Summary: I begin with an illustration of Dr. Rev. Newton in discussion with a Jewish man who challenged the conlusion to a prayer.... "in the name of jesus Christ..." It’s a great ending. This is an example of the culture we live in and the challenge to the "tru
In Jesus Holy Name October 26, 2008
“Reformation: Understanding God’s Love”
Earlier this fall our District President was attending the Oakland A’s Baseball game. Before the game Thrivent sponsored their pre game BBQ in the parking lot. All the Lutherans and their guest were present. President Newton was asked to give the prayer before the meal. In his prayer he gave thanks for the event, gave thanks to God our creator who provides for our daily needs. He gave thanks for the weather, family and the meal. He concluded his prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, your son, our Savior who died on the cross that we might have life and salvation, for he is the only way God has provided. Amen
As always, people were chatting and moving through the food line. A gentleman came up to President Newton and made the following comment. “I want to thank you for that fine prayer. I agreed with you all the way until you came to the conclusion and that part about Jesus Christ.”
Pastor Newton asked…”Well what was your concern?” His response: “Well, I thought the prayer should be more inclusive. I believe we are all trying to be with God. Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc. We are all praying to God. We all hope to be in heaven, we are just expressing different ways to God. You see I’m Jewish. I feel that in this culture we should be more tolerant of one another’s views. We are all praying to the same God.”
I thought President Newton’s response was helpful. He said, “In my head I was thinking…I thought this was a Lutheran event.” What is this Jewish guy doing here?” But a little bird in my head told me not to share my thoughts.” This is what he did share.
I hear you saying that there are different religions who have a “ladder” to God but we all have the same objective to be with God. You just feel that Christians are too narrow.” “Yes, that’s right.”
Then Dr. Newton said. “First I want to thank you for the kindness in your voice as you shared your concerns. I appreciate that. Second I want to thank you for sharing your Messiah with me for I am a Gentile dog who is thrilled to have the crumbs that have fallen from your Messiah’s table.”
You have told me the you believe there are various religious ladders as people seek peace with God. Ladders going up to heaven are what people build but they don’t quite get us there. I’m sure you would agree as an Orthodox Jew that your ladder also falls a little short.” “Yes,” Then Pastor Newton said, “Your Messiah, Jesus is the ladder from God to us.” The gentleman had a surprised look on his face and said these classic words. “I’ve never heard that before. That changes everything.”
Today, as Lutheran Christians we are celebrating the Reformation. During the 1500’s people had a false understanding of God. God was a God of wrath and judgment. Human beings could only hope to please God with their good works. Jesus was so holy, you could never approach Him in prayer. So people prayed to saints, they had the priest pray for them. Yet they had the same need as people today.
Does God love me. How can I have peace with God. So the Roman Catholic Church in the middle ages offered forgiveness of sins that could be purchased with money, and good works, even on behalf of family members who had already died.
It was a false understanding of God’s love. Today our culture still offers a false understanding to the same ultimate questions of life that confronted Martin Luther.
“How can I, as an individual be assured of forgiveness of sins and thus be at peace with God? How can I be sure that heaven is my eternal destiny?”
These are still the two questions men and women are asking in the American culture. Charles Colson, in his book “The Body” writes: From the beginning, civilized Western thought and civilization have been built on the existence of objective truth. The prevailing intellectual consensus was rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition and the Greco-Roman ideas which explained the universe, humanity and the purpose of life.
Whether we believed in God or not, this consensus gave birth to the form and substance of science, art, music, commerce that assured a positive environment for political and ethical discourse.” Now the Western world is under the influence of Eastern mysticism and secularism where there is no absolute truth. Severed from an absolute truth we are lost in the cosmos, like the Starship Enterprise, we are adrift in time and space.
Pilate asked Jesus: “What is Truth?” Jesus answered, “I Am The Truth.” “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate had ears but he did not hear. He thought, like many in our culture, he would find truth looking in the mirror.