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Archive for July, 2018

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“Western society in principle is based on a legal level that is far lower than the true moral yardstick, and besides, this legal way of thinking has a tendency to ossify. In principle, moral imperatives are not adhered to in politics, and often not in public life either. The notion of freedom has been diverted to unbridled passion, in other words, in the direction of the forces of evil (so that nobody’s “freedom” would be limited!). A sense of responsibility before God and society has fallen away. “Human rights” have been so exalted that the rights of society are being oppressed and destroyed. And above all, the press, not elected by anyone, acts high-handedly and has amassed more power than the legislative, executive, or judicial power. And in this free press itself, it is not true freedom of opinion that dominates, but the dictates of the political fashion of the moment, which lead to a surprising uniformity of opinion. (It was on this point that I had irritated them most.) The whole social system does not contribute to advancing outstanding individuals to the highest echelons. The reigning ideology, that prosperity and the accumulation of material riches are to be valued above all else, is leading to a weakening of character in the West, and also to a massive decline in courage and the will to defend itself, as was clearly seen in the Vietnam War, not to mention a perplexity in the face of terror. But the roots of this social condition spring from the Enlightenment, from rationalist humanism, from the notion that man is the center of all that exists, and that there is no Higher Power above him. And these roots of irreligious humanism are common to the current Western world and to Communism, and that is what has led the Western intelligentsia to such strong and dogged sympathy for Communism.”

(“My Harvard Speech in Retrospect” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; National Review, 25 June, 2018 edition)

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Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.

 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing?

  1. What can these anxious cares avail thee,
    These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
    What can it help if thou bewail thee
    O’er each dark moment as it flies?
    Our cross and trials do but press
    The heavier for our bitterness.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

  1. Be patient and await His leisure
    In cheerful hope, with heart content
    To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure
    And His discerning love hath sent,
    Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
    To Him who chose us for His own.

 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

  1. God knows full well when times of gladness
    Shall be the needful thing for thee.
    When He has tried thy soul with sadness
    And from all guile has found thee free,
    He comes to thee all unaware
    And makes thee own His loving care.
  2. Nor think amid the fiery trial
    That God hath cast thee off unheard,
    That he whose hopes meet no denial
    Must surely be of God preferred.
    Time passes and much change doth bring
    And sets a bound to everything.

 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

  1. All are alike before the Highest;
    ‘Tis easy to our God, we know,
    To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
    To make the rich man poor and low.
    True wonders still by Him are wrought
    Who setteth up and brings to naught.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

  1. Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
    Perform thy duties faithfully,
    And trust His Word, though undeserving,
    Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
    God never yet forsook in need
    The soul that trusted Him indeed.

 

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We pray…Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Isaiah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament prophet. His name means “Yahweh [the Lord] saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah.

Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God’s Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing the Lord’s grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah’s miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (2:1-5; 11:1-16), and his public ministry (61:1-3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (52:13-53:12).

The apostle John’s description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.

Scripture Reflection: Isaiah 8: 11-15

Isaiah 8:  11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

The following comments are from Dr. R. Reed Lessing’s commentary on Isaiah when it was still in the works:

Vv. 11-15 – “With a strong hand” (cf. Ezek. 1:3; 3:14) the LORD warns Isaiah to see the situation from God’s perspective instead of that of man (cf. 5:20). Right thinking involves a fear of the LORD (v 13; cf. Prov. 1:7). Such faith finds safety, while rejection finds stumbling (vv 14-15). The function of the “stone” and “rock” are described in further detail in Isa. 28:16, Ps. 118:22; 1 Pet. 2:6. 

Reflection:

The Lord tells His prophet not to call a conspiracy what “this people” does nor fear what they fear.  “This people” are Isaiah’s own people. We live in an age with so many conspiracies and conspiracy theories. For instance:  after the 50th commemoration of the assassination of JFK, we were once again awash in those conspiracy theories. We read daily the conspiracies about global warming, creeping socialism, wars and rumors of wars.   Our conspiracies cause us fear and dread because we look at them from our supposedly  omnicompetent way of controlling them. We don’t and can’t control the conspiracies, though we deceive ourselves that we are so able. Instead in His Word the Lord has us look at them from the His perspective. The Lord’s guidance to Isaiah is not to fear them and this Word is also for us as Lutherans and Christians living in the United States.  Our only fear and dread is of the Lord! He has things in hand and His hand, His Word of Law shows us what will happen pursuing the dead end of idolatry.  The Lord will be cause of many to fall and the good news:  many to rise (see St. Luke 2: 34)  

Isaiah was living in a time of rampant idolatry and wealth, sexual immorality and decadence and false prophets preaching “peace” and prosperity but it was not the Word of the Lord.  Isaiah and the prophets were set apart from their own people and yet by God’s Word, they were for their own people. Isaiah said the Lord’s strong hand was upon him as He spoke His Word.  The Church, if she is true to her Lord, will also be Isaiah:  set apart from this people because His strong hand, with the mark of the nails, is upon us as He speaks His Word of Law and Promise.  We are called not to pursue what the world pursues yet called to  serve this people.  We are called to honor the Lord as holy, certainly not ourselves as holy!  As He draws near in His final Advent, but even now He draws near to us in His Word and His Sacraments,  as the angels sang in front of Isaiah, we also say at the Altar:    

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

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But there is one thing that I have never from my youth up been able to understand. I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record…Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.

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There are two interpretative lenses of both the Scriptures and the Constitution that are remarkably similar.   The two interpretations of the Constitution are:

Originalism, in which the meaning of the Constitution is interpreted as fixed as of the time it was enacted, and non-originalism, in which the meaning of the Constitution is viewed as evolving with changes in society and culture.

“Originalism”  in the interpretation of the Bible is broadly called, “literalism”.  “Non-originalism”  is “modern Biblical criticism” which seeks to understand the various parts of the Bible in it’s historical context.  The result has been in this interpretation of the Scripture that the Bible, “…is viewed as evolving with changes in society and culture”.  In other words, the Bible is the clay and we are the potter, whereas the Lord is quite clear that the actual state of affairs is quite the opposite. 

In both Biblical and Constitutional contemporary interpretations, if the words are not what they say, then they will be molded to man’s passing fads and fancies.  Eventually, both documents will be devoid of meaning, except their meaning persists.  We will live in a church and society of lies, lying and liars.  Then both church and society is ruled by  whoever is in power.  Pulpits have become platforms for politics and state podiums for the religion of power.  There will not be order according words but according to men…fallen, sinful men, and the result is despotism and tyranny.  And maybe not even by one person, but by one ideology. 

God’s Word, the Bible is not too sanguine on kings per se and neither is the Constitution.  Remember the vow every President and every soldier, sailor and airman makes: to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestice, as the Constitution is written, not the way we wish it had been written.  Every pastor swears to teach and preach according to the Scriptures, as it is written, not the way we wish it had been written no matter the humanitarian sentiment of the day.

Our greatest fight and struggle these days, in the United States, is as it was in her founding:  a fight for true and literal words that we have lived by, and it is not the State. It has been for the church for some 1,800 years longer and God’s Word is not only to live by, but His Word gives life in the Word made flesh.

Freedom begins at home…as does tyranny.  Celebrate the 4th for the principles enshrined and given form in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These are words worthy fighting for and even more the Scriptures as they are formed and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

 

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Meet A Friend Of George Washington And Patrick Henry Who Fought Boldly For American Independence

Rev. Peter Muhlenberg’s was the first of the Virginia regiments ready for combat service just two months after he declared it was time for the American Revolution.

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