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Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

28 October 2014
  + Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles +
28 October, New Testament

Saint Simon the ZealotOn the various New Testament lists of the Twelve Apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or Simon the "Cananean," which is the Aramaic word meaning "Zealot") and by Judas the son of James, also called Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus.

Simon is not mentioned by name in the New Testament except on these lists. If he was of the Jewish religio-political organization known as the Zealots, he would have been part of an effort to overthrow Roman rule. However, the title might only be descriptive of his personality.

Saint JudeJudas (often called Jude in English) is variously named, but this is not surprising. Before the Crucifixion, there would be a need to distinguish him among the apostles from Judas Iscariot, and after the Crucifixion there would be an additional reason for being emphatic about the distinction.

After the Last Supper it was Jude who asked Our Lord why he chose to reveal Himself only to the disciples. He received the reply: "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (see John 14:22-31)"

As misguided Christians began to invoke the saints, the apostles became particularly popular targets for their petitions. Since little was known about Jude and because his name was forever tied to the betrayer, people wouldn't pray to him until they'd exhausted all other resources. This led to his being titled the "Saint of Last Resort," since he was the last saint remaining.

Jude enjoys several patronages, the most notable being lost or desperate causes. Perhaps being the last resort played into this, but more likely the association came because of the encouragement in the Epistle of Jude to remain faithful no matter how harsh the circumstances.

Jude's invocation during desperate situations drew special attention from the sick and injured, especially those "hopeless" who saw no improvement or were close to death. As medicine advance and seriously ill people gathered together for treatment, it was natural to grant patronage of hospitals and hospital workers to the apostle.

The most noted connection in this area is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Founder Danny Thomas wanted no child to die at the dawn of life. Recognizing the desperation of families when the children faced critical, life-threatening situations, he also wanted to remind them that as long as life remains and as long as prayers are prayed, we should never give up hope.


Psalm 43
Jeremiah 26:1-16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 15:12-21


Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make know the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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26 October 2014
  + Nicolai, Heermann, and Gerhardt, Hymn Writers +
Philipp Nicolai: 26 October AD 1608

Philipp NicolaiNicolai was born in Waldeck, Germany 10 August 1556, the son of a Lutheran pastor. He entered the University of Erfurt and in 1576 he went to Wittenberg. For four years after his graduation, he lived at Volkhardinghousen and frequently preached for his father. In 1583, he was appointed Lutheran preacher at Herdecke, but because of a Roman Catholic town council, he found many difficulties there Following an invasion by Spanish troops in April 1586, a colleague re-introduced the Mass and Nicolai resigned his call.

In the end of 1586 he was appointed diaconus at Niederwildungen, near Waldeck and became pastor in 1587. In November 1588, he became chief pastor at Altwildungen, court preacher to the widowed Countess Margaretha of Waldeck, and tutor to her son, Count Wilhelm Ernst. He found himself in disagreement with Calvinists on the meaning of the Lord's Supper and worked toward having principality's clergy adopt the Formula of Concord. These and subsequent writings and actions led people to label him the "Arch Foe of Calvinism." Indeed, most of his scholarly works are criticisms of Calvinism, some making interesting comparisons with Islam.

FreudenspiegelHe went to Unna in Westphalia in 1596 which led to more controversy with the Calvinists. Unna fell victim to the plague in 1597 and 1598, which took the lives of 1,300 of its inhabitants. From the parsonage which overlooked the churchyard, Nicolai was saddened by the continual burials. On one day thirty graves were dug.

In the midst of this distress he wrote a series of meditations which he titled, Freudenspiegel deß ewigen Lebens (Joyful Mirror of Eternal Life). In these writings Nicolai looked to the hope of eternal life in Christ. On 27 December 1598, he fled before the invasion of the Spaniards, not returning until the end of April 1599. During this time Nicolai completed his Freudenspiegel.

In April 1601, he was elected chief pastor of Saint Katherine's Church, Hamburg, beginning his duties on 6 August. Life passed without many recorded incidents until 22 October 1608, when he participated in an ordination and returned home feeling ill. He developed a violent fever, dying 26 October 1608.

While in Hamburg, Nicolai gained fame for his preaching and was hailed at times as a "second Chrysostom." Still, we remember him most for his hymns, of which only three seem to have been published. A fourth hymn appearing in Mirror was written by a brother. These "Jesus hymns" began a new era of hymn writing in the 17th Century. Published only a few years before Arndt's True Christianity, they show a similar devotional feeling toward Jesus. However, Nicolai's theology never softened along the lines of Johann Arndt and his successors.

Johann Heermann: 17 February AD 1647

Johann HeermannJohann Heermann, considered the greatest Lutheran chorale writer between Luther and Gerhardt, was influenced by Valerius Herberger, writer of the hymn, Valet will ich dir geben. Heermann was born in Silesia, studied in Leipzig, Jena, and Strasbourg, and was called to be pastor in Köben in 1611. He contracted tuberculosis in 1634 and resigned his pastorate in 1638 because of declining health. He moved from there to Lissa, Poland, dying nine years later.

Many of Heermann's hymns were written for family devotions, so much of his output was based on Johann Arndt's Paradies Gärtlein ("Garden of Paradise"). His life was filled with suffering and sadness. During the Thirty Years War, he lost everything he owned three times. His first wife died young, he developed chronic sinusitis and bronchitis, rendering him unable to speak any length without terrible coughing. In spite of this, he helped his parishoners deal with their own difficulties as they, along with him, lost everything in war, pestilence and plague. After moving to Poland on the advice of his doctor son-in-law, he was built a small home. However, his sufferings overwhelmed him more and more. By the end of his life, he could neither sit or lie down, and slept while leaning against a wall.

In spite of his afflictions, he continued writing hymns of praise and comfort. Many consider his famous "Ah! Holy Jesus" to be among the finest of all passion hymns. His writing, rooted in the Jesus mysticism of the Middle Ages, is thought to have been one of the sources for the Pietist movement.

Paul Gerhardt: 27 May AD 1676

Paul GerhardtPaul Gerhardt was dubbed the "sweet singer of Lutheranism." He was born on 12 March 1607 in Gräfenhaim, near Wittenberg and lived during the religious wars of the 17th century. He received training as a Lutheran pastor at Wittenberg, where Martin Luther had taught a century before. However, Gerhardt didn't receive a call to a church until 1651, when he was ordained to serve the congregation in Mittenwalde, southeast of Berlin.

While awaiting a call, he taught the children of Andreas Barthold — one of whom, Anna Maria, he later married. During that time he met Johann Crüger, the kantor and organist of Saint Nicholas Church, Berlin. Together they produced some of the greatest Lutheran chorales, including "Awake, My Heart with Gladness," (Auf, auf, mein Herz), "Now All the Woods Are Sleeping," and "All My Heart this Night Rejoices," among others.

Gerhardt's hymns combine a strong, objective faith in justification as a free gift from God with his own warm, subjective experience of that gift. In all, he wrote more than 120 hymns, many of which are still known and loved throughout the world.

His life, however, was difficult. He suffered greatly because of the religious wars. When asked to refrain from preaching against Calvinism by Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, conscience would not allow him to compromise his Lutheran beliefs. He was soon deposed from office and barred from holding services even in his own home. During this time his wife and one son died, leaving him alone with a boy of six.

In May 1669, the congregation in Lübben, near the southeastern border of Germany, called him as pastor. He served there until his death on 27 May 1676. The Lübben congregation commissioned a life-sized painting of him for the church and in 1930, following renovation, the church was renamed Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche in his honor. The painting still hangs there. Beneath it is inscribed a fitting epitaph: "A theologian sifted in Satan's sieve."

Thank you to brother pastor and fellow blogger Charles Lehmann, who provided additional details on Nicolai's life and work.

Suggested Lection

Psalm 40
Deuteronomy 31:30-32:47
Colossians 3:12-17
John 16:16-24


Almighty God, through your holy apostle You taught us to praise You in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; we give You thanks this day for the gift of hymn writing which confesses the Faith and inspires the faithful which You gave to Your servants Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt, and we pray that Christ's Church may never lack those with the gifts of writing words and music to Your praise. May the Church be ever filled with the desire to praise and thank You for your grace, mercy, and faithfulness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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25 October 2014
  + Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe, Faithful Women +
25 October, New Testament

These exemplary Christian women demonstrated their faith by their material support of Christ's Church.

Peter Raises DorcasDorcas (or "Tabitha" — both names mean "gazelle") was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in the city of Joppa, especially for her making clothes for the poor. When Dorcas died suddenly, the members of her congregation sent to the neighboring city of Lydda for the Apostle Peter, who came and raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36-43).

Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, who worked at Philippi selling a famous purple dye that was so much in demand in the ancient world. She was also a "worshiper of God," although we cannot be sure if there was an active local she affiliated herself in any way with a local synagogue. When the Apostle Paul encountered her in prayer among other proselyte women, his preaching of the Word brought Lydia to faith in Christ. She and her friends thus became the nucleus of the Christian community in Philippi (16:11-15). It was to her house that Paul and Silas returned following the conversion of the Philippian jailer (16:16-40).

Phoebe was another faithful woman associated with the Apostle Paul. She was a church servant (perhaps "deaconess") from Cenchreae (one of the ports of Corinth) whom Paul sent to the church in Rome with his Epistle to the Romans. In it he writes of her support for the work of the early Church (Romans 16:1-2).

All of these women continue to be honored by the Church and emulated by many Christian women. Each of them, particularly Dorcas, have lent their names to various women's societies in many congregations.

Illustration is a public domain Bible card from 1897. To find similar cards and other illustrations, please follow the clipart link from The Bread Site.

Suggested Lection

Psalm 37:1-6 (27-40)
Acts 16:9-15 or 9:36-43
Romans 16:1-16
Matthew 10:40-42


Almighty God, You guided Your servants Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe to sustain and expand Your Holy Church by their loving service and generous deeds; open our hearts to hear You, grant us the will to obey You, and strengthen our hands to love our neighbors with the same love You pour out upon us, for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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23 October 2014
  + Saint James of Jerusalem +
23 October, New Testament

St. James the JustThe New Testament refers to this James as the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19). He led the Christian congregation in Jerusalem for many years, garnering the title "Bishop of Jerusalem" among many in Christendom. He is often credited with authorship of the Epistle of James, although the Epistle itself does not state this explicitly.

James is mentioned briefly in connection with Jesus' visit to Nazareth (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). John 7:2-5 tells us that Jesus' brothers did not believe in Him and from this, as well as references in early Christian writers, we infer that James was not a disciple of the Lord until after the Resurrection. When Paul lists our Lord's resurrection appearances (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), he includes an appearance to James. Peter, about to leave Jerusalem after escaping from Herod, left a message for James and the Apostles (Acts 12:17). When a council met at Jerusalem to consider what rules Gentile Christians should be required to keep, James formulated the final consensus (Acts 15:13-21).

On his last recorded visit to Jerusalem, Paul visited James (others were present, but no other names are given) and spoke of his ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 21:18).

Outside the New Testament, the Jewish historian Josephus called James "the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ," and reported that even the Pharisees greatly respected his piety and strict observance of the Law but that his enemies took advantage of an interval between Roman governors in AD 62 to have him put to death. Numerous references in early Christian documents also show the esteem with which the early Church held him.

While debate continues, this particular James is likely the one called "James the Just" (or "James the Righteous") by much of the Church. The source of this appellation seems to come from an early tradition that James took vows as a Nazarite and that his life, both in Judaism and after conversion to the Faith, was marked by deep piety.

For a bit more on James' possible blood relationship to Jesus, whether they were "half- or step-brothers or cousins," see the Ask the Pastor post the Names of Jesus' Brothers. An explanation in the hagiography for Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles helps discern among the different New Testament people sharing this name.


Psalm 133
Acts 15:12-22a
James 1:1-12
Matthew 13:54-58


Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just to lead and guide Christ's Church in her early days. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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18 October 2014
  + Saint Luke, Evangelist +
18 October, New Testament

Saint Luke Saint Luke the Evangelist was a physician (Colossians 4:14) and a companion of St. Paul on some of his missionary journeys (see Acts 16:10ff; 20:5ff; 27-28).

Material found in his Gospel account and not elsewhere includes the Annunciation and almost all we know of Jesus' birth, infancy, and boyhood. He recounts some of the most moving parables, including the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. He also provides three of the sayings of Christ on the Cross: "Father, forgive them (23:34)"; "Today, you will be with me in Paradise (23:43)"; and "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit! (23:46)"

Luke's Gospel account emphasizes the human love of Christ, His compassion for sinners and for suffering and unhappy persons, for outcasts such as the Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, shepherds (not a respected profession), and for the poor. Christ's treatment of women and their important supporting role in His ministry is also emphasized in Luke more than in the other Gospels.

Much of Christianity uses each of the four living creatures (see Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4) as a symbol one of the four evangelists. While attributions vary in parts of Christendom, most of the Western Church assigns the winged ox to Saint Luke. The association probably comes because the ox was one of the major sacrificial animals under the Old Covenant while Luke strongly highlighted the sacrificial elements of Christ's life, suffering, and death. See the commemoration of Saint Matthew for details of the other evangelists' symbols in ecclesiastical art.


Psalm 147:1-11
Isaiah 35:5-8
2 Timothy 4:5-18
Luke 10:1-9


Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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17 October 2014
  + Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr +
17 October AD 107

Biblical Antioch St. Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in Syria (near contemporary Antakya, Turkey) at the beginning of the second century AD and an early Christian martyr. Antioch was a port on the Orontes River in Syria with access to the Mediterranean Sea, just north of the modern country of Lebanon. Its importance included spice and other valuable trades and it was closely connected to the Silk Road and the Persian Royal Road.

The city was important to early Christianity, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch (cf. Acts 11:26). Paul began three of his missionary journeys from there. It is believed that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Antioch.

The Didache, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, was probably written in Syria and likely in Antioch. The city was one of five patriarchates of early Christianity under Constantine, along with Jerusalem, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome. Saint John Chrysostom (AD 349-407), the Bishop of Constantinople, was born in Antioch. The Maronite Eastern Catholic Church of Lebanon originates from Christian Antioch.

Martyrdom of Ignatius Near the end of the reign of Trajan (98-117), Ignatius refused to worship the Roman emperor. He was arrested, taken in chains to Rome, and eventually thrown to the wild beasts in the arena.

On the way to Rome, he wrote letters to the Christians at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, and also to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. In the letters, which are beautifully pastoral in tone, Ignatius warned against certain heresies (false teachings). He also repeatedly stressed the full humanity and deity of Christ, the reality of Christ's bodily presence in the Lord's Supper, the supreme authority of the bishop, and the unity of the Church found in her bishops.

Ignatius was the first to use the word catholic to describe the universality of the Church. His Christ-centeredness, his courage in the face of martyrdom, and his zeal for the truth over against false doctrine remain his lasting legacy to the Church.

From His Writings

For I know and believe that he was in the flesh even after the Resurrection. And when he came to those with Peter he said to them: "Take, handle me and see that I am not a phantom without a body." And they immediately touched him and believed, being mingled both with his flesh and spirit. Therefore they despised even death, and were proved to be above death. And after his Resurrection he ate and drank with them as a being of flesh, although he was united in spirit to the Father. Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans III

I am writing to all the churches and am insisting to everyone that I die for God of my own free will — unless you hinder me. I implore you: do not be unseasonably kind to me. Let me be food for the wild beasts, through whom I can reach God. I am God's wheat, and I am being ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread of Christ. Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans IV


Psalm 116:1-8 or 31:1-5
Romans 8:35-39
John 12:23-26


Almighty God, we praise you for your bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present to you the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept the willing tribute of our lives, and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Russian icon of Ignatius public domain. Biblical world map from Logos Bible Software.

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11 October 2014
  + Saint Philip, Deacon +
11 October, New Testament

Philip and the Ethopian The deacon Philip, was also called an evangelist (see Acts 21:8). He was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve Apostles and of the rapidly growing early church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor, especially to the widows who had limited support (6:1-6).

Unless Saint Luke omitted some portion of the selection process, this Philip is not the Philip we meet in the Gospels, whose feast is celebrated on 1 May with James, son of Alphaeus. For if they are the same person, why would one of the twelve Apostles separate himself from the ministry into which Christ had called him and go off to "serve tables" (Acts 6:2)? Therefore, we are dealing with at least two separate Philips in the New Testament.

Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the Sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa.

Here we make two historical asides. First, the "Ethiopia" known to the Mediterranean world of Philip's time may actually have been part of modern-day Sudan. Second, while a "eunuch" is technically a castrated male, it also served at times as a generic term for royal officials, including some where records indicate that they were capable of siring children.

Saint Philip's final appearance in Scripture comes in conjunction with Saint Paul. He hosted the apostle in the town of Caesarea before the apostle completed his final visit to Jerusalem (21:8-15). During this meeting, Luke also discovered and informs his readers that Philip "had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied (21:9)"


Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for Your servant Philip the Deacon, whom You called to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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09 October 2014
  + Abraham, Patriarch +
9 October, Old Testament

Yahweh's Covenant with Abram The Lord called the Patriarch Abraham (first known as Abram) to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age 75, in obedience to God's command, he, his wife Sarai (later Sarah), and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There, the Lord cut a covenant with Abram (Genesis 15), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. In Genesis 17:1-16, the Lord established circumcision as a sign of His covenant people while also renaming Abram as Abraham and Sarai as Sarah.

At the age of 100 Abraham and Sarah were finally blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. A few years later, Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man's life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (22:1-19).

Despite having his only child born at such an advanced age, Abraham lived to see the births of Isaac's twin sons Jacob and Esau. Abraham finally died at the age of 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament Patriarchs — and for his "righteousness before God through faith. (Romans 4:1-12)"

The Offering of Isaac In the great "Faith Chapter" of Hebrews 11, Abraham holds a prominent place. The writer noted several instances where Abraham acted "by faith," contrary to worldly evidence but in accordance with God's will. "By faith," he "obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance (v. 8)"; he "went to live in the land of promise ... with Isaac and Jacob (v. 9)"; and he, "when he was tested, offered up Isaac. (v. 17)" Among the believers so listed, God also commended the faith of Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob through the epistle's writer.

The promised blessing of the nations came to fruition in the person of Jesus Christ. He was a son of Abraham by blood, by circumcision, and by His relationship with our heavenly Father. While the Jews traced their descent from Abraham according to his bloodlines, Christians are listed in Scripture as Abraham's true children by faith in Christ. Paul wrote that Abraham is "the father of us all" who share his faith in God (Romans 4:16). In Galatians, Paul also wrote, "Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.' So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (3:7-9)"

We cannot definitively state that the patriarch saw his greatest Descendant "in the flesh" before he died, although some think that the Son of God was also the Angel of the Lord who spoke with him. However, whether by faith or by sight, we know from Jesus' words that "Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. (John 8:56)" When the Jews before Him mocked such an apparently outlandish statement, our Lord continued, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am, (v. 58)" thereby claiming to be not only a son of Abraham but also Abraham's God (cf. Exodus 3:13-14).

While most people shudder at the thought of Abraham taking Isaac up Mount Moriah as an intended sacrifice, some are more pained by his having a son with Sarai's servant Hagar (see Genesis 16). I'm one of these and, for many of us, it isn't the odd sharing of the marriage bed but the result of this wrong relationship that's more disturbing. Certainly the Lord assured blessing for Hagar's son Ishmael, a child born through human manipulation. However, He reserved the greater blessing for Isaac, the child born to Sarah of His divine promise (Genesis 17:15-21).

Sadly, both blessings were later forsaken by their bearers. The vast majority of Ishmael's descendants do not have Abraham's God as their own but instead have given themselves over to the pernicious religion of Islam and its false god Allah. Meanwhile, much of Israel disappeared, first during the Assyrian invasion and, later, the Babylonian Captivity. Of those who returned to Palestine, many slowly turned away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the next four hundred years. When finally appeared the Blessing of the Nations, "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:11)."

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07 October 2014
  + Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor +
7 October AD 1787

H M MuhlenbergMoving from the Old World to the New, H. M. Muhlenberg established the shape of Lutheran parishes and Lutheranism in general in America during a 45-year ministry in Pennsylvania. Born at Einbeck, Germany, in 1711 and baptized Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg, he came to the American colonies in 1742.

A tireless traveler, Muhlenberg helped to found many Lutheran congregations and was the guiding force behind the first American Lutheran synod, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, established in 1748. He valued the role of music in Lutheran worship (often serving as his own organist) and was also largely responsible for preparing the first American Lutheran liturgy (also in 1748).

We remember Muhlenberg as church leader, journalist, liturgist, and — above all — as faithful pastor to those in his charge. He died in 1787, leaving behind a large extended family and a lasting ecclesiastical and familial heritage. Although his beliefs and practices may have been tinged with pietistic tendencies, Muhlenberg paved the way for a wide variety of Lutherans — from orthodox and doctrinally sound to Lutheran in name only — to establish their respective presences in the United States.

Among his heirs were churchmen, politicians, and soldiers, including sons Peter Muhlenberg, a major general in the Continental Army and Frederick Muhlenberg, the first United States Speaker of the House.


Heavenly Father, Shepherd of Your people, we thank You for Your servant Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who was faithful in the care and nurture of Your flock, and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we may by Your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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04 October 2014
  + Theodor Fliedner +
4 October AD 1864

Theodor Fliedner The early Church entrusted some women, particularly widows, with helping to carry out the "social work" of the Church, particularly caring for the sick and needy of the congregation. From reading 1 Timothy 5:1-16, it appears that certain of these women were specially consecrated and made a lifetime commitment to works of mercy. The idea of a female deaconate or service order largely died out by the 7th Century AD, although some groups of nuns and a few informally organized groups undertook similar work.

The modern deaconess movement came mainly through the work of Theodor Fliedner, a German Lutheran. Born in Eppstein, Germany, in 1800, he became pastor of a small parish in Kaiserswerth in 1821 or 1822. Fliedner took the work of England's Elizabeth Fry and Dutch Mennonites as inspiration. Encountering Moravian deaconesses, he also drew from their example.

He began serving the Düsseldorf Prison, walking to and from Düsseldorf on alternating Sundays until the appointment of a regular prison chaplain. This led to more prisons engaging chaplains and establishing regular worship and aid services for the prisoners. He envisioned and opened a nursery school; eventually it became a sort of teachers' college and a starting point for what would become his first deaconess school.

William Passavant Becoming more involved in Christian social work among the disadvantaged, Fliedner convinced himself that he should revive the order of deaconesses. He opened a hospital and deaconess training center in Kaiserswerth on 13 October 1836. Florence Nightingale heard of his reputation, visited the school in the 1840s, came back to study nursing, and graduated in 1851.

The program was so successful that he could send deaconesses to other hospitals by 1838. New deaconess motherhouses grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and in Jerusalem, Paris, Berlin, and Strasbourg, and elsewhere. When he died, 30 motherhouses already stood and over 1500 deaconesses served around the world. The middle of the 20th century saw more than 35,000 deaconesses serving world-wide.

Lutherans in the United States may also want to remember William Passavant, who pioneered the American deaconess movement in 1849. He also founded missions, hospitals, orphanages, and schools. Passavant died 3 January 1894.

Additional information available from Wikipedia and James Kiefer.

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30 September 2014
  + Jerome, Scholar, Translator, Theologian +
30 September AD 420

Dürer: Jerome Saint Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus), translator of Holy Scripture, was born in a little Dalmatian village on the Adriatic Sea around the year AD 345. Although he came from Christian parents, he wasn't baptized until he went to study in Rome in about AD 360.

After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. However, the time spent there convinced him that the life of a hermit monk was not for him and he pursued holy orders and advanced education.

After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople (where he studied under Gregory of Nazianzus), Jerome settled in Bethlehem. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time.

Jerome chose to use "street" or "vulgar" Latin rather than its classical form. Thus, his translation was called the Vulgate (from its vulgar Latin) and was the authoritative version of the Bible in the western Church for over 1,000 years.

Jerome by Ghirlandaio A man of considerable brilliance, Jerome could also be argumentative, arrogant, dogmatic in trivial matters, and easily swayed by people holding superior office. Yet he also was able to break with the influence of Origen under which he was raised and was a champion of understanding the original languages of Scripture and of exegesis over allegory in interpretation.

In Roman Catholic hagiography, Jerome is patron saint of translators and librarians. His symbol in Christianity is often a pen. In religious art, it isn't unusual to see him portrayed with an odd blend of clothing and trappings ranging from ascetic anchorite to opulently garbed cardinal. He is often posed with a crucifix, a skull, and a Bible.

Considered one of the great scholars of the early church, he is listed with Saints Augustine, Ambrose, and Gregory the Great as one of the original Four Doctors of the Western Church. These four, plus four Eastern theologians, compose the eight Great Doctors of the early Church (see this article on Saint Ambrose for the entire list).

Jerome died on 30 September AD 420. Originally interred at Bethlehem, his remains were eventually taken to Rome.

More information is available from James Kiefer's Hagiographies and Wikipedia.


Psalm 19:7-11(12-14) or 119:97-104
2 Timothy 3:14-17
Luke 24:44-48


O Lord, O God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give you thanks for your servant Jerome, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we pray that your Holy Spirit will overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, will transform us according to your righteous will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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29 September 2014
  Saint Michael and all Angels
29 September

Saint Michael On the Feast of St. Michael and all Angels (or Michaelmas) we thank God for the many ways in which He lovingly watches over us, both directly and indirectly. We also remember that the richness and variety of God's creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

The angels are referred to as "messengers of God," or simply as "messengers." The word for a messenger in Hebrew is malach, in Greek, angelos, from which we get our word "angel."

Saint Michael Michael (the name means "Who is like God?") is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. In the Scriptures, Daniel (10:13, 21; 12:1) calls him prince of the people of Israel; Jude 9 notes an apocryphal story of a dispute with the devil about the body of Moses; Revelation 12:7 shows him leading the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon. He is often pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon.

Why do we call him "Saint" Michael? Isn't this word reserved for God's holy people? Well, the word actually means "holy," that is dedicated and set aside for a special Godly purpose or having an intrinisic goodness. All of God's people are holy because of Christ. Therefore, all are saints — especially the dead in Christ. Because they are completely sinless, Michael and all the angels are "holy" and thus may be called saints.

Saint Michael Many theologians through the centuries have suggested that Michael is actually a theophany, a divine manifestation of the Son of God. Reading the passages where he is mentioned doesn't convince me entirely one way or another. The name itself is intriguing: If we answer the question, "Who is like God?" we must say, "No one — except God."

Also, while Christian literature, liturgics, and hymnody is filled with references to archangels, Michael is the only being in Scripture called an archangel. All other "archangel" names come from the Apocrypha or even more spurious writings. The prefix normally means ruling, chief, or principal and can also carry the meaning of a prototype or an earlier model.

Saint Michael We know that Jesus testifies of His Father: He was and remains the principal (arch-) messenger of God's grace. He also preceded the existence of the angels, being alive from all eternity. In fact, He not only is the great messenger of God's Word, He is God's Word. Thus, understanding the Son as the archangel, the primary and ruling messenger of the Father is totally congruent with Scripture's revelation.

I say this not to attempt to persuade the reader to accept the idea that Michael is the Son of God but to open the mind to the possibility that they could be one and the same.

Saint Michael As for the angels, there are numerous times and places where they are mentioned. Yet all the spirit beings who serve God are not called angels by Scripture. While we often in our thinking lump them together, a number of distinct created beings exist.

When reading the Pauline epistles, many early theologians took as titles some of the descriptive language he used in writing of the spiritual realm. They came up with nine "choirs" or ranks of angels, normally grouped in three triads. Their order varied among the different commentators. For example, Pseudo-Dionysias ranked them (in ascending order) as seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels.

Saint Michael Cherubim, seraphim, angels and at least one archangel we know of definitely from the Bible. Whether or not "thrones, dominions, virtues," and the like are also specific creatures or whether they're rather general characteristics of the spirit beings, these lists appear to have identified the "four living creatures" mentioned in Ezekiel and Revelation as cherubim.

These lists have made it into our liturgy, where the Communion Preface speaks of "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven." They've also been incorporated into our hymnody, most notably "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones."

Saint Michael James Kiefer's Hagiographies give even more details on the choirs of angels and related material with Mr. Kiefer's article on Michael and All Angels.


Psalm 91
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
Revelation 12:7-12
Matthew 18:1-11 or Luke 10:17-20


Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

   Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
   Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
   Raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
   Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
   Virtues, archangels, angels' choirs,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!

   O higher than the cherubim,
   More glorious than the seraphim,
   Lead their praises, Alleluia!
   Thou Bearer of the eternal Word,
   Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!

   Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
   Ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!
   Ye holy Twelve, ye martyrs strong,
   All saints triumphant, raise the song,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!

   O friend, in gladness let us sing,
   Supernal anthems echoing,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!
   To God the Father, God the Son,
   And God the Spirit, Three in One,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!

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