January 31, 2007

Ge 49-50

(Remember that instead of reading a psalm today we take another look at January’s seasonal canticle, Luke 1:68-79; relevant discussion and links are here.)

“The Lion of Judah” by contemporary Christian artist William Hallmark of AlabamaAs the verse from John 5:39 on the cover of our Daily Lectionary booklets reminds us, Jesus is at the center of all of Holy Scripture. Some days He is easier to see there than others, and today is one of those easier days, I think. Genesis 49-50 emphasizes the forgiveness for which Jesus came to win for us, but the chapters chiefly show us Jesus in the prophecy about the tribe of Judah. Jesus is, as the image with this post and Revelation 5:5 indicates, the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). The image is of one of contemporary American artist William Hallmark’s first religious works of art and said to be his most famous. No, the lion does not have wings, that's a dove and clouds above and behind it. You might notice that the Trinity is said to be represented with the scroll, the Lion, and the dove. (Fans of C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" surely will think of Aslan.) The Messiah as a lion is also a part of Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:9 and the prophecy in Micah 5:8 (see other relevant references to lions in Psalms 7:2; 10:9; and Ezekiel 19:1-7). I pointed out the reading’s connection to Jesus in my original post on these chapters. There is more on Rueben here, and a comment on the understatement of Genesis 49:6 here with more discussion about the harming of horses here (in regards to the 2006 Kentucky Derby champ, you probably heard Monday’s news about Barbaro).

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint Genesis 49-50 for any Old Testament readings, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Genesis 49-50.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 30, 2007

Ps 58 / Ge 46-48 / Folo

Even though most of us do not have the god-like vocations of rulers or judges (leaders), we should not think the opening verses of Psalm 58 do not apply to us. Our usual English translations differ somewhat widely on how Psalm 58:1 is translated, but the general idea seems to be that the psalmist is indicting those who “act as earthly representatives of God’s heavenly court”. Not that we by nature want to be included in the indictment, but we nevertheless should think of our own callings in life and how we do not righteously carry out our responsibilities. For, as verse 11 reminds us, God will judge the people of the earth, and the wrongs we commit stand to be redressed. Of course, those of us who are sorry for the wrongs we commit and believe that Jesus Christ was born, died, and rose again to save us from our sins—we already have those wrongs forgiven by God. (My post from last year that looks at the whole psalm is here.)

Psalm 58 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the First Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 58.)

A 14th-century Hebrew Old Testament manuscript’s illustration of Jacob crossing his arms to bless Ephraim ahead of ManassehAfter the death of a loved one, squabbling over the inheritance is usually most contentious when the loved one has not left some direction as to how the inheritance is to be divided. Since even a will does not always prevents all squabbling, some people while they are still alive divide what they are going to leave as an inheritance. Today in Genesis 46-48 we see Jacob do with Ephraim and Manasseh something along those lines, although Joseph still contested the way his father’s blessing was distributed. There’s more about their birth order and blessing in my previous post on these chapters. The image with this post, by an unknown artist as included in an early 14th-century Hebrew Old Testament manuscript known as “The Golden Haggadah” from Catalonia, depicts Jacob blessing Ephraim ahead of Manasseh (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). In today’s and tomorrow’s readings we do well to remember that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ we inherit the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and His kingdom (see such passages as Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; 4:7; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 1:14; 6:17; 11:7, 9; James 2:5; 1 Peter 3:7).

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any excerpts from Genesis 46-48 for Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Genesis 46-48.

Today’s Biblog folo comes in response to yesterday’s post in which I avoided speculating why Joseph went through the whole process he did with his brothers, even after Benjamin was there. A reader speculated nonetheless:

Benjamin was Joseph’s brother, all that was left to his father (as far as Jacob knew) and a favorite son, after Joseph, of a favorite wife. Joseph, in that position, was sold by (these ten) brothers into Egypt. My guess is that he wanted to see if they would abandon Benjamin to save their own skins.

I suppose that guess is as good as any.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 29, 2007

Ps 57 / Ge 43-45

Growing up in Central Illinois, we used to have tornado drills regularly at school, where we would have to go into the hallways and sit on the floor facing the walls with our heads down and covered. Once and a while, we would have actual tornados, where we would have to take shelter in the hall and assume the position until the all-clear was given. Reading Psalm 57 today brought such memories to my mind as I reflected on its first verse. (My previous post on the psalm as a whole is here.) Before I get to why I was thinking about taking shelter from tornadoes, let me first say something else about verse 1. You may have noticed different tenses in the verbs in the two halve of the first verse. In the first half, “my soul has hidden” (“my soul trusteth” KJV; “taketh refuge” ASV; “takes refuge” NIV; NASB) is a perfect tense, meaning that the action is for the most part complete, although it can have lasting effect. In the second half, “I will seek refuge” (“I will make my refuge” KJV; “will I take refuge” ASV; “I will take refuge” NIV, NASB) is an imperfect tense, meaning the action will come in the future. In other words, the psalmist (note that “soul” and “I” are equivalent) has trusted in God and so is hiding now in God and will continue to do so “until these calamities be overpast” (KJV, ASV; “until the disaster has passed” NIV; “until the destruction passes by” NASB). Back in those Central Illinois schools, we knew the potential disaster was over when the principal gave the all-clear, but when in the psalmist’s life or our lives is the risk of calamity, disaster, or destruction eliminated? I suppose there might be a reduced risk, like a lower terrorism threat level (see Isaiah 26:20), but even then we still need God’s protection. (TLH #413 is not based on this psalm, but see what it says about our life-long risk.) I’m inclined to think that, while the psalmist might be thinking about a particular trial that might well have come to an end (see below what our liturgical use of the psalm suggests about that), we should really think of the danger being passed only when this life has come to an end. Until that time, we trust unceasingly in God’s mercy, chiefly shown to us in the forgiveness of sins that we receive through faith in Jesus Christ. One final thing, even the psalmist’s own action is to be understood as a prayer to God Who alone has the position and power to provide the refuge.

Psalm 57 is appointed by The Lutheran Liturgy among those psalms for Palmarum (Palm Sunday) and Good Friday. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 57.)

A depiction of Joseph’s brothers in Egypt by Salvador Dalí (1964-1967)The story of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers, which is part of our reading today of Genesis 43-45, may or may not be familiar to you. My previous post on these chapters is here, and you might guess correctly that I am generally familiar with the story. There are, nevertheless, a number of things that remain unclear to me, such as why Joseph went through the whole process he did even after Benjamin came with the brothers on their second trip. I’m sure some commentators offer explanations, but the bottom line is we don’t really know for sure exactly “why”. Such unanswered questions about what in other ways is a fairly straight-forward account made the image included with this post seem all the more appropriate (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). This particular work by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), included in the Biblia Sacra published in 1969, is said to be Joseph’s family coming to Egypt (maybe the back and forth brothers in the background and Jacob in the foreground?), but like so many Dalí works, the painting raises a bunch of questions. Thanks be to God His Word is at least clear on the things we need to know for our salvation!

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

Neither the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services nor The Lutheran Hymnal specifically make use of from Genesis 43-45.

After Sunday morning’s Adult Bible Class I marveled at God’s providence in having us read the Genesis accounts of Abraham and Sarah in preparation for our discussion in class about Galatians 4:21 and verses following. May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 28, 2007

Ps 56 / Ge 40-42

“Only in America we stamp our god in God we trust”, so sang the rock group Creed, which had somewhat of a Christian focus to its songs. Reading Psalm 56 today, for which my previous post giving an overview of the psalm is here, I started thinking about the similarity and dissimilarity between David’s words “In God I trust” and the so-called United States motto “In God we trust”. While that statement’s actually being the confession of the people of the United States would be a wonderful thing, the sad reality is that it is not. Remember that one of the differences between the “I believe” of the Apostolic Creed connected with Baptism and the “We believe” of the original form of the Nicene Creed connected with the Lord’s Supper is that in the singular form individuals confess their faith for themselves in Baptism that brings them into the Church and in the plural form the Church confesses its common faith, which God has brought about to unite them, and expresses that unity in the Holy Supper. While it may be true that many of us as individuals trust in God and that together in the Church we do so collectively, we as a country really do not, and we who do cannot confess the faith for those who do not and should not pretend that we do. The kind of dilution of the confession of the truth of God that would be necessary to get even most of the so-called Christian bodies to agree would leave us “believing” in a god who isn’t the God (not to mention what would happen if we tried to add in the monotheistic but ultimately unbelieving Jews and Muslims). As Lutherans who understand the so-called “two kingdoms”, we do not expect the United States ever to be some sort of a modern-day theocracy such as the Old Testament people of Israel. We can and should vote, and Christians with vocations in government can and should serve in them as Christians. Moreover, we can and do pray that more individuals might come to faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and be gathered into the communion of the Church, but putting a creedal statement on our money hardly makes us a Christian nation.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 56 among those appointed for the Feast of St. Stephen, the Third Sunday after Epiphany, Good Friday, the day of St. Matthias, and the day of St. Bartholomew. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 56.
  • 56:8 -- #535 (a wonderful “cross and comfort” hymn by Paul Gerhardt consisting of stanzas excerpted from a much longer hymn that was split into two in TLH)
  • 56:13 -- #600 (a beautiful “death and burial” hymn by Nikolaus Selnecker that we have seen before; though originally based on Psalm 116:9, a later publication added Psalm 56:13 to its short list of scripture references)

A depiction of Joseph overseeing the pharaoh’s granaries by English painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912)Again today with our reading of Genesis 40-42 we have some fairly-easy to follow and understand narrative. We should be sure not to miss God’s working in otherwise indiscernible ways to bring about His plan of salvation, even through events that seemed bad when they originally happened. There are wonderful ways that the narrative keeps reminding us of this fact, but many of them are lost in the English translation. For example, what Joseph says in Genesis 40:15 about being wrongfully put into the “dungeon” (NIV) at the same time can be understood as having been wrongfully put into the “cistern” (NIV) back in 37:24, for the Hebrew word is the same. The image with this post depicts Joseph overseeing pharaoh’s granaries and is said to be by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), an English painter who was born in the Netherlands and trained in Belgium before settling in England. His paintings are said to be noted for their detail, finish, and representation of texture, but this page makes me wonder if the artist is correctly identified (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). My previous post on Genesis 40-42 is here.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoints any verses from Genesis 40-42 for Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal contain any hymns said to refer to verses from Genesis 40-42.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially today, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 27, 2007

Ps 55 / Ge 37-39 / Folo

How often do you pray? At what times of day? In Psalm 55 today we hear the psalmist, presumably David, refer to calling to God evening, morning, and noon (v.16). We might notice the Jewish reckoning of the day that starts at sunset, and we might associate those times with meals or just see them as the beginning, middle, and end of the day. Whether prayed quietly in his spirit or loudly with his voice, David’s prayers are heard by God (contrast vv.1-2). Our prayers are likewise also heard, no matter how, how often, or when we pray them (there are really no right or wrong answers to the questions I asked at the outset). The prayers rise to God who is in a position of power and authority (verse 19) and who will not only hear but act on those prayers (vv.16, 18, 19, 22, 23) in His time and in His way. We need only believe and pray (vv.23, 22). (My original post on Psalm 55 is here.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 55 among those appointed for Tuesday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, the Third Sunday after Trinity, and the Tenth Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 55.
  • 55:1 -- #543 (a “morning” hymn that has in view rising, morning prayers, bedtime, and end of life; sadly this beautiful hymn did not make LW or LSB)
  • 55:22 -- #518 (a wonderful “cross and comfort” hymn first published in 1657 and translated in 1863; it breaks down into two major parts: how the Christian’s joyful trust in God under the cross should show itself [stanza1 through the first four lines of stanza 3] and on what that trust under the cross is based [stanza 3 lines five and six through stanza 6]; “suffer” in the title has the sense of “permit” but has been changed to “trust” in LSB [LBW and so LW had changed far more than that word in the title and elsewhere, but LSB has essentially restored to the TLH form all but that word in the title]; I think the newest hymnal could have changed the somewhat misleading “leisure” at the end of the first line in stanza 3)

An image of the oil on canvas by Italian Baroque artist Guido Reni (1575-1642) depicting Joseph with Potiphar’s WifeAlthough locating an image for some Biblog posts is more difficult than others, I’ve been enjoying seeing the range of options that are sometimes out there, seeing what appears to be the influence of one on others, etc. Today’s reading of Genesis 37-39 prompted quite a number of image choices. The reading today is one of the longer ones but easier to read, due to the narrative, and chapters 38 and 39 are some of the “racier” events in the Bible. Some of the images I saw for the 38:1-18 bordered on what today by some standards might be considered obscene or pornographic. I obviously didn’t choose one of those! The one with the post is one of the religious works done by Italian Baroque artist Guido Reni, who lived from 1575-1642 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). My previous post overviewing today’s reading is here.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Genesis 38:9’s avoiding the “levirate marriage” and the link to Ruth 4. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

Genesis 37-39 is not used for any Old Testament readings in the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from these chapters.

In today’s Biblog folo I am with a reader somewhat like Apollos with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:24-26). In yesterday’s post I suggested that, although in Genesis 18:10 (see also v.14 and 17:21) the Lord promised to Abraham and Sarah that He would return to them in a year and that Sarah would have a son, there was no record that the Lord did return in a year. A reader’s email raised three possibilities. First, the reader suggested that, somewhat like the Annunciation to Mary, the Lord might have returned—how shall we say—to facilitate the conception, recognizing that the CEV of 18:10 “will already have a son” was potentially different than the ESV “shall have a son”. Second, the reader suggested that in the KJV and ASV of Genesis 21:1 the text says the Lord “visited Sarah as He had said” and “did unto Sarah as He had spoken”, which visiting could be the "return". Third, the reader suggested that the Lord’s speaking to Abraham in 21:12 could have been the visit in question, but the reader recognized that statement occurred at the time of Isaac’s weaning and that he would have been weaned two to three years after his birth, which would make the visit long overdue.

At the risk of making far more of this than it actually merits, permit me to respond to each of these in turn and make a few other observations of my own. First, the Hebrew of Genesis 18:10 does not have a verb indicating that Sarah either “will already have” or “will have”, so the translators are injecting their own verbs and tenses. If an Annunciation-type visit to facilitate the conception were in view, that might further complicate matters regarding the dating (did she conceive a year later? or did the Lord “return” in three months, which would be too soon, and then she gave birth nine months later?). Although the translation of the Hebrew in 18:10 is debated in more ways than one, the usual read is that a year later Sarah will have given birth to Isaac. The year could arguably be taken as a rough approximation of the period we know as nine months, but Dr. Luther almost seems to reject such a view, especially if the Lord’s visit in chapter 18 is somehow responsible for the conception. With Dr. Luther, we do not want to think in any way that this is a miraculous birth somehow outside of the normal means of a man and woman conceiving a child (such as that of Mary as a virgin conceiving our Lord). Second, the Hebrew verb paqad, translated in Genesis 21:1 as “visited” (KJV, ASV) and “was gracious to” (NIV) and “took note of” (NASB), is variously translated the close to 300 times it is used in the Old Testament. Of this verb it is said that “probably no other Hebrew verb … has caused translators so much trouble”. I think we can safely say that the Lord, Who can draw near in mercy or severity, in this case came with mercy and did what He had promised (the verbs essentially being parallel if not almost immediately sequential). One commentator says the text “practically implies that God comes and leaves the son”, but the commentator also recognizes that 21:2 says it happened the “normal” way. (That the conceiving [harah] and bearing [yalad] in 21:2 are parallel is unlikely; more likely is that they mark the beginning and end of the process.) Third, since a child could be weaned as late as three years of age, I agree that making 21:12 the promised visit is to put it off too long. Other things to consider regarding the whole matter might be the Hebrew reckoning of age from conception forth and the fact that in a truly-eastern and theological approach to history, the Divinely-inspired Moses is not principally concerned with giving a blow-by-blow and date-by date account. Finally, I must admit that in the context of the “in person” visit of Genesis 18, I was thinking primarily of another “in person” visit as the fulfillment of the promise to return in a year. Perhaps more than anything that thinking prompted my original comment. Of course, no such “in person” visit was necessary, and thinking through this whole matter was, at least for me, a good reminder that the Lord comes to us today in a variety of ways—the Word, Holy Baptism, Individual Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar—any one of which is His graciously being present with us in mercy to forgive our sins. We should not expect a more miraculous version of His presence than that.

There is a new Q&A on Genesis 28:22 here. May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially tomorrow, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 26, 2007

Ps 54 / Ge 34-36 / Folos

When I read Psalm 54 today, I wanted to make comments essentially the same as those I made a year ago, so today I’ll let linking those suffice.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, includes Psalm 54 among those psalms appointed for Rogate (the Fifth Sunday after Easter), the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity, and the day of St. Bartholomew. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 54.)

A depiction by British artist Frederick Sandys (1829-1904) of Jacob hearing God’s voice sending him to or while at Bethel (Genesis 35:1-15), engraved by the Dalziel Brothers and published in 1881When God says something is going to happen, we expect it to come to pass, and when it was some time ago we might even expect that it has come to pass. In recently rereading Genesis 18:10 to answer this question about how long Sarah waited for Isaac to be born, I noticed that God promised to return at the time of Isaac’s birth. While we have no record that He did, we at the same time should not assume that He did not. The keeping of human promises is less certain. Jacob’s vow in Genesis 28:20-22 could be taken as a promise to return to Beth-el, but as we read today in Genesis 34-36 it took a command of God to get Jacob back there. The image with this post is a depiction by British Victorian artist Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1829-1904) of Jacob either hearing God’s voice sending him to Bethel or while at Bethel; the image was engraved by the Dalziel Brothers and published in 1881 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). My previous post on these chapters is here, and there are two related brief folos: one on Genesis 34:25-29 and one on Genesis 35:2, 22, 29.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

Genesis 34-36 is used neither by the historic 1-year lectionary for Old Testament readings nor by The Lutheran Hymnal for any hymn references.

Two quick Biblog folos today come in response to two recently posted Q&A. First, the one on Genesis 28:20-21 prompted a reader to comment, “The command you mentioned in Deuteronomy 23:22-23 about vows toward God would seem to be a good rule to follow in making (or not making) promises to other people, also.” Indeed. In response to the one on Genesis 30:35 that included the notion that God came up with the plan for Jacob to use the sticks to get more sheep, a reader commented, “It certainly seems to say that God was helping Jacob to get what was promised him, despite Laban’s dishonesty.” God at a mimimum was helping, unless we rule out the miraculous in the use of the sticks. The dream could simply be God’s revealing to Jacob that He was helping, but, as the posted answer suggested, the dream could be taken as indicating more than that.

You may want to look back to the recent posts on Genesis 28-30 and on Genesis 31-33, as, due to a “bookkeeping” error, I failed to originally include links to some old folos, which links I since have gone back and added. May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 25, 2007

Ps 53 / Ge 31-33

People who doubt the corruption of original sin affects everyone on earth need to spend a little time carefully studying or even just reading Psalm 53. Verses 1 and 3 both contain pretty clear statements that no one does good. We understand that to mean "by nature" and "apart from faith" and "in the eyes of God" (as verse 2 makes clear). When the Holy Spirit brings about in us faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, then the faith-produced continual repentance and the other fruits of faith (good works) are pleasing in God’s eyes, although never in such a way that we earn forgiveness because of those good works. (For my previous post on Psalm 53 see here.)

Psalm 53 is appointed by The Lutheran Liturgy as one of the psalms that can be used for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity and the day of St. Bartholomew. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 53.)

American Jewish artist Phillip Ratner’s depiction of Isaac wrestling with God as told in Genesis 32:22-32When I was a freshman in high school I went out for both the wrestling team and the debate team, but it quickly became apparent I would not be able to do both well. My wrestling coach told me I would probably be a better debater than a wrestler, so I gave up wrestling and stuck with debating, with which I had some degree of success. Although the wrestling is not quite the same, today in Genesis 31-33 we hear of Jacob wrestling with God Who took the form of a man against whom Jacob could hold his own, although God eventually disabled Jacob quite easily. In the wake of the struggle, Jacob was renamed “Israel”, which means “he struggles with God” (see the same “-el” suffix, as in “Immanu-el”, from the Hebrew word for God elohim), and note how the struggling that prompted the name also characterizes the literal Old Testament people of Israel and the figurative New Testament people of Israel, that is, the Christian Church, including us. Contemporary Christian songwriter Michael Card’s song “Asleep on Holy Ground” brings together well Jacob’s dream in chapter 28 and the experience in chapter 32, warns against those who would ignore God’s presence in the world today in those places He chooses to be, and teaches well that our journey in this life is one of the way of the cross. Indeed, our Lord Jesus suffered and died on the cross to save us from our sins, and we will likewise suffer as we follow Him. As I looked for an image to include with this post, many of them made it look like God and Jacob were dancing, but I thought the one that I’ve actually included, by American Jewish artist Phillip Ratner, suggests there’s a struggle going on, even if God's form of a "man" looks more like that of the stereotyped "angel" (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). My previous post on the whole reading for today is here, and be sure not to think that I am in any way endorsing a kind of situation ethics where ends (or goals) in any way can be used to justify the means (the things done to reach those goals). See also a brief folo on Genesis 31:14-16, 19, and 35 here.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary used at Grace does not use Genesis 31-33 for any Old Testament readings, but The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Genesis 31-33.
  • 31:49 -- #643 (presumably for loved ones living elsewhere in this world, this is a hymn with which I am not really familiar and one included in LW but not included in LSB)
  • 32:26 -- #365 (a hymn first published in 1658 with a tune later published with the text; TLH omits a sixth stanza, but the whole hymn is omitted by both LW and LSB)

If you want to hear the music for these hymns, you can look them up alphabetically by title here.

There are two new Q&A posted: this one on Genesis 28:20 and this one on Genesis 30:35. May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 24, 2007

Ps 52 / Ge 28-30

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have much of a green thumb. Right now neither of the two plants in my apartment is doing very well. We don’t have to have green thumbs to appreciate the Bible’s use of plant imagery, however, such as that in today’s reading of Psalm 52. My first post on Psalm 52 with just a few comments is here, and a later post elaborating on verses 5 and 8 is here. Just as our indoor house plants depend on us for water to live, so we are dependant on Christ, the Vine into Whom we are grafted as living branches (John 15), receiving by grace through faith the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Psalm 52 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for The Feast of St. Stephen, the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the day of St. Mark. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 52.)

A photograph by Jorn Kildall of a stairway that would appear to lead to heavenPopular culture makes much of the stairway to heaven of which we read in Genesis 28-30, for example this song (compare and contrast the highway to hell in this song). But, as I explained in my post on these chapters last year, there is a Christ-centered interpretation of Jacob's ladder or stairway dream, and Christ truly is our only means of access to heaven and its eternal presence of God. The image with this post is of a photograph by Jorn Kildall taken July 26, 2004, in the marsh land of Denmark that only appears to be a stairway to heaven (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it) For a brief folo on Genesis 29:31-30:24, see here. By the way, does 29:8 bring anything to anyone else’s mind?

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary that we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace appoints Genesis 28:10-22 as the Old Testament reading for St. Michael’s Day (sometimes called the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels), and The Lutheran Hymnal contains four hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Genesis 28-30.

If you want to hear the music for these hymns, you can look them up alphabetically by title here. (If that isn’t working for you, please let us know so we can try to facilitate the process better.)

Thanks to readers' responses, there're two new Q&A posted beginning with this one (the other is right below it). May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 23, 2007

Ps 51 / Ge 25-27 / Hymn Alterations

Recently from two different friends, the first a lay person and the second an ordained Lutheran pastor, I heard a distinction between grace and mercy that I had never been formally taught. This distinction is relevant to today’s reading of Psalm 51, especially in terms of its first verse, although one commentary doesn’t even comment on this aspect of the verse. (My first post on more of Psalm 51 is here, with a subsequent post focusing more on verse 4 here and a previously posted Q&A regarding those later comments and Matthew 18 here.) My friends say that “grace” is all of the good we receive from God that we don’t deserve and that “mercy” is being kept from all the bad from God that we do deserve. In one sense, those definitions are quite helpful, but they are not strictly followed in or completely supported by Holy Scripture. Take Psalm 51:1, for example: “Have mercy upon me (KJV, ASV, NIV; “Be gracious to me” NASB; in the Hebrew chanan), O God, according to Thy lovingkindness (KJV, ASV, NASB; “unfailing love” NIV; Hebrew checed): according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies (KJV, ASV; “great compassion” NIV; “compassion” NASB; Hebrew racham) blot out my transgressions.” The first two words, at least, are sometimes translated into Greek and Latin by the same words, no doubt depending on the context. The third is often combined with the first two, recalls a mother’s womb and so refers to the seat of one’s emotion (an idea certainly carried over into the New Testament), and is the basis for calls for people to repent. I think you can see that there are several different words in play and that the distinctions are not absolute: God in His compassion gives forgiveness as a good thing and in the process keeps from us eternal death as a bad thing. Of course, you probably know that God gives that forgiveness through Word and Sacrament and that we receive it by faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s grace, mercy, and compassion.

As one of the so-called seven penitential psalms, there is little surprise we find Psalm 51 among those appointed by The Lutheran Liturgy for days which have an especially penitential focus; the full list follows: the First Sunday after Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Laetare (the Fourth Sunday in Lent), Wednesday of Holy Week, the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, the day of St. Mary Magdalene, and the Day of Humiliation and Prayer. The Lutheran Hymnal contains three hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 51.
  • 51 -- #325
  • 51:10-12 -- #225 (a Pentecost hymn with which I am not really familiar)
  • 51:11 -- #318 (a beautiful “confession and absolution” hymn with the tune from Luther’s “Our Father” hymn; so altered in Lutheran Worship as to have a different title, “To You, Omniscient Lord of all” [which changed the meaning of the first line], Lutheran Service Book restored most of the changes to the TLH version, with the most notable exception being that it kept LW’s first line)

A colorized image of Gustave Doré’s depiction of Jacob and Rebekah deceiving IsaacI’ve always marveled over Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac that denied Esau his blessing as first born, of which deception we read today in Genesis 25-27. (My previous post on the whole reading is here.) The image with this post, apparently a colorized version of an 1865 illustration by French artist Gustave Doré, (1832-1883), depicts the moment of the deception (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). In reading a few of Dr. Luther’s comments on Genesis 27 (all of his comments on chapter 27 are in AE 27:99-187 in our library), I was glad that he marveled at the incident and somewhat struggled to explain it in a pious way. One suggestion he made, with some precedent, was that Isaac surely knew the prophecy of Genesis 25:23 and yet was planning to bless Esau anyway. Dr. Luther suggests Rebekah and Isaac may have disagreed, the way husbands and wives sometimes do, on the interpretation of the prophecy and that in the end Rebekah stuck to its letter, helping bring about the humbling of proud Esau and the elevation of lowly Jacob. From that turn of events we do well remember that the proud toward God in this world are ultimately humbled while the repentant, those sorry for their sins who trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness, are ultimately elevated.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace does not appoint any verses from Genesis 25-27 for Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal apparently have any hymns that refer to verses from these chapters.

In my comments on hymns related to our readings, I occasionally, but not exhaustively, along the way have taken note of some hymn alterations, the existence of which is usually indicated after the hymnal's listing of the author and translators of the hymn with the abbreviation “alt.” for “altered”. On that topic, a reader recently emailed the following comment.

I do wonder how and why modern committees feel free to butcher hymn texts and then put the name of the original author on them. I have come to dread the little abbreviation “alt.”! Sometimes, of course, a translation is faulty, but they are going beyond translation corrections when they drop out whole verses. It’s like Reader’s Digest condensed books, except that if you like one of those you go get the original for the full flavor of the story. We can’t often do that with hymns.

While I have some of the same concerns, especially about hymn translations, I’m sure we can barely begin to appreciate all the considerations facing committees such as those that compiled The Lutheran Hymnal in 1941, Lutheran Worship in 1982, and Lutheran Service Book in 2006. In the case of the 1982 hymnal, we have some information about the process, as Fred Precht, the Commission on Worship’s executive director while that hymnal was prepared, included in Lutheran Worship: Hymnal Companion a short essay addressing changes in hymn texts for that hymnal (I suppose we can expect something similar eventually regarding the 2006 hymnal, more than what we have now). Precht distinguishes between updated language (doing away, in some cases, with the KJV pronouns and verb forms) and altered language (altering uncopyrighted original texts or altering copyrighted texts of authors who consented). (The LSB advance material says updating language was less of a concern in the most-recent hymnal and that, especially where the hymn’s poetic quality was diminished, some previously updated language was restored to its “original” form.) Precht gives the example of hymnwriter Charles Wesley (1707-1788), who complained about changes made to his texts but in his own hymnals nevertheless altered as he pleased the texts of others. Precht gives service time considerations, in the days of multiple services, as one reason for omitting stanzas, and he offers the inclusion of more hymns as another. Precht further says stanza omissions and other wording changes in some cases were made due to doctrinal concerns, adding that wording changes also could come because of changes in the meanings of words over time. (As I noted in my December 2006 article in Grace to You, the LSB advance material says that hymnal left some words with archaic meanings but not those with obsolete meanings.) Precht noted that, while the Commission on Worship then moved toward language affirming men and women, it refused to use “inclusive language” in referring to God. He concluded: “The important thing about alterations is that they be instinctively well done, with a sure eye on the context, and that they preserve the artistic qualities and intent of the originals.” Books like the one that included the essay from which I quoted are resources to understand better the changes and, in some cases, to access the original texts and omitted stanzas. We may complain about inconsistency and the end result, but I don’t think we should doubt too much the good intentions of those involved.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 22, 2007

Ps 50 / Ge 22-24

Martin Luther is said to have used the illustration of a drunken peasant trying to walk down the center of a road who first staggers off the road into ditch on the left and then, having gotten himself out of that ditch, staggers off the road into the ditch on the right. Often times we are like that drunken peasant, going from one extreme to the other. People are sometimes rightly concerned that worship not be a matter of outward formalities alone, like the thoughtless sacrifices that God in Psalm 50 accuses the people of Israel of making (vv.7-13). (See here for my previous post overviewing the whole psalm.) If those thoughtless sacrifices are the ditch on the left, then the ditch on the right is disregarding all the outward formalities for some idealized form of inward spiritual worship alone, sometimes maybe even wrongly justified with passages like John 4:21-24. But, read on! Psalm 50:14-15 is not void of outward forms of worship; the point is that the inward heart and the outward form need to agree (see Romans 10:9-11). The Holy Spirit alone can create repentance in our hearts and produce sincere and honest worship that seeks from the Word and Sacraments the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and then thanks and praises God for that free gift!

Our Lutheran Liturgy appoints Psalm 50 among those for the Second Sunday in Advent, the First Sunday after Epiphany, and the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 50.
  • 50:6 -- #41 (see The Lutheran Hymnal for this nice hymn from 1680 with a tune apparently original to the hymn’s author, but don’t you think it puts a different spin on the psalm verse? Maybe that’s why both Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book dropped the hymn? They kept the tune with “God Himself is present”, though don’t get me started on what's been done to that text.)
  • 50:14 -- #417 (this seems to be a nice hymn that recognizes the role our thanks to God plays; sadly, in addition to other alterations, stanzas 3 and 6 as we have them, which talk more about the depth of our sin, are omitted from both Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book, and that’s not even to mention a previously omitted similar stanza)

Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac as depicted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)When I was on vicarage (the year-long student-pastor internship), the Christmas program included a scene based on the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, which is part of our reading today of Genesis 22-24 (for my previous post with the overview of the whole reading see here). We cast a father and his young son to act out the scene, but the father couldn’t even go through with just acting out a sacrifice of his son. Imagine how much more difficult it was for Abraham to come probably within millimeters and split-seconds of slaying his son, his only son, whom he loved (Genesis 22:2). But, with the substitute lamb, what a beautiful picture of God’s sacrifice of His only Son (John 3:16), Whom He loved (Matthew 3:17; 17:5, etc.), in order to save us from our sins! I was struck by the image with this post of the angel stopping the sacrifice, and notice how the angel is pointing to the ram (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). The original painting was done by Italian Baroque artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), who, in using naturalism to combat the Reformation, is said to have begun modern painting.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace does not draw from Genesis 22-24 for any Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to verses from Genesis 22-24.)

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 21, 2007

Ps 49 / Ge 19-21 / Folo

There are probably lots of times when we want to help someone and we just can’t, when we simply do not have the resources or ability to help the person with that particular problem. Our reading today of Psalm 49 reminds us that we cannot redeem another person’s life (much less our own), no matter what resources we have (vv.7-9). (I picked up on this psalm’s discussion of redemption in my last post on it, and the post before that gives a good overview of the psalm.) Only God can redeem a person from their sins (v.15), and that redemption comes by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ. While we cannot redeem a person or believe for him or her, we who do believe and therefore are redeemed should never stop telling those in need of redemption how their lives can be redeemed, too. In the end, this redemption is the only problem and solution that really matters.

Psalm 49 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Good Friday and the Second Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 49.)

A computer-generated rendering of the destruction of Sodom and GomorrahAfter the flood, God promised never again in that way to destroy the earth and cut off all its life, but there’s no such promise about the fire and brimstone destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah included in our reading today of Genesis 19-21. (My previous post overviewing all of today’s reading is here.) The image of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with this post was apparently generated by Blender, a free modeling and rendering software, but the operator was not identified (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Yes, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed once and can’t be destroyed again, but there are plenty of other cities where sin, especially the specific sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, seems to have reached the same proportion deserving such destruction. Homosexuality is increasingly practiced and tolerated in our society, permeating its fabric through enforced political correctness and the mass media. But, we cannot judge those who practice and tolerate homosexuality more harshly than we judge ourselves. We all struggle to live chaste and decent lives, and by nature we all deserve death and destruction for any sin. So, we look to today’s account of the birth of Isaac and remember that by Holy Baptism God has made us His forgiven children and has redeemed us through the Savior, Jesus Christ, Who was born of Abraham’s and Isaac’s line.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that some take the three visitors to Abraham in Genesis 18 to be a manifestation of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, and then some time after writing that post I happened to read a Lutheran father who made that exact point. However, Genesis 19:1 would seem to militate against that understanding, I guess, unless we take the Hebrew mal’ak for “angel” in a broader sense of “messenger” or “representative” and apply it in this case likely to the Pre-Incarnate Son and the Holy Spirit. I think I have always been more comfortable with the understanding that the “Lord” in Genesis 18 is the Pre-Incarnate Son (“The Angel [or Messenger] of the Lord”) and that He is accompanied by two “angels” in the usual sense, who then go on to Sodom and Gomorrah.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with 21:8-21, the sending away of Hagar and Ishmael and other odd family matters. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not draw from Genesis 19-21 for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to verses from Genesis 19-21.

Today’s Biblog folo again picks up the topic of one of Friday’s Biblog folos: the origin of the tune for “Be still my soul”. The reader sought out Rev. Ahonen’s expertise and emailed me having learned that composer Jean Sibelius was born into a Swedish-speaking family in Finland, where Swedish is one of the country’s official languages, and that thus he could be counted as Swedish. I certainly submit to the better-informed on what constitutes one’s nationality. The reader who emailed also admitted that the hymn the reader was thinking of was TLH #545 (you'll have to check your hymnal for that one), which is counted as a Finnish hymn, even by The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, but Rev. Ahonen says is in fact Swedish. Good thing there’s forgiveness for us all!

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially today, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 20, 2007

Ps 48 / Ge 16-18 / Folo / Comment

With word yesterday of China testing an anti-satellite defense system, I am reminded that our defense systems these days don’t really look like what they used to look like. When I was on the East Coast in September of 2005, my friend and I visited Sandy Hook, New Jersey, where at one time there was a fort that helped watch and protect the entrance to New York Bay. If we judged the defense of the Bay by what we saw on that visit alone, we would have reason to be concerned. Fort Hancock as a fort has long since been abandoned and is for the most part deteriorating, but that doesn’t mean the Bay is unprotected. Electronic systems no doubt detect coming vessels much further out than even an aided human eye at the fort would see them, and fighter planes and Navy vessels can react in some ways faster and better than a watchman could rouse the troops to load the now defunct cannons. Psalm 48 in verses 12-13 invites its hearers to consider the defense of Jerusalem, its towers, ramparts, and citadels (NIV; “bulwarks … palaces” KJV, ASV; “ramparts … palaces” NASB). No matter the translation, the idea is that the people can see that the city is well-protected. If we were to judge the defense of the church in this world on the basis of what we can see, we truly would have reason to be concerned. Our church body as a whole seems to have given up on the defense of the true doctrine that is needed in order to reach out with the pure Gospel. However, as with the faithful visitor to Jerusalem who knew that the real defense of the city was not its towers, ramparts, and citadels but was the presence of God in her midst, so, too, with us and the true Church. The Missouri Synod is not to be identified with the true Church, and the true Church does not rely on human efforts to defend the Gospel, for, if that were the case, we all would long since be lost. God is indeed our God and our Guide (verse 14), where the Hebrew word for “guiding” (nahag) brings to mind the work of the Good Shepherd, even as the King Who leads His people in battle—one in this case that with His help we cannot fail to win. (My previous posts on Psalm 48 are here and here.)

Psalm 48 is appointed by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms for The Epiphany of our Lord, The Presentation of Christ and the Purification of Mary, The Feast of Pentecost, The Feast of the Holy Trinity, the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the Festival of the Reformation. In The Lutheran Hymnal, hymn #636 refers to Psalm 48:1-8, bringing out some of the points I made above about God’s being the true Church’s defense and shepherding His Flock against dangers past, present, and future.

A depiction of the Lord appearing to Abraham (Genesis 18) by French painter James Joseph Jacques Tissot (1836-1902)The first episode in the third season of the award-winning series “The West Wing” was titled “Isaac and Ishmael”. Airing on October 3, 2001, the episode dealt with issues related to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Stunningly, the show relatively accurately framed modern conflicts in terms of the conflict between Isaac and his older half-brother Ishamel, of whom we read a little today in Genesis 16-18. In reading those chapters today, I was particularly struck by Genesis 16:12 and how one might say it is being fulfilled yet today with efforts against Islamic terrorists. Of course, I am not saying everyone who can trace their descent back to Ishmael is a terrorist nor that there are no terrorists who cannot trace their descent back to Ishmael. Certainly some Ishmaelites by descent have, by faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, been adopted into the spiritual family of Abraham (17:23 tells us Ishmael himself was circumcised). And, there are other non-Ishmaelites, who have been adopted into Islam or are outside of Islam, that commit terrorist acts. Although Isaac himself is not mentioned today, we hear again of the promise of descendants to Abraham, specifically through Sarah, but this time the promise comes from the Lord appearing in the flesh, either with two angels or perhaps with the other two Persons of the Trinity. The image with this post (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it) is one of the hundreds of drawings and water colors by French painter James Joseph Jacques Tissot (1836-1902) done to illustrate the Old Testament. Tissot went to Palestine as part of his efforts to illustrate the life of Christ and the Old Testament, and his trip apparently paid off, as he is known for the details of his scenery for and the general accuracy and vivid realism of his illustrations. Tissot’s illustrations of the life of Christ went on display in 1896, but he died before completing his series on the Old Testament. (My previous post on Genesis 16-18 is here.)

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Genesis 16-18 for any Old Testament readings, but #626 in The Lutheran Hymnal, is said to refer to Genesis 18:19.)

Today’s Biblog folo regards Psalm 47, which we read yesterday and on which the reader emailed as follows.

Psalm 47:7 – “...Sing praises with a skillful psalm” (NASB). I found this word “skillful” interesting. My NASB Study Bible note referred me to the Psalm 32 title, “A Maskil”. The note on this reads: “The Hebrew word perhaps indicates that these psalms contain instruction in godliness...” My Living Bible reads: “Sing thoughtful praises!” As you pointed out in last year’s comments, we should “note the liturgical aspects expected of this praise.” This is very interesting and so true today. We should think about the words that we are singing and not just sing words that don’t mean anything or have much substance in their message.

My Concordia Self-Study Bible has similar notes. The second half of verse 7 in the NIV reads “sing to him a psalm of praise” (not necessarily any psalm or all psalms), and the earlier KJV and ASV render “sing ye praises with understanding”. The phrase consists of two words in the Hebrew: zamar for the verb “to sing” or “to praise” and maskiyl for the noun “poem” or “song or poem of contemplation”. (The root of the noun is the sakal, which is translated with some nine words, including “wisely”, “understand”, and “prosper”.) Aside from the use in titles of thirteen psalms such as 32, 44, 45, etc. (only two of which are regarded as “didactic”), where the word maskiyl could even refer to the musical difficulty of the psalm (and there’s other evidence for that understanding), we find the word used only in Psalm 47:7. (The Greek Septuagint, incidentally translates the Hebrew maskiyl as salate suneteos, although one commentator points instead to the Greek words that give us “spiritual songs” in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.) One reference I have explains as follows.

Psalm 47:7 emphasizes that one is to sing praises in accordance with a maskiyl psalm. Some have considered a maskiyl to be a didactic poem which causes consideration or gives insight. Others have suggested it to be an artistic song having insight. More probably this can be considered a contemplative poem, with elements of the other two.

My comments a year ago, as I recall, were pointing out that the psalms were sung (one commentator emphasizes the accompaniment by translating the verb “harp”). Still, the reader is certainly right in that we want to be selective in what we sing and take note of the words of what we sing. Not just anything should be selected to be in our hymnals, which is why hymn-selection committees take great pains in their work, but, even despite those great pains, we might still say that not everything in the hymnals is worthy of being sung—and that’s true of any of our Synod’s three authorized hymnals.

A Biblog comment today came in an email where the reader indicated “enjoying reading the discussion of hymnody in the different Lutheran hymnals”. I’m glad, and I have been enjoying including that discussion and the related links. I hope all of you on occasion incorporate one of the related hymns as part of your meditation on what you are reading as you try to Be in the Word!

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially tomorrow, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 19, 2007

Ps 47 / Ge 13-15 / Folos

I grew up in Lutheran congregations where people did not applaud in or around the Divine Service, and I think that’s a good practice, one that the opening verse of Psalm 47 does not go against. As can be seen with verses pertaining to dancing in joy over the Lord’s deeds, the context of the call for a particular expression is important. In this case, the clapping may have been used to get the attention of people as the procession moved along. We use applause so much in praise of people that in our context understanding it as praise of God is hard, especially since Scripture gives us other ways to praise God, such as with the psalms. (My previous post on Psalm 47 with more on its context and contents is here.)

Psalm 47 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for The Epiphany of Our Lord, Ascension, and Exaudi (the Sunday after Ascension). Hymn #214 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 47:5-7; the hymn is an ascension hymn by Gottfried W. Sacer and one with which I am not familiar and that is not carried over into Lutheran Service Book.

A photograph of statues of Melchizedek and Abraham in the façade of cathedral in Reims, FranceWe can learn so much about our own spiritual lives in our reading of Genesis 13-15 today. On the side of sin and temptation, there is Lot’s living near (13:12) and then in Sodom (14:12), which you might note the hearer of Genesis already knows is later destroyed (13:10, anticipating the account of chapter 19). Taking such knowledge in a sense for granted is something we often find in the Gospel accounts, too. On the side of forgiveness and redemption, there is Abraham’s believing God and such faith bringing him righteousness (15:6, an extremely important verse), the covenant with Abraham sealed with sacrifice (15:9-10), the type of Israel’s slavery and deliverance that points to our slavery to sin and redemption by faith in Jesus Christ (15:13-14), and a meal of bread and wine served by a priest of God that brings blessing to Abraham and prompts an offering in return (14:18-20). The image with today’s post is in regards to that last one; it is a photograph by K. Cohen of San Jose State University in San Jose California of statues of Melchizedek and Abraham from the façade of the cathedral in Reims, France, with clear indications of the Sacrament of the Altar (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). (My previous post on Genesis 13-15 is here.)

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any excerpts from Genesis 13-15 as Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to verses from Genesis 13=15.

The “thaw” seems to have brought reader emails prompting today’s Biblog folos. Today’s first Biblog folo is a reader comment to this posted Q&A about Genesis 8:6-12 that indicated, with Dr. Luther’s support, that the raven released from ark was probably eating off carcasses floating in the receding water. The reader, hoping Luther was wrong, emailed the following.

Now that’s a cheerful thought! I never thought about this, but I would hope the “carcasses” were sunk in the depths of the sea after, what is it, half a year? Otherwise wouldn’t the land be a not-so-pretty mess!? I always thought of Noah and his family starting over on a clean earth. The creatures of the sea were not included in this “purging of the earth” (as far as I can see), and no doubt there were scavengers in the sea then as now.

Dr. Luther is not the only one with this view of what the raven ate while flying to and fro. I know water temperature helps determine whether bodies float or sink, even months later, and the depths of the sea in some cases were over land that was exposed as the water receded and may or may not have taken the carcasses back with it. Yes, as far as we know there would have been scavengers in the sea that might have helped with the clean up, and it a nicer picture to think of everything all pristine and new, but sometimes God works through muck and mire, although Scripture seems to be relatively quiet on this particular matter.

Today’s second Biblog folo has to do with stanzas omitted from “Beautiful Savior” that were included in Wednesday’s post, a reader expressed appreciation and commented as follows:

I have always felt that hymn to be a little “light weight”, and now I know why: the “meat” of it was left on some editing room floor! What a shame!

I had the same sense growing up (never really liked the hymn, I think for that reason and the fact we over sang it), and I think the LCMS Commission on Worship had the translations I included in the post, which makes their omission from LSB all the more “tragic”.

And third and finally, a reader emailed about the hymn “Be still my soul” that was linked in yesterday’s post and my comments about it there.

I don’t remember another tune; I’ve always loved this and “Finlandia” (“The only Finnish hymn in the book”, and it is Swedish, not Finnish, if I remember correctly what was said by [Rev. Jeffrey Ahonen, an LCMS pastor who is a bit of an expert on Finnish hymnody].)

According to The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, the hymn’s author Catharina von Schlegel was apparently from Cöthen in the Netherlands, and the tune’s composer Jean Sibelius was born in Tavastelhus, Finland, and composed the “symphonic poem” Finlandia, from which the hymn tune apparently is adapted, for the 1902 beginning of the Finnish National Theater. My memory may be equally bad, since the hymn with an alternate tune that I may have been thinking of may have been “Savior I follow on”.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 18, 2007

Ps 46 / Ge 10-12

How often when we are excited about something we have seen or experienced do we tell someone else about it and invite them to come and see for themselves? Someone might say it to a spouse before making a major purchase like a car or house. A youth might say it to a friend after receiving an electronic gadget as a gift. In such cases, coming and seeing go hand in hand, as one would hardly invite one to come and not to look or expect one to look from afar. Today in Psalm 46 we hear the psalmist in verse 8 invite all to “Come and see the works of the Lord” (NIV). In reading that verse I was reminded of two similar statements in St. John’s Gospel account when Jesus called Andrew and possibly John (John 1:39) and when Philip invited Nathanael to check Jesus out (John 1:46). Do we have friends or loved ones who do not believe that Jesus died for their sins and freely offers forgiveness through Word and Sacrament? Do we believe that what happens on Sunday mornings in the Divine Service is something unique and exciting to experience that is more important than a car, house, or electronic gadget? Have we therefore invited those friends or loved ones to come and see for themselves? Two nights ago in my reading as I worked on my dissertation someone said that God’s “words are deeds”, which statement is very true: God’s speaking effects what it says. With His blessing, those we invite to come will see, and we pray that they will respond as in Psalm 48:8, “As we have heard, so we have seen”. (My original comments of a more general nature on Psalm 46 are here, a later post on several specific verses is here, and I commented on a verse of Psalm 46 in connection with another psalm here.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 46 among those appointed for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, The Festival of the Reformation, and a Dedication of a church. The Lutheran Hymnal contains three hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 46.
  • 46 -- #262 (as I pointed out in my original post on Psalm 46), #534 (another TLH hymn that I don’t think I know)
  • 46:10 -- #651 (the reference to this psalm verse seems likely but is a conjecture; I’ve memories of singing this bittersweet hymn at loved ones’ funerals and hospital bedsides; there is another lovely tune, I think, with which the text is also sometimes paired)

Pieter Bruegel’s 1563 depiction of the Tower of BabelBabel, which we hear about today in our reading of Genesis 10-12, has been in the news lately as a movie that Monday won the Golden Globe award for best drama. The movie, of course, doesn’t tell the Bible’s story, but it does seem to at least to be alluding to the Bible’s story by telling a story of different-but-related people in different countries speaking different languages. The Bible’s Babel (or “Babylon”, as “Babel” in Hebrew is “Babylon” in Greek) is first mentioned in Genesis 10:10, likely anticipating the fuller account given later in chapter 11. The people had egotistically turned away from God and, able to communicate in the same language, were planning, as a monument to their own unity and self-derived peace, a stairway of sorts to the heavens (you might think of Genesis 28:12’s stairway to heaven, but that’s getting ahead of the story). The three Persons of the Trinity answer the fallen people’s reasoning together with some reasoning together of their own and showed their judgment by confusing the people’s languages (a deed that was in a sense undone at the first New Testament Pentecost as told in Acts 2). Although the tower may not look like modern scholars think it probably looked and may not be coming to its end for the reason the Bible gives, the image with this post is of a 1563 painting by Flemish/Dutch Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel (c.1525-1569) titled “The Tower of Babel” (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Does the arrogance of people today compare to that of the people of Babel? I’m not suggesting that the World Trade Center towers were destroyed because they attempted to reach the heavens, and you could certainly say that the space program has already reached the heavens. A friend of mine recently suggested that humankind’s wanting to build a city below sea level and against the laws of nature keep the water out is an example of modern-day Babel-like arrogance. Perhaps he’s got a point. I think we all are arrogant in our own ways and rebel against God in on a less-grand scale. Thank God that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, Who died and rose again for us, we can receive forgiveness for all our sins. (My previous post on Genesis 10-12, which overviews the reading and makes a few specific comments, is here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Genesis 10:15-19 and the trouble with marrying Canaanites. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Genesis 12:1-3 as the Old Testament reading for Judica (the Fifth Sunday in Lent). No hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to verses from Genesis 10-12.

There's a new question on Genesis 8:6-12 posted here. May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 17, 2007

Ps 45 / Ge 7-9

When I finished reading Psalm 45 today I had some things I wanted to point out about it, but when I looked at my previous post on the psalm, I saw I had said them all last year! I did a little more reading on the psalm, which prompted the comments that follow. I mentioned in the previous post that Psalm 45 “must properly now … [be] applied to the Messiah and His Bride, the Church,” but I don’t want you to think that such an understanding is new “now”, as in 2006 or 2007. The psalm certainly was written for a special event in the life of a king of Israel and his people and nation, but the psalm’s Divine inspiration ensured that it spoke prophetically of the Messiah, and the Church recognized its inspiration and application and admitted it into the collection of sacred writings. Other writings such as Song of Songs (or “Song of Solomon”) similarly apply the figure of marriage to the relationship between Christ and His Bride without ever explicitly doing so and are nevertheless so understood. To illustrate this point, notice how Hebrews 1:8 understands Psalm 45:6 with the Messianic sense. Commentators speculate over whether or not the marriage originally in view was that of Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter or that of Joram the Son of Jehoshaphat, sometimes regarded as the second (though at least slightly inferior) Solomon of Israel’s history. I think on a first reading Solomon seems the obvious choice, but some of the commentators’ arguments against him and for Joram are convincing (both are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy; see Matthew 1:7, 8). Either way, our Lord Jesus Christ is one greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31) and his later lesser successor, and He alone perfectly fulfills all the Old Testament prophecy and gives us the sure and certain hope of righteousness of the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in His death and resurrection for us.

Psalm 45 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Christmas (the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord), the First Sunday after Christmas, the Epiphany of Our Lord, the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, the day of St. Mary Magdalene, and the day of St. Luke. The usually quite popular hymn #657 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 45:2. It helps to know that that verse’s description “fairer” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “most excellent” NIV) can also be translated as “beautiful” or “handsome” and refers to “One who excels in manly traits and beauty” and, certainly in the case of the Messiah, “is so beyond ordinary men as to be almost Godlike”. The English translation as we have it apparently omitted three stanzas of the hymn’s German original (what would be 4-6, with our stanza 4 being stanza 7). They were translated by a brother pastor and friend of mine as follows.

Fair are the flowers, fairer are children,
In the Springtime of their lives,
Yet time will fade them, and death will claim them,
But Jesus lives no more to die.

All of the beauty of earth and heaven
Is embraced in Thee alone.
Nothing may ever be to me fairer,
Than Thou my Lord, dear Jesus mine.

Thou are most truly with us forever
Through Thy Word and Sacrament.
Jesus, I beg Thee, Lord to have mercy
Upon us now and at our end.

Sadly, not even the wonderful stanza about our Beautiful Savior’s real, physical presence in the Sacrament of the Altar was restored in Lutheran Service Book (where, curiously enough, no reference is made to Psalm 45:2).

British artist John Martin’s ‘Assuaging of the Waters’One of the things I came to appreciate more in our reading of Isaiah last month was how much condemnation and salvation are the two sides of the coin of judgment—you really can’t have salvation without there also being condemnation. We see that inseparability clearly again today in our reading of Genesis 7-9, especially as the focus in chapter 7 on the water bringing judgment turns to chapter 8 and the water bringing redemption. God’s gracious “remembering” (8:1) of Noah, his family, and the animals, leads to the receding of the waters. The image with this post, apparently including the dove and raven, is of an 1840 painting done by British artist John Martin (1789-1854) titled “Assuaging of the Waters” (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). You can read my previous comments on Genesis 7-9 here, and two very brief reader comments on the chapters here. Be sure to notice that the “youth” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “childhood” NIV) in 8:21 includes conception and birth (there’s no “age of accountability”, “age of assent”, or “age of discretion” implicit there). Also notice that 9:6 gives Biblical support to the death penalty and that the prohibition against consuming animal blood in 9:4, of course, does not rule out but rather points to our consuming our Lord’s Blood in, with, and under wine in the Sacrament of the Altar, where that blood is shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Genesis 7:2’s clean and unclean animals. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Genesis 7-9 for any Old Testament readings, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Genesis 7-9.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 16, 2007

Ps 44 / Ge 4-6 / Folos

It is hard for me not to think of the troubles afflicting the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod when reading psalms such as Psalm 44 that speak of God allowing Israel to be afflicted by its external enemies. Perhaps we can identify the Synod as a whole with the nation of Israel as a whole, but I think right now the Synod’s greatest enemies are working within her. So, the better identification is to think of the faithful within the Synod as the true or faithful Israel. And, as the July Synodical convention draws ever closer, the true Israel’s faithful prophets might need to be more like the faithful prophets of old who warned of the exile of the faithful remnant if the nation as a whole did not repent. (My previous post on Psalm 44 that speaks more to the content of the psalm is here.)

Psalm 44 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Feast of St. John the Baptist, the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the day of St. Andrew. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 44.)

A photograph of Salvatore Rosa’s depiction of Cain killing AbelWhy are some saved and others lost? That question is very much like the question why, in Genesis 4-6, God looked with favor on Abel who offered fat portions and firstborn from his flocks and did not look with favor on Cain who offered fruits of the soil. At first glance, one could think that the difference was between an offering of animal life and an offering of plant life, but that is not it. A second or third glance reveals that Abel offered the best of what he had, acknowledging that all belonged to the Lord and that he was His servant, while Cain with his indiscriminate offering indicated that he did not have the right attitude towards God in his heart. Their works, in this case their offerings and Cain’s subsequent action, reflected what was in their hearts. The image with this post is photo of a depiction of that “subsequent action”, namely “The Death of Abel”, a painting that at least at one time hung in Rome’s Doria Gallery and was done by Salvatore Rosa (1615-1673), who is said to have been in the Neapolitan School (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). So, why are some saved and others lost? The difference is the heart’s faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins or the lack of such saving faith. Our works show forth what we believe, and, even though we are not saved on account of the good things that we do, faith will never be without good works. (My previous post on Genesis 4-6 is here, and a brief folo explaining a comment in that post is here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with the marriages of 4:17 and 6:2. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Genesis 4-6 for any Old Testament readings. While no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said in the Scriptural index of its Handbook to refer to verses from Genesis 4-6, I recalled a hymn that refers to Genesis 4:10 with the lines “Abel’s blood for vengeance / Pleaded to the skies”. The hymn is “Glory be to Jesus”, TLH #158. (Both Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book retain this fine hymn.)

Today we have two Biblog folos. The first comes in response to a reader’s email about Sunday’s post, where I observed newer hymnals’ changes to a Baptismal hymn in The Lutheran Hymnal. The reader emailed the following:

The “gender neuterers” can’t leave a good thing alone? It would seem that baptism/belief is a thing done one by one (or done for us, one by one), since we are told we can't believe for anyone else. “Grandma’s a good Lutheran; that should take care of all of us.” Well, no. (I wish it were true, though, for some of my cousins’ sakes.)

Thomas Kingo’s Danish original of the hymn was first published in 1689. The Lutheran Worship: Hymnal Companion observes that the first stanza of George T. Rygh’s 1909 translation (done, incidentally, for the 1913 Norwegian-produced The Lutheran Hymnary) “was written in the third person singular (masculine gender)” and says that the hymn was altered to change “this stanza to plural”. (What isn’t stated but may be the case is that the text was already altered for the 1979 Lutheran Book of Worship on which the 1982 Lutheran Worship is largely based; the 1993 WELS Christian Worship also uses the plural form, while the 1996 ELS Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary keeps the singular.) Changing such singulars to plural is a usual way of neutering gender-specific language, and so, also given the comment from the supporting literature, the reader is likely right in what motivated the change. (I don’t read Danish, but I'm told that Kingo's text starts with a word that can mean "each" or "every" and that he uses a third-person masculine singular pronoun but that it could be generic; I am not surprised he did, since that was a common way in many languages of referring to “one”.) The reader is also right in that one must believe for her or himself, although the plural number in the revised hymn stanza does not necessarily suggest anything different. I’ll also point out that the revision to the plural loses the connection to the singular form in the Biblical text, and I’ll also mention that the Apostolic Creed used in Baptism is singular (“I believe”), while the original form of the Communion or Nicene Creed is plural (“We believe”).

Today’s second Biblog folo comes from my recalling my previous comments on Psalm 36 and wanting to share with you this Memorial Moment, which addresses some of the same aspects of that psalm.

Thanks to all readers for their comments and questions, and there are two new questions with answers posted beginning with this one (the other is right below it). May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 15, 2007

Ps 43 / Ge 1-3 / Mark wrap-up

Ever hear anyone say something to the effect of “Cheer yourself up!”? That can be hard to do, as usually when a person is down about something he or she cannot see the reasons not to be down. In Psalm 43 there does seem to something akin to the psalmist telling himself to cheer up, what I described in connection with the related Psalm 42 as the redeemed nature talking to the sinful nature. Especially when the sinful nature’s “voice” drowns out that of the redeemed nature, we are blessed to have God’s Word and Sacraments coming from outside of us reminding us that God has not rejected us and that His light and truth do guide us to His Presence where we find hope, joy, and peace. (My initial post on Psalm 43 is here, and a subsequent post is here, and a passing reference regarding the psalmist’s circumstances away from Jerusalem and its Temple is here.)

Psalm 43 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Sexagesima Sunday (the Sunday that falls in the sixth period of ten days before Easter), Judica (the Fifth Sunday in Lent), Good Friday, the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, and the day of St. Philip and St. James. Hymn #132 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 43:3; the hymn is a wonderful meditation on God’s guiding Light and quite appropriate in our Epiphany season. Along with other more-slight alteration, the fourth stanza as we have it, what might be called an overseas mission stanza, was apparently dropped for Lutheran Book of Worship and therefore for Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book. (In stanza two, a “type” is a person or thing, such as Moses or the Temple, that points forward to Christ.)

A photo of Michelangelo's 'Creation of Adam' painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel before its 1980 restorationContrary to what you might read or hear elsewhere in our time, life did not begin by a chance occurrence in some primordial organic soup or goo, at least not according to Genesis 1-3 that we read today. The image with this post, “The Creation of Adam” painted on the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) and said to be “one of the most famous and most appreciated images in the world”, certainly doesn’t depict amino acids evolving into proteins (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). As important as Genesis 1-2 is for the discussion of creation vs. evolution, Hebrews 11:3 reminds us that we can’t argue or persuade someone to accept the Bible’s version of events on the basis of reason or proof. More important than the creation account per se is the account of humankind’s fall into sin and God’s first Gospel promise. That promise of a Savior was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Who died and rose again to save us from our sin and Who through Word and Sacrament freely gives us by grace through faith the forgiveness He won. See more about all of the chapter’s contents in last year’s Genesis 1-3 post (some information about Moses as the author of the book is linked there). And, if you have access to a copy (such as in Grace’s library), you might check out how Lutheran Service Book #561 connects the trees in the Garden and Revelation to the tree of the cross.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary that we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace taps Genesis 3:1-24 as the Old Testament reading for Invocavit (the First Sunday in Lent). The Lutheran Hymnal contains four hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Genesis 1-3:
  • 1:3 -- #8 (a wonderful Trinitarian “Lord’s Day” hymn extracted from Julia Anne Marshall Elliott’s original seven-stanza work that originally confused the last and first days of creation’s week), #508 (note the hymn’s likening of the creation of light by the Word to the spread of the Gospel by the Word)
  • 1:5 -- #12 (another fine “Lord’s Day” hymn that apparently also needed correction originally, but for a different reason than Elliott’s hymn above)
  • 2:10 -- #282 (I’d probably make “Gospels” in the first stanza singular; if I’m not mistaken, the four figurative rivers in the second stanza are the four Gospel accounts; in the third stanza “sated” essentially means “satisfied”, and “pinion” seems to relate to “wings” as of a bird; the hymn was already dropped from Lutheran Worship and is also dropped in Lutheran Service Book)

If you want to hear the music for these hymns, you can look them up alphabetically by title here. (If that isn’t working for you, please let us know so we can try to facilitate the process better.)

Today I have an Mark wrap-up. Such a summary of a recently completed book was requested in our survey at the end of Year 1 of our Daily Lectionary reading.

Who was the author? By Divine-inspiration the account was recorded by Mark (also known as “John Mark” or just “John”), who was likely from a family known to Christians in Jerusalem (see Acts 12:12) and who at different times worked with both Paul and Peter.
What is the book? The early church fathers tell us that the Gospel account bearing Mark’s name was the content of Peter’s preaching (see a rough outline in Acts 10:37).
Where was it written? Mark’s account of the Holy Gospel was likely written in Rome and intended for the churches there, as well as for other primarily-Gentile hearers.
When was it written? Although there are various theories, Mark’s account of the Gospel was likely written in the 50s or 60s.
Why? The Gospel may have been written as persecution in Rome increased (perhaps even as Peter’s own martyrdom seemed imminent) in order to keep the Lord’s suffering before the believers so they could follow Him in their own suffering.
How? The account unabashedly teaches Jesus Christ as the Son of God Who Himself taught His followers, by word and deed, to follow Him Who suffered for them.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Mark, you may make use of the following:
  • Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961. (First published in 1946, Lenski’s commentary is out of date as scholarship goes, but his interpretations are generally reliable and quite accessible to most readers.)
  • Taylor, Vincent. The Gospel According to St. Mark: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes, and Indexes, second edition. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1966. (Also now a bit out of date, but still a standard more-scholarly commentary, although also more higher-critical.)

Our webmaster is making the short summaries like this one a part of the Daily Lectionary - Biblical Index page for each book, which you can find linked here.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 14, 2007

Ps 42 / Mk 15-16

When we are sick or otherwise physically afflicted and can’t leave home, what are the places where we miss going? Work or school? Out with friends? How about church? As you read Psalm 42 today, you might notice the second part of verse 2, “When shall I come and appear before God?” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “When can I go and meet with God?” NIV). The psalmist is unable to go to the Temple for some reason (see at least one possibility here in connection with Psalm 84). Clearly the psalm is evidence that the psalmist did not think he could only pray to God in the Temple, but the psalmist also clearly knows there is more to his relationship with God than prayer. So many in our time think that all they need to do is be at home and pray and read their Bible. To be sure, I, of all people, am not criticizing people who pray and read their Bible at home (that’s what this Daily Lectionary is all about!), but too often the people who say those kinds of things don’t actually do it. If one does pray and read his or her Bible at home, one will soon realize that God speaks through His Word about the community of believers, the church, into which all who believe should be gathered in order to hear the Word preached and to receive the forgiveness of sins in its sacramental forms. In the church we enter God’s presence in a way we do not at home on our own, and especially in the Sacrament of the Altar we commune with Him by receiving bread that is Christ’s body and wine that is Christ’s blood. (My previous post with a bit of an overview of the psalm is here, and a closer look at verses 1 and the first part of verse 2 is here.)

Perhaps reflecting Psalm 42’s “distance” from God, The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes it among those appointed for Septuagesima Sunday (the Sunday that falls in the seventh period of ten days before Easter) and Invocavit (the First Sunday in Lent), which Sundays begin the pre-Lenten and Lenten seasons, respectively. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 42:
  • 42 -- #525 (the “hart” of the hymn, the KJV, and the ASV, is, of course, the “deer” of the NIV and NASB)
  • 42:2 -- #618 (which certainly looks beyond the Divine Service to our heavenly home)

Carl Gottfried Pfannschmidt’s depiction of the women at the tomb learning of Christ’s resurrection Today Mark 15-16 finishes the St. Mark’s account of our Lord’s Passion (chapter 15) and tells of His resurrection (chapter 16). You can find some comments on the reading here. Certainly, as one of the hymns linked below indicates, we should not pass too quickly by our Lord’s crucifixion, and there are probably almost countless images of His death on the cross for us. However, I chose to include with this post an image related to our Lord’s resurrection, which was also for us (the image is of a work by German professor and artist Carl Gottfried Pfannschmidt [1819-1887]; to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). I chose such an image because if His death on the cross or burial in the tomb were the end of it all, then our faith would be for nothing, and we would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). Christ did rise from the dead, though, thanks be to God, and we, too, shall so rise!

Is Jesus’ statement in Mark 15:34 an accusation against God? Read this previously posted Q&A, and, if you have a question of your own, ask it.

The historic 1-year lectionary, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, appoints Mark 16:1-8 as the Gospel reading for Easter Sunday and, seemingly without any qualms about its origin, Mark 16:14-20 for Ascension Day. The Lutheran Hymnal contains five hymns said to refer or allude to verses today’s reading of Mark 15-16.
  • 15:29, 30 -- #145 (author Girloamo Savonarola [1454-1498] was an Italian Dominican Friar who tried to reform the Roman Catholic Church before Martin Luther and was hung and burnt for trying; the hymn was first published in 1563)
  • 15:34 -- #174 (said to be one of British pastor and hymnwriter John Ellerton’s finest hymns; he lived from 1821-1893)
  • 16:6 -- #190, #191 (both hymns have roots that run very deep in church history)
  • 16:16 -- #301 (one of TLH’s better Baptismal hymns, the first stanza was changed to plural forms [thus given a new name, "All who believe ..."] and was slightly altered in other ways for Lutheran Worship #225 and then was apparently altered further for Lutheran Service Book #601)

There are three new questions posted: this one on Matthew 11:11 and two on Mark 14, beginning with this one (the other is right below it). May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially today, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 13, 2007

Ps 41 / Mk 14

Today as I prayed Psalm 41, I began to hear its words as law showing me my sin—I don’t have the regard for the weak that I should and so don’t deserve the promised deliverance, protection, blessings, sustenance, and restoration (vv.1-3). Then, however, I got to verse 4’s confession of sin and appeal for mercy (see also v.10). There is Gospel implicit there, and there is also Gospel hearing even those opening verses on the lips of Jesus—He had regard for me—and you!—and so the Father delivered, protected, blessed, sustained, and restored Him as He accomplished His work of redeeming me—and you! Therefore He is in a position to give us those same blessings, not because we have earned them, but because He loves us and chooses to give them, along with forgiveness of sins, to us freely. (All of that is said, of course, addition to the application of the psalm to David, described in these previous comments on it, as well as its application to us made in these previous comments on it.)

The psalm’s application to Jesus seems to be in mind with the inclusion of Psalm 41, by The Lutheran Liturgy, among those for Palmarum (Palm Sunday) and Maundy Thursday. The psalm is also appointed for the First and Fourteenth Sundays after Trinity. (No hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 41.)

An unidentified artist's depiction of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, with a young man, who might have been the evangelist St. Mark, fleeing nakedHaving raised the specter of a “streaker” in December with this post on Isaiah and having caught a little grief for it, I am almost hesitant to direct your attention to the young man fleeing naked from the Garden of Gethsemane as described in Mark 14, any more than I did in this previous post on Mark 14. The young man, thought to be St. Mark, the author of this Gospel account, is of course not central to the story, but the detail does let us see a little more of his personal side, as it were. The image that accompanies this post is a woodcut first published in a 1702 Nuremberg edition of Dr. Luther’s German translation of the Bible (to see a slightly larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it), and the unknown artist responsible for the woodcut chose to include what is thought to be Mark’s appearance in the Garden scene. Mark’s family may also have provided the guest room for the Lord’s Supper, and such a juxtaposition of involvement reminds us that we, too, can be loving towards our Lord and then hours later—if not minutes or seconds later—abandon Him, no better than any of His other followers at that moment. Betraying, fleeing, and denying are equally evil.) With God’s help, though, we come back to Him in sorrow over our sin and trusting in His merits for forgiveness, which is given by that same Lord’s Supper.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, does not tap Mark 14 for any appointed Gospel readings, but The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Mark 14:
  • 14:22-25 -- #310 (a wonderful “Lord’s Supper” hymn that confesses the real, physical presence of Christ in the Sacrament)
  • 14:36 -- #420 (I expect a somewhat familiar and perhaps popular hymn that helps us follow Christ on the way of the cross submitting our wills to God’s)

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially tomorrow, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 12, 2007

Ps 40 / Mk 13 / Folos

As someone with not so much hair, I am especially sensitive to the verses from the New Testament where Jesus says “the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30 and Luke 12:7). Not downplaying the verse's teaching of God’s incredible care for us, in lighter moments I think that God’s knowing how many hairs I have can’t be much of a challenge for Him, since there are so few! You are probably familiar with those verses, too, but you may be less familiar with the reference to “hairs of my head” that we read today in Psalm 40. Verse 12 says either the “troubles without number” or their roughly parallel and perhaps causative “sins” are “more than the hairs of my head” (confer Psalm 69:4). (Although the grammatical gender of the first is feminine plural and the grammatical gender of the second is masculine plural, the verb form, which implies the subject we have expressed as a pronoun, is “common”.) Again, in my case it wouldn’t take too many troubles or sins to exceed the number of hairs, but that’s not really the point. To be sure, one sin is enough to damn us and therefore drive us to God, and one trouble should do the same, for without God we are utterly helpless. (Before the days of Clairol and Grecian formula, Jesus in Matthew 5:36 said we have no power over our hair color). See how verse 12 leads to the psalm’s petition in verse 13. Thanks be to God that in by grace through faith in Christ He not only forgives all our sins, no matter their number, but also gives us all we need, including ultimate deliverance from all of our troubles. In the end, not one hair of our heads will perish (Luke 21:18, and see 1 Samuel 14:45; Daniel 3:27; and Acts 27:34), figuratively speaking, anyway. (My original post on Psalm 40 is here, a folo on the reading of Jeremiah 28:15-17 making a connection between Revelation 6:10 and Psalm 40 is here, and a Q&A regarding verse 6’s translation of the Hebrew word karah, meaning roughly “digged”, as “pierced” or “opened” is here—perhaps more significant questions about that verse will have to wait until another time.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 40 among those appointed for The Circumcision, the First Sunday after Epiphany, Jubilate (the Third Sunday after Easter), and the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity. Hymn #406 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 40:8.

Dutch copper-engraver Caspar Luiken's depiction of Jesus' teaching on the Mount of OlivesGetting caught up in the external beauty or impressiveness of something is easy, and the disciples’ getting caught up in the external beauty and impressiveness of the Temple and its complex is essentially what launched Jesus into some teaching about the end times, as we read today in Mark 13. Note the Temple off on the left, to which Jesus is pointing in the image with this post, which is by Caspar Luiken (1672-1708, also spelled "Casper Luyken" or in some combination or with other alternatives) and depicts Jesus giving the so-called “Olivet Discourse” (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). Caspar and his father Jan Luiken were Dutch copper engravers, said to be “the most productive and renowned illustrators in Amsterdam”, which was then “the publishing centre of the world”. Among the books they illustrated were Bibles and other religious and historical works, including an edition of Flavius Josephus, a Jewish Roman historian noted for a reference to Jesus Christ.

My previous post on Mark 13 is here, and today I add a few other comments, including this link to the Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray’s recent “epistle” on Mark 32:23-37 addressing what it means that the Son doesn’t know about the day or hour (v.32). The “parable” or illustrating example in those verses (it’s not actually called a “parable”), may not seem too relevant to us. Who goes away and leaves servants in charge but doesn’t tell them when he or she will be back? These days it seems our trips are much more scheduled; we usually book a round trip ticket and, before we go, have complete itineraries with return days and times. If you asked the people traveling through Denver during those first two big storms of the winter how reliable their itineraries were, they’d probably say “Not very”. But, buried in the fine print of their tickets was probably some sort of language about unexpected weather delays and the airlines not being responsible for accommodating them in any way while waiting for the weather to clear. No traveler really pays any attention to such fine print until they have to, such as when the snow starts to fall. Travelers tend to look at the big picture, and so should we. Instead of getting bogged down in every last detail of what Jesus says in this chapter, perhaps a few things can be pulled out for our benefit. The disciples asked for a date and signs, and Jesus essentially answers both questions, although in an opposite order. He addresses the date question second (vv.32-27) and begins by giving them some of the signs (vv.5-31). No matter how frightening the thought of the end might be, we can be comforted, for by Holy Baptism we who persevere in the faith know we are part of the elect that are not deceived (v.22) but are safely gathered in the end (v.27). In the meantime, we should be on our guard (v.23) and watch (v.37). In verse 23, we might question whether Jesus has told the disciples “everything” (we might even question, as some commentators do, what exactly “everything” refers to or whether Jesus even said it), but we who focus on the big picture know that we know what we need to know, and we faithfully take heed and watch.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Mark 13 is not tapped for any Gospel readings by the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to verses from Mark 13.

Readers’ emails led to today’s three Biblog folos. First, in connection with Mark 11 and the Wednesday Biblog post, a reader asked the following.

What/where is the book of Maccabees that you referred to in the Biblog for the 10th? I am not familiar with the Simon Maccabaeus story you are referring to.

Sometimes placed in between the Old and New Testaments, Maccabees is one the apocryphal (or “hidden”) books that were given full authority by Roman Catholics but are generally downplayed by others. 1 Maccabees is pretty much a straightforward historical account of the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, covering roughly 168-136 B.C. Although we do not give the book the inspired and therefore inerrant regard of Holy Scripture, we can rely somewhat on this historical account. (There are other books of the Maccabees, but they are by and large less historical and lesser-regarded.) Simon Maccabees (142-134 or 135 B.C.), whose account is found in 1 Maccabees 12:53-16:23, helped Israel realize independence from the Seleucids and took for his family both the high priesthood and the monarchy—beginning the impious and treacherous Hasmonean dynasty. The Maccabees were not of the high-priestly line, and the high-priestly office more or less always had been kept separate from the kingly office, but an assembly of Jewish leaders nevertheless agreed the Maccabees could serve in one combined office, at least until a true prophet appeared, and so they did. The passage to which I referred, 1 Maccabees 13:51, reads as follows.

[Simon] entered into [the tower] the three and twentieth day of the second month, in the hundred seventy and first year [of the Seleucid reign, presumably], with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel.

One of the "cast of thousands" that helps produce this Biblog provided two links to where you can read 1 Maccabees: here (see "13. Simon Regains the Citadel at Jerusalem" for the episode in question) and here. For more on the intertestamental literature see here.

Second, in connection with Psalm 39:12 and Paul Gerhardt’s hymn (TLH #586) linked in Thursday’s post, a reader expressed thanks and commented: “I grew up hearing the general prayer every Sunday. The phrases about being a stranger and pilgrim stick in my mind.” The reader’s reference is to the General Prayer in the Order of Morning Service (see the prayer’s final paragraph on p.13 in TLH).

Third and finally, in connection with the “mite” of Mark 12:42 also discussed in Thursday’s post, a reader related the story of foreigners in Thailand being quoted prices down to the baht, roughly equivalent then to our nickel, only to find out later that there was also a coin called a stang, which the reader recalled as 1/100 of a baht. The reader commented, “these tiny coins were in circulation among the poor; I suppose ‘mites’ still exist in many parts of the world.” The talk of mites reminded me that in the original post I was going to acknowledge the “mites” of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), which are said to have totaled $80 million over the group’s first 63 years.

Thanks to the readers for prompting those folos, and thanks to a reader’s question we have a new Q&A on Mark 12:35-37 posted here. May the Lord ever reveal Himself to all of you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 11, 2007

Ps 39 / Mk 12

As I read Psalm 39 today I was glad for this previous post on it, which provides an overview of the psalm, a few more-detailed comments, and some application to our lives.

The Lutheran Liturgy appoints Psalm 39 among those for Reminiscere (the Second Sunday in Lent), Tuesday of Holy Week, the First Sunday after Trinity, and the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity. Hymn #586 in The Lutheran Hymnal, another good Paul Gerhardt hymn, is said to refer or allude to Psalm 39:12, although it is said to be based more on Psalm 119:19 and Hebrews 11:13-16.

An unidentified artist’s depiction of the widow’s “mites”In a large, busy place, the most interesting thing of all may be happening quietly off to the side where no one else seems to be looking. We might get that sense in our reading today of Mark 12, where the chapter’s final verses (vv.41-44) tell of a widow who put two mites into the temple treasury as an offering. The chapter’s preceding verses tell how group after group of the Jewish leadership came to test Jesus only to go down in defeat. (See my previous post on Mark 12 for more on that.) Those challenges may have been the main attraction, but the more important event from Jesus’ perspective seems to have been the widow’s putting two mites into the temple treasury. (A “mite” apparently was a small brass coin, the smallest in circulation in Palestine then, equivalent to one-seventh or one-eighth of a farthing, and thus said to be roughly equal to one-fifth of a cent.) I was intrigued by the differences between images as I searched for one to accompany this post (to see a larger version of the selected image, again apparently from some turn-of-the-20th-century Sunday School material, either click it or see from where we got it); some available images showed an older widow and some a younger, some showed her with children, and some without. We don’t have to be a widow or have children to make sacrificial offerings to the Lord, of course; earlier in the chapter (v.17) Jesus Himself makes clear what we ought to give to God: our very selves (see the hymn linked below).

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Mark 12 does not come up in the historic 1-year lectionary we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace. However, hymn #404 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Mark 12:17; with a familiar tune, this hymn emphasizes our giving to God our heart, soul, and body—which bear His image.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 10, 2007

Ps 38 / Mk 11

When someone says something against us to our face, it seems almost impossible for us not to reply, usually defending or justifying ourselves in some way. Yet in Psalm 38 today we hear the psalmist say in verses 13-14 how, in response to his enemies and former friends, he acts as if he is a deaf man who hasn’t heard what has been said and as if he were a mute man who cannot reply to them. The silence to their false charges is in part due to his awareness of his own sin that warrants the rebuke he is getting, directly or indirectly, from God. Yet, the psalmist is not silent to God, to Whom he confesses his sin and appeals for help, patiently waiting for the Lord’s answer of deliverance (vv.15-16). Before God, of course, the only way we are justified is by grace through faith in the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us endeavor to follow the psalmist’s model of silence to our foes and confession and petition to God based on faith in Christ. (For more on Psalm 38, including it being one of the so-called seven penitential psalms, see this post.)

Given the penitential nature of Psalm 38, there is little surprise that The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 38 among those appointed for the Second Sunday of Advent, Ash Wednesday, Reminiscere (the First Sunday in Lent), Tuesday of Holy Week, the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity, and the day of Humiliation. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 38.
  • 38:4 -- #317 (note well the “I gladly suffer” at the end of the fourth stanza. Although there are other versions of the hymn with more stanzas, the six stanzas in the version we have are the ones thought certainly to be by Johann Major. While this hymn made it into Lutheran Worship, it did not make it into Lutheran Service Book.)
  • 38:22 -- #402 (a nice hymn that I don’t think I have sung in a long time; of course, we know that God will never forsake us, but there’s nothing wrong with making such a plea to Him. Unlike Lutheran Worship, which used a different tune for this hymn, Lutheran Service Book uses the TLH tune and setting of this hymn but, like LW uses updated language; LSB also drops the fourth stanza that was in TLH and LW.)

An unidentified artist’s depiction of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as described in Mark 11:1-11Lots of people get hero’s welcomes these days, the next example I can think of is the University of Florida’s football team that Monday night won the college football national championship. No doubt the team will be welcomed home with a ticker-tape parade. (In connection with New Year’s Eve in New York City I read something referring to “ticket-tape”; I guess the writers didn’t know better, since stock tickers that used ticker-tape have long since been replaced with electronic displays). Mark 11 in part tells of Jesus’ “hero’s welcome” (see here for an overview of the chapter as a whole, with some specific comments). As shown in the turn-of-the-20th-century Sunday School image accompanying this post (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it), palm branches, which were a sign of victory, welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem (John 12:13; confer Matthew 21:8, but compare Luke 19:36 and Mark 11:8, which would allow straw, rushes, or other leaves). Commentators are divided on just how much the people really thought was going on, but one thing is for sure such a welcome had taken place before, as for Simon Maccabaeus (1 Maccabees 13:51), with the people celebrating the driving out of an enemy of Israel. Simon Maccabaeus and his clan may have raised the people’s hopes, but they were ultimately dashed. Jesus, however, is the true Messiah, and though we may have grown more used to ticker-tape than palm branches, Revelation 7:9 suggests we will use them again.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Mark 11 for any Gospel readings, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Mark 11.)

There are three new questions posted regarding Mark 7-9: this one and the two following it. May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 09, 2007

Ps 37 / Mk 10

Recently in a social setting I had someone suggest to me—wrongly—that the Old Testament and New Testament are not consistent in that they have different views of such things as God and salvation. A similar idea is that Jesus is a new lawgiver, surpassing Moses, and that His so-called “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7 is an example of the “new” teaching that distinguishes the Old Testament from the New. Our reading today of Psalm 37 gives us an opportunity to briefly consider these matters with a case in point. My previous posts on Psalm 37 are here and here, and in the first I mention how Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:5 seems to echo Psalm 37:11. In fact, the statements are essentially the same: the meek (or “gentle”; to be more precise we could say “humbly repentant”) inherit the land (or “earth”; to be more precise we could say “new heaven and new earth”). Jesus no more in this case gives a new law or presents a different view of God and salvation than the psalmist contradicts himself by saying in verse 9 that “those who hope in the Lord” inherit the land or in verse 29 that “the righteous” inherit the land. God makes righteous those who humble themselves before Him in repentance and trust in Him for forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, ultimately blessing them for eternity in the new heavens and new earth. The God of the Old Testament and New Testament wills such salvation for all people, but, as is the case in the Old and New Testaments and now, sadly not all people avail themselves of this salvation in Christ that God so freely gives. (Pastor Sullivan Sunday in Bible class mentioned a helpful little saying about the Old and New Testaments that I hadn’t heard in a long time: The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.)

Psalm 37 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy among those appointed for the Feast of the Holy Innocents and for St. Mark’s day. And, hymn #520 in The Lutheran Hymnal refers to Psalm 37:5. This "cross and comfort" hymn is said to be “the most comforting” of Paul Gerhardt’s hymns. While there’s a popular tradition about its composition related to his expulsion from Berlin for faithfulness to the Lutheran Confessions, the more likely story is that he wrote it during his service in Mittenwalde before going to Berlin. The hymn’s inclusion a large number of hymnals of various languages is said to be evidence of its popularity, and I was pleased to see that it is included as #754 in Lutheran Service Book, even if they so altered the text as to give the hymn a different name and reduced by half the number of stanzas.

An image by an unknown artist depicting Jesus’ blessing little childrenBy the time you read this our congregation will likely have been blessed with the birth of another child. On such occasions, it is my privilege to share with the parents and child a Gospel account similar to the one we read today in Mark 10 about Jesus blessing little children. By an unknown artist, the image with this post depicts that scene, apparently for some turn-of-the-20th-century Sunday School material (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). My previous post on Mark 10 overviews the chapter and gives a few specific comments. Today I’m just going to also draw your attention to the cry of Bartimaeus that we can make our own: “Jesus, mercy!” (The historic liturgy of the church makes a similar cry in the "Kyrie Eleison" ("Lord, have mercy!".) As the Lord heard it then from Bartimaeus, so he hears it now for us, whether we are one day, one decade, or one century old.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

Please ask any questions you have.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, does not tap Mark 10 for any Gospel readings, but The Lutheran Hymnal contains four hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Mark 10:
  • 10:13-16 -- #300 (Pastor Sullivan has taken to sarcastically calling this my favorite Baptismal hymn; while I'm not completely against it, I do think there are better Baptismal hymns. This one has too much talk for my taste about what “we” are doing, and I also lament the fact that two previously omitted stanzas emphasizing the connection to Jesus’ blood remain omitted in Lutheran Service Book.)
  • 10:14 -- #302 (also a somewhat lacking “baptismal” hymn that seems more suited to a “dedication”), #627 (a hymn someone assembled from three hymns by someone else), #630 (you'll have to check your hymnal for this one) (None of these three made it into Lutheran Service Book.)

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 08, 2007

Ps 36 / Mk 9

There’s a song by contemporary Christian songwriter Michael Card called “The Promise” that relates to the birth of Christ. When I sing along with it aloud, as people who enjoy the song with me can tell you, in the chorus I usually transpose the words “life” and “light”. Now, I’m not just making excuses, but our reading of Psalm 36 today gives me some justification for the switch. Verse 9 tells us that not only is the Lord the fountain of life (an idea I elaborated on a year ago when I overviewed the psalm in this post), but verse 9 also tells us that in the Lord’s light we see light. You see the close connection in the verse between “life” and “light” (I also think of the practice of giving the newly-baptized at the Font of Life a burning candle to indicate their illumination by the Holy Spirit). A little more reflection on light and life seems fitting just a few days after Epiphany (January 6). The psalmist says in the Lord’s light we see light, which means that apart from God we are in total darkness. Such darkness is equated to death (see, for examples, Psalm 49:19; 56:13; Job 3:20; 33:30). But the great news of Epiphany is that light shines on those walking in darkness and the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2, and recall Ps 23:4). Isaiah 60:1-3 tells us our darkness is broken by the glory of the Lord (that is, the Lord Himself) rising and illuminating the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). The Lord, Who wears light like a garment (Psalm 104:2) and Who by His Word first created literal light out of literal darkness (Genesis 1:3-5) sends His Word to us, in Whom we find light and life (John 1:4). Our sin-caused death is remedied by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, Who is the light of the world (John 8:12). In the light of the Lord’s countenance (Psalm 4:6) we have salvation (Psalm 27:1). His presence is light (Isaiah 2:5), and we recall that in the heaven of eternity there is no need for a sun (Isaiah 60:19; Revelation 21:23; 22:5). Finally, in the Spirit of Epiphany, remember that we who have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light show forth that light to the world by our praise (1 Peter 2:9).

Given the Epiphany connection I just pointed out, there’s little surprise that The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 36 among those appointed for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, as well as for the Presentation of Christ and the Purification of Mary, the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the day of St. Simon and St. Jude. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer to verses from Psalm 36:
  • 36:7 -- #340 (a "lay" is "a short lyric or narrative poem intended to be sung"; the hymnwriter’s and KJV’s “loving-kindness”, checed in the Hebrew, is “unfailing love” in the NIV and can also is frequently translated elsewhere as “mercy”)
  • 36:9 -- #600 (this 1572 hymn by Nikolaus Selnecker was first published with Psalm 116:9 as the given Scripture reference, but, when published again six years later, Psalm 36:9 was included among the references)

An image of the Transfiguration altarpiece by Raphael (1483-1520), said to be one of Europe’s greatest artistsMark 9 is another reading appropriate for our Epiphany season (remember this Daily Lectionary we are following is described as “generally in harmony with the liturgical church year). The Transfiguration of our Lord is arguably the greatest of His showing-forths of His Divine nature from His human flesh. Yet, it was just a glimpse, full glory waits for Jesus until the cross, as full glory awaits us after we are finished bearing ours (recall Jesus’ teaching in Mark 8:34-9:1, which immediately precedes the account of the Transfiguration). This year we observe Transfiguration in three weeks, on January 28. Although it's not how I usually picture the Transfiguration, the image with this post is of the 1520 Transfiguration altarpiece by Raphael (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). Raphael lived from 1483-1520, and this altarpiece, said to be the most ambitious and largest of his oil paintings, was his last altarpiece, exhibited just after his death. Giulio de’ Medici had commissioned the painting for the French Cathedral of Narbonne, but after 1523 it was still in Rome, in San Pietro in Montorio. Napoleon had the work taken to Paris in 1797, but it was brought back to the Vatican in 1815. (My previous post on Mark 9, which overviews all of the chapter, is here.)

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, ask it, and your question will be posted (anonymously) with an answer.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services makes no use of Mark 9 for Gospel readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal apparently contain hymns that are specifically said to refer to verses from Mark 9 (although compare the hymn linked in my previous post on Mark 9).

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 07, 2007

Ps 35 / Mk 8

Some of us no doubt have known intimate betrayal: when a co-worker, close friend, or family member, whom we thought was on our side, turned on us and figuratively stabs us in the back. In Psalm 35 the psalmist is apparently suffering from such a betrayal; note in verses 13-16 what the psalmist had done for them when they were afflicted compared to how they had reacted when he was afflicted. (A previous post with more of an overview of Psalm 35 is here.) Like all the psalms, Psalm 35 is perhaps best found on the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was betrayed by one of His close disciples and killed by enemies who hated Him without reason (Psalm 35:19 may be behind our Lord’s words in John 15:25). Of course, Jesus was betrayed for our benefit, and, though we often betray Him, He does not betray us. In His revealing Himself to be God and man at the manger, on the cross, and at the empty tomb, we by grace through faith have forgiveness for all our sins, even those of betraying Him.

I expected to find Psalm 35 used in connection with our Lord’s Passion, and, indeed, The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 35 among those appointed for Palmarum (Palm Sunday), the Monday of Holy Week, and the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity. (The Lutheran Hymnal apparently contains no hymns that refer or allude to verses from this psalm.)

__Perhaps like you, I know there have been times in my life when I have wanted some sort of miraculous sign from the Lord—maybe like Gideon’s fleece (see Judges 6:17-40), although I usually think I would settle for something less dramatic and that one sign would be sufficient. Truly we are part of the wicked and adulterous generation (with influence from Matthew 16:4) that in desiring its own signs thereby rejects the signs God offers. In Mark 8 we see a great example of such a rejection. (You can find my previous, more-general post on Mark 8 here.) Mark describes how Jesus fed more than 4,000 men, not to mention women and children. The image with this post, by an unknown author apparently from some turn-of-the-20th-century Sunday School material, shows Jesus directing His disciples to feed the people (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). The feeding recalled the manna, the bread from heaven in the Old Testament wilderness wandering, and the Jewish leaders should have recognized it. Despite the sign of the miraculous feeding, the Jewish leaders ask for a sign from heaven. I’d say “another” sign, but they didn’t recognize the one that had just been given! In the Sacrament of the Altar, Jesus has directed pastors, His servants today, to feed us people bread that miraculously also is His body. The Sacrament has long been regarded to be a mysterious sign. Unlike the disbelieving Pharisees, this miraculous sign should be sufficient for us. Is it?

This previously posted question and answer touches on the topic of denying the faith, as found in Mark 8:38. If you have a question, please ask it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Mark 8:1-9 as the Gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity. And, hymn #346 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Mark 8:38. The hymn was apparently written by Joseph Grigg (1722-1768) when he was ten years old, although the version we have was significantly altered by Benjamin Francis, which alteration at least one source describes as a decided improvement. This hymn bothered me when I was younger, due perhaps to its sharp preaching of the law or to what today I would say is a near absence of Gospel. The hymn was further altered and updated for the 1982 Lutheran Worship #393, but the 2006 Lutheran Service Book omits the hymn completely.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially today, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 06, 2007

Ps 34 / Mk 7

When do you pray to the Lord? When you have a special need? When you have received an especially nice blessing? Growing up we were taught to pray before and after meals and before going to sleep. As I got older and came to appreciate more Dr. Luther’s Small Catechism, I also tried to pray consistently in the morning when I woke up, although I also seem to have reluctantly adopted the practice of before a meal praying both the before-meal prayer and the after-meal prayer. Psalm 34 today tells us to bless the Lord at all times (v.1, KJV, ASV, NASB; “extol” NIV). Now, admittedly praise and prayer are not identical, but prayer is a form of praise and usually has praise as some of its content. (See the January 1st post for more on what it means to bless the Lord.) Not only is praise to God continuously to be on our lips (see Psalm 71:6), but we are to thank God always and for everything (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). We may explain away “always” and “continuously” as exaggerated statements to make a point about frequent prayer (who can really pray “continuously”?), but I don’t think we can do that with “everything”. When we thank God for His blessings, no matter what they are, and present our requests to Him, then we experience the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). As the psalmist reminds us, we will have afflictions and troubles (see the whole psalm, but especially vv.2, 6, 17, 19), but we can rejoice in them because the Lord saves and delivers us from them. The liturgy of the Divine Service reminds us that “It is truly meet [or fitting], right, and salutary [or healthful] that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks” unto God, and it reminds us that “chiefly are we bound to praise [Him] for the glorious resurrection of [His] Son Jesus Christ, our Lord”. The psalmist has that redemption in view, too (see v.22). My earlier comments on Psalm 34 are here and here.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 34 among those appointed for Invocavit (the First Sunday in Lent), Easter (the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord), the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, and St. Michael and All Angels. The Lutheran Hymnal contains three hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 34.
  • 34 -- #29 (a metrical version of Psalm 34 from the late 1600s that originally contained 18 stanzas)
  • 34:7 -- #413 (a number of other passages are also given as the basis for this fine hymn about our walk as Christians; note the balance of three “in danger” stanzas and three “deliverance” stanzas; the tune, which predates the hymn, is said to be named for a hymn that redeemed the melody from a folk song that dishonored God.)
  • 34:8 -- #307 (a wonderful Lord's Supper hymn, apparently 7th-century Irish in origin, perhaps thinking of the woman as one of "the least" in stanza 1)

 From the floor in front of tower oratory altar at the Jerusalem YMCA, an unidentified artist’s etching of dogs eating the children’s crumbs, referring to Mark 7:28Unless you were born a Jew, you and I are Gentiles, grouped with the woman whom Jesus in Mark 7 figuratively refers to as a dog but nevertheless blessed to eat the Jewish children’s crumbs, especially the bread that is Christ’s body in the Sacrament of the Altar. Depicting such a scene and suggesting such an application, the image with this post is from in front of the altar in the tower oratory of the Jerusalem YMCA (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). While our Lord’s comment can seem quite harsh, we do well to note that in Mark’s account He is not excluding the Gentiles from the plan of salvation (the Jews get the bread “first”; see Romans 1:16), and Jesus’ certainly knows what is in the woman’s heart and may well be testing her faith, as He tests ours. She finds the promise in His words, understands her position, persists with her request, and her confession of faith is praised and rewarded. May we also receive such praise of and reward for our confessions of faith. My previous post on Mark 7 also comments on this scene, with a clarifying folo here, and also discusses the chapter’s other two scenes.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Mark 7:31-37 for the Gospel reading on the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Mark 7.)

On this Epiphany Day and always, may the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially tomorrow, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 05, 2007

Ps 33 / Mk 6

I’ve been trying to work more intensely on my dissertation since the busy-ness of the holy-days has ended, and the other night I was reading again about a distinction that is sometimes made between God’s absolute power and His ordained power. That distinction in God’s power somewhat relates to talk about God’s hidden aspects compared to those He reveals to us. God essentially is free to act any way He wants, and we do not always know the reasons behind His actions. So, when I read Psalm 33 today, I was struck by the second part of verse 4: “He is faithful in all He does” (NIV; “all His work is done in faithfulness” ASV, NASB, ESV; or “truth” KJV, NKJV; “you can trust everything He does” Beck’s AAT; but compare “all His work endures” NEB). Just about any way the statement is translated, it is quite a statement. So often we do not understand the reasons behind things that happen, but by faith in God, created and informed by what He reveals about Himself in His true Word (the beginning of verse 4), we are able to know that no matter what happens God is still acting faithfully, truthfully. One commentator says that God’s truthful acts verify the truth of His Word, but I also think that the second half of verse 4 can be understood as a statement drawn from the Word of the first half, for we would not know of God’s faithfulness apart from His Word. God is faithful in all He does: even the seemingly unjust death of His innocent Son for our sins, even the seemingly unjust redemption by grace through faith of all of us who have sinned, and even the seemingly unjust more minor things that we regard as “bad things” happening to “good people”. Those “bad things” fit into God’s plan, although we do not understand how, and we confess with the psalmist that they are faithful and truthful acts. (My previous posts on Psalm 33 are here and here, and verse 6 is mentioned in this previously posted Q&A.)

Psalm 33 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Quinquagesima (the Sunday in the fifth period of ten days before Easter), Laetare Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Lent), the Feast of the Holy Trinity, St. Michael and All Angels, and the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. Hymn #31 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 33:1. The hymn is a “worship and praise” hymn, offering 5 of Joseph Addison’s original 13 stanzas of gratitude.

British sculptor George Tinworth (1843-1913) depicts Herod and company waiting for the head of John the BaptizerGod’s messengers bring such Gospel good news their feet are said to be beautiful (Isaiah 52:7, and see Romans 10:15), but God’s messengers often first must preach the bad news of the law to show people their sin so that they will repent and believe the good news. As we hear today in Mark 6, King Herod and his family were among those to whom John the Baptizer preached the law but who presumably failed to repent and believe—as a part of birthday banquet Herod ordered John killed and his head delivered on a platter. The image with this post is of a ceramic relief by British sculptor George Tinworth (1843-1913) that depicts Herod and company waiting for John’s head (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). What a difference between the outcome of that banquet and the one that immediately follows it in St. Mark’s account, where Jesus compassionately teaches and feeds His followers, as He does us in the Divine Service. For more on Mark 6, see my previous post on the chapter.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:
  • 6:3 Jesus’ “family” (Note that the Greek word on Jesus’ lips in 6:4 is suggenes, which comes from the preposition sun, meaning “union”, and genos for “kind” or “nation”; the idea in 6:4 is certainly of extended family or people or nation, a meaning that adelphos, which is used in 6:3, can have, although there the meaning for the word on the lips of the townspeople seems to be someone “born of the same two parents or only of the same father or mother”.)
  • 6:7 exorcisms and healings today (see also this reference to that Q&A)
  • 6:14-29 John’s imprisonment
  • 6:16 which King Herod

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Mark 6 for any Gospel readings, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to Mark 6.

Receive the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, dwelling among you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 04, 2007

Ps 32 / Mk 5

Whom do you think of as “blessed”? Someone who has a successful life as measured in the world by health and riches? Health and riches sometimes can be blessings from God, but Psalm 32 makes it clear that a truly blessed person (man or woman, girl or boy) is the person whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered, whose sin the Lord does not count against him or her. Those three expressions are parallel, that is, they essentially mean the same thing, and the “blessing” they refer to is only given by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. You can read more about Psalm 32 in my previous post on it and in the brief folo on that post.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 32 among those appointed for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Invocavit (the First Sunday in Lent), the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the day of St. Mary Magdalene. The Lutheran Hymnal includes two hymns that refer or allude to verses from this psalm:
  • Psalm 32 -- #392 (Isaac Watts’ 1719 paraphrase of Psalm 32, originally headed “Justification and Sanctification”, and we can see both how Watts was influenced by Romans 4 and how he teaches well salvation by grace alone while also making clear that good works follow from saving grace.)
  • 32:1 -- #22 (Note in stanza 3 the use of the word “essay” as a verb meaning “undertake” or “try”, for which it is pronounced like the similar verb “assay”, the accent not on the first syllable but on the second.)

Enjoy these hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal, as neither of them made it into either Lutheran Worship or Lutheran Service Book.

An image of a painting apparently done by Czech painter Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1840-1915) depicting Jesus’ raising Jairus’ daughterI mentioned that health can be a blessing from God, and you should understand that health is a blessing from God but that not everyone will receive that blessing here and now the way everyone can receive forgiveness. Still, health and forgiveness are related, as we have heard in our reading so far of the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. Today in Mark 5 we read, among other things, of Jesus’ raising Jairus’ daughter. (The image with this post is of Czech painter Gabriel Cornelius von Max’s depiction of that miracle; to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it.) The miraculous resurrection was no less an act of mercy that the preceding mass exorcism, and the resurrection also points forward to Jesus’ own resurrection and thus to the resurrection from the dead and ultimate healing that all will experience on the last day—of course, disbelievers in Christ are resurrected to the never-ending horrors of hell and believers in Christ to eternal bliss in heaven. (You can read more on Mark 5 in my previous post on it and in this brief folo to that post.)

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

Ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Mark 5 for any Gospel readings, and only hymn #593 in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refers to Mark 5, specifically 5:39. Aside from the obvious answer to the question its title poses, hymn #593 is a wonderful “death and burial” hymn, another one by Isaac Watts (1707) that failed to make it into either of the LCMS’ more-recent hymnals.

Receive the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, dwelling among you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 03, 2007

Ps 31 / Mk 4 / Folo

People today, it is said, are all about instant gratification. We want something, and we want it right now. Communication technology such as faxes, cell phones, and high-speed internet only increase such expectations. I remember when college grades were mailed, and students returning home from a semester had at least a couple of weeks to work on their parents before grades arrived; now students, and perhaps in some cases their parents, can instantly view grades via the internet (the University of Texas at Austin does not even mail grades unless a request is made each semester). Today Psalm 31 prompted me to reflect on our frequent desire for an instant response because I noticed how the petition of verse 2 seems to have already been granted by verse 3. The psalmist asked the Lord to be his rock of refuge and strong fortress, and then he asks the Lord to do things since the Lord is his rock and fortress. That’s a pretty immediate response on the part of the Lord! Of course, not all of our petitions to God are answered in such a way within the same prayer. We know for sure, however, that when we repentantly and in faith prayer for forgiveness, we are immediately forgiven, even if the gratification of our full and final deliverance is much delayed. (My earlier comments on Psalm 31 are here and here, and the psalm came up in this discussion of the Father forsaking Jesus.)

Psalm 31 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Septuagesima Sunday (the Sunday that falls in the seventh period of ten days before Easter), Invocavit (the First Sunday in Lent), the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity. Only hymn #435 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 31; note well how it expresses our submission to whatever God actively sends or allows to happen!

Stephen Gjertson's 1997 depiction of Jesus' stilling the seaSpeaking of storms of life, today’s reading of Mark 4 reminds us that the Lord is in control of them all. The image with this post is a 1997 painting by Stephen Gjertson, an American classical realist, which is apparently owned by St. John's Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Mound, Minnesota (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). Jesus’ words to the wind and waves in Mark 4:39 in a sense could have been said to the disciples and be said to us, as we need not question what comes or doubt whether our Lord cares for us, since He gave His life for us that we might have eternal life. (There are additional comments on this chapter in my previous post about it.)

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Mark 4 for any Gospel readings, but hymn #49 from The Lutheran Hymnal refers to Mark 4:3-9.

The image of the bound man in yesterday’s post prompted today’s Biblog folo. I commented that “he’s not particularly satanic” and at that writing wondered if someone might not comment as one reader did:

Sometimes I think we are unduly influenced by the “uglies” of medieval art. I suspect the devil, seeking those he may devour, looks all too “normal” to the object of his attentions. He was an angel of light, [and] now [is a] prince of darkness. To me, the darkness is in the eyes of that picture.

Holy Scripture such as 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan can still take that appearance of an angel of light as he tries to deceive us. While the picture also does not appear to be an angel of light, it good to be reminded that the devil works to tempt us through the world and our own sinful flesh, through things that do appear to be all too “normal”. Thank God that with His help we can resist the devil as did our Lord.

Thanks to reader questions there are three new Q&A posted: this one regarding Matthew 1:25 and two regarding Mark 1, beginning with this one (the other is right below it). Receive the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, dwelling among you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

January 02, 2007

Ps 30 / Mk 3

I watched a lot of college and professional football over the last few days, and I remember hearing the commentators on at least one game talk about how a team can get intimidated by its opponents’ defense and become less aggressive and perhaps lose the game as a result. Psalm 30 suggests quite the opposite is the case in our Christian life. Notice how in verse 6 the psalmist is self-confident and how in verse 7 that self-confidence resulted in a humbling by the Lord. That humbling, however, resulted in a cry for mercy that itself resulted in restoration. Like St. Paul, we can say that when we are weak and dependant on God then we are strong in Him (2 Corinthians 12:10). (See here for my previous post on Psalm 30 and here for a brief folo on that post.)

Psalm 30 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Eleventh and Fourteenth Sundays after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 30.)

An unidentified artist’s depiction of a bound manWe are only strong, when we are “weak”, because of Jesus, Who is the Man stronger than the strong devil. Jesus binds the devil and in a sense “robs” him of us! An unidentified contemporary artist depicts a bound man, in the image that accompanies this post; he's not particularly satanic, although he can also depict us bound in sin (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it). Jesus’ defeat of and power over the devil are definitely key points to remember from the reading of Mark 3 today. Notice those points not only in the parable of verse 27 but in all the surrounding context. Jesus can command the demons to come out of people because He is stronger than their master. (Realize also that the demons’ confession of Jesus as in v.11 does not do them any good, such as saving them by faith.) My previous post on Mark 3 overviews the whole chapter and makes some specific comments, and there is a folo to that previous post here. (I am going to have to reflect more on the placement of the teaching regarding the house divided against itself between the references to Jesus’ “family”.)

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

Ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Mark 3 for any Gospel readings, nor do any hymns The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to Mark 3.

Receive the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, dwelling among you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:23 AM

January 01, 2007

Lk 1:68-79 / Mk 2

Happy new secular year and month! With the new month comes a new seasonal canticle, and for January that’s Luke 1:68-79. There are some comments on this canticle, or liturgical song without a fixed meter, in the background information for January’s readings and in my post on it last year (I also brought up a few of the verses in this question and answer). As I mention in one of those places, the canticle is known as the “Benedictus”, its first word in Latin, which is translated “blessed”. Many translations keep with “Blessed be” (KJV, ASV, NASB, ESV; the NKJV translates “blessed is”), although others do not (the NIV translates the same Hebrew “Praise be to”, the NEB renders “praise to”, and Beck’s AAT puts it as a command, “Praise”). I suppose that either “blessed” or “praised” is correct if properly understood. Usually we think of people blessing other people in the form of a prayer to God or of a representative of God declaring God’s blessing on people. But, there is also this blessing or praise of God by people, a giving God the glory that flows from faith and gratitude, that also usually takes the form of a prayer. The Divinely-inspired author of Hebrews 7:7 tells us that the greater blesses the less, so in that sense our “blessing” God seems odd. The verbal forms can be used to refer to things that are set apart as holy, and God certainly is that! In the New Testament, the Greek adjective Zachariah uses is used only of God. Perhaps we can still translate “blessed” if we think along the lines of what Dr. Luther teaches us regarding the Lord’s Prayer and mean that, while God is praised in Himself, we pray that He may be praised among us.

Aside from the canticle in Matins, we at Grace do not use these verses for a Gospel reading on Sundays or festivals, as the historic 1-year lectionary we use does not appoint them for any. Several hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal, however, refer to the verses.
  • 1:78 -- #359 (the connection apparently is the Dayspring)
  • 1:78, 79 -- #88 (a Christmas hymn with an otherwise familiar tune that also makes good use of the light imagery as the spread of the Gospel)
  • 1:79 -- #512 (a “missions” hymn that similarly makes use of the light imagery)

An unidentified artist’s image of Jesus forgiving and healing a paralyzed manIn a very real sense, today’s reading of Mark 2 is all about authority. Now, often when someone talks about authority (or “power”, as the Greek word is sometimes translated), the discussion is negative and resentful, as if someone is on an ego or power trip. That’s certainly not the case with Jesus—His authority is for our benefit, and we should welcome it. He can forgive sins, as demonstrated in the healing of the paralyzed man as pictured in some what is apparently an unknown artist’s turn-of-the-20th-century Sunday School material (to see a larger version of the image, either click it or see from where we got it), and He authorizes others to do so on His behalf, notably through Word and Sacrament (note the meal, the wine, and the grain). Those who welcome Him and His Kingdom will leave the old works-righteous ideas behind. See the overview of today’s reading in my post on them from last year, and, specifically on 2:19-22, you might see this previously posted Q&A, even though it doesn’t mention the Mark parallel we read today.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Mark 2:13-17 and Levi’s apparently being renamed “Matthew”. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not tap Mark 2 for any Gospel readings, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to Mark 2.

Receive the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, dwelling among you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM