The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
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May 25, Ascension Day Holy Communion,
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Could Not Conduct the Service or Greek Lesson Today


I lost my voice this morning and could not really speak today. I am getting better.

Luther's Sermon for Ascension Day

Ascension mosaic - San Frediano, a church in Lucca, Italy



Luther's Sermon on the DAY OF CHRIST’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN. Mark 16:14-20

This sermon, which is not found in edition c, dates from the year 1523 and appeared in three pamphlet editions in the same year under the title: “A sermon by Dr. Martin Luther on the last chapter of St. Mark. While the eleven were sitting at meat Christ manifested himself and reproved them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, 1523.”

German text: Erlangen Edition, 12:169; Walch Edition, 11:1256; St. Louis Walch, 11:931.

Text: Mark 16:14-20. And afterward he was manifested unto the eleven themselves as they sat at meat; and he up-braided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned. And these signs shall accompany them that believe; in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken unto them, was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed.

Amen.

CONTENTS:

CHRIST’S COMMISSION TO HIS DISCIPLES TO PREACH THE GOSPEL; CHRIST’S ASCENSION.
* The substance of this Gospel 1-2.

I. CHRIST’ S COMMISSION TO HIS DISCIPLES.

A. The Commission to Preach the Gospel.

1. How and why the Gospel is to be preached to all creatures 3-4.

2. The nature of the Gospel that shall thus be preached 5ff.

3. The way and means to preach the Gospel 6-7.

B. The Double Appendix Christ made to This Command.

1. The first appendix — faith and unbelief. a. How the papists interpret this falsely and how to refute their interpretation 8ff. b. The true sense and import of this appendix 9-10. c. How the whole institution of the monks and nuns is shattered to pieces by this appendix 11-13. d. An objection raised here and its answer 14-16.

2. The second appendix — holy baptism. a. Why Christ appointed holy baptism in connection with faith. (1) The first reason 17. (2) The second reason 18. (3) The third reason 19. b. That baptism is not work of man but a work of God

3. The third appendix — the signs, that shall accompany the preaching of the Gospel 21-22.

II. CHRIST’ S ASCENSION TO HEAVEN.

A. How and Why Christ’s Ascension is to be Laid Hold of by the Heart 23-24.

B. Why Christ Ascended to Heaven 24.

C. That Reason Cannot Grasp Christ’s Ascension, but Faith must do it.

1. The sense and import of this 25.

2. How this can be proved by passages of the Old Testament. a. The first passage 26-27 b. The second passage 28. c. The third passage 29. d . The fourth passage 30-33.

* That faith is an inexpressibly great thing 34.

THE SUMMARY OF THIS GOSPEL:

1. This text is explained contrary to the narrative of this Gospel, at which some take offense. They think that Mark omitted much here. But they are mistaken and do not take the pains to examine it; for Mark describes the total of all that happened from the time Christ arose from the dead until the Gospel began to be preached in all the world.

2. Therefore we must correctly understand some words in this Gospel, as when he says, “Afterward,” not on the day of his ascension, but on the evening of the day Christ rose from the dead, after ,he appeared to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. Likewise that the Evangelist says, “And he said unto them”, did not occur this day, but later, on another day upon Mount Tabor in Galilee, whither Jesus had directed them, as Matthew says.

For the words in Matthew 28:18ff agree with these, “all authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.” Also, when the text says: “After he had spoken unto them,” namely, forty days afterwards, as is recorded in Acts 1:3. Likewise, when the Evangelist says: “And they went forth,” is to be understood when they had visibly received the Holy Spirit etc.

SECOND SUMMARY:

1. The slowness to believe and the imperfections of the beloved saints are a great and strong consolation for us.

2. The apostles should preach the Gospel and nothing else; to all creatures and not only to the Jews, but also to the heathen, to princes and subjects, so that there may not be a place in the whole world where the Gospel is not heard.

3. But it is all in vain to hear the Gospel, if you do not believe it. Therefore all must be taught by God.

4. Unless you are constantly baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit until the end of your life, you will fall back again into unbelief.

5. For the sake of the unbelievers are the signs given, in order that thereby they might show the world, that what was preached to them was the Word of God. For the text speaks thus: “The Lord working with them, and confirming the Word by the signs that followed.”

6. The signs have already been performed, and therefore we consider the apostles of God holy; hence signs are no longer needed, by which we should know that their words and preaching are God’s Word.

7. But we should hearken to the answer given to the rich man: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” Luke 16:29.

8. The signs here mentioned shall be performed also in a spiritual sense even unto the end of the world. For by means of the Gospel the prince of darkness with all his serpents will be crushed as is taught in Genesis 3:15. A new confession is heard from those who are converted. If unbelief at any time enter our hearts or spring up before us, we can soon banish it through the Gospel, so that we may learn not to trust in ourselves. Besides this believers will patiently bear with the infirmities of others, try to help them, heal them and do all for them they can. These signs the disciples did, could be done in a literal sense at the present day if it were necessary.

9. Christ in his bodily, visible form departs; for this was the best way to teach them that his kingdom did not consist in human ordinances.

Therefore St. Paul says to the Colossians: “If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances?” Colossians 2:20. Christ did this in order to rule in the hearts of believers, and be a high priest forever with the Father.

1. We are to consider today the article of faith in which we say: “I believe in Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father.” Our Gospel lesson briefly reviews the story of this ascension. But Luke treats the matter at greater length and writes, The Lord gathered all the disciples together, fully forty days after his resurrection, just as he had often shown himself to them, and spoke with them and gave them commandment what they should do, and as they were assembled together and spoke with him out at Bethany, whither he had led them, some asked him, saying: “Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And he said unto them: “It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” And when he had said these things, he blessed them and bade them good night and departed from them and was taken up while they beheld him and a cloud received him out of their sight. And as they stood there, gazing after him, gaping at the heavens, behold, there came and stood hard by them two men in white apparel, who said: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven.” Hereupon they returned from Bethany, from the mount of Olives, to Jerusalem and assembled in the upper room of the house where they were abiding, and continued with one accord in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus. This is the story of our Lord Jesus Christ’s ascension. Now let us consider the Gospel.

2. In the first place, there are in this Gospel two parts: one where the Lord commands the apostles to preach the Gospel in all the world; the other, treating of his ascension. We shall pass over the beginning of the text, where the Lord reproves their unbelief and hardness of heart, and take up the part where he says: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.” Here you have in English what the Gospel really is, to wit: “He that believeth and is baptized, is saved.” In these words all is comprehended; he that has them, has the Gospel.

I. CHRIST’S MISSIONARY COMMISSION TO HIS DISCIPLES TO PREACH THE GOSPEL.

3. We have often said ‘heretofore that the Gospel, properly speaking, is not something written in books, but an oral proclamation, which shall be heard in all the world and shall be cried out freely before all creatures, so that all would have to hear it if they had ears; that is to say, it shall be preached so publicly that to preach it more publicly would be impossible. For the Law, which was of old, and what the prophets preached, was not cried out in all the world before all creatures, but it was preached by the Jews in their synagogues. But the Gospel shall not be thus confined; it shall be preached freely unto all the world.

4. There is no need, therefore, of commenting on the text as some have done, and saying that omnis creatura (every creature) means a man. For there is no indication in these words that the Gospel shall be preached to men alone, but it shall be cried out before the whole creation, so that earth shall not have a nook or corner into which it shall not penetrate before the last day. Such is the counsel of God, wherein he has decreed that even they who cannot read and have not heard Moses and the prophets shall, nevertheless, hear the Gospel.

5. What is the Gospel? It is these words which the Lord speaks: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

We have often said — and I think we ought to thoroughly understand it by this time — that the Gospel cannot suffer us to preach works, however good and great these may be; for it seeks to pluck us down from our presumption and to set and plant us solely upon God’s mercy, that his work and grace alone may be extolled. Therefore, it suffers us not to rely upon our works. For one of these two must perish: if I stand upon God’s grace and mercy, I do not stand upon my merit and works; and, vice versa, if I stand upon any works and merit, I do not stand upon God’s grace. For, “if it is by grace,” says St. Paul, Romans 11:6, “it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” I cannot say that God owes me a reward, but I must confess that he has given it to me entirely as a free gift.

6. Hence, he that would preach the Gospel must cast aside all works that are calculated to make men just, and suffer nothing to remain but faith, or I must believe that God, without any merit of mine and regardless of all my works, has granted me his grace and eternal life, so that I am constrained to thank him and say: I rejoice, praise and thank God that he has freely and out of pure grace given me this most excellent boon. Likewise that the Gospel is, as Scripture says, nothing more nor less than a declaration of the honor, praise and glory of God. As we read in Psalm 19:1-2: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.” Therefore, we must preach in a way that the glory and praise will be given to God and not to ourselves. Now, there is no greater praise and glory that we can give to God than this, that we confess that he, out of pure grace and mercy, takes away from us sin, death, and hell, and gives his beloved Son for us, and all his treasures to us. Such a confession must give glory and honor and praise to him alone.

7. And this is the trend of all those passages in the prophets where God boasts that he will establish a preaching that will show forth his praise; as when he says in Isaiah 43:21: “The people which I formed for myself, that they might set forth my praise.” As if to say: You hypocrites do no more than praise yourselves in your hearts and thus my praise must perish; for you make me a stern judge and an unfriendly God, so that secretly the people hate me and think within themselves: Ah, if we but had another God, one that would not require so much of us; such a one we would love.

Therefore, I will form for myself another people, which shall know me and love me. When they see that I will not regard their works but will give them every good thing freely, their hearts will teem with joy and will never weary of my praise.

8. Therefore, beware of glossing the text and seeking to improve upon the words of Christ. Our doctors and colleges have tried to better them and have said these words must be understood thus: “He that believeth” (understand: and doeth good works), “shall be saved.” Who authorized them to make that insertion? Do you think the Holy Spirit was too stupid to make it? Thus they have utterly obscured, yea, perverted, this precious statement with their insertion. Therefore, take heed and let no one make an insertion for you, but abide by the text as it reads and understand it thus: “He that believeth shall be saved” without his merit, without any works.

Why? For this reason: because God has caused to be preached and proclaimed unto us that he had his Son Jesus Christ come and take away sin and all evil. For he saw that we were not able to do it, that it was an impossibility for us to blot out sin with our works and powers. Otherwise he could have saved himself the trouble and expense of delivering up his own Son to suffer and die; and he has this preached to us in the Gospel.

9. Now what does such preaching call for? It calls for this, that! believe in it, for in no other way can! apprehend it. If you write it in a book, it will be of no use to any man, though you indulge in much thinking about it. Again, you may preach and speak about it, or hear it; it will be to no purpose. You must believe it and confidently rely upon it that the thing is as the Gospel says, that not your works but the Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection takes away your sin and death. This you can not attain to except by faith.

10. Again, Christ says: “He that disbelieveth,” even though he be baptized, “shall be damned.” These words, too, you must allow to remain just as they are. For he does not say thus: He that disbelieves and does evil works besides; but, without any varnish he says: If thou hadst the chastity of all virgins, the sufferings of all martyrs, and, to be concise, if thou hadst all the works that ever were done by all the saints — if thou hadst all these in a heap, yet, if faith were lacking, all would be lost.

11. Therefore, this is the passage whereby all cloistery, priest-craft, monkery and nunnery is overthrown; for it is a lost case. Do what you will, the sentence is already passed and the decree is already gone forth: If thou disbelieve thou art condemned already. Thus heavily and mightily do these two sentences butt against all doctrine and doing that are founded upon the works and powers of man.

12. Now, place the two side by side, and you can rightly conclude: Where there is faith, there cannot be so many sins, but they will surely be swallowed up and exterminated by faith; where there is unbelief, you will never be able to do good works enough to blot out the least sin. Little, therefore as sin can stand in the presence of faith, so little can good works abide with unbelief. Therefore, nothing is needed, in order to do good works, but faith; and nothing more is required, in order to do sin and evil works, than unbelief. Thus it follows that he who believes has no sin and does nothing but good works; on the other hand, he who does not believe, verily, does no good work, but all he does is sin.

13. Therefore I say, however, you cannot have committed so many sins, neither is Satan such an invincible enemy of yours, but that all is taken away and forgiven as soon as you begin to believe. For through faith you have Christ as your own treasure, who was given to you for the very purpose of taking away sin; and who will be so bold as to condemn Christ?

For this reason, no sins can remain, however great they may be, if you believe. Thus, you are then God’s dear child and all is well, and whatever you do is all right. If you do not believe, you are damned, all you may do to the contrary notwithstanding; for since you have not Christ, it is impossible for you to blot out a single sin.

14. Now, since there is no other means for taking away sin than Christ, you might ask: How is it then, that we are nevertheless required to do good works; if as you say, all depends upon faith? I reply: Where faith is genuine it cannot exist without good works. Just as, on the other hand, where there is unbelief there can be no good work. Hence, if you believe, there must necessarily follow from your faith naught but good works. For, as faith brings you salvation and eternal life, so it also brings you good works; they cannot be restrained. Just as a living person cannot refrain from moving about, eating and drinking and laboring, it being impossible that such activities should cease while he lives, no one need command and drive him to do such works but — spare his life and he’ll do them; just as all this is true in the physical life, so nothing more is required, in order that good works may be done, than faith. Only believe, and you will do all of your own accord.

15. Thus, there is no need of your demanding good works of him who believes, for faith teaches him all that; and, being done in faith, all he does is well done and all are good and precious works, however insignificant they may seem. Faith is such a noble thing that it ennobles the whole man.

Now, it is not possible for a man to live on earth and not have anything to do. Hence all such works as are done by faith are precious works. On the other hand, where there is unbelief a man cannot be without works, either; therefore, such works are likewise all sin. Christ is not there, therefore all is lost. Hence, the statement of St. Paul to the Romans 14:23: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” As though he would say, on the contrary: Whatsoever is of faith is all grace and righteousness; that is a foregone conclusion. Hence, there is no need of asking whether good works shall be done, for they come of themselves, unbidden. Such is also the sense of the Psalmist, Psalm 25:10: “All the paths of Jehovah are lovingkindness and truth.” That is to say, when God works and creates faith in us, all that we do is lovingkindness, and all is truth; that is, all is done sincerely and not from hypocrisy. It follows, however, on the other hand, that all the ways of men are not lovingkindness but sheerest wrath, not truth but mere sham and hypocrisy, because they spring from unbelief.

16. Beware, then, lest under any circumstances you gloss the text, and say:

Faith alone is not sufficient; works, also, are necessary in order to justify.

For it is sufficiently clear from what we have said that works contribute nothing to this end. Nothing does any harm but unbelief. Works are not sufficient. If faith were present, all would be well. Therefore, as works contribute nothing toward the evil in unbelief, so in faith they contribute nothing toward the good; but unbelief alone corrupts all works and faith makes all works good.

17. But there is still one more thing here, that Christ says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Here you might say: I perceive, then, that baptism is also required. To be sure it is, but baptism is not a work that we do. It is to be coupled, however, with faith, because God would not have faith to be hidden in the heart, but would have it burst forth and manifest itself to the world. For this reason, he ordained such outward signs, by means of which everyone may show and confess his faith, to the end that we may come to the holy cross. For, if faith were to be kept as a secret, hidden in the heart, we would be pretty sure of not having to bear the cross or to follow Christ; if the world knew not that we believed, we would not be persecuted.

18. In the second place, we would never be the means of leading a soul to repentance and faith if we did not openly confess the Gospel and observe an external sign whereby men might know who and where the Christians are. Now, God has so ordained that our faith should be manifested before the heathen; hence, whosoever is a Christian and has received baptism, is in danger of his life among the heathen and unbelievers. It is necessary that we receive baptism if we are Christians; or, if that is beyond our reach, that we say, at least: I sincerely desire to be baptized.

19. Moreover, the sign of baptism is given us also to show that God himself will help us, and that we should be certain of his grace, and that everyone be able to say: Hereunto did God give me a sign, that I should be assured of my salvation, which he has promised me in the Gospel. For he has given us the Word, that is, the written document; and beside the Word, baptism, that is the seal. So faith, which apprehends the Word, may be strengthened by the sign and seal.

20. But you see no work of man in this transaction; for baptism is not my work but God’s. He that baptized me stands in God’s stead and does not the work of a man, but rather it is God’s hand and work. God is the real worker. Therefore, I may and should say: God, my Lord, baptized me himself, by the hand of a man. Of this I may boast, and on this I am to rely, and say: God, who will not and cannot lie, has given me this sign to assure me that he is gracious to me and willing to save me and has through his Son given me all that he has. Thus, on our side there is nothing but faith alone; and on his side, only the Word and the sign. But we have dwelt upon this matter often enough and there is no need of enlarging upon it now.

21. The following portion of our text speaks of the signs that shall accompany them that believe. We will not discuss these either at present, but pass on to the other part that we have chosen to consider, and that treats of Christ’s ascension.

22. In passing, be it said, however: We must not suppose that the signs here mentioned by Christ are all the signs that believers will do, neither must we imagine that all the Christians will do them; but Jesus means: All Christians can and may do the signs. Or, if I believe, then am I able to do them; I have the power. Through faith I obtain so much that nothing is impossible to me. If it were necessary and conducive to the spreading of the Gospel, we could do easily the signs; but since it is not necessary, we do not do them. For Christ does not teach that Christians practice the spectacular, but he says they have the power and can do these things. And we have many such promises throughout the Scriptures; for example, in James 14:12, where Christ says: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” Therefore, we must allow these words to remain and not gloss them away, as some have done who said that these signs were manifestations of the Spirit in the beginning of the Christian era and that now they have ceased That is not right; for the same power is in the church still. And though it is not exercised, that does not matter; we still have the power to do such signs.

II. CHRIST’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN.

23. Now we must consider the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first place, it is easily said and understood that the Lord ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. But they are dead words to the understanding if they are not grasped with the heart.

24. We must, therefore, conceive of his ascension and Lordship as something active, energetic and continuous, and must not imagine that he sits above while we hold the reins of government down here. Nay, he ascended up thither for the reason that there he can best do his work and exercise dominion. Had he remained upon earth in visible form, before the people, he could not have wrought so effectually, for all the people could not have been with him and heard him. Therefore, he inaugurated an expedient which made it possible for him to be in touch with all and reign in all, to preach to all and be heard by all, and to be with all. Therefore, beware lest you imagine within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us. The very opposite is true: While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near.

25. Reason cannot comprehend how this can be. Therefore it is an article of faith. Here one must close his eyes and not follow his reason, but lay hold of all by faith. For how can reason grasp the thought that there should be a being like ourselves, who is all-seeing and knows all hearts and gives all men faith and the Spirit; or that he sits above in heaven, and yet is present with us and in us and rules over us? Therefore, strive not to comprehend, but say: This is Scripture and this is God’s Word, which is immeasurably higher than all understanding and reason. Cease your reasoning and lay hold of the Scriptures, which testify of this being — how he ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God and exercises dominion. Let us examine some Scripture bearing upon this matter.

26. In the first place, Psalm 8:4-6 says of Christ: “What is man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him but little lower than God, and crownest him with glory and honor. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” Here the prophet speaks to God concerning a man and marvels that God humbled, for a time, that man, when he suffered him to die, humbled him to the extent that it seemed as if God were not with him. But after a little while God exalted him, so that all things must obey him, both in heaven and on earth. To these words we must hold, to these words we must cling, in these words we must believe; for reason will not submit nor adapt itself to them, but says they are lies. Now, if all things are to be subject to this being and to fall at his feet, he must sit where he can look into the whole world, into heaven and hell and every heart; where he can see all sin and all righteousness, and can not only see all things, But can rule accordingly.

27. Hence, these are majestic and powerful words. They afford the heart great comfort, so that they who believe this are filled with joy and courage and defiantly say: My Lord Jesus Christ is Lord over death, Satan, sin, righteousness, body, life, foes and friends. What shall I fear? For while my enemies stand before my very door and plan to slay me, my faith reasons thus: Christ is ascended into heaven and become Lord over all creatures, hence my enemies, too, must be subject to him and thus it is not in their power to do me harm. I challenge them to raise a finger against me or to injure a hair of my head against the will of my Lord Jesus Christ. When faith grasps and stands upon this article, it stands firm and waxes bold and defiant, so as even to say: If my Lord so wills that they, mine enemies, slay me, blessed am I; I gladly depart. Thus you will see that he is ascended into heaven, not to remain in indifference, but to exercise dominion; and all for our good, to afford us comfort and joy. This is one passage.

28. Furthermore, in the second Psalm, verses 7 and 8, we read that God says to Christ: “Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possessions.” Here you see again that Christ is appointed of God a Lord over all the earth. Now, if he is my friend and I am persuaded that he died for me and gave me all things and for my sake sits in heaven and watches over me, who then can do ought to me? Or if any man should do ought, what harm can come of it?

29. Furthermore, David says again in the 110th Psalm, <19B001>Psalm 110:1: “Jehovah saith unto my lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” And further on, in <19B005>Psalm 110:5,6,7: “The Lord at thy right hand will strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He will judge among the nations, he will fill the places with dead bodies; he will strike through the head in many countries. He will drink of the brook in the way; therefore will he lift up the head.”

30. Again in still another Psalm, David says ( Psalm 68:18): “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led away captives; thou hast received gifts among men, yea among the rebellious also, that Jehovah God might dwell with them.” And all the prophets took great pains to describe Christ’s ascension and his kingdom. For, as his sufferings and death are deeply founded in the Scriptures, so are also his kingdom, his resurrection and ascension. In this manner we must view the ascension of Christ. Otherwise it will afford us neither pleasure nor profit. For what good will it do you if you merely preach that he ascended up to heaven and sits there with folded hands? This is what the prophet would say in the Psalm Christ is ascended on high and has led captivity captive. That is to say, not only does he sit up there but he is also down here. And for this purpose did he ascend up thither, that he might be down here, that he might fill all things and be everywhere present; which thing he could not do had he remained on earth, for here in the body he could not have been present with all. He ascended to heaven, where all hearts can see him, where he can deal with all men, that he might fill all creation. He is present everywhere and all things are filled with his fullness. Nothing is so great, be it in heaven or on earth, but he has power over it, and it must be in perfect obedience to him. He not only governs and fills all creation (that would not help my faith any nor take away my sins), but also has led captivity captive.

31. This captivity some have interpreted to mean that he delivered the sainted patriarchs out of the stronghold of hell; but that interpretation does not benefit our faith any either, for it is not particularly edifying to faith.

Therefore, we must simply understand the matter thus: that he means that captivity which captures us and holds us captive. I am Adam’s child, full of sin and foully besmirched; therefore, the law has taken me captive, so that I am lettered in conscience and sentenced to death.

32. From this captivity no one can free himself, save only that one man Christ. What did he do? He made sin, death, and Satan his debtors. Sin fell upon him as though it would vanquish him, but it lost the day; he devoured sin. And Satan, death, and hell fared the same way. But we are unable to do this unless he be present to aid us. Alone, we must needs perish, But he, since he had done no sin and was full of righteousness, trod under foot Satan, death and hell, and devoured them, and took everything captive that fain would capture us, so that sin and death no longer can do harm.

33. This, then, is the power he causes to be preached, that all who believe in him are released from captivity. I believe in him by whom sin, death, and all things that afflict us, were led captive. It is a pleasing discourse, and full of comfort, when we are told that death is taken away and slain, so that it is no longer felt. However, it affords pleasure and comfort only to those who believe it. You will not find release from captivity in your works, fastings, prayers, castigations, tonsures, and gowns, and whatever more things you may do; but only in the place where Christ sits, whither he ascended and whither he led captivity with him. Hence, he who would be freed from sin and delivered from Satan and death, must come thither where Christ is. Now, where is he? He is here with us, and for this purpose did he sit down in heaven, that he might be near unto us. Thus, we are with him up there and he is with us down here. Through the word he comes down and through faith we ascend up.

34. So, we see everywhere in the Scriptures that faith is such an unspeakably great thing that we can never preach about it sufficiently nor reach it with words. It cannot be heard and seen, therefore it must be believed. Such is the nature of faith that it feels nothing at all, but merely follows the words which it hears, and clings to them. If you believe, you have; if you believe not, you have not. In this wise must we understand this article of faith, that Christ is ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God.

From Rhinestone Cowboy to Carbon Cowboy.
Plants and Beneficial Creatures Have Spiritual Gifts

Be a hero in your garden.

My parents grew up on their family farms, and we often visited farms for extended family visits. My happiest memories are from staying at Howard and Grace Noel's farm, where I did some chores and got treated like a grandchild.



The era of chemical gardening and farming is moving toward natural - or Creation agriculture. No one seems to use the term Creation, but they do talk about:

  • Carbon Cowboys
  • Regenerative Farming
  • Organic food
  • Teaming with Microbes
  • No-till.
Logs make great borders, adding food centers
for beneficial creatures like toads and birds,
slowly rotting into the soil.

This new approach to growing food - or flowers - concentrates on one thing - how the soil gains or loses its health. I shared some plants with staff at our dentist's office. The dentist's wife was momentarily upset that I got "dirt" on the main desk. I was going to say, "Soil, not dirt," but I let the opportunity go. No gardener would confuse soil with dirt.

Everyone is still stuck on spraying to have good roses. When Mrs. Ichabod brought in a new bunch of roses to her cancer support group, one woman said, "Doesn't he spray a lot?" The answer was - "No, never."

The change from rhinestone cowboy to carbon carboy is dramatic -

  1. Insects, spiders, and birds take care of insect pests.
  2. Organic matter quickly becomes a blessing in the soil.
  3. Costs are lowered to almost nothing, if wisdom prevails.

The soil teems with life, especially earthworms, and becomes fertile, or more fertile, or astonishingly fertile -

If man's agricultural solutions worked - monoculture, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides - then we would not have failing farms, sick animals, and weed-choked gardens. The farmers have said, the more they followed chemical methods, the greater their total production and the lower their net profits. Two reasons for this are - the cost of all the chemicals plus the cost of treating sick animals.




The leaf-shredding speaker above has good tips about leaves being good and coffee grounds being fabulous, but I disagree about the need to shred leaves and form compost piles that are mixed.  Of course, some people need a harmless hobby, so I would not take him away from vacuuming his yard, shredding his leaves, and stirring his compost. I let the leaves alone, because they rot just fine over the winter and early spring, and I add as many bags as possible to the front and back yard.

I was grabbing leaf-bags from the curb when Little Ichabod was young enough to hide in the back seat and say, "Why can't my dad be normal?"

Aha, I was way ahead of everyone. Soon LI's offspring will visit and no longer say, "This looks like a cemetery," but "Ooooh. Look at all the roses." Even later they will read about gardeners who use logs, stumps, and wood mulch to enhance the soil.

As the speaker said, almost all food garbage is lacking in nitrogen and other helpful soil chemicals. The exception - coffee grounds. I put coffee grounds on the plants that need extra help, simply dropping the grounds on top. Soil creatures take care of the mixing.

Another result of my YouTube research was a bit about the number of plants on a given stretch of land. They are discovering that a wide variety of plants will do a much better job, especially with cover crops. Even now, many farmers grow soybeans and corn, corn and soybeans. They use one crop only a cover crop to let the soil recover its nitrogen and carbon.

The pioneers in cover cropping are creating mixes with as many as 20 plants together, which generates a quite a universe for insects and soil improvement. This lets the divine engineering of Creation do its work.

One plant will improve nitrogen in the soil while growing food for cattle. Another will improve the phosphorus in the soil and a different kind of nutrition for the herd.

I find it amusing that so many people put eggshells out, which will decompose as fast as granite. But they kill or pull out the Dandelion herb, which does pull up usable calcium for the soil.



The plant and insect populations are engineered by God to have different needs at different times. Therefore, a diversity of planting will promote a stronger and more active beneficial population. Paul would call these spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

Strangely enough, people ignore their own gifts and covet the gifts of others. As in Creation, God has spread special abilities around so that no one has a monopoly and no one is lacking in having spiritual gifts.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ecclesia College a church? Fort Smith attorney files amended FOIA lawsuit



Ecclesia College a church? Fort Smith attorney files amended FOIA lawsuit:



"In a recently filed Renewed Motion to Dismiss a Freedom of Information Act case brought against Ecclesia, Ecclesia revealed and contended that it was actually a church and not a college and that records concerning the expenditure of grant monies were church records,” McCutchen wrote in a news release.

McCutchen’s amended complaint filed in Washington County alleges that Ecclesia violated Article II, Section 24 of the Arkansas Constitution on the grounds that giving state grant fund monies to a “church violates the Constitutional prohibition on compelling citizens to ‘support any place of worship,’ and that it also gives ‘preference . . . to any religious establishment.’”

The amended complaint also alleges that Ecclesia Inc. “committed a fraud” in the application process by representing itself as a college rather than as a church, as it now contends."

 "We have to learn how to turn a college into a church
when the feds come knocking, and a church into a college
for receiving Arkansas state tax money."


'via Blog this'

Why Not Teach Justification by Faith? LCMS Worship: Propers for Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession




LCMS Worship: Propers for Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession:



"Lutheran Service Book lists the anniversary as a commemoration, and therefore it provides no propers. Lutheran Worship listed it as a festival, and LCMS Worship has received several requests to help celebrate the occasion."



'via Blog this'

***

GJ - I am weeping - tears of laughter, not of joy. The LCMS wants to commemorate the Augsburg Confession? Why not teach its doctrine. Why do all the bigwigs teach Universal Objective Justification and rejoice in their agreement with the ELS and WELS on this matter?

And then have a service featuring the Confession the LCMS refuses to confess, in its districts, in its schools, in its pulpits?

Justified before birth! So why did Christian News
say Donna Preus was a sinner? She was born a guilt-free saint,
according to her children and grandchildren.
From Christian News, May 22, 2017.
“Robert Preus: Preacher and Teacher of Eternal Peace – A Sinner Save by Grace – A Great Hero of the Faith” was the headline of the special 32 page “Robert Preus Remembered” (November 13, 1995 Christian News) More than twenty-one years later this issue on the death of Donna Preus, the wife of Robert, is part II. Donna, like Robert, was “A Sinner Saved by Grace.” She is a role model for women. 

WELS Darling Katy Perry - On the Terrorist Attack on Little Girls at a Concert

The Booze Brothers were so thrilled with Katy Perry
that they featured her on their Facebook pages.
The CORE's "coffee house ministry" was
actually a bar ministry, with predictable results.
Katy loves the radical Left.



Katy Perry has some curious suggestions as to how people should respond to to the threat of additional attacks: love, "coming together," with no borders, and that people should "co-exist." 
Perry made the comments on the Elvis Duran And The Morning Show.
Send in the clowns -
Glende is losing members the second time in a row.
His buddy Ski is at his fourth call, and in his fourth district.
The Ichabod readers hope Ski got his appearance bond money
back, from his first call and court appearance in Milwaukee.
Both of them worked for Mark and Avoid Jeske.

House Finches Courting, Crepe Myrtle Rescue Work, Blackberries

Photo source - House Finches.
The female flaps her wings for food, and the male
feeds her in their courting ritual.

Our six-foot bird swings are close to the bedroom window and the kitchen sink window. The birds are used to us being a few inches away, so we have close-up views all day.

Cardinals by Norma Boeckler


Mrs. Ichabod and I noticed the House Finches carrying on. I knew Cardinals did this, but I did not know the courting ritual of Finches. The female sits on the swing and flaps her wings like a nestling. The male watches a bit and then feeds her - or pretends to.

House Finches eat voraciously, not only the seeds from traditional feeders, but even the nectar from Hummingbird feeders. I decided to switch them to cracked corn, which is popular with many animals and far less expensive. I grow Hummingbird feeders instead of mixing nectar for them.

Cardinals:
Mate feeding occurs when the male cardinal picks up a seed, hops near the female and the two touch beaks so the female can take the food. That is such as sweet gesture. Mate feeding will go on until the female lays eggs and incubates them. Normally, pairs of cardinals stay together throughout the year and may breed for several seasons. This bird lives an average of one year although there have been records of longer life spans.



Crepe Myrtle Rescue Work
Once I realized the Crepe Myrtle twigs need additional water, I aimed at a long-term solution. I have large patches of Dutch White Cover growing near the myrtle fence. That would provide an additional nitrogen boost by trimming the clover and placing grass and clover around the two smallest myrtles. I use battery operated trimmers.

Next I packed peat humus around each plant, on top of the clover. The mixture provides plenty of motivation for the soil creatures to pull down organic matter under the plants. Since organic matter holds more water, that will also increase the capacity of the soil to infiltrate and retain water.



Another Blackberry Patch
Surveying the Wild Garden made me realize my need for some invasive plants there, to elbow the weeds aside. Ragweed was starting all over, and maples were forming a new forest.

As I told one gardener, Blackberries transition from "I need to water them" to "What have I done!"

The soaker hose (not needed yet) will run on top of the Wright fence and then angle down to the Butterfly Bushes, which are greedy for water. So extra plants will occupy that general area.

I needed one more Blackberry plant and its network of runners. The one I found had an eight-foot runner. I created a small hole for the main plant and buried the runner under some loose soil and mulch, weighed down by a log.

Divine engineering will take over from there. Established Blackberries will grow in driveway cracks and pop up under a rain-barrel. They appear to be a series of canes, but those canes are connected and tough. I had to get a sharp knife to separate the cane I wanted from its network.

 Gabe Brown - "Let living roots stay in the ground
as long as possible." Roots create most of the organic
matter in the soil, so that is a good idea.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Shadow of Church Growth

Nothing says clown like doctoral stripes for a DMin
and a stole on a Geneva gown.

One day we walked in Pasadene
One day in early spring
You held a DMin in your hand
To give your life some zing.
Now I'll remember many a day
And many a solemn goal.
The echo of a praise band's song
The shadow of Church Growth.

This is the favorite version of MLC and Mordor.

The shadow of Church Growth
When you are gone
Will color all your dreams
And quench the dawn.
Look into my eyes
My dolt and see
All the lovely dough
You earned for me.

Our global Church Growth goals
Were far too high
You never taught the Word,
But nor did I.
Now when I remember spring
All the dough that DMins bring
I will be remembering
The shadow of Church Growth.

Original version- Written by Paul Webster, Johnny Mardel • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Church and Change ran their putrid seminars,
until WELS clamped down and changed their name.
Now Mark Jeske organizes them with WELS-LCMS-ELCA.
No problem!

Planting a New Blackberry Garden - Free - In Two Digs



Triple Crown Blackberries have many good qualities, besides being free of thorns:

  1. They grow, bloom, and fruit in the shade, but really grow in the sun or partial sun.
  2. They produce large, good berries - according to our birds and squirrels.
  3. They spread on their own by tipping and shoots, even growing under mulch to pop out and produce another cane where a hole is found

The Logos, the Creating Word, engineered Blackberries and its cousins in the larger rose family to spread through runners and tip rooting. Hold a piece of cane on the soil and it will produce roots and a new cane.




I was thinking about the Gabe Brown principle - "Leave a living root in the ground as long as possible." The Wild Garden has a lot of mulch, but not many plants so far. I tried some Elderberry there, but I learned afterwards that they do better as dormant starts, not when tender and growing in the spring.

First Dig
Blackberries are unstoppable, so I dug out a strong cane. "What's this?" The cane had many runners coming from the main plant. Once I dug it out, I pulled another long runner that traveled under a lot of mulch to find a new place to start.

Second Dig
I found the sunniest spot in the semi-shade of the  Wild Garden, a place where the soaker hose would travel to the thirsty Butterfly Bushes. I put a divot in the ground (something I learned when golfing...once).

Next I placed the runners in the same position they occupied before, shoveled some soil and mulch on them, and weighed this three-part garden down with small branches and logs.

Rain should fall today, and I will build up the plant with more rainwater. I did not have a chance to use much of the stored rainwater when the new front rolled in.

Birds and berries go together in the garden.

The testimony of an Assistant High School Principal - Comfort for Christians



The testimony of an Assistant High School Principal - Comfort for Christians:



"Speaking the Word is always used by the Holy Spirit.
Remember the story of Stephen in the book of Acts? The preaching of the Word by ordinary Christians will harden some listeners and save others. There are people like Dr. Ruff who cannot bear to hear even a bit of God’s law, much less his gospel.

At 5 minutes 28 seconds (5m28s) he physically grabs the young man’s sign.
At 7m29s he says, This is a public school. We don’t believe in that here.
At 1m10s he says to the young man, You can go to hell."

The full post is at the link.

http://www.alecsatin.com/spirit-of-the-age/testimony-of-dr-zach-ruff/

'via Blog this'

The testimony of an Assistant High School Principal - Comfort for Christians

The testimony of an Assistant High School Principal - Comfort for Christians:



"Speaking the Word is always used by the Holy Spirit.
Remember the story of Stephen in the book of Acts? The preaching of the Word by ordinary Christians will harden some listeners and save others. There are people like Dr. Ruff who cannot bear to hear even a bit of God’s law, much less his gospel.

At 5 minutes 28 seconds (5m28s) he physically grabs the young man’s sign.
At 7m29s he says, This is a public school. We don’t believe in that here.
At 1m10s he says to the young man, You can go to hell."



'via Blog this'

Jackson Out, Jackson In


We attended our oldest grandchild's graduation from our local community college, one week ago.

Today, the school informed me that I would be teaching English composition part-time there.

Online is strange in asking for a commitment to teach and then canceling a class for no reason. They have reasons, such as low enrollment for the class, but they do not share the reasons why. I happened to find out twice when my supposed class was switched over to someone's friend - not canceled at all. But they wrote - "Your class has been canceled, sorry."

Oddly enough, we live within walking distance of the satellite campus, which is expanding to a new, larger building. We moved here for another school, but something was very fishy there. I told them so when I quit. That small college president made the national news this year by being indicted by the federal government for fraudulent use of tax money and wire fraud.

He is the only boss I have had to garner felony indictments. However, in churchwork I have had many who deserved to be indicted!

Moves to Springdale neighborhood,
great neighbors, community college campus next door.

Coffee To Wake Up the Gardener and Garden


Today I was talking to a coffee expert on using coffee grounds in the garden. I used some extra coffee on some new plants and saw good results, especially with rainwater added. I began adding more used coffee grounds on other plants that needed attention.

My Crepe Myrtle twigs have various heights. The tallest receives regular rainwater and coffee grounds. In the front, the tallest is at the bottom of the slope and the shortest at the top. Today, the light went on. Although Crepe Myrtles are drought tolerant and sun-loving, any plant at the top of the slope will get less water than at the bottom. In fact, the back yards drain down where the myrtles are lined up in a row, the bottom one getting the best runoff and a big of soil as a bonus.

The rescue operation will consist of more grounds for the shortest myrtles, plus extra stored rainwater.



Benefits of Coffee Grounds
No, I do not think coffee grounds will drive slugs away and do other magical tricks. But the grounds are organic sponges, a convenient way to lighten the soil and add some nitrogen material.

I am more interested in their contribution to lightening and hydrating the soil. Coffee grounds as mulch on top of the soil will be pulled down by earthworms, contributing to water infiltration and the conversion of the grounds to castings.

Earthworms alone have a powerful effect on the soil, by tunneling, sweetening the soil with their Caltrate glands, adding nitrogen waste, and leaving their castings, which are considered the best of all fertilizer. Although they seem too tiny to make a difference, the earthworms on one acre of land add up to a one-ton creature moving a ton of soil every day.

To hold water longer for each myrtle twig on the slope, and to improve the soil below, I will add more grounds, dried leaves and grass around each plant. The initial effort will hold moisture in the soil. The long-term effect is to leaven the clay soil with organic material and to increase  microbe activity. Earlier I thought the wood mulch was having an anti-nitrogen effect, because wood absorbs nitrogen as it rots, then gives it up again. That may still be true, but the ability of the backyard myrtle to absorb water and grow made me think of the regular doses of rainwater turning that one plant into a champion when all the others were planted at the same time. And they varied by their position on the slope.

Plants have to be given their due, since each has different Creation gifts. Even the roses vary in what they like and tolerate. I failed with one Chaste Tree when I watered it all the time and left it in semi-shade. That is one bush that wants lots of sun, no water added, and enjoys pruning. I cut the Chaste Tree drooping branches, placed it in the sun, and banned all watering near it. The plant responded with health and steady growth.

This crisis reminded me of the couple whose roses, planted at the top of a small hill on their property, did not grow well. I said, "You planted them in the driest spot in your yard. Water drains downhill." One was a chemical engineer. He said, "Oh."

The myrtle fence was planned to keep some neighbor kids off the rose garden. It worked, because the family moved away.



Free Plants - Some of the Best Around
Our Army Ranger friend really liked the roses I gave him for the cemetery. He especially likes the Veterans Honor rose - glowing red, fragrant, long-lasting.



"Where did you get yours?" I said, "From the Net, but I can grow some on potatoes." He was startled, even though he had worked in landscaping. (Every time he has a landscaping story, it is enhanced by the toxic chemicals he handled - all very effective. I nod in agreement.)

I will root roses and some other plants in potatoes - by drilling holes in the spuds. A rooting compound is supposed to help, so I will try that. The cane goes into the potato and forms roots. The potato is planted in the soil, possibly in a pot before transferring it to the garden. The potato provides moisture and food for the new plant.




Elderberries Ten Feet Tall
Almost Eden sold me two Elderberry plants last year, and they grew and formed fruit. This year they grew much taller and formed even larger berry umbrellas.

I found a plant that grows faster than weeds and spreads, too. Like Blackberries, the Elderberries sprout along runners. I may have botched the transplant, but I took some sprouts and moved them deeper into the Wild Garden, to make an attractive, green, bird-feeding screen.

 Photo source.



Monday, May 22, 2017

This Romans Quotation Proves the Folly of Justification without Faith




Romans 4:20 He [Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
22 And therefore it was imputed [counted] to him for righteousness.
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.



Notice that Romans 4, which is an essay on Justification by Faith, featuring Abraham, concludes with Romans 5:1-2. Or one might call the opening of Romans 5 a transitional sentence.



Romans 5 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

But the LCMS and others have made this nonsense canonical - 

Holy Scripture sums up all its teachings regarding the love of God to the world of sinners, regarding the salvation wrought by Christ, and regarding faith in Christ as the only way to obtain salvation, in the article of justification. Scripture teaches that God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ, Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 4:25

***
GJ - Abraham's faith was not simply in his ability to have a son through Sarah, but his faith in being the father of many nations, as he became through the Messiah and the ever-growing Kingdom of God.

Genesis And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.


And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
The befuddled UOJ experts, who think they glorify God's grace by denying and denigrating faith, repudiate the Gospel and replace it with a rationalistic philosophy.

The leaders of the LCMS, WELS, ELS, and CLC (sic)
join ELCA and Christian News in their slippery
evocation of Universal Objective Justification.