Archive for May, 2011

Introduction:  I know the quote below is lengthy!  It is from a book, The Ascension of Our Lord by Rev. Peter Toon (Anglican priest).  It is a sound book on the Biblical doctrine and significance of the Ascension.  This quote is from the introduction.  We tend to think that Christmas (Incarnation),  Good Friday (Crucifixion), Easter, or Pascha (Resurrection) and the Ascension are all done deals in history:  they are!  But they are not because the risen and ASCENDED Lord has continuing Life and significance for us all  by what He has done “for us and for our salvation” because He is ascended.  Rev. Toon makes this clear.–Pr. Schroeder

When you think about Jesus, what thoughts or images come into your mind?  Possibly you think of him as the babe of Bethlehem, visited by shepherds and magi.  You might imagine him walking the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea with his disciples, stopping here and there to teach and to heal.  You may picture him on a wooden cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem praying, “Father, forgive them….”  Or, you think of him as the resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples in the garden, in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus, and by the sea of Galilee.  Perhaps you look upward and see him sitting or standing at the right hand of the Father, ruling the universe.  Furthermore, because you believe that he is “mysteriously” present with believers, you think of him standing alongside you, walking with you, talking to you, being at the center of the fellowship of believers, and presiding at the Lord’s Supper.  Maybe you see him in heaven as the great Priest, praying that the salvation of God be fully known and received by those who believe.  Or, because you think that the end of the world is near, you see him prepared to leave heaven to return to earth as the judge.

      All such thoughts are valid and each of us needs to think all of them – and more of a like kind – regularly.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).  Thus it is right to think of him at any point in his incarnate life, from his birth through his ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and life in heaven, until his return to earth as Judge.  In this book you are invited to think especially of Jesus Christ as the One who ascends into heaven.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father and, through the Holy Spirit, is deeply involved in the creation, growth, and health of God’s Church on earth.  There is much more information about the life and role of Jesus as the ascended Lord in the New Testament than most Christians realize.  It will be our joyful purpose to discover this material and reflect upon it, that we may live as disciples of the living Lord Jesus.

      You may have one or two lingering doubts about the value of studying and meditating upon the existence and role of the incarnate Son of God in heaven.  Here are two reasons to help you recognize the importance of Jesus’ heavenly life, not only for your enjoyment of God’s salvation, but also for the mission of redemption, reconciliation, and liberation in God’s world.

      First, at the level of simple arithmetic, consider that the eternal Son of God has been the incarnate Son of God for about 1985 years.  His life as God is eternal, but from the womb of the virgin Mary he took upon himself our human nature and flesh.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  Thus his life as God-Man had a beginning in space and time, and for his first thirty-three years he devoted himself to fulfilling the will of the Father as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world.  Now, as incarnate Son, he has been in heaven for over 1950 years as the victorious Savior and Messiah.  His life and role as incarnate Son in heaven since the Ascension should not be neglected.  It demands our prayerful attention, study, and meditation.

      Second, let us not forget that the achievements of Jesus the Messiah in his ministry and work on earth would be without universal power and permanent significance, were it not for the fact that he was exalted to heaven through resurrection and ascension of his perfected and glorified body.  Perhaps an illustration will bring out the importance of this point.  Think of the explorer who leaves one country and discovers wonderful things in a faraway, unknown land.  His discovery will be of no avail for his fellow countrymen until he returns home and describes what he has seen and found.  Likewise, the incarnate Son had to return home.  The Father sent him on a mission which was not complete until he returned to the Father in the manhood that he had assumed, fulfilling the will of the Father.  Had Jesus not been raised from the dead or, as the resurrected Jesus, he had been lost somewhere in the created order, his mission would not have been completed.

      Heaven is the place and sphere from where the universe is sustained and ruled; heaven is the place and sphere from where salvation goes forth into the world of space and time.  For God’s salvation to be a universal and everlasting salvation, the incarnate Son, Jesus the Messiah, returned to heaven where he could be the source of salvation everywhere to all who believe.  From heaven, through the agency of the Holy Spirit (whom the Father sends to the world in the name and for the sake of the exalted Jesus), the incarnate Son preaches the Word of God, builds up God’s church, and continues universally the divine work that began in the restricted area of Palestine.  Remember that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) did not occur until the incarnate Son was in heaven, enthroned as co-Regent with the Father.  Recall the promise of Jesus, “I am with you always…” (Matt. 28:20).  Now he is present in and through the Holy Spirit, whom Paul calls the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9).

      Because the heavenly life and role of the incarnate Son are obviously so important for the faith, worship, life, and witness of the people of God, you are invited in this book to think of the exalted Jesus with the help of three biblical models – King, Priest, and Prophet.  These models will function as an opening door, allowing you to enter the holy of holies for a deeper knowledge of God.

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1Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
   The steadfast love of God endures all the day.                      

The opposite of evil is good.  But what is goodness?  Answer: “…the steadfast love of God.”  This is strikingly different than the mighty man’s boast of evil based upon his evil deeds (pray and read the whole Psalm).  Why does the mighty man have no need of the Lord’s steadfast love?  The Hebrew word for “mighty man” is actually the word warrior and, “…here it comes across as ‘big shot’,’big operator’, or ‘tycoon’…” (Dr. James L. Mays, Psalms)  Such a person has no need for the steadfast love from God or for God because that person has himself and his wealth. He is his own love and in himself is his boast which is of evil because self-love is turned in upon itself.  The Lord’s steadfast love “endures all the day”, in all the light of day turning the psalmist out to the Lord.  The mighty man’s boast is of darkness.  It is the Lord’s steadfast love which makes us good.  See Jesus Christ.   He has planted us in the paradise of His saints by His blood on the tree of the Cross.

But I am like a green olive tree    in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
   forever and ever.
9I will thank you forever,
   because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
   in the presence of the godly.                                                                                               

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 1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Hebrews 1

In one sense, when someone predicts a date for the world to end and the new creation and the general resurrection commencing, my response is:  aw, shucks, it did not happen.  But as the Lord said:  It will happen as a thief in the night (see:  Matthew 24:42-44)

The Scripture verse above points out another aspect of the second Coming, actually, Appearing. of our Lord:  we are in the last days and have been for almost 2,000 years.  Remember that a day in the eyes of the Lord is like a 1,000 years and a 1,000 years like a day and He does not reckon time as we do (see:  2 Peter 3:7-9)  So we still might be in the early days of the Church and Christianity!  We do not know.  But it is clear that we are to aware of the times we live and make the most of them, not for selfish gain, but to serve the Lord and our neighbor as Christ Jesus has saved us in our times by His dying, rising and ascending (see:  Ephesians 5:15-17).

Learn more about this topic  by watchjing this video by Pr. Fisk:

If you want a funny, edgy satire on the subject,  check this out: 

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This is fundamental: Christ knows his sheep and, in turn, the sheep know Christ. It, therefore, follows that for the sake of faith, Christ alone should be preached to his little sheep, that he has given his life for the sheep and they are to emulate his example with works of love. A faithful preacher, therefore, should present nothing other to his people than Christ only, so that people learn to know him, who he is, and what he gives, and do not wander away from his word of promise, “I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep,” but believe that he alone is to be esteemed as the true Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. That is what should be preached to the people, so that they may learn to know their Shepherd. Thereafter, then, we must emphasize the example of how Christ for our sake did all and suffered all, so that we, in turn, for the sake of the Word might willingly do and suffer all. Even as he carried his cross, we, too, should carry our cross. These two topics need to be preached in Christ’s kingdom. Whoever hears, understands, believes, and embraces it is a sheep in Christ’s fold and affirms: I hear and know the voice of my Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who declares: I died for you and rescued you from the wolf with my blood and death. Thus Christ speaks, and this I believe, and I know of no other shepherd. Moreover, and as a result, I do for my neighbor as Christ has done, and, if necessary, I will suffer for his sake, and if I am beaten for this, I remember that he also was beaten. His is the voice I hear, and I follow it.

But if a wolf, the devil or a false teacher, comes and alleges that it isn’t enough that you believe in Christ and faithfully perform the routine, your vocation and station, but must run to St. James, become a monk, and so on, this is the ongoing pitch of the pope, that Christ’s words, “I am the good shepherd, I lay down my life for the sheep” are not sufficient; but people must be taught to perform their own good works like indulgences, alms, pilgrimages, the monastic life, and be careful to become their own shepherds and thus protect themselves. The little sheep replies: I do not know that voice; I hear a wolf, a devil, and a false teacher, each of whom wants to tear me from my Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and devour me; from them I flee away and refuse to listen to them.

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Charlie Sheen is no longer “front page  news” (arch. and sic!).  He has been eclipsed by a royal wedding and the death of a tyrant.  When a story is no longer raging in the media, maybe then it is time for some sober reflection.

There are two Charlies.  The first one many of us watched in the  TV sitcom, “Two and a Half Men”.   In his TV show, his character’s name is  Charlie…Charlie Harper, played by Charlie Sheen.  The fictional one has been regularly on TV for a much longer time than the actor who plays him with his headline grabbing behavior this past year.   The TV show, a sitcom, has been on the air since September 2003, for 8 years till it’s cancellation because of C. Sheen’s public misbehavior.   The fictional Charlie Harper’s antics on the hit sitcom has obviously been in the public eye for whole heck longer than the actor playing the part.  This is the crux of my reflection.

Full disclosure:  I once watched this sitcom.   Charlie Harper lives with his divorced brother, Alan.    Alan wanted his marriage to work but alas.  He lives in his brother’s upscale Malibu beach home.  He has visitation rights on the weekends with his son Jake (the  “half man”).  Initially, I thought it was an update on the “Odd Couple”:  Alan is fastidious, wants to get back with his estranged wife and be a good father to Jake.  The actor playing Jake actually grew up through puberty and into his teenage years on the show. Charlie is womanizer who likes to drink.  Charlie Harper makes his money by writing jingles for commercials which puts him plot-wise at home all the time.  Alan and Charlie get on each other’s nerves.  So that is the situation in this sitcom.  It was funny and the funniest episodes did not have a hint of adultery. But as in many a sitcom in the post ’60s sexual revolution, the plots devolved into story lines only about who is sleeping with whom, even fastidious Alan.  Then we saw Charlie Harper drinking more and more and “hooking-up” more and more and all the while a child is in the house.  I stopped watching the show because it became just about adultery, lewdness and drink  sodden behaviors.  And  now everyone has been upset with the real life person, Charlie Sheen and his drug/alcohol abuse and his public disintegration.  First note:  it’s  his drug abuse not marriage abuse that the media latched onto and enjoyed almost pornographically mocking  (as of this writing, Mr. Sheen has divorced his current wife).  In other words:  drug abuse:  not acceptable/marriage abuse:  acceptable, but neither are:  see the 5th and 6th commandments.

My question:  which Charlie did the most damage:  Harper or Sheen?  My obvious answer:  Harper.

For 8 years millions of people watched the hit show  “Two and Half Men”, including this pastor and father and husband and American citizen.  It goes against everything the Lord has taught and the Church is supposed to teach and what American society and culture is…or used to be.  8 years of episodes, at about 27 half-hour episodes per year, that is 7 months of new shows and then throw in reruns and that is a lot of conditioning.  I think it is a fact that TV is controlled by folks who are atheistic, or functional atheists, espousing a “morality” that in the ’60s was called “the new morality” but is still the old immorality.   For instance, I can only think of two sitcoms in recent years in which the characters go to church in an approving way:  “The Bill Cosby Show” and “Everyone Loves Raymond”. Then multiply that one show under discussion here by all the other shows.   No one decried  via the media Charlie Harper and any of the other sitcoms.  Conservative Christians did so point this out back in late 70s and early 80s when TV began to catch up to the sexual revolution, but no more.  We are conditioned. There was  a word  in politics during the Cold War: brainwashing, especially by the Communists.  We have mastered brainwashing via television, and been mastered,  without a Commie in sight.

It was Marshal McCluhan  who said the “media is the message ” and so the “medium (TV) is the massage”.  McCluhan:  “All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.”  TV is now what forms us, not merely informing, but conforming us as we watch hours of it, massaging us in utter docility.  I included.  The shows incite lust, not only sexual lust, but lust is also for money,  power and indolence. Maybe “couch potato” is not really a laughing matter any longer.  Yes, the content forms us by the hours we spend watching it and thus dumbing us down and dumbing us down morally to accept what is plain wrong.  We are a church, and a nation,  of moral idiots.

It’s really not a tale of “two Charlies” but one Charlie, the fictional and real are one as we can see in the fictional world of TV and the 24/7  worlds we bodily inhabit.  Yes, watching less TV is a partial solution.  But in our sitcom world, which is not really even a matter to laugh about, One has entered bodily into the real worlds we inhabit.  He is no fiction but Bodily bore our lust and Bodily rose again.  His Cross and Him Crucified and Risen lifts us up off our couches of indolence and spiritual death.   Then this translation of Psalm 119: 37 is our prayer:

“Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless;                                                                                                                                                                                                                             give me life in Your ways”

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Romans 13:

3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrong doer.

 Our Commonwealth’s flag  shows Liberty triumphant over a tyrant and tyranny and the tyrant’s crown off his head.  It is terrible when a ruler bears the sword in vain.  It was not wielded in vain on May 1st in Pakistan.

The Latin on our Commonwealth’s flag translated:  “Thus Ever to Tyrants”.

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Jesus of the Scars by Edward Shillito

Edward Shillito was an English minister who survived the horrors of artillery, machine guns, and trench warfare during World War I.

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars we claim Thy grace.

If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are; have no fear;
Show us Thy Scars; we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

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