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22 July 2014
  + Saint Mary Magdalene +
22 July, New Testament

Noli me Tangere The Gospels mention Mary of Magdala as one of the women of Galilee who followed Jesus and His disciples. She witnessed His crucifixion and burial, and went to the tomb on Easter Sunday to anoint His body. She was the first recorded witness of the risen Christ and was sent by Him to tell the disciples. Thus, early Christian writings sometimes refer to her as "the apostle to the apostles" (apostle means "one who is sent").

Confusion sometimes abounds as to whether she is the same person as Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus) or the unnamed woman who anointed Jesus's feet (Luke 7:36-48). Add in the statement that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2) and you get the origins of a tradition that she was a prostitute before she met Jesus.

Following the assumption (possibly quite misguided) that Mary Magdalene truly had been a spectacular sinner whose penitential sorrow was deep and complete — and possibly because John described her as crying at the tomb of Jesus — artists often portray her either as weeping or with red eyes from having wept. This appearance (and a slight corruption in translation) led to the English word "maudlin," meaning "effusively or tearfully sentimental." Magdalen College at Oxford and Magdalene College at Cambridge (note the different spellings) — both pronounced "Maudlin" — derive their names from this Saint Mary.

Since the printing of Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code and the subsequent motion picture, ancient, heretical ideas about marriage or a less permanent sexual relationship between Mary and Jesus have gained ground. Some even twist an offhand statement from Martin Luther to buttress this argument. Contrary to these false teachings, please read Was Jesus Married and Luther, Jesus, and Mary Magdalene.

Lection

Psalm 73:23-28
Proverbs 31:10-31
Acts 13:26-31
John 20:1-2, 11-18

Collect

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, restored Mary Magdalene to health and called her to be the first witness of His resurrection. Heal us from all our infirmities, and call us to know You in the power of Your Son’s unending life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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21 July 2014
  + The Holy Prophet Ezekiel +
21 July, Old Testament

Ezekiel Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem — including Ezekiel — to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-16).

Ezekiel's priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example, Ezekiel 9-10 and 40-48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1–32). Jerusalem would certainly fall and the exiles would not quickly return — the just consequences of their sins.

Especially in the early part of the book, much of what the Lord "said" to His people was delivered in the form of action prophecies. In these, Ezekiel acted out representations of coming events pertaining to the fall of Judah, the destruction of the temple, and the seeming end of the Davidic line of kings. These action prophecies included the eating of the scroll (3:1-2), being struck with dumbness (3:22-27), sketching of the city of Jerusalem (4:1-3), lying on one side and then the other (4:4-8), eating restricted rations cooked on a fire of dried dung (4:9-17), and shaving his hair and beard with a sword before dividing the hair (5:1-4). Some seem a bit strange at first glance, once we understand their meaning and context, their messages are quite easily comprehended.

Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that his people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom (Ezekiel 33-48).

Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel's prophecies was later employed in the Revelation to Saint John. Among these are the visions of the four living creatures as seen in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4.

See Happenings for a hymn stanza written for the Commemoration of Ezekiel.

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20 July 2014
  + The Holy Prophet Elijah +
20 July, Old Testament

Elijah Ascends to HeavenThe prophet Elijah, whose name means, "My God is Yahweh [the Lord]," prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel, mostly during the reign of Ahab (874 – 853 B.C.).

Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of Yahweh. Elijah was called by God to denounce this idolatry and to call the people of Israel back to the worship Yahweh as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20-40).

Elijah was a rugged and imposing figure, living in the wilderness and dressing in a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt (2 Kings 1:8). He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. The Lord worked many miracles through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24) and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1).

At the end of his ministry, he was taken up into heaven as Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later on, the Lord proclaimed through the prophet Malachi that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6), a prophecy that was fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (see Jesus' words in Matthew 11:1-19).

See Happenings for a hymn stanza written for the Commemoration of Elijah.

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16 July 2014
  + Ruth of Moab +
16 July, Old Testament

Ruth Ruth, the subject of the book bearing her name, is an inspiring example of God's grace. Although she was a Gentile, God made her the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), and an ancestress of Jesus Himself (Matthew 1:1-17).

A famine in Israel led Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem to emigrate to the neighboring nation of Moab with their two sons. The sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after about ten years, Elimelech and his sons died (Ruth 1:1-5).

Naomi then decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah listened to Naomi's plea, but Ruth refused, replying with the stirring words: "Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (1:16)"

After Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech, agreed to be Ruth's "redeemer" (3:7-13; 4:9-12). He took her as his wife, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David (4:13-17), thus preserving the Messianic seed. See Boaz, Ruth, and the Genealogy of Jesus at Ask the Pastor for a deeper theological examination of the account of Ruth and Boaz, including its Christological connection.

Ruth's kindness and selfless loyalty toward Naomi — and her faith in Naomi's God — have long endeared her to the faithful and redounded to God's praise for His merciful choice of one so unexpected.

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12 July 2014
  + Bo Harald Giertz, Bishop and Theologian +
12 July AD 1998

Bo Giertz
Bo Harald Giertz was born 31 August 1905 in Räpplinge, Borgholm, Öland (Kalmar), Sweden. He came from a prominent family and his father was a noted surgeon and head of one of Sweden's largest hospitals He was also an atheist. Bo planned to follow in his father's path and in 1924 he enrolled in the School of Medicine at the University of Uppsala. While there, however, theological students began challenging his belief system and, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he came to faith in Jesus Christ, left the school of medicine, and entered the University School of Theology.

In 1934, Giertz was ordained in the Linkoping Cathedral. He became assistant to the bishop and was given responsibility for working with the youth. His own faith and his conviction concerning the relevance of Christianity were on display for the thousands of young people who came under his care. Even as orthodox Lutherans lauded him, he also drew attacks from modernists in the Swedish state church and secularists as his writings spread in newspapers and periodicals. The public knew him as a talented and faithful confessor of a Church doctrine that was based in Scripture, confessed in the Creeds, and expounded in the Lutheran Confessions.

Giertz became a priest in Torpa in 1938, serving that parish until 1949, when he was consecrated as Bishop of Gothenburg. While serving Torpa, he wrote With My Own Eyes, a retelling of the Gospels (1947), four theological works, Christ's Church (1939), Church Piety (1939), The Great Lie and the Great Truth (1945), and The Battle for Man (1946), the catechetical book The Foundation (1942), and two novels The Hammer of God (1941) and Faith Alone (1943). These latter, particularly Hammer of God, became popular throughout Scandinavia and then around the globe.

The attention to theology and care for souls that Giertz evidenced in Torpa continued when he became Bishop of Gothenburg in 1949. As the youngest man elected and consecrated to serve the Church of Sweden as a diocesan bishop, he combined a somewhat pietistic type of pastoral care with High Church Lutheran theology, traits that are noticeable in his novels. Following the decisions of the Swedish Parliament and the Church Assembly to ordain women in the Church of Sweden (1958), Giertz became a leader of the opposition. In that same year, he invited all confessional groups in the Church of Sweden to form The Church Movement for Bible and Confession in response to the Assembly's decision.

Bishop Bo Giertz
The demands of the bishopric and the challenges of women's ordination and modernist theology slowed his writing for a time but once he became Bishop Emeritus, Giertz returned to the printed word in full force. He wrote The ABCs of Our Christian Faith in 1971, following it with The Knights of Rhodos (1972), another best-selling novel, the devotional books To Believe in Christ (1973) and To Live with Christ (1974), a new translation of the New Testament with Commentary (1977-1982), and, as a nonagenarian, he wrote The Living God — A Guide to the Christian Faith (1995). Most of Giertz's writings are not now available in English but new translations have begun to appear as the desire to read him grows.

Giertz pioneered a return to every Sunday celebration of the Lord's Supper, something that had largely vanished in the Church of Sweden due to the erosion caused by Pietism and Rationalism. He strongly urged pastors to pray the Daily Offices, something he applied in his own devotional life. Although often rejected by the leaders of the Church of Sweden, Giertz remains popular with true Lutherans in his own country, throughout Scandinavia, and across the world. Of him, the Reverend Hans O. Andrae wrote, "In his vision of the One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church, Giertz integrated a vibrant Evangelical-Lutheran orthodoxy, the Church's traditional liturgy, and sincere church piety into a harmonious and powerful wholeness."

Suggested Lection

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Collect

O Lord God, heavenly Father, we pray that, as You raised up Bo Harald Giertz to lead Swedish Lutherans into a renewed appreciation of their confessional heritage and trust in the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as You spoke to the entire Church through his writings, so You would continue to provide faithful pastors and leaders, keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, defend us against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
06 July 2014
  + The Holy Prophet Isaiah +
6 July, Old Testament

Isaiah Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament prophet. His name means "Yahweh [the Lord] saves." Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah.

Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God's Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing the Lord's grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the "Evangelist of the Old Testament." No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah's miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (2:1–5; 11:1–16), and his public ministry (61:1–3), but most notably his "Suffering Servant" role and atoning death (52:13-53:12).

The apostle John's description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus' glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah's prophetic ministry. The seraphim's refrain of, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, (Isaiah 6:3)" during his call into the prophetic ministry (Isaiah 6) is the basis of many Christian hymns and liturgical pieces.

Hymn: Isaiah, Mighty Seer

   Isaiah, mighty seer, in days of old
   The Lord of all in Spirit did behold
   High on a lofty throne, in splendor bright,
   With flowing train that filled the Temple quite.
   Above the throne were stately seraphim,
   Six wings had they, these messengers of Him.
   With twain they veiled their faces, as was meet,
   With twain in reverent awe they hid their feet,
   And with the other twain aloft they soared,
   One to the other called and praised the Lord:
      "Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
      Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
      Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
      Behold, His glory filleth all the earth!"
   The beams and lintels trembled at the cry,
   And clouds of smoke enwrapped the throne on high. (from Isaiah 6:1-4)

Canticle: Isaiah 12

You will say in that day:
   "I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
      for though you were angry with me,
   your anger turned away,
      that you might comfort me.
   Behold, God is my salvation;
      I will trust, and will not be afraid;
   for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
      and he has become my salvation."
   With joy you will draw water
      from the wells of salvation.
And you will say in that day:
   "Give thanks to the Lord,
      call upon his name,
   make known his deeds among the peoples,
      proclaim that his name is exalted.
   Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
      let this be made known in all the earth.
   Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
      for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."

See Happenings for a hymn stanza written for the Commemoration of Isaiah.

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02 July 2014
  The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
2 July, New Testament (One Year Lectionary)

Durer: The Visitation This major Christological feast commemorates the joyous visit Mary paid to her relative (probably her cousin) Elizabeth, following The Annunciation. Inspired by the amazing news that she was to become the mother of the Christ and in response to the joyous word that her old and previously barren kinswoman was also pregnant, she joined Elizabeth during her sixth month of pregnancy (see Luke 1:39-56).

After Mary declared the wondrously good news, Elizabeth replied to the Virgin, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! ... Behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. (vv. 42, 44)" She concluded by giving full credit and glory to God while also commending her young cousin's hearty faith: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. (v. 45)"

Mary responded with the Magnificat, the beautiful song of praise beginning, "My soul magnifies the Lord. (vv. 46-55)" It's not clear whether Mary stayed there until after the birth of John or if she left immediately beforehand; Luke merely said that the Virgin "remained with her about three months and returned to her home. (v. 56)"

And so, as we encounter God sending the Forerunner and the Messiah into the world, we see a study in contrasts. Two women stand before each other. One seemingly too old to bear children now carries the final prophet of the Old Covenant. The other, youthful and as yet unwed — completely unprepared in the eyes of the world — carries the One who brings both the Advent and the Fulfillment of the New Testament. And again we see, in the fullness of time, one age passing away while another age begins — an age that has no end but which lasts unto eternity.

The reaction of Jesus' unborn cousin and the words of his mother also serve as reminders to many Christians about the sanctity of life. Christian pro-lifers point to John's celebration as clear evidence of the humanity and the consciousness of children who are still in utero.

In Roman Catholicism, Vatican II changed the date of the observation from 2 July to 31 May in order to more accurately reflect the Bible's chronology regarding the life of Christ. Several other Western churches followed suit. In The Lutheran Church —Missouri Synod, today is celebrated in the One Year Lectionary while the Three Year Lectionary moves the feast date to 31 May.

Note: This illustration by Albrecht Dürer is from the Web Gallery of Art.

Lection

Psalm 138
Isaiah 11:1-5
Romans 12:9-16
Luke 1:39-56

Collect

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your regard for the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Magnificat

My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
   for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
   for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
   and holy is His name.
And His mercy is for those who fear Him
   from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
   He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
   and exalted those of humble estate;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
   and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel,
   in remembrance of His mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
   to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

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29 June 2014
  + Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles +
29 June, New Testament

The Confession of Saint Peter ("You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God") is commemorated on 18 January, and the Conversion of Saint Paul on his approach to Damascus a week later, on 25 January. On 29 June we commemorate the martyrdoms of both apostles. The date is the anniversary of a day around AD 258, under the Valerian persecution, when what were believed to be the remains of the two apostles were both moved temporarily to prevent them from falling into the hands of the persecutors.

Peter and Paul The Scriptures do not record the deaths of Peter or Paul, or indeed any of the Apostles' deaths except for James the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2), but they are clearly anticipated (see the readings below), and from an early date it has been said that they were martyred at Rome at the command of the Emperor Nero, and buried there. As a Roman citizen, St. Paul would probably have been beheaded with a sword. An early tradition claims that St. Peter was crucified head downward.

The present Church of St. Peter in Rome replaces earlier churches built on the same site going back to the time of the Emperor Constantine, in whose reign a church was built on what was believed to be the burial site of Peter. Excavations under the church suggest that the belief that this is the true home of his burial predates Constantine.

Lection

Psalm 46
Acts 15:1-12 (13-21)
Galatians 2:1-10
Matthew 16:13-19

Collect

Merciful and eternal God, from whom the holy apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son, grant that, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we may with like constancy confess Your truth and be at all times ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us; even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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28 June 2014
  + Irenaeus of Lyons, Pastor and Confessor +
28 June AD 200

Irenaeus of Lyons Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-200), believed to be a native of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), studied in Rome and later became pastor in Lyons, France. Around 177, while Irenaeus was away from Lyons, a fierce persecution of Christians led to the martyrdom of his bishop. Upon Irenaeus' return, he became Bishop of Lyons.

His most famous writing is Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies). This work condemned several errors but focused especially on Gnosticism, which denied the goodness of creation. In opposition, Irenaeus confessed that God has redeemed his creation through the incarnation of the Son. Irenaeus also affirmed the teachings of the Scriptures handed down to and through him as being normative for the Church.

Despite a few stray texts, very little suggests that he did not die a natural death. He was buried in Saint John's Church, Lyon — a congregation later renamed in his honor. Huegenot Calvinists destroyed his tomb and his remains during in 1522, during a period of iconoclasm.

Collect

Almighty God, You upheld your servant Irenaeus, giving him strength to confess the truth against every false doctrine; keep us, we pray, steadfast in Your Word and grant us the practice of true religion, that in constancy and peace we may walk in the way of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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27 June 2014
  + Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Confessor +
27 June AD 444

Cyril of Alexandria Saint Cyril (ca. AD 376-444) became Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt in 412. Throughout his career he defended a number of orthodox doctrines, among them the teaching that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is "rightly called and truly is the Mother of God" — Theotokos, "the God-Bearer" (Formula of Concord, Epitome, VIII:12). In 431 the Council of Ephesus affirmed this teaching that the Son of Mary is also true God.

The Council was responding to the Nestorian heresy, which distinguished so completely between the divine and human natures of Christ that claims were made that the divine Christ did some things while the human Jesus did others.

Some of the differences are quite subtle; perhaps even Nestorius himself could not have foreseen the full ramifications of his position, including a "resurrection" of only the divine nature. Ephesus condemned the title of "Christ-Bearer" (Christotokos) for the Virgin, since the Nestorians would only claim that Mary bore the Christ, but not God Himself.

Cyril receives almost as many brickbats as he does bouquets, even from orthodox Christians, because he's also known for being what one person calls "an ill-tempered, quarrelsome, hasty, and violent man." This seems especially so during his early years as Bishop of Alexandria.

A particularly acute example of his extreme rigidity comes from his closing of Novatianist churches, although the Novationists weren't particularly unorthodox. Their "fault" was as much one of pride as of theology — they descended from those who'd stood firm in the persecutions of earlier years and refused to associate or worship with the heirs of those who recanted the Faith under persecution. Their main theological aberration were insisting upon rebaptism of converts from "lapsed" Christianity and an attitude that was, perhaps, less than Christ-like in dealing with erring brothers.

Cyril also ran the Jews out of town. The reason given was that they were seditious and violent, although we're left with little evidence. This action likely contributed to an ongoing feud with Orestes, the imperial prefect. These disagreements seemingly spilled over into a quarrel with the prefect's friend, the neo-platonist scholar Hypatia, who was later murdered by a mob.

Few have directly condemned Cyril for her death but the leaders of the mob certainly claimed the bishop as their leader. In modern times, Carl Sagan, in his book Cosmos, blamed Hypatia's death (and the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria) on dogmatic Christianity's desire to root out rational paganism. However, other scholars see the whole feud as an internal Church struggle and no one has yet established a definitive cause (or date) for the final destruction of Alexandria's library.

At any rate, and despite the considerable rancor that accompanied his early years as bishop, the mature Cyril worked diligently to reconcile the Nestorian and Orthodox parties. His efforts led many of the less virulent Nestorians back to full communion.

The writings of Cyril on the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ reveal him to be one of the most able theologians of his time. Cyril's Christology influenced subsequent church councils and was a primary source for Lutheran confessional writings. He still speaks clearly to our age, especially as the old Christological heresies are trotted out under new guises.

Collect

Heavenly Father, You used Your servant Cyril to confess the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and of Your Son being one person with fully divine and human natures. Grant that we, also, might be constant in Your Word, bold in Your confession, and steadfast in Your worship, to the glory of Your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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26 June 2014
  + The Holy Prophet Jeremiah +
26 June, Old Testament

The holy prophet Jeremiah is counted as one of the four "major prophets" of the Old Testament, along with Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. His name means "Established (or Raised up) by Yahweh (the Lord)."

He was active as God's prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah ca. 627 to 582 B.C. As he fulfilled his calling, he predicted, witnessed, and lived through the Babylonian siege and eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

In his preaching he often used symbols such as an almond rod (Jeremiah 1:11-14), wine jars (13:12-14), or a potter at work (18:1-17). His entire prophetic ministry was a sermon, communicating through word and deed God's anger toward his rebellious people. He suffered repeated rejection and persecution by his countrymen. As far as can be known, he died in Egypt, having been taken there forcibly. He is remembered and honored for fearlessly calling God's people to repentance.

Jeremiah Jeremiah also is credited by many as the author of the book of Lamentations. The book consists of five separate poems, of which the first four are acrostics consisting of verses whose first words begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In English translations, of course, this style completely disappears.

Chapter 3 is an especially well-developed acrostic. There are twenty-two letters in Hebrew and the other chapters have 22 verses. However, this chapter has sixty-six, grouping sets of three verses under each letter of the alphabet. Thus, verses one through three begin with א (aleph), verses four through six with ב (beth), seven through nine with ג (gimel), and so-on down the line. Chapter Five, while not an acrostic, still has 22 verses.

The themes of Lamentations unfold as follows: Chapter 1 treats the fallen and desolate city of Jerusalem as a widow weeping over her loss. Chapter 2 connects her misery with the sins of the nation and her people which brought God's judgment. Chapter 3 expresses hope that the Lord's punishment will result in blessing for His people and affirms His goodness: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.' (vv. 22-24)" Chapter 4 is a lament on the destruction of city and temple but lays the blame upon the people's sins. The final chapter outlines the city's continuing troubles and prays that the Lord will finally restore Zion and not abandon His chosen people, although their sins are great and they certainly deserve it.

The book of Jeremiah similarly proclaims harsh judgment upon persistent sin while also reminding the Lord's people of His faithfulness. It looks to a time when the need for the Law's commands and punishments will cease and all will be made right. The clearest expression of this thought is in 31:31-34, where a "New Covenant" of grace is promised, a covenant established by the blood of the coming Messiah: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Scripture says nothing of how prophet's life ended. Chapter 43 reveals that Johanan took Jeremiah, the prophet's faithful scribe Baruch ben Neriah, and a remnant of Judean people, to live in Egypt. This directly contradicted the Word of the Lord Jeremiah had just spoken in Chapter 42, forbidding such a move and warning of dire consequences. Since Jeremiah 52:31 mentions the reign of Evil-merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, many think that he may have been at least 90 years old when he died. Some ancient traditions claim that he was stoned to death in Babylon. Others say that he finally went to Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar's army.

See Happenings for a hymn stanza written for the Commemoration of Jeremiah.

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25 June 2014
  The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
25 June AD 1530

Diet of Augsburg Note: Please see Ask the Pastor for more on the history and theology of the Augsburg Confession and its presentation.

The Augsburg Confession, the principal doctrinal statement of the theology of Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Philipp Melanchthon. At its heart it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone.

Signed by leaders of several German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, on 25 June 1530. A few weeks later Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). In 1580 the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was included in the Book of Concord.

An historical sidelight: Because of imperial protocol, Melanchthon wasn't allowed to make — or even attend — the presentation. Instead, two of the Saxon chancellors gave the oral reading and handed the written Latin and German copies to Charles V.

Lection

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Collects

O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour our Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Almighty God, we praise You for those You have sent to call the Church to its tasks and renew its life, including your servant Philipp Melanchthon. Raise up in our own day pastors, teachers, and theologians inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymn

God's Word Is Our Great Heritage

   God's Word is our great heritage
   And shall be ours forever;
   To spread its light from age to age
   Shall be our chief endeavor.
   Through life it guides our way,
   In death it is our stay.
   Lord, grant, while worlds endure,
   We keep its teachings pure
   Throughout all generations.

Notes on the Propers: The suggested readings come from the LCMS hymnal Lutheran Worship, as does the first collect. These propers may also used for the Commemoration of the Doctors of the Church, including Luther and C. F. W. Walther. The second collect is modified from James Kiefer's Hagiographies.

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24 June 2014
  The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
24 June, New Testament

His Name Is John This day celebrates the birth of a son to the elderly and previously childless couple Elizabeth and Zechariah the priest. On the eighth day, his parents had him circumcised according the the Law and named him John ("Yahweh is gracious").

John would grow up to be the last prophet of the Old Testament and the Forerunner of the coming Messiah, his younger cousin Jesus. Notice that today's date is six months before Christmas — the Nativity of Our Lord — since the Annunciation to Saint Mary came "in the sixth month" of Elizabeth's pregnancy.

The Christian Church remembers Saint John the Baptizer's prophetic ministry and commemorates his martyrdom on 29 August.

Lection

Psalm 85:(1-6) 7-13
Isaiah 40:1-5
Acts 13:13-26
Luke 1:57-80

Collect

Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation; now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Additional Reading

Past Elder's post on The Nativity of St. John has some background material and some interesting notes about the Christian Calendar, the dating of Biblical events, and the kalends.

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15 June 2014
  The Feast of the Holy Trinity
The First Sunday after Pentecost

The Holy Trinity The Feast of the Holy Trinity, or Trinity Sunday, is a movable festival on the Church calendar in Western Christendom. Its date of celebration depends, as do Lent, Ascension Day, and Pentecost, upon the date of Easter.

Often, the Church Year is divided into two approximate halves. The "festival half," sometimes (rather inappropriately, in my opinion) termed "the Lord's half year," runs from the First Sunday in Advent through the week following Pentecost. This period encompasses all of the major Christological observances. Trinity Sunday is sometimes considered the close of the festival half but is usually understood to be the beginning of the non-festival half, sometimes called "the Church's half year." Its proper liturgical color is white, but except for certain special observances, green will be used for paraments and vestments until the church year closes.

This day celebrates the mystery of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — One God yet Three Persons — a fact revealed in Scripture but apprehended only by faith, since its comprehension defies human logic. Some people with a literalistic (rather than literal) understanding of the Bible attempt to deny this doctrine since they cannot find "Trinity" or "Triune" or "Three Persons" in the pages of Scripture. However, the sum total testimony of the Old and New Testaments certainly speaks of God as One yet also as Three Persons.

Regardless of the lectionary cycle used, the appointed Scriptures for the day reflect both God's undivided unity of self and His Triune nature. While not often used by most of the Christian Church during the rest of the year, much of the Western Church uses the Athanasian Creed as its confession of faith on Trinity Sunday.

TrinityLection — One-year Series

Psalm 29
Isaiah 6:1-7
Romans 11:33-36
John 3:1-15 (16-17)

Lection — Three-year Series, Year A

Psalm 8
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Acts 2:14a, 22-36
Matthew 28:16-20

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever.

Holy Trinity Hymns

Holy, Holy, Holy

   Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
   Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
   Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
   God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

   Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
   Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
   Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
   Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

   Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
   Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
   Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
   Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

   Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
   All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
   Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
   God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Three Persons, One God Holy God, We Praise Your Name

   Holy God, we praise Your Name;
   Lord of all, we bow before You.
   All on earth Your scepter claim,
   All in heaven above adore You.
   Infinite Your vast domain,
   Everlasting is Your reign.

   Hark! The glad celestial hymn
   Angel choirs above are raising;
   Cherubim and seraphim,
   In unceasing chorus praising,
   Fill the heavens with sweet accord:
   "Holy, holy, holy Lord!"

   Lo, the apostolic train
   Join Your sacred Name to hallow;
   Prophets swell the glad refrain,
   And the white robed martyrs follow;
   And from morn to set of sun
   Through the Church the song goes on.

The Holy Trinity    You are King of Glory, Christ;
   Son of God, yet born of Mary.
   For us sinners sacrificed,
   As to death a Tributary,
   First to break the bars of death,
   You have opened heaven to faith.

   Holy Father, holy Son,
   Holy Spirit, Three we name You,
   Though in essence only One;
   Undivided God we claim You
   And, adoring, bend the knee
   While we own the mystery.

Related Item: Tainted Trinitarian Theology Trouble at Martin's Mumbles.

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