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20 February 2017
  + Rasmus Jensen, Chaplain and Explorer +
20 February AD 1620

Danish Coat of Arms In 1619, King Christian IV of Norway and Denmark sent the ships Enhiørningen and Lamprenen in search of the Northwest Passage to India. The crew of sixty-four Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, and Germans was led by Captain Jens Munk, an experienced naval officer. The ship's chaplain was Danish Pastor Rasmus Jensen, who became the first Lutheran minister in the New World.

The explorers journeyed as far as the western shore of Hudson Bay, finally reaching present-day Churchill, Manitoba on 7 September 1620. Winter's cold comes early at that latitude and ice soon trapped them. Scurvy, famine, and brutal cold slowly killed the crew. The captain's journal shows that Jensen delivered a Christmas sermon and celebrated the Lord's Supper.

Not long after, Jensen's health deteriorated. Captain Munk wrote, "On the 23rd of January ... the priest sat up in his berth and gave the people a sermon, which sermon was the last he delivered in this world.... On the 20th of February, in the evening, died the priest, Mr Rasmus Jensen as aforesaid, who had been ill and kept his bed a long time." We know little about Pastor Jensen save for the records of this voyage. No known pictures exist and no records have been found as to his education or prior parish responsibilities.

In July, Captain Munk sailed for home on the Lamprenen with the only two surviving members of his crew. They reached Bergen, Norway on 20 September, seven months to the day after their chaplain's death. Whether or not the harsh winter influenced their decision, Danish Lutherans subsequently concentrated their mission efforts in the much warmer climes of India and the Virgin Islands, particularly Saint Thomas.

Collect

Most gracious God, we thank you for your servant Rasmus Jensen and for all other ministers who accompany Christians traveling to distant, desolate, or perilous places, seeking to minister to those they accompany and to those they meet, sharing their hardships in the name of Him who humbled Himself to share ours, 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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18 February 2017
  + Martin Luther, Doctor and Reformer +
18 February AD 1546

Martin Luther Martin Luther, born on 10 November 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512.

As a professor at the newly-established University of Wittenberg, his Scriptural studies led him to question many of the church's teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises.

Of course, Luther didn't work alone. First of all, he knew that the Holy Spirit, working through the Word, was principal actor in the Reformation, and said, "While I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends ... the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything." However, his "friends," including Philipp Melanchthon, Nicholas Amsdorf, Johannes Bugenhagen, and others contributed mightily to the cause. Meanwhile, his prince, Frederick III of Saxony, defended him. Finally, he probably received no earthly support greater than that of his beloved wife Katie.

We remember and honor his lifelong emphasis on the Biblical truth that for Christ's sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. He died on 18 February 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.

Please visit Xrysostom for The Life of Martin Luther: A Chronology. A number of recommended books and web sites are included along with this biographical outline.

Lection

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

Collect

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.

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17 February 2017
  + Michael Praetorius +
15 February AD 1621, transferred to 17 February

Michael Praetorius Lutheran musician, composer, and musicologist Michael Praetorius (Prätorius) was born in Kreuzburg, Thuringia to Pastor and Mrs. Michael Schultheis (or Schultze), on 15 February 1571. Praetorius was a Latinization of the family name and Michael later favored the monogram MPC (Michael Praetorius Creutzbergensis). While still a boy, he began studying philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, where his brother Andreas was a professor.

Praetorius became organist at Frankfurt and later held the same post at Lüneburg. In this latter town he began his career as Kapellmeister. While only 18, he began serving Herzog Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel as a minor member of his court. In 1604, Praetorius became the prince's Kapellmeister and organist. He was also appointed honorary prior of the Ringelheim Monastery near Goslar but wasn't required to stay there. He died at Wolfenbüttel on 15 February 1621.

Praetorius was, by all accounts, an accomplished musician and certainly a prolific composer. He also involved himself in the study of musical art and practice. His major work in this field was The Syntagma musicum, "not a piece of music but a scholarly historico-theoretical masterpiece." Of this, he completed three volumes. The second volume of this work is the most elaborate and valuable treatise on instruments and instrumental music from the 16th Century and is considered one of the most remarkable examples of musical scholarship in existence. The planned but uncompleted fourth volume was to have involved counterpoint and we can only wonder how much of the history of that topic we lost with his death at age fifty.

Musarum Sioniarum Among his other titles were Musae Sioniae, a compendium of over 1200 chorale and song arrangements published in nine parts, and Hymnodia Sionae. The 1612 Terpsichore, his sole surviving secular work, is a collection of more than 300 instrumental dances.

His harmonization of Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming) remains popular. He also arranged and composed the beautiful Mass for Christmas Morning.

His compositions and arrangements generally show a strong Christian faith filtered through his passionate Lutheran understanding of Scripture, grace, and faith. He helped move music from the late Renaissance into the early Baroque and forms the first half of a pair of Lutheran bookends to that period, the latter being J. S. Bach.

I chose to transfer his commemoration to this date since his birth and death both fell on 15 February, when the LCMS commemorates Philemon and Onesimus. The days adjacent are already reserved for Saint Valentine (the 14th) and Philipp Melanchthon (the 16th).

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16 February 2017
  + Philipp Melanchthon +
16 February AD 1497 – 19 April AD 1560

Philipp Melanchthon Philipp Melanchthon, a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar, was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg in 1518. At Luther's urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies.

In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. Thus, he made the primary verbal and written defenses of the Evangelical (Lutheran) position.

We especially remember and honor him as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on 25 June 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom. Following the Roman Catholic response, Melanchthon wrote the Apology (Defense) of the Augsburg Confession.

Unfortunately, Melanchthon's desires for peace within Christendom led him to later rewrite and weaken some of the Augsburg Confession's language. The resulting Variata were palatable to some who disagreed with certain Lutheran teachings and allowed for false teaching to infiltrate Lutheranism. Ask the Pastor details some of this in a post on the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.

Lection

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

Collect

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.

Note: We commemorate Philipp Melanchthon's birth date because his death date often conflicts with Holy Week or Easter observances.

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15 February 2017
  + Philemon and Onesimus +
15 February, New Testament

Onesimus and Paul Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. While the name "Onesimus" means "useful," Onesimus proved himself "useless. (Philemon 11)" He ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (v. 18).

Somehow, Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome). Perhaps he knew that Paul and Philemon had a friendship and went to Paul in order to protect himself from harsh treatment should he be returned home.

In any event, through Paul's proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After Onesemus confessed to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, Paul directed him to return to his master and become "useful" again, as Paul had already determined him to be (v. 11).

In order to help pave the way for Onesimus' peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and to "receive him as you would receive me (v. 17)" Paul encouraged Philemon to think of Onesimus "no longer as a slave ... but as a beloved brother. (v. 16)"

The letter was eventually included by the Church as one of the books of the New Testament.

Those looking to Scripture for a definitive statement on slavery find mixed messages in this brief epistle. While Paul seems to urge Philemon in the direction of treating Onesimus as a freedman, he certainly leaves open the option that Onesimus might be returning to slavery, albeit in a much-improved situation.

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14 February 2017
  + Saint Valentine, Martyr +
14 February A.D. 270(?)

St. Valentine Details of ancient Christianity are sketchy since for much of the Church's early years, it was a crime to be a Christian and records were hidden or kept purposely incomplete to protect believers. Thus, the story of Saint Valentine, as well as those of many others ancient believers, must be pieced together from fragmentary evidence.

Some ancient accounts record a physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Claudius II. This Valentine become one of the noted martyrs of the third century. It seems that his main "crime" was joining couples in marriage. Specifically, Valentine married Roman soldiers. Evidently, Claudius thought that single men made better soldiers while Valentine and the Church resisted the immorality of less-permanent relationships.

The commemoration of his death, thought to have occurred during the year 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the early Western Church. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, he left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer. The note was written on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper which suggested the shape of a heart. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine's Day in many nations.

Lection

Psalm 95:1-7a
Ezekiel 18:1-9
1 Peter 4:12-19
John 2:1-11

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Your holy martyr Valentine, grant to us, Your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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13 February 2017
  + Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos +
13 February, New Testament

Priscilla and Aquila Aquila and his wife Priscilla (Prisca) were Jewish contemporaries of Saint Paul. They traveled widely, perhaps in part for business reasons but later certainly because of unrest and persecution in Rome. They went to Corinth and met the apostle, who joined them for a time in the tent-making trade (Acts 18:1-3).

Priscilla and Aquila, in turn, teamed with Paul in his mission of proclaiming the Christian Gospel. The couple later traveled with him from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18), where the two of them established a home that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity.

Apollos, an eloquent man, was one of their numerous Jewish pupils in the faith: "Being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus. (Acts 18:25)" Apollos later traveled from Corinth to the province of Achaia, where he showed "by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:28)"

We especially remember these three for their great missionary zeal.

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10 February 2017
  + Silas +
10 February, New Testament

Silas and Paul Saint Paul chose Silas, a leader in the church at Jerusalem, to accompany him on his second missionary journey from Antioch to Asia Minor and Macedonia (Acts 15:40). Silas, also known as Silvanus, was imprisoned with Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40) and experienced the riots in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9) and Berea (Acts 17:10-15).

They were apart for some length of time, after which he rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5). Apparently, he remained there for an extended period.

One account stands out for most readers of the New Testament. The time Paul and Silas shared in the Philippian prison gave them a special opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. God freed their bonds during an earthquake but they refused to escape and instead saved their jailer from committing suicide because of his responsibility for them. The Lord used these two and the surrounding events to witness to the jailer about His love and forgiveness through Christ Jesus. Working through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit brought him and his household to faith in Jesus and led them to be baptized.

Aside from these accounts, the Scriptures record little else about Silas and his relationship with Paul.

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05 February 2017
  + Jacob, Patriarch +
5 February, Old Testament

Jacob Deceives Isaac Jacob was the third of the three great Hebrews given the title of patriarch, following his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. Jacob was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah.

He received his name because before birth he gripped his brother Esau's heel, seeming even then to be struggling for supremacy (Jacob can mean "He grasps the heel" or "he cheats"). After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, who certainly had lived up to the name of "Deceiver," was renamed Israel, which means "he strives with God" (Genesis 25:26; 32:28).

His family life was filled with trouble, much of it caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph (commemorated on 31 March). He spent many of his later years grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land.

Late in life, as he was blessing his sons, Jacob uttered God's prophetic promise that the Messiah would come through the line of his fourth son, Judah (Genesis 49:8-12).

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02 February 2017
  The Presentation of Our Lord
and the Purification of Mary
2 February, New Testament

The Presentation of Our Lord The Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, one of the Christological feasts of the Christian Church, is Scripture's final infancy narrative concerning Jesus. After the Presentation, the Bible says nothing more about Him until His twelfth year.

Many liturgical calendars name this the Feast of the Purification (of the Blessed Virgin Mary), emphasizing its Marian connection. Still another term used is Candlemas, drawing the name from the tradition of blessing the coming year's church candles on this day.

Saint Luke is the only one of the Evangelists to describe the event (see 2:22-40), something likely unfamiliar to most of his Gentile readers. According to the Gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Baby to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to consecrate Jesus to God and to complete the ritual purification of Mary, both of these because of the command of God's Law (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; Leviticus 12).

Upon entering the temple, the family encountered the devout and holy Simeon. Luke records that he was promised that "he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. (Luke 2:26)" Simeon took Jesus into his arms, prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, blessed the parents, and prophesied regarding Jesus and Mary.

The prophetess Anna (2:36-38) was also in the temple. She, too, offered prayers and praise to God for sending the Savior.

In the Western liturgical calendar, the Presentation of Our Lord falls on 2 February because this is the fortieth day of Christmas. It is the last festival determined by the date of Christmas and thus shows that the Epiphany season is drawing to a close. Most churches in the East observe the occasion on 14 February since they celebrate Christ's Nativity on 6 January.

Lection

Psalm 84
1 Samuel 1:21-28
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-32 (33-40)

Collect

Almighty and ever-living God, as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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01 February 2017
  + Claus Harms +
1 February AD 1855

Claus Harms German pastor and theologian Klaus Harms was born at Fahrstedt, Schleswig-Holstein on 25 May 1778 and baptized the next day in the neighboring community of Marne. Before entering university, he worked in his father's mill. He also farmed for a brief time.

His early religious and philosophical leanings tended strongly toward Rationalism but change commenced after he began studies at the University of Kiel. First, Friedrich Schleiermacher led Harms toward a less extreme, slightly more Evangelical understanding of Christianity. Further study of Scripture and older Lutheran writers pulled him away from the liberal, inner-conscious Christianity of Schleiermacher toward traditional, orthodox Lutheranism.

By the time of his graduation, it's unlikely that Harms would have been certified for the ministry by the crass Rationalists or the disciples of Schleiermacher. Therefore, he took his oral and written examinations before J. L. Callisen, the orthodox Lutheran superintendent of Holstein.

Following his studies and a stint as tutor and guest preacher, Harms was married in Probsteierhagen in 1806. Later that year, he was called as deacon (assitant pastor) at Lunden. After serving there for ten years, he accepted a call to serve the St. Nikolai Church in Kiel as archdeacon. He became chief pastor and superintendent in 1835. All through this period he continued to distance himself from Rationalism and the feeling- and experience-based theology of Schleiermacher to increasingly espouse the pure Lutheran doctrine of the 16th Century.

Claus Harms Harms's personality and preaching style led to growing popularity in Kiel and beyond. He drew international attention in 1817. On the 300th anniversary of the Reformation, he published Luther's original Ninety-five Theses and ninety-five additional theses of his own composition, "directed against all sorts of false and confused knowledge within the Lutheran church." These latter attacked Rationalism and unionism and called for a return to pure Lutheran theology and practice.

Much as Luther condemned the magisterial use of reason which placed rational thought above faith in Christ, Harms wrote, "We could call reason our time's pope, our antichrist.... (Thesis 9)" He claimed the right of Lutherans to have authentic Lutheran clergy: "Reason rages in the Lutheran church: it tears Christ from the altar, throws God's word from the pulpit, casts excrements into the baptismal water, mixes all sorts of people when it comes to God-parents, erases the address of the confessional chair, hisses out the priests, and all people with them, and has been doing this for a long time. (Thesis 71)"

Furthermore, Harms lauded a proper balance in Word and Sacrament ministry. Theses 92-94 say, "The evangelical-catholic church is a glorious church. It rests on and builds itself preferably by the sacrament. The evangelical-reformed church is a glorious church. It rests on and builds itself by God's word. More glorious than both is the evangelical-Lutheran church. It rests on and builds itself by the sacrament as well as God's word."

While Harms had considerable influence throughout Germany, we must also recognize his huge, albeit indirect, contribution to American Lutheranism. His Christ-centered, confessional Lutheranism led C. F. W. Walther and others to their awakening into true Lutheranism later during the 19th Century.

Besides his credentials as a theologian, Harms was a qualified musician. As such, his growing Lutheran identity led him to restore Lutheran hymnody to the church. Many of his textual reforms remain to present times. However, he never had the same success with the restoration of the original melodies and the bold syncopation of the traditional chorales stayed buried under the bland metrical style for many years following.

Among his writings are the aforementioned Theses, volumes of his sermons, an autobiography, and his 1830 Pastoraltheologie. Due to blindness, Harms resigned his pastorate in 1849. He died on 1 February 1855.

Quotes from The 95 Theses of Claus Harms at the Internet Archive's copy of LutheranWiki.

See also the articles at Christian Cyclopedia, the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, and Wikipedia.

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