Thursday of the Week of Advent II
Based on 2 Corinthians 2:12-17
We no longer have the experience of triumphal processions through the city streets after an army has won a great battle. Even after World War II, the returning warriors often blended quietly back into everyday life in the U.S. Similarly, our service men and women today step unceremoniously out of the airplane or off the ship without shouts or recognition, certainly without a triumphal procession!
Paul and the Corinthians knew all too well the spectacle of a Roman general and his army returning victorious. They would parade through the streets, led first by the Roman ensign and banners, then spoils of war and enemies, captured, marching to their executions. Next, priests and their acolytes, would fill the air with fragrant smoke from their swinging censers. Finally, the army and their general, would be greeted as victors by the crowds.
It’s no wonder, really, that Christians, often persecuted by these very Roman soldiers, adopted their own version of the triumphal procession as clergy and bishop entered the church. The ensign was the processional cross, held high for all to see; the acolytes would fill the air with fragrant smoke from their swinging censers, and then came the clergy and bishop, originally processing, not in a show of personal grandeur or arrogance, but symbolizing the triumph of Jesus Christ and His Gospel over the powers of sin, death and Satan!
At this time, the middle of the first century A.D., Paul certainly wouldn’t have known or experienced such a triumphal procession into a beautiful cathedral, and yet, his spirit soars with a similar emotion as he is considering the spread of the Gospel in Troas and Macedonia! There had been an “open door” for the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, as Paul found often in his travels. And he is careful to acknowledge that it is God who leads him, through Christ, to spread the knowledge of Him everywhere. We can sometimes be quite surprised to find that God has presented us with an “open door” for the sharing of the Gospel of Christ, when we speak with a neighbor, friend or family member. We can also be quite surprised to find an open door when we invite someone to join us for Advent or Christmas services, as we realize the Lord has gone before us to open hearts and lives!
Prayer: Lord God, help us to be bold and willing as we seek to share Jesus. Amen.
Advent action: Why not print up simple announcements of your congregation’s Christmas services to share with friends, neighbors and family?
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about Blessed is He Who Comes, visit thenalc.org/advent.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
10:5 Beware, Assyria, the club I use to vent my anger,
a cudgel with which I angrily punish.
6I sent him against a godless nation,
I ordered him to attack the people with whom I was angry,
to take plunder and to carry away loot,
to trample them down like dirt in the streets.
7But he does not agree with this,
his mind does not reason this way,
for his goal is to destroy,
and to eliminate many nations.
8Indeed, he says:
“Are not my officials all kings?
9Is not Calneh like Carchemish?
Hamath like Arpad?
Samaria like Damascus?
10I overpowered kingdoms ruled by idols,
whose carved images were more impressive than Jerusalem’s or Samaria’s.
11As I have done to Samaria and its idols,
so I will do to Jerusalem and its idols.”
12But when the Lord finishes judging Mount Zion and Jerusalem, then I will punish the king of Assyria for what he has proudly planned and for the arrogant attitude he displays. 13For he says:
“By my strong hand I have accomplished this,
by my strategy that I devised.
I invaded the territory of nations,
and looted their storehouses.
Like a mighty conqueror, I brought down rulers.
14My hand discovered the wealth of the nations, as if it were in a nest,
as one gathers up abandoned eggs,
I gathered up the whole earth.
There was no wing flapping,
or open mouth chirping.”
15Does an ax exalt itself over the one who wields it,
or a saw magnify itself over the one who cuts with it?
As if a scepter should brandish the one who raises it,
or a staff should lift up what is not made of wood!
16For this reason the Sovereign Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will make his healthy ones emaciated. His majestic glory will go up in smoke.
17The Light of Israel will become a fire,
their Holy One will become a flame;
it will burn and consume the Assyrian king’s briers
and his thorns in one day.
18The splendor of his forest and his orchard
will be completely destroyed,
as when a sick man’s life ebbs away.
19There will be so few trees left in his forest,
a child will be able to count them.(NET Bible)
134:1 A song of ascents.
Attention! Praise the Lord,
all you servants of the Lord,
who serve in the Lord’s temple during the night.
2Lift your hands toward the sanctuary
and praise the Lord!
3May the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion!(NET Bible)
2 Cor. 2:12–17
2:12 Now when I arrived in Troas to proclaim the gospel of Christ, even though the Lord had opened a door of opportunity for me, 13I had no relief in my spirit, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and set out for Macedonia.
14But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. 15For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing – 16to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit, but we are speaking in Christ before God as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
[Luther writes:] “Here the Spirit plainly ascribes to Scripture that it allumines and teaches, that understanding is given alone through the words of God as through a door for, as they call it, a first principle (principium primum) with which everyone who will come to light and understanding must begin. Again: “‘Principle or head of thine words is truth’ (Ps. 119:160). There you see that truth is here ascribed only to the head of the words of God, that is, if you learned the words of God in the rst place and used them as the first principle when you judged the words of all. And what else does this whole psalm do than to condemn the foolishness of our labor and call us back to the fountain (revocet ad fontem) and teach us that we should rst of all and alone spend our labor on the Word of God and that the Spirit is ready to come voluntarily and to expel our spirit so that we pursue theology without danger? … Therefore, nothing but the divine words are to be the first principles (prima principia) for Christians, all human words, however, are conclusions which are deducted from them and must again be reducted to them and approved by them. They must first of all be well known to everyone but not sought through men nor learned by them, but men must be judged by them. If this were not true, why should Augustine and the holy Fathers, whenever they contradict each other, go back to the holy Scripture as to the first principles of truth (ad sacras literas seu prima principia veritatis) and illumine and approve by their light and trustworthiness their own that is dark and uncertain? By doing so they teach that the divine words are more understand- able and certain than the words of all men, even their own … I do not want to be honored as one who is more learned than all, but this I desire that Scripture alone rule as queen (solam Scripturam regnare), and that it is not explained through my spirit or other men’s spirit but understood by itself and in its own spirit.” (77)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.