This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.
The above paragraph comes from a lengthy defense Martin Luther made on April 18, 1521 at the Diet of Worms. Besides church officials, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, was also present. The pope had issued a Bull of Excommunication on January 3. Luther traveled from Wittenberg to Worms under a letter of safe conduct. Along the way he had preached to overflowing crowds at churches and upon arriving in Worms on April 16, he received a tumultuous welcome. When he left on the 21st, he was forbidden to preach on his return trip. However, his supporters staged a kidnapping and took Luther to Wartburg castle for his safety.
Since Luther had refused to recant anything unless shown his error on the basis of Scriptures, on May 26 Charles V declared Luther an outlaw. Luther was now under indictment by both the Church and the civil authority.
Today we remember Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:13-9.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered on behalf of the disciples, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter (petros) and upon this Rock (petra) I will build my church.” This is foundation on which God builds his church, the apostles and prophets, which includes Peter. But the Rock that holds it all together is the Stone which has been rejected by many, but God has made the cornerstone, even Christ Jesus.
In his first letter, Peter made another confession regarding baptism. In comparing baptism to Noah and the ark, he wrote, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels and authorities, and powers having been subject to him.”
Prayer: We give thanks Lord, that You have fitted us into the Your household in which we live in a temple solidly built on the Rock who is our Savior, a place where we find solid footing even when temples built of stone are shaking.
The last couple days I’ve noticed a squirrel outside the window digging through the fallen oak leaves. This morning he found an acorn and ate it up on the spot.
In the gospel lesson (John 1:45-51), Nathaniel, despite his sarcastic remark about Nazareth, came with Philip to Jesus. Jesus didn’t take umbrage his insult. Jesus saw someone who was honest about what he said. But Jesus also saw someone looking. He had seen him under the fig tree, a figure of speech for studying. When Nathaniel saw and heard Jesus, he knew he had found his acorn. “Teacher, you are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel.”
Jesus is the acorn of our faith. Our hope is in Jesus, not Jesus plus a political figure or movement. It’s Jesus, not Jesus plus several “spiritual” options. It’s Jesus and not Jesus plus my values. It’s Jesus and not Jesus plus my preferred “style” of worship.
As LSB Hymn 533. 1 sings, It’s Jesus “who has come and brings pleasure eternal, Alpha Omega, Beginning and End; God-head, humanity union supernal O great Redeemer, you come as our friend.”
It’s Jesus and thus we sing, “God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ.”
In Jesus, we discern the world, that we might invite Nathaniel to come and see, Jesus. He’s all we got, and that’s more than enough. Jesus, the acorn of our faith.
A couple of early psalms ask some tough questions of God. Ps. 10, “Why, O Lord, do you stand afar off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Ps. 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever…How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day?” Ps. 74, “Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?”
The wonder of the psalms is that they give us permission to have such thoughts and questions for and about God. Ask away, God can take it.
After we have vented about God’s absence or lack of care, a good place to go is Psalm 139. “O Lord you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” The psalm continues, even before I speak a word you know what I’m going to say. If I choose to run away, there is no place in which God is not whether in heaven or in the pit of Sheol, whether I fly away in the morning or dive to the deepest part of the sea. “Even darkness is not dark…the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
The Lord has known me since I was a zygote, sperm and egg uniting to form who I am.
Go ahead, ask God tough questions. But keep psalm 139 near at hand.
“Speak, for your servant hears,” so ends the OT reading for this morning (I Samuel 3:1-10). When I received my call, after eight years of preparation, I had no idea where Becky and I would be going. Turns out it was to St. Martin’s in Winona, MN. However, Samuel didn’t know the word of the Lord.
The Lord’s word to him that night is not exactly what one would expect. His call was to his home congregation, the temple at Shiloh. The Lord said, “I am going to do something in Israel that will make people’s ears ring.” Sounds exciting? Well, think again. The Lord is about to wipe out Eli’s whole family.
Eli had heard that his two sons had been sexually assaulting the women who served in the temple. He spoke with them, but they blew him off. Hophni and Phinehas were also bullying worshipers. They took the best part of the sacrifice first for their own dining pleasure. Samuel’s first assignment was to tell Eli about the destruction of his family.
Now with some trepidation in the pit of my stomach, I’ve had to preach a few, not many, tough sermons to a congregation. 3:19 has this promise, “The Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”
We’ve all had those nights when our minds won’t shut down and allow us to get to sleep, or we wake up and wonder about some stupid thing that our mind dug up for us to ponder in the middle of the night.
In the Old Testament lesson for Sunday, I Samuel 3:1-10, neither the young man Samuel nor the old priest Eli get much sleep. The guilty part is the Lord. We are told that the word of the Lord was rare in those days as were visions. So, the Lord decided to correct that problem in the middle of the night. The Lord seems to like to work the night shift. Consider Jacob, or his son Joseph who dreamed dreams, to say nothing of Joseph, Jesus caretaker/father. We dare not forget those shepherds blasted awake by the heavenly host with their birth announcement.
In our lesson Eli and Samuel are sleeping in the temple at Shiloh, when Samuel heard a voice calling his name. “Here I am,” he answered. He thought Eli, who was mostly blind, needed something. Three times this happened. Finally, Eli figured it out it was the Lord. He instructed Samuel how to answer.
The fourth time, the Lord came and stood by Samuel and called him. Samuel answered as Eli had instructed him, “Speak, lord your servant hears.”
That’s a good prayer for us, to pay attention when the word is read in worship instead of looking around to see who is at church.
I’m going to try to get some sleep now.
Cappadocia was an area in what is now central Turkey. In the later 300’s two brothers, Basil and Gregory, their sister Macrina and a friend Gregory of Nazianzus, came out of this area to become among the most influential teachers and theologians of their time.
Basil the Great, on Holy Communion: “For myself, I communicate four times a week…In Alexandria and Egypt it is the general rule for each member of the laity to keep communion at his own house. “He…is bound to believe that he rightly partakes of it and receives it from him who gave it.”
Gregory of Nyssa wrote concerning baptism: “Since the death of him who leads us to life involved burial under the earth. So, everyone who is linked to him and fixes his eyes on the same victory has water poured on him, instead of earth, and thus represents the grace of resurrection attained after three days.”
Macrina: When her fiancé died she devoted herself to pursuing Christian perfection, leading a community dedicated to ascetic meditation and prayer.
Gregory of Nazianzus, was sent to Constantinople to preach on behalf of the Orthodox faith. Regarding infant baptism: “Let him be sanctified from babyhood, and consecrated by the Spirit in his tender years. You have no need of charms or spells. Give your child the powerful and lovely amulet of the Trinity,”
A vicar preached on the Baptism of our Lord, relating the planting of the flag on Iwo Jima during WWII to baptism. The flag was planted on the highest point of the island only four days into the battle. But the battle would go on for a month before the island was secured.
In baptism, God planted the flag of the Holy Spirit in our rocky hearts claiming us as his own. However, being baptized into Christ does not mean the battle is over. The Old Evil Foe still wages war, holes up in a cavity of our life which we withhold when confessing our sins, or some protected area where we refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into a new way of living.
Jesus himself is an example of that struggle. Though baptized, blessed by the father and equipped with the Spirit, he was immediately thrust into the wilderness where for forty days he was tempted by Satan.
In the wilderness, God sent his angels to minister to him. These were the heavenly host who sang “Glory!” at Jesus birth. God gives his own heavenly host to minster to us in the battle for our hearts where he has planted his flag in our baptism.
In the late 300’s a woman named Egeria took a tour of biblical sites. She left an extensive journal.
The eight-day Epiphany celebration in Palestine began in Bethlehem. Monks and others walked slowly to Jerusalem arriving just before daybreak. They went to the Anastasis (resurrection) which was lit by numerous lights. The service included psalms and prayer. The bishop blessed the catechumens, the monks and worshippers. Then everyone went home to rest, while the monks remained to recite hymns. An hour after sunrise everyone gathered at the greater church located at Golgotha which was built by Constantine and adorned by his mother with gold and gems with veils of gold striped silk.
The service included preaching, lessons, and hymns. Then everyone went to the Anastasis (resurrection) for another service that lasted until about noon. The second and third days followed the same pattern. On the fourth day the Mt. of Olives was included. On day five they walked 1,500 paces outside Jerusalem to the site of Lazarus resurrection. Zion was included on the sixth day. Then back to the Anastasis for the seventh day. The festival included the place of the Cross on the eighth day.
Egeria reported that immense crowds flocked together to Jerusalem for the concluding day of the festival.
To You, O Lord, all glory be
For this Your blest epiphany;
To God, whom all His hosts adore,
And Holy Spirit evermore. LSB 401, 6
Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe
Wilhelm Loehe became a pastor in a small village of Neuendettelsau, Germany.
The first four pastors at Holy Cross in Collinsville, Il, from 1848 to 1900, were trained by Loehe. The chapel at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa is named in his honor. His name is on the wall of the library of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, along with one of his students, Frederick Lochner, first pastor at Holy Cross.
Loehe founded the Neuendettelsau Foreign Mission Society where he trained and sent pastors, to North America, Australia, Brazil, New Guinea and the Ukraine. He founded a deaconess training house and homes for the aged. He helped establish a seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana and a teacher’s college in Saginaw, Michigan.
He developed a service in which catechumens were questioned weekly on Luther’s Small Catechism. Holy Cross, Collinsville used the service until the early 20th century. The service of Prayer and Preaching in LSB, pp. 260-267, follows the same pattern.
Loehe never moved to a larger congregation. He died in 1872, having had a significant impact on the church worldwide.