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The Joy of Lamentation

September 26, 2012 2 comments

Last week I was in Fort Wayne for a continuing education class with Dr. John Kleinig, who is, I think, retired from a professorship at the seminary of the Lutheran Church of Australia.  Between the class and difficulties with my internet connection, which are still ongoing, I was unable to post anything.  One of the topics discussed in the class was on my mind this morning as I lay awake for the last hour, unable to go back to sleep.

 

The class was on the book of Exodus, specifically how Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt and formed into a liturgical community—that is, a worshipping community.  Israel was not freed simply to be another nation among nations but to be the people among whom God lived and was worshipped.  But the subtext of the class was worship and our contemporary predicament of being disconnected from biblical worship.

 

One of the things Dr. Kleinig said was that western people have forgotten how to lament, and that this has had tragic consequences for the church in the western world.  If you have read Dr. Kleinig’s book on Christian spirituality (and if you haven’t, there is pretty much no book I could recommend as highly—it was life changing for me), or if you have attended Doxology (a Lutheran training program for pastoral care), you are familiar with the topic. 

 

There are several different genres of psalms in the psalter.  There are penitential psalms, which express grief and remorse over sin and seek forgiveness from God.  There are seven of these in the psalter.  Then there are psalms of ascent, which were hymns sung by pilgrims to the temple in Jerusalem.  They were used liturgically when worshippers travelled to Jerusalem, or perhaps in the temple itself.  I think there are 14 psalms of ascent.

 

Then there are psalms of lamentation, where the psalmist brings anger and grief in the midst of suffering to God in the form of complaint.  The psalms of lamentation have a particular structure, which I won’t get into.  Dr. Kleinig outlines this structure as a way to bring our anger and suffering before God.  He points out that there are vastly more psalms of lament or lamentation than there are penitential psalms, although pious Lutherans are comfortable praying the penitential psalms and confessing our sins, and often aren’t sure what to do with the psalms of lamentation, where David or another psalmist will protest their righteousness, complain at God, and call for God to punish their enemies.  Yet there are something like 50 psalms of lament out of the 150 in the bible.

 

Why are there so many?  Why do I know how to pray the penitential psalms but find it difficult to make sense of the psalms of lament?  What are we missing by not knowing how to pray them? 

 

I want to explore these questions.  I won’t be able to get it done in a single post, though.

 

To begin with, I, along with other Lutherans who at least sometimes want to pray, approach the bible with the correct belief that I am a sinner.  Because I am a sinner, the only righteousness I can claim before God, and my only ground to stand on, is His sheer mercy in Christ.  God does not count my sins to me, but counts me righteous for the sake of Jesus’ suffering as my substitute.  He died for me, the righteous for the unrighteous.  On account of His death which atones for my sins I am righteous before God.  Otherwise, in me, there is nothing but sin which provokes God’s righteous wrath.

 

That being the case, when someone wrongs me, what do I do?  Since I have sinned against God and my neighbor, but I live by Christ’s forgiveness, I assume (rightly) that I should forgive those who sin against me.  When I suffer, I should forgive as I have been forgiven. 

 

But I’m not very good at that.  Besides, sometimes you forgive, and the person continues to sin against you.  Then what?  It’s not so hard to forgive things that don’t hurt.  But some sins committed against you hurt deeply.  Sometimes they go on for years, and the person committing them doesn’t even acknowledge that they are doing it.  Oftentimes they are inflicted by people you love and on whom you rely.  More than that they are people God calls you to love and care for—it could be your spouse, family member, your pastor (or parishioner.)  At the end of the day God forbids us to take revenge on anyone but seek everyone’s eternal good, no matter what they do to us.

 

So what do you do?  Matthew 18 says “If a brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”  But not every sin is such that you can or should confront it directly. And what when you have confronted it and the sin goes on—either because the person committing it doesn’t acknowledge it, or because for one reason or another they continue to repeat the sin?

 

Then Jesus says to bring with you someone else, and if that doesn’t work, you take it to the church, and if that doesn’t work, the church excommunicates the culprit.

 

But of course, there are very few churches that practice church discipline.  In my congregation, even if we had many people who were willing to, we couldn’t do it yet, because the congregation is simply too immature spiritually, and I have not been mature enough spiritually to lead them to the point where they would be able.

 

Besides, even in a church where discipline is practiced, how can a child practice Matthew 18 with his parents?  Does a wife with a husband suffering from addiction always want to have him disciplined or leave him?  What does a pastor do when a sizeable group of ignorant people cause him trouble?  Does he want them to be disciplined when they don’t really even know what they’re doing?

 

No, not always.  So it isn’t always as simple as just applying Matthew 18.  Yet, Matthew 18 does show that “turn the other cheek” doesn’t mean “do nothing, don’t say anything.”  Besides, that way of dealing with anger doesn’t work.  Very few people are capable of not getting angry and doing destructive things when they are chronically sinned against.

 

Then sometimes you confront it with the person, and you pray about it to God, and you push and push against the intolerable situation, and nothing changes.  This is the most painful part of  the whole affliction—that you don’t know when the suffering will end, and there’s nothing you can do about it, and God doesn’t deliver you.  And time keeps ticking.  Weeks, months, years go by and nothing has changed.  And as you get older (as I am getting older; I never used to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and not get back to sleep)—you start to realize that if things don’t change, you’re never going to get back what is being taken away from you by the person or things that are causing you pain.  Then maybe after awhile you realize—it’s too late, and exactly what I feared when this suffering began has happened.  Maybe the pastor who I resent has continued his foolish ways of pasturing, alienated my children, and now they’re teenagers who won’t go to church and it’s too late to hope that they will make it into young adulthood without falling away.

 

Or it’s too late—my hope of having a happy marriage in my youth has been destroyed.

 

Or the congregation that has been giving me hell for 10 years hasn’t changed, and now my youth ends and I have nothing but failures to look back on.

 

I could think of dozens more hypothetical situations like this that I or people I know have experienced in part.

 

Finally, you have this thought process that starts when you want to complain to God about your suffering: “Who am I to complain to God?  Isn’t that the same as the grumbling Israelites who provoked God’s wrath?  On top of that I know that I am a sinner, so who knows whether I haven’t done more to sin against this person who sins against me, and I’m not even aware of it?” 

 

Here is where the psalms of lamentation would help us, if we were able to pray them, or if we were able to lament according to their pattern. 

 

First of all lamentation allows us to acknowledge our suffering as it really is before God, with all its ramifications.  We go to God and say, “Because of what this person is doing, I am in pain, and I am losing what belongs to me, and I will never get it back.  And You are able to help me, yet You have not.”

 

Secondly, in lamenting we confess faith in Christ.  We say, “I am righteous.  I am righteous because you have promised me that I am counted righteous because of Jesus.  Even though I am dying because of this affliction, and even though I do not know to what degree my sins may have brought this suffering on me, I know that You are still perfectly pleased with me because Jesus has redeemed me with His holy, precious blood.”

 

Third, we claim and confess before God that He will deliver us and bless us, and that even  in giving us affliction He still is dealing with us as a loving father who only wants to see what is good come to us.  The psalms of lament usually end with a profession of trust in God and thanksgiving, as though God had already delivered us.  How can we pray this way in the midst of ongoing suffering?  Because God has promised.  He is well-pleased with us for Jesus’ sake.  He will not cast us away.  “All things work together for the good of those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.”  (Rom. 8:28)  And when He has allowed our affliction to work in us what pleases Him and what will lead toward His good purposes for us, He will bring it to an end and deliver us. 

 

By lamenting we put the matter in God’s hands, and we know that something is being done about our trouble.  By putting it in His hands we honor Him.  We are saying, “You are God.  You will be faithful to me and will keep Your promise.  You will handle this better than I will, and You are trustworthy.”

 

We also confess the Gospel, and do not allow ourselves to be deceived by Satan.  We are saying, “Whatever my sins are, God still regards me as righteous, as He promised to do in Baptism, in the Gospel, in the Absolution, and in His body and blood.  I am loved by Him.  I am the apple of His eye.  So I will be safe and this will turn into blessing.”  We find comfort, and at the same time we acknowledge that God’s promise of salvation is true, and we defy and escape from Satan’s trap, which would have us think that perhaps God’s promise had failed or does not apply to us.

 

It seems to me that there are several obstacles that keep me (us) from praying this.  I will name them, but then I’ll have to explore them further in another post.

 

One is that lament is coming to terms with death.  When you suffer for a long time, maybe the most painful part of it (especially as you get older) is the death of what you had hoped for for your life (or maybe someone else’s).  I think it is in Lamentations 3 where Jeremiah mourns this way: …So I say, ‘My hope has perished, and so has my expectation from the Lord.  Remember [my affliction?], the wormwood and the gall.  My soul remembers them…But this I call to mind, therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.  His mercies never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

 

Whatever it was Jeremiah hoped for—enjoyment of life as a young man on earth?  Seeing Israel become godly and not brought into the dust of death for its sins?—he acknowledges that it is over.  It’s not going to happen.  That hope is lost; it has died. 

 

That’s how affliction goes with me.  I had some plan or other.  It may have seemed—and may still seem—like a God pleasing plan.  I may not have been wrong to expect it.  It may be that I was sinned against when I did not receive it—my neighbor who has a calling to love me did not fulfill his calling.  An example would be a pastor who had planned to help his congregation bring the Gospel outside of its four walls and reach out to its community, and instead met with constant opposition from members of the congregation.  After a certain point of struggling and praying, he comes to the conclusion that it is now too late.  Maybe the congregation’s unwillingness has gone on so long that he is looking at its impending closure.  If that were me I would find great difficulty accepting it.  How could this be God’s will?  Why didn’t God intervene, even when I prayed and worked so hard?  How could it please Him that this congregation close its doors instead of preach the Gospel?  And I would also feel angry that I had, seemingly, wasted years preaching and serving a congregation only to see it all fall apart, knowing that on top of it the failure of the congregation would be seen as my fault.  And I would have the nagging fear that maybe, in fact, it was.

 

In lamentation, we come to terms with the death of our hopes for this life.  Maybe “come to terms” is the wrong phrase.  We acknowledge the death of our hopes.  This is very difficult for me, and I think for all Americans.

 

Connected to this is a latent theology of glory that seems to stick to me in spite of my knowing better.  I think that my victory and success is partly from the Gospel, and partly from my actions.  I think that my reward is in heaven, but also at least sometimes it should be visible and tangible.  But really the only victory Christians have is Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection.  Any victories that we have in our life of discipleship are really Christ’s victories; they are the playing out of His victory on the cross and in His resurrection in our bodies.  So His victories in us are going to frequently look and feel like defeats and failures on our part.  Christ is our only victory and our only reward.  If my church grows or shrinks, nothing is proven by that in itself.  I can neither take comfort in its growth or its decline; my comfort is Christ and His Gospel, and the visible fruit of a pastor’s work must be interpreted by the light of the Gospel.  Because Jesus has reconciled me to God, my church’s growth or decline is evidence of His love toward me. 

But until recently I did not really grasp or understand that was how it works.  That is faith.  That is the faith which Jesus works in us—faith that sees the waves of the sea about to destroy the little fishing boat, but says, “Jesus is with us, so we are safe—“even though all we see and feel is darkness, terror, despair, wrath, hell.  Even if Jesus seems to reject me, faith does not give up.  Like the Canaanite woman, to whom Jesus said, “No,” who still did not turn away but kept praying—not to wear Jesus down, but because she was sure of His grace, even though He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

 

Finally, I think I (and most American Lutherans I know) have a real difficulty with the idea that we are actually and truly righteous before God by faith.  Since I sin, I think, I can only confess my sins, and never claim God’s help, deliverance, and favor to me over against those who mistreat me.  But really, if God actually counts me righteous, I can protest my innocence to God.  This is not saying, “I never sinned.”  It is saying, “You promised to cover my sins.  You do not lie.  So I speak to you as one who is innocent and righteous in your sight.”  I am not claiming that I am better than the one who sins against me.  I am telling God that He is truthful, so I know He will regard me as righteous, because that is what He promised.

 

I will continue this topic at some point, because it is immensely comforting in ongoing suffering.  What a beautiful thing it is to suffer and yet know for certain that God is still well-pleased with you, gives you access to Him in Your suffering, honors you by making you a participant in Jesus’ suffering, and turns even your suffering into eternal glory and blessing!  If you believe this and learn to lament, then you are joyful even in suffering, knowing yourself to be God’s beloved child and heir.  And upon the death of your own hopes you receive the hope of eternal joy, which enables you not to fear death or anything else that human beings or Satan can do to you.

 

Related Links

http://www.johnkleinig.com/

Repost: from Luther’s Church Postil, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

September 16, 2012 Leave a comment

…This is the way of faith, it pictures God’s goodness to itself in this manner, never doubting but that it is really so; therefore it makes bold to bring its petition and to present its need.

15. But see, how unkindly he turns away the humble request of his mother who addresses him with such great confidence. Now observe the nature of faith. What has it to rely on? Absolutely nothing, all is darkness. It feels its need and sees help nowhere; in addition, God turns against it like a stranger and does not recognize it, so that absolutely nothing is left. It is the same way with our conscience when we feel our sin and the lack of righteousness; or in the agony of death when we feel the lack of life; or in the dread of hell when eternal salvation seems to have left us….

16. This is where faith stands in the heat of battle. Now observe how his mother acts and here becomes our teacher. However harsh his words sound, however unkind he appears, she does not in her heart interpret this as anger, or as the opposite of kindness, but adheres firmly to the conviction that he is kind, refusing to give up this opinion because of the thrust she received, and unwilling to dishonor him in her heart by thinking him to be otherwise than kind and gracious – as they do who are without faith, who fall back at the first shock and think of God merely according to what they feel, like the horse and the mule, Ps 32, 9.

 

18. Hence the highest thought in this Gospel lesson, and it must ever be kept in mind, is, that we honor God as being good and gracious, even if he acts and speaks otherwise, and all our understanding and feeling be otherwise. For in this way feeling is killed, and the old man perishes, so that nothing but faith in God’s goodness remains, and no feeling. For here you see how his mother retains a free faith and holds it forth as an example to us. She is certain that he will be gracious, although she does not feel it. She is certain also that she feels otherwise than she believes. Therefore she freely leaves and commends all to his goodness, and fixes for him neither time nor place, neither manner nor measure, neither person nor name. He is to act when it pleases him. If not in the midst of the feast, then at the end of it, or after the feast. My defeat I will swallow, his scorning me, letting me stand in disgrace before all the guests, speaking so unkindly to me, causing us all to blush for shame. He acts tart, but he is sweet I know. Let us proceed in the same way, then we are true Christians.

15th Sunday after Trinity. “He is our true Father and we are His true children.”

September 16, 2012 2 comments

15th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 6:24-34

September 15, 2012

“He is our true Father and we are His true children”

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

 I. Intro: “These words God tenderly invites us to believe that we are His true children and He is our true Father.”

A.  Why we memorize the catechism: to continually learn and be comforted in trial that God  is our Father.

B.  (Therefore we remain with Luther like little children who are students of the catechism.)

C.  Theme: God is our true father and we are His true children

i.  How is he our Father?

ii.  How do we live as His children?

  1. D.      Since God is our true father and we are His true children, why are we so anxious?  Jesus comforts His disciples.

II.  How is God our true Father?

  1. A.                    We are anxious as we serve Mammon. 
    1. i.         Mammon is the pursuit of wealth and other earthly things as a way of trying to make our lives secure.
    2. ii.        We serve Mammon, seeking wealth or power or friends or what have you so that we won’t have to worry about the future.
    3. iii.      But mammon doesn’t make anyone secure.  More wealth or success means more worries.
    4. iv.      If it does make someone secure, this is even worse because it cannot deliver us from death and God’s judgment.
    5. B.                    Where does our anxiety come from?
      1. i.         From our alienation from God.

                                                                          a.       The Father shows love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments (Small Catechism, close of the commandments)

                                                                         b.      He punishes the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him.

                                                                          c.      The Introit said, “Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer, listen to my plea for grace,” but the Lord does not listen to those who do not love Him and keep His commandments.

                                                                         d.      Yet we know that we break the Lord’s commandments, so how can He hear us?  So we know from the Law, whether written on our hearts or learned from the 10 commandments, that we have no claim on God for Him to give us food or clothing, or keep us alive, or declare us righteous on the day of judgment.

  1. ii.         Only the Gospel can assure us that we have a gracious God.

                                                                          a.      Only in the Gospel, where God has promised the free forgiveness of sins; and He has proclaimed this Gospel since the first man and woman fell into sin.

                                                                         b.      Yet original sin—the guilt in which we were born and the unrighteousness that has completely corrupted the nature we have from the time of conception, makes us unable to recognize the seriousness of God’s wrath against sin, and unable to believe the promise of the forgiveness of sins only on account of Christ.

                                                                          c.      We by nature think that we can please God by our own strength, by the exercise of our free will.

  1. 1.        But we never know we have in fact pleased God
  2. 2.        So with this uncertainty, we serve mammon, thinking, “This is the only way I can be sure I’ll be taken care of.”

                                                                         d.       So we remain anxious, always trying to make sure we’ll be able to take care of ourselves, never willingly admitting that we cannot secure our own lives but only make ourselves worse and add sin to sin, rebellion to rebellion.

  1. C.                    The cure for anxiety—the Gospel.
    1. i.         Our anxiety is not supposed to be cured either by doing good works or by serving mammon to make sure that we have enough to take care of ourselves.
    2. ii.        Instead, our anxiety can only be cured by finding refuge in God’s grace, apart from our works.

                                                                          a.      That is, by believing His promise to be a gracious God to us;

                                                                         b.      His promise that He is our Father and is well-pleased with us through the obedience and death of His only-begotten Son

                                                                          c.      As a result He remembers our sins no more, but promises in the Gospel that He has given the righteousness and death of His Son to us as a gift, and now He reckons us to be perfectly obedient in Christ.

  1. iii.       You have a gracious God.  That is the good news for you.

                                                                          a.      Not by anything you have done

                                                                         b.      But by the doing of God’s well-pleasing Son.

  1. 1.        He became a man
  2. 2.        Kept God’s commandments
  3. 3.        Died and received the penalty of God for Your sins
  4. 4.        Rose from the dead and lives to pray to His Father constantly on Your behalf
  5. 5.        Rules His kingdom to give You this good news and to capture Your heart so that You believe that God is totally pleased with you for the sake of His Son’s obedience to the law for you and His death for your sins.

                                                                          c.       He pledges this to you in Baptism.

  1. 1.        God is Your true Father.
    1. a.        He certified that Jesus was His well-beloved, well-pleasing Son when He was baptized and received your sins.
    2. b.       In Your Baptism into Christ, the Father pledges and certifies that you are His true Son, because you have been born again into Christ.
    3. 2.        Jesus’ righteousness covers your sin which provoked God’s anger and which you cannot get rid of yourself.
    4. 3.        This is how you find the assurance that You have a gracious God.
    5. D.                    Since God is our true Father, why do we worry when things in our lives look as though God has forgotten us and is going to let us starve?
      1. i.         Would He do that to someone who is always pleasing to Him?  If so, then He is a liar.  He promises to do good to the righteous, and He made a promise that you are righteous through Christ alone.
      2. ii.        Does this mean that we are really unbelievers, since we so often act as if God is not our true Father and will not take care of us the way that any halfway decent father would on earth, or when we run around seeking what the unbelievers seek, as though God were not gracious?
      3. iii.      Jesus does not say that.  He says that we have “little faith.”

                                                                          a.      Usually if we have no anxiety about anything, that is not a sign of faith but of hardness of heart, of not feeling our sins. 

                                                                         b.      Christians are more likely to experience anxiety about their earthly life than nonbelievers, because Christians face constant opposition from the devil, their sinful flesh, and the world. 

  1. 1.        The flesh constantly insists that God in untrustworthy and gives lousy gifts.
  2. 2.        The devil constantly works to drive us to despair
  3. 3.        The world hates Christians and frequently fights against them

                                                                          c.       So Christians will have more temptation to be anxious about their earthly lives.

                                                                         d.      But Jesus does not want us to remain small in faith, even though He does not cast us out for our little faith.

  1. 1.        So he allows us to be tested so that we don’t know how we will make it and are forced to look to Him and depend on our heavenly Father to provide for us.
  2. 2.        Remember how Jesus dealt with His disciples who He here calls “Ye of little faith”
    1. a.        The storm on the sea
    2. b.       Peter walking on the water
    3. c.        The feeding of the 5000
    4. d.       Finally His own passion and burial, where they thought themselves and Him cast away by God.
    5. e.        All these things were to teach the disciples to trust that God was their true Father and they were His true children
    6. f.         Even though they were seeing the opposite, Jesus taught them through suffering and deliverance that they had to depend on Christ’s word of promise and not their reason and senses.
    7. g.        That is what He is also teaching us through our suffering.
    8. h.       Faith has to become strong, because one day we will die, and on that day we must be able to look at death and judgment approaching and not be torn from the assurance that God is our true Father, even though our hearts are terrified.
    9. i.         That is only possible when the Holy Spirit has taught us to believe God’s Word in spite of what we feel, or see, or think
    10. E.                     Jesus’ encouragement: The Father’s grace to those less valuable than us.
      1. i.         Jesus encourages us here, and also mildly rebukes us.
      2. ii.        Look at how God feeds the birds and clothes the grass
      3. iii.      Are you worth less than the birds and grass?

                                                                          a.      Every human being is worth more—even those who will be lost—because Jesus joined the same human nature which we share to Himself.

                                                                         b.      You are certainly worth more than the grass and the birds unless Jesus Himself is not worth more to the Father

  1. 1.        Because the Father paid for your redemption with His Son’s suffering and death.
  2. 2.        And you stand before the Father as Jesus’ twin, because Jesus’ righteousness has been given as your royal robe, like the coat of many colors that Jacob put on his favorite son Joseph.
  3. 3.        It was put on you when you were baptized into Christ.

                                                                          c.       So how much more will the Father take care of your needs of the body—food, and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, wife and children (Small Catechism, Apostles’ Creed, 1st article).  

  1. 1.        He gives those already to the heathen who are not clothed in the righteousness of Jesus and who do not believe the Gospel
  2. 2.        Because He is gracious
  3. iv.       How and why the Father feeds the birds and clothes the grass

                                                                          a.      Is it because of their hard work?

  1. 1.        Is it because the birds worry, and wrinkle their foreheads, and try to scrape together enough to carry them through the winter?
  2. 2.        Is it because the grass slaves away and spins cotton into thread and buys silk and makes its own lilies?

                                                                         b.       The birds receive food and the grass splendid clothes without doing anything.

  1. 1.        They can’t do anything but receive.
  2. 2.        Like little children, whom Jesus says the Kingdom of God belongs to.
  3. 3.        The animals and plants God cares for physically, but God gives us what we need for our bodies, and the kingdom of heaven, without our work.
  4. 4.        Because He is gracious and loves His whole creation.

                                                                          c.       How much more will your Father in heaven provide what we need for our bodies and lives when He covers and clothes the shame of our sins?

  1. 1.        He does this without our making it happen for ourselves
  2. 2.        He gives His only begotten Son.
  3. 3.        How can He then not give you what you need for this life?
  4. 4.        What kind of father on earth doesn’t provide anything for His children and makes them go do it themselves?
    1. a.        Fathers make their kids work, if they understand their office as a father.
    2. b.       But they don’t feed and clothe and educate and give gifts to their kids because the kid has earned it
    3. c.        Both the command for the child to work around the house and the food and shelter and gifts come from the father’s love, which has nothing to do with deserving anything.

  To seek the Kingdom of God first is to pray to God that He gives us His Holy Spirit; without the Holy Spirit we cannot believe in Christ or do a single good work.

  That is why Jesus teaches us to pray continually for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

       We pray, “hallowed be Thy name,” and “Thy Kingdom come” before we pray “give us this day our daily bread.” “Thy kingdom come”: is when “our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His Holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

       Don’t run after what the unbelievers do, as though you had no God!  The Father tenderly invites us to believe “that He is our true  Father and we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask of Him as dear children ask their dear Father.”

What God ordains is always good: He is my friend and Father

He suffers naught to do me harm Though many storms may gather.

Now I may know, both joy and woe;

Some day I shall see clearly

That He has loved me dearly.  (LSB 760 –hymn of the day—stanza 4)

 

Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Self Examination Questions: The Sixth Commandment (part 2)

September 15, 2012 2 comments

Salomon Liscovius, from Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz 

4.       Haven’t my actions, now and then, been impudent and thoughtless? [thus revealing trust in myself instead of God, and my failure to appreciate my vulnerability to sexual temptation?  Vanity, arrogance, and irresponsibility make a person vulnerable to lust.]

 

5.       Haven’t I often leant my ears to impure conversations, my eyes to look at lewd people, pictures, or other causes of stumbling?  Haven’t I myself given offense to others through suggestive, unseemly words?

 

6.       Have I guarded myself earnestly from all impurity, fornication, and whoring, regardless of what other names they may go by?

 

7.       Have I avoided idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, evil company and slutty or sexually suggestive clothing?

The Movie that Got the Ambassador Killed

September 15, 2012 Leave a comment

I briefly started to look at the movie that is causing all the riots.  “The Innocence of Muslims.”

I don’t mind criticizing Islam. As a matter of fact, I don’t mind criticism of Christianity.  Frequently this kind of criticism is false and full of half truths.  But when people lie and tell half-truths about Christianity, I know that fair-minded people will eventually find out the truth.  The rabble of course will listen to any kind of evil story it wants to believe.

I guess we could say the man who made it had a right to do it.  I watched all of two minutes and was disgusted; it was lewd and it was along the lines of a minstrel show.  That’s not the kind of freedom of speech I want to be fighting for.

Well, I hate KFC too. But where does Allah say that if he gets blasphemed you should take it out on a fast food restaurant? If it does say that in the Quran, I’m kind of jealous.

Still, when riots are touched off by a movie as obviously idiotic as that one, it at least partly looks like Muslims are looking for an excuse.

Then again, who knows.  Maybe if someone had made a movie about Jesus like that 200 years ago, our grandparents would have rioted.  But they just did make a movie about Jesus like that when I was a little kid, “The Last Temptation of Christ.”  And I think some nuns stood on a picket line, but I’m pretty sure no one was killed.

The Turk Rips Up a Bible in Cairo

September 14, 2012 2 comments

I guess if I want to be an enlightened human being, I shouldn’t refer to the guy as “The Turk.”  Clearly he’s not a Turk; He’s Egyptian.  But Luther referred to Muslims in general as “The Turk,” and this is a Lutheran blog.

Apparently the guy doesn’t know that most Americans don’t really care if some guy in Cairo tears up a Bible, because they’re not Christians in any real sense.  He also doesn’t understand that Christians are not permitted to respond to blasphemy against their God with violence, but rather to suffer it and pray for their enemies.  Muslims can’t understand this, I don’t think.  It always appears from the press reports that Muslims generally think that Westerners are Christians.EmperorSuleiman

Why do they think that?  I think, judging as an outsider, that it has to do with the nature of Islam.  Islam is inherently theocratic.  Or maybe it would be better to say that Islam has as its goal to influence and ultimately be ascendant in every part of human society and thought.  Of course this tendency is present in other religions, including Christianity; but then in Christianity there is always the cross, which promises that Christians will always be being cast out and sacrificed in this world.  So the idea of a Christian society becomes difficult.  A moral society you can have.  A Christian one seems impossible; how can you have a society run by a little flock of people who by definition must be cast out?
Anyway, it’s not that way with Islam.  If you are living in an Islamic society, you’re either a Muslim or one in subjection to Islamic law, and you are pledged to not betray your Muslim protectors.  You can be a lousy Muslim or a good Muslim; it doesn’t matter.  It’s still your identity.  At one time Europeans were kind of like this.  They were “Christendom.”  If you tore a Bible, or desecrated the reserved host, or raped a nun, you not only committed blasphemy but also insulted their nation and ancestors.  But today it’s not that way.  And even back in the days when it was that way in Europe and the US, the outrage provoked by individuals committing sacrilege is not really sanctioned by Christianity.  “If your enemy strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you…” That doesn’t really go very well with calling for the death penalty of a guy who tore up a bible.

There is probably another facet to this as well.  Here in the USA, if my sister or cousin is a big harlot and gets pregnant by God knows who, we are embarassed of her.  But we don’t say, “I am Karl, son of Paul, son of Lyndon, and my slutty cousin has brought shame on the family name.”  We consider ourselves individuals.  Whatever my relatives may do doesn’t really define who I am.

But this does not appear to be true of many people from the muslim world, among whom honor killings continue to occur even once people have moved to western nations where killing your slutty cousin is frowned upon.

I suppose the idea is that in these patriarchal societies, men are responsible for the behavior of people who dwell under their roofs.

Well, I’m a fan of patriarchy, so I don’t fault them for that.  I’m not really a fan of honor killing, though.  I suppose I agree that a housefather should exercise authority over those whom God has given him authority, although I don’t think killing is the responsibility of any except civil authorities.  But on the whole I can agree that if my kid maims your kid, I am responsible.

But if my kid says that Islam is a false religion, or that the Quran is not God’s book, and that Muhammad was a false prophet, I’m supposed to shut him up?  Or the reparation you want is my kid’s blood?

No, that’s ridiculous.  What you’re really saying is that you demand that I submit to your religion, your god.

I don’t demand that unbelievers believe in my God.  He does, and He threatens, but He does not authorize me to punish those who do not believe.  When I vote, I do vote to uphold the moral law–right and wrong.  But I do that not in an attempt to push my religion on people; I do it because the moral law is not a matter of faith but a matter of reason, and is required for the good of everyone in society, regardless of what they believe.

Other Americans are not required to respect the Bible.  I don’t expect them to, because they aren’t Christians.  If we lived in a society where most of the people were Christians, or claimed to be, then I could see refusing to put up with people burning the bible.  I wouldn’t be in favor of killing people, but an unbeliever who wants to live among Christians, meanwhile blaspheming and provoking them–well, that’s stupid.  In that case I could seek extraditing them to Mexico or Cuba or somewhere where they didn’t care.

So I could see where Muslims might get upset if a Christian burned a Quran in public in the middle of Cairo and wanted to kill him or banish him.  But instead, some guy insulted Islam who lives in another country, and Muslims kill an American ambassador and riot all across the world?

Well, we had better pray that God does not give us into the hands of the Turk like we so richly deserve.  Actually though, I think we would be better off.  Would it be better to have a bunch of idolatrous fanatics who uphold the moral law rule you, or a bunch of godless women and neutered, effeminate men?  Well, neither one seems all that great, and Christians will face persecution either way.

And can you imagine the horrors that are going to happen to Christians in majority muslim nations now?  They’ve already been blowing up the Iraqi Assyrians and the Copts in Egypt so as to almost eliminate a millenia old population in both countries; but what will it be like now that there’s an excuse?  Oh God, have mercy on the poor Copts, for Christ’s sake; and have mercy on all those who follow the false prophet Muhammad, that they may know Your Son, Jesus Christ.  And have mercy on us miserable Christians in the United States, so that we love our enemies, and those who are driven by violence and self-righteousness, whether secularists or Muslims, may see You in us.  Amen.

Here’s the article

http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2012/09/imam-desecrates-bible-in-cairo.html#more

http://www.aina.org/news/20120913204249.htm

(AINA) — During the demonstration which was held in front of the American Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday, 9/11, a Muslim cleric named Abu Islam tore and burned the Holy Bible in front of thousands of Muslims. His action was met with applause and anti-Christian cheers from the demonstrators. Before leaving the demonstration and getting into his car, he told the crowds “next time I will urinate on it.”

The video above shows the Muslim cleric tearing the Bible. The video says:

  • 0.02 “the overwhelming Book, the Book of Truth and Peace. The place for these words and this book is over the heads because it is the real inspiration… (He places the Koran on his head) voices chanting Allahu Akbar.
  • 0.30 He Says: message to the Egyptian Christians. Out of respect and politeness to the Egyptian Christians we will not do the same like what they did to our God’s book , we will be generous towards you today and say we will respect you “momentarily.” We will respect this book which is in the Arabic language.
  • 0:54 Demonstrators’chants “Coming, Coming O Islam”
  • 1.09 Abu Islam holds another bible and says: This is the book the dog Terry believes in, as well as those dogs with him the Egyptian Christians in America.
  • 1.19 Abu Islam: Today I can only TEAR IT APART. He starts tearing the bible and throwing the leaves towards the mob, amid chants of Allahu Akbar and “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Mohammad is coming.”
  • 2.06 Abu Islam saying: to all the cross worshippers around the world we will not keep quiet . Today, we tore it.
  • 2.13 a man in blue beside him burns the bible raising it for everyone to see.
  • Abu Islam: Salamu Aleycom (Peace be with you) and leaves, with mob chanting “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Mohammad is coming.” “Governing, governing, O Koran.” “Coming, Coming O Islam.”

Dr. Mustafa Maraghy, professor of law and Islamic law at Cairo University, filed a complaint with the Attorney General against the cleric, whose real name is Ahmed Abdullah. The complaint cited Abdullah, who is the owner of the TV channel the Islamic Nation, for contempt of religion, disturbing public security and peace.

Dr Maraghy, who is the chairman of the Coptic Coalition, said that tearing and burning the Holy Bible, which all Christians in the world believe in, is a “villainous and barbaric act.” He added that it is not permitted at all to defame religions. “The same hurt feelings we felt by the film which insulted the prophet is the same that we felt by this criminal act,” he said.

He vowed that the Coptic Coalition will not ignore such “ignorant people” but will prosecute them. The Maspero Coptic Youth Union has called on President Morsy to intervene immediately to put an end to any efforts which would kindle the fire of sedition between Muslims and Copts.

Another complaint was also filed this morning against Abu Islam by Karam Gabriel, lawyer with the Copts of Egypt Coalition, for his recent burning of the Holy Bible as well as his previous insults to Christianity through his books and through his Islamic Nation TV Channel.

The Coalition, which has among its members Muslims and Copts, has issued an official statement condemning the film insulting the Prophet of Islam. Magdy Saber, spokesman for the Union, condemned Abu Islam’s tearing and burning of the Bible in front of the Copts who were present before the US Embassy, where they had gone in support of their Muslim brothers regarding to prophet’s film.

Saber demanded from officials to take the necessary measures to prevent sedition among the Egyptians. “If we condemn the film-makers of the prophet film who live outside Egypt,” he said, “we should also condemn this disgraceful act in Egypt, stressing the need to punish Abu Islam for his irresponsible actions.”

In an interview today with The Mohit newspaper, Abu Islam denied burning the Bible, he said “I tore it apart and threw it to the demonstrators to step on it with their shoes.” He added, “Next time I will make my grandson urinate on it, as the saying goes, an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth and the starter is at fault.”

Commenting on the fact that the film producers do not represent all Copts and the masses of the American people and therefore their holy book should not be insulted in response, Abu Islam said “if someone one did something, everyone bears the guilt and bears the outcome. Did not all Muslims bear the pain of what Osama bin Laden did? Did not all Muslims bear the pain of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman being described as a terrorist? Let them taste from the cup the Islamic world had to drink.”

“Until now we have not heard any condemnation from any Muslim organization or Al-Azhar,” said Coptic activist Mark Ebeid, “as our church did concerning the Prophet film. We have hope that the Church will say something about our Holy Book.”

By Mary Abdelmassih

Prayer on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

September 14, 2012 2 comments

113. Prayer on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Johannes Eichorn (1511-1564),  from Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz  September 11, 2012

Lord God, heavenly Father! We thank You for all Your benefits. You have given us our body and life and have graciously preserved us to this day. Do not take Your blessing away from us, we pray, but protect us from greed and stinginess, that we serve, love, and cling to You alone, and not sin against You by idolatry and the shameful worship of mammon. Grant that we put all our hope and confidence only in Your goodness and grace, and receive all our consolation from the same, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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