Aside from Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz(1522-86) is regarded as the most important theologian in the history of the Lutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the Church Fathers with a genuine love for the Church. When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of Scripture and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four-volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565-73), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession. A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Pastor Martin Chemnitz has been called “The Second Martin”, in terms of his importance in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  He is the principal author of The Formula of Concord, the last of the Confessions in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of Lutheran Church.  The Formula has two parts the Epitome and the Solid Declaration.  The Epitome is like that word, it is the epitome,the summation, kind of a Reader’s Digest of the confession.  The Solid Declaration is the unedited document. 8,188 theologians, ministers and teachers signed the Solid Declaration.  On June 25, 1580, the complete Book of Concord was put on sale:  exactly 50 years after the Presentation and reading  of the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V. The Book of Concord was complete and it is still the complete and correct exposition of the Word of God.

A Lutheran pastor vows to teach, preach and administer in accordance with The Confessions as they are the true exposition of the Scriptures, the Word of God.  A repeated phrase throughout the Formula is:  “We believe, teach and confess…”   This begins the affirmative theses.  Then there are the negative theses in which the Confessors condemn false doctrine. Post-moderns do not like this.  Post-moderns base their understanding of truth on what they experience and feel, our ‘free’ will…and such is a slippery slope, a Gadarene slide into the abyss ( Matthew 8:  28-31).  Saving faith is based upon sound doctrine.  “This doctrine is founded upon the Word of God…” (Solid Declaration , Article II, Free Will, paragraph 28, Tappert).

An example from the Formula by Martin Chemnitz on the ‘we believe, teach and confess” is on Holy Communion based upon the Word of God. I have heard  many a person and have read many a book asserting  that they teach is “Biblical, nondenominational, non-sectarian Christianity” and then go on to  deny the Sacraments, such as Holy Communion as mere memorial, the Sacrament of the ‘divine absence’, not Presence.  His Body and Blood is for the weak and the trembling in faith to be strengthened as we repent, and turn toward the Lord and not ourselves!  Here is Chemnitz showing us pure doctrine and pure pastoral care for sinners as we come to the Blessed Sacrament.  Here is a quote from  The Formula of Concord, authored by Pr. Chemnitz on the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of the true Faith:

“…it must [also] be carefully explained who are the unworthy guests of this Supper, namely, those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, and without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives, and by their unworthy oral eating of the body of Christ load themselves with damnation, that is, with temporal and eternal punishments, and become guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

For Christians who are of weak faith, diffident (see below for a definition)*, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the greatness and number of their sins, and think that in this their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and the benefits of Christ, and who feel and lament their weakness of faith, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience, they are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament [and sacred feast] has been especially instituted and appointed;  as Christ says, Matt. 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Also Matt. 9:12: They that be whole need not a physician, but they that be sick. Also [ 2 Cor. 12:9 ]: God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Also [ Rom. 14:1 ]: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye [ Rom 14:3 ], for God hath received him. For whosoever believeth in the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith, has eternal life [ John 3:15f. ].

And worthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ, which the distressed father of little faith [ Mark 9:24 ] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.”

*dif·fi·dent/ adjective:  modest or shy because of a lack of self-confidence. As we survey mega-church, tele-evangelized Christianity this is not a word that has much place, but in most Christians’ lives it is apt.  As the first Martin taught about Holy Communion that the Lord’s Words, “for you” are key for the diffident Christian burdened by sin and daily living.  The Lord’s ardent desire is to make us one with Him.  When we are filled with ourselves and our own self-made spirituality, then we can not be filled with the Lord.  These two Scripture verses could be called the Sacrament of the Altar beatitudes;

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied

Let us pray…

Lord, God heavenly Father, through the teaching of Martin Chemnitz, You prepare us for the coming of Your Son to lead home His Bride, the Church, that with all the company of the redeemed we may finally enter in to His eternal wedding feast; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Proverbs 17: 17:
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.

Concordia and Koinonia

Johann von Staupitz (ca. 1469–1524), was vicar-general of the Augustinian Order in Germany and friend of Martin Luther, was born in Saxony. He studied at the universities in Leipzig and Cologne and served on the faculty at Cologne. In 1503 he was called by Frederick the Wise to serve as dean of the theological faculty at the newly founded University of Wittenberg. There he encouraged Luther to attain a doctorate in theology and appointed Luther as his successor to professor of Bible. During Luther’s early struggles to understand God’s grace, it was Staupitz who counseled Luther to focus on Christ and not on himself. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  When the publication of the 95 Theses spread throughout Europe, then Luther was in middle of a raging storm.  He corresponded with his father confessor. On the twenty-fifth of November he sent word to Staupitz:

I am…

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1 Timothy 2

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

In The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,(LCMS) a recent Sunday Epistle reading was 2 Timothy 2: 1-15.   A lector was told by his pastor (LCMS) not to read verses 8-15.  The lector asked the pastor about this and the pastor said that if the lector read them, then the pastor would have to preach on the Epistle and later he told the lector that these verses were only relevant in St. Paul’s time.

This raises many questions:  By who’s standards are the Scriptures considered ‘offensive’?  What is the standard(s) being invoked?  If they are actually offensive to a segment of a given congregation, is that reason enough not to read them?  What if another segment in the political spectrum does not like another ‘kind’ of Scripture reading, then are those verses not read?  Where does one stop? Is this reading in question relevant only in St. Paul’s time?  Again, who or what decides ‘relevancy’?  Is a Scripture passage to be read in isolation from the rest of the Holy Bible?  If a passage is ascertained to be ‘offensive’, is it then no longer the inspired Word of God in written language, i.e. the words of the Bible? Is a pastor sufficient in his ordained authority to censor the Bible? I hope to answer these questions but if I do not, please let me know!

This situation does raise the question of the interpretation of these Scripture verses.  I approach these verses with the understanding that they are all quite relevant to our day and time:  as are all Scripture.  I would guess in other times, other Scripture passages were offensive to sensibilities of those times, that are not today. Yet, I would think that the faithful Church would not have not read them.  After all, “We must be obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  The Apostle Peter was told not to preach Christ Jesus.  If we obey a segment of the congregation, in similar fashion, NOT to read, and so hear God’s Word, ‘It’s only a small portion of the Bible’, then it will be much easier to capitulate to a worldly authority when they say cease and desist to publicly preach and teach the Word under the threat of temporal punishment.  Our fear should be eternal punishment. 

The incorrectness of adding or subtracting from Scripture is clearly and amply attested in the Bible:  Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18-19; Deuteronomy 4:2; Matthew 5:18; Joshua 1:7-8; Mark 7:7-9; Romans 1:18-19; Genesis 3:2-3; Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalm 119:152; Matthew 4:4; Matthew 15:2-3[MS1] Clearly, a pastor has authority to read, teach and preach Scripture but has no Divine authority to censor it.  Then the pastor is using an interpretative lens that is against the Scripture. It is worldly, like feminism.  If a pastor, or a church member, censors Scripture, then he is no longer standing under the Word of God but over it and so understanding and loving God’s Word diminishes. In a similar vein, “…we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? “ (Hebrews 13: 8).

Note also this key passage on the verbal inspiration of Scripture:

All Scripture is breathed out (inspired) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 2: 16-17)

ALL Scripture is inspired by God, not those passages I like or don’t like, which we agree or disagree with our cherished political and theological opinions. When Scripture does disagree with my opinion is probably the time I should be listening! The Bible tells us what to do, not what we want the Bible to say or do.

About the Epistle Reading:

In the Epistle reading we are looking at, clearly, the Apostle Paul is equipping Timothy (and us!) on the way we are to conduct ourselves when we come together for worship: all verses. This Epistle reading is about public worship, not private worship for his cautions are about public behavior:  men arguing after praying and women’s attire.  There are two aspects of our public and corporate prayer, that is, content and conduct:  first the content of our prayer and our hope in Christ, and second our conduct in our public and corporate prayer.

In the first section, verses 1-7,we are urged, “… that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”   This is prayer for the public square by the public Church. This is a key passage for Church’s prayer for government. 

It is clear from this first section:  we are to pray for Caesar, not to Caesar. We are to pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not. When our nation had a Democrat President, a member asked me, do we have to pray for the President?  When we had a Republican President, a member asked me, you guessed it, do we have to pray for the President? What would have happened if I capitulated both times because of the possible offense such a prayer (and the Scripture passage the prayer is based upon) would have caused? Answer:  we would not be living in this sound directive to pray for government and we would not pray for the government at all. As Pastor, I would have subverted Scripture for my own ease in possibly not offending someone.

When I taught on this first section at a Bible class, that it is prudent to pray for peace for the Church so that the Gospel may be preached and heard, a member said, “Isn’t that self-serving, Pastor?”, with a grin.  No.  It is serving the Lord and the spread of His Word for the salvation for many, as Christ is the mediator between God and man and that is quite public for all to see.  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:  “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Gal. 3: 1;  emphasis added).  The Lord wills His Word of salvation in Jesus Christ to be heard and seen in the open so that people will be saved. If we hide part of it, then the Savior’s loving embrace will likewise hid.

The second part of the Epistle reading are verses 8-15 and as the content of public prayer in the Divine Service is for the public and the open and free preaching of the Word, so those who are pray-ers are likewise public, male and female. We see in this second section the uncomplimentary ways of the complementary roles of man and woman were not in keeping with God’s Word in the public worship.

First, men, using the ancient prayer posture, orans, arms uplifted were engaging in, “anger or quarreling”, and quite publicly “in every place”(vs. 8).   Yes, men have a tendency to anger and quarreling in their disagreements with each in especially politics and religion, more than women. Men will argue about anything from comic books to sports.  As anger against a brother in Christ is a sin, (Matt. 5: 21-26) and while praying say, for Lord’s peace, then the prayer is obviously hypocritical and not helpful at all to the public witness of the Church.

Now men have not dressed in such a way to draw attention to themselves, especially in a sexual way (until our times),  and the women, writes Paul, were obviously strutting their stuff by dressing up with, “…with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire”.  The Christian women here were not only dressing in a provocative worldly fashion but trying to usurp the public headship of the pastor/bishop in teaching publicly in the public worship of the Church.  Verses 12-15 are the key offensive verses to the current zeitgeist:  women should be quiet within the worship in terms of teaching and having authority over men. This does not mean that women can not teach Sunday School, in parochial schools, etc. There were deaconesses in the New Testament Church.   There is a divine order in creation as Adam was formed first by God and then Eve.  Adam was deceived in eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Adam’s clear sin was not exercising his loving headship as Eve’s helpmate.  The husband is both the head and the helpmate.  The roles of man and woman, in the penultimate covenant of husband and wife, are complementary: 

This does not mean men are more important than women (Eph 5:22-33) but that God established different callings for them. The relationship between husband and wife(1 Co I I Eph 5:23-24), set in place before the fall into sin, remains unchanged today. Thus the commands and prohibitions concerning men and women in this passage are not simply reflections of first-century Jewish culture or Paul’s personal opinions. Paul roots the practices of the Church in God’s created order. [Lutheran Study Bible (LSB), footnote, page 2072]

And as Matthew Henry (+1714), in his commentary on the entire Bible (still in print) observed on the covenant of marriage:

Eve’s being made after Adam, and out of him, puts an honor upon that sex, as the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7). If man is the head, she is the crown…. The man was dust refined, but the woman was dust double-refined, one removed further from the earth. [She was] not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.

The Apostle Paul pointed out the unique vocation of women:  childbearing.  Here every husband has  bowed down in awe to see what his wife endures in childbirth.  Yet,  this verse  sounds like works righteousness.  Again, from the LSB footnotes: 

Women are not saved by giving birth. Through faith in the child Jesus, women are saved as they live out their God-given vocations. Childbearing is an example of a most noble, exclusively feminine vocation. “‘She will be saved through childbearing,’ . . . But what does St. Paul mean? Let the reader observe that faith is added, and that domestic duties without faith are not praised. ‘If they continue,’ he says, ‘in faith.’ -For he speaks of the whole class of mothers. Therefore, he requires especially faith, through which a woman receives the forgiveness of sins and justification. Then he adds a particular work of the calling, just as in every person a good work of a particular calling should follow faith. So the duties of the woman please God because of faith, and the believing woman is saved who devoutly serves her calling in such duties” (Ap XXIII 32). “faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (vs. 15): Though these virtues apply to both sexes, Paul applies them specifically to women here. These qualities characterize the life of every Christian woman (vv 9—10).

In the Greek, the observation is even more in focus as the article before the word “childbearing” is definite: “the childbearing”, that is, Christ.  And in the holy childbearing, He was born to bear our sin for all:   male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile.

There are differences between men and women and we are made and called to love the “hetero”, literally, the other.  These verses are offensive to the public despisers of Scripture, and so let it be, but we are called to be true to God’s Word and His created order.  What happens when the roles of men and women are subverted?  We see the bitter fruit of transgenderism, same-sex ‘marriage’, adultery, pornography, rape, “hooking up”, ad nauseam.  When the divine order is usurped as in Genesis 3, then chaos ensues as we read that men and even boys being castrated.  When we do not engage in the more difficult passages of Scripture, then we are not like those being taught by the Lord.

Conclusion: We must abhor censorship, in the political order of our constitutional republic and especially of Holy Scripture. Just like so many clip off in the reading of John 14,”…on one comes to Father but by Me “, as the Episcopalian priest did that at Reagan’s funeral in the National Cathedral in DC reading John 14. And I think it can be a slippery slope as it distorts God’s Word which opens the door for other distortions as we have seen in Church and society.  I have worked with a handful of dedicated Lutheran women who are confessional Lutherans, yet the vast majority do so out of feminism and ‘social justice’.  None of this, including inclusive language, has at all stemmed the tide of sin against God in the 6th Commandment: You shall not commit adultery. Only God’s pure Word can in faith and obedience in Him

Thomas C. Oden (+2016)  was an orthodox and conservative Reformed theologian in the United Church of Christ, probably the last such theologian.  Oden has this comment on this Epistle reading:

Men and women are encouraged by Paul not to resist and protest the limitations of their sexuality. Sexuality is a gift and a responsibility. Men are asked to refrain from complaining to God about the special burdens of their maleness. Women are asked to resist crying out against God for the special tasks of their femaleness. Neither males nor females are to writhe against creation or to resist the special challenges of having been born a man or a woman. If human life can be only male or female, never both and never neither, then if God is to give humans life at all it must be as male or female.(emphasis added)

We even have now the utter distortion of the created orderThe publishing date of Oden’s commentary is 1989, well before the current transgender controversy, yet when Scripture is censored, so is godly teaching and look where we have ended up! Men and women have denied their sex as political gender that can be changed! Today many think there is no difference at all between men and women, when clearly there is as science has shown us down into our very DNA. 

When anyone, pastor or lay person, censors Scripture, not doing the hard work of study and teaching the Bible,  then we are back in Eden and we are asking the question, “Did God really say?”.  And that question was the devil’s (Genesis 3: 1). Let us not do the devil’s work but do the work of the Lord and His Word which alone endures forever.

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All Saints day is the original feast day for all the saints, living and dead. Yet, this day was added with a special emphasis on the Faithful Departed. The article below is cited from the blog, Gottesdienst (a fine confessional Lutheran website for education and inspiration regarding the Divine Service), posted by Pr. William Weedon:

All Souls day is what today was traditionally called. A most fitting day, then, to offer up to God this wonderful little prayer from Seed Grains of Prayer, which Loehe gathered from the great Lutheran devotional tradition (prayer 341):

I would remember before Thee also my parents, pastors, teachers, children, kindred and benefactors, who have gone before me in the blessed faith and are now at home with Thee. If, through Jesus Christ, my prayer finds favor in Thy sight, do Thou, in my stead, repay unto them my thanks and love, in whatever manner it be possible.

Unto all whom I have ever pained, deceived, or caused to sin, or whom I have robbed of honor, health, or possessions, whom I can no longer ask for pardon, nor restore unto them, because they already are gone into joy and pardon of every sin—gone home to Thee—to all these, O Lord, grant good for all my evil, both now and in the day of the resurrection of the just; even as Thou knowest how, and in how far all this which I ask can be granted.

As for myself, let me spend my remaining days in prayer, in adoration of the most holy name of Jesus, and in praise and thanksgiving for the hearing of my prayers and those of all Christian people which have ever been offered up unto Thee through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Doors and doorways and their thresholds are boundaries, from outside to inside, from inside outside. When you hear the knock on the door, and no one is expected, there can be a rush of concern.  When expecting a dinner guest, there is joy of the time ahead, but not knowing the way the evening will actually turn out. When leaving in the morning for work, much is expected and routine but there is always the unexpected.  When leaving for an important doctor’s appointment or leaving to have lunch with your best friend, the threshold is certainly different. Doorways are filled with anticipation, which can be either fraught with worry and fear or pregnant with the hope of enjoyment and a time together with family and friends.

The Beatitudes begin the Sermon on the Mount, or Mountain.  This keynote sermon is the Lord’s first public sermon and Jesus’ Beatitudes are the doorway, the threshold to the Sermon on the Mountain encompassing chapter 5, 6 and 7, and indeed in His deeds and words the whole Gospel for us and our salvation. This is the threshold by which the Lord carries His Bride across into His presence.

Though when He sat down, no one then expected what He would say and teach.  St. Matthew tells us that Jesus sat down,  And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: As the Lord opened His mouth to teach, He opens the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.  Only His Gospel opens the reign of the Lord into our lives by faith through grace.  His Gospel fulfills the Law and the Prophets that the door is opened as He opens His mouth and will be fully opened in His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. On another occasion, Jesus saw many were leaving Him and He asked the disciples, will you leave as well? Peter, speaking in behalf of the Apostles, Lord, to whom shall we go for you have the words of eternal life.

The beatitudes are the Lord’s words of eternal life.  In Advent, in the 4th of the 7th Great O Antiphon, we can pray:

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close. You close and no one can open:  Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

Jesus was speaking to prisoners and He described the darkness so that the crowds see the light of His Word.  He came as Matthew wrote,

so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
    the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
    on them a light has dawned

Those who can not open the door to heaven and the kingdom by their own good deeds or spirituality, and none can but only fool themselves, we sing the Truth:

 Jesus sinners doth receive;
Oh, may all this saying ponder
Who in sin’s delusions live
And from God and heaven wander!
Here is hope for all who grieve–
Jesus sinners doth receive.

And He can change us with His breath, the breath of the Holy Spirit. There is a suffocating selfishness in man that only holiness can ventilate and the Holy Spirit breathes into us The Word made flesh.

But those who are filled with themselves, who think their pretty good, who think their righteousness comes from themselves, can not enter the narrow gate which leads to life. 

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. As it is written in Revelation:  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  He opens the door so we can also close doors.  He stands at the door as He is door but doors we must shut: the door to false doctrine and immorality in the disguise of light,  the door to the sins of the flesh as shown us in the 10 commandments…in a nutshell, close the door to the world, the flesh and the devil.  Shutting that door is too heavy for us, but in Christ alone is can be shut: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.

It is clear in the Gospels that Jesus cast out demons as did the apostles. Jesus and the apostles did not dress up as demons, they cast them out. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

God loves the world. It is not an ideal man that He loves, but man as he is; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find abominable in man’s opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, the real man, the real world, this is for God the ground for unfathomable love, and it is with this that He unites Himself utterly. God becomes man, real man. 

If the Lord had wanted only ideal men to come to Him, He would still be sitting on that mount waiting to open His mouth till this day. Jesus did call not saints to Himself, He called to Himself sinners to be sanctified, redeemed by Him to repent and to be His saints.  Those who are poor in spirit, hunger and thirsting for God’s way, those made pure in heart and make for peace in this war-torn world, who stand up for Christ and are then knocked down.  He blessed them with God’s own righteousness. He came not to call the sanctified but to sanctify or make holy the unholy in His forgiveness. He calls not the righteous, but sinners.

  But open His mouth He did:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, mourning, etc…not exactly a recruiting poster for denominational Christianity purpose driven, positive thinking, your best life now as the purveyors of the national religion with their feet planted firmly in their time teach it. but real men and real women, the least the last the lost. “The Few, the Proud, the Marines” is a good recruiting ad.  One who calls us its, the many, the lowly, poor in spirit, mourning at the way the world is to be His saints.  But there is a similarity between the marines and the saints in one way:  both are in formation. Marines stand out, so do Christians.  The saints are not being conformed to the pattern of this present world but being transformed by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s tools are in arsenal of His Word:  faith, peace, prayer, salvation.  The saints are a work in progress, to be saints, but His work always.   Unlike the other Marine slogan, “Never given, always earned”, here it is: Always given, never earned.  And also:  Always given, ever learned, as the saints are disciples, learning and growing in faith and love in the communion of the saints, in the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost, who both and unto the ages of ages is blessed. Amen.

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The name “Halloween” is an English contraction of “Hallow” and “een”.  “Hallow” means to make holy, as in, “hallowed be Thy Name”, from the Lord’s prayer.  “Een” is “Eve”.  1 November has been All Saints Day for centuries.  In the Church, the eve before a feast or festival day begins the day, as it is written in Genesis 1: “…and it was evening and it was morning the first day”, and then 6 more times.  So in Judaism, Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday.  Halloween means All Saints Eve, the day before the great feast day of All Saints.

In an excellent article in The Federalist, Christians Used To Do Halloween Better Than Pagans by Holly Scheer, she refutes the incorrect scholarly bull that Christians adapted All Saints Day based upon pagan Celtic holidays like Samhain, a festival of death.  It can’t be because All Saints Day originated in the Mediterranean area of the Church to commemorate the lives of martyrs, centuries before Samhain and thousands of miles from the British Isles.  Mrs. Scheer cites this thoroughly researched article about the first origin of All Saints Day, then later the pagan ‘festivities’, which can be found here.

In another excellent article in The Federalist, Stop Turning Your Yard Into A Hellscape For Halloween by Joy Pullmann, she speaks about the horror of her young children seeing yards that magnify the macabre, evil and death.  One of her nearby neighborhoods had representations of severed heads hanging from street lamps.

Likewise, there has been a severe caution from our evangelical Christian neighbors about Christians of embracing evil and death and the devil at this time of the year.  Full disclosure: I am 65 years of age and I don’t remember such a fascination with evil.  My childhood remembrance of Halloween is that it was basically a time for children (under 13!) to go trick or treating. I don’t remember any huge adult intrusion into Halloween then, but we can see it now.  The depiction of this kind of Halloween is beautifully portrayed in the Halloween scene from “E.T.”.  For instance:  the only horror movies at the time were the old ‘30s black and white ones, such as, Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman.

What happened for this drastic change? Just as the pagans coopted All Saints Day for their evil, so has American culture, that is, people. But what changed in people?  Though, I can not prove it, as the churches in the late ‘50s and in the revolutions of ‘60s tried to be more and more relevant, denying Christian doctrines as basic as right and wrong, the wrong crept in.  In the ‘70s or so some liberal Protestant theologians declared we are the church “come of age”. We’re for social justice but not as part of the church’s mission but her only mission. We have shuffled off the superstitious past of believing in the 6 day creation, Biblical miracles, the devil and the  like.  This had been developing for well over a century and it came out of the closet with the complicit help of mainline church bodies, who are now the liberal/progressivist old-line:  and now we are afraid to send our daughters to the bathroom because some boy maybe in there with the costume of a girl. 

Just when we supposedly did away with such archaic notions of the devil, for instance, a blockbuster movie came out all about the devil: “The Exorcist”, release date,  December 26, 1973, a day after the annual celebration of the Savior’s birth.  It seems to me that this movie opened the floodgates ready to be opened. I don’t think the movie actually started the evil, but it was a signal for the powers and principalities to gear up.  After this, countless movies about the devil, the macabre and the like which are still flooding the imaginations of the young and the old.  Even our front yards and our children can be gruesome…and Halloween is not a simple fun time for kids to go trick or treating.  And when writing about Halloween, another aspect of the day, that it seems has not yet been written about is this: Halloween, along with Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day have been coopted as well, by adults, that is, sexually ‘liberated’ adults.  All three of those holidays were for kids and St. Patrick’s for celebrating an actual saint, and/or being Irish. Note that all three days have Christian origins!  Now as I have watched sitcoms, and read about these three days, they have become high (low) points to get drunk and get laid.  I call  them “hook-up holidays”. Again, maybe my memory is jaded, or I am naïve, but this did not occur when I was younger but now has become a feature of our decadent culture.

Mrs. Scheer wrote that we Christians reclaim Halloween…like Christmas? That hasn’t worked out too well.  I admire Mrs. Scheer’s positive chutzpah but I don’t share it.   A discipline lost is a discipline that is very hard to reclaim. As the influence of the Church has been and is  being curtailed and dismantled (even by Christians), we can still be the loyal opposition: loyal to the Lord and in opposition to the world by what we teach and do in our Lord’s calling to be the Church, His body.  Years ago, a rabbi wrote that the question is not the separation of church and state, but of church and God.  In a similar vein, we don’t need to reclaim Halloween etc. but to know we are reclaimed by the Lord to be His saints, then the “powers and principalities” (please see: Ephesians 6:12) have not won.  As there is no easy reclaiming of holy days, the actual basis of the word “holiday”, now become culturally profane days, and so there was no easy reclaiming of sinners:  see the Cross of Christ and His saints who did not love their lives in this world, even to death.  I agree with Mrs. Scheer in this: let us celebrate All Saints with all the joy of those who have been found by the Lord and help each other to do so.

What Tiny Luther Says

little luther

“Tiny Luther, what should I do to grow my Church?”

“First, don’t buy little toy figurines of me. And who said it’s your Church?  I’d rather you not be named after me.  We’re named after Christ. After all,  I’m recycling fodder.

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