Monday, September 26, 2016

Vines Vining Away - Plus Fresh Rain on the Pines

Our backyard - heavily Photoshopped.




Vines are so much fun - and trouble. The ones we want do not grow overnight. The ones we hate will lie in wait and make their way across the places they are not wanted.

The Ivy League is called that because a Harvard bigshot liked Japanese ivy and began growing it on the old buildings, so it is called Boston ivy. Yale copied it. No one thought the vines could be tree-like and destructive of buildings. The other schools united with the ivy fad and called their football league of eggheads the Ivy League.

I have English ivy - not the kind grown at Harvard in Boston - growing on the front of the house. We like it and let the vine grow over the picture window. Those are our organic drapes, always changing a bit, and perfect for male birds to land on and see the reflection of imagined rivals in the spring.

The best and worst about vines is their seeking for sunlight. The English ivy tried to grow into the house through the window and under the door. The ivy spread across the patio and entered the rose garden. We found it easy to cut away from unwanted areas, but that is only an armistice, not a peace treaty.

I planted three Trumpet vines, one by the maple tree in the front, one on the fence where it would get sunlight and water, one in the shade behind a tree. The most neglected is still growing up a tree and finding sunlight. The most coddled is growing ferociously now and has bloomed. The one in the maple tree rose garden is doing well on the ground and up the tree.

Morning Glory vines reach out for support, just like pumpkins. I enjoy the architecture of those plants, willing to grab a fence spring, a rose branch, anything for support.

 Hostas thrive in shade,
and Hummingbirds love Hosta flowers.


Pine Needles
The pine needles already look good on the Hosta garden, which only lacks another dose of needles and more Hostas.

We got the first application from the neighbors on Saturday, and they promised more would fall. I offered to harvest them too.

The rain got all the fresh cardboard soggy and heavy, and rain will bring down more needles and leaves.

The mulch not only preserves moisture and soil, but keeps the soil warmer for the soil creatures that decompose and re-arrange all the useful chemicals. The soil creatures keep up some activity as it gets cooler, but more is done when the critters are kept warm.

They proposed bubble plastic for swimming pools in the winter, in Phoenix. The sun would beat down and warm up the water, they claimed. I tried that once and got an algae bloom that was second to none, but not the desired warmth in the pool.

Coverings on the soil can promote all kinds of growth, including fungi and algae, but in natural conditions the food is eaten by the vegetarian creatures. The vegans are eaten by the predators, and the predators by other predators - even their own kind.

In this circle of life designed by the Creator and managed expertly by Him, nothing gets out of hand unless man steps in with some wild ideas.

  • Landscaper's cloth - that will block weeds for a time, then the weeds break through to make an unholy mess.
  • Black plastic partially covered by rocks or wood mulch. Plastic does not last and those coverings do not work very well at all. Soil should not be suffocated with plastic.
  • Herbicides kill a lot more than weeds, and many weeds can be covered and converted to compost. Some weeds are easily pulled  - like crabgrass. Other weeds are herbs that should be left alone - like dandelion.
  • Pesticides kill spiders, beneficial insects, and lots of other life. If I kill a million skeeters with poison, a billion more will replace them.
  • Fungicides are good for killing fungus, which is what we really want in our gardens. I like slime molds that show up to devour other molds. They look like dog vomit and go away fast. Some pranksters used to buy plastic stuff like that - it's free.
  • Excess digging, rototilling, double digging, plowing. If God wanted all those delicate fungus strands broken up, all the earthworms killed, and all the balance destroyed, He would have done it by now.


Lack of Curiosity - Lack of Energy - Lack of Will

 Our drugged and alcohol-pacified society is content to copy and paste
creativity while assailing anyone who disturbs their three-day naps.






The video above deals with the lost civilizations of the world whose accomplishments are still carved in stone. My mother was fascinated with the Mexican and South American cultures. People still scratch their heads and wonder how this massive engineering feats were imagined, designed, and created.

That is also true for the pyramids of Egypt, which exist in various formations and sizes throughout the world.


I used to laugh at the ultimate answer to all these questions - "Aliens from outer space did this." That is how I answer similar questions on Facebook.

There are no alien records to dispute, no aliens to interview, no ships to board for inspection. That is the perfect answer for all questions.

My rudest shock in teaching undergraduates again, whether they were smart or not, from public schools or homeschooling, was this - their utter lack of curiosity.

Almost every question in the world can be answered (often badly) by putting the issue in Google for a search. I had some electrical problems with the Ichaboat, which were not solved by replacing the alternator. I was able to search the Net for a discussion page about my 94 Lincoln Town Car, Executive Series. That gave me a lot of clues, but the AAA repairman had the final answer - a $4500 testing device - revealing a bad, new replacement alternator.

The Net gave me a chance to think through the answers and consider what each one meant for repair or future troubles.

Why was the Chaste Tree doing so badly on the rainwater I gave it? Answer - never water the Chaste Tree and give it plenty of sun. I was wrong on two counts and moved it. The plant responds to pruning so I pruned all of it and new life came out of that drooping shrub.

What was the weird growth on two roses? I checked articles and photos - the dreaded rosette disease. Cure? Dig it up with the roots and remove all traces. That ended the problem and made me far more aware of the issue. I also found false statements about causes, which can be compared against well established research.



History of Civilizations
Few people know the history of Rome. We studied that history as a normal part of Latin 1 and 2. We had to know how and when it began, who Julius Caesar was, and read his self-promoting diaries. No one takes Latin now - a statistically insignificant number can claim that distinction.

 Martin Luther College, WELS


The Roman Republic - which required marriage for citizens - turned into the Roman Empire, where the first 15 emperors were either bi or homosexual. That includes Julius, who was called "the wife of every man and the husband of every woman," as well as the "Queen of Bithynia."

Rome absorbed every engineering achievement from the cultures it conquered and implemented them, building upon the foundation of Greek and Egyptian math and engineering. "The Romans had the drains, but the Greeks had the brains."

Once Rome settled into the excesses of wealth and power, the culture began to decline. I grew up hearing, "We are just like Rome, going the same direction," and that was during Good Old Days, when men had spines instead of management techniques.

Biblical studies are a good example. We have centuries of scholarship, good and bad, but plenty to use. We have the texts available on the computer. And yet a business can add and subtract from the Bible - as the New NIV has done - and the simpletons of WELS say, "Love it. Buy it. Use it." The others are no better.

I read that giant celebrity churches like Willow Creek demanded and feminist Bible and got it in the New NIV, which will change more often than cloud formations in the years to come.

Thousands of Lutherans will graduate from colleges and seminaries and never ask the important questions, because they have no curiosity. They only want to subjugate their minds so they can graduate and progress in the synod.

As my professor at Notre Dame (now at Harvard) said, "Those who never leave school fail to develop independent thinking." She was supporting me in disagreeing with her in class, while other students thought that meant expulsion from the program.

America may turn things around again, but not without repentance. Too many want the rivers of drugs and vice that cross the borders. Too many want easy jobs with total security, as long as they behave and cause no waves.

I am sure that those Lutherans who watch the Moody video to the end with cringe at the Decision Theology at the end. But why? All your leaders look to the Decision Theology Evangelicals to teach them evangelism. They go to those schools and let themselves and Luther be pistol-whipped by the professors of Fuller, Willow Creek, and Trinity Divinity.  And those subjugated leaders, who are no better or wiser than sheep, get out their whips and cattle prods to order the pastors and congregations to follow their example.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2016. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.
Gospel Fruits and Weeds



The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2016

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson




The Hymn # 239                 Come Thou Almighty King                         
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #269            O Lord Our Father                      
  

Gospel Fruits and Weeds


The Communion Hymn # 396            Oh for a Faith            
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #651               Be Still My Soul            

    

KJV 1 Corinthians 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

KJV Matthew 22:34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.



Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

Lord God, heavenly Father: We are poor, miserable sinners; we know Thy will, but cannot fulfill it because of the weakness of our flesh and blood, and because our enemy, the devil, will not leave us in peace. Therefore we beseech Thee, shed Thy Holy Spirit in our hearts, that, in steadfast faith, we may cling to Thy Son Jesus Christ, find comfort in His passion and death, believe the forgiveness of sin through Him, and in willing obedience to Thy will lead holy lives on earth, until by Thy grace, through a blessed death, we depart from this world of sorrow, and obtain eternal life, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.


Gospel Fruits and Weeds
KJV 1 Corinthians 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 

Paul's difficulties in Corinth remain a blessing to us this day. Those who like to pick away at the Bible criticize the Apostle for his personal letters. This was a man with normal emotions and responses to difficulties, they complain. His letters are too personal, so they show him as a mortal, fallible man. 

But if we look purely human accounts, there is quite a difference. I am fond of those bits of trivia from the past, where so much is revealed and concealed. People will invariably write their church histories as glorious heroes planting the flag of grace on some lonely, barren spiritual desert - like my hometown Moline. Synods write such predictable histories as Fifty Years of Grace. Individual histories have plenty of details in them, but also have many blank areas. The nephew of CFW Walther skipped most of the early history of the group, which he must have known, sitting at the table of his uncle, and one official site pretended nothing happened until the LCMS started - when CFW became president.

Man's histories forget the faithful leaders and sanitize the rascals.

In contrast, Paul's letters give us a human picture which is also divinely inspired, because the Spirit led him to address the positive and the negatives about Corinth in order to lead them correctly with the Gospel. 

The first three verses are the formal start of an epistle. 

Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's:
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus the opening emphasizes the apostolic call of Paul, sent from Jesus Christ through the will of God. Sosthenes is likely the head of the synagogue in Corinth who was beaten (Acts 18:17) for being a Christian.

No one is named a saint except those who believe Christ, who call upon His Name. Paul's union with them is that Jesus is their Lord and his Lord. The greeting starts with grace, which is God's mercy and love through the Gospel, peace which is the result of forgiveness in Him - both coming from the Father and Son, witnessed by the Holy Spirit.

Luther:
4. In this wise he extols to them the preaching of the Gospel (as indeed he does on different occasions); his purpose is to induce them to regard it most appreciatively. He gives them an example of his own gratitude, thanking God on their behalf, for the purpose of calling forth their especial gratitude when they should consider what they formerly were and what they now had received through the Gospel. And again, he would have them beware lest, forgetful of their former misery and present grace, they relapse into their old blindness. A sad beginning in such backsliding had been made by factions in their midst, who, satiated with the Gospel and indifferent to the abundant grace they enjoyed, began to cast about for something else.

5. Now observe: If the exalted apostle and venerable teacher of the Gentiles in his day had to witness in his own parish such factions and sects as those which, in sinful security and ingratitude toward the Gospel, arose during his life, what wonder is it that today, when we do not have the excellent preachers and pious Christians of those times, there are similar sects? We are aware of the great benefits bestowed upon us, but at the same time we see and realize that the devil instigates divisions and scandals. And the cause of these evils may be traced to our ingratitude; we have quickly forgotten the ills we endured under the blindness of popery, and how miserably we were deluded and tormented. Necessarily, where God’s mercies are lightly dismissed from the mind and disregarded, gratitude and regard for God’s Word cannot be the result; satiated, listless Christians go their way fancying that spiritual conditions always were and always will be as now.

I thank my God always on your behalf

Paul was always thankful to God for the results of the Gospel. He was tireless among the Jews and the non-Jews, which provoked conflict among the Twelve. Were they not Jewish teachers, followers of the Jewish Messiah, with so many Jews to convert to the Gospel? As an outsider to the original Twelve, Paul had to defend his work among non-Jews while continuing his work among the Jews.

Our basic instruction tends to emphasize the non-Jews (the Gentiles) and bypass the large-scale conversions among Jews that caused so much conflict, hatred, persecution, and Paul's ultimate arrest.

The Gospel converted people by showing them that Jesus paid the price for their sins, that believing in Him was forgiveness and the basis for a life in Christ, a road toward eternal life. The Gospel conversions were a miracle that changed people's lives, often dramatically because the good, decent people were satisfied while the lowest characters lacked the luxury of excusing their behavior. 

for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 
Paul's conversion made him especially aware of the power of Christ. He was the greatest enemy of Christ, but Paul became the greatest ambassador for Him. Everywhere he preached about Jesus, people believed and opposition arose. Paul damaged the business of pagan idol shops and enraged the Jewish leaders. He tended to unite the opposition against him that way, but also saw the fruits of his work, which is really God's work in the Word.

Nothing is more discouraging than reading the babble of Lutheran leaders today as they market the Reformation while denouncing the Gospel of Paul, the preaching of Luther. However, at the same time, the publication and promotion of Luther and Lutheran books has this remarkable effect - gathering people who love the Gospel and want to learn more.

This increase in reading Luther comes from the experience of many who have been afflicted by false doctrine, damaging leaders, and the chaos created by current conditions. As I often mention, liturgical Lutheran services were once taken for granted, and the KJV reigned supreme, but now entire regions are populated with clowns who want to star in their own circus of snacks and soft-drinks. But wait - there's more. They want to study the Bible at a bar, because that sounds so cool.

In the midst of that nonsense, younger men say, "I want to know what to read and what to avoid in Lutheran, Biblical teaching." That is the miracle of the Gospel and the grace of God. That thirst for Biblical knowledge skipped over my generation almost entirely - the Boomers who took everything for granted and watched it slip away, fearful lest a synodical committee assignment be lost or a mission trip to the beaches of France be canceled. 

5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 

I am researching the use of treasure in the Book of Concord, and found it exclusively in Luther's Large Catechism. That finding is no surprise, because Luther was the son of a miner, well acquainted with the digging of new areas for treasure, whether minerals, gold, or silver.

Therefore, the Gospel itself is a treasure in Luther's sermons. Paul used a similar expression - you are enriched by Him in all utterance and knowledge. And in 2 Corinthians - that Christ became poor to enrich others  with the Gospel.

2 Corinthias 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

Like everything else we have in abundance, we take these spiritual treasures for granted. That is why I experience people either rooted in the current fads and illusions or else eager to study what is being thrown away.

I can order a used Lutheran book at random and find one in perfect condition owned by a famous seminary professor. Or by a member of the Stellhorn family, a clan instrumental in the LCMS and the ALC. The prices are almost always very low because the demand is low. But when my friends look for this discarded treasure they find it sold short at Salvation Army and other bookstores.

The enrichment of the Gospel is not only what God gives us through grace but also how He spares us by keeping us away from the bogs and swamps that trap so many. Simply read the Internet for news and the words, actions, and thoughts of people will stun the believer with crassness, gross language, and a careless attitude toward everything.

Gerhardt's hymn expresses this perfectly.

Someone wrote, "It may be too hard to translate into English." And yet 9 and 90 Red Balloons was translated from German and became a hit in English. It all depends on what we value. Enormous, expensive efforts are made to support and promote secular quasi-religious music while Lutherans stop once a century to nod toward Gerhardt. One ELS professor could not distinguish between Gerhardt the hymn-writer and Gerhard the theologian. If the professors are so ignorant of their own history, what will the students know and teach in the future?

6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 

Paul called upon the experience of his readers to remind them of the powerful effect of the Word of God. They knew individually where they came from, because most of the Christians in the Apostolic Age came from the slaves and the most despised, which Paul recalled for them later.

1 Corinthians 6 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The power of Gospel conversion was shown in their lives, how the Word changed them from hedonists and criminals into forgiven, sanctified believers.
7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
8. For in your own judgment, what better thing could you have than is the Christian’s in his Gospel and his faith? He has assurance of sins forgiven and washed away in holy baptism, of justification and holiness before God, and of the fact that he is God’s child and heir to eternal life. Furthermore, although the Christian is conscious of remaining weakness and sin, yea, although he be overcome by a fault, he may avail himself of absolution, comfort and strength through his fellow Christians and by the aid of the sacraments; and he has daily guidance for his conduct and faith in all the walks of life. Again, he can call upon God in prayer in the day of trouble, and the firm assurance is his that God will hear and help him. What further can one desire, or what more does he need, than the knowledge that he is God’s child through baptism and has God’s Word at hand for comfort and strength in weakness and sin? Do you consider it slight enrichment to have assurance of the fact that God himself is speaking to you and, by means of the office of the ministry, is effective in you, teaching, admonishing, comforting, sustaining you, yea, granting you victory over the devil, death and all evil influences on earth?
7 So that ye come behind in no gift;
God gives His people the gifts needed to continue in the spread of His Gospel. The gifts are freely given and distributed according to His wisdom. When we needed a place to worship in New Ulm, a tiny group of us were able to purchase four lots with a house, obtain a bank mortgage and a 0% down-payment loan, a large electric organ, hymnals, chairs, a small new chapel, and such.
When we grew as a small group of Lutherans, the Net and a small video camera started us on free Internet worship services. Various technological advances have made communication and publishing relatively easy.
One reader advised me, "Keep up the gardening articles and Norma Boeckler's art." Many are encouraging and they are names not known to the rest.
These gifts should never be be taken for granted, because they make so many things possible. I took computer science to improve what I could do in publishing. If I had stayed at my level of knowledge, I would be like my highschool classmates, wondering if the Internet is open on Sundays. But by learning a few things I found out I could send entire books the world as PDFs on DropBox. God guides in applying man's technology to His work.
waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
The end is coming, whether it be this year, century, or millennium. No matter what terrifies us now or causes anxiety, that certainty reminds us Who holds history in His hands. 
 Pier Francesco Sacchi_-_Dottori_della_Chiesa_-_ca._1516
 Doctors of the Church

Blameless reminds me of a statement by St. Augustine. He hoped when his mother died that she would not be tempted to say she was worthy because of her good works, but that she would rely solely on her faith in the merits of Christ. He might have preached her into heaven, because her prayers were realized when he was converted by the Word of God. Her prayers were answered in abundance when he became one of the greatest theologians of the Church, second only to Martin Luther, who was an Augustinian monk himself. Among the other famous "Doctors of the Roman Church," Augustine taught grace and justification by faith best of all, with Ambrose a second.
Augustine published far too much, so there is an entire volume of retractions. However, he said this, which few Lutherans would say today - "If anything I wrote is against the Scriptures, disregard it entirely." Far too many today think their inventions are the Word of God. Some think they represent Christ in the flesh, as the Roman Catholics characterize the pope.
Blameless means receiving forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ. That is the message and purpose of the Bible. Without that we have no more wisdom than the pagans have and must rely on a system of works.
 9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
We may falter and fail, but the Word never does. The garden is a perfect example for us to remember. Whenever we start to create some natural beauty or production in plants, we look for good soil. If we want the best, we improve the soil with watering, earthworms, mulch, and natural fertilizers. When this happens, even if we shade the soil with layers of paper, cardboard, and mulch, the weeds burst through and make a big show for themselves.
Weed seeds last 40 years in the soil, so they wait patiently. My neighbor built two berms from topsoil and these mounds were covered in tall weeds in weeks - a fascinating display.
So where the Gospel grows, so do the weeds. And the fake Gospel is like a weed, looking very much like the good plant it is trying to displace. There really are two Gospels, as Luther said, and they grow together. One is the true Gospel and the other is the false Gospel, designed to fool people.
Other obnoxious weeds simply try to choke the Gospel to death or hog all the sunlight and water. The Asian religions are good example. They even try to masquerade as harmonious with the Gospel - Zen, etc.
Some mistakenly believe that opposition is a bad sign, but unbelief with always oppose faith - bitterly, with great vindictiveness. That is the cross every Christian must bear. Luther said "The believer does not need to wonder what his cross is - it is already on his back."


In Our Prayers -
Roman's mother - Florida  (Flora).
Pete and Helene Ellenberger.
Those suffering from the riots and terrorism.

Luther's Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9




SERMONS OF MARTIN LUTHER -
EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY


TEXT:

1 CORINTHIANS 1:4-9. 4 I thank my God always concerning you; for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus; 5 that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge; 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; 8 who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye be unreprovable in the clay of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

TREASURE CHRISTIANS HAVE IN THE GOSPEL.

1. We have before us the opening words of the Epistle to the Corinthians, which Paul was moved to write because of unpleasant conditions in the Church at Corinth after his departure. Divisions had arisen and sad confusion prevailed in doctrine and life. Hence the apostle was constrained to rebuke their wickedness and correct their infirmities. Because of these wholesome admonitions, the reading and heeding of this epistle is not only profitable but essential to this day; for the devil takes no respite, but whenever the Gospel is preached in its purity he mixes with the children of God and sows his seed.

2. Paul intends to be rather severe — yen caustic — but he begins very leniently, showing them what they have received through the Gospel. His purpose is to arouse their gratitude to God, and to induce them, for his honor and glory, to be harmonious in doctrine and life, avoiding divisions and other offenses. “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,” etc.

3. In other words, Paul would say: Dear brethren, consider, I pray you, what abundant grace and gifts have been given you of God. They are bestowed not because of the Law, or because of your righteousness, your merits and works; you are given no reason to exalt yourselves above others, or to originate sects or schisms. Nay, all these blessings have been freely given you in Christ and for his sake, through the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel is a grace which brings to you all manner of gifts, by him enriching you in everything. You lack nothing from God, but you await this one thing, that blessed day when Christ will reveal himself to you with all those heavenly gifts which you now possess in faith.

4. In this wise he extols to them the preaching of the Gospel (as indeed he does on different occasions); his purpose is to induce them to regard it most appreciatively. He gives them an example of his own gratitude, thanking God on their behalf, for the purpose of calling forth their especial gratitude when they should consider what they formerly were and what they now had received through the Gospel. And again, he would have them beware lest, forgetful of their former misery and present grace, they relapse into their old blindness. A sad beginning in such backsliding had been made by factions in their midst, who, satiated with the Gospel and indifferent to the abundant grace they enjoyed, began to cast about for something else.

5. Now observe: If the exalted apostle and venerable teacher of the Gentiles in his day had to witness in his own parish such factions and sects as those which, in sinful security and ingratitude toward the Gospel, arose during his life, what wonder is it that today, when we do not have the excellent preachers and pious Christians of those times, there are similar sects? We are aware of the great benefits bestowed upon us, but at the same time we see and realize that the devil instigates divisions and scandals. And the cause of these evils may be traced to our ingratitude; we have quickly forgotten the ills we endured under the blindness of popery, and how miserably we were deluded and tormented. Necessarily, where God’s mercies are lightly dismissed from the mind and disregarded, gratitude and regard for God’s Word cannot be the result; satiated, listless Christians go their way fancying that spiritual conditions always were and always will be as now.

6. The people, therefore, must be awakened to consider their former destitution, the very wretchedness they were in. The apostle later on vividly pictures such condition to his Corinthians, while here, in the opening chapter, he intimates to them, in kind and courteous words, to consider, in the light of the Gospel benefits they now enjoy, what they lacked before and might be deprived of again.

7. Therefore he says, You now have received the grace whereby in everything ye are enriched. Formerly you had not this grace and would not have it today had not the Gospel been preached to you. You are enriched in everything pertaining to yonder life, for it is not the purpose of the Gospel to give earthly riches. But in spiritual blessings ye come behind in no gift and have need of naught except this one thing, that the Lord himself should come. This blessing you are yet to have, and biding its advent you here live by the gifts and grace with which you were enriched, until you are finally redeemed from the sinful, wicked life of the world and from all its oppressions. You must know, and must thank God for it, that you need not seek after any higher calling or better gifts, thinking you have not all that is essential, as the factious spirits would have you believe.

8. For in your own judgment, what better thing could you have than is the Christian’s in his Gospel and his faith? He has assurance of sins forgiven and washed away in holy baptism, of justification and holiness before God, and of the fact that he is God’s child and heir to eternal life. Furthermore, although the Christian is conscious of remaining weakness and sin, yea, although he be overcome by a fault, he may avail himself of absolution, comfort and strength through his fellow Christians and by the aid of the sacraments; and he has daily guidance for his conduct and faith in all the walks of life. Again, he can call upon God in prayer in the day of trouble, and the firm assurance is his that God will hear and help him. What further can one desire, or what more does he need, than the knowledge that he is God’s child through baptism and has God’s Word at hand for comfort and strength in weakness and sin? Do you consider it slight enrichment to have assurance of the fact that God himself is speaking to you and, by means of the office of the ministry, is effective in you, teaching, admonishing, comforting, sustaining you, yea, granting you victory over the devil, death and all evil influences on earth?

9. Formerly what would we not gladly have given and done for but a single Gospel truth in our distress and trials of conscience! True, when one was discouraged or perplexed he was advised to seek and follow the counsel of some intelligent and judicious mind; but such judicious one who might assist with his counsel was nowhere to be found. For a wise man’s counsel does not answer in such case. The Word of God alone suffices, and you are to rely on it as if God himself revealed his counsel to you from heaven.

10. As Paul says, it is great riches, a precious treasure, to possess in very fact the Word of God and not to doubt that it is the Word of God. It is this that will answer; this can comfort your heart and support it. Of spiritual benefits you know we had none under the tyranny and darkness of the Pope. At that time we suffered ourselves to be led and driven by his commandments, vain human baubles, by bulls, lies, invocation of saints, indulgences, masses, monkery. And we did whatever was enjoined in the name of the Church, solely to gain comfort and help, that we might not despair of God’s grace. But instead of comforting us, these things led us to the devil and thrust us into greater anguish and terror; for there was nothing in the doctrine of the papists that could give us certainty. Indeed, they themselves had to confess that by its teachings no man could or should be certain of his state of grace.

11. Yea, they forced poor, timid, tempted hearts to dread and fear Christ more than the devil even, as! myself experienced full well. I resorted to the dead — St. Barbara, St. Ann and other departed saints — regarding them as mediators between me and Christ’s wrath. But this availed me nothing, nor did it free me from a fearful and fugitive conscience. There was not one among us all — and we were called very learned doctors of Holy Writ — who could have given true comfort from God’s Word, saying: This is God’s Word; this one thing God asks of you, that you honor him by accepting comfort; believe and know that he forgives your transgressions and has no wrath against you. If someone could have told me this, I would have given all I possessed for the knowledge; yea, for such word of comfort I would not have taken in exchange the glory and the crowns of all kings, for it would have restored my soul, it would have refreshed and sustained my body and life.

12. All this we should bear in mind, by no means should we forget it; that we may return thanks to God, recounting the superior and wonderful gifts which have enriched us in all things. We have besides the Word, free prayer and the Lord’s Prayer, knowing what to pray for and how to pray — knowledge common to the very children today, thank God. In former times, all men, especially we monks, tormented themselves with lengthy repetitions in reading and singing; yet our prayers were but chattering, as the noise of geese over their food, or of monks repeating a psalm.

13. I, too, wanted to be a pious and godly monk and I prepared with earnest devotion for mass and for prayers. But when most devout! went to the altar a doubter and left the altar a doubter. When I had rendered my confession I still doubted, and I doubted when! did not render it. For we were wholly wrapped up in the erroneous idea that we could not pray and would not be heard unless we were absolutely dean and without sin, like the saints in heaven. It would have been much better not to pray at all and to have done something else, than thus to take God’s name in vain. Still, we monks — in fact all the ecclesiastics — eluded the people, promising them our prayers for their money and possessions, actually selling our prayers, though we did not even know that we prayed in a manner acceptable to God. But today, thank God, we do know and understand, not only what to pray for and how to approach God “nothing doubting,” but we can also add a hearty Amen, believing that according to his promise he will certainly hear us.

THE CHRISTIAN’S TREASURE.

14. The Christian has indeed inestimable treasure. In the first place he has the testimony of the Word of God, which is the word of eternal grace and comfort, that he has a right and true conception of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the Ten Commandments and the Creed. In addition he has the sure refuge of God’s promise to deliver us from every trouble in which we shall call upon him, and to give us, as he promised by the prophet Zechariah 12:10, the Spirit of grace and of prayer. And the Christian, by virtue of his enlightened understanding, can wisely discern what are good works and what callings are pleasing to God; on the other hand, his judgment is equally true as to unprofitable and vain works and false services. Before, we had not this wholesome knowledge. We knew not what we believed, or how we prayed and lived. We sought comfort and salvation in self-devised trivialities, in penances, confessions and satisfactions, in self-righteous works of monkery and in obedience to the commands of the Pope. We believed such works to be fully satisfactory and, indeed, the only things that were holy; the pursuits of common Christians we considered worldly and dangerous.

15. In illustration of this idea, a picture was exhibited — with the sanction of the Pope — representing a great ship in the wild, wide sea, containing only the holy monks and the super-holy popes, cardinals, bishops, etc., who were throwing their merits to those in peril struggling in the water, or extending a hand, or by means of ropes and their stoles drawing the drowning to safety in the boat.

16. In contrast to this darkness, consider the priceless and to-be-cherished blessing of knowing with certainty wherein the heart is to take comfort, how to seek help in distress and how to conduct one’s self in one’s own station. If, though provided with spiritual riches on all sides, you are not sufficient of yourself at all times to grasp them, you can, nevertheless, always reach and appropriate them by means of the ordinary ministry and office of the Church, yes, by the aid of your fellow-Christians. Again, it is productive of the greatest happiness to know that when living aright in the ordinary walks of life established by God, you are more acceptable and pleasing to him than you would be to purchase the works and merits of all the monks and hermits.

17. What Paul terms being “enriched,” first, “in all utterance,” or knowledge — which, in the exalted spiritual meaning of the words, bears on life everlasting — is having the comfort o£ faith in Christ and of invocation and prayer. And enriched in “all knowledge,” means having true conception and right judgment in all things o\ our physical life and in all our earthly relations. All things that a Christian should know and should possess are comprehended in these two terms. These blessings are gifts and treasures indescribably great. He who will contrast them with the destitution of our former condition cannot but be joyful and thankful. I remember the time when I, engaged in earnest study of Holy Writ, would have given a great deal for the right exposition of a psalm; and when had I but begun to understand a verse aright, I would have been as rejoiced as if born to life anew.

18. Truly, then, we should now render to God heartfelt thanks for the great favor and blessing of restored light and understanding in Scripture, and the right conception of doctrinal matters. But, alas! it is likely to be with us as with the Corinthians, who had received most abundantly from Paul but by way of return had made ill use of it and proved shamefully unthankful. And they met with retribution, the worst of it being false doctrine and seductions, until at last that grand congregation was wholly ruined and destroyed. A similar retribution threatens us, yes, is before the door with appalling knock, in the instance of the Turks and in other distress and calamity. For this reason we should, with a thankful heart and serious mind, pray, as Paul here does for his Corinthians, that God would keep us steadfast in the possession of his gifts and blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

19. Paul admonishes us to continue in this knowledge and appreciation of the grace and gifts of God. Since by these blessings we have received riches and happiness to the satisfying of all our need, the apostle further admonishes us to look only for the Lord to reveal to us publicly by his coming that which he has promised and through faith already granted us.

20. In the past, much has been written and ingeniously devised on the topic of preparing for death and the final judgment. But it has only served to further confuse timid consciences. For these comforters were not able to show anything of the comfort to be found in the riches of grace and bliss in Christ. They directed the people to oppose with their own works and good life, death and God’s judgment. In place of this delusion is now evident the precious truth; he who knows the Gospel doctrines, goes on and performs his own work and duty in his respective calling. He takes comfort in the fact that through baptism he is engrafted into Christ; he receives absolution and partakes of the holy supper for the strengthening of his faith, commending his soul and body to Christ. Why should such a one fear death? Though it come at any time, in form of pestilence or accident, it will always find the Christian ready and well prepared, be he awake or asleep; for he is in Christ Jesus.

21. For all these things the Christian may well thank and bless God, realizing that he has no further need, nor can he gain anything better than he already has in the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the faithful prosecution of his calling; however, he should remain in, and daily grow in, faith and supplication. But he cannot hope to attain to another and better doctrine, faith, Spirit, prayer, sacrament, reward, etc., than had all the saints, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, or in fact than has now every Christian that is baptized. Therefore I need not idly spend time in trying to prepare people for death and inspire them with courage by such commonplaces as recalling and relating the innumerable daily accidents, ills and dangers of this life. This method will not answer; death will not thereby be frightened away, nor will the fear of death be removed. The Gospel teaching is: Believe in Christ, pray and live in accordance with God’s Word, and then, when death overtakes and attacks you, you will know that you are Christ the Lord’s. Paul says ( Romans 14:8): “Whether we live... or die, we are the Lord’s.” Indeed, we Christians live upon this earth to the very end that we may have assured comfort, salvation and victory over death and hell.

22. Of this Paul here reminds us, and dwells on it more fully later in this Epistle; he would have us duly thankful for this great grace and living among ourselves in a Christian and brotherly manner, in doctrine and practice, ignoring and avoiding that wild, disorderly conduct of the contentious and disorderly. He who recognizes such grace and blessing cannot but love and thank God and conduct himself aright toward his neighbor; and when he finds himself falling short in this he will, by admonition and the Word of God, make amends.

23. Here you might put the question: Why does Paul speak in such a commendatory way of the Corinthians, saying that they were enriched in everything and came behind in no gift, when he himself confesses later on that they had contentions and schisms — in regard to baptism, to the sacrament, to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and in regard to abuse of liberty, and some lived as they pleased. Would you not call these things faults and shortcomings? How, then, is he in a position to say that they were abundantly supplied with all things spiritual, lacking not one thing?

24. Well, you should recall what I have repeatedly stated: Christendom is never so spotless that there are not some spurious and wicked admixed, just as you will always find weeds, darnel, tares, or wild mustard together with pure grain. And he who will examine the Church with only a view of finding faults and frailties among those called Christians, will miss the Church, yes, the Gospel and Christ, and never discover a Church at all.

25. But we have the consolation of knowing that if we have the Gospel pure, we have the treasure God gives his Church and we cannot go astray nor want. But as yet we have not reached that degree of perfection where all hearers of the Gospel will grasp it fully and wholly or are faultless in faith and life; at all times there will be some who do not believe and some who are weak and imperfect. However, that great treasure and rich blessing of doctrine and knowledge is present. There is no defect in this, and it is effective and fruitful. The fact that some do not believe, does not weaken baptism or the Gospel or the Church; they only harm themselves.

To sum up, where the Word remains, there most assuredly is also the Church. For wherever the doctrine is pure, there you can also keep purity in baptism, the sacrament, absolution, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, good works and all callings; and wherever you find a defect or an irregularity, you can admonish, amend and rectify by means of the Word.

26. Some there must be who have the Word and sacraments pure and unadulterated, who have faith, pray aright, keep God’s commandments and do other things, as, thank God, we have with us. Then we may firmly conclude: If the true Church were not here, these characteristics would be lacking; therefore we must have among ourselves true members of the Church and true saints. Now even though children of the world intermingle (as will be the case always and in all places), who show neither faith nor a godly life, it would corrupt neither faith, nor baptism, nor doctrine, nor would the Church perish on that account — the treasure remains in its integrity and efficacy, and God may graciously cause some to turn from their unbelief and wicked life and be added to the faithful and to mend their ways.

27. Again, they with whom this treasure — the Word or doctrine and its knowledge — is not found, cannot be the Christian Church nor members of it, and for that reason they cannot pray or believe aright or do good works pleasing to God. It follows that their whole lives are in God’s sight lost and condemned, though they may assiduously extol God and the Church and before the world may have the appearance and reputation of leading particularly holy lives and excelling even the upright Christians in virtues and honor. It is a settled fact that outside the Church of Christ there is no God, no grace, no bliss; as Paul says ( Ephesians 4:5): “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,” etc. And Acts 4:12 says: “And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.”

28. And so Paul, when here extolling the Corinthians, has not an eye to the contentious, the Epicureans, or to those who give public offense, as the man that “had his father’s wife;” but the apostle looks to the fact that a few remain who have the pure Word of God, faith, baptism and the sacrament, though some hypocrites be among them. Because of these few — and few indeed there may be — we recognize the presence of that inestimable treasure of which the apostle speaks. It is found as well where two or three are gathered together as with thousands. Neither the Gospel nor the ministers nor the Church is to be blamed that the multitude miss this treasure; the multitude have but them, selves to blame, for they close their ears and eyes.

29. Now behold how loftily Paul has extolled and how beautifully portrayed the Christian Church — where she is to be found on earth and what inestimable blessings and gifts she has received of Christ, for which she is in duty bound to thank and praise him in her confession and in her life. This subject the apostle concludes with the words: “God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

30. The good work which Christ has begun in you and already assured to you, he will without fall establish in you until the end and for ever, if you but do not fall away through unbelief, or cast grace from you. For his Word or promise given to you, and his work begun in you, are not changeable as is man’s word and work, but are firm, certain, divine, immovable truth. Since you are in possession of this your divine calling, draw comfort therefrom and rely on it without wavering. Amen.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Neighbors Drive By To Needle Me - I Respond


Our distant neighbor, two houses away, stopped her car and rolled down the window.

"Still interested in our pine needles?"

"I sure am, all you can give me, plus cones."

"Cones?"

"Yes, that is part of the mulch treatment for the Hosta garden."

Today she came over with her daughter to deliver the needles and cones. We already had most of the cardboard placed, and somewhat blown around, for the Hosta garden. Bermuda grass was growing in the cracks, but the old pile of needles had no growth under it as they were moved on top of the cardboard.

Her young teen daughter wanted to earn money for horseback competitions, which made me put in a good word for horse manure. Some opportunities develop slowly, as the needles did. That started last year with the mulching of the Blueberry bushes. At that time, the wood mulch was still on top of the corn garden. Ha. The best crop I got from that area was Poison Hemlock. The corn did not get enough sun, and the squirrels wiped the stalks clean of what did grow, leaving the stalks bare. Nothing is wasted. The stalks rotted into the ground and became mulch.



When I bought field corn cobs to put on the squirrel feeder, they put the empty cobs in a place that would remind me of their need for more. Much later the cobs were still appearing from time to time, as if to say, "We still love our corn." Squirrels have no sense of irony, but I do.

Hosta already has a start, thanks to Mr. Gardener. Our neighbor looked at the wall of Morning Glories (climbing the chain-link fence) behind the roses. "How did that happen?" All I have to do is give her a basket of Morning Glory vines, and they will drop seed for free.

"Oh, Blackberries!" They will be easy to dig up and plant in her yard. They spread easily and require little care. They not only spread through stolons underground but also by rooting their own tips into the soil. A few Blackberry plants started on one side of the house now grow on two more sides.
Easy to grow can become "Invasive!" But I like them.

Cardboard itself is an ugly mulch and blows around easily - though nothing like fresh, dry newspapers. Topping the cardboard layer with pine needles gave the Hosta garden a fresh pine scent and a pleasant forest look. Hostas also spread on their own. Norma Boeckler is very fond of them.

I suggested used that approach in her backyard, where a maple is now mulched with those needles. Hosta and Wild Strawberries would probably grow easily in the shade. Hosta provides blooms for Hummingbirds. Wild Strawberries bloom steadily in the shade and provide berries for birds.

While the last load was being brought over, I cut roses for them. The mother and daughter caught me giving roses away on Mothers Day, and now they have their own Veterans Honor rose, which is doing well for being transplanted twice.

I had a Big Purple rose, a Veterans Honor bloom too big for its stem, and a perfect Falling in Love rose. They debated which one was best, because the mother said, "I love them all." But the daughter said, "I know my favorite. Falling in Love."

That was another sweet moment in our little cul-de-sac.

Sassy and I rescued another dog today, the new neighbors' Dachsie. She found us and followed us all the way home, happily entering our backyard, where she had no escape. Later I led her over and she became bouncy as she recognized her owner's voice.

 Falling in Love