Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Only do not Thou forsake me, for if I am left to myself, I will surely bring it all to destruction.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
We confess in the Nicene Creed that we believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. In the Church, we recognize many days throughout the year for the work of the saints. Not all saints are human. We are surrounded by a great invisible host of Our Lord’s creation in the order of angels, His holy messengers. This day is set aside in the church to commemorate the work of angels and especially of St. Michael the Archangel.
There are lots of false teachings concerning angels. Some are so obsessed with angels that they make them into something that they’re not. You don’t become an angel in heaven, nor are our loved ones departed in the Faith floating around as angels. Angels are not bare-bottomed babies or feminine fairies. Angels are described as mighty warriors who serve Our Lord and protect and defend His church.
There is also the tendency to dismiss the work of angels altogether, to think that educated and sophisticated people in the twenty-first century are above such silly myths.
Angels, however, are throughout the Scriptures and are present throughout the events of Christ’s life. It was the Angel Gabriel who brought the message of the Holy Ghost to the Blessed Virgin Mary that conceived Our Lord in her womb. The host of angels sang praises at Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem: Glory be to God on high, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men. Angels attended Our Lord after His temptation in the wilderness. At the resurrection, angels were present at the tomb.
Today’s Gospel tells us of our need for the ministry of angels. Jesus said, Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Angels defend God’s “little ones,” His Christians, like you.
The Christian Faith is a child-like trust in Jesus and His work. It is not naive or uninformed. But it is a Faith that believes because Jesus says so. It is faith that forgets human reason, our desire for control and power, and forgets about how things “seem” in the world.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. We are the little ones, who are protected by Our Lord’s angels.
The Christian life is not easy. The devil, the world, and our own flesh promise to make it difficult. Life for a Christian in this world is a battlefield. Satan and his demons work with all their might to attack Christians, to drive them away from the Faith. It always is his aim and pride, Thy Christian people to divide. Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom He may devour. He seeks to destroy your Faith, the Holy Christian Church, and this parish.
The reality of the battle is taught by Luther. In the catechism, the core of the Christian Faith, he teaches that we are to pray each morning and each evening: Let Thy holy angels be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Or as the Church prays at bedtime prayer: Visit, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this habitation, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy. Let Thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve it in peace and let Thy blessing be always upon us.
But watchful is the angel band / That follows Christ on every hand / To guard His people where they go / And break the council of the foe. (TLH 254:7)
What are the weapons in this battle? Satan and his demons fight with words – lies, half-truths, and deception. They speak words of accusation: “How could you be forgiven after what you’ve done? Do you think God could forgive you?” Or words of temptation: “Did God really say, You may not eat from any tree in the garden. You will not surely die. Doesn’t God want you to be happy? Why don’t you just do whatever would give you pleasure, and get whatever your flesh desires, and put yourself ahead for once.”
What do the angels fight with? As we sang in the Introit: Bless the Lord, ye His angels, that excel in strength: that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His Word. They fight with the Word of truth – not just any true statements, but with Jesus Himself – the Word of God in the flesh, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They fight with the Word of God, who created them. The Word knit together in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Word who was tempted by Satan for us, the Word who touched death to defeat it, the Word who went to the cross for the payment for sin, the Word who rose from the tomb to crush the ancient serpent’s head.
They fight with the Word, who comes to us this day in His Holy Body and Blood. We join in this saving meal with the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, singingHoly, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth, that is, Lord God of angel armies!
Dear Christian, God hath given His angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways
For this, now and in days to be, / Our praise shall rise, O Lord, to Thee, / Whom all the angel hosts adore, / With grateful songs forevermore. (TLH 254:8)
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Monday, September 28, 2009
“True faith has to do with being confronted with Another who makes us relinquish our own calculations and thoughts, wishes and hopes, and who breaks into our lives as a foreign reality, insisting that we recognize him as such. God judges over the world and over all people and faith means to make this judgment one’s own. But the judgment of God over people and their, their will, and their inner life is diametrically opposed to what people want to believe about themselves. Thus whenever God’s Word meets us, it meets us as the enemy. For, wherever God’s Word is portrayed so as to be in accord with people’s hopes and desires and wherever it is accepted as a truth that corresponds with their preconceptions, then we know right away that is not God’s Word we are dealing with.
(I took the picture at the top somewhere near Armitage and Hoyne in Chicago - I cannot remember the name of the church)
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Table Talk recorded by John Schlaginhaufen. Spring, 1532.
Those who are assailed by doubts should be given plenty to eat and drink. Early this morning the devil was disputing with me concerning Zwingli, and I discovered that a person who is well-fed is better fitted for disputation with the devil than a person who is fasting. Think, for example, of the bishop who, when his sister came to him troubled with such great thoughts that she could not free herself from them, have her plenty to eat and drink. Three days later he asked her how she felt.
'Very well,' she replied.
'What has happened to the thoughts that before troubled you?'
'I have quite forgotten them,' she answered.
Accordingly you should eat and drink and enjoy yourself. Those who are afflicted with spiritual temptations should be given plenty to eat and drink, but whoremongers and those assailed by lust should fast.
(From Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel. Translated and edited by Theodore G. Tappert)
(painting from Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a detail of 'Peasant Wedding' 1568)
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I have been enjoying Bach’s Brandenburg concertos this week. J.S. Bach presented them in 1721 while “Kapellmeister,” the music director in the small town of Coethen. I have the recording from the English Chamber Orchestra - Benjamin Britten. I think I have neglected Bach's "secular works," - though I am sure he saw all his music as reflecting the glory of God and Christ's incarnation - so am looking forward to exploring more.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
15th Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 6:24-34)
The Rev. Gary W. Schultz, Pastor
Mount Calvary Ev. Lutheran Church - Eagle Grove, IA
Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church - Rowan, IA
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
We have a lot of things that we think we need. We cling to things that it seems we can’t live without. For example, probably all of us have some savings or investments set aside somewhere. This is really a remarkable thing in the history of the world: for regular, common people like ourselves to have extra money – money that we really don’t need right now. And so, we set it aside. And we watch it. And we become anxious over it. When the stock market falls, or interest rates go down, we become very anxious.
It’s true of other things, too. We all – children and adults – have toys. We have collections of things and possessions that are our pride and joy. If they are taken away, we feel we’ve lost something great. Yet, life still goes on.
Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “No one can serve two masters, for wither he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” It’s a matter of what our god is. It’s a matter of what we look to the most for peace of mind and comfort.
Jesus does not say that we have to get rid of all of our stuff. But we do have to get rid of our trust in those things. We have all learned the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods,” and that we are to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. This is commanded for our own good. Our wrong trust in other things actually causes our anxiety.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Jesus knows that anxiety plagues us. He uses the word “anxious” six times in this short section. Although we believe that God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayer, even to all evil people, we pray that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. We still doubt. That’s the work of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. We always think “Oh, if I could just do it myself, If I could just have this one more thing I want, just a little more money,” I would not be anxious.
There is a lot of doubt about these words of Jesus: Do not be anxious. “Oh, sure, Jesus, that’s easy for you to say. You have connections. Oh, sure, Jesus, that’s easy for you to say, you don’t know about my bills, my credit card statements, my doctor visits and medical problems, the bullies I deal with at school, the jerks that I work with, how difficult my life is at home or with members of my family. God, you really have no business telling me not to worry.”
And that’s where we go wrong. For Jesus does know how things are here.
There is a big error out there that says the Gospel, the good news of the church, is basically that God is nice, like a kindly old grandfatherly person smiling down from the clouds. There is a big error out there that says that the Gospel, the good news of the church, is that the Gospel is about warm and fuzzy things, pleasant things, or witty sayings like in Reader’s Digest.
I often receive these calendars in the mail, with nice pictures and Bible verses on them, like this stream and beautiful white rocks and the fall leaves beginning to change. And at the bottom it says, “The Lord showed miraculous signs and wonders – Deuteronomy 6:22." But if you look up Deuteronomy 6:22, it is talking about the miraculous signs our Lord did when He delivered the Israelites from bondage and slavery to the unbelieving heathen Egyptians.
We do not look to nature to find God, like this beautiful picture from New Hampshire, or in sunsets, or the Grand Canyon. Those are wonderful things, but they are not the Gospel.
We can’t say “God, you don’t know about my life, You have no business telling me not to be anxious.” Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost by the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried. The third day He rose again from the dead.
The Gospel is not separated from Body and Blood. God became Body and Blood in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This is the incarnation: God became man. The Gospel is not separated from Body and Blood. This is why Jesus offered up His Body on the cross, for the atonement – the payment for sins. As the Israelites were delivered by the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes so that death would pass over, so Jesus’ Blood is painted on the doorpost of your heart, that death passed over you. This is why the crucifix is such a wonderful Christian symbol, the center of all Christian art and images.
The Gospel is not separated from Body and Blood. The night before He was betrayed, our Lord said: “This is My Body, this is My Blood, shed for you for the remission of sins.” His Supper is the Gospel delivered to you. “This Sacrament is the Gospel” (Luther). Jesus’ words: “This is My Body, This is My Blood” are the sum and substance of the Gospel (Luther).
Dear Christians, do not be anxious. Jesus took all anxiety and the sin that causes it into Himself. It was crucified with Him on the cross and buried with Him in the tomb. He takes your anxiety and gives you His perfection. Jesus walks with you through this life. That’s why we pray in the Introit: Be merciful unto me, O Lord, for I cry unto Thee daily.
As He sent miraculous signs and wonders to deliver His people Israel from slavery and bondage to the unbelieving heathen Egyptians, so He sends miraculous signs and wonders to you, in His Word and Supper, to deliver you, the true Israel of the Church from slavery and bondage to the Egypt of the devil, the world, and the sinful nature.
Jesus delivers His Church – His Israel. You are in His church. As we prayed: O Lord, we beseech Thee, let Thy continual pity cleanse and defend Thy Church; Jesus gives His help and goodness to you.
You are in the church. Saved. Worry-free. Amen.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
The presentation yesterday was at St. John’s in Wheaton, Illinois. The following are notes that I scribbled down...
Christians by the very nature of baptism are enlisted on the front lines of spiritual battle. Though it is commonly thought spiritual warfare is waged outside the boundaries of the Christian community, it is more so within the Christian community. Spiritual affliction (tentatio) is not just for new converts coming to spiritual truths but is more so for those maturing in age and faith. Temptation and affliction gets worse.
Neglect of the elderly who are at forefront of spiritual battle is troubling. In the church we are often obsessed with meeting the desires of the youth at the expense of the elderly.
“Fighting the Good Fight,” in reference to the words of St. Paul is not “out there” but is local – holding on to faith itself. The battleground takes place in the conscience of every Christian. Who rules the conscience – Satan or Christ? Satan hurls condemnation at us for a bad conscience.
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus prays “Deliver us from the evil one.” However, Jesus, has no sin, therefore he has no need for this petition in and of himself. Jesus, however, identifies himself with us, “Deliver us(in union with church)” from the evil one. Jesus condescends to do our bidding and fight and win the battle “for us.”
In reference to Revelation 12: The woman (church) is unassailable by Satan. The man child born of the woman (Christ) “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (v. 10). The accuser is always Satan, who targets the church and always accuses.
The church however, is unassailable, and Satan goes after Christians – to isolate them – and separate them from their faith. He attacks those first who are faithful and confessing. “We are under enormous spiritual attack for being a faithful Christian congregation” – Dr. Kleinig.
Satan disorders all things – creates disunity – chaos – enmity – aims to deceive us. Satan knows Scriptures inside out and makes them a lie to us. Satan even uses the great Reformation breakthrough, “Justification by grace through faith in Christ alone,” twisting it to mean, “Do not do good works!” “Satan” comes from the Hebrew word, meaning someone who prosecutes. Devil from Greek “Diabolos” means “slanderer.” Satan slanders – lies – twists – Christ and the truth in order to destroy and separate us from faith.
For unbelievers Satan “excuses sin.” For believers he condemns/accuses us of sin, “You are guilty, not saved, and you are a fraud.” He gets us in our vocations, “You are a hypocrit and fraud of a seminarian..etc.. (my modification from Kleinig’s example), son, student, worker, etc.”
Based upon Rev. 12 the two weapons by which the church “overcomes” Satan – by the Blood of the Lamb and holding to the testimony of Jesus (v. 11).
Satan uses guilt to attack the conscience and anger to destroy faith. Anger creates “collateral damage.” We reply offenses in our heads – I think of offenses of another – and we makes enemies of one another – hate each other.
I sit in God’s seat and pronounce judgment on others by slandering and condemning person – and I murder them in my heart – I execute with my tongue – condemn to death. When we hold to anger we cannot act lovingly but lash out indiscriminately. Satan is behind these reverberations and behind all fallout.
Satan loves isolating us from Christ and other Christians. We are easy to pick off. Dr. Kleinig makes observation from personal pastoral care that most Christians leaves church based upon what Pastor/or other Christian says or does – some sort of offense, however petty it may be. Therefore, we are capable of actually destroying peoples faith (though Satan is behind this).
Saint Paul makes an allowance for anger, “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). We sin when we “hang on” to anger. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” – do not carry anger day to day. Anger is the “root cause” of depression. Anger rots the inside. When we hold on to our anger we say “Come on in devil, make a home in my heart.” Satan feeds on anger – don’t let anger live and Satan has nothing to feed on.
Satan digs up the dirt on us, exposes it, magnifies it, and throws it at us. 10 Commandments serve as spiritual examination/diagnostic tool to confess sins I commit, also with an awareness of sins committed against me. Take that which is in the dark and bring it to light of Gospel.
Concerning spiritual warfare, “We are not involved in a search and destroy mission.” We do not need to go out on a spiritual crusade but rather “man our post.” We are to take up our post as “sentry guard.” We guard our post, the holy plot of territory already won for us by Christ. We protect the place where God has “put us” (vicar, son, student, friend, member of congregation – my insert here). I do sentry duty here.
Satan tempts us to go out and fight elsewhere and neglect our post/station. We need to attend to our posts and stay awake spiritually in them – attending to spiritual concerns of those around us: guilt, shame, anger etc. And we attend not with Bible bashing but with prayer in daily life and prayer at the altar when we receive the Lord’s Supper.
In reference to Ephesians 6, we “borrow” all weaponry from Christ. Spiritual warfare and sentry duty are done through prayer, praying for those around us. We are not called to battle the enemy – Jesus Christ does our fighting for us – we plead that Christians may be called to repentance and preserved in the Church.
Spiritual warfare is not “out there” in politics, society, etc but close. First enemy that Satan seeks are pastors, followed by teachers and leader in the church. With sentry duty we pray for family and friends and bring their names to the altar and communion rail – into holy space.
Four key points: 1) Satan keeps us away from church. 2) Satan aims to separate us from the Word and prayer. Prayer is supernatural power which routes satan – we cannot by our own faculties/cleverness outsmart satan. 3) Satan seeks us in the bed room – in marriage – by getting between spouses – thereby hampering faith. 4) Pastors often loose footing through Satan’s attacks in and among their family.
Closing Luther idea/quote “The devil is the comforter of the faithful.” Luther struggled with believing sins were forgiven. Temptation is comfort because it is proof that I am saved and brought into Christ. That is why Satan sets to work so hard on us.
The devil is comforter of the faithful.
The worst temptation is no temptation.