A very intriguing history was recounted for us of the first establishment of the care of the poor in Breslau.[i] Johann Hess, the first Lutheran preacher in Breslau (d. 1547) could no longer accept how beggars, crippled, and mentally ill people lay on the streets and in front of all the churches in Breslau. He began to publicly admonish the governing authorities from the pulpit. But from it came no establishment of means to care for the poor in the community. Then Hess quit preaching. This had a significant effect upon the magistrate and the congregation, because he very much enjoyed preaching and they knew it. Finally they resolved to ask him why he stopped preaching. The answer was this: “My Lord Jesus lay in His members at the doors of all the churches. I can not simply step over Him. If he is not cared for, neither will I preach.” These words had a very significant influence. Places to care for the poor were prepared. Illegitimate beggars were dismissed and in one day 500 persons were brought to newly established hospitals. Thus there arose gradually in all the cities and villages of Lutheran Germany a well-ordered and equipped way of caring for the poor and the sick, as we now see it everywhere. (p. 13)
From “Mercy and the Lutheran Congregation: A translation of the essay, ‘Intentional Care of the Poor and the Sick is Essential for the Well-Being of a Christian Congregation’ by Theodore Julius Brohm.” Translated by Matthew Harrison. LCMS World Relief and Human Care. 2006.
[i] Now Wroclaw, a town of around 630,000 people in Poland. (KH)
This is several years old, but an interesting story anyway.
1. “Sexist British tradition of father giving bride away.” If the historical practice in Sweden is that bride and groom walk down the aisle together, that is probably not because Swedes were feminists centuries ago when the tradition started. I know it’s hard to believe that the Vikings, in between splitting skulls and capturing slaves, weren’t also working to create an egalitarian society. But I’m afraid that they probably weren’t.
Nope. Olaf probably wasn’t like, “What’s that, Hedvig? You say you want to go out with the warriors in the longboats and make a career out of slaughtering monks and then get married and have kids later? Sure thing, hon!”
“What’s that, Hedvig? You think you’d like to go out on some dates with the blacksmith’s son rather than marry the son of the earl? You say you want to marry for love, and you can’t guarantee you’ll stay a virgin until you find the one you’re ready to settle down with? And if you get pregnant and then no one wants to marry you you’ll just leave the kids here with me and your mother while you get a job looting? Whatever you say, sweetheart! We’re here for you!”
“What’s that, Hedvig? You want gender neutral wedding vows, and for you and Ragnar to both hyphenate your last names? That seems fair. And I don’t think Ragnar is less of a man at all if he agrees to that!”
Nuh-uh. Sorry. That was not what Sweden was like whenever the tradition of walking down the aisle together started.
2. It’s probably right that the British custom is gaining popularity in Sweden because young women are influenced by the custom as it comes to them through American movies. But isn’t it fascinating that many young women, even in Sweden, are attracted to, or at least willing to tolerate, the pretense that they are under the protection and authority of their father until given to the protection and headship of their husband?
Of course, it’s all make believe. If dad’s are going to give away their daughters, they should make sure their daughters aren’t giving themselves away while they still live in their father’s house.
I mean, just a thought. At least the Swedish ladypriests are sort of paying attention.
3. Nobody in American weddings wants to have the bride and groom walk down the aisle together, in my experience. The main reason for this, I think, is because it takes a way the bride’s big moment, when all eyes are on her.
And to be honest, I’m not sure that pastors ought to be too critical of this. It is true that our sinful flesh wants to be front and center and make things about us. But that’s true of the pastors too.
Besides, Christologically: the Church is the beloved of Christ. And when He presents Her to Himself as a radiant Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, the eyes of all creation will be on Christ’s bride, admiring the beauty that Christ has given to her and the love with which He wed her.
So I don’t think it’s wrong that the bride wants her “moment”, although it’s important to try to work with that desire to try to get the couple to see that their wedding is not the culmination of their existence, but rather points to the wedding that will be–the wedding of Christ to His Church.
Isn’t it interesting that after all these years so many women still love this ceremony?
They want to walk down the aisle alone and be the bride whose husband is waiting for her to receive her like his treasure–even though once they get married they will work outside of the home and inside of the home and essentially not be taken care of at all.
They want to have their fathers walk them down the aisle and give them away, even though neither European nor American girls are in any real sense under their father’s authority after adolescence begins. Teenage boys in America deflower virgins and then talk about it on facebook in front of their dads. I imagine most teenage boys would be shocked if a father said, “No, you can’t go into my daughter’s bedroom alone with her and close the door.” And if you opened the door and caught some little boy clambering all over your daughter and ejected him from your house after introducing his rear end to your shoe (which incidentally you paid for, just like you will pay to feed any grandchildren randy teenage boys might accidentally sire with your daughter)? The teenager would quite possibly feel self-righteous indignation at your tyrannical interference in his love life. Not to mention the fact that any hint of physical force used against such a child would almost certainly result in your arrest. Although if he is a child and therefore should not be beaten by a grown man the question is–why should he get to act like a grown man in terms of freedoms? A grown man should be able to protect his wife and baby as well as provide for them. If a teenage boy wants to take liberties with someone’s daughter the very least expectation he should have is that he might have to take a beating for it.
I wish when I was in high school dads had been like that with their daughters. I would have appreciated the encouragement toward chastity implicit in that.
But no. It’s horrible to take any steps to make sure your kids are chaste. It’s being a good dad if you let your daughter sleep with one or two or three or four or more selfish and irresponsible adolescents while she still lives at home with you. Do that and don’t say a word and you’re a good dad.
And yet brides want to be given away by their fathers.
They want to pretend that they have been protected by their fathers, and treated like a hidden treasure, and are now being entrusted to a man who is good and trustworthy and will provide for her and protect her, even though neither of those things is true. If women were guarded and protected by fathers and husbands, that would be the end of feminism.
And yet apparently it’s attractive to a lot of women, at least on their wedding day. How come feminism hasn’t destroyed this tradition yet, even though the reasons for the tradition were annihilated decades ago? Why did the tradition of the would-be groom asking the father of the bride for his daughter’s hand come back from the dead in the US, long after fathers had allowed their daughters to choose whom they would give their hands to and for how long?
It’s almost like young women wish that their fathers and husbands would be…dare we say it…
- Top ten tips for planning a Swedish wedding (thelocal.se)
For freedom Christ has made us free; therefore stand firm, and do not again submit to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
These two theses seem to contradict each other…Both are Paul’s own statements, who says in 1 Cor. 9, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,” and in Rom. 13, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Love by its very nature is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved. So Christ, although he was Lord of all, was “born of woman, born under the law”, and therefore was at the same time a free man and a servant, “in the form of God” and “of a servant.” [Philippians 2:6-7]
Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian”
If you don’t believe in your values enough to say “no” when other people try to insist that you give them up, you will lose them. The only question should be whether your values are right.
It’s one thing to be sensitive and hospitable to Muslims who live as foreigners in your country. But when they reject the law of your country and begin to implement their god’s laws in defiance of you, to continue to show kindness is to give in to them, and to allow yourself to be enslaved by them.
The same thing is true for Christians. We should love and pray for the enemies of the church and also unbelievers, and make whatever concessions we can out of love for them. We should bear with weaker Christians in the Church out of compassion for them.
But when enemies of the church, unbelievers, or people in the church who seem to be weak say that we can’t preach or practice some part of the word of God because it is offensive and unloving, we can’t submit to them. To do that is to say that the Word of God can only speak as long as it does not violate human rules.
It’s a good thing, I think, that the Europeans wanted to welcome people from other countries and respect their traditions. But it’s not a good thing to confuse the lawful use of authority with oppression. It was a bad thing that the company sold meat labeled “Halal” even though it had traces of pork in it. But in Denmark people are not summarily beaten or executed for eating pork or for selling it or for lying about selling it.
In the Church we have a similar problem. In our society there are few things that will get people all riled up like it will rile observant Muslims if you mislead them to eat pork. But among the few things that are likely to cause that kind of upset is to be “hateful,” which has become a very broad kind of crime. It’s considered hateful, for the most part, to tell someone that they do or have done something that was not just “a bad choice” but actually evil–sin.
In the Church it is not hateful to tell someone they sinned. We are commanded to do that, but to do it in love for the other person. So if we let it stand that a person in the church is doing wrong when they rebuke another person we end up allowing it to happen that God’s Word is not allowed to be heard in the Church. At least in some areas.
So as Christians we must be ready to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of weaker Christians, the enemies of the Church, and the world outside. We have to give up legitimate things that cause unnecessary offense, and we should spare ourselves no trouble to do so out of love.
We spare ourselves no trouble, but we also cannot permit the Word of God to be bound or limited, even if people accuse us of being proud, arrogant, loveless, etc. That is because it is not our Word. It is God’s. To take anything away from it is to agree that it is not God’s Word; and to allow it to be silenced at all in the Church is to allow it to be taken away from us.
Since the Word of God is the only power on earth by which God gives us salvation and protects His Church, we can’t allow it to be silenced in any part or forced to follow the rules of human propriety or “political correctness”. If we do that we trade in the righteousness of God, which God counts as ours through faith in the message of the cross, for the righteousness of the godless world, which consists in telling everybody that as long as it works for them, that’s good, no matter what they feel like doing.
- God’s Word Does Everything – Trinity 7 Sermon (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Many are offended because of these things. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Two men assaulted for selling pork to kebab shops (testpost.typepad.com)
- No Infidels Allowed: Turkish Red Crescent To Make ‘Halal’ Drugs With Muslim-Only Blood (midnightwatcher.wordpress.com)
- Iraq: Muslim Ambulance Driver Refuses To Take Dead Body Of Christian Woman To Church For Funeral (midnightwatcher.wordpress.com)
- Christian Suffering Under Jihadi Extremism Muslim Persecution of Christians: April, 2013 (counterjihadreport.com)
“American Protestants do not have to believe in God because they believe in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce interesting atheists. The god most Americans say they believe in just is not interesting enough to deny. The only atheism that counts in America is to call into question the proposition that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I read an essay by Stanley Hauerwas, a famous theologian (such as that is possible today) at Duke University, from which the choice quote above is taken. He does a remarkable job of explaining why the widespread American belief in God seldom results in much that is recognizably Christian:
America is the first great experiment in Protestant social formation. Protestantism in Europe always assumed and depended on the cultural habits that had been created by Catholic Christianity. America is the first place Protestantism did not have to define itself over against a previous Catholic culture. So America is the exemplification of a constructive Protestant social imagination.
I believe – as Mark Noll rightly suggests in his book, America’s God – America is a synthesis of evangelical Protestantism, republican political ideology and commonsense moral reasoning. Americans were able to synthesize these antithetical traditions by making their faith in God indistinguishable from their loyalty to a country that insured them that they had the right to choose which god they would or would not believe in. That is why Bonhoeffer accurately characterized America Protestantism as “Protestantism without Reformation.”
American Protestants do not have to believe in God because they believe in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce interesting atheists in America. The god most Americans say they believe in just is not interesting enough to deny. The only kind of atheism that counts in America is to call into question the proposition that everyone has a right to life, liberty and happiness.
Thus America did not need to have an established church because it was assumed that the church was virtually established by the everyday habits of public life. For example, Noll calls attention to the 1833 amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that did away with church establishment but nonetheless affirmed “the public worship of God, and the instructions in piety, religion, and morality, promote the happiness and prosperity of a people, and the security of republican government.” Noll points out that these words were written at the same time Alexis de Tocqueville had just returned to France from his tour of North America. Tocqueville descriptively confirmed the normative point made in the Massachusetts Constitution, observing:
“I do not know if all Americans have faith in their religion – for who can read to the bottom of hearts? – but I am sure that they believe it necessary to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion does not belong only to one class of citizens or to one party, but to the entire nation; one finds it in all ranks.”
Protestantism came to the land we now call American to make America Protestant. It was assumed that what it meant to be American and Protestant was equivalent to a faith in the reasonableness of the common man and the establishment of a democratic republic. But in the process the church in America became American – or, as Noll puts it, “because the churches had done so much to make America, they could not escape living with what they had made.”
As a result Americans continue to maintain a stubborn belief in a god, but the god they believe in turns out to be the American god. To know or worship that god does not require that a church exist because that god is known through the providential establishment of a free people. This is a presumption shared by the religious right as well as the religious left in America. Both assume that America is the church.
Noll ends his account of these developments with the end of the Civil War, but the fundamental habits he identifies as decisive in the formation of the American religious and political consciousness continues to shape the way Christians – in particular, Protestant Christians – understand their place in America.
Yet I think we are beginning to see the loss of confidence by Protestants in their ability to sustain themselves in America, just to the extent that the inevitable conflict between the church, republicanism, and common sense morality has now worked its way out. America is the great experiment in Protestant social thought but the world Protestants created now threatens to make Protestantism unintelligible to itself.
for the whole article:
8th Sunday after Trinity
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 7:15-23
July 21, 2013
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1.Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.
This is a difficult word from Jesus to us. He doesn’t simply tell us that we should love our neighbors, love our enemies, judge not, forgive, live at peace with all men, be meek, etc. He also tells us to watch out for false prophets, and do what might appear to be unloving—separate from false prophets. Get away from them.
False prophets are wolves in sheep’s clothing. That means they look like other Christians. That means when you identify them and reject them, you will look harsh and unloving to people.
But we have to put up with looking harsh and unloving. It is a matter of survival. A false prophet is a ravenous wolf. Sheep should not try to convert a ravenous wolf into a sheep. They will simply be eaten.
Jesus alerts us to a terrifying reality for Christians, one that we do not enjoy thinking about. If you are a Christian, you are surrounded by grave danger. Not only do you have a sinful nature which has to be slain daily, or else it will lead you into anger, greed, and lust, pride and self-righteousness, and away from Christ.
You have false prophets who will find their way into the Church. You will not be able to tell simply from looking at them that they are false teachers. They will seek to entice you into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice and thus into everlasting damnation. They will try to make you believers in their false teaching and participants in their way of life which does not fit with Jesus’ teaching. Or they will simply try to get you to tolerate them and their teaching in the Church alongside of Christ’s teaching, making you a communicant in their misuse of God’s name and their destruction of souls.
So we have no choice. We have to be on guard against false prophets and discern and reject their errors. We must not allow false prophets to teach in the Christ’s church. We must guard against false teachers and resist them or be damned with them. Not only pastors must do this, but every Christian. To fail to guard against them is to hand yourself over to them.
Jesus preaches this to His disciples. He has just finished telling them “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Jesus tells us not to condemn sinners in the sense that we write them off and wish them evil. He wants us to love them, pray for them, seek God’s blessing for them, even when they injure us and persecute us for His sake.
At least 12 of the disciples to whom Jesus is preaching will themselves become prophets or preachers. But here He is not speaking to pastors only, although pastors have a special duty to discern false teachers from true and guard the Church from false teaching and warn against those who teach it.
Here He is talking to all Christians, pastors and the royal priesthood. You have to test the prophets who preach in Christ’s name, and you must reject those that are false. Your salvation depends on it. To refuse to do it or say, “Who knows? Everyone has their own interpretation of the Bible, etc.” is to hand yourself over to the wolves to be torn apart. Jesus tells His disciples this because it is a matter of survival. False teachers and any teaching that contradicts Jesus’ teaching—neither are blessings to the Church.
It is true that someone can be saved who listens to a false teacher or belongs to a Church that confesses false doctrine. But that is only true if the person does not know the teaching to be false. A person who willingly allows Himself to listen to false teaching and does not leave such a church cannot be a Christian and cannot be saved, because no Christian willingly participates in hearing and supporting teaching that comes from the devil and calls Jesus a liar.
How do you recognize a false prophet?
Our flesh is impressed by the kinds of things Jesus names. If a person casts out demons, or does mighty works and miracles—if he does religious works that are hard and strenuous, like becoming a monk, fasting a lot, not dancing, drinking, or smoking, or if he seems exceedingly zealous—our sinful nature thinks, “Surely this is a religious man.” But Jesus says these works are not the evidence of a faithful preacher.
You will know a faithful preacher by his fruit, says Jesus. Just as a tree that is sick can’t produce healthy and good fruit, a false preacher will inevitably reveal himself by his works. He will eventually preach what is false. And his life, though it may appear to be saintly, and even full of many marvelous, even many miraculous, deeds, will not show the fruits of the Spirit.
The fruits of the Spirit are not miracles or fasting or any outward works by themselves. The fruits of the Spirit are the fruits of faith in Christ. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;St. Paul lists as fruits of the Spirit in Galatians ch. 5.
Of course, Paul himself does not always appear to be gentle. In the same chapter of the letter, he writes that he wishes those who told the Galatians that they have to be circumcised if they want to be saved would finish the job and neuter themselves! How would that go over in most Christian churches today? Wouldn’t we say “That’s not the fruit of the Spirit”? But surely Paul was not a false teacher.
So, Jesus tells us we will know a false teacher by his fruits. But the fruits of a true teacher are not necessarily attractive to the sinful nature. The false teachers in Galatia seemed very godly and holy. They insisted on keeping the law and told the Galatians, “Paul has preached a false gospel to you. He has made everything too easy for you. It’s not enough to say you believe in Christ. You also have to keep the law. Didn’t Jesus say, ‘I have not come to abolish the law but fulfill it?’”
Paul condemns them harshly and says he wishes they would mutilate themselves. That hardly seems godly and loving.
So to recognize the fruits of a faithful teacher is not accomplished by the wisdom of the flesh. It requires the Holy Spirit. A true teacher preaches Christ’s word and does not contradict the Holy Spirit, and brings forth fruits in his life in keeping with the life of Jesus. Jesus too said and did things that sounded and looked harsh. He did this out of love, because love does not always speak quietly and peacefully. It doesn’t speak that way to a person who is in danger of everlasting destruction and damnation.
Jesus is the good tree—the tree of life. The fruit that He bears is the fruit of His love for the ungodly. He loves us who are by nature rotten. He sheds His blood for us so that our sinful flesh which is constantly leading us astray is not counted against us, but counted against Him. In love He preaches to us the law that rebukes our sins, so that we can hear the good news He preaches to us in love—that our sins have been nailed to the cross with Him.
Jesus preaches to us to be on guard against false teachers. But isn’t it true that we have not wanted to do this?
Let me speak for myself first.
Not wanting to deal with other pastors who preach something false or whose practice is bad. Why? Because I don’t want the conflict. Because fault might be found with me too.
How much of my life does not evidence the fruits of the Spirit?
Isn’t this true of you, also?
False prophets preach what people want to hear. Judgment will not be so strict. Things are not so dangerous.
It’s not faith alone in Christ that justifies, manifesting itself in a life bearing the fruits of the spirit—Love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control. Rather you can anchor your hope on something else. You’re a good person, you go to church, you avoid this or that gross sin.
Jesus is the tree of life, the good tree bearing good fruit. He preaches the law in all its sternness faithfully. What He preaches He lived. And the fruit of Christ is justification for the ungodly. Our sins are not counted to us. His preaching declares the forgiveness of sins to those who do not keep the law and whose lives often show the fruit of the flesh, not the fruit of the Spirit.
His preaching results in good fruit in sinners. Because His preaching gives assurance that our sins are forgiven not on the basis of our fruit but on the basis of His cross.
Through this come the fruits of the Spirit—joy. Gentleness. The willingness to proclaim what will only get one hardship and difficulty (that is love). Peace—objective peace with God. Increasing peace in our hearts as we rejoice in the forgiveness of sins.
The one teaching that the world will not tolerate but will condemn to death is the teaching that we are righteous because of Christ alone, through faith in Him alone.
For teaching this Jesus was put to death as a blasphemer and false prophet.
When we tolerate false teachers and false teaching we are rejecting Christ, because Christ says that no false teaching saves. All false teaching attacks Christ—
Softening the law attacks Christ because it says that there was no need for Him to suffer and die. Saying that we need not repent of sin and seek to forsake it.
Denying that we are justified while still sinners attacks Christ because it says that His cross is not enough to justify us. When we find we are still sinners, we cannot yet be justified, but have to do some more work.
Instead Christ teaches, while you are yet a helpless sinner who deserves condemnation, believe what I promise you. I have done away your sins on the cross. This I share with you in Baptism. This I apply to you in absolution. This I pledge to you with my body and blood.
Christ is the good tree, the tree of life. Life flows to us because our rottenness died in Him. When we trembling see ourselves to have tolerated false teaching and not done the will of His Father but have kept the Spirit from producing his holy and God-pleasing fruit, right then Jesus says “Forsake your works and efforts to produce good fruit and come to me. Take refuge in me.”
See how He was cut down and thrown into the fire, lifted up on the dead wood of the cross? He became sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might hide in Him, be clothed in Him, and be declared just and filled with His justice which bears fruit unto life. He was lifted up for us so that He might free us from all false teachers and all false teaching, so that we need not put up with false teachers in order to keep from being condemned ourselves.
Hide in Him. Come to His table and receive life, and keep coming.
Then you will be free from those who would exploit you with false comforts and false teaching. Because you will have what false teachers and false teaching cannot give—the righteousness of God. This is yours already. Jesus promised it to you in Baptism and pledges it to you with His own body and blood. By these He will make you abound in good fruit.
Return to theological theme
It is necessary for us to reject false teachers and false teaching, because they would deprive us of the treasure Jesus intends for us—He Himself, the tree of life. His teaching is pure, demanding perfect obedience to the law and declaring that we have it in Him.
In Him we need not hide in the darkness and make excuses for ourselves and false teachers. In Him we come into the light and receive the righteousness of God through His blood which has justified us.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria.
“In the Aggadah
Most of the legends about Lamech, the grandson of Cain, center around his killing of his grandfather. He was blind and when he went hunting, he was led by his young son Tubal-Cain, who would tell his father when game came in sight, so that Lamech could shoot at it with his bow and arrow. Once he aimed at some horned creature which Tubal-Cain thought to be a beast. In fact it was Cain, the “sign of Cain” being a horn in the forehead, and he killed him. In despair, Lamech smote his hands together inadvertently killing Tubal-Cain. After this incident his wives, Adah and Zillah, wanted to leave him on the ground that Cain’s descendants were doomed to annihilation. But Lamech argued, “If Cain who committed murder with malice aforethought, was punished only in the seventh generation, then, I who have killed inadvertently may hope that retribution will be postponed for 77 generations” (cf. Gen. 4:23). Lamech and his wives put their case to Adam who decided the case in favor of Lamech (Tanh. Gen. 11). According to another tradition, Lamech’s wives refused to have intercourse with him because they knew that a flood was to come and therefore they did not want to bear children. Whereupon Lamech answered “Cain was guilty of murder, yet judgment was suspended in his case for seven generations; for me who am guiltless of this crime, surely judgment will wait 77 generations” (Gen. R. 23:4). Lamech took one wife solely for sexual gratification, and the other for procreation (ibid. 23:2).”
I was trying to think of a theme for VBS, because me and someone else from our congregation were thinking we should just do our own–which is another story. So I was thinking about the creation, fall, the curse on Adam and Eve, and the promise of the Savior. This got me thinking about Adam and when he died. Was he alive when Noah was born? Answer–he was not.
I think this will be a fun thing to do if there is time, and it will be very good on a number of levels for the church. The story of the creation is a story of law and fact, and once people start to view it as mythological, it means also that moral law is mythological. Human beings’ intrinsic worth as having been created with dominion in the image of God is also lost. Being male and female is also lost and becomes an accident of evolution, so that transgenderism is not a rejection of God who created you male or female, but instead a rejection of an order that could have just as easily gone in a different direction; we could have evolved as asexual beings–it wasn’t God’s will that we be male or female.
Answers in Genesis pointed this out a long time ago. They are evangelicals, so I can’t praise other parts of their theology. However, their understanding that waffling on the 1st chapters of Genesis really strips Christianity of its vitality by teaching us to place our faith partly on the Word of God and partly on our reason and senses–they are to be commended for this understanding, which too many Missouri Synod Lutheran pastors don’t have.
Anyway, doing a VBS that deals with creation will do good by teaching the story of creation and also by teaching the sacred account of the origin of human life and the institution of marriage.
As I was reading Genesis 5 and trying to figure out whether Adam was still alive when Adam was born, I noticed that Lamech from the line of Seth lived “777 years”. This made me think about Revelation and the number of the beast’s name–666. Then I started noticing some other parallels with the numbers in Genesis. Noah is the 10th from Adam (in the line of Seth). 10 seems to correspond to “times and half a time” which comes up repeatedly both in Daniel and Revelation; also the church at Smyrna suffers tribulation for “10 days” from Satan. The beast has “10 horns and 10 crowns.” Then I noticed that the genealogy of Cain has seven generations, although several of the names are similar between Seth’s and Cain’s lines. The seventh generation in Seth’s line is Enoch, who is taken to be with the Lord like Elijah. The tenth generation is Noah, who has three sons–Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
In Cain’s genealogy, Lamech is the 7th from Adam. He also has three sons: Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-Cain. And he sings a song to his two wives which ends “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” So Cain’s Lamech does a better job of avenging than God apparently; but the numbers seem to parallel the age of Seth’s Lamech. The number of Lamech’s vengeance (he claims): 777. Then God takes vengeance. One might read it as if Lamech is claiming that he will complete the vengeance God promised to Cain. If that were so, then the flood would be God avenging Himself after “a little while”, “times and half a time”. Noah has to endure the wickedness of the earth, but God delivers him after ” a little while;” there are seven generations to Lamech, but a few generations later (long generations, incidentally–it takes Methusaleh and Lamech from Seth’s line 180 years or so to have kids, significantly longer than preceding generations)–God floods the earth in His wrath.
Compare for yourself:
Revelation 13:18 (KJV) “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
Genesis 5:28-32 (KJV) “And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah (i.e. Rest, or Comfort), saying, ‘This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.’ And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died. And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”
Genesis 4:19-24 (KJV) “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”
I don’t really know what it all means, but the patterns are fascinating and there seems to be something in them. So I decided that I’m going to try to study Revelation this summer, comparing it to the early chapters of Genesis, and I may write about it on here sometimes. Because it seems like the day is drawing near. It really does.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Mark 8:1-9
July 14, 2013
“God’s Word Does Everything”
In the Name of Jesus
God’s Word does everything.
The farmers among us plow, plant, fertilize, and harvest. If they don’t do that, corn won’t fill their silos in the fall. But it isn’t the plowing, planting, and fertilizing that makes the corn grow. It’s God’s Word. He said, Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth. And it was so. (Genesis 1: 11) If you’re a farmer, you could print that verse out on a big poster and hang it up in your barn and your office and look at it every day. That’s the power that keeps you in business and keeps 6 billion people in the world from starving.
Of course, you farmers know very well, I’m sure, that that word of God alone doesn’t guarantee that you won’t lose money that year. You can work as smart and as hard and as long as humanly possible, and everything can still go to pieces. In the 1930’s, lots of people lost their farms. Drought came and wind blew dust across the United States. A little earlier the Southern economy was ruined because an insect called a Boll Weevil came and ate up the cotton farms. These things happen because of God’s Word too. Adam rejected God’s Word and ate the forbidden fruit, and God spoke a curse: Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:17-19)
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. God’s Word created the world and made it so that plants grow from the ground and made it so that if you don’t work, weeds grow instead of the plants you need to eat. God’s Word also made it so that even when you work hard, you aren’t guaranteed success. What you are guaranteed is painful toil and sweat pouring from your face and your work not producing anything that lasts. Mostly you get weeds and boll weevils, bills, one hassle after another interspersed by dangers and tragedies. Women have the painful labor of bearing children, which is not fun but often life-threatening; then they are cursed with Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (Genesis 3:16)
But God with this curse ensures that we do get some good things. We get some plants from the field to eat mixed in with the thorns and thistles. We don’t get enough to last us forever so that the curse goes away. Just enough to keep on living and working until we return to the dust from which we were made. Because we are dust without God’s Word; that’s it. And since we rejected God’s Word, we get what we asked for—we go back to being dust.
God’s Word does everything. It blesses and curses. It kills and makes alive. It determines how this world will work, and it gives us our place in it and our work in it. So we live under our parents’ authority. Then we grow up and go to work where we are under the authority of our boss or we are the boss, and are responsible to God for this authority. We get married and have children because God’s Word has made most of us unable to be sexually pure outside of marriage—although to some He gives the higher and more difficult gift of living a celibate single life.
Then we work at these things which God has given us to do. Or we disobey and create our own callings and lifestyles that to our minds seem better than what God has created and commanded with His Word.
But if we are Christians, we believe God’s promise to us that He has forgiven our sins and that after we have returned to dust He will raise us again from the dust. So we go live in the callings He has assigned to us and seek to serve Him there in the place He has called us, daily commending ourselves to His forgiveness. And in those callings He gives us our daily bread. But it’s also true that those who believe in Jesus and live in the callings in which God has place them find that there is much hardship, much sweat of the face, many weeds.
Yet the one thing we really need is not for things to be easy. The one thing we really need is not to be happy on this earth. The one thing we really need is the Word of the Lord. It’s the word of the Lord that provides food. It’s the word of the Lord that gives us affliction. And it’s the word of the Lord that delivers us from sin, death, hell, and the curse of sin in this life.
The Word of the Lord makes it so that when you put antiseptic on a wound, it prevents it from getting infected.
But imagine if there was a Word of the Lord that said, “You will never be injured, hurt, or sick, or die, ever again.” That Word of God might not be welcomed by doctors. But it would be welcome to everyone who believed it. Anyone who believed that there was the promise that God would say, “You will never get sick again, never hurt again, never die again,” would do whatever it took to make that promise their own.
That is the Word that Jesus preaches. In fact He is that Word. It is as if God said, “Let all human beings never get hungry, sick, or suffer again. Let them never again be sinners under my wrath. Let them be forgiven of their sins, delivered from hell, and live forever and share my joy eternally.”
That was the Word of God when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin. Human beings were restored to life and delivered from the curse by God’s Word.
Jesus was conceived in the virgin’s womb to deliver us from every curse—from the torment of hell which will never end, which belonged to us because of sin. And also from the temporary curses of this life. The suffering caused by sickness, hunger, depression—Jesus comes to remove these too.
When the Word became flesh, He was coming to bear all of the curse and bring to us all of God’s blessing.
That was the reason crowds were chasing Jesus around everywhere. He healed them; He relieved their earthly pains and eased the curse.
But He did something greater. He preached the Word of the Lord that changes everything, that gives us a new creation where there is no more death, no more damnation, no more sin, no more grief.
Just as He does among us.
Jesus has compassion on you and me also. He is concerned about the needs of our bodies. He doesn’t want us to faint or be crushed under the curse of sin.
He has compassion, mercy. His heart is moved. Jesus preached to His own people, the Jews. He cast out demons and healed their sick and raised their dead. He made the deaf hear and the mute speak. He did this knowing full well that most would not hear Him, and their rejection of Him would turn into blasphemy, hatred, and crucifixion. Yet He still healed them. And He still went to the cross to bear the wrath of God for them.
And He knew His disciples were hard hearted and slow to believe. This was not the first time He fed people. He fed 5000 a few chapters before. Then He walked on the sea. And St. Mark writes: And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. (St. Mark 7:51-52)
So when Jesus says, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat” his disciples say, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (St. Mark 8:2, 4)
They are saying something like, “Well, it’s too late now, Jesus. There’s nothing to be done. Maybe they’ll faint or starve, but what do you want us to do about it?” They might have been thinking what we think when we go without as Christians—when we are burdened by sickness or trouble. “If you really are compassionate, why did you wait until they were famished to give them food? If you love us so much, why do you wait until we’ re about to fall apart before helping us?”
But the disciples should have known better. They had seen Jesus feed a crowd before.
Jesus is not lacking in compassion. He has more compassion than we can comprehend. And He teaches us compassion, too. In this feeding He’s teaching His disciples not to throw up their hands so quickly and assume that just because it is beyond their power there’s nothing to be done.
But Jesus knows very well that human beings don’t generally hear God’s Word very well on a full belly.
These people were in the wilderness listening to Jesus teach and preach for three days. They were in a desert. They went without food to the point that they were in danger of passing out or dying on the walk home.
Can you imagine that? Such hunger for God’s Word! Where can we find it in our day?
But the Word Jesus gave them was better than bread. It gives more than temporary alleviation of hunger or pain. It takes it away forever.
If you have Jesus’ Word, you have everything. Your daily bread comes with it.
But we think we need the bread more than we need God’s Word. So, we get to church if we’re not doing something else. We squeeze catechesis in around all the other activities we have our kids in; we neglect to teach them God’s Word ourselves. And the kids look and see that the adults aren’t all that hungry for God’s Word. In fact at times they resent it and think it is fanatical to expect people to have the catechism memorized, or to come pray.
Jesus says, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” We can live with pain, and hunger, and sorrow. We can live even when we die. But we can’t live without God’s Word, unless the rich man who walked by poor Lazarus every day was living. It looked like he was, with his purple clothes and fine food, but things were more clear after he died and began his eternity in the fire wishing for a drop of water. The collect for this Sunday says it well: “we pray that you would put away all things hurtful to us and give us all things that are profitable for our salvation.” So often what is hurtful to us is the very thing that we are told in America is what life is all about. We want to be “healthy”, and happy, and we think a successful, contented life is the goal of existence. All too often that American dream is the very thing we don’t need. And because Jesus loves us He gives us what is profitable for our salvation—hunger. Suffering. Weakness. Consciousness of sin. That is the only way to make us hungry enough to eat the bread of life. If our stomachs are full we figure we have all we need.
Jesus makes full everyone who comes to Him hungering and thirsting for life and salvation. It’s impossible that you come to Him looking for everlasting life and He leaves you without what you need for this life.
They were right to be out in the desert for three days just for the sake of the Word. But that didn’t save them or make Jesus compassionate.
Jesus is compassionate. The Word is His compassion. Even if you have suffering with it—people leave the church, people in the church hurt you, your family, work, is chaotic.
You have Jesus, and you have in Him the spiritual bread that gives life. You have recreation which He gives you in His body and blood the same way he gave the bread to the 4000. He says it, and even though no one sees any change, the Word makes 7 little loaves feed five thousand. Jesus says it, and He feeds us with His body and blood in which our sins are taken away and our wounds are healed.
He is the fountain of life. Those who are His want to be with Him, even in the wilderness, even nailed to the cross. With Him is life, healing, truth, redemption. We come to Him and He strengthens our weak faith. He replaces our selfishness with His compassion.
Now in addition to the grave mess that the Church appears to be in, we have a grave mess in this neighborhood and in this country. Like the disciples we say, “Yep, too bad. There’s nothing to be done.”
And in a sense they were right and so are we. Jesus is not going to make all the pain in this world go away in this life time. And most people are not going to believe in Him. We may bring them to Him and more often than not they will be offended by the weakness and sin they find in His church.
It’s easy to throw up your hands about this. The disciples probably wished that impressive, powerful people would come to Jesus, but by and large it was the poor. It was cripples. It was demon possessed people. Ignorant people. People with needs.
That’s no different than we have it.
But Jesus was glad when they came. He fed them with the priceless bread of life, His Word, which He would have gladly given to anyone. But then like now, for most people comfort is more important than the Word which gives forgiveness of sins.
Despite all this, the disciples should have known. Jesus is always compassionate and Jesus always wants to help. He always wants what’s best. And if there are needs, if you have nothing else you can do, you have one exceedingly powerful thing. You can bring those needs to Jesus, along with the little that you have. Your loaves, yourself with all your sins.
And Jesus may not feed the 4000 or convert the United States again. He may not keep this congregation around another 10 years. We don’t know what’s best. Oftentimes the hunger and pain we feel we think is bad, when it is really the best by far for us.
But we know that Jesus knows what’s best, has compassion, and when we pray, He will join our prayers with His prayers and provide what is best. “The Lord will give what is good, and the earth will yield its harvest.” He will give what is best—His body into death for our sins; His body and blood into our mouth that we might live in Him and He in us. And that life cannot exist in us without us also receiving the cross—suffering, weakness, and death. Hunger, poverty, and shame. They must come to us when Christ the crucified, the Word made flesh, dwells in us.
In Him God’s wrath is removed and we have His favor. He gave thanks for the little that they brought to Him because He knew that His heavenly Father is good and wills to have compassion and is able to have compassion. He wills to have compassion, and therefore He sent His Son in the flesh to be offered up and broken for our sins, to be the food and drink that sustains our souls for eternity. Jesus died for you, with your hardness of heart and your lack of compassion, and He has removed all the Father’s wrath from You.
He has compassion on the crowds in our families and in the neighborhood who are not here. And it is not our job to save the world. But He wants us to bring them to Him in our prayers, and to give us His bodies so that He may Himself come to them through us.