Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thy Kingdom Come

The Virgin and Child under an Apple Tree painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder around 1520. Now in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.  What does this mean?  The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come?  God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

It is an extraordinary act of faith to pray “Thy Kingdom come.”  We are asking and begging God for something that we do not see with our eyes.  We pray for something that seems to lie well beyond us, an elusive dream – a distant land.      

God’s everlasting Kingdom – that eternal reign of heaven – seems like an idea that we just say with our lips and don’t really believe.  And we often wonder whether that kingdom is just that – an idea, nothing more – a nice idea to make us all feel nice for the time being.  Kind of like a fairy tale, just made up to make us sleep a little better during the night.
Let’s face it.  The month of March in the Midwest can be pretty miserable.  We have had months of winter.  Gray skies, bare trees, and bitter cold.  March in the Midwest is kind of our desert experience – our temptation in the wilderness.  We are tempted to despair - tempted to give up.  Seasonal depression reaches an all time high in March.  Our hearts and attitudes in this lingering winter often become as hard and cold as the frozen snow covered ground outside.
In the world of politics, our own country is gridlocked in a clash of cold and stubborn wills.  Few times in history have been more polarized.  There is little harmony here.  Fighting over foreign wars, healthcare, and a catalog of ethical subjects.      

Yet more than anything – more than the weather and more than political infighting – it is our sinful condition that seems to separate us from the kingdom of God, and its coming to us.  We do not live, pray, work, and sleep as if the Father were our Father.  We do not naturally hallow his name and entrust all to His heavenly care, in all things. 

We go about our lives nervously, anxious about many things.  The pettiness and infighting in politics is evident in our own lives, where we hold an endless list of grievances against others; against friends, family, and coworkers.    
We often plead to God that our Kingdom come, rather than His Kingdom.  Secretly we ask that our name be hallowed rather than His name.  When Jesus was coming to the river Jordan, John the Baptizer, yelled out “Repent, the Kingdom of heaven is drawing near!”  That Kingdom drawing near – that Kingdom coming was the King himself. 

Whenever you hear the words of Jesus spoken to you, there you hear the sounds of the Kingdom of heaven.  When you see your Christian brothers and sisters coming to kneel at the Lord’s Supper, there you see the Kingdom of heaven being made visible.  When you hear preaching and the forgiveness of sins you can be sure that the Kingdom has come to you.  When you sing praises to God in the midst of the congregation, here is your foretaste of that Kingdom that is coming. 

When His Kingdom comes there will be no cold days…There is no political infighting – everyone is of one will – and one accord. 

If you want to live in the Kingdom of God, and you want it to come to you, you do not have to look far.  Have humility and compassion.  Our Lord tells us to be merciful to one another and to speak the truth in love.  If we desire virtue and godliness the kingdom of heaven will blossom in our hearts.

God’s kingdom is not just talk.  It is not something of our imagination.  God’s kingdom consists of nothing other than piety, purity, gentleness and kindness.  In short, Thy Kingdom consists of nothing other than Jesus Christ himself.

As we journey through the kingdom of this world toward His heavenly Kingdom, through the valley of the shadow of death, we will not fear.  The Kingdom of Heaven has come.  And whats more it has come to us, whom hear the voice of Jesus and gather around His Word.  For wherever Jesus speaks there is His Kingdom and there He is making His church.  Nothing is left to chance. 
The cold ground will be warmed by the sun and our hearts will be warmed by the Gospel message.  The trees will bud and the sun will shine with a new brightness that will never fade. Politics will cease and peace will reign.      

The Kingdom is not an idea.  It is not a fairy tale.  It is your home, your place of birth and your resting place.  It is where you can fully be you – just who you are.  For the Kingdom coming has been prepared for you since the beginning.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.                

Friday, February 19, 2010

Into Lent

Rembrandt van Rijn 'Bathsheba at Her Bath' 1654 - Musée du Louvre, Paris

"Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice, With exultation springing, And with united heart and voice And holy rapture singing, Proclaim the wonders God has done, How His right arm the vict’ry won.  What price our ransom cost Him!"

It may seem strange at the beginning of Lent to rejoice, with exultation springing.  Now is the time for quiet, somber reflection on our sins, so we must save our Alleluias for Easter morning.  However, in the midst of repentance and confessing sins to one another, we give thanks, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Ps. 51:15).  

Repentance and confessing is not something we do before worship, that worship may finally begin.  Repentance, sorrow, and deep contrition are not antecedents to worship, but ARE worship, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17).      

King David submitted this psalm after being rebuked by Nathan over his sin.  He had taken Bathsheba into his bed, the wife of the pious and faithful Uriah the Hittite.  When she became pregnant, David, in order to cover up his sin planned a variety of schemes to live with his sin, ending with giving an order to kill Uriah on the field of battle.  David thought he could live with his sin and to clean up the mess on his own.  God in his mercy however, sends a servant Nathan to rebuke David, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?”  Nathan goes on to recount and expose David’s sin, bringing it into light, “For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun” (12:12).
David confesses, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  Nathan absolves, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” - forgiven for adultery, deceit, murder, and the multitude of secret sins.  When we hear this absolution in the Christian congregation we hear the Passover verdict, that death has indeed passed over our households.  The final judgment is spoken ahead of time, “I as a called and ordained servant announce to you…”  In a confessing Christian congregation forgiveness ought never be presented as an offer, an option, or choice.  The absolution happens – faith receives that word spoken.  Something happens.  The heavens open, God speaks and a reality happens – sinners are declared saints.   

There is often a lot of talk about “having a relationship with God.”  Everybody has a relationship with God.  It is impossible not to.  We are either living with our sins, hiding from his law, and dying in our sins, or we are dying to our sin – that is being forgiven and restored.  We are either evading and spurning Christ’s gifts or we are receiving them.  We either despise absolution, heard from a pastor as from God himself, or we rejoice in it.  We are either under his wrath or under his mercy.  David cannot opt out of one or the other.  He cannot remain neutral.  He cannot cover his sin.  He cannot live apart from wrath or grace.  And no one can evade God, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Ps. 139:7-8).

Like David, we make a giant error, when we think that we can evade our sin and evade God.  Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, was a sobering reminder of our mortality, our sin, and that final enemy Death.  In God’s mercy he sends to us a Nathan in a pastor or Christian brother who says, “You have despised the word of the Lord…you have sinned against Him and have sinned against your neighbor…the penalty for sin is death.”  Those ashes marked on our foreheads with that cross of Christ remind us, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Repent.  Christ calls us to repent of our scheming and our plotting.  We are called to repent from our self-righteousness.  We are called to repent for evading God and His holy word, “Where are you Adam?”  To dust we shall we return.  Yet, in our return to the dust we share in the life of Another.

“The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man,so also are those who are heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:47-48). 

The focus of lent therefore is not that old man of the dust but upon that second Man, the new Adam – that new creation Jesus Christ.  We repent.  We change our gaze and orientation away from ourselves to ‘ourselves in Jesus Christ’ looking unto “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

In death, ashes are raised by the Word of God, “Son of man, can these bones live?...O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  Thus says the Lord God to these bones: ‘Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.  I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek. 37:3-6). 

"Jesus, grant that balm and healing
In your holy wounds I find,
Ev'ry hour that I am feeling
Pains of body and of mind.
Should some evil thought within
Tempt my treach'rous heart to sin,
Show the peril, and from sinning
Keep me from its first beginning"    
(LSB 421 stanza 1)   


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gregorio Allegri - Miserere Mei, Deus (Psalm 51)

Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut iustificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum iudicaris.
Ecce enim in inquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.
Asperges me, hyssopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.
Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.
Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.
Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.
Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.
Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea iustitiam tuam.
Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.
Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.
Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.
Tunc acceptabis sacrificium iustitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.

Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness: according to the multitude of
Thy mercies do away mine offences.
Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged.
Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
Thou shalt purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.
Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
O give me the comfort of Thy help again: and stablish me with Thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach Thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of Thy righteousness.
Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew Thy praise.
For Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: but Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise.
O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon Thine altar.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

As a Hen Gathers Her Brood

"How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" (Luke 13:34).

When I was young, my parents, once every year would take my sister and I to a farm in western Wisconsin for a short vacation.  I know a farm in western Wisconsin is probably not a number one hot spot destination, but for a young Wisconsin boy like myself, this is a sort of holy pilgrimage without equal.  Where else can a kid swing from a giant rope swing among haystacks in the barn?  And go fishing in the creek behind the farmhouse, where we stayed?  Every morning the rooster would crow to roust me from sleep.  And that meant it was time to play.  No school, no homework, no television.  The agenda was just to run to the barn to swing from the giant rope swing and yell Geronimo!  Or, I could just wander around the farm, and explore all the mysteries it held.  For a young boy’s imagination, however, nothing was more interesting than watching and interacting with all the animals.

Horses grazed on the other side of the fence, often pausing to eat, to look around.  Pigs snorted in the pig pen.  Ducks and geese paddled along in the creek.  Dogs and cats walked around as they pleased.  I even liked the mice that burrowed into the haystacks in the barn.  But what I loved most were the yellow and white baby chics that would shuffle around the yard following their mother, in her daily work, attending to the chics with food and keeping them away from trouble.

If I wanted to really have fun I could sneak along close to those baby chics to see them waddle along, but wherever they went the mother hen was with them.  When I would get close to her little congregation the mother hen would stretch out her wings to cover that little assembly of chics.  One thing was sure – that mother hen was not going to let me – a foreign threat – near her children.     
In our Gospel reading today our Lord likens himself to a hen, saying, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!”  It is interesting that our Lord compares Himself, His work, and His love to that of a hen.  A hen is a female, a mother of a brood of chics – opposite the rooster which is the male chicken.  We are probably all more comfortable and used to God’s more macho and manly attributes – He is the Lion of Judah, the warrior King, the God who fought for Moses and the Israelites against the Amalekites in battle.  Our Lord, however, is not embarrassed or uncomfortable to in the same breath compare Himself to a mother hen – who throws out her wings over her chicks – to wage war against any threat – foreign or domestic.

There is nothing like the protection of a mother.  I have heard of mothers doing crazy things for their children.  There are all kinds of incredible stories out there about this.  Periodically in the news you hear about a mother who lifts an entire car to release their pinned child trapped underneath.  Mothers run into burning building to save their children.  Or you hear stories about a mother giving a child a new kidney or life saving organ.  Mother’s violently fight against any threat whatsoever it is that faces their child – it does not matter how great it is.  When a mother feels that a child is threatened it is as if her own flesh and blood is threatened, for that child of her womb is of her own body – that child whom she birthed and nursed.  If necessary mothers will die protecting their children, and do so without thinking twice about it.     
In my case, on the farm, that mother hen would stop at nothing to shelter her chics under the shadow of her wings.  She gathered that fluffy assembly of chics all around her and would never release her wings. 

Like a protective mother, our Lord tenderly gathers His Christian congregation around him.  He ministers to every need with fatherly compassion and the warm gentleness of a mother.  As Isaiah records the Words of the Lord “And you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees.  As one whom his mother comforts so I will comfort you” (Is. 66:12b-13a). 

If earthly mothers, even hens, love and protect their children, how much more does our heavenly Father, the creator of the heavens and earth, love and protect us?  We, who left and rebelled against His paradise in Eden – we, who left His flock – we, who hid from his outstretched hand.  God has not left nor departed.  He was so grieved in His heart, he cried out and lament, “Adam where are you!”  He promised to send a son – the seed of a woman – to crush the enemies head – and gather us once again into His holy presence.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem – dearest congregation – how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”  And to gather his flock, He went to Jerusalem – into hostile territory – to stretch out his arms – and to defend all of his little ones.

In the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, He does bloody battle against all enemies and threats – foreign and domestic.  He covers our sin, covers the sins of those who sin against us, and He defends us from all physical and spiritual perils.  He goes to the cross scorning its shame, and pours out his gifts and gentle speaking in the tender compassions of a loving mother.   

He washes, anoints, and blesses his children.  He bathes us in His rich life-giving waters and marks us with his blood.  By stretching out His wings He preens and prunes – He beautifies and feeds.  When He feels that you have strayed from the assembly He will extend his wings and bring you back in.   
We are the apple of His eye and under the shadow of His wings we will shout with joy.  We have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd.  He has gathered us as a mother hen gathers her chics.  And He protects and guides us as a valiant mother hen protects her chics from all the wild animals in the night.  There are no limits to what He has done.  ‘He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.’

And though we are often tempted and threatened by the perils of the night – and face further dangers during this earthly life - the trumpets of Easter morning can already be heard – and you will see Him for yourself – and rest safely in the shadow of His wings.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.  

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Meditation on Psalm 22:13

(the "mocking of Christ" Matthias Grunewald 1503) 
“They open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion” (Ps. 22:13)
Wherever the suffering Christ is found pouring himself out and preaching to His church, there you will find scoffers and those who seek to undermine the Gospel.  It is a blessed and holy mark of the church to encounter those demonic forces that seek to disrupt and deceitfully ridicule our suffering Christ, directing us away from the holy sounds of His preaching and that blessed bread and blessed cup.  Wherever we find opposition to those pure teachings of Christ, we can be certain that the living Christ is in our midst, highly exalting us by bringing us into His hallowed wounds.  In those wounds there is glory and peace to His people on earth.        
That ravening and roaring evil one, for all his dreadful noise and violent accusations, has been shut up and put on his belly to eat his share – the dust of death.  And the portion of the Christian church is the Supper of immortal life given and shed for all open mouths in salutary eating and drinking.    
During this Lenten season our Lord kindly invites us to put the names of our enemies unto our lips and bring them to His altar, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and “forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”  Lord, we pray that you quiet their mouths and place forgiveness unto their lacerating lips.  Anoint their heads with the oil of divine mercy and join us all into that heavenly reconciliation.  Amen.
“He bears the stripes, the wounds, the lies, The mockery, and yet replies, All this I gladly suffer” (LSB 438 stanza 1).  

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Returning to Gerhard

Recently I have been returning to the prayers of Johann Gerhard in Meditations on Divine Mercy, translated by Matthew C. Harrison.  These prayers are nothing less than sublime and are incredible resources for the teaching of pure doctrine and Christian piety.  This excerpt comes from a prayer on “Thanksgiving for the Sacrament of the Altar,”

“From now on, I cannot doubt the forgiveness of sins because it is affirmed by my partaking of the price that was offered for my sins, the very blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 1:5; 5:9).  From now on, I cannot doubt the indwelling of Christ because it is sealed for me in the imparting of His body and blood.  From now on , I cannot doubt the assistance of the Holy Spirit because my weakness is strengthened by such a support.  I do not fear the plots of Satan because this angelic food strengthens me to do battle.  I do not fear the lures of the flesh because this life-giving and spiritual food strengthens me by the power of the spirit.  I eat and drink this food so Christ may dwell in me and I in Christ.  The Good Shepherd will not allow the sheep, fed by His body and blood, to be devoured by the infernal wolf.  He will not allow the strength of the Spirit to be overcome by the weakness of my flesh.  Praise, honor, and thanksgiving to You, O Kindest Savior, forever.  Amen." 

You may purchase this little devotional book HERE. 

I wrote a short exposition on the Lord’s Supper HERE as to how a Lutheran confesses this precious sacrament compared to Calvinists and Rome.

Monday, February 1, 2010

First Encounter with Music and Theology of J.S. Bach

My first encounter with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was in the spring of 2007, with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, with a presentation of the six Brandenburg Concertos.  At this time I knew virtually nothing at all about Bach, maybe at best a wig wearing German who often makes an appearance at dinner parties or reception dinners, just one of many baroque composers.  I probably thought of him as the possession or interest of the cultural elite, but oh how wrong I was.  As I walked into that first encounter with the music of Bach I anticipated another ‘performance’ under the vague and general category ‘classical music’ in the ‘baroque’ period.  The name of ‘Bach’ was in every way, at this time, indistinguishable from the names Handel, Vivaldi, or Purcell.   

It is difficult to identify what was so captivating in those concertos, because I am hardly a musician, not a scholar, and know nothing about music theory and little of history.  Yet I was immediately awakened by that opening first concerto.  Though maybe, I lacked a sufficient understanding at the time, I knew intuitively in those concertos, that they dealt with the ‘truth’ in the highest sense – a confession of universal truth and harmony rooted in that harmony of God himself.  Bach’s own student would later write, “Music is a mixed and mathematical science that concerns the origins, attributes, and distinctions of sound, out of which a cultivated and lovely melody and harmony are made, so that God is honored and praised but mankind is moved to devotion, virtue, joy, and sorrow.” 

Eminent Bach scholar Christoph Wolff likens Bach’s innovation in music to Newton’s discoveries in science, opening up understanding of the natural world – the laws of motion, universal gravitation, space, time, mass and dynamics, even history and biblical exegesis (Newton’s interest in his latter years).  Newton captured that timeless pre-enlightenment belief, that all discoveries “pointed to the operations of God.”  Wolff writes in his prologue to Bach: The Learned Musician:

“For Bach, schooled in seventeenth-century thought, the concept that music formed a branch of the liberal arts quadrivium was still as valid as it had been for Johannes Kepler, who promoted the view that music mirrored the harmony of the universe.  Music, then, with its traditional mathematical underpinning, provided an especially rich field of operation for a composer who was increasing infected with scientific curiosity, totally uninterested in ‘dry exercises in musical craftsmanship,’ but thoroughly committed to advancing ‘true music,’ which Bach defined as music that pursued as its ‘ultimate end or final goal…the honor of God and the recreation of the soul.”[1]     

It was in my first hearing of Bach, in the Brandenburg Concertos, that I heard that “true music” and its refreshment – receiving that recreation of the soul.  As a student in the university system, “truth,” was a possession hard to come by.  For all students dealing with the plagues of relativism, multiculturalism, and secular humanism, it is held that “truth” itself is a myth, of course, as long as you are not making a celebratory case for Marxism.  Most universities are not interested in “truth,” “the harmony of the universe,” or the “honor of God and the recreation of the soul.”  Instead of that love for truth and beauty most curriculum are interested in untruth and destroying the idea of beauty and harmony.  Being in the Milwaukee area, most professors are of Jewish origin, and the Jewish mind dominates the intellectual and philosophical life, going back to Spinoza (impersonal abstract god/religion of nature), Karl Marx(communism), Sigmund Freud (infantile sexuality), and Peter Singer (perversions too extensive to list), in short carrying out those tired goals of the Frankfurt School

In short the university system can be a godless place, a spiritual and nihilistic waste land, where young minds are destroyed by degenerate Marxist professors and sexual predators.  We ought to pray without ceasing for those hard-working parents who work tirelessly to send their children to the university, in hopes for greater opportunities and education.  Little do they know, that those impressionable young students are sent in as lambs among wolves, to have their faith mocked and ravaged, and to be enlisted in the ranks of class warfare, covetousness, lewd and licentious behavior.  It is common for those young students to come home after their first re-education program, hating their socially conservative bourgeois parents.

My first encounter with J.S. Bach was a musical snatching out of the depths – a retrieval from that atonal and dissonant noise of Marxist theory and covert revolutionary instruction.  That highest creed in the university is that there is no other truth that what I may have in the mental constructs of my own scull, and even that ought not be trusted.  Or in Kant’s words that we can never directly know the noumena, the "things-in-themselves," but only that dim construction or representations in our heads.  Therefore ‘reality’ is relegated within the thrashing inner recesses of the individualized consciousness. 

Hearing Bach is a musical and poetic encounter with truth.  Those Brandenburg concertos, along with Goldberg Variations and the unfinished Art of Fugue(my favorite), though considered outside of his sacred works, are very much sacred pieces.  The idea of a secular work for Bach would have been inconceivable for countless reasons, one particularly unambiguous bit of evidence being that he appended his initials with “SDG,” or “Soli Deo Gloria,” “to the glory of God alone.”  Bach, being a genius steward of that gift of music, knew musics’ origin, its high purpose, and the ultimate chief musician God himself.  When music is received and directed toward that goal; to the glory of God alone, notation will be moved away from that timid and confused inner Kantian consciousness toward that bold confession of God as creator, preserver, and sanctifier – seen, heard, and apprehended not as mirage but in flesh - that confession of Christ in the three ecumenical creeds.  Music will be speaking back to God from what He himself has first spoken.

In this way, the music of Bach is an antidote against being cast into a world of subjectivity, inward retreat, and denial.  One of our country’s “leading” universities Berkley University was founded in celebration of George Berkeley, who called into question the very existence of matter itself, reviving that confused Jewish/Kaballah truth-hating maxim “nothingness without end.”

This sacred music of J.S. Bach provides rest and recreation for the soul.  He safeguards the human mind and soul from philosophical and ontological perversions because he preaches in that sacred language known from the beginning of time, that speaks of God in Jesus Christ and His self-giving to all creation – poured out for all.  It rescues us from that inward retreat (incurvatus est) – “that nothingness without end” – away from speculation – into that chorale dance that begins when God speaks and the human creature hears and responds.          

[1] Wolff, Christoph. Johann Sebastian Bach. W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. 9. Print.

State of the Union

I finally found some time to listen to President Obama’s state of the Union Address which was presented last Wednesday.  I was unable to watch at the time because I was teaching the junior high students at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church the seventh petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “But deliver us from evil.”  What does this mean?  “We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven” (Luther’s Small Catechism).  After class is over, the students play basketball or games in the gym and then we close with evening prayer in the nave of the church. 

From the get go the ego-centric nature of the address was incredibly obvious.  I have never heard so much “I” language in any State of the Union speech.  I have probably been watching state of the union speeches for the last 15 years, the imperative to watch was usually strongly set forth by my parents, who understood that an educated and engaged citizenry is necessary for a strong republic.  In this speech however, the focus and reference point was hardly a sovereign country, with borders, and a people of its own.  That reference point was Obama, “One year ago I took office…,” going on to announce all the problems he inherited.
The most peculiar part of the speech that kept recurring is the bizarre insistence that government creates jobs and grows the economy.  President Obama spoke often about the jobs he is “creating,” even though there is a much more significant level of unemployment now than when he first took office.  Where does this idea come from, that the government “creates jobs” or creates anything for that matter.  The government takes, shifts (steals) wealth, intrudes, and constricts.  Government is incapable of “creating” anything. 

New programs, new bills, new green jobs are those catch words used in the speech for a little trickery, as if government creates and grows anything.  The growth of government destroys wealth, it does not create it.  The only thing that creates jobs is wealth and unfettered capitalism.  It has already been noted by other critics that Obama’s ‘change’ campaign is a revivification of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s failed “New Deal” philosophy that by exponentially increasing the size of the federal government a country can reign down prosperity from above.  It was a horrible idea and prolonged the depression for an unnecessary amount of time.  It was a bad idea then and it still is a bad idea. 

If we are to have a strong economy and prosperity for all, government is not the solution, government is always the problem.  Government gets in the way.  Government cannot nurture – it cannot love or comfort.  Government is cold and sterile.  It does not ‘create,’ ‘empower,’ or ‘motivate’ but does the very opposite.  Go visit any DMV or Post Office and see how cozy you feel there.  Government does not create - it either steals or shifts around wealth.  For my socialist friends, I usually ask for one example world-wide where a country has taxed and stole their way into prosperity.  I am still looking for a single example. 

How can the idea that the government ‘creates jobs’ be taken seriously?  I hope we can collectively come to the consensus soon that socialism in whatever form it takes is poor for the country.  The only way that socialism can hold even the most miniscule tidbits of feasibility is if you have a citizenry with a a growing and multiplying population.  If boys and girls just want to have fun, pollute wombs with birth control and play with rubber balloons on their sexual organs, putting off marriage and family, there will be nobody to pay for your socialist programs.  Very simple math.  If the birthrate is decreasing (true for U.S.) and population aging, why would you increase the size of federal government?  Yes, we cannot.  If I knew anything about law, had any power, or had lawyer friends, I would file a lawsuit against the federal government, on behalf of the unborn plaintiffs whom are being buried in the irresponsible spending of the government.

It is the governments proper work to curb evil, while promoting justice and mercy.  When government becomes a force that threatens and destroys life (abortion/euthanasia/entitlements and assault upon nuclear family) then it has departed from its legitimate use of governance and power.  This will be something to prayerfully consider in these latter days.  I have already written on the correlation between Religious Culture and Market Laws HERE. 

“O merciful Father in heaven, from You comes all rule and authority over the nations of the world for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do well.  Graciously regard Your servants, those who make, administer, and judge the laws of this nation, and look in mercy upon all the rulers of the earth.  Grant that all who receive the sword as Your servants may bear it according to Your command.  Enlighten and defend them, and grant them wisdom and understanding that under their peaceable governance Your people may be guarded and directed in righteousness, quietness, and unity.  Protect and prolong their lives and we with them may show forth the praise of Your name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Pastoral Care Companion, p. 638).