From the Disk of the Pastor March 2011
Dear Friends in Christ,
We live at a time when we feel tossed about on the deck of the incompetently helmed ship of state. We feel helpless. We are warned about all sort of looming problems. Now with Lybian oil off the market, there is fear that we may actually see gasoline rationing. The world seems to being going insane with the Tripoli massacres.
Yet, this is hardly new. Let me tell you about a pastor from a long time ago. Philip Nicolai was a young pastor serving his first parish around the year 1600. On a typical Sunday he preached to about five hundred people. Then the plague came to that part of Germany. Whole families were struck down. The funerals started. The study of young Pastor Nicolai looked out on the church cemetery. He could see the fresh graves from his desk. He was averaging six funerals each day. This continued for six weeks until he had buried half his congregation. In the midst of this, the young pastor began to write a long poem, to express his confidence in Jesus Christ. He called this poem “Mirror of Joy.” A couple years later, he turned back to the poem he had written in those dark days. He selected two sections and wrote melodies, in order to set them to music. They were published as the hymn “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” and “Oh Morning Star How Fair and Bright.” They quickly become known as the King and Queen of the chorals, that is, the greatest of all Lutheran hymns.
In midst of that great trial, this man of God wrote: “You shine with God’s own truth and light, Aglow with grace and mercy”. (LSB 395, v.1) He adds “We enter all, The wedding hall To eat the Supper as Thy call.” (LSB 516, v.2) Nicholai’s hymns fairly drip with confidence in Christ. When the whole world is coming unglued, Christ does not waver. Salvation does not change. Yes, these earthly events are certainly terrible. We would not wish such times upon the worst person we have ever met. But Christ still is the One with all authority in heaven and on earth. He’s still in charge.
Why does Christ give us such trials? That is a complex question. Specific answers are impossible to give, short of Christ directly telling us. Such revelation is rare indeed. But we can say how God has used such trials in the past. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel, after the time of King Jehu, thought that they were right with God. They had cleansed Israel of the worship of Baal. But they were still worshiping God through an idolatrous image - that of a golden calf. They had golden calf shrines at Bethel and Dan. The golden calf was intended to be an image of the true God. In addition, because they had written their own theology, instead of listening to what God had given them, they were very unjust. The rich lived in luxury and oppressed the poor. America is not an exact parallel. But in the prosperity of the last quarter century, many learned to trust their wealth instead of God. Even among our retirees, morality was at low ebb. If you doubt this, consider the epidemic of STD’s among senior citizens in the state of Florida. Even those who didn’t engage in such overt sins, often lived in leisure, with no concern for anyone else. Younger people spent all the energy working to earn enough money to live such a life when they retired. And what was happening theologically? Liberal churches were blessing the most perverse of all sins. Evangelical churches were preaching how good we are and we can make ourselves even better. America, as a nation, had made the self god.
What do we need at this time? The Word of God. We need to be ever more focused upon the gifts of forgiveness and life that God gives to us. We need to be deeply in prayer for our neighbors, our nation and the world. At the heart of that prayer needs to be repentance. Then we need to share this with those around us. When you hear someone complain, tell them to pray. Tell them to turn to Scripture, to go to Church, to go to the Lord’s Supper. I cannot say that this will make the troubles go away. But I can say that this is always God’s will for all people. This is what we need to be about. If this does not result in earthly peace, it will bear fruit before God and in eternity. For if we are repentant, we are children of God. We are property of Christ. And that is far more important than what is happening to our bank accounts.
Rev. Jody R. Walter
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:104-105