Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Introduction:  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s  “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”  dated April 16th, 1963, was written to clergymen who did not like the non-violent protests of civil rights movement. Like the Apostle Paul, Dr. King wrote from prison. His letter is an apologia, a defense of  non-violent protest against injustice.  It is a long letter. Below are citations from it.  You can read the entire letter here. I thing that the entire letter is worth the read. 

First, note that Dr. King had no troubles with the “separation of Church and state”.  It was not about the 10 commandments in a court house but in the courts of public opinion and policy.  Still is.  It is not about manger scenes alone in public squares but His Incarnation for us in our public squares.  My wife asked me why was Rev. King named “Martin Luther”.  This has more than a passing interest to this Lutheran as well.  I do not know why the Father and Mother of Martin Luther King, Sr. gave him his name, except to opine:  Martin Luther, in his preaching and teaching of the Gospel, was for the freedom of the Christian against all tyrannies political and spiritual.  Those tyrannies intersect at many places both in the Lord’s house and the courthouse.

Second, Pr. King had no trouble invoking the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as reflective of our “Jude0-Christian heritage”.  We must not be either as we witness the executive and judicial branches of government usurping our founding documents to enforce health care and abortion, and abortion as health care;  mandating the denial of marriage between man and woman;  government setting policy for the  whole nation by the abnegation of the Congress and the people to the federal government’s agencies;  allowing a virulent religion which hates homosexuals and women to have a pass, that is, Islam;  or curtailing our first amendment rights for the Church to preach the Word and for men and women to speak their mind, even when it is morally wrong.  Since the State can do all of this  as a supposed “moral good”, then what is stopping said State from even more curtailing of our Constitutional liberties?  Or the State allowing sharia law to circumvent our nations’ “Judeo-Christian heritage”?  As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of blessed memory wrote, When the Church is excluded from the public square then the State will become the church.  No one could convince Dr. King that the Church did not belong in the public square.   Yet, many are still doing that these days in the name of immoralities and abortions of conscience in looking for their religious jollies in megachurchly entertainments.   We must take heed to Dr. King’s epistle:

  • I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my a particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
  • We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was “well timed,” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the words [sic]”Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
  • We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
  • You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”
  • Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes and “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn’t segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.
  • We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws. I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
  • But as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist for love — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist — “Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice–or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thusly fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
  • There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. (emphases my own)
  • Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.
  • But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. I am meeting young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.
  • One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence

Read Full Post »

This mosaic of Ambrose might actually be a rendering of his likeness.

The Son of God, being about to bring together His Church, first works through his young servant: and so it is well said: the word of the Lord came unto John, etc., so that the Church has its beginning not from man, but from the Word. (emphasis added; Ambrose on Matthew 3: 1-11, the Season of Advent)

“In Milan I found Your devoted servant the bishop Ambrose, who was known throughout the world as a man whom there was few to equal in goodness.  At that time his gifted tongue never tired of dispensing the richness of Your corn, the joy of Your oil, and the sober intoxication of Your wine.  Unknown to me, it was You who led me to him,so that I might knowingly be led by him to You.”  ( From the Confessions of St. Augustine)

Born in Trier in A.D. 340, Ambrose was one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church (with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great). He was a prolific author of hymns, the most common of which is Veni, Redemptor gentium (“Savior of the Nations, Come”). His name is also associated with Ambrosian Chant, the style of chanting the ancient liturgy that took hold in the province of Milan. While serving as a civil governor, Ambrose sought to bring peace among Christians in Milan who were divided into quarreling factions. When a new bishop was to be elected in 374, Ambrose addressed the crowd, and someone cried out, “Ambrose, bishop!” The entire gathering gave their support. This acclaim of Ambrose, a 34-year-old catechumen, led to his baptism on December 7, after which he was consecrated bishop of Milan. A strong defender of the faith, Ambrose convinced the Roman emperor Gratian in 379 to forbid the Arian heresy in the West. At Ambrose’s urging, Gratian’s successor, Theodosius, also publicly opposed Arianism. Ambrose died on Good Friday, April 4, 397. As a courageous doctor and musician he upheld the truth of God’s Word.

Ambrose by his preaching and teaching of Christ brought Christ to many including Augustine.  Ambrose is quoted six times in The Book of Concord:  The Lutheran Confessions. In the longest Ambrose quote in the Lutheran Confessions, in the Apology, Article IV, Justification, the Bishop wrote:

Moreover, the world was subject to Him by the Law for the reason that, according to the command of the Law, all are indicted, and yet, by the works of the Law, no one is justified, i.e., because, by the Law, sin is perceived, but guilt is not discharged. The Law, which made all sinners, seemed to have done injury, but when the Lord Jesus Christ came, He forgave to all sin which no one could avoid, and, by the shedding of His own blood, blotted out the handwriting which was against us. This is what he says in Rom. 5:20: “The Law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Because after the whole world became subject, He took away the sin of the whole world, as he [John] testified, saying John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” And on this account let no one boast of works, because no one is justified by his deeds. But he who is righteous has it given him because he was justified after the laver [of Baptism]. Faith, therefore, is that which frees through the blood of Christ, because he is blessed “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” Ps. 32:1,104].

Ambrose set the true New Testament doctrine of Justification to a hymn, the well renowned hymn for  Advent:  Savior of the Nations Come

Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh–
Woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.

It is not that we come to Christ,but Christ has come to us. He chose such a birth! Our worth is not in our works but in the Word, the Word made flesh. This is the reason Ambrose is cited in the Confessions and the reason Augustine, an adulterer and pagan philosopher, could hear His Savior. He did not bring people to Christ, but Christ to people.  In Matthew, He is called: Emmanuel, God with us.  He chose us, not because we were so good for ‘his team’, but we needed choosing to be cleansed in the laver of Baptism. This is the Gospel in a nutshell and it as the word “Gospel”, good news. 

(Read more on St. Ambrose here)

Read Full Post »

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 federal government produced this poster in ’43, and 71 years later, government (federal, state and local) is trying to do what the Nazis could not.    A Houston mayor subpoenas pastors for their sermons because they brought a lawsuit against the city regarding LGBT style legislation for unisex public bathrooms.   Prayers in school and at public events forbidden. Anti-Zionism is just a mask of the new antisemitism. Universities and the military removing Bibles in their guest rooms, curtailing the Gideons. The social ostracization of churches who deny same-sex ‘marriage’ (pseudogamy, false marriage) as “homophobic”. I do not think that we are living a Nazi-like nation, but it must be remembered that when the Nazis began their campaign against Church and synagogue, many thought this was a good thing.  Those who did not,  said little or nothing…and churches saying nothing as if in the poster, now the Bible is the enemy and killing the Word is a good thing.  

The knife to Scripture was not  first wielded by secularist proponents, but by friends of the Bible:  19th and 20th Biblical scholarship.  The Biblical scholarship that denied Scriptural inerrancy and authority.  It was initially 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.  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 grim.  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, emphasis my own:

God’s Word forever shall abide, No thanks to foes who fear it;

For God Himself fights by our side with the 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!

 Jesus promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church.  Then Peter tried to deter Him from being crucified. Peter eventually denied Jesus three times.  The dark army was moving and it was met by the Lord of Hosts upon the Cross.  He is  risen.  He then sent the Church militant moved out into occupied territory with His Word alone.  

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 severe 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. 

It may be that the chastisements of the Church, mild and severe, are the Lord’s way of teaching us the faith anew.  His Word will not be killed, on purpose or by accident by the hand of mortal man,but the Word dies in our hearts when we seek other comforts and hopes, however pious looking. When the religion of the self’s symbol is the selfie and the mirror, rapt continually looking at ourselves, we do not see the enemy coming from behind. The Church had enemies and Jesus said, Love your enemies, yet they were still enemies. Love them, but do not surrender to them. It is those times when Christ and His Church seems to have had no enemies may be the times of faithlessness and apostasy.  When the Church is derided,denied and decried, then rejoice and be glad, said Jesus, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.This does not mean we are to be “nice” and not say anything when wolves in sheep’s clothing preach a false Gospel.  As a dear colleague liked to say, Nice is the enemy of the good.  Americans want to do right and when someone says I am hurt by what you Christians say or do,an American’s response: “Oh, we do not want to hurt anyone.”  The answer of “no”  maybe that is the very thing they and we need to hear and then the Yes of the Gospel of Jesus.

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 the Church encouraging us to look to Jesus 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

Read Full Post »

King of Glory mosaicIntro:  The following quote is from Dr. Martin Luther’s, The Bondage of the Will.  Luther’s magnum opus is a direct response to the great humanist scholar, Erasmus of Rotterdam and his book, On the Freedom of the Will.  Luther sees in a particular quote by Erasmus a criterion of the Faith that is hardly Scriptural.  Luther’s response is a pointed one to all sorts of Christianity, liberal, progressive or conservative, in our day which is “sinking sand”:

“Here, I see you are taking the view that the truth and usefulness of Scripture should be measured and decided according to the feeling of men-to be precise, of the ungodliest of men; so that nothing henceforth will be true, Divine and wholesome but what these persons find pleasing and acceptable;  and what is not so will at once become useless, untrue and harmful.  What else do you here plead for, but that the words of God may thus depend on, and stand or fall by, the will and authority of men?  But Scripture says the opposite, that all things stand or fall by the will and authority of God, and that all the earth keeps silence before the face of the Lord (cf. Habakkuk 2: 20).”

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

COLLECT OF THE DAY: Lord Jesus Christ, whose grace always precedes and follows us, help us to forsake all trust in earthly gain and to find in You our heavenly treasure;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

What is the largest congregation  or church in the world?  Maybe you think of a mega-church.  The largest church is the Roman Catholic Church. Lutherans are the largest Protestant church in the world,  but none of them come close to encompassing almost all 6 billion people on earth.  This church calls for no conversion, no repentance. This god’s faith feels so natural. This church can do famously well and is quite powerful, influential and people die for it, or short of that, spending their whole lives in gaining this church’s god and this god’s altar is willingly erected in the heart.  Maybe each one of us has yearned for the god of this church. 

What is this church?  Answer:  The church of mammon, or money.  It does not love, care, die and rise for us and our salvation. This god does not make for love, but only loves what it makes. This god makes envy and jealously .  This god does not come from heaven, but comes from the lusts of the heart. There are no atheists in corporate boardrooms.  In fact, in this church, there are no atheists, no non-believers, as those who follow mammon are true believers and boast of their wealth and power.  In fact, there are no atheists, for, “…a god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need.  To have a god is nothing else that to trust and believe in him with our whole heart.”   Everyone has a god, as we were made for faith and love.  Faith and God go together.  False gods are dead ends, the true and living God and His Christ is eternal life.  No one ever on his death bed asked to hold his wallet one more time.  People save money but money cannot save. 

We can see that the rich young man was quite eager to talk with Jesus because the young man ran to Him and knelt before Him.  The young man ran and knelt before Jesus wanting to seal the deal on his goodness, cover all the bases, dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s”:  What must I do to inherit eternal life?  The rich young man certainly knew how to “do”, gain stuff.  All religions, excepted true Christian faith, are about doing to gain God. 

The young man must have heard about Jesus’ fame.  It had spread like wildfire through out the region.  People were saying He preached with authority unlike the scribes.  He had healed so many.  The young man came looking for Jesus for he was earnestly seeking something from the Lord.  His question shows us what it was: eternal life.  The bright young man knew this Jesus must have had some insight on eternal life. Maybe Jesus had the road map to eternal life that the young man could follow? Some new teaching that the young man could do, accomplish some extra commandments in order to obtain the biggest goal of all: eternal life.

Can you imagine a son coming up to his father and asking that question? What must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do to be put into your last will and testament?  Either Dad puts you into his will or not.  Jesus loved the young man.  The young man saw something in Jesus as his question indicated. His question was definitely sincere and it was sincerely wrong.  

The young man wanted to talk Torah, the Law of God, what must I do?  Jesus knew the routine.  Jesus answered with the Torah; He begins with the 2nd Table of the Law, runs through those commandments, which the Lord summed up on another occasion:   “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These I have done since I was a youth.  As if the second table of the law is a snap.  It is when it is only external actions. I am sure the young man had not murdered, stolen, committed adultery, and he did what Father and Mother told him to do.  However, internally, in heart, soul, and mind, I can barely make it through an hour without sinning.  Anger, covetousness, lust come to mind very easy.  You joyously do as Mother and Father command?  No wandering eye?  No anger?

When the Evangelist tells us the sterling fact that Jesus loved the young man, that’s when Jesus responded to the young man with the 1st Table of the Law:  Leave behind everything, sell all that you have which is all that has you, come follow Me. The rich young man went away disheartened, sorrowful, grieving. A man usually is sorrowful when someone one loves dies. Money is most common idol, Luther observed.  It is not money which is the root of all evil, but the love of money which is a root of all kinds of evil as it is written in the Scripture.. You cannot serve God and mammon.  He went away sorrowful because he finally knew he could not keep the Law of God to gain eternal life. None of us can.  The only way is Jesus Christ.  Jesus loved the young man so that he might die and live by faith alone in His grace alone. The young man would know Jesus’ love eventually…for sinners, like him, like me, like thee, like Paul, like Peter, like Moses, like David, like James. Ayn Rand, a Russian immigrant who came  to these blessed shores was for capitalism and against the totalitarian state and wrote novels about capitalism.  When she died her floral tributes were in the shape of dollar signs. Too many Christians these days are more concerned with dollar signs rather than the sign of the cross.  Dollars are for saving but they are not saving.  I have never seen a woman wearing a dollar sign necklace around her neck given by her husband. There is no love portrayed by a dollar sign, but upon the Cross…The young man and us all would know Jesus said tough things and did the toughest thing of all: crucified.  He died for sinners including the nice young man. The sign of His cross is traced upon our bodies and was sunk deep into the soil of His earth, like a treasure hidden in a field.

 Jesus put the full spiritual weight of God’s Law on the kneeling rich young man and the crush of the debt overwhelmed him. Jesus responded with the 1st Table of the Law. He loved him to do that. He did not choose the easy part, the part that won Him a popularity contest and votes. We are told He looked at the man, all the focus of heaven upon the young man. He loved him to do that.  Jesus knew the burden the young man had on his heart with his wealth.  For all our wealth as a nation or as individuals, we become quite disheartened when even a bit of it is lost. Martin Luther: “He who has money and property feels secure, happy, fearless, as if he were sitting in the midst of paradise.  On the other hand, he who has nothing doubts and despairs as if he never heard of God.” The Lord killed the young man so that the young man might live, so he leave behind the desire of his heart, his possessions, and cling to the One who loved him, who left  behind everything and took upon Himself everyone and everyone’s sin, and the sin of the entire world.  Jesus loved him and would love him and you to death, His death upon the cross.  Jesus had no pockets on the Cross.  He loved the rich young man to do that for him, for us all. 

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. This is the sharp retort by Jesus to the rich young man. At first it can take the Christian aback: I thought Jesus is God.  He is 100% God and 100% man.  When Jesus asks him if he has kept the law, in the young man next response, he began, “Teacher…” He learned quickly but probably did not understand.  Jesus gave it all up. … he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  (Philippians 2) As it is written in Scripture.  And in a few more verses, at 10: 34, Jesus will prophesy for a third time:  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.  Only by bearing the full weight of the Law and our sin, He has reconciled the crushing debt of the sin of the world, stamped it forgiven, all of us so that by faith we daily die and rise in Him, in His love by which He has loved us even when we have loved Him not.

The only way to inherit anything is for the testator to put you into the will and then die.  Beloved in the Lord!  He has written you into His will and testament, His last will and testament, not because we deserved, but we need it, no, more:  Him. Eventually all earthly inheritances run out.  Not the Lord’s:   He is risen, so, “…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Eternal life is not a good, a thing be had, eternal life is a Person, as in “I am the resurrection and life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11: 25)   Eternal life has a Name:  Jesus Christ, as He is risen, we too shall rise.

It is written Hebrews says that we are to encourage one another…so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin’s deceits are our flesh’s conceits to look to man-made gods, like Mammon or money to save, and so retreat from Him who alone has saved us.  And hardening here means absolutely every thing that makes it difficult to believe (Martin Luther).  The church of mammon is unrelenting in it’s pursuit of money to lure the Christian with its siren song to the rocky shoals of shipwreck. When the dollar sign lures and the signs of these dark times attract, only the sign of His Cross reminds us of His unconquerable love, we are more than conquerors in Him who loved us. So encourage:

From today’s Epistle Reading:

“…exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 1 4 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 

  • Exhort and Encourage each other to serve our neighbor in live and we soon discover in serving our neighbor that it is not a snap!  And I find out that I am not eminently lovable!  We will learn the truth of Jesus’ Word:  “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, without Me you can do nothing.”
  • Encourage each other in our prayers and to pray, as in Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Hold on to Him who has taken hold of you.
  • Encourage each other and others to come and hear the Word of God and receive His body and blood.
  • Encourage each other so our hearts are not hardened, sclerosis of the heart, turned into you self in desires that are never satisfied by the goods of this world, but opened up by His Word to us all.
  • Encourage each other to true repentance. We are to encourage each other daily every time we pray at table together.

Good encouragement is read in the prophet Amos. Seek good, not evil. The rich young man knew Jesus was actually good, so good Jesus did not hold onto it for our sake.  Seek the immeasurable good of God and His will for you always in Jesus Christ.  Seek good, do not seek goods…seek the Kingdom of God and as Jesus said regarding food, shelter and clothing, all these things will be yours as well.  But they perish but the Word of God endures for ever. He is risen.

The Word says:  Love good, hate evil… not love goods and so court with evil, and love and desire it.   We need a full-hearted and full throated love of the Gospel  in these dark days by the only sign by which we are all saved and will be, In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

Read Full Post »

6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ St. Mark 10: 6-8

READINGS: Genesis 2:18–25  Psalm 128  Hebrews 2:1–13 (14–18)   Mark 10:2–16

COLLECT OF THE DAY: Merciful Father, Your patience and loving-kindness toward us have no end. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may always think and do those things that are pleasing in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The one flesh of marriage is manifest in the biology of a man and a woman, like two puzzle pieces put together by another as the Lord places together Adam and Eve,  man and woman.  The Lord gives marriage before the fall into sin.  Marriage is God’s gift.  Marriage is the fundamental order of creation, of authority, of the continuing of God’s good creation. Marriage and family have two commandments:  the 4th , “Honor your Father and your Mother”, Family  and the 6th, “You shall not commit adultery”, Marriage.  Marriage is concrete:  The two become one flesh.  As anyone doing jigsaw puzzles knows, you can put together two pieces that don’t fit and if you do, then you can break the pieces. This is what divorce is like and so is “hooking-up”. The maker did not make puzzle pieces to be incorrectly linked together…to say the least. Luther wrote:

“So here all will depend on a sound knowledge and understanding of what this “What God has joined together,” is trying to say.  It does not say, “What joined itself together,” but, “What God has joined together.” The joining together is easily seen, but men refuse to see that it is to be God who does the joining. As soon as a joining together has come about by the parties’ own efforts, they immediately want to hang God’s name over it as a cloak to hide their shame, and say that God did it. 

It was for the harness of the human heart, Moses gave this commandment about divorce, but divorce is not from the beginning, that is from creation:  Jesus goes to the beginning, after all He was there:  it is about marriage, man and woman become one flesh, two yet one, like jigsaw pieces.

The one flesh of marriage is denied in our day, even denigrated and forgotten. Divorce, living together, same-sex marriage, and abortion are the sinful symptoms of the denial and denigration of marriage, exacerbating the cause of that destruction of marriage. Even if ‘same-sex so-called marriage is civil law, St. John Chrysostom preached:   “God will judge you at the last day not by the civil law but by His law”.  While there is life, there is repentance on account of Christ.

    What is the cause of the destruction of marriage?  The reason will seem innocuous. One gay commentator wrote that marriage is, “…primarily a way in which two adults affirm their emotional commitment to one another.” Then it stands to reason the two adults can be any combination of genders.  No matter how you do the jigsaw pieces, only male and female can fit with one another.  Maybe with the availability of relatively easy contraception, marriage is seen more as an emotional commitment and that’s it.  It’s all about how we feel.  “Emotional commitment” as the basis of marriage is the operative cultural definition of marriage and is not limited to one gay commentator. When I watch sitcoms and there is a wedding, invariably the couple writes their own “vows”.   Those are not vows at all, but statements of emotional commitment. The phrase “emotional commitment” is bland and bloodless which has caused, as the Brits would say, bloody bad things. I have an emotional commitment to you and you to me, and to each other in Jesus Christ, but that does not mean we are married.  “Emotional commitment” as the sum and substance of marriage is denial and even destruction of marriage. We know what happens, “once the love has gone”. The primary divine purpose of marriage is the two become one flesh, not one soul or heart, ‘soul-mates’  or other flights of spiritualized sentimentality and cultural rot.   Man and woman become one flesh to have children and for the continuation of life and love.  “(The Lord)  forbade men to marry their  sisters or  daughters, so that our  love  would  not be limited  to members of our families,  and withdrawn from the  rest  of the  human race”(St. John Chrysostom).    

Another saying making the rounds is “love makes a family”, well, no as love is understood as only emotional commitment and warmth. It is not as that warmth can become really cold.  Marriage makes the family, between male and female, as the Lord has created us.  Once “emotional commitment” becomes the sole reason for marriage then divorce becomes simply (supposedly) “no fault”, but if marriage is based upon love, that is, loving feelings, those emotions  will soon fail, marriage is based upon God’s Word, vows, God’s and ours, so that we can learn to love even as we have first been loved.

Intimate of the first reason for marriage is the second, which God in His Word makes clear:  it is not good for the man to be alone. The Lord God gives a helpmate, one for another.  This too is not simply an “emotional commitment”. Once again, man can have an emotional commitment that he or she hates someone so much, they commit to murder.  Emotional commitments by themselves are not necessarily positive, to say the least.  The second reason for marriage is companionship.  The word “companion” has two Latin words: “com” and “panis”.  “Panis” is bread, “com” with, or share.  Husband and wife share bread together, serve one another, subordinate their desires in that service. If blessed with their children.  The home table is sacred. Sharing bread is service which is love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

We have been encouraged in our time to talk about sex…a lot.  C.S. Lewis wrote about this endless, almost pornographic dialogue:

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. 

Lewis first said this in radio talk in England during World War II.  If we need to see what America has become, Europe was well on the way before us, and we have sadly and terribly caught up. Marriage has become a mess. Moses knew that. God knows that and Jesus, God’s own Son, became flesh.

Again St. Mark show us two paintings, two scenes:    first scene, Jesus teaching marriage between man and woman and the second scene, back in the house in Capernaum, and once again children are present.  The sturdy orthodox Lutheran theologians speak of marriage and family, as in the first scene of today’s Gospel, as the order of creation.  Marriage and family are foundational, government at it’s best is to serve families, not for families to serve the illiberal immorality of the denial of marriage. Marriage and family have two commandments:  the 4th and the 6th. The messing up of marriage has now happened in cyber speed.

Then  in the house, fathers and mothers ask Jesus to bless their children.  The disciples were preventing them. St. Mark reports that Jesus literally snorted with indignation at them.  This Scripture is the one used at every Baptism in the Lutheran Church. When Jesus went back into the house, the movement is from the order of creation to the order of redemption in Jesus Christ.  Going into the house with the Lord it became the House of the Lord, Church. This is the proof text that the Lord baptizes infants, a holy new family, h-o-l-y, but according the Gospel of Christ, there is no adult baptism.  All baptism is baptism of children, of infants,  to be like a child, knowing on our own we make a mess of so much and can, but in Him we are saved and receive like a child all His gifts, as a child does from Mother and Father.  Children are not pure, but they trust. The Pharisees wanted to have an adult theological discussion in order, well, to finally get their way in salvation, find out what is permitted.    See how much one can get away with and then be good to go.  On our own we cannot be good to go. Jesus went all the way as He tasted death for us. He sanctified us and is our brother, and our Lord    Jesus blessing the children finally and fully, met our breakage of the Law at an intersection:  His Cross.  He enfolded into His arms the children that day and blessed them. He still does and has for you. 

Marriage is the Lord’s always new math: 1 + 1 equals 1.    Marriage is God’s gift to Adam and Eve.  Marriage begins the Bible and even as sin entered the world, the Lord did not abandon His gift of marriage to men and women.  The Bible is the history and story of marriage and families from the beginning to Abraham and Sarah  to Joseph and Mary and Christ and His Church and in the new creation when the heavenly Jerusalem descends as His bride. The stories of those families is checkered to say the least.  We can read for ourselves the messes the Patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob say made of their marriages.  The Lord gave His promise through many of those families. by sheer grace, not because of their deeds.   The Lord came, and sought His bride and slipped the pure gold wedding ring of His saving love on our finger, in true faith.  What is Mine is thine and what is Thine is Mine, He said in His eternal vow.

“(In marriage) you  are sacrificing yourself for  someone  to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself  up for the one who turned her back on Him and  hated  Him” (St. John Chrysostom)

All your brokenness of sin I have taken upon Myself and I give you all that I have:  grace, mercy and peace, the fidelity of love stronger than sin and death.  You divorce Me, but I will not divorce Thee.  How is marriage a mystery?  The two have become one.  This is not an empty symbol.   They have not become the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself. (St.  John Chrysostom)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: