Greetings in Christ Jesus for a new week.
For the last two weeks, I have been preaching on a text from Luke 24:44-49a. It is Luke's equivalent of the Great Commission from Matthew. The sermons (Parts 1 & 2) have been entitled "The Church at War." Well, I came across an article in Facebook that went to prove how true it is. Unfortunately, as I researched the article, it definitely feels like the bad guys are winning.
This past week in the State of California Assembly, they passed a bill that could possibly outlaw "the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer" that "includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex."
The bill, known as Assembly Bill 2943, is now headed for approval by the State Senate and the signature of Governor Jerry Brown before becoming law. The initial purpose of the law was to criminalize "conversion therapies" that supposedly cure homosexuality. The problem is it could also be used to restrict or prohibit other means of helping people struggling with same sex challenges and questions which could be interpreted to include pastors providing counseling to such persons or preaching according to Scripture which holds a contrary view of such activity.
Will such a law ban the sale of the Bible or prosecute clergy preaching on scriptural morality? No, not today, but it does make one wonder about tomorrow's slippery slope. Is this an attack on orthodox Christian morality? Are conservative, traditional Christians, like me, hyperventilating over nothing? As I recall my history (I was a history major in college and a fan today with a lasting passion for history) before it started to be re-written to accommodate a politically correct and properly sanitized agenda, isn't that the way the "brown shirts" started prior to WWII? Just a book banning here and a book burning there so everyone would be thinking the right way, the party way?
The Christian church is at war with the devil and he's dressing up in new clothes that smack of old habits. Thank God that Christ our Lord has already won the war. Sadly, there are battles still coming that must be fought in a town near you and me soon. Be alert!
Peace be with you all.
I’ve started work on our worship celebration for Confirmation Sunday on May 6th. As I was developing a liturgical order for the bulletin, it reminded me of the oath that the confirmands will make that day. Up to this point in their lives, it was parents and sponsors, pastor and congregation who sought to live up to their promises to God to help each of these young people to come to this moment when they add [I emphasize the word ADD] their promises to ours.
It got me thinking of my own promises in my confirmation, but it didn’t stop there. It just got started. There were my promises to Karen in our marriage, the promises I made for each of my children as their father and countless other children as their pastor [promises at each baptism I’ve done over 39 years], my ordination promises, and the list goes on. In every one of these cases, I made my promise, gave my oath, pledged my solemn word TO GOD!
I wonder how many of us realize that it is to God we are making our promise to when we declare for all to hear, “I do solemnly swear” or words to that effect. I promised God!
As Christians, we makes our promises to God. By joining a church [at least a Lutheran church], being confirmed as we add our promises to the baptismal ones made on our behalf, serving on a church board or council, we promise to God that we will engage in regular worship, continue to seek out and study God’s holy and precious Word, and strive to be an example of Christ-like living for others to see. We promised God!
In reflecting on just a few of the things I thought and did on Monday this week, I’m not pleased with my promise keeping. Hold that thought the next time you give your word, “So help me God” and remember the One you are making your promise to — God.
Have a good week.
On Monday, April 9th, I officiated at the funeral service of James McNeill, a 94 year old disciple of St. Paul. James died on Easter Sunday after having come to worship with family, celebrated in worship with his St. Paul family, partook of the Lord’s Supper, was greeted warmly by many friends who were very pleased to see him, and died peacefully on the way home. During his life he had served in the United States Army for 23 years, fighting in numerous engagements of WWII beginning in North Africa. He loved his Lord, his country and his family and friends.
That said, I want to say just a few words about his burial at Fort Sam Houston cemetery. James deserved and received full military honors. It has been quite a few years since I have seen military honors conducted in such a manner. The young men and women that formed the flag/burial detail did so with the precision, dignity, respect, and honor it richly deserved. As taps (with a real trumpeter, not recorded) sounded and many of us placed our hands over our hearts, one could not help but feel a deep sense of pride in these soldiers and the sincere respect they displayed for their deceased comrade in arms of another generation and the flag that they all served honorable under.
I mention this because it was truly inspiring and uplifting when thinking of so many of our younger and not so young citizens who go to great lengths to disparage our nation and the flag that symbolizes our republic. I understand there are differences of opinion and points of view, but that should not cause us to dishonor our flag in any way. Yes, there have been terrible injustices done during our country’s history, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to re-write it or, worse, sponge clear from the slate of time the works of good men and women, who did some wrong things in their lives, by condemning them completely so that they are undeserving of recognition and respect. We are all guilty of sin, including these sanctimonious pillars of so-called political correctness and egotistical hypocrisy whose lives are no more perfect then those they would removed from history’s rich tapestry.
Maybe it would do them some good to see what real duty and service, honor and courage is all about by seeing a funeral with military rights. There is clearly an awareness of God’s preserve and blessing as respect is shown toward this nation He has blessed us with and the sacrifices made by those who have fought to protect and preserve it. A nice thought, but I wonder if it would make a difference. One could only hope and pray.
God bless you and God bless these United States and those who serve her.
Pastor Lee R. Harder