Afterward one of my students said to me, “In Baptism we are like burritos, too. We are all wrapped up in Jesus.”
That’s a pretty fair exposition of Gal. 3:27.
Afterward one of my students said to me, “In Baptism we are like burritos, too. We are all wrapped up in Jesus.”
That’s a pretty fair exposition of Gal. 3:27.
A student in
"I don't feel like I should have to hide my sexuality," said the girl who was asked to hide her t-shirt. The ACLU agrees and is fast approaching court-speed against the teacher and the school on this one.
Give me a break. The girl wasn’t asked to strap down her breasts or stuff a rolled up pair of socks in her pants. She wasn’t asked to make herself appear to be something she clearly wasn’t. Her femaleness and what that mean with regard to sexual functioning was abundantly apparent whether she wore her favorite lesbian t-shirt or one with Hannah Montana on it. She’s a girl, for pity’s sake. She admits to that. Doesn’t run from it at all. It’s a God-given, created-in-the-womb, unalterable fact. She’s a she.
The school rules are simple: "The school's dress code prohibits 'bawdy, salacious or sexually suggestive messages.'" That would seem to include iconic symbols indicating a student's personal (and what ought to be private) preference regarding sexual intercourse. If not, I can imagine all sorts of icons that would eventually be allowed representing the same. At what point does an iconic symbol become political instead of merely bawdy or sexually suggestive? When it's homosexual instead of heterosexual? The irony is, homosexuals won the constitutional right to live together as a couple without legal incrimination in Texas by arguing that the government has no right to pry into the bedroom. Now why are the activities of the bedroom a political statement to be proudly displayed on the chest rather than one's own personal privacy? Is the defining line only when one wants to make a statement about one's homosexuality or lesbianism?
Is it possible that the incidence of free speech is being unfairly tipped toward a certain sector of society? If so, then there is more at play here than one woman’s right to free speech regarding her chosen style of sexual intercourse. What of the rights of other students to express their "political rights" regarding their preferences in sexual intercourse—such as misogyny? That one still exists in the minds and hearts of every male informed by and subscribing to the siren call of today’s media. Males are taught to bed as many women in and out of wedlock as they can. That’s the highest disregard for the welfare of women and any sacred duties of fatherhood. So how about a symbol of the male sign interlaced with several female signs?
Now let’s not leave the ladies out. Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and her younger sister, Jamie Lynn, have given a whole new interpretation to the model young woman. Marriage is passé. Bedding men early, often, and as publicly as possible is the new propriety. Women have learned to use men as well as men have used women. Call it misandrony for lack of a better word and in want of something that sounds fancy. So for these women, let’s fashion ourselves a female symbol with a whole mess of male symbols intertwined—and don’t forget the little tiny male and female “hangers-on” indicating the babies that come from these various unions.
Does anyone suppose t-shirts of these sorts would be viewed as political and not sexual? We could even get more specific. My granddaughter’s friend is pregnant at 16. She’s tried every sort of sex. Her t-shirt would include not just male intertwinings, but also female. I’m not certain she has yet decided what her so-called "sexual identity" is, even though it is obvious by her swollen belly that God knows what it is.
Word games. That’s what it is. Word games to hide, obfuscate or otherwise confuse the issue. God created sex. Sexuality comes from the sex God created and gives to each of us. Ripped from that realm, sexuality is an abusive tool used against our neighbor and ourselves. The word games are necessary to hide that sin. God’s work to bring us to repentance is a miracle in itself.
“It’s like the song, ‘You better not pout, you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town.’”
The kid is what we lovingly call “a mess.” Homework at his level is fairly rote: Spelling, Math, History Litany (a chronological list of events with dates and scripture references), and
“I forgot” is his favorite excuse. Not paying attention is his favorite pastime. He’s had to be moved away from any window in the classroom. The temptation to gaze outside is too great. His desk was once turned sideways to the room. He spent so much time with his head on his hand lost in dreamland it was the only hope of getting him to look toward the front of the room and the board where the lesson is going on. During Latin Pastor will gently bring him back to the game with a song, “One of these boys is not like the others; one of these boys doesn’t belong. One of these boys isn’t on the same page; one of these boys isn’t playing along.”
Yet here we were, engaged in a conversation on the end times. The chapel reading that week was Luke 21:25-36. The changing seasons alert us to when summer is near. In the same way, distresses upon the earth—among nations, between people, and in the weather—signal changes of another sort. Some will become faint with fear. Others will expend their lives foolishly. But Jesus says to do none of these things. Instead He says to look up, “For your redemption is near.” Jesus reminds us to put our hope in that which is real: Himself.
With the insight and sanctified memory of an eight-year-old, my mess of a student said, “It’s like the song, ‘You better not pout, you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town.’ Jesus is coming with His Gifts of Baptism and His Body and Blood. So we don’t have anything to worry about when the world is falling apart.” And this one knows a good deal about worlds falling apart.
Little things this one forgets, like homework. Big things he remembers, like chapel sermons from his pastor. Pastor uses the “Santa Claus is coming to town” illustration every year at this time to bring home the point of difference between what Christ gives and what the world gives at Christmas.
What is Math and History compared to what the Holy Spirit teaches this one at school? This child is a precious treasure, wrapped in Christ and fed by His Word.
The History course in my class begins at the beginning—with God speaking, “Let there be light.” It’s simple enough, but not so that original sin can’t tangle it up. The curse of that first sin shows up in the answers of Second Graders who continue in the pattern of forefather Adam. Blame is the game.
The test question is: How did Adam and Eve fall out of fellowship with God?
Answer given: They ate the bad fruit from the bad tree.
It takes a few reminders, “God looked at all He created and saw that it was very good.” The tree wasn’t bad, nor was the fruit. Adam and Eve sinned because they disobeyed God’s commandment regarding the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Sometimes they don’t like this answer. It’s too close to another one they don’t like to hear. “Why do we have to?” Because I said so.
Luther writes of it this way:
And so when Adam had been created in such a way that he was, as it were, intoxicated with rejoicing toward God and was delighted also with all the other creatures, there is now created a new tree for the distinguishing of good and evil, so that Adam might have a definite way to express his worship and reverence toward God. After everything had been entrusted to him to make use of it according to his will, whether he wished to do so for necessity or for pleasure, God finally demands from Adam that at this tree of the knowledge of good and evil he demonstrate his reverence and obedience toward God and that he maintain this practice, as it were, of worshiping God by not eating anything from it. (LW 1:94)
Thus a twofold temptation is put before Eve, by which, however, Satan has the same end in view. The first is: “God did not say this; therefore you may eat from this tree.” The second is: “God has given you everything; therefore you have everything in your possession; therefore this one single tree is not forbidden you.” However, each aims at the same end: that Eve be drawn away from the Word and from faith. This command about not eating from the tree, which was given them by God, is a convincing proof that even if his nature had remained perfect, Adam, together with his descendants, would have lived in faith until he would have been translated from this physical life to the spiritual life. Where the Word is, there necessarily faith also is. Here is the Word that he should not eat of this tree; otherwise he would die. Therefore Adam and Eve ought to have believed that this tree was detrimental to their welfare. Thus faith is included in this very commandment. (LW 1:153)
Consider Luther’s language here: demands; obedience; command; commandment. Why, he sounds positively Reformed!
NOT! He sounds particularly Lutheran, with a particularly Lutheran understanding of man’s relationship before God.
My students have taught me this lesson repeatedly. If I use the word “hell” to speak of it, one might say, “Oh! That’s a bad word. You shouldn’t say that one.” Oh really? You say it every day in chapel. Their eyes grow wide with wonder. “We do? Where?” So we stand and recite the Apostles’ Creed. There are no bad words, just words used wrongly.
It is the same with the words “commandment” and “obedience.” Now and again I hear in email conversations that this is “the language of the Reformed. We Lutherans simply don’t speak that way.” Since when? Since we Lutherans contracted a phobia of all things Reformed, perhaps?
I’ll grant that the Reformed and we Lutherans have a different understanding of these terms, and that we have differing applications of them with regard to our relationship to God and His relation ship with us. I will also grant that the manner in which the Reformed use these words will send a good Lutheran diving into the waters of his Baptism for relief. However, that does not mean that these words should fall out of use in the vocabulary of the Lutheran. They are good words, properly used. Good words improperly used need not be sent to the dust heap; they need to be washed off and put to good use.
Consider the fact that the Law is placed first in the Catechism. The anticipated use of the Catechism is for those who are of the family of God: those who are baptized or who are preparing for Baptism. This means the First Chief Part is teaching us to live within the Law, as well as to show us where we have fallen short of its demands. Each Commandment has both the positive and the negative aspect to it: This is what a child of God does not do; this is what a child of God does. From this we hunger for the Gospel.
The Commandments make us aware of our need for a Savior and the Means of Grace through which He comes to us. Are we not to use them daily for self-examination? Further, because Christ has united Himself to us in Baptism, because we are all one Body in Him, how we treat each other is how we treat Him (Ro 12:5). When we sin, we make Christ a participant in that sin with us (1Cor ). The child who defies his parent or teacher is not angry at that one alone, but at his heavenly Father. The one who hits another child also injures Christ. There is no nebulous rationality and lengthy discussion regarding why we obey our God. We do it because He says do this, and we, as His children obey Him. What is a life of repentance all about if there is nothing by which we can judge ourselves? Commandment, obedience, repentance, and forgiveness, that’s what a Lutheran is all about.
Luther treats it this way in the Close of the Commandments:
God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them. But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore we should love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands.
The first two sentences are clearly Law, burdening with punishment and the knowledge of an impossible demand. The third sentence gives relief at last. When God promises grace and blessing, He is speaking only of Jesus Christ. He is the only one who kept these commandments, and He did it for our sakes. Because we are baptized in His Name and now have His righteousness imputed to us, we are inheritors of what Jesus did for us. It is only through Jesus that we are able to keep the First Commandment, which requires us to love and trust God above all things so that we are able to keep all His commandments.
When a Lutheran speaks of his obedience, he recognizes the fact that he is dead in his sins and can do nothing to free himself from that situation. Jesus likes talking to dead people. They can’t do anything for themselves. All a dead person can do is what Jesus’ words say. “Lazarus come forth!” and a stinking body comes out of a grave. “Young man, I say to you, arise!” and the man sits up. Neither one of these men had enough wits about him to decide a thing. The dead do what the dead are told to do by the Lord of Life. Christ's word is effective because it is His word. It is the means whereby things happen. When Christ gives a command—Arise!—He also gives the means to obey that command within the word He speaks.
Creation was like that. The Resurrection will be like that. God spoke into the darkness and there was light. The darkness didn’t create the light. God’s speaking created light. John’s Gospel tells us all things were created in and through God’s Son (Jn 1:3). Specifically, John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). In the Resurrection Jesus will speak, and the dead in Him will arise. Now there is command and obedience for you!
If others want to believe that they can now be obedient to God’s commandments as Adam and Eve could have been prior to the fall in the Garden; if they want to think their relationship before God is right now something besides that of a dead man—that they can decide to accept or choose Jesus as their Savior—why should that scare us Lutherans off from using two perfectly good words in a right, proper and Lutheran way? We Lutherans certainly haven’t stopped ourselves from using the sign of the cross, crucifixes, genuflecting, incense, the liturgy and all manner of
God’s commandments are not abolished, and we are called as Christians to obey Christ (2Cor 2:5). Where the Lutheran must begin, however, is in his presupposition regarding these terms. We stand before God as beggars, with nothing in our pockets. We have nothing to give Him. We have not kept His commandments; we have not been obedient to Him. Furthermore, we are as dead beggars. We can’t even reach into our pockets to turn them inside-out to shake them one more time to find that one itsy-bitsy to redeem ourselves in good favor with our heavenly Father. Forget that… someone’s even stolen our clothes!
Who can save us? Thanks be to Christ Jesus our Lord! For it is He who clothes us in Himself, making us obedient according to His obedience to His Father’s every word and will.
Last weekend both sets of Emi’s grandparents were gathered at her house in preparation for her sister Lianna’s baptism. I had brought an old CD player with me —a purple one, her favorite color alongside pink. Emi was thrilled. We were upstairs in her room (Oy!) listening to the St. Paul’s Children Choir CD and playing doll house while the others were having a good time “visiting”. Emi was singing along. “O Lord, open Thou my lips… Away in a manger… I am Jesus’ little lamb…” The liturgical hymns were familiar and comfortable to her. She was in heaven! She soon designated one part of her room as “church” and the other “room.”
“Grammy,” she asked, “will you come to Sunday School with me? You can be my friend.” I agreed we could work that out. She danced around with joy.
When we finally went downstairs to join her parents and the rest of the grandparents we found they had been making other plans. Sunday School began at . They wanted to meet at Shoney’s for breakfast at 9. That meant Sunday School would have to take a pass on Lianna’s Baptism Day if that plan stayed as it was.
I put the question to Emi. “Emi, do you want to go get pancakes at Shoney’s, or do you want to go to Sunday School?” She loves her pancakes, and she knows what going to Shoney’s is all about.
Emi didn’t hesitate. “I want to go to Sunday School.”
“Even if it’s blueberry pancakes?”
“No, Grammy. I’m going to Sunday School and you’re going with me. You’re going to be my friend.”
Plans changed. We met at Shoney’s at 8. Emi got her pancakes and then went to Sunday School with Grammy as her friend. Afterward her baby sister Lianna slept through her baptism.
It was a joy to see Emi so eager to go off to Sunday School. I asked her later what she learned. “Jesus,” she replied. Then she busied herself with preparations for her sister’s baptism. I was wearing a pin remembering my own baptism. On it are a crucifix, a shell with my baptismal birthdate, and a crown with crosses. Emi was especially enthralled with the crown, so I explained that she has one, too. It’s the Crown of Life that Jesus gave her in her baptism and will give her one day. Lianna was going to receive hers when the water hit her head and Pr. Peters said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Emi was fascinated. So much so that when the first bit of water hit her sister’s head she gasped. Throughout the service “crown” references continued to come up. If I didn’t catch it to point out to Emi, she pointed it out to me: “He said crown!” Later she asked Pr. Peters, “You know what Lianna has? A crown.”
Emi will be four in November. Catechesis happens when parents and other authorities take the time to see that it rightly does. It’s a part of her life, not an interruption into it, postponing the regularly scheduled daily programming. For Emi, catechesis is her habit of life.
We have found in our school that children who pray the Catechism daily and learn to judge their actions by its teachings also learn to think differently. They not only place their own actions under the Catechism, they evaluate the world around them by the same. For example, when they read books they make assessments of the characters and their values according to the Catechism. This becomes a valuable tool. Padraic Column’s Children’s Homer proves that in war there are noble men among both friend and foe. Yet, when none worships the true God, there are no good deeds at all. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The House in the Big Woods repeatedly demonstrates the deviltry that lurks behind disobeying one’s parents.
Invariably there is an expectation of forgiveness from my students for characters who have erred and repented in their readings. When it is not forthcoming the students immediately notice and are dismayed. On the other hand, the students also recognize that an oft-repeated “apology” for the same offense without the demonstration of a lesson learned means a lack of true repentance.
Even while watching movies one or another will exclaim, “Hey! That’s like what Jesus does for us.” or “They treated him like Judas. They didn’t forgive him.” Sometimes it takes a bit of work to get to what their connection is, but eventually it can be seen.
Because the Catechism is foremost in their minds, it is that which shapes their thoughts. These children begin at the age of four not just memorizing the Catechism, but also applying it to the way they work and play at school.
Two brothers ran down the hallway. One slipped into my classroom through one door and out the other, slamming it behind him. He was playing hide-n-chase with his younger brother. So I called the older one over. He’s my student.
I explained the facts of life to him: I’m nearly 99 years old and already use a cane to get around. His slamming of the door just jars my old arthritic bones even more. Does he want to break them with all that slamming and jostling?
Well, of course he didn’t. He just wanted to hide from his brother. By then the younger one had joined us.
So did he want to slip up and fall and crack his head open? Or did he maybe want to catch his brother’s fingers in the door and hurt them?
Well, of course he didn’t. He just wanted to play with his brother.
Playing with his brother is great, but this wasn’t the place for it. That was for outside, not inside. Inside someone could get hurt, and getting hurt was what commandment?
“You shall not commit adultery,” he replied.
“I don’t think so,” I answered. “You aren’t married yet.”
He nailed it the next time. So he and his brother repeated the Fifth with meaning, and then the Fourth because they’d been told already not to run in school. And then the First, of course.
After the apology came the forgiveness.
This, too, is how Emi is learning to live. Jesus gave her a crown in baptism, and holds it for her forever. Not even when she sins does she lose this crown. We caught her saying “I lost my crown” after she had gotten into trouble. I didn’t make connections until after a while she said, “I got my crown back again.” So I explained to her, “Emi, Jesus holds your crown for you forever. You never lose it, no matter what you do. You are baptized. Jesus holds you as His own. Jesus holds Lianna as His own. You are both His special princesses, and He has your crown forever. Baptism means you never lose your crown.”
We catechize because we baptize. Can’t have one without the other.
God Grant It, is a series of devotions written from C. F. W. Walther’s sermons. Last Thursday’s spoke to resisting temptation. Walther writes,
One of the greatest and strongest dangers and temptations for Christians to depart from the path of godliness is the evil example of the children of this world. It is easy enough to see that, for the most part, it goes well for the children of the world in their sinful life. They hurry from desire to desire, and from pleasure to pleasure. . . By this enticing appearance of earthly happiness, which surrounds the children of the world, many a pious person is blinded, deceived, and tempted to fall into sin.
For this reason,
admonishes his spiritual children: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1John 2 15-17). Saint John
Countless people in the midst of the severest temptations of the world have remained faithful to their God. The Bible offers some examples.
Lot… Joseph…Moses. [Moses] might well have fallen away from the religion of his fathers and become ashamed of his despised Israelite brethren according to the flesh. But it says of him in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of , for he was looking to the reward” (-26). Egypt
Gregory the Great (540-605) is credited with codifying the Seven Deadly sins. This was not to suggest that some sins are more damnable than others, for the wages of [all] sin is death. For the sake of catechesis, Gregory emphasized those sins which were tempting, yet could be resisted, but too often were not. These were sins of habit, leading to a lifestyle (habitus) from which it was difficult to free oneself. These sins are known as, by both their Latin names and their translations, saligia: superbia (pride), avaritia (greed), luxuria (luxury, later lust), invidia (envy), gula (gluttony), ira (anger), and acedia (sloth). C. S. Lewis addressed these sins throughout The Chronicles of Narnia. For example, Edmund personifies gluttony in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which Jadis exploits to her advantage with Turkish Delight.
An eighth deadly sin can be added to this list: abdicatus (renunciation). This is the sin of accommodation, and it is the worst of them all. It is the one that finally says that not only can temptation not be resisted; it must be entered into for our own good and human betterment. Moreover, abdicatus is especially heinous because practitioners are quite adept at using scripture to support their cause—just not all of scripture. Abdicatus is conformation with what Walther calls the children of the world so that scripture is used to support their ways and habits, rather than to mark and avoid them. Often the Gospel itself is used as a shield. By this means, one’s own baptism is renounced for he willingly enters into what God has not granted, and yet claims God’s permission upon it because he is baptized.
Abdicatus says that the world has changed, and so must the church. This is as much as to say that the church can no longer withstand temptation, but must accommodate herself to every whim of culture that come along. Let’s ask the question foremost on the minds of theologians in churches that do not ordain women: If all those other churches do it, why can’t we?
Why don’t we press this another direction. There was a time when it was uncommon for couples to live together before marriage. This is no longer true, even among Christians. Sometimes the fact is not even hidden, or is supported by the couple through their own scriptural and theological examinations.
Now, there is scriptural basis for chastity, just as there is for the all-male pastorate. However, society accommodated itself to thinking of virginity as a burden and marriage as a curse. Then "true" liberation was found apart from these things. Marriage was a societal necessity only “for the sake of the kids,” or financial reasons, etc. Marriage, as an icon of Christ and His Bride, is—from the beginning of scripture to the very end—wrapped in Christ. Marriage and sex are sacred, sacramental. The sanctity of marriage is lost when emancipation is found in extra-marital sex and society and the church as a whole embraces this idea.
So what are we to do with any other of the articles of the doctrines of the church? Shall we concede to the temptation of the world and renounce the Apostolic Faith when we do? That is what happens when the church accommodates to the surrounding culture instead of resisting the temptation it presents. The world and its apparent happiness, its growth in numbers, its wealth, all appears to be a success. Still, God has His own way of measuring success. Success for God was measured in His Son’s death. We can’t even begin to imagine how much love that took for Him to send His own Son for our sakes, and yet how painful it was to have His Son die as a sinner. The contrast is blindingly impossible.
We have not even begun to resist our temptations as Christ did, to the point of blood in His own perspiration. He neither gave into temptation, nor did He accommodate Himself to the culture of His day. Christ was obedient to His Father in all things. He told His disciples to be about the business of “baptizing and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19b-20). He also says that His disciples are those who remain in His word (Jn ). It is a foregone conclusion: abdicatus, (renunciation, accommodation), is not the way of the Christian. In fact, accommodation to temptation says that the Gospel is powerless in the face of the devil. James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7). The latter follows the former. Those who have first been submitted by God to Him are able to resist the devil and all his temptations. The Gospel overcomes the devil and his ways.
"I am baptized" is the answer to all temptation, not the reason for accommodation to sin. St. Paul writes, "Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Ro 5:2-5). If there is a corresponding virtue to abdicatus, and one supposes there must be, it is virtus (character).
Emi’s been to
Jesus said… Jesus said,
I am the Way,
And the Truth,
And the Life,
No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
When she doesn’t want to sing, she repeats the verse, daily and much.
Emi already had an extensive repertoire of songs: Eensy Weensy Spider, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Where is Thumbkin. However, none of them have been as affecting as this one has. Emi has heard about Jesus since she was born. But now she realizes Jesus is someone she should listen to, so her ears are freshly opened to hearing what He might say to her.
“Let’s go to church,” she asked quite suddenly one afternoon.
Fortunately it was a Wednesday. Vespers was only hours away. So we went. Emi sang along with the liturgy as best she could: “Your word is lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” She listened to the readings, especially after being told, “That’s Jesus’ words speaking to you.”
Still, it was the singing of the liturgy she loved the most. She stood by my knee and looked at every line, studying each one as if she could read. She chanted the psalms, tried to make the sign of the cross, and worked her way through it all. Did I mention she only sang one inarticulate word throughout until we got to the one she recognized fully, “Amen”? Amen is enough for now. The rest will come later.