostasy from the gospel and the horrid rage against it, we can make a calculation on two matters: The judgment of God will finally and all the more harshly come to bear upon this land, proportionate to God’s blessings upon her and to the duration of His patience; finally, open persecution against the gospel and those who confess it will break out in the land that hitherto has been its sanctuary.....

The Almighty, who sits on the throne of glory, who rules in the midst of His enemies, before whom all His enemies must bow down, before whom every knee must bow, whether in heaven or on earth or under the earth—He is our Savior, Brother, Bridegroom, and Judge.

Friedrich Wyneken
2nd President of the LCMS
Sermon for the Eve of the Name of Jesus, January 1, 1868
At Home in The House of My Fathers, pp. 433-34

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christ the Paradox

A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death's defeat."

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, 24

Collect for Holy Innocents

Almighty God, the martyred innocents of Bethlehem showed forth Your praise not by speaking but by dying. Put to death in us all that is in conflict with Your will that our lives may bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Monday, December 27, 2010

by grace!

According to this doctrine of His they should abstain from their sins, repent, believe His promise, and entirely trust in Him; and since we cannot do this by ourselves, of our own powers, the Holy Ghost desires to work these things, namely, repentance and faith, in us through the Word and Sacraments. 72] And in order that we may attain this, persevere in it, and remain steadfast, we should implore God for His grace, which He has promised us in Holy Baptism, and, no doubt, He will impart it to us according to His promise, as He has said, Luke 11:11ff : If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the Feast of Stephen

+ First Sunday after Christmas+
December 26, 2010
The Church at Home “Rise, take the child and his mother!” Matthew 2:13
1. The domestic church listens to the Word of God.
a. Joseph receives specific instructions
(flee to Egypt; go the land of Israel; being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee)
b. We are also guided by the Word of God
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8) (10 Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed)

2. The domestic church moves in obedience to divine direction.
a. Joseph serves, protects and provides for the body of Christ
b. We make sacrifices for what is truly important. Ministry Teams!
O divine fruit of the Virgin’s womb, may I love you in union with the holy mother of God. Fill my life with the obedience of St. Joseph and the missionary fervor of the shepherds so that the witness of my life may shine like the star that led the Magi to your manger.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christ Mass Eve

+ Christmas Eve+
December 24, 2010
Emmanuel, God with us! (Prepositions of Christmas)
God and us; us and God. Not exactly so very clear when you put it like that, with the simple conjunction “and” -- is it. Just as the familiar carol reminds us that we need at least 12 days to unwrap all the gifts of Christmas, so also we need the prepositions of Christmas to tell us how things really stand vis a vis God and us. Because a preposition usually indicates the relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence, getting the prepositions of Christmas correct will have a significant impact on the meaning of this day. How to get it right? We turn for help to St. Matthew, who tells us: So the Lord's promise came true, just as the prophet had said, "A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel," which means "God is with us."
By looking at the prepositions of Christmas revealed in the Holy Bible, all of our fears and doubts about how things really stand between God and us are resolved.
1. Not against -- God is FOR us. The prophet Isaiah said it so well: For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. St. Paul said, if God is for us, who can be against us? And Luther said in his Small Catechism concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, he is truly worthy and well-prepared who had faith in these words, Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
2. Not without -- God is IN us. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
3. Not foreign -- God is LIKE us. Therefore in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God.
4. Not distant -- God is NEAR us. For the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the participation of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the participation of the body of Christ?
5. Not opposed -- God is OVER us. He watching over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps.
6. Not apathetic -- God is UNDER us. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before you; and shall say, Destroy them.
7. Not beyond -- God is WITH us; in our birth, body, pain and death. In 1745, Charles Wesley published Hymns for the nativity of our Lord.
Let earth and heaven combine, angels and men agree
To praise in song divine th’incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man.

He laid his glory by, he wrap’d Him in our clay
Unmarked by human eye the latent Godhead lay,
Infant of days he here became, and bore the loved Immanuel’s name.

See in that infant’s face the depths of Deity,
And labor while ye gaze to sound the mystery,
In vain; ye angels gaze no more, but fall, and silently adore.

Unsearchable the love that hath the Savior brought,
The grace is far above or men or angel’s thought:
Suffice for us, that God, we know, our God is manifest below.

He deigns in flesh t’appear, widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near, and make us all divine,
And we the life of God shall know, for God is manifest below.

Made perfect first in love, and sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove and see his glorious face,
His love shall then be fully showed, and man shall all be lost in God.

"Dr. Richard Selzer wrote a penetrating book entitled Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery. In it he writes:

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in a palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of a facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, had been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her husband is in the room. He stands on the bed, and together, they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight. Isolated from me, private, Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at each other, and touch each other generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks. 'Will I always be like this?' she asks. 'Yes,' I say. 'It is because the nerve was cut.' She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. 'I like it,' he says. 'It's kind of cute.'

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers, to show that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.

That is the spirit of Jesus. Man's link with God had been severed through sin. And He twisted Himself to accommodate us, and give us the kiss of eternal life. But not without giving His own life on our behalf. Jesus. At the same time, so tender and powerful. The most remarkable figure ever to have lived. And why not? He was God incarnate.

The birth of Jesus split history like a thunderbolt on a hot July evening. Everything before His birth we call B.C., before Christ. Everything after, we call A.D., anno Domini, in the year of our Lord."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Image of the Father

"But, again, it could not have taken place unless death and corruption had been done away with. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once for all be destroyed, and that man might be renewed according to the Image. The Image of the Father only was sufficient for this need."

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, 13

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Word and Spirit

For the Word, whereby we are called, is a ministration of the Spirit, that gives the Spirit, or whereby the Spirit is given, 2 Cor. 3:8, and a power of God unto salvation, Rom. 1:16. And since the Holy Ghost wishes to be efficacious through the Word, and to strengthen and give power and ability, it is God's will that we should receive the Word, believe and obey it.
Book of Concord, 1580

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

an end to death

Henceforth the whole conspiracy of the enemy against humanity is checked, and the corruption of death which before was prevailing against them has simply ceased to be. For the human race would have gone to ruin, had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death." Athanasiua, Incarnation of the Word

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

preserve thy Church

For it is not we who could preserve the church. Our ancestors also did not do it. Our posterity will also not be able to do it. But it was he, is he, and will be he who says: ‘I am with you to the end of the age.’ [Matthew 28:20] As is written in Hebrews 13:8 ‘Jesus Christ, yesterday and today and forever.’ And Revelation 1:8: ‘The Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.’ Yes, this is the name of the man, and no other man is named in this way, and no one else is supposed to be called this way. He who is called ‘yesterday’ and ‘who was’ preserved the church one thousand years ago, when we did not yet exist. And even today the church is not preserved by us, the living, but only by him who is called ‘today’ and ‘who is.’ Likewise, we will also not contribute anything when we are dead, but he will do it who is called ‘who will come’ and ‘in eternity.’ -- Martin Luther

Monday, December 13, 2010

full of grace

The holy Maid and Virgin Mother of God was this vessel, so she was proclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel as full of grace (Lk. 1:28), being the chosen one among the chosen, blameless, undefiled and worthy to contain the person of the God-Man and to collaborate with Him. Therefore God pre-ordained her before all ages, chose her from among all that had ever lived, and deemed her worthy of more grace than anyone else, making her the holiest of saints, even before her mysterious childbearing. For that reason, He graciously willed that she should make her home in the Holy of Holies, and accepted her as His companion to share His dwelling from her childhood. He did not simply choose her from the masses, but from the elect of all time, who were admired and renowned for their piety and wisdom, and for their character, words and deeds, which pleased God and brought benefit to all.

-- Gregory Palamas

all is a gift

"But behold God gives a new soul (for it was cleansed), and a new body, a new worship, promises new, and testament, life, table, dress, and all things new absolutely. For instead of the Jerusalem below, we have received that mother city which is above (Gal 4:26). Instead of a material temple, we have seen a spiritual temple (1Co 5:1). Instead of tables of stone, fleshly ones (2Co 3:3); instead of circumcision, baptism (Col 2:11-12); instead of the manna, the Lord's body; instead of water from a rock, blood from His side (Jn 19:34); instead of Moses' or Aaron's rod, the Cross; instead of the promised land, the kingdom of heaven; instead of a thousand priests, one High Priest; instead of an unreasoning lamb, a spiritual Lamb. With these and such things in his thought he said, 'all things are new' (2Co 5:17). But 'all' these 'things are from God,' by Christ, and His free gift."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Corinthians, 11.4

Thursday, December 9, 2010

with the ancient orthodox church

We, therefore, hold and teach, in conformity with the ancient orthodox Church, as it has explained this doctrine from the Scriptures, that the human nature in Christ has received this majesty according to the manner of the personal union, namely, because the entire fulness of the divinity dwells in Christ, not as in other holy men or angels, but bodily, as in its own body, so that it shines forth with all its majesty, power, glory, and efficacy in the assumed human nature, voluntarily when and as He [Christ] wills, and in, with, and through the same manifests, exercises, and executes His divine power, glory, and efficacy, as the soul does in the body and fire in glowing iron (for by means of these illustrations, as was also mentioned above, the entire ancient Church has explained this doctrine). -- Solid Declaration, FC 1580

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent 2

+ Second Sunday in Advent+
December 5, 2010
Speaking the truth has ever been and will always be a liability. And yet those whose hearts have been captured by the wonderful story of the Word made flesh cannot help themselves. John’s heart was captured – filled with the Spirit – even while in his mother’s womb. He who came in the spirit and power of Elijah still turns the hearts of children (you and me) to their fathers (the apostles, prophets and martyrs) by directing us to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. As we pay attention to John’s preaching on this Second Sunday in Advent, we too will be prepared to welcome aright the long-expected Savior, God with us. We hear again:
John the Baptist: Do the things that show you really have changed your hearts and lives. Mt.3:8
Apostle Paul: I began telling people that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God and do things to show they really had changed. Acts 26:20

Martin Luther: Q. What is the meaning of such a water Baptism?
A. It means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance, and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, in turn, a new person daily come forth and rise from death again. He will live forever before God in righteousness and purity.

Q. Where is this written?
A. St. Paul says to the Romans in chapter six:
``We are buried with Christ through Baptism into death, so that, in the same way Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, thus also must we walk in a new life.''
Having devoted his entire life to the Advent of the long-expected Lamb of God, the message of John the Baptist clearly reveals what things need to be done in order to welcome Christ Jesus every moment until the Last Day.
1. Recognize the seriousness of my old Adam, my selfish sinful nature
a. It all begins with confessing our sins
b. The chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire
2. Renounce daily the devil and all his ways and works
a. Yesterday’s renunciation won’t help you today
b. Disguised as an angel of light = not so obvious
3. Receive with humility the Word and Spirit of God
a. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
b. As often as you do this – how often do you need to receive His gifts?

4. Reorganize our priorities to reflect sacrificial love
a. The Kingdom of God revealed by teaching and healing
b. A bruised reed he will not break; a smoldering wick he will not quench. Therefore I exhort that you listen eagerly and lovingly to this Word, receive it with deep gratitude, and beseech the Lord God from the bottom of your heart for a firm faith to cling to this teaching. You may be certain that this will bear fruit day by day, as you become more humble, obedient, loving, chaste, and godly, for it is in the nature and art of this teaching to create godly, decent, obedient and pious people.
Martin Luther
Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent

Man with God is on the Throne!

Hence also the human nature, after the resurrection from the dead, has its exaltation above all creatures in heaven and on earth; which is nothing else than that He entirely laid aside the form of a servant, and yet did not lay aside His human nature, but retains it to eternity, and is put in the full possession and use of the divine majesty according to His assumed human nature. However, this majesty He had immediately at His conception, even in His mother's womb, but, as the apostle testifies [ Phil. 2:7 ], laid it aside; and, as Dr. Luther explains, He kept it concealed in the state of His humiliation, and did not employ it always, but only when He wished.
-- Solid Declaration, FC 1580

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Origins of Christmas

It’s older than you’ve been told!

The present Feast, commemorating the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, was established by the Church. Its origin goes back to the time of the Apostles.

In the Apostolic Constitutions (Section 3, 13) it says,

“Brethren, observe the feastdays; and first of all the Birth of Christ, which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month.”

In another place it also says,

“Celebrate the day of the Nativity of Christ, on which unseen grace is given man by the birth of the Word of God from the Virgin Mary for the salvation of the world.”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

psalms are good medicine

Any part of the Scriptures you like to choose is inspired by God. The Holy Spirit composed the Scriptures so that in them, as in a pharmacy open to all souls, we might each of us be able to find the medicine suited to our own particular illness.

Thus, the teaching of the Prophets is one thing, and that of the Historical books is another. And, again, the Law has one meaning, and the advice we read in the Book of Proverbs has a different one.

But the Book of Psalms contains everything useful that the others have. It predicts the future, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living, it suggests the right behavior to adopt. It is, in short, a jewel case in which have been collected all the valid teachings in such a way that individuals find remedies just right for their cases.

It heals the old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illnesses and preserves the health of the soul.

Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates profligacy.

Every Psalm preserves friendship and reconciles those who are separated. Who could actually regard as an enemy the person beside whom they have raised a song to the one God?

Every Psalm anticipates the anguish of the night and gives rest after the efforts of the day. It is safety for babes, beauty for the young, comfort for the aged, adornment for women.

Every Psalm is the voice of the Church. St. Basil the Great