Commemoration: Joseph of Arimathea

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
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After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:31-38

On this, the commemoration of Joseph of Arimathea, we remember “a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God” (Luke 23:50b-51). A faithful disciple of Jesus, and yet who followed him only in secret. Thanks be to God that He uses us for His good and gracious will, despite our cowardice and our faithlessness.

‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?

Psalm 118:5-6

Pictures of the interior of the monastery in Dobbertin, Parchim district, Mecklenbrug-Vorpommern, Germany, “Altar of the Crucifixion” by Gaston Lenthe in 1857. Pictures taken by user “Niteshift” on Closeup of the right wing of the altar shows the centurion, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Commemoration: Robert Barnes

“But as God is my iudge, and also my conscience, and all my wordes, and dedes, and all maner of my lyuynge, and conuersacion, I dyd neuer entende, to speake agaynst the byshops, or els any other man, further than theyr lyuyng, and conuersacion were agaynst the blessed worde of God, and the holy doctrine of Christes churche”

So wrote Robert Barnes in his supplication to King Henry VIII in 1531, posted today in honor of his commemoration. Translated from the Middle English: “But as God is my judge and also my conscience, and all my words and deeds and all manner of my living and conversation, I never intended to speak against the bishops or else any other man, further than their living and conversation were against the blessed Word of God and the holy doctrine of Christ’s Church.”
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An Englishman and prior at Cambridge, Barnes was a convert to Lutheranism who actually studied under Martin Luther after fleeing England at threat of execution (after two years of house arrest for heresy). Barnes returned to England to deliver a letter from Luther to Henry the Eighth, who had hoped that these new Protestants would give him permission to divorce his wife when the Catholics refused. They did not, and it kicked off a precariously dangerous relationship between Barnes and the King, who needed political ties to the German Lutheran princes and was thus willing to offer him the crown’s protection. Under this reluctant protection, Barnes was able to preach in his home country. He was eventually martyred in 1540, burned to death with two other Protestant preachers.
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For a more detailed rundown on Robert Barnes, written by 2011 Fort Wayne grad, Rev. Anthony Dodgers, CLICK HERE.
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And since Middle English is still largely accessible to English speakers, here is another excerpt from “A Supplication to King Henry VIII” (or “A Supplication Vnto the Most Gracyous Prince Kynge Henry The. VIIJ.”). Middle English is surprisingly easy to pick up, especially when you read it out loud and can then hear how familiar the words sound. Keep in mind that y = i, i = j, “v” is interchangeable with “u”, “e” is often left off or added to the end of words, and that there was no spelling or grammar standard at the time.

(Please note that I have also included a translation immediately following the Middle English, for those who don’t want to try deciphering the original wall of text.)
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Onely faythe iustifieth before God.
Nowe, yf your grace do not take vpon you, to here the disputacyon, and the probacyon of this artycle out of the grounde of holy scripture, my lordes the byshops wyll condempne it, afore they rede it, as theyr maner is to do with al thynges, that pleaseth them not, and whiche they vnderstande not: and than crye they heresy, heresy, an heretyke, an heretyke, he ought not to be herde, for his matters be condempned by the churche, and by holy fathers, and by all longe customes, and by all maner of lawes. Vnto whom, with your graces fauoure, I make this answere. I wolde know of them, yf all these thynges, that they haue here reckened can ouercome Christe, and his holy worde, or set the holy ghost to schole? And yf they can not, why shulde not I than be herde? that do requyre it in the name of Christ? and also bryng for me his holy worde, And the holy fathers, whiche haue vnderstande Gods worde as I do? Therfore thoughe they wyll no here me, yet muste they nedes here them. In holy scripture, Christe is nothynge elles, but a sauyour, a redemer, a iustifier, and a perfecte peace maker, betwene God, and man. this testimonye dyd the aungell gyue of hym in these wordes. He shal saue his people from theyre synnes. And also saynt Paule, Christe is made our ryghtwisnes, our satisfaction, and our redempcion. Moreouer, the prophete wytnesseth the same, sayinge, For the wretchednes of my people, haue I stryken hym. So that here haue we Christe with his propertyes. Nowe yf we wyll truely confesse Christ, than must we graunt with our hertes, that Christ is all our iustice, all our redemption, all our wysdome, all our holynes, all alonly the purchaser of grace, alonly the peace maker betwene God and man. Breuely all goodnes that we haue, that it is of hym, by hym, and for his sake onely. And that we haue nede of nothyng towardes our saluacyon, but of hym onely, and we desyre no nother saluacyon, nor no nother satisfaction, nor any helpe of any other creature, other heuenly or earhtly, but of hym onely, for as saynt Peter saythe, there is no nother name gyuen vnto men, wherin they muste be saued. And also saynt Paule saythe, by hym are all that beleue iustified from all thynges. Moreouer saynt Johnn wytnesseth the same, in these wordes. He it is, that hath optayned grace for our synnes. And in a nother place. He sente his sonne to make agrement, for our synnes.

TRANSLATION (with added paragraph breaks for readability):
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Now, if your grace does not take it upon yourself to hear the disputation and the probation of this article from the grounds of Holy Scripture, my lords the bishops will condemn it before they read it as their manner is to do with all things that do not please them and which they don’t understand: and then cry, “Heresy, heresy! A Heretic, a heretic! He ought not to be heard for his matters are condemned by the Church and by holy fathers and by all long customs and all manner of laws.” Unto whom, with your grace’s favor, I make this answer:
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I would know of them if all these things that they have here reckoned can overcome Christ and His holy Word, or set the Holy Ghost to school? And if they cannot, why should I not then be heard? That do require it in the name of Christ? And also bring for me his Holy Word, and the holy fathers, which have understood God’s Word as I do?
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Therefore, though they will not hear me, yet must they need hear them. In Holy Scripture, Christ is nothing else but a savior, a redeemer, a justifier, and perfect peacemaker between God and man. This testimony did the angel give of Him in these words: “He shall save His people from their sins.” And also Saint Paul: “Christ is made our righteousness, our satisfaction, and our redemption.” Moreover, the prophet witnesses the same, saying, “For the wretchedness of my people have I stricken him.” So that here have we Christ with his properties.
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Now if we will truly confess Christ, then must we grant with our hearts that Christ is all our justice, all our redemption, all our wisdom, all our holiness, all alone the purchaser of grace, alone the peacemaker between God and man. Truly all goodness that we have is of Him, by Him, and for His sake only. And that we have need of nothing towards our salvation but of Him only, and we deserve no other salvation nor another satisfaction nor any help of any other creature, either heavenly or earthly, but of Him only, for as Saint Peter says, “There is no other name given unto men, wherein they must be saved.” And also Saint Paul says, “By Him are all that believe justified from all things.” Moreover Saint John witnesses the same, in these words: “He it is, that has obtained grace for our sins.” And in another place: “He sent His Son to make agreement* for our sins.”
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*”atonement” could likely stand in for “agreement” here

Commemoration: Johann Sebastian Bach

Tomorrow is the commemoration of one of the Lutheran church’s most famous Kantors, Johann Sebastian Bach. Born in 1685, Bach was not only a musician but an excellent theologian, basing his text on Scripture and composing nearly all of his music for use in the church service, with most of his cantatas concluding with a chorale based on a Lutheran hymn. One of the most famous examples of this is “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” which was based on a hymn written by Martin Janus and a melody composed by Johann Schop. Bach wrote the harmonies and created the orchestration for the piece.

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.

These familiar words are not, in fact, a direct translation, but were written instead by the poet Robert Bridges, who used the original as inspiration. Here are the original stanzas from the hymn “Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne,” translated into English by Francis Browne:

What joy for me that I have Jesus,
oh how firmly I hold on to Him
so that He may make my heart rejoice,
when I am sick and mournful.
I have Jesus, who loves me
and gives Himself to me for His own.
Ah, therefore I shall not let go of Jesus,
even if my heart should break.

Jesus remains my joy,
the comfort and life’s blood of my heart,
Jesus defends me against all sorrows,
He is my life’s strength,
the delight and sun of my eyes
my soul’s treasure and joy;
therefore I shall not let Jesus go
from my heart and sight.

Bach did, of course, write and compose an incredible amount of original work as well. If you’re looking to fill three hours in your afternoon, search for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (titled on his own manuscript copy as “Passio Domini Nostri J.C. Secundum Evangelistam Matthaeum” or, “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew,” with the Scripture highlighted in red ink). A musical drama without the costume changes (essentially an opera that depends entirely on vocal performance), this oratorio depicts Christ’s suffering and death on Good Friday. Excerpted from about halfway into the piece:

O mankind, mourn your great sins,
for which Christ left his Father’s bosom
and came to earth;
from a virgin pure and tender
he was born here for us,
he wished to become our Intercessor,
he gave life to the dead
and laid aside all sickness
until the time approached
that he would be offered for us,
bearing the heavy burden of our sins
indeed for a long time on the Cross.

Twenty Years of Looking Out: Dr. Quill

Dr. Quill with international students at the 2018 Baccalaureate.

In the two decades that Dr. Timothy C. J. Quill served at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTSFW), Fort Wayne, he has been through war zones, seen the bodies of the dead, been held up, nearly mugged, and taught the way in which to hit a person who has you by the collar. He is not the only one; CTSFW boasts a remarkably high percentage of professors who have become very experienced travelers. “They’re hardy, fearless, and ready to go out,” Dr. Quill said, who retired on June 30th. “As director of International Studies I appreciated that they were low maintenance.”

Today’s culture of missions at CTSFW can be traced back to the 90s and Dr. Quill’s first assignment with the Seminary. Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at CTSFW since 1998, Dr. Quill’s history at CTSFW is, in many ways, a history of the Seminary’s international outreach itself. In 1996, two years before Dr. Quill officially joined the faculty, a man named Marvin M. Schwan put together a grant to develop a program to train Russian men as pastors, after the communist purges of the 30s nearly annihilated Lutheranism in the former Soviet Union. “He had a heart for Russia,” Dr. Quill said of Schwan. “He knew that most of the Lutherans there had been killed or sent to Gulags. We needed to rebuild the Church that had been destroyed by the Soviet Empire.”

They named it “The Russian Project” – project, not program, to make it clear that it had an end date. As to why Dr. Quill was named director of the project: “I took a trip to Kazakhstan,” Dr. Quill explained. He added, with a quiet laugh, “I was an expert because I’d been in Moscow for two days.” No one knew precisely what to do or how to do it, but because the work needed to be done, they made it happen. CTSFW put kitchens in the dorms so that the families could come, and Dr. Quill went to the embassies for advice.

The project would eventually train a total of 31 men (plus six women, taught as translators, church musicians and deaconesses), all of whom, as Dr. Quill put it, “walked out of here drinking the confessional waters.” Many of the local Fort Wayne Lutheran church members still remember the Russians, and for those students and faculty who were here from 1995 to 2005, their language became a familiar sound in the Dining Hall. “The campus was enriched by them,” Dr. Quill said. “They brought an eagerness to learning that wasn’t there in Russia. The professors and the president will tell you how much they brought. They forced the Seminary to look outwards.”

The project next focused on the development of the Lutheran Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia, which had been dedicated in 1997, a year after the Russian Project began. Professors from CTSFW and other LCMS pastors began teaching and preaching at this Seminary. By contrast, today the Novosibirsk Seminary is entirely Russian led and taught. While professors still visit and guest-teach, the “best Lutheran Seminary in the former Soviet Union” (as Dr. Quill describes it) is now served by the students who first came to us. “They were extremely intellectually gifted students,” Dr. Quill said, pointing to a photograph he keeps in his office of the first class who came to CTSFW. “Many of these men are now bishops, leading theologians, presidents of seminaries, educators and leaders in their church bodies.”

When the Russian Project ended, the international outreach extending out from CTSFW had already become much bigger than the groundwork first laid by that grant from the Schwan family. The professors here still travel extensively, teaching intensives and bringing confessional teaching to Lutheran seminaries across the world. The missional environment has led to study abroad programs, promoting collegiality among students across nations and giving our own American sons and daughters an immediate understanding of the need for Christian humanitarian outreach and service. Some choose to enter foreign harvest fields as career missionaries, and others bring that enthusiasm for mission into their home congregations, whose support makes international missions possible.

And still international students come to the CTSFW campus. As director of International Studies, Dr. Quill’s job was to take care of these men. “There’s a sort of rhythm to it,” Dr. Quill explained. “At first they can’t believe what America is like – it’s paradise compared to some countries. But after about three to four weeks the Seminary becomes a prison because they can’t drive. Part of my job, then, was to make efforts to connect them with local churches, to connect them to a world beyond campus. And though they all clump together in the cafeteria, they also assimilate and develop lasting relationships with American students.”

Dr. Quill is adamant that neither the Russian Project nor the Seminary’s other international endeavors would have worked without the support he received from CTSFW’s leadership, from their commitment to engage with the larger international community to the financial support from the Church. Synod also has a vigorous and intentional attitude for Church relations around the world, and Dr. Quill named a few of the new opportunities off the top of his head: Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar, with vibrant seminaries in Nigeria, India, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Dr. Quill teaches a class at CTSFW.

“In the last 22 years, the Seminary has become a world-recognized institute around the globe, with students who come here and professors who go out,” Dr. Quill said. “Our faculty has played a major role in introducing students and church leaders to historical confessional Lutheranism. As a result, the Lutheran identity is commonly spoken of and debated at international conferences.”

Dr. Charles A. Gieschen, academic dean, sees a much more specific person to thank. “No one at CTSFW has done more for the furthering of confessional Lutheranism in the global context over the past 22 years than Dr. Quill. He has traveled, taught and built relationships across the world. We are profoundly grateful for his service to Christ and this Seminary.”

Here’s an additional behind-the-scenes look at this article (originally published at I sat down with Dr. Quill – who retired last month – to talk about his work with international students both here and abroad. It ended up being a conversation about the impact CTSFW has had (and is having) globally. One of my working titles for the piece was “How Retirement Doesn’t End What God Has Begun, Specifically in International Studies at CTSFW.”
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I packed in as much as I could, but there was still a lot I had to cut to keep the article at a manageable length. For those interested, I’ve copied and pasted some of the notes that didn’t make it below:

[International Lutheran conferences]
When guys go back (Russia) they’ll be isolated. So they created the Klaipeda Conference in Lithuania – easy to travel to, issued visas easily.
Brought together for theological conference, confessional leaders from Scandinavia, scholars from Germany and America. This way they got to see that Lutheranism extended beyond their little town in Siberia.
Held one every year (not always in Klaipeda). The friendships built in Eastern Europe, greatly enhanced. The idea is to just come, not for church business. To “drink beer if you’re not a pietist.”
Spawned other international initiatives – Scandinavian and Eurasian. Ex) the distance S.T.M. Program. Masaki making it happen. “Masaki is a detail man.”
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[Discarded paragraph on the women of the Russian Project]
Six women also benefited from the training here, several who had come as translators for the men and, through it, learned and honed their skills in theological translation. Besides Russian and English, these women knew Hebrew, Greek, Latin and German. Others were musicians, trained in conservatories as performance musicians, who were then tutored by the Kantors to learn how to play organ for liturgy and congregational singing. “The purpose was to make pastors,” Dr. Quill said. “It also succeeded in preparing women as deaconesses, musicians and translators.”
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[Notes re: death of one of the men of the Russian Project]
Looking at photograph of that first class from the Russian Project, Dr. Quill points to a man stabbed in front of the altar in his home by a drug addict, shortly after returning. He’d barely begun his work, home only long enough to work on his mother: catechized and baptized her. Dr. Quill: “It cost thousands of dollars and he died quickly. Is it worth it? Well, how much is a soul worth?”

St. James the Elder

Today is the feast of St. James the Elder, the apostle always listed second in the familiar “Peter, James, and John” trio that Jesus often took aside from the rest of the disciples. He is among the first of those Jesus called and, since James is usually listed before his brother John, the Church has long conjectured that he’s the elder of the two. He is also the first of the Twelve to die a martyr’s death, put to death by Herod at the beginning of Acts 12. However, while we do remember him (and all martyrs) for their faithfulness unto death, we also remember him for this:

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ And they said to him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.’
Mark 10:35-39

“Saint James the Elder” by Pieter Claesz. Soutman, 17th Century.

‍‍‍‍‍A shameful, embarrassing moment in the life of St. James the Elder. So why do we point out this passage on feast day? From Dr. Pulse’s chapel sermon this morning:

James and John they have offended – irritated – the delicate sensitivities of the other apostles by coming to Jesus with a request. A stupid request at that… So Jesus asks: “Are you able to drink of the cup that I drink? Or be baptized into the baptism into which I am baptized?”
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“We. Are. Able.”
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Really? So bold. So confidant. So Sem 1-like. Are you able? Can you handle it? Can you do whatever is necessary? Can you?
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No. But they will.
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…The Sons of Thunder, if they had known what they were really asking for, if they could look and foresee days ahead, perhaps they would have taken their name and joined the pro wrestling circuit. Less pain. And perhaps even greater glory – at least in the eyes of this planet. But friends, the truth is seeking heavenly glory, even if it’s only to be manifested in the heavenly realms, is a foolish mission. The pursuit of glory and suffering is the lot. Only one can drink of that cup and be baptized in that baptism of suffering and death. Only one can face the slings and arrows of the evil one. Only one can take the sins of the whole world upon His shoulders and carry them to the tree. Only one can hang there and be the sacrifice, pay the price that is demanded with His holy, precious, innocent blood. Only one can hang there in agony and declare: “It is finished.”
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… And only one descends into hell to declare that victory over sin and death and to bind that old evil foe. And then He rises. People, only one can drink of that cup. The rest of us fall to our knees in amazed thanksgiving and gasp out our halleluiahs.
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Are you able? Can you handle it? Can you do whatever is necessary? Can you? No. But you will. James dies by the sword in the hand of Herod and the community rejoices. Can you drink of that cup? No. But you will. But not first and not alone. For first Jesus drinks and has drank that cup to its very grave. And as that cup of suffering is pressed against our lips, we see Jesus, for He is with us.
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Can you? No. But you will. With the help of Him who already has.

As always, every feast day is truly about Jesus and His death and resurrection — His saving of foolish sinners. Thanks be to God.

Deaconess Placements

From Thursday’s Chapel, here is the prayer for and a closeup of the two deaconesses who received their placement announcements at the end of the service:

Carol BrownThe Evangelical Church of St. John
Sycamore, Illinois

Carole Terkula
St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Columbia City, Indiana

Gracious God, through your Son Jesus Christ you have shown mercy to our fallen world. Continue to bless the women of the Concordia Deaconess Conference that as they serve your people they may model the love of Christ to all who are in need. Grant your blessings especially to our candidates who now take up their own service in the church, giving them joy and faithfulness in all that they do. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Commemoration: Elijah

Today marks the commemoration of Elijah, who served as a prophet about 2,800 years ago, called by God during the reign of Ahab (and his pagan wife Jezebel) to bring a very hard word to bear on the northern kingdom of Israel and their idolatrous worship of Baal. The following passage is an old favorite from Sunday School, probably because it involves a prophet of God mocking the false priests of Baal with the suggestion that their god is too busy in the outhouse to answer the prayers of his followers:

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
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So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
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Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.
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And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

1 Kings 18:17-40

Though this very public miracle had spurred an immediate confession from the people watching, the feeling of triumph did not hold long. As soon as Jezebel heard of the slaying of her prophets, the pagan queen was once more out for Elijah’s blood, who fled, crying in despondence that God take his life away. The comforting admonition from God that followed still serves as a promise for all God’s people when we feel (falsely, always falsely) as though we are alone in the faith:
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“[Elijah] said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way…I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him'” (1 Kings 19:14, 15a and 18).
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The calling of Elisha to assist Elijah (to later serve in his stead) followed only a verse later.

CE: Hermann Sasse

We see here a class of stalwart learners from the Continuing Education course at St. Jakobi Lutheran in Shawano, Wisconsin, held last week. Dr. Pless taught on the topic of “Hermann Sasse as Pastoral Theologian.”

Hermann Sasse was a Lutheran pastor and author, one of the foremost confessional Lutheran theologians of the 20th century. Born in 1895 in Germany, Sasse saw both the rise and fall of the Nationalist Socialist Party (more commonly known as the Nazi Party), remaining a vocal critic of Hitler. He moved to Australia in 1949, and died in 1976. You can find quite a number of resources written by him over the course of his lifetime.

The Death of John the Baptist

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Mark 6:14-29

“Das Fest des Herododes” (The Feast of Herod) by Peter Paul Rubens, 17th century.

As we remember the death of the last Old Testament prophet in today’s lectionary reading (though he prophesied in the New Testament, John is recognized as an OT prophet since he prepared the way for the coming Messiah), let us hold in our prayers all those who face persecution and martyrdom for confessing God’s Word in its fullness. Thank you, God, for the strength and boldness that You grant to Your children. Keep us in the true faith, unto life everlasting.

Commemoration: Ruth

Today is the commemoration of Ruth, King David’s great grandmother and ancestress of Jesus. She is arguably one of the most well-known women of the Old Testament, a Gentile who abandoned her own land and family after the death of her husband to stay with her mother-in-law Naomi, famously declaring in Ruth 1:16:

“For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

“Naomi and Her Daughters-in-Law,” Doré’s English Bible, 1866.

Ruth, in fact, makes it into the New Testament, listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ as laid out in the first five verses of Matthew:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

Ruth’s story of redemption (to “redeem” a widow at that time was an act that preserved the widow’s husband’s family line, should he have died before they had children) is one of God working through the laws He established in the Old Testament to continue the line that would lead to Christ. The genealogy as laid out by Matthew would have been a very compelling read – an apologetics lesson, in many ways – for the Jews raised on the Old Testament. You can see God’s hand in the words of the well-wishers upon Boaz’s declaration that he would take Ruth as his wife:

Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Ruth 4:9-17