When we were still under the papacy, they used to tell this story. Once upon a time the […]
Our God begins with angels and ends with shepherds. Why does he do such preposterous things? He puts […]
Then our waiting and hoping is not like a piece of wishful thinking, or a fantasy, but life itself. Then we live only because we wait for God. Then there are none of those uncertainties or reservations such as beset those who wait foolish for foolish things. Then we step forward confidently. Much more, we see ourselves torn out of our former quiet waiting, in which we thought only of ourselves, and are changed within by an overpowering, wonderful happening, which quite without any action on our part simply happens, approaches in God’s time, in God’s future, in his coming to earth. That would be our future of living reality. Thus we live today under the shadow of his coming, not some dreaded disaster or some fate, but the coming of the God of justice, of love, of peace. Not finding our own way to God into the future, but receiving the future from God. We know that we cannot go to God, God comes to us, enfolding us in his unbelievable grace, otherwise our life is lost, and our waiting is in vain. We can only wait, watchfully wait; that means passionately waiting, totally deaf to those who would sow doubts in our mind, blind to every power that stands between us and that future which God wills for us. One thing is needful: the conviction that we will see God, we shall hear God, we shall receive God, we shall know God, we shall serve God.
Now that Christ reigns, there is in fact no more sin, death, or curse—this we confess every day in the Apostles’ Creed when we say: “I believe in the holy church.” This is plainly nothing else than if we were to say: “I believe that there is no sin and no death in the church. For believers in Christ are not sinners and are not sentenced to death but are altogether holy and righteous, lords over sin and death who live eternally.” But it is faith alone that discerns this, because we say: “I believe in the holy church.” If you consult your reason and your eyes, you will judge differently. For in devout people you will see many things that offend you; you will see them fall now and again, see them sin, or be weak in faith, or be troubled by a bad temper, envy, or other evil emotions. “Therefore the church is not holy.” I deny the conclusion that you draw. If I look at my own person or at that of my neighbor, the church will never be holy. But if I look at Christ, who is the Propitiator and Cleanser of the church, then it is completely holy; for He bore the sins of the entire world.
Christianity has far too many voices that would have us believe in a God who doesn’t wound us. But God himself declares otherwise: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make a live; I wound and I heal.” God knows that it is only in our weakness and woundedness that we simultaneously discover our own ineptitude and his healing power. Without wounds we foster an image of ourselves as strong and healthy.
But the hands that wound us—they themselves bear the stigmata of grace. Our Savior kills, but only to make alive; wounds but only to heal. He is conforming us to his cruciform likeness so that we see ourselves exclusively in his resurrection reflection. This is Christian growth: to become in our weakness more and more dependent on his strength, to seek in our woundedness more and more of his healing.
– Chad Bird, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, pg. 132-133
[Luther on our cries of lament during trials] This faint sigh of ours does not seem to penetrate the clouds in such a way that it is the only thing to be heard by God and the angels in heaven. In fact, we suppose, especially as long as the trial continues, that the devil is roaring at us terribly, that heaven is bellowing, that the earth is quaking, that everything is about to collapse, that all the creatures are threatening us with evil, and that hell is opening up in order to swallow us. This feeling is in our hearts; we do not hear these terrible voices or see this frightening face. And this is what Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:9: that the power of Christ is made perfect in our weakness. For then Christ is truly almighty, and then He truly reigns and triumphs in us when we are so, to speak, so “all-weak” that we can scarcely emit a groan. But Paul says that in the ears of God the sigh is a might cry that fills all of heaven and earth.
Luther would find the modern world irrelevant right away because it no longer makes any distinction between human judgment and God’s judgment. What is important is strictly human judgment – what others thing of us, or what we think of ourselves, what we call self-esteem. Self-esteem, Robert Schuller says, is the new “new Reformation.” Feeling good about ourselves is the goal of life. Therapy, not theology, is the way to go. “St.” Sigmund (Freud) is the real patron of the modern age. It seems nobody worries about God much anymore. God, if anyone thinks about him (her?) any more, is just love, love, love. God is a patsy. And so God just drops out of the picture for most folks. If God is just love, love, love, then no one need worry about him any more. What is important is not to get right with God, as they used to say in the old days, but to get right with ourselves. What is important is not to live the godly life, but to learn how to affirm one another in our chosen lifestyles. Whatever happened to God? Does anyone believe in God anymore, i.e., that God is living and that he is not only love, but above all, the judge? Does anyone believe that the ultimate question for our lives is not human judgment but God’s judgment?
“Pastors are at the forefront of discerning the word that frees from the word that binds (Matthew 16:19; 18:18); this is their great charge and privilege. No other vocation is specifically set aside to exercise this power. It is not that others cannot make this distinction. Indeed, some laypeople make this distinction better than many pastors do. But the pastoral office is charged with this privilege of properly distinguishing law and Gospel in preaching and pastoral care. Along with administering the sacraments, this is the core identity of the pastoral vocation. It is the foundation for all evangelistic endeavors. For Luther, the proper distinction between Law and Gospel in preaching and pastoral care is an art, and so it is a practice in which all pastors can grow. Since other Christian traditions ignore, distort, or downplay this distinction, the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is the most important ecumenical challenge and gift which Lutherans offer other Christians. For that reason, it should never be ignored, distorted, or downplayed in dealing with Christians of other confessional traditions. Indeed, it is a nonnegotiable item at the forefront in an ecumenical discussion.”
“But the Law is good, righteous, and holy.” Very well! But when we are involved in a discussion […]
Righteous causes may be both good and right, but they are not salutary. The Word of God must have free course and be preached and not be corralled and co-opted by the urgency of things temporal. This is not to advocate for “quietism” on the part of the Church with respect to the temporal kingdom, but for the Church to assume her proper role and function among the temporal orders, which is to proclaim the reign of Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and ascended, who lords His death and resurrection over the entire created order as the One who has all authority in heaven and on earth. The Church in this world is a foreign embassy of the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords at whose name every knee will bow on the Last Day. While the protection of the unborn, the plight of the poor, the proper stewardship of the environment, the cause of the widowed and orphaned, justice for the worker, and the upholding of marriage as the celebration and protection of the one-flesh union of man and woman are all laudable and even godly causes, they dare not deflect from the Church knowing and hearing nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. While the activists may charge that the Church is fiddling as Rome burns, they need to be reminded that while ancient Rome was falling apart at the seams, the Church was vigorously debating the doctrine of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. The pastor must ever be on guard, lest the Church lose sight of thing eternal for the sake of things temporal.