(excerpted from Reading the Psalms with Luther)
1 Give the king Your justice, O God, and Your righteousness to the Royal Son! 2 May He judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice! 3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! 4 May He defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! 5 May they fear You while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! 6 May He be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! 7 In His days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more! 8 May He have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! 9 May desert tribes bow down before Him, and His enemies lick the dust! 10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render Him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! 1 1 May all kings fall down before Him, all nations serve Him! 12 For He delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14 From oppression and violence He redeems their life, and precious is their blood in His sight. 15 Long may He live; may gold of Sheba be given to Him! May prayer be made for Him continually, and blessings invoked for Him all the day! 16 May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field! 17 May His Name endure forever, His fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in Him, all nations call Him blessed! 18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. 19 Blessed be His Glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory! Amen and Amen! 20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.
The 72nd psalm is an exceedingly magnificent and beautiful prophecy of Christ and His rule in the whole world. In this Kingdom, neither sin nor the evil conscience shall flower and reign (as under the Law) but only righteousness, freedom, and joy of conscience. However, this is not without the cross. On account of the cross, their blood shall be shed and counted as very precious to God. And the psalm also announces the new worship, which is to call on God and to thank Him. He tells us to pray to God daily and daily to praise Him. This is our daily offering among all the Gentiles. At this time we hear nothing of circumcision, nor that the kings and Gentiles should receive the Law of Moses, but rather that they remain kings and Gentiles and receive this King as truly God by nature, call on Him, and glorify Him. For to call on God in distress and to thank Him for His help is the worship that alone pleases Him, who is alone our helper in need and our Savior. Without Him, all else is no help at all.
To You, our Heavenly Father, we lift up our hearts with joyous thanks, because You have granted us the knowledge of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in whom we have everlasting life. Preserve in us this saving knowledge, that we may hear His voice with joy, and may go with Him into His eternal kingdom. Amen.
Rev. Jeffrey Proctor
(excerpted from Reading the Psalms with Luther)
1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 5 The Lord is at your right hand; He will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. 7 He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
The 110th psalm is a prophecy of Christ, that He shall be an eternal king and priest, indeed true God, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and that He would be glorified and recognized. In the entire Scripture there is nothing like this psalm. It would be right to acknowledge it as the chief confirmation of the Christian faith. For nowhere else is Christ prophesied with such clear, plain words as a priest and an eternal priest. It is prophesied as well that the priesthood of Aaron would be abolished. This psalm is yet again and more splendidly extolled in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is indeed a shame that such a psalm is not more richly extolled by Christians.
Praise and honor belong to You, everlasting Word, because You were made flesh and sacrificed Yourself upon the cross as the offering for sin. Govern us according to Your wisdom; defend us against our enemies; speak for us with Your Father, and let us live under You in Your Kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
Rev. Jeffrey Proctor
I love this photo. So does my wife. She once remarked how she wished she could buy a poster of it so we could put it up in our house. I filed that one away. For her birthday three years ago, I had a giclée print made of this photo. It now hangs in our living room.
The scene in the photo is moving, even without any movement. It’s poignant. The Mass is being celebrated in a bombed out church. Even though the building is badly damaged, walls crumbling in places, stone blocks strewn about outside, that’s not true of what’s taking place inside. The clergy (celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon) are beautifully vested and conduct themselves in a manner fitting of the high altar. The same is true of the acolytes. The fair linen lays atop the altar. The missal stand is in place. The candles are lit.
Let the ruin and disorder and war being waged remain outside. Let the service within be conducted with beauty and order and reverence. Jesus is here. This is where God comes to man. This is where Heaven touches earth in Word AND Sacrament.
I’ve been thinking about this photo a lot lately. If we are to be the church, the ekklesia, the assembly of those called out of chaos/darkness and into God’s marvelous order/light, then this is what we need to be about ALL THE TIME. This is not only true when London and Dresden are bombed, and New Orleans is devastated by Hurricane Katrina. It is especially true when a virus, a “deadly pestilence” ravages the whole world.
We may miss a Sunday or two do to travel or illness, but prolonged absence from the solemn assembly of the saints does more damage to the soul than we realize. Home church doesn’t cut it. Living room worship never lives up. We need to gather, really gather, assemble . . . in person.
At the start of all this COVID-19 stuff, selections from Martin Luther’s “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague” were quoted all across social media. The bubonic plague wreaked havoc on Wittenberg a few times during Luther’s life. When it came in 1527, a fellow pastor urged Luther to tackle the question of whether it was permissible for a person to run away from a deadly plague. Interestingly, Luther’s own prince, Elector John, had required the university, students and faculty, along with John Bugenhagen, the pastor of the city church, to relocate to Jena until the plague abated and things settled down. Against the prince’s orders, Luther, Bugenhagen, and a few other clergy remained in Wittenberg.
The part from Luther’s pamphlet that I saw quoted most is the following: “I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.”
It appears as if Luther was the proto-social distancer. He states very openly that he will avoid places and people that don’t require his presence so as not to be guilty of their death should he perchance infect them. So there you go.
But wait just a minute. What I didn’t see quoted too much on social media was the conclusion of Luther’s pamphlet. Luther had put his pen down for a time after dealing with his initial topic. (By the way, the short answer to whether one may flee a deadly plague or not is . . . yes, as long as you aren’t abandoning your neighbor in need.) When Luther took to write again, he added the following:
“Because this letter will go out in print for people to read, I regard it useful to add some brief instructions on how one should care and provide for the soul in time of death. We have done this orally from the pulpit, and still do so every day in fulfilment of the ministry to which we have been called as pastors. First, one must admonish the people to attend church and listen to the sermon so that they learn through God’s Word how to live and how to die . . . Second, everyone should prepare in time and get ready for death by going to confession and taking the sacrament once every week or fortnight . . . Third, if someone wants the chaplain or pastor to come, let the sick person send word in time to call him and let him do so early enough while he is still in his right mind before the illness overwhelms the patient.”
Luther is clear. Even in the midst of a plague, people should be admonished to attend church so they can hear the sermon and receive the sacrament every week. EVERY WEEK. If every week isn’t doable, then AT LEAST every other week.
Some of you have been away from the Divine Service for nearly 4 months! Some of you even longer. I can only imagine the effect that’s had on you. It’s time to come back to church. It’s time to rejoin the solemn assembly of the saints. Come and hear the Word of God. Come and receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus, given and shed for you. Come and learn not only how to live, but also how to die. Come and confess your sins. Come and confess with your brothers and sisters the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
Here is your medicine of immortality. Here is your hope for tomorrow.
Rev. Jeffrey Proctor
A TERRIBLE ANNIVERSARY
We will not let the terrible anniversary of January 22, 1973 pass by unnoticed. We are a people of unclean lips, a people of violence. For the past 48 years our country has not merely turned a blind eye to the murder of babies in their mothers’ wombs, but has claimed it was some sort of right, using its power, influence, and financial ability to aid the crime.
The women themselves are victims as much as the babies. Certainly not all, but most of them are young. They are afraid. They are hormonal. Add pressure from a world that calls an evil thing “good,” and it is not difficult to understand how and why so many choose this tragic path. However they ended up in that situation, it hardly matters: they want out of it. They have been sold a bill of goods that sex does not have consequences, and that they should not have to suffer for their actions or for the actions that are taken against them.
The medical community sterilizes abortion. It pretends like it is a surgery without consequence or effect, like having a mole removed. But there are consequences: increased risk of cancer, damage to other organs, threats to future pregnancies. But most significantly, the brokenness and emptiness, the aching heart that no doctor even pretends to address or fix. The medical community struggles valiantly to cure disease, to deal with all sorts of problems of the body, to overcome death and pain, to save lives. That is difficult but good and necessary work. However, the medical community has no trouble or difficulty when it comes to killing babies. That is actually quite easy. And you do not need a doctor to do it. There is no real knowledge or skill required. The only thing a doctor brings is a false sense of legitimacy. The doctor brings the lie that abortion is not the murder of a baby.
The legalization of abortion has misled and deceived these poor women. It has stolen their babies and their youth. And this is to our great shame, for we are a country unable to recognize and protect women and children. We would have women ruined and babies murdered under the guise of mercy or right, and in the vain hope of convenience, or saving money, or personal growth, or even, reducing the number of “those types of people.”
Lord, have mercy.
We who are alive on this side of glory are part of the Church Militant. But our fight is not against flesh and blood. It is not against the abortionist or the women seeking abortion or those who advocate for “reproductive rights.” Our fight is against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the Heavenly places.” Our implements of war are the Word of God, prayer, faith, truth, righteousness (see Ephesians 6:10–20). At the same time, we are citizens of earthly kingdoms, called to serve our neighbors, and so we must not remain silent. We can never call an evil thing “good.” While we pray and believe and meditate upon the Word of God, we also vote, volunteer, donate, and speak on behalf of babies and their mothers, and the most vulnerable in our midst.
In the end the only real hope we have is the Gospel itself. Only the death of Jesus Christ is good enough and big enough to atone for us, to reconcile us to the women and children and their families whom we have wronged, and only the resurrection can reunite us. May God in His mercy intervene and change this vile law. May He bring comfort and hope to those who have been and are hurting from it and victimized by it. May He give us the courage and love to be a place and a people that not only accepts and loves victims and criminals alike, without fear of consequence, but also to be a people who will speak the truth even when it is costly.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Jeffrey Proctor