Friday, December 28, 2012

Blue Christmas - White Christmas - No Christmas

The season of Christmas has come.  From Christmas Day, December 25, until Epiphany, Jan 6, the season of observing the birth of the Savior runs.  Twelve Days we have appointed to this special season.

Many people know the song that reflects this, few know the connection.  This is because for most people, Christmas has been lost.  For most people, the season of Christmas begins when the merchants determine to start Christmas sales and ends when the wrapping paper is put out for the trash haulers.  Most people, including most Christians who want to “Keep Christ in Christmas”, hold perceptions regarding Christmas that are based entirely upon people’s untrustworthy feelings.

Even on one of the so-called Christian radio stations, one of the pre-Christmas announcements was a call to “Remember the things that are important this Christmas, friends, family, and the birth of Jesus.”  The stated order very strongly demonstrates the order of importance.  Many people would list family before friends.  Christmas and this time of the holiday season, or Happy Holidays, is a time when people express very openly the sentiments that accompany their awareness of their need for love and belonging or familial connectedness.

Thus there are many songs written expressing these sentiments.  These tend to be very popular.

For example ELVIS Blue Christmas

Most surely everyone can relate to the feelings expressed in this song. All people feel the pull on their heartstrings when separated from one who is loved.  This song especially focuses upon boyfriend/girlfriend and husband/wife relations, but it is powerful for those who treasure any relationship.

“I’ll be home for Christmas” is another very popular song expressing these feelings of desire to be joined with others and especially family.  The song eventually says that the singer will be home for Christmas even if only in his mind.

For many people, the holiday season does become very Blue.  Sometimes a person still feels very alone even when surrounded by friends, family, and the birth of Jesus.

Nostalgia also is felt very strongly during this time of the year.  “White Christmas” is a very popular song expressing this.  Some people actually even say things like, “I’ve been praying for snow for Christmas.  It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without snow.”  Even for someone like me, a native Floridian, this music and words of this song evoke nostalgic feelings, even though I never even saw snow until I was at the seminary in St. Louis and I still do not like snow.

White Christmas

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten,
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

I don’t even like snow.  To me it is a nuisance.  It is cold, wet, messy, and dangerous.  Yet this song with its sentiment of wishfulness and longing to be with loved ones moves my heart in that direction.  The tune is especially powerful in this way.  Music is a powerful force.  Nostalgia is also very powerful.  Reminiscence of childhood times, when most people’s cares and worries were few, even though times may have been hard, is very powerful emotionally.

These feelings are so powerful that they can rule a person’s heart, mind, and spirit.  When a person is thus ruled, the body also is controlled by these.  Desire to have these feelings satisfied can become so strong that a person can be driven to great loneliness, sometimes even to hopelessness and despair.

An article that addresses this is A Message for Those Not Feeling “Merry” About Christmas

The article begins with these two paragraphs:

I am thinking a lot this Christmas about the fact that for many people, more than would ever be willing to admit openly, there is very little, “merry” about Christmas. Are you feeling this way? If so, this message is for you.
You may be dealing with personal troubles and situations that cause you intense pain and anguish of heart and mind, soul and spirit. You see all the decorations around and you hear the music, and receive the cheerful, bright and wonderful greeting cards from friends and family. These things are yet more pointed reminders to you of a long-felt grief, or hurt, or sorrow, a reminder that while many are merry, you are not.

The author, The Rev. McCain, shows great empathy and compassion and caring in this acknowledgment of the feelings that many people experience.  He attempts to give people direction toward the more solid foundation for their lives.  And as far as he goes, he offers much good thought.

He advances in this article to say:

How important it is then to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly at this time, a Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us, a Word through Whom all things were made, that have been made. It was this Word, sent from the Father, who came among us, to be your great Savior, from sin, from death, from the power of hell, to pour out his lifeblood as the perfect atoning sacrificial ransom for the sins of the world, for your sins, every one of them, even those you would not want another person to know about.

This is very good.  How true it is that all of us hurting people need the indwelling of the Word of God, Christ.  We very much need to hear the Gospel that proclaims all that He has done for us and provided for us.  We need to hear His words of comfort to us.  We need to have these as the foundation of our meditation, of our thoughts and contemplations.  McCain goes on to say:

The best advice I can give to you if you are feeling lonely and sad at this time of the year is: reach out to people whom you know, and share your love with them. Dive deeply into the Word of God. Take advantage of every opportunity provided to gather with your fellow saints in Gods’ House for worship and to receive the true and lasting gifts of Christmas: forgiveness, life and salvation. These are the gifts that are truly what make for a Merry Christmas.

This is very, very good, even excellent!

However, this leaves much that is taken for granted.  Very few people truly understand the depth of what is included especially in “the true and lasting gifts of Christmas: forgiveness, life and salvation.”  Very few people truly know how this is made available by the Lord in His house.  Most people, even most who call themselves Christians, do not really know what this means.

McCain proceeds to share some beautiful and powerful words of Christ from the Gospels.  He further shares wonderful words from the Lutheran Confessions.  He reminds people of the great blessing and comfort given in the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms.  He also shares the words of a magnificent hymn by Paul Gerhardt, which are worthy of sharing again here:

“All My Heart This Night Rejoices”
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676
TLH # 77

1. All my heart this night rejoices
As I hear Far and near
Sweetest angel voices.
"Christ is born," their choirs are singing
Till the air Everywhere
Now with joy is ringing.

2. Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, Sin and woe,
Death and hell, o'erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son Now is one
With our blood forever.

3. Shall we still dread God's displeasure,
Who, to save, Freely gave
His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son From the throne
Of His might in heaven.

4. Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold From the fold,
Leave us broken-hearted?
Should the Son of God not love us,
Who, to cheer Sufferers here,
Left His throne above us?

5. If our blessed Lord and Maker
Hated men, Would He then
Be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear All the care
Of our race benighted?

6. He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away And for aye
Full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders
And our race, By His grace,
Meet for glory renders.

7. Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet, Doth entreat:
"Flee from woe and danger.
Brethren, from all ills that grieve you
You are freed; All you need
I will surely give you."

8. Come, then, banish all your sadness,
One and all, Great and small;
Come with songs of gladness.
Love Him who with love is glowing;
Hail the Star, Near and far
Light and joy bestowing.

9. Ye whose anguish knew no measure,
Weep no more; See the door
To celestial pleasure.
Cling to Him, for He will guide you
Where no cross, Pain, or loss
Can again betide you.

10. Hither come, ye heavy-hearted,
Who for sin, Deep within,
Long and sore have smarted;
For the poisoned wound you're feeling
Help is near, One is here
Mighty for their healing.

11. Hither come, ye poor and wretched;
Know His will Is to fill
Every hand outstretched.
Here are riches without measure;
Here forget All regret,
Fill your hearts with treasure.

12. Let me in my arms receive Thee;
On Thy breast Let me rest,
Savior, ne'er to leave Thee.
Since Thou hast Thyself presented
Now to me, I shall be
Evermore contented.

13. Guilt no longer can distress me;
Son of God, Thou my load
Bearest to release me.
Stain in me Thou findest never;
I am clean, All my sin
Is removed forever.

14. I am pure, in Thee believing,
From Thy store Evermore
Righteous robes receiving.
In my heart I will enfold Thee,
Treasure rare, Let me there,
Loving, ever hold Thee.

15. Dearest Lord, Thee will I cherish.
Though my breath Fail in death,
Yet I shall not perish,
But with Thee abide forever
There on high, In that joy
Which can vanish never.

This is truly a wonderful hymn of great comfort and blessing.  This is especially true for those who have the depth of understanding that Pastor Gerhardt had.  For this hymn is fully understood by those whose lives are full of the regular instruction and communion of the divine service.  For those who rightly understand and rely upon the means of grace, this hymn is very powerful.

But unless a person rightly understands that this hymn is directing the heart to the promises of one’s baptism and to the joyous communion of the saints gathered to the Holy Supper, the truly great comfort and hope are lost.  In this hymn the promises of God given in Baptism are especially assumed.

This especially needs to be emphasized.  It is not enough to be directed to the words of Jesus or to the Lord’s Prayer or to the Psalms.  If this is all that a person hears the person is really being directed back to one’s own efforts at bolstering one’s own feelings.  When we are feeling down and depressed and lonely and discouraged, this is the last thing that we need.

This is why the Lord has established for us His Church on earth.  This is why He has defined the means of grace very specifically, clearly, and concretely.  This is why He has commanded that His pastors diligently teach the pure and unadulterated doctrine to the saints.  This is why He has stated beyond all question that His Church is marked by the preaching of the PURE Gospel and the uncompromised administration of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Supper.

He wants us to know that what we are being fed is truly what we need.  He wants us to be set free from trying to find our way on our own in this dark world.  He wants us to know beyond any doubt that we have a safe place in His one true Church, a place of belonging that not only feels good and safe, but truly is good and safe.  He knows that this can only be for us when He makes it so.  Thus He calls us to receive what He has ordained according to what He has established.

This is what enabled St. Paul to say that he knew how to be content even when in chains in a cold, damp, dreary dungeon.  Then the Psalms and the prayers are more than emotional boosters. Then the hymns are more than sentimental traditions.  Then our hope extends beyond the momentary sensations.

When we truly rely upon what the Lord has done for us in our baptism, we are connected to Him and to all of His saints from all times and places.  Then we are free to trust His omniscience and omnipotence and omnipresence as being For Us.  Then we know Him as our loving Father, who never abandons us and never leaves us without comfort.

Many people imagine that they can find happiness and worth through trying to be better people.  Thus they try and try, failing to accomplish what they strive to do.  Many people look to family and friends, but never reach beyond their disappointment in the weakness and failing of those from whom they expect and need much more.  Some try to elevate themselves through positive thinking, only to find themselves unable to produce enough positive to outweigh the negative surrounding them in the world.  Some seek churches with encouraging and uplifting praise services, but again find that they have to put in more energy than they get out of it.  It works for a while, but eventually their strength fails.

The Lord calls us away from all of these.  He calls us to the seemingly insignificant means of grace.  They seem to be mere water and bread and wine and words spoken by men.  And for those who count them as such, that is all that they are.  For these means are effective only in connection with faith.  When the faith that God gives is the basis for our coming to receive these, suddenly they are life and power and freedom and joy administered through tangible forms.

This is the way that the Lord has provided as our truly loving Father.  He does not leave us to believe by our own attempts.  Rather, He provides us with tangible evidence of what He promises to do.  Through these He accomplishes for us the miracle of Christmas.  Jesus is still available to us through these tangible elements just as He was when He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and when He told Thomas to stick his hand into the wounds still in the risen body of his Lord.  Today He washes us with real water so that we may feel with our bodies what He is doing in our hearts and spirits.  He feeds us through bread and wine His very body and blood so that we receive Him not only with our spirits but also with our flesh.  In this way He not only touches us in our hearts and souls, but in our very bodies.

In this way He takes away our Blue Christmas without Him.  He causes us to know that He is not far away but is actually with us everyday in every way.  In this way He moves us beyond dreaming of a White Christmas so that we rejoice in the white robe of righteousness poured over us in our baptism.

In this age we often hear the lament that some children will not have a Christmas because of a lack of gifts to unwrap.  Our God makes certain that we have such an abundance of gifts that none of us will ever have cause for such lamentation.  Through His means of grace He gives us the gifts of repentance, new life, forgiveness, everlasting life, renewal in His Holy Communion, hope that knows no boundaries, exceeding great joy, and fellowship with the Holy Trinity and the heavenly hosts.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Day Is Almost Here, Isn’t It?

Many sources can be found on line for countdown clocks until Christmas Day, such as this one found at Countdown Widget.

A couple of other such clocks can be viewed at Christmas Countdown 2012 and Countdown to Christmas.

Throughout most communities, especially in America, Christmas lights are a very common sight.  Christmas music is played on the radio and in almost every place of retail business.  Most advertizing includes references to the Day of Christmas and the number of days remaining to purchase Christmas gifts.

Amazingly, no one seems to object to this until the connection of the birth of the Christ is considered.  Then, suddenly, debate ensues both over whether it is proper to have this holiday celebrated and whether this date is actually the date of the birth of Jesus.  Many have set forth laboriously to “prove” that this date was actually borrowed from pagan celebrations.

Why?  What do such self-acclaimed scholars have to gain from this?  What is the objective?

There have been some very well written articles sharing information on this, especially from the perspective of the selection of the date for celebrating Christmas Day being entirely of churchly origin.

Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Christmas

Why Christmas is on December 25

How December 25 Became Christmas

Christmas is NOT based on the feast of Sol Invictus

The date of Christ’s “genesis”

After all is said and done however, the question remains: “Does it really matter?”

For those who do not believe in Jesus, the Christ, and the salvation that He brings to the world and is received by all who through faith trust in this great miracle, why do they care?  Most of these objectors don’t object to Santa Claus and the reindeer nonsense.  Most of these objectors do not complain about the marketing exploitation of this seasonal celebration.  Most of these objectors do not complain about the date of Christmas for any of the reasons that people observe it apart from the birth of Jesus, the heralded Savior of mankind.  But from this perspective they do object and argue and debate, often vehemently and even voraciously.  Do they even know why they react this way?

As for those who profess to be Christians, there is some cause for searching for the truth on this matter.  Knowing the why behind the selection of this date has at least some value, especially concerning what is revealed in this matter.

Those whom the Holy Spirit inspired and moved to write the Scriptures did not give detailed explanation of the date of Christ’s birth, except, to say that it was fully in accord with God’s promises and in complete fulfillment of His plan of salvation.

The actual day and hour really was not all that important for anyone to know.  The only ones to whom this day was truly important were Mary, the theotokos, and Joseph, her husband and legal father to Jesus.  Both were chosen and appointed by God for these very special vocations.  They were called and set apart for this special day and the following days and years of the nurturing and growth and maturation of this special child.

It was a very special day.  All the hosts of heaven rejoiced to see it.  They had eagerly awaited the celebration of this day.  These events are recorded for us in the Gospel accounts.  But the specific calendrical accounting is not recorded.  This is because the birth of Jesus is meaningless apart from the fulfillment of the great work that He was born to accomplish.  Thus the exact dates of His institution of the New Testament, His betrayal and hypocritical trial, His torture and crucifixion, His death and burial, His resurrection, and His ascension are recorded with great accuracy and precision.  These are the dates that most matter to those who celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Yet in terms of when any of these are celebrated, this is not really an important issue.  These celebrations are set in a calendrical order simply to assist in proclaiming the fullness of the Gospel within the gathering of the saints to the means of grace.  These dates and even these specific celebratory designated observances serve the greater continual observances that the historic liturgy includes in every divine service.  For the order of service that is used every Lord’s day carries those gathered through the entire Church year each and every service.

For example, the Creed alone carries us through each of these important seasons of the salvific plan that the Lord Jesus was born to fulfill for us.  Every time that the Creed is recited, including all three of the Ecumenical Creeds, Christmas is confessed.

However, the true celebration of Christmas is the pinnacle of the divine service, the administration of the Holy Communion in Christ’s body and blood.  This is, after all the very meaning of Christ-mas, that is, the Christ Mass, the order of service in which the Holy Supper is distributed and received.

Yet December 25 remains a significant part of the Church Year, counting backward from Good Friday nine months to the day of celebrating His birth into the world for this great day of the redemption of sinful mankind.  For the true Christian, the ChristMass Day is a day for great celebration and Eucharisting (Thanksgiving).

It is sad to realize that most of the world is willing to settle for something that has no real value beyond sentiment and tradition and giving and receiving of material things.  Even among most who call themselves Christians, the true Christ of Christ-mass is not even confessed, let alone received and adored.  But for all who do, the comfort and joy is immeasurable.

May such a Christmas Day be yours!

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Local Heroes

This morning there was a loud boom.  Half of the house was without electricity.  The furnace would not run.  The kitchen refrigerator was without power along with several other important appliances.

After checking all of the breakers several times, it was clear that something happened so that one leg of power coming into the house was not functional.  We called the power company and left a message with the automated system.

Then, I went to my shop and retrieved a heavy duty extension cord to run from one of the functional outlets to the furnace, the refrigerator, and the coffee maker.  Soon the house was warm, the food was safe, and the coffee was pouring.  My wife commented, “I never would have thought of doing that.”

I felt surprised by that as she is a very intelligent person.  But she also is a woman, and like most women, that is not her way of processing information and assessing a situation.  Likewise, there are things that she would automatically consider in other situations that likely would not occur to me as a man.  God has made us differently.  Men are called to serve as husbands and women as wives.  These are two very different but necessary vocations.

However, the real focus of this post is concerning the men who came later to repair the power line.  After the sun had risen and the daylight shown brightly, the problem was easily detected.  The strong winds during the early morning hours had broken a large limb from a tree and sent it crashing into the power lines, snapping one of the secondary lines, the ones coming from the transformer.

The temperature outside was quite cold.  The men were dressed heavily.  After assessing the situation, one man climbed the power pole with a strong rope.  Another man turned off the power to the transformer.  The third man repaired the break in the snapped line and attached it to the rope for the other man to raise into place.  Together the two worked to draw the line taught.  It was reconnected, the rope was withdrawn and the man on the pole climbed safely to the ground. Then the third man turned the power to the transformer on again and full power was restored for all of the affected homes.  The total time for total loss of power was about fifteen minutes.

These men worked quickly, effectively, and safely.  To them, this was just a routine repair on a very simple outage.  But they set things right for all who depended upon them.  They worked wonderfully together for the benefit of all.  This they do routinely, even as a mother does laundry and a father ties the children’s shoes.  Such things generally are taken for granted.  But they are acts of heroism.  They are acts of faithfulness and love.

It is good when we recognize such things for what they are and give thanks to God for these heroes that He has placed in our lives, and furthermore to show appreciation to these dear servants through whom the Lord provides for our needs.

Very soon we will celebrate the birth of the Savior to the world.  Another couple of heroes were used by God for this purpose.  Joseph and Mary are these blessed heroes.  Mary was the one favored by God to be the vessel through whom Jesus was born into the world to save us.  Joseph was the one whom God appointed to be the caregiver and provider for God in the flesh and for His mother.  Through these two gentle servants God worked the miracle of salvation coming for all the world.

This is God’s way.  People look for miracles, but do not recognize them when they see them.  The love of father and mother for their children, the oversight of one sibling for the others, and the faithful daily activities of power repairmen, along with the host of others that we take for granted, this is the love of God at work in the world.  These are God’s miracles in the making, God’s local heroes who often don’t even know how powerfully they are being used.

Perhaps this is something for us all to ponder as we see the various displays of Christmas lights in the community, and especially when we go to bed in a house that is still warm with lights that come on with the flip of switch.  Thanks be to God for all of His miracles and heroes, the greatest of all being Immanuel.

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RAZZLE-DAZZLE Christmas Light Display

More razzle-dazzle can be viewed at Best Christmas Lights Displays, Starring Elvis, the Grinch, More (Video).




Emotionally stimulating
and invigorating.

Brilliantly crafted.


Very Pretty.











Extrapolated Mayan Forecast

Origin unknown, but funny.

A Time There for Every Purpose and for Every Work

Ecclesiastes 3:17.

Today I was driving as afternoon drew closer to evening.  It was still some time before darkness, but it was encroaching.  I observed a man feeling his way across a parking lot with one of those long sticks with red and white.  I wanted to stop and offer him a ride to wherever he was heading, but I did not.

Blindness is a condition that would leave me helpless.  But this man has obviously worked very hard to learn to find his way without the use of his eyes.  Sometimes the best way to help a person is to respect that person’s abilities.  There is a time to help, and a time not to help.

Day and night makes little difference to a blind man in terms of finding his way.  But to drivers it makes a big difference.  Such a  man finding his way could be in danger from those who cannot find their way in the darkness.  But he seemed to be on a known path and he still had time to reach his destination before the drivers’ limitations in the darkness would be a threat to him.

I often see people walking and wrestle with myself on account of not knowing whether to offer a ride or to assume that they are in need of the respect of distance.  I especially struggle to know this when I see an older person or other person having difficulty with each step.

It is sometimes hard to see a person struggling and to do nothing.  Yet sometimes this is the truly kind act.  Sometimes people need to be allowed to face their difficulties and to press on in faith to the very end.  A person should not be robbed of the experience of triumph at the end of a trial.

How can one know when it is right to do nothing?  The first sign is whether or not the person appears to be looking for assistance.  Another is whether or not a clear sign of danger can be observed.  Certainly the ultimate consideration is to put oneself in the other person’s situation, at least as far as one is able to imagine it.  From this perspective one can determine one’s own desires in the same situation.

Of course, another approach, especially when the perspective seems unclear, is simply to greet the person and give the opportunity for the person to ask for assistance if desired.  A simple greeting such as “Hi there.  How are you doing today?” could allow for an indication to be given by the other person.  For example, if the person says, “Oh, my joints are aching so badly that I just don’t know whether I can take another step,” would seem to be very clear.  On the other hand, the person may say, “Oh, my joints hurt like crazy, but I keep pressing onward and I’m nearly there.”  This leads to quite a different conclusion.

Yet if one is not certain, polite and respectful inquiry as to whether assistance is desired is rarely received poorly.

Love, that is, agape, is always in season.  Love always leads a person toward the right action.  As St. Paul shares:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

I once had a prostitute get into my car when I stopped to examine my map.  She got in and began to offer me things that I could not accept from her.  She said that she needed money for bread and milk.  When I offered to buy those for her she said that she could not accept charity.  I asked her if she knew how the Bible uses that word.  I then explained this Bible passage to her, explaining that charity is God’s love at work in a person so that the person acts with that love and concern for others.  I then bought her lunch for herself and her baby and drove her home.  As we drove she also explained that she had a legitimate job as an exotic dancer.  She was proud of her ability to earn a living for herself and her baby and she pulled up her blouse to show me what a nice body she had.  I simply agreed and continued telling her about the love of Jesus and the better way that He purchased for us with His own life.

I do not know what happened with this young lady, but she did express a need for help and when she heard that the motive for giving help freely was the love of God, she gladly received both the food needed for the bellies of herself and her baby, as well as the bread of heaven for her spirit.

Yes, there is a time for every purpose and for every work.  And God’s love guides us to know when.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Terrible Grief

Grief can be truly terrible, even terrifying.

The Newtown tragedy continues to be prevalent in the news and in the minds of all who hear it.

Yesterday as I was taking care of things that needed to be done, I realized that I am affected even more powerfully than I realized by this event, or rather, by the reminder of how vulnerable I am.

My own death is not very frightening to me contrasted to the devastation that I would face upon the loss of my wife.  If someone broke into the government school where she works and ripped her out of my life through a murderous and senseless act, I would have nothing left in this world.  I would be bereft of the only worldly possession of real value to me, save one.

There is one worldly possession that is even greater for me than my wife.  It is the one possession that would preserve my sanity and hope.  It is my knowledge of God’s love to me that is poured out freely through His means of grace.

My wife and I have talked many times about this.  We both share the great concern that if anything happened to the other, we would be left with no one locally with whom we could gather to receive the unadulterated Sacrament of forgiveness and life.  Whichever of us survived the other would have to move, or settle for periodic travel to our friends who likewise gather to the pure Word and Sacrament.

This very likely sounds foreign to most who read this.  We live in a city with nine LC-MS and one WELS congregations, and yet we have no place where we can safely worship.  This is because we believe that to join with congregations who pledge themselves to compromised worship and practice and definition of communion/fellowship is to have our souls raped and molested.  We believe that we need to receive only the absolutely pure means of grace.  Otherwise we will be filled with the world’s pollution that corrupts and kills.

Thus our marriage and union is absolutely vital to us.  We truly need each other and we do not know how to live without each other.

Again, I read yet another account of the Newtown tragedy: Investigators visit Conn. gun shops and ranges as townspeople seek comfort in faith.  This account made clear a fact that I suspected to be the case. Adam Lanza was the child of a broken marriage.  He was a young man bearing the scars of his parents’ divorce.

We have degenerated into a society where this is counted as the norm.  Great efforts have been exerted to reeducate and retrain the people to consider divorce as an acceptable and even a normal occurrence.  Today one is more likely to encounter children who have experienced the divorce of their parents, than children whose parents remained steadfastly together for as long as they both should live.

Both I and my wife have been blessed to know marriage as a lifetime contract.  Our parents remained together until our fathers died.  Both of us knew that our parents would be home for us.  They were our refuge in the Lord.  We knew that when Daddy left the house that he would gladly and lovingly return home again.  We knew that Mommy would be there for us, too.  No matter how badly an argument raged, we knew that forgiveness and reconciliation would prevail in the end.  This we knew.  This we believed.  This was factual.  The foundation stone of our security, the marriage of our parents that the Lord had instituted and blessed, would stand for us.  We knew the meaning of home.  This is an extension of knowing the everlasting home that God has for us.

But we both have friends who were not so blessed.  We even have family members who have abandoned this so that they divorced.  They broke their contract with each other.  They broke the confidence of their children. And we have seen the effects and affects upon all who have suffered this.

Our society tries to minimize this.  But we continue to see the effects.  We see the confusion of identity.  We see the increase of instability.  We hear the cries of loneliness.  We observe the suicides.  We mourn the many aborted children.  We tremble at the random acts of violence.

Is there any advantage to closing our eyes to what we see and our ears to what we hear?  Is there any real benefit to giving our blessing to the destruction caused by divorce?

How many churches and pastors today really count divorce for what it is?  How many actually still preach divorce as sin from which people need to be saved?  How many still count this as a cause for repentance?  How many still urge forgiveness as the only answer?

How many children of divorces are told that they need to accept this horrible molestation and rape as OK and to get over it?  How can such children be confident of anything when this is what they are told?  How can they know what to trust as true and reliable?  How are they to know love as more than a fickle emotion, as a fact that does not fail?

This is why we dare not allow the means of grace also to be compromised.  This is why we dare not call anything but the gathering to the pure means of grace as God’s Church on earth, His holy family.  For if we allow the worship, the communion, the means of our certainty to be compromised, we have nothing in which to trust.

For those whose parents turn to divorce for their answer to their failures and problems, God’s Church remains true.  Where those called together by the Holy Spirit continue in the purity of the Word and Sacraments, there they may rest securely without doubt or fear.  There God is truly present for them.  There the marriage of God with His bride is manifest for all to observe.  His children rejoice in their security.  This is the way when the Gospel is preached purely and the Sacraments are administered as they have been ordained.  This is the way when the worship reflects this in its entirety.

Is this not comforting news?  God does not believe in divorce, except with regard to our sin.  He says that He divorces us from our sin so that we may be united with Him in His Church.  He has given us Baptism as the means by which we are regenerated or reborn into His family.  He has given His Holy Supper to nourish us and keep us alive in His family through the one true faith. All of this is His gift, His gracious doing for us, as our loving Father.  Through this He causes us to know ourselves as He knows us, as His beloved children.  He never forsakes His children.  He never leaves them to find their own way.  For this reason He demands that His pastors never compromise the Word and the life of the holy family, which life we know as worship and communion.

All other families can be broken.  But God’s family is forever.  People do fall away and forget God’s everlasting promises and love, but God does not forget.  People do look elsewhere and become lost, but God continues to call each one through the continuing existence and life of His Church on earth.  Each and every living person is free to return, even more than free, but continually called by our Heavenly Father.  His bride, His family, stands ready to receive each one eagerly.  The Lord declares that the heavenly hosts rejoice when even one sinner is caused to repent and to return home.

This blessed Advent season beckons to us all to hear this and to believe it.  The Christmas season teaches us how far the Lord is willing to go to call us back again to His loving care.  The Epiphany season teaches us how far the call of His Gospel reaches.  Each season of the Church year serves us in these ways.

We are not left alone.  We have not been abandoned.  We are not orphans without hope of reconciliation and reunion with our everlasting family.  Our God comes for us.  He calls to us.  He gives Himself for us.  Like with the shepherds out in the fields with their flocks that very special night, God sends His message through angels, the pastors and the saints who abide in Him and His communion, to call us to respond, saying like the shepherds, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Connecting the Dots

Today I encountered an article entitled: Connecting.the.Dots.  It is quite well written and makes some powerful points, especially about the connection of the effects of wholesale abortion on the devaluing of human life.

     In the earlier days of “legalized” abortion, there were warnings of the long-range effects on our society of wholesale abortion, of the careless destruction of the most defenseless among us, of its devaluation of human life. It was feared that a society that brutally takes the lives of its unborn children will become hardened and, in due time, reflect that brutality toward all human life.
The next paragraph really moved my thinking onward:

     There are, of course, many “dots” that can be connected to random killings–mental illness, violent video games and entertainment, etc. But can we sometime soon also connect the abortion dot? While violent killings are as old as Cain and Abel, random acts of violence against innocent human life continue to increase in number and horror, underscored by what happened on Friday. Brutality toward women and children, once shrugged off as a problem elsewhere in the world, now occurs too often in our own society not to connect this dot.

My first thoughts were regarding how people and leaders of church bodies are not connecting the dots that show the deterioration of their understanding of what it means to be the Church and saints.  My first thoughts were regarding the way that souls are being killed through allowing the pure Gospel and the Sacraments and the worship life of the churches to be corrupted and polluted and contemporized with the worldly views and beliefs and practices.  I continue to stand aghast and befuddled by what is happening and how the dots never seem to be connected.

But I also was moved to think of some additional dots that are not being connected with regard to these increasing acts of violence and even so-called random violence.  Some of these dots are very obvious, except that people are being directed through the media and government schools and programs to shrug these off or even pay them no attention at all.

I recently had a reminder of this with one of my former neighbors.  This man has very limited training, education, and skills.  He works hard to provide for himself and his wife.  He cares about others.  But he is struggling, as are many of us.

He has turned to me many times, both when he lived across the street from me and many times since then.  He has shown up many times at my front door, hoping to receive help from me regarding car problems, or to receive a ride to work or a ride home again at 11:15 pm.  He has borrowed and worn out a lawn mower.  He has asked and received help to move from one dwelling to another, using my time, my back, my truck, my trailer, my fuel.  There are many such instances.

Last month he wanted me to “loan” him money for fuel for his car.  He called and left multiple voice mails on my home phone and cell phone.  When I returned his call to learn what he wanted, his wife answered.  She then called him at work.  He called me from his place of work.  I reminded him that I am not his bank and that I also am struggling and don’t have any more money to give to him.  A short time later his wife calls saying, “You dare to call my husband?  Don’t you ever call my husband at work.  You don’t know who you’re messing with!”

Knowing what I know of her and her friends, this was very disconcerting.  It also was very hurtful.

With this, however, we have a few more dots to connect.

Why are people becoming so desperate and frustrated and angry?

When my wife and I have occasion to visit a doctor’s office or dentist’s office or have other occasion where we are asked medical history information, one of the questions we are asked is:  “What medications are you taking?”  The response from the inquirer is usually, “What do you mean you’re not taking any meds?  You are not on ANY medications?”

This is a very significant DOT.

Today, medications are prescribed and passed out more freely than candy.  More and more people are being prescribed mood altering medications.

More and more people are being “diagnosed” as clinically depressed.  The answer?  More meds!

But why are people depressed?  Why are they feeling desperate?  Why are people becoming more and more easily agitated?

This week I received the paperwork for the renewal of the registration of my work truck, trailer, and chipper.  The registration fees were raised $ 70.00 for this year.  This is over and above the property tax that I am required to pay on each of these.

Gasoline is over $ 3.00 per gallon and some forecasts say that this price will soon skyrocket, perhaps as high as $ 9.00 per gallon.  Electricity and natural gas and water/sewer rates also continue escalate.

Jobs and especially good paying jobs are becoming more and more scarce.  People are facing foreclosures on their homes.

Rising taxes and invention of new taxes, rising costs of living, decreasing availability of sources of income, forced insurance by the Obama administration & laws, loss of freedom and increases in unwarranted harassment by TSA, DHS, the police, and countless others, all these pile upon the already heavily burdened hearts and minds of hurting people.

Add to this the preponderance of electronic gadgetry and the added stress from these sources of continual stimuli.  After all, the human brain, body, and spirit can only handle so much stimulus before an overload occurs.

Then people begin to seek additional artificial sources of relief.  People turn to drugs of various kinds, both legal and illegal.  Overindulgence of alcohol, sexual activity, snacks and other foods, carbonated and beverages and high energy beverages are used to try to boost people’s ability to handle more stimulus.

On top of all of these, then add the processed foods to which people turn to try to reduce the stress of preparing their own meals.  These processed foods are loaded with excitotoxins and other chemicals.

There are even more dots, but even if all of these dots are connected, a horrendously messy web can be seen as the fabric of most people’s lives.  Eventually this becomes too much for people to bear.  Eventually, they can no longer find their way through the web to where they believe that they need to be.  Their frustration grows.  They become more and more anger.  As they try to suppress and control their anger they become more and more desperate and depressed.

The Lord has given answers to this dilemma.  He has connected the dots for us, the dots that lead to relief, comfort, redemption, hope, salvation, and peace.

     Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)

     No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
     Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
     Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith
     Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
     But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
  (Matthew 6:24-34)

     God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
     There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
     Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.  (Psalm 46:1-11)

     The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  (Psalm 23:1-6)

     And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  (Luke 2:8-14)

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Do We Really Need Moore Control?

Do we really need Moore control in our lives and over our citizenship?  Do we really need more governmental control over our freedoms?

It is reported at Michael Moore Takes To Twitter To Demand Stricter Gun Control that Michael Moore (and a number of other Twitters) has made a number of twit remarks concerning the recent Newtown tragedy and the need for Moore gun control laws to counteract the Constitution.  He does not believe that the American people should be allowed to govern themselves concerning their ownership of private property, particularly not private ownership of guns.

The Inquisitr report reads:

Michael Moore has taken to Twitter to call for tighter gun controls after a shooter killed 27 people – including 20 children – at a Newtown grade school.

The Bowling for Columbine director tweeted:

    “Too soon to speak out about a gun-crazy nation? No, too late. At least THIRTY-ONE school shootings since Columbine.”

He later added:

    “The way to honor these dead children is to demand strict gun control, free mental health care, and an end to violence as public policy.”

Other reported Twitters said:

Gun control is our only road to freedom. Freedom from the fear of senselessly losing children. I'm so saddened. WE NEED LAWS NOW.

- - -

Gun control is no longer debatable- it's not a 'conversation'- It's a moral mandate. '

I really do not know quite what to think of Michael Moore and other Twitters like him.

Could it be that they really are genuinely concerned citizens with good intentions who simply do not think through to the conclusions of their presumptions and demands?  Could it be that they are not really seeking to undermine the Constitution and the rights of American citizens but are simply very simple-minded people who have never learned to think logically and realistically?  Is it possible that they really are so irrational as to believe that making public policies actually effects any kind of change and solves problems?


For the sake of learning and thinking, let’s consider this from that perspective.

In what areas do people who think this way acknowledge and even demand that privacy be respected and the respective actions of individuals be treated as rights?  What are some of these areas?

  • Irresponsible/Casual Sex
  • Abortion
  • Alternative Sex & Lifestyles
  • AIDS/HIV & other STDs
  • Pornography
  • Welfare & Foodstamps

What are some of the areas where people who think this way reject a right to privacy and a right to act according to their own decisions?

  • Gun Ownership
  • Home Schooling
  • Open Practice of Christian Faith
  • Banking
  • Health Care & Insurance
  • Income and Business
  • Property Ownership & Use

Amazingly, people of this mindset praise Islam as a religion of peace while condemning preaching of the Gospel as HATE SPEECH.

How is it that with a topic like gun ownership and use, people of this mindset call for more governmental control of the guns that are not misused but often defend those who misuse guns?

Why do they defend murderers, seeking to prevent them from facing the death penalty, even though these abusers enacted the death penalty against others?

Why do they want to give more control of guns to the government, the same government that still has not answered for “Fast and Furious”?  How many people have died from the guns that this controlling government secretly and illegally supplied to known criminals and abusers of guns?  Is this not the same controlling government that is giving guns to known Jihadists and al-Qaeda terrorist groups?  Where is the logic in entrusting control of the guns to this irresponsible (or worse) government, and to take control away from law abiding citizens who have proven their responsible ownership and use of guns?

How is it that someone like Michael Moore can say, “The way to honor these dead children is to demand strict gun control, free mental health care, and an end to violence as public policy,” while saying not one word regarding the 137 children who are killed every hour in America through abortion?

Here are the statistics as reported at Abortion Statistics:

  • 234 abortions per 1,000 live births (according to the Centers for Disease Control)
  • Abortions per year: 1.2 million
  • Abortions per day: 3,288
  • Abortions per hour: 137
  • 9 abortions every 4 minutes
  • 1 abortion every 26 seconds

20 children are murdered by a person in a random occurrence and the Moore-like reactionists begin to call for taking guns away from people regardless of how responsible these gun owners have proven themselves to be.

Yet with a child being murdered ever 26 seconds in America these same Mooreites do not even consider demanding that abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood be held accountable and have their licences revoked.

1.2 MILLION children are wiped out in an ongoing bloody massacre EVERY year!  Three thousand two hundred eighty-eight every DAY!

Where is the outcry?


Where is the demand for the government to control or to stop this?

How is it that the things that they defend are harming the people and the children of our country and that the things that they attack are often the very things that benefit the people and the country?

I myself am not a great lover of guns.  I’m not even a strong proponent of self-defense.  Yet I certainly am able to understand why our Constitution was written with the right for these built into the Bill of Rights.

How is it that those who react to an incident like the Newtown tragedy never seem to report or respond to the cases where law abiding and gun carrying citizens have saved the lives of themselves or their families or even others from the attacks of people with nefarious motives?  Why is it that the media rarely if ever report such amazing and heroic stories?

Why is a teacher who is shot and killed trying to herd the children into a closet while 20 children are left undefended is counted as a hero, but a teacher who desires to carry a legal handgun so as to be able actually to defend the children and prevent most of them from being harmed is counted as an monster to be controlled?

If that dear teacher who herded the children into a closet had a handgun perhaps she could have shot the perpetrator and minimized the number of children who died.

Would that not be equally heroic and perhaps even better than 20 dead children plus 6 dead adults?  Or what if the principal and other administrators were so prepared and properly trained in the use of arms? What if instead of calling for the government to rob citizens of their right to bear arms if the call was for proper instruction in the ownership and use of guns to protect neighbors and children?

The writers of the Constitution deliberated these matters very carefully.  They themselves fought for the rights and safety of others.  Michael Moore and most Twitters are not known for investment in careful study of matters and then reporting the wisdom from it.  They do seem to spend a lot of time with Twits and Tweets and their flashes of brilliant logic.  Surely such 140 character comments outshine the laborious endeavors of those who drafted the Constitution.

How many times have such people come to the aid and defense of their neighbors?  With what means would they defend anyone?

Ah, of course!  They would whip out their cell phones and begin texting!

By the way, has anyone given thought to the number of people killed or injured because of some Twitter texting as compared to the number of people hurt by those who legally owned guns?

Furthermore, which has caused more harm and damage to America’s citizenry:

Gun ownership
Bush’s bailout and Obama’s stimulus?

Pushing yet further, which has caused the death and injury of more women:

Gun ownership

Shall we push it farther?

Which has caused more harm and deaths for American people:

Gun ownership

The logic employed by those who are calling for gun control, which really means gun ownership restriction, is not consistent with reality.  It is a reactionary response at best.

Calling for more government mandated mental heath control is even more illogical and even dangerous.  If one considers the increase in erratic behavior of the dangerous kind that has occurred as more psychological and psychiatric and mental health measures have been implemented, there is no reason to believe that these are actually bringing improvements to the mental health of the populace nor that they are reducing incidences of violence.  To the contrary, the evidence indicates the exact opposite to be true.

So what then is the answer?  What do we need?

We need for a change in focus among the citizenry.  We need for the people to remember that they are responsible for their own lives and actions.  We need for the people to turn from dependence upon government and the many other fallible sources of security so that they again look to the things that make for true security and peace and hope and blessedness.

Moore and his ilk are not really so far off from the rest of us.  We all tend to look to exert control in our lives and especially over the things that we find troublesome, unacceptable, and unpleasant.  We seek control for ourselves.  But we especially seek control of others.

Sadly, the more that we seek to have control, either by our own authority and power or through government or other authority, we actually make matters even worse.

A powerful example of this is the horrible atrocities committed by those who proclaimed themselves to be Christian authoritarians.  Those who presumed to be God’s controllers committed some of the most horrific crimes against humanity.  This is because they sought to be in control rather than to submit to that which effects the true beneficial control.

There is only one source that provides the control that benefits all alike.  That is the peace of God in Christ Jesus.  The peace that God’s love works among us is the only control that brings true unity and harmony.  When the love of God in Christ is what holds us and keeps us and guards us, then we love even as we are loved.  Then we look to neighbor with the same love that we have for ourselves. Then we do not seek to control neighbor, but to serve neighbor.  And neighbor, also motivated by this same love of God, seeks to serve us.

More guns are not the answer.  Neither is more governmental control of guns or of anything else the answer.  The more that we empower the government to control, the more that the problems are increased.

The evidence for this is not hard to find.  Consider the mistreatment of the American Indians, the importation of human slaves from Africa and other parts of the world, the mistreatment of Chinese immigrants, the Japanese internment, the prejudicial treatment of various races toward one another, the perpetual banking and monetary abuses.  We have suffered the proliferation of wars both here and throughout the world.  Do we, the average citizens, even know how many conflicts our military personnel are involved in throughout the world right now?  Where does the list of abuses of power by the government’s elite end?  The more power entrusted to these leaders, the more power that they exert.  The more power that they exert, the more that abuses will occur.

Michael Moore and those like him seem to imagine that those who abide by the law should be restricted and even punished in order to gain control.  This is because they do not believe that people can live peaceably together without this kind of coercive control.  The more that this is considered, the more absurd it seems that in order to protect the people from guns, they seek to employ guns to reduce guns.  And so the abuses against the innocent are multiplied.

However, when we, the people, act with the responsibility of our own vocations (callings), acting with loving response to the needs of those around us, these abuses diminish.  When we look not to those who rule with regulations and laws and force and taxes and fines and imprisonment, but turn from them to the One who rules through gracious care, forgiveness, love, and peace, then we see a lifestyle develop among us that flows freely and without coercive control.  In fact, it does not develop so much as it is nurtured and generated.  And the more that it is nurtured and generated among us the more that we desire it.

This is the way of God’s Holy Communion.  This is His good and gracious will.  This Advent season is the perfect time to stand back and reflect and see what God proclaims as His salvific will and plan.  Then, we are well prepared to approach with open hearts and minds to behold it in the Christ Mass.

If only Michael Moore and the world would stop busying themselves with twittering and facebooking and texting and seeking to control everyone, and allow themselves to see and hear what God gives us in the birth of the babe born in Bethlehem.

As for me and my house, this is where our hearts find peace and security.  Neither guns nor the control of guns can grant this.  Mental health mandates cannot accomplish this.  Declarations of public policy cannot bring this to fruition.  Nevertheless, the Lord does grant it freely and without end through the means that He has ordained.

It is truly amazing to remember that His plan is brought to us through a gentle virgin who delivered the Savior into the world in austerity.  The ultimate victory was accomplished through His self-sacrifice, yielding Himself into the hands of wicked men.  His reign is not by force but through the comforting promises of the Gospel, through which peace guards the hearts of those who receive it.  Those who abide in His kingdom gladly and willingly subject themselves to this way of peace, moved by the faith and love that His love generates in their hearts.

In the Christ Mass the Gloria in Excelsis that has been omitted during Advent shall return and the saints shall sing joyously with the angels and all the hosts of heaven:

Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men!

May Michael and his friends come to know this glorious and joyous good news in their lives, too.

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Why God?

When things do not go the way that we think that they should or that we want them to go, we cry out, “Why, God?

When something horrendous like the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut breaks out, those who suffer the direct effects are hit by such a shock that they are left with little other than to ask and cry out, “Why, God?”

Since we all have suffered shocking things in our lives and we all have suffered some form of loss and grief and anguish and heartache, we all relate to the circumstances of such an event so that we all are inclined to cry out, “Why, God?”

But deep down we know that this is pretense.  We are only pretending not to know why these things happen.  We pretend not to know because to admit that we know the reason is to face reality honestly, which leaves us with accountability, very painful accountability.  We do not want to face this.  We would actually rather allow things to become worse than to face the truth openly and honestly so as to confront the real problem and to deal with it.

Moreover, we know the futility of asking, “Why, God?”

After all, God has plainly told us why.  Even if He had not told us, the answer is plain for us to see.  There is no real mystery here.

No one can escape the truth.  The truth is unavoidable.  We attempt to find ways to bury it or to hide from it, but eventually the truth comes to the fore.  Eventually the light of the truth drives away the shadows in which we lurk so that we stand exposed by the light.

This is true both individually and societally.

Why does shit happen?  It happens because of the sin that is in the world, sin that inheres to each one of us and to society as a whole.  We are sinful people.  We are a sinful society.

We ignore the truth.  We bury the truth.  We lie.  We accept what is wrong and try to excuse it.  We allow what is right to be ignored and denied and even to be persecuted.

We have allowed God to be replaced with free will.  We have allowed creation to be supplanted by evolution.  We have allowed absolute truth to be diminished to relativism.  Theology is rejected for psychology.  Divinely revealed knowledge is cast aside for subjectively deduced reason that is given the pseudonym of science.  Grace is renamed as decision or commitment.  Love for neighbor and brother is replaced by tolerance.

We excuse the sacrifice of children by calling it “choice” and even a “right.”

Is it even possible to find a movie that does not have revenge as part of the plot?  Revenge, murder, selfish gain, selfish disregard for the safety of self and of others through extreme sports and fast driving.  Even running red lights is presented as cool.  Stealing of vehicles and breaking traffic laws is promoted as exciting and even acceptable.  Irresponsible and promiscuous sexual behavior is displayed as the norm.

The answer for people’s problems is taught to be some form of pharmaceutical wonder drug.  Depression is no longer counted as a reaction to grief and suppressed anger so that it now is a disorder caused by chemical imbalance that must be controlled medically.

And then we see the results of our defiance and cry out, “Why, God?”

Thankfully, God is not satisfied with merely answering our belligerent demand.  He does not stop with simply answering the question of why these things continue to happen and to become even more prevalent as society moves farther and farther from Him.  He presses onward to give the answer to the problem.  He actually puts the answer into action.

In slightly over a week we will again celebrate His answer, His solution, His salvation.

For those who are genuinely weary of the pretense and the perpetual denial of truth that always leads to the same disappointing end, He has provided His Gospel.  For those who are truly tired of seeking answers for themselves, He has given His Church on earth and the means of grace.  For those who honestly admit their own helplessness and cry out for real help, He says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.”

Perhaps it is time that we stop crying out defiantly with, “Why, God?” and come together to cry out with relief, “Thanks be to God!”  This is the great gift of the Christmas season.  His name is Jesus.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut Tragedy

Such things leave us feeling the darkness of this world.  Especially for those who have lost loved ones, some children, how can they know anything but grief and devastation in their hearts and lives?

At Newtown school gunman forced his way in, police say it is reported:

Dr Jeannie Pasacreta, a nurse practitioner and psychologist who has been advising parents on how to talk to their children, says neighbours have been cancelling Christmas parties and taking down decorations.


Dr Jeannie Pasacreta, a nurse practitioner and psychologist in this picture postcard New England town, told me that neighbours were cancelling Christmas parties and taking down decorations, unable to celebrate amidst such searing grief.

The shock to these families is hard even to begin to estimate.

Again the school’s secular psychologist says:

People are at a loss, said Dr Pasacreta, who believes the lesson of this killing is to give more help to those showing signs of mental illness.

However, there is a much better lesson to be learned, for those who have suffered this tragedy directly, as well as those of us who experience it from a distance.

For those who cannot imagine themselves able “to celebrate amidst such searing grief” and find themselves cancelling Christmas parties and taking down their decorations, it would be very helpful to remember what the Christmas celebration really is.

For what reason was Jesus born into this world?  What did the angels shout and sing to the shepherds?  What did Gabriel announce?

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
  (Matthew 1:20-21)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
  (Luke 2:8-11)

And as prophesied by Simeon:

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
(Luke 2:34-35)

Christmas is the accounting of the birth of the baby boy born into the world to suffer at the hands of evil men, to be tortured to death on their behalf, to save them from their condemned condition as sinners.  The Christmas celebration is the joy that is known through the promise that God Himself took our human flesh so that He would journey to the cross of our salvation.

What lesson should we citizens of the world take from this in conjunction with the Newtown tragedy and every other tragedy in the world?

Surely we should do as this psychologist suggests and seek “more help to those showing signs of mental illness.”  This begins with realizing that we all are showing these signs, due to our fallen and sinful condition.  We all look to the wrong sources for happiness and hope and security and satisfaction, so that we find ourselves hopeless, misdirected, wandering, disappointed, failing, discouraged, depressed, angry, frustrated, and desperate.  All of us are disturbed and need help.

So, then, we should turn to this time when Advent directs us to the promise of the coming Savior.  We should use this time of our grief to understand the ultimate cause of our grief and suffering so that we look to the one who comes to help us, to rescue us, to redeem us, and deliver us.  When we partake of His gifts of grace we receive that which our hearts and souls desperately need and desire, even though we often do not even recognize what it is that we need and desire.  In the celebration of the Advent and Christmas season, we are taught what this is and how God freely gives it.  We hear His tender calling to come and taste and see that He is good.  We hear the heavenly invocation to come and adore Him and receive Him as our gracious and saving King.

Will this take away all of the pain that the parents of these murdered children endure?  No.  But it will fill them with the grace and peace of God that overpowers this pain and makes it no longer what rules their lives.  The pain of the loss remains.  But the promise yet to be realized is far greater.

Is there more to this lesson?  Yes, there is.  We surely should learn not to ignore the fact that none of us knows the length of life in this world that has been granted to each of us.  We each should eagerly run to the fount of life, where God regenerates us through water and Spirit to be made to be members of His kingdom.  We should not delay to bring our little children to this washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, so that they are made safe in Christ’s body and are made to be regular partakers of His Holy Communion.  Then, both they and we are filled with the peace of knowing that together we are kept safe in Christ Jesus.  Then, when tragedy strikes, even in the midst of our shock and woe and fear and heartache, we nevertheless will rejoice in the comfort that came down from heaven as a little baby boy who is Jesus, God’s salvation for us.

For those whose children are baptized, the Christmas lights and decorations still can be viewed as reminders of God’s great promises, even as He promised that the descendants of Abraham would be like the number of the stars in the sky, and as reminders of the great light of God’s glory that shown round the angels as they announced the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem.  The world has usurped much of this and used it contrary to what is salutary, but God’s promises still shine for us, even in the darkest of nights.

This is why God has ordained Baptism.  This is why He also ordained the Holy Supper.  This is how He gives us great cause for celebration even in this world of darkness and suffering and terror.  No one can take away what God grants to us through these blessed Sacraments.

Take they our life,
goods, fame, child, and wife,
let these all be gone,
they yet have nothing won;
the Kingdom ours remaineth.

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Puzzling Facebook Comment on Connecticut Tragedy

The Posted Comment:

It is reported that in the kindergarten classroom attacked today in Connecticut, one six year old, seeing the threat, led several of his classmates outside as he held the door.

    God bless and keep those who find their vocation as sheepdogs who would protect the flock around them, even six year olds!

Comments on the comment:

Amen, dear Pastor. Amen.

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Amen here too.

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I'm agreeing with you, Sheepdog.

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I think I'm gonna call you Sheepdog from now on.

It is extremely puzzling to observe that this kindergarten boy’s wisdom and understanding is not grasped by those who laud him.

? ? ?

How is it that those who laud the action of this little boy do not see that the reason that his action was worthy of notice and emulation is that he actually led those who were in danger out of the group where the danger existed?

? ? ?

In case the point still is not clear, what good is a sheepdog who does not actually drive the sheep clear of the gathering where the danger is, but merely barks loudly about the danger?

This kindergarten classroom was established as a safe haven for students to be gathered to learn and grow.  However, danger entered this previously safe gathering so that it was no longer what it was established to be.  This young boy, perceiving the transformation from haven to trap and slaughter house, responded by leading his classmates out of the trap.

Yet pastors today, when they see that their church bodies are no longer the safe havens that they originally were held to be, when they see that their church bodies have become spiritual traps and slaughter houses, continue to tell the people that they are safe.  Rather than leading people to the door and holding it open for them, they tell the people that they are safe and to continue in the gathering in the trap.  Moreover, the people praise their pastors for their loving leadership that binds them to continual decay of the faith.

The shooting in this school is a terrible tragedy.  The community and the people are hurting, confused, and afraid.  Families have been changed through loss of loved ones.  Certainly this should not be exploited.

Yet this little boy does stand as a shining example.  Certainly he should be encouraged and we should learn from his actions.  And when pastors point to this boy’s actions, they surely should emphasize what he did that was effective.  Moreover, pastors are not sheepdogs, but shepherds. Neither did this little boy act as a sheepdog.  Sheepdogs do not lead tenderly but with barks and snaps of their teeth.  Shepherds lead through the proclaiming of the gentle voice of The Shepherd.

The fact that a pastor would liken this little boy’s actions and the vocation (calling) of the shepherds of the flocks to that of sheepdogs, is very disturbing.  It certainly moves me to ask myself how many times that I may have acted like a sheepdog rather than a shepherd.  But that a pastor would make this shift in terminology is very disturbing.  This certainly is not found in the Scriptures.  Neither is this found in the Lutheran Confessions.

If a pastor thinks this way and speaks this way, both he and those entrusted to his care should be asking themselves:

What does this mean?

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Christmas Lights

It has been years since we have bothered with a Christmas tree or lights.

When I was young, I enjoyed the Christmas tree and lights very much.  It was a chore, but an enjoyable chore, to set up the tree and lights and ornaments.  It was relaxing and pleasing to watch the lights.

Taking them down and storing them again was not much fun, but it seemed worth the effort.

However, as I have grown older and as the world has usurped the control of Christmas and has moved the season ever farther forward, even beyond Advent, even beyond Thanksgiving, and now beyond Reformation Day and the demonic Halloween, so as to extend time to promote the so-called Christmas spirit, the trees and lights and ornaments have lost their appeal for me, for us.  We just don’t have any desire for such things anymore.

For us it is like having someone steal our candy cane, roll it around on the ground, and then hand it back to us.

There are some truly marvelous displays of Christmas lights around town.  One is set up as a drive-through display available to the public every night.  It is very nicely done.  Much effort was expended in setting up the various parts of the display.  It takes 15 to 20 minutes to drive it and see it.  It is a very lovely display.

Yet when we saw it, it left us cold.  Yes, we found it to be bright and colorful.  Yes, we considered it to be very lovely.  Yet even with the cheery colors and lights it did not move us, neither did it cheer us.

But the Christ Mass does move us and cheer us.  It rescues us and brings us back again into the Communion of the Lord, who renews us and lifts our hearts from the worldly mire around us.  The Christ Mass officially is Christmas Day, but every offering of the Mass is the Christ Mass.  Every time that Christ’s Church gathers by the urging of the Holy Spirit so that the saints draw near to the Lord’s Table and receive His body of unity and blood of forgiveness and life, it is the Christ Mass.

This is the light that God has set on a hill for all to see.  It shines in a dark world of loneliness, despair, struggle, and confusion.

     Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16)

     Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.  (Psalm 43:1-5)

Often people quote these, and especially the first text, forgetting who it is who sets the city upon the hill.  It is the Lord who sets the city upon the hill.  It is the Lord who gives us the light of His Word that shines first in us and then through us for all to see.  It is the Lord who works the miracle of conversion in our hearts and engenders the faith to take root in us and to grow so that we hear His voice and follow Him in our daily sojourning.  It is the Lord who transforms our wills so that we stop seeking to be choice makers and begin instead to enjoy the freedom of His blessed commandments.  Then we seek not to make our own way through the darkness, because we walk in the light.  Then we are free to traverse our daily paths without fear of stumbling.  And even when our distracted hearts do cause us to stumble, the Lord continually calls us again to the regular reunion of His body at the Table of His forgiveness and renewal in His Communion.

It is disheartening to hear the many self-proclaimed representatives of the Lord preach to people how they must struggle to draw near to God.  After all, the Gospel teaches us that God took the struggle for us.  He came to us in our wretchedness, made Himself to be born of the virgin, suffered our troubles and sorrows, proclaimed forgiveness, established Baptism and the New Testament in His blood, suffered and died in our place with our sins in His own body, rose again in victory against the powers of sin, death, the world, our corrupt fleshly natures, and the devil, and ascended to heaven from whence He shall come again in glory.  All this God Himself did for us.  He took the struggle and completed it for us so that we would be free to live by grace through faith.  To insure that we would receive this purely as a gift, He established the life of the Church as the continual Communion in His body and blood, where He alone takes action, feeding us the very means of our salvation and renewal in His kingdom.

There is no struggle for those who desire to draw near to God.  He has come to us as Immanuel, which means, With Us God.  This is the name that His holy angel declared so that we would know God for who He is.  He is the one who makes Himself With Us God.  He promises that this is so through His means of grace, means which we do not do for ourselves, nor even in obedience to Him.  These are His means, His gifts, His acts on our behalf.  No one can baptize himself.  Each person must be baptized.  The water and Word are applied for us by another appointed for that task, and through this God pours out His Holy Spirit to the person and thereby converts and regenerates and justifies and sanctifies the person.  The person is made all over again to be a perfect and holy child of God, regenerated to the new life of the true faith.  This person then has been made to be part of God’s kingdom, His Church on earth, where the ongoing Communion is the new life enjoyed by those whom the Holy Spirit congregates.  Through the Holy Supper, God continues to draw near to His saints, doing what they cannot do for themselves, not even through their most earnest efforts.

Once upon a time, Christmas trees and lights were used and enjoyed as symbols of this.  The evergreen, as a symbol of the everlasting life made possible through the birth of Jesus, the Savior, or as the Paradise tree.  A very interesting and informative article on this subject can be viewed at O Christmas Tree: The Origin and Meaning of the Christmas Tree.  Another account is The Chronological History of the Christmas Tree.  Interestingly, some legends, such as is shared at The History of the Christmas Tree, claim:

Martin Luther began the decorating of trees to celebrate Christmas. In the year 1500, one crisp Christmas Eve, Martin was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches dusted with snow shimmered in the moonlight. When he returned home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share the story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted to simulate the reflections of the starlit heaven – the heaven that looked down over Bethlehem on the first Christmas Eve.

How Luther could have done this in 1500 for his children is hard to understand, since he was not married until 1525.  Nevertheless, the fact that this legend exists shows that people did consider this to be the symbolism that they were embracing with their own use of their Christmas trees and lights.

This type of symbolism is vastly missing in the general use of Christmas trees and lights today.  Sometimes the marketers still like to include “Christmas carols” in their selection of Muzak to help promote the spirit of giving and buying, but this is usually a mere appeal to people’s sense of tradition and nostalgia.  In fact, nostalgia is the primary focus of the usurped Christmas season: nostalgic decorations, nostalgic foods, nostalgic parades, nostalgic church services, nostalgic family gatherings, nostalgic gift giving.

For this reason, we find that we no longer have any real sense of desire to do this in our home and life.  We don’t have any desire for the candy cane that has been rolled in the dirt.  Certainly those who do find salutary use for these decorations we do not blaspheme.  But for ourselves, we simply find that our hearts are led farther and farther from these things so that our desire is the simply proclaimed and administered means of God’s grace within His holy family gathering, a.k.a., the Church.

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