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Archive for October, 2017

World War II American Patriotic Anti-Nazi Poster public domain image: Vintage Patriotic Anti-Nazi Poster from 1943 World War II: THIS IS THE ENEMY in large text below an image of a menacing swastika sleeved hand driving a bayonet through the Holy Bible by artist Barbara Marks; published by the Office of War Information, Washington, D.C. printed 28 x 20 inch color lithograph by U.S. Government Printing Office: 1943-O-533688; a public domain image of a historic U.S.A. American Government Patriotism Symbol copyright free image of a patriotic WWII Anti-Nazi poster titled This is the Enemy.

 

This World War II American anti-Nazi poster is definitely from a different era.  The concern clearly expressed is that the Nazis were the enemy of the Christian faith represented by the  Bible.  The Nazis were trying to kill the Bible, that is the Word of God.  In fact, the Nazis even produced their own Bible which is called “the Hitler Bible”.  Hitler and company did their own version of the commandments, Hitler’s 12 commandments.

The knife to Scripture was not  first wielded by the Nazis or the Communists, but by friends of the Bible, so-called:  19th and 20th Biblical scholarship which devolved into the Biblical scholarship that denied Scriptural inerrancy and authority.  It is less like a knife and more like a scalpel, removing those living parts of God’s Word that do not comport with the secularist, worldly agenda:  ordination of men, abortion, greed,lust, same-sex marriage and the denial of gender, etc. but the purpose became Biblicide. Again, this was done within the Church, by ‘friends’ who were (are) trying to make the Bible relevant, timely, palatable and all under the rubric of ‘doing good’.   Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus for Him to  use the Word for His own purposes for ‘doing good’, on the devil’s terms.  This is the struggle of our time, against the zeitgeist of the powers and principalities in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 6:12 ).

The most sung and loved of the sizable number of Reformation hymns is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Dr. Martin Luther, the last stanza:

God’s Word forever shall abide,
no thanks to foes, who fear it;
for God himself fights by our side
with weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house,
goods, honor, child, or spouse,
though life be wrenched away,
they cannot win the day.
The kingdom’s ours forever!

And the powers and principalities and the prince of darkness wants to take away one of the Church’s greatest weapons of the Spirit in her arsenal:  the Bible. The Bible then becomes the enemy to those in power and those who go with the flow.

One of the periods of Christian history we tend to overlook is the two centuries from AD33 to AD312 (The Edict of Milan), in which the Church grew greatly under mild and bloody persecutions.  The Church had no churchly institutions.  No government to give them a hand to help, but the hand of government to hurt and martyr.  No Bill of Rights protected their religious freedom.  They lived in a society in which sexual immorality was taken for granted, from the almost pornographic statuary of Greece and Rome to acceptance of deviancies of all descriptions. The Church had the Bible, the Word, the Sacraments, prayer, faith, hope and love, weapons of the Spirit, the armor of God (Ephesians 6).  The Lord watched over His Church, His bride, His body and still does and we must employ His weapons, not the the ones of our own making,however reasonable.  Keep steadfast in  His Word.

This World War II poster is scary.  When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned, he wrote his brother Pastor, Timothy this:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2)

Paul was bound but the Word is not. He was chained as criminal for the crime of preaching Christ which is no crime. Luther and the Reformers knew this. They knew the knife of those who denied the authority of Scripture alone.  They did not prevail. Luther and company did not prevail, the Lord did. He still will.  He calls us, as He did the blessed Reformers:  Confess Christ! Fear not, I am with you until the end of the age. You do not build the Church, I do.  You are to confess. Confess Christ as Lord! Confess Christ so that saints are remade in Baptism. All the saints surround us in Christ’s Body, the Church encouraging us to look to Christ alone, His grace alone, as  His baptized saints.

Let us pray…Almighty and gracious Lord,  pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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Our word  “Halloween” is a contraction of the phrase:  “All Hallows Eve.  The word “hallow” as in the Lord’s Prayer:  “hallowed by Thy Name”.  The word “hallow” means to make holy or holy.  This day is so named because because tomorrow is All Saints Day when the Church remembers all the saints in Christ and  so today is the Holy Eve of November 1.  This custom of the evening of a saint’s day, or the big festivals of the church year, e.g. Christmas Eve, as the beginning of hte day has it’s roots in Genesis chapter 1 and the creation narrative: “…and it was evening and morning the first day”, etc.  Please note the sequence of evening, then morning.  In Judaism, evening begins the day, with the setting of the sun, and so the lighting of Shabbos candles at the table  at the setting of the sun on Friday to welcome in the Sabbath.  Christianity follows this practice to this day for it’s feast days including today (also the Eastern Orthodox churches always have Saturday Vespers).  The association of Halloween with ghosts, pumpkins, monsters, witches, trick or treating has a long complex history which if you want to read about this, here is a good article on origin of our Halloween practices. 

Halloween is about being scared and frightened by things that go bump in the night, ghosts, ax murders, witches and the like.  The current Netflix series, “Stranger Things” capitalizes on this but with the twist that this scary movie is centered on a questionable science center in the small Indiana town.  But what is truly frightening and terrifying?  Psalm 46 speaks to  terror, and unlike the frights of Halloween, the hope that quells the true terrors of our day.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

The Lord in His Word forthrightly tells us our fear: the utter instability in nature and the even more terrorizing is the  instability in the nations:  war and the instruments of war (bow, spear and chariots, the equivalent of that day to our nuclear weapons, bombers etc). “Indeed, historical insecurity seems to replace cosmic instability in Israel’s vision of reality…but the congregation knows that the LORD of hosts is also sovereign over national powers as well as cosmic”.

What are the terrors of our day?  The same as for the Psalmist and the people Israel:  “wars and rumors of wars” and the weather, i.e. ‘climate change’! These terrors make Halloween’s somewhat manufactured terrors pale in comparison. With ‘climate change’, the change from Psalm 46 to today is the false belief of so many that we can “save the planet”.  This  is looking the wrong way, that is, to ourselves which fits in this idolatrous generation. The LORD directs our attention to Himself in the Psalm’s refrain:

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46 inspired Martin Luther to write arguably the greatest hymn in Church history:  “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.  “LORD of hosts identifies the LORD as the divine warrior who leads the heavenly hosts against the cosmic and human foes to maintain his rule” The Lord destroys our weapons of war to make to make for peace and the Prince of peace came upon the field of our cosmic and human foes:

With might of ours can naught be done,
Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One,
Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabaoth Lord,
And there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.

The question arises in the face of our foes, what should we do?  We should do something, anything, right?!  The Psalmist has counsel to answer these questions and that is:  do nothing!

Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

If someone is trying to fill your cup with water, it makes no sense to keep moving it:  Be still. Be still in the “city of God” from whence comes,”…a river whose streams make glad the city of God”.  When I think of this river I am reminded of Holy Baptism.  The “city of God” may be a reference to Jerusalem but the city of God seems to be something other.  “The song does not invite trust in a place, but in a Presence who wills to dwell with people”, that is, Emmanuel, God with us.  The Church needs to be still in prayer before the Lord in these times of  terror so the LORD fills us with His Word to know and do His will as He with us, as He will be exalted in all the earth of our terrors.  

A blessed All Hallow’s Eve!

(All the quotes above are from Interpretation:  A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Psalms by Dr. James L. May)

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O Spirit, who didst once restore
Thy church that it might be again the bringer of good news to men,
Breathe on Thy cloven Church once more,
That in these gray and latter days
There may be those whose life is praise, each life a high doxology
To Father, Son and unto Thee.
(#843 LSB)

Concordia and Koinonia

In the ‘70s I went on a three-week college study tour of the then Soviet Union and some Eastern European cities.  In East Berlin, one stop was a history museum.  Since we were from a Lutheran College (Concordia Senior College, Ft. Wayne, IN) the museum guide especially wanted us to see the displays on Martin Luther and the Reformation.  The guide pointed out that Luther was lauded as precursor Marxist revolutionary as he stood against the ruling class.

Martin Luther has been lauded and hailed in other historical interpretations of the man which miss the mark:

  • In a similar fashion, hailed as a proto-Marxist revolutionary, Luther is understood as a populist leader and demagogue who rallied the masses against the tyranny of Rome and the prevailing ruling class. The accusation is he was an enemy of the Church and he was not. Luther was no populist/demagogue:  when the masses started…

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“Just at the time when the whole world seems to be going mad, when people in general seem to be under the influence of some evil power, some strange intoxication, then the Christians, and especially the true pastors, should maintain their vigilant self-possession; with clearness of view and judgment use all possible caution.”

(Rev. Paul Kretzamann, from his 1924 Bible Commentary).

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“The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise.” Pr. Bonhoeffer

Concordia and Koinonia

 

Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture Lessons:  Jeremiah 26: 1-16; Psalm 43;  1 Peter 1: 3-9;  John 15: 12-21

 Alleluia.  You did not choose Me, But I chose you. Alleluia.

About Saints Simon and Jude:  In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14—16); Acts1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or ‘Cannanaean”) and by Jude (or “Judas,” not Iscariot but “of James”), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as…

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“He assumed flesh and blood and bone like us, yet without sin, which is our lot. The devil hates to hear this joyful tiding, that our flesh and blood is God’s Son, yes, God himself, who reigns in heaven over everything. Formerly, each Sunday, we used to sing Nicea’s confession of faith, formulated at the Council of Nicea, in the words: Et homo factus est, “And he became man,” and everyone fell to his knees. That was an excellent, commendable custom and it might well still be practiced, so that we might thank God from the heart that Christ assumed human nature and bestowed such great and high honor upon us, allowing his Son to become man.”

 From Martin Luther’s Sermon for the Annunciation

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The Five Wise and 5 Foolish Virgins by William Blake

Almighty God, the apostle Paul taught us to praise You in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.We thank You this day for those who have given to Your Church great hymns, especially Your servants Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt. May Your Church never lack hymnwriters who through their words and music give You praise. Fill us with the desire to praise and thank You for Your great goodness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Bio: 

Philipp Nicolai (1556–1608) was a pastor in Germany during the Great Plague, which took the lives of 1,300 of his parishioners during a sixth-month period. In addition to his heroic pastoral ministry during that time of stress and sorrow, he wrote the texts for “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying” and “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” known, respectively, as the king and queen of the Lutheran chorales. 

Johann Heermann (1585–1647), also a German pastor, suffered from poor health as well as from the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). His hymn texts are noted for their tenderness and depth of feeling. 

Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676) was another Lutheran pastor who endured the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. By 1668 he lost his pastoral position in Berlin (for refusing to compromise his Lutheran convictions), and endured the death of four of his five children and his wife. He nevertheless managed to write 133 hymns, all of which reflect his firm faith. Along with Martin Luther he is regarded as one of Lutheranism’s finest hymn writers.(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  These pastors and hymn writers, with their congregations and families,  suffered plague, war and sickness.  What sustained these men through such turmoil, when the ground beneath them was shaking and then write some of the greatest hymns for the Church’s song?  They may have seen plague, war and sickness as God’s judgment and the Word of God makes us stop at His judgment so that we hear His grace in Christ who suffered our plagues, wars and sickness.  We have expectations of life being easy but not so long ago, man did not have such an expectation.  Expectation, though, is not hope. Such calamities remind us we can not fix the world so we can look again, not to our selves, but to where true joy is found: 

1. O Christ, our true and only Light,
Enlighten those who sit in night;
Let those afar now hear Thy voice
And in Thy fold with us rejoice. (Johann Heerman)

Faith can only have something or someone to seize for salvation and this is the justification of the sinner by Christ’s Atonement, the Savior, once and for all from the Cross, preached and taught into our ears and hearts, by sermons, yes!  But also by hymnody.  In this 500th Anniversary of Dr. Luther posting the 95 Theses, it was also hymnody that drove Luther’s hammer.  

In the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), the former worship book of the ELCA’s predecessor Lutheran denominations,  the forward states that they wanted the hymns to be more “devotional” and have a less of  a “didactic” content.   Nowadays, the search for the mere “devotional” devolves into a music that makes me feel a certain way. The didactic or teaching content of Lutheran hymnody is crucial because it is the objective Word of God written in Scripture sung in words and music so we can learn and learn to praise aright in heartfelt devotion.

Consider “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying”:  this hymn is the Parable of the Foolish and Wise Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13) set to music. It is usually sung in Advent, pointing to the time on earth when the Bridegroom arrived and the time to come when those who are eager for His appearing, He will come again.  It is didactic and  instructional. Those who teach the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth, the dispensationalist and millenialist false doctrine is shown for what it is in that magnificent hymn of Scripture by the true and correct doctrine of our Lord’s parousia, in Scripture, correctly taught. The virgins knew the bridegroom was coming, but they did not know when. He comes not when we expect it as 1000 year reign timetables lay out and get wrong. He comes at the fulfilled time for those who long for His appearing (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8).

At Concordia Junior College, I took a one credit course on hymnody. Professor “Ollie” Rupprecht pointed out that J.S. Bach had some 80 volumes in his library (quite an expensive acquisition in that day) and 60 volumes were on Lutheran Doctrine. This doctrine has been derided as too “sterile”.  It is not.  Like Jack Webb in Dragnet said: “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” The objective justification by the life, word and work of Jesus Christ is the reason to sing in the midst of the world when the “nations rage” and “kingdoms totter” (Ps. 46: 6). Through His grace alone, faith grabs hold of the promises by the work of the Holy Spirit alone.  Some say Lutheran Hymnody is so devoid of emotion:  it’s not. These hymn writers did not write these hymns to “reach people” but to teach and sing the Gospel:

8. What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee. (Paul Gerhardt)

We give thanks to the Lord, the Conductor of the  “choir immortal” (from “Wake, Awake”),   for all church organists (underpaid and being squeezed out by contemporary worship), church musicians, choirs and the Lord’s people who sing their praise of their Lord through hymns replete with the Scripture, that is, the Word of God and so the Holy Spirit.  Pray for your organist, choir director, choir members and church musicians in petition and  praise to the Lord and tell them all this  Sunday:  thanks!

“Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” (#516, Lutheran Service Book) by Philipp Nicolai

“O Christ, Our True and Only Light” (#839, Lutheran Service Book) by Johann Heerman

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (#450, Lutheran Service Book) by Paul Gerhardt

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