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In our new series Preaching Christ, we discuss how great preachers of the past proclaimed God’s Word in order to learn what preaching has been and can be.  In this first episode in the series, we look at the style, themes, delivery, and impact of Walter A. Maier, the first speaker of the Lutheran Hour.  What can we learn from him?  What can he say to our day?  Whether you preach regularly or listen to preaching, join us in our discussion of this great man.

To learn more about the life of WAM, be sure to listen to our previous episode:

WFS Episode 62: The Chrysostom of American Lutheranism: The Life and Impact of Walter A Maier

Audio Recordings of Walter A Maier

“Eleven Hundred Voices for our Redeemer’s Praise” (1948)

“Salvation Completed, It Is Finished!” (1937)

“Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever” (1937)

“Jesus Christ Is Our God”

“Resurrection Reality”

“Tell It to Jesus”

Further Reading

William F. Arndt – “Walter Arthur Maier, 1893-1950”

Lester Zeitler – An Investigation of the Factors of Persuasion in the Sermons of Dr Walter A Maier

David Gunderlach – A Comparison Measurement of Law and Gospel in Selected Sermons of Saint Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Jonathan Edwards, Phillips Brooks, and Walter A. Maier

Richard J. Shuta – “Walter A. Maier as Evangelical Preacher”

Paul Maier – A Man Spoke, A World Listened: The Story of Walter A. Maier

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide

Regular Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz

Episode: 102

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Few men have made such an impact on American Christianity as Dr. Walter A. Maier.  From academics to radio to preaching, WAM’s influence reached far and wide.  WAM stands tall in the history of the LC-MS.  Join us as we discuss the life and techniques of the man Time magazine called “The Chrysostom of American Lutheranism.”

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide

Episode: 62

Join our Facebook group Word Fitly Posting to discuss this episode or any other topic. Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly. Send us a message: [email protected] Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app.

Date: June 13, 1943

Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me.Acts 1:8

Holy Spirit, Our God and Comforter:

As on the first Pentecost Thou didst descend on Christ’s disciples and by the message of His sin-atoning death and life-giving resurrection didst convert thousands, so, we earnestly beseech Thee, come to us now! Send this message into many souls! Turn multitudes from their sin to the Savior! Spirit of God, we need Thine enlightening, purifying, strengthening love, for without Thee we are helpless. Thou canst put on our lips the very words we should utter and endow us with the courage required for brave testimony to Christ, who at Calvary died for us! Give Thyself mightily to us now! Bless many with the new birth in Jesus! Protect and prosper Thy Church! Send its comforting truth to the ends of the world! Use Christian soldiers in remote lands as witnesses to the saving grace! Defend them against danger, especially the temptations which imperil their soul! O God of power and love, stop this destructive strife now! Turn the nations, especially our own beloved land, to repentance! Thou canst do all things, divine Spirit; therefore by the power shown at the first Pentecost, grant our souls heavenly peace! We ask it humbly but confidently in Jesus’ name. Amen!

WHAT terror of destruction this war has produced! In practically all civilized nations the best brains, the biggest factories, the largest number of men, the heaviest expenditures of money, are centered on one purpose: to manufacture the means for the slaughter of more human beings. The farther the race advances, the bloodier it becomes. Mass murder of civilians by giant bombers may not be the worst we are forced to witness. Last week sinister pictures were published showing the preparation for poison gas, and military experts now declare that by the use of certain chemicals it will be possible within thirty minutes to kill every living being in a city as large as Berlin, London, or New York. Millions choked to horrifying death within a short half hour—what hellish power of destruction!

How we ought to thank God on bended knees, then, that in a world of devastation, as this Sunday reminds us, we can all find a divine, life-giving, life-sustaining power, a heavenly might far greater than all the horsepower and kilowatts which dams and dynamos, turbines and generators, can ever produce. Did you realize when you arose that this day marks one of the most memorable events in history? To many of you it is only another Sunday, the beginning of a new week. Yet, this is Pentecost, the day on which all of you, no matter what your problems, weaknesses, or afflictions may be, regardless of how completely, ungratefully, and repeatedly you have surrendered to sin, are reminded of the divine comfort and strength that can be yours in Christ. It was on the fiftieth day after the first Easter that the disciples of our Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to preach the Gospel with such marked blessing that 3,000 people were turned from their sins to their Savior. On this Pentecost Day, fifty days after the last Easter, may the Holy Spirit similarly bless your lives, lead many from ruin to redemption, make you witnesses to Jesus’ wondrous love! Oh, come to us, then, Spirit of life and truth! Show us

THE POWER OF PENTECOST

promised by God’s Son and the world’s Savior in the record of Acts (chapter one, verse eight), “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me.”

I

IT IS THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

When our Lord ascended to His Father, He left His followers no money, earthly honor, military strength; instead, He told them that they would be cursed, persecuted, killed. Despite these hardships He laid on them the duty of spreading the message of His grace to the far ends of the world. How, the disciples must have asked themselves, could they, a small band of uneducated men, overburdened by fears, fulfill that mighty task? If the prophets before them had been stoned to death, if God’s own Son had been crucified, how could they, Galilean fishermen, succeed?

Because they would have been doomed to complete defeat had they relied on themselves, the ascending Christ gave them the hallowed pledge that they would not have to fight their battles alone. He declared, “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” Jesus kept His word. Only ten days after His ascension this promise was mightily fulfilled. The disciples and the believers, only 120 altogether, were assembled early on Pentecost morning, “all with one accord.” No denominational differences split their ranks. They were not divided into Protestant and Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist, Low Church and High Church groups: all had one and the same faith. O God, we plead, give us more spiritual unity in a day when the churches are thrown into opposing camps, when one group often despises the other with a hatred which insults Christ! Why, we ask, are those who accept Him as their only Savior placed into separate, distinct groups? Does He want it that way? No! Earnestly and repeatedly He pleads for spiritual unity. Is the Kingdom of God aided by such division? No! we repeat when we think of communities that could well be served with one church, supporting two or three competitive congregations. Must such disunity continue? No! we reply for the third time. Complete obedience to every truth of Scripture, unlimited faith in God’s might, reliance on the power of humble, trusting prayer, can work miracles in the twentieth century as well as in the first. The tragedy which divides churches is the indifference to sound doctrine. They refuse to give the Lord’s Word preference over man’s, follow tradition and emotions rather than the Law and the Gospel, and are unwilling to let the Bible be the final authority in Christian faith and life. Though every religious group in the United States may be represented in this audience, the fact that there are 250 different Christian church bodies in our country is a reproach to the Savior. Before His betrayal He pleaded with His Father repeatedly that His disciples might all be one even before the world. Pray earnestly—not that there may be merely an artificial external union which has no genuine regard for God’s Word (such compromise is dishonest and a disgrace to Christ’s name), but—that all who accept Jesus as the sole Source of their salvation may be brought together in true inward unity! O God, give American churches that “one accord” faith of Pentecost!

Not long after the disciples were assembled, suddenly “there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.” Small flames like fire descended on each of them as a visible sign of the Holy Ghost. In a moment these believers, many of whom had never spoken publicly before, were preaching, using the very words which were put on their lips, proclaiming the Gospel even in foreign languages which they had never previously studied or known. Jesus kept His promise: His followers received the Holy Spirit.

Before we go on, let us ask this plain but all-important question: Who is the Holy Spirit? Some of you who attend Bible-loving churches and can never thank God sufficiently that you have had Christian parents know the answer. I doubt very much, however, whether two of every three Americans in this broad country could say definitely just who the Holy Spirit is. Even in some churches He is neglected and misunderstood. How much room does He find in young people’s societies and ladies’ aids which have social calendars overcrowded with worldliness yet find little time or enthusiasm for Scripture? When did you last hear the Holy Spirit discussed from your pulpit? A few years ago we used to read much about the forgotten man. Somehow he has stepped out of the limelight. Yet we must always hear more of the Holy Spirit who for many is the forgotten God.

Be clear on this: He is your God, the Third Person in the blessed Trinity! Jesus places the Spirit on the same level with Himself and His Father when He commands His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” Saint Paul gives a similar honor when he writes, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all!” Saint Peter identifies the Holy Spirit with God when He asks Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? . . . Thou hast not lied unto men but unto God.” From the first page of the Bible, where the Spirit constantly hovers over the primal deep, until the last, where He promises, “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely!” the Holy Spirit is pictured as God, revered as God, given divine recognition and authority.

At a time when men ought to be close to the Lord, we send this vital message across America: the one God, the true, the only God, is not unknown and unknowable, not a hazy, indefinable Supreme Being. He is not simply the All-wise, All-holy, the All-knowing. He is the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son, and—on Pentecost we reverently stress—the Holy Spirit.

If, as some of you write me, you are losing your zeal for truth, your desire for holiness, your joy in Christ; if you are surrendering to sin when you ought to stand fast, conforming to the world when you should be transformed; if the fire of faith, the fervor of your prayer, the love for souls is decreasing—you are ignoring the Holy Spirit; you are not fully worshiping the true God, you are depriving yourself of Heaven’s strength and help. When things go wrong in your home, when strife and quarrel disrupt your church, you will find that in most cases you have neglected imploring the Holy Spirit in prayer. For while the Father created and sustains us; while Jesus by His suffering, death, and resurrection, redeemed and restored us, it is God the Holy Spirit who brings us to Christ, gives us the rebirth by which we become new creatures, enlightens our mind, strengthens our reliance, and keeps us in the truth. Therefore let this Pentecost be a blessed day of rededication to the faith of the Bible, the faith of the Apostles’ Creed, the faith of the true Christian Church throughout all ages! May we admit our neglect of the Holy Spirit, our resistance to His grace, our indifference to His warnings, and offer Him a grateful, worthy, reverent place in our hearts and lives!

II

IT IS THE POWER OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH AND VICTORY

What is the power of the Holy Spirit, and how is it demonstrated? See what it did to that first Pentecost audience, which until that very morning had rejected the Lord Jesus! Two months before most of them had known that Christ was to be crucified; yet they had refused to speak a word in His behalf. Some of them may well have been among those who screamed, “His blood be on us and on our children!” In his Pentecost sermon Peter, the disciples’ spokesman, refuses to spare their feelings. He does not do what the modern pulpit frequently does—sidestep sin and gloss over iniquity, pat hearers on the back and encourage them to believe that all men are noble creatures. Far from it! With the courage we need in our day he tells them, “‘Ye have taken’ Christ ‘and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.’” He repeats, “Ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” While he thus accuses them of murder and pleads, “Save yourselves!” their consciences are terrified. Fearing divine wrath and the eternal punishment of their souls, they cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

May the same Spirit, who would come to you every time you hear or read God’s Word, today repeat this miracle by converting many of you! In principle, I have no other message than Peter’s. Your sins crucified Christ. You sent the innocent Son of God to Calvary. You, no matter how respectable or virtuous you may seem, helped hammer the nails of death through the Savior’s hands and feet by your sinful thoughts, lustful desires, selfish cravings, unholy words, secret sins. As Peter appealed, “Repent!” so, with a prayer for the same Spirit’s blessing, I ask you: Repent! Confess your sins before your heavenly Father! See how the evils in your life, your mind, your heart, on your lips, are separating you from your God, barring you from heaven, sentencing you to hell. May the Spirit grip you with the grief and the terror of inner agony that make you cry out, “What must I do to be saved?”

Because you can never know what Jesus did for you until you realize what you did against Him, nor understand grace until you feel sin’s force, I plead with you: Repent, you unbelievers, who reject your Redeemer! Repent, you blasphemers, who with profane lips ridicule His holy name! Repent, you, the dishonest, who cheat, lie, steal! Repent, you, the envious and hate-filled, who behold your fellow men with dark, destructive thoughts! Repent, you, the unclean, who break your marriage vows and kill home happiness! Repent, you politicians who betray public trust and clasp hands with the underworld! Repent, you who like to be called ministers or priests of God, but who have denied the atoning Savior! Repent, you young people who under the guise of patriotism reject God’s pointed appeal, “Keep thyself pure!” Repent, you soldiers and sailors who live godless lives! Repent, you defense workers who for the sake of heavy salaries hope that the war will continue long! Repent, you publishers of printed filth, you teachers of atheism, you promoters of public entertainment which is helping to destroy youthful morals! Repent, every one of you whose crimes may not be scarlet and glaring in the eyes of the world, but who still stand condemned before the Lord, who demands, “Ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord, your God, am holy”!

Do not be misled by the pious patter which pictures all men as good! I tell you from God’s Word that by nature all men are bad! Scripture asserts, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Do not be duped by the pernicious promise that all men are going to heaven! I tell you in God’s name that without Christ all men are going to hell. Jesus Himself—and He never makes a mistake—warns, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” Do not imperil your soul by thinking, “I can enjoy life for a while and then repent later”! You may never have another chance to approach the Almighty.

The whole nation needs repentance. Ballroom advertisements flaunt the invitation, “Dance to victory!” Neon tavern signs say, “Drink to victory!” Amusement centers proclaim, “Play for victory!” In a more serious vein dieticians cry out, “Eat for victory!” Bankers ask, “Save for victory!” Has the time not come, especially if we want to triumph in truth and avoid another world war, that the American people should be told, “Repent for real victory”? Here is the Etemal’s promise, “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

With repentance we must combine true reliance on the Lord Jesus, and it is the Holy Spirit again who creates this trust within us. Pointedly the Bible declares, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” Well does Martin Luther repeat, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel.” The same Spirit who led those 3,000 to the Savior is now calling you. Before this festival day draws to its close, take time, less than two minutes, to read Peter’s Pentecost sermon on that day. It is saturated with Christ. It speaks of Jesus as the Anointed, Jesus as Lord, Jesus as God, Jesus as the Remission of sins. In Him, and only in Him, you have the hope of your salvation, the pledge of pardon for every sin, the complete cancellation of every iniquity, the removal of every transgression. Now, while the Spirit urges you, while He would use these very words to offer you Christ’s glorious grace for life and death, earth and heaven, time and eternity, accept the Son of God as your Savior!

Those Pentecost converts not only repented and believed, they were also baptized, following Peter’s plain direction, “Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins!” That has always been the order in His kingdom: repentance, faith, and baptism. Besides granting us pardon for all our wrongs, the Savior has also given us the ordinance of Holy Baptism as a visible assurance that our sins have been washed away.

Have you been baptized? What startling importance Jesus Himself attaches to this sacred rite when He declares, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”! Remember, our Lord Himself was baptized; the Apostles were baptized! The New Testament asserts, “Baptism doth also now save us!” As those three thousand received the washing of regeneration on the first Pentecost, so may the Holy Spirit now give you the courage to write me or to tell a true Christian pastor, “I want to be baptized”! Do not be misled by those who say that Baptism is not important. They contradict Christ. They put their own opinion above Scripture. Take Jesus at His word, and you will find that through Baptism—and I mean, of course, not merely by the performance of the ritual itself, but by your personal faith in Jesus and in His promise—the Holy Ghost unmistakably comes to you.

God the Spirit’s work does not stop when a sinner has been brought to repentance and trust in the Savior. It continues as long as he lives. How wonderful beyond words is His sustaining strength! See what it did to Peter! Two months before He had denied his Lord, cursing himself, because he was afraid of men. Now, after the Holy Spirit takes hold of the timid disciple, fright and terror disappear. Boldly and bravely he tells his hearers, “You killed the Lord Jesus!” If you love the Savior, you, too, born into a new life, can throw off fear and courageously face opposition, affliction, and adversity. The reason many of you lead defeated, nervous, restless, fear-encircled lives is that you resist the Holy Ghost, refuse to hear and heed Holy Writ, by which He comes to you.

See what God the Spirit did to the other eleven disciples. They were plain, simple folk without higher education; but when that new power came upon them, they could preach the Gospel in the languages of at least seventeen different parts of the world. They had no time to prepare their messages nor to study these languages; but the Holy Spirit gave them wisdom from on high. Jesus had promised that “the Holy Ghost shall teach you all things”; and again, “The Holy Ghost shall teach you . . . what ye ought to say.” That assurance, fulfilled on the first Pentecost, holds for you. He can put the right word on your lips at the right time, for the right purpose!

See what God the Spirit did for all those believers in the First Church! After the crucifixion they were frequently sorrowful and downhearted; therefore, the Savior sent them the divine Comforter. How truly He exerted His consoling strength! We read that at Pentecost they were stirred by gladness. A new and marvelous joy came to them! The same happiness in Jesus can be yours. Do not think of Christianity as a dark, morose, crepe-hanging creed, for our faith has joy, bliss, exultation, the real, abundant, satisfying, victorious life! If ever affliction seeks to remove this rejoicing from your soul, remember the Savior’s promise, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter”; and here He is, the holy, supporting, strengthening Spirit, who, pointing you to Christ, can make your soul sing through the midnight of grief.

See what God the Spirit did for the Christian Church! Here were 120 followers of Jesus pitted against a cruel, merciless world. Humanly speaking they would soon be crushed; yet you know the record of their triumphs. That small, man-hunted, martyred band of believers helped strengthen the Kingdom of Christ, which has never known defeat. Though heathen emperors with flaming fire and dripping sword sought to destroy it; though decay attacked it from within; though millions of dollars have been spent to discredit its truth; though the influence of university teachers and men of science has systematically sought to undo its work; though atheists have boasted that its influence had been wiped out, the Church lives on victoriously. No matter what the future may bring, even “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What could be more essential, therefore, than the resolution to extend the Church with a Spirit-filled faith, not by the delusion of grandeur? Recently a $600,000 church in Seattle, planned as a mighty cathedral, was sold to the Government because the members were unable to meet their financial obligations. In many ways we ought to thank God that we have building restrictions during these lush days of easy money. Some churches are so enamored of earthly greatness that they forget the warning and the promise, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord!”

When Jesus promised the Spirit, He also added these six immortal words, addressed personally to every believer, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me!” On Pentecost Day and forever after, the followers of Jesus testified to their Savior; and because theirs was to be a worldwide witness, they preached in the chief languages of that day. The Gospel is not to be restricted to a single country, one tongue, one race; it must rather be spread to the very ends of the earth. Here is the Church’s commission, “Preach the Gospel to every creature!”

This broadcast, maintained, by God’s grace, only to witness for Christ, is twentieth-century, miraculous proof of Pentecostal power. For ten years we have been able to grow, in uninterrupted increase, unchecked by those who hate the message of the Savior’s shed blood, unhindered by those who have tried to bar the Gospel from the air. Through divine direction and through the support of your prayers and your gifts this radio mission, which began with only two stations, now broadcasts in three languages, in twenty-four countries. Thank God—and give all honor to Him!—the same Holy Spirit who blessed that first Pentecost appeal for repentance and faith accompanies our words. Listen to this evidence:

From the Dominican Republic: “I write you in Spanish, but by nationality I am Chinese and, of course, born a Buddhist. With all sincerity I want you to know that I have felt a great desire to hear God’s Word since listening to your broadcast. I hope to receive from you the necessary help toward my salvation in Christ.”

From Venezuela: “I do enjoy your teachings, which for almost fifteen years I have not heard. Thank God for this word which has brought me back to the path I once walked, the path of light!”

Puerto Rico: “We thank the Lord for the true messages of redemption broadcast by the Spanish Lutheran Hour. We are all looking forward to the day when you visit Puerto Rico to speak before large audiences from every part of the island.”

British Guiana: “I am not a church member, but I must confess that your broadcast touched every living fiber in my body.”

Cuba: “Through your words one learns to know more of Christ, the Savior.”

Panama: “I am now a regular listener to your program, and I am beginning to agree with your message.”

Mexico: “I and my family of six were brought to Christ by your broadcast. Think what we would have been without the Lutheran Hour!”

New Zealand: “If the people of this so-called Christian country had the opportunity to hear God’s Word preached in all its truth and purity as you broadcast it, this little corner of the world would be a much better place in which to live.”

From the Pacific: “We are five Seabees in Uncle Sam’s Navy, and we know that your broadcasts are doing a wonderful work in bringing others to Christ.”

New York: “Thank God that you preach as you do about sin and the blood of Jesus! It has brought me back to my senses. I am starting to take instructions in the Christian religion.”

Kansas: “Our small town has a pool hall. The owner does not belong to any church nor attend services; but when it is time for your broadcast, all the players must stop and listen quietly to the Lutheran Hour.”

Idaho: “I am an American citizen of Japanese ancestry. We have been evacuated from the vital coastal line. Each Sunday your message has brought me new spiritual inspiration and a deeper reverence for God.”

Missouri: “May I, an Indian chief, beg you never to take your message off the air?”

Pennsylvania: “I am a Negro. In my twenty-six years of life I have endured the hatred and abuse that most of white America feels for its colored citizens. I have observed and read colored newspaper accounts of the incredible viciousness of color prejudice in the South. Through it all I grew to hate white people indiscriminately. I became more and more bitter with each new incident of social, economic, or political injustice. I have stated this in order to give you an idea of how deeply I felt and what a great change your program ‘Bringing Christ to the Nations’ has brought about in me. Today the same conditions exist with regard to the Negro, but I no longer feel bitter about it, because I have learned from your sermon about the love of Christ for everyone, His enemies, unbelievers, as well as those who love Him.”

These and uncounted similar letters, not to mention the multitude of direct conversions—and if you are interested, we will send you, without charge, the story of many brought to Jesus through this broadcast—tell us that the power of Pentecost is still at work. As you look out into a world cursed by sin, with a billion and a half people not even nominally connected with the Savior’s Church, will you not see that our task is only begun? There are more non-Christians on the face of the earth today than on that first Pentecost. By what quicker, less expensive means than by the radio can we reach them? May it be said of our broadcast, supported by your prayers and gifts, that, as on the first Pentecost, “every man heard them speak in his own language”!

When the war is over, we must bring Christ to Europe’s blood-drained, war-sick, impoverished people. Will some of you whom the Lord has blessed financially be willing to take over a station in Central or South America, at $200 or $300 for an entire year? Will others stand by our side and bear the charges of a broadcast in Africa, China, the Dutch East Indies—again for only $200 or $300 a year? Hundreds should answer the God-given opportunity of sponsoring a broadcast in Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, the Scandinavian countries, Australia, and, as we hope and pray, even Russia. Five or six thousand dollars will annually send the message of the Cross to millions in these countries. Our Bringing Christ to the Nations broadcast is committed to use every available station throughout the world for the purpose of showing men that they are sinners and convincing them by the Holy Spirit that they are saved by faith in the cleansing blood, the atoning death, and the life-giving resurrection of Christ. We should expand in the United States with a second broadcast that can reach those who are prevented from hearing our Sunday messages. If the Lord opens the way for us, we should be ready to establish shortwave stations here and in other parts of the world. With all the prudence, courage, and support God gives us, we should restlessly, day and night, strive to fulfill the Pentecost command and be witnesses unto Jesus. Will you help us? In the Savior’s name, I plead with you: Stand by! You have it in your power, under divine blessing, to make this the most far-reaching Gospel-spreading agency history has known.

As we pray God especially to end this bloody war and grant us peace with righteous victory, we dare not be unmindful of the uncertainties that surround us. How necessary, then, that we keep Jesus in our hearts and minds at all times, that daily we learn to cling more closely to our Savior! Strengthened by His Spirit, we will always be prepared, whatever happens, for the joy and the glory of the heavenly homeland. I want to meet every one of you before the Throne. Therefore, my beloved, be strong in Christ! God be with you until we meet again, in Jesus’ name! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: June 6, 1943

As He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off; and they lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus, answering, said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God save this stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole!Luke 17:12-19

Our God of Grace and Glory:

How mercifully Thou hast dealt with us! How marvelous are Thy ways of wondrous love! Bounteously Thou hast granted us food and shelter, support and protection. Even the agonies of war’s destruction have been kept from our shores. More than all this, Thou hast given us Thy Son, our Savior, in whom, through faith, we have forgiveness, the joy of life, and the assurance of heavenly bliss. Yet how thankless we have often been! How ungratefully we have disregarded these blessings! How sinfully we have exalted ourselves! For Jesus’ sake pardon us and remove these ugly transgressions! Enrich us with a grateful spirit which looks always to Thee in sickness and sorrow as in health and happiness! Make ours a repentant, devoted, Christian nation! Bless our armed forces with Thy guidance and protection! May they soon lay down victorious weapons and be brought back to us safely! We put them all into Thy hands, almighty God, as we beseech Thee to lead them to Christ. Check the horrors of this war so that neither we nor our enemies degenerate into brutal, barbarous killers! Hear us and help us, for we pray in Thy Son’s name! Amen!

IN 1568, when the Spaniards were conquering the Netherlands in cruel, bloody war, a persecuted Protestant preacher tried to escape death by fleeing across a frozen lake. A Spanish soldier saw him and started out in pursuit. It was March, and the ice, beginning to thaw, rumbled and cracked as they ran. The pastor, lighter and unencumbered, reached the opposite shore; but the ice broke under the heavier, armed soldier. He would have drowned had not the Dutch clergyman rushed back to rescue him. Yet, when they were both safely on land, the Spaniard, saved from a watery grave, turned on his deliverer, threw him into prison, and later personally lit the fire that burned him to death.

The present world war brings accounts of similar ingratitude. A Lutheran chaplain, wounded during the early, costly days at Guadalcanal recently told me that after a particularly heavy attack, when dead and bleedung Japanese lay in piles before our barbed-wire barricades, he went out with his commanding officer to help lessen the enemies’ suffering. The first Japanese they touched was lying on his face, mortally wounded. As our men turned him over, hoping to ease his last moments, that dying enemy summoned his waning strength, pulled a hand grenade from his shirt, quickly withdrew the firing pin, and threw it at the commander in a futile attempt to kill those who had come to relieve him.

This thanklessness is not restricted to battlefields. Ingratitude is one of the world’s most frequent sins. It is found in business and politics, among high and low, rich and poor, learned and illiterate, and it is often found even in the home, where it should least be expected. A wife works day and night to assist her husband; yet, after using her money, her labor, her counsel, as stepping stones to success, the ungrateful man discards her in favor of a younger and prettier woman. Parents deny themselves all but the barest necessities to send their son through college; but, as your letters reveal, too frequently after commencement the young graduate completely severs his connection with Father and Mother, refusing even to write them.

Among all forms of unthankfulness, however, unquestionably the worst is ingratitude to Christ, the spurning of His redemption, the refusal to recognize His love. Our text (Saint Luke, chapter seventeen, verses twelve to nineteen) deals with this thanklessness, and it tells us: “As He [Jesus] entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off; and they lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus, answering, said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God save this stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole!” Saint Luke’s remarkable record suggests this personal question:

ARE YOU THANKFUL TO CHRIST?

Are you one of the unappreciative 90 percent, or are you a member of that mindful minority, the thankful tenth? May God’s Holy Spirit bless this message that many recognize our Lord’s cleansing of their souls and daily show their gratitude for His redemption!

I

YOU HAVE EVERY REASON TO THANK CHRIST

The Savior was on His last journey through Galilee and Samaria, when at one of the forlorn villages a group of ten men called to him from a distance. Screaming hoarsely, they pleaded, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They were the most despised and forsaken souls in that drab place, for they were lepers, the victims of a dread disease, the nauseous horror of which, in its worst forms, many today can hardly believe. It was a deep-rooted skin disorder that first of all makes the hair fall off, loosens the nails, destroys the eyebrows. As it becomes worse, the gums rot, the teeth fall out, joints, fingers, toes, shrivel and drop off. In its most hideous forms, face and features are consumed. Travelers in the East tell us how they are confronted by outcasts with eyeless, earless, noseless faces, raising handless arms in entreaty and gurgling weird sounds from tongueless throats. The disease was so repulsive that its victims, banished from their villages or cities, had to live apart in lonely, loathsome places. Their dress and appearance showed that they were lepers, since they were forbidden to comb their hair, and their garments had to be torn.

The ten lepers had heard of Jesus, for the startling news that He had cured hundreds, not once failing to restore health, had made its way even to their vile huts, dirty caves, and tattered tents. No wonder these ten diseased wretches eagerly awaited the Savior’s coming and greeted Him, as soon as they beheld Him approaching from the distance, with the plea, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

No appeal like that ever remained unanswered by the Savior. Others might hastily pass these sufferers or answer them with a snarling curse, but not Christ! He was always an unfailing Friend to the lonely and afflicted. Before the lepers could form their pointed request: “O Jesus, heal us from this terrifying scourge! Cleanse us!” the blessed Savior had provided for their cure. He called out to them, “Go show yourselves unto the priests,” since it was required that every leper who believed himself healed had to receive a certification of his cure. Without a moment’s hesitation, the ten tortured men started off; and hardly had they begun their hurried march into the village, when by a miracle that only God could perform new life began to course through their veins, the leprous scabs and sores disappeared, the consuming disease was stopped. They were completely restored.

The same almighty, all-merciful Savior has lost none of His curing power. Today is “Shut-in Sunday,” dedicated to the more than 4,000,000 temporary or permanent invalids within our borders. Think of their burdens! Many of them are tortured by unrelieved pain. Crippled, paralyzed, they cannot begin to take care of themselves but must live from the kindness of others. Weak and infirm of body, they are unable to attend church or behold nature’s beauty. Day after day, as they find themselves surrounded by the same four walls, their feeling of utter helplessness increases. This year our hearts should be moved especially by a new group of shut-ins, our disabled soldiers. When people read, for example, that 1,135 of our men were wounded at Attu, many glance over this dispatch without further thought of the agonies these injured men endure. Warfare is more destructive today than ever before; and if we could see all the wounded, blind, crippled, and realize that they fought and bled for us, assuredly we would count it a sacred privilege to encourage and sustain them.

Where can these sufferers find hope? What is the personal message that Shut-in Sunday should bring them—or have they no definite hope? Are they simply victims of cruel chance, who must exist in misery until the end graciously comes and then disappear forever? God forbid! Listen closely, my burdened friends! For heavenly sympathy in your pain, for the constant companionship of One who “sticketh closer than a brother,” for love that will not let you go, for unfailing guidance through the deepest darkness of your distress, for unwavering confidence that can dry your tears, look to the Lord Jesus, God’s Son, your Redeemer! When you trust Him entirely and believe with all your heart that He endured the agonies of the crucifixion to guarantee your redemption, you have the one promise which can sustain you throughout long, weary years of increasing pain or, should it be God’s will, during the anguish of approaching death.

On this Shut-in Sunday you will receive much sympathy and encouragement. You will be told: “Conquer your sorrows!” “Develop a heroic spirit!” “Strengthen your own powers of resistance!” “Look for the best!” “Strive after cheerfulness!” but deep in your hearts you know that these are all empty words unless they are fortified by divine power. Thank God, here in Christ’s mercy you have heavenly strength! If you have become embittered; if you wonder why you have been singled out to suffer; if, as some of you write, you are losing your reliance on the Almighty since He has not heard you, let this be a blessed day as you turn to Christ and learn these glorious, heaven-sent truths: First of all, when you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, whatever your sickness or injury may be; however weak and worn you are by age or infirmity, you can have the confident assurance that God has permitted these sorrows to beset you because He loves you; that each moment of crushing anguish, as contradictory as this seems to your limited reason, is but the evidence of His unfailing devotion to you. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,” the Scriptures remind us. It is not human theory, but positive, divine truth that, if illness or accident has overtaken you, as one of the eternally redeemed, your Father will use this affliction to strengthen you spiritually, to make you a more faithful follower of the Savior. Who knows what might have happened if you had been allowed to live your lives undisturbed by sickness, unbroken by reverses? You might now be on the road to hell. If the Father had not checked your health and prosperity, some of you would have become so self-reliant that you would have turned against Him and spurned your Savior. Because your souls were too precious in Jesus’ sight to be lost, the Lord let you come down on sickbeds that you might take valuable, soul-strengthening time, to consider what He has done for you. Hundreds of people, in various sections of the country, weakened by the most excruciating agonies, have written me that God has used the months and years of their sickness and pain to make them strong spiritually and to give the Savior a far greater place in their lives than He ever had before.

Again, many of you have been overtaken by illness, so that, fortified by faith, you can bring the message of Christ’s redeeming love to others. We have a blind friend who transcribes our messages into Braille (let me remind you sightless listeners that we will be happy to send you special literature in almost any raised-letter system you may use) and who has learned to thank God for depriving her of her sight. She feels that now she can do much more than she might have otherwise in spreading the message of the Savior’s love. All you shut-ins can become powerful preachers of patience, trust, resignation. In Marietta, Georgia, the “Sunshine Man” tells me that, although he has been confined to his bed for sixteen years and for the last ten years has been unable to move any part of his body, he daily tries to bring others cheer. In Montgomery, Alabama, a Christian woman who has endured pain for many years has also done much to spread Christ’s sustaining comfort. She writes: “Just keep on teaching and preaching the blood of Jesus as long as you live! I write to people all over the United States and Canada, and they ask me, ‘Why are you so happy when you are confined to your room all the time?’ My only answer is, ‘Because I have Jesus with me to lead me on, to comfort me.’”

Dark and lonely hours will come to you even when you believe; but then you have the radiant assurance that, trusting the Savior, you need never be alone; His promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world!” is the heavenly guarantee that He will come to you, banish all loneliness, and watch at your side though all others may forsake you. Jesus spent more time with the sick and suffering than He did with any other class of humanity, and today He has thoughts of love for you.

Even more: Jesus can repeat His miracle of healing. Believe unquestioningly that no disease is too difficult for Him, no sickness too long and desperate to be cured if He, the world’s Savior, wills it. We should give Christ a more decisive place in modern medicine and surgery, realizing, as some of the world’s most celebrated physicians have acknowledged, that God alone is the great Healer and medical specialists but His human instruments. Among the most arrogant, and therefore most pitiable, of all men are atheist, infidel doctors, who despite their highly technical knowledge and their intricate study of the human body refuse to recognize the Almighty and ascribe their achievements to themselves. How different the attitude of Christian physicians who always invoke divine help, insisting that prayers are as essential as prescriptions, faith in the Bible as necessary as reliance on textbooks!

As I ask you medical men to accord the Lord His place in the sick chamber and the operating room, emphasizing that the Savior has lost none of His power to help and heal, I also warn you, the shut-in friends, against accepting the counsel of those who tell you to forget your doctor and medicine and who promise that they can cure you miraculously. Not a word of Scripture says that physicians are unnecessary, and so much fraud has been attached to the work of faith healers that their claims should be regarded with suspicion. Only last week a listener wrote that at a large faith-healing meeting a woman saw her maid, otherwise strong and healthy, come to the platform with crutches, to be cured—supposedly—on the spot and throw her crutches away.—Inquiry revealed that the woman received five dollars every time she practiced this deceit.—While I will defend with all my power the truth that Jesus can heal you, I will just as emphatically deny any one the right to insist that He must heal you or that certain persons have full power to cure. Put your whole trust in Christ! He knows what is best for you. If He restores your health, show your gratitude by walking closely with the Savior for the rest of your days. Should He permit you to linger on your sickbed, pray for the grace to say, “Thy will be done,” and to know in unshaken confidence that your suffering is for your eternal good, that the affliction you endure is to prepare you for the better land, where there shall be no more anguish! Look to your Savior for strength; as His love lessens your pain and builds your trust, you will know beyond question that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”!

Though you have never been physically sick and you feel strong, you have an inner disease far more disastrous even than loathsome leprosy. You are suffering from sin’s curse. No human remedy can stop that treacherous cancer which destroys both body and soul. But Jesus came down from heaven to destroy the power of sin. Yet He did not remove your transgressions, as He healed the lepers, merely by a word. He had to satisfy the demand of divine justice that every sin committed by every sinner throughout long and corrupt centuries be fully atoned. Only in one way could that fearful, humanly impossible payment be made—by the Son of God’s self-sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. There, my fellow redeemed, He died for you. What question, therefore, could be more direct and necessary than this: “Are you thankful to Christ?”

II

YOU HAVE OFTEN REFUSED TO THANK CHRIST

Before you answer, see what happened when by that astonishing miracle the offensive disease left and the ten lepers were completely cured! What intense joy must have gripped these sufferers when they felt themselves cleansed, saw the ugly blotches of leprosy disappear, found their body whole and healthy! They were new men with opportunity and happiness greater than they had ever dared to hope. We should expect that as fast as they could, they would run back to the Lord, offering Him anything He might ask. Instead, however, nine of the ten men failed to return to Christ. They sent Him no word of gratitude. They forgot Him completely. A few moments before they had pleaded, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” A few moments later they were too preoccupied to say even, “‘Jesus, Master,’ we thank Thee!”

Pained by this thanklessness, our Lord says, “‘Where are the nine’ who were cleansed?” Today, too, we can almost hear the same sorrow in His voice as He beholds our marvelously blessed nation and asks: “Where is the thankful America? Where are the grateful homes that praise God for His mercies? Where are the appreciative young people who know what I, their Savior, have done for them? Where are believing fathers and mothers who are on their knees before the Lord? Where is the mighty coast-to-coast chorus of 135,000,000 Americans exalting the cross, the blood, the Gospel grace of salvation?” The Almighty has blessed us as the citizens of no other nation. War’s horror has not touched our shores. We have fewer casualties than our allies. The food supply in this country, despite rationing, is unquestionably more ample than in any other part of the world. Besides these material blessings, we enjoy individual and national liberties which the rest of the world can regard only with awe and amazement.

How have we acknowledged these unparalleled benefits? Have we raised a continuous, country-wide hymn of praise to the great and glorious God? ff every American would spend an hour each day on his knees in earnest prayer to the Lord, even that devotion would be far too small worthily to express our indebtedness to divine mercy for the overflowing bounty which Heaven has granted us. Yet to our dismay we see deep-rooted ingratitude throughout the land. Unbelievers are on the increase. The basis of our Christian faith is systematically attacked. Only recently a radio commentator published a so-called new Bible (which sells for five dollars a copy) in which the precious name of Jesus Christ is blasphemed, the Savior’s deity ridiculed, the atonement rejected, the message of the saving blood opposed, and the promise of salvation through faith swept aside. That false, treacherous book, masquerading under the title of the Bible, is only one of hundreds of volumes published every year to discredit the eternal truth of our redemption. Behind these books is a system of pagan culture which leaves no room for the Almighty, proudly insists that man must be his own savior, and confidently predicts that we shall win this war by our own might. A most disturbing factor in the present crisis is this, that too many leaders in American business, society, government, professional life, are without Christ or against Him; that despite their irreligion they are hailed as men and women of the hour.

We must fight this thankless tendency by doing everything we can to lead America to a repentant knowledge of its unspeakable indebtedness to God. Our missionary forces should be multiplied many times to warn our countrymen against the awful curse which ingratitude has laid on vast empires, their proud pillars now covered with deep debris. We must bring America back to God in Christ.

Of more personal importance than national ingratitude is the question I direct to every one of you in the Savior’s name: “Are you thankful to Christ? Or are you like the ungrateful nine lepers, who, after Jesus had restored their health, turned away from Him?” Here is the marvelous mercy which our Lord offers you: First, Jesus loved you despite your transgressions, your willful spurning of His grace, your rejecting the good and choosing the evil, your stubborn rebellion against God. With a devotion surpassing the love of friend for friend, of patriot for country, of husband for wife and wife for husband, of mother for child and child for mother; He cherished you though you hated Him. Second, He, the Son of God, atoned fully for your sins, shed His own lifeblood to redeem you, died to remove all your sins—the secret transgressions and the open vices, the small selfish mistakes, the scarlet and shrieking iniquities. Third, He freed you forever from the tyranny of hell. Fourth, He defeated eternal death for you and by His own Easter victory gave you the assurance of your resurrection unto life eternal. Fifth, He protected you in many dangers when unknowingly you faced disaster, even death. If He would withdraw His protecting hand, none of us would be alive this moment. Sixth, when human help is of no avail, He wants to enrich you with comfort, hope, peace, and rest. Seventh, He can turn all afflictions, bodily, mental, and spiritual, into advantages and blessings for your soul. Eighth, He offers you rebirth into a new existence, the strength to resist temptation, and the power to walk in His footsteps. Ninth, He has given you everything good and helpful in your life, all the material benefits you enjoy. Tenth, He offers you these miracles of His love by His mercy. You are saved freely, by grace! Eleventh, He assures you of all this without question or condition, without any “perhaps” or “maybe.” Twelfth, Jesus has ascended to heaven and, sitting on the right hand of God the Father, intercedes for those who are His. He grants them His constant companionship in every hour of trial and makes “all things work together for good.”

As you hear the invitation of this mercy, ask yourselves before God, “Have I thanked the Savior who gave Himself for me?” If even the world heaps scorn on the ingrate who forgets his benefactor, on the traitor who turns against his country, what will the Almighty say of you if, saved from eternal ruin, you continue to reject your Rescuer and Redeemer? The reason many of you have met with repeated reverses is to be found in the tragedy that you are leading thankless, thoughtless lives, with no time for Him, no prayer to your heavenly Father except self-centered requests, no honor for Him who died for you. The message you need, the pleading which I pray the Spirit will bless in your heart, tells every one of you: “Learn to think of Christ and thank Him! Approach Him in repentance over your stubborn pride, your selfish ingratitude! Kneel before Him to implore His forgiveness, to secure His pardon and the love required to praise Him daily for His immeasurable mercy!” If you do not acknowledge Jesus on this earth, how can you expect Him to acknowledge you in heaven? His own warning is unmistakable, “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” God prevent you from being condemned by denial!

III

YOU HAVE THE PROMISE OF BLESSING WHEN YOU THANK CHRIST

Only one of the ten lepers went back to Christ after he had been healed; and he, as our text particularly records, “was a Samaritan,” an outcast, while the other nine were our Savior’s own countrymen. So it is today. The spiritually underprivileged and the burdened are often more appreciative of the Savior’s love than those who have grown up in the churches. Some of the most encouraging letters we receive are from those recently won for Jesus. When we contrast their zeal with the indifference of many who call themselves Christians, but spend far more time playing cards in parish halls than worshiping Christ and working for Him, we can understand how real the danger is that the Gospel may be taken away from the smugly self-satisfied and given to those hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

The Samaritan, a member of a mixed-breed race, from whom sell-respecting Jews kept their distance, did not wait until he had shown himself to the priest. He “turned back and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.” I beseech you, follow this Samaritan’s humility and gratitude! For the Savior gladly accepted that despised man’s devotion, just as He recognizes no class, caste, or color distinction today, and the white man, the black man, the red man, the yellow man, all without discrimination, are welcomed into His kingdom. Looking down tenderly on the man who never before had received a smile of encouragement from an Israelite, Jesus tells him, “Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole!”

Linger for a moment on these words, “Thy faith hath made thee whole”! He had been doubly healed, cured of his leprosy and cleansed of his sin. That inner healing, the greater miracle, was wrought not by the Samaritan’s good works or good intentions, by payment or contribution, by superior merit or above-the-average worthiness, but by the simple, trusting faith which worshiped Jesus as His Savior. Through nineteen sin-bound centuries until this June Sunday the crucified but now gloriously risen and ascended Redeemer has constantly repeated the same assurance, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” With the yearning of His deep love He now would have me tell you that you are saved not through church or family connection, not by your character and accomplishments, not by long prayer and impressive ritual, not by fastings and pilgrimages, not by believing parents and church-building grandparents, not by congregation offices or religious society memberships, not by a social gospel or an ethical gospel, not by self-denial and self-torture. Thank God, all this uncertainty has been removed! You and I are saved only, but wholly and eternally, by grace, through faith in the full, free, final, finished mercies of the Lord Jesus.

Have you thanked Christ for this compassion? Have you lived a life of daily gratitude for the glorious pardon which makes you free? As you confess your thanklessness, selfishness, lack of appreciation for His love, may you, the sick and invalid confined to your rooms; you, the wounded and injured in our military hospitals; you, the men and women of our widespread armed forces; you, the workers in our defense industries; you, the young and the old on the nation’s vital home front, all of you, be given the courage and confidence of faith required to raise your hand in this oath of undying allegiance: “O Jesus, Redeemer of my soul, I thank Thee with every fiber of my being for the mercy, the self-sacrifice on the cross, that redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature. Gratefully I accept the cleansing granted by Thy blood. Humbly I pledge myself to live with the Spirit’s help in gratitude for Thy grace. So help me God!” As you give yourselves to Christ, listen! From the Savior’s endless, ageless love comes this promise of pardon and peace, life and light, heaven and eternal happiness, “Thy faith hath made thee whole!” The Lord strengthen you to believe it! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: May 30, 1943

Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us; for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us. – Isaiah 26:12

God of Our Fathers, Ruler of the Nation:

We thank Thee with all our hearts for the multiplied mercies which have made America the land of liberty, the haven of refuge for the oppressed, the commonwealth of unparalleled opportunities. Particularly do we praise Thee today for the heroic men and women, both military and civilian, who laid down their lives in our defense and in the protection of our freedom. Keep us mindful of their suffering and sacrifice! Help us follow their devotion to the best interests of our country! Teach us with Thy Spirit’s help to obey Thy Word, accept the Gospel, intercede for those in authority, and live in honest loyalty to our beloved homeland! But, O God of mercy, keep us humble! Banish all pride and self-glory! Bring us down on our knees in repentance, and turn us to the Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior, in whom alone we can find pardon for our sins, the pledge of inner peace, and the promise of eternal life! Guard our military youth against enemies from without and within! Make them loyal and trustful, clean and courageous! O Father of mercy, let the hour come soon in which Thou wilt send them home across the seas, with the triumph of truth and the promise of real peace! We ask it all in the Redeemer’s precious name. Amen!

ABOUT seven hundred thousand Americans have been killed in the defense of their country. They lie buried from Valley Forge to Bataan, from Flanders’ Fields to Guadalcanal, from Gettysburg to Tripoli, from the Aleutians to Tunisia; they have gone down with their ships on the seven seas; they have died in plane crashes half the world away. From the Revolution and the War of 1812, through the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish War, and two World Wars, soldiers, sailors, marines, almost three quarters of a million of them, have made the supreme sacrifice, offered the only life men can ever live on earth for their country’s freedom, union, and defense. They have given everything they could give for America.

What, we ask on Memorial Day, has America given them? A military funeral in a national cemetery, with a few square feet of native or foreign soil as their last resting place—in many cases only a shallow grave in distant sand! How have we remembered our dead? With a wooden cross or a small stone on which their names have been inscribed; yet too often these markers bear the three words, “An Unknown Soldier”! What have we done for our departed heroes? We have granted posthumous medals, named ships after them, listed their deeds on bronze tablets, and once a year, on this Memorial Day, the graves of soldiers are decorated and wreaths are dropped on the ocean in tribute to our departed men of the sea. Oratory, patriotic exercises, parades, mark May 30 as veterans of past wars, their ranks continually reduced, march together with our new armed forces.

Yet too often, when the processions, the unveiling of tablets, the launching of ships, and similar commemorative services are over, the masses forget the brave men who died that a free, united America might live. For millions of our countrymen Decoration Day is only another holiday, without the slightest personal recognition for those who helped write our history with their blood. How quickly our brave men are forgotten! Captain Colin P. Kelly was among the first American heroes in this World War; and gratefully we recall how, just before taking off in a successful flight attack which destroyed a Japanese warship, he said, “I know I am going on a tough job; but I am ready to go, for I am ready to meet my Savior.” He did not return; and his name was emblazoned in the headlines of every American newspaper. Hardly a year later, when his widow and his baby sought an apartment in Los Angeles, they were told repeatedly, “No children wanted!”

What can we offer our dead defenders? A crippled, almost destitute Ohio mother, whose only son was killed in action on the Pacific, writes me, “I hope that the Government will give me some support”; and a political organizer now proposes that we grant every soldier in World War II a bonus of $7,500. Of what good is this to the dead in their graves? You bereaved parents will protest that no amount of money can compensate for the loss of your sons. The mightiest tribute we can pay those who laid down their lives is the grateful determination that, under God, their sacrifices will not be useless. On this wartime Memorial Day we should repeat the resolution voiced eighty years ago by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “that these dead shall not have died in vain.” Could the three quarters of a million who fell in battle speak from their graves today, they would plead with us: “Work and pray that the cause for which we sacrificed ourselves may not collapse! Strive with all your might for a better nation, a God-pleasing victory, a quick, just peace!”

Now, if we are truly grateful to these heroes, if the achievements won at the cost of their bleeding and dying are to be maintained, we must defend our country from within. We must have the Almighty on our side. We must recognize what God has done for us in the past and implore His guidance for the future. We must cry out—and this is our Memorial Day and Navy Church Sunday message—

AMERICA, REMEMBER YOUR GOD!

As I speak to you from the United States Naval Air Station here at Lambert Field in Saint Louis, addressing not only these cadets, but also large numbers of military men and women throughout the country and as far distant as the Pacific islands, I give you as our text the ancient words spoken by God’s Prophet in a national crisis, Isaiah’s faith-filled confidence (chapter twenty-six, verse twelve), “Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us; for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.”

I

REMEMBER GOD FOR HIS PAST BLESSINGS!

On Memorial Day we should recall personally and unmistakably that the men whose patriotic devotion we commemorate were among the human instruments in making the United States the most blessed of all nations. They were largely influential in building America to its present size—a land so immense that European nations like France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, could almost be lost in our vastness. Under God, the fearless sacrifices of our soldiers and sailors secured and preserved our liberties. Their bravery, persistence, self-denial, helped win every conflict in which we have been engaged; and the United States is the only large nation which has never lost a war.

How forcefully should the graves of our soldiers and sailors remind us of the fearful price with which our freedom has been purchased! The sunken battleship Oklahoma, recently raised in Pearl Harbor, with its 1,038 corpses, gives ghastly testimony to the harrowing death that can overtake our defenders. A thousand and thirty-eight men left homes like yours and mine in high hopes of a quick return and a happy reunion with their loved ones. Volunteers—boys seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years old—wrote eager, happy letters to their parents. Young officers waved farewell to their sweethearts. Husbands kissed their wives and little ones goodbye, and all sailed out on the blue Pacific and into treacherous attack, sudden death. Promising, achieving lives were cut off, families broken, generations deprived of their existence!—Yet some of you, making two and three dollars an hour in safe defense work, complain of food rationing and travel restriction!

On Memorial Day we recall others whose supreme sacrifice has had a part in maintaining our material blessing and freedoms. Sixty-four thousand seven hundred and sixty-four coal miners, the men who produced vital fuel for our industries, were killed or injured within one year. When we consider the danger and death daily confronting these men, we ought to conclude that they are not unreasonable in requesting more pay. Then, how many have been the martyrs to medicine and science, the physicians, nurses, and experimenters who were struck down as they unselfishly sought to reduce human suffering and make life better for us! Thank God for their service and achievement!

Nor should we today overlook those who live in perpetual anguish: military men so hideously mutilated that no visitors may see them, the incurables, the shell-shocked, the mentally torn. An Illinois boy in my Church was honorably discharged after being torpedoed four times—a veteran at nineteen! What a price he has paid! When his pastor privately asked him for the details of those four sinkings, the lad was so agonized that he bit his tongue until the blood streamed from his mouth. Keep these sufferers constantly in your prayers! Ask God’s guidance for all war prisoners! Few of us can understand their sorrows. On national holidays like this we should take our American histories and read what happened, for example, at Andersonville, Georgia, during the Civil War, when 32,000 Union soldiers were kept in a twenty-three-acre camp with no protection against the elements save that which they could dig or make with their own hands! We should study the newspaper accounts of our men in North Africa, who were forced to sleep in their clothes and go unbathed for a whole month; the record of amputations without anesthesia; the reports of harrowing death. Let America pause today amid baseball double-headers, horse races, picnics, house parties, to honor the memory of those who surrendered every blessing for their country’s cause!

All their bravery and sacrifices alone, however, could not make, mold, and preserve the United States. Behind their living and dying for this nation is the almighty God, the marvelous mercy, the divine providence, the overabundant provision with which He has blessed our forty-eight States. If Memorial Day is to bring benediction to us and our cause, we must subscribe with whole hearts to the Prophet’s word in our text, “Lord, . . . Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” Why have we more wealth, more gold and silver, more natural resources, than any others? Are we better than the rest of the world? Great Britain lists only one tenth as many criminals as we. Why are our homes more comfortable, our standards of living higher? Are we more honest, upright, sincere? With the exception of heathen countries and Russia, family trouble is more frequent and sinister here than elsewhere. Have we been placed in the first rank among the nations because we are more religious, more humble, deserving, than other people? A glance at our empty churches, the growing ranks of infidels, the increasing apostasy and disloyalty, answers that question. This commonwealth is great and glorious not because we Americans are a superior race, a morally perfect people, but because, despite our failings and shortcomings, God has chosen and exalted us.

See how the Almighty directed America’s course from the outset! He kept this continent undiscovered, preserving it for us. We might have come under Spanish rule, but He directed birds which led the ships of Columbus to the West Indies. We might have been brought under French rule, but God’s wind destroyed a mighty armada of French ships which set sail from Nova Scotia to capture the New England colonies. We might have stayed under British rule, but He gave unusual strength to the ragged regimentals, preeminent wisdom to our leaders, and we became a free, vigorous people. We might have been split into two or three opposing nations, but the Lord kept us together. God also fixes the dates in our country’s history. One of the highest governmental authorities on military preparation assured me that if the Pearl Harbor attack had come only one year before December 7, 1941, the United States, with its inadequate supplies of munitions and war materials, might have fared badly. God likewise regulates the forces of nature to serve His purposes. As I recently surveyed the flooded portions of Central Illinois near Peoria, where tireless workers piled millions of sand bags to check the swollen streams, people told me: “God saved the city. For weeks the winds had been heavy. If they had continued during the flood crest, the water would have ruined us, but when the river rose, the Lord suddenly stopped the winds.” Every page in our glorious history is emblazoned with marvels of divine providence so great that they fairly shout, “What wonders God has done for us!”

In past generations our country recognized the Lord’s loving guidance. Go back to our early days, and as you read the name of Christ in the charters of our Colonies, in the regulations for their government, in the letters of these early settlers, and study their zeal in building churches, converting the Indians, training their young in Christian truth, you find a fundamental reason for America’s greatness!

We have lost much of this devotion. We still keep the motto, “In God We Trust,” on our coins, but have we preserved it in our hearts? Scripture warns us, “Beware that thou forget not the Lord, thy God . . . and . . . say in thine heart MY power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth!” Too often, in the spirit of power-mad Nebuchadnezzar, people survey our country and declare, “This is the great America that we, our engineers, our industrial leaders, our farmers, our business men, our laborers, have built.” Flushed by recent military successes, we are ready to give sole credit for those triumphs to our leaders, our superior tanks, our more powerful guns, our better supply and communication systems, our amazing production power; but we have little to say of Heaven’s help. A special Sunday was set aside in Great Britain as a time of prayer and thanksgiving for the African victories. The United States had no such observance. Have we begun to think that we do not need God? Such ingratitude and forgetfulness of the Almighty would be an insult to our dead, the most fatal error the country could make. Scripture declares and history agrees, “The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish.”

Therefore, if we would continue the task begun by those whom we memorialize today; if we would earnestly declare, “They have not died in vain,” we must recognize the Lord, His power and His love. Some of the most penetrating perils in the United States today are unbelieving churches, ungodly homes, unscriptural policies in Government circles, unholy living, unthankful practices; just as our strongest assets, our mightiest defenses, are penitent trust in the Triune God, humble acceptance of Christ’s Gospel, fervent faith in Scripture, and sincere determination to pattern our lives after the Savior’s.

All this puts personal issues before every one of you: Are you doing your share in guarding our liberties by strengthening the country’s spiritual foundation? Have you found your God in Christ? Do you worship and adore Him as your Savior? Do you show your loyalty by a life of love? Not only America’s welfare, but your own eternal salvation is involved in these questions. Therefore I repeat, “Have you welcomed Christ into your heart?” If today we honor the men who died for this nation, how much more should we acclaim as our God and Redeemer Him who died to save our souls and to bring a world lost in its trespasses back to the heavenly Father! Make this a spiritual Memorial Day as you reverently commemorate the most sacred and salutary death in all human records, Jesus’ self-sacrifice on Calvary’s cross! The Colonial troops of 1776 shed their blood to save this country from foreign rule; our Lord shed His blood to save you from Satan’s rule. The blue-coated troops of the Civil War died to free a race enslaved in human bondage and to keep the Union unbroken; Jesus died to free all races from eternal slavery and to restore the union between the holy God and sinful mankind. Men of the air, land, and sea were struck down as they sought to make the world of this age safe for democracy; Christ was crucified to make the world of all ages safe for a blessed eternity.

Jesus has no grave which we can decorate today, for, mighty God that He is, He has risen from the dead. You may have hated Him until this moment; you may have felt that there could be no forgiveness for your transgressions, terrifying, destructive, innumerable, as they are; but no vice is too vile, no wickedness too great, no crime too horrifying, to be pardoned freely, without price or payment, when penitently laid at the foot of the cross. If you want the blessing of faith, without which you will be eternally lost; if you want the power and strength for our nation, lacking which even a country as great, as wealthy, as strong, as resourceful, as the United States cannot indefinitely prosper; if you want to help avoid the supertragedy by which these brave dead will have died in vain, accept the Lord Jesus as your own, your very own, your eternally own Savior!

Men and women in our military forces, for your own salvation, for the continuance of the blessings purchased by the blood of America’s heroic dead, do not try to fight two wars without Christ: the conflict with your earthly enemies and the struggle against your spiritual foes! You need Jesus for both! You dishonor the memory of those who in past crises battled and bled for our cause if you live ungodly, unbelieving, unholy, unchaste lives. Give yourself to the Lord! Become new creatures through Him! Fight the good fight of faith! Triumph over sin! Spurn lust! Remember your parents! Avoid profanity! Then, indeed, having found your Ruler and Redeemer in the Crucified, you will understand on Memorial Day how, with God’s help, the nation’s fighting forces have assisted in establishing, preserving, and defending our country.

II

REMEMBER GOD FOR HIS FUTURE BLESSINGS!

Memorial Day asks that we remember the Lord also for the uncertain years before us. If He alone made us great in the past, only He can insure our prosperity for the future. How urgently we need superhuman, divine help for the perplexities ahead! Even now it is estimated that our postwar public debt will be $300,000,000,000. For a family of six this means an indebtedness of almost $14,000. We have a peace to win against selfish, overreaching interests, which will try to grab more than their share and thus begin the unrest which may result in a third world war. Before us lies a new social order with reconstruction problems, particularly for our youth and our laboring classes. I know that men speak glibly and enthusiastically of an easy, golden, overflowing tomorrow with the promise of plenty and the pledge of peace; but I fail to find any such warrant in God’s Word or in history. How, we ask eagerly, is this utopia of universal happiness to be established? Can we secure prosperity by economic planning? Again, we should wisely use the resources and the manpower which the Almighty gives, but we cannot solve a single problem against His will. With more financial advisers, economic experts, commercial schools, industrial specialists, and banking authorities than ever previously, the country suffered its worst money collapse and business depression. Can we successfully outlaw war by peace conferences, peace palaces, peace treaties? The age that has seen the most widespread effort to establish international harmony has likewise witnessed the most destructive and extended warfare. If human ingenuity alone could banish bloodshed from the earth, the last conflict would have been concluded years ago; but men make their plans for peace without considering God.

This generation should learn the lesson Isaiah expounds in our text. He lived in a darkened day, when human plans supplanted divine wisdom and men’s proposals often counted more than God’s; yet, undismayed, he turned to the Almighty and exclaimed, “Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us.” Listen to those words again, “Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us,” for they ask us to recognize that peace and victory ultimately lie in our heavenly Father’s hands; they are His to grant or to withhold. We may have the most efficient and the most numerous airplanes, the biggest and the best ships, the largest and longest-range cannon; but if God is not for us, all these are not enough. On the other hand, we may be undersupplied and underequipped; yet, if the Lord of hosts is with us, we can have the assurance of invincible power according to His will. If only throughout this broad land men would come to a personal recognition of this truth, “Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us,” and trust the Almighty’s ability to “break the bow and spear asunder,” to bum the chariots of war in fire; if only America would contritely, sincerely, wholeheartedly, turn to the Lord of glory, He could stop this conflict, cut off the massacre of human lives, call a halt to the aggression of warmongers, and send our men home. The omnipotent Creator, who spoke but a word and the vast universe sprang into existence, can stop this struggle with another of His divine fiats. If He wills it, the war can end tonight. Yet, with men rebelling against Him, blaspheming His Son, resisting the Holy Spirit, continually transgressing the divine Law, can you expect that He will remove this visitation before we have learned its lessons and humbled ourselves under His almighty power? Do you really think that the Lord will force peace on us if millions in the United States are not willing even to hope for it, pray for it, work for it; if many do not want peace because they are earning too much money in war?

However, as we who know the Lord Jesus resolve on Memorial Day to do what we can in saving lives and souls for Christ, let us daily, persistently, humbly, beseech God, according to His will, to make the forces of justice and righteousness prevail, to protect our country’s youth, to give our enemies a full understanding of His ways and truth, and in the earliest possible hour to stop this killing! In the name of the heroic dead we plead with the patriotic living: Repent! Return to God! Reaffirm the faith of our fathers! Rededicate yourselves to Christ! Pray to the Almighty constantly in the words of the ancient seer, “Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us!”

Until the glorious moment when the “Cease firing!” order is flashed over the battlefields, and forever after, every one of us can have precious peace in his heart through our Savior. In all the centuries He alone is the true “Prince of Peace,” who refused to take up the weapons of war, the only Comforter in all the ages who could tell His worshipers, “My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you,” the one Peace Bringer who died to give men eternal rest, comfort, and salvation. The calm and quiet He grants is the inner peace of a soul once at war with God, but now reunited with the heavenly Father; the peace which makes us children of the Kingdom; the reconciliation with God which enables us to repel the charges of our conscience that we have sinned too often and too heinously to be pardoned. It is the joy which comes with the forgiveness and removal of our sins, the harmony with Heaven promised by the Apostle in the pledge, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God,” the assurance and comfort won for us in that most sure and sacred of treaties, the treaty at Calvary, where Jesus, as it is written, “made peace through the brood of His cross.”

When men possess this “peace which passeth all understanding,” they can resolutely face every obstacle. A few days ago a burdened sufferer in Saint Paul wrote me: “I have been ill for a long time, confined all winter because of heart trouble, but thank God I was saved through your broadcast. I was about to take my own life when I heard your voice, and now I am a member of your church here.” Every week similar letters, sent by those who were snatched from the brink of despair and hell, come to our desk. Whatever your burden is, however hard and dark the road ahead, turn to the blessed Savior, who never refuses to help a searching, inquiring soul, and say, “O Jesus, by Thy blood and death and resurrection ‘Thou wilt ordain peace’ for me, for Thou art my Savior!”

You can have this assurance even in the midst of the most turbulent destruction, for even then the Lord can marvelously grant you confidence. One of our missionaries in China reports that when the Japanese were bombing Hong Kong, his house was singularly spared. When enemy troops looted the city, his apartment was not entered. Why? Directed from above, a Japanese officer sought to repay some Christian kindness by protecting the building. In the same way, no matter how dangerous your pathways, God can put peace into your heart since you know these two sustaining truths: first, since you have been redeemed by Christ, every burden comes from divine mercy, directed to your eternal good; and second, your Savior loves you so devotedly that His heavenly powers can miraculously support you. Hundreds of our military men, fliers, sailors, report twentieth-century miracles of grace by which their lives were saved. Through faith you know that Christ can “ordain peace” for you in your home. Three years ago a woman wrote me of her husband’s disinterestedness in religion and his lack of trust in the Bible. We counseled her and prayed for her. Last week she sent a joy-filled letter. Her skeptical husband has been baptized and is now an ardent believer. In gratitude this Christian wife sent us a check of $1,028 to help maintain the broadcast. No matter how hopeless the conversion of someone in your family may seem, look constantly to Jesus, pray, “Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us,” and then trust Him with whom “nothing shall be impossible” to answer your pleading!

Men and women in the nation’s armed forces, you particularly need the Savior. We have been greatly encouraged by the response with which those in the Army and Navy receive our message. Special arrangements have been made in more than sixty military camps to have these broadcasts reproduced by special amplification. The Lutheran Hour is available for your camps without charge. If you want the broadcasts for your military or naval group, post, submarine base, battleship, write us! We are here to serve you. If you are troubled with religious questions; if you want to get right with God; if you need a Bible, a prayer book, or Christian literature; if we can do anything to help bring you to the Savior or strengthen your faith—men and women of our fighting forces—write us at once! We recognize no duty and privilege as greater than serving you who have left everything to protect us.

While taps now sound at this Naval Air Station in tribute to our departed defenders, may God grant us a reverent Memorial Day! From the Atlantic, where officers in convoys tell us that they tune in our messages, to the islands of the Pacific, where, as your letters reveal, our radio mission is heard in house after house, may this prayer now arise in the name of the Lord Jesus:

O God, true and triune, we thank Thee that Thou didst preserve our national liberties and blessings. We praise Thee also for the men and women, soldiers and civilians, who laid down their lives in freedom’s cause. We resolve that, Thy Spirit guiding us, we will so believe and live that these martyrs to America’s liberties shall not have died in vain. We ask Thee, Father, that this may also be a spiritual Memorial Day for many who will acknowledge Thy Son Jesus as their Redeemer. Help us, God our Father; help us, God our Savior; help us, God our Holy Spirit, to find Christ, to cling to Him, to live and die with Him, and thus strengthen our beloved nation with His exalting righteousness! “O Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us,” for we pray in Jesus’ name! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: May 23, 1943

Without Me ye can do nothing.John 15:5

I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.Philippians 4:13

Strengthening Spirit of God:

Come into our hearts now, and by taking possession of our will and desires lead us always to place Jesus, our Redeemer, first in our faith and first in our lives! Grant us the unquestioning reliance on Christ which knows that without Him we remain lost in our sins, doomed to pay the penalty of our unforgiven transgressions—eternal ruin, separation from Thee, the Father, and the Savior! Then, when we are crushed in contrite repentance over our iniquities, turn us, humble and sincere, to our all-compassionate Lord! Strengthen us to believe unquestioningly that through Him we can do all things: conquer sin, Satan, hell, eternal death itself, and even in this life rise victoriously over afflictions, doubt, and all besetting enemies! Earnestly we entreat Thee to give the men and women of our armed forces a triumphant trust in Jesus. During every hour of danger sustain Thy children with the continued assurance of His abiding, comforting, all-conquering presence in the hearts of those who love Him! Mightily bless our nation, Spirit of divine truth, and soon grant us peace, blessed righteousness, rebuilding peace! We ask it in Jesus’, our only Savior’s name. Amen!

WHAT a startling difference the Lord Jesus Christ makes in the daily lives of the American people! For instance, in a large Florida city there are two homes, both of the same type, situated on the same street, with husband and wife in each family about the same age. The one household has enjoyed outward prosperity and is blessed with two children; yet that home reechoes with strife from morning till night. The parents fight at the least provocation, cursing God, their children, and themselves.

The family across the street, not torn by such discord, has nevertheless suffered one of life’s heaviest tragedies—the loss of the first and only child. The father, an officer in our armed forces, recently wrote me: “My wife and I had been planning for that wonder of wonders, the arrival of a baby. We prayed together for our child from the first, asking God that it would be healthy and strong, but especially that it would grow up a Christian, serving our Savior with whole heart, soul, and mind. We bought the many things needed for baby’s coming. We made our spare room into a delightful nursery; and as we continued to pray, our happiness grew through the long months of waiting. But when the child came, it was dead! No medical explanation could account for it. After the doctor brought the sad news, I felt more alone than I ever have in my life; but only for a moment. Suddenly a flood of Scripture passages broke over me: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed thee.’ ‘Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.’ ‘We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.’ During these frightening minutes I prayed our Savior to forgive me for being weak in the faith. When my wife was able to talk to me, her first words were, ‘The baby died; didn’t it?’ Then, as I nodded through my tears, she smiled the most glorious smile of resignation and faith I have ever seen in a human being and slowly added, ‘How soon can we have another baby?’ Glory filled that room, and I almost seemed to hear angels singing, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ We felt our loss keenly, of course, but the Lord’s comfort is always with us. Whatever was His reason in taking our child, we know that in His infinite wisdom it was a good reason, and we are comforted by the thought that God gave His only Son as a Ransom for all, even for those who hated and despised Him. How can we speak of our pain, when we think of the crown of thorns, the pierced hands and feet, of our Savior at Calvary? I thought of the story of Job, and when my wife came back from the hospital, we began reading it together. What glory there was in hearing Job say, despite his manifold afflictions, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’! The saving power of Jesus is making itself felt in our house. Our misfortunes have brought us more closely together than we were before. We thank God each day that in His infinite mercy He has been with us since we were married. May we never turn from Him! Pray for us!”

What makes these two homes, outwardly so similar, inwardly so different? Many of you know the answer. The one family, with prosperity and healthy, children, yet marred by profanity and constant quarreling, is against the Lord Jesus, while the other family, though afflicted, has peace and joy through firm faith in the Savior.

If Christ’s presence or absence produces such a startling contrast in two homes, how tremendously must faith and unbelief affect an entire nation! If trusting reliance on the Redeemer can give earthly courage, then how marvelous beyond explanation the heavenly joy of seeing Jesus face to face! If the denial of saving grace can thus bring misery in this world, how terrifying to be banished eternally from the Savior’s presence in the next world! Therefore the personally directed question every one of us should answer is,

“ARE YOU WITH OR WITHOUT CHRIST?”

This all-important issue is clearly stated in the simple but sacred language of our text, the two passages: (Saint John, chapter fifteen, verse five) “Without Me ye can do nothing” and (Philippians, chapter four, verse thirteen) “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”

I

THE TRAGEDY OF BEING WITHOUT CHRIST

No one else can rightfully say, as Jesus did, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” Others have claimed that their leadership and their ability were necessary for a nation’s happiness. Proud emperors have conceitedly boasted that the world could not get along without them; yet their death brought happiness to millions. Dictators have regarded themselves as absolutely essential to human progress; yet too often they provoked war and want. Politicians declare, “Elect me, or else the country will collapse!” but this is a plain lie. No man on earth is irreplaceable, and those who think themselves the most indispensable are often the most dangerous. Generals have been killed in battle or in plane crashes, admirals drowned in the sea, presidents assassinated. While their loss has caused hardships, none of these men could have told the nation honestly, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” They were laid into their graves, but the country continued and prospered. Not even those nearest and dearest to us can truthfully say, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” Wives who have lost their husbands, children whose parents have been snatched away, fathers and mothers whose sons have fallen in battle will testify that the burden of their bereavement is crushing; nevertheless with the Lord’s help even widows, orphans, gold-star parents, can find comfort and new strength for their sorrow. In all the world, in all ages, only One, Jesus, could truly repeat these six sacred words, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” Why? Because He is God, and God is the greatest necessity in our lives. If you have Him, though you may lack everything else, you can be blessed with peace and joy. If you are without Him, despite all you possess—money, influence, culture, personality—you are doomed to final failure.

First of all, then, believe and trust this, even though you cannot understand and explain it: the Christ who was born at Bethlehem, died at Calvary, and rose again outside Jerusalem is your Lord! He directs the destiny of nations, and in this unmeasured universe He upholds “all things by the word of His power.” Wanton, wicked men may boast that they are altogether independent of the Lord; scorn and blasphemy may be heaped on His holy name because in His mercy He lets His sun shine on the evil as on the good; yet the haughtiest of loud-mouthed atheists are in reality less than specks of dust beneath Christ’s feet. Live without Jesus? If He were to withhold for a day the divine powers which control air, water, sunshine, even our life, we would be doomed.

Again, Christ’s is the only voice that can truly declare, “Without Me ye can do nothing!” Besides being our God, in command of all heaven’s powers and resources, He is also our Savior, and His endless love yearns for our redemption. You may not know this truth, and some of you may even deny it. Yet neither your ignorance nor your unbelief can change it. Jesus loved every one of you, the whole wide world of sin-stricken men and women, with such intense, all-consuming devotion that He did what only God could do. He became the sinners’ Substitute. He took the sinners’ place. He endured the sinners’ punishment, suffered the sinners’ curse, and on the cross died the sinners’ death. If men are to be saved, they must be saved by Him. There is no other road to redemption except through Him, who says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” except His holy, precious name. No other blood to cleanse our scarlet stains but His! No other cross to promise the celestial crown than those gory timbers of Calvary! No other good news of the soul’s eternal pardon than the Gospel of Christ’s grace! If you want your iniquities wiped out and your transgressions removed; if you want to be freed from hell, hear Jesus say, “Without Me ye can do nothing!” and believe that He is the one Redeemer, the only Rescuer, the sole Savior, without whom you cannot enter heaven!

When our Lord solemnly warned His disciples, “Without Me ye can do nothing!” He meant that unbelievers, scoffers, infidels, can do nothing good in God’s sight. They can do plenty of evil, of course. A man can go to college for seven or eight years, earn a string of degrees, and despite his education remain an outspoken enemy of the Almighty; but he cannot do anything acceptable to Heaven. A man who ridicules Christ can heap up money; but of what good is his wealth to himself or others? Too often, as the debauch, despair, and disgrace in the lives of the godless rich show, his money is the means of his destruction. A dictator who sneers at Jesus can usurp power to control human affairs over far-reaching areas; but because he hates the Savior, his tyranny produces bloodshed, devastation, nationwide agony. Men can do many things in opposition to our Lord. They can curse and blaspheme, steal and lie, cripple and kill. They can commit suicide and send their souls to hell. Yet as God’s incarnate Son declares, “Without Me ye can do nothing!” that is, nothing strengthening, uplifting, nothing that can save men’s souls.

Surveying the course of the last years, we should ask ourselves plainly: Has the world without Jesus done anything really good? Has the anti-Christian education achieved anything commendable in the Lord’s sight, as it seeks to convince American youth that there is no God, Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier; that the Bible is full of falsehoods; that man, instead of being made originally in the divine image, is evolved from low, brute creatures? I challenge every Christ denier to produce a single person definitely assisted in any soul problem by such rebellion against the Redeemer. Christless culture, entrenched against the Almighty, has failed to build character, decency, honor, self-sacrifice, true devotion to home and country.

Has international statesmanship, which in the past twenty-five years frequently violated the divine teachings, anything of lasting good to its credit? You find the glaring answer in a world inflamed by war twice within a generation. Keep past tragedies in mind for the future! If the Lord Jesus is excluded from the peace table; if national leaders think that they can make the new world without His help; if the principles of righteousness laid down in Scripture are disregarded—even the millions of men sacrificed in this Second World War will not be able to purchase the true, just, lasting peace for which, I trust, every one of you prays daily.

Has the growing number of homes from which God’s Son is completely banished accomplished any noble achievements? Not a single one! Instead, divorce, unfaithfulness, destructive birth control, unwanted and neglected children, strife-torn families! Has modern anti-Christian literature written by hate-poisoned infidels created anything to improve our age? Ask the prisoners in any penitentiary, “What brought you behind the bars?” and in many cases they will confess that lurid underworld magazines started them on their criminal careers. Do the new social sciences which reject and sometimes ridicule Scripture build the morals and the morale of the individual and the nation? I ask this because my correspondence reveals that certain psychiatrists are trying to cure mental disturbances by deliberately keeping patients away from all contact with God’s Word and the church. Medical science has developed new and rapid treatment for terrifying social diseases; but these quicker and easier cures will finally make the sins of impurity seem far less serious and will tend to increase vice, even as today, according to Government figures, the United States is cursed by the widest spread of immorality.

Have the churches which bar the message of the atoning Savior from their pulpits made better citizens? Have they brought comforting cheer closer to the spiritually distressed? Of all the evidences testifying to the reality of Jesus’ warning, “Without Me ye can do nothing!” the glaring failure of modernist, truth-denying churches is the most unmistakable. Though some of these Christless, crossless, creedless churches amass heavy fortunes, build towering cathedrals, conduct eye-catching services, list the elite on their rosters, they have utterly failed in offering a faith with which to live and by which to die. They attract, but they do not save. Once, while visiting Paris, Sir Astley Cooper, famous British surgeon, was asked by a French medical leader how many times he had performed a certain difficult operation. “Thirteen times,” Sir Astley replied. “Oh,” said the Parisian specialist: “I have done this operation 160 times. Now, Sir Astley, how many times in your thirteen operations did you save the patient’s life?” “In eleven,” the British surgeon answered, continuing, “How many did you save of the 160?” With a smile the French doctor admitted: “I lost all 160 patients; but the operations were very brilliant.” A similar verdict might be given in many Christ-denying churches. Their preaching, choir singing, decorations, are very brilliant; but no souls are saved.

Listen to Jesus again as in His six-word sermon, “Without Me ye can do nothing!” He speaks to you, the self-satisfied, who may now square your shoulders, proudly hold your heads high and challenge: “I do everything I want without Christ. He means nothing to me now, and He never will.” Are you sure? Even as you boast of your self-sufficiency, does your own conscience not quietly but persistently warn you that at some time, sooner or later, you will face your Maker? You must answer for the sins which you tried to cover with outward respectability, but which can never be concealed from the Almighty. Do you not realize that with the hazards of health and the uncertainty of life (90,000 industrial workers killed last year! Remember that, defense workers! 80,000 American casualties in this war so far! Keep that in mind, military men and women!), you may be face to face with your Maker before this year, this month, this week, or this day is over? How will you meet the pure and holy God? Can you stand before the Ruler of eternity and stammer: “O Lord, I’ve been good. I’ve given to charity. I’ve tried to run my business straight. I’ve never been drunk”? The Almighty will not be satisfied with that. He knows, and you know, that you are burdened with selfish, lustful thoughts, degrading, destructive words, dark and vile transgressions. Will you say, “O Lord, I’ve tried to be good”? Trying is not enough. The eternal God demands, “Ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy!” Besides, there were times when you didn’t even try, when you deliberately pursued evil and threw yourself into sin. Will you say: “O Lord, I’ve had good parents. How my mother could pray! My father never missed a service”? If your parents were godly and you are godless, your sin and your responsibility are the greater. Will you say, “O Lord, I went to church for a number of years”? The decisive factor in Christianity is not how you begin, but how you finish! Only those who are “faithful unto death” will receive the “crown of life.”

Because Christ loved you, fall on your knees before Him! Stop resisting the Holy Spirit! Let the suppressed confession of your heart burst forth: “O Jesus, in all truth I ‘can do nothing’ without Thee. I am dead in trespasses and sin. I deserve only condemnation. I lay no claim to reward. Without Thee I am helpless, hapless, hopeless. Have mercy on me! Do not cast me away! Forgive me! Wash away my iniquities! Tear the evil from my heart!” And the Christ without whom you “can do nothing” will be He through whom you can do everything. For this blessing you need only believe that Jesus is your own Savior from sin, Deliverer from death, Rescuer from ruin, and put your whole confidence in His power to save to the uttermost.

The warning, “Without Me ye can do nothing!” has a personal appeal also to you who know the Redeemer, since it was spoken to the disciples. American Christians today should realize definitely that the churches must have the Savior as the Source of all power for good. Our religious life will not be sanctified by suppers and entertainments. The kingdom of our Lord comes not with a social gospel, a moral gospel, a political gospel, but only by the saving Gospel of the God-man, Christ, atoning for sin with His death. The spiritual support America needs with double urgency today will not be built by outward membership in the nearest, most convenient church or by haphazard attendance at worship, but by the contrite, repentant, soul-centered adoration of the Lord Jesus which loves the true house of God.

Therefore the appeal goes through our country, “America, repent!” But let that repentance be genuine! Describing the collapse of France, Vincent Sheean says that on May 16, 1940, Paul Reynaud, premier of France, together with other officials of the doomed nation who had been living with women not their wives, became worried over the trend of the war, hurried to the cathedral, prayed for the republic, and then went back to continue in sin. France fell on June 17, only thirty-two days later. It will do us in the United States no good to have a mere show of contrition which is contradicted by godless actions. The tragedy of the present hour is this, that too many people are more concerned about the substitute plans of taxation than about the divine Substitute in God’s plan for salvation. The war has not yet touched the average American heavily, and for this reason the struggle has not yet produced any outstanding religious progress. It had been widely hoped that the Second World War would call forth a real religious revival and draw this country to God. But we look in vain for any marked movement back to the Church. It was different in the Civil War. Letters and diaries from 1861 to 1865 contain repeated statements paying tribute to God for His providential care and His divine decision on the outcome of battles. Civil War preachers conducting funeral services for their soldiers were at pains to study the last words of the deceased, to learn whether these men had died in the faith. Today everyone of us, soldiers and civilians alike, need humble faith, sincere repentance, triumphant trust in Him who alone can save us, our homes, our churches, our country—Jesus, without whom we “can do nothing,” but with whom we can do all things.

II

THE BLESSING OF BEING WITH CHRIST

That assurance Saint Paul stresses in our second Scripture passage, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” Do not think for a moment that the Apostle exaggerates when he declares, “I can do all things through Christ”! It is an unbreakable promise of many Scripture passages that the believer through Jesus has heavenly power. Hear these pledges of our Lord: “If ye have faith . . . nothing shall be impossible unto you”; “All things are possible to them that believe,” and know that heaven and earth shall pass away before these guarantees of divine strength are broken.

First of all, with Christ’s compassion fortifying your soul, you can face the foes that seek to tear you from the faith and declare, “‘I,’ too, ‘can do all things through Christ.’ The Savior in me, and I in Him—together we can defeat the regiments of ruin surrounding me.” Not with blatant boasting, but with deep-rooted conviction you can cry out, “‘Through Christ’ I will overcome fear.” Is not that the victory many of you parents need when you wonder whether your soldier or sailor lad in distant lands or in far-off waters will ever come back to you? By trusting Jesus you can know that He is powerful enough to be a Shield round about your boy, a perfect Protection against every treacherous assault. If, however, in His immeasurable mercy the loving Savior wants your Christian son to have the highest happiness and calls him to his eternal home straight from the battlefield, then, as you turn confidently to the Lord, fear will vanish, and heaven will become dearer to you because it is the dwelling place of your beloved one. To defeat a hundred different terrors—the dread that you may be losing your health, your home, even your mind—cling to Christ, for through Him the deadliest fears can be put to flight. We shall need courage before this war is won and the perils of a politician’s peace are avoided. Here in Jesus is unfailing strength. A sailor who in the past year traveled 14,200 miles from the frozen Aleutians to Guadalcanal wrote me, “I have leaned heavily on Christ”; and he challenges atheist parents to accompany their sons to the battle lines and see what Christ means there. “We find no atheists and scoffers on the front,” he concludes.

Because you “can do all things through Christ,” faith will help you triumph over pain. Many of you hear this message in hospitals or on sickbeds; and in a long list of human suffering, from the dull, throbbing, steady aches to the cruelly stabbing pains that make you shriek in uncontrolled anguish, you are tormented every hour. Do not give up! Do not charge God with cruelty! Look to the Lord Jesus! Think of His suffering! Recall His promise to share your burdens! And as you put your whole trust in His gracious love, you will be able to rejoice even in excruciating bodily agony.

“Through Christ” you can turn loss and adversity into blessed gain. Difficulties which make unbelievers surrender to despair can be the means of bringing you closer to God’s Son, strengthening your faith, deepening your trust, purifying your love, since by the miracle of His mercy “all things,” including the most staggering blows, “work together for good to them that love God.”

As you grow in Him, you can learn to repel treacherous temptations. Face alluring enticements alone, and you experience the bitter, repeated defeats. Some of you have resolved a hundred times to spurn the unclean counsel of evil friends, but a hundred times you give in, and the devil has his way with you. If only you would give the Savior the control of your hearts and minds and, whenever sin approaches, you would declare unhesitatingly, “‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’ in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!” you could repel the legions of lust which seek to destroy your soul.

By the same grace you can break the chains of destructive vices and degrading habits. Some of you in this audience are slaves to your own passions. Drink has mastery over you. Others are living in sinful relationships. As I warn you in the name of Him before whom you must stand in Judgment that you are ruining yourselves, believe me, when I tell you that if the Lord Jesus comes into your heart, cleanses it, and stays there, you have the Redeemer’s strength with which to remove these shameful shackles and begin life anew, with all the past destroyed forever!

Here is the assurance of the final victory: Believing on the Lord Jesus, you can defeat death, “the last enemy”! Through His Easter conquest of the grave you have a title to your prepared place in the heavenly mansions. Dying is only a temporary annoyance for every disciple, a passing from sorrow to unspeakable joy. The decay of the grave gives way to the resurrection of the body. The separation at Christian funerals prepares for the never-ending reunion in the better homeland. In short, my beloved in the faith, let all the enemies of your soul stand in array against you! Let the devil whisper that there can be no pardon for you! Let your conscience protest that you have sinned too often to be received and restored! Let the world mock and scoff! As you clasp your Savior’s hand more closely, cry out in this triumph of trust: “‘I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.’ With Him at my side, I can shatter all the opposition that earth and hell can mobilize against me.”

Thank God, faith, besides putting our foes to flight, also helps us walk more closely with Jesus! We need humility, more unselfishness, a deeper spirit of sacrifice, a larger measure of genuine joy. Once more, look to Christ, and as you find Him the Friend of the friendless, the Helper of the needy, the Companion of the lonely, the Guardian of the lost, cry out in victory: “‘I can do all things through Christ.’ I can walk in His footsteps. I can show mercy to my fellow men, serve them in their needs, strengthen them in their weakness, and, living in a world at war, serve as the Savior’s blessed peacemaker.” Led by His Spirit, you “can do all things” in your home: stifle rising quarrels, avoid misunderstanding, and through family prayers, Scripture reading, hymn singing, the family worship of the Savior, make His love and compassion abide in your household.

Above all that I have told you, fortified by your faith, you can look from time into eternity and exult, “‘I can do all things through Christ’ because I know that heaven is my home.” Our trust in the Son of God tells us not only that we are saved freely by His grace, but also that we are saved surely by His power. In his Confessions the French infidel Rousseau records that one day, as he sat in a grove, he asked himself whether his soul would be damned. In his uncertainty, he claims, a supernatural voice led him to this procedure: He resolved to throw a stone at one of the trees, saying: “If I hit the tree, it will be a sign that my soul is to be saved. If I miss it, it shall indicate that I am to be lost.” So he selected a large tree, carefully placed himself closely before it, and then struck the trunk with the stone. You who are Christ’s want no such flimsy, superstitious foundation for your faith. You have the immovable, unchangeable, eternal promise of the Savior’s mercy, by which you can exult, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.” With this faith you can say, “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us,” and repeat, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”

Last week the scientific world hailed the announcement that biotin, the so-called “life vitamin,” had been synthetically developed in one of the greatest achievements of modern chemists. Until this time the entire world supply of this powerful vitamin was only one tenth of an ounce. It is so rare and costly that it is valued at $4,000,000 an ounce; yet it can help only men’s bodies. If it cost $4,000,000,000 an ounce, it could not influence their souls. But here in your Christian faith, worth more than all the world, yet granted to you freely, without price and payment, you can receive God’s healing power for body and soul. Here in firm faith you have all you need for time and eternity, the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, the lightening for every burden, the rejoicing in every adversity, the victory in every struggle, the strength and defense for your country, your home, and yourself. Give Christ His way in your soul! Ask the Spirit to direct your life, to make you a new creature! As I put the life-and-death question before you, “Are you with Christ or without Him?” may our heavenly Father grant you the contrite, yet confident faith which answers, “I am with Christ, my God, my Savior, my Lord, from now to all eternity!” Then you, too, will join in this Christian triumphal song, which I ask all believers now to repeat with me, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” O Jesus, strengthen us mightily! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: May 16, 1943

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, we also go with thee. They went forth and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore; but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No. And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now, when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him (for he was naked) and did cast himself into the sea.John 21:3-7

God, Our Merciful and Heavenly Father:

We have indeed done nothing to earn Thy favor and compassion, for we have been thankless, unholy, disobedient. Yet across the land today we beseech Thee in Thy Son’s name and by the promise of His blood-bought pardon: forgive us our many transgressions, cleanse our lives through Thy Holy Spirit, comfort us in all sorrows and weaknesses! If we have no confident faith in Jesus and His power to save to the uttermost, we cannot triumph over life’s many afflictions and death’s heavy struggle. Therefore we pray Thee, put the full, triumphant joy of salvation through Christ into our souls! Daily let us experience how deeply He loved us since He willingly suffered the shame and agony of the cross for us! Show us what a faithful Friend He is to all the discouraged and forsaken who put their trust in Him! May this rejoicing in the risen Redeemer sustain the millions of Thy children in our fighting forces throughout each dark hour and every peril of death! O Lord of hosts, for whom nothing is too great, stop this war! Grant us a true victory, and give all nations a just peace! We ask it in Thy Son’s blessed name. Amen!

ON a bright, moonlit night during the blitz on Britain, a German bomber made a direct hit on an English church and left it a hopeless mass of rubble. The fact that the toll of war took another sanctuary would hardly have found newspaper mention, for in England alone about 4,000 churches have been damaged or destroyed. What made this bombing unusual? Workmen, searching the debris for hidden time bombs, found on top the stone and steel wreckage a sailor’s prayer book blown open to a page containing this sentence: “We had fainted unless we had believed.”

A striking truth for our whole war-racked world! We would faint in our weakness if we had no faith in God and our Savior. What strength and comfort for the violent months ahead, to know that if we take refuge in Christ, our hearts never need falter! We must guard against overconfidence now that the Lord has granted us extended victories! These are only the foothills. Mountains—high, steep, snow-covered—must be climbed before peace comes, and these are still before us. Unless the Almighty Himself intervenes to stop this bloodshed, many more American lives may be demanded before the last shot is finally fired. Millions in our country require faith, not faith in themselves, in production power or military might; not faith in our allies, in statesmanship, or in diplomacy; above all, not faith in an unknown and unknowable god, but simple, penitent, confident trust in the Lord Jesus, Redeemer of the race.

Let America turn to God in Christ and this nation never need faint; from on high it will receive courage with which to overcome every difficulty. If you, with your failures and disappointments, losses and adversities, trials and sorrows, truly rely on the Savior (with unquestioning, childlike, victorious confidence, not merely with a head knowledge, but a soul-deep assurance; not a family creed, but your own contrite conviction that Jesus Christ, crucified for you, is your God, your Redeemer, your Sovereign), you, too, will learn that the risen Lord keeps His word. Accepting His invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” you will find the shadows of sorrow removed, the heaped burdens of affliction lightened, the tears of anguish stopped, and all depressing discouragement banished. For no matter how completely you may be encircled by opposition, adversity, and affliction, you can have

CHRIST’S COMFORT FOR THE DISCOURAGED

How faith triumphs over failure is shown in our text from Saint John (chapter twenty-one, verses three to seven), the record of one of the Savior’s post-Easter appearances to His disciples, where we read: “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore; but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No. And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right ride of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now, when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him (for he was naked) and did cast himself into the sea.”

I

WE OFTEN FACE REPEATED DISCOURAGEMENT

Several weeks after the Savior’s Easter triumph we find the disciples back in Galilee, without their Lord. When the news came that Jesus was risen from the dead, these men again began to cherish dreams of worldly greatness. The living Christ, so they thought, would soon establish a mighty kingdom on earth, in which theirs would be a prominent part. The risen Redeemer had other plans, however; for He is never interested in pomp and power. Mighty churches, wealthy congregations, in themselves do not impress Him. He delights in contrite, grief-crushed hearts, in humble, yearning faith. Instead of making His followers princes and rulers over men, He sent them back to discredited Galilee and told them to await Him there. Perhaps they retraced their steps to the very place at which Jesus called them to His discipleship, so that among their kinfolk they could testify to the miracle of His resurrection. Often men and women who accept Jesus—as I hope many of you will today—are so thrilled with the new joy of knowing their Savior that they immediately expect to take active part in world-moving programs for their Lord, only to find that nothing startling happens. They simply return to their homes. Yet Christ may have mighty tasks in store for them there. What could be more blessed and helpful than to bring one’s own family and community the message of His redeeming love?

The disciples had been in Galilee only a short time, when Peter declared, “I go a fishing,” and the others echoed, “We also go with thee.” The Lord’s followers were middle-class people, to whom the loss of a day’s income was serious. Rather than wait idly, Peter proposed that they resume their old occupation until Jesus came. We should show the same spirit. During the dark days of 1780, many people in Connecticut thought the end of the world had arrived, because the sun refused to shine. Candles were lit in broad daylight. The State’s lawmakers were in session at Hartford; and when it was proposed that the legislature adjourn, Colonel Davenport objected: “The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, then there is no cause for adjourning. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought.” Today, too, when the Lord’s second coming is closer than ever before, He does not want us to be fanatics who spurn our daily tasks. More than ever we must redeem the time and by honest work help ourselves and others.

When evening fell on the Sea of Galilee (fishing was best at night), seven disciples took their boat, perhaps the very craft in which some of them had been called to the Savior’s service, and sailed out on the lake to let down their net. A short time later they drew it in, only to find it filled with mud and weeds, but without a single fish. Once more the net was lowered; yet again—and this was unusual for Galilee—not one fish was caught. So the long night wore on in weary, exhausting toil; the seven men did not make one catch. Exhausted and discouraged, they felt they had labored in vain.

In their failures we find a picture of the disappointments which assail men’s hearts today. Many of you have slaved and saved, hoping to have money in reserve for a rainy day or for old age; but you have lost your funds through falsehood and fraud. Frequently a Christian worker, eager to secure a more responsible position, toils overtime and with unquestioned loyalty, only to learn that someone else through dishonesty or favoritism has received the advancement rightly his! Many of you parents in this audience have placed your hopes on a promising child. You toiled for it; you sacrificed for it; but death took it away; or your son grew up into manhood, married, and promptly forgot you; or your daughter brought you shame instead of honor. Now you are weary and worried, like the disciples after that long, fruitless night of labor. Some of you women have given your best years to help a weak husband. Through poverty and sickness you struggled at his side, yet now that he is wealthy and successful he has deserted you, run away with another woman. Unnumbered invalids in our audience have tried every recommended cure; yet they realize that they are losing their health. Even in our religious life the best efforts often seem to receive no reward. Not a few of you pastors have given your career to your congregation; yet because of neighborhood changes and other difficulties the membership is not increasing. You courageous men and women in the laity have repeatedly worked and pleaded for the conversion of your helpmate, parents, or children, only to see that they remain steeped in their unbelief. You try hard, you pray sincerely; but it seems that you have failed.

Is the mark of failure not written over our entire age? Is the whole world not toiling through a discouraging night? Do not tell me that we are making remarkable progress, for example, in aeronautics; that our planes can now fly to India in four and a half days; that American capital is planning seadromes in the Atlantic 800 miles apart, so that large numbers of passengers can cross the ocean in a day! Of what good is all this speed if ultimately it helps to kill people more quickly? Do not claim that medical science has recorded remarkable achievements in saving lives when increasing multitudes are mowed down on battlefields and the list of suicides constantly grows! Do not praise the progress of our colleges and universities when we have to fight two world wars in twenty-five years! Do not exalt our mechanical advancement when it is often directed to promote mass destruction, to make blockbusters that blast innocent noncombatants to pieces! How much true progress can there be in a system which rains bombs on schools and hospitals? We used to regard Babylonia and Assyria as among the cruelest of peoples because of the torture they inflicted on women and children. I doubt whether in their worst and most gory years those militarists along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers took as many innocent lives as this war will crush out. With hundreds of billions paid for purposes of killing, with millions of workers producing the weapons of death, with our own high officials concerned about the possibility of World War III, our age has indeed labored through a long, black night, and too often we have labored without reward. Tired and discouraged, many are asking, “What’s the use anyway?” Selfishly men try to drug themselves against this feeling of failure. If they still believe in a God, they charge Him with cruelty and favoritism.

II

WE CAN ALWAYS FIND STRENGTHENING COURAGE IN CHRIST

The disciples were not to remain discouraged, however, for Christ came to them there on the pebbly shores of Galilee. The Easter angel had promised that Jesus would meet them, and our Lord kept His word. His pledges never fail. Marriage vows, business agreements, financial obligations, international treaties, peace conferences—all these may prove deceptive; but you can rely fully on every syllable Jesus has uttered. Even His bitterest, bloodiest enemies have not been able to prove a single statement of His unreliable. Rather do we know that all the “promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him amen.” Therefore, when Jesus gives you this consolation, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you,” cling to His assurance and prepare to receive Him as your comforting Savior! When He declares, “All things are possible to him that believeth,” build your hope on the full, sweeping strength of these words! When He asserts, “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” then bow before Christ to receive His uplifting grace! You need not fear the punishment of sin, because His unbreakable Word promises that “whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” You need not be terrorized by the thought of sudden death, for does He not pledge, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”?

Note that Jesus came to Galilee to visit seven simple fishermen! How different His post-Easter appearances would be if men were to arrange them! They would put the resurrected Redeemer in the Temple, in Pilate’s and Herod’s palaces, before scholars in Athens and emperors in Rome. But our Lord is a Friend of the lowly and the laboring classes. Without fanfare and parade, as the first rosy hues of dawn began to streak the horizon, He suddenly stood on the shore. His followers were in a small, scaly, smelly fisher boat; yet to the Savior that was far better than the sanctimonious synagogues which had spurned Him.

Look more closely at the seven disciples who were honored by the Savior’s presence! Two of them were great sinners. Simon Peter had denied Him, and Thomas had doubted His resurrection; nevertheless both had confessed their transgressions, and the Lord had graciously welcomed them. Some of you have denied Christ. You have led blasphemous, brutal lives. Yet if you repent of your wrong, realize that your unforgiven iniquities are driving you away from heaven and into hell, besides causing unspeakable misery here on earth, and if then you penitently trust Christ as the all-sufficient Redeemer of your soul, no matter how deeply you may have fallen, how repeatedly you have sinned, how cruelly you have made others suffer, know that Jesus has forgiven you and will put peace into your heart.

Like Thomas, some of you have doubted. You want proof, you say. “Show me, and I will believe,” you demand. How unfair! Every day you unhesitatingly accept a hundred miraculous occurrences in your own body and the world about you; yet you question the intangible truths of the soul. Nevertheless, the Christ of endless compassion loves you, despite your doubts. He wants you for His own. He pleads with you even now to trust Him. What marvelous mercy!

Two of the other fishermen were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, the men who would have sent destruction on the Savior’s enemies. They were overzealous disciples who had to learn the lesson of love. Yet Jesus had a place for them among His earthly followers, just as He has room for you who are eager to throw yourselves into work for His kingdom.

Another of Christ’s followers there on green Galilee was Nathanael. We know little of him except that the Savior praised him for his simplicity and sincerity. He shows the calm and quiet Jesus often grants. You need not be a heavy sinner like Peter to experience the Savior’s grace. If God has kept you free from criminal acts, you owe Him double thanks.

Finally, two of the fishermen are unnamed. They may have been disciples in the wider sense, everyday, average people with no brilliance or achievement worthy of mention. Jesus has an important part in His realm for those whose names are never featured in the newspapers, yet who serve Him humbly, without recognition by men, just as many of you have given Christ the best you are and have without a syllable of public recognition and reward.

We should discover a blessed lesson also in the fact that the Savior came to His disciples on a workday—when they were busy at their daily task. Read the four Gospels, and you will look in vain for any passage in which Jesus demands that His followers approach Him on certain days or at specific places, only on Sunday or in church. The earth, the land, the sea, the air are His; He will draw near to you wherever you are, if your heart trustingly asks, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Mothers, you can meet the Savior in your kitchen or beside your baby’s bed. Fathers, Christ can be with you on your way to and from work, in the office, factory, or store. Airmen testify that the Lord accompanied them on high flights. Submarine commanders have felt His presence on the ocean floor. Soldiers have been converted in foxholes and baptized in trenches. No place is too remote, none too large or too small, to be blessed by the Son of God, provided He is not completely banished by sin and unbelief.

We read that when “Jesus stood on the shore . . . the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.” Perhaps they saw Him from too great a distance. Perhaps in the misty twilight of early dawn they could not recognize His form or features. Similarly in our times many who oppose the Redeemer behold Him only from far away, never face to face. They view Him in a haze of their own error, and consequently they do not find in Him the Savior of their souls.

Our Lord was not ready to depart without helping and comforting His disciples; so He called out in a commonplace question, “Children, have ye any meat?” or, as we would say, “Have you caught anything?” You see, Christ is personally concerned over the everyday affairs of His redeemed. He does not want His followers to hunger. The tragedy that in a warring world millions, notably in China, are again on the verge of starvation, that other millions in occupied countries exist on bare necessities, does not please Him. He has no delight in the hunger-pinched faces of babies, their rickety limbs, their piteous cries for food. He created a world with bounteous supplies, more than sufficient for all humanity; but selfishness, greed, disregard of His Word, have kept the necessary nourishment from masses of fellow men; and those responsible for these food shortages will not escape His judgment.

When the disciples shouted back across the water that they had caught nothing, Jesus, as always, was ready to answer with divine direction. Although it was morning and certainly not the best time for fishing, although His followers had worked all night without any results, He promised, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find!” The disciples obeyed, and they made a startling catch: 153 unusually large fishes.

The Savior who thus miraculously turned failure into success is the same Christ who provides for His own today. We ought to recognize clearly the decisive part He has in granting our country blessing and victory. America is not famine-proof; it has no charm against crop failure. If the Almighty would completely hold back His winds for one month, our agriculture would be doomed. If He loosed the fury of these same winds, our cities would be leveled. Guard against endorsing a mechanical philosophy which entirely eliminates the Lord! Every American family should humbly offer grace at meals and in Christ thank God, from whom all our national and individual blessings have flowed in unparalleled measure. Other countries have been swept by hunger; and we have no divine guarantee that our heavenly Father will continue to shower His supplies on us simply because we are Americans, if we receive our daily bread without thanksgiving.

How happy the disciples must have been when, having toiled through the dark night without any success, they drew in that record catch! So it is often in our life. After everything appears lost, God gives His surprising, surpassing benediction. This period of war indeed is a dark, destructive time for Christ’s Church. On our knees we ought to pray that out of these difficult days may come the light and power of a stronger faith.

A hundred and fifty years ago, when Europe was torn by the French Revolution, mighty Gospel-spreading movements had their beginning. Some of the first American missionaries left our shores in 1812, the year of our second struggle with Great Britain. Amid the hardships of World War II may God give us the courage to make far-reaching plans for the Savior’s kingdom! May He grant you, friends of this radio mission, the strength to believe that if we take God at His word, we shall be privileged, under His grace, to use this crusade for Christ, now broadcast in two dozen countries outside our own, as a mighty means of leading men all over the earth to their Redeemer! Scores of nations need our message. Vice President Wallace declared: “Nearly half the people of the world live in Eastern Asia. Seven eighths of them do not know how to read or write, but many of them listen to the radio, and they know that the world is on the move and are determined to move with it.” Should we not be determined that they are to move onward and upward with Jesus, and not downward and backward with atheistic Communism? Help us now, so that after the war we may reach in their own languages China’s 450,000,000, India’s 350,000,000, Russia’s 200,000,000! Supply us with means by which we can radio the Gospel to Africa, bring the Savior’s message into war-sick Europe!

After the disciples had made the miraculous draught, they must have remembered the day three years earlier when Jesus, calling them to be His followers, performed the same wonder. As they recalled this repeated marvel, they began to recognize their Lord. Today likewise, when people actually take the time to study the Savior as He is revealed in His Word, banishing their own ignorance, prejudice, error, and misunderstanding of His blessed work, they often recognize Him as their God and Redeemer. One of Europe’s famed legal leaders of the last century, Victor Strauss, also an authority on Chinese and Egyptian literature, graduating from law school, read the notorious The Life of Jesus, written by a man who bore his last name, David Strauss, the skeptic and infidel. Victor Strauss studied David Strauss’ blasphemous falsehood and was tempted to agree with him in part; yet, because he wanted to be objective, he examined the Bible itself. Being a thorough scholar, he enrolled for a complete theological course and learned even the Hebrew language—all in the attempt to discover the truth. As he immersed himself in the inspired record of God’s grace toward sinful men and met the Lord Jesus face to face, his doubt vanished. He gave up his skeptical opposition and clung to the Savior.

John Moser is still regarded by many as one of the most learned attorneys and judges in his day. During his youth he, as many others, read Voltaire’s scurrilous assaults on Scripture. His training had convinced him that both sides of a question should be heard; so he decided to scrutinize the Bible before accepting Voltaire’s slanderous attacks. The more diligently he studied, the clearer God’s plan of salvation grew. Soon he said of Christ, “Yes, Thou holy God, he that seeth Thee seeth the Father.” He recognized Jesus as the one Mediator between Heaven and earth.

All these instances of doubters and unbelievers finding the Savior by acquainting themselves with His works—like this incident on the Sea of Galilee, when the disciples realized that no one but He could perform such miracles—have a personal, direct appeal for every one of you who are outside the Church when you should be inside, questioning the Gospel when you should confess it. Neither I nor anyone else can argue you into Christianity. To acclaim Jesus your Savior, you need the Holy Spirit’s help, and this divine aid is given when you read the Bible and see what Christ has actually done. If some of you would throw off your prejudices, remove your ignorance, be convicted by the actual evidence of our Lord’s power; if you could take the time required to understand that the best in life today, the blessing of labor, the benefits of education and culture, the happiness from good government, the agitation against crime, the opposition to unjustified war, the impulse to true charity and love for our fellow men, all come not from schools and universities, not through laws and legislation, not by force and police measures, but from Christ; if you would see how He has changed history, above all, how in this moment He pleads that you accept Him as your Savior; if you would recognize how destructive and damning your sins are, but how endless and eternal His mercies—the scales would fall from your eyes and you, too, would find Him your risen Redeemer. God grant that you will be fair enough at least to read what the Bible says about Jesus! Start today and study the twenty-one chapters of Saint John’s Gospel! It will take little more than an hour to read them thoughtfully, prayerfully. Before you finish, you may be brought to Christ.

The first to recognize Jesus was Saint John, who in our text calls himself “that disciple whom Jesus loved.” Since that day those who loved the Lord have always been among the foremost to receive Him. Men of learning and letters who are not willing to confess themselves lost sinners and who feel no need for Christ’s atoning mercy, have a hard time to humble themselves and find the Savior. But simple folks, those who know what He paid to free them from hell and eternal death, find Him throughout the Bible.

When he saw Jesus, Saint John said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Only the Savior, he knew, could be powerful enough to perform such a stupendous miracle. Whenever we find anything good or helpful for our lives, we, too, should acknowledge “It is the Lord!” If you believe that your transgressions have been forgiven, that you are reconciled to your heavenly Father, then go back to Jesus and say: “‘It is the Lord!’ He has done all this, not I.” If you have been saved from accident, healed from sickness; if a child of yours that hovered near death has been restored, do not forget to recognize the Savior and declare thankfully, “‘It is the Lord!’ He helped us and not we ourselves,” When we envision peace—and may it not delay in coming, O God of grace!—then, discerning on the horizon of a better tomorrow the figure of Jesus, we should declare, “It is the Lord!” Above all, when in eternity we stand before the heavenly throne to worship Him whom angels adore, the mighty, magnificent Ruler of eternity—and, O God, grant every one of us this glory!—may we see Jesus and, joining in the celestial chorus, sing, “‘It is the Lord,’ our Lord and Savior!”

The reunion of the risen Redeemer with His Galilean disciples must have been unspeakably joyous. To them it was additional assurance that the crucified Christ lived and that He loved them. Every one of His post-Easter appearances should bring us added conviction that through our Savior’s triumph over the grave we, too, shall be blessed with resurrection after death, heavenly glory after earth’s suffering, a pure and painless, sure and stainless, true and endless heavenly life.

After the disciples had recognized Jesus, they started toward Him on the nearby shore. I pray God that some of you, seeing Christ in spirit, this day will also start toward your Savior. More than ever before, postponement is dangerous. Approach Him now! Peter, the leader of His fishermen followers, found the ship too slow in reaching Jesus; so he jumped into the sea and swam toward His Lord. May the Almighty give you that holy desire to draw near your Savior quickly, in these moments! Why lose a single second of the joy that can be yours, an unnecessary minute, a wasted hour, a neglected day without the Son of God? The faith He gives you is precious beyond price. Why hesitate and delay? O my beloved, in this decisive moment the risen Redeemer stands before you eager to assure you of your soul’s salvation. As you see His arms slowly raised in invitation to you, come to Him and cry out in the full joy of faith, “‘It is the Lord,’ my Jesus, my Christ, my God, and my Savior!” May the triune and almighty God grant you this blessing for your risen Redeemer’s sake! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: May 9, 1943

For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him; therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord.1 Samuel 1:27-28

O God, Thou Lord of Unlimited Love:

We praise Thee for our Christian parents, especially for the faith and devotion of our mothers who guarded and guided us from our earliest moments, taught us the truth of Thy marvelous mercy in Jesus, and constantly sacrificed themselves in our behalf. Graciously preserve them amid the dangers of this darkened day! Spare them all unnecessary burdens, and in each hour of their sorrow grant them the rich comfort of Thy Word! For the sake of Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising again, forgive us every thoughtless word or deliberate action whereby we have refused to obey our fathers and mothers, caused them to suffer, or brought them disgrace! Strengthen our family life, and by the power of Thy pure Word draw many households to Thee! Make our homes temples of Thy truth, in which parents and children gladly hear Thy Word and sing Thy praises! We plead constantly for our military youth, embattled on far-flung areas. Be Thou their Shield and Protection! May it be Thy will that they come back to us soon! O Lord of might and mercy, bless our country! Spread Thy Word with increasing power! Always be our God and Father through Jesus, in whose name we pray! Hear us for His sake! Amen!

FOR more than a half century the majestic statue “Liberty Enlightening the World” has towered over Bedloe’s Island, near the entrance to New York Harbor, as a symbol of the freedom we enjoy in this God-blessed nation. When Bartholdi, the sculptor, looked for a model whose form and features he could reproduce as “Liberty,” he received much contradictory counsel. A leading art authority advised him that the statue should depict “figures of thought which are grand in themselves.” After examining outstanding heroes, Bartholdi chose as model for the colossal masterpiece—his own mother.

How appropriate that motherhood is thus prominently connected with our national blessings! Take the influence of Christian mothers from the lives of eminent American leaders, and the very names of these men would have been forgotten, their monumental contributions to our freedom entirely lost. Remove from this country’s annals the New England mother who daily taught her children the Scriptures; exclude the pioneer mother who at her husband’s side and under heavy hardship established a frontier home; cut out from our past the immigrant mother who, with meager funds, but with intense loyalty to God and country, helped build the families responsible for much of our industrial prosperity, and you have wiped out the support on which, under the Almighty, much of our progress has rested. Every statue symbolizing American advance should somehow pay tribute to the mother’s part in building a better nation.

Similarly if we expect the United States to continue its forward, onward, upward march during the coming years, when the foundations may be shaken by tremors greater than we have yet felt, we must look—beyond our armies and navies, our courts and legislatures, our commerce and industry—to the Christian home—first of all to Christian fathers and, as we recall particularly this Sunday—to Christian mothers.

Yet the Christian mothers’ role is much more important than helping advance our country, glorious though this duty is. They have the sacred responsibility of building the home spiritually, helping to lead children to the Lord. In the Scripture for today (the first Book of Samuel, chapter one, verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight) we meet a faith-filled woman, who may well serve as example for every American mother. Therefore as I appeal:

MOTHERS OF AMERICA, TURN TO CHRIST!

I make the Scriptural basis for my plea these words centering in Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She says: “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him; therefore also have I lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord.”

I

GIVE HIM YOUR HEARTS!

Hannah was a grief-burdened woman. Although her husband loved her dearly, yet, as frequently in the Oriental world, he had another wife, and consequently the household was torn by strife. The misguided radicals who insist that because the war will supposedly create a large surplus of women, husbands should be permitted to take more than one wife do not know God’s Law or history. It is plainly written throughout the ages that whenever any man has spurned the all-wise Creator’s injunction, repeated by Christ Himself, and has refused to “cleave unto his wife,” sorrow and conflict have ensued. The divine ideal of marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman, for better or for worse, through health and through sickness, in riches and in poverty.

The source of Hannah’s deepest pain was the sorrow that God had not given her a child. In those early times women believed in having babies, and Hannah had prayed earnestly that the Lord would grant her this happiness—the very blessing which too many modern women despise. In our cruel, selfish day husbands and wives often plan to avoid parenthood. They flee from it as though it were a curse. They go to murderous ends in preventing their homes and lives from being enriched by one of the most beneficial gifts God Himself can grant. And the consequences? Too often: ruined health, wrecked happiness, broken homes, divorce trials, lost self-respect, a weakened nation, and disregard of God! Of all delusions which have brought American families misery few are more destructive than the rejection of the Almighty’s repeated command, “Be fruitful, and multiply!”

Hannah’s distress was increased by the fact that her country faced powerful enemies, the Philistines, who repeatedly swept down on Israel. Many of you understand her sorrow; for war always burdens women with heavy heartaches, and the present struggle may multiply their suffering unless God intervenes—as we pray that He will. While we plead, let us intercede for the mothers of our soldiers, especially of the prisoners, the wounded, the crippled, the dying, the dead; weeping, soul-crushed women, who, as they pay the heavy price for war, need Christ’s unfailing comfort.

Added to Hannah’s hardships was another heavy disappointment. She had hoped to find courage in God’s house; but when she bowed silently before the Lord in the Tabernacle, Eli, the high priest, thinking she was drunk, rebuked her. Some of you mothers have likewise failed to find comfort in your churches. A Wisconsin woman reports concerning her visit to a Modernist congregation: “While sitting in the pew, I had to overhear such fragments of conversation as: ‘I had a no-trump hand.’ ‘Yes, they’re almost bankrupt.’ ‘Who’s your dressmaker now, or are you buying your clothes ready made?’ When the sermon came, the text was taken from the Old Testament—the words, ‘David longed.’ Ah, I thought, he is going to give us a wonderful sermon. He will draw a comparison between the water of the well and the living water, and David’s thirst for it. Alas, I didn’t know Modernism. The preacher told about his own old home, the things his father did, how his mother wanted a veranda. Not once was Christ mentioned. The sermon referred to God two or three times, but the speaker showed by his manner that he expected God to be grateful for the fact that His name was mentioned. Those who attended the service received not the Bread of Life, but ashes.” A Canadian listener protests: “Unfortunately I am a member of a church which in former years was faithful to the Master, yet now has lost its first love. The pastor is so afraid of offending someone that he preaches on every topic but the crucified Savior.” A Montana mother complains that none of the ministers in her town preach the cross and blood. With the pulpit trying to answer almost any question except the most vital, “What must I do to be saved?” should we not be prepared for the tragedy that when some of you protested, like Hannah, you were falsely accused? Stick to your defense of the faith! Champion Christ even though you are called narrow and bigoted!

In all these sorrows, with trouble in her own soul, her home, her country, her church, what course did Hannah take? Did she surrender to despair and cry out, “What’s the use anyway?” Did she resort to fortune-tellers, abounding as they did in the unbelief of her day? Did she clench her fists and vow that she would smash her way through these difficulties without God? Did she try to drown her sorrows in drink or to laugh them off in one round of pleasure after the other? People try such follies today, but not Hannah! She turned to God. Her trust in the Lord, though severely tried, triumphed.

Every American mother should follow Hannah and rely on the Almighty. Not in feminism, Modernism, Communism, which destroy the interdependence of husband and wife, weaken the ties binding a mother to home, husband, and children; not in worldliness and the wanton rejection of God’s Law, can the women of this country find abiding help and building power. With Hannah they must go back to God, and that means back to Jesus. “American mothers, turn to Christ!” is the plea and promise of our distressed day.

No one has ever exalted motherhood as did our Lord. Recall women’s position in the ancient pagan world! They were offered as booby prizes for athletic contests in Greece. Women’s tombs were even marked with a muzzle, to show that wives should not speak; with a pair of reins, to show that they should be led or driven by their husband. A whip might have been added to those tombstone markings, for frequently the wife was hardly more than a slave. Plato, whose name is carved into the walls of many public libraries, taught that men should have their wives in common. Socrates, likewise held up before our youth as an example of exalted thought, preferred the company of loose, abandoned women to that of his own wife. In Rome a husband could discard his wife at his will; legally he held the power of life and death over her.

Into this reign of unspeakable misery, indescribable lust, came Christ; and through Him motherhood was elevated to its highest heights. He might have entered the world as one of His Prophets had left it, on a chariot of fire. He might have descended, as He later ascended, by a spectacular miracle of divine power. Instead He, the mighty God, was born of the Virgin Mary. What an honor to motherhood! During His boyhood years He obeyed her; and even in the agonies of His crucifixion He provided a home for her. He likewise offered merciful help to all mothers who approached Him. Outside the Nain city gates He met a weeping widow, and He resurrected her son. The mother-in-law of His disciple Peter lay sick, and He healed her. A Syrophoenician woman was distressed because an unclean spirit tortured her daughter, and Jesus compassionately healed the child.

Because the risen Christ has lost none of His divine interest, power, and comfort, we repeat the cry “American women, turn to Christ!” If in any of the homes reached by this message quarreling has supplanted quiet and hatred seems to banish love, we appeal, “Turn to Christ!” If you mothers are worried about your children, the boys on the battle front or the girls on the home front; if you are distressed by fears for their bodily or moral safety, turn to Christ! Do you sorrow under the same burden that weighted Hannah’s heart, because you have no child of your own—no chubby, dimple-cheeked baby to cuddle and caress? Turn to Christ! If you are tortured by conscience, oppressed by your sins, disturbed by the serious mistakes of the past, turn to Christ! Learn the first and greatest of His unnumbered blessings, that He has taken away your transgressions, placed them, with all their guilt, their penalty, their curse, on Himself, to make you stainless and spotless in the Almighty’s sight.

What a marvelous Redeemer Jesus is! During the past days we were moved by the heroism of Submarine Commander Howard Gilmore, who, as he lay mortally wounded on deck, signaled his men to submerge even though the command “Take her down!” was his own death warrant, since there was not time for him to be carried below to safety. Yet the Son of God died not for His country, not for His friends, but—here is the marvel of His mercy—He was crucified for His enemies, for everyone of us, who through our disobedience of God’s will had deserved eternal death.

The compassion of the Savior, who once refused to cast a stone on an abandoned woman, has not changed. His promise still reads, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” If you want this to be a true Mother’s Day, instead of just another holiday; if you want to be a God-pleasing, God-favored, God­blessed mother, then, before this day of grace draws to its close, take Hannah as your example, and turn to the Lord!

It is deeply tragic if a man with boisterous blasphemy denounces the Savior. How doubly shocking for a woman, with the finer qualities we expect in her, to defy the Almighty! How trebly appalling when a mother, under added divine blessing, rejects the Lord Jesus! One of the most disturbing signs in these distressed days is the fact that probably more American mothers than ever before are living without God, willfully spurning Christ’s mercy. Cocktail-drinking, card-crazed, pleasure-bent mothers see Sunday come and go without giving a thought to their soul’s salvation. Atheist organizations list mothers among their staunchest supporters. Some of the worst novels and plays have been written by mothers.—To prevent the spread of this national menace, the appeal must constantly be repeated and reemphasized, “American mothers, turn to Christ!”

Hannah also shows us how motherhood is to approach God. Year after year she went to the Lord’s Tabernacle at Shiloh; and what that sanctuary was to her the true churches of Christ are to us today. She lived a long distance from the Tabernacle; but spurning every suggestion of worshiping at a nearby Canaanite shrine, she regularly made the pilgrimage to God’s house. What marvelous blessing would come to our country if all our women were led by the same loyalty! Yet half of America’s mothers are not members of any church, and many of those enrolled on congregational rosters do not attend, even if they can walk or easily ride to worship. As long as millions of mothers keep their distance from God, this country has no assurance that the fullness of divine favor will continue to bless us. On the other hand, when women, following the examples of their Christian sisters who were the last at the cross and the first at the grave, eagerly dedicate themselves to the Lord’s work, they can help strengthen the foundation of our true prosperity. Mothers, because your trusting faith in Christ should be not only one of the nation’s greatest assets but, in addition, your own personal assurance of the Savior’s guidance on earth and of your salvation, I plead with you, join a true church! Attend it regularly, even though you may not be close to a Scripture-loving, Christ-exalting congregation and you have to save gasoline for the trip! Working with me and praying for you are thousands of Christian pastors, ready to travel many miles in bringing your home or community the same Gospel I preach. Will you not write us now, while the Spirit prompts you, and let us help instruct you and your family in the eternal truth of your redemption?

Hannah, however, did not restrict her zeal for the Lord to the yearly visits at Shiloh. Instead she constantly communed with God. Read the opening chapter of First Samuel, and you will see that hers was a prayer-filled life! You will find that she “poured out” her “soul before the Lord.” Her pleading with the Almighty was not the bare recitation of memorized prayers, not the mere saying of so many petitions. She put her whole spirit into every request that winged its way from her devoted heart to the Almighty’s throne. As we behold her prostrate before her God in the time of her country’s visitation, will you not agree that the appeal which leaps over the centuries to us asks, “Pray, American mothers, pray”? Who can describe the happiness which could dawn on our country if from coast to coast our women would regularly, repeatedly, bring before the Lord the needs of our land! In Colonial times praying mothers helped insure divine protection for our cause, and we gratefully acknowledge that in this crisis many women are on their knees pleading for peace.

Hannah’s prayer was answered. Though she waited year after year, finally, in God’s time, she received her long-desired son. Take comfort in her experience, you, the childless mothers of our country! If it be His will, the Lord can do the humanly impossible and grant you a baby of your own. If, however, His mercy has decided otherwise, you have the assurance that whenever your heavenly Father withholds anything from you, His compassion always foresees your good. Keep on praying, as Hannah did, even should it seem that God’s ears are closed to your entreaties! Her child was born at the right moment, and the help you need will arrive at precisely the proper time. Trusting, continued, undismayed prayer is your strongest hope.

II

GIVE HIM YOUR CHILDREN!

When her long-desired child was born, Hannah called him “Samuel,” which means, “the one asked of God.” She was not ashamed to proclaim her faith by naming the child in honor of the Almighty. Parents today will do well similarly to give their children reverent, Scriptural names in place of heathen, questionable designations. Last week the newspapers told us that a Buenos Aires judge fined local parents who had their two baby boys called “Zoroaster” and “Jupiter” and ordered these names changed. If Christians recognize that according to the Bible children are “an heritage of the Lord,” they require no court action to keep them from spurning all objectionable terms.

Hannah centered much of her attention on the child. She herself nursed it, cared for it, prayed for it. Her husband evidently was a man of wealth, and she could easily have placed it under a servant’s care. Nevertheless she said, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him.” She implied that the baby Samuel was a trust imposed on her by the Lord and that nothing would make her untrue to this charge. It cost her a good deal, we may be sure, to stay home and personally to tend to the child. She had to forego many social contacts and other pleasures; but how readily she made these sacrifices! What were all other enjoyments compared with the son who was an answer to prayer?

If only Hannah’s spirit would rest on all American women and they would discover that their place of prime importance is the home; their task of greatest responsibility the care of husband and children; their highest privilege bringing of happy, healthy boys and girls into the world and then watching prayerfully over their bodies and souls! However, many mothers—and I omit the fathers only because of this day’s special interest—find little time for their children. These war years increase the usual sins under which families suffer: the unfaithfulness of husband or wife; the evil of divorce, which robs the child of the parents’ care; the career­chasing of mothers who are not satisfied with simple, unapplauded home duties; the selfishness of wives who criminally avoid motherhood. In addition to these difficulties, heightened, as they are, under the laxity of war, American mothers are being coaxed away from their families into high-salaried positions. I have some startling figures for you. They are reliable, submitted to me by Frank X. Reller of the Saint Louis juvenile court, and show that in this city almost one third of all juvenile offenders under seventeen came from homes in which both father and mother were employed.
“But,” you say, “perhaps their mothers had to work. Perhaps these families could not exist without her extra salary.” What does Mr. Reller say? He answers, “In every one of these cases the father was employed with an adequate income to support his family without the necessity of the mother’s employment or her leaving the home.” Why, then, you ask, do these mothers work? Again, this juvenile court official explains, “They are actually sacrificing the welfare of their children for a few paltry dollars and a few items of luxury.”

You may be ready to denounce me for what I will now say; but I am certain that if you follow this advice, some day you will be ready to thank me: Mothers, unless your children have good care while you are away from home, give up your work now! Go back to your family! Pray God to show you how your children should be trained! Watch over them as the gift of the Lord’s love! You may lose a little money, but how rich you will be when your boys or girls—under parental direction—become stalwart Christians!

Do not imagine, however, that Hannah was a doting, selfishly ambitious mother who spoiled her child with overaffection, who thought only of his health or appearance, and who could laugh approvingly at his naughtiness. We have mothers like that today. They prepare their children for baby contests, but they never prepare them for the Lord. They besiege theatrical booking agencies, hoping to have their daughters selected for a motion-picture role; but you look in vain for them at church services. They teach their boys and girls ballroom dancing, but they never show them the inside of a Sunday school.

By contrast, see what Hannah did! She vowed that if in her advanced age God in His mercy would give her a baby, the child would become His servant. So when Samuel was young, she took him to Eli, the high priest at Shiloh, and said, “I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord.” “He is my only child,” she declared in effect; “but instead of keeping him with me, I now place him into the service of the Almighty.”

Mothers of America, have you brought your sons and daughters to God in Christ? Have you heard the Savior say, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God,” and then have you answered, “Here am ‘I and the children whom the Lord hath given me’”? Have you taught them Christ’s marvelous love? Did they learn their first prayers from your lips? Did they receive their earliest religious instruction nestled at your bosom? Have you Christian mothers insisted that time and place be set aside regularly and reverently for the family’s reading of God’s Word? Do you teach your boys and girls to kneel, morning and night, in prayer to the Savior? Have your children been baptized? Do you take them to Sunday school? Or, better still, do you appreciate the advantages of sound spiritual training offered by our Christian day schools? If you have; if on this Mother’s Day a glow of gratitude warms your heart because the Savior has blessed you and all your dear ones, none of whom has been lost, then we thank you and pay you tribute. God bless you in Christ! Your children will rise up to call you blessed.

I have invited to the broadcast this afternoon my own dear eighty-three-year-old mother, who is now at my side in this small studio. As she has meant indescribably much to me, so I see in her the type of Christian parent for whom thousands of us thank God today, the mother who gave us life, worked for us, sacrificed for us, prayed for us, brought Christ to us, and who always, in success and sorrow, was our comforting guide. Let us honor her faith and loyalty to Jesus in every way we can!

If your mother is a Christian, and if you have fallen from the faith, think of the anguish which must surge within her when she knows that you, without Christ, are lost, that in the great reunion after the resurrection you will not stand at her side! To remove this worry from her heart, to honor her by honoring your God, but, far above all this, to deliver your own soul from eternal death, I ask you: Come to the Lord Jesus today! Be reunited with your mother in the true faith! Bring back the happy times when you were bound together by devotion to the Savior! Make this the most radiant Mother’s Day in her life by writing, telephoning, or telegraphing her that you have returned to her Savior and yours!

If, however, some of you mothers must admit that you have not followed Hannah in giving your child to God; if, worrying about your children’s health, education, manners, you paid scant attention to their souls, then Mother’s Day has a meaningful message for you. It must be terrifying to know that you will have to stand before God in Judgment and admit that you never tried to lead your sons and daughters to the Lord, that your example of indifference tended to make them unconcerned about Christ and hostile to the Church. In dread warning Jesus tells His followers that it would be better for them to have a millstone hanged about their neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea than to give offense to a child. To avoid that shocking end, mothers of America, turn to Christ with your children now! Resolve on this day dedicated to you that you will dedicate yourself to the Redeemer! Write to that soldier lad of yours in far-off Africa, in the South Seas, or in the broad oceans and tell him that you have accepted the Lord Jesus, that you plead with him to join you in the faith! Make this Mother’s Day monumental in your home. If with your husband (and we are making a serious mistake by not commemorating equally the blessings and responsibilities of the Christian father, since in God’s plan he is the head of the family), if with your household, your heart is turned to Christ, you will also offer our beloved country the solid support it needs in the present crisis. Keep this in mind: had Hannah not turned to God with her whole soul and with her baby boy, the subsequent history of Israel, humanly speaking, might have been written in far darker lines. Her child became the man of the hour, through whom Israel’s victory was ultimately won. Behind Samuel was faithful, praying Hannah, just as behind those who, under divine direction, will help defend and save our country and its free institutions, are you, our Christian, consecrated mothers. If you fail, God help us! Follow Hannah in trusting the Lord and lending Him your children! Then you will secure mighty benedictions for yourselves, your Church, your family, your country. Mothers of America, turn to Christ! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: May 2, 1943

He said unto Him, O my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee. . . . And it came to pass the same night that the Lord said unto him, . . . Throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: and build an altar unto the Lord thy God!Judges 6:15-16, 25-26

God, Almighty and All-gracious:

Mercifully look down upon our war-torn homes, and as Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our risen Redeemer, after His Easter victory greeted His disciples, “Peace be unto you,” so may He now enter our homes to bring us pardon and joy through faith in His atoning death and life-giving resurrection! For His sake forgive us all selfish quarreling, lack of love, cruelty of unfaithfulness, every impurity of thought and action! Since Jesus is risen, may our families seek those things which are above! Send Thy comforting Spirit to households burdened by bereavement, war’s separation, or other heavy afflictions! Show Thy sustaining love and powerful protection, especially to the men and women of our armies and navies, who must now forego the happiness of family life! O God of all power, let the Savior soon repeat His resurrection greeting to a world of bloodshed, “Peace be unto you!” We ask these blessings for ourselves, our homes and nation in His saving name. Amen!

ASK the average citizen what our country’s strongest defense is, and he will answer, “Large armies, formidable navies, mighty air forces.” However, John J. Weeks, Secretary of War under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, and therefore intimately acquainted with military power, thought otherwise. He declared: “This great nation was founded on the little group of sturdy Christian homes that constituted the Plymouth Colony, and it is to the American home that America owes its greatness, not to its commerce, not to its mighty fleets or its victorious armies. We cannot weaken the influence and importance of the home without dangerously weakening the very foundation of the republic.”

Secretary Weeks was right. No country, not even the United States, is stronger than its families. Ancient Assyria boasted of large, victorious, empire-building armies. Yet that proud nation, with its haughty capital, Nineveh, was destroyed suddenly. Why? Because decent home life had disappeared! Men could take dozens of wives and abandon them at will. Children could be punished by having their hands and feet cut off. Happy, healthy domestic life had been wiped out. Roman regiments conquered the centers of civilization in Europe, Asia, Africa. Yet, despite veteran battalions and stolen wealth, the arrogant city on the Tiber fell before barbarian invaders. Why? Because morality had given way to hideous license! Wives could be exchanged, children sold into slavery. The family collapsed, and the Roman Empire collapsed. France, to recall the tragedy our own age has witnessed, took pride in the “impregnable” Maginot Line and in long-range artillery; yet the country that called itself undefeatable was brought to its knees within a few months. Why? Because its family life had become saturated with sin! According to the admission of its own leaders the French people practiced birth control and disregarded the sanctity of marriage.

We in the United States should heed these lessons from various ages and places, for no nation can ever be stronger than its homes. The breakdown of household morality in our country is a more serious menace than many a defeat by enemies. Our Government itself is so concerned about maintaining marriage morale during this crisis that Washington has instituted a National Family Week, starting today, during which also the churches are to help raise standards of purity and promote clean living. God knows we need every possible aid. The war is playing havoc with many homes, separating husband and wife, relocating entire households. Yet far more destructive is the wanton rule of sin. We hear much of trailer camps, crowded living conditions in defense areas. What we do not hear frequently enough, and what I am not permitted to mention in detail over the radio, since I am forbidden to use certain terms which the Bible employs, is the widespread disregard of marriage vows, the decline of domestic decency, the increase of sex crimes, which cry to the high heavens.

If we want to win this war on the family front as well as on the battle front, we must strengthen the family. How? During the months before us we shall read much about child clinics, counseling services to mothers, recreational projects for young people, improved playground facilities, public nurseries. As citizens we should support every civic program designed to assist parents and children during these turbulent times. As Christians, however, we know that far more is necessary than such external planning, attention to health, housing conditions, social contacts. Generally speaking: lawbreaking homes produce lawbreakers; criminals beget criminals; traitorous parents have traitorous children; from evil homes come evil offspring. However, Christian homes can give the nation Christian citizens with the righteousness which exalts America. Therefore not brains alone nor brawn, not money alone nor manpower; not strategy alone nor statesmanship; not patriotism alone nor personal sacrifice, can save and bless our country. Here is our assurance, the keynote for National Family Week, as for every week:

OUR COUNTRY NEEDS CHRISTIAN HOMES!

We find the guarantee for this truth in the inspired words of Scripture (the Book of Judges, chapter six, verses fifteen and following), where we read of Gideon: “He said unto Him, O my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee. . . . And it came to pass the same night that the Lord said unto him, . . . Throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath and cut down the grove that is by it, and build an altar unto the Lord, thy God!”

I

CHRISTLESS HOMES ARE WEAKENING THE NATION

Our text takes us back some 3,000 years, to a dark period in Hebrew history during the days of the judges. The Midianites, a cruel and fierce people, had invaded Israel, and for seven years God’s people had waged a losing battle against them. Agriculture, business, commerce, were disrupted. All this happened long ago; but we can understand some of the hardships the Israelites endured, since we have been engaged in the Second World War for almost a year and a half. Who today can see the end of the struggle? God alone finally grants peace or withholds it. Every Christian, remembering that millions of our young men daily face disaster and death, should fervently entreat the Lord of hosts to stop this slaughter soon. Are you praying for peace? God grant that you love your country and our fighting forces enough to humble yourself before the Almighty in Jesus’ name and plead for a quick conclusion to this conflict, with victory for righteousness and justice for all!

The Midianites’ invasion brought unspeakable hardship to Hebrew homes. Many of the Israelites had to seek refuge in caves and mountain strongholds. Treacherously the enemy destroyed farmlands, drove away flocks and herds, plundered and murdered throughout the land. War always works hardship. While we can never sufficiently thank heaven that our country has been spared bombing and blasting, American families have felt some impact of this world struggle. The draft has left many households without a husband or father. Perhaps the realization of the serious difficulties this often imposes made a New York draft board declare it would send no more fathers into battle until all other classes had been exhausted, and there was no shirking of responsibility by those without family ties.

The war has also taken many wives and mothers from the home. If this is the price we must pay for victory, we will thank every working wife for her self-sacrifice; yet we should face the facts and understand that no one can fill a mother’s place with her children. We like the attitude of a Milwaukee woman who only a few days ago wrote us: “I have often been censured because, now that there is plenty of money and jobs, I have not found work. But my heart keeps telling me, ‘Your place is at home; your family needs you there.’ If I work during the day, I shall be too tired to meet my family obligations. True, my financial standing would increase; but isn’t God able to give us whatever He wants us to have also if we serve Him at home? . . . If I had a job, I would never enjoy it, because my conscience would keep telling me that I am neglecting my family, and that is my first duty.”

Children suffer most under war’s stress. Their fathers frequently far away from home, their mothers employed, boys and girls are often sadly neglected. A Sheboygan, Wisconsin, newspaper last week told how a father and mother left their baby alone in an unheated, squalid room and went away to carouse. While they were drinking, and dancing, the baby died. City officials investigated and found that the child was a mass of sores, because it had not been bathed and changed for weeks. The room was littered with indescribable filth; the only furniture in it was a creaking baby carriage. Dirty pans with spoiled and frozen milk cluttered the floor. This unnatural mother admitted that she did not want the baby, because it interfered with her pleasure. Social workers and police authorities find a similar willful neglect of children increasing throughout the country. American parents in far larger numbers than most of you imagine practice prenatal murder, desert their children if they do have them, criminally neglect them or wish them dead in order to be free from the expense and inconvenience of their care.

The war has also increased the number of childless families throughout our country. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln predicted that long before our times the United States would have a population of 230,000,000. We total only slightly more than half that number now, largely because of the destructive practice of race suicide. People say, “Why should we have children when everything costs so much, life is uncertain, and postwar years will bring increased difficulties?” They forget that God Almighty has assured those who love Him that no child is born without the promise of His sustaining grace. Our age, however, does not like to hear about divine providence. Men, not God, control birth and death, according to popular delusion. As a result of this overbearing pride we witness broken health and broken homes. If, instead of permitting the birth rate to drop almost 60 percent within a century, our country had reached the population predicted by Lincoln, this war might never have been fought. What enemy would dare attack us if our manpower were twice as great as it is?

War and its artificial prosperity bring unmistakable moral looseness. Families closely welded during hardships may find their interests and affections separated during the lush days of easy money. When a husband and a wife both come home with large paychecks, a feeling of independence and personal power is easily created. Consequently the number of homes shattered by divorce and desertion is increasing at a shocking rate. Pleasure-mad couples—and how unnatural their craving for excitement seems when death takes its daily toll among our fighting men!—are crowding taverns, night clubs, places of disreputable entertainment, where the Christian ideals of purity and decency are completely cast aside. Sacrifice and self-denial are ridiculed. The other day I read that a German submarine captain explained how he sank one of our larger ships on a moonless night, when the vessel was completely darkened. He stated that a sailor on the merchantman’s deck had lit a cigarette; the match flare and the cigarette glow had caught the submarine lookout’s eye and revealed the ship’s presence. That sailor who broke the rules in refusing to deny himself “a smoke” was responsible for dozens of deaths and for the loss of vital war material. Similarly, because many husbands and wives are not ready to restrict their desires during these critical days, indiscretion often leads to unfaithfulness, to secret affairs, to the death of love and the complete crash of home happiness. The call of this hour is for increased loyalty. You wives whose husbands have been called to battle or to distant defense work, you husbands who daily face temptation which hell itself multiplies for you, ask God for the strength to be true and honest at all times!

Why, we may profitably ask, did God permit Israel to be overrun by the Midianites and their allies, the Amalekites? The Scriptures leave no doubt as to the answer, for we are told, “The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian.” That war was not an accident. God permitted vicious foes to overrun His people because they had forsaken Him. More richly endowed by divine mercy than any other people under heaven, Israel had forsaken Jehovah and built altars to heathen Baals.—Do not make the mistake of concluding that World War II is an accident, that we in the United States are suffering altogether innocently! America, large in territory, wide in influence, strong in power; America, rich in possessions, wealthy in vaulted gold, overflowing in prosperity; America, blessed above all other nations in her churches, schools, and homes; America, feasting despite rationing, while others starve; her shores untouched by war though other peoples’ are bombed and blasted, outwardly prosperous notwithstanding the horrors of bloodshed; America, the nation signally favored by God, should be close to the Almighty in Christ. America should be on her knees in sorrow over her sins and in supplication of divine mercy. Instead, millions are running away from the Lord. Do you know that the number of our countrymen who do not belong to any church whatever equals the total population of the twenty-seven States west of a line drawn along the Ohio River and south on the Mississippi? We call ourselves a Christian nation, but this is tradition, not present-day truth. Time was, in the early days of our Colonial life, when the fear of the Lord and the love of Jesus reigned throughout the land. That golden age is past, and with it have gone some preeminent glories.

Our education and our culture are steadily becoming more anti-Biblical. Souls are being prepared for hell on some American campuses. A few days ago a distracted father wrote me about his daughter, a student at the University of Wisconsin. From girlhood, he explained, she had been nurtured in the true faith; but since attending the university, she gradually became alienated from the Church. At the beginning of this Lenten season he urged her to attend services more regularly, and this reply rewarded his interest: “As for church, I have no use for it. . . . I cannot conceive of Jesus, a proletarian Carpenter, and His twelve disciples, sponsoring a society of cutthroat competition . . . and subhuman living conditions for the masses. . . . It’s no wonder Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. . ..  I am quite sure that I am no nearer damnation and hell fire. . . . If I am, then I prefer it.” That girl left home a believer, and unless the Holy Spirit intervenes, she will return a blasphemer. Christian parents of America, infidelity and atheism in the so-called higher circles will increase during the war and especially afterward. Before you send your children to college, safeguard their souls! Consider carefully the claims of Christian schools!

Do not make the mistake of concluding that this anti-Christian poison is administered only by colleges and universities! High schools tolerate outspoken blasphemers who systematically try to tear Christianity from their pupils’ hearts. Even some of our grammar schools, in utter disregard of the constitutional requirement forbidding the state to destroy religious beliefs, feature instruction plainly opposed to Christ’s creed. In Wisconsin, for example, children of the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades are often required to read books which, in dealing with the origin of the world, omit God entirely, put the age of the world at 2,000,000,000 years, if not more, and accept the whole evolutionary scheme. Is it any wonder that children taught they are only accidental creatures of chance, descendants of the lower animals, grow up eager to follow brute lusts, ready to reject their God?

Again, have our American families appreciated the divine blessings they enjoy in this land of unparalleled bounty? If I would ask you directly: “Are parents and children in your home consecrated to God? Do they know that they have been cleansed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, saved by His death on the cross, granted the hope of resurrection through His glorious Easter victory? Does your family read God’s precious Word, apply it to their needs, and proclaim their thanks for its mercy?” I am afraid that the answer in most of your families would be: “No! We have no time for Him who devoted His lifetime to us!”

How much of Christ is there—and now we come to the last line of American defense—in the churches, founded on our shores a century or more ago, to honor the Savior? While religious groups in Europe have been persecuted, the freedom of worship and of conscience which is ours is being abused, as unbelievers, Christ deniers, Bible opponents, seize control of denominations originally dedicated to Christ and the acceptance of His Word. It would be possible to produce a long list of American clergymen who use the Christian name but who question the Christian truth, reject the full inspiration of Scripture, deny the Savior’s virgin birth, His incarnation, His vicarious atonement, His resurrection, and His imminent return to judge the quick and the dead.

With American homes, schools, and churches too often forgetting Christ or denying His love; with atheist, Communist, infidel groups, increasing in number and size, need we search far afield for the cause of this war? We are paying for some of our rebellion against the Almighty. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked,” the Bible warns. We are reaping what our neglect of Christ, our disregard of the divine will, has sown. If you love America, if your patriotism means more than flag-waving and hurrah-shouting, then your course is clear. You must do everything you can by prayer and personal work to make your country contrite and repentant, to bring your fellow citizens to God, back to His grace if they have known Him but spurned Him, forward to the Redeemer’s eternal mercies if they have never realized what a marvelous Savior for life and death He is. Christians of America, there lies your path of duty. God grant you the courage to follow it!

II

CHRIST-FILLED HOMES CAN HELP SAVE THE NATION

You ask: “What can I do? I am only one among many millions. I have no money. I am no leader. I possess no authority.” That, essentially, is what Gideon said, and what the Lord refused to accept. When Gideon was summoned to rescue His people, he objected: “O my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” God’s grace often chooses the weak, the unnoticed, the poor, to execute His mighty purposes. I have always prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me the privilege of using this widespread radio mission for reaching some young people who will become earnest heralds of the Gospel, outstanding leaders of His Church, and guides of our nation. Though you are burdened by a feeling of inferiority, you can have the same promise the Lord gave Gideon, “Surely I will be with thee,” the pledge which will strengthen you to join the Apostle in his exclamation of triumph: “If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things!” I plead with you: Stop stifling the Spirit’s urging! Rather enlist in the Lord’s army! Give the Savior your time, energy, talents! Then you will receive from Him this promise for every pathway, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!”

What can you do? Every one of you can follow the first part of Gideon’s program to deliver his country. The Lord directed him to go—where? To the Tabernacle and win the priests for a secret uprising against the Midianites? To the scattered Israelite villages for a general mobilization? To the borders for an alliance with the Philistines? Nothing of all this! God sent him back to his father’s house. The rescue of Israel was to start with the home!

Similarly Scripture elsewhere emphasizes that the family circle is the center from which good and lasting influences must radiate. When Jehovah gave Israel the Law, He looked to the fathers and made them, not the priests or the Levites, responsible for teaching His Word to their children. The family was so important that if an Israelite married in wartime, he was to stay with his bride one year before entering military service, In God’s sight that new home was more important than a position on the battle front. St. Paul asked the women of his day to show their Christian faith not primarily in the churches; instead he wrote, “Learn first to show piety at home!” When the Lord Jesus Himself had cleansed one possessed of the devil, He told him, “Go,” not to the Temple, the high priest, the Pharisees; not to the crowded streets of Samaria or Jerusalem. “Go,” He said, “home to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee and hath had compassion on thee!”

Similarly every prospect of betterment for our country, every hope of blessing in the Church, should start—under God—with the family. Of what good are laws and social programs if the homes do not help supply the love of the good and true? What are we profited by the progress of our schools if parents do not help teach the hearts and souls of their children? Fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, of America, keep first things first! Do not try to improve your community until you have improved your own household! Do not enlist your services in helping others unless you have helped those nearest and dearest to you—your own family!

The task confronting Gideon was difficult. God had unmistakably instructed him, “Throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it!” Gideon’s ancestral acres were cursed with false religion. His father had turned from the Lord, built an altar to Baal, the false god of his pagan neighbors, and planted a“grove,” probably a symbol of heathendom, dedicated to a Canaanite goddess. All this evidence of idolatry was to be destroyed. It required courage to execute this command, but God was with Gideon. He broke Baal’s altar, cut down the idolatrous trees. The first step in Israel’s deliverance had been taken.

Likewise many of you will need courage to remove from your dwellings all evidences of unbelief and bring your family back to God; but the same Lord who strengthened Gideon will be with you. True, you do not worship Baal in your home; yet I ask you in all sincerity: “Do you bow down in spirit before the idols of wealth, security, pleasure? Are many of you not more concerned about money, clothing, appearance, an easy existence, than about the salvation of your soul?” For the sake of your country, your family, and your own deliverance from eternal death tear down these false altars, even though your parents, like Gideon’s father, or perhaps your children, your own sisters and brothers, may cling closely to their unbelief! Remove from your home everything that serves sin! Take down from your walls any pictures which cater to impurity! Empty your tables and mantles of any object that dishonors God or suggests sin! Clean your shelves of all vile books! In Chicago a seventeen-year-old lad who shot his high-school sweetheart in a theater admitted that the plan developed from reading lurid murder stories. That youthful killer warned: “Fellows my age should not read books like this. They raise our passions and give us ideas. Tell them not to make the same mistake I did!” Banish every dirty novel, every salacious magazine, as completely as you would destroy a poisonous viper! Break down the altars sin has erected in your mind through indecent amusement, immoral motion pictures, suggestive stage shows, attendance at public dance halls and disreputable taverns, places where Christians, as a separated people, certainly should not be seen and where the foundations of a firm, happy home life are systematically blasted away! God has given us so much of the lovely, beautiful, entertaining, that we can rejoice in many uplifting pleasures. If you refuse to break down the altars of sin, starting in your own family, you will not only experience trouble and turmoil in your household, where above all other places on earth you should find peace and blessing; you will not only invoke deceit, distrust, quarreling, the loss of respect and love, you will also imperil your immortal soul. For if you do not accept Jesus in your home, you lose all hope of having your family worship Him in eternity. The Savior, as the Son of God, warns, “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.”

Gideon’s back-to-God movement spread. I ask you in the Redeemer’s name to be on guard also outside your dwellings, to check those cunning destroyers of youthful morals who work secretly with high school boys and girls and openly with older young people. The courts in Detroit sentenced a spy to death. I do not question that verdict. I simply wonder, in comparison, how we can permit men who help destroy the minds, the morals, the very souls, of our young people to continue unpunished, and in many cases applauded.

Gideon did more than tear down. After he had demolished that idolatrous altar of Baal, he was told to “build an altar unto the Lord, thy God.” His father’s home from that time on was to be consecrated to Jehovah. We, too, must follow Gideon in dedicating our dwellings to the Most High, though we need no altar of wood and stone. The Son of God, on the central altar of all history, at sin-cursed Calvary, offered Himself as the one, only, ever valid Sacrifice for all sin, the full and finished Atonement of all our transgressions, the entire Removal of the curse on our iniquities, the complete Payment of our guilt. Since Jesus is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” we can come to Him directly.

Today, while the radiance of Easter, only a short week past, remains bright, we should believe that the crucified Savior lives to help us. We Christians worship no deceased God, no dead and disappointing Messiah. Resurrected from the grave, exalted to the glorious heights of His heavenly majesty, He intercedes for those who love Him and accept Him as their Redeemer; and in the miracle of His divine power He is ready to bring those who seek Him forgiveness for their transgressions, relief for their sorrows, guidance for their darkened hours, and always the promise of a resurrected body in life eternal. Pray with me that the Holy Spirit will remove any obstruction which would prevent you from accepting Christ and clinging to Him in penitent faith! Are you distressed by the weight of your wickedness? Hear this pledge that is yours through faith: “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He is the Propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”! His grace “is sufficient for thee,” as it was for Saint Paul, who called himself the chief of sinners. Are you heavily burdened by grief? Let Jesus share your afflictions! Recall that on Easter He came to His own disciples, distracted by His death, told them, “Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” and twice comforted them with the greeting, “Peace be unto you!” The same Jesus can speak peace to your troubled or bereaved soul. Give Him His way in your heart! The only barrier which can ever keep Christ from you, whoever you are, whatever your past life may have been, however dark and gloomy the future may seem, is your own refusal to believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified on Good Friday, risen on Easter, is your own Savior from sin, hell, and everlasting death.

I am persuaded that if, during these desperate war days, families from coast to coast would read and believe these words of the living Christ: “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent! Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father in His throne,” an age of inner peace and blessing, such as our country has never seen, could dawn. Therefore welcome Jesus into your household! While on earth He never refused to enter the lowliest homes, and today, in a much higher manner, He is ready to bring divine comfort and courage to every threshold afflicted by sudden grief, saddened by the anxieties of war.

Christians of America, ask for the faith to follow Gideon! Worship the Lord daily and joyfully in your family circle! Bring up your children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (and again I offer you the facilities of our Christian day schools)! Through Christ unite husband and wife, parents and children in mutual devotion, self-sacrifice, and growing love! Then, as you make Joshua’s ancient pledge, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” the resolution of your family trust, you will be front-line defenders of America, builders of better churches, more devoted followers of Christ. O Father, God of Gideon, O Jesus, Savior of our souls, O sacred Spirit, Sanctifier of our lives, bless our country, bless our homes, bless us with this triumphant faith! We ask it in Jesus’ precious name. Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: April 25, 1943

He preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection. . . . And said, . . . He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit, certain men clave unto him and believed.Acts 17:18 ff.

Jesus, Our Blessed Redeemer, Lord of Eternal Life:

Everlasting glory, unending praise be to Thee, since on the first Easter Day Thou didst defeat death, break the sealed tomb, and in the radiance of Thy resurrection promise all who accept Thy mercy that they, too, shall live with Thee! Oh, that we had the power fully to accept the magnificent comfort, courage, and conviction which is ours through immovable trust in the Easter assurance! If sin and doubt tend to make us question both Thy triumph over the grave and the resurrection of our own bodies, forgive our wavering weakness! Send us Thy Spirit to show us that the Easter victory is an assured reality, a divine truth which will remain unbroken though heaven and earth shall pass away! May the promise of the resurrection sustain the masses of bodily afflicted, mentally disturbed, spiritually distressed! Let all the heavy-laden know that the Savior lives and can help in every need! May the Easter message touch the hearts and lives of the nations defenders wherever they are, help them believe in the living, atoning Christ, battle against sin, and seek those things which are above! Humbly we ask: Make this the last wartime Easter! Let many be brought to faith in the crucified but resurrected Redeemer, find God’s peace for themselves, and become peacemakers in a world of war and woe! Hear us, then, O Christ, our ever-living God and Savior, and grant us all the Easter assurance, blessing, and victory! We ask it, acknowledging Thy power and believing Thy promise. Amen.

LAST year Easter came to Bataan Peninsula shortly before our troops were forced to surrender. In the diary of a brave nurse who continued her mission of mercy among the wounded and dying there, we find this entry: “The extent of my new Easter outfit is a pair of G.I. shoelaces.” Keep that nurse’s self-sacrifice in mind today if you are tempted to complain that you cannot buy nylon! That courageous young woman could thank God for shoe strings; yet you are troubled because you may have only three pairs of shoes a year. Her diary continues: “Easter! Easter! We attended the sunrise service and tried to get the Easter feeling; but after a sleepless night that was hard. The Japs shelled us so close! . . . Our hospital is full to the overflowing.”

Not a few Americans likewise greeted the anniversary of our Savior’s resurrection convinced that it would be hard “to get the Easter feeling” this year. The shadows of the grim struggle cover many hearts and homes. This is the second wartime Easter, you say; how many more will there be? When people hear Washington warnings that the conflict will not stop soon, they survey all the destruction, the toll of human lives, the mutilation of bodies, the loss of reason, and in a war-minded world they, too, find little cause for rejoicing even on Easter. Thousands of parents have not seen their sons for long weeks. Some of you have not heard from your soldier lad for months and the fear constantly fighting its way into your heart suggests, “Perhaps he is dead.” That suspicion has become dread certainty for many. Your boy lies buried on Corregidor, the Solomons, the Aleutians, in Tunisia’s blood-stained fields, or on some more distant battle front.

Easter has dawned especially for you. It has been long in coming this year, and for most of us it will never come as late again; but it has been worth waiting for, since it offers even the heaviest-burdened the happiest blessings. Recall what the first Easter did to the disciples! After Good Friday, when their Lord was crucified and quietly laid into the rock-hewn grave, they had surrendered to despair and crept into secret hiding places. Yet when they beheld their risen Redeemer, we read, “then were the disciples glad.” God grant every one of you that gladness! Today is the festival of freedom from fear, the day which marks the defeat of death, the bestowal of comfort and courage, the pledge of assured salvation, the promise of eternal life. May the Holy Spirit help every one of you turn your thoughts from yourself, your worries, griefs, bereavements, from your sinful desires, unbelief, rejection of the Redeemer, and hear the evangel of resurrection and rejoicing:

CHRIST LIVES—AND WE SHALL LIVE!

This is the double assurance of our Easter text (the Book of Acts, chapter seventeen, verse eighteen and following): “He preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection. . . . And said, . . . He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit, certain men clave unto him and believed.”

I

JESUS TRULY LIVES

These are the words of Saint Paul, spoken in a most thrilling scene of early church history. The Apostle, moved by a burning zeal to proclaim the message of the crucified and resurrected Redeemer, had crossed into Europe and boldly made his way to Athens, the intellectual center of the world in his day. He had hardly begun to preach Christ in that city of scholars, when he was invited to speak on Mars’ Hill, with its open forum, where learned leaders set forth their theories. Not for an instant did Saint Paul hesitate to accept that invitation, nor was he ashamed to present the simple Gospel before those highly applauded philosophers. Listen to him, as he preaches sin and grace on that historic spot! Not a syllable of compromise nor a word of apology for his message, only the clarion-clear loyalty to his Lord!

God give American churches a larger measure of Saint Paul’s Gospel-preaching spirit! We are living in a perishing world. A billion and a half of our brothers in the flesh have not accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. Our commission is to “preach the Gospel to every creature”; yet how readily we hold back the men and means required for the evangelization of the world! Thank God for the radio’s reach! It may be the last and most powerful means the Almighty will give us for the spread of His saving Word. With the Spirit’s blessing and your support we can now broadcast throughout the year; let us on this day of Christ’s resurrection resolve that, God helping us, we will broadcast throughout the world! In the name of Him whose Easter command is, “Go! . . . tell! . . .” I ask your sustained interest in this mighty mission of the air. May it be said, when the history of these somber and sickening years is written, that out of war’s chaos, confusion, and killing came a globe-encircling radio mission, employing every available and suitable station on earth to preach this mercy, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Your prayers, zeal, testimony, gifts, by divine grace, can span oceans as well as continents and help fulfill Isaiah’s ancient promise, “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

Likewise the churches should follow Saint Paul in testifying courageously before the high and mighty, the learned and intellectuals, of our day. We ought to emblazon in every congregation and on each heart the Apostle’s allegiance to his Lord, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” Do not be distracted when you hear skeptical teachers declare that science, modern advance, present-day culture, have disproved Christianity! Do not worry when infidels assert that anyone who follows Jesus must have a childish, blind, superstitious mentality! You cannot trace the history of science and the mental rise of the race without realizing that Christians, humble and sincere before God, yet often exalted before men, have been the prime movers in human progress, the leaders in startling scientific development. God give us men and women of faith and learning, who will speak of redemption to our high school and college students!

When Saint Paul stood on Mars’ Hill, surrounded by the brilliant minds of Athens, what was his message? What was his theme whenever he spoke? You should know the Apostle well enough to answer, “The crucified and resurrected Christ!” Our text sums it up in the words, “He preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection.”

That emphasis on the Savior’s Easter victory was the climax of his plea, and I ask you to note that the great Apostle preached that truth. He did not argue or debate it. It would have been easier for him to question his own existence than to doubt the resurrection reality. You and I similarly need not merely an Easter hope, an Easter speculation, but an Easter assurance; not the thought that Jesus may be risen from the dead, the concession that He could have risen, the theory that He should have risen, but the personal, iron-clad conviction that He did rise from the dead.

Thank God, we have this positive, certified, guaranteed confidence! David’s ancient psalm prophesied that Christ would not “see corruption.” The sinless Savior Himself repeatedly predicted the resurrection; the simple history of the four Gospels recorded His Easter victory four times, and the Epistles many times. We accept as true statements made only once and by a single secular author in that first century. How much more ready we should be to receive the corroborated testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and others! In some famous legal trials you will find that the judge or the jury arrived at the verdict on the basis of testimony given by two or three witnesses; yet the New Testament summons more than 500 direct eyewitnesses of our Lord’s resurrection. If men have been sentenced to death through the evidence submitted by only one witness, should we not believe that Jesus burst the bonds of the grave when we have at least those 500 men and women who saw Him, talked with Him, and walked with Him?

Even His bitterest foes have not been able to explain the open sepulcher. They can hardly believe their own strained excuses for the empty tomb: the claim that the disciples stole the Savior’s body, that His enemies removed it, that Jesus, only apparently dead, was revived in the cool of the grave. One need only mention these trumped-up theories to recognize how utterly absurd they are.

Look at the headstones in any American cemetery, and you will find them inscribed with the names of the persons buried and often with the date of birth and death. Even in our national burial grounds, where hundreds of unidentified soldiers have been laid to rest, their epitaphs read, “Here lies an unknown Soldier.” No such record was ever carved into the tomb of our triumphant Savior, saying, “Here lies Jesus of Nazareth.” The open grave, the rolled-away stone, the broken seal, the empty shrouds, all testify, “He is not here; He is risen.”

If some misguided enemy of God asserts that no great thinker accepts the story of Christ’s resurrection, then answer by pointing to such men as Professor F.W.H. Myers, a respected teacher at Trinity College, England, a pioneer in psychical research, an author of impressive volumes. He was convinced of the Easter truth and boldly predicted that within one hundred years all reasonable men would believe Jesus’ triumph over death.

Those nearest to that first Easter never doubted its truth. When an early Christian met his brother in the faith, he gave him this greeting, “Christ is risen!” and he received this response, “He is risen indeed!” Let that be our mutual greeting now across the country, friends of our radio mission! When in a moment I say to you, “Christ is risen!” will you not, every one of you, confessing your reliance on His resurrection, reply in exultant conviction, “He is risen indeed!” I cannot hear you, but God can. Come then, and let your answer ring out loud and clear: “Christ is risen!”

God bless you for that testimony! May His Holy Spirit impress directly into your heart the glorious assurance which is ours when we know that Jesus, our crucified Redeemer, lives and reigns to all eternity! The resurrection proves Him the Son of God, for only the Almighty Himself has power over death. The Savior’s rising on the third day demonstrates that His Word is true. He keeps His promise; you can rely on Him. His radiant rising from the grave shows that His self-sacrifice for our sins was completed. As Saint Paul declares, “He ‘was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.’” He is the perfect, accepted Atonement of all who trust in Him. Had He remained in the grave, His mission would have failed. His death would have been in vain. His blood would have had no more value than yours and mine. His cross would have been a mistake. But because neither the linen burial sheets nor the new rock-hewn sepulcher nor the seal of Pontius Pilate nor the soldier guard nor the cold paralysis of death could lock Him, the Lord of life, in the tomb, we can sing:

He lives triumphant from the grave,

He lives eternally to save,

He lives all glorious in the sky,

He lives exalted there on high.

He lives to bless me with His love,

He lives to plead for me above,

He lives my hungry soul to feed,

He lives to help in time of need.

Samuel Medley, who wrote these lines, was a sailor in the British Navy. He had led a sinful and sensual life. Seriously wounded in a battle with the French, he was sent to his grandfather’s home. Gradually, as he read the Scriptures there, his eyes were opened to his own guilt and to the Savior’s grace. He soon became a Christian. Perhaps God has sent this Easter message to some of you men in the United States Navy asking you to come humbly and contritely to Jesus and with full trust in His life-subduing death and His death-defeating life. Samuel Medley later entered the ministry and worked especially among sailors. He was unusually successful; yet he always retained his simple faith. When his last hour came, he was heard to say: “I am a poor, shattered bark, just about to gain a blissful harbor. And, oh, how sweet will be the port after the storm! Dying is sweet, sweet work. My heavenly Father, I am looking up to my Christ, Jesus, my God, my Portion, my All in all.” Fellow-redeemed, sailors and soldiers, civilians and defense workers, Americans and Canadians, everyone: the risen Lord today offers you the same promise of pardon and peace. Don’t refuse it! God grant that the Holy Spirit will make Easter a day of redemption, of rebirth, for you!

II

WE, TOO, SHALL TRULY LIVE

Above all these Easter pledges, those who are Christ’s have the promise of personal resurrection in heavenly glory. As Paul on Mars’ Hill preached both “Jesus and the resurrection” and told his hearers, God “hath given assurance to all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead,” so I tell you: Since Christ lives, we, too, can live through Him. The radio is a marvelous means of bringing good news. How we thrill over the reports of victories won by our troops! With what unbounded joy will we greet the message flashed throughout the world that peace, glorious peace, has been declared! O Father, may it not be long in coming! Yet no broadcast can ever have the personal and eternal blessing for you which faith can find in the Savior’s promise, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Here is God’s answer to the perplexing question asked by many of you Christian parents whose sons are buried in remote lands. Here is comfort for you believers who, having laid your dear ones to rest, wonder: “Will we ever see them again? Is this the absolute end? What lies beyond the grave?”

Only the risen Redeemer can answer these questions, for He is our all-knowing God, and He Himself has passed from death to life. Turn away from Him, and you find only denial, ignorance, misunderstanding. Ask the bold, defiant unbeliever, “Is there a life to come?” and he will answer: “Positively no! Death ends everything! Why not enjoy life, even its forbidden fruit, to the fullest? Away with restraint! Down with law and order! Live lustily!” That is the destructive consequence of atheism.

Ask the agnostic, “Shall we live again?” and he will reply: “I don’t know and nobody knows!” When Robert Ingersoll wrote on immortality, he could only say, “I will leave the dead where nature leaves them.” What comfort will you find in that, my aged friends, who know that you cannot be many years distant from the grave?

Ask the scientist, and often he will declare, “I have no answer.” Professor Arthur H. Compton, Nobel Prize winner, admitted before a Yale audience, “Science does not supply us with a definite answer to the question, ‘Does death end all?’”—How can you, the sick, the wounded, the dying, find relief and hope in such question marks?

Ask the philosopher, and frequently he will dream of a possible, vague, misty existence. He may agree with Sir Alfred Falconer, president of the University of Toronto, who told a Harvard meeting: “It is reasonable to hope that there is a return . . . of those who have been known to pursue goodness, to love their fellows and all things pure and beautiful.” What we need, however, is the assurance of a future blessing for those who have been known, not as the good, the kind, the pure, but for those, all of us, who “have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Ask the Modernist to unveil the mystery of life after death, and he will say (I quote the very words of a widely heralded New York liberal), “I believe in the persistence of personality through death.” What does that mean? Try to console bereaved friends with the promise of “persistence of personality”!

Ask 200,000 Hindus and the swami representatives in the United States, “What lies beyond the grave?” and they will reply, “Reincarnation,” and claim that after death men return to earth in a higher form or often in a lower form, even as a dog or a rat. Do you want to be burdened by such fear?

Ask the spiritist, and he will say, “Certainly men live on after they die, but only as vague, undefined spirits who may be brought back by mediums.” They never come back. For more than ten years Mrs. Houdini, widow of the well-known magician, tried to establish contact with his spirit, but failed. Spiritism is a fraud.

Now let Jesus reply to these questions concerning the life to come, and you have assurance, God’s own answer, heavenly truth, a divine guarantee, sealed by the Savior’s crucifixion and resurrection! First of all He who can never make a mistake teaches us that the grave’s decay and silence is not the end. His unfailing Word has pledged us a new existence, “This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.”

Then, His truth assures us that our bodies will be resurrected. Clearly the Apostle writes in those faith-sustaining words of the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians: “The Christian’s body ‘is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. . . . It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.’” According to clear Scriptural teachings the believer’s life beyond the grave is not a shadowy, hazy being, unknown and unknowable, in a dim atmosphere filled with floating, unrecognizable spirits, but a heavenly life in which our forms and features are restored.

When we are recreated in that resurrection, we shall live in the splendor of Paradise. Therefore, our bodies will be radiantly perfect with no spots and blemishes, no wounds and scars, no lost limbs and dulled senses, no weakness and ravage of disease. Instead, beauty, power, perfection!

In the eternal Easter we shall recognize all our beloved ones who have died in the Lord. What a glorious reunion that will be! What a happy homecoming to husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, sister or brother, all who have remained “faithful unto death,” the great company of Christian leaders, the Apostles and Prophets of God!

In the most marvelous of heavenly privileges the resurrection of the body will bring us face to face with Jesus. Those who believe will be permitted to behold their Savior, to worship Him who died and rose again for their salvation, to sing celestial hallelujahs to Him. Even more: the immeasurable mercy of God—and I defy any unbeliever in this audience to adduce one promise from any religion, however false, that even bears comparison with this—gives us the incomparable assurance that in the resurrection we, the redeemed, are to be like Jesus. Here is the Scriptural guarantee: Saint John writes, “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”

All this indescribable glory, too marvelous for human understanding, too radiant for written record, is to be endless in heaven. No more partings and farewells, no more separation and loneliness, no more disease and death! There, the Apostle pledges, we “shall be EVER with the Lord”; and he adds, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Indeed, what immeasurable consolation Easter affords! With all the celestial splendor awaiting every disciple of our Lord, we should not weep too much at funerals, as though we had no hope, as though every Christian death were not the entrance into bliss unspeakable. Oh, that we could so completely overcome our weakness that, when God calls one of His children home, we would thank Him for bringing His redeemed to glory, where there is no more war and wickedness, no more sin, pain, and sorrow—only endless joy!

If life bears down too hard on you; if you endure injustice and unrighteousness; if you are persecuted for His name’s sake in your home, the burden of your cross will be lightened when you look beyond the distress each new day brings, to the assurance that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Don’t let your Easter rejoicing be dimmed by the fact that men oppose or deny your bodily resurrection! On Mars’ Hill, Saint Paul had three classes of hearers. Of the first our text says, “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.” That ridicule has continued until today. It is impossible, they tell us, that our dust and ashes can be restored and revivified. Who can say that anything is too hard for God? If He created our bodies on the earth, cannot He recreate them in heaven? Saint Paul, preaching the resurrection before King Agrippa, told his royal audience, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?” Why should it be altogether unreasonable, we repeat, that the Lord of life should resurrect our crumbling remains? Part of your present body comes from the earth, even from various remote areas. The cereal you ate this morning, and which builds your physical energy, may have been grown in the soil of Minnesota, Kansas, Georgia, or many other places. The sugar you used may have been the product of a Cuban or Puerto Rican plantation. The coffee you drank came from Central America or Brazil, the tea from India or Ceylon. The vegetables and the fruit for your dinner may have ripened in California, Texas, or Florida. Now, if the Almighty has gathered from the soil of a hundred different locations the material with which your body is built and strengthened, why limit His omnipotence and say that He cannot gather from the good earth of our cemeteries the seed from which our spiritual bodies are to spring?

Happily, Easter falls in life-giving springtime, when all over the earth men see billions of instances in which God produces marvelous beauty from decay. A seed is sown into the ground; it loses its shape and form to become an unsightly, smelly substance. Yet from that decayed seed ultimately comes a flower of surpassing loveliness. If we see this transformation in the ordinary course of nature, what far greater miracles can divine love accomplish in the majesty of the resurrection?

Do not follow those mocking atheists on Mars’ Hill! Ask God for the strength to remove every obstacle that will prevent you from coming to Christ! For many years large, jutting rocks at Hell’s Gate in New York harbor proved a menace to shipping. They had to be removed, and they were blasted away by dynamite. The stone of your unbelief, still placed before the Savior’s grave, must also be rolled away if you are to escape the terrors of the real hell’s gate. For the safety of your soul and your entire Christian life you must know, as Saint Paul reminds us, “the POWER of His resurrection.” The Greek word which Saint Paul uses for “power” and the English word “dynamite” are closely related. If you want a powerful dynamic Christian faith with which to destroy the barriers between God and you, take The New Testament, the initials of which form the symbol of TNT, one of the most powerful explosives known today.

The second class of Saint Paul’s hearers on Mars’ Hill were those who said, “We will hear thee again of this matter.” They postponed their decision and deferred accepting Christ. Are you one of these? Some years ago Charles Biedinger, a Cincinnati inventor, was found dead in a lodging house. He had been almost destitute and was last employed as a dishwasher in a restaurant. In reality he was rich; but a court verdict awarding him more than $100,000 was delayed for years. The money came too late to do him any good. You can be spiritually rich with the Easter promise, yet remain impoverished because you postpone and delay. You hear this appeal for repentance and faith in Christ. The Spirit urges you to get right with your God now, to join a true Christian church. Nevertheless you say: “Tomorrow! Next week! I will listen again next Sunday!” How do you know that you will? The average age of Americans today is sixty-two and one half years. Many of you are ten, twenty, even thirty years older; still, you have not made peace with your God. For you younger folks, especially for the men in the armed forces, these questions of the grave, the Judgment, and eternity come with particular force. Remember “now,” not next month or next year, “Is the accepted time.” You can spurn this grace once too often. Our text records, “Paul departed from among them.” “We will hear thee again,” the Athenians said; but Saint Paul went away. Most of them never saw him again. Will this be your last Easter, the last Christian broadcast you will hear?

The third class in the Apostle’s audience consisted of those who “clave unto him and believed.” There on Mars’ Hill God’s Spirit touched their heart, and they were saved. As Easter Day in the ancient Church was the time when converts confessed their faith, so may this Easter, too, be a day of decision for the Lord Jesus Christ! All those converted hearers at Athens did was to believe; all you, likewise, must do is to build your “hope on nothing less than Jesus’ blood” and the righteousness His resurrection bestows. Then by faith, through grace, you are saved now and eternally. With that trust you can survey all the sorrows of life and still rejoice.

The captain of a transatlantic liner tells us that years ago one of his passengers was Jenny Lind, the Christian young woman who dedicated the talents of her beautiful voice to the Lord Jesus. One morning she arose early and, standing on the bridge, saw the sun rise out of the trackless ocean. That radiance of daybreak awoke within her heart thoughts of eternity, and she began to sing from Handel’s Messiah the unforgettable passage beginning, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” and ending, “I, too, shall live.” If from the height of your Christian faith you greet each new day with the song of Easter triumph, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” you can end all life’s days with the Christ-centered confidence, “I, too, shall live.” “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.