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Posts Tagged ‘love’

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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If my memory serves, when the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights protesters, using non-violence, were violently set upon by the white police, my Father and many white people were won over to the civil rights movement. We saw black people being being beaten, water-hosed, verbally abused night after night on the evening news. The seismic change occurred when others took over the civil rights movement and changed it from non-violence to violence: Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers etc. Then they lost white America as the violent protesters wanted to enrage but like MLKjr said in the meme above, they wanted to “annihilate rather than convert”. In the news about Baltimore, it was reported that in the ’68 riots that occured after King’s assasination, that many cities still have not recovered. This is tragic irony: the man who said and lived what he said prophesied what is still with us. King said that he not only wanted the oppressed to be free, but the oppressor. Our prayer and work must be now that the violent protesters be set free from their lust of vengeance. This goes for anyone of us caught in the cycle of rage.

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Text:  Hebrews 11

Today’s Epistle reading is the Roll Call of the Heroes of Faith in Jesus Christ with the theme verse, the 11: 1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.

In the middle of the Roll Call, there are verses of hope in Christ, by faith, toward the Lord’s will in Christ for all:

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

The  hymn “I’m but a Stranger Here” (#748, Lutheran Service Book) expresses an Biblical truth we seem not to like as Christians, the first stanza:

I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.

This reminds me of the country song lyric, “Everyone wanna go to heaven, but no one want to go now”.  We like it here.  We have a hard time with the understanding that, “earth is a desert drear”.  Never before in the history of the world have so many people enjoyed the life that just a century before was limited to the wealthy few:  single family dwellings, lawns, vast entertainment possibilities through, radio, TV, internet, even indoor plumbing.  Prosperity preachers make much ado about this that we can even more if we strike a deal with the Almighty. We are very much at home here and now and want to hold on for dear life…even Christians. Yet, if what I have written is true, we are being false to the faith and hope the saints of old lived in Christ:  the Lord has a better plan.  The Lord laid out this plan in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth:  an enduring city, who’s builder is none other than the Lord Himself.  Even our desire, even lust, for the “good life”, the “best life” now and forever demonstrates that eternity is part of our very thoughts, reflecting in a fleshly way, the Lord Himself. Ecclesiastes 3:

 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Eternity is in our will, that we know we were made forever with the Lord, yet on our own we can not find out “what God has done from the beginning to the end”.  Now with the Lord’s revelation finally and fully of the Incarnation, Ministry, life, death, resurrection and ascension of His Son our Lord, Jesus Christ, we know by what the Lord is doing.  For all our pagan attempts to hold onto life, grab all the gusto, we are looking to ourselves, inwardly, the despair of our times.  All the heroes of the faith, from A-Z, from Abraham to Zechariah were directed by the Lord to seek a “homeland”.  “Homeland Security” cannot give finally security and yet we seek homeland security for the here and now.  The hope of the homeland which is secure forever has been given:  the city of God.  We think our I-Phones/Pods and Pads are the “bomb”, giving us information and control at a finger swipe but all the while we want to be loved.  We live as if this were it, and fear and tremble that it is not. But,

“With all true Christians running
Our heavenly race and shunning
The devil’s wiles and cunning”,

we know by the Lord’s scarred hands that this world is not the final resting place.  Christ is.  I am, maybe like you, not too crazy about dying…but when we know sin is death, Christ is life eternal, seeking His homeland is sanity in this dark world for which Christ died.

In the Hall of Heroes of the Faith, note that all the saints therein were looking forward in hope, in the hope of Christ to come.  They had no cathedrals, except the Temple not made with human hands:  Jesus Christ (John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 3:17 ).  We pray many will hear the Word and come to faith.  But if faith is only for this world, or even for our congregation alone, then we are of all people the most to be pitied:  but Christ is raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:18-20).  It is clear from Hebrews 11:  Faith not only clings to Christ for what He has done for us but what He will do:  Thy Kingdom Come, based upon the Rock of our salvation,what He has done from womb to tomb to the Resurrection. Our national pastime, baseball, has it right:  to go home, after all the strike outs, errors, missed catches, we can in Christ. The homeland is given even now:

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.-St. John 14: 23

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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”. Not all 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, 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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Here is an interesting idea by Pastor William Cwirla:

“Rather than Friendship Sunday, we should consider Enemy Sunday. Invite an enemy to church. Pray for them. Give them a free lunch.”

After all, it is written as the Lord said:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (St. Matthew 5)

When we get right down to it, isn’t this what the Great Week, Holy Week is all about, that is the Crucifixion and the Lord praying, forgive them for they know not what they do?

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Invite your enemies. Invite your mother-in-law.  Invite the guy who said the church is filled with hypocrites.  Invite the atheist professor whom you could not best in class.  Invite the guy who ran into your car and told you to go to hell. Invite the friend who blabbed your deepest secret all over facebook.  After all, His death reconciled you and I as well, that is, God’s enemies.  “Oh, oh, but…I am…”  What’s the end of that sentence?  No “buts” at His Cross, only His enemies. God is plain in His Word. He is plain in His judgment…and His mercy through His bloody love at the cross. He invited you and it’s not your good sense that accepted the invitation but your need for His forgiveness.  

So, I think Pastor Cwirla is on to something:   Enemy Sunday.

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There was a rock station yesterday giving away a free divorce for Valentine’s Day   and Planned Parenthood encouragesabortions for Valentine’s Day, or as the President said in support of abortion, no woman should be punished for having a child.   The morning after Valentine’s Day might include the “morning after” pill to stop gestation, or ‘freedom’ from one’s spouse by yet another divorce or a stranger in bed after a “hook-up”. What has become of love and marriage, or is it marriage and then love?  For a solid reflection on that question read Chad Bird’s article in The Federalist, “Giving Away a Divorce on Valentine’s Day”.  Valentine’s Day is a far cry from the little known Saint Valentine.

Someone wrote a graffiti, “Love is Enough” and another person wrote, “No, it’s not”…especially the way “love” is understood these days as only lust.  The Gospel lesson for tomorrow, the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, includes Matthew 5:26-28.  Jesus goes to the heart, the will. As the country lyric has it correctly about himself and us all: “I’ve looked for love in all the wrong places”.  There  is only person and place to look for the meaning of love and His Name is Jesus Christ and the place is His Cross.  Luther’s Seal may be the best Valentine’s Day card: His Cross in our hearts killing sin, hence, black, but making our hearts alive and beating.  Love for loveless shown. Luther also wrote that ring around it is gold, the color of heaven, but it is also the color of a wedding ring, complete with the purity of a white rose.  He can make the foulest clean.  Hear His Word and receive His Sacrament tomorrow on the Lord’s Day. A blessed morning after Valentine’s Day!

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