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Catechetical Sermon: 6th commandment. Oct. 1, 2014

the-arnolfini-marriage-jan-van-eyckWednesday Matins, St. Peter Lutheran School

St. Peter Lutheran Church

6th commandment (Genesis 2:18-25)

October 1, 2014

 

Iesu Iuva

 

What is the 6th commandment?  You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

Does anyone know: can anyone tell me: what did God create marriage for?

 

A big reason is for the creation of children. That’s one of the reasons why marriage is so important to God and pleasing to God, because God wants human life to continue on earth.

 

But in the reading from Genesis God didn’t say anything about children. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

 

Even when people like to be alone, no one can be completely alone. We need other people.

 

There are a few people that God has given a gift that they can not get married and still be chaste or pure sexually. But most people don’t have this gift.

 

That’s part of why God created marriage. When you get older and start liking people of the opposite sex, you know it’s probably a sign that God created you for marriage.  But then you wait for God to give you a wife or husband.  Not that you wait for them to drop out of the sky, but you get to know people of the opposite sex and are friends with them.

 

But you reserve physical intimacy until God gives a person to you in marriage, where you and your spouse are made one flesh.

Read more…

Loehe: Catechetical Questions on the 2nd and 3rd Commandments

September 18, 2013 Leave a comment

loeheFrom “Questions and Answers on the Six Chief Parts of the Small Catechism of Dr. M. Luther.”  By Wilhelm Loehe.  Home, School, and Church-Book for Christians of the Lutheran Confession.  First Edition.  Stuttgart, 1845.

 

47.  What should you not do, according to the second commandment?  “Misuse the name of the Lord, my God.”

 

48.  What is the Name of the Lord, Your God?  He is called YHWH, that is, “I will be who will be.”  Ex. 3:14.

 

49.  Does God have any other names?  He has many names, but the name YHWH He has given Himself and only by it does He refer to Himself [sich allein vorbehalten].

 

50.  Is it permissible to misuse the other names of God?  I may misuse none of the names which I use to refer to God.

 

51.  According to the explanation of the second commandment, what should you do?  Above all, what belongs to the first commandment: to fear and love God.

 

52.  And what should you avoid, out of fear and love of God?  “To curse by His name, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive.”

 

53.  But if you nevertheless do any of these things, what are you doing?  Then I am misusing His name.

 

54.  Is all cursing and swearing forbidden?  Not at all.

 

55.  Is all use of witchcraft, lying, and deceiving forbidden?  Yes, all.

 

56.  Why isn’t all cursing forbidden?  Because God (Deut 27: 15-26) commands all the people to say “Amen” to the curses He pronounces.

 

57.  But then is one himself cursing, if one to someone else’s curses says “Yes and Amen”?  Certainly one then is cursing himself, because he joins in with the curses.

 

58.  Why is not all swearing forbidden?  Because God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Apostles swore holy oaths, and the word of the Old Testament cannot be cancelled: “ You shall fear the Lord, Your God, and serve Him, and swear in His name.”  (Deut. 6:13, 10:20)

 

59.  Which cursing and swearing is forbidden, then in the second commandment?  That swearing and cursing through which the name of the Lord would be misused.

 

60.  Is all use of witchcraft, lying and deceiving forbidden by the second commandment?  No.  The second commandment only forbids witchcraft, lies, and deception which uses God’s name.

 

61.  Why?  Because every use of God’s name for witchcraft, lying, and deceiving is a misuse of His name.

 

62.  But what should we do out of fear and love of God according to the second commandment?  “We should fear and love God, that we call upon His name in all trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”

63.  Then for what end may we use the name of God?  In all kinds of prayer.

 

64.  What should you do according to the third commandment?  “Keep the holy day sacred.”

 

65.  What was the holy day in the Old Testament?  The seventh day of the week, or Saturday.

 

66.  What is the holy day in the New Testament?  The first, or Sunday.

 

67.  Why don’t we celebrate the Old Testament Sabbath or Saturday anymore?  Because the Holy Spirit says through St. Paul to the Colossians: “So let no one judge you about holy days, or new moons, or Sabbaths.”  (Col. 2:16; see also Gal. 4:10)

 

68.  But are we commanded in the New Testament to observe Sunday instead of Saturday?  No….

 

69.   So why then does the Church of God celebrate it?  It was necessary that one set a day so that the people would know when they should come together; out of Christian freedom they chose Sunday for this purpose, on which the Christians’ holy memories [knuepften]. (Quotes Aug. Conf. Art. 28)

 

70.  Since it no longer lies in the day itself, what is the main thing in the third commandment?  It is the thing through which Sunday and all days and all things are sanctified: God’s Word and prayer (1 Tim. 4:5), as also the explanation of the third commandment makes clear.

 

71.  What does the explanation of the third commandment again like the explanation of all the commandments put forth as the first and most necessary thing?  The explanation of each commandment commands before everything else that we fulfill the first commandment, that is, “Fear and love God.”

 

72.  And why is that?  Because out of the fear and love of God flows the fulfillment of all other commandments.

 

73.  What should we not do, according to the explanation of the third commandment, out of fear and love of God?  “Despise preaching and His Word.”

 

74.  But what should we do?  “The same hold sacred.”

 

75.  Is it enough that we hold it to be sacred?  No, for that very reason we should also “hear it.”

 

76.  And is it pretty much the same no matter how we hear it, as long as we hear it?  No, we should “gladly” hear it.

 

77.  And finally, what should we do beyond that?  Diligently apply ourselves and “learn” it. 

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy–Hesshusen

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

hesshusiusUsually Lutherans are quick to point out that God does not command the observance of a certain day in the third commandment, but rather that we gladly hear and learn His word.  This sermon from the mid-1500’s is eye-opening for anyone who tends to think that way about “keeping the Sabbath.”  Generally Lutherans are used to think of the insistence that one do no regular work on Sundays as a Calvinist or Puritan phenomenon.  Hesshusen’s treatment is useful for pastors when thinking about how to approach teaching the third commandment to their congregations.

From Tilemann Heshusen’s “Sermon on the 17th Sunday after Trinity”, Postil (1590).

…The works forbidden by God on the Sabbath are those which are hindrances to the office of preaching, such as the works expressly declared in the law.

 

“You shall do no manual labor on the seventh day”—that is, your labor by which you make a living and by which you feed yourself—your trade, your work in the fields, your worldly business, taking care of your house—all that keeps you away from the preaching office and hinders God’s Word.

 

But on the seventh day you should let other works continue which do not hinder the preaching office and which help the neighbor in his need.  For that purpose God commanded that one should keep the Sabbath day…with the beautiful, holy works which are required by the 3rd commandment, such as: diligently hearing and learning God’s Word, instructing one’s neighbor, spreading God’s Name, helping to build up His Church, comforting sorrowful consciences, and openly giving thanks in the midst of the congregation for His gracious works (by which others are provoked and stirred up to faith), receiving the Sacraments, upholding and preserving the preaching office and the schools (that the knowledge of God may be brought to those who come after us).  That is the right understanding of the third commandment, and this is what is called “Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy.”

 

…Everyone should hallow the holy day with all diligence, and therefore be on guard against the works with which the Sabbath, which God Himself made holy, is profaned to the highest degree.  For instance—false doctrine, false worship and service of God, idolatry, blasphemy, despising the divine Word, persecution and slander of pure teachers, suppression of the preaching office when temporal authorities want to shut the mouth of the Holy Spirit, robbery of churches and schools, public scandals and offenses to the Church of Christ, and despising the most worthy Sacrament…

 

Accordingly, God also forbade all manual labor, worldly activities, and cares of the household, which pertain to the preservation of this life, such as baking, brewing, laboring in the field, plowing, threshing, practicing one’s trade, buying and selling, carrying out worldly affairs, and everything that keeps us from the preaching of the divine Word.  For God has ordained six days wherein we should work for our household and care for our bodies.  The seventh He set apart for the preaching of the divine Word, wherewith we are to take care of our souls for life everlasting. 

 

All of the trades, worldly stations, and work of the house are indeed made holy through the word of God…but God still set apart the Sabbath day on account of those things which hinder the Divine Word.  That’s because a person can’t plow his field, or be working at his trade and at the same time learn the Word of God.  As a result all such work and servitude on the Sabbath day has been forbidden.

 

Of course in an emergency…there we can use Christian freedom.  For instance, when in harvest time it keeps on raining but then on the Sabbath God gives good weather.  Then one can without sin and offense harvest grain and hay, without which God’s blessing would perish and die in the field.  The army does right and well that they go about war on the Sabbath day and have pushed  back the enemy.  Through this the Church of God was protected. 

 

Just as it is not right that one should conduct weddings on Sunday, it is also not right that worldly judgments and executions should be carried out on the feast days and on Sundays.  It is not only against God’s Word but also against the Imperial law.  Because even if the judgments of magistrates are not merely judgments of men but of God, nevertheless they only have to do with this life, and so they interfere with the holy preaching office which proclaims the judgment and absolution of God….

 

…Indeed how much greater a sin it must be when one indulges in frivolity and goes to see shows, jugglers, or fencing-schools.  How the devil has a special pleasure in seeing people engage in shame on a holy day and holding them back from the word of God. 

 

The guilds have set up their debaucheries on Sundays and have in many places imposed a fine on anyone who doesn’t come and drink beer.  Also the evil foe drives the people to set up their yearly markets on the festival days and to set up shooting tournaments and other practices on the high feast days—Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, St. John’s day. 

 

If some magician comes into a city, he soon seeks out the authority that he might push his juggling and devil’s ghosts at city hall on Sunday, so that they can get the young people together.

 

The fencing schools and comedians will be commonly be employed on Sundays because they are more popular.  Meanwhile the blessed, saving Word of God must give way before the tricksters and moneychangers which lead to damnation.

 

In many villages there are frivolous dances on Sunday doing such damage to the catechetical instruction that one simply wants to get rid of it.  Satan works so hard to keep these dances going so that the servants do not want to serve.  Is it not great misery and blindness that one allows this to go on, the servants not learning the word of God, hence becoming disorderly and the whole household estate thrown into an uproar?

Do Real Christians Get Angry? Luther

For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

…Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment…St. Matthew 5:20-21

…For there is not a man on earth, so far as he is flesh and blood, that can help becoming angry and giving forth evil words and actions.  But if I abstain, it certainly is because I fear the sword or I seek a selfish end.  If I do not curse, if I do not calumniate, either the sword or hell deters me, the fear of death or of the devil; these I have in my mind and abstain, otherwise, I could not abstain. [Not only this, but] I would actually murder and massacre, wherever and whenever I could.  But nature I cannot produce a single kind word or action….Christ…so explains the law as to cause you to feel ashamed in your inner heart.  He would say: Thou art not sweet in heart, thine heart is full of hatred, full of murder and blood, and so thy hands and eyes would also gladly be full of the same; nor canst thou prevent it, any more than thou canst prevent the fire from burning, for it is its nature to burn. 

 

MartinLuther6.  A person might here say, What then am I to do?  I feel all that within me, but I cannot change conditions.  I reply, Flee to the Lord, thy God, lay thy complaint before him and say: Behold, Lord, my neighbor has injured me a little, has spoken a few words touching my honor, has caused some damage to my property, this I cannot suffer, therefore, I would cheerfully see him killed.  Oh my God, how gladly would I be amiable to him, but, alas, I cannot!  See how wholly cold, yea, dead I am!  O Lord, I cannot help myself, I must stand back.  Make thou me different, then I will be godly; if not, I will remain like I have been.  Here you must seek your help and at no other place; if you seek it in yourself, you will never find it.  Your heart perpetually bubbles and boils with anger, you cannot prevent it.

 

7.  Now, this is the sum of the law: You are to be kind, amiable and jesus mockerybenignant in heart, word and deed; and even though they take your life, still you are to suffer all in love, and render thanks to your Lord.  Behold, thus a great deal is included in the short sentence, “thou shalt not kill.”  Christ lived up to this; do the same, and you are a good Christian.  When nailed to the cross, his name, which was above every name, and his honor were profaned by the Jews, while they reviled him by words of the following and similar import: Well, what a nice God he has!  If he be God’s son, let him come down!  Let his God come now, in whom he banked and boasted so much, and help him!  Matt. 27:43, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:35.  Such words pierced his very heart, hurting him more than all his other sufferings; still, he suffered all this with patience; he wept over his enemies because they would have no part in the great benefit to be derived from his death; yea, he prayed for their sin.  And in the face of this we are ready to snarl and growl over the least trifle, when asked to yield a little to our neighbor.

 

8.  Here you see how far we are still from Christ.  It is indeed necessary to suffer with Christ, if we would enter with him into glory.  He has gone before, so we should follow, as St. Peter says, 1 Epistle 2:21f.: “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”  Now see what kind of an example St. Peter places before us; truly we should emulate it, endeavoring to be and to act like him.  But this we cannot do by nature; it follows that we without exception are the devil’s own, there being not a man on earth that is found not guilty.  Hence the sentence holds good: You must be likewise skillful, namely, good at heart, or you belong to perdition. 

 

9.  What then must we do?  You must do as follows: You must acknowledge that you are condemned by the law, and the devil’s own property and that you are unable to rescue yourself by any power of your own.  Therefore you must flee to God, pray him to change you, or all is lost and ruined.  This was well understood and observed by those highly learned, but they argued thus: If we preach that the whole world is condemned and the devil’s own, what is to become of the sanctimonious priests and monks, for then they too would be condemned?   God forbid!  Wait wait…Why, God never meant it in that sense, for who could keep it?  He did not command it, but merely suggested it to such as wished to be perfect…

 

10.  We comfort consciences in a manner quite different, namely thus: Dear brother, all this is addressed not to the monks and priests only; Christ is not trifling with his words; it is a direct command, you must conform to it, or you are the devil’s property.  This is our way of comforting.  Alas!  Exclaims our nature, Do you call that comforting?  It is rather a transfer of souls to the devil.  True, friend, but I must first take you down to hell before taking you up to heaven, you must despair in the first place, then come to Christ, behold his example, how he conducted himself toward his enemies, in that he wept over them.  But the bare example alone …does not help to you any extent.

 

11.  In view of this lay hold of his word and promise, that he will change you; this only will help you.  Pray thus: Oh my God, thou hast placed Christ, thine only beloved Son, before me as an example, so that I might lead a like life; but I am not able to do this.  O my God, change me, grant me thy grace!  God then comes and says: Behold, since you know yourself and seek grace from me, I will change you and do as you desire.  And though you are not so perfect as Christ, as indeed you should be, I shall nevertheless have my Son’s life and perfection cover your imperfections.  So you see we must always have something to keep us in the right humility and fear.

 

Luther, Church Postil, Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 2nd sermon (1523)  (Lenker, vol. 2, pp. 179-187)

Ghosts, Haunted Houses, Prayer to the Dead, and Pastoral Care

December 27, 2012 2 comments

Spirits of the Departed, Ghosts, Prayer to the Deadancestor worship2

I’ve noticed a strange thing in the time I’ve been in the ministry that I didn’t notice before.  Maybe you’ve noticed it too. 

Kids believe in ghosts and spirits much more than they did when I was a kid.  People pretended to believe in ghosts when I was a kid, but I don’t think that many people really believed in them.  Certainly not that you could communicate with them.  We believed in demons—at least, Christian kids did—but it was kind of an esoteric thing.  I played with a Ouija board once, but I was just messing around.  And there was also this superstition that if you went into a dark room and looked at a mirror and said, “Bloody Mary” a certain number of times you would see a demon or a spirit.

 

Times have changed.  I’ve met a lot of kids who not only believe in ghosts but claim to have seen them, or communicated with them.

 

And demons are much less esoteric.  A few months ago a bunch of pastors were up in Wisconsin listening to Dr. John Kleinig talk about the ministry of deliverance from demons, about the increase in overt demonic oppression encountered by pastors in Australia (and the United States). 

 

But what seems to me the strangest of all is the prayer to the dead engaged in by lifelong American Lutherans who are sixty or seventy or eighty years old. 

 

The reason this is so strange is because, typically, Lutherans who are above age 50 or so hate everything that smacks of Catholicism.  Yet I frequently hear parishioners speak of dead loved ones as if they continue to communicate with each other.  The loved one is spoken to in prayer, and sometimes speaks back by phenomena in the physical world—lights flickering, changes in the weather.

 

This less rationalistic take on the souls of the dead is I think quite different from what pastors a generation ago encountered.  In his Church Postil sermon for Epiphany, Luther has an eye-opening digression where he talks about the souls of the dead and what to make of spirits claiming to be the souls of dead loved ones, as well as spirits that haunt houses or cause strange noises.  This would probably have been a section of the postil where in previous generations we would have simply assumed that Luther lived in a more superstitious age, and these things just don’t apply to us.  But if you have experienced your parishioners praying to dead relatives or communicating, supposedly, with ghosts, then this section of the sermon will be enlightening.

 

This openness toward communication with the dead has some positive implications.  It means that the rationalism that controlled so much of our thinking is mostly dead.  People are able to conceptualize the ongoing existence of souls whose body has died.  They are able to think of invisible spirits continuing to exist without being utterly divorced from us.  This is positive.  It means that when we speak of the communion of saints we will not meet the same wall of resistance.  If people think dead loved ones can be spoken to, it means that they are not closed to the idea that the angels and the holy, departed souls are present with us together with Jesus.  And it also means that the Calvinist notion that Jesus and the saints are somehow locked away in another plane of existence called heaven no longer has a death grip on people.

 

But unfortunately the superstition about the dead that I keep encountering has a lot of negative ramifications as well.

Read more…

My Lucky Day

November 5, 2012 1 comment

Today my blog got the most views it’s ever gotten. Over two hundred.

About 180 of those views all came in the space of an hour or so, and they all went to one post; a post of self-examination questions on the 4th commandment.

Now that seems like a strange post to suddenly become more popular than anything I ever put on here before, including the one or two things I wrote that got published on Brothers of John the Steadfast.

So it turns out that if you type “hess 2012” into Yahoo’s search engine and then go to image search, way down on about the 7th page you will find the picture above.

That is a picture of my grandfather, Lyndon Roth Hess, making a ridiculous face when he was about 10 years old.  In between him and the old man (who incidentally looks a lot like my grandpa did when he got older—when I knew him) is I guess his brother.  Probably Lawrence, my great uncle who I never met because he died while a medical missionary in China with Hudson Taylor’s mission outfit.

The old man is my grandpa’s maternal grandpa, Sebastian Roth.  They all lived in Buffalo, NY.

My grandpa, in his own telling of the story, was not a particularly pious kid.  His mother was a Plymouth Brethren convert and combined fundamentalism and piety with emotional instability.  This is what my dad told me.  My grandpa wouldn’t have agreed with that, I’m pretty sure.

Anyway, you have here a picture of my grandfather behaving either rambunctiously or angrily.  This kind of behavior reminds me of my childhood.  One time my grandpa took me into his office when I was a teenager sort of getting into trouble and told me how when he was in high school he had to get rid of most of his friends because they were getting him into trouble.  Apparently he had a habit of skipping school to play handball.  Way back in 1919 or so.

Somehow my grandpa become pious and disciplined and managed to weave the threads of Plymouth Brethren piety into the tapestry of his self-understanding and the destiny that came out of it.  Later on in life he went to Wheaton College, where he was a cross country and mile runner of some success.  Family lore says that the Plymouth Brethren missionary board sent him to Africa at just such a time that it made it impossible for him to run in the Olympics, which he otherwise would have been able to do.  But that may be a story invented by family members with an ax to grind against the Assemblies (as they call themselves), because my grandpa denied that he would have gone to the Olympics.

After that he spent decades in Zambia where he built and ran a school for missionary children, as well as a small infrastructure for it, and did some missionary work with the Lunda people.

What would have happened if my grandfather had woven the threads given to him a little differently?  Say the thread of religion and piety given to him by his mother had been accommodated by embracing theology on his father’s side of the family, which was (I think) German Reformed, and if not nominal perhaps less colored by the emotional injury that seems to have come from his mother’s side of the family?

Who knows?  It seems from my perspective—which is probably wholly inaccurate—that my grandpa screwed the lid down on the sickness that may have come down through his mother from his grandfather (pictured here), and set out ambitiously to accomplish something for God.  His abilities accomplished some remarkable things, Lord Jim style, out a million miles from where anyone would ever notice it.  He did this in the name of God.  My dad’s life seems to have been a rejection of his father’s, during which demons repressed in my grandfather came out and wreaked fury on the universe through my dad.  But then my dad, later in life, came to terms with God, still not able to free himself completely from his father’s influence and the religion of his childhood.  He came to terms with God but I don’t think he ever came to terms with his father.  When I was around 20 I asked my dad if he loved his dad.  He said something like, “I’m not angry at him,” or “I respect him.”

And now, unpleasantly, I consider—how much of my life is a replay of the narrative of my grandpa’s life?  My life is also built on or around the religion of my mother.  I also turned to a strict theology to find God and some kind of help with the demons that threatened to eat me alive.

All of which in a way could be a novel, and it is also a meditation on the 4th commandment.  “Honor your father and your mother.”  I have the impression that my grandpa rejected his father.  My dad rejected his dad.  Much of my life has been a reaction against my father.  What does that do to your life?  You have to honor your father, even if he bequeathed his sin to you, and even if he scarred you and failed you by neglect or abuse.  Otherwise you will spend your life railing against authority and then railing against those who are committed to your care because of the way they dishonor you.

But basically the 180 people who went and looked at this post didn’t even care about the 4th commandment or this whole story.  If even 5 people do, that would be something.  Around 200 of them just happened to stumble on the picture and probably thought it was funny, which it is.

 

If one were to consider this—both the real meaning of the picture (for me), the even more important 4th commandment of God, and the fact that I got more views on my website by total accident when people were concerned about neither the 4th commandment, nor my grandpa, nor my blog—one might be moved to laugh at the complete absurdity of the way we take ourselves and our thoughts and our histories seriously.  One might laugh at the absurdity of fame.  Or of search engines and their awesome power over people’s lives.  But who has time to consider things, unless that leads to you getting something you want?

The stupid stories we make up about the things that happen in our lives—is there any value to our doing that?  But we have to do it in order to live, don’t we?

It reminds me of a sentence from Lord Jim—“a man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea.”  And then, says the character in the book who is philosophizing about this, the young man must keep the dream but not submerge himself in it.  The dream, like the ocean, can propel him up into reality and keep him alive.  Or it can drown him.

The verses I read from the Bible in meditation today were from the end of Romans 11.  “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.  How unfathomable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or been His counselor?”

I don’t know how God would tell the story of my grandfather, my father, and me, and my son if we were in the Bible, like in the book of kings.  I don’t understand God’s telling of the story of my congregation or my pastorate.

I have learned that I must believe God when He promises to cause all the events of my life to work out for good and for blessing, even if I sin and fail miserably.

He repeated His promise to Abraham to Jacob, even though Jacob didn’t really believe Him the first time at Bethel, and didn’t appear to believe Him when He was coming back to see Esau.  But Jacob did wrestle with God and say, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

The narratives I have in my head about my life are mostly delusional.  I’m a liar like Jacob was.  Then I deceive myself and forget that God is just and that I deserve the sorrows that I have.  I deserve worse, much worse.

But even though my stories of what God is doing are usually self-serving, He still has promised to do me good.  Good often means that my delusional stories are nailed to the cross, and I slowly realize that God has been righteous and kind, and repaid my lies and arrogance with patience.  Remember how God showed up to Jacob at Bethel and promised to bless him?  The first thing Jacob does is jump up and say, “God, if you will be with me and bless me, I will serve you”?

Wait a second, why are you making deals when He just promised to bless you unilaterally, even though you stole the blessing from your brother?  Why are you trying to take credit for God blessing you, as though you initiated this?

 

That’s what I’ve been like with God.  I always have tried to snatch good things out of the world because I didn’t trust that God would be gracious and give them to me.  But like Jacob I was delusional.  God has shown me favor even though I made things worse with every attempt to be worthy or to take a blessing.  I thought I was accomplishing things when He was allowing me to take them.

When we wrestle with God and demand a blessing, He lets us win.  When the tenants of the vineyard killed the son so that they could have the vineyard, that was only because God willed that they should take his life and have what was his.  He willed for us to dress up like Jesus and receive His blessing, like Jacob dressed up like Esau.

The Lord my life arranges; who can His work destroy?

In His good time He changes all sorrow into joy.

So let me then be still.  My body, soul, and spirit

His tender care inherit according to His will.

 

Self Examination Questions: The Sixth Commandment (part 2)

September 15, 2012 2 comments

Salomon Liscovius, from Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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