Feast of St. Matthias the Apostle

Saint Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot as...
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Today marks the remembrance of St. Matthias, the Apostle in the church.  According to Luke, Matthias was with Jesus and the apostles throughout His ministry from the Baptism of Christ by John, through the Ascension of our Lord.  Matthias was chosen to replace Judas after he hanged himself.

Not much is known about Matthias beyond Luke’s account of his being numbered among the twelve.  Tradition holds that he preached the Gospel in Judea and then went on to Ethiopia.  He has also been placed in Armenia and Colchis in Asia Minor.  It is not known where or how Matthias died, although there is speculation that he was crucified, or stoned in Jerusalem.  It is said that St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, brought Matthias’ bones from Jerusalem to Rome.   They are said to have made their way to Trier where they are stored in the Church of Matthias.

Source:  Catholic Encyclopedia.

Ananias Cares for Saul — Sunday School Lesson, February 27, 2011

St Ananias Church on the Biblical Street Calle...
The Chapel of Ananias, on the Street Called Straight in Damascus

In the days after Christ ascended to heaven, the church was persecuted.  One of its great persecutors was Saul of Tarsus.  He is a pharisee of pharisees, born of the tribe of Benjamin.  He learned at the feet of the great teacher Gamaliel.  He was present and held the coats of the stone throwers at the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr.  Saul’s hatred of the followers of the Way was so great, that he sought out letters from the High Priest permitting him to go to the synagogues of Damascus and bring them gagged and bound to Jerusalem.  But as always, our Lord intervenes, and comes to Saul in a most unexpected way, blinding him as he makes his way to Damascus.


Ananias Restoring Paul's Sight, Outside the Chapel of St. Ananias in Damascus

After Paul is confronted on the road to Damascus by the risen and ascended Lord Christ, he is sent on to Damascus where he is blind for three days, and neither eats nor drinks.  It is then that a Disciple named Ananias comes to him, being called by Christ to do so.  Ananias is reluctant to do so at first, having heard of Saul’s infamy.  Yet our Lord tells him that this murderer is His chosen instrument to bring the Gospel to the gentiles.


Click here to listen this week’s lesson from Deaconess Pam Nielson at Concordia Publishing House from her interview on Issues, etc.

What’s a Gesima? The Church Prepares for Lent | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog

I always wondered what the “gesima” Sundays were in the lectionary:  Septua- Sexa- and Quinqagesima.  Obscure Latin terms referring to the number of days before Easter.  Today was Septuagesima Sunday, meaning 70 days before Easter, or another 30 before the beginning of Lent and our period of fasting and repentance.  Thanks to Pr. PT McCain at Cyberbrethren.  Click the link to get the full story.  What’s a Gesima? The Church Prepares for Lent | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.

Love is in the Air? How about Love and Caring — Commemoration of St. Valentine, Martyr

A physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Claudius, Valentine become one of the noted martyrs of the third century. The commemoration of his death, which occurred in the year 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the early church of the West.   Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, he left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper.   This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine’s Day in many nations.  See LCMS Commemoration Biographies.

Val entine was also said to have been arrested for aiding persecuted Christians in the Third Century which included marrying young Christian couples.  Tradition holdsthat Valentine was executed on February 14.  See Catholic Online for more information, which, by the way, is the source for the Saint Fun Facts above.

This Valentine’s Day, do a little more than just kiss your husband or wife — show someone you care for their wellbeing and do something nice — a random act of kindness!


Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Nazi Germany: New Biography on the Life of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1932)
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February 7, 2011 marked the 56th anniversary of the date on which Lutheran Pastor,Dieterich Bonhoeffer, was transferred to Buchenwald Concentration Camp where he was hanged three (3) months later, just three (3) days before the camp was liberated.  A new biography by Eric Metaxas, author of Amazing Grace, renews the spotlight on Bonhoeffer and his life and times.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Nazi Germany video: Eric Metaxas – Christian foundations – Christianity.com.

Near the beginning of World War II, Bonhoeffer found himself an exile in America for speaking out against Hitler and the Nazi regime.  Rather than stay in the safety of the then neutral country, Bonhoeffer returned to his homeland and continued to preach and speak out against the Nazi atrocities.  He aided the underground resistance as well, helping Jews to safety.  He was also involved in a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler.

Because of his actions as a member of the clergy during World War II, Bonhoeffer is often cited as an exemplar of social justice programs and as a proponent of the social gospel.  He is also held up as an “authentic disciple” or an “authentic Christian” or, rather, an “authentic Christ follower” whom we should emulate and follow.  However, just as the Gospel cannot be reduced to a “social gospel” or a “prosperity gospel” or a “_______ gospel,” neither can Bonhoeffer’s life and writings be reduced in such a manner either (The terms “authentic” and “Christ follower” are often used by advocates of the post-modern-emerging-church-rejection of the traditional-orthodox-church-worship-life to justify a search for a church and/or community that fills the needs of the individual Christian in a real way that church as it has been for 2000+ years somehow can no longer do).  He was an orthodox Lutheran theologian whose contributions to the church in the Lutheran tradition and, ecumenically, in the entire Body of Christ go beyond his writings on Ethics, and the Cost of Discipleship and his choice to participate in the assassination of an evil dictator.   A cursory examination of his writings reveals that there was more that motivated the man than the writings and actions by which he is most well known.   Bonhoeffer’s life was characterized by Christ — Christ at the Center, and a realization that our lives are more than just you and me as individuals.  For our lives encompass, as Bonhoeffer often stressed, our life TOGETHER as Christians not just as individual disciples of Christ, but as members of the larger Body of Christ.   Ethics and The Cost of Discipleship may be his most well known books, but both must be read in context with his other writings on the church — Communio Sanctorum (Communion of Saints) and Life together.  It is within this context and tradition that Bonhoeffer’s life and contributions to the catholic Church must be examined.

Raising Children in a Sensual Society — Lutheran Witness

Raising Children in a Sensual Society

Got Children?  Do they have cell phones, iPods, iPads, unfettered internet access, computers in their bedrooms, laptops provided by you or their school?  Then this article from the February Edition of the Lutheran Witness is a MUST READ.

In an interconnected society, we are suprisingly disconnected from one another, especially parents and children.  Technology drives much of what we do, and it is all certainly useful and, if used properly, helpful.  However, we as parents are charged by God with the responsibility of rearing our children.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Just as schools stand in the shoes of parents while children are in their care and custody, we stand in the shoes of God as stewards of the lives of these young heirs to the Kingdom, raising the next generation of disciples.  To carry out our charge responsibly, we must constantly talk with our children, teaching them, creating a relationship of trust and respect, centered on the things of God.  As the Moses tells us, the Word of God is the most essential component of our relationship with our children and with one another.  Passing on our faith, and the lives of our children and our lives centered on Christ is what we are called to do as faithful parents.  But, as the article notes, our children and our families are constantly under attack by the Devil where he uses the blessings of technology to divide families, fill our hearts and minds with sensual and graphic images celebrating the sexuality and sensuality of the CREATURE, to keep our hearts and minds from the CREATOR.  The temptations are great, and Christians are not immune.  They are subtle, in the form of small adds across a youtube video, or a picture ad on a webpage.  One click can open the door to a secret world of porn, interaction with strangers, and access to ideas and things that undermine the very values parents are trying to instill in their children.

In our churches and in our Christian schools we have long been told, “We are all Christians here, we have nothing to worry about!”  Think again.  Kober tells us that this technology seeks us out where we are.  It reaches into our homes, our cellphones, and has the capacity to reach us wherever we are.  So for our children, this becomes more alarming because it can reach them in the middle of church, or on a youth servant event, or while they are in school.  One only has to look around while driving down the road at how distracted drivers are by the information they are receiving on these devices.

These are certainly troubled times for us, as the DEVIL is working double shifts to turn us from the salvation we have in Christ.  We are called to be faithful, to do mercy, love justice, and walk humbly with our God.  If we are not connected with our children, we cannot teach them to do any of these things.  If we allow Satan access through technology into our homes, we are not being faithful stewards of this tremendous gift that God has given charge over us, our children.  Make no mistake, Satan is alive and well, and working ever so hard to turn our children and us away from God.  Be on guard and be faithful and take care of those children.

Raising Children in a Sensual Society

The Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple

Simeon's song of praise.
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Today marks the commemoration of the Purification of Mary and the presentation of our Lord at the Temple.  Mary and Joseph were faithful and remained faithful to the requirements set forth by God in the Law of Moses.  Thirty days after childbirth, Mary presented herself to the priests at the Temple to receive purification according to the Law.  Joseph, the quiet, faithful father was there as head of the household and to fulfill the obligations of the Law for his family.

There was no fanfare, just a humble walk with God into the Temple.  Mary and Joseph drew no attention to themselves.  Their sacrifice was modest, the sacrifice of those who could not afford a lamb.  In fact, the story soon turned to the infant Savior, the Lamb of God, who, according to the Law of Moses, was presented at the Temple to be consecrated to God and to be redeemed (see Exodus 34).

Simeon, a righteous man as Luke tells us, had been told that he would not depart this earth, until he had seen our Lord’s Christ.  The firstborn consecrated to God was now home in the Temple, and Simeon proclaimed the truth of who Christ is, in one of the best known songs of the church, the Nunc Dimittis (Now Dismiss).  What a peace and joy that comes from the revelation of God’s salvation in Christ.  And to confirm that this treasure is for all humanity,  God revealed this salvation to Anna, a woman.  She too spoke of the redemption of Israel to all who would listen.  Luke tells the story better than I:

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.  And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.