Distressingly upsetting as this is, we can be thankful for this resource. Caution: for mature audiences only!
My colleague, Rev. Robert Baker, served us well here at CPH this morning in our chapel service with this message for Valentine’s Day. A blessed Valentine’s Day to you and yours!
1 John 4:7-21
Dearly beloved, Love has a face.
Love has a face, hands and feet, fingers and toes. In fact, one can say that love comes packaged in human flesh. Bundles of joy, spousal delight, the rush of emotion when seeing our kids after a long day’s work, the stroking of the silvery hair as the eyes dull and the breathing becomes labored and finally stops. Love, dearly beloved, has a face.
We live in a world that tells us that Love has no face. This faceless love, the world says, lies within us. It has a name, to be sure. But no face. It is feeling, emotion, or arousal, all within the misty confines of our hearts. It is love of ourselves; the kind of love where whatever it is inside our hearts has placed upon it photo shopped image of another. Self-love, but not face-love.
The apostle John, writing late in the first century AD, saw Love face-to-face. He saw and he heard and he ate and he drank and he wept and he rejoiced in this Love. John saw that Love does come from God. This Love is so powerful that it gives new spiritual birth. This Love is so meaningful it allows one to know God. This Love is proof of God’s Love because it is God’s Love. This Love exudes and imparts eternal life. This Love sacrifices itself and in so doing bleeds and dies and atones for our sins. This Love gives us freely of God’s Spirit. This Love, of whom John bears witness, has a face. This Love is Jesus.
Our knowledge of this Love is complete and nothing is lacking. But among us this “love is made complete” by living in this Love and loving in this Love. The same love of God, the same love of Jesus, is loving someone with a face. You, loving the face, the hands and feet, the fingers and toes, of another.
The world doesn’t know this love. It does not know that “God is love.” It only knows its own self. It only serves itself. It has no confidence, but only the “fear of judgment.”
But you know this Love, because this Love-with-a-face has looked into your face. The Word of Love you need to hear in a sermon or in Christian conversation. The Word of Love in the means of grace. Love gazing upon you graciously and lovingly so that you are enabled and inspired to love one another.
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so,” John writes, “we know and rely on the love God has for us.” We know and rely on God’s Love. We know this Love because this Love has a face. And the face of God’s Love is Jesus.
Robert C. Baker
What is about this tune that I find so entirely addictive? And, here’s a bit of movie trivia for you. In what movie did most of you hear this music for the first time?
We attend trade conferences for Christian retailing and one of our folks brought a brochure back advertising a new line of little statues designed to remind people to "stay inspired and to inspire others." The company explains that their goal "is to introduce the most thought provoking, intriguing products imaginable." And their "tag line" for these products is: "Can you see Him? Can you feel Him? Is He with you?"
There is no end to the lengths people will go and the depths of banality to which they will descent when they do not have the Sacraments. That’s the lesson we should learn from this, above all others. When you have no way of receiving Jesus beyond your own emotional responses, nothing to grasp, nothing to take hold of beyond your own human longings, this is what finally results. Tragic irreverence and blasphemous use of our Lord’s precious image. If you care to let the company know what you think of their products, you can drop them an e-mail I called out there to establish that, yes, this is a real company and they are actually in business; hopefully, not for long. And people wonder why we Christians are often regarded not as fools for Christ, but simply as fools.
"I beg and admonish faithfully all devout Christians that they not be offended or stumble over the simple stories related in the Bible, nor doubt them. However poor they may appear, they are certainly the words, history, and judgments of the high divine Majesty, Power, and Wisdom. For this is the book which makes all wise and clever people fools, and can only be understood by simple people, as Christ says (Matthew 11:25). Therefore let go your own thoughts and feelings and esteem this book as the best and purest treasure, as a mine full of great wealth, which can never be exhausted or sufficiently excavated. thus you will find the divine wisdom which God presents in the Bible in a manner so simple that it damps the pride of clever people and brings it to nothing. In this book you find the swaddling clothes and the manger in which Christ lies, and to which the angel directs the shepherds. Those swaddling clothes are shabby and poor, yet precious is the treasure wrapped in them, for it is Christ." –Martin Luther
WA Tischreden 6:16
Day by Day We Magnify Thee
Fortress Press 1982, p. 108
Translated by Margarete Steiner and Percy Scott
Please consider participating in this effort. The need is enormous, the opportunities many, and the good news is that American dollars go a long way in Haiti.
A new rountable discussion is now open on the Book of Concord blog. Join in and talk about the chief article of the Christian faith: justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. I grow concerned when I find Lutherans describing our life in Christ without any mention of: sin, grace, mercy, forgiveness, atonement or righteousness in Christ, not even once. I grow concerned when I read about the Incarnation but not the Atonement, about union with Christ, but not about the blood of Christ, about the presence of Christ, but not the sacrifice of Christ. When this happens, are we being faithful to this, the chief article of our Faith? Check out the BOC blog post, and the beautiful quote from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession that makes it crystal clear why this is such an important issue.
One of my sidelights is photography. I have a Canon 5D, an outstanding camera. But I will be the first to explain to people that more megapixels in a camera do not not mean, necessarily, better photographs Here is a great article explaining the facts and myths about megapixels, from the NY Times
For an industry that’s built
on science, the technology world sure has its share of myths. Thousands
of people believe that forwarding a certain e-mail message to 50
friends will bring great riches, that the gigahertz rating of a
computer is a good comparative speed score, or that Bill Gates once said “640K of RAM ought to be enough for anybody.”
But one myth is so deeply ingrained, millions of people waste money
on it every year. I’m referring, of course, to the Megapixel Myth.
Thanks to Pastor William Cwirla for this sermon on Luke 5:1-11. Here’s a really strange miracle for you: a miraculous catch of
fish. Tailor-made for fishermen, the first of Jesus’ disciples.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John were partners in a fishing business
owned by Zebedee, the father of James and John. Fishermen would
probably not be your first choice for disciple material – rough,
uneducated, quick with cursing, hot-headed at times. Not exactly on
the top ten of most pastoral call lists. But then, that’s Jesus’ way
of doing things – the unlikely way.
He was teaching the crowd
who came to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus co-opts Simon’s
boat and uses it for a pulpit. After the sermon, He tells Simon, “Go
out where the water is deep and let out your nets.”
Now this is
the trust point, and the point of the miracle. Simon may not know
much, but he does know a thing or two about fishing.
Stop over at the Lutheran Confessions blog site for a new post on Article III of the Augsburg Confession, on the Son of God. Let me make a plug for the site. We are talking theology and the conversation is strictly moderated. It’s good stuff. Check it out. Intelligent Lutheran theological conversation. What a novel idea!
Indicating their hands were tied by church rules, the committee hearing the case of an ELCA homosexual pastor who admitted to his bishop that he was in a homosexual relationship ruled that he would be removed from the ELCA clergy roster in August 2007. But its ruling indicated that the rules of the ELCA should be change, for they saw no reason why a man living with another man in a homosexual relationship should be excluded from the office of pastor. Read the extended entry for the complete ELCA news release and the complete decision of the panel. Read it and weep. The slouching toward Gomorrah in the ELCA continues unabated. This "ruling" is empty and hollow. If you want to jump right to the ruling itself, here is a PDF of it: Download elca_decision.pdf
This is awesome. Check out these panoramic views of men on the moon. Incredible. I am truly sorry for anyone too young to have experienced the awe and wonder of the moon explorations live. They also have recordings made during the time these photos were taken of the astronauts singing and talking to each other. After viewing these stunning photos I have but two questions: when are we going back to the moon, and when are we headed for Mars?
Pastor Peperkorn pointed me to Amazon’s price on the complete Bach collection. They have it for $111.00 and free shipping, just a tiny bit less than the Daedelus book web site. Just FYI.
Ran across this fascinating comment by Gregory of Nyssa, from his book on the baptism of our Lord. He discusses how Elijah’s sacrifice prefigures Christian baptism. I am not offering this interpretation as a definitive interpretation of this text, but…as the Church Fathers so often do, they are homiletically applying the texts and helping their hearers draw connections, mindful that all Scripture is suitable for teaching and that all the things that happened in the Old Testament occurred for the sake of the Church and the New Testament. Here then is Gregory’s interesting observation:
The marvelous sacrifice of the old Tishbite [Elijah] that passes all human understanding, what else does it do but prefigure in action the Faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and redemption? For when all the people of the Hebrews had trodden underfoot the religion of their fathers, and fallen into the error of polytheism, and their king Ahab was deluded by idolatry, with Jezebel, of ill-omened name, as the wicked partner of his life, and the vile prompter of his impiety, the prophet, filled with the grace of the Spirit, coming to a meeting with Ahab. He withstood the priests of Baal in a marvelous and wondrous contest in the sight of the king and all the people. By proposing to them the task of sacrificing the bullock without fire, he displayed them in a ridiculous and wretched plight, vainly praying and crying aloud to gods that were not. At last, invoking His his own and the true God, he accomplished the test proposed with further exaggerations and additions. For he did not simply pray and bring down the fire from heaven upon the wood when it was dry, but exhorted and enjoined the attendants to bring an abundance of water. And when he had poured out, three times, the barrels upon the cut wood, he kindled at his prayer the fire from out of the water, that by the contrariety of the elements, so concurring in friendly cooperation, he might show with superabundant force the power of his own God. Now herein, by that wondrous sacrifice, Elijah clearly proclaimed to us the sacramental rite of Baptism that should afterwards be instituted. For the fire was kindled by water thrice poured upon it, so that it is clearly shown that where the mystic water is, there is the kindling, warm, and fiery Spirit, that burns up the ungodly, and illuminates the faithful. Yes, and yet again his disciple Elisha, when Naaman the Syrian, who was diseased with leprosy, had come to him as a suppliant, cleanses the sick man by washing him in Jordan, clearly indicating what should come, both by the use of water generally, and by the dipping in the river in particular. For Jordan alone of rivers, receiving in itself the first-fruits of sanctification and benediction, conveyed in its channel to the whole world, as it were from some fount in the type afforded by itself, the grace of Baptism. These then are indications in deed and act of regeneration by Baptism. Let us for the rest consider the prophecies of it in words and language. Isaiah cried saying, “Wash you, make you clean, put away evil from your souls;” and David, “Draw nigh to Him and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed.” And Ezekiel, writing more clearly and plainly than them both, says, “And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be cleansed: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I give you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh, and my Spirit will I put within you.”
Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Vol. V:522. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems).
Well, as I continue to hear from folks on the issue of sanctification, the latest disturbing thing I’ve run into is that some are suggesting that since Christians are in Christ they really need not give any thought at all to striving to live according to the Ten Commandments since Christ was good for them. Some are saying that for a pastor to talk about how Christians live according to the Commandments in the sermon is inappropriate, particularly after he has preached the Gospel. The most disturbing comment I’ve read of late is the suggestion that a good way to drive home the Gospel’s amazingly good news is to tell people, "Even if you get worse, you can still count on going to heaven, because of Christ." What a dangerous thing to say or suggest.
All this kind of talk flies directly in the face of the Lutheran Confessions, which properly explain the Holy Scriptures. Here is what Martin Luther had to say about some of these things in the Smalcald Articles:
42] On the other hand, if certain sectarists would arise, some of whom are perhaps already extant, and in the time of the insurrection [of the peasants] came to my own view, holding that all those who had once received the Spirit or the forgiveness of sins, or had become believers, even though they should afterwards sin, would still remain in the faith, and such sin would not harm them, and [hence] crying thus: "Do whatever you please; if you believe, it all amounts to nothing; faith blots out all sins," etc.—they say, besides, that if any one sins after he has received faith and the Spirit, he never truly had the Spirit and faith: I have had before me [seen and heard] many such insane men, and I fear that in some such a devil is still remaining [hiding and dwelling]. 43] It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3, 9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, … and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1, 8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article III, lines 42-45