Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Even Death Passage

MIKE HEARD VOICES in the other room. He rubbed his eyes. What time was it? He looked at the clock. 9:15AM. It couldn’t be right. He found his watch. Same time. He sat on the edge of the bed and massaged his legs, bringing them back to life. He put on his glasses and stumbled out of the room. As he turned the corner at the end of the hall, he stopped suddenly and began quietly retracing his steps to his room, closing the door.

A moment later, the pastor knocked. “Herr Loesch?”

“Come in, Pastor,” Mike answered.

“Sorry about the surprise.” The pastor grinned. “The ladies called this morning, asking if you’d found your friends. When I told them no, they insisted on coming over to prepare a proper breakfast.”

“There’s no mirror in here, but I’m pretty sure I’d like to wash up before I say hello,” Mike said with the first traces of a smile on his face.

“Not a bad idea,” the pastor laughed, looking at Mike’s frazzled hair. “I’ll be in the kitchen. There’s quite the spread in there. They’ll be offended if you don’t have some of it all.”

“Trust me, your ladies are no different than mine,” Mike assured him, the smile gaining ground.
“I have a few belt notches worth of proof if you need it. Did Agent Schultz call?”

“No. I called him, though. Nothing new. They said there was no reason for us to come down yet, so I figured I’d let you sleep. We can head down after you eat if you’d like.”

“Sounds good,” Mike answered as he grabbed the towel the pastor had hung on the door for him the night before. He snuck down to the bathroom and hurriedly showered. He sniffed his shirt before pulling it on. His other clothes were in the car. He’d have to live with a little ripeness. The pastor had offered him a change of clothes, but Mike preferred his own dirty clothes to another’s clean attire.

“Ach, Pastor Loesch,” the ladies called as he walked into the kitchen, faces filled with maternal concern. “Hier, hier, sitzen Sie, bitte,” one of them said, pulling out a chair. “Kaffee?” another asked, holding the coffee pitcher next to her face as she hobbled over toward the table.

“Ja, bitte,” Mike answered, still somewhat groggily. “Danke.”

Another held a cup of sugar in front of him. He reached toward the spoon. She was quicker to the draw and shovelled a heep into his cup.

“Milch?” another asked as she poured it into his cup.

“Danke.” He grinned and nodded.

“Und für Pastor,” the coffee lady said dutifully, warming up his cup.

“The ladies offered to come to the station with us,” the pastor explained to Mike, “but I told them we should be fine without them. It was pretty crowded there as it was, wasn’t it, Pastor Loesch?”

“Ja, das is wahr, aber danke,” Mike said, bobbing his head in agreement as he worked through the German in his head. Being sure to take a little of everything, Mike filled his plate. The ladies watched with rapt attention as he took each bite, occasionally whispering to one another, speculating about what he had particularly enjoyed or not liked so much, making secret plans for supper, should he be back with them again.

Thoughts for the New Year

This time of year is a time of reflection. For many, especially in our part of the nation, this year has been testing in many ways. There are temptations to worry and fret, to doubt and seek deceptive consolations. Here are Gerhard's thoughts:

Accordingly, whoever adheres to God firmly with his love and inwardly enjoys divine consolation cannot have his rest disturbed by external evils. In sad things he is glad; in poverty rich; in the tribulations of this age secure; in the storms of this world tranquil; in the insults and contempt of men peaceful; in death itself alive. He pays no attention to the threats of tyrants because inside he experiences the rich consolations of the divine. He is not saddened by adversity because the Holy Spirit inwardly and effectively consoles him. He does not anguish in poverty because his riches are in the goodness of God. He is not troubled by the insults of men because he enjoys the joy of honor from the divine. He pays no attention to the will of the flesh because he has more satisfaction in the kindness of the Spirit. He does not seek worldly friendships because he knows the joys of friendship with God himself. He does not store up earthly treasures because he has the greatest treasure of all stored up in heaven. He does not fear death because he always lives in God. He does not exceedingly desire worldly wisdom because he has an inner teacher: the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20). The perfect takes away the imperfect (1 Corinthians 13:10). He does not fear lightening and storms, fires and floods of water, unfavorable configurations of planets and darkness of heavenly lights, for, having been elevated above nature, he rests in Christ by faith and lives in him. He is not drawn away by the allurements of this age because he hears the more pleasant voice of Christ within him. He does not fear the power of the devil because he knows divine indulgence. The One who lives within him and conquers is more powerful than the devil, who consumes himself in vain with conquering that man. He does not follow the enticements of the flesh because, living in the Spirit, he perceives the riches of the Spirit. He mortifies and crucifies the flesh by the vivifying Spirit (Galatians 5:24). He does not fear the accusations of the devil because he knows that his intercessor is Christ (1 John 2:1).
May the Author and Giver of this only true rest of the soul, our Lord, God blessed for all the ages, grant it to us.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Even Death Passage

“You serve a dead God,” Ibrahim countered. “A weak, pathetic, defeated, crucified, dead God.”

“He was all those things, you’re right, and that is why I love Him. He was all that for me, for now.”

“You’re a fool,” Ibrahim sneered. Feeling his anger swelling within him, he decided to return Isaac to his cell.

“You can’t kill me,” Isaac called as Ibrahim closed the door.

Ibrahim stuck his head back into the cell and said, “I can, and I will if I need to.”

“You can’t kill me, because I can’t die, because of that weak, pathetic, defeated, crucified, dead God. I already died with Him.”

The door closed with a thump. Ibrahim marched up the stairs and out onto the porch, hoping the crisp air would cool his rage. He was not Hatim. He didn’t do any of this because he liked it. In fact, he hated it, but it was Allah’s will. He was but Allah’s instrument, and Allah was not defeated. Allah conquers. But he could not confuse himself with Allah. He must remain calm. He must stick to the plan. He must be but an instrument, a vessel. Allah’s wrath was not his own.

Sacred Meditations Passage

Year B in the 3 Year Lectionary has a particular baptismal emphasis, and we encounter St. John the Baptist in these weeks, who preaches Christ and baptizes for the forgiveness of sins. Here are some thoughts from Gerhard on Baptism:

There was a pool near the sheep gate in Jerusalem. At certain times, an angel used to descend and turn the waters of it. Whoever descended into it first after the waters were turned was healed of whatever disease he had suffered (John 5:2-4). The water of Baptism is that pool which heals us from all the disease of sins when the Holy Spirit descends into it and turns it with the blood of Christ, who was made the [sacrificial] victim for us, just as the sheep to be sacrificed were also washed in that pool in Jerusalem. At Christ’s Baptism, the heavens were opened. Likewise, in our Baptism, the doors of heaven are opened. In Christ’s Baptism, the entire Most Holy Trinity was present (Matthew 3:16). So also, it is present in our Baptism. And so, in the words of promise that are joined with the element of water, faith receives the grace of the Father who adopts us, the merits of the Son who cleanses us, and the efficacy of the Holy Spirit who regenerates us.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sacred Meditations Passage

We are now into Advent. Gerhard provides these thoughts on the coming of our Lord and His judgment:

Satan will accuse me, your friend. He will accuse me, your brother. He will accuse me, a most beloved son of the eternal Father. How will you then severely judge your friend, your brother, and your son? Moses will accuse me in that judgment. He will speak curses on me, “for I have not kept all which is written in the book of the law” (Deuteronomy 27:26). “Surely you, O Jesus, have become the curse for me to free me from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13). I will be cursed by Moses, but I will be blessed by you. Indeed, I long to hear that voice: “Come, blessed ones, inherit the kingdom of My Father” (Matthew 25:34). Moses will accuse me, yet you will surely not accuse me before the Father, for you intercede for me (Romans 8:34). Therefore, I do not fear the curse of Moses, for you have removed that handwriting which was against me (Colossians 2:14). Damned ones will accuse me and proclaim that I am guilty of the same punishment as them. I admit, O Lord Jesus, that punishable guilt unites me to them. But my acknowledgment of that punishable guilt and my knowledge of your saving work distinguish them from me. “Whoever hears your word and believes in him who sent you has eternal life and will not come into judgment” (John 5:24). I hear your word, Lord, and I believe in you with faith, albeit it languishing faith, yet faith nonetheless. I believe, Lord, but help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). I believe, Lord, but increase my faith (Luke 17:5). Although I may not be free from all the sins of the damned, yet from unbelief alone you will nevertheless free me, O Lord. All those accusers terrify me, but you, the Judge, encourage me.

The Father has handed over all judgment to you (John 5:22). He has placed everything in your hands (Matthew 11:27). In turn, however, he has handed you over for us all (Romans 8:32). Indeed, you have handed yourself over for the Church to sanctify and cleanse her, washing her with water and the Word (Ephesians 5:26). How will you then judge those severely for whom you have handed yourself over to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8)? “You will not have hatred for your own flesh. We are members of your body, of your flesh and your bones” (Ephesians 5:29,30).

Even Death Passage

“YOU THINK THESE ARE THE AMERICANS?” Schultz asked Schmidt as he sat on the loveseat, reading through immigration records.

“Sure seems like it.”

“Why pastors?”

“Who knows? I don’t understand any of it.”

“Of the case?”

“No, of religion.”

“Never go to church?”

“Not since confirmation.”

“Evangelical or Catholic?”

“Evangelical. It was getting harder and harder to tell the pastors from the politicians. God was obsessed with social democracy. You go?”

“Try to. My wife takes the kids every week.”





“What then?”


“What do you mean?”

“Old Lutheran, not state church.”

“How’d you end up there?”


“You into it?”

“I’ve got no problem with it. It’s important to her.”

“What’s it like?”

“I don’t know. A lot of Jesus.”

Schmidt chortled, as if he knew Schultz’ pain. “He’s everywhere, isn’t he? In your wallet, on the ballot, in the bedroom, on your case about whatever the pet peeve is that week.”

“Mostly on the cross, way our pastor tells it.”

Unsure what to make of the remark, Schmidt changed the subject. “You think they’re going to kill them?”

“I’m planning on not giving them the opportunity.”

“Good plan. Let’s hope it’s realistic. These guys don’t seem like amateurs.”

“Neither are we, Schmidt.”