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The Sin of Niceness

not nice

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3: 15-16

A dear friend and colleague’s screen saver  was, “Nice is the enemy of the good”. A tombstone with the motto, “He was nice” is not one for the ages.  All people with a backbone were decidedly not nice at times, yet “nice” is the supreme compliment.  “Nice” means pleasing, agreeable but in a sort of bland way:  “’Have a nice day!’ ‘No thanks, I have better plans’” (Woody Allen).  The Lord has a much better plan for us all.

I think “lukewarm” is synonymous with “niceness”, neither hot nor cold.  Unlike Goldilocks’ “neither hot nor cold, just right”, this “just right” of niceness is not just quite right for the Church’s life and preaching.  Matthew Henry , the 16th/17th Century non-conformist minister, in his enduring commentary, bluntly wrote, “They may call their luke warmness charity, meekness, moderation, and a largeness of soul; it is nauseous to Christ, and makes those so that allow themselves in it.”  So, because you are nice, neither good nor bad, I will spit you out of my mouth.  Lutheran pastor and scholar, Paul Kretzmann on the same text:  

He (Jesus) is constrained to vomit them out of His mouth. That is the judgment of the Lord upon all such as are not seriously concerned about their Christianity, that still profess to be Christians, usually from some ulterior motive, and yet will not oppose the godless ways of the world. They want to mediate between Jehovah and Baal, between God and the world, between Christ and Belial, between light and darkness, between faith and unbelief, between righteousness and unrighteousness. Such people the Lord cannot bear, and unless they change their tactics very decidedly, His disgusted attitude will result in their punishment, in their being excluded from the blessings of the Kingdom.

The lukewarm and the nice will be excluded from the Kingdom?!  Hey, that’s not nice!

 We don’t want to, using ‘60s vernacular, “turn someone off” to the Church by our strident attitudes.  After all,   “It is nice to be nice to those who are nice” (“Colonel Frank Burns”, M*A*S*H).  In that sitcom, Frank Burns’ statement was meant to be nauseating because it is.  

The Lord, in the epistolary section of the Revelation, is speaking to congregations, not individual Christians.  We have a churchly hangover from the ‘50s and ‘60s of “nice congregations”, “lukewarm”. My Father grew up in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod in southern Minnesota. When I was child, visiting Minnesota, he would argue with his in-laws,  who were not Lutherans, about church.  My aunts and uncles complaining about you “German Lutherans”, all that “sitting, standing and kneeling”, especially the kneeling and the worst: “We can’t even receive Communion!”  I knew as a kid, hmmm, we’re different.  We were not “nice”, but that was going to change.   Downplay the doctrine and the practice to get new folks in. I would be catechized well and as a pastor I went along with the program.  I confess:  I was nice. Offer first the programs of the congregation, later the promises of Christ, and practice open communion. We waffled between “Christ and Belial, light and darkness, faith and unbelief, righteousness and unrighteousness” to “reach people”.    If niceness has become a synonym for lukewarmness, then it is a sin, especially in light of the 1st Table of the Law. 

Here is one congregational example of such waffling to get people in and not offend.  My first call was as assistant pastor in a large LCMS/AELC congregation. The sanctuary was quite a charming colonial edifice which was desirous for weddings.  Now, the senior pastor’s wedding policy was complicated in his “schedule of fees and donations” for member and “non-member weddings”. Most weddings were of the non-member category. The spring and summer seasons sometimes included several weddings each weekend.  The justification was that these unchurched couples would, “at least hear the Gospel”.  Pre-marital counseling sessions were required, (it was part of the program) and I began to realize that my sermon would have to be one helluva sermon for the couple, nervous, even nauseous, to “hear the Gospel”.  I do not remembering ever seeing those many newlyweds come back to Church.

I began to be discomfited with this practice, but I was single at the time, and an extra $100 or so every weekend, or more, plus a gift from the couple, was kind of nice…oh-oh.  Anyway, I never said anything to the senior pastor about my misgivings because those wedding services paid. 

Now the next verse in the Revelation 3 text is not usually cited: 

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” 

Yes, pastors and congregations prospered and we were decidedly less poor  by “reaching out” in this nice way under the guise of “evangelism”.  I think that mega-churches are not new but are old, as they are actually retro mega-throwback ‘50s congregations, the ultra-nice church but using better marketing tactics to sell their niceness now on steroids:  see Joel Osteen. Merging lyrics from the sitcom “Cheers” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” applies:  “Come where everybody knows your name and to forget about life for awhile”.  It is so nice.  It pays but at a price for the soul of a church:  “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked”. The church thus has  acquired immune deficiency syndrome to  the onslaught of virulent atheistic secularism under the guise of niceness. After all, “…even a frank enmity against the Christian religion is more promising in a person than the luke warmness and spiritual indifference which these people showed (Matthew Henry)”.

In writing this, I looked up similar articles and came across a good one: “Have a Nice Church” by Fr. Peter Toon. I will be citing his article. “Have a nice Church”  is something our Lord never said. The Lord has a better Church than our nice one.

“We have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind”.  We went along with the prevailing winds to get along so the “cultured despisers of the faith” would accept us and we them.  Many parents and pastors eschewed saying and meaning, “no”.  In regards to marriage and weddings, we were nice a long time before Obergefell Day, June 26, anno Domini 2,015.  The Pill was the answer to coitus non fecundus and so coitus non interruptus.[i]  Divorce and remarriage in the 70s was accepted. “Living together” meant that a couple could really find out if they were meant for each other.  We called it ala Henry: “charity, meekness, moderation, and a largeness of soul”, that is, we were nice. Fr. Peter Toon,

“Since much modern mainstream “orthodoxy” feels the need to be nice, this means that it only can be bold to make a stand and to speak out for the Lord when this action comes within (what most conservatives in the pews perceive as) the spectrum of being nice. So, for example, homosexual practice may be condemned but not the modern contraceptive culture in which both homosexual and much heterosexual sex thrive. Apparently, this is because many conservatives do not like the former and, in the main, exist within the latter.

Our largeness of soul accepted much that was small and dark and dirty, as if it were charity on our part.

The solution is not to be nice but nasty?  No, for being purposely nasty and mean is not in keeping with the Decalogue. We are not go out of our way to be nasty but we are in the Way to preach, teach and live in the Word of God, spoken, written and Incarnate and it won’t be at times ‘nice’. The goal is goodness. Even “ET” got that much right, when he said, “Be good” to the children, it wasn’t “be nice”. It is about the “hard and narrow way” and in the Way, it is about daily repentance and contrition and His costly forgiveness, putting to death the sin of niceness.

I close with Fr. Peter Toon’s last paragraph of his article.

“Maybe all who claim to be conservative and orthodox ought to try not to use the word nice for a month and see whether or not this helps us to think and to act as faithful Christians in the modern troubled Church.”


[i] An aside regarding contraception:  From Pope Paul IV’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, Of Human Life, (the one about The Pill), the section, Consequences of Contraception and in my opinion this is prophetic:

“Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

 

prschroeder:

More than ever, we need the conscientious desicision of every family to say as Joshua did, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”, and not the false gods and practices of those around us, not only for our salvation but others to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Originally posted on Concordia and Koinonia:

 

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s (1794-1872) depiction of the Israelites cross the Jordan River on dry ground as priests hold the Ark of the Covenant in the center of the river. From the Pitt Theological Library, Digital Archives, Emory University. Scripture Reference: Joshua 3

Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Joshua 3: 11

About Joshua:  Today we remember and thank God for His faithful servant, Joshua. Joshua, the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, is first mentioned in Exodus 17 when he was chosen by Moses to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. He was placed in charge of the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 33:11) and was a member of the tribal representatives…

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Quote of the Week

“When the Carthaginians were prevailed upon to cease sacrificing their babies, at least the place vacated by Baal reminded them that they should seek the divine above themselves; we offer up our babies to “my” freedom of choice, to “me.” No society’s moral vision has ever, surely, been more degenerate than that.”

– David Bentley Hart

Note:  This past Sunday (August 30) Bible Class resumed.  The appointed Epistle Reading is Ephesians 6:10-20 in which the Apostle Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to put on the whole armor of God with the armor’s various unitive components.  This past Sunday was also “Rat” Sunday in Lexington, VA, in which congregations welcome the new “rats” (first year students) at the Virginia Military Institute.  This lesson was quite appropos!  I led the Bible Class on this Reading but did not have time to go through the whole Epistle.  Below are my notes on the verses we did cover. This passage could be Scripture mini-course!-Pr. Schroeder


10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. “The power does not come from the believer but from an external source.”[i] The power is not as a pumped up football player, a great athlete or soldier in any army on earth, but in the One Who is the Lord God Sabaoth, literally, the Lord of the heavenly Armies who dispatched His beloved Son, an army of One, to quell the evil one and free us from Satan’s tyranny. This is not natural strength, but supernatural, from the Lord into our hearts, minds and souls by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  His might is His resurrection, the defeat of sin and death:  see Ephesians 1: 18-20. 

 11 Put on the whole armor    Greek: panopliav, “… the suit of armor of a Roman foot soldier.” [ii] Paul at the time of the composition of Ephesians was in Rome and under arrest, awaiting trial, and Luke tells us that Paul was guarded by a soldier.  Paul maybe became interested in the armor of a Roman foot soldier.  Paul may have asked about his guard’s panoply.    

 of God,  The armor of God does not come from Rome, but the Lord. This is the standard issue of every Christians.

 “In ordinary battles the generals do not arm women or children or the aged.  But our general, Christ the Lord, distributes this royal armory to all alike.  He then teaches them the stratagems of the devil.  This is what he means by the devil’s wiles” (Theodoret, ACC,volVIII, page 208)

that you may be able to stand against the schemes (Gk: μεθοδείας:  schemes, wiles, cunning)  of the devil.    What are the devil’s schemes?

  1. Lies:  He is a liar. The devil said he had the authority to give Jesus the kingdoms of his world.  He didn’t, he doesn’t.  He lied. He gives the same lie to the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  He lies.  John 8:44
  2. Camo: The devil comes “disguised” as an “angel of light” but that is a subset of lying. He looks good, the devil doesn’t come looking devilish, but offering “just what we need”.   2 Corinthians 11:14
  3. Temptation: He is the tempter.  By his tricks, his schemes he desires the fall of the Christian by working on the Christian’s Adamic desires “to be like God” (Genesis 3: 1ff) and from that his desires/lusts for more and more.
  4. Accusation: he accuses the brothers night and day. (Revelation 12:10)  These are spiritual temptations. It is the devil who whispers, Be a better Christian, You’re not you know.  Luther would retort:  Tell me something I don’t know, Satan.  But I have Christ as my Savior and to Him I shall flee!   

“Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things.” (Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”)

 12 For we do not wrestle

“…the struggle is not physical but supernatural. It is a spiritual battle against spiritual “Mafia.” The “Wrestling” in the Greek can also have the more general idea of “conflict, struggle.”‘ …it  occurs only here in the NT. With regard to its usage in this text, if Paul meant “battle, conflict” in conjunction with armor… “wrestling” … was used to indicate that the fully armored soldier was an accomplished wrestler who on occasion would be involved in close-quarter struggle against a cunning opponent.’ Due to the cunning schemes of the devil, believers need to be ready for both remote and close-at-hand assaults. (This is) a face-to-face encounter. The context determines whether it is friendly or hostile. In this context, it is a hostile conflict that is not directed toward or against …. “blood and flesh.” In other words, it is not a physical struggle or a wrestling match.’ In fact, nowhere in this passage is there any indication of a human struggle. Although throughout the paragraph the second person plural is addressed, here the personal pronoun …is the first person plural, which indicates Paul’s identification with the Ephesian believers in the spiritual conflict. It is a dative of reference (“the struggle with reference to us”) though it is translated as a possessive (“our struggle”).

… “but against the rulers, against authorities.” The conjunction … “but,” is adversative and introduces the opposite of physical struggle, namely, the spiritual struggle.” [iii]

against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

  14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,

Three points about the Belt of Truth:

  1.  The Roman soldier’s belt would have the scabbard for his sword.  God’s truth holds the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit.
  2.  Generally speaking, in Palestine and the Roman Empire, a belt was used to hold up the robes so that one would not trip on the robe!  Falsehood causes us to trip up and we fall.  Truth, God’s truth made flesh in Jesus, girds our loins, holds up the hem of our garment, that we walk in the way of the Lord. God’s truth is written literally in the Bible, in His Word and Life in Israel and the Church.  So girded, encircled by God’s truth, will not be comfortable but for His truth we are thankful we do not fall down. When we do, He will pick us up in His body, His militia Christi, the Church.
  3.  The Belt of Truth reminds me of weight belts I see guys wearing when I gothe gym. Their purpose is given in this quote from a web-site about weight-lifting: “A weight belt wraps around the lower waist and should be tightly secured. It is meant to stabilize the lower back and core by preventing the spine from bending.”  

That random quote speaks to the Lord’s belt of truth.  His truth will stabilize us, so that we are not, “…tossed to and from by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”(Eph. 4: 14).  It stabilizes the backbone.  A Roman Catholic theologian, Hans urs Von Balthassar, said that the Roman Catholic Church is accused of being “rigid”.  He pointed out that the Church is the Body of Christ and like a body has a backbone.  We are not called to be jellyfish!  The Church has a backbone, he went on to say, to bend and serve the world in His mercy. May the whole Christian Church on earth be accused of being rigid!    There are exercises  in working out to develop the body’s core. His truth protects and works the core, the  body’s core, the body of Christ, through His Word of Law and Gospel, so that we may serve the saving Word to others as we have been so girded.  

Integrity gird You round to impart/The truth of His Word As truth in your heart/His righteousness wearing As breastplate of mail/His victory sharing,  Be strong to prevail.  (“Be Strong in the Lord”, #665, stanza 3, Lutheran Service Book)

 and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 

 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. “The Roman legionaries wore heavy sandals (caliga, a  low half-boot) with soles made of several layers of leather averaging  ¾ inch thick, studded with hollow-headed hobnails. They were tied with leather thongs half-way up the shin and were stuffed with wool or fur in the cold weather…These were not running sandals but ones able to dig in with their hollow-headed hobnails an stand against the enemy.”

 With eagerness shod Stand firm in your place,

Or go forth for God With news of His grace;

No foe shall disarm you  Nor force you to yield,

No arrows can harm you  With faith as your shield.

 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, “shield” Greek only here in NT and related to Greek word for “door” in order to cover the whole man…and one’s fellow soldiers. “Close ranks”: Testudo= “tortoise”  with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one  “…before battle the shields were immersed in water, soaking the leather cover and canvas beneath the leather, which also aided in extinguishing the flaming missiles.”[iv]


[i] Ephesians:  An Exegetical Commentary, Hoehner

[ii] Matthew Henry: “To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without. A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary.”

[iii] Hoehne page 825

[iv] Ephesians:  An Exegetical Commentary, Hoehner page 848

John taught the sanctity of marriage to the powers that be. This is what cost John his life and his life is a martyria, a witness, to the Word in and out of season.

Source: The Festival of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, August 29th

2014-11-03 07.51.00

All Saints Sunday, 2014: I am presiding at the Altar, the Preacher was Pr. Keith Beasley of our sponsoring Congregation, Good Shepherd, Roanoke, VA

Today is the 5th anniversary of  Concordia Lutheran Mission here in Rockbridge County.   On the Page on the top, you can read the history. The header photo is about five years ago, when were meeting at the Library.  Some of the folks pictured, moved, went to college and others have joined since that photo.

The first Divine Service was at Grace Presbyterian Church, August 28th, the Commemoration of St. Augustine (We did not plan for that day because it is was the commemoration of St. Augustine, but it is appropos since his faithful teaching influenced Martin Luther!)   We had left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Lexington, of which I had been pastor. For several months many of us sojourned down to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church/Roanoke.  In conversation with Good Shepherd’s Shepherd, Rev. Keith Beasley, we realized the need for a mission in Rockbridge County. Pr. Beasley and Vicar James Prothro presided and preached at that first service and did so until I was recognized as a pastor in the Synod. Good Shepherd/Roanoke became our sponsoring congregation. Within a year I was accepted as a pastor awaiting call, by a colloquy committee of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  We left Grace Presbyterian, as they were moving, and we began worshiping in the Lexington Main Library, in their community room.  One year ago, we found out about a good rental property in the other main town in Rockbridge County, Buena Vista and this is where the Mission is now located.

We have not grown exponentially, yet, we have some new members.  In many ways, as my wife pointed out, after losing my full-time income as a pastor, leaving a church body, thinking about the prospect of selling our house, and a mission that is still tenuous, never the less, we have our house and the House of the Lord, His mission is still here after five years.  But by the grace of God, go we! 

We  left a denomination purporting to be church.  We left because of it’s war against the Word of God. It rejected marriage, marriage between man and woman alone.  In St. Augustine’s day, Rome fell and before that, Nero fiddled on his violin while Rome burned.  While our Romes burn today, churches have fiddled around with the Word of God.  Many churches look  nice on the outside but as the Lord said about the religious leadership of His time, they are whitened sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones full of decay and rot.  It is profoundly sad.  Am I overstating the case?  I do not think so. The gates of hell are doing their best, but they have not prevailed.  Many, including myself, have chronicled the central collapse of Biblical Scriptures in so many areas of the Church. Now, one should not lightly and unadvisedly leave a church body.  By God’s grace alone,  I do not think we did. 

So!  Are we in the promised land?  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod?  When I had my last interview for acceptance as a pastor into The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at the Synod’s International Center outside of St. Louis, Missouri, one of my three interviewers was a district president who warned me, “You know the Missouri Synod has problems and it’s not perfect.” I smiled and said, “If it were perfect, that would mean the Lord has come with His kingdom and I don’t think He has and there would be no interview”  They all smiled or chuckled.  The district president’s caution was a good one.  In Christ, he could admit sin because of our Savior. I do not think I could ever hear that from some other liberal protestant church bodies and their ecclesiacrats confessing their church is wrong, they can’t right now as they defend falsehood. The district president knows our church body is not perfect but it trusts and believes in the whole Word of God, the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions which teach, preach and confess the 6th Commandment and it’s meaning.   The district president, a pastor,  is obviously no Pharisee. Thank our Lord for His grace for us all!

We turn to You, the Lord our God and as best as we can give we give You thanks.  We beseech You that in Your goodness You will hear our prayers and by Your power:  drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us Your holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end through Your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.              

(A prayer adapted from a benediction by which St. Augustine ended at least two of his sermons)

About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian: Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and aprolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  St. Augustine was contemporary to the fall of Rome.  This is from a summary of Augustine’s magnum opus, The City of God (Sparknotes: “St. Augustine: The City of God”) and what prompted the Bishop to write this book: 

In A.D. 410, a pivotal moment in Western history, the Vandals, under the command of their king, Alaric, captured the city of Rome. Rome was known as the Eternal City because the Romans thought that it would literally never fall, and the year 410 shook this belief to its foundations and ultimately led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world itself seemed to have been destroyed, and everyone sought answers about what to do and what to believe in. Those who adhered to the waning pagan faith were quick to blame the Christians, claiming that the gods had abandoned Rome because many Romans had forsaken them and taken the new faith. These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state, and they advocated forgiveness toward enemies.(emphasis my own)

One of the accusations that pagan Romans leveled at Christians was they were ‘atheists’.   The Christians were not worshipers of the gods, that, is non-believers or atheists.  As the quote above indicates, Romans considered the gods and goddesses as instrumental for Rome’s success, and so the further charge of not being patriotic, or  traitorous atheism.  God and the state were considered one, even to the point that the State was god in the form of the Caesars who proclaimed themselves deities.  Christians did not serve the State as god.  The revolution in Christ then and now is Christians prayed for Caesar but not to Caesar (Pr. Lou Smith).  The accusation that the Christians served God rather than the state is one we hope will be heard in our day as well.

We are living in Roman times. We are much afraid these days as I would guess the Romans were in their day, and when we leave the God we love, we flail about going after other messiahs, political and religious, who are not messiahs.  When God is removed from the public square then the State will become god, or the ‘church’ (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus).  We might be there and while the world burns, churches fiddle as Nero did when Rome burned.  Churches fiddling around with changing worship services, dumbing down doctrine to no doctrine at all, accepting immorality as ‘alternative lifestyles’ or identifying the Christian faith as an American value. Only through the Word and Sacraments of God, the Church if formed. If we were a Christian nation, then we would be persecuted.  St. Augustine, with the Church, out thought, out prayed and so by God’s grace alone, out lived the fall of an empire by God’s grace alone in His Son Jesus.  We see the shaking of the foundations in our day and time. We serve in the city of man as good citizens and as citizens in the Kingdom of God, the Reign of Christ through His Word coming into the world and finally when He comes in glory. The Lord’s Church can not be fooling around any longer, we do not have the luxury to do so.  St. Augustine, as Pastor and theologian, meant he cared for God’s people through the Word and cared for the Word as a theologian. We do not need mega-congregation super star pastors who write shallow best selling books of works righteousness, but those who loved the Lord in His love serve and care for that Word for all people in our earthly cities, who think things through, by God’s grace in Jesus Christ for us sinners.  

O Lord God, the light of the minds that know You, the life of souls that love You, and the strength of the hearts that serve You, give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and lovng You we may fully serve You–for to serve is perfect freedom; through Jsus Christ, our lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, oneGod now and forever. Amen.

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