Thursday, February 18, 2016

Martin Luther, Theologian

Today the church remembers Martin Luther, Theologian, 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546.

The catalyst for change in the life of Martin Luther was, of all things, a trip to Rome. There he saw the excesses of the church. As he studied the scriptures, Luther came to believe that the church was not preaching the fullness of the gospel. In 1517, he nailed a set of debating points (95 Theses) to the church door in Wittenburg. Not only did Luther strike a nerve with his proposals for church reform, but new printing technology made his ideas the talk of Europe.

Luther did not set out to found a new church. But it was not long until he found himself at odds with church leaders. Summoned to explain himself and invited to recant, Luther is said to have declared, "Here I stand, I can do no other." Within a short time, Luther was excommunicated. By then, his critiques of the church had taken hold, and many people embraced Lutheran ideas. Originally a term of derision, soon "Lutheran" described a church.

Most of the world's Christians owe Luther a great debt: he popularized the idea of reading scriptures in one's own language, so that any Christian could read the Bible, not just scholars. Luther himself translated the entire Bible into German. Throughout Europe, others were inspired to translate the Bible into many other languages.

Luther's passion was that people might know the gospel of love which frees us from the tyranny of sin.

Give us a zeal for the gospel and a desire continually to reform the church that Christ's love may be known by all people. Amen.

O God, our refuge and our strength: You raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your Church in the light of your word. Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Daily Readings for February 18, 2016

Genesis 39:1-23
Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate. Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, "Lie with me." But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her. One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, she caught hold of his garment, saying, "Lie with me!" But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called out to the members of her household and said to them, "See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside." Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, "The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside." When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, "This is the way your servant treated me," he became enraged. And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph's care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph's care, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.

1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15
Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny. "For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, "I belong to Paul," and another, "I belong to Apollos," are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Mark 2:1-12
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and take your mat and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"-- he said to the paralytic-- "I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home." And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

Psalm 50 Deus deorum
1   The LORD, the God of gods, has spoken; he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2   Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.
3   Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm.
4   He calls the heavens and the earth from above to witness the judgment of his people.
5   Gather before me my loyal followers, those who have made a covenant with me and sealed it with sacrifice.
6   Let the heavens declare the rightness of his cause; for God himself is judge.
7   Hear, O my people, and I will speak: "O Israel, I will bear witness against you; for I am God, your God.
8   I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices; your offerings are always before me.
9   I will take no bull-calf from your stalls, nor he-goats out of your pens;
10   For all the beasts of the forest are mine, the herds in their thousands upon the hills.
11   I know every bird in the sky, and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.
12   If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.
13   Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
14   Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and make good your vows to the Most High.
15   Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall honor me."
16   But to the wicked God says: "Why do you recite my statutes, and take my covenant upon your lips;
17   Since you refuse discipline, and toss my words behind your back?
18   When you see a thief, you make him your friend, and you cast in your lot with adulterers.
19   You have loosed your lips for evil, and harnessed your tongue to a lie.
20   You are always speaking evil of your brother and slandering your own mother's son.
21   These things you have done, and I kept still, and you thought that I am like you."
22   I have made my accusation; I have put my case in order before your eyes.
23   Consider this well, you who forget God, lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.
24   Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me; but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God."

Psalm 19 Caeli enarrant
1   The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2   One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3   Although they have no words or language, and their voices are not heard,
4   Their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world.
5   In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber; it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6   It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to the end of it again; nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7   The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8   The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9   The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10   More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11   By them also is your servant enlightened, and in keeping them there is great reward.
12   Who can tell how often he offends? cleanse me from my secret faults.
13   Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion over me; then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense.
14   Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Psalm 46 Deus noster refugium
1   God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2   Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;
3   Though its waters rage and foam, and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.
4   The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
5   There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
6   God is in the midst of her; she shall not be overthrown; God shall help her at the break of day.
7   The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken; God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.
8   The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
9   Come now and look upon the works of the LORD, what awesome things he has done on earth.
10   It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, and burns the shields with fire.
11   Be still, then, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.
12   The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Daily Meditation for February 18, 2016

 From Forward Day by Day

Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

In the story of Jesus healing the paralytic, love and faith are closely united. Four people hear that Jesus is in the neighborhood and that he might be able to heal their paralyzed friend. They can’t get through the crowd. Undeterred and desperate, they hack their way through the ceiling. They don’t have any proof that Jesus can help, but their love drives them to hope for the impossible and to believe in it enough to take crazy risks for their friend. Their faith moves Jesus.

Mark sets the faith of the paralytic and his friends against the scribes’ skepticism. Presented with a man who offers the hope that he can forgive evil, the scribes instantly assume that Jesus is lying. The scribes would rather know blasphemy than foolishly hope Jesus might really be able to offer healing and reconciliation.

May God grant us the strength to stop trying to be clever. May God give us the courage to keep tearing down the barriers between ourselves and the Christ who can heal our broken world.