Why did Jesus call Lazarus by name – “Lazarus, come out” (JOhn 11:42)- when He raised him from the dead? Some way, following Ambrose, replied, ‘If Christ had not called Lazarus by name, He would have emptied the whole graveyard,” But indeed, so He has.
“The Lord … raised not Lazarus alone but the faith of everyone. If you believe what you read, your spirit also, which was dead, revives with Lazarus. For what does it mean that the Lord went to the sepulchre and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out’ except that He wouldd give us a visible proof and set out an example of the future resurrection? Why did He cry with a loud voice, as though He were not accustomed to work in the Spirit and to command in silence? He did this only that He might show that which is written: ‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … we shall be raised’ (1 Corinthians 15:52). The raising of the voice answers to the sound of trumpets. And He cried, ‘Lazarus, come out,’ Why is the name added, except that one might seem to be raised instead of another, or that the resurrection were rather accidental than commanded? …
…When the power of the divine command was working, nature did not reguire its own functions; brought, as it were, into extremity, it obeyed no longer its own path but the divine will. The bonds of death were burst before those of the grave. The power of moving was exercised before the means of moving were yet supplied.
‘If you are amazed by this, consider who gave the command, so that yo might cease to wonder; Jesus Christ, the power of God, the life, the light, the resurrection of the dead. The power Himself raised him who was lying prostrate, the life Himself produced his steps, the light Himself drove away the darkness and restored his sight, and the -resurrection Himself renewed the gift of life’ (Ambrose, “On the Death of Satyarus, 2. 77-79) quoted in “A Year with the Church Fathers” p 65 edited by Scott Murray
We do not “choose” Jesus, He choses us. It is so pretentious to think that we have anything in us to presume that we could “choose” Jesus. The following is quoted in “A Year with the Church Fathers” by Scott Murray he is quoting St Augustine in the following pp 52-53.
“When Jesus invites us to come to Him He is not talking about a long journey but about one that is instantaneous. When we believe in Him, we have already come and arrived at the port of our destination. It is not a long and perilous journey as ancient travel was.
We are embarking on a conveyance that means that the price has been paid. Our ship of salvation is none other than the ship of the cross, upon which the Lord directs us to the ultimate safe haven of His love and salvation. All that is hard has been expiated through the cross, on which we now travel in the care of the crucified. The journey means that we are already there. We can only arrive in Christ. If we believe, we are there.”
Augustine: “…Christ said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father’ (John 6:65). Now as to where the Lord said this, if we call to mind the previous words of the Gospel, we shall find that He said, ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44) He did not lead, but He draws. This violence is done to the heart, not to the body. Why then do you marvel? Believe, and you come. Love, and you are drawn. Do not suppose here any rough and uneasy violence. It is gentle; it is sweet. It is the very sweetness that draws you. Is not a hungry sheep drawn when fresh grass is shown to it? Yet I imagine that it is not bodily driven on but fast bound by desire. In such a way you, too, come to Christ.
…But inasmuch as even in this kind of voyage, waves and tempests of many trials abound, believe on the Crucified One, so that your faith may be able to ascend the wood of the cross. You will not sink, but you shall rather be borne upon the wood. Thus, even thus, amid the waves of the world did [Paul] sail, who said, ‘But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14)
…should rightfully not trust in the pseudo gods of medicine or ‘science’. ‘Science’ has become a god for many who think it has the ultimate answer. Rather than seeing science as the pursuit of knowledge, they want it to be the source of all absolute truth. However, the scientific method is only the pursuit of hypotheses. Many of the ‘truths’ it has uncovered have later failed to pass the test of actual data (evolution, global warming or climate change, green energy, etc) Science should follow the data, not self-proclaimed experts…To a world of fear and fear-mongers, we confess that God came in the flesh to be killed in our place and raised up on the cross in the ugliest of deaths that we might know the wrath of God has been satisfied by the atoning death of the Son of God…
…Let us remember what a god is. It is someone or something that we trust in for the good in our lives. During the last year it became clear that our life, that is our bodies and our own wellbeing, has become our greatest idol. This is nothing new, but the way so many Christians and Christian churches fell victim to this idol was stunning and tragic. Men have feared temporal death more than the reality of eternal death. Do we no longer believe that we are born in sin? (Gen 3: 17-19, Ps 14: 1-3, 51:5; Rom 3:21-25) and deserve eternal punishment (Rom 3: 2: 5-11, 6:23)? Do we no longer believe that Christ came in the flesh? His Incarnation (Jn 1:14) meant that He breathed the germ laden air around him in the filth of Judea and Galilee. He touched unclean things and was touched by people who were disease ridden … He looked upon men and had compassion… He calls us to take up the cross, that is, to suffer with Him in this age until we receive eternal life in the age to come…
We were hounded by the social distancing and mask commandments of this new god. Do this and live, we were told, but nothing could be further from the truth. These two new ‘commandments of men’ became the excuse for breaking the Third Commandment. People were told that through close contact they would kill people. Did not God say, ‘It is not good that man should be alone and How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…? Did we no longer understand the story of Elijah’s loneliness where he is renewed by being fed by God and goes in the strength of that food for forty days…? Do we no longer believe the words the Holy Spirit taught us to confess through David, ‘I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’ Are we not to encourage one another all the more as we see the Day approaching…? We are the Body of Christ… and we need one another. The devil is always attacking that Body, and he is smiling about his accomplishments during this last year. But our hope is in Christ alone and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, … When we gather in the house of the Lord, we confess that we are dust and to dust we must return… but God has breathed life into these lumps of clay to bring us from death to life… God feeds us with the food far better than manna or the food given to Elijah. At the altar we eat and drink the flesh and blood of the crucified Son of God who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. This is the Tree of Life, the bread of heaven, by which we are strengthened throughout our journey through this wilderness of sin and death, not just for forty days or forty years. This is the medicine of immortality that is more powerful than any vaccine or medical treatment of this world, for it is strengthening our bodies for eternal life. These who have been reborn in Holy Baptism need the milk of the Word in preaching and the solid food of the Supper … Yet, many have trusted in themselves rather than the gracious gifts of God, the Sacraments of the Church given to save body and soul from eternal death. The Spirit of the Lord cries out, ‘Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful’…
…Our gathering as the Body of Christ is the ultimate confession of our faith in the Incarnate Lord. We gather before the altar and God comes to us uncovered in the preaching of His Word, the water of Baptism, and the gift of the flesh and blood of the Christ who died and rose for us. The Church should not be the place of mask wearing, but the place where in every sense we confess that this is the Body of the Risen Lord and death cannot harm us. In love, I may give people the option of doing as their conscience dictates, but I have a responsibility to call all of us to repent (yes, the non mask wearers also grow arrogant) and confess that our life is only in Christ. This results in an outward confession of faith in the Resurrection. We have already died in the waters of Baptism and been raised to life, God has killed us to make us alive. Can I be silent about such dangers?
How different this is from the masks that are designed to hide the God-given identity. It marks all men as our enemy, those who might kill us. If we are to fear we might kill each other, will we ever return to the faithful clean conscience before God without the mask? Yet, God has not ordained masks. They are a creation of man. It is even admitted by those who want them required that they do not necessarily work to prevent the virus. As such, society presents us with the mask as a false god to trust in to ‘save lives’. Masks have become an idolatrous, ‘sacramental practice’ for many, that is, an outward sign that identifies them as virtuous and carries with is the promise of being delivered from death….. Some of the best hymns about the good and gracious will of God were written in times of plague, death and uncertainty (LSB 713, 724, 743, 760) Is God no longer good? Surely, we must all repent of the weakness of our faith.
…We have slipped into the misguided idea that we must obey the government at all times, but this means we have forgotten that the governing authorities do not have authority over the church and its practices. Remember that the early church was an illegal religion that is, that they were not permitted to worship openly until the Edict of Milan in February of 313 AD. Yet they came together to hear the Gospel preached and received the Blessed Sacrament. Many were jailed and even put to death because they would not deny the faith (Ignatius and Polycarp). They followed the example of those in the Old Testament: Isaiah who was sawn in half, the three men in the fiery furnace … and Daniel… The New Testament testifies of Stephen … and James … and we are aware of the beheading of Paul and the upside down crucifixion of Peter… At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther was hidden from the authorities who sought to kill him. Christians defied the authorities who told them to cease and desist worshiping at the time of the Magdeburg Confession. Governing authorities have their limits in regard to Christian faith and the practices of the Church, (I will not address constitutional matters here.) Can the government order Christians to wear masks n Christian worship? Absolutely not. Notice that in some states they ordered that Communion not be celebrated. In fact, the mask issue led many to refrain from the Sacrament for months. Christians churches were far too complacent in allowing the government to make the decisions for them.
The Fifth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Commandments are closely related in this particular issue. As there is no conclusive, factual evidence that we are saving lives by using masks, we must be careful not to say we are saving lives by wearing masks or social distancing. I have personally seen the damage this time of social distancing, lockdowns, and refusal to allow hugs, kisses and even social interaction at meals has done to family members. Have more people been killed by ‘protecting’ them or by COVID?… Many were also forced to delay cancer treatments, heart surgeries and other conditions to ‘protect’ people. Evidence indicates that some of these people have died. Did we kill them? The isolation of elderly and young people has led to a surge in suicide as many doctors warned, but all we hear is COVID. Don’t our children need physical contact and in person instruction? But we, our governing authorities and teachers’ unions, have stolen that from them. The governing authorities are driven by good intentions, but not by facts. I am reminded of this quotation of C S Lewis, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.’ Lockdowns have destroyed our neighbors’ businesses, ripped apart their families, left many unemployed and all of it was done, so we are told, for our good. Are we not to speak up in defense of our neighbor?…
…our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. In a world that promotes fear, let us boldly proclaim life that comes to those who have died with Christ and have been raised with Him.”
…Then, so that you would not be confounded by what is going on, and by their strange frenzy (Matt 12:14) He introduces the prophet [Isaiah] also, foretelling all this. So great was the accuracy of the prophets that they omit not even these things but foretell His very travels and changes of place as well as the intent with which He acted in these, so that you might learn how they spoke entirely by the Spirit. If the secrets of men cannot by any art be known, how much more impossible is it to learn Christ’s purpose, except that the Spirit reveals it? …
‘The prophet [Isaiah] celebrates His meekness and His indescribable power, and how to the Gentiles ‘a wide door for effective work has opened’ (1 Cor 16:9); He foretells also the ills that are to overtake the Jews and signifies Jesus’ unanimity with the Father. He said, ‘Behold My servant, whom I uphold. My chosen, in whom My soul delights’ (Is 42:1). Now if the Father chose Him not as an adversary, Christ wouldn’t set aside the Law. The Father chose Him not as an enemy of the lawgiver but as having the same mind with Him, and the same goals.
Then proclaiming His meekness, he said, ‘He will not cry aloud or lift up His voice’ (Is 42:2). His desire indeed was to heal in their presence; and even though they thrust Him away, He did not contend even against this. And intimating both His might and their weakness, he said, ‘A bruised reed He will not break’ (Is 42:3). Indeed, it was easy to break them all to pieces like a reed, and not just as a reed, but as one already bruised. ‘A faintly burning wick He will not quench’ (Is 42:3). Here he sets forth both their anger, which is kindled, and His might which is able to put down their anger and quench it with the greatest ease, by which His great mildness is signified”
(Chrysostom, “Homilies on Matthew, 60.2” quoted in “A year with the church fathers, meditations…” p 397
“Only when we have felt the terror of the matter [of God’s coming at Christmas], can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love. God makes us happy as only children can be happy God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be – in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone’ God is with us. We are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home itself has moved into us.. Therefore we adults can rejoice deeply within our hearts under the Christmas tree, perhaps much more than the children are able. We know that God’s goodness will once again draw near. We think of all God’s goodness that came our way last year and sense something of this marvelous home. Jesus comes in judgment and grace: ‘Behold I stand at the door … Open wide the gates!” (Ps 24:7) from “A Testament to Freedom pp 185-186
“…If we berate or harass our shepherds, we are berating and harassing the Body of Christ…Our pastors exercise spiritual oversight for the sake of our souls so that we might receive the unfading crown of glory. In that relationship there is a mutuality of love.
Be obedient to your bishop and welcome him as the parent of your soul. Son’s love their fathers, and slaves fear their masters. The Lord says, ‘If then I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master where is My fear?’ (Malachi 1:6). In your case, the bishop combines in himself many titles for your respect. He is at once a monk, a prelate and an uncle who has before now instructed you in all holy things.
‘This also I say so that the bishops should know themselves to be priests, not lords. Let them render to the clergy the honor that is their due so that the clergy mayo offer to them the respect that belongs to bishops. There is a witty saying of the orator Domitius (d. 48 BC] that is to the point here: ‘Why should I recognize you as leader of the Senate when you will not recognize my rights as a private member?” … Let us ever bear in mind the charge that the apostle Peter gives to priests: ‘Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the un fading crown of glory’ (1 Peter 5: ) “
Jerome “Letters,” – 52.7 quoted in “A Year with the Church Fathers” p 375 Scott Murray
When my wife and I first attended a Lutheran service, we were impressed with how formal it was, a far cry from what we were used to in the mainline Protestant denominations we grew up in and in the evangelical congregations we attended in college. So we came back next week, only to find both the congregation and the pastor chanting. We thought we had been transported back to the Middle Ages.
It turns out, that first service we attended was the one informal service that was held on months with five Sundays. We came to learn that when Lutherans try to be informal–or, more recently, contemporary–they are still more formal and less contemporary than just about anyone else. But the definitive Lutheran worship, which we learned to treasure, is to be found in what they call the “Divine Service,” which is called that because in it, Lutherans believe, God serves us.
Patheos has asked its writers to respond to some of the most frequent questions about the various religious traditions that they receive. What most puzzles Patheos readers about Lutheranism is its worship. They wonder what they need to know in order to understand what is going on. Specifically, as the Patheos editors summarize the inquiries, “What should I keep in mind when visiting a Lutheran church?” So it falls to me to try to explain.
What follows is an account of the traditional Divine Service, which can be dressed up or down, made more elaborate or more simple. Even contemporary Lutheran services will tend to have the same structure and most of the same elements–from the confession and absolution to the Law & Gospel sermons–so that what I describe here, except for what I say about music, will mostly still apply.
(1) The Liturgy Consists Mostly of Words from Scripture
The first reaction of many visitors is, “This is Catholic!” Or, “This is too Catholic!” Yes, the liturgy goes way back through church history and is similar to that of Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and, among Protestants, Anglicans, whose Book of Common Prayer was greatly influenced by Lutheranism.
But the Lutheran liturgy also shows forth the principles of the Reformation. Luther wanted to reform the church, not start a new one. Later Protestants would want to start, more or less, from scratch, but the work of “reforming” means changing what is problematic, but leaving what is good. For Luther, everything that pointed away from Christ and the Gospel should be eliminated, but what does point to Christ and the Gospel should be retained.
So the Lutheran liturgy leaves out elements in the Catholic mass such as praying for the dead and invoking the saints. But it retains the overall structure and the ancient liturgical set-pieces, such as the Kyrie (“Lord have mercy. . .”) and the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). In fact, those set pieces and nearly all of the responses of the congregation are taken straight from the Bible. When someone objects to our liturgy, I ask, “Which words of God do you think we shouldn’t say?”
The sanctuary will also demonstrate the Reformation principle of retaining elements that point to Christ. There will typically be quite a bit of art in the sanctuary. Lots of crosses. That will include pictures of Jesus and other representational art. This is not idolatry, since that means worshiping false gods and Jesus is the true God, who came as a visible, tangible human being discernible by the senses (1 John 1:1). Lots of crucifixes, depicting Jesus on the cross. Some Christians say that one should only use empty crosses because Jesus isn’t on the cross any more–He rose! Well, Lutherans certainly believe in His Resurrection (and also have empty crosses), but we need to keep a constant focus on “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1 and 2 Corinthians 1:2), upon which which our salvation is based and which Lutherans apply in a host of ways in their “theology of the Cross.”
(2) Chanting Lets Us Sing Prose, Such as Texts from Scripture
The Divine Service is mostly chanted by both the pastor and the congregation. This may be the aspect that seems the most “Catholic” or “Medieval” or just unusual to visitors. But chanting, with its flexible meter and flowing melodic line, is simply the way that a person can sing prose.
Most of our songs today–whether hymns or raps–are metrical, with fixed patterns of rhythm and rhyme. That is to say, they put music to poems. But it is also possible to sing any sequence of words. That requires music that flows along with the pattern of speech. This is what chanting is.
Some of my friends who are Reformed (a term Lutherans never use for themselves), belong to Psalms-only congregations. Using their principle that Christians may only do what the Bible specifies (while Lutherans believe they are free to do whatever the Bible does not forbid), they do not sing hymns, just Psalms. But what they sing are really metrical paraphrases of the Psalms, forced onto the Procrustean bed of meter and rhyme. But we Lutherans sing the Psalms right out of the Bible by chanting them.
Lutherans do sing hymns that will be familiar to most visitors, including some of those metrical Psalms, drawing on the vast and varied musical heritage of the church universal. Perhaps stranger to some visitors’ ears are the hymns from the Lutheran tradition, particularly those from the 16th and 17th century, often in the baroque style of vivid imagery and achingly beautiful, but complex, music.
(3) The Pastor Will Forgive Your Sins
What most puts off quite a few visitors is at the beginning of the service when the members of the congregation confess their sins, first reflecting silently and then reading a prayer of repentance, after which the pastor says this or something like it:
Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of the Word I announce the grace of God to all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“I forgive you?” some say. “The pastor can’t forgive sins! Only Jesus can do that!” Well, right, only Jesus can forgive sins. But Lutherans believe that God works through human beings. That is the doctrine of vocation. Notice the wording: “As a called and ordained servant of the Word.” “Called” refers to vocation, which is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” God forgives sins through pastors, just as He gives us our daily bread through farmers and creates new life through mothers and fathers. The basis of the pastor’s forgiveness, also known as “absolution,” is “the grace of God to all of you” and the fact that He “has given His Son to die for you.” (Lutherans reject the Reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement, so all have access to this grace and atonement.)
And the Scriptural warrant for human beings forgiving sins is pretty explicit. After His resurrection, Jesus breathes on His disciples, saying,“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:22-23).
(4) You Will Hear a Law and Gospel Sermon
The sermon may also be different from what you are used to. There will be no politics, no pop psychology, no Biblical principles for successful living. (Lutheranism, with its theology of cross-bearing, is pretty much the opposite of the Prosperity Gospel.) The sermon will be based on one or more of the three Bible readings (an Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel reading as determined by the Lectionary, a plan for Scripture reading tied to the church year), but it will be handled in terms of the distinct Lutheran hermeneutic and preaching paradigm of Law and Gospel.
The moral law in the Scripture will be proclaimed, but in a way that precludes self-righteousness. Listeners will be persuaded that they do not, in fact, obey God’s Law, with its multiple ramifications, and that they are in sore need of repentance. Whereupon the sermon will move to a proclamation of the Gospel, namely, that Christ has fulfilled this law on our behalf and has paid the penalty that we deserve for breaking it with His atoning death and resurrection. When we know that we are sinners and cannot save ourselves and believe that Jesus has died for us and offers us new life, we have saving faith, which, in turn, bears the fruit of love for our neighbors.
This is not “cheap grace” the pastor is teaching. A skillful preacher can really make you feel guilty, which tempers our bad behavior. And, by preaching the Gospel, he really make you feel free. Lutherans speak of three uses of the Law: the first, the civil use, is to restrain our external sinful proclivities; the second, the theological use, is to convict us of sin and drive us to the Gospel; and the third, the didactic use, is to teach Christians how to live in order to please God, which, motivated by gratitude, they now desire to do.
You will find no altar call in a Lutheran sermon. Coming to faith is not a one-time decision. Rather, the pattern of repentance and faith is repeated throughout the Christian’s life, and is enacted throughout the Divine Service. The point at which you objectively became a Christian is when you were Baptized, even as an infant, a purely passive experience in which God called you by name and gave you the gift of the Holy Spirit. But, just as that infant must be fed, be taught, and grow, the baptized Christian must be fed and taught and grow by means of the Word and Sacraments. Otherwise, faith will die.
(5) You Must be Catechized Before You Go Up for Communion.
If you are a visitor to a Lutheran church, observe what is happening and, if you want, go up for a blessing. (Bow and cross your arms when the pastor comes your way.) But if you are not a Lutheran and if the pastor doesn’t know you, you should refrain from taking the consecrated bread and wine. The liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) would probably let you, but the more conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and smaller and independent church bodies practice “closed communion.” Sometimes this is phrased as “close” communion, meaning that those who commune together should be close to each other as in being part of the same congregation or church body, but it means the same, that the altar is “closed” to those who have not been catechized and confirmed in the host church, its denomination, or a denomination with which it is in formal fellowship.
Please, please, do not be insulted, as many visitors are. Lutherans are not denying that you are a Christian. Anyone, of any denomination or non-denomination, who confesses faith in Christ is considered to be a Christian, and Lutherans do accept all Baptisms, of whatever mode or at whatever age. It’s just that Lutherans hold to the Biblical teaching that no one should receive the Lord’s Supper without examining oneself and without “discerning the body” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29).
“Discerning the body,” of course, means different things to different theologies. Catholics believe the bread is transubstantiated into the Body of Christ and so is no longer bread; Calvinists believe in a spiritual presence that depends on the faith of the person receiving it; most Protestants, again, hold it be merely symbolic. But Lutherans believe that the body and blood of Christ are really present in, with, and under the bread and wine. More than that, Christ gives His body and His blood in these physical elements “for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Evangelicals speak of “receiving Christ” at their conversion. Lutherans believe they “receive Christ” every time they take Holy Communion.
Some say that “discerning the body” refers not to the bread and wine of Holy Communion, but to the Body of Christ that is the Church. Well, fine, and maybe it refers to both, since the two senses are intimately connected. But that too is an argument for “closed” or “close” communion, since it requires awareness of those with whom you are communing.
Catholics and the Orthodox also practice closed communion, in line with their similarly high view of the Sacrament. I have had occasions—weddings and funerals—to attend a Catholic mass, but it never bothered me that I couldn’t take communion. I didn’t want to. If I presented myself for communion, I would be participating with a church body that I don’t belong to and that I don’t agree with. This is also why most Lutherans won’t commune at other churches that practice “open” communion. It’s a matter of respecting differences. And this respect can co-exist with a spirit of welcome and good-will.
So, please, visitors, know that you are welcome to a Lutheran service and don’t let our quirks be an obstacle. I think you will appreciate, as my wife and I did, the sense of transcendence and holiness that we found there.
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all God’s people said AMEN
St Michael and all Angels day. Michael is an Archangel. There are millions of angels and the counterparts of angel, which are … demons. Lucifer, Son of the Morning Star (Isaiah 14:12), decided he should have a better gig, decided to push back against God (for a being created to be the most brilliant of all angels,) being brilliant can be an idol, it can cloud your knowledge and judgment. Lucifer realized that God intended for the angelic to serve humanity and Lucifer was not interested in serving beings he felt were so far beneath him. Lucifer thought he was so brilliant, he was bullet-proof, he learned the hard way. There’s kind of a fourth archangel, named Raphael, who is mentioned in some of the Apocryphal books.
It is said that each angel has their own sphere of influence. Some say down to an individual person, in Matthew 18:10 Jesus says: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” The senior angels, are in the immediate presence of the Father. Gabriel told Mary at the annunciation, he came from the Father’s presence. Tradition says; “Michael is in charge of spiritual warfare. Gabriel is in charge of messages and announcements. Lucifer of knowledge.” Gabriel was the Herald of God, Wikipedia defines herald as: more correctly, a herald of arms, an officer of arms… Heralds were originally messengers sent by the nobility to convey messages or proclamations—in this sense being the predecessors of the modern diplomats.” When you show up to tell people what God is about to do, that’s an important guy. Lucifer was in charge of knowledge, when man and woman ate from the tree of knowledge the mixing of good and evil together. Much could be said that man in innocence would have had a life of peace and joy. Lucifer decided that we should think we are smart, because of that, we’ve decided we are smarter than God, so Lucifer who’s a whole lot smarter than us, should think he’s smarter than God.
We focus on the leader of the angels, after Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Michael, is the archangel of “spiritual warfare”. Michael being the leader of the heavenly host, and that is what host means, the army of heaven. John tells us specifically in Revelation that Michael and his angels are fighting Satan. The angels are certainly God’s, but this is written in the sense that a military commander would refer to his men, those he is directly in charge of and responsible for. Michael is also the patron saint of the military, police and fire fighters. Do not pray to Michael if you are in the military or public safety, we always pray to the Father in the Name of the Son. Michael is a sort of icon of the Father’s protection, one of the ways the Father will send help you or defend you. I used to have a little medallion of St Brendan in my coxswain kit in the Coast Guard. First, he’s Irish, second, he was the patron saint of navigators. Ok, call it a good luck charm, bit of superstition, but I certainly didn’t take out my charm to pray before going on a case. But when I went into my case for something it was a comfort, because it ultimately meant God was with me, watching over me, I had no doubt of that.
Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are called “saints”, that is in the sense of “sanctus”, holy. Since it seems the angel who is highlighted is Michael, we assume, “spiritual warfare” is recognized as a priority. Our epistle lesson and Old Testament lesson, both discuss Michael. In Daniel 10:21the angel tells Daniel that he was held up by a demon and that Michael had to come to help him in order for him to deliver his message to Daniel. In Revelation John tells us how Michael and his angels drove Satan out of heaven. This is the most lopsided “war” imaginable, the problem is that you and I are in the middle of that war. But it’s certainly lopsided since the outcome has been determined. The Book of Revelation tells us of the ultimate fate of Satan and the demons. But for now, the world is in Satan’s grasp. Sin abounds in the world, and it seems humanity likes it that way. And let’s face it, we like it, sin is attractive, if it’s prettied up, “hey what’s the harm, right? “John Warwick Montgomery observes: “…the devil’s main act of hatred is not to destroy people (at least not at first), but to get them by masquerading as angels of light. The devil’s best disguise is piety. From the beginning, he’s cloaked …beneath a robe of theological inquiry – ‘Did God really say?’” Go ahead, take a bite, doesn’t matter of what, so long as it separates you from your Savior Jesus, and it must be OK, because it’s so purty, nice, I like it. And that’s how we make decisions today and Satan helps us move there.
Many people have this odd idea that because sin is so prevalent God can’t or won’t do anything about it, Montgomery goes on to say: “…God has even anticipated the demonic opposition of the adversary and the determined seductiveness of the tempter and has systematically integrated it into his own world order (Rev 2:10; 13:5 ff). The devil is the power in God’s world who always wills evil, yet always effects good. Satan does not escape from God’s ‘ordo’, but remains co-ordinated in it,” It’s not whether God is in control, He certainly is, we see that in the life of Jesus, read about it in the Book of Revelation. What Satan does, God permits. Satan is a completely, evil, depraved, vicious being, no doubt, if Satan were left to his own devices, this world would be an unbearable hell. Paraphrase what Joseph said to his brothers in Egypt, what Satan intends for evil, God uses for good.
Historically we like to think warfare is cut and dry, there’s the enemy, we protect ourselves from him and trust that God will save us. Dr Montgomery observes, it’s not that cut and dry, the devil presents himself as an angel of light, he can because he was an angel of light. He can be as pious as anyone, it’s not really hard to do, at least for what he needs. We have to be vigilant, we have to be discerning, to be faithful in prayer and ready to follow God’s leading. We may think we know what we’re doing, but the whole point of warfare, spiritual or worldly, is to undermine the enemy. To Satan, we as a Christian, baptized, strengthened by the Body and Blood of Jesus, faithful in attendance, hearing the preached Word, we are the enemy. It’s not hard for Satan to create all kinds of dislike, confusion and outright hostility. We have to be constantly on guard as to what the forces of evil do to Christians individually and as a group. We rely on God’s promise; Deuteronomy 33:27: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you,…” We only do that trusting in Him, in the pastor He has sent to lead and in our fellow Christians. I’m certainly not saying that this is a formula for perfect peace and harmony, the demonic works hard and constantly, they’ve been doing this for thousands of years, it’s not hard to find some weak point. It’s up to us to be vigilant, to test the spirits as we are told, to rely on our Savior. There are demons around us seeking to influence us to mislead us and to deceive us. David Petersen on Issues Etc with Todd Wilkins also suggests: “Pastors in the Lutheran Church will do house blessings, it’s not an elaborate ritual, it will drive demons from the home [reminds me, I should do that here!] it’s a few prayers and readings from Scripture, we are promised that God’s word is enough to drive off demons. This is also why we should have family devotions, husbands and wives should pray together. We shouldn’t underestimate demons or mess around with these beings. [The Ouija Board was invented in Chestertown? If there’s one in your house I would destroy it and just never mess around with those things. Christ crucified has defeated the demonic, the evil in the world, that does not mean it’s dead, we’ve seen terrorist acts in the world, Satan is more than capable of spiritual terrorist attacks. But the evil in the spiritual world can be confronted and driven away, partly by us not involving ourselves or believing the things of the world that is constantly manipulated and played by the demonic. Through Christ’s life and death we are equipped through baptism, His Body and Blood, the Word, all the armor we need to defeat the enemy. As Paul tells us in Romans in all these things we are more then conquerors through Christ who loved us.” (Rom 8:37)
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin. He has risen! He has risen indeed Alleluja
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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are uplifted by the Psalms said AMEN!
We are in the season of Lent, we know that we try to “sacrifice” something for Lent. Some Lent news; “It was just announced that chocolate maker Hershey is reportedly expecting to cut its global workforce by about 15 percent. Seth Meyers observes: That’s right, for the first time ever, chocolate is giving up people for Lent.” For the Lent season, I’m “planning”, I would like to, do a sermon series on Psalms. We really don’t hear many sermons on Psalms and that really is a shame. I like to just settle in to the Psalms and take it in. Certainly all of Scripture is about the human experience. That experience is with God, and some of it is to show how things get messed up when we try to cut God out of what is going on.
There is 150 Psalms, most, not all were written by David ben Jesse, also known as King David, husband of Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba, father of Solomon, Absalon, Amnon and Tamar. These were his, let’s say more notorious children. He had 19 sons total, and 1 daughter. I’m not sure what the odds of that happening naturally are, but… I’m sure it made jockeying to be David’s successor a lot more of a story in David’s palace during his lifetime.
The book that Jesus quotes the most is … Psalms. First the Book of Psalms is very long 150 books, second because David wrote most of the Psalms, and that Jesus is often referred to as the “Son of David” and that is because Yahweh promised that the Messiah would be in David’s line, one of David’s descendants would be the Messiah. This is referred to as the “Davidic Covenant”, 2 Samuel 7: 10-13: “…ESV 2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Of course “His” refers to Jesus and His Kingdom. What He established in His first coming and what will be fully realized as it is described in the Book of Revelation.
Father Patrick Reardon, who was the pastor of a church in Butler, Pa where our son Timothy is living, writes this about the Psalms: “From the very beginning of her history, when the Church of God turns to Him in love and devotion, the words of the Psalter form the expressions that spontaneously, as by an impulse of her nature, rise from her heart and take shape in her mouth.” If you look, starting at about page 219 in your hymnal, you will see the “Daily Offices”. Those were the daily worships, roughly, in monasteries going back to sometime on or before the sixth century. Check the references to find that most of what is there are various recitations of Psalms. At least back to the sixth century Saint Benedict of Nursia, … prescribed the weekly reading of the Psalms, all 150, and basically called the monks at that time sissies because they didn’t recite them everyday as earlier generations of monks had done.
This Psalm, Chapter 9, was written by David. It appears that this was for some sort of public declaration of victory. The Lutheran Study Bible notes: “The praise of God in the Psalter is rarely a private matter between the psalmist and the Lord. It is usually a public [that is, at the temple] celebration of God’s holy virtues or of his saving acts or gracious bestowal of blessings.” Where he proclaims God’s glorious attributes, righteous deeds, joyfully celebrate God’s glory. Probably where David is declaring victory over an enemy of Israel and proclaiming the power, might and glory of Yahweh. The note in the Concordia Study Bible goes on to point out that: “This aspect of praise in the Psalms has rightly been called the Old Testament anticipation of New Testament evangelism.” That is that what was written in the Old Testament was also intended for us to praise God now. Praise is the reason why we should more regularly refer to Psalms in worship, which we’re supposed to do in our personal and in daily worship in church. Worship is not just limited to Sunday morning, or once in awhile on Wednesday evenings, but intended to be regularly through the day and that is what Psalms have been. Not just about what David did 3,000 years ago, but what God is still doing today that we should be praising Him for now, daily. I’ve always thought it would be great to have a regular Daily Offices, where people would know they could go all through the week and share in worship and prayer. I think we could take such Psalms of victory, such as Psalm 9 that we’re reading today, and there are a lot of “victory psalms” out of the 150 psalms, and proclaim them as God’s victory against our enemies today, understanding that our enemies now aren’t the Philistines, but the powers of evil that are all around us. Whether that evil is demonic and all its different manifestations, spiritually or what we can actually see in the world. Not only has God defeated them but quoting the Concordia Study Bible, God has redressed the wrongs committed by them against David (and Israel).” Again that is for us today. God has certainly defeated the powers of evil all around us, we who are in Christ, that we are certainly subject to demonic attack and are protected by the Holy Spirit from those attacks. Also that God does restore to us that which might be lost or destroyed, if not in this world, certainly in the world of the eternal of the resurrection. Tremper Longman writes: “It is impossible to date the psalm to a certain period in David’s (Israel’s) history. The characterization of the enemy is purposefully ambiguous so as to permit the individual lament to be used as a community lament.” Again to say that while David probably wrote it for a particular occasion, it has come down to us through Jewish history and since the beginning of the Christian church. It’s interesting how both writers conflate David and Israel. David is very much Israel, Jesus certainly is Israel, and since we are in Christ we are Israel. Praise to God then, is as much praise to Him today, from His children in Jesus.
Undoubtedly David knew Who Jesus is, I have to believe that God the Father revealed to David who his descendant was and what He is. That David knew that while it was His throne that was promised to his Descendant, his “Son” by the power of His deity, would make that “Throne” the universal Throne of all power in creation. That the Name of Christ on the Throne, from all of creation to the end of all of creation was and is the power of Jesus. Reardon writes, kind of a long quote: “… particular attention should be paid to that of the “name”: “’I shall sing to Your Name, O most High,’ and ‘Let all those who know Your Name hope on You.’ This is that name of which St Peter said that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This, truly, is ‘the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’ (Phil 2:9, 10). The praying of the Psalter, in fact, pertains to our sharing in that universal genuflection ‘of those in heaven, and of those on earth…’ As the only name by which we have access to God, the name of Jesus is the proper exegetical key to praying the Book of Psalms.”
So you might wonder why we’re conflating Jesus and the Psalms at this time of the year on the calendar, but certainly Jesus is being proclaimed, praised and given thanks for our salvation in Him from the time of His “father” David to the present. He is known from everlasting to everlasting and we praise Him and bless His Holy Name for His sacrifice, His suffering, His separation in order to bring us to the Father, to give us the hope and promise of everlasting, life and life more abundant in Him in His crucifixion, His resurrection and the marriage feast of the Lamb that is that eternal life in Him.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.
 Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms p xv
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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the true love of Christ said AMEN!
There was a really cheesey sitcom back in the early 1970s I remember as a kid. Called “Love American Style”. All the “groovy loving stuff” but everyone was made up all nice in the style of the day, if you remember Bert Convy, kind of smaltz. Sorry if I offended. Of course since we are all smiley and sweet and we just want to LOVE, well everything is just groovy. That show was on for five seasons? The Cornithian church was sort of the same thing, permissive, good ole Roman boys, just wanna have fun. This is not a shot at the stereotype southern “good ole boys”. This is the way it is. Seems every culture has that element. We’re going to be all responsible and appear all dignified, but when we get with the other guys, well hey, who’s going to know. The kind of mindset that is biting people in entertainment, government, education, business, sports, military, because they felt they were special and “boys will be boys” why are you spoiling our fun? That is both men and women.I ’ve seen it in all kinds of settings. The Roman good ole boys were, for the most part, retired Roman soldiers, Roman bureaucrats, those of the day who were retired to Corinth and given a pretty good pension. The types who took their past careers seriously but…. anything else, well not so seriously. I get the distinct feeling that they were the types who might even mess with Paul. Come on Paul, it’s just in fun. I think Paul had a sense of humor, I don’t think he was the “good ole boy” type, and well, kind of probably didn’t appreciate the lifestyle etc., that would be up to and including one of the members co-habitating with his father’s wife, let’s just say yada-yada…
So “Love Corinthian style”. The lead-up to today’s reading is in terms of being “one body”, the church is composed of every person in the church, the Body of Christ. When one part of that Body is hurting, or somehow dysfunctional it hurts the rest of the body, the rest of the Body feels pain e.g. if I stub my toe, the rest of the Body also suffers in terms of pain; if part of the Body decides to be defective, or functioning in some way counter to the body, such as one member of the body sleeping with his step-mother well the rest of the body just pooh-poohs, oh that’s not so bad, be a good boy, come back to the church. Love Corinthian style! Of all the churches mentioned in the New Testament, they all still exist today, except … You guessed it the Corinthian church, kinda have to wonder why. Maybe the Cornithian church was God’s object lesson to the whole church? When it served its purpose and probably became even more degenerate it simply collapsed from the weight of “Christian” pretense and just run of the mill sin.
It is a great object lesson in terms of what they-then and the American culture today refers to as “love”. This reading starts with Paul saying “And I will show you a more excellent way.” (1Cor 12:31b) Since we only read “B” part of verse 31, we miss the “A” part that says “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” Preach it Paul! The higher, greater, satisfying, honorable, genuine love and trust! Praise God! Paul does what comes to us as one of the most compelling, instructive, passages of Scripture, what love is and does and what “love” is not and does not! What is often referred to as the “Love Chapter” of Scripture. Love is a hot topic today, what it is and what it’s not. Too often we have a culture that sees “love” as enabling, debauched, indulgent, permissive, not really love, but plain simple sin called love in order to make it nice. A culture that likes to pat the church on the head and say “you go take care of poor people, and the elderly and we will decide what “love” really is. It’s been the same through history, when the culture decides what “love” is, it always comes out as decadence. The Corinthian culture was all about decadence, calling it love. This seems to have spread through the Roman culture. The Roman culture was once strong, sensible, responsible, serious enough to conquer the world. Much of our law today is based on Roman law. Rome had a very capable government, a legal system that was amazing for its time. A culture, economy, strength and integrity, that wasn’t Christian, but was still admirable. All that came crashing down after hundreds of years under the weight of the decadence that we see a microcosm of in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Frankly, very much of what we see in today’s culture. I’m not opening a debate on abortion, but right now we have people look you in the face and say it’s loving to abort a child at birth! The Roman’s had their own abortion debate, they’d leave babies exposed in the forest or hills to die. Christians would rescue those children.
The Greek word used by St Paul is avga,ph there are four words in Koine Greek that are translated into the English word for love. The word love in English is often understood to be anything for lust, covetousness, familiarity to altruism. The Greek word means altruism. Dr J Vernon McGee’s definition: “…the highest word for love in the New Testament and means ‘divine love’. It is more than love in the emotion; it is love in the will. It is love that chooses its object. It is a definition of God, for God is love.”
What is the opposite of love? … no it’s not hate. When you think about it, hate requires some genuine passion, you have feelings for the object of your hate. They may not be edifying feelings, but it takes work to hate. I’ve always said I really don’t hate anyone, as much as the current culture would like to live in its delusion and paint someone like me as the hater. I’ve seen hate from secular-humanists and wow! It would just take too much energy and I have genuine, important things to do. Being just ugly, nasty, really evil? I can’t rise to that.
The opposite of love is “indifference”. and that is really what today’s society is about. “I really don’t care what you do, so therefore I love you????” You want to be about love, use the discernment that God gives us. Take the time to genuinely figure it out, what is really going on and what is really necessary, not just “whatever! Do whatever you like”. That’s not love, that’s indifference and that is so much more negative and destructive in the long run! Hate destroys right now. Indifference is corrosive, negative, ugly. Don’t care it’s your problem, you deal with it. Make yourself into whatever you want, and when you find how destructive it is, hey, don’t come running to me. This is what we try to protect against in the culture, immature minds telling us what they want. I saw this on the FaceBook page of a person, what is the creed of the culture: “Love me without restriction, trust me without fear, want me without demand, and accept me for who I am.” That is a rhetorically null, translates into “leave me alone unless I want something from you” that’s what today’s society is about. When do we run out of the people who will be there to pick up the pieces, who will just stop caring?
The culture reads this part of the Bible and claims: “Paul said love is the greatest of all, and this is how I define love, so therefore, it’s all about me and how I love.” No! First, you don’t understand the definition of the word Paul is actually using. Second, you don’t understand the context. Hey why go to all that trouble, the world would say, just do it my way, why do you care anyway? Ya, I do, because what you’re selling is so destructive.
Faith and hope are imperfect. Why? In the eternal resurrection, will faith and hope be necessary? No. When we are in the perfected world God has restored, there is no need to look toward anything in faith and hope, it is right there for us. What is the one thing that will remain, that is eternal? Love! We will be in the presence of love. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Philip Melanchthon writes: “Faith and hope have to do only with God. But love has infinite offices outwardly toward humanity.” I’d say God’s pretty important, so faith and hope are important. But love is eternal, in that respect it is the greatest. But for us today, we have to not only communicate love, but the hope and promise that we have in Christ in order to realize that eternal love with Him in the eternal resurrection, that is only for those who are in Jesus.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin
 Dr J Vernon McGee “Thru the Bible Commentary series The Epistles First Corinthians” p 152
 Philip Melanchthon “Apology of the Augsburg Confession” (Ap V 105)