Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?”

This post was originally written June 7, 2011.  In light of the LCMS debate taken public (intentionally or not) over unionism and syncretism, that well worn phrase “All You Need is Love” has cropped up again:  “Share the Love of Christ,”  “You’re not being very loving Confessionals!”  “They will know we are Christian by our Love.”  I think it is time again to pose the question — this time it is directed squarely at those throwing this phrase around so cavalierly and loosely on the issue of syncretistic worship — What is this “Love of Christ” of which you speak?  Here is the rest of the post occasioned on the hearing of a sermon preached at the wedding of that famous royal couple across the pond:

Driving home from Louisville, Kentucky this past weekend, I was listening to a Sermon Review over at Issues, Etc.  It was the sermon given by Bishop Chartres on the occasion of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton last month.  As I was driving on I-65 south in Bowling Green Kentucky, a couple of things that struck me in the sermon.  In particular they can be found in the following excerpts:

The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive. We need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

Reading between the lines, one can make out the shadow of the Trinity in this sermon — God so loving this world that He sent His only Son into it…  to be our example….  the Holy Spirit being made alive by the power of the love in our relationships with one another, with marriage being the most powerful of these relationships — like two magnets being drawn together creating a magnetic field.  Christ is mentioned in this sermon, but we do not need Him.  Instead, we move into our relationships toward others in love — using as our template the love Christ modeled for us.   Continue reading “Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?””

Coming Christmas Eve: Sacred Music for the Christmas Season — Courtesy of Issues Etc. and Lutheran Public Radio

Christmas Eve signals the change in season in the church from Advent to Christmas.  It begins Christmas Eve with a vigil watching and waiting for the morn of Christmas.  The anticipation ends with the Christ Mass and the great Feast Day hailing the arrival of the King of Kings.  What better way to usher in this new season than with sacred music of praise and worship, of reverence and awe, of wonder and majesty.  On Christmas Eve, you can listen to this sacred music at  Click the link and bookmark it.  For more information, watch the video from Issues, Etc. below.

Joseph Continues to Face Challenges, Sunday School Lesson, September 25, 2011

Genesis 39

Last week, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told his father he was dead.  Interestingly, he was sold to the Ishmaelites, cousins of Jacob.  Ishmael was Isaac’s brother.  The Ishmaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of Pharoah’s officers, and a captain in the guard.  God preserved Joseph’s life, and he soon came to have responsibility for the operation of Potiphar’s entire household.  Yet he also found favor with Potiphar’s wife who sought to seduce him.   Joseph was truly a man of God, and, trusting alway that the Lord was watching over him, refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife.  He was falsely accused of trying to take advantage of her for refusing her advances, and thrown into prison.  Again, however, God was moving and preserved Joseph’s life.  He soon gained favor in the prison with the jailer who put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners.

God’s grace is evident throughout Joseph’s life.  When one is faced with such cruel events, there is the temptation to become angry and bitter.  We are tempted to reject God and blame Him for the evil that has befallen us.  And while the difficulties in our life are not always God’s doing, they are quite often something He does to us in our lives.  We like to see such things as bad, unjust, wrong, and evil.  For Joseph, as a young boy he is torn from his family, betrayed by his very own brothers, the ones who are to watch over him and protect him.  He is taken away to a foreign land and sold to a strange house.  Joseph certainly would have been justified in becoming bitter and vengeful toward his brothers.  We certainly could have understood if he would have embraced the gods of Egypt and rejected Adonai Elohim, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and his father Jacob.  This is especially so when he suffers a further grave injustice at the hands of his master’s wife when he is falsely accused of trying to take advantage of her and thrown into prison.  Yet Joseph does none of these things.  Instead, he trusts in the God of his fathers to protect him.  He does so despite the awful circumstances that are worked upon him by his God, our God.  You see, God does not always give us what we want.  He does not always come to us in ways that we can see or even expect.  Our sinful flesh is opposed to God — we want to be god and not let God be who He is, submit to Him and let Him rule over us.  Joseph experiences the suffering of the cross, and in faith receives God’s grace as his life is preserved.  In so doing, as we will see in the next lessons, he is raised up to preserve the lives of his family in a time of desperate need.

Click here to listen to Tom Nummela of Concordia Publishing House talk about this week’s lesson on Issues, Etc.

Hey, Preacher Man, Give Me the Gospel

And in follow up to the last post, Eric & Polly Rapp have a song that fits the bill.  You can learn more about them at  I have to thank Todd Wilken at Issues, Etc. for the referral as it is used as bumper music on the show for sermon reviews.  This song was inspired by Issues, Etc., sermon reviews.

The words of the song speak for themselves, but, boy, do we need to hear more of this or what?  Rapp calls to the preacher to give us the Gospel and then tells why:  (1) it gives salvation to those who believe;  (2) it tells me I’m a sinner and Christ died for ME;  (3)  it is GOOD NEWS;  (4) it is the sacraments — His BODY and BLOOD;  (5) it sounds foolish, but is the Wisdom of God;  (6)  it leads to the gates of Heaven;  (7) it tells of the God-Man Christ who took the wrath of God upon Himself for you and me;  (8) if you are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of you.  Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel — PREACH IT, but PREACH ALL OF IT!

Hey, Preacher Man

(© 2006 Eric Rapp. All rights reserved.)

After hearing one too many liberal sermons, Eric let loose with this passionate call to return to essential Christianity.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
It brings salvation to those who believe.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Tell me I’m a sinner and Christ died for me.

I don’t want to know about what you did last week on your summer vacation.
What you saw, where you went, or how much it cost.
Instead won’t you tell me all the words that give me salvation.
How He lived and how He died for me on the cross.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Give me the good news of God’s only Son.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Give me His body, give me His blood.

I don’t want to hear about new ideas you learned while in seminary…
Higher critics like Marcus Borg or John Shelby Spong.
Please don’t invite those learned men to preach in our sanctuary.
They’re wise to men, but fools to God, and such fools are wrong.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel–
not with human wisdom, just tell it to me straight.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Let me know I’m foolish. Lead me to the Gate.

I don’t want to hear an opinion piece on the news or political parties.
Democrat, Republican–to Him it’s all the same.
Please don’t tell me how I have to vote to earn the Father’s favor.
There’s nothing I can do for that ’cause Christ did everything.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Tell me of the God-Man who bore all the blame.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
When you preach the gospel, you shouldn’t be ashamed.

The Transfiguration of Jesus — Sunday School Lesson, March13, 2011

In Matthew 17:1-9 Jesus takes Peter, James, and John the brother of James, up onto a high mountain.  The disciples did not know the purpose for doing so.  Usually when Jesus went to lonely places like this, He went to pray.  There is something different about this scene.  In Matthew 16, Jesus has dealt with the Pharisees who demanded a sign from Him.  They wanted proof that He had the authority to teach as He did.  Jesus told them that they would receive no sign, but the sign of Jonah already given to them.

Christ was concerned about the influence the Pharisees could have on the disciples and the church so He warned them, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” for such an attitude that demanded physical proof that one could hold onto, touch and see, could affect the whole church, cause many to doubt their faith, and lead many away from the Word of Christ.  Jesus then asked who people said that He was and who His disciples said He was.  Peter, never one to be shy, boldly proclaimed, “You are the Christ!”  This, Jesus told Him, is the faith, is the confession that the Church shall be built on.  Peter thinks he knows Jesus and He knows who THE CHRIST is:  why He is the King who will restore the fortune and glory of King David, of ancient Israel.  Jesus then tells His disciples that (1) He must suffer, die, and rise again, and (2) if they truly want to be His followers, they too must take up their cross and follow Him.  In Mark, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying He must suffer and die, and Jesus calls Peter Satan.  Mark’s account shows Jesus following Peter’s rebuke with the statement that His disciples must take up a cross just like Him in order to be true followers.

Do you think Peter really understood here who Jesus was and what He was telling His disciples?  Do you think that Peter thought he would have to suffer like Jesus?  Carry a cross like Him?  Hardly.  The Mount of Transfiguration tells the story.  It is there that we find Peter, James, and John with Jesus when suddenly, Jesus was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and His clothes were as white as light.  Mark tells us that Jesus’ clothes were so white, that no one could bleach them that white on earth.  Moses and Elijah then appeared, and Peter offered to make three tents so that they could hang out for a while.  It is then that a bright cloud descends upon the mountain top.  It is not a big gray storm cloud, or a fluffy cloud you see on a sunny day but a bright cloud.  Moses had seen it before.  In fact, he met God the Father in such a cloud.  This cloud comes down upon the mountain, and overshadows them, it envelops them, gathers them into it.  The voice of God the Father booms, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased;  listen to Him!”  The disciples fall flat on their faces when they heard the voice!  They could not get up.  They were in the presence of the Triune God, and the fear was one of awe, respect, and honor for the majesty and presence of the Creator.  But yes, the disciples were probably very scared too and felt unworthy of having this honor shared with them.  They do not get up until God the Son physically touches them and tells them, “Rise and have no fear!”  The disciples eyes were opened a little wider now to see that Jesus was really more than what they perceived Him to be.

Click here to listen to Deaconess Pam Nielson of Concordia Publishing House discuss this week’s lesson with Todd Wilken on Issues etc.