27 February 2016
24 February 2016
23 February 2016
22 February 2016
21 February 2016
5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness
must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them;
Small Catechism, p. 321.
The Sixth Commandment
You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Do you know what is apparently the biggest business in the world? Porn! Apparently the human appetite for it is voracious! But have you pondered what it IS? It is looking at pictures or videos of intimacy. One after another. Always more, always new. But a picture. Fixation with a fiction, a picture of an intimacy that isn't even real. And yet the human race obsesses on it. Can't seem to get enough of it.
And here's the thing: that's only a variant on what we do with sex in general. God gave it to us to be a picture, or better a window, what the old theologians would call a sign. Something not to look at but to look through, because THAT's when it's its true self. But the fact is that we stare obsessed at the picture itself rather than use it as the window it was intended to be. And so the pileup of crashed relationships on the highway of life.
That woman in John 4 isn't alone, is she? Five husbands and a sixth fellow she's just shacking up with. Why? She was "looking for love in all the wrong places." She was focused on the picture or the window, rather than looking through it to the reality. And if you focus on the picture itself, you indeed will be disappointed, soon get bored and itch for another picture to look at or another window to gaze at.
Countless is the marriage disrupted by the man or woman who "falls in love." Rare is the person who realizes that he or she is not actually "in love" with another person, but in love with a feeling that's by its very nature fleeting. It hangs on novelty and novelty just doesn't last.
God in His Word warns us of this danger constantly. This "no adultery," no sex outside of marriage is one theme that the Scriptures hammer home in uncompromising clarity like we heard in the reading today. And yet the Scriptures show at the same time an utterly frank picture of the mess, the hurt, the damage we do to ourselves and to others by ignoring God here. From David and Bathsheba to the woman at the well. Never forgets why God hates sin: He hates it because of the damage it does in us, the people He loves.
And this drives us to the heart of it. What ARE you looking for? What is sex itself was given to you to make thirst for? It's HIM. It's the Blessed Trinity Himself. You know what you ache for? You ache for a relationship of love, a relationship where the love is so solid and fixed and sure and unchanging that it doesn't hang one little bit on you. Because you know you screw up all the time. You need a love that doesn't change when you fail. That's the love God gave you when He sent His Son into your flesh to make you His friends, His beloved. That's the love that hangs on Calvary where far from letting your sins drive Him away from you, He draws you into His embrace by taking every last one of them into Himself as His own. And His faithfulness to you is then absolute. Don't mishear the strong warning in the Epistle: it's not that your sin causes Him no longer love you, but that sexual sin in particular has this horrible power to make you no longer care about His love. That's why it's so dangerous. It can lead you to despise the very thing that sex itself was given you to see through; what Saint Paul would call worshipping the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.
This is the whole point of Hosea. This is the whole point of Jesus calling himself the bridegroom. It's why in the Eucharist He comes to you, touches you, puts His body into you to have communion with you and engender in you His own divine life. That ache, that desire you try to still with the changing pictures, the oh-so fleeting orgasm or the only slightly less fleeting feeling of being in love, it only is finally satisfied in Him, in His unalterable, unshakable love for you. Love that covers every shame and holds you tight.
Don't focus on the picture. Don't stare at the window. Look through sex to what God gave it to be a picture of. He's wildly, passionately in love with you and He wants your sexuality to picture His fidelity and be grounded in His own unchanging and ever-forgiving love. Because that's the real deal. Amen.
19 February 2016
One of the ironies of my life is that I am quite comfortable as a public speaker, but not at all comfortable in large groups socially. I don't mind preaching or teaching to hundreds or thousands, but don't put me into a meeting where I have to deal with lots of noise and lots of people. I freak out. Quite literally. I shut down and need to go and hide. Sounds silly to you? Read the book. Sounds familiar to you? Read the book.
It brought back a memory from a dinner at a New York restaurant, Manatee's. Two close friends were pressing me. And pressing too close. "But what do you want?" they asked. I replied in utter honesty: "I want to be left alone." I still remember the perplexed and hurt looks on their faces. But I didn't mean that I didn't care about them; I mean they were pressing in way too close for my comfort. I needed to be left alone. Not for ever. But for a bit. Enough for me to regain some balance in my life. It's always the same pattern. My sister told me how she'd observed it years ago: "You always have to get away for time by yourself; you can only stay in the room so long with others." I was shocked that I'd never seen it, but it was absolutely true. I LIKE being with others, but only in small doses and then I have to recharge, or I come unfrayed.
Ninth Day Of Lent
February 19, in the year our Lord 2016
LCMS International Center, St. Louis, Missouri
Excuse me, may I have a word with you. I don’t know you that well but it seems that, with all the coming and going, you’re caught in the middle of this fight.
When you see who they are, of course you faithfully turn to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. But turning your back on that old evil foe is dangerous. He starts pushing your buttons and pulling your strings. He wants you to sound like him. And somehow a part of you is too willing to join in the taunting and the implicit accusation: “If you are the Son of God, make this problem go away. If you were a loving God, you would not allow this disaster. If you love me, why don’t you heal my cancer? What did I do to deserve this? If you had heard my prayer, my brother would not have died? If you are the Son of God, do what I want.” Sometimes you succeed in stopping such sentences before they slip past your lips. But they thread themselves into your thoughts as a if they were a natural part of you.
At that point who can blame you for taking your eyes off Jesus to face that evil one? But when you do you have fallen into his trap as he now accuses you: “If you were a child of God, you would not speak to Jesus that way. If you believed in him you would not have done that sin. He cannot forgive you now. Jesus says, ‘Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.’ If you were a Christian you would pray more. God’s not going to listen to someone who’s sinned like you have. If you really loved Jesus, you would not have half the problems you are facing now. If you were...”
Stop! Do not listen to that liar. One little word can fell him. That word is the word of God. Listen to it now: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. God showed his love for you in this, that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son to redeem you. God works all things for good for those who love him and have been called according to his purpose. No one and no thing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” That is the word that sets you free from manipulation and your own natural inclinations. You don’t judge God’s love for you based on your current circumstances. You know God’s love for you because Jesus has laid down his life for you, shed his blood for you, risen from the dead for you, gone to prepare a place for you. And he says to you, “Come.” Of course, he loves you. Listen to him speak to you now: “You are forgiven. I have called you by name, you are mine. No one can snatch you out of my hand. I will never leave you or forsake you. You are my child. I am your Father.” That is the word that acquits you from the accuser’s accusations. Listen to the word of Jesus who loves you. He says to you, “Come.”
The word of Jesus is the word of authority. He who has authority says to one “Go,” and he goes, and to another, “Come,” and he comes. In the wilderness Jesus finally used that authoritative word. He simple said to the tempter, “Go.” And the tempter went. In the end, Jesus will finally use that authoritative word and say to satan, “Go to hell.” So it will be.
But he does not say that to you. To you he says, “Come.” “Come, you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for to such belong the kingdom of God.” “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” The kingdom is yours forever. Amen.
18 February 2016
17 February 2016
16 February 2016
15 February 2016
04 February 2016
03 February 2016
02 February 2016
01 February 2016
And then you pick up the Philokalia and check out the words of Blessed John Cassian summarizing the wisdom of the fathers when it comes to fasting: "They (the holy fathers) have not given us one single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness, or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: avoid over-eating and filling of our bellies." (On the Eight Vices)
Science, of course, explains a bit of the physical wisdom in this: we simply don't register how full we are as we are eating. It takes time for the belly to send the message to the brain: Enough! And if you eat quickly and till you are full, the message will come along too late.
Fasting this Lent? How about that wisdom from the Fathers being the first and foremost goal as you train your body that you do not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God: slow down and take time as you eat (avoid eat standing or on the go) and don't eat till you're full. Stop before the sense of satiety kicks in.