22 March 2018

Chapel Homily: the Conclusion of the Passion According to St. Mark

Hymn 452: O Perfect Life of Love

Mark 15:21–47

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

O Lord, have mercy on us. R.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world.

You’ve been there. Christ’s tomb. Not some visit to a holy site in Jerusalem either. He wasn’t there alone. He took you there with Him when He died and was buried. You were there when you were baptized. Romans 6: “You have been taught that when we were baptized into Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death; in other words, when we were baptised, we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.”

The death in front of us in today’s Passion reading is actually given to you as your very own. Imagine that, being a people with death already behind them, already a thing of the past. And not so that you can devote yourself to all the silly occupations that we tend to give ourselves to before death captures our attention, either our own impending death or the death of someone we love. Have you ever noticed how death is the ultimate Occam’s razor. It makes everything very simple and for the first time lets you see what is, and yet what we’re blind to most of the time.

And so Christ’s death is given you now, you joining in the tomb now, so that you can live as people who have the tomb behind them. Imagine it: a life where you realize with the clarity that only death can give how precious are the persons around you, how utterly unrepeatable they are, not cogs in some giant system, but each a unique gift to be loved and celebrated and welcomed. Imagine it: a life where fear is shrivelling up and dying because it has no death to avoid. Planted into Jesus tomb and sprouting up with him into a life that has no boundary, no limit, no end. You are free like you’ve never been free before.

This is the gift of His passion, His death, His burial. It’s the gift of what you can leave behind in that tomb. He carried in His own body on the tree all your betrayals of love, all your unkind thoughts and words, all your frettings and fumings and fear of the future. He carried it all to death as His. And it stays behind, locked in the tomb. On the other side of the tomb there is Garden, Eden restored, a Brother risen, Father waiting, a welcome, a new life. Jesus your brother who shared your death reaches you now His life to be your own. You are a people who live on the other side of that tomb. Never forget it. The water that puts you into the tomb is also the water raises you with Him into that life forever beyond death itself. Fear not, people loved by God. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. You have already died in Him. You have already been raised in Him. You will meet Him with joy when He comes again. Feast, not fear. Hope, not despair. Light, not darkness. You will find it is all yours because as you shared in His death, so He will share in yours. In your tomb, He will be there, the One beyond death forever to pour over you forgiveness and love, which is life unending.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world! Amen.

21 March 2018

Today’s Chapel Homily

By East Africa Regional Director, Pr. Shauen Trump:

Daily Prayer: Morning (LSB p. 295)
Heb. 9:11-15
LSB 529 “Since Our Great High Priest, Christ Jesus”

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

The blood of goats, calves, and bulls. Two weeks ago I was in northwest Kenya, up in Turkana where the people are pastoralists – they keep goats and cattle as a livelihood. I was traveling with Benjamin Lemosi, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya – he’s a pastoralist too but from the Samburu tribe. Benjamin was telling me about his youth, when he was responsible for herding the cows and the goats. Many of these pastoralist communities survive day-to-day on the milk and the blood of the animals they herd. They do a live blood-letting, collecting the blood in gourds which they then frequently mix with milk and drink. Apparently, according to Benjamin, a goat is bled from here, and a cow or camel from here. Now I’m one of those guys who was not called to medicine – I was called to church work. My wife was called to medicine – she’s a labor and delivery nurse – and I would pick her up from work here at Barnes Jewish so many years ago and she would start to tell me about her day. Which is wonderful – she’s amazing – but the more she told me about emergency c-sections and whatever fascinating thing had happened to her, the more pale I would get and finally, you know? I’m driving! You gotta stop before I pass out! So you can imagine how I’m doing while Benjamin is telling me about how when you do a live bleeding of a cow you can feed four or six people but when you do a live bleeding of a camel you can feed a whole village – oh, brother, please stop!

We have this thing about blood. We Americans – most of us – don’t eat blood sausage. We don’t like the thought of touching blood – not the blood of animals, not the blood of people. We are so scared of blood-born disease, of e-coli, of hepatitis, of HIV. We overcook meats, we have these latex gloves and needle-prick protocols and we learn about protecting ourselves from blood. We fear blood as much as we fear touching something that’s dead, dead things that are unclean, that are defiled, that defile us! We don’t want to be defiled.

But we are. We are defiled. We have not only come into contact with dead people – we are dead ourselves. You and me – on our own we do dead works, we sin in the very act of doing what we call good. We revel in gossip. We do not put the best construction on everything. We slander. You and me – we are pathetic, caught up in our self-righteous justification of our actions. We are so far beyond redemption by the ashes of a heifer or the blood of a goat. We are completely without life.

And yet. Even though we are completely depraved, there is a way for us. The very rituals referred to in this passage are prescribed for those made defiled by contact with the dead. There is a purification protocol – it purifies the flesh – “…the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh.” That was the heifer who was sacrificed for a burnt offering outside of the city and the ashes preserved to be used for purification. …that blood of goats and bulls – you remember those times in the Old Testament where that blood from the sacrifice is cast against the sides of the altar and thrown and sprinkled on God’s people – to sanctify and purify. And still, the idea of goat blood being thrown on us sets us on edge – we just can’t handle this!

To us, just about the only time we don’t freak out when there’s blood involved is when it’s our family, someone known to us – our children with the skinned knee, our parent with the cut on their finger. Those whom we love, those we are convinced are safe – those we don’t seem to mind, we accept contact with their blood without fear. Even for me – here I find reprieve. While I have passed out at the sight of my own blood, I wash my child’s wounds without a second thought. It’s different within the family.

This for me is the key. Because this Jesus Christ – He has made us members of His own family in the faith worked in baptism. He is known to us, His Spirit works trust within us, there is no fear in His blood. His blood is safe. And so far beyond simply safe – his blood heals, restores, purifies. His blood is effective.  Beyond purifying the flesh, far beyond, as our text says, “…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, [how much more will His blood] purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

That blood – the blood of Christ, which flows down upon you as you cling to the foot of the cross – that blood brings forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration. That blood which pours out not only from the wounds of the cross but also pours out from the altar, that blood which fills the chalice, that blood, which flows like a live blood-letting from the living God, that blood sustains and nourishes those who believe. That blood, which is freely yours, brings new life, redemption, and the promised eternal inheritance. This is the glorious miracle of His love for us – our God’s blood, shed for you. Amen.


O Lord, almighty God, as You have always granted special gifts of the Holy Spirit to Your Church on earth, grant Your continual blessing to all who minister in Your name in the armed forces, especially chaplain Timothy Rosenthal, that by Your gracious working they may honor Christ and advance the good of those committed to their care; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need, look with favor upon Your servants Joseph, Roger, Ruth, Allan, and Jan. Assure them of your mercy, deliver them from the temptations of the evil one, and give them patience and comfort in their illnesses. If it please You, restore them to health, or give them grace to accept this tribulation with courage and hope; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Gracious Father, Your Son grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and all people. Lead those who this week plan together for the Youth Gathering. Bless, guide, and govern both those who plan and those young people of Your Church by Your Holy Spirit, that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Your Word. Grant that they may serve You well and usefully, developing their talents not for their own sakes but to Your glory and for the welfare of their neighbor. Protect and defend them from all danger and harm, giving Your holy angels charge over them; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

08 March 2018

Homily upon the Passion, Part 3

Chapel 03.08.18

Mark 14:53-72

"And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. "
O Lord, have mercy on us. R.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world.

As they part for the last time on the shores of Middle Earth, Gandalf turns to the hobbits who remain and says: “I will not say, Do not weep, for not all tears are evil.” You have perhaps cried those tears when you have had to say farewell to someone you deeply loved. Tears can testify to the depth of love.

Today’s Passion reading ends in tears. Peter’s tears. And what exactly prompted them? It was not his denial of Jesus. It was not his failure, to which he seems almost bewilderingly blind. What prompted them was the sound of the rooster, welcoming a dawn that had not yet begun to break, and with that sound a memory. Words that stirred in his heart and that he could hear in his mind and recall with clarity. Words we read together last week. His master saying: Amen, I tell you, Peter, this very night before the rooster crows twice you will deny me.

It was the words of Jesus operative still in his heart and mind that brought him to tears. Tears over how he had fallen and done exactly what he said he would never do, even if all the others did. Tears of shame. Tears of godly grief. Tears of repentance. These tears are not evil either.

In the Church’s prayers and hymns, they are mentioned so very often. O mensch bewein dein Sünde groß, O man cry over your great sin, as at the end of the St. Matthew Passion of Bach. Or from our Synod’s first hymnal: “Oh, that I might sufficient tears be shedding! O ye mine eyes, your bitter floods be spreading, And thou mine heart, no longer stone resemble. Oh, weep and tremble” Walther’s Hymnal 82. Or in the lovely hymn for Good Friday: O darkest woe, Ye tears forth flow! Hath earth so sad a wonder? God the Father’s only Son Now is buried yonder. LSB 448 And these tears are never something that we have to work up on our own like an actor on a stage. They come always as a gift. And quite often they come unexpectedly. I don’t think Peter thought he was going to burst into tears. It was a gracious gift that flowed to him from the word of Jesus that the rooster called to his mind. And because he heard those words with his own ears, maybe he remembered also something in the way Jesus said them.

I know it’s rather naughty to switch Gospels, but something I think we often overlook. Those beautiful words from John 14? “Let not your hearts be troubled…” Do you realize what immediately preceded them? Jesus said to him, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times… (And then immediately) Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Trust in God and trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am there you may be also.” John 14

And Peter remembered the word that Jesus spoke to him. And it brought him to tears. I wonder if he remembered also the words that only John has recorded for us. Then Peter’s tears of regret, are also tears of shame that he had denied the one who would not deny him, who was suffering precisely to prepare a place for him and them all and us too. Who loved him. Whose love was stronger than Peter’s denial and Peter’s sin and stronger than any denial or sin of yours too. He is at work in His Passion to provide a place for us: a place in His heart where we can live in Him forevermore.

Not all tears are evil. O Jesus, kind master, grant us all the gift of tears that we may weep over our great sin and weep even more over Your unfathomable and unchanging love.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world! Amen.

06 March 2018

A Meditation upon the Commemoration of Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas

Jesus said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

This is one of the hard sayings of Jesus. C. S. Lewis observed that He who is love incarnate by commanding us to hate is not actually telling us to harbor resentment and loathing toward those we refer to as our loved ones; rather, he is telling us that our loyalty and obedience to Him comes before any loyalty and obedience to them. And that when we make this choice, they do experience it as hate.

So with the two martyrs from the early 200s that are commemorated on March 7th. Perpetua’s wealthy father was no dummy. He knew the massive danger that attended his daughter joining herself to Christ in Baptism, or as he’d likely have thought, joining this mad sect. He loved his daughter very much and even when she was arrested and placed into jail, he visited her and begged her not to do this. Not to allow Christ to come between them and to deprive his granddaughter of a mother. Why did she hate him so? How could she treat him like this? Why did she love this Jesus more than she loved him?

But of course, Perpetua did not despise her father and no doubt took no pleasure whatsoever in causing him pain. But she could not choose please him above pleasing the One who had laid down His life for her and for us all on Calvary’s tree.

I’m sure the same scenario played out with Felicitas, her servant, who also was a mother and left her children in the care of relatives, to face with her beloved mistress the martyr’s death. They were according to ancient records scourged first by gladiators, then savaged by wild beasts. Finally they were finished off with the sword. Bleeding, dying, they shared the kiss of peace. The peace that they had come to know in Jesus and his victory over the grave, His blood that in love blotted out their every sin, and made them so much more than mistress and servant, made them sisters in Christ and of Christ.

Their unswerving devotion to Christ above the claims of family and blood, the joy of their companionship together in Christ, and their scorn of death and pain has lived on in the memory of the Church for century upon century. Their example and witness has served to bless and strengthen so very many others who followed them in persecution, suffering and death. Think of these two the next time you’re at a Confirmation and hear the question raised: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Wouldn’t that question have read better as “rather than fall away from Him?”

We actually have a hymn in our hymnal that sings about them. It’s LSB 661: The Son of God Goes Forth to War. “A noble army, men and boys, *The Matron and the Maid*, around the Savior’s throne rejoice In robes of light arrayed. They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n through peril, toil, and pain. O God to us may grace be given to follow in their train.”

And for such grace we pray in the collect for this commemoration: O God and Ruler over all our foes of body and soul, You strengthened Your servants Perpetua and Felicitas, giving them a confident and clear confession in the face of roaring beasts. Grant that we who remember their faithful martyrdom may share in their blessed assurance of victory over all earthly and spiritual enemies and hold fast to the promise of everlasting life, secured for us through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

04 March 2018

A Pity It Was Altered

A decent translation of the traditional collect for Oculi (the Third Sunday in Lent) is found in The Lutheran Hymnal:

We beseech Thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of Thy humble servants and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ, our Lord...

There is something of a delightful contrast with the Introit, which is “Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord” and the petition that His eyes might look upon our heart’s desires. Our eyes on Him and His eyes upon us. As our eyes “see” the Unseen, so His eyes behold the unseen recesses of our hearts and what they desire. This can be a terrifying thought, of course, when we think of some of the things we desire! Lord, have mercy. But the tone of the prayer is rather along the lines of Psalm 37, “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of Your heart.” He sees and knows the longing of our new hearts which the Spirit has created within us.

This being so, we pray: “stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defense.” This calls toward the Gospel reading with its reference to the finger of God by which Jesus drives forth the enemy. “If I by the finger of God drive them out, then the kingdom of God has come among you.”

Thus the traditional collect reaches back to Introit and forward to Gospel and ties them together rather beautifully. The one that has been substituted for it in our current book, sadly, does neither.

01 March 2018

Homily on St. Mark’s Passion, Part II

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for by the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, as John reminds us, knows what is in man. He knows how far our intentions carry us. How quickly our resolve dissolves in the acid of our fears. He knows how hard we find it to turn from our creature comforts to spiritual work; the nap always entices more than prayers because though the spirit is willing (at least sometimes), the flesh is weak (always). He knows how misguided we can be and how easily we misunderstand His ways, and how tempted we are to resort to violence and force when we feel backed into a corner.

So if you look at the Passion story we heard today with attention to the followers of Jesus what you find failure. Big time failure. Peter boasting that he’d die with Him, but then running away with the rest. Peter and James and John, his dearest earthly friends, unable to prop their eyelids open as the full weight of what He was preparing to do began to press on Him with all its terror and He just didn’t want to be alone, but alone they left Him; and He knew how much they needed prayer to get through what was about to happen, yet they kept falling asleep. Judas leading those who would arrest him and then betraying with that kiss, Peter striking out with the sword (oh, Mark is kind and skims over who it was but John spills the beans). And the mysterious neaniskos, the young man, who follows only wrapped in linen and yet also runs away at the end.

Yes the Passion mirrors our lives. We state our intentions. We make our vows. We intend to do better this time. We get the importance of the spiritual warfare now. We are ready. And yet fall we do. Once and again. With Peter and all the others, with Judas, with the nameless young man running away naked, possibly St. Mark. The Passion shows us our nakedness; it strips us of our fig leaves. We recognize the story that happened once in Judea under Pontius Pilate as a story that has not come to an end. The failures that it shows us in the 12 and the naked man are our failures. At least they are mine, and I assume they are yours. If it hangs on our hold on Jesus, we are toast. Just toast.

And we could wallow in that for the whole of chapel, but how pointless that would be. Let us instead turn our attention to what it does hang on. Not OUR faithlessness, but HIS faithfulness. He goes into His passion singing. Images of Jehoshaphat sending the army out with the choir in front. He goes to His passion with a song on His lips. There is a sacrifice to be offered in thanksgiving, after all, but He has no illusions.

He knows what awaits Him, and He receives it as from the hand of His Father. He misquotes the verse from Zechariah to make it plain how He understands it: not some disembodied sword, but a sword in His Father’s hand striking the shepherd. And as He ponders it in prayer, he is sorrowful even to death. This cup. He knows what is in it. He is afraid of it as you and I ought be and yet never are. He knows. And He trembles to sip from it. He asks, He begs, for another way. But His trust in His Father does not fail. “Yet, not what I will but what you will.” And His Father’s will is for Him to drink it. This cup of wrath. Down to the dregs. Every last bitter drop finished as He swallows it down in His Passion. He suffers Himself to be betrayed; He will not allow His friends to defend Him and so they run away themselves. He will do this that the Scripture might be fulfilled. He will go all the way as a willing sacrifice. A Lamb who goes uncomplaining forth, trusting that His Father’s will is right and just and good and holy. And so the Lamb becomes our very salvation.

And He does all of this for those who will fail Him, not just those who have done so, but who will do so. And fail again and again. He does it for those who will go on getting it backwards and wrong and slipping into worldly thinking. He does it for Peter with his sword and Judas with his money bag, and for the nameless one who ran away naked. He does it for love for them all, for love of you and love of me as we find ourselves mirrored in their fear and their sin.

Your sin cannot destroy His love. Let me say that again. Your sin cannot destroy His love. He knows your sin better than you ever will, because He took it into Himself. And just as He knew Peter’s future sin so He knows yours. And your sin – past, present or future – cannot destroy His love. It is exactly reverse. His love destroys your sin. That’s what the cross IS. And that is why you can have the courage of a Peter to come back to the Crucified and Risen One again. And again. And again. And to be restored. You can come back because His Cross really was for sinners, for love of sinners. Like Peter and like you and like me. A love that no sin can ever destroy. And so we fall down before Him and cry: We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for by the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world! Amen.

25 February 2018

On the Collect for Lent 2

By a happy coincidence, I was reading again yesterday in The Noonday Devil. Evagrius warns of the dangers of the logosmoi, the demonic thoughts which assault us. And here today we prayed:

O God, who seest that of ourselves we have no strength, keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended against all adversities which may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, our Lord... (TLH)

This is something that we post-moderns have a hard time with, believing that thoughts themselves can assault and damage our inner life. We rather like the observation of Aristotle that the mark of an educated person is to be able to consider a thought without accepting it. But are there thoughts that are too hot to handle? Whose consideration cannot take place without damage being inflicted on us? We know in fact that there are.

Proverbs 6:27: Can a man take fire into his bosom and his clothes not be burned?

Yes, no matter how much we may not like it, we have to admit that there is such a thing as playing with fire. Allowing certain thoughts to take up residence within us can, in point of fact, damage us in our hidden, inner life, for these thoughts by their very nature war against divine love.

And so the prayer. It is a cry for help and in many ways an expansion of the prayer that the early Christians had on their lips constantly from Psalm 70:1. There’s a reason that the daily offices seem to include this all over the place as they begin.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord!

This is the prayer raised in the face of the assaulting thought that seeks to gain entrance and do its damage. God knows WE have no strength to fight this. But the strength He provides us is in His Word. When His Word inhabits us and we inhabit it, then the evil thoughts from the demons cannot gain their entrance. Oh, as we learned last week, Satan knows how to twist even the divine words to his own purposes, but we learned as well that answering him back with the divine words was the method of spiritual warfare in which our Lord triumphed. Against a Satanic twisting of Scripture, He simply cited Scripture. We are weak, but He is mighty. His words are strong.

When St. Paul urged us what to think about in Philippians 4, that’s above all an invitation to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. It’s not much different from what he was getting at in Colossians 3. And so the most deadly of the thoughts that assault us: acedia. This nasty bugger that wants to close our hearts and ears to the divine Word. This sloth and indolence in hearing the Word. This attack upon the very foundation of all godliness in our lives. This itch to do or move or think or check your phone or do anything but actually listen and pray. It is a thought. It assaults. It seeks to harm. We are weak. We are helpless. He is strong and His Word is mightier than their words.

To continue in the Word is the only thing that can expose the assault that we’re not even aware of; to continue in the Word will disclose the damage already done; to continue in the Word where we are exposed in all our fears and ugliness and yet where He graciously reveals Himself as more kind and loving than we ever dared to dream, and kind and loving to US, to ME. This is the battle against acedia, and only in the Son of God is it overcome. “Abide in me and I in you.” Then the evil thought cannot win the day.

“Give us help, O Lord, for vain is the help of man.” Psalm 108:12

An outstanding article

by Dr. Maas. Read it. You will be glad you did.

Law, Liberalism, and Luther: Beyond the Myths