Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

Before we could cut and paste on a computer and internet, the way us old timers did things was to physically cut and save articles, cartoons, comics, articles.  I came across my newspaper clippings file recently and have combed through it for what I consider to be gems. Unfortunately, I did not date a lot of these clippings, but I guess the one below is from the  ’90s. Comments are welcome.

This is from Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury which was huge comic strip hit.  I do not know if it is still published, but this one is sadly timely even today:



Doonsbury 2

“Church shopping” back in the ’90s started to become an art of the self to affirm and be positive about the self.  No doctrine or dogmatism, just me. As a commercial at the time had it:

People still do want it their way, have so since Eden and so many, like lemmings, have gone over the edge.  The woman wants a place to feel good about herself, and it sounds like the theme from hit sitcom, “Cheers” about a bar in Boston:

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

So what did the folks do, who are doing everything to make their way in the world, and trying to forget about life for awhile?  Drink beer and hang out in a bar.  I  would rather go to bar and be honest, than to use religion as a pretext and neither is a solution, let alone, salvation. 

People just don’t want sin, redemption, even if it is a soft-sell of the “occasional disincentive” but the reverend of the Little Church in Walden uses this disincentive for control.  He had it wrong:  redemption is for freedom in Christ.


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Almighty God,by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ,  You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light.Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory;through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever.


Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Psalm 61

 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 St. John 21:1-14

Reflection on the Gospel LessonJohn 21: 1-14. In this Gospel reading, the risen Lord asked Peter 3 times, Do you love me more than these? 3 times the Lord said, “Feed My sheep”. Feed them in the pastures of His Word. The number 3 was quite significant to Peter as Peter denied Jesus three times. Then after the Lord’s Ascension Peter does not want to go to the Gentile Centurion, Cornelius’ home because Peter would eat unclean animals.  3 times a sheet is lowered with unclean and clean animals, the Lord telling him to eat. The name Peter means “Rock”.  It takes time for many of us “to get it through our thick heads”!  But Peter did not seem to have a hard heart. After Jesus walked on the water, Peter almost commanded the Lord and the Lord invited  him: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14)  Then we he saw the waves and the wind, the storm  and Peter began to sink.  When he saw the storm around the fire as Jesus was being taken to trial, likewise he sank.  A good heart is not enough.  Pr. Johann Gerhard made a crucial distinction regarding Peter for our edification:

 “We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall (i.e. his denial), in order that we avoid the same. He was entirely too daring (presumptuous)–meaning that it all depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he noticed others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain. Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our own faith, or on our good intentions. God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.

I think Peter was the first evangelical-born-again ”I made my decision” Protestant pietist. I would love a congregation of those kind of Peters, but I know I am more like Peter when he saw the waves and the Rock sank.  Peter was a good guy, but even our goodness, apart from God, also needs Christ’s redemption, His Body and Blood, His forgiveness every step of the Way. It is my good heart and good intentions that can wreak the greatest damage in congregations, families and nations. I will impose my version of the good but it will pale in comparison to the Lord in His Word.  A  good person will boast, I live for others.  C. S.Lewis said, you tell who that person is by the hunted expressions for those round about. See Simon Peter and look to Jesus Christ.

Don’t look to  your life for salvation, because the Law points out to us, and our hearts, our sin, and points us to the Lord.  Peter found that out after he denied Jesus three times, the arrested Jesus simply looked at Peter. Peter wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61-63Peter finally knew his good heart was not enough, his decisions for Jesus did not bridge the gap between himself and the Lord, only the Lord’s hand, His Word, His decision savedhim…again and again and again!  He is risen!

Back in Luke 5 and the miraculous catch of fish, when the boat begins to sink because of the haul of fish, Peter jumps into water and falls before the Lord, “Depart from me O Lord for I am a sinful man.” First note, that Jesus did not answer Peter’s prayer in the affirmative!  Peter would discover the depths of his sin and the greater depths of the forgiveness and mercy in Jesus, the heart of His Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  After the resurrection, Peter would forget this as recorded in the New Testament but the Lord brought Him back to Himself in true repentance.  And in this scene from John 21, Peter once more impulsively throws himself into the depths because he loved the Lord, because by His love  Peter, you, me and everyone we meet has been redeemed.  Now may His Word open our hearts to our Redeemer and  by faith be saved knowing the depths of His truth and grace for sinners and also for me and for thee as well day by day.  We pray…

O Lord Jesus Christ, look upon me, a poor sinner, with Your eyes of mercy, the same eyes of mercy with which You looked upon Peter in the assembly-room, upon Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and upon the malefactor on the cross. Grant to me also,almighty God, that with Peter I bemoan my sin from the heart, with Mary Magdalene sincerely love You, and with the malefactor on the cross may live eternally with You in Your kingdom. Amen. (Johann Gerhard)

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Wednesday in Holy Week


Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Isaiah 62:11-63:7

Psalm 70 

Romans 5:6-11

St. Luke 22:1-23:56 or St. John 13:16-38

The Epistle Reading:  Romans 5:6-11  English Standard Version (ESV)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 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. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory is set in Mexico, the 1920s when the Roman Catholic Church had been suppressed.  Priests were not allowed to say Mass.  The main character is an unnamed priest, given to whiskey, who goes about the country saying clandestine Masses.  In the scene quote below he is in a shed and mestizo is crawling in the shack and grabs the priest’s ankles.  He wants the priest to hear his confession about adultery and “boys”, as his confession comes forth between his yellowed teeth, the priest reflects:

“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.” 

Greene is illustrating the Scripture text appointed for Holy Wednesday from Romans, above. For God and country, a man will dare to die.  Even for a “good person”.  When I think of the petty larcenies and lusts lurking in the attic of my heart, it’s shameful. It is true we can not even invent a new vice  (nor a new virtue! As C. S. Lewis wrote that a man can not produce a new value as much as he can not create a new primary color).   I do not remember if the priest absolved the penitent in the novel.  Christ Jesus has for all who know they need fixing in their hearts. He will. No amount of fixing on our part will do it.

In the prayer of the day, we pray, ” Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil”.    In Advent there is a collect with a similar petition that “our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found.”  Fix:  eyes on the prize or corrected/ healed.  Which is it?  I suppose the former but the former makes for the latter.  This prayer presupposes we have confessed our need to be fixed!It seems that Judas did not see himself as one who needing fixing, otherwise he would have repented.  I know a Lutheran campus minister in Southern California who will sit outside at a table in the commons areas with large sign reading: “Christianity is for the Weak”. I think this accusation was first re-hurled at the Church in our day and time with the Communists, “Religion is the opiate of the people”, a sop for the weak.  I did the same as my colleague at a campus here and had a young man look at me incredulously that I was reiterating this statement. I said it’s true:  Christianity is for the weak, that is, Christ Jesus is for the weak, the poor in spirit, the repentant sinner. God and Man in One, Christ Jesus died for the weak that we be forgiven in joyful repentance. And nowadays, Christianity seems to be for the spiritually powerful, who have all sorts of the religious/spiritual excitements and enthusiasms as I have seen on TV with too many ‘evangelists’ who preach themselves and read the titles of the latest ‘Christian’ book fad.  And the poor man or woman, knowing their need, despair that they surely can not be saved look at the ‘new’ Pharisees. If that were the case, then all of Scripture is wrong!  He lifts up our hearts and eyes to Him lifted upon the Cross. Our eyes fixed upon Him, in the depths, height and breadth of His love stretching out from the Cross to us  and we are fixed, by steadfast faith, as sinners, in Him.  It seems to me that sin, death and devil dogs us when we are not so steadfast in faith.  Our true condition apart from Him is just as it is written in Romans 5:  weak, sinner, enemy,dead and you can not get weaker than dead.  His power and glory has been shown upon the Cross and on the third day and today. We are justified, reconciled and we shall be saved, the weak steadfast in the grace wherein we stand. In this we “rejoice”! Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ!

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In the Gospels Palm Sunday begins the Week we call holy.  In John’s Gospel, the Triumphal Entry begins at 12:  12 and the events of Holy Week, all take place either in Jerusalem or close by, then fulfilled in the Resurrection and in John  ending at 21:  35.  Eleven chapters to report our Lord’s three years of public ministry and 9 chapters to cover 8 days!  The Lord was quite busy in those 8 days:

  • The Parable of the Two Sons, Matthew 21: 28-32
  • The Parable of the Tenants, Matthew 21: 33-46
  • The Parable of the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22:  1-14
  • Paying Taxes to Caesar, Matthew 22:  15-22
  • Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection, Matthew 22:  23-33
  • The Great Commandment, Matthew 22:  34-40
  • Whose Son Is the Christ?, Matthew 23: 41-46
  • The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet, John 13
  • The Doctrine of the Crucifixion, John 12: 27-36
  • The Giving of the Holy Spirit, John 14:  15-30,16: 4-15

This is not an exhaustive list.  Please note that much of the time Jesus is teaching in the Temple.   He was not condemned for His good works,  but His teaching, the doctrines He taught. This goes for the Church as well, if she is faithful to the Lord. He was crucified for the doctrine that He and the Father are equal and the Church is mocked for teaching this truth.  So many false religions, such as Islam and Mormonism likewise deny the truth of the Incarnation and the Savior of the world because of human pride that man can save himself by works of the law.  So Islam and Mormonism make up religious rules that are easier to keep than the Decalogue, but yet are hard.  In our neck of the woods, there are two Mormon ward houses, with cross-less steeples and I have seen the Temple outside of D.C, and that steeple has the angel Moroni.  This week is so crucial that all four Evangelists spend a bulk of their Gospels on reporting these seven days.  The Church, following the Word and Word made flesh, has rightly made Holy Week and Pascha (Easter) the focal point of the whole Church year.  Many Muslims want to eradicate from the face of the earth all mention of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  It is the teaching and preaching of the Cross that the Church is persecuted, not her deeds of corporate mercy.   Indeed, this connection between teaching and civil punishment is foretold in Isaiah. Indeed,  Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled:

Isaiah 50: 5-8

 The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.

The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
    He who vindicates me is near.

Years ago, in the old newspaper column, “Dear Abby”, Abby had a special piece, “Forgiveness Week Cures All Ills”.  Someone had arbitrarily designated that week for forgiveness.     The true forgiveness week has already been designated by the Lord by every doctrine He taught, by every conflict He had, by every ounce of sweat and blood that poured forth from His sacred Head with grief and shame weighed down.  It must give us pause that it took the Lord only 6 days to create us and the heavens and the earth and 33 years culminating in this Week to redeem us!  Hear,pray, learn, eat and drink the Lord’s Word with His Church this Holy Week.  

Jesus, I will ponder now
On Thy holy Passion;
With Thy Spirit me endow
For such meditation.
Grant that I in love and faith
May the image cherish
Of Thy suffering, pain, and death,
That I may not perish.

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With the 50th anniversary remembrance of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22nd, I heard, yet again, that on that date “America lost its innocence”.  This is a pervasive reflection by the secularists.  It’s a bunch of fantastical  nonsense.

A Roman Catholic monk, Thomas Merton, wrote a semi-autobiographical work, he  tellingly entitled,  The Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.  There was no time that America was “innocent”, as no country on earth has been innocent, that is free from sin.  I think in this hackneyed observation indicates a confusion between innocence and naiveté.  I think we as a people have an incredible talent in being naïve about the nature of evil, but that only came about with the wholesale rejection of Biblical understanding of original sin,  sin and evil and it’s depths.  The Lord in His Word has  no trouble calling a thing what it is, see  Romans 3:  9-20.  A heretical Roman Catholic theologian wrote there is no original sin but “original goodness”.  He must have lived in a different world than the proverbial real world. Our naiveté is such that somehow there was, as in the case of President Kennedy’s short three years as president, a kind of a “Camelot”,  a national innocence… and that fantasy was promulgated  after the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, the Korean War, slavery, the subjugation of the native Indians etc.  Then in the early ’60s,  we were prevented at the time of knowing much about that President’s adulteries, his own incompentencies,  his father’s absolute lust for power and the like.

The founding fathers of this country knew the desire for a king and tried to stop it by writing The Constitution. Thomas Paine wrote that there are governments because men are not angels.  President Lincoln wrote in his proclamation of the first Thanksgiving Day about our “national perverseness”.  I think they all had in common was the real Biblical  understanding again of the depths of evil.  It is only our age that conveniently jettisoned it.

There is a part of the Constitution that says no one in government can receive royal titles.  Thomas Paine commented on this:

“Dignities and high sounding names have different effects on different beholders. The lustre of the Star and the title of My Lord, over-awe the superstitious vulgar, and forbid them to inquire into the character of the possessor: Nay more, they are, as it were, bewitched to admire in the great, the vices they would honestly condemn in themselves. This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”

That is a frightening assessment of our fallen tendency to actually admire the  vices in dignitaries with the luster of “star” and “lord”.  Let’s face it:  President Kennedy and his wife looked good, in fact great and this occurred right at the cusp of the television age. Personally,  I think he wanted to do good.    After old President Eisenhower, a “vital man” as President, young, handsome and rich.  I could say we were “innocent” of knowing the idolic hold of the television image on us…but note: we have not gotten over it. We get the gods of our desires and lusts. This is more a  reflection on us and false doctrine than it is on a national day of grief and sorrow.  Like a comedian said in one of his characters:  “It’s better to look good than to feel good”. We could just as well quip, “It’s better to look good than be good.”  It sure doesn’t look good. So we can no longer call vice a vice, virtue a virtue and call upon the Savior of us all.  May the Lord save us from our naïve idolatries which are never the less our own dead ends which stop  us from living out of liberty.

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