The Feast of St. Andrew, the First of the Apostles

St. Andrew

The beginning of Advent marks the beginning of the Church Year for the vast majority of Christendom that follows the cycle and seasons of the Church Year centered on the lectionary.  With the beginning of the Church Year, it is fitting that the first Feast day of the year belongs to St. Andrew the Apostle, brother of Simon Peter.

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist before being called by Jesus.  It is possible that he witnessed the baptism of our Lord in the River Jordan, and was there drawn to the presence of God in the flesh by the witness of the Father and the Spirit.   It was he who brought Peter to see Jesus, and they were later called as the fishermen, to leave their nets, and everything behind to follow Jesus.

Andrew was named one of the twelve Apostles by Christ.  In the lists of the Apostles, he is among the first four mentioned.  Not much is known about his work and mission following Christ’s ascension.  Andrew is generally thought to have died a martyr’s death on an X shaped cross.  Hence, the symbol of St. Andrew is an X shaped cross on a field of blue.   His death is said to have taken place during the reign of Nero on November 30, 60 A. D. in Patras, Geece. 

There is some controversy over the remains of St. Andrew.  In 357 A. D., Andrew’s remains were said to have been moved from Patras to the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople, where they remained until the thirteenth century when the French took Constantinople.  Cardinal Capua moved the remains of Andrew to the cathedral of Amalfi in Italy.  The Scots on the other hand claim that the bones of St. Andrew are bones are in Scotland.  In any event, a Greek monk at Patras, St. Regulus, or Rule as he is commonly known, and keeper of the relics of St. Andrew at Patras, is said to have received a vision to move the relics including the bones of St. Andrew to Scotland c. 732.  Another story has the Bishop of Hexham, a collector of relics, removing the bones from Greece to Scotland around the same time.  The church of St. Rule, and eventually the cathedral of St. Andrew were built and were said to have housed the remains of the Apostle until the time of the Reformation when they were said to have been destroyed by Calvinists.  Of course, St. Andrew, Scotland is now famous for its golf course. 

All that aside — it makes for a interesting history lesson — what we do know for sure is that Andrew was the first Apostle called by Christ, and the entire Church, both East and West, celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30 each year.  It is a small symbol of unity that binds the church together at the begining of the Church Year. 

Commemoration of Noah

Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20). Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would.   From LCMS Commemoration Biographies, Noah.

It is fitting that Noah is remembered in the first week of Advent.  John the Baptizer prepared the way for our Lord and was the voice crying in the wilderness.  It was Noah, however, and the eight (8) people in his boat that foreshadowed our baptism, and the baptism of Christ.  It is tied to the covenant with Abraham marked by circumcision.  All male children were circumcised on the eighth (8th) day of they are lives.  Christ, the firstborn to Mary and Joseph was presented at the Temple on the eighth (8th) day of His earthly life.  Baptism now circumcises our hearts and marks us as ones redeemed by the precious body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Baptismal fonts in the early church, and in many churches today have eight (8) sides to them, tying this sacrament all the way back to Noah and the flood.

Isaac and Rebecca, Sunday School Lesson, November 28, 2010

Eliezer and Rebecca at the well
Image via Wikipedia

This week our children will continue with the Old Testament story of Isaac and Rebecca.  God continues to work out His plan of salvation in the story of these two persons.  We find that Abraham sends his servant to his own people, far away to find a wife for his son, Isaac.   “LORD,” when used in uppercase, refers to the personal name of God.  It is used many, many times in this story, and holds a central place for Abraham and his people in their daily lives and in their worship.   This is not just another arranged marriage.

Click here to listen to the Issues, Etc. weekly interview with Deaconess Pam Nielson for insight into this week’s lesson.

The Lord’s Supper — How Should we Treat the Consecrated Elements?

An interesting Post from Pastor Peters at Grace Lutheran in Clarksville, TN. It dovetails quite nicely with our discussion on the Lord’s Supper and close communion. The main thrust of the post is thinking about how we ought to treat the consecrated elements of the Sacrament. What should you do if there is a spill? What happens to what is left over? What should I do if I drop the host? And what about all those individual cups — do we just throw them out? Just as we need to consider why we practice close communion, we need to consider how we approach and handle the consecrated elements in the Sacrament. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi — How we pray or how we worship, reflects how we believe.

Our Practice Consistent with our Faith

Abraham and Isaac, Sunday School Lesson, November 21, 2010

Abraham and Isaac (detail), 1645, by Rembrandt...
Image via Wikipedia

God promised Sarah and Abraham a son, a real son of their own.  Sarah was old and barren, yet God provided.  Isaac was the son born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. This week, God asks something of Abraham.  A sacrifice.  As they walk up the mountain, Isaac asks his father where the sacrifice may be.  Abraham replies in faith, “God will provide.”  Click here to listen to this week’s interview with Deaconess Pam Nielson of Concordia Publishing House on Issues, etc.

Lutheran Missions in Africa

Here is an update from Reverend Fisk’s blog on the work of Rev. James May in Africa under the auspices of Lutherans in Africa.  African missions need our support as Christians on that continent suffer terrible persecutions including mass killings and genocide simply for being Christians.  Religious chaos runs rampant, and many parts of the country are under siege from proponents of the prosperity Gospel and Left Behind theology.  There are seminaries training pastors in Africa in the Sudan, Togo, and Sierra Leone.  All need our support.  There are also precious few Lutheran resources available to the people, including Bibles and hymnals.  Lutherans in Africa notes the following particular needs for these areas of Africa:

East Africa
ESV English catechisms with questions and answers
There are still many languages into which we have yet to translate the catechism but they do understand a good deal of English (at least among the educated).  LHF does not have permission to print the catechism into English

The Lutheran Study Bible
Few Lutheran pastors in Africa have even one biblical commentary.  It would be a great blessing for then to get a study bible with notes covering all of scripture.  How can they study and prepare good sermons without any resources for study?

Theological books for the mission library and research center.  Because books are so expensive to buy and ship over, most Lutheran pastors have no access to commentaries, dogmatic books, historical books, etc.  If you have new or used books that you could donate or if you would like to support shipping some books over, that would be very helpful.  We would like to offer a place to research and study in addition to our seminars.

West Africa (French speaking)
The new French hymnal published by Concordia
Very few of the Lutheran churches in French speaking West Africa have ever seen a Lutheran hymnal.  As a result most now only know praise songs and are unaware of rich Lutheran hymnody.  Now that a new hymnal has been produced in French we have been distributing these so Lutherans can see the difference between Lutheran hymns and praise songs.  The interest is very large after the recent conference held in Togo.

Togo Seminary
Clergy shirts
There are currently 22 students at the seminary in Togo.  It is not possible to get the clergy shirts in Togo and they would make great graduation gifts.  There will be a graduation class in June 18, 2011.  All sizes are needs.  The seminary students are all different heights.  The average would be around 5’8”.  The average neck size would be 16”.  Nevertheless all sizes are needed.  Please consider donating used or new clergy shirts.

Liturgical Stoles
If there is ladies’ group that could make stoles for them, that would be great. Red on one side green on the other.  They are expensive to buy but can be made for a much more reasonable price.

The Lutheran Heritage Foundation is sponsoring a hymnal for families project in Kenya.  They can produce a hymnal in Kenya for a cost of only $5 ($10 to publish it in the Kisii language)! The cost for producing Luther’s Small Catechism is the same.  A list of the cost for publishing some Lutheran resources in other parts of Africa can be found here:  LHF Missions, Adopt a Project.

Consider supporting these mission projects.  Information on each and where to send donations can be found by clicking on each link.

Abraham’s Heavenly Visitors — Sunday School Lesson, November 14, 2010

This week, Abraham receives three heavenly visitors who tell him that Sarah will have a child.  Sarah laughs, but learns that God’s covenants and promises are no laughing matter.  Click here to listen to the Issues Etc. interview with Deaconess Pam Nielson of Concordia Publishing House discuss preparing this lesson for Sunday.

Commemoration of Martin Chemnitz, the Second Martin of Lutheran Orthodoxy

Today the Lutheran Church commemorates one of the great fathers of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Martin Chemnitz (1522–1586) is regarded after Martin Luther as the most important theologian in the history of the Lutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the church fathers with a genuine love for the church.  When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of the Scriptures and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565–1573), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient church fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession.  A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church.

In light of our study of the Lord’s Supper in Mark, the following are some comments from Chemnitz on the Eucharist: Continue Reading

From the Didache on the Eucharist

The Didache is one of the earliest known manuscripts of Christianity dating to between 70 and 120 AD.  It is more commonly known as the Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.  It is broken into two parts — (1) instruction about the two ways, and (2) a manual of Church order and practice.  Here is what it has to say about the early church’s practice in Holy Communion:

Chapter 9. The Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:

We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..

And concerning the broken bread:

We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”

Chapter 10. Prayer after Communion. But after you are filled, give thanks this way:

We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name’s sake; You gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us You didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. Before all things we thank Thee that You are mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.

But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.

Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day. But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.”

Read the whole document at