Saint Valentine’s Day 2016

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I chose this muted picture of a purple wildflower because this year Valentine’s Day falls in Lent, and I thought the darker rich tone best fit the penitential nature of the season.

Who was Valentine?

A physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of Emperor Claudius, Valentine became one of the noted martyrs of the third century.  The commemoration of his death, which occurred in AD 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, Valentine 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.

Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, page 1209.

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O God of mercy, God of might,
In love and pity infinite,
Teach us, as ever in Thy sight,
To live our lives in Thee.

And may Thy Holy Spirit move
All those who live to live in love
Till Thou shalt greet in heaven above
All those who live in Thee.

— “O God of Mercy, God of Might,” LSB 852:1, 6.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day.

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Epiphany: Jesus’ Baptism

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Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water …”

— John 4:13-15, ESV.

The water that wells up to eternal life is baptism.  Baptism is living water made alive by the word of God.  And through this water Christ grants his eternal life and righteousness to all who believe.

One of the first celebrations of Epiphany is of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

In order to fulfill all righteousness, he took our place.  He submitted to John’s baptism in the Jordan river.  John’s baptism was for repentance, and in this way Jesus took our sin, and identified completely with us sinners.  He began his ministry by taking our place, and becoming our substitute.  He became the Lamb of God.  (Genesis 2:8).

When we were baptized, the water washed our sins away.  When Jesus was baptized, he accepted our sins from the water as his own.  John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29, ESV).

To Jordan’s river came our Lord,
The Christ, whom heavenly hosts adored,
The God from God, The Light from Light,
The Lord of glory, power, and might.

The Savior came to be baptized
The Son of God in flesh disguised
To stand beneath the Father’s will
And all His righteousness fulfill.

Then from God’s throne with thunderous sound
Came God’s own voice with words profound:
“This is My Son,” was His decree,
“The one I love, who pleases Me.”

The Father’s word, the Spirit’s flight
Anointed Christ in glorious sight
As God’s own choice, from Adam’s fall
To save the world and free us all.

— “To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord,” LSB 405:1-2, 4-5.

Blessed Epiphany.

Blessed Reformation and All Saints Days

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Blessed Reformation and All Saints Days!

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness;
At Thy speaking it was done.
For created light we thank Thee,
While Thine ordered seasons run.

Lo, on those who dwelt in darkness,
Dark as night and deep as death,
Broke the light of Thy salvation,
Breathed Thine own life-breathing breath.

Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous;
Bright with Thine own holiness,
Glorious now, we press toward glory,
And our lives our hopes confess.

From the cross Thy wisdom shining
Breaketh forth in conqu’ring might;
From the cross forever beameth
All Thy bright redeeming light.

— “Thy Strong Word,” LSB 578:1-4.

From the cross shines the wisdom of God.  This wisdom is foolishness to the world and the worldly.

Notes:

The picture is of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Appleton, WI.

The Golden City of God

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“Jerusalem, thou city fair and high,
Would God I were in thee!
My longing heart to thee would gladly fly;
It will not stay with me.
Far over vale and mountain,
Far over field and plain,
It hastes to seek its fountain
And leave this world of pain.”

— “Jerusalem, Thou City Fair and High,”
Christian Worship, 212:1.

The golden light in the picture above was from the heavenly sunset, but the air of earth was bitter cold and biting.  It bit my fingers.

Soon after taking these pictures, and with fingers cold and hurting, I pulled my glove off to retrieve keys from pocket.  However, the wrist strap for my camera had caught the glove, causing my Canon G12 camera to go flying.  It dropped on the sidewalk, bounced on the cement, and slid through the snow.

A very nice camera damaged is not overly important, but it is a reminder of all the large and small frustrations and pain we feel in this world.  Jesus reminds us:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

— Matthew 6:19-21, NIV1984.

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Christ is our treasure.  It is He who prepares a place for us in the heavenly Jerusalem.  It is He who prepares us to be His heavenly Jerusalem.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”  Her husband is Christ.  The new Jerusalem is where Almighty God lives with man, lives in man, and is man.  (Revelation 21:2-5, NIV1984).

“Jerusalem the golden,
With milk and honey blest—
The sight of it refreshes
The weary and oppressed.
I know not, oh, I know not
What joys await us there,
What radiancy of glory,
What bliss beyond compare.”

— “Jerusalem the Golden,” Christian Worship, 214:1.

Our “citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, NIV1984).

“Jerusalem, my happy home,
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end?
Thy joys when shall I see?”

The time is short.

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The time is coming when Christ will return to earth in glory.  Until then, He gives us a taste of heaven in the Eucharist and the Communion of Saints.  In this meal we share together with new Jerusalem, Christ is with us, He is in us, and he is one of us.

“Apostles, martyrs, prophets, there
Around my Savior stand,
And soon my friends in Christ below
Will join the glorious band.

“O Christ, do thou my soul prepare
For that bright home of love
That I may see thee and adore
With all thy saints above.”

— “Jerusalem, My Happy Home,”
Christian Worship, 215:1, 4, 5.

The pictures are of St. Nicholas Church in Freedom, WI.

May God bless you in Christ.

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P.S.  Those white specks in the picture above are an airplane and its contrails.

Be Still and Give Thanks

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“Be still, my soul; Your God will undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.”

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“Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.”

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“Be still, my soul; the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.”

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Lord, thank You.

Happy Thanksgiving!

All the pictures were taken on the same day at Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin.  The second photo shows the rising crescent moon and the setting sun over its eastern and western shores.

The verse is from the hymn “Be Still, My Soul,” Lutheran Service Book, 752:2.

“O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright”

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.  I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  (Revelation 22:16).

“O Morning Star, how fair and bright!
You shine with God’s own truth and light,
Aglow with grace and mercy!
Of Jacob’s race, King David’s son,
Our Lord and master, You have won
Our hearts to serve You only!
Lowly, holy!
Great and glorious,
All victorious,
Rich in blessing!
Rule and might o’er all possessing!

*

“Come, heavenly Bridegroom, Light divine,
and deep within our hearts now shine;
There light a flame undying!
In Your one body let us be
As living branches of a tree,
Your life our lives supplying.
Now, though daily
Earth’s deep sadness
May perplex us
And distress us,
Yet with heavenly joy You bless us.

*

“Lord, when You look on us in love,
At once there falls from God above
A ray of purest pleasure.
Your Word and Spirit, flesh and blood
Refresh our souls with heavenly food.
You are our dearest treasure!
Let Your mercy
Warm and cheer us!
O draw near us!
For You teach us
God’s own love through You has reached us.

*

“Almighty Father, in Your Son
You loved us when not yet begun
Was this old earth’s foundation!
Your Son has ransomed us in love
To live in Him here and above;
This is Your great salvation.
Alleluia!
Christ the living,
To us giving
Life forever,
Keeps us Yours and fails us never!

*

“O let the harps break forth in sound!
Our joy be all with music crowned,
Our voices gladly blending!
For Christ goes with us all the way—
Today, tomorrow, every day!
His love is never ending!
Sing out!  Ring out!
Jubilation!
Exultation!
Tell the story!
Great is He, the King of Glory!

*

“What joy to know, when life is past,
The Lord we love is first and last,
The end and the beginning!
He will one day, oh, glorious grace,
Transport us to that happy place
Beyond all tears and sinning!
Amen!  Amen!
Come, Lord Jesus!
Crown of gladness!
We are yearning
For the day of Your returning!”

Lutheran Service Book,
“O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” 395:1-6.

All I can say to these stanzas is “Wow.”  The text for this Epiphany hymn was written by Philipp Nicolai during one of the heydays of the Conservative (Lutheran) Reformation.

An epiphany is when an amazing truth dawns on us.  Epiphany is the season when the Church celebrates the dawning of Christ upon His Church.  The Word of Truth dawns on us.  (John 1).  “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  (1 Peter 1:19).

Happy Epiphany.

“The Church’s One Foundation”

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is His new Creation by water and the Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

Jesus creates His Church with water and the Word.  Jesus gives His life to her with His Body and Blood.

Elect from ev’ry nation yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.

From all nations, for reasons we cannot comprehend, He has chosen men to be His own.  There is one Church, one Body of Christ, there is no true division.

The Church shall never perish!  Her dear Lord to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish, is with her to the end.
Though there be those that hate her, false sons within her pale,
against both foe and traitor she ever shall prevail.

The picture in this post is of a visible church building.  It is something we can see.  It is a mere symbol.  The true Church is recognized only by her faith.  The one universal Church does not consist of earthly buildings, but of His people.  Within the visible church, there will always be false sons and traitors.  (Acts 20:29-31).

Though with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed,
by schism rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, “How long?”
and soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

Heresies and schisms cause the saints distress.  This is because they know that true doctrine is the Word of God, and the Word of God is their very life.  Therefore, they hold on to the healthy doctrine for their very lives.  Unionism and toleration of unhealthy doctrine is a mark of a false son and a traitor, not a saint.

Mid toil and tribulation and tumult of her war
she waits the consummation of peace forevermore,
till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest
and the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.

— “The Church’s One Foundation,” Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, 486:1-5.

Palm Sunday: Ride On in Majesty

On the first Sunday of Holy Week, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and was hailed as the promised Messiah.  Often, ancient kings would ride into conquered cities on war horses.  However, when a king rode into a city on a donkey, he was saying, “I come in peace,” or “I come to bring peace.”

Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies, including this one from the prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

[Zechariah 9:9].

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One of the eye-witnesses recorded that a “very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.”  There were crowds ahead of Jesus, and crowds behind him; and they all shouted, “Hosanna!”  Hosanna means “Save us!,” and it is also a cheer of victory or an “exclamation of praise.”  (Matthew 21:8-9 & NIV footnotes).

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark!  All the tribes hosanna cry.
O Savior meek, pursue your road,
With palms and scattered garments strowed.

[“Ride On, Ride On in Majesty,” Christian Worship 133:1].

A former tax collector named Matthew was with Jesus when he rode in, and he recorded that when Jesus and the crowds “entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’  The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.'”  (Matthew 21:10-11).  Nazareth and Galilee were where the poor people lived.

The pictures in this post are of Christian pilgrims celebrating Palm Sunday by processing from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem.

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Unfortunately, the citizens of Jerusalem in 33 A.D. did not want the Messiah to bring peace with God, but rather they wanted a king to bring war against the Romans.  When the people of Jerusalem realized that Jesus was not the king they wanted, they demanded that he be crucified.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, your triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The angel armies of the sky
Look down with sad and wondering eyes
To see th’ approaching sacrifice.

[“Ride On, Ride On in Majesty,” Christian Worship 133:2-3].

Christ knew that he would be rejected.  John, another eye-witness, recorded that Jesus had said, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth [crucified], will draw all men to myself.”   (John 12:32).

Jesus did not come to defeat the Roman Empire, but rather he came to defeat the power of sin, death, and the devil.  Sin, death, and the devil are the worst enemies that we have.  (No one cares about defeating the Romans anymore).  On the cross and through his Resurrection, Jesus defeated our true enemies.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Your last and fiercest strife is nigh.
The Father on his sapphire throne
Awaits his own anointed Son.

[“Ride On, Ride On in Majesty,” Christian Worship 133:4].

By conquering sin and death, Jesus the Christ deserves to reign over all creation forever.

You are worthy …
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God …

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!

[Revelation 5:9-12].

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
Bow your meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O Christ, your power and reign.

[“Ride On, Ride On in Majesty,” Christian Worship 133:5].

Holy Voices of All Saints

Happy All Saints Day!

The saints on earth and those above
But one communion make;
Joined to their Lord in bonds of love,
All of His grace partake.

The Lutheran Hymnal, “The Saints on Earth and Those Above,” 478:1.

Hark! the sound of holy voices
Chanting at the crystal sea,
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Lord, to Thee.
Multitudes which none can number
Like the stars in glory stand,
Clothed in white apparel, holding
Palms of vict’ry in their hand.

They have come from tribulation
And have washed their robes in blood,
Washed them in the blood of Jesus;
Tried they were, and firm they stood.
Mocked, imprisoned, stoned, tormented,
Sawn asunder, slain with sword,
They have conquered death and Satan
By the might of Christ the Lord.

Marching with Thy cross, their banner,
They have triumphed, following
Thee, the Captain of salvation,
Thee, their savior and their King.
Gladly, Lord, with Thee they suffered,
Gladly, Lord, with Thee they died,
And by death to life immortal
They were born and glorified.

Now they reign in heavenly glory,
Now they walk in golden light,
Now they drink, as from a river,
Holy bliss and infinite.
Love and peace they taste forever
And all truth and knowledge see
In the beatific vision
of the blessed Trinity.

God of God, the One-begotten
Light of Light, Emmanuel,
In whose body, joined together,
All the saints forever dwell,
Pour upon us of Thy fulness
That we may forevermore
God the Father, God the Spirit,
One with Thee on high, adore.

The Lutheran Hymnal, “Hark! the Sound of Holy Voices,” 471:1, 3-6.

Notes: The picture above is of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Appleton, WI.

“Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness”

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

—  The Lutheran Hymnal: “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” 370:1, 4.