FRANCIS OF ASSISI, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH, died 1226
Francis (1182 – 1226) heard the Gospel lesson from Matthew 10:7 – 19 as a special call from Christ to devote himself to prayer and to serve the poor. He founded the Franciscan Order. His humility, love for nature, and preaching the imitation of Christ changed the world.
THEODOR FLIEDNER, RENEWER OF SOCIETY, died 1864
Fliedner helped to bring about a revival of the ministry of deaconesses among Lutherans. He was influenced in this by Moravian deaconesses he had met. The motherhouse he founded in Kaiserswerth, Germany, inspired many around the world to take up this ministry.
WILLIAM TYNDALE, TRANSLATOR AND MARTYR, died 1536
Tyndale (1491 – 1536) translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into the English language for English speaking people. For this he was arrested and burned at the stake. His last words were “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.” The providential answer to this very prayer may be seen in the 1611 King James Version of the Bible – the dominant English version of the Bible for close to 500 years.
HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, MISSIONARY, died 1787
Muhlenburg (1711 – 1787) was the most influential Lutheran missionary to America. He translated the Lutheran liturgy that has influenced all subsequent English speaking liturgies. His preaching, travel, and outreach helped firmly establish the Lutheran church in America. His journals while circuit riding from church to church are precious records of 18th century America.
Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At the age of 75 and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. At the age of 100 Abraham and Sarah were finally blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (22:1 – 19). Abraham died at the age of 175 and was buried in the cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament Patriarchs – and for his “righteousness before God through faith” (Romans 4:1 – 12).
MASSIE L. KENNARD, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH, died 1996
A native of Chicago, Kennard was a major figure in supporting and working toward ethnic and racial inclusiveness in the former Lutheran Church in America. Ordained in 1958, he served in positions including Director for Minority Concerns of the Division for Mission in North America.
PHILIP THE DEACON
Philip, also called the Evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve Apostles and of the rapidly growing early church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor (6:1 – 6). Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the Sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (8:4 – 13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26 – 39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa. In the town of Caesarea he was host for several days to the Apostle Paul, who stopped there on his last journey to Jerusalem (212:8 – 15).
TERESA OF AVILA, TEACHER, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH, died 1582
A mystical writer and reformer of the monastic order (Carmelites) to which she belonged; Teresa may also be commemorated with John of the Cross on December 14. Latino Christians traditionally remember her on this date.
IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, BISHOP AND MARTYR
Ignatius (35 – 115?) was a convert from paganism who served as bishop of Antioch. He was sentenced to die because of faith in Jesus and his seven letters, found in the patristic collection the Apostolic Fathers, were apparently written on his journey to Rome and martyrdom. He urged the churches to work for unity, reject false teaching and to be faithful in keeping the Holy Communion. He was thrown to the beasts in Rome, part of the depraved entertainment of the times, probably in the Coliseum.
Luke was a Gentile physician, a follower of Christ, and a companion of the Apostle Paul. Traditionally the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are attributed to him. Some believe he was one of the seventy disciples commissioned by Jesus and perhaps the other disciple with Cleopas to encounter the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. The symbol for Luke is a winged ox, inspired by Ezekiel’s vision, recorded in Ezekiel 1:1 – 10 and 10:8 – 14.
JAMES OF JERUSALEM, MARTYR, died around 62
James of Jerusalem was called the brother of our Lord Jesus (Galatians 1:19). Traditionally, the term brother was understood as a cousin or kinsman, hence he was a relative. Along with other relatives of Jesus (except Mary), James did not believe in our Lord until after His resurrection (John 7:3—5, 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a follower of Christ, James was recognized as the Bishop of Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, 15:12-35) and the Epistle of James is attributed to him. According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in 62 AD by being stoned to death by the Sadducees.
SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS
Simon the Zealot and Jude, brother of James the Less, are paired together in the apostolic lists. The Letter of Jude in the New Testament is connected to the Apostle. According to tradition, the pair spread the good news of Christ in Persia and were martyred on the same day.
PHILIPP NICOLAI, died 1608; JOHANN HEERMANN, died 1647; PAUL GERHARDT, died 1676; HYMNWRITERS
These great hymnwriters all worked in seventeenth-century Germany in times of war and plague. Nicolai, a pastor, lost 1,300 parishioners to plague, 170 in one week. He wrote “O Morning Star, how fair and bright” and “Wake, awake, for night is flying.” Heermann’s hymns, including “Ah, Holy Jesus,” often express the emotions of faith. Gerhardt, perhaps the greatest Lutheran hymnwriter, was a pastor in Berlin.
SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES
We know little about these apostles. Simon is listed as “the sea lot” or Cananean in New Testament lists. Jude, also called Thadeus, asked Jesus at the last supper why He had revealed Himself to the disciples but not to the world.
By the end of the seventeenth century, many Lutheran churches celebrated a festival commemorating Martin Luther’s posting of the Ninety-five Theses, a summary of abuses in the church of his time. At the heart of the reform movement was the gospel, the good news that it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that we are justified and set free.