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Archive for the ‘C. S. Lewis’ Category

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Athanasius, and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings

Acts 20:19-35

Psalm 71:1-8

2 Corinthians 4:5-14

St. Matthew 10:23-32

About  Athanasius, Church Father:

  • Athanasius was an Egyptian by birth and a Greek by eduction
  • His parents were both Christians and wealthy and Athanasius received both a solid secular and catholic (Christian) education in the city of  Alexandria, Egypt.  Alexandria was a city noted for it’s learning and it’s martyrs.
  • Athanasius lived during the most horrible of the persecutions of the Church under Diocletius, and then Maximin, from when Athanasius was 5 till he was 14, when it finally  ended in Egypt 311.
  • During the time of the persecution, many Alexandrian Christians fled to the desert and thus some began monasteries.  The most known of the monks was Anthony.  Athanasius knew him and eventually wrote Anthony’s biography.
  • He was a teenager when the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 making Christianity a legal religion in the Empire.
  • But after about six years after the Edict, a bishop, Arius, began teaching that there was a time, “…when Christ was not”, thus denying Biblical, catholic and orthodox doctrine.
  • But before the onslaught of the Arian heresy, Athanasius wrote two small books:  Against the Heathen, in which he refutes contemporary paganism (please note: paganism was in it’s pure form at that time, without heretics mixing in Christianity) and the demonstration of the possibility of the knowledge of God by the human soul.  The second one, On the Incarnation of the Word  of God, was on Word made flesh. “It is not speculative, it is not original…not even controversial”, because Arius had not yet started down the wrong path.  The photo above and the quotes below are from this volume, available at St. Vladimir’s Press.  This edition features an introduction by none other than C. S. Lewis.
  • Athanasius was present at the Council of Nicaea as a non-voting Deacon.
  • He was ordained in 328 as Bishop.
  • Athanasius lived his whole life in Alexandria except for the five times he was forced into exile for his preaching and teaching. He stood alone for the Faith delivered to saints once for all (Jude 1:3). Yet,he was known by his contemporaries as a kind and gentle man, of great education and humility.  He was short of stature.
  • His name is associated with the third creed of the Church, confessed in The Book of Concord, the Athanasian Creed, though most likely he did not write it,  nevertheless the creed is a solid reflection of Christian and orthodox theology as taught by the saint.
  • In 356, Anthony died at the age of 105. The desert monks gave support for their brother, Athanasius, especially when he went into exile.
  • After the fifth exile, Athanasius  had seven years of fruitful peace in his labors as a pastor and theologian.
  • He died on this date in 373 as Patriarch of Alexandria.
The information above and the quotes below are all from On the Incarnation, with Introduction by C. S. Lewis, published by St. Vladimir Press in a new translation.
 
A Reflection from Lewis’ Intro:

St. Athanasius has suffered in popular estimation from a certain sentence in the “Athanasian Creed”….the words “Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly” are the offence. They are commonly misunderstood. The operative word is keep; not acquire, or even believe, but keep. The author, in fact, is  not about unbelievers but  deserters, not about those who have never heard-of Christ, nor even those who have understood and refused to accept Him, but those really believed, then allow themselves, under the sway of sloth or fashion or any other invited confusion to be drawn away into sub-Christian modes of thoughts. They are a warning against the curious modern assumption that all changes of belief, however brought about, are necessarily exempt from blame…

His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

Quotes from On the Incarnation:

  • “The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching.  Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life?  Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ?  If He is no longer active in the world, as He must needs be if He is dead, how is that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer for his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious?  If He did not rise, but is still dead, how is it that He routs and persecutes and overthrows the false gods, whom unbelievers think to be alive, and the evil spirits whom they worship?  For where Christ is named, idolatry is destroyed and the fraud of evil spirits is exposed; indeed, no such spirit can endure that Name, but takes to flight on sound of it.  This is the work of One Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God.
  • “For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker?”
  • “….it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.”
  • “How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched?”
  • “He deals with them (“them”=us!  Please note: by this time in his book, Athanasius has portrayed Biblically and correctly man as an idolater, Romans 1, doomed to death on account of sin and disobedience and so the sheer wonder of the Incarnation-Pr. Schroederas a good teacher with his pupils, coming down to their level and using simple means. St. Paul says as much: “Because in the wisdom of God the world in its wisdom knew not God, God. thought fit through the simplicity of the News proclaimed to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1: 23) I Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking for Him in , the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense. The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, halfway.”

 

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John (ca. 675–749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theologian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around 716 he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726 issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymn writer (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches. His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom which was a massive compendium of truth from  previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John’s summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western churches.

O Lord, through Your servant John of Damascus, You proclaimed with power the mysteries of the true faith.  Confirm our faith so that we may confess Jesus to be true God and true man, singing the praise of the risen Lord, and so that by the power the resurrection we also attain the joys of eternal life;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  John of Damascus was instrumental in the iconoclast controversy. He wrote On the Divine Images, as an apology, that is  a defense of the practice of venerating icons.   Our word “iconoclast” as one who challenges cherished beliefs, seems to come from that time.  It is from two Greek words and literally means, “breaker of images”. This was the word’s meaning then.  John was of the opposite position: an iconodule, “one who serves images”.  If you have ever been in an eastern Orthodox Church, especially during the Divine Liturgy, you have seen people venerating icons by bowing to one and then kissing it. This can be disconcerting for Protestants.     It was controversial then and still can be.

The first thing to know about the Orthodox understanding of icons is this:  an icon is written!  Yes, it is painted but it written as a prayer or even as the Word seen which is meet and right and so to do and so:   Second, the word, “icon” is right from the New Testament especially:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:28-30

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:48-50

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
Colossians 1:14-16

John argued in his treatise that we must remember why icons were written. The Word became flesh, the unseen God became flesh and we have beheld Him, therefore, icons/images are aids to worship the Lord.  Now I do not want to get into the particulars of this controversy but to remember: the confession that Jesus Christ,  the  true icon of the invisible God is itself controverted.  The impassable God becoming true man is contested by both Judaism and Islam.  It is a scandal as is the crucifixion (  1 Corinthians 1:23).  The Word, written and spoken was born of the Virgin Mary to be adored as He has saved us and thereby we might cling to Him in faith for His dear life.  This also teaches as C. S. Lewis wrote that to God matter matters, after all He created matter.  He became flesh to redeem those whom He created and loves.   Further, redemption is not dis-incarnate spirituality, He came to redeem His creation from it’s bondage to sin, decay and death.  He washes us in real water comprehended in His Word, His Name and in bread and wine, His body and blood.  His Word is preached and taught  into our hearts to sanctify us that we are more and more the icon of Christ in the world.  Our hope is in the life of the world to come.

John of Damascus, from the quote in the clip-art  above, knew the image of God was present thoroughly in the Scripture.  This has a better Authority than written icons of men!  I think churches can get far afield dwelling too much on such customs and forget the garden, as John wrote,  of His written Word, the Bible.

John  wrote hymns to picture in music and lyric the Word made flesh.  In the Lutheran Service Book are two hymns by John of Damascus, both Paschal (Easter) hymns:  “The Day of Resurrection” #478 and “Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain” #487. The day of His birth points to the day of His Resurrection:  the Icon of the Invisible God bearing the marks of the Cross for us and our salvation.

1. Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought His Israel
Into joy from sadness.
‘Tis the spring of souls today:
Christ hath burst His prison
And from three days’ sleep in death
As a sun hath risen.

2. All the winter of our sins,
Long and dark, is flying
From His light, to whom we give
Laud and praise undying.
Neither could the gates of death
Nor the tomb’s dark portal
Nor the watchers nor the seal
Hold Thee as a mortal.

3. But today amidst Thine own
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace which evermore
Passeth human knowing.
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought His Israel
Into joy from sadness.

(from The Lutheran Hymnal)

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But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. St. Luke 21 

             Before Thanksgiving, Abe asked me to pick him up  in front of RE Lee Episcopal, around 5:30pm after his run in town.  I parked the car and walked around.  Daylight growing shorter and a storm front coming through, it was fairly well dark. Several older women were out and about, maybe leaving a function at RE Lee, and a car coming up Washington Street, without it’s headlights on,  and a young girl wearing dark colors was walking across the street and the driver had to stop suddenly for the young girl .  The women started waving their arms wildly to ‘tell’ the driver to put on the headlights.  As the car was in earshot, I yelled: “Put on your lights!”  I saw the driver fumbling with the controls to do just that, and just then 2 women had just crossed the street and the one commented, “People just need to be awake” and I said, “People need to be awakened.”  She gave me a curious look.

             All the arm waving and signs will do little, but a word clearly spoken will  reach into the ears and into the heart and hands. And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?  Jesus sounds a clear message about His coming again.  He sounds the distinct bugle call of reveille, while the world and our flesh sound the cacophony of revelry.  He awakens the sleepy and gives hope to the fearful.    The Word made flesh sounds forth the Word into our ears and hearts.

             He teaches both the fearful and those asleep.  It is not a question of “fearfulness” but fearful people.  I think it rather timely for us that our Lord teaches about nations in distress over the roaring of the seas and the waves as we hear about the secular end of the world scenarios of global warming/climate change.  After hurricane Sandy made that left turn into New Jersey and New York, the foreboding cry came up for sea walls to New York Harbor.  Yes, as Jesus said, the roaring of the sea perplexes us.  I am not equating climate change as an end-time sign, but the Lord teaches about the response in our generation and every generation:  foreboding, fear, perplexity.  These things have taken place.  These signs are like leafing of the trees means summer is near.  This is good news for the faithful, those whom the Lord has claimed as His own: your redemption is drawing near.  Lift up your heads!  Without Jesus Christ, it’s only one damned thing after another.  The secularists and pagans have tried for a couple of century to teach us that our only life is this one, trying to silence the hope of the new creation, that all our happiness is in this world, so grab all the gusto.  Buy hundreds of dollars of lottery tickets as the void approaches!  We’re on a trip to nowhere!  Love yourself above all things and people and love all things more than yourself and all people! C. S. Lewis preached the following (From “The Weight of Glory”:

“… almost all our modem philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution (and we can add communism, socialism, secular humanism, progressivism, etc) themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made  into  heaven,  thus  giving  a  sop  to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now. (only thing I would change is that we are promised it can happen tomorrow or today, just ask candidates for office) Finally, lest your longing for the (eternal) should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand  to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation  would  lose  it  by  death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever

             Jesus gives the wake-up call to be watchful as the day approaches.  But how? Watchful in prayer at all times.  As we enter the season of Advent, the lessons from the Gospels are focused on the Gospel according to St. Luke.  This Gospel has a special emphasis on prayer.  Luke knew prayer’s centrality in the life of the church in Christ.  Luke wrote his second volume Acts on the first years of the Church. He was there.  He knew the sustaining nature of prayer in the midst of many brothers and sisters arrested, harassed, beaten and imprisoned.  He knew the Christ Mass story very well from probably Mary herself.  What the world did not get, the Lord gave.  Christmas, really Christ Mass, is all about the eternal God entering fully into human history. Into the void, the Lord comes to save: the Son born of Mary, as the Son of God. Into the breach He came. As the Lord taught:  dissipation, drunkenness and the cares of this life burden us, weigh us down.  These are not the soil of prayer.  Dissipation is wearing your self out chasing things that never satisfy, like Christmas shopping!  We are not encouraged in our culture to wait on the Lord but wait in lines for stuff we don’t need.  Cares of this life are real but care should prompt prayer.  Drunkenness is not conducive for prayer, as is the insobriety of the philosophies that point to the self in self-righteousness.  I think there is drunkenness of many ideas.   Be watchful in prayer.  This is not the season to shop till we drop but drop to our knees in prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.  ACTS. 

            The dissipation of a culture on the edge of the void and embracing it in pro-death, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, coitus non interruptus, same-sex marriage and other alternatives is frightening. The world is ending. It began it’s end in the flesh of the Son of God upon the Cross. No pockets on His Cross.  No credit cards on Golgotha but the debt’s been paid. We see the signs of the end all around us.  While the world sings gather ye rosebuds while ye may, the Church is to pray for the end and the new heavens and the new earth, groaning in travail, to be revealed. The world cannot rise to such heights. The Lord calls His Church to teach His Word.  Speak a word:  turn your lights on.  Speak a word:  The light of Jesus Christ shines on you.  Even more frightening is the sleep of not caring and not knowing.   

            This past week I watched on TV the last half of “A Charlie Brown https://i0.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/-htyjTCzOnxw/TuY7hV5z_cI/AAAAAAAAAsQ/5PK59NKh8P4/s640/charlie-brown-christmas-tree1.jpegChristmas”.  It’s about Charlie and the gang putting on a Christmas show.  Charlie Brown wants to know the true spirit and meaning of Christmas but no seems to know and this perplexes him.  They want to put on a show for Christmas.  They need to get a tree for their play. So Charlie and Linus go the tree lot. Now this was made in 1965 when aluminum trees were all the rage…along with pink-flocked trees etc.  It was ghastly. (Off topic: this is good reason enough not to fool around with the liturgy.  Just think of those trees, and avocado green refrigerators and robin egg blue tuxes, which were all the rage!)   Charlie Brown and Linus go a tree  lot with garish pink, yellow, and multi-colored trees.  Charlie comes across a pitiful little tree, all bent over: this is it!, he cries. He picks it up and needles fall.Linus:  “But Charlie Brown, that tree does not fit into the modern spirit of Christmas” Yes, that’s right Linus. At the same time during the showing of Charlie Brown Christmas,  during a commercial, I flipped to NBC and lighting of the Rockefeller tree with 45,000 lights! But Charlie Brown, that tree does not fit into the modern spirit of Christmas.  Yes, that’s right  Even in 1965, Charlie Brown Christmas washttp://cbsdallas.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/the-rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-new-york-ny.jpg?w=600 controversial because Linus read a goodly portion of Luke 2: “Shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night…” In the TV show, Linus puts his security blanket around the base of the tree.  IN all the years of reading Peanuts, I think this may have been the only time Linus ever parts with his security blanket.  The Lord is Linus’ secure portion. This tree does not fit into the modern spirit of Christmas and that’s precisely the point. ( Matthew 5:13The tree of the Cross does not fit into the modern spirit of Christmas, in fact it kills it to make us alive in Him.  To the world it looks pitiful, folly, not powerful and great but to us who are being saved, Christ is the power of God unto salvation.  (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) It does not fit into modern spirit of Christmas. John the Baptizer with his clarion call to repentance does not fit.  A virgin giving birth to the Son of God for our salvation does not fit…but all of what the Lord does in His Word for you makes us fit by His grace, mercy and peace.  Unto us a Son is given, unto us a Child is given. (Isaiah 9:6)  We need to be awakened day by day by His Word. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood nor overcome it.  Wake up. Turn your lights on.

              And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowin’,
I hang my head and cry.                                       (“Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash)

In our ever quickening news cycles, the news from a week ago can seem to be a  long time ago.  Our memory is injured and that in itself is devilish.  When we have a tooth-ache, that’s when one wants to see the dentist;  but the pain goes away, so does the need to see the doctor, but the problem is still there.  We were immersed in the stark news from a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 20th. We were flummoxed again.  Now, not so much and so maybe this is a time to give some reflection. The problem is still there.

The usual refrain now in these group murders is the “lone madman” theory.  Mark Steyn in an excellent article in National Review, “In Search of ‘Why'” (8/13/12) points out that in Aurora there is, “…no ‘why.'”  Steyn makes a crucial distinction: some do violence for a purpose, such as Major Hasan in the Fort Hood shootings, others like the Aurora killer does not.   Steyn quotes the previous Batman movie when Alfred the Butler says to Master Bruce:  “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Some, he writes, saw this as an incisive analysis  of Al Qaeda, etc. “The jihad boys enjoy, as the Joker does, the body count.” It finally does not matter.

C. S. Lewis’ second book in his science fiction triology, Perelandra, takes place on a planet (Venus) which is still in the state of innocence.  It is covered entirely by ocean with floating islands and one piece of fixed land.  Two Englishmen, Ransom and Weston, rocket to the planet and meet the Lady.  The Lady has been told by Maledil that you may spend the night on any of the floating islands but on the one fixed island she may not so spend the night.  It turns out that Weston is actually the “Unman”, that is the evil one and his intent is to tempt the Lady. In a scene that I find to be one of the most horrific in fiction, Ransom discovers ‘Weston’ for who he is and I think this begins to speak to understanding Aurora and other acts of purposeless violence. The scene is diametrically opposed to the beauty of Perelandra:

Ransom sat looking out from the edge of the forest in which he had slept, on a flat sea where there were no other islands in view. He had waked a few minutes before and found himself lying alone in a close thicket of stems that were rather reed-like in character but stout as those of birch trees and which carried an almost flat roof of thick foliage. From this there hung fruits as smooth and bright and round as holly-berries, some of which he ate. Then he found his way to open country near the skirts of the island and looked about him. Neither Weston nor the Lady was in sight, and he began walking in a leisurely fashion beside the sea. His bare feet sank a little into a carpet of saffron-coloured vegetation, which covered them with an aromatic dust. As he was looking down at this he suddenly noticed something else. At first he thought it was a creature of more fantastic shape than he had yet seen on Perelandra. Its shape was not only fantastic but hideous. Then he dropped on one knee to examine it. Finally he touched it, with reluctance. A moment later he drew back his hands like a man who had touched a snake.

It was a damaged animal. It was, or had been, one of the brightly coloured frogs. But some accident had happened to it. The whole back had been ripped open in a sort of V-shaped gash, the point of the V being a little behind the head. Something had torn a widening wound backward—as we do in opening an envelope—along the trunk and pulled it out so far behind the animal that the hoppers or hind legs had been almost tom off with it. They were so damaged that the frog could not leap. On earth it would have been merely a nasty sight, but up to this moment Ransom had as yet seen nothing dead or spoiled in Perelandra, and it was like a blow in the face. It was like the first spasm of well-remembered pain warning a man who had thought he was cured that his family have deceived him and he is dying after all. It was like the first lie from the mouth of a friend on whose truth one was willing to stake a thousand pounds. It was irrevocable….  

At last he got up and resumed his walk. Next moment he started and looked at the ground again. He quickened his pace, and then once more stopped and looked. He stood stock-still and covered his face. He called aloud upon heaven to break the nightmare or to let him understand what was happening. A trail of mutilated frogs lay along the edge of the island. Picking his footsteps with care, he followed it. He counted ten, fifteen, twenty: and the twenty-first brought him to a place where the wood came down to the water’s edge. He went into the wood and came out on the other side. There he stopped dead and stared. Weston, still clothed but without his pith helmet, was standing about thirty feet away: and as Ransom watched he was tearing a frog—quietly and almost surgically inserting his forefinger, with its long sharp nail, under the skin behind the creature’s head and ripping it open. Ransom had not noticed before that Weston had such remarkable nails. Then he finished the operation, threw the bleeding ruin away, and looked up. Their eyes met…

It (Weston) looked at Ransom in silence and at last began to smile. We have all often spoken—Ransom himself had often spoken —of a devilish smile. Now he realised that he had never taken the words seriously. The smile was not bitter, nor raging, nor, in an ordinary sense, sinister; it was not even mocking. It seemed to summon Ransom, with horrible naivete of welcome, into the world of its own pleasures, as if all men were at one in those pleasures, as if they were the most natural thing in the world and no dispute could ever have occurred about them. It was not furtive, nor ashamed, it had nothing of the conspirator in it. It did not defy goodness, it ignored it to the point of annihilation. Ransom perceived that he had never before seen anything but half-hearted and uneasy attempts at evil. This creature was Whole-hearted. The extremity of its evil had passed beyond all struggle into some state which bore a horrible similarity to innocence. It was beyond vice as the Lady was beyond virtue.

It became for Weston the whole-hearted enjoyment of evil for it’s own sake.  Evil is beyond the ken of even sin.  Mr. Steyn in that same article mentioned seeing the last installment of Mission Impossible and it’s exquisitely filmed technological violence, commented”…but it isn’t about anything. It’s like a perfectly executed act of mass terrorism  for no reason at all.”  James Holmes did it for no reason at all, except to watch people die.   We too have a voyeurism for the dark.  It is into this darkness, the Lord came.  

“How often the priest had heard the same confession–Man was so limited: he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater the glory lay around the death; it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or civilization–it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.” 
― Graham GreeneThe Power and the Glory

I have said many times to my wife that certain movies, like the Die Hard movies, I love to see the bad buy die a satisfying death.  But there is nothing in death or evil or sin that is satisfying, only God’s grace and peace satisfies, His blood shed on the Cross for the blood shed.

Israel ben Eliezer, the founder of the Hasidim in 18th century Eastern Europe said that when we have beheld evil is so that we know the evil is also within so that we repent.  Our hope in Jesus Christ is that like Johnny Cash, we hang our head and cry. We could ban guns, movies, you name it, but it will not stop sin and evil. Only the One Who died upon the Cross has and will: our Ransom.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5

O God,  You see that of ourselves we have no strength.  By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul;  through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Come, Thou precious Ransom, come,
Only Hope for sinful mortals!
Come, O Savior of the world!
Open are to Thee all portals.
Come, Thy beauty let us see;
Anxiously we wait for Thee.                                       (Lutheran Service Book, #350)

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About St. Bartholomew, Apostle:  St. Bartholomew (or Nathanael, as he is called in St. John’s Gospel) was one of the first of Jesus’ twelve disciples. His home was in the town of Cana, in Galilee (John 21:2), where Jesus’ performed His first miracle. He was invited to become one of the Twelve by Philip, who told him that they had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. (John 1:45). Bartholomew’s initial hesitation to believe, because of Jesus’ Nazareth background, was quickly replaced by a clear, unequivocal declaration of faith, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). He was present with the other disciples (John 21:1-13) when they were privileged to see and converse and eat with their risen Lord and Savior. According to some Early Church Fathers, Bartholomew brought the Gospel to Armenia, where he was martyred by being flayed alive.

Reflection:  Maybe you have heard about this botched ‘restoration’ of a beloved painting Image result for botched painting restoration italyin a Spanish church.  The painting  depicts the moment when Pontius Pilate said to the crowds in the mood for a crucifixion, Behold the Man!  See John 19:5  Or as it is the Latin Vulgate:  Ecce Homo.  The Italian press are saying the painting should now be called, Ecce mono, Behold the monkey! The elderly woman who did this, had the permission of the parish priest and she said she had the best of intentions.

Many people have the best of intentions in redoing the image of Christ to burnish His meaning for us, but it becomes a botched job and yes, done with the best of intentions. As C. S. Lewis famously and correctly wrote:  

“There have been too many historical Jesuses – a liberal Jesus, a pneumatic Jesus, a Barthian Jesus, a Marxist Jesus. They are the cheap crop of each publisher’s list, like the new Napoleons and new Queen Victorias. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation.” 

Then we think we have trained Jesus to do our bidding for what we think are the solutions to our problems.  But a solution is not the same as salvation.  Then we end up with a distorted version of the Lord, as distorted as the erstwhile restoration above and we can only say, Ecce Mono, a trained monkey at that.

There is an ancient tradition that The Apostles’ Creed was written by the Apostles and each wrote 1/12 of the Creed.  This has no basis in historical fact, but on this Apostle’s day, it shows there is only one authorized version of the Lord Jesus Christ:  His chosen apostolic witnesses, like Bartholomew (or Nathanael), accurately recorded in the  inspired Four Gospels and the entire corpus of the New Testament.  

Look at Nathanael: When Nathanael was told by Philip that he had found the Messiah, Nathanael famously quipped:  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  (John 1: 46).  He did not know what he was saying.  After Jesus meets Nathanael, He comments that he is an Israelite in whom there is no guile.  Nathanael seems to have been dumbstruck, How do you know me?  Jesus said before I called Philip, I saw you under the fig tree.  This really gets him!  Nathanael answered him:  

 “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nathanael began to give his confession, his apostolic witness:  He is the Son of God, King of Israel.  Yet, Jesus deepens Nathanael’s confession  with the prophecy of Golgotha and the Resurrection:  Heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.  This refers to Jacob’s dream of a ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. See:  Genesis 28:11-13.  Jacob called the spot Bethel, literally House of God.  Jesus is the House of God (see John 2: 21).  The Apostolic Witness is to the Incarnation and His Crucifixion and Resurrection.  This witness, this Good News, for sinners was preached by the 12, clearly.   When the Savior and His work is clearly taught and preached, according to the Bible, received and yes, eaten and drunk, by hungry and thirsty sinners (see Matthew 5:6then the Holy Spirit is working faith in you.  This is the clear picture of Ecce Homo and needs no restoration by the likes of me or even a theologian with 100 Phds.  Do not trust any theology that deviates by invention and innovation the clear apostolic witness in the Bible.  

Please pray…

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an Apostle to preach the blessed Gospel.  Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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My wife once asked me when the unpleasant topic of “church shopping” came up, “What would you look for in a congregation?”  I answered a church that would make uncomfortable…so we can cling all the more to Jesus Christ as forgiven sinners.  IN other words, where Law and Promise are clearly taught and preached.  This is why I like this C. S. Lewis Quote–Pr. Schroeder

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