Author Archives: Andrew Grams
O Adonai – O Lord of might
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
et dux domus Israël,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty, and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
Emmanuel Rex Oriens Clavis Radix Adonai Sapienta– ERO CRAS. In reverse order, the first letters of these names for our Lord spell ERO CRAS. This is His response to our cry throughout Advent and especially in these last seven days:
Tomorrow, I come.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus come.
What a great way to usher in Christmas with our families. We call out to Christ throughout the season by naming the Old Testament Names by which He is known, and in these very words the Father has given to us, is Christ’s response. Merry Christmas!!
The beginning of Advent marks the beginning of the Church Year for the vast majority of Christendom that follows the cycle and seasons of the Church Year centered on the lectionary. With the beginning of the Church Year, it is fitting that the first Feast day of the year belongs to St. Andrew the Apostle, brother of Simon Peter.
Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist before being called by Jesus. It is possible that he witnessed the baptism of our Lord in the River Jordan, and was there drawn to the presence of God in the flesh by the witness of the Father and the Spirit. It was he who brought Peter to see Jesus, and they were later called as the fishermen, to leave their nets, and everything behind to follow Jesus.
Andrew was named one of the twelve Apostles by Christ. In the lists of the Apostles, he is among the first four mentioned. Not much is known about his work and mission following Christ’s ascension. Andrew is generally thought to have died a martyr’s death on an X shaped cross. Hence, the symbol of St. Andrew is an X shaped cross on a field of blue. His death is said to have taken place during the reign of Nero on November 30, 60 A. D. in Patras, Geece.
There is some controversy over the remains of St. Andrew. In 357 A. D., Andrew’s remains were said to have been moved from Patras to the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople, where they remained until the thirteenth century when the French took Constantinople. Cardinal Capua moved the remains of Andrew to the cathedral of Amalfi in Italy. The Scots on the other hand claim that the bones of St. Andrew are bones are in Scotland. In any event, a Greek monk at Patras, St. Regulus, or Rule as he is commonly known, and keeper of the relics of St. Andrew at Patras, is said to have received a vision to move the relics including the bones of St. Andrew to Scotland c. 732. Another story has the Bishop of Hexham, a collector of relics, removing the bones from Greece to Scotland around the same time. The church of St. Rule, and eventually the cathedral of St. Andrew were built and were said to have housed the remains of the Apostle until the time of the Reformation when they were said to have been destroyed by Calvinists. Of course, St. Andrew, Scotland is now famous for its golf course.
All that aside — it makes for a interesting history lesson — what we do know for sure is that Andrew was the first Apostle called by Christ, and the entire Church, both East and West, celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30 each year. It is a small symbol of unity that binds the church together at the begining of the Church Year.
Hymn for St. Andrew’s Feast Day
JESUS CALLS US, Mrs. Cecil F. Alexander, 1818–1895
Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea;
day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying, “Christian, follow Me.”
Jesus calls us from the worship of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us, saying, “Christian, love Me more.”
In our joys and in our sorrows, days of toil and hours of ease,
still He calls, in cares and pleasures, “Christian, love Me more than these.”
Jesus calls us: by Thy mercies, Savior, may we hear Thy call,
give our hearts to Thy obedience, serve and love Thee best of all.
Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me. (John 12:26)
The story behind the hymn:
God’s call for discipleship comes to every believer, not just a special few. Whether or not we hear God’s call depends on our spiritual sensitivity.
The last Sunday in November is known as St. Andrew’s Day. It has traditionally been an important day in the liturgical worship of the Anglican church. It commemorates the calling of Andrew by Jesus as recorded in Matthew 4:18–20 and Mark 1:16–l8. “At once they [Simon and his brother Andrew] left their nets and followed Him.” Andrew has become the patron saint of Scotland, and the oblique cross on which tradition says he was crucified is part of the Union Jack of the British flag.
This is another of the quality hymn texts written by Cecil Frances Alexander, recognized as one of England’s finest women hymn writers. It is one of the few of Mrs. Alexander’s hymns not specifically written for children; nearly all of her more than 400 poems and hymn texts were intended for reaching and teaching children with the gospel.
Following her marriage in 1850 to the distinguished churchman, Dr. William Alexander, who later became archbishop for all of Ireland, Mrs. Alexander devoted her literary talents to helping her husband with his ministry, including writing appropriate poems that he could use with his sermons. One fall day, two years after their marriage, Dr. Alexander asked his wife if she could write a poem for a sermon he was planning to preach the following Sunday for his St. Andrew’s Day sermon. The pastor closed his sermon that day with the new poem written by his wife. These words have since been widely used in all churches to challenge God’s people to hear Christ’s call as Andrew did and then to follow, serve, and love Him “best of all.”
From Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (356). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.
“When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent,” He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance…. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.” Martin Luther, 95 Theses, Nos. 1 & 4
I really did not think that I heard the news report correctly. Delivering a baby alive, only to discover some sort of defect that, had mums and dads known about it before the birth, they would have aborted the baby, and then killing the baby. And yet, there it is in all its grisly horror. I guess it is needed, after all, with the technology we have, doctors should know whether a child being born will have a defect. After all, we now have a new cause of action for parents who have been wronged by doctors, hospitals and technology. Last Friday, it took a jury less than six hours to deliberate and award an Oregon couple $2.9 million dollars for the failure of their doctors to discover that the child mom carried in her womb had Down’s Syndrome, National Right to Life News Reports. Doctors have to be protected from this kind of frivolity. Enter the gruesome practice of after birth abortion.
“After Birth Abortion: Why should the baby live?” is the title of an article published last month in the Journal of Medical Ethics by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. If the title itself isn’t provocative, the justification for the practice certainly is. Andrew Ferguson critiques the article and the ethics of its authors in an article he wrote for the Weekly Standard entitled “Declaring War on Newborns: The Disgrace of Medical Ethics:”
Right at the top, the ethicists summarized the point of their article. “What we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”
The argument made by the authors—Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, both of them affliliated with prestigious universities in Australia and ethicists of pristine reputation—runs as follows. Let’s suppose a woman gets pregnant. She decides to go ahead and have the baby on the assumption that her personal circumstances, and her views on such things as baby-raising, will remain the same through the day she gives birth and beyond.
Then she gives birth. Perhaps the baby is disabled or suffers a disease. Perhaps her boyfriend or (if she’s old-fashioned) her husband abandons her, leaving her in financial peril. Or perhaps she’s decided that she’s just not the mothering kind, for, as the authors write, “having a child can itself be an unbearable burden for the psychological health of the woman or for her already existing children, regardless of the condition of the fetus.”
The authors point out that each of these conditions—the baby is sick or suffering, the baby will be a financial hardship, the baby will be personally troublesome—is now “largely accepted” as a good reason for a mother to abort her baby before he’s born. So why not after?
“When circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.” (Their italics.) Western societies approve abortion because they have reached a consensus that a fetus is not a person; they should acknowledge that by the same definition a newborn isn’t a person either. Neither fetus nor baby has developed a sufficient sense of his own life to know what it would be like to be deprived of it. The kid will never know the difference, in other words. A newborn baby is just a fetus who’s hung around a bit too long.
As the authors acknowledge, this makes an “after-birth abortion” a tricky business. You have to get to the infant before he develops “those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.” It’s a race against time.
Ferguson will draw this out, but let’s make sure the point is clear: babies born alive are not people in the ethical world of after birth abortion. They do not possess inalienable rights, chief among them, the right to live. Their Creator has not seen fit to endow babies with these rights. He must have simply forgotten about babies. After all, God created man and woman, not baby. Ferguson observes, “The article doesn’t go on for more than 1,500 words, but for non-ethicists it has a high surprise-per-word ratio. The information that newborn babies aren’t people is just the beginning.” Adoption, for example, simply will not work. It is absurd to put such a demand on a couple who find themselves in such an awkward position having been so wronged or merely come to the conclusion that they do not want to be parents:
But what about adoption, you ask. The authors ask that question too, noting that some people—you and me, for example—might think that adoption could buy enough time for the unwanted newborn to technically become a person and “possibly increase the happiness of the people involved.” But this is not a viable option, if you’ll forgive the expression. A mother who kills her newborn baby, the authors report, is forced to “accept the irreversibility of the loss.” By contrast, a mother who gives her baby up for adoption “might suffer psychological distress.” And for a very simple reason: These mothers “often dream that their child will return to them. This makes it difficult to accept the reality of the loss because they can never be quite sure whether or not it is irreversible.” It’s simpler for all concerned just to make sure the loss can’t be reversed. It’ll spare Mom a lot of heartbreak.
Wow. Shock and surprise. It seems as if this is a macabre fairy tale being spun in this 21st century world. But there it is, in a respected medical journal for all the world to see. A discussion about killing babies. Our global society is supposed to be civilized, enlightened. But perhaps the self indulgence of our age has finally won, and anything really does go in an age where truth is individualized, contextualized, and experiential.
Now, it’s at this point in the Journal of Medical Ethics that many readers will begin to suspect, as I did, that their legs are being not very subtly pulled. The inversion that the argument entails is Swiftian—a twenty-first-century Modest Proposal without the cannibalism (for now). Jonathan Swift’s original Modest Proposal called for killing Irish children to prevent them “from being a burden to their parents.” It was death by compassion, the killing of innocents based on a surfeit of fellow-feeling. The authors agree that compassion itself demands the death of newborns. Unlike Swift, though, they aren’t kidding.
They get you coming and going, these guys. They assume—and they won’t get much argument from their peers in the profession—that “mentally impaired” infants are eligible for elimination because they will never develop the properties necessary to be fully human. Then they discuss Treacher-Collins syndrome, which causes facial deformities and respiratory ailments but no mental impairment. Kids with TCS are “fully aware of their condition, of being different from other people and of all the problems their pathology entails,” and are therefore, to spare them a life of such unpleasant awareness, eligible for elimination too—because they are not mentally impaired. The threshold to this “right to life” just gets higher and higher, the more you think about it.
And of course it is their business to think about it. It’s what medical ethicists get paid to do: cogitate, cogitate, cogitate. As “After-birth Abortion” spread around the world and gained wide publicity—that damned Internet —non-ethicists greeted it with derision or shock or worse. The authors and the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics were themselves shocked at the response. As their inboxes flooded with hate mail, the authors composed an apology of sorts that non-ethicists will find more revealing even than the original paper.
“We are really sorry that many people, who do not share the background of the intended audience for this article, felt offended, outraged, or even threatened,” they wrote. “The article was supposed to be read by other fellow bioethicists who were already familiar with this topic and our arguments.” It was a thought experiment. After all, among medical ethicists “this debate”—about when it’s proper to kill babies—“has been going on for 40 years.”
So that’s what they’ve been talking about in all those panel discussions! The authors thought they were merely taking the next step in a train of logic that was set in motion, and has been widely accepted, since their profession was invented in the 1960s. And of course they were. The outrage directed at their article came from laymen—people unsophisticated in contemporary ethics. Medical ethicists in general expressed few objections, only a minor annoyance that the authors had let the cat out of the bag. A few days after it was posted the article was removed from the publicly accessible area of the Journal’s website, sending it back to that happy, cozy world.
What more can be said? Really. Do we hate ourselves that much? Or do we simply love ourselves that much? I am not sure which it is. To kill the very image in whose creation God has allowed us to participate is pure hatred. And yet the act is one of such love of self just the thought of it…. There is something just so shocking and unreal about this whole discussion. And yet, here we are talking about it. Though it appears as a new idea, it is not — it is a logical extension of late term and partial birth abortion, growing out of the time worn goal of perfection of the human race by man. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. There is nothing new under the sun. Today, it is just marketed and packaged differently. Evil and deceit have many faces. Some friendly, some reasonable, some stark, raving mad. Sometimes that stark raving madness is wrapped in and delivered to us in something that sounds so reasonable, so delectable, so convenient. The most beautiful angel of all continues to deliver the curse to mankind.
As incomprehensible as this all may seem, it is utterly more incomprehensible that our Creator, who is denied as sovereign in this thought experiment, would send His Son into this flesh as a baby to save us from the depravity of our minds. He continues to call to us through His Word, calling us to repentance: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” “As you do not do to the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Babies. Born or unborn are the least of these — the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the unwelcome stranger.
The LCMS announced the candidates nominated for the office of President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod today. The three candidates are the current President, Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, current synod First Vice President, Rev. Dr. Herbert Mueller, and Michigan District President, Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier. The convention this summer should prove interesting.
Yesterday, the Son of Man traded places with the son of the father (bar Abbas) so that we may wear the Father’s robe and live in His kingdom. Tomorrow Jesus does what all the big brothers of Scripture failed to do…. He completes the work God sent Him to do — to seek and to save we who are/were lost — the younger rules over the elder. And yet Christ is both Adam’s younger brother, both being in the flesh sons of God, and His older brother, being begotten of God before all eternity. And if you look at the track record of brothers in the Bible, you see the theme of older/younger played out. Cain killed Abel. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, and chosen by God over Ishmael. Jacob ruled over Esau, taking his birthright. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Yet it was Joseph who saved his brothers from starvation. And David, Israel’s second and greatest king, was the youngest brother chosen by God over all of his brothers and anointed by Samuel. Are you starting to see the pattern?
Jesus, the firstborn of the resurrection, came in the flesh to live among us. God often told His children, “If you obey me and do all the things I have commanded, I will be your God and you will be my people. I will come to you and make my dwelling place among you.” Well, we chased him away through our sin, our idol worship, and self-indulgence. So He sent His Son, His one and only Begotten Son, to make us His people once again. He sent our Big Brother after us to drag us out of the bars, brothels, wars, movie theaters, sports arenas, fast boats, fast cars, fast planes, internet, hotels, motels, highways, homes, gutters, jails, pits, darkness, blindness. He sent Jesus to get us and bring us home. And Jesus gave up His birthright as the first born from before creation, not counting equality with God something to be grasped, in order to bring us home. He traded His life for ours, so that we may wear the white robe of righteousness, the robe of children of God, and stand with Him in His kingdom. And because of the work of Christ, Jesus calls us friends. He can call us that because He has entrusted to us as part of our inheritance, the work that God gave Him to do. And so now, because Jesus has overcome death, because He has given us life, we are able to carry out the work of Christ on earth as His hands and feet.
The Gospels do not spend much time at the empty tomb. In fact, the angels tell the disciples and the women who seek Christ at the tomb, you will not find Him here. But Jesus always told His disciples to find Him at the Cross, for that is where we truly and finally meet Him. The empty tomb remains our hope for eternal life, and our symbol of new life. But it is a life that requires us to be as Jesus, and go after our little brothers and sisters and bring them home. And we do that by taking up the Cross and bringing Christ to them.
Have a blessed, joyous, happy Easter. He is Risen!
The Question of Truth
In the Gospel of John, a fascinating dialogue takes place between Jesus and Pilate. It is a dialogue that cuts to the heart of our sinful nature, revealing just how blind and puffed up we are. In this dialogue, Jesus takes Pilate to the core issue and fundamental question of mankind: “What is truth?” This is not a question that we ask very often today. It is assumed that we know. Whatever truth has been discovered is already out there, but it does not become true for me until I experience it. More importantly, what is true for me differs from what is true for you and so knowing THE truth is really not knowable. Instead, we pay attention to context. If your truth is not my truth, then all truth is really relative. There is no one truth that binds all things together. We must, therefore, conform to the context in which we are placed as Paul did — be all things to all people — adapt to the culture. Speak truth to people, in their context, that is, speak to the people their particular contextualized truth in their particular context. What may work for you in your church community, may not work in mine — this just may not be the place for you. Find the place where truth feels right to you in your context. And yet if we do so — assume we all know the truth or contextualize — we miss the fundamental question for fallen humanity and fail to see the answer right in front of us, just as Pilate did.
Pilate Questions Jesus
In John 18, Jesus is brought before Pilate. Pilate takes Him aside for questioning in an effort, he thinks, to save His life. Yet Pilate does not know what and who is before him. Pilate wants to know if Jesus is indeed a king, not understanding that the Jews brought Jesus to him because He claimed to be THE King. Jesus’ reply pushes back at Pilate in the probing fashion that we are accustomed to see from Jesus throughout His ministry: “Do you say this of your own accord, or did some others say it to you about me?” This is no rhetorical question, but a question of faith and revelation. Put another way, Jesus asks Pilate, “Do you know who I am? Did flesh and blood reveal this to you or did my Father reveal it to you? Who do you say that I am?” It is the question posed to Jesus’ disciples, a question only Peter answered correctly, in faith. And yet, as we are so wont to do when confronted with the Christ, Pilate avoids the question. He deflects, turning instead to his own power and ability, responding in a fashion that echoes Adam’s reply to God when confronted with the reality of his own sin in the garden of Eden: “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and people have handed you over to me? What have you done?” “Look, sir,” says Pilate, “Your people want you dead. I did not bring you here, although they come according to our law. I can help you out. What did you do that was so bad? Confess it to me, and I can make it go away.” Adam’s response to God was, “It is your fault God. You gave me the woman, she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Sounds eerily similar does it not? And yet Jesus is not done. He reminds Pilate that His Kingdom is not an earthly Kingdom, handing him the rope to which he needs grasp and cling. Yet Pilate can see only the things of this world. He hears that Jesus has a Kingdom, and if a Kingdom He has, Jesus must be a King. If a King then a threat to Rome and Pilate’s rule in Judea. Pilate does not hear Jesus telling Him, “They have brought me to you because of my Word, because My Kingdom does away with all kingdoms of this world. It is My Word, My Message that undermines their authority, and will tear down their laws, their way of life, and their beliefs in order to give them life. This they cannot tolerate, and they, therefore, hate me and reject me.” Jesus, even though He is being led to His death, continues patiently preaching to Pilate the very Gospel of life. “You say that I am a King. For this purpose I was born, for this purpose I have come into this world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate responds to Jesus’ statement with the question of the ages for mankind:
“What is truth?” In the Greek it is ““τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια?”” the Latin, “Quid est Veritas?” Read the rest of this entry
Onesimus the slave or servant. Philemon the master. Paul the friend, the mediator pleads for the safe return and proper treatment of Onesimus upon his return to Philemon. The story is recounted in Paul’s letter to Philemon, a letter that was sent to the church that met in the house of Philemon, with instructions that it be read aloud to the entire congregation.
Onesimus had left the household of Philemon without permission or without fulfilling his obligations to his master. There was some sort of dispute, according to Paul’s letter, and Onesimus found his way to Paul during his imprisonment where he served the apostle. Paul, however, does not permit Onesimus to shirk his civil duties to his master, nor does he allow his master, who is obviously in a position of advantage both in terms of finances and authority, to treat his servant unjustly upon return. Rather he urges love and forgiveness, reconciliation in this relationship. Paul asks Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother in Christ upon his return, not as a slave that he owned or servant in his employ. For while our vocations may place us in different statuses in our relationships, as one in Christ, we are obliged by the love of Christ, which is the fulfillment of the law, always to treat one another as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the King in Christ. And we do this despite our worldly status.