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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.

Gebets-Schatz: Prayer on the Festival of the Reformation

October 8, 2012 3 comments

Prayer on the Festival of the Reformation

(October 8, 2012)

Lord Jesus Christ, You came into the world to call sinners to repentance, and to enlighten every man to eternal life.  We praise You with our whole hearts, and thank Your great goodness and mercy, that You have come to this place, and to this church and communion with Your divine word and holy sacraments and have swept out the leaven of the papist doctrine and idolatry.   Not only that, but You have also redeemed us poor sinners from the kingdom of darkness and called us to the light of the holy gospel, transferring us into the kingdom of grace.

Oh Lord Jesus, we are too insignificant for all of this Your goodness and faithfulness.  But we pray to You with humble hearts that You would abide with us a little longer with Your grace, the divine word and holy sacraments, so that Your holy name would be known among us, alone be feared and glorified, and we live as is well-pleasing to You, and serve You.  But whatever evil we have done against You and Your holy word—wherever we have not been willing to listen to the gospel—please forgive us those things, Lord Jesus Christ, by Your grace.  Do not snatch away from us this treasure that makes a person blessed forever, but let it be preserved unadulterated by us and our descendants.  Yes, Lord Jesus, preserve Your Word among us, because it is the joy and comfort of our hearts.

 Protect and keep us and Your whole Christian Church—that is, Your Evangelical-Lutheran Church—from all error, unbelief, and harmful, alien doctrine.  Defend against all enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and be our confidence, our strength, our shade and shield, so that the gates of hell do not overcome us.  Especially we pray to You, Lord, our Savior, that You would visit the house of our hearts, enlighten us with Your Holy Spirit, purify our hearts, and grant that by grace we may walk worthily of the Gospel, remaining in the truth once recognized and confessed.  O Lord Jesus, let Your salvation come to our souls, that we might become eternally blessed through You, and might see Your and Your great glory forever.  Amen.

“That’s Too Catholic” part 1: Shaving.

September 10, 2012 Leave a comment

The Augsburg Confession: WAYYYYY too Catholic.

I can’t tell you how many times people in my congregation have said to me that I was doing something that was “too catholic.”  9 times out of 10 whatever it was that was “too catholic” was a  very small departure from the baptist/methodist liturgical ethos and piety that is familiar to so many Lutherans. IE, “You made us stop singing happy birthday in the sanctuary (after 5 years.)  That’s too Catholic!”

So after awhile, I tried using “that’s too catholic” as a way of preventing changes that people asked for that I didn’t want, or in order to puncture people’s certainty that everything they like and were familiar with was not catholic, and eveything they didn’t like was catholic.

I decided to start adding this regular feature to the blog called, “That’s too catholic.”  I will either be describing things that Lutherans will frequently say is “catholic”, and how they’re not.  Or I will point out how a lot of things that Lutherans love and would complain about if you took them away are really originally from the Roman Catholic church.

Now, for our first example. When I grew a long beard several months back, all I ever heard was about how I should shave because I looked like I lived in a cardboard box.  Back then my best response was, “I’m trying to reach the young people, because beards are cool now.” 

Little did I know that when I was told to shave by someone shaking my hand outside of church and was told that my beard was like that of a bum, I should have made a deeply disgusted face and said, “Shaving?  That’s too catholic!”  [I have really tried this response in a couple of cases, but I’ve found it didn’t work any better than the “trying to reach the young people” thing does.]

See the post below.

http://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-lutheran-beard.html?showComment=1347313021072#c2142108356610538089

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Lutheran Beard

Feel like doing something Lutheran for Reformation Day? Misplaced your copy of oppressive canon law and thus can’t toss it in the bonfire? You can metaphorically, yet more substantially, oppose the false pretenses of the Bishop of Rome (if you are a secular cleric) by growing a beard.
Exempla:

[Luther is the guy on the top.  He grew the beard when he was in hiding after he became an outlaw and was fair game to be killed by order of the German Empire.  The second guy is Martin Chemnitz.  He helped write “The Formula of Concord”, the final document in the Book of Concord, the confessions of the Lutheran church.  He is considered the second greatest Lutheran theologian in history after Luther.]

Apparently Lutherans grew beards in reaction to the canon law of the Pope’s church, which made it mandatory for clergy to shave.

So far as concerns England in particular it was certainly regarded throughout the Middle Ages as uncanonical to allow the beard to grow. A cleric was known as a shorn man (bescoren man, Laws of Wihtred, A.D. 96), and if it should seem that this might refer to the tonsure, we have a law of King Alfred: “If a man shave off another’s beard let him make amends with twenty shillings. If he bind him first and then shave him like a priest (hine to preoste bescire) let him make amends with sixty shillings.” And under Edgar we find the canon: “Let no man in holy orders conceal his tonsure, nor let himself be misshaven nor keep his beard for any time, if he will have God’sblessing and St. Peter’s and ours.” A similar practice obtained generally throughout the West and it was one of the great subjects of reproach on the part of the Greek Church, from the time of Photius onwards, that the Romanclergy systematically cut off their beards. But as Ratramnus of Corbie protested, it was foolish to make an outcry about a matter which concerned salvation so little as this barbæ detonsio aut conservatio.

The legislation requiring the beard to be shaved seems to have remained in force throughout the Middle Ages. Thus an ordinance of the Council of Toulouse, in 1119, threatened with excommunicationthe clerics who “like a layman allowed hair and beard to grow”, and Pope Alexander IIIordained that clerics who nourished their hair and beard were to be shorn by their archdeacon, by force if necessary. This last decree was incorporated in the text of the canon law (Decretals of Gregory IX, III, tit. i, cap. vii). Durandus, finding mystical reasons for everything, according to his wont, tells us that “length of hair is symbolical of the multitude of sins. Hence clerics are directed to shave their beards; for the cutting of the hair of the beard, which is said to be nourished by the superfluous humours of the stomach, denotes that we ought to cut away the vices and sins which are a superfluous growth in us. Hence we shave our beards that we may seem purified by innocence and humility and that we may be like the angels who remain always in the bloom of youth.” (Rationale, II, lib. XXXII.)

The kind of effeminate thinking in the last quote is the very reason that we should recognize the spirit of antichrist at work in Rome.  By extension, Durandus is arguing that men are more sinful than women.  But Scripture teaches that it is the office of men to lead spiritually, and that it was the neglect of this office that led to the fall into sin.  So why should clergy, of all people, want to look less manly and more feminine?  So they can be more like the woman who was deceived by the serpent?

Femininity and Christianity should not be synonymous.

The Catholic Encyclopedia goes on:

In spite of this, the phrase barbam nutrire which was classical in the matter, and was still used by the Fifth Council of Lateran (1512), always remained somewhat ambiguous. Consequently usage in the sixteenth century began to interpret the prohibition as not inconsistent with a short beard. There are still many ordinances of episcopalsynods which deal with the subject, but the point upon which stress is laid is that the clergy “should not seem to be aping the fashions of military folk” or wearing flowing beards like goats (hircorum et caprarum more), or allowing the hair on their upper lip to impede their drinking of the chalice. This last has always been accounted a solid reason in favour of the practice of shaving. To judge by the portraits of the popes, it was with Clement VII (1523) that a distinct beard began to be worn, and many among his successors, for example Paul III, allowed the beard to grow to considerable length. St. Charles Borromeo attempted to check the spread of the new fashion, and in 1576 he addressed to his clergy a pastoral “De barbâ radendâ” exhorting them to observe the canons. Still, though the length of clericalbeards decreased during the seventeenth century, it was not until its close that the example of the French court and the influence of CardinalOrsini, Archbishop of Beneventum, contributed to bring about a return to the earlier usage. For the last 200 years there has been no change, and an attempt made by some of the clergy of Bavaria in 1865 to introduce the wearing of beards was rebuked by the Holy See.

As already noted, in Eastern lands a smooth face carries with it the suggestion of effeminacy. For this reason the clergy, whether Catholic or Schismatic, of the Orientalchurches have always worn their beards. The same consideration, together with a regard for practical difficulties, has influenced the Romanauthorities in according a similar privilege to missionaries, not only in the East but in other barbarous countries where the conveniences of civilization cannot be found. In the case of religious orders like the Capuchins and the CamaldoleseHermits the wearing of a beard is prescribed in their constitutions as a mark of austerity and penance. Individualpriests who for medical or other reasons desire to exempt themselves from the law require the permission of their bishop.

So as a good Lutheran, I can’t allow any bishop to tell me how long my beard can be.  I’m almost required to grow a long beard.  And am I going to let the women around me tell me how long my beard can be?  No, no, no.  We must stand firm in the freedom with which Christ has made us free men.  Thus, I’m going to grow a sweet beard not only for Reformation but maybe all the way to Easter.  No razor shall touch my face, except maybe a little bit on the sides so that it grows down instead of out, because my beard got kind of round last time.

It’s funny that in Eastern lands a smooth face carries with it the suggestion of effeminacy.  You know, if we weren’t used to men trimming or shaving off their beards all the time, it would look effeminate to us too.  Kind of like it would look masculine to us for women to wear pants all the time if we had lived a few decades ago when you could still see women wearing dresses.  I’m afraid dresses are going to become extinct.

At this point the deeply moving writing of Clement of Alexandria on this matter needs to be heard:

To such an extent, then, has luxury advanced, that not only are the female sex deranged about this frivolous pursuit, but men also are infected with the disease.  For not being free of the love of finery, they are not in health; but inclining to voluptuousness, they become effeminate, cutting their hair in an ungentlemanlike and meretricious way, clothed in find and transparent garments, chewing mastich, smelling of perfume.  What can one say on seeing them?  Like one who judges people by their foreheads, he will divine them to be adulterers and effeminate, addicted to both kinds of venery, haters of hair, destitute of hair, detesting the bloom of manliness, and adorning their locks like women….For their service the towns are full of those who take out hair by pitch plasters, shave, and pluck out hairs from these womanish creatures.  And shops are erected and opened everywhere; and adepts at this meretricious fornication make a deal of money openly by those who plaster themselves, and give their hair to be pulled out in all ways by those who make it their trade, feeling no shame before the onlookers or those who approach, nor before themselves, being men.

In other words, the classical world was full of what we now call metrosexuals.

But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly!  And in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women.  For although not allowed to wear gold, yet out of effeminate desire they enwreathe their latches and fringes with leaves of gold; or, getting certain spherical figures of the same metal made, they fasten them to their ankles, and hang them from their necks.  This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the women’s apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts.  For this is a meretricious and impious form of snare.  For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts, –a sign this of strength and rule.  So also cocks, which fight in defence of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets; and so high a value does God set on these locks, that he orders them to make their appearance on men simultaneously with discretion, and delighted with a venerable look, has honored gravity of countenance with grey hairs.  But wisdom, and discriminating judgments that are hoary with wisdom, attain maturity with time, and by the vigour of long experience give strength to old age, producing grey hairs, the admirable flower of venerable wisdom, conciliating confidence.

This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature.  In this God deemed it right that he should excel and dispersed hair over man’s whole body.  Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man.  And to him has been assigned action, as to her suffering; for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth.  Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females, animals that are entire than the emasculated, perfect than imperfect.  It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.  But the embellishment of smoothing (for I am warned by the Word,) if it is to attract men, is the act of effeminate person,–if to attract women, is the act of an adulterer; and both must be driven as far as possible from our society….

….Rather we ought not to call such as these men, but lewd wretches, and effeminate, whose voices are feeble, and whose clothes are womanish both in feel and dye.  And such creatures are manifestly shown to be what they are from their external appearance, their clothes, shoes, form, walk, cut of their hair, look.  “For from his looks hall a man be known,” says the Scripture, “and from meeting a man, the man is known: the dress of a man, the step of his foot, the laugh of his teeth, tell tales of him. ”

… Lions glory in their shaggy hair, but are armed by their hair in the fight; and boars even are made imposing by their mane; the hunters are afraid of them when they see them bristling their hair.

…Of the nations, the Celts and Scythians wear their hair long, but do not deck themselves.  The bushy hair of the barbarian has something fearful in it; and its auburn colour threatens war, the hue being somewhat akin to blood.  Both these barbarian races hate luxury…I approve the simplicity of the barbarians: loving an unencumbered life, the barbarians have abandoned luxury.  Such the Lord calls us to be—naked of finery, naked of vanity, wrenched from our sins, bearing only the wood of life, aiming only at salvation.

Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” Book 3, Chapter 3 (p. 275 f. in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2)

I guess here is where I have to give the caveat that you are free in Christ to shave and dye your hair or whatever.  However, I do think Clement has some points here that we shouldn’t brush off so easily–about the sin of vanity, for instance.  About the order of creation and the wickedness of trying to invert it.  But I’ll save it for another post.

Just be a real Lutheran and grow a beard.

http://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-lutheran-beard.html?showComment=1347313021072#c2142108356610538089

Prayer Against the Antichrist and Pope in Rome with his Adherents. Luther.

June 14, 2012 3 comments

 

265. Prayer against the Antichrist and Pope in Rome with his Adherents

Beloved God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  We pray You: visit us once again with all Your wonderful works, and let us see the day of the coming of the glory of Your Son, when that joker, the Antichrist, who is the man of sin and the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2: 3-4), will be overthrown and smashed to pieces.  Bring to an end the massive deception of the devil, through which, sadly, at each moment many thousand souls perish and are dragged into hell, only for this reason—that the [adherents of the Pope] want to preserve the tyranny of the detestable and apostate (that is, [Christ-] renouncing] chair in Rome in its essential nature [as the seat within God’s temple in which man exalts himself above God—2 Thessalonians 2:4].   To this the whole world says, Amen, Amen.  Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Evangelische Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz.

*Praying against the Pope as the antichrist is not an indication of hatred toward Roman Catholics. Jeremiah and the other prophets of Israel lambasted their people and especially their priests and rulers who led them into idolatry and other false teaching.  They were accused of hating their own people, just as Jesus was when He condemned the chief priests and prophesied the desolation of Jerusalem.

It is impossible to really love people and at the same time be dedicated to not having people get angry with you.  It’s also impossible to love people and refuse to face the truth and then tell the truth.  The pure doctrine of Christ is about to be lost to our children because Lutherans (and protestants generally) have been deceived into thinking that the certainty of faith–and the confession of the truth that must follow true faith–is arrogance.  We are not called to be arrogant.  But we are called to be certain of God’s Word and to confess it and teach it not only in our own homes and congregations but before the great people of the world.

 

 

Martin Luther’s Ambassador: An Unclean Frog Spirit

April 27, 2012 3 comments

Martin Luther's face and hands cast at his death.

Martin Luther's face and hands cast at his death. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 

Behold, I come as a thief.  Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.  Revelation 16:13-15

So….the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD) has created a new office of “ambassador”…and it appears that one of the chief tasks of the ambassador will be to practice diplomacy on behalf of Martin Luther to the postmodern west.  God knows, Luther would really need it, were he living.  He would have many things to say, but I can only imagine what he would say at the thought of a lady in preaching tabs trying to salvage his legacy by saying, “In spite of his hatred of Jews, his support of the slaughter of the proletariat during the Peasant’s Revolt, and his backward attitude towards women, he’s still a role model.”  (Yes, that’s what she said.  Use google translate and you’ll get the gist of it.  http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/luther-botschafterin-margot-kaessmanns-thesenanschlag-11731642.html )

Oh, and did I mention this was the lady who resigned as chairperson of the EKD a couple of years ago after she was arrested for driving while falling-down drunk?

Yep.  Margot Kaessmann.  The writer of the article, it appears (with my limited German), is decrying the hypocrisy of the EKD in creating the new office for the woman who recently resigned.  He notes the irony of a priestess who serves at the altar of the gods of modern, tolerant, multicultural europe–and, considering her disgrace, the service of those idols has not been unprofitable for her–now serving as ambassador for the man who said, “Here I stand.  I can do no other.  God help me.  Amen.”–and went on to live the rest of his life under a death sentence.  And what was his crime?  Fidelity to Christ crucified, to the Triune God.  Standing by faith on the Scripture as God’s Word, not taking refuge in the authority of the Pope or the Magisterium or the councils or the Fathers, but clinging to Scripture against his conscience and the devil, against the terror of hell, and against all the power of the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor.  Luther risked his life and his soul to believe and confess and teach that a man is justified by faith alone without works of law (Rom. 3:28). 

The first and chief article is this, That Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins, and was raised again for our justification, Rom. 4,25.  And He alone is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1, 29; and God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all, Is. 53, 6.  Likewise: All have sinned and are justified without merit by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood, Rom. 3, 23 f.

Now since it is necessary to believe this, and it cannot be otherwise acquired or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us…

Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink into ruin.  For there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12…And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practise in opposition to the Pope. the devil, and the whole world.  Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and the devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.

Yes.  And what has Margot Kaessmann risked for her gospel?  That is to say, her priestly service at the altars of feminism, tolerance, political correctness, and the other regnant gods in the west?

Well, she got hammered and resigned, and has kept busy with gigs teaching theology.  And now she’s Luther’s ambassador at the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Now,  God bless Ms. Kaessmann and be merciful to her.  I have no pleasure in her being disgraced in public and struggling with alcohol and the attendant personal pain she’s no doubt has.  If I was anybody famous, it could be me whose name was on the front pages in 2010.  I sin, and even if I’m not getting drunk and driving today, it would not be surprising if I fell into sin.

However, making her the ambassador for the Reformation is ludicrous.

First of all, even people who don’t care about Christianity at all can see the lack of dignity in this.  Apparently this is a trait of German pseudo Lutherans as well as American ones.  The lady suffered public disgrace, and now you make her the spokesman for the Reformation on its 500th anniversary?  Are you kidding?  Christians are supposed to endure disgrace–that’s the theology of the cross.  But the theology of the cross does not invite you to disgrace yourself by sin and then parade it in front of the world and say you’re glorying in the cross.  “If you sin and suffer for it, what credit is that to you?  But if you do good and suffer patiently, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also left you an example, that you might follow in His steps.  He committed no sin, neither was any deceit found in His mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten.  He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.”  (1 Peter 2)

That’s number 1.  Number 2: Luther’s “Ambassador” is actually obscuring what Luther preached and what the Reformation was about.  The thesenanschlag (I learned a new word today)–what we Americans refer to as the “nailing of the 95 theses”–turned the world upside down.  What was such a big deal about it?  Was it that, since we’re justified by faith alone apart from works, we no longer have to worry about sin?  That was what the papists smeared the Lutherans with at the time of the reformation–that the doctrine of justification taught by Luther would lead to moral laxity and would undermine social order.  There would no longer be clergy and laity, public worship would become anarchic and undignified, etc.

Well, what the Papists smeared Lutherans with, claiming it was their teaching,now actually is the teaching of mainline Lutherans–or rather, those churches that still call themselves Lutheran even though they have given up the Lutheran confession and united with the reformed. Actually now the Lutherans think that the doctrine of justification means, as Bonhoeffer said, “the justification of sin instead of the justification of the sinner.”

Unfortunately, what this means for Luther’s memory, those who want to still believe and confess his doctrine, and the witness of the Reformation is that on the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses being nailed to the Wittenberg door, the world will be receiving a false witness concerning Luther, the Gospel, and the Reformation.

Why did the Reformation happen?  It happened because the Holy Spirit saw fit to restore the Church at that time and place, ultimately; but it didn’t happen to make it safe to sin, nor to undermine the Pope’s political authority.  Those were, perhaps, effects of the Reformation, but not its reason.

The Reformation occurred because the Word of God was proclaimed, which declares not that sin is no big deal, but instead that it is an incredibly big deal, so big that God will not allow the smallest sinful impulse to go unpunished, but in His justice He will reward with His undiluted wrath all ungodliness, and that no amount of human striving can free us from this wrath.  This was the first part of Reformation preaching, which made clear what the Law of God actually says–that no amount of human activity can deliver us from God’s wrath, because God is just.

But the second part changed Luther, and Germany, and Scandinavia, and broke the Pope’s chokehold on France and the low countries and Britain; it made it so that the Americas and Africa were also not locked up in the darkness of a false gospel with no light permitted to enter (at least, not by the church’s hierarchy), as Europe had been.

That was the Gospel–that on account of Christ’s agony and death, God counts as righteous all who believe that they are received into favor for Jesus’ sake.  God has laid the sins of the world and His inescapable wrath on His Son, and through Him declares the full forgiveness of sins–and we receive this grace of Christ not by working and striving, but as a gift, when we believe what the Gospel declares–that He suffered for us and our sins are forgiven on account of His blood.

This good news doesn’t free us to live immoral lives, because no one who believes that their sins have been forgiven at the cost of the suffering of God’s own son, and who believes in the great, passionate love that Christ has for him–no one who believes that wants to go out and purposely trample on Jesus’ blood and crucify Him again.

That’s why Luther, later on in the reformation, fought vigorously against Lutheran preachers who eradicated the law from their preaching, saying that the law should no longer be preached, but only the love of Christ, and that people should be moved to repentance not by God’s threats but by the love of Christ revealed on the cross.

What Luther fought against–antinomianism–is now going to be paraded about in 2017 as Luther’s gospel.  That’s what makes this whole thing a frightening blasphemy, bordering on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Let me close by painting a picture in broad strokes:

What is left of Christianity in the West in 2012?  Rome.

The heirs of revivalists and pietists–but they are floundering, trying to find something more substantial to stand on than emotion and evangelistic zeal and appropriation of American consumer culture.  Sadly, when they start floundering, they usually find Calvin–and through him some connection with the church fathers and with sola gratia and sola fide.  But Calvin is not the pure gospel.  Perhaps he’s an improvement on Arminianism–but it was the flaws of Calvinism that led to the spread of Arminian theology in America anyway.  If your assurance of salvation is located in your sanctification, or your experience of the new birth–no wonder if tormented sinners who have no assurance that they are elect look for comfort in the idea that they can choose to be saved.

The vast majority of the rest of protestantism is looking increasingly like Unitarian Universalism.  There are some confessional Calvinist enclaves.  There are also some confessional Lutheran enclaves, but either we don’t get out much, or we still don’t speak English well.  One way or the other the Lutheran Confession–the pure Gospel, the authentic evangelicalism–is mostly unknown as a living faith and a living church.  To many people it’s just one more religious movement whose dogmas are locked away in old books in libraries that only experts and scholars visits.  To most people it’s simply unknown.

So what happens when, in 1 or 2 or 3, or 5 generations the West’s moral rot finally leads to cultural exhaustion?

We can’t be that far from that now.  Human beings can’t fornicate and sodomize and look for heaven in food and consumer products thforever.  Eventually cultures like ours that believe in nothing don’t have the energy or the heart to fight the barbarians.  They end up convincing themselves that even though the barbarians rape, murder their children, enslave, and plunder, it’s probably bigoted of us to think our values are better than theirs.

But the kids who grow up seeing society fall apart and who lose their birthright have a different outlook.  They have forced upon their consciousness things that their parents really knew but convinced themselves that they didn’t–things like–you can’t just sleep with whoever you want, because without stable families and without ordered relationships between the sexes, society crumbles.  Things like: there is a moral law, and it’s not forever unclear and uncertain.  And the reason there’s a moral law is that there is a God who created the earth and who cares whether or not we live according to the law.

Kids who watch society collapse suddenly have to get honest about these things that we already knew.  And when they do, religion won’t seem foolish to them–unless it’s the kind of religion that lied to them and their parents and never bothered to tell them that God hates sin and punishes it in this world and the next, and that He brings judgment on nations that become sclerotic in their rebellion against Him and His law.

Nope, they won’t listen to lying “Lutheran” preachers, and they probably won’t listen to any Christians who even seem similar.  They’ll probably be so disgusted with the lying preachers who did not sound the alarm and tell the truth that they won’t want anything to do with the real Luther either.

And that will leave…Rome.  Or Islam.

So anyone who wants Jesus but knows that antinomianism is a lie will be all set up for Rome.  And people will have forgotten why the Reformation happened.

That’s why it’s not just ironic or sad that this is what the EKD is doing to celebrate the Reformation.  But it is in reality a fulfillment of the words of St. John’s Revelation quoted above.

The dragon (the devil), the beast (the Roman empire, or its descendants), and the false prophet (the Antichrist) have unclean spirits come out of their mouths, and they go out to deceive the nations and the kings of the earth, and gather everyone together for the battle against Christ.  That is what is happening when the world is deceived into rejecting the Gospel.

Right now we think the worst thing that’s happening is the dechristianization of the west.  It’s true that when the communists in Russia and China killed and imprisoned Christians and made the church go underground, that was the work of antichrist.  And in those countries where Islam beat the church into submission, not allowing them to proclaim the Gospel to their neighbors–that was also the work of the spirit of antichrist.  And now, to have the state churches of Christendom apostasize, and formerly Christian nations willingly living like atheists–that is also a very bad thing.

But there is something worse.  Much worse.  That is what the Reformation was about.

Worst is when you have a whole continent where the Church is everywhere, where images of Christ crucified are everywhere, where the Holy Trinity is confessed and people are baptized and the Scriptures are read and Christ’s body and blood is even eaten and drunk–but the Gospel is hidden; the saving knowledge of Christ is not preached, and if anyone tries to preach it they are killed and branded an enemy of Jesus.

In that case, the devil’s false prophet has taken his seat in the temple of God, in the Holy Place, and has proclaimed himself God, arrogating to himself the right to contradict God’s Word and displace Christ as the head of the Church.

That is what the antichrist does–and Luther knew who the antichrist was.  If the antichrist went into a Jewish temple or simply attacked the church from outside it would be easy to recognize him.  What is so awful about the real antichrist is that he looks like a Christian.

Rome is shaping up to look like the only ones who have managed to hold the fort on the only things unbelievers are able to grasp–that is, morality.  Note how when the ELCA permitted union with the reformed, or tolerated those who denied the virgin birth or the resurrection of Jesus or the atonement, there was no huge vote and the church didn’t split.  What made the church split?  Homosexuality.  Unbelievers can tolerate idolatry and waffling on Christian doctrine (I’m not saying that all ELCA folk are unbelievers…what I am saying is that the majority of people in most denominations are weak in faith and usually still think according to the wisdom of the flesh, which does not understand why faith in Christ is important but does understand works.)  But even unbelievers know that if there’s one place a line should be drawn in the church, even if we give up all the others, it’s probably homosexuality.  Didn’t God send fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah?

So the Lutherans are the ones who are okay with homosexuality.  But the Catholics?  They publicly have held the line there–and about abortion, contraception.  They end up looking far more Christian than mainline protestants.

But the problem is that the catholic church, which emphasizes holiness and proclaims the mystery of the incarnation and death of the Son of God with more awareness of its depths than the Lutherans–denies Christ by making Him a lawgiver but not our only righteousness, our only mediator.

Detail of: Portrait of Pope Leo X and his cous...

Detail of: Portrait of Pope Leo X and his cousins, cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is why Luther knew the Pope was the antichrist.  Because from the very heart of the church of God and looking like a lamb, the papacy enslaves and murders souls.

In Luther’s day the Pope ruled the whole of western Christendom.  But for the last five hundred years his total control has been broken.  Even though in reformed nations a perverted form of the Gospel was preached, the deception that the pope was the head of the Church by divine right was broken over about half of Europe–and then in the US, and through protestant missionaries a Christian church independent of the antichrist spread throughout the world.

And as a result, many of the things that the antichrist “prophesied” came true.  Popes prophesied that the doctrine of justification and the loss of the papacy would lead to lawlessness.  They were right.  If the pope still dominated the consciences of the west, Hitler would never have happened.  Communism wouldn’t have happened.  The kings might have grappled with the Pope, as they did throughout medieval history…but they couldn’t get free of him, even if they wanted to, because if the pope put the country under the interdict the king could be certain that he would lose his throne.  That’s what happened when people feared the pope’s authority and believed that he had absolute authority over the church (and the authority to command kings and to release their subjects from obedience to them).

If the papacy had remained unchallenged, we wouldn’t have seen the “secularization” of the west either.  Because the pope enforced outward submission to the Church by force.  When that compulsion was broken–just as he predicted–many people now used the freedom as an opportunity to be the godless people they already were in their hearts.

The problem is that the pope’s compulsion was not the Kingdom of Christ.  Because Christ does not make people behave by force.  In His Kingdom people become obedient and live holy lives because they are willing, because they are new creatures, and the Holy Spirit compels them to do good works and to resist sin.

So yes, when the Gospel was preached and it broke the Pope’s chokehold on Christendom, it also freed people to be godless and to reject Christ.  But it was worse under the papacy.  Because then, in the name of Christ, people were forced to give a certain outward allegiance to Christ.  But at the same time they were kept from Christ and Christ was kept from them.  Because the pope condemned to earthly death anyone who preached the good news of Jesus as written in Scripture, and he threatened anyone who departed from his authority with damnation.

Have you ever noticed how so many people who are lifelong catholics–who may barely practice it at all, or who may be disgusted with it, or who may have embraced some form of protestant theology–how hard it is for them to leave Rome?  It’s because just about anything can be permitted in the realm of antichrist–except rejecting the authority of the antichrist and what he calls the “church”.

The lying spirits in protestantism don’t look like fools because they’re all stupid.  The devil makes sport of them.  He enjoys this because he is still angry that the Gospel arose and dealt a mortal wound to the antichrist’s kingdom, so it’s fun for him to make a joke out of those who bear the name of Luther.  But more importantly this mockery and apostasy within protestantism prepares people to be deceived by the antichrist.

May God have mercy on all pastors who have departed from the Gospel; on the EKD and Ms. Kaessmann, and on all those who are presently deceived by lying pastors or a false gospel, or who are imprisoned by the antichrist.  And to spite the devil and for the sake of His mercy, may Christ grant again that His pure Gospel be heard loudly and clearly and unmistakeably throughout the world once more before He comes to judge the living and the dead.

Luther at 34--my age. If only he was alive to tell us what he thinks about a lady in a preaching gown as his ambassador.

“I find nothing that promotes work better than angry fervor. For when I wish to compose, write, pray and preach well, I must be angry. It refreshes my entire system, my mind is sharpened, and all unpleasant thoughts and depression fade away.”

–Martin Luther, Off the Record With Martin Luther: An Original Translation of the Table Talks, trans. and ed. Charles Daudert (Kalamazoo, MI: Hansa-Hewlett, 2009), entry no. 2410b, p. 110.

ht: http://tollelege.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/i-must-be-angry-by-martin-luther/

Just and the Justifier

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Reformation Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Romans 3:19-28

October 30, 2011

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

God is just and  the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus.

 

  1.  God is just.
    1. Justice: Giving to each according to their merits.  Hatred of wickedness, love of the good.
    2. Why it’s good that God is just: God will not allow evil to harm the world forever.  He will avenge and save the righteous.
    3. What God’s justice means for us: condemnation.
  2.  Indulgences
    1. Oct. 31, 1517—The Reformation began with an argument about how the unrighteous could escape punishment.
    2. What indulgences are, according to RC church today.
    3. How they were abused and made even worse in Luther’s day.
    4. Luther’s critique in the 95 theses

                                                               i.      There is no cheap grace.

                                                             ii.      Salvation comes to the repentant.

                                                            iii.      Repentant sinners cannot shun the cross.

                   5.  The evil of indulgences for Luther in 1517

                                                               i.      They fleeced people.

                                                             ii.      They failed to tell people the truth of God’s law.

                                                            iii.      Those responsible were leading Christ’s flock to damnation.

3.   Antichrist

  1. Replaces Jesus Christ and His Word, leads Christ’s sheep to damnation.
  2. How the pope reacted to the 95 theses: insisted on his right to free people from temporal punishment–a prerogative of God alone–and condemned to hell all who denied that he had this right.
  3. Later Luther: the papacy is the antichrist!

4.The spirit of antichrist at work in Protestantism and in the Lutheran church

  1. Denominations grant indulgence from God’s word.
  2. Pastors grant people indulgences of cheap grace.

                                i.  We know you won’t tolerate too much of God’s Word, so we’ll try to entertain and attract you

                               ii.  We won’t rebuke widely accepted immorality and we will not call you to repentance when God’s Word

                                     and his call to a holy life slips to third, fourth, or 10th place on your schedule and budget.

      3.  We grant ourselves indulgences:

                                                               i.      Times have changed.

                                                             ii.      I sin, you sin, so we won’t call anyone on it.

                                                            iii.      Being a Lutheran has come to mean the freedom to obey no one, to despise authority, to be impious, to despise God’s Word, to not pray—to sin.

        4.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

                                                               i.      What it means to come short of the glory of God.

                                                             ii.      No difference means all law breakers are equally damned

                                                            iii.      Preachers and tithe givers and hypocrites and murderers.

                                                           iv.      That every mouth be stopped and the whole world become guilty before God.

                                                             v.      No indulgences: justice.

5.   A “without the law” righteousness is revealed.

  1. The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. A righteousness without the law.
  3. Revealed in the days of the apostles.
  4. Revealed again by God in His work of reformation, in the wound he dealt the antichrist
  5. The everlasting Gospel preached by Luther.

                                                               i.      Just as the law doesn’t change with the times,

                                                             ii.      So the Gospel has been the same since the beginning.

                                                            iii.      Christ came to suffer for us.

       6.   Jesus the “mercy seat”

                                                               i.      Priest and sacrifice

                                                             ii.      The “covering”

                                                            iii.      God met humans there without wrath.

6.   Just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

  1. God must punish sin to be just.
  2. God let sins in the past go unpunished—was He just?
  3. He punished Jesus
  4. The one who believes this is reckoned righteous
  5. God is not unjust in reckoning us righteous, because He did punish….Himself.
  6.  He “bore our iniquities in His body”
  7. God justifies us—that is, reckons and counts us righteous.
  8. Without deeds of the law.

 7.  The fear of being justified without the deeds of the law.

  1. Won’t we just sin?
  2. Do you not sin now?
  3. Set free from the power of sin.

8.  The Word they still shall let remain.

  1. The Gospel may have fallen on hard times (or hard hearts) and our life may be shameful.
  2. God will not allow the Gospel to depart from the earth, even if it departs from us.
  3. And He will not allow anyone who trusts in Jesus to be put to shame.
  4. The reformation did not preach a human gospel of indulgence.
  5. It preached the living and enduring word of God

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

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