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Love and Truth

The 1964 Presidential election was between President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Democrat) and Senator Barry Goldwater (Republican).  Senator Goldwater is considered as one of the founders of the conservatism that we know in our day.  This TV ad was devastating against the Republicans.  It also showed the power of television.  I was age 9 at the time and remember it well: 

The ad makes out Senator Goldwater as a war monger, that if he were elected, would bring about nuclear Armageddon without the ad ever saying so!  If I could vote at age 9, I would have voted for President Johnson.  Watching this ad again I was struck by the voice over by President Johnson:

“These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other. Or we must die.”

Without an explicit statement, those two sentences, with the preceding contrasting images conjure up for me these even starker contrasts: Republicans=war/Democrats=peace; Republicans=darkness/Democrats=light; Republicans=hatred/Democrats=love.

At  age 9, it was clear to me:  President Johnson and the democrats were for “love” and light.  Who would be against that?

Jumping ahead…I had left The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS/conservative) after college and I was a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA/liberal).  Many ELCA pastors, your scribe included, were fighting against the progressivist push in the ELCA, especially in regards to inclusive language.  “Inclusive language” was the opening salvo to the rewriting of God’s Word regarding the doctrine and practice of marriage between man and woman; but by God’s Word and faithful fellow pastors and Christians, I woke up to the deadly realities of which I was complicit.

An old friend and  colleague  was visiting us.  ‘Brad’ likewise had left the LCMS and he was also a pastor in the ELCA.  I mentioned my  growing notion  of returning to the LCMS.  ‘Brad’ responded, without blinking an eye, “Yeah, the LCMS stands for truth, which is great, but the ELCA stands for love.”  I was taken aback. It is the same dividing of love and truth just as President Johnson had suggested in that commercial forty plus years ago.  I had no response to my friend.  I do now.

First:  I think this division would offend a liberal/progressivist as well because they also believe in truth.

Second:  Where did this come from?  I think it is still with us in the realm of both politics and religion.  I am not suggesting that President Johnson started it, but there is the German word “zeitgeist” that may help to explain this fracture of love and truth.  “Zeitgeist” means “spirit of the age” and not all the “spirits” are from God.  There is something downright devilish in this division because  in this sundering, truth takes the backseat to ‘love’.

And this leads to number 3:  if we depart from the truth, especially the truth of God’s Word for love alone then we have no backbone.  The Bible makes no sundering of truth and love as we love God’s truth and ever pray as His baptized, to love truthfully.  I think this division is also based upon the departure from “sound doctrine”, the sound doctrine of Law and Promise, only for our ‘loving actions’.  This has resulted in secular Pharisaism.  Liberal/progressivist churches are legalistic to the core as they try by their  ‘love’, under the guise of “social justice”, resulting in political correctness,  ‘to save the world’.  Love without truth is opened to the fleshly freedom to as one wants, as long as it is politically correct. You do not need God to save, only God who gives us examples say,  of “inclusivism” as long as those Bible narratives are not considered “patriarchal” and “sexist” or “homophobic”.  And on the end:  Truth without love can result in using truth to bludgeon an opponent. 

“We must love each other or we must die” said LBJ. Yes, that is true according to God’s Law.  But we have not loved our neighbor as we ought. This the President would not, even could not, say.  In his statement the implication is if we want to ‘love each other’ then we need to vote for him and not the conservative!  No government on earth can teach us to love!  Why?  They do not have saving truth! A government  can instruct in facts, but not truth.  They are not called so to teach.  One of the reasons there is tax exemption for religion because early on, our constitutional government realized what they could NOT do:  teach morals, churches and synagogues can.  Sadly, so many churches have given up that role. Government can only “insure the domestic tranquility” by protecting its citizens from all enemies. foreign and domestic (see Romans 13) and getting out of the way of churches (and yes, synagogues, mosques, ashrams, parents) to teach morals.  President Johnson was beginning to assume the role of Moralist in Chief.  He/she can not enforce ‘love’ and if so, the greatest tyranny is yet to be loosed upon the earth, the anti-Christ: 

2 Thessalonians 2:”… and the man of lawlessness is revealed,the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”

Proclaiming “himself to be God” by teaching us his version of love! And no one will be exempt from a love turned dictatorial. As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said, When the Church is expelled from the public square, then the state will become the church, that is, anti-Christ. 

There is hope!  The Word became flesh (St. John 1).  He is the Word of saving truth for sinners:  see St. John 8: 31-32 and John 14:6.  He is the love of God incarnate as well:  see John 3:16 and 1 John 4:8.  There is hope but it is not of the world and it’s kingdoms but in Christ Jesus alone.  Evil is perverted goodness bent in upon one’s own self, not according to the truth of God’s truth in the Scripture. When Gandalf was offered the ring of power by Bilbo for Gandalf, he said no in no uncertain terms:

It is the allure of using goodness according to the flesh. The allure of the anti-Christ is today love apart from truth, again a fleshly freedom which is actually the old slavery of sin.  It looks good and remember what is written about such men:

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

In these times, we must stand fast in God’s Word alone! 

Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from your Son
And bring to nought all he has done.

Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word
By: Martin Luther

Suggested Lection:

Psalm 45:1-9
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 23:54-24:11 or Mark 16:1-8

Joanna, Mary, and Salome:  Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of Matthew (28:1), Mark (16:1), and Luke (24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Lk. 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alphaeus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Mt. 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.

Writing

Why was Christ’s resurrection revealed to these women first? There are several answers.

  • First, God was keeping His ancient custom of choosing what is foolish, undistinguished, and despised in the eyes of the world in order to put the strong and lofty to shame. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-28) These women were despised not only due to the weakness of their gender but also because of Galilee, their homeland. (see John 1:46But God exalts them by revealing to them the resurrection of His Son, which is an excellent article of our faith.

  • Indeed, He even sends them to the apostles to share the message of Christ’s resurrection with them, so that they become, as the ancients say, like “apostles to the apostles” …

  • Third, in this way God wanted to prevent the accusations of the Jews. The high priests lied, saying that Christ’s disciples had stolen the body of their master. In order to provethe shamelessness and absurdity of this lie, it happened by God’s marvelous providence that these women came to the grave before the apostles. Now, it is highly unlikely that these few women could have stolen the body from a grave guarded by soldiers and closed by a large stone.

  • Fourth, through the woman Eve, death came to all human beings. On account of this, Christ wanted His resurrection, which brings us righteousness and life, to be told to others by women. At the fall of the first human being, these three worked together: the devil, who deceived; the woman, who proclaimed his talk further; the man, who ate and corrupted human nature. So also,Christ’s resurrection, these three worked together: Christ, who rose and redeemed human nature; the angel, who proclaimed the resurrection; and the women, who carried the joyful message further.

Now if Christ was pleased with the zeal of these women, which was yet bound together with significant weaknesses of faith, and did not let them come away from the tomb empty, how much less will He let those go away empty who in true faith seek Him who rules at the right hand of the Father!

Martin Chemnitz (He has been called the “second Martin”, the first being Martin Luther;  all of the above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  They brought myrrh.  We remember myrrh every Christmas as the magi brought”gold, frankincense and myrrh”. The magi were hard-core pagan magicians and unexpectedly they bring expensive gifts for the King!  Myrrh was a costly ointment used for fragrance.  In the Song of Solomon myrrh is used to scent the marital bed.  It was also used for burial of the dead to cover the smell of death, but it is finally only perfume, a cover up and sin and death “stink to high heaven”.   The faithful women bear myrrh to the tomb and unexpectedly they find out:  He is risen!  O Lord, the holy women came to anoint Your Body in the Tomb and You did anoint them, and us, eternally with Your Risen Life!  You anoint us with the grace of Your forgiveness in the anointing of the Holy Ghost! They did not have to anoint His Body!  As  Christ Jesus is the sweet fragrance of His Resurrection by which He has conquered death, no cover-up of death  but swallowing  up death: Christ the death of death our foe, Christ the life of all the living.  Along with Joanna, Mary and Salome, we are joined with Paul and all the Church to be the “aroma of Christ”:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2)

Let us pray…

Mighty God, Your crucified and buried Son did not remain in the tomb for long. Give us joy in the tasks set before us, that we might carry out faithful acts of service as did Joanna, Mary, and Salome, offering to You the sweet perfume of our grateful hearts, so that we, too, may see the glory of Your resurrection and proclaim the Good News with unrestrained eagerness and fervor worked in us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.

And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.

By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.

And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.

Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion

From a speech by Mother Theresa delivered in 1994, National Day of Prayer and in attendance were President and Mrs. Clinton, Vice-President  and Tipper Gore. Read the article for good commentary:

Remembering When Mother Teresa Left Hillary Clinton in Stunned Silence on Abortion

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 19:38-39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus.

Reflection:  Joseph of Arimathea is a critical actor in the burial of Jesus.  If a congregation were to do a Passion play, the role of Joseph would be a bit part, just one or two lines. Many an actor wants of course the lead. Yet, like any part in a play, big or small, each role is crucial. Most of us will ever and only have a bit part in the life we are called to lead, yet your part is crucial, even critical in the lives of someone else.  We will flub our lines and make missteps and miss our cue.  Yet, the Lord will teach us the role we are assigned and it takes practice, the practice of discipleship and Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus’ disciple.  He was looking for the Kingdom of God and he buried Jesus’ Body.  When he put Jesus in his tomb, he may have not known he was entombing the reign of God. This Joseph was probably rich. He laid in his own tomb the greatest Treasure ever known but He could not rust nor fade.  The large stone in front of his new tomb could not hold this Treasure: the Lord of life. He is risen. We seek buried treasure but Jesus, the priceless treasure finds us. By his service to the Lord, Joseph of Arimathea, helped form  The Apostles’ Creed:  “and was buried and on the third day…”  Do not minimize nor maximize your calling in the Lord’s work. You just may have the ‘line’, the part that the Lord uses for His work of salvation.

Prayer of the Day

Merciful God, Your servant Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial with reverence and godly fear and laid Him in his own tomb. As we follow the example of Joseph, grant to us, Your faithful people, that same grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Quote of the Day

When children see their parents trying to make Church fun by changing it, they are taught not to revere church but to revere entertainment.   

Pastor Jonathan Fisk

Thanks, praise, and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who again, as at the beginning, has granted us to see the time in which His Christians, before our eyes and from our eyes and from beside us, are carried off to become martyrs (that is, carried off to heaven) and become saints

Concordia and Koinonia


Biography:  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 andecclesiastical 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…

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

In the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received. Bach Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

When I was at  Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee (now Concordia University, Mequon Wisconsin), I took the one credit course on Lutheran Hymnody.   Professor “Ollie” Ruprecht pointed out that Bach’s library had around 80 volumes in it. Prof. Rupprecht pointed out that books were quite expensive and about 60  of those volumes were books of orthodox Lutheran theology.  Orthodox Lutheran theology is all about proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.  And so did Bach through music in the beauty of holiness.

One of Bach’s most marked set of volumes was Abraham Calov’s 3 book set of Luther’s Bible, with Calov’s commentary.  Bach, spending a large part of a year’s salary, purchased a 7 volume edition of Luther’s writings which Calov has based his commentary.  Calov wrote regarding Luther:

“It hinders a preacher greatly if he wants to look around and concern himself with what people want to hear and not hear.”

Bach double-marked that sentence for emphasis (Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines).

That sentence also sums up Bach’s understanding of music.  He would mark on his scores AMG, ad mairorem Dei, to the greater glory of God. He has been called, after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 5th evangelist.  In his day, he was not known beyond Germany. After his death,  his music was rediscovered.  His output for 27 years in Leipzig for 4 churches was massive.  Bach’s music still preaches.Bach’s texts usually were the Bible and he put the Scripture to music. This is true Christian music.  In his day, the Enlightenment, ‘modern’ music was suppose to reflect how the composer felt and what the people wanted to hear.  Sound familiar?  On NPR, they will have a segment that I call OMS, the obscure musical segment when the artist intros his/her work and tells us what “he is trying to do”, or what he was feeling at the time of composition.  Not for J. S. Bach:  it was to proclaim the Gospel. Bach did not listen to what people wanted, but what he heard was the Lord’s commands and promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and he knew the Lord’s second best gift, music.  “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise” (Luther).   Bach’s talent at the organ and as a composer was wanted by the Church and he was not popular in the courts of public taste, but being popular in the world is never the goal, Christ is.

Only two of Bach’s works were ever published in his life time. In the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received. The Word of the Lord endures forever and the Lord gave Johann a gift that he did use to His greater glory  and the joy of the Church, which is always,  “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring”.In an episode of M*A*S*H, Radar falls for a nurse who is quite cultured and loves classical music.  He goes to Hawkeye and Trapper for lessons in classical music.  Hawkeye gives Radar the names of some composers and then says, “…then if she mentions Bach, just say, ‘Ahhh, Bach’”. We also can say, Ahhh, Bach! 

Thank-you Lord for Bach and all church organists, choir directors, choirs and musicians who also through music, especially Bach’s, proclaim the eternal Gospel. Open the ears and hearts of church councils, parish councils and sessions to pay their organists well as they lead Your holy people in the Divine Service.  Amen.

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