Date: March 6, 1938

Supplication for Christ’s Presence in the Home

Blessed Savior:

Our hearts are raised thankfully to Thee for the love with which Thou hast blessed the Christian homes of our land. On the way to Thy bitter sufferings on Calvary Thou didst tarry to bring salvation into the home of a sinner; on the night of Thy betrayal Thou didst ask for a guest-chamber in one of the Judean homes; nailed to the cross, Thou didst provide a home for Thy bereft mother. Graciously behold us, with the joys and sorrows of our family circles; come into our homes with Thy redeeming, sin-removing presence, Thy strengthening, purifying love, Thine everlasting, death-destroying hope, so that with Thee, as the divine Guest, even in the poorest, smallest home and in the hearts of the homeless, parents and children may find pardon for their sins, peace with the Father and the promise of the eternal home in heaven. Unfold to us that heavenly wisdom and prudence by which we make time and find occasion to commune with Thee daily in Thy Word and in fervent family prayer! Endow us with that reverent obedience which constantly seeks to meet Thy will in our family relations and by Thy Spirit to live with Thee and for Thee in our hearts and homes! Come, then, Lord Jesus, be our Guest! Bless us and abide with us now and forever! Amen.

The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber?Luke 22:11

HOW suddenly disaster can overtake our homes! Last Sunday no one in Southern California anticipated how swift destruction could sweep from the Sierra Madre Mountains down upon the coastal cities. Five days of heavy downpour filled the ravines with swirling waters; dry river beds became roaring torrents, and as these walls of water crashed their way to the sea, bridges, highways, buildings, were carried away in the swath of ruin that made many an eyewitness think of the end of all things. Crowds stood by helplessly as their dwellings broke and toppled into the worst flood which that garden spot has known in sixty years. Among the houses left standing, hundreds were found to be uninhabitable. Conservative estimates place the number of homeless at no fewer than ten thousand, the damages to homeowners at more than ten million.

That was havoc concentrated into a few hours’ time, restricted to a relatively small area; and as we express our sympathy to those who have thus suffered disheartening losses, we know that in the wake of this water-soaked ruin rebuilding operations will soon remove the scars of destruction. More serious family disaster, that leaves an irremovable mark, home collapse, that can never be rebuilt, is an everyday tragedy throughout the nation. Cold figures tell us that, if the last seven days were an average week, about five thousand American homes were shattered by divorce. One million American homes, approximately, were blighted by acute pain, lingering sickness, the loss of sight and limb, the flickering flame of age. Two million and more homes were destitute of any income except Federal or local relief, as meager as this often is. Eight million underprivileged families have lived through another scant week, while twenty-seven thousand American homes were overshadowed by that final and deepest sorrow, death. Yet no research can give us the appalling total of the homes that mask to the world their heart anguish and misery, the homes where marital dishonesty is exiling the last remnants of love; where pride and selfishness are making husband and wife hate each other; where drunkenness and debauch, lying and cursing, are turning dreams of happiness into a nightmare of regrets; homes where thankless children are robbing their parents of their peace, bringing them into premature graves; families that are defiled by rebellion against God, contempt for Christ and His Bible. These homes cannot be restored by flood relief, reconstructed according to blueprints, rebuilt with Federal aid.

For strength in these sorrows that follow sin; for help in the sudden afflictions that can befall any family even in the moment of its highest happiness; for an antidote against lust, blind passion, selfishness, we must have, not uniform marriage and divorce laws, not enlarged social service and increased staffs of case-workers, not new ideas in child-training and new programs for home management, not charm courses and personality instruction, not merely an understanding of the budget nor education in the problems of the homes; before and beyond all this we must have the pardoning, cleansing, strengthening, purifying presence of Christ. Not to be misunderstood or have the force of my assertion weakened, I repeat: For better, happier, stronger, purer homes, which will be the forecast and foretaste of the heavenly mansions, we need Jesus, our divine, eternal Christ, our Savior, Redeemer, and Ransom from sin.

Now, it is the undeserved mercy of Jesus that He seeks entrance into your household and eagerly awaits your invitation, by His presence to bless every family from the East to the West joined in the far-flung reaches of our Sunday worship. As I now put before you individually that question which Jesus asked at the beginning of His Lenten suffering in the words “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber?” (Saint Luke 22:11), will you not answer—and I ask you now to repeat this response aloud with me:

“COME, LORD JESUS, BE OUR GUEST”

and welcome Him with His immeasurable blessings to your hearthside?

I

WE NEED THE LORD JESUS AS OUR GUEST

It was on Thursday, the last full day of the Savior’s life, that this memorable question was asked, and according to ancient custom the Passover lamb was to be eaten that night. Where were these paschal rites to be held? He who as almighty God could commandeer all the treasures of the universe, as weak, suffering Man had no home, no legal title to an inch of space on the earth which, with all its fulness, was His own. So destitute was Christ—and remember this, you to whom radical agitators portray Christ’s religion as a creed for the comfortable suburbanite—that He once exclaimed: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” Jesus might have celebrated that Passover with His friends in nearby Bethany; He could have selected any one of many homes in Jerusalem, benefited by His miraculous healing or help; for in spite of open disapproval by priests and scribes, hundreds who had been blessed by His power would gladly have placed their dwellings at His disposal. For His last unbroken hours with His disciples, however, and for His parting instructions to those who would soon be called to start the Gospel of forgiveness on its victorious course throughout the world, Jesus had selected a certain home in Jerusalem and within that home a definite upper room. There, removed from the turmoil of that great holiday when more than a quarter of a million Passover lambs were slaughtered, Jesus, as the one Lamb of God, whose sin-bearing would make the Passover sacrifice unnecessary, could give to His disciples and us, in the literal truth of His last will and testament, not merely a memorial, but the Sacrament, His own holy body and blood.

We know nothing of the exact location of this house or of the identity of the owner. To prevent men from honoring the place rather than reverencing the Christ, all distracting details are omitted. Some conjecture that it was the home of Joseph of Arimathea to whom Jesus sent His disciples with the request “Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples?” Others, with more probability, suggest the house of John Mark. Who knows what the true facts are?

One personal, penetrating fact we do know: This same Christ—the excruciating agonies of the first Good Friday passed forever, the redemption through His blood accomplished for all eternity—sends to every one of us the message “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest­ chamber?” It matters not what size and value, material and architecture, furnishings and facilities, location and neighborhood, your home may have nor what financial and social rating, race and nationality, schooling and culture, your family; the Christ who is every man’s Redeemer, who on the cross loved all the world to its remotest reaches, says, not of a sifted few listed in the Blue Book, Who’s Who, the Social Register, Bradstreet’s, but of every home: “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.”

How sorely we need the abiding presence of this divine Guest in every one of our homes, surrounded as we are by well-organized, highly commercialized attacks on the home and Christ’s ideals of family life! Let us look at the facts. Think, for example, of the magazine madness that has gripped this nation, the open indecency and blatant vulgarity featured in suggestive sex publications with their applause for prostitution, their acclaim of fashionable harlotry, their gloating over brazen adultery, their suggestive drawings, revolting illustrations, featured in the present craze for picture magazines, and remember that your twelve-year-old son can put ten cents on the newsstand and take away one of these immoral publications that will leave its sensuous appeal irradicably impressed upon his young mind. Your sixteen-year-old daughter can pay fifty cents for a particularly pernicious magazine with smooth-finished, expensively printed pages that enjoys a large circulation among those who believe that it is fashionable to read filth. Or think of the lending libraries, which cunningly place the worst of all books in a special section conspicuously marked Risque, so that young readers, idle housewives, lecherous husbands, can get right down to the garbage books without any lost motion; remember that the five cents of your children are greedily taken in exchange for the loan of these vicious volumes written by shameless and abandoned writers.

This is only one sector of the assault on purity and decency systematically promoted in many hotels and nightclubs, taverns and dance-halls. The same attack, though usually veiled, is seen all too frequently by the thirteen million people who every day pay their admission to American motion-picture theaters. One of the latest offenses, and one of the most dangerous, is the crafty commercialism, the diabolic deceit and falsehood practised by some of the agencies engaged in the manufacture and spreading of material for the artificial restriction of the family. Some of you druggists have been thoughtful enough to mail me the propaganda and literature issued by these concerns, and I have never seen anything more greedy and grasping than the profit-seeking and the fraud advertised by some of these ill-famed businesses.

With marriage ridiculed, parenthood scorned, childhood left to entertain itself with newspaper comic strips, gangster movies, and crime broadcasts; with preachers bringing reproach on the name of the Church by conducting marriage mills, where drunken couples and runaway children can be made man and wife, or other preachers championing divorce, organizing birth-control clinics, making dance-halls of their parish-halls; with the American death-rate perilously close to the dropping birthrate, we ought to realize that, as no nation in the past has been able to withstand the ravages of immorality and decay of the home, so this nation cannot escape disintegration unless it upholds domestic morality. Because this is a civic issue, of greater importance than many of the programs over which our legislators are engrossed; because any state, whether it is Christian or pagan, must seek to maintain the virtues of purity and decency, the sanctity of the home and the blessing of marriage, I ask all you public-spirited citizens, as your fellow-American, to take decisive action against every manifestation of immorality, whether in print, on the air, on the screen or stage, or in any form of commercialized entertainment. Protest against all this, organize against it, and drive these greedy enemies of purity from your communities!

As a Christian and a minister of Jesus Christ, however, I ask for much more. Civic organizations, new laws and enactments cannot completely meet this crisis. It has been shown that in too many cases police officers and higher-ups, paid to preserve law and decency, have connived with the underworld and worked hand in glove with lawyers devoid of all conscience, honesty, and ethics, as the tragedies which the great prophet Isaiah denounced are enacted before our eyes. I ask for more than education, because we must realize that some of our biggest and intellectually best colleges and universities are not taking the right stand for the home, for marriage, and for parenthood; that in some of these schools, even among those endowed by Christian people for the teaching of Christian virtues, the most infamous radicals thrive. They are the generalissimos in the satanic assault on the home, who have led thousands of our young people, sent to college with the prayers and by the sacrifices of their parents, to discard their Christian faith and regard themselves as educated animals, urged by bestial lusts, that must be answered fully and without any restriction imposed by the Bible or by Christ. Even in those cultural citadels where men of civic honor refrain from attacking the home, education alone can never solve our domestic problems nor end the quest for personal purity. Dr. Richard Cabot of Boston in his new book states that, if knowledge were the prerequisite for purity, physicians and nurses, with their intimate knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and disease, might be expected to be the most chaste and moral of all human beings. He declares, however, that his forty-year contact with medical people has shown him that they are no better in this respect than others, and that in his long practise he cannot recall a single instance in which any of his patients was beset by trouble or disease contracted through ignorance of the facts of life. Of course, we hear a great deal about education in that widespread and commendable warfare waged against the social maladies and their ravages of body and soul; but how much better it would be if, instead of waiting until these terrors come and then trying to cure them, we could stop them before they start by an effective program of purity, by creating, with God’s help, within men what education, directed to the mind, can never produce, a new heart, and by renewing a right spirit within us. Only Christ can do that; only He can strengthen us to wage a successful battle against the regiments of impurity and spiritual ruin; and for that reason, when He asks you today, “Where is the guest-chamber?” may you answer with ready hearts and deepened faith, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest!”

We must answer, “Be our Guest,” not only on account of this iron ring of impurity that surrounds the family from without; we need His blessed presence to counteract the sin and the selfishness that thrive within every one of us. Have you ever noticed that inexplicable tragedy by which people who present a cordial, polite appearance to the world about them reserve their bestial side for the home and release their meanness on those who ought to be dearer than all the world to them? Street angels and house devils! Give human avarice and lust free play, and you will witness with your own eyes that men can sink even lower than the beast. Last week a God-fearing mother wrote that her husband had deserted her and her four young children, leaving her penniless, for another married woman; and now in brazen sin he lives with that adulteress next door to his own wife and children. From such harrowing cases of unfaithfulness and desertion, through cruelties that make husbands brutes or that tear demanding, extravagant, luxury-loving wives or mothers from the home, with no companionship for the husband, no love for children, no interest for cooking, washing, cleaning, mending, through the disobedience of children, the neglect of their parents, to the smaller, trivial misunderstandings that break the peace in the home, we have a telltale, tearful catalog of sin and its consequences. No police methods will break that power. A prison warden may bring his cat-o’-nine­ tails twenty times down the back of a wife-beater, but that will not drive sin from his heart. You cannot educate families against domestic warfare nor successfully give young people a high-school course on home obligations and expect all evidences of disrespect and ingratitude to disappear. Only One can solve the problem of sin, forgive and remove it, restrict its ravages, and strengthen us for the new life, and that is the Christ, who even now asks you, “Where is the guest-chamber?” and to whom, I pray, you will answer, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest!”

II

WE WILL BE BLESSED WHEN THE LORD JESUS IS OUR GUEST

When you open your hearts and your homes to Christ, accepting Him as your own all-powerful, all-loving, all­sufficient, all-forgiving Savior; when, in effect, you say, “O Christ, You have asked me, ‘Where is the guest­ chamber?’ I know that I am not worthy to have You come into this all too sinful heart; yet I cling to Your promise of mercy. I believe the promises of grace. I know that You suffered for me, that You were buffeted, beaten, bruised, for me; that the vengeance wreaked upon You before Annas and Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate, the agonies afflicted on Your holy body by Your own countrymen and the Roman soldiery, that the weight of agony crushing Your soul as You hung suspended from Calvary’s cross,—that all this was for me, on my account, the payment for the ransom of my sins; and so, impure, sinful, unclean, I come to You, just as I am, to be strengthened by faith, to have Your divine assurance that in the sight of God I am pure, cleansed, free from the stain and the guilt of sin. O come into this heart of mine, into this house dedicated to You and Your love, and be our beloved, revered Guest”; when you answer this question of Jesus, “Where is the guest-chamber?” with that faith and that love, then that Savior will hold His happy entrance into your home and bless it first of all with the assurance of forgiveness for every wrong that lingers in your lives. I cannot emphasize this truth too often, and I wish that it were possible to proclaim it every day; the first, basic foundation truth for the happiness of your family, but particularly for the blessed assurance of the eternal home is this trusting faith in the free mercies of Jesus which this Lententide seeks to impress upon you.

I know of course that there may be a modicum of external happiness without Christ. Perhaps the pagan Zulus in darkest Africa, steeped in their witchcraft, superstition, and terrorizing idolatry, have a kind of happiness in their dirty kraals. I will concede that the young men and young women who are joined in marriage by the justice of the peace because they do not want to have any association whatever with the Church may enjoy a type of satisfaction in their married life. I am not asking that you say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” to receive that minimum of human happiness. I want you to have in your home the peace which passes all understanding, the joy which the world cannot have, the happiness from heaven, the assurance that with forgiven sin and the personal presence of Jesus our home-life can be enriched in a way that makes our groping, Christless world seem destitute by comparison.

The longer we contemplate this mercy, the more we are amazed at the depths of Christ’s divine riches, even to those who fear that they may have sinned too disastrously to merit His presence. It was Jesus who, far from minimizing the sin against the commandment of purity, nevertheless refused to cast a stone on that scarlet woman, penitent before her accusers. It was Jesus who indicted even the lustful thoughts of the heart, yet who spoke peace to a woman of sin kneeling before Him in the house of Simon, the Pharisee, much to the dismay of the smug and self­righteous. Today He is still the same Christ of all mercies; He does not ask what kind of home you have. You may live in one of the company houses in back of the slag heaps near a Pennsylvania colliery or in a one-room cabin in the tiff-mining districts of Missouri; yours may be basement rooms, an alley shack, or a furnished room or a crowded tenement. Men may keep their distance from your doors; but as the Savior in the days of His flesh entered the house of Levi, the publican, and ate with that outcast, saying: “I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance”; as He tarried with the half-breed Samaritans and later, hastening steadfastly to Jerusalem, interrupted the march to His death by entering the home of Zacchaeus, another hated publican, to speak the promise: “This day is salvation come to this house, . . . for the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” that divine Christ is now eagerly poised before your threshold, awaiting your invitation, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

When He enters our home, He comes with peace and strength to curb our lusts; for the peace of God which comes to us once we are justified by faith reflects itself in the peace which we maintain with our fellow-men. This is no theory; this is tangible, provable fact. Put Christ into the hearts and lives of husband and wife, and you will find the highest of all human love, so holy that the Scriptures employ it as a figure of Christ’s self-denying, self-sacrificing devotion for the Church. Put Christ into any home, and parents and children will be welded together in an unselfish affection mirroring that sacred love by which God calls the believers in Christ His children. Homes blessed by our glorious Savior will reecho His patience, His forbearance, His willingness to share burdens. Homes with Jesus as the perpetual Guest are not the problem homes of America today.

True, Christ as the unseen but ever-present Guest in every Christian home holds out none of those attractions by which men like to gauge happiness. His indwelling is no charm against the afflictions, trials, pains, sorrows, that the human heart fears and from which it craves escape. If we could put Christ’s cross on American doorposts to keep out sickness, reverses, death, you and I know that every home across the sweep of this broad continent would be conspicuously cross-marked. Because Jesus promises us no such exemption from suffering, millions of our homes are closed to Him. If only unhappy men and women could realize the far richer blessings that this divine Guest bestows on those who are His, as He permits grief only for the sake of greater glory, pain only for final praise, poverty only for ultimate riches, loss only for spiritual and heavenly gain, sickness of the body only for health of the soul! Are you troubled with the wearying pains of sickness? Read how Jesus went into Peter’s house on the shores of Galilee, touched and cured the disciple’s mother-in-law, and remember that, if it be the will of God, even though the doctors shake their heads and say, “No,” Jesus can say, “Yes!” And if it is not His will, then His love has already prepared a greater blessing. Is your home troubled with religious doubts? Some students of the New Testament believe that this unmarked upper room may well have been the place where, after the three hardest days in their lives, the disciples first beheld their risen Savior; that it was here, too, after fifty anxious days, the Pentecost flames of fire descended upon the apostles’ heads. In the same way the risen Savior, once He becomes the permanent Guest in your home, will remove all the questions and give you the faith by which you exult, “I know whom I have believed.” Are you face to face with financial difficulties and problems of the home? Our royal Guest was born in a stable, His parents were poor. He never had a bank account, but He told Martha, busily engaged with her household problems, “One thing is needful.” If you have in Christ that one essential blessing: firm, sure faith, you can conquer all restrictions. Do you live in one of the five thousand homes on which death placed its mark this week? Then look to Jesus with enlarged trust and say, “Come now, Lord Jesus, and abide with us amid all human sorrow and the grief of this departure!” He who entered the house of Jairus to take the cold, lifeless hand of a girl and say, “Maid, arise,” will give you the assurance that He has spoken this command for the new life to the souls of your departed beloved fallen asleep in the faith.

The great and all-surpassing blessing which comes when Christ abides with us is not this, that He would call the departed back to earthly life, but that in the indescribable magnificence of the next world fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, may be united in heavenly reunion and live forever with those saved by His grace. What a blessed hope to know that on the great day of the resurrection Jesus will say, “Come into the many mansions of My Father’s heavenly house,” and we shall answer, “Yea, Lord Jesus, thanks be to Thee, we come!”

Have you answered the question of Jesus “Where is the guest-chamber?” with the joyous “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest”? I could show you that Christ in the home presents a simple, effective, and assured plan for national recovery and stability. Put the Savior in every American home (and that means, introduce Bible-reading and prayer into every family circle), bring up American children with Christian training and ideals, and the rampant forces of unbelief responsible for the present debacle will be checked. I could show you that Christ, fully welcomed and completely enthroned in every home connected with the Christian churches of America, would bring the most stupendous revival of Christian forces that American history knows, and that for this reason the effort of the churches should be directed to a more systematic study of the spiritual problems of family life. Above all I want to promise you in the Savior’s name that, as long as you take Christ into your home, begin and dose the day with family prayer, find time for Scripture-reading; as long as you sit down to your meals and join in the prayer that millions raise to God three times every day: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest and let these gifts to us be blessed”; as long as you have Jesus in your heart and resolve, as I hope many of you have done, “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener to every conversation,” yours will be one of the dearest previsions of heaven that we can ever enjoy on earth.

Listen, then, once more to Jesus, only a few hours before the agony of the Garden and the torture of the cross, as He sends this message to you: “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber?” and may God grant that young and old in every home within range of this broadcast will repeat aloud this invitation and assurance of faith: “O blessed Lord Jesus, come, abide with us!” Amen.

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