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Joe passed away in his sleep yesterday. He was the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Garber, OK, one of the churches in our circuit. In many ways he was a pastor’s pastor, the kind of man who represented what the LCMS was, and in many ways, what it should be: a faithful man, a joyful person, an excellent preacher, a lover of the Lutheran Confessions, humorous, witty and humble.
Arrangements are forthcoming, but for now I ask your prayers for all, especially for his wife Mary and the people of Immanuel.
May God have mercy on us all!
”Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev 14:13 ESV)
And what is here said of false Prophets can also be understood of all who say one thing in word and manner and another in deed. Yet it seems to be said more particularly of heretics, who are seen to close themselves with continence and fasting as with a sort of garb piety, but inwardly their spirit is poison; and so the hearts of simpler brother and are deceived. (St. Jerome)
A long one from St. Ephraim, mostly about the Judgement, but it applies to our text this week, Matthew 7:15-23
What is there left for us to say? Farewell! Farewell all ye just! Farewell Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs. Farewell to the company of the holy patriarchs. Farewell to the hosts of monks. Farewell, holy precious and life-giving Cross! Farewell to the kingdom of heaven which is to be without end! Farewell to the spiritual Jerusalem; the Mother of the firstborn! Farewell to the joy of paradise! Farewell to you Lady Mother of God; Mother of the Lover of Mankind! Farewell fathers and mothers, sons and daughters: we shall never see you again. And after that each one will go to the place of torment that was prepared for him because of his evil works; where their worm dieth not in the fire is not extinguished.
You have heard me, my blessed brethren. I have fulfilled your request to me for knowledge of the judgment; I have filled your desire. See now if you understand for what we are preparing ourselves? You have learned what they gain who are negligent, who are slothful, who scorn repentance. And you have heard for what reason they are mocked at who here on earth mocked at the commandments of God. You have learned how the evil one deceives the many, how he leads this world, wicked and rejoicing, astray. You have learned how those who laugh at the Scriptures are themselves laugh that. Let no one be led into error, dearly beloved. But none of you be deceived, my blessed brethren. Beware of anyone saying that they are but mere words; these that we speak to you of the judgment. Rather let us all firmly in carefully believe in Christ as he preaches to us of the resurrection of the dead, a judgment, of the rewards of the good and the wicked, according to the holy Scriptures.
Let us therefore follow him on this blessed way which all have walked who have loved Christ. Its entrance is linked with tribulation and with torment; but there is blessed peace there area the gates of this where narrow and forbidding; but its reward is joy. It’s entry is straight, but the place of rest within his wide and spacious. The gates of this way are fasting, prayer, compunction, vigils, humility of soul, poverty of spirit, contempt of the flesh, care of the soul, sleeping on the ground, eating of dry food, lack of comfort, harshness, hunger, thirst, nakedness, mercy, tears, grieving, poverty, groanings, genuflections, humiliations, persecutions, reviling from others, to be hated and not to hate, to hear evil and to render good for you, to forgive debts to our debtors, to lay down our lives for our friends. Lastly, to shed our blood for Christ when the occasion calls for it. These are the narrow gates, and the straight way; these are the steps, the approaches, which lead to a most blessed reward, the kingdom of heaven itself, of which there will be no end….
Come to me all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you; where there is a mortal life and the font of every mercy. Come to me, all of you, and I will refresh you; where there is love alone, perennial joy, and everlasting happiness, where the light does not fade, nor the sun go down. Come to me, all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you; where there is perfect life, and the fount of every good. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls; where there is ever the sound of festival days, and where the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge shall be revealed. Come to me, all of you, and I will refresh you; where there are wondrous gifts, joy without compare, rest unchanging, happiness without end, and ceasing melody, perpetual glory, unwearied giving of thanks, loving absorption in divine things, infinite riches, a kingdom without end, through all ages and ages, deeps of compassion, an ocean of mercy and kindness, which the human tongue cannot describe, but makes known only through figures. There shall be the myriads of the Angels, the multitudes of the firstborn, the thrones of the apostles, the dignities of the prophets, the scepter of the patriarchs, the crowns of the martyrs, the praises of the just. And there is laid up the reward of every order, of every power and principality.
Come to me all you that hunger and thirst after justice, and I will fill you with all that you desire, and which the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive. These things have I prepared for those who love me. These things I have prepared for those who have done penance for their wayward life. I have prepared them for the merciful; for the poor in spirit; for those who mourn in repentance. I have prepared them for the peacemakers. I prepared them for those who suffer persecution, hate, reproaches, for my namesake.
Come to me all ye that labor; and shake off and cast from you the burden of your sins. For no one who comes to me remains burdened, but casts off his evil way of life, and unlearned to conduct he had easily learned from the devil, and learn to me a new way of life.
From:<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0898707978?ie=UTF8&tag=thissideofthe-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0898707978″>Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers</a>
The confession of his faith is also part of the fruits of man. For he who cries out according to God, with a voice of true humility, and true confession of faith, is a sheep. But he who utters blasphemies against the truth, and howls against God, is a wolf. (St. John Chrysostom)
I dreamed last night a terrible dream. It was one of those heart-pounders that, when you wake up disoriented in the darkened room, it takes a few moments to realize your mistakes and sins were not real, that you didn’t kill the person, quit your job in a colossally gruesome manner, that you didn’t abandon wife or child or make that phone call or say those things after all.
I told my wife about it and she told me to repent.
“But it was just a dream,” I said.
“But it wasn’t real. I would never do what I did in the dream.”
“Repent anyway,” she insisted.
But did I need to? Did I need to repent of what happened only in my mind while I slept? How could I be responsible for what I dreamed, for what over which I had no control? Are not dreams only dreams? Cigars just cigars?
The call to repentance is certainly is one of completeness. Of wholeness. When we repent, we repent of it all. Not just be really bad since that you’re ashamed of. Not just the lust, cursing, the betrayal. Not just those. “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” is not a conditional command. When we repent, we repent for all. The things done and left undone, the things that we think, the things we indulge in, and even the things we fail to indulge in. If repentance is real, it is total.
So are dreams included in that grand repentance?
Greek theologians speak of logizmoi, that is, thoughts. It is their word for temptations, but more than just temptations. It is all of those temptations and thoughts that come from outside of us. That are demonic. In this understanding our dreams are yet more manifestations or experiences of these logizmoi. They are the detritus of our shipwrecked souls. All the flotsam and jetsam that pollutes us wash ashore our sleeping minds. Are we responsible for them? Well, they are part of us. They are from us. If it weren’t for our corrupted souls, they really wouldn’t be there-at least not as they are.
It seems strange to repent something over which we apparently have no control. After all, I’m responsible for my own self. The birds may fly overhead, but only I am responsible for keeping them from building a nest in my hair, to paraphrase Luther.
The other day one of my children was unhappy, and began throwing a minor temper tantrum. Over the course of the moaning and the wailing another of my little ones tried to get past her. She was on corporative, and he tripped, banged his toe on something in my car, and tore it open. He began to cry at the blood on his toe even as the sister was wailing about whatever perceived injustice she had received. After all the tears were dried up, I pointed out that our sins have a tendency of snowballing. Her minor sin of throwing the conniption fit had the unintended effect of injuring her brother. Her sin physically hurt another, even though there was no direct correlation, even though the chain of events could never be anticipated, even though there’s a far cry between moaning over injustice to a bleeding child sitting next to her. And yet it happened.
Our sins spiral, gain momentum, amplify and cascade in directions we could never anticipate, ine ways we would be shocked to know. Am I responsible for the hurricane? Am I responsible for the crop failure? Probably. Not in a direct, tangible, scientifically verifiable, logical way, but my sins are death and bring death to everything around me.
Repentance is taking responsibility, taking responsibility not just for my own few actions, but also the consequences of those, and of those, and on and on. I am responsible. I am the sinner. Adam’s sin brought death into this world, and I am Adam’s child.
I will repent. At least I will try. I will repent of my sins, and all sins.
So I will repent of that dream. I didn’t choose it; didn’t want it. But it is of me, from me, somewhere lurking down below me, in that dank cellar where stray thoughts and images filter through and collect.
All these places must be cleansed. The doors of repentance must be opened so that the light of Christ may flow in.
Marjorie and the eldest were away for the National Youth Gathering for six days. Six days with three kids at home, Sunday Worship and a large funeral. We had swimming lessons and trips to the store, swimming for fun and more trips to the store. And cleaning, cleaning, straightening up and dishes! Dishes galore!
We also bought three kinds of chocolate cereal at the store. They liked that.
Getting the lawn mowed was not easy. I had to pick a time I knew they would not be going at each other’s throats nor eating all the chocolate cereal while I was distracted outside.
I didn’t do laundry, nor did I wash the floors. We swept them, and the Household Elves showed up yesterday wearing cute hats to sweep the floors very thoroughly.
Nor did I get around to cleaning the bathrooms. Nor dusting. Nor working in the garage or home improvement projects.
Needless to say, I have a much greater appreciation for my wife and for those who are single parents too!
We must therefore meditate deeply upon the sacred teaching that proceeds from the lips of truth when he says: for some of them came from afar off. For it is such as have nothing to do with the evil doing and carnal corruption who hastened to serve the Omnipotent God. He does not come from afar off who through innocence and integrity of soul was already close to God. Another, free of unchastity, stained by no evil, who has known only marriage, devotes himself to the works of the spirit; neither does he come from afar off: for by reason of his service to God he does not wander far from him after things forbidden. then there are those who after the sins of the flesh, after having given false testimonies, after robberies, after inflicting grievous violence and injury upon others, after committing murders, turned to repentance and become converted to the service of Almighty God. Such as these come to God from afar off. For the more a man has strayed in doing what is evil, the further off he is from God.
Food is therefore given even to those who come from afar off; for the food of holy instruction must be offered to those who are converted from sin, that they may regain in God the strength they lost an evil doing. The Jews however, those of them who believe in Christ, came to him from close at hand; for they have learned of him from the writings of the Law and of the Prophets. They however who believe from the Gentiles did truly come from afar off to Christ; for no sacred pages from the past had prepared them to believe in him. (The Venerable Bede)
Text: Mark 8:1-9
There the people sat on the grass; here upon the ground. On both occasions the same manner of speech, the same grace, the same power, the one Divinity. There they sit on grass; that is, upon the dead works of the flesh-for all flesh is grass, as the prophet says (Isaiah 40). Here they sit upon the ground; that is, they tread down the things of earth. There 5000 are fed, and this number has reference to the Jews; for Peter, after the resurrection of the Lord, lifted up his voice, and the number who believed was made 5000. But here are 4000; which means that all peoples, from the four points of the heavens, are filled with the sevenfold grace of the Spirit unto life eternal.
And so, Beloved, we who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, not through the law but by faith, who are redeemed, not by its works but by grace itself; who are filled, not from the five loaves, that is, from the five books of Moses, but by the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit… let us continue in this grace of the sevenfold Spirit, in which we were called, being filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:11) through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Ghost God for ever and ever. Amen (St. Maximus)
Re: Mark 8:1-9
In the earlier account of the five loaves and two fishes he fed 5000 men; here he feeds 4000 men from seven loaves and a few fishes. There the disciples suggest to the Lord, saying: this is a desert place, and the hour is now past; send away the multitudes, that going into the towns they may buy themselves victuals. Here the disciples are wholly silent. It is the Lord alone who is solicitous for them. Let us see why they are silent. Because they were not yet sent to preach to the Gentiles, but rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Therefore the first parable relates to the Jews, but this to the Gentiles. There, there were five loaves; that is, the five books of Moses. Here, there were seven; which stands for the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to the holy Isaiah the prophet, who says: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2). (St. Maximus)