Archive for January 5th, 2013

On this date the body of Pastor Kaj Munk was found in a ditch in his native homeland, Denmark.  He had been killed by the Gestapo.   He was shot through the head. His crime?  Preaching the Gospel in the teeth of the Nazis.  When someone thinks they are “preaching to power”, especially by passing some resolution at some church assembly/convention which will be disregarded like yesterday’s leftovers by the powers that be, and I think of true martyrs like Pr. Munk, then I must pay attention. He like John the Baptizer preached truly to the powers and principalities and suffered the Cross.  Here is a quote from Pr. Munk’s New Year’s Sermon which is quite the  antidote to slappy-happy, sentimental Christianity in our day. (For another quote from Pr. Munk see this post here)   Like the Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton said that every age has it’s saint…that is those who are opposite, as opposite as salt.  We need His  cure of our illness of  spiritual self-indulgence.

Do not trust too much in the preachers.  As a rule they are poorly paid.  They are brought up as humanists.  They have forgotten–or never learned–what Christianity is. They have imbibed lo-o-ove with the bottle milk in the cradle. In a world of men they too often plead the cause of the effeminate.  They “abstain from politics”.   They preach peace at any price for the uplift of the devil, who rejoices to see evil develop in peace. The Scriptures do not say: When your neighbor is smitten on one cheek it is your duty to hold him so that he may be smitten on the other cheek also. Do not trust the preachers until they wake up and remember that they are servants of the whole Gospel, and of the Prince of Peace who came not to bring peace but a sword; of Him who forgave Peter and permitted Judas to hang himself; of Him who was meek and humble of heart and yet drove the sacrilegists from the temple courts.

And do not trust the majority, which likes to take things easy and therefore is easy to please. . . . Do not trust the great neglected masses. I believe that the heart of the nation is strong, but it has become encased in fat. . . .

This is what our old nation needs; a rejuvenating power, God’s rejuvenating strength, that a new people may come forth, which is yet the old, worthy sons of the fathers. The gospel will have to teach the Danish nation to think as a great people; to choose honor rather than profit, freedom rather than a well paid guardianship; to believe in the victory of the spirit of sacrifice; to believe that life comes out of death, and that the future comes out of giving oneself;—in short, faith in Christ. What would it profit a people if it gained all the advantages of the world, but lost its soul?

The cross in our flag—it is long since we realized that it stands for something, and we have forgotten that now. And yet it is the cross that characterizes the flags of the North.—We have come to church —the few of us who go to church, and we have heard about the cross, about Christ’s example of suffering, and Christ’s words about self-denial and struggle. We have thought that this was all to be taken in a spiritual sense, and that it did not pertain to our time. We thought we were Christians when we sat in church and sang Amen. But No, No! We are Christians only when we go out into the world and say No to the devil, renounce all his works and all his ways, and say Yes to the Holy Spirit.

Lead us, thou cross in our flag, lead us into that Nordic struggle where shackled Norway and bleeding Finland fight against an idea which is directly opposed to all our ideas. Lead old Denmark forth to its new spirit. Not by the grace of others, or by their promises, shall Danneborg again become a free banner. For freedom only God can give; and he gives it only to those who accept its responsibilities. Lead us, cross in our flag, forward toward unity with other flags of the cross. With honor and liberty regained, the old Denmark in the young North-that vision looms before us this New year’s Day.  We who have vision will give ourselves to its realization.  We promise we will. May God he hear our vow and add His Amen!” (as quoted by Rev. Philip Pfaitteicher in Festivals and Commemorations)

From The Apocalypse, now called The Book of Revelation, chapter 7:

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
 15“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
   and serve him day and night in his temple;
   and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
    the sun shall not strike them,
   nor any scorching heat.
17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
   and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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The Gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas (due to the calendar this year there is only one Sunday after Christmas) is St. Luke 2: 40-52 when the 12 year old Jesus with His Mother and Step-father and their family and fellow villagers went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover.  The Infancy Narrative in St. Luke is actually all of chapters 1 and 2.  This lesson about the 12 year-old Jesus is the completion of the Narrative.  This lesson is rife with foreshadowing, such as, the next time Jesus was in the Temple and Jerusalem quite publicly would lead to His Crucifixion;  His Parents found Him in three days after being He was lost.  Jesus returned to His Temple.  The centerpiece of the Lesson is He is respectfully teaching the teachers of Israel, the official teachers of the Scriptures.  

The German Reformation era artist Albrecht Durer has an interesting interpretation of the Gospel lesson.   One’s eye is immediately drawn to the center of the painting in which the four hands make a circle, except Jesus’ hand is intersecting the circle.  One of the tenets of the Liberal Protestant  Church is dialogue, the goal of which is not truth according to the Bible and the Confessions,  but changing one’s mind to get it right, that is according to our ideology.  Jesus cuts the Gordian Knot of endless dialogue. Remember the serpent initiated dialogue with Eve with the first question in the Bible, “Did God say…?”  Actually,  the devil does not actually want endless dialogue but enough to get your mind right and rebel against God’s Word.  His Word alone is trustworthy.  Jesus taught with authority and “… they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. “ Luke 4: 31-33 

Luther in a sermon for Epiphany points out that the Magi finally found out where Christ was born because of the Bible and those same teachers in Jerusalem pointing out what is written in Micah.  In our day, the clear star of God’s inerrant Word, His Bible,  is needed more than ever and Luther’s preaching teaches us to trust His Word and not the circle of this and that. What we feel and think is not the authority for faith and salvation but His Word written in the Scriptures.

“…when the devil gets in the act and fabricates for us a false Christ, so that in our thoughts we picture Christ as we would like Him to be…for when a person abandons the Word and gropes about for Christ apart from the Word, he misses Christ and apprehends the devil…this is a key element especially to the devil. as he seeks ways to tear us away from the Word, and then, apart from the word, leads us to think our own thoughts. For then he knows that he has won and we have lost…if (the Magi) are to find the Child, they must follow the Word, which is the right star and beautiful sun pointing to Christ.

“…whoever willfully abandons the Word and follows his own thinking will soon lose Christ, because he regards him not as a gracious, merciful Lord but as a judge and flees from before him as from the devil. For that is the devil’s bailiwick to represent Christ differently to people, terrify them, and by means of sin finally to plunge them into hell.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119: 105

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