Monday, May 07, 2007

"His Word must be believed for its own sake"

I highly recommend Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt's book of meditations for use in daily prayer called Every Day Will I Bless Thee (you can see a review here).

I use it for daily faculty devotions, and find it a blessing every year that goes by. The book just never gets old or goes out of style. I believe it is still available (I certainly hope it is) - you can get in touch with the author at his blog. Dr. Eckardt is also the editor-in-chief of "Gottesdienst" - a journal that I consider a MUST for any Lutheran interested in the historic liturgy and Evangelical Catholicism.

Having said that, here is Dr. Eckardt's meditation for today, the Monday of Cantate, which ponders John 8:12-20 (and I'm presenting it here without permission of the author, in faith that he won't be going "synodical" on me and threatening a lawsuit - besides, it is almost a Lutheran confession that it is indeed "easier to get forgiveness than permission")...

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend. I am the Light, says Jesus, and the Pharisees, who are darkness, call Him a liar, because He testifies on His own behalf. Where are His two or three witnesses, to establish what He says? Now let us learn the power of the word: it bears its own testimony, for it is the Word of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Jesus knows that it will not do to argue over these things with His enemies; therefore the Light shines in the darkness, notwithstanding its rejection by the darkness. His word is true, by itself. For it is not His word alone, but the word of the Father, since Christ is Himself the expression of the Father on earth; so also, His words are Spirit, the third heavenly witness. God's triune nature bears its own witness, which is why His word must be believed for its own sake, and not because of the cleverness of its packaging , or any other earthly gimmicks, arguments, or allurements. For it is the Lord - and ultimately no one else - who hath made known His salvation.

What a contrast to the kinds of things I have been reading from our district! We're being bombarded with dire warnings that we must "repackage" the "Gospel message" or else the "youth" will not listen (and I suspect this is hardly unique to my district). Furthermore, they posit, if only we find the right marketing formula that is acceptable to our "postmodern" culture, we can "grow" the Church. What a contrast to how our Lord engages the unbeliving culture! God's Word is mighty, and will not return void. No one is converted to the Christian faith with gimmicks, marketing, or human cleverness. Rather, faith is a mystery, a miracle, the divine action of the Triune God. What arrogance to think that anyone comes to Jesus, repents, and receives eternal life because we picked clever tunes or laid out our sanctuary like a Starbuck's. Such a belief is like the old Roman saying about the rooster who believes the sun comes up because of his crowing.

When the sower casts the seeds of God's Word, most will never come to fruition. The gate is narrow, and most people simply take the broad road. People even rejected the preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (perhaps he didn't read the right business journals?). We cannot compel, trick, or market people to salvation. The "cross of the theologian" is so old that it is expressed in Latin: "cur alii, non alii" - "why some, not others?" Why do some people believe, while others reject, the "catholic faith" which must be held by anyone who "desires to be saved"? There is no rational, economic, scientific, or sociological answer to that question.

Praying the daily office of the Church (not simply "reading the Bible") and meditating on those sacred Words in a Christological way is a stark contrast to the never-ending stream of trendy business books and anti-sacramental George Barna polls that our district is constantly trying to jam down our throats. Either we believe in the Word of God and its efficacy, or we believe in our marketing savvy - since I remember reading somewhere the wise injunction that no-one can serve two masters.

Thanks again for your fine work, Father Eckardt! Now please don't sue me. ;-)

1 comment:

Father Eckardt said...

Well. I just happened to be surfing by today, and ventured into your blogosphere to thank you for upping you subscription to Gottesdienst to a bulk subscription of 10 copies, and come to find all this advertisement for my little book as well. How nice! And to think it comes from a nasty plagiarizer! By the way, I have some copies of the book on hand here, which a person can order by contacting me at my blog or at Only be sure to put Gottesdienst somewhere in the subject or body, or my spam detecter will likely boot you into the trash.