Today and tomorrow’s commemorations go hand in hand: Monica, Faithful Mother (August 27th), and her son, Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church (August 28th).
Born in North Africa in 354 A.D., St. Augustine is counted among the greatest of the Latin Church fathers, whose works are still taught and quoted among seminarians and theologians today. His books impacted the Church throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and he’s a particular favorite among Lutherans as he is famous for emphasizing salvation through grace alone.
He died in 430 A.D., famous as a prolific theological writer and a great defender of the orthodox faith, but he certainly didn’t begin so. A brilliant teacher of rhetoric early in his career, Augustine converted to Christianity later in his life, after moving to Italy. The story of his life before conversion is well documented in his book “Confessions,” where he admits to fathering an illegitimate son, his behavior a reflection of the moral laxity of the time.
God used two particular people in Augustine’s conversion: Ambrose (Bishop of Milan from 339-397), whose preaching deeply impacted the brilliant Augustine, and his mother. Widowed at a young age, Monica prayed for all of her children’s spiritual welfare, but especially for Augustine, undoubtedly in fear for his stubborn adherence to unbelief. She followed her son from North Africa to Italy, her faithful devotion rewarded when she finally witnessed his conversion to Christianity. She died on her journey back home to Africa, in Ostia, Italy.
Augustine served as Bishop of Hippo, North Africa, beginning in 395 A.D. until his death. He dealt with Pelagianism during his life (the heresy that denies original sin, arguing that man can choose good or evil without divine aid; essentially, that a man can will himself into living perfectly, denying both the depth of sin as well as the depth of God’s grace, as won for us on the cross through Jesus Christ). From a translation of “The Confessions of Saint Augustine”:
“Although I published [my “Confessions”] long before the Pelagian heresy had even begun to be, it is plain that in them I said to my God, again and again, ‘Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt.’ When these words of mine were repeated in Pelagius’ presence at Rome by a certain brother of mine (an episcopal colleague), he could not bear them and contradicted him so excitedly that they nearly came to a quarrel. Now what, indeed, does God command, first and foremost, except that we believe in him? This faith, therefore, he himself gives; so that it is well said to him, “Give what thou commandest.” Moreover, in those same books, concerning my account of my conversion when God turned me to that faith which I was laying waste with a very wretched and wild verbal assault, do you not remember how the narration shows that I was given as a gift to the faithful and daily tears of my mother, who had been promised that I should not perish? I certainly declared there that God by his grace turns men’s wills to the true faith when they are not only averse to it, but actually adverse.”
You can read the full book (as translated by Albert C. Outler, PhD; Professor of Theology at the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas Texas) at www.ling.upenn.edu/courses/hum100/augustinconf.pdf. I can’t speak for the translation (this is just what I found by googling “augustine ‘confessions’ pdf”), so if anyone knows of other preferred translations, feel free to chime in the comments.
In remembrance of today’s commemoration of Samuel, here is a hymn and a handful of chapters from the first book of Samuel. One of the words that sticks out in chapter 7 (copied and pasted below) is “Ebenezer,” which immediately brought to mind the hymn we’ve shared here: LSB 686 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Verse 2 begins with “Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come;” which is a reference to the stone of remembrance that Samuel raised to God’s glory. He called the stone Ebenezer, meaning: “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”
1 SAMUEL 1
There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”
The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”
And he worshiped the Lord there.
1 SAMUEL 3
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.
Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
1 SAMUEL 7:3-17
And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
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.”
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.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. 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. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
Today is the Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. Below is a copy of Dr. Benjamin Mayes’ sermon from chapel this morning, which focused on the confession, laying out the history of its presentation on June 25, 1530:
“Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).
Dearly beloved: Today’s text is a warning. It is possible to be deceived, and you must take care that this does not happen. If you are deceived about our holy faith, if you go astray with regard to God, you are being “taken captive.” In that case you would no longer belong to God, you would belong to someone else. You would be a mental captive of man or of the devil.
It’s a warning. It’s possible to be deceived. We do not agree with the once-saved-always-saved doctrine. Salvation is not as easy as making a decision for Jesus to come into your heart. Grace is not cheap, it is costly. It cost the Lord Jesus His blood, and once you belong to Him through Baptism and faith, it may cost you your life.
It often comes with a burden—the holy cross. People who belong to the Lord Jesus, what happens to them? The Holy Spirit comes to them, raises them from their spiritual death, and begins to make them really alive. But at the same time He conforms them to the Lord Jesus, and in this life, our Lord’s path was marked by the cross and suffering. It was also marked by the devil’s temptations. And that is what happens to us, who belong to the Lord Jesus.
It is not an easy life. There will be temptation, attempts at deception by the devil and other people. If they deceive you about our holy faith, you will be taken captive. Therefore take to heart St. Paul’s warning: “Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).
In this same passage, Paul shows there are two categories of empty, deceitful philosophy: according to the tradition of men, and according to the basic principles of the world. The first is through superstition; the second is through secular thinking.
What Paul means by “philosophy” is not exactly the same as everything that’s called “philosophy” today. At its best, philosophy is clear, rational thinking about the created world, at a high level—and that is a gift of God. The problem is when this clear, rational thinking wants to make judgments on the will of God, and that happens when it takes something else as a source of truth that is higher than God’s revelation. And again, the two basic categories are “tradition of men” and “basic principles of the world,” that is, human inventions and secular, scientific thinking when it’s misapplied.
Thanks be to God, we have an excellent statement of the doctrine that is “according to Christ” in the Augsburg Confession, which was written 489 years ago, in the year of our Lord 1530. If you are a student at our Seminary, you will study this confession in detail. It sets forth everything of which today’s reading speaks in abundant detail: perseverance in true doctrine and faith, discernment about which traditions must be kept and which must be rejected, the person of Christ, Baptism, Christian perfection, the bondage of the will in conversion to God, the holy Law of God, and the atonement—in which it was not our works, but Christ who reconciled the Father to us, and who was our propitiation, by His obedience to the Law and His innocent death, and that we receive all His benefits through faith alone. All of those themes are prominent in the Augsburg Confession.
The presentation of the Augsburg Confession in 1530 is a remarkable story of steadfast faith under pressure to conform to the popular errors of the day. When Emperor Charles V, the mightiest man in Europe, summoned the Lutherans to the congress that would take place in Augsburg, the tone was peaceful. It seemed that the Lutheran confession of faith would be given a fair hearing. Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, and Elector John the Steadfast were naively overjoyed.
But that joy was quickly shattered when Melanchthon reached Augsburg. A book by John Eck was being read by everyone, accusing Lutherans of every heresy imaginable, and the book had been commissioned by the Emperor’s brother Ferdinand. It showed Melanchthon and the Evangelical side that there would be no peace. The Word of God would not be given free course. The Evangelicals would be branded as heretics. The memory of John Hus burning at the stake for his true teaching a century before was in their minds.
The important thing would be to unify as many Evangelicals in a common Lutheran confession and to get this read before the Emperor, since that was like reading a bill in congress. Once it was read to the Emperor, it was in the public record and debate could ensue—debate that could go favorably, or at least could last for a while. The Lutheran confession would in that case have some legal protection for a time.
The emperor and his retinue arrived in Augsburg on June 15, 1530. Immediately he requested that Elector John command that all Evangelical, Gospel-centered preaching must cease. The meeting of the Emperor with Elector John and the other princes was immediately a time of civil jostling. When the pope’s ambassador saw the Emperor greeting the princes, he raised his hands to give a benediction. The Emperor with all the Catholics knelt to receive the blessing from the pope’s ambassador. Elector John and the other Protestant princes remained standing in defiance. Then, in the Augsburg cathedral, the Emperor again knelt in prayer, while the Elector and his ally Landgrave Philipp of Hesse remained standing.
That night, at the Emperor’s quarters, he again made his demands to the Protestant princes. First, there must be no Evangelical preaching. Second, the Protestant princes must join in the Corpus Christi parade the next day, following the consecrated bread of the Lord’s Supper in a display case through the streets of the city, showing by their action that they approved.
Tired though the princes were, they refused to comply. The Margrave of Brandenburg said, “We plead with his Imperial Majesty not to remain in this demand since we preach God’s pure Word as did Augustin, Hilary and other teachers of the past; of this his Imperial Majesty may convince himself. We cannot live without the Word of God nor deny the gospel with a good conscience.”
Landgrave Phillip of Hesse said, “Imperial Majesty’s conscience is not lord and master over our conscience.”
Then the Margrave of Brandenburg said, “Before I let any one take from me the Word of God and ask me to deny my God I will kneel and let them strike off my head.”
In response to this bold resistance, the Emperor gave them until the next morning to reconsider. That night, the Wittenberg theologians worked on a written response. It read, “The Sacrament was not instituted to be worshiped like the brazen serpent of the Jews. We are here to confess the truth and not to confirm abuses.” Despite all pressures, the Lutheran princes stood firm and refused to comply. The Emperor ended up walking in the procession with only about a hundred citizens. This shows the courage of these leading laymen.
In the next few days, the Emperor attempted to prevent the Augsburg Confession from being read and thus entered into the legal record, but the political maneuvering of the Lutheran princes tied his hands. Finally, the confession was read on June 25, 1530, at 3:00 in the afternoon. It was read in a small assembly hall, to avoid the presence of a large crowd. Only about 200 people could fit in the room. The Saxon chancellors Georg Brück and Christian Beyer stepped forward, one with the German confession, the other with the Latin. Beyer read the German version aloud, a feat which took about two hours.
This date, June 25th, marks the real birth of the Lutheran Church as a distinct confession from Roman and Reformed churches. It is the real Reformation Day. There is a lot more that happened. There’s no time now to tell about how the Confession was rejected and how war impended over Germany for the next half a year. Only in 1531, when the Emperor had his hands full with the Turks in southeast Europe, and the military strength of the Lutherans had grown, could fears of invasion be turned into rejoicing and thanksgiving to God.
Our fathers in the faith remained steadfast and did not conform to peer pressure and the popular errors of their day. As a result, we have this glorious, golden statement of faith, which helps us to remain faithful to Christ even now in our day.
Dearly beloved, the pressures to conform to the philosophy and vain deceit of the world are strong, and the battle to maintain the right faith in our hearts and congregations is serious. But the weapons of our warfare are here for you, and with them you are safe. Therefore study, learn, pray, and grow. These things are here for you. May God root you and build you up in Christ our Lord and establish you in the faith, just as you were taught. To Christ be all the glory! Amen.
Dr. Mayes is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology here at CTSFW. Quotes were pulled from “Corpus Reformatorum” 2:106, 114, 115, quoted in M. Reu, “The Augsburg Confession: A Collection of Sources with An Historical Introduction” (Chicago: Wartburg, 1930).
Today is the commemoration of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is: the Nicene Creed originated from this first council, as an answer to one of the more popular heresies plaguing the Church at the time (which claimed that Jesus was not the Son of God but rather created by God the Father). The council confessed this early version of the creed we know today, which was later adopted in its entirety at the Council of Constantinople in 381. We pray together with the whole Church:
I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth
and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of His Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father,
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
and was made man;
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried.
And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
and ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord and giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
and I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life (+) of the world to come. Amen.
“Us men” means all people.
“Christian”: the ancient text reads “catholic,” meaning the whole Church as it confesses the wholeness of Christian doctrine.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
And Job again took up his discourse, and said:
“Oh, that I were as in the months of old,
as in the days when God watched over me,
when his lamp shone upon my head,
and by his light I walked through darkness,
as I was in my prime,
when the friendship of God was upon my tent,
when the Almighty was yet with me,
when my children were all around me,
when my steps were washed with butter,
and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!…
“And now my soul is poured out within me;
days of affliction have taken hold of me.
The night racks my bones,
and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.
With great force my garment is disfigured;
it binds me about like the collar of my tunic.
God has cast me into the mire,
and I have become like dust and ashes.”
Job 29:1-6; 30:16-19
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?…
“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
Job 38:1-7; 40:2
Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.
And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch. And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days.
The commemoration on the 14th may have been a famous one to the secular world, but today’s is likely an equally familiar one to the Lutheran one (but probably not to the Catholics): Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor.
Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546, at the age of 62. He wrote his last will and testament only a few years before, first dealing with his material possessions and his family, and then ending on this paragraph:
“Finally, I also ask of every man, since in this gift or endowment I am not using legal forms and terminology (for which I have good reasons), that he would allow me to be the person which I in truth am, namely, a public figure, known both in heaven and on earth, as well as in hell, having respect or authority enough that one can trust or believe more than any notary. For as God, the Father of all mercies, entrusted to me, a condemned, poor, unworthy, miserable sinner, the gospel of his dear Son and made me faithful and truthful, and has up to now preserved and grounded me in it, so that many in this world have accepted it through me and hold me to be a teacher of the truth, without regard for the pope’s ban, and the anger of the emperor, kings, princes, clerics, yes, of all the devils, one should surely believe me much more in these trifling matters; and especially since this is my very well-known handwriting, the hope is that it should suffice, when on can say and prove that it is Dr. Martin Luther’s (who is God’s notary and witness in his gospel) earnest and well considered opinion to confirm this with his own hand and seal. Executed and delivered on Epiphany Day, 1542.”
Before he died, it is reported that his friend Justus Jonas asked if Luther wanted to die standing firm on Christ and the doctrine he had taught. To which Luther answered: “Yes!”
From Dr. Mackenzie’s sermon this morning:
“Well, that’s the point of God’s No. ‘Listen up,’ it says, ‘you’re in big trouble. God condemns all of your thoughts, words, and deeds. You’re heading to hell.’ Only when that “No” at last penetrates our hard and stubborn hearts do we finally hear what God has been saying all the time in Jesus Christ: ‘Yes!’ Yes to forgiveness, yes to life, and yes to salvation.
“This was the Yes that Paul, Silas, and Timothy preached; this was the Yes that Luther preached right up until his end, and, in fact, the Yes that he confessed on his deathbed; and this is the Yes that by God’s grace you and I will also believe and confess at our last moment as well.”
If you look in the front of your LSB, on pages xii and xiii (before the Psalms), you will find a list of commemorations. Commemorations are days set aside in the church year to remember the saints God has given to His Church, partly as examples to imitate of faithful living (and dying), but most importantly as witnesses of God’s great mercy to His people across time and nations. Commemorations, like the more commonly celebrated feast days, ultimately point to Jesus Christ and His saving work.
Today’s commemoration is one of our more famous–or at least secularly-known–ones: Valentine, martyr. Saint Valentine of Rome ministered to the Christians persecuted in Rome in the third century as both a physician and a priest, and February 14th is the anniversary of his martyrdom. The particular charge against him is unclear, as is the mode of his passing; one thing people seem to agree on is that he died a martyr at the command of Emperor Claudius II and was buried the same day, on the Via Flaminia road between Rome and Rimini.
Legend has it that he wrote a note of encouragement to his jailer’s child on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper the day he died, signing it “from your Valentine.” Another very old, popular story claims that he was arrested for marrying Christian couples despite the emperor’s prohibitions against it, especially for those serving as soldiers. Valentine’s Day became associated with courtly love in the Middle Ages, and it is entirely possible that Valentine refers to two–or even three–different martyrs of the same name, their stories conflated over time.
Rev. Larry Wright, in his chapel sermon this morning, focused the commemoration precisely where it belongs:
“Christian martyrs do not confess themselves. Rather, they confess the one whom they believe, and that is Jesus Christ Himself…Valentine was not sainted because of the number of miracles he did or did not perform. No slight of hand or greeting card trick made him a saint. Rather, all saints are sainted in the same way: they are made holy, they are born again; not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God…
“Rejoice! You who are saints see the cloud of witnesses–their lives of faith encourage and surround us. We do look to witnesses, prophets, martyrs, and saints who stood in the faith, whose faces, some of which we will never see in this world, and some of those even tiny faces who we shall never forget. Yet even more we look to Him in whom they placed their faith, even Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made manifest in these last times, for our eternal sake. Amen.”