Lord Jesus, when You began Your bitter suffering for our sins amid great agony of soul, when Your soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, and drops of blood oozed from Your sacred brow, the eyes of Your disciples were heavy with sleep, so that You had to call to them: “Could you not watch with Me one hour? . . . Sleep and take your rest later on” [Matthew 26:40, 45].
Archives for March 2015
Monday in Holy Week
Psalmody: Psalm 35:1–6, 9–10
Additional Psalm: Psalm 71, Psalm 143
Old Testament Reading: Exodus 9:1–28
Additional Reading: Lamentations 1:1–22
New Testament Reading: Hebrews 2:1–18
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (L29)
The death toll mounts, and the very ground groans in travail. The waters die, the livestock dies, the vegetation dies, soon the light will also die—what is left? The people who suffered will also die. The firstborn sons will be taken, and all that is left will be sorrow and mourning. The cries of the Israelites were carried up to God in their distress and pain; now the cries of the Egyptians rise up, but they fall upon deaf ears. They have sinned against God and humankind; they have oppressed the holy, chosen people of God; they have reached out their arms and struck those whom God has ordained as His own. There are no ears to hear their cries, and the death toll mounts.
The smell of death is upon the land, and it would seem that the toll mounts uncontrolled, without reason. Enough is enough; will it not stop? Will there be anything left? Yet Pharaoh holds fast to his stubborn and wicked ways as the cries of anguish are heard throughout the land. So, the Lord God decimates the land and the Egyptians in order that they may no longer be a threat to His people. Everything is in His control, and He wields His sword mightily.
Even as the smell of death wafts across the land of Egypt, it does not drift into the land of Goshen. The death toll mounts, but the Hebrews are spared, for the Lord works His will and fights the battle for them. He is their champion upon the field as He sets the stage for the rescue that will soon come.
Death surrounds us; we walk through the valley of its shadow; we dwell in the very midst of this reality. All around us, the death toll mounts as the world ignores the One who gives life and preserves it. All around us, death swings his sickle and reaps his harvest, but the smell of death does not fill the nostrils of the children of God, for He has stopped it and stayed its power from our land.
Death is not an enemy that slinks easily away. Death must be defeated. Death must be conquered upon the battlefield and be chained, lest it return to take us to its dark valley. So the Champion who fought for the people of God of old also fights for the people of God today. Jesus Christ is the warrior strong to save. Jesus Christ is the One who has faced death and struck him down in defeat, even as He has chained him forever by His victory over the grave. He has fought and won the battle, securing the victory for His children.
Even though we are surrounded by death on all sides, we fear no evil, for God is with us. Even though the stench of death is strong upon the land of darkness, we are safe and secure in the redeeming arms of the One who faced down death in our place, bestowing upon us life—even life everlasting.
The Prayer of the Day is from Lutheran Service Book, Collects of the Day © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
From A Year in the Old Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year, page 112 © 2012 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
To order A Year in the Old Testament, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit www.cph.org.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:12–13
Hosanna! Save us, Lord! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel! The people stripped fronds from palm trees and threw their coats on the ground to make a royal highway for their King, who rode into the packed city on a donkey.
The air was thick with excitement and tension. This was Jesus’ grand entry. He was welcomed into His city as the messianic King with shouts of Psalm 118 and echoes of Zechariah 9:9: “Behold, your king is coming to you.”
He came on a mount of peace, a donkey and not a horse. Yet this crowd was ready to make war, to overthrow the Romans, to restore the throne and the glory to Israel, and Jesus was their man. They had seen and heard of His raising Lazarus. The sign confirmed in their minds He was the one to redeem Israel.
But God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. We have plans for God—the way He should work. And God has an eternal plan for us in His Son—the way we should be saved. Jesus did come to the city to wage holy war, but it was one that He alone would fight. He did come to redeem Israel and the whole world, not from political oppression but from bondage to sin, death, and the condemning sentence of the Law. He came as a king, but on a borrowed donkey. A “beggar king.”
We sing “Hosanna!” and “Blessed!” too. Not in the streets, but in the liturgy. He comes to us also, lowly and humble, no longer on a donkey but by way of the bread that is His body and the wine that is His blood. He comes as our King to give us the gifts of His reign, and we, His servants, rejoice in our King. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!
From Sacred Head, Now Wounded: Daily Devotions, page 50 © 2009 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Frederick the Wise is back from the printer! Read below what others are saying about this fascinating biography of Martin Luther’s protector.
To his family, friends, peers, and subjects, Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony was much more than simply Martin Luther’s noble protector. Dr. Wellman’s thoroughly researched and engaging biography paints a vivid image of the Saxon elector. It is sure to become a valuable resource for students of German history and the Reformation period. Interested readers will be introduced to a Christian prince whose humanity and integrity were rare for someone of his elite status within the German empire. They will also encounter political intrigue and scandalous behavior. Praiseworthy, yet not without his flaws, Frederick the Wise steps out from the pages as an exceptional and noteworthy man of his time.
—Paul M. Bacon, PhD
Adjunct Professor of Art History
River Forest, IL
Sam Wellman’s telling of the story of the public and personal life of Luther’s celebrated protector, Frederick the Wise, is a welcome addition to Reformation scholarship as we approach 2017. His careful research and well-crafted prose provide readers with insights into the risky yet resolute Christian prince who defended Luther even as he received the consolation of evangelical pastoral care from the Reformer. Aspects of the relationship between these two men often only alluded to in standard Luther biographies are developed with precision by Wellman. In this book we learn much about Frederick but a lot about Luther as well.
—John T. Pless, MDiv
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions
Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, IN
In a biography with the character development, twists and turns, and absorbing storyline of a novel, Sam Wellman recreates the life and times of the powerful and resourceful ruler who made the Reformation possible. Duke Frederick emerges as the adult in the room of squabbling princes and an inept emperor. A man of peace, a vigorous patron of the arts and education, and a skillful player in the byzantine mazes of late medieval politics, Frederick was also a man of moral and theological contradictions. But Frederick was a shrewd and stalwart defender of Martin Luther, who was not above criticizing his protector. This book brings the historical context of the Reformation to life.
—Gene Edward Veith, PhD
Professor of Literature
Patrick Henry College
Frederick the Wise typically plays a supporting role in histories of the Lutheran Reformation—important, but in the wings. Here he rightfully occupies center stage. Wellman’s quick-moving treatment of Frederick’s life is a delight to read and fills an important gap in English-language Reformation resources.
—Lawrence R. Rast Jr., PhD
President, Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, IN
Sam Wellman has written a thorough biography of one of the most significant princes in late medieval Germany. While many recognize Frederick’s important role in the early part of the Lutheran Reformation, Wellman’s biography reveals Frederick’s significance as an elector in the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. This work also demonstrates Frederick’s political sophistication as someone connected to the most powerful leaders of his own time. Simply put, if Luther’s Reformation had never occurred, scholars would still find Frederick’s life to be a compelling object of scholarship. However, the Lutheran Reformation did take place and Wellman’s biography explains the political and social context of that pivotal event. Frederick’s defense and support of Martin Luther in the early 1520s ensured that the Reformation did succeed as a social and political movement.
—Matthew Phillips, PhD
Associate Professor of History
Concordia University Nebraska
We asked Sam Wellman, author of Frederick the Wise: Seen and Unseen Lives of Martin Luther’s Protector, to answer a few questions about the book and his work.
What made you decide to write a biography about Frederick the Wise?
I was initially interested in Martin Luther and wrote a complete draft of a biography on Luther. It dawned on me that a serious Luther scholar needs to be up to speed in Latin, 16th century German, and biblically-supported theology. I fell short, but in becoming familiar with the literature on Luther and his world, I also realized that major secular figures peripheral to Luther had no comprehensive treatment in English. I had adequate background to use sources in German for understanding those figures. None of those peripheral figures was more important to Luther’s viability than Frederick the Wise.
What was the most interesting thing you learned while researching the elector?
The most enlightening discovery was the meticulous, dogged wisdom of Frederick the Wise and how he gained the respect of all the powers of the time. The powers of the empire outside the imperial circle trusted him above all others to offer the correct course of action, or of inaction. The imperial circle feared Frederick because he had enough influence over the aristocracy to thwart any imperial action.
Could any other political figure of the time have wielded enough power to protect Luther during the formative years of the Reformation?
Emperor Maximilian could have protected Luther, but it would only have been to tweak the pope’s nose so he could get some concession from Rome. After the death of Maximilian, his successor Karl (Charles) V, who gained the throne only because of Frederick’s influence, threatened Luther for show but in fact did nothing to restrain him.
How did you first get involved in writing biographies?
My first was a short biography about Lincoln for children. The next biography for children was about Columbus. Both were secular figures with strong but unorthodox faith. At about the same time I wrote book-length biographies for older readers of Corrie ten Boom and David Livingstone, both essentially Christian missionaries. I recognized five essential attributes in common to all these dynamic people of faith. They were instructed in religion as youths. They were humble. They diligently applied themselves. They were tireless. They were fearless.
You’ve written several biographies about numerous people from many time periods. Who was your favorite person to research and write about, and why?
They all are exemplars and deserve admiration. Perhaps my favorite, because he was for many years a Kansan and because he was Lincolnesque in rising from slavery to become a scientist and premier inventor, is George Washington Carver. Other 20th century exemplars that I admire no less and I particularly liked to research were Mother Teresa and C. S. Lewis.
What’s next on your writing agenda?
Compelling figures relevant to Martin Luther and the Reformation remain to be treated in English. One obvious possibility for inquiry is the much neglected Elector Johann of Ernestine Saxony, who more than any other sovereign firmly established the Reformation. Yet another possibility is chaplain George Spalatin, the very important intermediary between Martin Luther and the Saxon electoral court.