A very intriguing history was recounted for us of the first establishment of the care of the poor in Breslau.[i] Johann Hess, the first Lutheran preacher in Breslau (d. 1547) could no longer accept how beggars, crippled, and mentally ill people lay on the streets and in front of all the churches in Breslau. He began to publicly admonish the governing authorities from the pulpit. But from it came no establishment of means to care for the poor in the community. Then Hess quit preaching. This had a significant effect upon the magistrate and the congregation, because he very much enjoyed preaching and they knew it. Finally they resolved to ask him why he stopped preaching. The answer was this: “My Lord Jesus lay in His members at the doors of all the churches. I can not simply step over Him. If he is not cared for, neither will I preach.” These words had a very significant influence. Places to care for the poor were prepared. Illegitimate beggars were dismissed and in one day 500 persons were brought to newly established hospitals. Thus there arose gradually in all the cities and villages of Lutheran Germany a well-ordered and equipped way of caring for the poor and the sick, as we now see it everywhere. (p. 13)
From “Mercy and the Lutheran Congregation: A translation of the essay, ‘Intentional Care of the Poor and the Sick is Essential for the Well-Being of a Christian Congregation’ by Theodore Julius Brohm.” Translated by Matthew Harrison. LCMS World Relief and Human Care. 2006.
[i] Now Wroclaw, a town of around 630,000 people in Poland. (KH)
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.
6. 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 benignant 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)
- Judge not – unless you’re a parent, ruler, or pastor. Luther. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Satan is raging and angry, but God is kindly disposed. Luther. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Luther -Let God Settle It! (iamnotafraidblog.com)
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 11:14-28
March 3, 2013
“Satan has lost everything.”
In the Name of Jesus.
God is gracious and kind even with those who are hardened against Him. He gave Pharaoh a long time to repent and sent Moses to him again and again to warn him, even though Pharaoh went back on his word and was arrogant toward the message Moses brought him from the Lord.
But when someone hardens their heart against God’s word, nothing helps them. They just become worse. The more God seeks to turn them back, the more they hate Him. And they become insane in their rage against God.
Pharaoh’s sorcerers had copied the plagues God sent on Israel, but with the plague of gnats they could no longer copy them. The power of the devil ran out, but God’s power was not even warmed up. So the sorcerers told Pharaoh: “Look, we can’t stand up against this. This is not witchcraft. This is the very finger of God.”
Yet Pharaoh, like a madman, kept fighting God when even Pharaoh’s sorcerers knew they were outmatched.
Jesus’ opponents in the Gospel are just the same. They begin to say crazy things. Jesus casts a demon out of a man. It is clearly a work of God; motivated by compassion, full of power that does not reside in human beings. But while the crowds are amazed, some in the crowds say, “He is casting out demons in the power of Beelzebub.” Beelzebub is the name the Jews used for the devil. It is a contemptuous name; it means “Lord of the flies” or “Fly-King.” The name is supposed to mean that the devil is weak compared to God, which is true; but he is still very strong compared to us.
This criticism of Jesus really makes no sense. Even in earthly households and kingdoms we can see it. Houses in which the husband and the wife are against each other instead of united don’t stand. Neither do nations last long when they are constantly fighting each other. It’s no different in the devil’s kingdom. If each demon were allowed to go around throwing out other demons, things would fall apart. Just like the US government doesn’t allow each state to set up its own president, or to opt out of amendments to the constitution that they don’t like, the devil doesn’t allow his kingdom to fight itself.
The critics of Jesus are saying things that are obviously false. But that’s how it is when someone hardens their hearts against Jesus. They say and do things that obviously make no sense or contradict Scripture, and no human persuasion will change their minds. When we harden our hearts against Christ’s Word, the danger is that the time will come when the Holy Spirit no longer pleads with us but lets us have our way.
This is the way it is in the world with Christ’s word, even now. It is blamed for divisions, for problems, for lovelessness. It is called the devil’s word. Why? Because Satan rages at the Word. And so do those who are in his kingdom.
Why are Satan and his followers so threatened by Christ’s Word? Because it attacks the lies of the devil. And those who have put their trust in lies have their false gods attacked by Christ’s word.
Jesus explains it: if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God is upon you. That is a threat to Satan.
Words don’t look like much to us. We’re impressed by power, etc. The devil’s kingdom is one of appearances.
Why is Jesus such a threat to his opponents, and above all to the demons? All He does is preach and teach. All He has is words, and some signs that do not advance a political regime, but simply heal, exorcise, etc.
Jesus’ words are a big threat because His Word is the finger of God.
His Word is spirit and life.
His Word goes into nothingness and creates.
It enters the darkness and brings light, banishing the darkness.
Jesus’ word binds up the tyrant, the devil, who keeps us in spiritual bondage.
It enters Satan’s domain that he has usurped and dethrones him. The devil who brings disorder, chaos, who smears what is true with the filth of lies is dethroned by Christ’s Word—because it is the truth.
It isn’t lies and mirages. It sets things in order and brings life.
152. Prayer of a husband after his wife has delivered a stillborn child.
Breslau Hymnal, 1752
taken from Evangelische Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz
Oh my dear, gentle God! Since it has pleased Your wisdom to summon the fruit of our bodies in its birth and to take it to Yourself, we must also let it be pleasing to us. We will not doubt that You have , in answer to our hearts’ prayers (whether spoken or in the sighs of the Holy Spirit), received it and lifted it up to all grace, for the sake of Your dear Son, so that it is now without doubt a dear little child of everlasting blessedness and life. In fact, it is now cared for and kept safe from all evil in the best possible way, instead of what it would have had to endure in this evil world.
But apart from this I thank You from my heart for preserving my beloved wife alive through these bitter birth pangs, that You have snatched her from the very jaws of death and given her back like new to me and my young children. Oh help, so that she might regain her strength, which she has almost lost entirely in this great trauma, this difficult childbirth. Thus I will laud and praise You, and magnify Your mercy, here in time and hereafter forever and ever, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- A Different Definition of Maternity Leave (2lovesoneheart.wordpress.com)
- Pregnancy Confession #2 (everydayfamily.com)
- Barren no more (thepeacefilledlife.wordpress.com)
- A part of me died (ireport.cnn.com)
- Prayer of a Person desiring to go to confession for the sake of the holy Absolution. Gebets-Schatz (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Short Prayers week (christianpf.com)
- Prayer for Septuagesima. Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- The stillborn baby I’ll never know (independent.co.uk)
A Lutheran Pastor’s Firsthand Account of Prison Life
by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand
I am a Christian from an Orthodox country — the country of Romania. Having been in prison for fourteen years for my faith, it is now my missionary work to help persecuted Christians in Communist countries. I would like to tell you the stories of several Orthodox Christians with whom I was privileged to come into contact during my time in prison. Their examples and their deeds have been a constant source of encouragement to me throughout the years.
Always Rejoice The first man was a priest who was put in jail at the age of seventy. His name was Surioanu. When he was brought in with his big white beard and white pate, some officers at the gate of the jail mocked him. One asked, “Why did they bring this old priest here?” And another replied with a jeer, “Probably to take the confessions of everybody.” Those were his exact words. This priest had a son who had died in a Soviet jail. His daughter was sentenced to twenty years. Two of his sons-in-law were with him in jail — one with him in the same cell. His grandchildren had no food, they were forced to eat from the garbage. His whole family was destroyed. He had lost his church. But this man had such a shining face — there was always a beautiful smile on his lips. He never greeted anyone with “Good morning” or “Good evening,” but instead with the words, “Always rejoice.” One day we asked him, “Father, how can you say ‘always rejoice’ — you who passed through such a terrible tragedy?” He said, “Rejoicing is very easy. If we fulfill at least one word from the Bible, it is written, ‘Rejoice with all those who rejoice.’ Now if one rejoices with all those who rejoice, he always has plenty of motivation for rejoicing. I sit in jail, and I rejoice that so many are free. I don’t go to church, but I rejoice with all those who are in church. I can’t take Holy Communion, but I rejoice about all those who take. I can’t read the Bible or any other holy book, but I rejoice with those who do. I can’t see flowers [we never saw a tree or a flower during those years. We were under the earth, in a subterranean prison. We never saw the sun, the moon, stars — many times we forgot that these things existed. We never saw a color, only the gray walls of the cell and our gray uniforms. But we knew that such a world existed, a world with multicolored butterflies and with rainbows], but I can rejoice with those who see the rainbows and who see the multicolored butterflies.” In prison, the smell was not very good. But the priest said, “Others have the perfume of flowers around them, and girls wearing perfume. And others have picnics and others have their families of children around them. I cannot see my children but others have children. And he who can rejoice with all those who rejoice can always rejoice. I can always be glad.” That is why he had such a beautiful expression on his face.
Let me interrupt to tell you about another Orthodox Christian. He was not a priest, but a simple farmer. In our country, farmers are almost always illiterate, or nearly so. He had read his Bible well, but other than that he had never read a book. Now he was in the same cell with professors, academicians, and other men of high culture who had been put in jail by the Communists. And this poor farmer tried to bring to Christ a member of the Academy of Science. But in return, he received only mockery. “Sir, I can’t explain much to you, but I walk with Jesus, I talk with Him, I see Him.” “Go away. Don’t tell me fairy tales that you see Jesus. How do you see Jesus?” “Well, I cannot tell you how I see Him. I just see Him. There are many kinds of seeing. In dreams, for instance, you see many things. It’s enough for me to close my eyes. Now I see my son before me, now I see my daughter-in-law, now I see my granddaughter. Everybody can see. There is another sight. I see Jesus.” “You see Jesus?” “Yes, I see Jesus.” “What does He look like? How does He look to you? Does He look restful, angry, bored, annoyed, happy to see you? Does He smile sometimes?” He said, “You guessed it! He smiles at me.” “Gentlemen, come hear what this man says to us. He mocks us. He says Jesus smiles at him. Show me, how does He smile?” That was one of the grandest moments of my life. The farmer became very, very earnest. His face began to shine. In the Church today there are pastors and theologians who can’t believe the whole Bible. They believe half of it, a quarter of it. Somehow they can’t believe the miracles. I can believe the whole of it because I have seen miracles. I have seen transfigurations — not like that of Jesus, but something apart. I have seen faces shining. A smile appeared on the face of that farmer. I would like to be a painter to be able to paint that smile. There was a streak of sadness in it because of the lost soul of the scientist. But there was so much hope in that smile. And there was so much love and so much compassion, and a yearning that this soul should be saved. The whole beauty of heaven was in the smile on that face. The face was dirty and unwashed, but it held the beautiful smile of heaven. The professor bowed his head and said, “Sir, you are right. You have seen Jesus. He has smiled at you.”
Now, to come back to this priest, Surioanu. He was always such a happy being. When we were taken out for walks, in a yard where there was never a flower, a piece of herb, or grass, he would put his hand on the shoulder of some Christian and ask, “Tell me your story.” Usually the men would talk about how bad the Communists were. “They’ve beaten me and they’ve tortured me and they’ve done terrible things.” He would listen attentively; then he would say, “You’ve said plenty about the Communists; now tell me about yourself. When did you confess last?” “Well, some forty years ago.” “Let us sit down and forget the Communists and forget the Nazis. For you are also a sinner. And tell me your sins.” Everybody confessed to him — I confessed to him, too, and I remember that as I confessed to him, and the more I told him sins, the more beautiful and loving became his face. I feared in the beginning that when he heard about such things he would loathe me. But the more I said bad things about myself, the more he sat near to me. And in the end he said, “Son, you really have committed plenty of sins, but I can tell you one thing. Despite all of these sins, God still loves you and forgives you. Remember that He has given His Son to die for you, and try one day a little bit, and another day a little bit, just to improve your character so it should be pleasant to God.”
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 2:1-11
January 6, 2013
“The Bright Morning Star”
In the Name of Jesus.
I, Jesus…am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. Revelation 22: 14
The Aztecs were careful observers of the stars. They saw that the wandering star we know as Venus would appear in the morning just before dawn; then it would disappear for awhile and appear as the evening star. It seemed to come down onto the earth and then rise back into the sky again according to a regular pattern. It is said that the Aztecs believed that it was one of their gods becoming human and visiting earth before the dawn of a new age.
Many nations looked intently at the stars, and many had stories, like the Aztecs, which told of a coming golden age preceded by a ruler who would be like the morning star—the small light before the dawn. It sounds like the Gentile nations believed the story we are taught here—the story of the Gospel, the coming of God’s Son.
But our ancestors were in darkness. They searched the heavenly for knowledge of God and knowledge of the future. But long before they had turned away from the God Who is the maker of the stars, who says: Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. (Isaiah 40: 26)
Our ancestors may have believed some things that sounded like the story you are taught here—the Gospel. But so do the pagans, the unbelievers, who live today. And there is a world of difference between a pagan funeral, where people say that their loved one is in a better place, and a Christian funeral, where we hear the minister say: I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25)
What is the great difference? That in the pagan funeral people comfort themselves with a hope that God has not given. The Christian funeral has a hope that the one and only God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, has given. He has given a word that gives us the right to hope and makes our hope certain.
God first gave the promise of the morning star to Adam and Eve, that an offspring of the woman would crush the head of the devil. But Cain despised and rejected that promise. Later, so did all the people on earth except for Noah. After the flood, the same thing happened again. Despising God’s promise, which is certain, people turned away and invented their own stories. When they despised God’s promise they were despising Christ. The majority of the world lost the knowledge of God and became lost in thick darkness.
But God called Abraham and promised him again that one of His offspring would bring blessing and salvation to the whole earth. He pointed Abraham to the heavens and told him that his descendants would be as many and as brilliant as the gleaming stars in the desert night. Abraham believed God, and God counted it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Abraham would have many descendants, but there would be one greater than them all—the Morning Star, whose appearing signaled the breaking of daylight upon the darkness.
In the Bible, angels and kings are often called “stars.” God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), and the messengers He sends to speak His Word, and the rulers He sends to govern as His representatives are like little lights—stars. God promised to send a star—a human king—from the offspring of Jacob, who would rule the whole earth and bring the knowledge of God to the Gentiles. Later He revealed that this last king would come from the house of David.
Jesus is the morning star that marks the end of the darkness.
[1. The great glory of this morning star.]
When this king appeared, it would mean joy for the people of Israel. They were a small nation, constantly threatened by the power of great empires of violent people. Their only protection was the promise of God to save them from their enemies, so long as they were faithful to Him. But whenever pressure and temptation from the nations around them came, the Israelites were unfaithful. They worshipped other gods, thinking the Lord was not enough. Or they tried to depend on alliances with Gentile nations, which caused them to be influenced by the evil practices of the godless nations and which dishonored the Lord who had promised to save them.
So the Israelites received God’s chastisement. They were constantly suffering invasions and oppression by other nations. At last they were taken into captivity again in Babylon, as though they had never been the Lord’s people whom He set free from slavery in Egypt. Instead of honor, God’s presence among the people of Israel resulted in shame for them, as their unbelief resulted in punishment.
But in the Old Testament lesson, Isaiah tells how when the morning star, the Messiah comes, things will change for the Israelites.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)
The Gospel reading shows that the day had come. The morning star was born, the Messiah who signaled the end of the darkness. Foreign nations were appearing to worship the newborn king of the Jews.
But behold! Says Matthew. This is a shocking thing! The glory of the Lord has appeared on the physical descendants of Abraham. The long awaited promise has come! The day when glory and rejoicing instead of shame comes to the Israelites is here! But the Israelites are not arising, not rejoicing. At least, there are very few who are, hardly more than there are Gentiles, who are ignorant of the promise. A few shepherds in Bethlehem, a few ancient godly people in Jerusalem. But the leaders of the people don’t see the morning star rising—they know where the Messiah will come, but aren’t looking for Him and don’t know He’s there. Only a few Magi—wise men from a foreign religion, people raised in idolatry, people who perhaps have practiced fortune telling and astrology and other forms of witchcraft which God condemns.
How can this be? What does this mean?
Human beings are utterly in the dark, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. They do not know God and are not able to come to God, whether they have been raised with His Word or not. This is what we are taught in the Small Catechism under the third article of the creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…”
God alone is able to give light to our unbelieving, rebellious, blind and dark hearts. Otherwise we are like the chief priests, who knew exactly where the morning star, the king of the Jews, was to be born, but were as much in the dark as the pagan nations. Or we are like Herod, who finds out about the King of the Jews only to try to get rid of him and keep his throne.
The glory of God has risen on the human race. It has come upon human beings. The dawn of everlasting life is about to break. Forgiveness of sins and the end of the devil’s reign has come. All this has happened because Mary’s baby, a true human being, one of us, is also the Son from heaven, very God of very God. He is David’s offspring but the root and creator of David, the bright morning star.
From Him the light of the eternal glory of God shines into the darkness of this creation and overshadows human beings. It has come upon us, because God is one of us; He shares our nature.
But God’s glory is not visible to human eyes. It is hidden. People do not see or feel that the baby sitting on the lap of Mary his mother is the glorious God, or that His birth means their salvation and deliverance from hell and from all that could harm them. If it was not proclaimed to us we would never know it.
But that is the glory of this child that is for us. We are in darkness and cannot approach God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are not worthy to approach Him; we do not and cannot do His will.
But now He has become one of us. He freely gives us His glory. He gives us access to it and shares it with us. He has come to fulfill the will of God for human beings. He has come to fulfill all righteousness. He has come to keep God’s law. He has come to receive the penalty for sin.
He is the light of God’s face shining upon us, the certain guarantee from God of salvation for sinners.
He is the bright morning star. His coming means the darkness of hell and sin and death is as good as dead. Just as the morning star appears and tells those who understand that day is about to break, this bright morning star to which the Magi are led is the sign that light has broken upon us. The glory of God is already yours, even though darkness and gloom still surrounds you, even lives in your heart. It is yours in Jesus.
The wise men came and opened splendid treasures fit for a king—the perfume and rare medicine of myrrh that is used to embalm the dead and heal wounds. The frankincense that was used to make sweet smoke in the worship of the temple. The gold which adorns the houses of kings.
But Jesus opens still greater treasures to us. These treasures are not visible to the eye, because they are spiritual treasures that come from the treasure house of God.
He gives the healing balm of righteousness to our nature that takes away death and destroys the illness of sin living in our flesh.
He gives us the incense of pure prayer to God. Through Him we come to God with prayers that are fully acceptable, sweet and pleasing. Through faith in Him we are a sweet savor to God.
He gives us the gold of His kingship; He makes us share in His reign.
[2. How the light of this morning star is seen]
The magi were led by a miraculous star. But the star led them to the Word.
The physical, heard word leads us to the invisible light and glory of Christ.
Not an inner light but an external word pointing to a visible being—a child, and later a man, crucified, dead, buried.
Now the word leads us to Him, to the invisible glory that is ours in Him, as it comes in the water of baptism and the body and blood in the bread and wine.
That’s why we kneel at the altar. It is not a symbol that comes to us, but the morning star, who makes the glory of God ours now; and soon the day will break upon us forever. Amen
The peace of God…
Holy Christmas Day
St. John 1:1-18
December 25, 2012
“The Tent of the Son”
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34-35)
I don’t know how to define the glory of God. All I know is that I want it. And I know you want it too.
“Glory” usually means honor, fame, or praise. If you knock a baseball over the fence in the bottom of the 9th in a tie game in the playoffs, you will have glory. Everyone probably has some moment from their childhood when they achieved glory and felt the exultation of victory. It may just have been a kickball game with kids on your street or a spelling test in third grade. But you shined for a moment. You felt like you could do anything.
Some of us, on the other hand, remember vividly times when glory that we had earned was denied us. Recently someone told me a story like this. This person was in high school and constantly walked in the shadows cast by siblings. He decided to put his hand to the plow and studied heroically for a nationwide history exam and got a perfect score. But then the teacher accused him of cheating since he had finished the test so quickly and had completely outshined the star students. Although the teacher couldn’t prove it, he saw to it that he did not get the award and received no honors. When glory that we have earned is denied, we can be crushed and bury the gifts God has given us, believing that we have nothing to give. Or we can become embittered and withhold ourselves from other people rather than permit them to trample our souls.
Most of our moments of being glorified or having it stolen happen when we are children. That’s because our worlds are smaller and we are more self-absorbed. We don’t see that being the hero of the kickball game on a Thursday afternoon is a very small and fleeting thing. Then as you get older you start to realize that more and more of the things that seemed really glorious are not so much.
We think that it’s this kind of glory that we are looking for—success, praise, comfort, security. But in the end what all people are really seeking is glory that does not fade. But the glories of this life are passing. Even the greatest minds, athletes, beauties are like springtime flowers; they display their splendor for a few days under the sun. Then the flower fades and withers. The petals fall to the ground. Its place remembers it no more.
God’s glory is not like this. His glory is hard like diamond. Our glory shatters when it hits reality. God’s glory melts the world, makes the sky roll up like a shade, sends stars hurtling into nothingness. His glory melts mountains, makes rivers spring out of granite, kills giants, blinds persecutors. God’s glory makes barren women fertile, makes virgins conceive and fields overflow with grain, makes children speak hidden wisdom from God which chief priests and doctors of theology cannot understand. It makes the demons shriek in terror, opens deaf ears and blind eyes and tombs and brings the dead to life.
Moses wanted the glory of God. On Mount Sinai, after interceding for the Israelites after they had made the golden calf, after God had promised not to destroy the Israelites but continue to bring them to the promised land, Moses asked God—seemingly out of nowhere: “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18) It sounds almost greedy, like a person who has seen a dragon’s treasure trove and is willing to risk his life to sneak in and grab a few rings and cups.
Yes. It is greed that comes from hunger. Since the fall of man human beings are starving for the glory of God. They are starving for His presence and His glory even though they don’t know what it is or how to find it. Even though it would kill them.
God let Moses see His glory—but not His face, because no one can see My face and live (Ex. 33:20). But when Moses finished building the tabernacle—the tent where God would dwell in the midst of the Israelites, the Scripture says Moses was not able to enter the tent of the meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex. 40:35) Moses was godly and had found favor with God, and yet he was prevented from seeing or experiencing the full measure of God’s glory.
Later Peter wanted the glory of God. “Lord, it is good that we are here. Let us build three tents; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” That was Peter’s response to the glory of God when Jesus was transfigured before them, and His skin and clothes became lightning-white. But the evangelist says that Peter was so scared he didn’t know what he was saying. No sinner can see the face of God and live. That’s why the thundering, glorious voice of God thundered from the cloud of glory, “This is my beloved Son! Listen to Him!” And Peter fell on his face like a dead man. What a dreadful, terrible thing it would be to see Jesus’ glory if He was not going to restrain it and walk down the mountain into the Kidron Valley into the brook which ran red with the blood of all the animals that died as offerings for sin. If that uncleanness did not come upon the Lord, no mountain would be thick enough and no ocean deep enough to hide us from the glory of the creator, which would put an end to our attempts to steal His glory with endless destruction.
We cannot look at the glory of God and live. Yet we can’t live without the glory of God either.
Eve wanted the glory of God too. But it wasn’t enough to see it and live in it. She thought it could be taken. She was tricked. And Adam’s sin is even harder to explain, because he was not tricked into thinking God’s glory could be equaled, yet he also ate the fruit which the serpent said would make them like God.
But this is the joy of Christmas: the glory that Adam and Eve tried to take, the glory that Moses and Peter longed to keep—has come upon us. It has been given to us.The glory of God has come upon human beings. It is not merely that we may look upon it as Moses did on the mountain. Human nature, flesh and blood, is personally united to the fullness of God’s glory. God is united to us.
The eternal Word, the Son, tented among us.
- 1. He revealed the glory of God united to human flesh and blood.
- 2. We now enter into the glory of God through Jesus’ body.