CATHERINE WINKWORTH AND JOHN MASON NEALE, HYMNWRITERS
Neale was an English priest who specialized in the translation of Latin and Greek hymns into English. Winkworth lived in Manchester, England, and devoted herself to translating German hymns. Almost all English speaking hymnals include many of their translations.
Though frequently remembered as “doubting Thomas,” this apostle also demonstrated a willingness to suffer and die with Jesus (John 11:16), and finally claimed the risen Christ as “my Lord and my God!” By tradition, he later worked as a missionary in India.
ISAIAH THE PROPHET
Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament Prophet. His name means “Yahweh the Lord saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah. Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God’s Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing God’s grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah’s miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (Isaiah 2:1 – 5; 11:1- 16), and his public ministry (Isaiah 61:1 – 3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12). The Apostle John’s description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.
JAN HUS, MARTYR, died 1415
Hus was a Bohemian (present-day Czech Republic) priest who spoke against abuses in the church, and was seen by Martin Luther as his predecessor in the reforming movement. He was found guilty of heresy by a council of the church, and burned at the stake.
BENEDICT OF NURSIA, TEACHER AND MONK, died 580
The father of Western monasticism, Benedict (470 – 580) focused on work and prayer to the glory of God and wrote his Rule of Benedict for the monastic way of life. The Lutheran monastery, St. Augustine’s House in Michigan, follows the rule. (www.StAugustinesHouse.org)
NATHAN SODERBLOM, BISHOP, died 1931
Soderblom (1866 – 1931) was a Lutheran bishop in Sweden who reached out to work with other Christians and was a peacemaker. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930.
VLADIMIR, KING, died 1015
Vladimir (956 – 1015) was the first Christian ruler of Russia. His life before Christ was brutal and bloodthirsty. After his conversion, his generosity to the poor, kindness towards criminals, and support of missionaries became legendary.
RUTH OF MOAB
Ruth of Moab, the subject of the biblical book that bears her name, is an inspiring example of God’s grace. Although she was a Gentile, God made her the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), and an ancestress of Jesus himself (Matthew 1:5). A famine in Israel led Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem to immigrate to the neighboring nation of Moab with their two sons. The sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after about ten years, Elimelech and his sons died (Ruth 1:1 – 5). Naomi then decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah listened to Naomi but Ruth refused, replying with the stirring words: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). After Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech, agreed to be Ruth’s “redeemer” (Ruth 3:7 – 13; 4:9 – 12). He took her as his wife, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:13 – 17), thus preserving the Messianic seed.
BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS, MISSIONARY, died 1566
Las Casas (1474 – 1566) was a missionary to Native Americans defending them against exploitation by the Spanish Empire. His most famous work Tears of the Indians (1566) depict atrocities of the time.
ELIJAH THE PROPHET
The prophet Elijah, whose name means, “My God is Yahweh, The LORD” prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel, mostly during the reign of Ahab (874 – 853 B.C.). King Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of the LORD. Elijah was called by God to denounce this idolatry and to call the people of Israel back to worship the LORD as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20 – 40). Elijah was a rugged and imposing figure, living in the wilderness and dressing in a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt (2 Kings 1:8). He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. Many miracles were done through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17:17 – 24), and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1). At the end of his ministry he was taken up into heaven as Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later on the prophet Malachi proclaimed that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5 – 6), a prophecy fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14).
EZEKIEL THE PROPHET
Ezekiel, son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem – including Ezekiel – to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8 – 16). Ezekiel’s priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example, Ezekiel 9 – 10, and 40 – 48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1 – 32). Jerusalem would fall, and the exiles would not quickly return, as a just consequence of their sin. Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that His people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom (Ezekiel 33 – 48). Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel’s prophecies was later employed in the Revelation to St. John.
MARY MAGDALENE, APOSTLE
Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus who exorcised from her seven demons (Luke 8:2). Some believe she was the repentant sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36 – 50). She became the “apostle to the Apostles” when the risen Jesus commanded her to tell of His resurrection (John 20:11 – 18).
BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH, died 1373
Lady Birgitta (1303 – 1373) served the Queen of Sweden, founded the Order of the Holy Savior, denounced political corruption of the day, and led many pilgrimages. Revelations, a mystical collection of her visions, continues to be a Christian classic.
JAMES THE ELDER, APOSTLE
James, a fisherman, son of Zebedee and brother of John, is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in Scripture (Acts 12:2).
J.S. BACH, HEINRICH SCHUTZ, G. F. HANDEL, MUSICIANS
This day commemorates some of the great makers of music in the church. Bach’s (1685 – 1750) Mass in B Minor and Brandenburg Concertos and Handel’s (1685 – 1759) Messiah are masterpieces of Western civilization.
MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY
Friends of Jesus, Mary and Martha are remembered for the hospitality of their home that they offered Him – Martha focused on serving their guest and Mary on listening to Him. Their brother Lazarus was raised from the dead as a sign of the greater resurrection to come.
ROBERT BARNES, MARTYR, died 1540
Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled “Sententiae.” Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, “Saint Robertus.”
JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
This Joseph, mentioned in all four Gospels, came from a small village called Arimathea in the hill country of Judea. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem. He was presumably wealthy, since he owned his own unused tomb in a garden not far from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:60). Joseph, a man waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went to Pontius Pilate after the death of Jesus and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). Along with Nicodemus, Joseph removed the body and placed it in the tomb (John 19:39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus.