Category Archives: Pentecost or the Time of the Church
Thanksgiving Day Prayer
Heavenly Father, Giver of all things, we give You thanks on this day for the countless blessings You have so freely bestowed on us and all people. Blessed are You for this wondrous world, for its beauty and bounty. Blessed are You for the good gifts of harvest. Blessed are You for food and drink, for clothing and shoes, for warmth and shelter, for house and home, for family and friends. Blessed are You for every smile of a child and every kindness that is shown. Blessed are You.
But of all the gifts You have given us, none can begin to compare with that boundless love You showed when we were in so bad a state that nothing but death and eternal damnation awaited us and no creature in heaven or on earth could help us. Then You sent forth Your Only begotten Son, who is of the same divine nature as Yourself, caused Him to be born for us of the Blessed Virgin Mary, laid on Him all our sin, giving Him into death that we might not die eternally. You raised Him from the dead and seated Him, our brother, at Your Right hand, where He never ceases to plead on our behalf, and from whence He will come again in glory. Blessed are You for the gift of forgiveness, life and salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Blessed are You!
And that we might never forget this boundless love of Yours, You give us even more. You have sent us Your Spirit that we may know You, trust in You, and rejoice in our Savior. You have poured into us Your Spirit as the pledge and down payment of the redemption that will be ours on the day of our Lord’s return. You offer us a share in Your Spirit’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control; and He never ceases to pray within us and to ask for us all good things from You.
Nor do Your good gifts stop there, for You have brought us into the fellowship of Your Church. You have surrounded us with sisters and brothers in Christ to help bear our burdens and be our joyful companions as we journey to Your eternal home. You give us new birth in Baptism. You restore us from our sin in Holy Absolution. You set a table before us in the Holy Eucharist that we might triumph over our foes through Your saving gifts.
O merciful Master, You made us from nothing and when we had fallen You did not cease to do all things until You had raised us up again and bestowed upon us the Kingdom which is to come.
Blessed are You, King of all goodness! Blessed are You for such unimaginable love and pity! Blessed are You, Lover of Mankind! Receive today our thanks and praise for all Your goodness; pardon us for the times we have been blind to Your gifts; remember all who cry to You in this hour for Your mercy, and bring us all to share in the Feast that has no end. We offer to You these prayers and praises in the name of Your beloved Son and in the communion of Your life-giving Spirit, to whom be all glory, now and to the ages of ages.
Today the Church remembers the writer of the first Gospel, Matthew, the tax collector. Mark identifies him as Levi, the son of Alphaeus. Mar 2:14. Jesus was by the sea of Galilee, teaching the crowds when He passed by a tax booth. He said to Matthew, “Follow me,” and, he rose and followed Jesus. Matthew tells us in his Gospel account that it was near Capernaum where this took place, just after Jesus had healed a paralytic after coming into town. Matthew 9:1, 9 (see also 4:13 — Jesus went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, after John was arrested). Matthew worked for Herod Antipas, but collaborated with the Romans as well, and so was not well liked by his countrymen. Matthew’s response to the call of Christ was immediate and unquestioned — he rose, left his post, and followed Jesus, his Lord and Master. Jesus then ate with Matthew at his house, along with many other tax collectors and sinners. Luke tells us that Matthew made a great feast, and there was a great crowd. The scribes and pharisees criticized Jesus for associating with tax collectors and sinners — tax collectors were in a special class all by themselves. Jesus told them that, “[t]hose who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32. Mark and Luke’s Gospel agree. Matthew adds that Jesus told the pharisees to “[g]o and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice…”” quoting Hosea 6:6.
In the early days of the church, the four Evangelists were associated with the four living creatures around the throne of God noted in Ezekiel 14, and Revelation 4. Matthew is traditionally associated with the human/angelic figure; Mark the Lion; Luke the Ox/Bull; John the Eagle. This association has come down through the ages in some beautiful art in the churches and cathedrals of the world. How each apostle became associated with each creature is not clear. It seems that, for some, the connection is based on how each Gospel starts. Matthew begins: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The genealogy then runs through the course of the human patriarchs through the line of King David to Joseph, the husband of Mary. Matthew 1:1-8. Thus Matthew is associated with the humanity of Jesus. Luke’s Gospel starts with the priesthood of Zechariah the priest offering incense, the prayers of the people, in the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, his Gospel is associated with priestly duties symbolized by the bull or ox of sacrifice. Under this theory, Mark is the Lion because his Gospel begins with John the Baptist in the desert. John of course soars above all, and his lofty themes of divine things gives him the spiritual wings of the Eagle. A brief outline of this theory can be found in Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 11, Irenaues of Lyons, AnteNicene Fathers, ed. Phillip Schaff. Others examined the theme of each Gospel and drew different conclusions for Mark and Matthew and switched the living creature with which they were associated.
Not much else is known about Matthew outside of his work as the author of the Gospel bearing his name. Matthew is thought to have preached the Gospel to his own people before going out into the ends of the earth. Some of the places mentioned where Matthew may have traveled spreading the Gospel are Syria, Macedonia, Persia, and to an area just south of the Caspian Sea. Even less is known about the manner of his death, whether it was as a martyr or the blessings of old age. Regardless, in Matthew, Christ gives mercy and shows how the low are lifted up by the righteousness of Christ. In turn, the Spirit is breathed upon St. Matthew, and we are given the gift of the eternal Gospel by the pen of his hand through the working of the Holy Spirit.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 marks the celebration of Holy Cross Day in the church. Sadly, across Christendom, we are abandoning our symbols and reinventing ourselves so as not to offend those outside the church. Campus Crusade for Christ dropped “Christ” from its name because research showed that 9% of Christians and 20% of non-Christians were offended or alienated by the name of Christ. His NAME was getting in the way of accomplishing their mission. Christ Community Church in Spring Lake Michigan removed its cross and changed its name to C3 Exchange to be more inclusive. Click here to read the story and see the video of the cross being removed. The cross, according to C3’s pastor, has become a negative symbol for people. He compared to the church’s use of the cross to remember the work of Christ akin to using a bullet to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. A British church removed a 10 foot tall crucifix from the outside of its building a couple of years ago because it was scaring young children. It was considered a horrifying depiction of pain and suffering and putting people off. You can read the story here.
It used to be that we proudly displayed the symbols of our Faith. Often these symbols draw us closer to the Faith and the story of the cross. That is how the Feast of the Holy Cross began for the church. It is traced back to Helena, mother of Constantine the Great who made it safe and legal to be a Christian in the Roman Empire. His mother was a devout Christian. Around 320 A. D., Helena made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to recover the holy sites of Christendom. She began an excavation around the site of what she believed to be the tomb of Christ. It was rumored that the true cross had been buried in a ditch. One of the few people who are said to have known exactly where the cross was buried, a man named Judas, coincidentally, was inspired to point the location out to Helena. Not one, but three crosses were found in the excavation. Pilate’s inscription was not on any of the crosses. To determine the true cross, people who were sick were brought to the crosses to touch them. It is said that when they touched what was believed to be the true cross, they were made well. One report states that a dead man was brought back to life. Upon this discovery, Helena commissioned the construction of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, which stands in that spot to this day. Holy Cross Day was instituted as a Feast Day in the church to commemorate the dedication of the Holy Sepulchre which is said to have occurred on September 14, 335 A. D.
There was a time during the course of Christian history when our symbols, our heritage inspired us to do great things. They moved Helena to find the holy spots where Christ walked and lived and mark them for all time. To this day what she did lives on and provides us with the opportunity to visit places where God Himself incarnate walked the earth, where He lived, and where He died. Certainly, pious superstitions and cult like rituals and observances grew up around the stories of our holy symbols and have littered the path through time. Yet there is fact that anchors these stories, and makes them timeless. That fact is the fulcrum around which all of human history turns: Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, became flesh and blood like you and me, lived on this earth, died on a cross, and rose from the dead.
The Cross will always be a scandal for humanity, the worst scandal in history. For with the bloody Cross, we physically nailed the Christ to a piece of wood and killed the God of the universe. One cannot deny that death is man’s reality, for it is certain that this life on this earth will end one day. Yet for the Christian, the True Christian, the Cross is our reality. For it is there that God meets man in death. The Son of God died in the flesh and, in that death, unites our flesh to His, leading us into life eternal. The Cross is and always will be the symbol of Christianity, defining who and what we are.
Today is the remembrance of Zachariah and Elizabeth, father and mother of John the Baptist. From the “Commemorations Biographies,” Lutheran Service Book, LCMS Commission on Worship:
Zachariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Zechariah, a priest in the Jerusalem temple, was greeted by the angel Gabriel, who announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially Zechariah did not believe Gabriel’s announcement because of their old age. For his disbelief Zechariah became unable to speak. After their son was born, Elizabeth named her son John. Zechariah confirmed his wife’s choice, and his ability to speak was restored. In response he sang the Benedictus, a magnificent summary of God’s promises in the Old Testament and a prediction of John’s work as forerunner to Jesus (Luke 1:68–79). Zechariah and Elizabeth are remembered as examples of faithfulness and piety.
[From “Commemorations Biographies,” Lutheran Service Book, LCMS Commission on Worship]
From Paul T. McCain over at Cyberbrethren.com. The following is a reprint of an article that he wrote a few years ago on Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, an act which change the very course of history, and shook western civilization from top to bottom. From the very beginning, Luther sought a forum in which to debate and discuss the teaching and practice of the church on penance and indulgences. Time and again he was refused. Yet the Word of God would not be contained. It continued to work when and where He willed, and the course of civilization and the life of the church was changed forever. For good or ill, we are the heirs of the Reformation. We bear the responsibility and the charge for carrying forward the Gospel of salvation by Grace through Faith for the sake of Christ alone to the next generation. Lord make us worthy to stand with those who have gone before us. Fifteen Minutes That Changed the World: Thoughts on the Festival of the Reformation, October 31.
Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Cross. Many churches will hold services on this feast day which commemorates the legend of the finding of the “true cross” of Christ by Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great nearly 300 years after our Lord’s ascension.
“One of the earliest annual celebrations of the Church, Holy Cross Day traditionally commemorated the discovery of the original cross of Jesus on September 14, 320, in Jerusalem. The cross was found by Helena, mother of Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. In conjunction with the dedication of a basilica at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the festival day was made official by order of Constantine in AD 335. A devout Christian, Helena had helped locate and authenticate many sites related to the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus throughout biblical lands. Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Many Lutheran parishes have chosen to use “Holy Cross” as the name of their congregation.” The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, pp. 721-722.
Whether the story of Helena’s discovery is fact or fiction, or fact mixed with fiction, the fact does remain that our lives are lived under the cross of Christ. And while no fragment of the true cross on which Christ was crucified remains today, the Cross is a reality in the life of every believer as we live our lives under the Cross.
Today is the remembrance of Zachariah and Elizabeth, father and mother of John the Baptist who was remembered last Sunday. As saints are remembered and Feast days are celebrated in the church, they will be noted here. From the “Commemorations Biographies,” Lutheran Service Book, LCMS Commission on Worship:
Zachariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Zechariah, a priest in the Jerusalem temple, was greeted by the angel Gabriel, who announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially Zechariah did not believe Gabriel’s announcement because of their old age. For his disbelief Zechariah became unable to speak. After their son was born, Elizabeth named her son John. Zechariah confirmed his wife’s choice, and his ability to speak was restored. In response he sang the Benedictus, a magnificent summary of God’s promises in the Old Testament and a prediction of John’s work as forerunner to Jesus (Luke 1:68–79). Zechariah and Elizabeth are remembered as examples of faithfulness and piety. [From “Commemorations Biographies,” Lutheran Service Book, LCMS Commission on Worship]
Zachariah, after his speech was restored
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham,
to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.