Posts Tagged ‘C.S.Lewis’

Text:  Exodus 20: 1-21

For our Wednesdays in Lent, the option in Evening Prayer is Sermon or Catechetical Instruction.  We will have catechetical instruction on the chief parts of Dr. Luther’s Small and Large Catetchisms.  We begin where Luther began:  the 10 Commandments. 

There are laws of nature and there is the moral law of God.  It is difficult to disobey, say, the law of gravity.  We can escape gravity only with a whole lot of help, as with the help of a jet or a helicopter.  We have to go out of the way to disobey the laws of nature.  Note: there really can not be disobedience of the laws of nature.   This would mean there are repercussions to such disobedience, that is, punishment and it is deserved. It would imply there is right and wrong gravity, but there is not.  In contrast to the Laws of Nature, it is quite easy to disobey the Law of God.  We tend to do that quite a bit.  For the Law of God is about right and wrong in this fallen world. There are repercussions, such as punishment, deserved, both temporal and eternal.  His Law is the only law that keeps society and culture from veering off a cliff.  His Law alone shows us our sin.  His Law alone shows us the good we can do. 

We live in an era that violently believes that man is the measure of all things and so believes in relativism. C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity in his first section on the Law of God: 

“Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.”

Well, until now. Putting our self first is a cottage industry in our day and time.  In fact, putting the self first is praised.  “I did it my way”.  Having any woman, or man that you liked?  See TV, see movies.   In our days, in our zeitgeist, literally “the spirit of an age”, we are taught there is no absolute moral law as the basis of right and wrong. Right and wrong are mere human constructs brought together by human agreement.  It’s all relative.  But is it right ever to rape a woman?  If there is no absolute moral law, then the difficulty of parenting becomes impossible, but it is not as there is right and wrong.  A child needs limits, his behavior in word and deed circumscribed and so do adults!  The Law of God is summed up by God’s only begotten Son: You shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul and mind and the second is liken unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  We were made for God and each other, in relation to the Lord and in each other. This is clear as the nose on your face. We all do have the moral compass of the Law of God.  God’s law is even more concrete than a compass:  it was initially written on two stone tablets, hard as rock. 

Lewis’ Mere Christianity were originally radio talks on BBC during World War II, when the Nazis were trying to bomb Britain out of existence: 

“What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced? If they had had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the color of their hair.

 “Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong— in other words, if there is no “Law of God”—what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? 

            Now the first Table of the Law can not be legislated into civil laws of nations, when it has been, the result has been tyranny of the worse type:  see Sharia Law;  see ISIS.  The first table of the law is, though, the beating heart of the Law.   God’s first commandment is not that He is the Lord, but that you shall have no other gods before Him. The first three commandments are all about worship and what or who we worship.  Every atheist has a god he or she believes in:  reason, talent, fame, self, money.  So do Christians have those other gods, and those gods are at the whimsy of fallen flesh.  The Lord our God is not.  He is the only true God because He alone teaches honor and love, as embodied in the 10 commandments.  The second table of the Law flows from the first, and some of Second Table is the basis of civil law, such as not stealing, no murder.  The last commandment is about coveting, the inordinate loves of things, people and devils above the Lord.  No earthly government can legislate the mind nor the heart nor the soul.  It has been tried and the result is tyranny of the worse sort.  

With the last commandment we are back at the first.  As it is written, covetousness is idolatry. The Law shows us that sin is one vicious circle. We cannot get out of that vicious circle on our own by any stretch.  This is reason Luther begins the Catechisms with the Law:  so we know the absolute Law of God which we can not fulfill in a thousand life times. “It was a false, misleading dream that God his Law had given that sinners could themselves redeem and by their works gain heaven. The Law is but a mirror bright to bring the inbred sin to light that lurks within our nature”  It was for this world Christ died. Into this vicious circle, came the Christ.   In this zeitgeist, we tend to be soft in the head with hardness of heart. 

Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23: 29) It breaks the stony ground of the heart. His Hammer is the Law.  Into this hardhearted world came Jesus Christ.  Here is the beating heart of the Law, perfect love.  The only One who has perfectly kept the Law fulfilled the Law.  Harder than even the rock of the law is the rock of our salvation:  Jesus Christ.  When the Law shows you your sin, don’t look to the Law for help, it offers none.  When the Law shows you your sin, look to Jesus Christ, the beating heart of God and every word and deed of Christ, finally and fully Good Friday, who did for all the world atone.  He is our mediator.

 “Outside Jerusalem, there is a hill of yellow, naked stone, ugly and hard as a dead man’s skull. Long ago men bored a socket in this rocky hill and planted a cross there, and on that cross they hanged the only one of our race who was righteous and had perfectly fulfilled the law. God permitted this to happen because, although he had tolerated sin in former ages, he wanted once and for all to show that he was righteous and that sin is followed by condemnation and punishment, and that he will not countenance any tampering with his standards of holiness. But so wonderful is God that he let all the curse and penalty of sin fall upon the Innocent One, who freely gave of himself in death for us. He was made a curse for our sakes. Thus he redeemed us from the condemnation of the law. He was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree, and by his stripes we are healed.”(The Hammer of God, novel by Bp. Bo Giertz)

We have heard what is the Lord’s will and  next week, we look again at the second chief part of the Catechism, the Apostles’ Creed, by  which we confess the faith in the Lord so that we may gladly hear His Word and do it, as He has done all for us in creating, redeeming and sanctifying us.

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At Christmas time,I like to say tongue in cheek that, “I just want to be whipped into a Yuletide frenzy”, but that type of emotional high seems to be the modus operandi of many a Christian congregation and their worship services:  get the faithful into some sort of emotional high. In the central act of inculcating emotional highs, generally speaking happy highs, the very act of doing so precludes, disallows and disavows other emotions:  sorrow, sadness, anger to be expressed or confessed.

In C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, in the fourth letter, Screwtape writes to his nephew Wormwood that Wormwood’s “patient” can be tempted, and so succumb, if the patient does not pray. One of the methods that Screwtape  explains to Wormwood to have his patient’s prayer neutralized is the following:

Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment. (italics original)

Prayer as in worship is directed outward not inward. I think Lewis was on to something here.  Ministers and churches which practice this prayer just might be doing the devil’s own work. Prayer does not come from our feelings, but on account of God’s Word, even when we don’t feel it. This is why prayer is from the heart,that is,  the heart of God to our hearts, souls and minds through His Word is His grace and guidance to us:  see The Lord’s Prayer, see the longest book in the Bible, the Psalms!  It is that prayer that is prayer to the Lord.  

So many pastors and ministers can get folks feeling brave, charitable, forgiven.  Back in college, when the Jesus movement, later called “born-again”, was starting, a football player had a poster: “I used to get high on drugs, but now I get high on the Jesus”.  I did not think Jesus was like a joint, a drug.  Still don’t.  Too many ministers and their followers hook them with those emotions, like junkies, and when many ask for money, like a junky pay the price.  Am I against emotions?  No.  As a pastor I have seen people kneeling to receive the Sacrament of the Altar, with smiles or with tears.  They heard the Word which causes joy. Feelings will follow but they do not lead and must not: only the Lord leads as He went into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I am glad my classmate was not on drugs and the Lord turned him around, but getting ‘high’ on Jesus would too wear off.

Prayer, as faith, Baptism, Communion depends upon His Word to us.  So many avoid Good Friday services for Easter.  Good Friday and Easter does not depend upon us but on His suffering, bleeding, dying Word for us and our salvation, thirsting for your salvation. He alone turns us to Himself.

This is the Screwtape Letter quoted above, the fourth one, as read by John Cleese:

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In my last posting, Faith:  A Family Affair I commented on the daily lection for that day from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy.  The daily readings from 2 Timothy concluded 1 February 2014.   The focus of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy centers on the Word of God, the Scriptures  as the Apostle encourages Timothy to, “…follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”  (1: 13) The “sound words” (literally “healthy words”, “clean words”) are the Scriptures.  God’s Word is clean (cf.Psalm 19:8-10).  His Word in Holy Baptism, over which He has placed His Name, cleanses (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10-12 ).   

The Apostle begins his  epistle by gently reminding his brother pastor that Timothy was taught the faith from his mother and grandmother, and further he was ordained a pastor to preach and teach the Word of God “in and out of season”, when it is favorable or not:  see 2 Timothy 4:1-3.  In another word of encouragement, the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy, again reminding him of the faith which was kindled by the Scriptures:

3: 14 But as for you,continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Immediately after the verses above, the Apostle writes the concise statement of the origin and purpose of the Scriptures in the life of pastors and people in the Body of Christ, His Church:

3: 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God 

The more usual translation of “breathed out” is “inspired”.  Lutheran Pastor and Professor, Dr. Paul Kretzmann, in his Popular Commentary (1924) describes the verse from 2 Timothy as both witness to veracity of the Scripture and to the correct way of understanding “inspired/God breathed”:

What the apostle has stated concerning the Holy Scriptures, of the power of God in them, of their glorious purpose and blessing, he now summarizes in a powerful sentence, which is a strong bulwark for the inspiration of the Old Testament. He writes: All Scripture, inspired by God, is also profitable. The term used by the apostle is so general that it seems to include not only the books of the Old Testament, as in use in the Jewish Church, but also the writings then being penned by inspiration of God, the gospels and the letters of the various apostles and evangelists. At any rate, there can be no doubt that the so-called Old Testament canon is the inspired Word of God. St. Paul writes that Scripture was inspired by God, not in the manner of a mechanical transmission, but in such a way that God breathed His holy Gospel, His Word, into the minds of the writers, incidentally making use of their intellect, of their mental ability and equipment, in producing a series of books which plainly show the peculiarities of the writers, and yet are, word for word, the product of God Himself.

Please note that both the Muslims, who say that an angel dictated word for word the Koran to Mohammed (dictation theory),  and the Mormons both believe in  a “mechanical transmission” of their false works-righteous, false doctrinal books, even to the point that Joseph Smith said it was literally mechanical: “golden-plates” and “crystals” to see them aright!  Natural man, without Gospel, only invent more works-righteous religions. There is nothing mysterious about that at all, Look at me!  How I saved me!    The Scriptures lead us continually to Jesus Christ, the mystery of His love seeking the lost, kindling faith. The “peculiarities of the writers” show us the way the Lord found them in their lives.  A shepherd, David, writes the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23.  The priest in the Temple, Isaiah, is cleansed in the Temple to preaching the cleansing Word of God.  The murderer of Christians, Saul, is called to preach Christ and Him crucified thus making Christians and so in Christ, eternal life, not eternal death.  Each of their differences are read in their writings, yet all preach and teach the one Word of God.

Please note purpose of Scripture as Paul continued,

and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.

Reproof and correction is hardly part of too many pastors’ and congregations’ understanding of Scripture and the life in Christ Jesus.  We are supposed to be continually “affirmed”.  No one says “no” and we don’t want to be the Church of “no”, in other words, we don’t want to teach God’s Law.  The word “heresy” is from the Greek which literally means “choice”.   “All Scripture…”, Law and Promise, and not just the parts we like.  Scripture is teaching the Lord’s sound doctrine of Law and  Promise.  Scripture is for teaching Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  Scripture for reproof and for correction, showing us where we have strayed and missed the mark, to warn us, Woe! and Whoa!  The Lord’s salvation is at stake!  Scripture is for training in righteousness, the alien righteousness given us by grace through Jesus Christ that we are His, that His alien righteousness, foreign to sin and the Old Adam, have a home here  and now for every good work,the fruit of faith which is love.  And all of this, teaching, reproof, correction, training is the Lord’s package deal in His written Word.  

Paul addresses and false doctrine in this letter.  Paul gives a necessary concrete example of false doctrine in their day in time, in the Epistle:

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (chapter 2)

“…their talk will spread like gangrene.”  Gangrene is a powerful image of death spreading because of false doctrine.  If the resurrection has already happened, then one is sinless, and so sin won’t affect a resurrected body, so have fun.  Scary, isn’t it?  It just leads, “…into more and more ungodliness”.   The denial of the historicity of Scripture is a cottage industry in academia and has been for over  a century. Just look at the way the Scriptures have been put into a paper shredder by modern Biblical scholars, as in there is no bodily resurrection, beginning with Jesus Christ.  If there is no Resurrection, there is no judgment and no salvation, so go for the all the gusto today. Yes, we can see it all around in us the culture but I think it began in churches where the devil does his best work.

C. S. Lewis’ fantasy allegory, The Great Divorce is about a bus ride from Hell to heaven for the inhabitants of the former to meet the celestial people of Heaven.  In one conversation, two former priests in the Anglican Church, who were friends meet.  Dick, from heaven and his friend, the bishop in hell.  The ‘bishop’ speaks first:

Ah, Dick, I shall never forget some of our talks. I expect you’ve changed your views a bit since then. You became rather narrow-minded towards the end of your life: but no doubt you’ve broadened out again.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that you weren’t quite right. Why, my dear boy, you were coming to believe in a literal Heaven and Hell!”

“But wasn’t I right?”

“Oh, in a spiritual sense, to be sure. I still believe in them in that way. I am still, my dear boy, looking for the Kingdom. But nothing superstitious or mythological. . . .”

“Excuse me. Where do you imagine you’ve been?”

“Ah, I see. You mean that the grey town with its continual hope of morning (we must all live by hope, must we not?), with its field for indefinite progress, is, in a sense, Heaven, if only we have eyes to see it? That is a beautiful idea.”

“I didn’t mean that at all. Is it possible you don’t know where you’ve been?”

“Now that you mention it, I don’t think we ever do give it a name. What do you call it?”

“We call it Hell.”

“There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.”

“Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don’t go back you may call it Purgatory.”

“Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you’ll tell me why, on your view, I was sent there. I’m not angry.”

“But don’t you know? You went there because you are an apostate.”

“Are you serious, Dick?”


“This is worse than I expected. Do you really think people are penalised for their honest opinions? Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken.”

“Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?”

“There are indeed, Dick. There is hidebound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed-they are not sins.”

“I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.”

“Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.”

“What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came-popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?”

Paul is writing also about “sins of the intellect”.  He warns about the incessant quarreling about words, i.e. see the endless threads of endless blogs. “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. ” 2 Timothy 2: 14  I am more and more convinced that hell is an endless  thread of an endless blogging, just as the bishop wanted to continue the endless dialogue about doctrine only to deny it.  “Before God, who searches hearts and minds, he was to remind the ministers of their duty. They should exclude, as altogether useless and unprofitable, the custom of striving with words, of quarreling endlessly, 1 Timothy 1:5-7 ; Titus 3:9” (Kretzmann).  The Lord does not want us revolving  around ourselves, but go to Him, His Word, His Grace, His Mercy, for in Him our sin is forgiven and our lives quickened.  Remembering what the Word says:

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering,bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2)

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A C. S. Lewis Quote

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“In all of us God “still” holds only a part.  D-Day is only a week ago.  The bite so far taken out of Normandy shows small on the map of Europe.  The resistance is strong, the casualties heavy, and the even uncertain.  There is, we have to admit, a line of demarcation between God’s part in us and the enemy’s region.  But it is, we hope, a fighting line;  not a frontier fixed by agreement.” (Letters to Malcolm:  Chiefly on Prayer)

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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://i2.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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“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.” C. S. Lewis


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For those who were in college and/or adults during Watergate, Charles “Chuck” Colson was a name synonomous with the lust of power leading to criminal acts.  Below is the obituary from the National Review.  I was pleased by the fact that  the writer included a Scripture verse, St. John 15: 19,  from the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel reading John 15: 9-17. I think it is appropriately cited.  I include this obit to note the passing a witness to Jesus Christ.  I also include this obit because it encapsulates the way the Lord works through His Word:  Law and Gospel.  I comment on that after the obit.

Ernest Hemingway, Mad Men, the Nixon White House: A style of post-war macho bluster found its final form in the Watergate tapes. One of the main blusterers was Charles Colson, counsel to the president from 1969 to 1973. “When I complained to Colson,” wrote Nixon in his memoirs, “I felt confident that something would be done. I was rarely disappointed.” After Colson was charged with approving the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s office, a friend gave him a copy of Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis, and read aloud a passage saying that pride “is the complete anti-God state of mind.” From standing at the right hand of a president, he fell before the King of King   who took him, just as He said He would. Colson’s time in jail opened his eyes to the suffering of other convicted criminals, and he devoted himself to Prison Fellowship Ministries, which now has programs in 1,300 prisons nationwide. In Christian theology, election refers to God’s saving grace: “I have chosen you,and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” Colson won the election of his life. Dead at 80. R.I.P

Reflection:  The sequence is important in this obituary as it is in the life of every Christian:  Law, then promise, or Gospel.  Mr. Colson found himself charged for a criminal act of great import in the life of our nation…a nation, by the way, conceived in liberty and freedom from government to perpetuate criminal acts against its citizens or intervene in our first amendment rights.  Mr. Colson read that pride is the “complete anti-God state of mind”. Yes.  This was the Law convicting Mr. Colson.  “Pride goes before destruction,and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18  Like David after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Mr. Colson was cut to the quick:  see Hebrews 4:11-13   His repentance was true because immediately he heard of Jesus  Christ:  “…he fell before the King of King   who took him, just as He said He would.”  And that is called, grace, always preceded by God’s judgment.  Mr. Colson was found out by the Lord and the Lord found him.  He won the election of his life:  the Lord voted to save him in his anti-God state of life upon the Cross.  You as well. The Lord’s vote is the only that counts in His election and it is His forgiveness.  In Christ, Mr. Colson bore fruit:  the salvation of many through in ministry to prisoners.  Your fruitfulness may not make the papers but it will give hope to those around you.  In His grace it will be His love as He first loved us.

Merciful Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church by the sacrifice of Christ.  United with Him in Holy Baptism, give us grace to receive with thanksgiving the fruits of His redeeming work and daily follow in HIs way, through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Intro:  Next to watching the football games during the New Year’s weekend, my two sons love to watch the Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy channel.  I think it is worth a whole posting to reflect on a Twilight Zone marathon on the cusp of the New Year as something that has meaning!  But I digress:  my youngest son and I were watching and for the first time I saw what was for me a ‘new’ episode:  “The Obsolete Man”.  If you have not seen, I encourage you to watch it.  My only comment right now is that it has a Christian theme and very much akin to C.S. Lewis.  Please leave your comments.  I will post later on this episode:

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