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Archive for March, 2012

Rev. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral offered for donors on his TV show the “possibility thinker’s Bible” with all the positive passages in blue. I wondered if the Lord’s suffering and death were in blue.  He preached   the crucifixion is in blue of course because Jesus was a positive thinker and He knew  He would rise again.  This hideous picture is like that positive thinking Jesus, kind of cross between Robert Schuller and Arnold Schwarzeneggar.  This is not the picture of the man who wanted His Father to take the cup of suffering and wrath away and sweated blood….not the picture of the man who Isaiah prophesied some 5 centuries before, “…we esteemed him stricken,    smitten by God, and afflicted, and wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53: 4)…not the picture of the man who cried out on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have forsaken me?” 

Why so many ‘negative’ thoughts?  Answer:  He is the Lamb of God who bore the sins of the world.  Nothing positive in separation from God and each other in the iniquity of Adam.  He died so that sin is dead and we are alive in Him because He bore the terror of our life and death apart from God.

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Kings hate it when the common man goes over their head.  The ‘ultimate’ power a ruler has is death.  The King born in a stable died.  The ruler of this world thought he had Him.   He was wrong.  The ruler of this world had been had…for us and our salvation.  Jesus did not go over the ruler of this world or the heads of rulers for that matter, but under their radar…that’s why Herod trembled for his throne.

Bill Moyers, the perennial PBS interviewer, was President Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary.  Moyers is also a Baptist minister.  At a cabinet meeting, with a big long table, the President on the one end and Moyers on the other, LBJ asked Moyers to say a prayer.  He did and when he had finished, LBJ said, “Bill, I couldn’t hear you.” Moyers:  “I wasn’t talking to you, Mr. President.”  

As much as we imbue Presidents with almost mystical power and prestige, even in spite of living in a republic, they are ruled…atheist, Christian or other. It is true:  we can go over the head of the Head of any state.  As it is written:  

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and fromthe seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness,the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.                                                                        Revelation 1 (emphasis my own)

“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.  Jesus said to the thief, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”                             -St. Luke 23: 42-43

No king on earth can answer prayer.

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 EXODUS 32:  15Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

“It’s true! It’s in the book! Moses, the very first person to see the Ten Commandments, immediately got mad and broke them in disgust—smashed them to smithereens. Nobody since has done a more thorough job of it.

But the situation calls for more attention. Moses’ disgust was just the opposite of ours; he was disgusted not witthe commandments, but with the behavior of the children of  Israel. We get disgusted with the commandments because we want to behave like the children of Israel. All of us at times have wished we could join Moses in demolishing those stone tablets; then we wouldn’t have to worry about breaking the commandments in the other sense of the term.” (italics my own)

The above quote is from The MAD Morality or the Ten Commandments Revisited, by Vernard Eller, published in 1970 (kind of the Jewish equivalent to The Gospel According to Peanuts1965 by Robert Short).  Yes, as in MAD magazine! The Scripture passage is also cited in this book.  What is described in the opening of this book  is truly “mad morality”, that is, the despising of the Lord’s Word.

Yet, the world since ’70 has done a good job in smashing the 10 by deconstructing them as imposing morality and too dominating.  Yet, the worry that we break them is real.  The worry can be nagging, daily nagging.  Why?  His Law is written into our hearts  (Jeremiah 31: 31-34).  We want to behave like the children of Israel worshiping a golden calf, in fact, every day we want to do just that:  if we fear losing anything or anyone more than the Lord, then you have a false god.  And if the commandments  are done away with, by some, say, “Jesus Seminar”, then someone, especially someone ‘religious’ will write his or her own laws to be kept, see Mohammed, Joseph Smith and liberal Protestantism, after all, “nature abhors a vacuum”.  The Lord knows this and next week, Holy Week,in the week that changed the world, He fulfilled the Law, the only Law (lex sola)  and it’s worrisome and wonderful demand to love: You are forgiven and loved us to the end, even death on the cross…all of us. Sola gratia, by grace alone that “saved a wretch like me”.  He has filled the vacuum and desert with His life-giving Word:  He is risen.

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“It is very presumptuous and wrongheaded to think that a man has to become entangled deeply in the guilt of life in order to know life itself, and finally God.  We do not learn to know life and built from our own experience, but only from God’s judgment of mankind and His grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer commentary on Psalm 119: 9

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I think this cartoon is funny. But just think of the ad slogan, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” Answer:  anything!  Even doing good:

I think folks who make commercials know the Old Adam better than many a Christian does. Doing good to get the good I want is finally not good.  It’s all tit for tat.   I would do anything for fill-in-the-blank, and what you filled in is your god.  

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar,  and His word is not in us.         (1 John)

 

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Genesis 42:  8And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 10They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. 11We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.

In the daily Lectionary, the Old Testament lesson the Monday of the 4th Sunday in Lent  is Genesis 42: 1-34, 38.  The portion of the lection above includes my own emphasis.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery at the age of 17, then the brothers told their Father, Jacob,  Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.   In other words: they lied.  Honest men do not lie.  Honest men do not sell their brother into slavery because of their overwhelming jealousy of him.    After a history of providence in the midst of imprisonments, beatings, accusations,  Joseph, at the age of 30,  becomes number 2 man under Pharoah and thoroughly Egyptian, yet not forgetting Whom he believed and worshiped (as did the  second Joseph, the  Step-father of our Lord). So for some 13 years Joseph’s brothers let their Father believe Joseph was dead.  How could honest men live with themselves? The brothers were guilty and yet with a straight face could say:  “We are honest men.”

 We can convince ourselves of our own goodness while conveniently forgetting the truth about ourselves and perpetuate sins venal and mortal and all with a good conscience.  The media is the almost daily parade of those who have been caught self-justifying and self-apologizing their actions.  And note how the brothers did this:  right after they state they are honest men, they say:  “Your servants have never been spies.”  So, if I never robbed a bank, then that proves I am a honest man?  Hardly.  The brothers were not spies but hardly were they honest men.  If you know the narrative:  Joseph got them in the cross hairs of God’s Law and they were saved by  God’s mercy and love alone:  they came to know that they had not been honest. The Law alone brought out the guilt so it could be forgiven.  What the brothers had done those many years before was probably  festering in their consciences’ dank and dark cellar as if it had happened yesterday,  fearing the light of day, the light of the Word.  

Pr.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew this well, the plight of the brothers of Joseph as the plight of all men:

In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person the more destructive will be the power of sin over him,  and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen even in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the Gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart.  The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged. All that is secret and hidden is made manifest. It is a hard struggle until the sin is openly admitted. But God breaks gates of brass bars of iron (Ps. 107: 16).

I think the old saying is worthy of full acceptance:  confession is good for the soul.  The brothers found out the truth of what Bonhoeffer wrote.  And Joseph learned the workings of the Lord in the midst of his Lenten lands:  

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20

 Even out of the Cross, He worked so great a salvation.  

 17Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! (Psalm 107)

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
   through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
   my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. 
               5I acknowledged my sin to you,

   and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
   and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32)

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