"Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony?" (Job 28:29)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Working Light in the Darkness...

AMID THESE few weeks before the formative celebrations of Christmas, we have received horrid news trumpeted from media outlets. Islamic terrorist thugs have killed over a hundred persons and maimed many others. The massacre occurred in Paris, a city described by many as the "city of light". In that city, darkness has now fallen.
 The violence created by Muslim extremists has stepped up the occurrence of death and destruction in the nation of France, far beyond the recent toll encountered in the recent Charlie Hebdo slayings. As we watched the unfolding drama on the networks, many Christians in my hearing asked… “Where is God as this horror unfolds?”
 Shocked by the sight, I had not an answer at the time. But now, in response, I offer that what we have seen and heard from major news networks, Facebook and Twitter… is a direct result of the sinful works of humanity influenced by satanic powers in the world. The lights went out on the Eifel Tower in reaction to sinful violence, almost as an expressive sign of both mourning and warning. What I saw on TV showed evil darkness as the lights went out. The tower was not just a dark metal structure usually made majestically bright by the technological prowess of mankind, but I realized that both in reality and symbolically… it showed in the darkness a divine withholding of protective shelter had occurred.
 You see, in architectural model, the Eifel Tower is a simply modern ziggurat. For those who don’t know of the ziggurat, you can read of it in the faith history expressed in Judeo-Christian scriptures. We hear the story of the Tower of Babel from the book of Genesis. The ancient people in Babylon, of the Middle East, had begun to build a ziggurat, The ziggurat is a pyramid-shaped structure similar to pyramids found elsewhere… as seen in Egypt, Mexico and the Far East. Very ancient in dating, these structures are understood by archeologists as the result of man’s efforts to reach into the heavenly realm. The people who made them wished to commune with, or even… be gods! According to scriptural record, we note how did God reacted to this presumptive independence. I offer this ancient reading…

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
  And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:4-9)

Is this then to blame God? Not so, but instead we must lay the blame upon those who would try to be gods. Clearly the text does not portray the court of the Almighty as being merciful whenever human efforts are so sinfully independent, that those in power would move to usurp divine authority. We often become sinfully proud, too proud in our monumental building. Our tongues thus become confused by the language of tribalism and profit, so we soon speak war. Thus we are scattered across the globe to each build our own ziggurat.
 Think of it! We find these ziggurat not only in Paris, but also know them in recent memory... seen of the travail felt as the World Trade Center collapsed. We see them standing yet in Asia as some oriental nations work to profit unjustly from the labors of the poor, and reach even unto the heavens. Therefore, let us be warned!
 God shall not be mocked. Looking back into history’s newspapers, we find glowing pictures of the Reichstag of Germany. Some are alive that can remember its fall. In reaching back into Christian history, our New Testament scriptures find that Jesus warned us about our great building efforts. We read…

And as he (Jesus) came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”
 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?”
 And Jesus began to say to them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.  And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs. (Mark 13:1-8)

Indeed we see that the pain continued throughout history as peoples, tribes and nations yet strove sinfully with one another. So much so that even before that temple in Jerusalem fell in 70A.D., Saint Paul had addressed a crowd gathered yet before another structure built in Athens to reflect the selfish intellectual striving of humanity before the gods. The faith history of the Christian church reveals to us that Paul challenged the intellectual ziggurat in that land…

So Paul, standing in the middle of the Are-opagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’
 What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation,  that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. (Acts 17:22-27)

Thus the world witnesses our folly today. We have not learned, nor changed. We have not reconciled with one another; nor with God. Claiming false religious pride and overly-robust nationality we contend with one another, often worshiping false human gods that would deceitfully tell us that we have the right to kill, maim and terrorize. Therefore evil demons prowl amongst our cultures, deceiving us and our false Messiahs into waging war for power, economic strength and territorial growth.
 I consider now that our sinful, collective human madness tempting us to be gods is what has caused the massacre of persons in Paris. And it seems that many can sense our shortcomings as the hackles on their neck rise when Satan’s minions look to England, Sweden, America and other lands farther removed… to again foster war and rumors of war. Let us realize that the futile human answer to war declared is often greater war, waged until one contender or the other is vanquished. The divine answer, however, is quite different.
 You see, being a Christian clergyperson, I offer to you that until we put down our pride and realize our need for divine salvation, these events will go on. They shall remain appearing in the news until we are willing to cease building ziggurat and walls, and drop to our knees in the knowledge that our God is God, and hurt until we who walk in sinful darkness bow before the heavenly host to receive grace. Surely, then... and only then, can we know the Light, the Peace that surpasses all understanding.
 I believe we shall then know. We shall then learn through the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, that the way of salvation has already been supplied by God. In scripture we read the witness, but often even yet we join the demons and do not hear.
 Then hear this at the last! When Jesus died upon a cross constructed by our sinfulness long ago, he showed us what a real ziggurat reaching to the heavens looks like. By this recognition, we then may see the cross of our salvation. Through this Light, his Light... the darkness is then cast aside. Only then we shall finally know the true Peace. When this occurs, the guns of terror shall finally fall silent.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

On Burning Bridges...

RECENT DIALOG with other Lutherans in a Facebook group highlighted the depths of separation now found within our Christian denominations. Comments, some harsh and even Satanic, were made when I stated that in the darkness of night my mind was troubled over a present social ministry inadequacy within Lutheranism. The issue bothering me was that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), through its medical plan for clergy and church employees, will yet pay for abortion services with no questions asked. Thus I find it a stretch that friends and acquaintances remain in the ELCA.
 Certainly, since scripture reveals that God in all expressions of the Holy Trinity champions life, and more so our redemption unto eternal life… any funding of the dubious practice of abortion raises concern. I view the commandment “Thou shall not kill.” (Exodus 20:13) as standing seriously clear, covering the preservation of human life from embryonic to geriatric. Consider that we thoroughly examine our motives whenever we are called to fight wars to defend our neighbor. Thus, even as a sinful pastor I dare say that we are called to consider and avoid abortion whenever possible, and not cause other persons to advance such radical disobedience. For foundation in this position I quote concerning our important responsibility..,

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” (Mark 9:42-43)

 Therefore I say that it is far past time for both clergy and laity to firmly cut ties with such heretical expressions as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). While such evil is not just restricted to Lutherans, the ELCA’s positions within the last decade on matters such as endorsing ordination for unmarried and cohabitating but sexually-active LGBT persons, plus providing advocacy for gay marriage and funding for abortions… supplies a gross straying from the right interpretation of scripture.
 Think of this! The actions that I list here devilishly diminish population growth within the church. The upshot is that many leaders within certain denominations and religious groups decry the loss of membership, even while foolishly accommodating such detrimental ecclesial policies.
 In the past I have enjoyed participation with the Lutheran CORE group on Facebook. Historically CORE has accomplished much, railing against many of the apostate actions in the church, even working to establish the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) in which I now serve. In the past, the organization made great efforts in bridging between its ELCA-based membership and those who have gone to the NALC. However, I fear that today boards fall from its span like that of an old and worn covered bridge. When I mentioned my unrest in that group over the ELCA’s abortion funding, it was met with turbulent conversation. First came the charge that I was not being supportive of historic CORE members who presently share my views but remain in the ELCA. A noted respondent waved the “foul” flag from the bridge, citing that my concerns were unfairly aimed since he had recently demonstrated in protest against the gross malfeasance of Planned Parenthood. As many already know, that organization is losing support because of horrid abortion practices and the parting out of babies’ bodies.
 However, I evaluate his retort as nonsense. I believe it to be rather hypocritical to hold an ELCA pastorate and serve in a denomination that will insure to provide abortions, and then demonstrate against a group that so cheaply forwards such evil. I wonder why such a faith leader would abide in a denomination that would pay insurance to slaughter even one child. Would it not be better to lead his congregation or a portion of it, away from participation in the ELCA?
 Why do such leaders resist so strongly? Is it that they would lose established tenure or financial prosperity? Or could it be that a spouse could lose a job if a proposed congregational vote to leave the ELCA failed, and the pastor then would be conscientiously forced to leave the area to serve another denomination. Maybe uprooting dependent children from a stable and able school system would be unsettling. Could geographic family ties be the hold? Could it be that there are no other NALC churches or Lutheran Congregations for Mission in Christ (LCMC) churches, or independent Lutheran churches… to be found in the preferred area where a pastor has personal history... so that the person could remain locally? Whatever the reasons, I contend that even if accumulated they pale in importance to the precious life of a defenseless child who is aborted.
 Argument was then made that it was appropriate to remain ELCA because Jesus himself dined with prostitutes, sinner and tax collectors. While this point seems to have initial merit in that we are called to imitate our Lord, we note that Jesus did not remain content to have those who were immersed in sin to remain as such. He called them to modify their lives! I offer, for example, that he spoke urgently to one woman caught in adultery. As he admonished her like we ourselves who are yet sinful, he told the woman to “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11b) All tall order to be sure, but an instruction nonetheless.
 Someone thought that I was being rather Pharisaic, claiming righteousness. Not so! I too kneel as sinful and saved only by the grace given as a gift through Christ’s death upon the cross. But I say that the gracious gift should cause us to go from the altar and into the world to properly administer the “Third Use of the Law”. Know that the Commandments condemn us and drive us to find salvation in Jesus Christ, but also they should be rightly used within the halls of society until rotten boards fall from the societal bridge.
 Some quote, “Judge not lest you be judged.” This text is often wrongly interpreted and leveled at those who attempt such actions. But I say that in this world we must judge, even as sinners who are made saints in the church. Is it not our civic responsibility to render judgments in either church or state concerning any offenses made against God and neighbor? Thanks be to God that these penultimate decisions, if faulty in judgment… are promised as forgiven through Jesus Christ when we shall stand in the ultimate court of the Father.
 Therefore my withdrawal from membership in the online Lutheran CORE group, while admittedly a kneejerk move on my part, may be seen as meaningless to most Lutherans. But it may also grow as a cellular, embryonic statement that honors the birth of the NALC from the maturity of our parent CORE organization. The NALC policy does not insure any abortion coverage!. In any case, I now consider future conversations with CORE to be simply like that of the continued Christian church relationship with those who endeavor in the Jewish faith. We share history, traditions, conversations… and still worship the same God, but now travel different paths. I pray that the Holy Spirit shall continually guide their way and my own. Finally in all this turbulence within the waters beneath the bridge, I say thanks be to God for salvation that is only made possible through baptism into Christ Jesus, our Lord. For in this there is yet hope.