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St. Lucia Sermon

JTLoganville

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Delivered by Pr. William Zill at the Chapel of the International Center, Concordia St. Louis MO.

IC CHAPEL
(13 December 2017)

Commemoration of Lucia, Martyr

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.


~ Isaiah 40:1-2

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

These days are the darkest times of the year. It is not an accident that St. Lucia, whose name derives from lux, light, is commemorated when the days are the shortest. Festivals of light became very popular in northern Europe during this time of the year, especially since today was once considered the shortest day of the year. Lucia, a 4th century saint of Christian light, became a natural choice for commemoration as popular art often depicts her with a crown of flickering candles adorning her head. (Pastor Weedon actually asked me to dress her part today, but I declined).

What is true according to the normal pattern of the seasons is also true when one considers the spiritual condition of these dark and latter days in which we live. It is certainly significant that the Christ was born when light is the least, when darkness is palpable. There is not much that is known for certain about Lucia except that she was from Sicily (and not Scandinaia), that she devoted herself to the nurture and care of the poor, and she died in 304 A.D. as a Christian martyr under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletion.

Several legends have grown up around Lucia, enough that we don’t have time to go into all of them, but when given the opportunity to renounce her Christian faith, Lucia is reported to have simply smiled and said, “I wish to please Christ.”

Two separate legends, though not verified, do state that Lucia’s eyes were gouged out. With or without her earthly eyes, Lucia, the young maiden of light, certainly fixed her eyes upon Jesus. The Lord Himself taught “the eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)

The Light of the world Himself has taught us also that “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” (Matthew 13:44) Lucia’s lifeless murdered body was placed in a grave, hidden in a field as it were, hardly the stuff of treasure in the eyes of the world – just one more dead girl, one more executed Christian, one more candle snuffed out, one more person who would not obey the state, one more speed bump in a cruel Caesar’s quest to become like God.

And yet it is St. Lucia who now “in glory shines” while “we feebly struggle” and while the unbelieving Caesars of every time and place wail and gnash their teeth in the darkness. Evil may have claimed Lucia’s eyes, Satan may have spilled her lifeblood, but today she, who was sanctified by the very blood of Christ, sees God face to face! And what’s more, the light of Christ shone in her good works and good confession, reflecting this holy light upon those of us who yet “dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Darkness cannot diminish even one flickering candle even as a mighty Caesar cannot extinguish the witness of a young girl who confesses a king greater than he. Lucia’s eternal testimony, like that of many of the martyrs of her age, proclaimed to the world that we Christians have overcome death – by the death of Christ – and that through Christ, in Christ, by Christ, and yes even with Christ – we have eternal life. We share in His light and we stand defiant against the darkness of the grave.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of the world, the light of life, the uncreated light who created light by means of His uncreated Word – shines among us, through us, and in us, dear friends. Even when – and especially when – all we see around us with our failing eyes is the darkness of our sins, the inevitability of death, and the cruelty of this world’s Satanic tyranny – His Word remains a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path.”

Dear children of light, we do not cower in fear at these dark times. Rather, Holy Scripture which Isaiah reminds us remains forever, calls us to sobriety, that God-given ability to remain in complete control of our passions and thoughts without excess or confusion. The virtues of faith and love, those mighty breastplates of the Lord have not lost their strength and vitality. That virtue of hope grounded in the salvation promised to us in Christ Jesus remains as sturdy and sure a helmet as it did for Lucia and all the martyred saints who have gone before us.

The Light that illumined the heart and soul of a Sicilian maiden also shines within each of you, not by virtue of anything that is because of You, but by virtue of everything that is in Him. The powers of darkness thought they had blown out that light at Golgotha but they were wrong about Christ, and they can’t snuff out those who confess and bear witness to His light either.

Will you be called to speak your testimony before kings, magistrates, or those in high positions of authority? That is not for us to say. But like Lucia, if so, you shall not be put to shame either. On this St. Lucia’s day, be reminded, enlightened, and encouraged by “the God of peace who himself sanctifies you completely. And may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thess. 5:23)

Lucia is now comforted. Her warfare is ended, her inquity is pardoned and she has received from the Lord’s hand, double for all her sins.

As have each of you….

In the name of Jesus, the Light which darkness cannot overcome. Amen.
 

JTLoganville

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"Lucia’s eternal testimony, like that of many of the martyrs of her age, proclaimed to the world that we Christians have overcome death – by the death of Christ – and that through Christ, in Christ, by Christ, and yes even with Christ – we have eternal life."
How can one read that without "hearing" the Paschal Troparion?

Phrases like these illustrate why the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is the most orthodox of all Lutheran bodies and why that body has had very positive dialog with the Orthodox.
 

rakovsky

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How can one read that without "hearing" the Paschal Troparion?
As to the first part of that, I agree.

But as to the second part, "through Christ, in Christ, by Christ, and yes even with Christ – we have eternal life", I don't agree that the style of it matches our troparians. The repetitive phrasing of "in, by and with" reminds me of the way that Lutherans traditionally formulate their idea of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and the phrase "and yes even with" reminds me of the kind of Protestant enunciations propounding doctrines.
Phrases like these illustrate why the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is the most orthodox of all Lutheran bodies and why that body has had very positive dialog with the Orthodox.
Well, first, I think these kinds of things are helpful, but not a strong proof that one Lutheran sect is more orthodox than others. By comparison, the ELCA-aligned Lutheran club at one college I attended had a large Byzantine icon front and center at a service they had that I visited.

More to your overall point, there are ways that each the ELCA and LCMS can be found closer to orthodoxy. With the LCMS, you are probably getting a more Southern US, Reform-Protestant-influenced, conservative organization.

So on one hand, with the ELCA, you are going to get more openness to Orthodoxy in general, like letting EOs commune if there was no Orthodox church within a great distance, or holding inter-church events like dialogues or ecumenical services, or having more clearly EO elements like the icon that I mentioned, IMO. And the LCMS in dialogues is going to hold more to traditional or fundamental Lutheran ideas in a conservative way, like the Five Solas. Being conservatives, the LCMS would probably be less open to criticizing or reinterpreting their 5 Solas from an EO POV. I think they might still only allow LCMS members to have communion.

But on the other hand, I expect that things like clown masses or witch masses are going to be far less likely in a LCMS church.

In any case, these were the kind of things that came out in dialogues with those kinds of Lutheran groups. The dialogues with the LCMS IIRC ended rather quickly because there are major differences between Lutheran, partly Augustinian-derived theology and EO theology that you would have to work to deal with, like the 5 Solas. The dialogues with the ELCA ended because even if the ELCA was able to do things like make joint statements with EOs about the importance of looking at Tradition (I remember at least one such Lutheran-EO joint statement, although I would need to check if it was ELCA), they would not go back to Closed Communion that cut off other Protestants or take EO positions on women clergy or homosexuality. In the case of the latter issues, some of the same issues that divided the LCMS and ELCA would divide the EO Church from the ELCA.
 
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