O Adonai – O Lord of might
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
et dux domus Israël,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty, and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
Yesterday, the Son of Man traded places with the son of the father (bar Abbas) so that we may wear the Father’s robe and live in His kingdom. Tomorrow Jesus does what all the big brothers of Scripture failed to do…. He completes the work God sent Him to do — to seek and to save we who are/were lost — the younger rules over the elder. And yet Christ is both Adam’s younger brother, both being in the flesh sons of God, and His older brother, being begotten of God before all eternity. And if you look at the track record of brothers in the Bible, you see the theme of older/younger played out. Cain killed Abel. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, and chosen by God over Ishmael. Jacob ruled over Esau, taking his birthright. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Yet it was Joseph who saved his brothers from starvation. And David, Israel’s second and greatest king, was the youngest brother chosen by God over all of his brothers and anointed by Samuel. Are you starting to see the pattern?
Jesus, the firstborn of the resurrection, came in the flesh to live among us. God often told His children, “If you obey me and do all the things I have commanded, I will be your God and you will be my people. I will come to you and make my dwelling place among you.” Well, we chased him away through our sin, our idol worship, and self-indulgence. So He sent His Son, His one and only Begotten Son, to make us His people once again. He sent our Big Brother after us to drag us out of the bars, brothels, wars, movie theaters, sports arenas, fast boats, fast cars, fast planes, internet, hotels, motels, highways, homes, gutters, jails, pits, darkness, blindness. He sent Jesus to get us and bring us home. And Jesus gave up His birthright as the first born from before creation, not counting equality with God something to be grasped, in order to bring us home. He traded His life for ours, so that we may wear the white robe of righteousness, the robe of children of God, and stand with Him in His kingdom. And because of the work of Christ, Jesus calls us friends. He can call us that because He has entrusted to us as part of our inheritance, the work that God gave Him to do. And so now, because Jesus has overcome death, because He has given us life, we are able to carry out the work of Christ on earth as His hands and feet.
The Gospels do not spend much time at the empty tomb. In fact, the angels tell the disciples and the women who seek Christ at the tomb, you will not find Him here. But Jesus always told His disciples to find Him at the Cross, for that is where we truly and finally meet Him. The empty tomb remains our hope for eternal life, and our symbol of new life. But it is a life that requires us to be as Jesus, and go after our little brothers and sisters and bring them home. And we do that by taking up the Cross and bringing Christ to them.
Have a blessed, joyous, happy Easter. He is Risen!
Rex et legifer noster,
et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos,
Domine, Deus noster.
O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
This is one of those stories that continues to gain traction. I wrote it originally in 2010 thanks to an interview Todd Wilken did with Kenneth Bailey in 2008 on Lutheran Talk Radio over at Issues, Etc. It is a wonderful example of why we need continual study of the Scriptures in the original languages. It is not a reinterpretation of the birth narrative of Jesus, but a closer reading of the story that literally scrapes the frost from the window so we can see the story clearly. Most often our story combines the events surrounding Jesus’ birth into one galactic event culminating with the arrival of the star and wise men at a barn in which Jesus is thought to have been born. We picture the Messiah coming into the world in the filth of a stable, among barn animals. We picture Mary and Joseph making the long journey to Bethlehem, arriving in the middle of the night only to have Mary’s water break as routinely happens in all made for TV movies, sitcoms, and other melodramas to let us know the baby is on the way. To make matters worse, the city of Joseph’s family is so crowded because of the census, that all the hotels are booked up. In one of the Christmas plays in which I participated in grade school, I played an innkeeper, a compassionate one. I remember having to thoughtfully rub my 10 year old bearded jaw as I turned them away from the fires of the spacious hotel de Bethlehem, only to offer a very pregnant woman in labor the stable where the animals were kept and which I the innkeeper would not be cleaning until the morning. And they could not have a fire burning in the stable with all the straw and fodder for the animals.
It does not sound like God planned very well for the birth of His Son, begotten from all eternity, into this world. I mean, He only sent an angel to Mary to announce Jesus’ birth. That same angel announced to Zechariah the birth of the forerunner for Jesus, His cousin John. And a wonderful scene played out in the stars to herald the birth of the King of Kings, leading those wise, ancient stargazers from the east to Bethlehem. And maybe this little sleepy town of Bethlehem did not sleep through the birth of Jesus. Maybe it was not just another “silent night” for the that sleepy burg. This was Joseph’s hometown. All his family and extended family would be coming into the city. And certainly they had family living in the City of David. Surely his own kin would not turn he and the pregnant woman to whom he was betrothed away. After all he claimed the child as his own. And didn’t an angel appear in the fields to announce Jesus’ birth and was thereafter joined by a host of the heavenly choir? Maybe Jesus was not born in a stable after all. Maybe we need to wipe some fog from our windows and take another look. Read on and let me know what you think. I have posted some links to more information on the topic at the end of the article. Read the rest of this entry
Mother’s day is usually celebrated the second Sunday in May. Today, however, the church commemorates the ultimate Mother, St. Mary, the Mother of Our Lord Christ. Mary has always had a special place in the hearts church members throughout the centuries. Whether she is venerated as remaining ever the virgin through an “Immaculate Conception,” or thought to have appeared at Lourdes or in various other times and places, or whether she is thought to be the “Queen of Heaven,” Mary remains Theotokos, the God-bearer. She was at the center of one of the greatest Christological crises in the history of the church. But no one can diminish the fact that she is the most blessed among women. And Mary never claimed anything more for herself, according to Scripture. She is mentioned just a handful of times in the Gospels in connection with the Birth of Christ, the Flight into Egypt, the Passover in the Temple, Jesus’ death, to name a few. Tradition holds that she followed John to Ephesus where she died. She is truly the things legends are made of for some say that she even was assumed bodily into heaven like Elijah, or Enoch. Yet Scripture does not bear witness to this speculation. And indeed, much of what we have about Mary in the traditions of the church are based on speculation and private revelation, like those matters noted above.
What we do have revealed in Holy Scripture, is the portrait of a true, earthly mother who brought her son, the God-man into this world, and watched Him leave it, hanging on a dreadful, bloody Cross. We are shown an example of true faith, faith that is bestowed upon us only by the Holy Spirit, in accepting the gift of bearing the salvation of the world inside of her, while secretly carrying in her heart her entire life with her Son the knowledge, the aching suspicion that, if the prophecies were true, if the sacrifices pointed to the Lamb of God, she held Him in her arms, and she would watch Him leave this world and this life. A blessing and a curse. Gospel and Law.
The Hail Mary
Many things have been written about Mary. The nicest come from Scripture. The Hail Mary, for example,as it is commonly known, is a prayer that developed over time in the church. It is taken from the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary, as he announced to her the favor that God chose to bestow upon her to bear His Son into this world (Luke 1:28). The second part of the prayer is taken from the greeting Mary received from her cousin Elizabeth when her yet unborn child leapt in her womb in the presence of Mary and his God (Luke 1:42). These parts came into common use in the church by about 1050 AD according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. It was used as a salutation, greeting, or expression of honor to Mary, but not as a prayer. Read the rest of this entry
Doubting Thomas. He was an apostle of Jesus. All four Gospels mention him as one. He was not present that first night Jesus appeared to the disciples in the locked room. He did not believe his brothers. He demanded proof that Jesus was alive, that He did appear to them. For their eyewitness testimony was not enough for him. He needed to see for himself, touch the wounds. Only then would he believe.
On the night of Jesus’ death, Thomas Jesus a question that evoked one of the most memorable sayings of our Lord. Jesus had just finished washing the feet of His disciples and revealed that one of the twelve would betray Him to His death. Peter, ever the bold and brash jumped into the thick of it, telling our Lord that he would fight for Him to the death. Jesus brought Peter back to reality and told him that he would not only not fight to the death for Him, but that he would deny that he knew the Lord of Life three times before the rooster crowed in the morning. Jesus then began to comfort His disciples, telling them He was going to His Father’s house to prepare rooms for them. and that they knew the way to where He was going. To this, Thomas said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus replied, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes unto the Father unless He comes through Me.” In these two short sentences, Jesus staked His claim to be the salvation of the world. There is no other name in heaven and on earth by which we may be saved. “Show us the Father,” Phillip exclaimed. Jesus must have been exasperated at their inability to comprehend and perceive what He was plainly telling them, and He tells Phillip, “Just believe my words! Or if you do not believe them, at least believe based on the evidence of the miracles the Father has done through Me!” Faith. Christ calls us to be under His Word, to be subject to it. He said it, BELIEVE it. It is true.
What the scene must have been like, when Christ appeared again to the apostles, again behind closed doors. This time Thomas is present. Knowing Thomas’ doubts, Jesus goes directly to Him and bids Thomas to place his hands in His side, in the wounds of His hands. “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
“You have believed because you have seen. Blessed are those who believe who have not seen.” This is the reality of the cross. Thomas came face to face with the wounds and scars borne by Christ. It brought to mind all the words of Jesus, the claims He made to be God in the flesh. And here, in his presence, stood the risen Lord of the Light, shining a light on the darkened mind and sight of His apostles. That light, for that moment, opened the eyes of faith in Thomas. It illumined his path to India, the ends of the earth where he followed the Way of Christ. That Way always, always is to the Cross for us. Never around it, or through it. We do not get to pick it up and lay it down. We get to carry that Cross, the one that meets us at the beginning of our walk, just as Christ did for Thomas. And in the darkest day of the year, a time of doubt and despair for many, we call upon the light of the Morning Star to shine in this world as He did for Thomas.
I ran across this gem in Sunday’s readings from the Treasury of Daily Prayer from Concordia Publishing House. It is a quote from Martin Luther’s Introduction to the Book of Romans. Here Luther describes in as beautiful and as straightforward a manner what FAITH is. We tend to think of faith simply as belief or intellectual assent to divine truth. It is often described as something within us that is part of our nature, something we inherently possess. And yet that could not be farther from the truth of the matter.
Faith is not the human notion and dream that some people call faith. When they see that no improvement of life and no good works follow—although they can hear and say much about faith—they fall into the error of saying, “Faith is not enough; one must do works in order to be righteous and be saved.” This is due to the fact that when they hear the gospel, they get busy and by their own powers create an idea in their heart which says, “I believe”; they take this then to be a true faith. But, as it is a human figment and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, nothing comes of it either, and no improvement follows.
Faith, however, is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1[:12–13]. Read the rest of this entry
Yesterday marked the beginning of a new church year. Advent, the season is named. Advent means “coming,” and points toward the Second Coming of our Lord Christ. Ironically, in the northern hemisphere, the season begins as death moves over the land. Leaves fall from the trees; the winds blow; the temperature drops. Animals retreat into warrens, burrows and dens to sleep for the winter. Crops are harvested and stored for future use. The land is barren, desolate. Nothing grows. Yet in this physical space and time, we are called to remembrance. The season begins with a warning from our Lord to watch, wait and pray. The times will be desperate, there will be trials and tribulations. Wars and rumors of wars. These are but the beginning of the signs of the end, culminating in that great and terrible day of the Lord.
Immediately following this warning, we are met with the last prophet of the Old Covenant, John, Jesus’ cousin. He calls us to repentance and faith. He prepares the way for Jesus preaching a baptism of repentance to receive the forgiveness of sins. In much the same way the law prepares our hearts for grace and the gift of faith which we receive from the incarnate Word. From there, it moves to the divine announcement of the coming of our Savior in the flesh. Gabriel visits the young maiden, Mary, betrothed to Joseph to proclaim the Good News of God’s gracious plan for salvation of the world. Mary, a woman, would be God’s chosen instrument to bring that Life into the world. All of this leads to the Feast of Christmas, the second highest and feast day in the church year.
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]
Liturgy. It is a word despised. Tradition. Your mom and dad’s Oldsmobile. That stuffy old stodgy worship, filled with the “Thees” and “Thous” of Ye Olde Englishe, days of yore gone by and passed beyond our present contemporary expression. Stiff and wooden, the organ plays, reminding us of the wooden teeth of old George Washington. Days gone by, no longer relevant. We are sleeker. Cutting edge. No longer do multiple melodies reign in music. It is the thumping base… driving rhythms of the bass guitar… the sultry voice… moving…. pulsing… pounding… it is energy…
Liturgy… repetition… you speak, we respond… ordered… formal… stuffy… it does not speak to me. it is hard to understand. “make haste o God to deliver me.” but, i need to experience God, feel His presence… if i do not feel, experience for myself, it is not real… your tradition, i cannot relate to it…. your truth does not speak to my experience… i need it to be relevant.
We fear what we do not know. Reject what is outside of our experience. Yet we seek connection, common understanding…. we look for points where we can come together… do not turn me away from the table of the Lord… we commune together, despite our differences… Leitourgia.
“‘Liturgy’ is the name given ever since the days of the apostles to the act of taking part in the solemn corporate worship of God by the ‘priestly’ society of christians, who are ‘the Body of Christ, the church.’ ‘The Liturgy’ is the term which covers generally all that worship which is officially organised by the church, and which is open to and offered by, or in the name of, all who are members of the church.” Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy.