Introduction: Our Bible class at the Mission is studying in these Sundays after the Epiphany the Epistle Readings, which are all from 1 Corinthians. The reading for this Sunday (2/23/14) is 1 Corinthians 3:10-23 in which the Apostle flat out wrote to them, You are a temple of the Holy Spirit which he identifies as their bodies in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
Below is a quote from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” which I think is great illustration of the Scripture verses cited above. The quote is from the beginning of the story in which a mother and her daughter go to pick-up two two younger female cousins from the convent school, Mount St. Scholastica where the cousins are students. The girls are into boys and clothes and are quite silly, all the while they keep on giggling as they keep on calling each other, “Temple One” and “Temple Two”. When the daughter and her cousins are now laughing at someone else, finally the Mother has enough with this silliness:
“Her mother thought this was funny too but she said, “That’ll be about enough out of you,” and changed the subject. She asked them why they called each other Temple One and Temple Two and this sent them off into gales of giggles. Finally they managed to explain. Sister Perpetua, the oldest nun at the Sisters of Mercy in Mayville, had given them a lecture on what to do if a young man should—here they laughed so hard they were not able to go on without going back to the beginning—on what to do if a young man should—they put their heads in their laps—on what to do if —they finally managed to shout it out—if he should “behave in an ungentlemanly manner with them in the back of an automobile.” Sister Perpetua said they were to say, “Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!” and that would put an end to it. The child sat up off the floor with a blank face. She didn’t see anything so funny in this. What was really funny was the idea of Mr. Cheatam or Alonzo Myers beauing them around. That killed her.
Her mother didn’t laugh at what they had said. “I think you girls are pretty silly,” she said. “After all, that’s what you are—Temples of the Holy Ghost.”
The two of them looked up at her, politely concealing their giggles, but with astonished faces as if they were beginning to realize that she was made of the same stuff as Sister Perpetua. Miss Kirby preserved her set expression and the child thought, it’s all over her head anyhow. I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost, she said to herself, and was pleased with the phrase. It made her feel as if somebody had given her a present.”
1) In the New Testament, “present” is called by another name: what is that name?
2) Is the Apostle saying that being “temple of the Holy Ghost” is a gift? If so, how? Why?
3) Anthropology is the study of man, human beings. What is the Lord’s anthropology in 1 Corinthians and as dramatized in O’Connor’s short story above? What is our own view of man and how does it compare with the Lord’s?
Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 3:10-23, A Temple of the Holy Ghost, Bible, Church, Flannery O'Connor, Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Temple of the Holy Spirit | Leave a Comment »
Now that I have your attention! This past week was college tour time with our youngest. I took the photo above during our college tour of William and Mary College(W and M), founded 1693, second oldest college in our nation, in Williamsburg, VA. W and M is a state school. Our tour group is in the picture. Needless to say, I was struck by the poster in the foreground. Thomas Jefferson was a graduate of W and M. The main building, designed by Christopher Wren, is the oldest college building in the USA and it has a chapel in it. Maybe you heard the controversy of cross on the altar which is considered offensive to other religions. It was decided to move the cross to the side and put it in a glass case, as a kind of an artifact:
Unusual for a college tour, we had two tour guides, a sophomore and a freshman. When we went to see a dorm room, the very perky freshmen young woman explained that at the beginning of the year, her floor gathered together to set rules for themselves by a process of “self-determination”. She thought this kind of awesome.
Three pieces of a puzzle:
- “I love female orgasm”
- Cross in a glass case
Oh, and one more piece of the puzzle:
4. Twice during the tour, we were regaled with the highlight of the year at W and M which is in December, ostensibly the Christmas season: the yule log ceremony. Every year a large “yule log”, a big piece of timber is brought in. Every participant in the ceremony is given a sprig of evergreen with which they strike the yule log, for “good luck” and then it is thrown into the fire to “burn away all our worries” over the upcoming final exams. Then the President of this prestigious college is dressed up as Santa Claus and he reads “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. And they say there is no religion in a state school!
Back to the puzzle pieces and you have probably put them together. Note, that in the bulletin board poster, orgasm is singular, well, as if the female orgasm is substitute for say, Jesus, as in “I love Jesus”. It’s all about SELF-determination. It’s all about ourselves in the yule ceremony. Christianity is an artifact. Yes, there is religion at this state college and it is the religion of the mirror: the self and the sacrament of the self is uninhibited and ‘free’ coitus. The self rules in the self-confident omni-competent culture which gives us everything we need: from toilets to smartphones to air travel. Christian religion can get in the way of that…or should or religion itself is accommodated to the society to go with the flow. As the Church, we too are recipients of the technological marvels of our time…as was the Church in the time of the great technological marvels of the Roman Empire. Then and now, something is missing, actually Someone. The Christians of the medieval age, the so called dark age, started universities and colleges recognizing in humility the great gifts the Creator bestowed upon us to be taught and learned. But when that humility goes…
Two more observations:
- At the University of Richmond (Richmond VA), founded by the Baptist church (but no longer associated with the Baptists) at one point in the tour, our able junior tour guide said we are at the heart of the campus. ”There is the Science building, over their the dining hall…”, etc…except right behind him was the sizable Gothic style Chapel, on possibly the highest point of the University of Richmond, but he did not mention that white elephant behind him.
- A few years ago, my wife went with our daughter to tour nearby Roanoke College, Salem, VA. This is a Lutheran college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the college is the second oldest Lutheran college in the nation. The Virginia Synod of the ELCA has it’s offices in the old chapel on campus as they built a larger one some thirty of so years ago. On their tour, when it was question time, my wife asked for verification of the fact known to her that Roanoke is a Lutheran school. The guide responded that yes, it was, but (don’t worry) you’d never know it.
Will our colleges and universities know the Church is there? There are many orthodox Lutheran campus ministers and ministries fighting the good fight. Pray for them and support them. We are living in the post-Christendom era. Sometimes we have to fight the vestiges of a Christianity and it’s distortions of the doctrine in the Bible. Never the less…
The Gospel lesson for this Sunday (7th Sunday after the Epiphany, 2/23/14) is St. Matthew 5:38-48 in which our Lord teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those persecute us. Unlike, say Cairo, Egypt or Saudi Arabia, none of us have ever been slapped in the face or our clothes stolen off our backs or our church buildings burned to the ground. Yet He calls us to love our enemies, and the cultured despisers of the Faith, that is, serve them as He has loved and served us who have been His enemies…of God ( Romans 5:10). Now we must point out the false teaching of many and not put up with it but with love and service to those in the universities and colleges and we can do it in only way: In Christ Jesus. And so who will believe if we point the finger at them and not point them to the Savior? I close with verses from this Sunday’s Gospel and Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s commentary (1924):
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. The injunction receives its application at all times and in all places. The impressiveness of the passage is heightened by the contrast presented in each member of the saying. Cursing is met with blessing; hatred, which leads to injuries, with well-doing; and abuse of all kinds, culminating in persecution arising from religious hatred, with prayer and intercession. Whatever meanness the enemies may devise, love’s ingenuity will find a way of overwhelming them with goodness. For its object is always to find ways and means of winning the adversary, and, above all, of gaining him for the Lord.
“After the service in a parish church where Barth had been preaching one Sunday, he was met at the door by a man who greeted him with these words: ‘Professor Barth, thank you for your sermon. I’m an astronomer, you know, and as far as I am concerned, the whole of Christianity can be summed up by saying, ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’”
“Barth replied: ‘Well, I am just a humble theologian, and as far as I am concerned the whole of astronomy can be summed up by saying ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.’”
First, about yesterday’s commemoration:
Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly-established University of Wittenberg, his scriptural studies led him to question many of the church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. He died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.
The commemoration today, February 19, was the walk out by the majority of faculty and seminarians at Concordia Seminary, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), St. Louis, Missouri over the issue of Scriptural interpretation. The seminary was using liberal Biblical scholarship, while the LCMS accused the faculty of employing heretical means to deny the veracity of the Bible. Below is a short video of a broadcast about the walkout from that day:
The lead up to the walkout was in the making for sometime. This conflict was dubbed, “The Battle of the Bible” in Time magazine. in 1972, I had started college at Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee in order to prepare for the Ministry in the LCMS. I agreed with those who walked out. I thought one could interpret the Scriptures according to alien interpretive lenses and still remain faithful. I no longer do. The faculty and students formed Concordia Seminary in Exile/Seminex, with the plan, they would return from ‘exile’. They never did. After 30 years in the breakaway denomination from the LCMS, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and then as it merged with two other Lutheran denominations to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I, with my family, returned to the LCMS.
I do not have time to give a full reflection on the “exile”, as it was called by the liberals. I attended and graduated from Seminex. They walked out and were heralded as heroes to stand up against the conservative majority in the courts of public opinion. In the video above, the man with the hat, was Dr. Tietjen, president of the seminary. He references, “…as someone else who went out of the camp” is probably Hebrews 13:12 that our Lord was cast out of the camp. In other words, Dr. Tietjen was saying, We’re Jesus. I could not see the hubris at the time in such statements.
The walk out was a walk out, as I found out, on the truth of the Bible. Luther said, Here I stand and he said that his conscience was captive to the Word of God. Forty years ago, many in the LCMS said, here we go, no longer captive. Now, forty years later, we see the bitter fruit of what has happened when we went, no longer captive to the whole Word of God, including the Bible: acceptance of abortion, divorce and remarriage as serial monogamy, same-sex false marriage, inclusive, feminist Bible translations, liturgy as political tool, etc. I find that history prescient to our day, 40 years after the walkout. The conservatives were right. Captive to the Word of God, yes! And at the same time free! St. John 8: 31-32: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Abiding in it: it has been good to come back to the Word as written in the Scriptures. I think in these days this hymn verse is a needed prayer in our zeitgeist:
“Lord Jesus Christ, With Us Abide”
1. Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide,
For round us falls the eventide;
Nor let Thy Word, that heavenly light,
For us be ever veiled in night.
2. In these last days of sore distress
Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness
That pure we keep, till life is spent,
Thy holy Word and Sacrament.
3. Lord Jesus, help, Thy Church uphold,
For we are sluggish, thoughtless, cold.
Oh, prosper well Thy Word of grace
And spread its truth in every place!
4. Oh, keep us in Thy Word, we pray;
The guile and rage of Satan stay!
Oh, may Thy mercy never cease!
Give concord, patience, courage, peace.
5. O God, how sin’s dread works abound!
Throughout the earth no rest is found,
And falsehood’s spirit wide has spread,
And error boldly rears its head.
6. The haughty spirits, Lord, restrain
Who o’er Thy Church with might would reign
And always set forth something new,
Devised to change Thy doctrine true.
7. And since the cause and glory, Lord,
Are Thine, not ours, to us afford
Thy help and strength and constancy.
With all our heart we trust in Thee.
8. A trusty weapon is Thy Word,
Thy Church’s buckler, shield and sword.
Oh, let us in its power confide
That we may seek no other guide!
9. Oh, grant that in Thy holy Word
We here may live and die, dear Lord;
And when our journey endeth here,
Receive us into glory there.
Nikolaus Selnecker, 1532-1592
Translated by compositeThe Lutheran Hymnal
Lord God, heavenly Father, You sent Onesimus back to Philemon as a brother in Christ, freeing him from his slavery to sin through the preaching of the Apostle St. Paul. Cleanse the depths of sin within our souls and bid resentment cease for past offenses, that, by Your mercy, we may be reconciled to our brothers and sisters and our lives will reflect Your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Read an Entire Book of the Bible! The Book of Philemon (English Standard Version). It’s shorter than many of my blog articles:
1Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philemon’s Love and Faith
4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
Paul’s Plea for Onesimus
8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I
became in my imprisonment. 11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24and so doMark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Reflection on verse 11: Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.
“Oh, he’s useless…no good.” “What a useless waste of time!” “It’s useless. I give up!” At one time or another we have all said something like that and it is a word of judgment, of law: a judgment of others or of our selves. It appears that in the house and home of Philemon, Onesimus was useless. We are not told in what ways he was useless as a slave. Not obedient? Slothful? He had talents and abilities he did not use? Maybe he did alot of, well, “brown-nosing”? We do not know. But he was useless. We do not know why Onesimus ran away. A conjecture: like Jonah, the Lord caught up to Jonah as Jonah ran away and Onesimus’ uselessness was catching up to him as he ran away and the Lord found him in a jail…with His Apostle! Then what a conversation Onesimus and the Apostle had in jail! The Apostle Paul knew Luke’s Gospel full well…after all, in Acts, Luke has sections in which he reports he was there with Paul. And at the end of Philemon, notice who else is with Paul in Rome! (verse 24) The Apostle knew the Lord’s command: ”Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24: 46-48) “Yes, Onesimus, your uselessness is real! You are not doing as you should and so you dig a hole deeper for yourself and you can not get your self out. And now you are a runaway slave and so are a criminal and the hole is even deeper. Philemon has his rights under Roman law. But there is One Who went into the hole Himself, born under the law: Jesus Christ, God Himself. The Lord has shown you your sin but better: He has shown you your Savior! And that hole was His Cross and grave. Luke told us that Jesus forgave a repentant thief on the Cross. He even forgave me, the chief of sinners. You have heard my story. Onesimus, He is risen and by His blood, He makes you right with God. The Lord became a slave, as we all were enslaved to sin and death and the power of the devil, in order to bear our sin in His own Body. Onesimus, His commands are not burdensome: repent and believe in the Gospel.” In Christ Jesus alone, and His decision for us and for our salvation, Onesimus became more than a slave, a brother, Paul’s child and heart. Onesimus’ name literally means “useful”. In Christ Jesus, Onesimus became his own name. He was lost and was found. Even now.
Post-script: According to a letter from St.Ignatius to the Ephesians, as he was going to be executed by the Romans for the Faith, Ignatius mentions one “…Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love and…your bishop.” (that is, pastor)! St. Ignatius wrote this around the year 100. So this means that Paul’s letter to Philemon was written only 40 prior to Ignatius’ letter. We do not know if the two men so named were one and same, never the less, it is in keeping with the working of the Lord Who creates out of nothing, from Abraham,an idolater, to Moses, a murderer and a stutterer, to David, a lad, to Paul, a persecutor of Christians, to a runway slave named Useful.
Posted in Festivals and Commemorations, forgiveness, Gospel, Liturgical year, Uncategorized | Tagged Apostle Paul, freedom, Jesus Christ, Onesimus, Philemon, servant of Christ, slavery | Leave a Comment »
There was a rock station yesterday giving away a free divorce for Valentine’s Day and Planned Parenthood encouragesabortions for Valentine’s Day, or as the President said in support of abortion, no woman should be punished for having a child. The morning after Valentine’s Day might include the “morning after” pill to stop gestation, or ‘freedom’ from one’s spouse by yet another divorce or a stranger in bed after a “hook-up”. What has become of love and marriage, or is it marriage and then love? For a solid reflection on that question read Chad Bird’s article in The Federalist, “Giving Away a Divorce on Valentine’s Day”. Valentine’s Day is a far cry from the little known Saint Valentine.
Someone wrote a graffiti, “Love is Enough” and another person wrote, “No, it’s not”…especially the way “love” is understood these days as only lust. The Gospel lesson for tomorrow, the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, includes Matthew 5:26-28. Jesus goes to the heart, the will. As the country lyric has it correctly about himself and us all: “I’ve looked for love in all the wrong places”. There is only person and place to look for the meaning of love and His Name is Jesus Christ and the place is His Cross. Luther’s Seal may be the best Valentine’s Day card: His Cross in our hearts killing sin, hence, black, but making our hearts alive and beating. Love for loveless shown. Luther also wrote that ring around it is gold, the color of heaven, but it is also the color of a wedding ring, complete with the purity of a white rose. He can make the foulest clean. Hear His Word and receive His Sacrament tomorrow on the Lord’s Day. A blessed morning after Valentine’s Day!