Thursday, December 17, 2009

I learned today someone is hurt by what I wrote about her on my blog, quite angry, too.  I am sorry she is hurt.

Very few people know who I am or, for that matter, who are the people mentioned here.  Several years ago, I switched to initials and now nicknames because I cannot keep initials straight when my godparents are both J's, as is Pizza Man and my friend in Ohio and half a dozen other people I am forgetting at this moment.  The domain ownership information is not public.  None of that really matters.

This is my blog, my journal, my thoughts and feelings.  And, as Pastor is teaching me, there is nothing wrong with my feelings.  Today we talked a bit about the men from yesterday afternoon and he gave me more words...good words.  [Alas, I had not my notebook with me at the time.]  He told me that what welled up within me in that moment was not wrong, nor, he supposed, something that might change any time soon, if ever in certain circumstances.  There is nothing wrong with that.  What can change is how I handle such feelings...respond to actions that follow them.  Wanting to scoff at such an idea, I clung to his hope instead.  We can work on that, Myrtle.

Funny, the person who is hurt is not the one I have been avoiding in the hopes of how I feel around her will not hurt her.

One question that was asked was how I can say she is not a Christian.  True, no one can know if for sure with regard to another person, but being a Christian is not someone who lives a moral life or has even been baptized or goes to church now and again or every Sunday.  Being a Christian has to do with belief and faith in Jesus Christ.  Period.  Without that belief there is no salvation.  One is simply not a Christian.  For have I not written enough of late that we are not participants in our own salvation?  It is a gift that we receive from the Holy Spirit.  If we are clothed with Christ, however, there will be an outpouring of works.  Perhaps, though, not what the world would most likely ascribe as great and godly works.

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 

"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? 

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' 

"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 

"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 

 "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." 
~Matthew 25: 31-46

In any case, I say that if someone does not live by faith, does not proclaim Christ as Savior, does not cherish the Word of God, does not acknowledge themselves as a sinner, does not seek forgiveness...well, what claim of Christian could there be?  What puzzles me is her anger and hurt over acknowledging this.

She also believes I am lying.  But, sadly, I am not.  For one, appearance does matter to her and my inability to measure up in this area has been a judgment against me for years.  I have watched her judge others.  I often wonder what she says about me to others when I hear her picking on others with me.  It is truly hurtful.   A few years ago, she had lunch with my boss.  Afterward, my boss shook her head in disbelief over the meal.  My boss told me it was evident, with regard to her grandsons, that she cared more for their convenience or lack there of in the stories she related to my boss.  My boss asked me if she even loved them.  I am not the only one who has experienced her criticism.  It is how she is, or rather how she has chosen to become.  She did, however, grow up with criticism in her ears by a mother who failed to pour love over her. 

I write for me.  I write to make sense of my life.  I write because that is what I do, who I am.  Were I a cave woman, I think you would find my scratchings all over the walls of my home.  What I write is my experience, my feelings.  They are what they are. 

This day, both were not what I was expecting.

Even though Advent is his busiest season, even though it is his birthday, even though he had met with me just yesterday, Pastor spent an hour talking with me about the angry phone call and the emails and the men.  I am not sure if he noticed, but it was the first time, when talking with him in...uhm...distress...I did not say I cannot do this; I cannot fail again.  Some of what he said made sense.  Some gave me a hope I could finally understand.  But mostly I thought about a question he did not answer (mostly likely because he missed it amongst my 1,001 other questions).  Is it wrong to be shoving Scripture  and hymnody into my head as fast and as much as possible?  Am I misusing the Living Word that way?

I was thinking about this as I finished reading Walther's Eighth Evening Lecture and a few bits leapt off the page at me:

Someone who is in anguish and distress will come to you.  In every instance the cause of such anguish of soul will be that the Law has taken effect in your parishioner, and it does not occur to him that he can be saved by the Gospel.  He does not think of that while he wails:  "Alas!  I am a poor sinner; I am worthy of damnation," etc.  To such a person you must say:  "You are indeed a lost and condemned creature.  But the passage of Scripture which has told you that is Law.  There is, however, another teaching in Scripture.  The Law has done its work in you; by the Law is to come the knowledge of sin.  You must now quit Sinai and go to Golgotha.  See yonder your Savior, bleeding and dying for you!" (63)

Gee, Pastor, you need to tell me to quit Sinai!

The Formula of Concord, in the Epitome (Mueller, p. 533; Triglot Concordia, p. 801), says:  "We believe, teach, and confess that the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is to be maintained in the Church with great diligence as an especially brilliant light, by which, according to the admonition of St. Paul, the Word of God is rightly divided."  This is repeated in the Declaration of Article V (Mueller, p. 633; Trioglot Condordia, p. 951) as follows:  "As the distinction between Law and the Gospel is a special brilliant light, which serves to the end that God's Word may be rightly divided and the Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles may be properly explained and understood, we must guard it with especial care in order that these two doctrines may not be mingled with one another or a Law be made out the Gospel, whereby the merit of Christ is obscured and troubled consciences are robbed of their comfort which they otherwise have in the holy Gospel when it is preached genuinely and in its purity, and by which they can support themselves in their most grievous trials against the terrors of the Law."  If these two doctrines are not kept separate, the merit of Christ is obscured; for when I am afraid of the threatening of the Law, I have forgotten Christ, who says to me:  "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  All ye that labor and are heavy laden, do but come, and you shall find rest unto your souls." (64)

Do but come.  Advent.  Jesus comes to us!  He calls us to come to Him!


Is it wrong that I relish, savor, each time Walther and Luther mention the terrors of the Law for how less lonely that makes me feel?  The merit of Christ is obscured...troubled consciences are robbed of their comfort.  Oh, how I understand this!

He later writes:  However, the preacher must also be careful not to say that the Law has been abolished; for that is not true.  The Law remains in force; it is not abrogated. (65)

I believe this is important to remember because while Christ did fulfill the Law, He did not abolish it.  I think that in being taught that He fulfilled it, I have mistakenly learned that it was abolished.  So in coming face to face with the most excellent instruction of Luther in the Large Catechism, I am overwhelmed by the Law, by how it shines a fierce light on the hidden darkness of my heart, exposing all my sin. I cannot bear it.

The devil may whisper all manner of insinuations to him, but he will say to him:  "Your charges against me are quite correct; but I have another doctrine, which tells me something altogether different.  I am glad the Law has put me in such a woeful plight; for now I can relish the Gospel all the more." (65)

Get behind me satan!  I do not have to bear it!

In reading and thinking and thinking and reading, I have begun to wonder if shoving Scripture in my head is exactly what I should be doing because it is the Word which will have its way in me, work in me, not I.  I just need to give it time.  I wonder if I hear enough of forgiveness, of the Gospel, if I am filled with its light and sweetness, eventually that is where my mind will go first...instead of the Law.

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