Archive

Archive for the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ Category

18th Sunday After Trinity, 2016. A Church Loses Its First Love. Divine Service, Scripture.

October 11, 2016 Leave a comment

crucifixion thief on the cross18th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Revelation 2:1-7

September 25, 2016

“A Church Loses Its First Love”

 

Iesu iuva

 

There is a reason why so many songs and poems speak about the experience of falling in love.  Love is powerful, intoxicating.  It almost makes someone new.  It changes the expression of a person’s face, gives light to their eyes.  It gives people courage and zeal to do things they would never otherwise have tried.

 

But the ecstasy of falling in love has to be followed up by action.  People who fall in love but don’t make a pledge to one another to forsake all other loves, or who don’t follow through on that pledge by continuing to give themselves to the other, find that their love grows cold.  Instead of first love growing into a deeper and more mature love, it gradually dies.

 

In the first letter to the churches in Asia Minor, our Lord Jesus Christ writes to the church in Ephesus that it has lost its first love for Him.

 

The church in Ephesus was the oldest of the seven churches to which Jesus told John to write.  It had been founded by the apostle Paul about 40 years before the writing of the book of Revelation. He wrote the Ephesian church a letter while he was in prison in Rome that we still read today because it is holy Scripture.  Later, tradition tells us that the apostle John lived in Ephesus and taught there into his old age.

 

Being the oldest church in the region, and having had two apostles dwell there and teach them, the church in Ephesus might have been proud of their history, boasted of what God had done for them.  That boasting and pride would have been no sin if it was pride in the goodness and love of their Lord, who made them first among the seven churches solely out of His grace.

 

But something was wrong in Ephesus.  Jesus introduces Himself as the One who walks in the midst of the golden lampstands, the churches.  “I know your works,” He says.  And the works He mentions He is pleased with: the Ephesians have toiled and worked hard as a church to spread the word of God.  They have been patient and endured suffering and hostility in the world for their faith and their toil to make Christ known.  And they could not tolerate false teachers.  They tested those who claimed to be “apostles”—people sent by Christ—and when the supposedly God-sent men didn’t preach what accords with Christ’s doctrine, the Ephesians threw them out as false apostles and refused to hear them.

 

In addition, Jesus commends them because they hated the works of the Nicolaitans, a group that claimed the Gospel made them free to practice sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols.  That was like receiving communion from an idol—participating in its worship, and proclaiming fellowship with the idols worshippers.

 

So the Ephesian church was exemplary for its orthodoxy and its willingness to work and suffer for Christ.

 

But for all this apparent faithfulness, the Lord finds something lacking, something so important that it invalidates all the good things about the church in Ephesus.  “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first—“ or, “You have let go of your first love.”

 

“You don’t love me like you once did.”  When two people are in love, those are among the most painful words one could speak to the other.  They signify that love between two people is no longer strong and certain; love is passing away, the way everything beautiful in this world fades, grows old, and dies.

 

Hearing Jesus say, “You have lost your first love for me” would pierce the heart of anyone who loves Him like a dagger.  After He rose from the dead, Jesus appeared to Peter by the Sea of Galilee, where He first called Peter to follow Him.  Three times He asked Peter, “Do you love me?”  And Peter was full of grief that Jesus had to ask if he still loved Him.

 

If Jesus asked you, St. Peter, “Do you love me?”, would you grieve?  Would you get angry?  Do you think, maybe, He does ask us that?

 

But Jesus doesn’t say the Ephesian church doesn’t love him anymore.  He only says they have lost their first love.  Their love toward Jesus has cooled.

 

They still love Jesus in Ephesus.  They just don’t love Him as much as they used to.  Or rather, they just don’t love as much—Jesus or other people.  Yet just this—the cooling of love, the decline of love—is enough to draw this severe threat from the Lord of the Church:  “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”  (Rev. 2:5)  In other words, Jesus will bring the church in Ephesus to an end because they have lost their first love.  He will cause this church to cease to exist.

 

Eventually what Jesus warns of here happened to the church in Ephesus.  Ephesus was a major city as well as a major center of the early Christian church.  But it was destroyed by an invasion of Germanic tribesman in 263 A. D.  After being rebuilt by a Roman emperor, throughout the 700’s it suffered from raids by Muslim armies.  Meanwhile, its harbor gradually filled with silt.  It lost trade as a result, and its standing as a center of commerce declined.  By the time Muslim Turks conquered it about 1000 years after the writing of the book of Revelation, it had become a small village.  In another four hundred years it was completely abandoned.  Whatever remained of the Church of Ephesus, which had once been first among the churches of Asia, was taken away.

 

St. Peter Lutheran Church in Joliet has several things in common with the church in Ephesus.  We were the first Lutheran Church in Joliet.  Most of the other Missouri Synod congregations for miles around were birthed by St. Peter.  No apostles ever occupied the pulpit of St. Peter, but God blessed it with at least three gifted pastors in its 159 years.  There have been others who have perhaps not had as many gifts, but they were faithful in teaching God’s pure Word and administering His Sacraments.

 

Yet today we have declined to a shadow of the church’s former strength.  Many of us wonder how many years St. Peter has left.

Like the Church in Ephesus, a lot of earthly factors have contributed to our declining attendance.  Although the city of Joliet has grown numerically it has declined economically, causing many of the sons and daughters of our congregation to move elsewhere.  Then there is the decay of the neighborhood from a prosperous area to a slum with the reputation of being dangerous.

 

Yet Jesus doesn’t say that the decline of the city of Ephesus will cause the Ephesian church to disappear.  He says, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”  If the Ephesians in fact did not repent, then it wasn’t the invasions and earthquakes and the filling in of the harbor that caused the church in Ephesus to disappear.

 

Rather, Jesus caused those calamities in order to remove their lampstand from its place.

 

And if this is what happened, it was all because they had lost their first love.  So as we see our church on the verge of being removed from its place, what should we be asking ourselves except, “Has St. Peter lost its first love?”

 

If we look back at our history, we can see evidence of St. Peter’s love for Christ, His Word, and those who do not know and believe it.

 

In 1870, St. Peter called a pastor from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  At that time the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States was only 23 years old.  St. Peter was only 13 years old.  The young bearded pastor that came fresh from the seminary, the Rev. Carl Rothe, spent 8 years here—and only at the end of his ministry did the congregation make its first steps toward becoming a confessional Lutheran congregation, when it accepted the Unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530 as a summary confession of the faith held by the congregation.  Prior to that, for 25 years, St. Peter had “Lutheran” in the title of their name, but apparently was not clear on what they meant by saying they were Lutheran.  By accepting the Augsburg Confession, they publicly confessed the doctrine of the early Lutheran reformers as their own.

 

Pastor Rothe was followed in office by his brother-in-law, Pastor August Schuessler, who had been pastor in a small town south of here.  Some time in the 1880s, St. Peter became a member congregation of the Missouri Synod, after it embraced the entire Book of Concord of 1580 as its confession of faith.

 

What does this show about St. Peter in those days?  It shows that they had a love for Christ and His Word and were willing to be instructed from it.  They went from being a congregation that called itself “Lutheran” in a generic way to being a congregation that received the entire doctrine of the Lutheran Church.

 

St. Peter then was a congregation that loved Christ.  As a result, it was willing to test whether its faith was in line with God’s Word.  And when they found that it was not, they were willing to repent and receive the full teaching of God’s Word.

 

St. Peter also had a desire to see Christ’s Kingdom extended on earth.  They loved their neighbors and were willing to work to see the Gospel spread and bring people to faith in Christ.  In the early part of the 20th century, for many years, St. Peter not only maintained a Sunday School for its own children, but operated one on the other side of town.  They called it “the mission Sunday School.”  One imagines that the “mission Sunday School” ministered to kids whose parents were not willing or able to bring their children up as Christians.  St. Peter didn’t simply expect that parents be responsible to bring their children to Sunday School and church—they actively sought out the children who, for whatever reason, were not being taught the Scriptures at the age when it is most critical that children learn them.  That was a measure of their faith in Christ’s Word and their love for those who were separated from it.

 

How do we measure up to the “first love” of our congregation?

 

The love that St. Peter showed in its early years for the word of God, evidenced by their willingness to grow in it, to learn from it and acknowledge when their knowledge and confession of it had been deficient—is that still present among us?  By no means.  As your pastor for ten years, I can bear witness that many of St. Peter’s members—most—do not remember the basic teachings of God’s Word found in the Small Catechism.  It’s not simply that they no longer remember the words of the catechism—which itself should not be; it should not be that a congregation that says it adheres to the confessions of the Lutheran Church does not remember the simple form of the faith that “the head of the family should teach…to his household.”

 

But not only do very few remember the words of the catechism; very many also have forgotten the content of the catechism.  Forgotten that the church of Christ is not everyone who can be enticed to show up to worship, but “the communion of saints…[that] those who believe in Christ…but only believers, are members of the church.”  Forgotten that a person cannot become a believer in Christ by their “own reason or strength”, much less by means of techniques designed by men to appeal to unbelievers, but that the Holy Spirit must call a person by the Gospel, enlighten him with His gifts, sanctify and keep him in the true faith.  Forgotten that when a person visits St. Peter with a different confession of faith than the one taught by the Holy Spirit, we are not permitted to share the body and blood of Christ with that person, but invite that person to first be instructed and confess with us God’s Word in its purity.

 

Yet not only have many people at St. Peter forgotten these teachings that they once learned and confessed, they have often responded to them with anger when they were presented to them again.  But even where this is not the case, the majority of members of St. Peter have proven themselves less than eager to re-learn or to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word.

 

The love St. Peter had at first for God’s Word is not here anymore.

 

For the last ten years, I have conducted these series in the fall, in which I exhorted those who came to devote themselves anew to the Christian life, to Divine Service, Scripture, Prayer, Giving, Serving, and Witnessing.  I pleaded with the congregation over the years to come to Bible Class during these weeks, if at no other time during the year, so that we could come together and examine ourselves as a congregation.  To repent where we had been negligent in these things.  To hear God’s pardon for our sin through the death of His Son.  To encourage one another to grow in these things that are fruits of faith in Christ.

 

Early on, I sent out mailings and letters trying to gather the congregation together.  In more recent years I begged and pleaded with those who were present in the Divine Service to come to Bible Class.  And for ten years there has been little to no response.  Those who didn’t come at all didn’t come.  Those who do attend the Divine Service but not Bible Class, with few exceptions, ignored my pleading.

 

And even this year, when the church is in critical condition, and everyone knows it, there is no increased sense of urgency—at least no sense of urgency to turn to God and His Word.  The love St. Peter once had amongst its own members is not like its first love.  If this love still exists, it is not the love that recognizes that our mutual well-being as a church depends first and foremost on our listening to God and, believing His promises, walking in the ways of prayer, giving, serving, and witnessing.

 

Finally, what about St. Peter’s love for the lost outside the Church?  Is there an earnest love that compels us to bring the Gospel outside of the walls of our congregation, like that which once drove St. Peter to start a mission Sunday School?

 

There is a zeal among some, to be sure, who devote countless hours to Vacation Bible School every summer, and others who have tried in various ways to bring God’s Word to the youth and to the families at Evergreen Terrace.  But the congregation as a whole does not work as a body to reach out and to welcome in those who are outside.  And that is what we need.  How difficult a stumbling block we place in front of our new members when, after undergoing catechesis for several months, they join the church, and find so many members who have so little interest in what they spent the last several months learning, and who seem to have little joy about someone else confessing that faith and doctrine as their own!

 

What I am saying is very difficult to hear.  It may make you angry to hear it.  Perhaps you think I’m not presenting the whole story.

 

Yet I doubt that there are many who will dispute that St. Peter as a congregation has lost its first love.  We can see clearly enough by their absence that in many people this love—for Christ, for His Word, His people—has died completely.  And certainly in some, if not many of us, it has died or grown very cold.

 

The loss of their first love meant the removal of the church of Ephesus.  And as we see our lampstand being removed, we should hear clearly Jesus’ words to them in our ears: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”  (Rev. 2:5)

 

Why did Jesus threaten to take away the church in Ephesus because they had lost their first love?  Because faith and love are always together.  We say correctly that “faith alone saves,” that “a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the Law.”  (Rom. 3:28)  But faith that saves, faith in Christ, is always followed by love.  Because faith in Christ is worked by the Holy Spirit, who at the same time renews our heart, so that it is not the selfish, cold heart of the old Adam only.  Instead, Jesus dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17)—the same Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us.  Yes, the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:5).  So where love is on the wane, faith in Christ is dying as well.

 

If only you would hear Jesus and not cast these words behind you!  That you would realize the terrible seriousness of this, that Jesus truly and earnestly threatens to close a church because it abandon[s] the love [it] had at first!  (Rev. 2:4)  He threatens this to us not out of spite or vengefulness, but because He desires our salvation!  When a church loses its first love, there will be members of whom this is not true.  Those members Jesus will not abandon.  But those who have fallen away or who continue on the path of falling are not simply in danger of seeing their congregation close, but of seeing themselves shut out of the Church of Christ in heaven.  Jesus warns us so that this may not happen to us—not only the tragedy of Him removing a congregation like a branch on a vine that bears no fruit—but the tragedy of the members of that congregation individually being removed and cast into the fire and burned (John 15:5-6).

 

He warns so that there may be a change of heart—a repentance, in individuals, and in the congregation as a whole.

 

He says “Remember from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”  Then He will not remove your lampstand from its place.

 

That means that we return to St. Peter’s first love—to an eagerness to hear, learn, and grow in God’s Word; an eagerness to abide in all Christ’s teaching; an eager desire to proclaim and spread this Word.  To return to newborn love for Jesus and the souls He died to save, inside and outside the Church.

 

It is not enough that we repent of our failure to hear God’s Word and spread it simply because we don’t want to see our congregation die.  Repentance means to recognize our sin against the Lord who loved us, and to trust in the blood He shed to cancel that sin and purify us of it.  And then, out of that faith and trust, to do the works of love the congregation once did—to gladly hear God’s Word and gladly proclaim it to the world.

 

Those who have not fallen from their first love repent of those inclinations and impulses they see in themselves that would dampen their love for Christ and His Word.  Those who are growing cold turn again to Jesus with their dying love with sorrow.  And those whose love has died fall at the feet of Jesus who is able to raise the dead.

 

You may rightly sense the difficulty of this—indeed, its impossibility.  How can we restore love for Christ?  Even human love is something difficult to keep, and difficult to revive once it has decreased—much less when it has died completely.  But the love of God is not within our power to establish in our hearts.  It must be poured out into them by the Holy Spirit.

 

All this is true, and there is no escaping it.  Love is from God (1 John 4:7) says John in his first epistle.  Just as the faith in Christ that saves us is not from ourselves but is the gift of God, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:9), God also must work His love in our hearts, or we will remain cold and loveless.  Yet God desires to work both faith and love in the hearts of all people, because Jesus has redeemed all people through His suffering and death.  And so God appointed means by which He gives the Holy Spirit and gives the gift of faith and the love that follow from it.

 

Those means are the Word and the Sacraments; if we are to regain our first love and the faith that produced it, God must do it.  But He has promised to do it by means of the Word and Sacraments.  Which means the salvation of our souls and of our congregation is to be found in the Divine Service and in Scripture. 

 

But we have already had those things, and we still ended up where we are now!

 

That is true.  But if the means God appointed to work faith and love in our hearts haven’t worked, it isn’t because those means are not effective, or that God only works through them sometimes.  The fault is with us.  Too often we have neglected the preaching of the Word, the Sacraments, and the reading of Scripture.  We have received them a couple of times a month, or less.  We have not read the Scriptures in our homes or been willing to study them in church.  And even when we were present to hear the Word preached and receive the Sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood, we did not really receive.

 

We didn’t listen.  Maybe you didn’t think that preaching is God’s Word—you thought it was just the opinion of whoever occupied the pulpit.  Or when you listened to the reading of Scripture you tuned it out because you figured you had heard it before.  You came to the divine service, and particularly the Lord’s Supper, without preparation—not examining yourself to see whether you repented of your sins and believed what Jesus said He was giving.  You came to church half-asleep because you were doing other things the night before.  Or you came without prayer and readiness to hear God speak and work in you because you didn’t realize how badly you needed Him to do so.  You came but got annoyed if you didn’t get to sing the right hymns, were irritated if I didn’t conduct the service as you thought it should be done.  You had expectations of how the service was supposed to go and were certain of the rightness of your indignation if those expectations weren’t met.

 

You did not realize that you were closing your heart to the Holy Spirit who desired to work in you.  Whether you neglected opportunities to hear or read God’s Word, or whether you physically presented yourselves but did not seriously listen.

 

Once a month for several years I have been teaching a class on the Book of Concord, the confessions of the Lutheran Church.  One of the documents in the Book of Concord is called The Formula of Concord, written about three decades after the death of Martin Luther to settle certain controversies that arose after his death.  It has a wonderful section in which it talks about how God always wills to work through His Word, preached, read, or taught, to bring about faith and love in those who by nature are without both.

 

It says, “We should never regard this call from God, which takes place through the preaching of the Word, as some kind of deception.  Instead, we should know that God reveals His will through it, namely, that he wills to work through His Word in those whom he has called, so that they may be enlightened, converted, and saved.  For the Word through which we are called is a ministry of the Spirit.  It ‘gives the Spirit,’ or through it the Spirit is conferred (2 Cor. 3); it is a ‘power of God’ that saves [Rom. 1].  Because the Holy Spirit wills to be efficacious and to give strength, power, and ability through the Word, it is God’s will that we accept the Word and believe and follow it…

 

Therefore, if people wish to be saved…they should listen to Christ…He testifies to all people without distinction that God wills all people who are burdened and weighed down with sins to come to him, so that they may be given rest and be saved.

 

According to Christ’s teaching they should abstain from sin, repent, trust the promise, and rely completely upon Christ.  Because we are not capable of doing this by our own powers, the Holy Spirit wills to effect to repentance and faith in us through the Word and the sacraments.  And that we may complete this and persist and remain faithful in it, we should call upon God for his grace, which he has promised us in Holy Baptism, and not doubt that in accord with His promise He will convey it to us, as He has promised…

 

Next, the Holy Spirit dwells in the elect who have believed as He dwells in His temple and is not idle in them but impels the children of God to obey God’s commands.  Therefore, believers should in the same way not be idle either, much less resist the impetus of God’s Spirit, but should practice all Christian virtues…and should diligently seek to “confirm their call and election” [2 Peter 1:10], so that the more they recognize the Spirit’s power and strength in themselves, the less they doubt their election…

 

According to His normal arrangement, the Father draws people by the power of His Holy Spirit through the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, through which the elect are snatched out of the jaws of the devil.  For this reason every poor sinner should act in such a way as to hear the Word diligently and not doubt that the Father is drawing people to Himself.  For the Holy Spirit wills to be present with His power in the Word and to work through it.  This is the drawing of the Father.

 

The reason why not all who hear the Word believe it (and thus receive the greater damnation) is not that God has not allowed them to be saved.  Instead, it is their own fault, for they heard the Word not so that they might learn from it but only to despise, revile, and ridicule it; and they resisted the Holy Spirit, who wanted to work in them through the Word… (FC SD XI: 29, 70-73, 76-78)

 

The Holy Spirit will restore all who have fallen and those who have faltered to their first love through His Word and Sacraments.  So we should attend to them the way we would attend to medicine that would save our lives on earth, because indeed there is no other medicine to restore faith in Christ and love to our congregation.

 

Those who do this will rise from their fall to conquer their sinful nature, the world, and the devil.  And Jesus holds out a great promise to the ones who conquer by faith in Him—He will give them to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.

 

You may remember how in his final hours a criminal who was crucified next to Jesus turned to Him and said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

The man, dying on the cross for his own sin, under the judgment of God, nearing the final minutes of a life spent in wickedness, arose and conquered.  Jesus promised him the right to eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

 

Why?  Because through His Word, Jesus brought this man to faith in Him.  With this faith came love; in his final minutes He spoke in defense of Jesus.  He loved the man he rebuked and sought to bring him salvation even while both were dying condemned for their sins.  He loved Jesus and confessed the truth about Him—that He had done nothing to deserve crucifixion, nothing sinful at all.  He loved Jesus because He believed Jesus’ word, that the suffering He endured was to redeem even the criminal from his life of disobedience to God.

 

We may be at the end of the road as a congregation.  It may be that even with repentance and renewal we are not to continue as a congregation, for some reason known only to our Lord Jesus.

 

Yet the reward of conquering with Jesus is not our congregation’s future on earth.  It is the right to eat from the tree of life and dwell in the presence of God in paradise.  The fruit of the tree of life, however, begins for those who repent and believe the Gospel today.  To eat that fruit, to taste and see that the Lord is good, is to believe in the Son of God, who came that we might have life, who came to bear our offenses.  Whoever believes in Jesus “eats His flesh and drinks His blood” (John 6), receiving life from His sacrificial death.  As they go on eating from this tree of life, they are transformed by Him; they taste His love, and desire more of it.  And the more they receive it, the more they love Him in return, the more they love those that He loves.

 

You are about to come eat this fruit of paradise, the very body and blood of Jesus given and shed for your salvation.  Let us come with repentance for all the times we have eaten this fruit and not come forth from this altar to conquer with Jesus our natural lovelessness.  Let us come with the bitter taste of repentance that we may begin to taste the sweetness of His love toward us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5).

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Advertisements

Portrait of a Hardened Sinner. Walther.

August 6, 2015 1 comment

waltherAt the close of our text we read: “And he,” that is, Christ,” taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him.” V. 47. After they had become blind to that which belonged to their peace, after they had lost all fear of God’s judgment, they fell from this sin into another without considering it sin; the most bitter enmity grew from their contempt of Christ, until finally they plotted to murder him, the Innocent, and did not rest until their bloodthirstiness was appeased by seeing Christ on the cross.

In their example you see the condition of a person who is hardened. He has fallen so far that he no longer knows what belongs to his peace. In vain God’s Word is preached to him; he no longer knows what belongs to his peace. His heart is hard as a rock. Though the Gospel with all its strength and comfort is preached to him, though Christ is presented ever so movingly in his love of sinners, and though he is in an ever so friendly and urgent a manner incited and enticed, it does not move the hardened person. And though the Law is preached to him in all its threatening severity, though God is described in his frightening righteousness and holiness, and though he is ever so earnestly admonished and warned, it does not move the hardened person. Though grace or wrath, life or death, blessing or curse, heaven or hell, salvation or damnation is presented to him, it is all the same to the hardened person…

…as little as God’s Word enlightens, awakens, and moves a hardened person to repent, so little do also the events of his life, which God permits him to experience. If all goes well, he does not let his heart become soft; the more love God shows him, the more secure, proud, and impudent he becomes, the more he believes that he is in no trouble. On the other hand, if things do not go well, he absolutely refuses to let himself be humbled. Then he murmurs against the Ruler of his fate, and insolently reviles the Almighty in heaven.

Finally, he comes to the point where he no longer feels any sin. His conscience is branded; it no longer carries out its duty; it no longer accuses him; it has become silent. He does only what he wishes without fearing God’s punishment; he becomes a declared enemy of Christ, his work, his Christians, and finally even persecutes them. The tears of anxious parents, brothers, sisters, former fellow-believers, and friends are in vain; the hardened laughs at those who sympathize with him and thus he hurries to meet the day of the revelation of God’s righteous judgment, hell and damnation.

C. F. W. Walther, “Sermon on the Gospel for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity”

First Gay Episcopal Divorce?

Mark Andrew, left, and Bishop Gene Robinson marry in a civil ceremony in Concord, NH (7 June 2008)

Gene Robinson continues the fight for homosexual equality.

Gene Robinson’s ordination as a bishop of the New Hampshire diocese in 2003 divided the global Anglican communion.

In the US, hundreds of parishes broke away from the Episcopal Church – the US branch of Anglicanism – in protest, forming a new Anglican Church in North America.

The bishop became a symbol of the LGBT rights movement and an advocate for equal marriage.

In his letter, Bishop Robinson, who retired in 2012, said it was “a small comfort” to know that gay and lesbian couples “are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples”.

“My belief in marriage is undiminished by the reality of divorcing someone I have loved for a very long time, and will continue to love even as we separate,” he said. “Love can endure, even if a marriage cannot.”

Bishop Robinson, 66, had previously been married to a woman with whom he had two children. They divorced amicably in 1985 over his sexuality.

 

Oh, well, this isn’t the first Anglican schism over a short- lived “marriage”, is it?

 

 

We Beg You on Behalf of Christ. Trinity 10 2013

August 5, 2013 3 comments

JEZIS%20PLACE_%20Prayer%20JesusTenth Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 19:41-48

August 4, 2013

“We Beg You on Behalf of Christ”

Jesus

 

Dear ones in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Gospel reading shows us that our Lord Jesus Christ is not carved out of marble like the statues the Greeks made of their gods.  He was not put together by dietitians, personal trainers, and cosmetic surgeons like the celebrities whose superhumanly happy lives Americans set before themselves on television to worship, either.

 

He isn’t cut out of stone.  He isn’t airbrushed.  Jesus is flesh and blood.  He breaks down in sobs.  He gets furious in the temple.  He gets loud. 

 

Jesus is not one of our gods who lives above it all.  He’s one of us.  He loves someone who doesn’t love Him and is left crying, pleading, begging.

 

He is one of us, and He is the true God.

 

This is the time when our Lord should be rising above it all.  He’s on the way to Jerusalem riding on a donkey with the crowd praising Him and waving palm branches.  He’s like the high school basketball player who just got drafted to the NBA or the young musician who just got a contract with a major record label.  Except better: He’s not on His way to being one of the immortals.  He’s being recognized as the king promised by the only true God.

 

Then they come around a bend in the road and see the spires of the city of Jerusalem rising in the distance above them.  This is when the crowd would start to cheer louder.  And it’s the time when they would expect Jesus to lift up His head and smile and enjoy His glory.

 

But instead as Jerusalem appears, the shouts of the crowd quickly fall silent.  Jesus does not smile.  He breaks down in tears.

 

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

 

Relationships depend on honesty.  That’s what we say.  If you’re unhappy about something in your marriage or in your friendship, but you don’t say anything because you want to avoid conflict, it destroys real intimacy.  It’s not based on truth.  The other person doesn’t really know you.

 

The same thing applies to God’s relationship to us.  Of course in every relationship on earth there are things with which we have to be patient, things we have to forgive again and again.  Our relationship with God is the same.  Relationships can continue where there is sin as long as there is repentance on the part of the sinner and forgiveness on the part of the one sinned against. 

 

But relationships can’t exist where one person refuses to acknowledge their sin or where another refuses to forgive.  When one person sins and refuses to acknowledge it the relationship dies even where the other person is ready to forgive and doesn’t leave.

 

God’s relationship with Israel was like that.  God was still with them.  His house was in Jerusalem.  So the Israelites said, “Everything is fine.  The Lord and us are still together.” 

 

But the Lord had been telling them for centuries that things were not fine.  Our relationship is broken, He had told them through the prophets.  For years you worshipped other gods.  You committed adultery.  And now, even though on paper you have Me alone as your God, your worship of me is false, hypocritical.  Outwardly you say my name, but inside your heart is given over to other gods.  You love pleasure and prestige, you trust money and your own wisdom, but not Me. 

 

After telling Israel this for centuries, finally God sent His Son, who told them in person.  He did miracles to show them they should pay attention to His teaching because He had come to heal them and make them worshippers of God in spirit and truth. 

 

But they didn’t listen to God’s Son either.  Some of them paid attention to the miracles but not to His preaching and they went on believing that everything was basically fine between them and the Lord.  Others rejected Jesus and His miracles as the work of a false prophet.

 

There are two ways to try to wake someone up when you’re in a relationship with them and the relationship is broken.  One is to make threats.  “I’m going to leave if you don’t pay attention to this!”  “If you don’t quit this, you’re going to be fired!”  And Jesus has already done this.  “Woe to you, Korazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles that were done in your presence had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.”  (Matthew 11)

 

The other way is not to threaten but to weep.  That is when you say, “I’ve begged, pleaded, and threatened, and said and done all I could, and you still insist on going this way that not only destroys our relationship but will destroy you.  What else is left but to weep for you?”

 

That is why Jesus weeps when He sees Jerusalem.  Everything is not okay like the crowds think.  If He goes and becomes king He only presides over a nation that is at war with God but insists that it has done nothing wrong. 

 

He weeps because He wants blessing and peace for Jerusalem, but Jerusalem won’t have it.  Jerusalem wants to continue to worship God with their lips but lift up their hearts to gods that they have made after their own image, that reflect the lust of their hearts—money, power, earthly comfort and pleasure.  They love these things, not the Lord.

 

That is refusing God’s friendship and insisting on His anger.  Jesus weeps because He knows what will come of it.  He doesn’t want Jerusalem to be destroyed.  He has no pleasure in it.  But He knows it will come because they have shut the door on having a real relationship with the Lord.

 

43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 

When you have chosen God for your enemy, insisted that you are innocent and have no disease and refuse the cure, the consequences are grim. The consequence is utter devastation.

 

God who loved Jerusalem and the forefathers of her children will tear Jerusalem to the ground and slaughter its inhabitants, showing no pity.

 

Not because He did not want to show pity!  Look, He comes to Jerusalem weeping, warning, pleading!

 

But they didn’t want God’s friendship, because God’s friendship is found in Jesus, who is one of us.

 

So a few decades later a revolt started in Jerusalem.  The Roman emperor sent an army to put the rebellion down.  And he slaughtered so many people before he got to Jerusalem that the Jordan River could not be crossed because of the number of dead bodies that were in it.  Then downstream the dead sea was also filled with bodies.  The source of this information is the history of the destruction of Jerusalem which was in the first hymnal printed in our Synod; it was printed there because it was traditional to read that history in Lutheran churches in Germany.

 

Why?  Because God’s wrath is a terrible thing.  And everyone who refuses the true mercy of God and ignores God’s visitation in the Word of God will have God’s wrath.  There is no third possibility—either God’s friendship and grace, where He remembers your sins no more and counts you righteous.  Or the full force of His anger and wrath.

 

After slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people in Judea, the Roman general Vespasian came to attack Jerusalem, which was the last stronghold of the Jewish rebellion.  He put up blockades around Jerusalem as Jesus said, and no food was able to get in.  Before the invasion of the city countless people died of starvation.  People gnawed the leather of their boots, belts, and shields, ate dung of cattle and from the sewers.  They were found dead with straw in their mouths.  One source says that 600,000 people had died by the time the invasion of the city had begun. 

 

Then Vespasian became tired of waiting for starvation to break the resistance, and after taking the walls and the gates of Jerusalem, he ordered that the remaining soldiers, who were holed up in the temple, should be chased out with fire.  So the temple was burnt to the ground.  And then when the rebels were finally ready to make peace, there was no peace.  Even though the general had commanded his men only to kill armed men, they slaughtered the old, women and children and set the whole city on fire.  Of those who remained, many of the young were sold into slavery, and many of the older ones were sent around the Roman empire to fight lions and gladiators for the entertainment of the citizens.

According to the history in our old hymnal, which was drawn from the Jewish historian Josephus, 100,000 Jews were made prisoners and slaves during this war, and 1,100,000 people died in the siege of Jerusalem.  The city of Jerusalem itself did not have that many inhabitants, but the attack on Jerusalem started during the feast of Passover, when there were pilgrims filling the city.

 

 

 

The destruction that comes from rejecting Christ.

 

Does Jesus weep over us?

 

            Our world? Of course.  It is doomed!

 

            The churches of our nation?  They were corrupt before, before theological liberalism was invented, when the Antichrist’s church really believed the antichrist’s doctrine, when Baptists really believed that people who trusted in holy Baptism received as an infant could not be saved.  And now that they have rejected even the authority of the Scripture, are they likely to repent?

 

And our synod?

 

And our congregation?  Does Jesus weep?  We have the doctrine written down still.  We have a constitution that says that we believe it.  And like Jerusalem we have many traditions that make that doctrine difficult to hear.  And when Jesus comes and fights against those traditions with the sword of his mouth, there are many who stand in the shadows, trying to figure out how to get rid of him and anyone with him.

 

            Gross immorality is rampant in the nation but also among us.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  It’s obvious.  Yet we hunger less for God’s word than generations before us, we actually have the audacity to say “I know that stuff already,” and to insist that we not be interrupted with the catechism or with the few children God has given us to care for when we want to eat donuts.

                       

            The heart’s trust in other gods—pleasure, security, money—more than Christ.  It’s not simply the gross immorality of our age and which is even inside the church alone that should frighten us…but above all the love of pleasure, the love of security that lives in the heart of good church people.  The desire to be loved and spoken well of by all that is so deep rooted that we would rather deny Christ than risk being called bad people.

 

Thus when we have those things we are content.  This disease afflicts the synod and our congregation and let us pray God that it has not reached the stage in us that it had in Jerusalem where there was no longer any repentance possible, where the Son of God could only look at it and weep.

 

 

Part 2

 

Cleansing of the temple.

 

            Why Jesus did it—to make the Gospel heard instead of performing rites; the temple is to be a place where God is truly worshipped—that is, by faith alone in the Gospel.

            A house of prayer—the fruit of a happy conscience that believes the Gospel and is confident of the forgiveness of sins.

 

What was the point?  Everyone fell away anyway.  The priests stand in the shadows trying to decide how to kill him and put the salesman back in the temple a few days later.

 

            Because He does not will the destruction of the wicked, but also because He will save His elect out of the judgment that is coming.

 

Just because the world will be destroyed, or (God forbid) corrupt church bodies—even (God forbid) this congregation does not mean the Church will be destroyed.  Judgment begins with the house of God, and even the disciples fell;

 

But they were saved; they fell and rose again.  They died and were raised.  Jerusalem was razed but the church of Christ was saved out of the midst of the flames in order to preach the Word elsewhere before death or persecution sent them to another land, like a raincloud passing across the land.

 

 

Judgment has already begun with us.

 

He clears out His church so that His gospel will be heard—not with the help of men or demons, but in spite of them

 

He pleads and He fights even though it seems futile.  Out of love for rebels, helpless and hopeless sinners.

 

He gets his hands dirty.  He weeps and He yells and does not cease to hold out His hands—not when they are nailed to the cross, not when He is risen from the dead.  “therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us.  We beg you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God.  God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Cor 5) 

 

God makes His appeal through the ministers of the word; Jesus Himself still pleads with us to be reconciled to God. 

 

When He comes and judges, He also bears the judgment and gives us deliverance.

 

His plea with us to confess our sin and wretchedness is His plea for us to see His cross for what it is—God’s reconciliation with us.  Our peace.  The evidence that the true God is not a marble celebrity rising above the weakness and pain of mere mortals.  The true God is love; so He weeps and watches those He loves reject Him and be lost.  The true God is love, so He makes a scene and disrupts the peaceful arrangements we’ve made to lie to ourselves and to silence our consciences with false peace.  He makes a scene.  Then He becomes a spectacle, lifted up in shame before men’s eyes on the cross; and He is our peace, and the horrible destruction that comes to the enemies of God comes to Him for you.

 

When He comes and visits, He comes not only to expose sin and to preach wrath but to give healing.

 

If you are weak in faith, know that He is your peace, even if you are the worst sinner in the world.

 

Then pray for those who do not believe; plead for them to God and plead with them, not as though it’s not your problem, but as if it is your own suffering, as Jesus does here.

 

Come to His table to be first of all strengthened in faith in Him who is our peace with God, and secondly to be filled with love that does not try to escape pain and weakness like idols, but takes it on out of love, like the true God, Jesus.

 

Amen.

 

The peace of God which passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

The Father is Well Pleased with the Cross of Jesus. Transfiguration/ Life Sunday Sermon

January 20, 2013 1 comment

P1000266Transfiguration Sunday [Life Sunday]

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 17:1-9

January 20, 2013

“The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross”

 

Jesus

 

[The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross.

  1. 1.        We are pleased with our work and think it brings life.
  2. 2.       The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross because it does bring life to you.]

 

“I was single, living with some friends, had a good job, and was having a good time. Having a baby just wasn’t in the cards. I told the father, and he said he had no intention of marrying me. He made his intentions quite clear right from the get-go. I had no desire to marry him either. I didn’t think a child was the right reason to get married. He said he’d pay for an abortion. Adoption was, quite truthfully, not an option I ever considered…At the time I thought that I could never give a child up, but now I look back and wonder how I could have done what I did. Giving it up would have been so much better. I didn’t really think of this as being a little person. It was a purely selfish decision. All I thought was, “What am I going to do now? This is a problem, and I have to take care of it.” I went to the doctor, and he suggested a clinic. It all happened so quickly. Looking back, I didn’t agonize. I had to make a decision; something had to be done.”

 

Those words come from a collection of stories told by women who have had an abortion, and you can find them at the top of the bulletin.  Further on the same woman explains how she has tried to deal with the regret and guilt that came to her later as she looked at the children God gave her in her marriage, wondering whether the child she aborted would have been a boy or a girl, whether the child is in heaven.  “I just don’t think about things that trouble me.  I push them down.” 

 

She goes on to describe what she thinks about God’s forgiveness: “I hear the pastor saying that it doesn’t matter how great our sins are, that God forgives us.  But I think, ‘But mine are really bad.’  I guess I believe that my sins are forgiven, but a lot of times I have a lot of trouble feeling that they are forgiven.”

 

There will be people hearing this sermon who have had an abortion or paid for a woman to have one.  Others have been involved in other sins against God’s gift of life.  They should hear at the outset of the sermon, now: God put away your sin on the cross of Jesus.  Don’t despair.  Listen to God’s beloved Son who says “Do not be afraid.”

 

Others know someone who has had an abortion.  And there are those who do not.  Tuesday is the 40th anniversary of legal abortion in the United States, but it has been done in this country for much longer than that. 

 

Regardless, the confession of this woman is not only her confession, and not only the confession of people who have had an abortion.  St. Peter could relate with it.  Like her, he also followed the wisdom of his flesh, called God’s work “bad” and tried to replace it with his own work.  Like her he also tried to gain life for himself in his own way, apart from God’s word.  He also fell into grave sin and would have despaired if Jesus had not restored him with His absolution.

 

 

What was true of Peter is true of all of us.  Apart from the Holy Spirit

  1. 1.        We are pleased with our work and think it brings life, but
  2. 2.       the Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross because it truly brings life to you.

Read more…

Sit Still. Trinity 25 Sermon

November 13, 2012 4 comments

Jesu Juva

Third-Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 25)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 24: 14-28

November 11, 2012
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The time is short.  The end is near. 

What should we do?

Last year the man on 91.9 FM predicted the return of Jesus on May 21st.  Since then he reportedly has admitted that it was sinful to try to predict a certain day for Jesus’ return, since Jesus said, “No man knows the day or the hour.”  Thanks be to God for his repentance. 

This year some people claim the end will come because the ancient Mayan calendar predicts it.

Probably most people don’t believe that.  But look at the world.  Things everywhere are telling us that the world is hanging by a thread.  The weather and the oceans—chaotic because of “global warming,” as we’re told.  Economic crisis looming over the world.  Moral crisis shaking formerly Christian nations. 

 Or is it that our conscience whispers to us that it can’t be long before the sins of the world are punished?  And then we look at the world and see the signs?

It’s both.  Our consciences speak to us about sin and God’s wrath.  But the signs of the end are also present.  Jesus rebuked the people to whom He preached: “You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the weather, but not the signs of the times.”  We should not ignore the signs by which God warns us of the judgment that is right at the door.

As long as death seems not to be near, and as long as Jesus’ return seems like it will wait for at least a few more years, repentance can also wait.  We figure we can enjoy ourselves now and leave serious soul-searching and sorrow for our sins until we are closer to the end.

That is the way unbelievers deal with the last judgment.  2 Peter 3 says: Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  They will say, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation…”  But the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise…but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  (2 Peter 3:3-4, 9-10)

Jesus warned the disciples to pay attention to the signs that would mark the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  When you see the abomination of desolation, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  The abomination of desolation meant the defiling of the Holy Place—the temple.  When this happened, Jesus warned that the Christians in Judea should flee without looking back.  And the Christians did flee when the Roman armies gathered to attack Jerusalem.  As a result they were saved from the great slaughter that came upon the Jews and the city of Jerusalem. 

When the temple was torn down, that was the end of Israel as God’s chosen political kingdom on earth.  The stones of the temple were replaced with the living stones of the new temple, Christ’s church.

But just as the Judean Christians were to watch for the signs of the destruction of the temple and be ready to flee into the mountains without turning back, so Christians are to be ready for the coming destruction of the world, ready to leave it without looking back.
So what are the signs that the world’s end is upon us?  Jesus names one thing in particular: Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
False Christs and false prophets performing great signs and wonders are the signals that the end of the world is at hand.  The signs of brokenness in nature and the economy point to the fact that the world is coming to an end.  But false prophets and false Christs—that is, people who put forth man’s word as the word of God, and people who proclaim a false salvation—this is far worse than a hurricane knocking out power in New York.  False teaching and false saviors are a worse plague than nuclear war would be.  Wars and earthquakes and terrorist attacks can only disrupt earthly life, make it unpleasant or take it away.  But false doctrine and false saviors bring eternal misery.
And yet, as bad as the consequences of false teaching is, there is nothing that people seem to hate hearing more than calling out false teachers and false teaching by name.  If a preacher slips a little bit of false doctrine into his teaching—that is, a little poison, a little bit of the lies of the devil, the world, the flesh—that shouldn’t be criticized, because no one is perfect.  Okay.  Try saying that the next time the government makes a mistake that results in the loss of life!  “No one’s perfect” is true, but we don’t tolerate it if leaders slip up and accidentally kill people.  But if a preacher by his false teaching endangers the souls of those who hear him—that shouldn’t be criticized.
How do you tell false Christs and false prophets?  And how do you prepare for the destruction of the world when false Christs and false prophets appear?
False Christs and false prophets direct you away from the true Christ.  Sometimes they do that in an obvious way; sometimes in a subtle way.  Sometimes false prophets come from outside of the church and sometimes from within. 
Then there are Christians and preachers whose teaching is infected by false doctrine, but who do it in weakness.  Though their false teaching is evil and destructive, it happens through weakness.
Very early on in the history of the church this spirit of false prophecy and false Christs began to appear.  There were some Christians in the days of the apostles who taught that unless the Gentiles began to keep the whole law of Moses—being circumcised, observing the Sabbath day, not eating pork—they could not be saved.
St. Paul opposed this false teaching fiercely and insisted, “A man is justified by faith in Christ alone apart from the works of law.”  Of any law!  But believing that when the waters are up to your neck is not so easy.
When the people of Israel were out by the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s armies were bearing down on them, they started to be afraid.  When it seems like God’s wrath is coming down on the earth—or simply that death is approaching us as individuals—then saying “I am justified by faith in Jesus Christ apart from the deeds of the law” seems to be not so powerful.
But Moses said to the Israelites: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

That is Jesus’ word to us as the end approaches.  “Fear not, stand firm.”  That is not the same as the fearlessness people have who are ignoring danger.  It is the fearlessness of faith in Christ that sees the danger but sees also the victory of Christ and the firmness of His promise.
A while back there was a movie called “Downfall” which pictured the last days of Hitler’s regime as the allies approached Berlin from both sides.  In the film, as the shells were shaking the city, Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun and her entourage were holding a drunken soiree and pretending it wasn’t happening, until finally a shell hit the building they were in and knocked the power out. 
That’s oftentimes how we are.  Our flesh wants to pretend the party will never end.

But then when death and judgment are on the horizon, then the unbelieving start to run around everywhere looking for help.  They run here, and then quickly run there.  They go to one church, and then another.  They read one book, and then another.  Someone says, “The savior is in the desert” and they run there.  Someone else says, “The savior is in the inner rooms,” and they run there.

That panic of the unbeliever who fears judgment has been found in the church.  In fact it has taken over the church at various periods of history; false prophets have lured people away with miracles and signs into false religions, and they have set up in the church and taught a different Gospel.
Any teaching that says you must run here or there for salvation comes from the spirit of false prophecy or antichrist.  Some promise salvation if we run to a monastery or out in the desert to live a holier life than everyone else.  Other teachers promise salvation only if we ally ourselves with the right church or religious organization. 
But really, you have only to be silent—as Moses said.  There is only one salvation.  And that is the Lord Himself, who fights for you.
The Lord Himself fought for you when He suffered God’s wrath against all your transgressions on the cross.  You didn’t do that.  You didn’t earn that.  You didn’t receive it by running to this location or that.  It was given to you in the Gospel.  It was proclaimed to you.  Jesus, the Lord, found you and forgave your sins.

When you were a baby, most of you were saved by Jesus.  You were baptized into His death and resurrection.  You didn’t do anything for that.  It was simply given to you.  And then you didn’t do any holy works; you were just a baby.  And when you got older you had to be taught the faith.  Yet you were saved.  And that baptism still saves us.  We have only to be still, as Zachary W. by God’s grace will be saved today.  He will not do anything. He will simply be brought in our prayers and with our hands, and Jesus, according to His promise, will bestow salvation.
How can salvation be that simple?  Surely we should run here or there, or do something?

No.  Salvation is given.  Today Jesus gives it to us in His body and blood.  It is His promise alone that saves.  “For you for the forgiveness of sins.”
On the last day it will be the same.  We will not be heirs of God because we ran here or there.  We have Christ’s promise that we are heirs.  And so He promises that we do not have to run anywhere.  He will appear in great glory, and those who are His own He will rescue and raise from the dead to live with Him in His glory.

 Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.

 

Soli Deo Gloria.

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

%d bloggers like this: