Saturday, March 20, 2010

We have a plan for Kashi.  One of his/my problems is that I just cannot remember two doses of medicine--both for myself and for my beloved buttercup--each day.  I do well to get one in per day.  So, I have moved the medicine to the table on which the television stands to try to mitigate that problem.

Second, we are upping his dose of hind quarter weakness medicine and adding a mental drug.  She believes that much of what I am seeing is more neurological rather than physical.

Third, after walking him around the block and examining him, she went ahead and gave him an acupuncture treatment.  He was getting them every three weeks and it has been 5.  It is my fervent hope that the combination of too long between treatments and essentially only half of his medications was what brought on his recent spate of decline.

Fourth, providing nothing untoward happens, we are going back for a reassessment in three weeks.  I have at least three weeks with my precious petunia left.

As hard as it was, we also created a plan for his departure.  She is coming to the house so that he will not be so very stressed.  When he is gone, she will take him away for me.  I cannot believe I am here.  Of course, God willing, he will be 15 in just two more months.  That is old for a dog.

The only question I could not answer was whether or not I wanted advance notice.  You see, last summer we had a long talk and I told her that the decision is hers.  I will never be able to ask her to put my puppydog down, but I do not wish for him to have one minute of life that is not worth living.  I am not that selfish.  So, she promised that if I keep her posted as to his condition, she will tell me when it is time, as if he were her own.  Last year she had to put her dog down, so she knows exactly how I am feeling.

Today, when she was telling me what she did with his ashes, tears welled in her eyes.  For some of us, puppydogs are more than pets.

Do I want her to tell me she is coming in two weeks?  Or do I want her to just show up at my door?

While we were waiting, I saw a father bring in a new puppy that he had bought on Tuesday because his daughter made the honor roll twice in a row.  The puppy has pneumonia.  The store will not take the puppy back and he does not have the money for hospitalization.  It was a heartbreaking moment, seeing the man's anguish and watching the puppy labor to breath.  The vet said the puppy had clearly been ill for a while, but was sold to this father anyway.  Criminal.

I finished Walther's Thirteenth Evening Lecture.  I should not have been afraid of his teaching, having been blessed so mightily by this book. I should not have been afraid of being crushed by Law in reading his wise words. 

What I found interesting is that essentially pastors face a terrible tension each time they deliver the Word to their parishioners:  to offer both Law and Gospel in such a way that secure sinners do not take comfort in the Gospel and contrite sinners are not crushed beneath the weight of the Law.  In other words, having one such as I in the pews and another who has come straight from a night of partying, embroiled in the pleasures of the world without remorse.

Something that I truly enjoy about this book, this series of spoken lectures, is that Walther is so skilled at blending the teaching of Luther with proof-texts from Scripture and adding in examples that the young pastors-in-training might face.  He is also very skilled at exposing the specious--that which appears to be true, but is actually not.

The proof texts for not preaching Law to secure sinners are all based on the teaching of Christ.  One comes from a passage that I have never truly considered before even though it is one oft preached at me.  I never understood much of it and now I have much to ponder:

Matthew 7,6 our Lord says to His disciples:  Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you.  A remarkable utterance!  What is meant by "that which is holy"?  Nothing else than the Word of Christ.  What is meant by "pearls"?  The consolation of the the Gospel, with the grace, righteousness and salvation which it proclaims.  Of these things we are not to speak to dogs, that is, to enemies of the Gospel; nor to swine, that is, to such as want to remain in their sins and are seeking their heaven and their bliss in the filth of their sings. (114)

Most certainly I believe the Living Word to be holy.  I believe that is one reason why I very much dislike having the three readings printed in the bulletin...the bulletin that is left behind in the pew, shoved in a pocket, ultimately to be thrown in the trash (though I would hope it would be recycled).  I do not see many bibles in the two confessional Lutheran churches I have attended.  This is curious to me.  I do not see many bibles in bible study or Sunday school either, other than the ever present stack on the table(s).

I never thought of the consolation of the Gospel to be pearls, but I savor that imagery.  This is silly, but when I am feeling most poorly, I tend to dress up as much as possible.  In fact, if you see me with my pearls on, you know that it is a very bad day for me.  Thinking about the consolation of the Gospel being pearls, I can envision myself wearing them all the time.  And the next time I am feeling poorly and string my pearls about my neck, I will envision myself stringing the grace, righteousness, and salvation of my Savior about my neck, my guard against the weakness that comes in days of pain and physical struggle.

A pattern after which we are to model our preaching we find, in the first place, in our dear Lord Jesus Christ.  Observing His conduce in the Gospel records, we find that, whenever He met with secure sinners,--and such the self-righteous Pharisees in those days certainly were, --He had not a drop of comfort for them, but called them serpents and a vipers' brood, denounced a tenfold woe against them, revealed their abominable hypocrisy, assigned them to perdition, and told them that they would not escape eternal damnation.  Although He knew that those very persons would nail Him to the cross, He fearlessly told them the truth. (115)

Although He knew that those very persons would nail Him to the cross, He fearlessly told them the truth.  Although...He spoke anyway.  What a thought!  Goes to show, I think, how important it is not to couch the truth, not to try and make it more comfortable..."more seeker friendly."  The Law is what is it.  And its purpose should to be diluted, softened, or lessened one iota.

We must preach them into hell before we can preach them into heaven.  By our preaching our hearers must be brought to the point of death before they can be restored to life by the Gospel.  They must be made to realize that they are sick unto death before they can be restored to health by the Gospel.  First their own righteousness must be laid bare to them, so that they may see of what filthy rags it consists, and then, but the preaching of the Gospel, they are to be robed in the garment of the righteousness of Christ.  (118)

Another point I found interesting is the emphasis on the need to preach repentance and remission of sins, not just remission of sins.

As regards doctrine, we find, among other things, this to be the chief fault that, while some preach the faith by which we are to be made righteous, they do not give a sufficient explanation how we are to attain faith.  Thus nearly all of them omit an integral part of the Christi doctrine, without which no one can understand what faith is or what deserves the name of faith.  For Christ says, Luke 24,47, that 'repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name.'  However, nowadays many speak only of forgiveness of sin and say little or nothing regarding repentance notwithstanding the fact that without repentance there is no remission of sins, nor can remission of sins be understood without repentance.  (123)

This brings to mind a passage from the Apology to the Augsburg Confession that I brought before Pastor months ago, but he never addressed with me:

We have attributed these two parts to repentance:  contrition and faith....  We say that contrition is the true terror of conscience, which feels that God is angry with sin and grieves that it has sinned.  This contrition takes place when sins are condemned by God's Word....
As the second part of repentance we add faith in Christ.  The Gospel, in which the forgiveness of sins is freely promised concerning Christ, should be presented to consciences in these terrors.  They should believe that, for Christ's sake, their sins are freely forgiven.  This faith cheers, sustains, and enlivens the contrite, according to Romans 5:1, "Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God."  This faith obtains the forgiveness of sins.  It justifies before God, as the same passage testifies, "since we have been justified by faith."  This faith shows the distinction between the contrition of Judas and Peter, of Saul and David.  The contrition of Judas or Saul (Matthew 27:3-5); I Samuel 31:4-6) is useless because faith is not added.  Faith grasps the forgiveness of sins, given as a gift for Christ's sake.  So the contrition of David or Peter (II Samuel 12:13; Matthew 26:74) helps because faith, which takes hold of the forgiveness of sins granted for Christ's sake, is added to it....  This faith grows gradually and through the entire life, struggles with sin, in order to overcome sin and death.  Love follows faith, as we have said above.  So childlike fear can be clearly defined as anxiety that has been connected with faith, that is, where faith comforts and sustains the anxious heart.  [Apology XIIA (V) 28-29, 35-38]

It is that last bit I struggle with because I oft feel the weight of the Law far, far more keenly than the comfort of the Gospel.  That is, my pitiful, weak faith does not often comfort and sustain my anxious heart.

Although, just I as write this, I wonder if I am looking upon repentance as Law, not as Gospel, if repentance, too is a gift.  In that case, I should not look upon repentance as a work of mine that I am subsequently failing at.  For I do believe.  I barely understand forgiveness, but I do believe that Christ died for me, for me, and His death is sufficient unto the remission of my sins.  Completely and without exception...even if I keep casting the possibility of exception before Him in my struggle with sin.

I wish I could talk with a pastor about this....

What surprised me is that I found consolation in this chapter on preaching law:

It is indeed a common observation that all those who have passed through great and profound sorrow at the beginning have become the best and most stalwart Christians.  Those who in their youth were deeply merged beneath floods of anguish and sorrow on account of their salvation turned out to be the best pastors and theologians.

This is illustrated by the instance of our beloved Luther.  The reformation of the Christ, the greatest task that any one could have accomplished in that age, had been entrusted to him. Without giving him any premonition, God prepared him for this task; not by making him very smart and enduing him with a keep knowledge of men or by giving him immediately a very clear understanding of the Word of God, --for he did not posses such understanding at the start and did not obtain it until the Holy Spirit kindled the true light in his soul, --but by forcing him upon his knees in anguish and terror, so that he was  in danger every moment of yielding to blasphemous thoughts.  That, however, was the proper school from which the future Reformer was to be graduated. (119)

Not that I am a great teacher...but that I am not alone in my struggle, in falling to my knees in anguish and terror!  Indeed, I am not along in being as hungry as I am.  In fact, I am supposed to be hungry!

For it [the Gospel] is a delicate food, which requires a hungry soul.  Accordingly, the blessed Virgin Mary sings in her Magnificat, Luke 1, 53, "He hath filled the hungry with good things."  ...A Christian is not reckless, wild, and vulgar, but his conscience is timid, low-spirited, and despondent.  He feels the gnawing of his sin and trembles at the wrath of God, the power of the devil, and the thought of death.  A heart bruised and crushed like this relishes the Lord Christ greatly.  Furthermore, redemption from sin, death, devil, and hell are much appreciated by those who are being swallowed up by death, who are feeling their distress and yearn for rest.  They obtain rest if they have believing hearts; but they feel at the same time what a frail thing their Old Adam is." (120)

Here, I thought that I was reading that it is okay that I talk to myself, coaching myself through a bad moment or talking around the lies in my head by speaking the Truth of God, i.e., when I am feeling the failure, telling myself that it is okay to feel that way because I am a failure...I am a sinner who can only but fail in this life...but, even so, I am forgiven.

But any one who has experienced the power of the Word and passed through the ordeal of genuine and serious penitence will not easily slip into the hidden spiritual sink-holes, for he has been made wary by experience.  When his reason begins to hold forth to him, he clings to the Word and bids his reason to be silent. (12)

Oh, how I need to get better at biding my reason to remain silent!

One small snippet I wish had been expounded upon further.  In it, is the underscoring of our Triune God, an admonition not to neglect the teaching of the Holy Spirit--one of the most egregious happenings of the Protestant Church these days, in my opinion....

For Christ has gained for us not only grace (gratiam), but also the gift (donum) of the Holy Ghost, so that we obtain from Him not only forgiveness of sin, but all the ceasing from sin.  (122)

Just recently I was reading in the Gospels about how often the disciples did not understand what Christ was saying.  Think about that for but a moment.  These men walked, ate, and slept with the Lord Jesus Christ year after year.  They had the Gospel from the beautiful lips of our Savior and still they did not understand.  Their understanding came, ultimately, when Christ breathed upon them, gifting them with the Holy Spirit.  And with that gift, gave faith and access to the sustenance that we to recover from the onslaught of our foe and the strength to resist our own nature and refrain from following in sin.  It is not by our power, but His.  The power of the Holy Spirit.

It puzzles me, truly puzzles me, how little I was ever taught about the Holy Spirit in 26 years of church and  bible study attendance.  But then, again, this would make sense, really, if faith is about what we do, rather than what God does for us.

While listening to Pastor P's segments on the penitential psalms on Issues, Etc., I was struck by a snippet in the show's opening:  Christ for me rather than Christ in me.  That the difference between confessional Lutheranism and Protestantism.  I hunger for the Christ-for-me teaching.  That is what I choose.

The only part of this evening lecture that caused me distress, was a part that brought true sorrow for the reminder it contained:

Furthermore, we read that John Gerhard, one of the very greatest dogmaticians, during his college days was for more than a year in deepest anguish and sorrow.  Nobody succeeded in raising him up, until John Arndt, his spiritual physician, healed him with the comfort of the Gospel.  (119-120)

His spiritual physician.  I miss my lessoning.  It's been two months, I believe, since I have been taught.  I know.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that the healing of the Gospel truly taught is what I have longed for and needed for over two decades.  Having lost access to that has been devastating.  I am trying to study on my own, I am reading and listening to dozens and dozens of sermons, but I know that I see to much Law.  I know I do not understand Gospel.  And I know I still hear the lies more clearly than I do the Truth.

I would pay a pastor, any confessional Lutheran pastor I know rightly divides Law and Gospel, to teach me.  I would willingly beggar myself to do so.  Unfortunately, that is not an option.  So, I struggle alone, now battling a gnawing hunger as much as I battle my sin.

 Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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