Posts Tagged ‘agape’

The 1964 Presidential election was between President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Democrat) and Senator Barry Goldwater (Republican).  Senator Goldwater is considered as one of the founders of the conservatism that we know in our day.  This TV ad was devastating against the Republicans.  It also showed the power of television.  I was age 9 at the time and remember it well: 

The ad makes out Senator Goldwater as a war monger, that if he were elected, would bring about nuclear Armageddon without the ad ever saying so!  If I could vote at age 9, I would have voted for President Johnson.  Watching this ad again I was struck by the voice over by President Johnson:

“These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other. Or we must die.”

Without an explicit statement, those two sentences, with the preceding contrasting images conjure up for me these even starker contrasts: Republicans=war/Democrats=peace; Republicans=darkness/Democrats=light; Republicans=hatred/Democrats=love.

At  age 9, it was clear to me:  President Johnson and the democrats were for “love” and light.  Who would be against that?

Jumping ahead…I had left The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS/conservative) after college and I was a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA/liberal).  Many ELCA pastors, your scribe included, were fighting against the progressivist push in the ELCA, especially in regards to inclusive language.  “Inclusive language” was the opening salvo to the rewriting of God’s Word regarding the doctrine and practice of marriage between man and woman; but by God’s Word and faithful fellow pastors and Christians, I woke up to the deadly realities of which I was complicit.

An old friend and  colleague  was visiting us.  ‘Brad’ likewise had left the LCMS and he was also a pastor in the ELCA.  I mentioned my  growing notion  of returning to the LCMS.  ‘Brad’ responded, without blinking an eye, “Yeah, the LCMS stands for truth, which is great, but the ELCA stands for love.”  I was taken aback. It is the same dividing of love and truth just as President Johnson had suggested in that commercial forty plus years ago.  I had no response to my friend.  I do now.

First:  I think this division would offend a liberal/progressivist as well because they also believe in truth.

Second:  Where did this come from?  I think it is still with us in the realm of both politics and religion.  I am not suggesting that President Johnson started it, but there is the German word “zeitgeist” that may help to explain this fracture of love and truth.  “Zeitgeist” means “spirit of the age” and not all the “spirits” are from God.  There is something downright devilish in this division because  in this sundering, truth takes the backseat to ‘love’.

And this leads to number 3:  if we depart from the truth, especially the truth of God’s Word for love alone then we have no backbone.  The Bible makes no sundering of truth and love as we love God’s truth and ever pray as His baptized, to love truthfully.  I think this division is also based upon the departure from “sound doctrine”, the sound doctrine of Law and Promise, only for our ‘loving actions’.  This has resulted in secular Pharisaism.  Liberal/progressivist churches are legalistic to the core as they try by their  ‘love’, under the guise of “social justice”, resulting in political correctness,  ‘to save the world’.  Love without truth is opened to the fleshly freedom to as one wants, as long as it is politically correct. You do not need God to save, only God who gives us examples say,  of “inclusivism” as long as those Bible narratives are not considered “patriarchal” and “sexist” or “homophobic”.  And on the end:  Truth without love can result in using truth to bludgeon an opponent. 

“We must love each other or we must die” said LBJ. Yes, that is true according to God’s Law.  But we have not loved our neighbor as we ought. This the President would not, even could not, say.  In his statement the implication is if we want to ‘love each other’ then we need to vote for him and not the conservative!  No government on earth can teach us to love!  Why?  They do not have saving truth! A government  can instruct in facts, but not truth.  They are not called so to teach.  One of the reasons there is tax exemption for religion because early on, our constitutional government realized what they could NOT do:  teach morals, churches and synagogues can.  Sadly, so many churches have given up that role. Government can only “insure the domestic tranquility” by protecting its citizens from all enemies. foreign and domestic (see Romans 13) and getting out of the way of churches (and yes, synagogues, mosques, ashrams, parents) to teach morals.  President Johnson was beginning to assume the role of Moralist in Chief.  He/she can not enforce ‘love’ and if so, the greatest tyranny is yet to be loosed upon the earth, the anti-Christ: 

2 Thessalonians 2:”… and the man of lawlessness is revealed,the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”

Proclaiming “himself to be God” by teaching us his version of love! And no one will be exempt from a love turned dictatorial. As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said, When the Church is expelled from the public square, then the state will become the church, that is, anti-Christ. 

There is hope!  The Word became flesh (St. John 1).  He is the Word of saving truth for sinners:  see St. John 8: 31-32 and John 14:6.  He is the love of God incarnate as well:  see John 3:16 and 1 John 4:8.  There is hope but it is not of the world and it’s kingdoms but in Christ Jesus alone.  Evil is perverted goodness bent in upon one’s own self, not according to the truth of God’s truth in the Scripture. When Gandalf was offered the ring of power by Bilbo for Gandalf, he said no in no uncertain terms:

It is the allure of using goodness according to the flesh. The allure of the anti-Christ is today love apart from truth, again a fleshly freedom which is actually the old slavery of sin.  It looks good and remember what is written about such men:

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

In these times, we must stand fast in God’s Word alone! 

Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from your Son
And bring to nought all he has done.

Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word
By: Martin Luther

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And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32


Almighty and everlasting God,grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:  Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14;  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (26-31);   John 12:23-50

  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32, for Holy Tuesday

Reflection:  Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?  What is our “draw”?  I  have asked that question and that is more than a simple admission and more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels?  etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit.  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ.   It is written that our preaching IS, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).  H0ly Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ).  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In His Body given unto death is our life.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness. No Cross, no Savior.  No Savior, no salvation.  If there is no preaching of Christ and Him crucified, then the preaching of human religious works follows.  Christians from almost day one would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies.  And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped.  Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls.  The Cross is the sign of the love stronger than death and in Him, “…we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  (Romans 8: 37) He is the Draw.

“…ponder what sin is, and what kind of anguish will result for those who do not seek forgiveness for sin in Christ and protection from the wrath of God. Here stands God’s Son, who carries (upholds) everything by the power of His Word, Heb. 1, who is of the same essence with His heavenly Father. One might think that He will readily overcome and easily bear the burden of sins and divine wrath, and it will be for Him a light, little blade of straw. But look here, how this holy Soul agonizes; indeed, the more you reflect on Him, the better you will comprehend what a huge burden sin is. With the unrepentant, sin is regarded as an insignificant thing. Some intend to atone for it with their own deeds.  However, this sad spectacle (of the Cross) knocks down all these thoughts.  For, if (sins) were such insignificant matter, why was Christ Himself thus permitted to grieve (over them)?”   (from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ (published 1663)

“By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.”

(from the Litany, as cited by Pr. Gerhard, ibid)

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Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

Collect for the Day:

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament LessonIsaiah 50:5–10

Psalm of the Day: Psalm 36:5–10; antiphon: v. 9

Epistle Lesson1 Peter 2:21–24

Gospel Lesson:  St. John 12:1–23

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  (John 12: 23b “…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12: 43).

The glory that comes from  the Old Adam always praises the glory of man. As a pastor wrote after “the Oscars” ceremony:  Idolaters worshiping their idols as their idols receive an idol. This is as old as Babel.

  And all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart. (Francis Thompson)

We think that man’s glory will last the ages, as the 1,000 Year Reich proclaimed, but even the vainglorious ancient Romans knew something of the transitory nature of earthly glory:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” (General George S. Patton)

“In the cross of Christ I glory, tow’ring o’er the wrecks  of time”.   Human  glory is fleeting: The glory that comes from God glorifies His Son in love for us all, and His love is before the foundations of the world, ancient yet ever new (Ephesians 1: 4-5).  The Holy Monday Gospel is the severe contrast between the poverty of the glory that comes from man with the glory that comes from God. 

The evangelist John and many other eye witnesses of the Word testified, “…we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’(John 1: 14). The glory coming from God is His extravagant and costly mercy, as seen “when Mary anointed the Lord’s feet”.  Judas was pinching pennies,not understanding such love, nor the Giver at the table.  Judas and the Pharisees magnifies the Adamic  lust after the glory of this world.  Judas could not understand Mary’s joy that her brother Lazarus was alive by the Word of Jesus.   Like Judas, the Old Adam is a thief, stealing to get ahead, attempting to rob God of the glory for one’s self.   As old as Eve (Genesis 3: 5). The glory coming from God is finally the costly blood of His Son for those who are poor in spirit to anoint our heads and feet with His forgiveness (Matthew 5: 3).Human reason, unaided by the revelation of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, can not understand such love. As  Mary anointed the Lord’s Body for His burial, the Lord has anointed us with His blood so our sin, our self itself is buried with Him, and that as He is risen,we too may walk in the newness of life (Romans 6: 4).  As our Lord said after His anointing:

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (St. Mark 14)

We do not proclaim any good news of the rich and famous, Caesars and presidents, CEOs and false Messiahs,  for there is none. In the whole world we remember what Mary did.  After the dust collects on trophies and awards and diplomas, they are forgotten but we remember with joy those who loved us. The Lord’s  love and mercy is never in the black, but always in the red, that is, in His blood.  A slave stands behind our ears who is the Lord of heaven and earth and says, ‘The glory of this world is fleeting, but  behold, I am with you even unto the end of age’ (Matthew 28: 20). 

O Lord  Jesus Christ, You who were anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, give me grace so that I may sprinkle Your feet with penitent tears and may thus be enabled to anoint the members of Your spiritual body—especially the needy and suffering ones—with the oil of compassion and gentle kindness. Amen.  (prayer by Pr. Johann Gerhard)

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C. S. Lewis and his wife, Joy Davidman. She died from cancer.

In a previous article, I reported and reflected on the “love-locks” bridge in Paris in which lovers have been putting padlocks on the bridge as a sign of their love.  I thought about this quote from C. S. Lewis, his book, The Four Loves:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

This is another reflection on those love-locks.  Locks are to keep things safe.  We think we can make safe the heart, especially as the “heart” is understood as the place of love (btw:  the “heart” in the Bible is the symbol of the will).   Lewis’ quote has poignancy in our day and time in which couples defer or do not have children. Changing one word in part of Lewis’ keen observation:

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even a child. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

I think this sounds “close to the bone”.   We even abort ‘inconvenient pregnancies”.  Marriage has devolved into worse than a reason for a divorce, a reason for a mutually agreeable business partnership with sex.  Love is not safe and put into a safe hoarding it, but extended to future generations.  “Be fruitful and multiply…”  Genesis 1:  28

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This is Paris’ Pont des Arts Bridge for pedestrians.  In the 2006 novel I Want You by Italian author Federico Mocca, 2 Roman lovers put a lock on a bridge and throw the key into the Tiber River.  This sparked a huge phenomenon in Paris in which several bridges are now completely encrusted with locks upon which love-struck tourist couples initial a padlock before attaching it to the bridge and throwing the key into the river.  The local magistrate ordered the padlocks removed from the Pont des Arts bridge since they weigh 45 tons and are threatening the bridge’s structural integrity. (Source:  The Week, June 12, 2015;  NY Times, “Paris Bridge’s Love Locks Are Taken Down”)

Couples in love instinctively seek a lock on their love because the innate understanding is “love is as strong as death” and “love never ends”.    So many songs are about the eternal nature of love.  Those two Scripture quotes indicate the everlasting nature of love for “…God is love…” and the Lord never ends.  I think in a day of such relativism, this  phenomenon of “love-locks” practically verifies the absolute Biblical truth from the Lord’s own creation of us, and the new creation in Christ, that we are created to love and  love never ends.  Love is supposed to as it is sensed by couples in love, you know “diamonds are forever” and the engagement ring.

 In the day in which “making love” has devolved into “hooking-up”, there is still this romantic instinct of  ‘eternal’ love.   I wonder, though, how many “love-locks” were put on the bridge, say, by one person coupling and decoupling?  It is not that sexual love is bad, for the Lord made husbands and wives so to  love.  The problem is what we do with said love. We want it to last, but we can not on our own.  I wonder how many of those couples wished, even within hours of putting that padlock on that bridge, they should not have thrown the key away!  

When many people say “God is love”, they really mean “love is God” (C. S. Lewis). Love on its own will not hold us fast.  There is only one way:  God’s holy love.  Love and holiness go together and the only “love-lock” that secures us is the love of  God in Jesus Christ for couples ‘falling in love’, and for friends, for families, with our neighbors and our enemies. The weight of those padlocks overloaded the Ponts des Arts bridge as  do all our fallen loves. Christ is the only love-lock bridge between God and man, between all men and women.  He has borne all our fallen love for our forgiveness because God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son (John 3: 16) and our unholy love broke Him and He is risen. Truly, “…love never ends”.    

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On this day, at the age of 40, Anglican priest Father George Herbert died and was then buried in Bremerton, England.  He was born into an aristocratic and distinguished Welsh family.  He excelled in classical scholarship, languages (Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish,French) and music at Trinity College, Cambridge and as University Orator (1629-1627), seemed destined for high political office.  But George Herbert was drawn to the study of divinity.  He was ordained a priest on September 19, 1630.  A year before he was married to Jane Danvers.  He was the rector of St. Peter’s Fugglestone and St. Ansdrew, Bremerton.  His congregation was largely unlettered.  He loved the liturgy and the meaning of the church year andso taught his people.  When the church bells would ring for Matins and Vespers, many of the parishioners would “let their plough rest” and join in the prayers with their beloved pastor.  His health was never strong. He only served 3 years and then died of consumption.

Why is he remembered by us?  He was a poet.  After his death, a book of his poems, The Temple was published and eventually 13 editions by 1679. His poetry is thematically Christian, devout and honest.  He also wrote A Priest in the Temple, or the Country Parson, about the life of a pastor. (from Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Philip Pfatteicher)

Some of his poems were “shape poems”, that is the poem is formed to look like it’s subject!  The Altar is reproduced below.  Is it the shape of an altar or the first person singular pronoun? (note:  the  funny looking ‘f’ is actually ‘s’) 

This is Love III, both text and recited.  Listen as you read it:

 One more.  Here we read that Fr. Herbert was well aware of his physical weakness and his help, like ours, in life and death, is in the Name of the Lord:

Iesu (or Jesu: both are Latin for Jesus)

Iesu is in my heart, His sacred Name

Is deeply carved there: but th’other week

A great affliction broke the little frame,

Ev’n all to pieces:  which I went to seek:

And first I found the corner, where was I,

After, where ES, and next where U was graved.

When I had got these parcels, instantly

I sat me down to spell them, and perceived

that to my broken heart He was I ease you,

                                        And to my whole is IESU.

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