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Date: April 4, 1937

Prayer for Abiding Power of the Resurrection

God of all grace, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer:

We bless Thy holy name for the riches of divine mercy in the risen Christ and for the power of His resurrection, by which we can seek and find those things which are above, heavenly hope and eternal life. Help us glorify the grace which sent Thy Son into the confusion of earth’s sin, to redeem us from the consequences of our iniquities, and by His death on the cross to liberate us from the thralldom and terror of eternal death. Grant that, with our consciences stricken by the charge of guilt, our hearts filled with true contrition, our souls triumphing in the confidence of faith, we may find in Thy rising from the grave the seal and assurance of our own salvation and resurrection. May Thy Spirit bring us all to the risen Christ and to that inner joy and peace which in its endless blessings passes all understanding. Especially are our hearts raised in thanks for Thy rich and repeated blessings during these broadcasts; and we beseech Thee, God, our Father, our Savior, our purifying Spirit, continue among us with Thy blessing, so that the seed which we have sown in weakness may by Thy benediction bring forth rich harvest. Help us to resume this testimony to Thy glorious Gospel when and how it pleases Thee, and until then abide with us, in Thy Word, Thy grace, Thy truth, Thy power, through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

They constrained Him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them.Luke 24:29

ON a late Sunday afternoon ninety years ago a solitary figure could have been seen, poised atop the towering cliffs near Brixham, on the south coast of England. Closer investigation would have revealed the form and features of a clergyman, wrapped in solemn thought. It was Henry Francis Lyte, the pastor of a nearby parish, who only a few hours before had preached a farewell sermon to his congregation of fisherfolk. Broken in health (he had borne the heavy cross of sickness during his entire ministry of thirty-two years), he was walking alone and for the last time along familiar paths high above the ocean. On the morrow he would leave England to seek healing in the sunnier climes of Southern France and the warmer winds of the Mediterranean. Far below him in this moment of his farewell the waves of the British Channel rose and fell, each one reflecting the fire of sunset; and far behind him loomed the high hills of Devon, crowned with the flashing diadem of closing day. What a symbol and foreboding of eternity with its golden glory and its sapphire throne! God had never seemed closer than in the hush of that gloaming on the Brixham cliffs, and Henry Lyte hastened to his home, secluded himself in his study, and after a short hour emerged with the words of a hymn which thousands of our countrymen have acclaimed the most beloved of all sacred songs, “Abide with Me.” A few weeks later the invalid poet, pointing to heaven and whispering two words, “Joy, peace!” died, strengthened in his last hours by the answer to the concluding prayer of his hymn:

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,

Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!

Today we, too, have come to the hour of parting with this final broadcast of our fourth annual radio mission, inaugurated for the purpose of bringing Christ to the nation. And because this may be the last time that some of us will worship together, since the darkness may be deepening and the eventide of life falling more quickly than we know; because all of us need the presence of Jesus for the joys and sorrows of every passing hour, Henry Lyte’s farewell prayer is particularly appropriate for our last broadcast.

And what theme could be more timely? Easter is too close and the radiance of the Savior’s resurrection too brilliant to overlook that gripping incident in the life of our Savior which flashed across the mind of the world­weary poet when his trembling hand wrote “Abide with Me!” This hymn takes us back to the first Easter. Two followers of Jesus, approaching the village of Emmaus, about eight miles from Jerusalem, are discussing the crucifixion of the Lord, when suddenly and silently a mysterious Stranger meets them on that dusty road. To heal their hearts, wounded by the apparent failure and death of Jesus, their new Companion proves from the prophecies that, as Christ had to die, so He had to rise from the grave. And He comforts them with such heart-warming truth that we read: “They constrained Him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them.” (St. Luke 24, 29.)

Applying to ourselves the sacred assurance of these memorable words, which even unbelief has acclaimed, let us in this final broadcast turn to Christ, as we have on every Sunday, and, asking:

“ABIDE WITH US,”

make the prayer of the Emmaus road our own.

WE NEED THE ABIDING CHRIST

The sadness in the lives of the two disciples rose from their doubt and disbelief of the Savior’s resurrection. They had heard the Easter-message from the lips of the women who on that very morning had stood before the open tomb; they had spoken with the disciples who likewise had found the grave empty; still they refused to believe. Some of you have likewise doubted the truth of the resurrection. You live on as though Christ had never risen and you had to fight the battles of life with your own strength. How vital that you join in our prayer, “Abide with us!” and ask Christ to come to you, in His Word, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, to prove the power of His resurrection in your life! Some of you write me that you are “almost persuaded” to accept Christ as your atoning Savior. But “almost” is not enough. You must have that doubt-destroying faith of the mighty apostle, who heroically affirms, “I am persuaded.” Others in this audience claim that they cannot believe or understand the message of the Cross and the truth of the Open Grave. This refusal to accept Christ and His Word must be traced to the tragedy that you will not permit Jesus to abide with you, to explain the Scriptures as He did to those Emmaus pilgrims, and to open your eyes so that you, too, can discover in Him your crucified, yet victoriously resurrected Lord and God. As the risen Lord unexpectedly confronted His doubting disciples on that Easter afternoon, so He now approaches many of you, not through the chance turn of a radio dial, but by God’s deliberate plan and counsel, to reveal Himself as your risen Redeemer. And because I want to stand with you—every one of you—in that all-glorious Resurrection before the throne of the Lamb, I ask God to bless these words especially in the hearts of doubt and disbelief, so that you, too, may turn to Him in contrition and faith, praying, “Abide with me!”

Another reason for the sadness written on the countenances of the Emmaus disciples was their human disappointment in Christ. They had hoped that their Lord, “a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” would redeem Israel from its degraded slavery and exalt it to glory. Instead of a crown Jesus had left a cross; instead of the fanfare of royalty, His complete repudiation of any temporal kingdom; instead of the lingering applause of the multitudes, the solitary voice of a crucified thief acclaiming Him king! He had spoken of life and power and triumph, but His end on the cross seemed to prove death and failure and decay.—Much of our modern thought shows the same disappointment in Jesus, and some of you have kept yourselves away from the risen Christ because your dollars-and-cents standards and your profit-and-loss principles find little attraction in Christian faith. What profit, we are challenged, can there be in a creed which tells us that, if we have two coats, we must give one to our destitute brother? How many take this program seriously when industrial warfare throws the working-man into the bitterest and most widespread campaign against his employer that this nation has ever seen? What possible advantage can there be in following the ideals of a Teacher who asks us to turn the other cheek to those who strike us in persecution? “Let the fittest survive and every man shift for himself!” our bloody age screams as it turns disdainfully away from Christ’s new commandment “that ye love one another.” Twenty years ago our country was caught in that selfishness by the maelstrom of a great World War which proved the international protest against Christ’s principles. And since that fatal April day of 1917 when this nation was seized by the dreams of war profit, when American pulpits became recruiting offices that helped to send our young men into wholesale killing and American preachers allied themselves in spirit with munitions manufacturers, we have not only suffered the disastrous death-toll and the loss of billions, but we have also been thrown into a convulsive social revolution the end of which is not even in sight. The same tragedies are reenacted on a smaller scale in those hearts and lives that have no room for a Savior who demands, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” who damns “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life,” who tells men that with all their vaunted programs and ambitions they are spiritually dead. Surrounded by this rejection of the Christ of love, we need to repeat the fervent prayer, “‘Abide with us,’ O Jesus,” to ask God daily that we may find the real Christ, the true Christ, the divine Christ, and realize that He came to save our souls, souls so precious and priceless that, if you could take all the gold in the world, place upon it all the diamonds, the matched pearls, the costly rubies, all the precious gems in royal crowns and the rarest of jewelry and adornment, in the sight of God, who alone recognizes true value, your soul, for which Jesus died and rose again, would far outweigh the value of all men’s treasures.

The two disheartened disciples were laboring under the weight of heavy sorrow, too. Their Friend, their Leader, their great Prophet, Jesus, had died; and with Him, it seemed, their own joy of life had perished within their hearts.—Some of you see yourselves on this Emmaus road. Afflictions in number and weight greater than you have ever believed you could bear have roared down upon you. Your letters tell of broken hearts and broken bodies, vanished fortunes and vanished friends, shattered homes and shattered hopes, disquieted minds and disquieted souls, and—death. In moments when these sorrows weigh heavily upon your soul, where can you find the helping comradeship, the sustaining love, the blessed assurance, for which you crave? Shall I direct you to the fatalistic spirit of indifference that leaves you small comfort with the thought that everything in life happens because it must happen and that you and I are only human dust in this cosmic cruelty? Shall I point you to the flowery oratory of the high-sounding, but empty rhetoric that likes to speak of the fatherhood of God, but that refuses to tell us how we can truly be reconciled to our heavenly Father? Shall I thrust the problem of sorrow back on your own shoulders and encourage you to have faith in yourselves, to trust in your own hidden powers? How cruel these lies and how disastrous these vain delusions, when you can pray to the incarnate God Himself, “Abide with us,” and your risen Savior will share your burdens, remove your sorrows, and teach you the healing, strengthening, purifying benediction of adversity! When He abides in your heart, you know in exultant faith that even death, the last enemy, cannot separate you from Him or from those blessed ones who have gone before you in faith. In the light reflected from Easter you find the brightness that will illumine the darkness of your last moments and shine into that blessed reunion in eternity.

When your penitent heart asks Christ to abide with you, His love removes the one prime and basic cause for all suffering, all sorrow, and all death: our sins. It has not been a pleasant task, I will confess to you in this final broadcast, to stand here near the center of the United States and to proclaim across the continent and into the reaches of Canada and Mexico that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” to repeat from coast to coast, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not,” to tell this age, which leans back in self­satisfied approval of its own greatness, that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” It would have been easier to soften this universal indictment of the race. We could have had more publicity, if the ugly, hideous evidences of sin in your life and mine had been hushed in favor of a current-topic discussion and a roseate round of optimistic generalities. But in the first broadcast of this series I promised to preach “Christ, and Him crucified”; and you cannot preach Christ without preaching sin. You cannot tell men that they are saved unless they recognize that they need to be saved. You cannot understand Calvary and the open grave unless you know that Jesus “was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification.”

Every one of us should join in the prayer “Abide with us”; for we, too, must say, “It is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” This is not the time for delay or postponement; for who knows how far spent the day of our life is and how close we are to the evening of our existence? Despite the greatest safety campaigns that history knows the accidental death-toll is rising to new heights during these months. With all the advances of medical science in the conquest of disease the death-rates of these last years have not dropped markedly. In the midst of life we are in death. Remember, too, the shadows of this world’s existence are also lengthening. We are closer to the second coming of Christ for His Judgment upon the quick and the dead than when this radio mission was started. Signs of the last times are multiplying. “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Has there ever been an agency that could fulfil this more literally than the marvel of the radio? There will be tribulation for God’s elect and days of darkness and tyranny upon the earth, we are told; and I would not be true to the charge with which I have been entrusted if I were not to warn you that vast and formidable forces are mobilizing to battle against the Cross and persecute the followers of Christ even as across the ocean they have suffered under tyranny and bloodshed. In our own country so many potential menaces to our liberties, our peace and tranquility, arise that we, too, may be tried and tested by fiery afflictions. Come what may, however, let our prayer by day and night, in prosperity and adversity, always and ever be, “O Christ, ‘abide with us,’ in our hearts, in our homes, in our churches, in our country.”

CHRIST AND HIS BLESSING WILL ABIDE WITH US

That prayer on the Emmaus road was answered. We read, “He went in to tarry with them.” Seven simple words, but for our final broadcast they summarize four great truths of our salvation, the four glories of the Savior’s mercy: universal grace, pictured by Jesus, the Friend of the downtrodden, the neglected, the afflicted, the bereaved, entering that humble dwelling at Emmaus, the Christ for all men in all stations and conditions of life; the Redeemer of every soul in this radio assembly, those who have heard our message of the Cross in governors’ mansions and those who have tuned in behind the bars of state prisons! Free grace, offered by the Christ who demanded no conditions and imposed no restrictions, as He entered His disciples’ home and sat down at their table,—the same risen Savior who offers us heaven and the blessings of the prepared mansions not as reward, payment, compensation, but who grants our salvation “without money and without price,” to be received by trusting faith in His power to save to the uttermost! Assured grace, which, as it made two cold hearts burn with ardor of renewed salvation, can strengthen your soul, not only with the wish and hope of a possible redemption, but with the pledge and positive assurance of your accomplished salvation! Complete grace, which convinces us, too, that we need nothing to supplement or finish God’s plan for our salvation. Full grace, free grace, assured grace, and complete grace—this has been the hope that I have tried to offer you in Christ’s name and by His promise. If from all these broadcasts you could take only one truth, I pray to God that it would be this fourfold pledge of the mercy which Christ offers to those who penitently pray, “Abide with us!” Let everything else recede and the brilliance of intellectual light fade; but always, until in glory you see what you now believe, let this life-and-death truth, sealed by the reality of the Savior’s resurrection, claim dominion over your hearts and lives.

As these Emmaus disciples, with newborn faith, showed their zeal for Christ by hastening to proclaim, “The Lord is risen indeed,” so in His abiding strength I ask you to continue your testimony to the risen Christ and help us as we prepare for a new and even greater radio mission in the name of our resurrected Savior. If you believe that this groping age needs first of all a return to the whole Christ, the entire Bible, and the complete teaching of the Scriptures; that all antichristian, anti-Biblical, antimoral instruction must be excluded from the public educational system in the higher and lower schools of the nation; that on all fronts widespread campaigns must be waged against atheistic Communism, particularly because of its acknowledged purpose to break the home ties and to eliminate Christian marriage; if you hold, as we have always held, that the Church’s responsibility is not to present economic theories or to propose legislative programs, but now, as never before, to seek the kingdom of God, to prepare men for the next world, and to do this first, last, and always through Christ and for Christ, will you not during these next days send us your letter, your suggestion, your endorsement, your encouragement, your vote for a new and larger Gospel network? You know that we pay for every minute of our broadcasting time, while other networks, which arbitrarily bar us from the air, grant their facilities free of all charge to some who deny the Christ of the Scripture. Stand by us in the face of this opposition! We must have—above all else—an aggressive, militant Christianity in this day, when the shadows of evening are lengthening over the land, together with the uncompromising loyalty to the great and blessed doctrines of the infallible Bible and our all-sufficient Savior, His full deity, His virgin birth, His atoning death on the cross, His glorious resurrection, and His second coming.

As in His name I ask you to rally for this great privilege of spreading the eternal Gospel, I commit you wholly to the rich and perpetual mercies of Jesus Christ. No earthly joy that I can now contemplate would mean more to me than the privilege of meeting every one of you personally and thanking all who have written us during these weeks for their friendship and faith. While this privilege will not be granted, may we be taught to pray daily, “Abide with us,” so that on that glorious day of our own resurrection, before the throne of that precious Savior, we may greet you who are now in Christ and you who have not yet come to Christ, for whom we have prayed daily. God be with you till we meet again! Commending ourselves to the risen Christ, we conclude the last message in this series of broadcasts with the prayer: O blessed Savior, Thou hast redeemed us with Thy blood; into Thy mercies we entrust ourselves, in body and soul, for time and eternity. Come with us now, “abide with us,” that we may abide in Thee! Amen!

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

Date: March 28, 1937

Easter Praise and Prayer

Our risen Lord, eternal Victor over death and the grave:

Oh, that our hearts and voices could be worthily blended in the praise of Thy love and omnipotence, which on this Easter Day burst the bonds of death and brought life and immortality to light! Accept, we humbly entreat Thee, our human, halting thanks that Thou, our God and Savior, who wast in the repose of the sealed and rocky sepulcher, didst on the third day crush sin, hell, and death into everlasting defeat. Give Thy Spirit dominion over our souls, so that Easter may be a glorious day of new life and faith, a triumphant festival of restored hope and resurrected trust for many who before the open and empty grave may contritely gain the conviction of Thy power to save our souls and to strengthen our faith in Thy pledge “Where I am, there shall also My servant be.” Teach us to face life and death alike, with a courageous assurance that we are Thine, so that not even the last enemy, death and the gruesomeness of the grave, may rob us of the calm hope of the resurrection. Bless this message especially in hearts and homes that have been chilled by cold death, and as the Spirit illumines doubting minds, may we, all doubt and questioning vanished, our sins forever removed, be given the grace and the wisdom to kneel before Thee, Thou Savior of the riven side and the wounded hands, and confess Thee our Lord, our God, our Life, our Salvation. Amen.

God hath both raised up the Lord and will also raise up us by His own power.1 Corinthians 6:14

ON this glorious Easter Day, as we stand in spirit before the Savior’s open grave, let us ask ourselves frankly, What is it that magnetizes the faith of Christian hearts all over the world and draws them to this broken sepulcher? History knows far more pretentious burial­places than Joseph’s grave, where the lifeless body of the Savior was laid to its repose. Recent excavations have uncovered the extended tombs of the kings in Ur of the Chaldees and shown us that at the death of the ruler his entire court was buried alive. In Egypt the tomb of Tut­ankh-Amen, with its lavish wealth and its artistic adornment, has impressed even our age. In the Red Square at Moscow the remains of the Red Dictator Lenin, preserved by a mysterious process, are regarded with an admiration that approaches worship. But even the site of our Savior’s grave is not definitely known. Mohammedans heckle Christian missionaries with the challenge: “We have the tomb of our great prophet Mohammed here in Medina, while you Christians have nothing.”

Yet at Easter we have everything! While all other tombs are evidences of death and decay, Christ’s tomb alone is the evidence of life. We hear the angel challenge, “Why seek ye the Living among the dead?” and we recall the burial-places enshrined in the grateful memory of our nation, Flanders’ fields, where

. . . poppies grow

Between the crosses, row on row;

the burial-vault of George Washington at Mount Vernon, the sepulcher of other distinguished leaders and statesmen,—all of which commemorate brilliant or generous lives that ran their course only to end in inevitable death. But our Savior’s grave offers life, hope, and blessing! Even though we may never be able to mark the garden-grave of our Lord, the reality of His resurrection must be a strong and vital power in our faith and lives. Even though the ranks of twentieth-century scoffers are daily swollen by those who demand, “Where is the proof of the next life, the evidence of the resurrection?” we must cling to the Easter pledge of Heaven and, as we approach our risen Savior, the blood and agony and death of Calvary forever overcome, acclaim Him the living Christ.

To strengthen our faith and remove all distrust of the Easter-message, let us consecrate our thoughts in this festival broadcast to—

THE RESURRECTION REALITY

and, taking the words of St. Paul, 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, verse fourteen, “God hath both raised up the Lord and will also raise up us by His own power,” find faith and hope in the Savior’s resurrection and in our eternal Easter with Him.

“GOD HATH RAISED UP THE LORD”

First of all, let us impress this conviction deeply in our minds: The resurrection of Jesus Christ rests on fact as well as faith. Repeatedly do Old Testament passages foretell His resurrection. Emphatically did Jesus Himself, before He went the way of the cross, tell His friends and His enemies that on the third day after His crucifixion He would rise from the dead. Six different and independent accounts, one in each of the four gospels, one in the Book of Acts, and one from the pen of St. Paul, recount His triumph over death. Scores of passages in the remainder of the New Testament speak of the Savior’s resurrection with a clarity that tolerates no uncertainty. Do you know any other fact in the history of the first century that has as much support as the resurrection? Historians today accept thousands of facts for which they can produce only shreds of evidence; and yet there are some who refuse to believe this epochal event and the hundreds of New Testament witnesses who talked with the risen Christ, walked with Him, ate with Him, knelt before Him, and acclaimed Him their Lord and Savior. Today we send a man to death in the electric chair on circumstantial evidence; but the enemies of Christ are not ready to let Jesus live, even though overwhelming testimony proves His resurrection. If the Easter record is not in every claim the account of history; if the statements of those who testified to the Easter truth are not accepted as conclusive evidence, then no testimony and evidence whatever can establish any truth in any age of history.

The proof that “God hath raised up the Lord” comes to us from other convincing sources. What was it that took the first company of the disciples, cowering as they did behind locked doors, and transformed them into a band of confident champions of their crucified Lord? Not a dead Savior, but a living, conquering Christ! What power and influence changed the cross from an instrument of bloody torture to the most beloved of all symbols? Uncounted thousands had been crucified before the day of our blessed Savior; and you know that, if He had not risen from the dead, no right-minded person would have glorified anything as hideous and repulsive as that timber and cross-beam stained with the Savior’s blood. What gave the great army of Christian martyrs and missionaries the love and the power to face death, to penetrate poisonous jungles, to cross barren deserts, to hasten to the ends of the earth in their zeal for winning disciples for the Savior? Only blind fanaticism could lead them to serve a dead Lord, whose resurrection promises had failed and whose body had moldered in the grave. There is no fanaticism in our faith. We have the eternal facts, the everlasting truth of the Savior’s conquest of death in every hope that we breathe, with every conviction that we utter, in every article of the faith that we confess.

Jesus had to rise again and by this miracle of all miracles place the seal of assurance upon the forgiveness of our sins; for a dead Christ could be no Savior. An unopened grave would mean an unopened heaven. By bursting the bonds of the grave, Jesus proved Himself, for all men, for all ages, the Conqueror of sin, and showed the everlasting validity of His atonement. The sacrifice on Calvary had fulfilled its purpose, the ransom price paid for your sins and mine had been accepted.

No wonder that great men of God have found their highest comfort in this resurrection reality: “God hath raised up the Lord.” Luther would dispel all despondency with the one word “Vivit,” the Latin for “He lives.” Many times he seized a piece of chalk and wrote this “Vivit” on his study table; or voiced it in triumph. When asked for an explanation, he answered: “Jesus lives, and if He were not among the living, I would not wish to live even an hour.” Let us all try, with the Spirit’s help, to engrave this Easter truth “He lives” in our hearts; for if we remove the resurrection reality from our Christian faith, we have less hope than the heathen, while with the blessing of Easter faith we have the living Christ, His sustaining companionship, His guiding help, His burden-sharing presence, His never-failing leadership, His divine counsel, and above all this His eternal salvation, His everlasting atonement, His never-ending redemption.

“GOD . . . WILL ALSO RAISE UP US BY HIS OWN POWER”

With faith in Christ’s resurrection our text offers this pledge, “God . . . will also raise up us by His own power.” The open grave becomes the pledge of our immortality; the Savior’s resurrected body, the promise of our glorified bodies; the Easter cry, “O death, where is thy sting?” the echo of our own triumph, “O grave where is thy victory?” With faith in the Easter morning greeting “He is not here, He is risen” the great problem of the human soul and its destiny, that ageless perplexity which has baffled the choicest minds, brings a blessed and personal solution for every one of us. At the empty tomb we learn that the one short, perplexing life which is ours does not complete our destiny; that the grave is not the last and a futile chapter in our life’s story; that we are not human “bundles of cellular matter” consigned to decay. With the great stone rolled from the entrance of the Savior’s rock-hewn grave, every doubt and obstacle concerning our own eternity must be removed; and as the promises of God in Christ push aside the draperies concealing the hereafter, we must catch a foregleam of a new and blessed existence that starts when this life stops; we must discover a prevision of a heavenly, glorified body.

Only in the power of Christ’s resurrection can we gain strength and assurance for our own eternal Easter. Men may dream dreams of a hereafter and draw pretty pictures of the life to come; but our resurrection reality must be woven of firmer texture. Ask the botanist, and he will point you to the lily, which in its white beauty has become the flower of the Easter Festival. Its bulb lies buried and unseen in the black ground until, by the mysterious force of life, a shaft of green breaks through the earth, and as the sun smiles with its sustaining warmth, the tender stalk grows in height and strength, a cluster of buds appears, and then a lily in all its fairness and fragrance. So, we are told, the grave becomes the garden of God’s new creation. The lifeless body reposes in its dark embrace; it decays; yet by the power of God a new body, pure and sinless, arises. Ask the naturalist, and he will offer a picture of the resurrection in the spring and autumnal migration of the birds. He will show you winged creatures that fly 7,000 miles, from the Yukon Valley to Southern Argentina, guided by their instinct; and he will conclude that an inborn sense of immortality will irresistibly summon man to seek and find his everlasting home in a better and happier land. He will tell you that we are all like the homing pigeon and that, when we are released, we shall fly back to God whose love created us. The philosopher has a dozen arguments for life after death. He believes that death cannot end all because our lives are so incomplete and unfinished, that there must be a continuation, just as he insists, there must be a reward or retribution in the next world, by which all the injustice and unfairness of life can be adjusted, its wrongs righted, its losses compensated, its sins atoned.

We need not argue the reality of our resurrection on these grounds nor rest our hope for a reunion with those who have gone before us on the reawakening of nature or on the claims that the higher forces which created man could not brutally destroy him forever. Others may question the resurrection, argue its probability, debate its verity; but in the word of Jesus we have surety, conviction, truth. When our perfect and unfailing Lord promises, “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”; when He adds certainty to certainty by repeating, “Because I live, ye shall live also”; “Where I am, there shall also My servant be”; “If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death,” the issue is closed. The immortality of the soul is not a matter of speculation and guess and conjecture. It is the unchangeable truth of God Himself, bestowed through the only sure antidote to death, the blood of Jesus Christ, which forever removes the cause of death, the sin that would separate us from God.

We know, of course, that there have always been Sadducees who deny the resurrection. One of the very first records of Christianity outside the New Testament is a letter dated in 112 A.D. sent by Pliny the Younger, the acting Roman governor of the province of Asia, to Trajan, emperor of Rome. The governor reports that in Syria a sect has arisen called the Christians, and “these foolish people,” the governor writes, “think they are immortal; they go to their death as to a triumph, and no threat of punishment has any effect on them.” This verdict of “foolishness” is repeated by the enemies of the resurrection. In the last generation Christian churches of the country stood fast and firm in believing and teaching the part of the Third Article in the Apostles’ Creed which expressed their faith in “the resurrection of the body.” In the modern rejection of the true Christ many churches have permitted this fundamental truth of our faith to be questioned, misinterpreted, and denied.

The many contradictions raised in the name of science to which the skeptical minds of our day refer in their attack on the Resurrection need not disturb us, for they are simply the continuation of scientific errors of the past. For instance, Lavoisier, one of the greatest figures in the history of chemistry, stubbornly taught that heat was a substance. Plato believed that the stomach shared mental activity with the brain. Nineteenth-century scientists claimed that tooth decay came from worms. For a long time psychiatrists declared “that most criminals were feeble-minded”; ancient phrenologists taught that insanity was produced by too much heat or cold in the brain, and their more modem associates held that each cranial bump indicated a particular characteristic. These falsities, as hundreds of other scientific theories, have been disproved; yet each mistake of the past entitles us to ask, “If the scientific world cannot solve questions pertaining to the teeth, the stomach, the brain, the skull, and the forces of nature that surround us, why should atheistic and infidel scientists dare to deny the resurrection of the body?”

If there is a clash of claims between a noted atheistic criminal lawyer, who sneers at the Resurrection as he says: “The origin of the absurd idea of immortal life is easy to discover; it is kept alive by hope and fear, by childish faith, and by cowardice,” and St. Paul, who declares: “God . . . will also raise up us by His own power,” we stand with the great apostle. If a noted physician claims, “Immortality is a fond belief, a childish hope, a flattering delusion, but nothing proves it is more,” and we have the choice between his word and the glorious mercy which our Savior spoke to the penitent thief on the cross, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise,” what else can we do than reverently and gratefully accept this pledge of Christ? Let them deny, taunt, and defame; here is the promise of inspired truth, which has never made a misstatement nor ever encouraged a single false hope: “God . . . will also raise up us by His own power.”

We must cling to this doctrine of our resurrection even though its promises seem far too merciful and abundant for our sin-bound lives. When Dr. Morrison was translating the Bible into Chinese and he came upon the passage “We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3, 2), one of his assistants, a native scholar, exclaimed, “My people can never believe that they shall see their Savior and their God face to face. Let me rather translate, ‘For we may hope to kiss His feet.’” But Dr. Morrison replied: “Give the Word of God as it is”; and when we take God at His promises and penitently trust in the love of our Savior, all the sin and selfishness that would tear us away from God vanishes, and unworthy, unholy, unhappy as we may be, we are blessed by the promise that “we shall see Him as He is.” Many of you sang this morning in one of the last stanzas of the hymn, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives,” these reassuring words:

He lives and grants me daily breath;

He lives, and I shall conquer death;

He lives my mansion to prepare;

He lives to bring me safely there.

Do you know that Samuel Medley, who wrote these lines, was converted to the faith from a wild and dissolute life and that, overcoming sin, he could die in the hope of his Easter hymn and on his death-bed declare, “I am a poor, shattered bark, just about to gain the blissful harbor, and oh, how sweet will be the port after the storm! Dying is sweet, sweet work! My heavenly Father! I am looking to my dear Jesus, my God, my Portion, my All in all”? So, in the radiance of the Easter mercy and in the power of the resurrection glory, may the Spirit of God bring into your penitent, believing hearts the assurance that, since Christ “was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification,” “the gift of God is eternal life.”

We must build our hopes on the reality of the Resurrection, even though the human mind staggers when it is asked to believe that the body, returned to the dust whence it sprang, can be revived and rebuilt; that our human frame, with all its blemishes and imperfections, can be molded in a new and perfect form. One day in the laboratory of Michael Faraday, the great chemist, a workman accidentally knocked a silver cup into a jar of acid. The cup was consumed by the powerful solution. When Faraday, that stalwart confessor of Christ, heard of the disappearance of the cup, he threw some chemicals into the acid, and soon the dissolved particles of silver were precipitated. The metal was reclaimed, sent to a silversmith, and recast into a graceful cup. Does not the inference suggest itself that, if a chemist can perform this reconstruction, surely the almighty God can gather the particles of our body, though they be scattered to the four winds, and change that which is sown “a natural body” into “a spiritual body”? And if you tell me that this is only an analogy, then I point you to those resurrection miracles which prove the power of God,—not only the reawakening of Jairus’s daughter, not only the restored life of the widow’s son at Nain, not only the resurrection of Lazarus after decomposition had started, but on Easter particularly to the triumph of our Savior over the grave and His victorious promise, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

Unless we believe unquestioningly and unhesitatingly that through the Savior’s resurrection, life and eternity are ours, we have no guide-posts to lead us through the maze of life. In the catacombs at Rome the burial-places of the pagan dead and of the early Christians are marked by a notable contrast. The heathen graves are inscribed with dedications to the gods of the lower world, and sometimes they abound in sarcasm and resentment. Death is often pictured as an eternal sleep or an unhappy existence of gloom and hopelessness. But the favorite expressions on the Christian graves are: “He rests in peace,” or, “He lives forever,” or, “Weep not, my child; death is not eternal.” On the epitaphs of those who were ready to lay down their lives for the faith we find the sustaining power for the sorrow of death in our own family and in our own life. Easter is the day of comfort particularly for those whose hearts ache under recent bereavement. Self-confident men and women who can speak boldly on the topics of the day are often strangely muted when they are confronted by the enigma of death. Even Christians who in theory accept the doctrine of the resurrection sometimes question it when death touches their home. I read somewhere of a teacher at a theological seminary who spoke with calm assurance when his lectures on the New Testament brought him to the resurrection of the body. It was easy for him, with his young wife in a home that had not been tried and tested by the most serious of all emergencies, to speak with reechoing confidence. But when death took his five-year-old son, that father ran distractedly from one of his friends to the other, asking if they really believed that his child was now in heaven.

May God give you all, through the risen Christ, the faith that is fitted for these crucial tests! May He lead every one of you, and especially those who are too ready to charge God with heartlessness and cruelty, on this day to stand at the open grave and to hear the promise, “God . . . will also raise up us by His power.” When the armies of Napoleon swept over Europe, one of his generals made a surprise attack on the little town of Feldkirch on the Austrian border. It was Easter, and as the formidable French army maneuvered on the heights above Feldkirch, the council of its citizens was hastily summoned to deliberate upon the alternative of surrender or defense. It was in this assembly that the venerable dean of the church arose to declare: “This is Easter Day. We have been counting on our own strength, and that will fail. This is the day of our Lord’s resurrection. Let us ring the bells and have services as usual and leave the matter in God’s hands. We know only our weakness and not the power of God.” His counsel was accepted, and in a moment or two the church-belfry chimed the joyous bells announcing the Savior’s resurrection. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal, concluding that the Austrian army had arrived during the night, broke up camp, and before the Easter-bells had ceased, the danger had been lifted.

Let the joy of Easter ring in your heart and all the doubt and sorrow and gloom and despondency that surround you, ready to despoil your life and crush your hopes forever, will similarly vanish. God grant every one of us in this wide Easter congregation of the air the faith and the victory that will unite us through the blessings of these resurrection realities in the eternal mansions prepared by Him who lived for us, who died for us, but on that first Easter Day rose again for us! Amen.

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

Date: March 21, 1937

A Palm Sunday Prayer

Christ, our Lord of infinite and eternal mercies:

As we cross the threshold today into this holy week of Thy suffering and Thine atoning death on the cross, may Thy Spirit grant every one of us the penetrating insight into our sins with all their ugly leering, soul-destroying hideousness. Let not these days of Thine immeasurable agony of soul and body pass without pressing upon our hearts and minds the personal realization that our sins nailed Thee to the cross and our iniquities crushed Thy soul into death. Then teach us, O merciful Savior, with crushed, but trusting hearts to behold Thee at Calvary, where Thou didst meet the anguish and terror of all death that we, through faith in the cleansing blood, might have life and salvation. Guard us against ingratitude and disloyalty that we may not wave palm-branches before Thee today and tomorrow bring Thy holy blood upon us and our children. And as Thou once on this day madest Thine entrance into Jerusalem, so, our ever-blessed Savior, come now into our hearts through Thy Word and sacred ordinances to make this message and this entire Passion-week, as we commemorate Thy suffering and death, a rich blessing to us all. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant us that peace which is bestowed by faith in Thy blood-bought mercies! Amen.

Now, when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Truly, this man was the Son of God.Luke 23:47; Mark 15:39

IF the life of our Savior Jesus Christ was an unparalleled record of divine power, what great marvel of His heavenly mercy do we behold this week in His death! Nailed to a gnarled cross, His arms torn wide apart, the fire of four wounds burning in His lacerated hands and feet, the death-fever racing through His scourged body, His heart cut by the barbed hatred of the jeering mob, His soul—and this is the darkest desolation—bleeding under the penalty which it pays for all human sin, Jesus—eternal praise to His holy name!—as the one, ever-valid, all­atoning Sacrifice for all men, dies on the Hill of the Skull amid the never-to-be-measured sorrows of the first Good Friday,—dies as only the Son of God could die.

None but a divine Savior could leave as His legacy to a scoffing world the seven sacred words which Jesus spoke from the cross before His death. If we examine the final hours and the last words of dying men and women, what a jumble of love and hatred, despair and revenge, sneering and terror, what trivial and senseless words and actions, we often find in these valedictories to life! A criminal shrieking for vengeance; a coward chattering like a maniac; an irreconcilable father refusing to forgive a penitent son; a pagan prince demanding that his wives and slaves be burned alive on his funeral pyre; the poet Goethe, terrified by darkness, pleading, “Open the shutters and let in more light”; Edward Gibbon, infidel historian, groaning, “All is now lost, finally, irrecoverably lost!”

The joy of faith with which the children of God breathe their last likewise receives its serenity from the atoning death of our Savior. Christian martyrs thanking God for the privilege of suffering in the Savior’s name; Martin Luther speaking his last heroic prayer, “O my heavenly Father, my eternal and everlasting God! Thou hast revealed to me Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: I have preached Him. I have confessed Him. I love Him, and I worship Him as my dearest Savior and Redeemer. Into Thy hands I commit my spirit”; Toplady, author of “Rock of Ages,” leaving life with the words, “O come, Lord Jesus, come quickly”; men of scientific distinction like Bunsen, German scholar and diplomat, testifying in his last hour, “All bridges that one builds through life fail at such a time as this, and nothing remains but the bridge of the Savior”; the last utterances that many of you have heard, when the parched lips of beloved ones, faltering in death, have whispered, “Jesus”;—this support for the most dread of all earth’s ordeals comes from that blessed, decisive truth, that here, in Calvary’s death scene on Good Friday, God, as our Savior, died for the race.

It was the faith in this deity of our Lord that brought the first converts to Christ after His death. A centurion, a Roman military officer, detailed by Pilate to assist at the crucifixion, is struck with awe-filled amazement by the protest of nature, the quaking earth, the reverberating heavens, the darkened sun. With a group of his soldiers he hears the muffled voice of that mysterious Sufferer on the central cross pleading in the agonized prayer, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The death of Jesus pierces his soul; and in the first recorded conversion under the cross, we read, “When the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Truly, this man was the Son of God.” (Luke 23, 47; Mark 15, 39.)

This afternoon, as Palm Sunday ushers in the most solemn of all weeks, I ask the Holy Spirit for strength to convince you of—

THE TRUE CHALLENGE OF THE CROSS

and to show you that, if we would be blessed by Christ, we, too, must acknowledge Him our God and like the centurion glorify His divine mercies.

WE MUST ACCLAIM THE CRUCIFIED OUR GOD

It was no new, untried theory that the centurion proclaimed when he publicly acknowledged Jesus “the Son of God.” This doctrine of the deity of Christ permeates the entire Scriptures. In the prophecies of the Old Testament, for example, in the Psalter, you will find that the Second Psalm calls the promised Messiah God’s “Son”; the Forty-fifth Psalm acclaims Him the “God” of the everlasting throne; the 110th Psalm, “the Lord” at the right hand of God the Father. Clearly does Jeremiah prophesy, “This is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness”; and convincingly does Isaiah forecast, “His name shall be called . . . The Mighty God.”

When these prophecies were fulfilled and God’s clock struck the hour of redemption, Jesus, raising His voice to teach men, emphatically, repeatedly, claimed to be God. In the early part of His ministry He assures Nicodemus that He is God’s “Son”; at the height of His career He calls Peter blessed when this fisherman-disciple declares Him to be “the Son of the living God”; at the end of His life, in the early hours of that Friday of torture, when the high priest demands, “I adjure Thee by the living God that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God,” Jesus definitely answers, “I am.”

The writers of the New Testament reverently acknowledge these claims of the Savior’s divinity. The disciple whom He loves, pointing to him, declares, “This is the true God.” Skeptical Thomas beholds the marks of the nails and the spear and says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God”; St. Paul exalts, “Christ, . . . who is over all, God blessed forever.” And the great truth of the redemption is taught in scores of pages which tell us that “God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.”

Now I submit this issue to you: A skeptic or a Modernist or an infidel may reject the deity of Christ, just as irrational thinkers may deny that there is a sky above or an earth beneath us. But if they tell us that Christ does not claim to be God; if they assert that His deity is not taught in the Scriptures in the plain passages which directly call the Savior God, which specifically give Him divine glory and honor, which carefully ascribe to our Savior the very powers of God; if in the face of all this men brazenly claim, as they do with increasing numbers today, that the New Testament does not teach the deity of Christ, must we not say that they are either dishonest, misinformed, or abnormal?

Many people, however, are open enough to admit that the Bible calls Christ “the Son of God.” But this does not satisfy them; they want proof. As though there were not more direct and convincing proof for this than for ten thousand other theories to which the human mind clings with only shreds of evidence! When Jesus stilled the storm-tossed lake; when He walked on the water; when He twice created food for hungry thousands; when He healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the lame walk, by a word of His omnipotence; when He read the thoughts concealed within men’s hearts; when with a single glance He cast the armed mob to the ground; when He resurrected a maiden, a young man, and His friend Lazarus; above all, when on the third day He Himself triumphantly burst the bonds of the grave and on that glorious Easter rose from the dead, He proved Himself “the Christ, the Son of God.”

Nor is this proof restricted to the New Testament pages. The imprint of Christ’s divine love is ever visible to the eyes of faith in the fulfilment of His prophecies and the demonstration of His power. It was a divine Christ who revolutionized history; it was faith in a divine Savior that turned “the world upside down” to use the words of early enemies of Christ; it was a divine Lord who guarded the destinies of His Church and made true Christianity the ever-present evidence of His own deity.

You can see that Jesus had to be God. No man or selected group of men, however brilliant, distinguished, and acclaimed, could overcome sin and death. In earlier days the psalmist surveyed the great names of his day and the mighty attainments of the wealthy; but when he thought of man’s soul and its redemption, he admitted, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him.” No angels in heaven, with all their power and supernatural energy, could redeem a race perishing in its own vices. The Son of God had to shed His own blood, to suffer and to die, as He completed the divine plan of salvation.

Without this heavenly truth the lamp of humanity’s hope will flicker and fail in every dark night of despair. When a friend came to Carlyle in his grief and loneliness and read to him the words of Christ’s comfort in the 14th chapter of St. John, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me,” the British man of letters interrupted, “Yes, if Christ was God, He had a right to say that. But if He was a man, he knew no more about it than anybody else.” If Christ is only a superman, then you stand dumbfounded before life’s tragedies. You find no answer to the question, “Why did the explosion in that Texas school not occur ten or fifteen minutes later, at the end of the school-day, with the classes dismissed?” With Christ lowered to the depths of everything human, our lives are controlled by a whirl of crazy chance. Our bodies represent nothing more than the 98-cent value that scientists place on the iron, lime, sulphur, and other chemicals in the average human body. We are worth only what we can earn; and insurance figures will tell you that a man of 70, quite in keeping with the savage industrial attack of this day on old age, is worth only $562 in earning capacity.

If, however, with the centurion, we acclaim Jesus “the Son of God” and our Redeemer, we learn how much our souls mean in the sight of our Father, who, in order to save us for eternity, brought the most sacred and potent sacrifice that Heaven itself could offer, the death of God’s own Son. Under this blessing our salvation becomes no uncertainty or mere probability; it is no mere wish and prayer; since Christ is God, He will keep His word though “heaven and earth shall pass away.” If we cling to Him in the confidence of our completed redemption, His never-failing companionship, “even unto the end of the world,” will daily draw us closer to Him, and in His divine light we shall find light for our darkened paths.

WE MUST GLORIFY GOD THROUGH FAITH IN THE CRUCIFIED

When the centurion had recognized in the Crucified “the Son of God,” he did not dismiss this pivotal truth with a careless, noncommittal shrug of the shoulders. That recognition was not the end of his concern for the Christ whom he had helped to nail on the cross; it was only the beginning of a warm, fervent faith, shown, as our text recounts, by the fact that “he glorified God.” What wealth of faith, what height and depth of trust, are concealed in the blessed fact that the centurion who came to crucify, remained to glorify; that he, one of the last who might be expected to acclaim Christ, is the first to proclaim his faith in the deity of Him who, “despised and rejected of men,” had died a criminal’s death! The centurion becomes the leader in that great company of uncounted millions who have come to the cross in unbelief, but have left in heroic, triumphant faith.

Survey for a moment not only those well-known conversions that made Pharisee Saul the Apostle Paul and transformed doubt-blinded Brother Martin into the faith­filled Reformer of the Church, but particularly also those soul-cleansing, life-altering convictions that have completely changed the hearts of Christ’s fellow-countrymen. Carl Caspari, called “the teacher of all Scandinavia,” for years stubbornly ridiculed the deity of Christ and His atoning love. Rejecting the New Testament grace, his motto was, “You can, therefore you should.” But this bolstered bravery failed in every emergency of his life, and when he read the New Testament, which a friend recommended, he was gripped by the power and the truth of the Gospel. “Perhaps,” he reasoned, “Jesus can help also me out of all this misery.” And Jesus did. Caspari tells us that, having beheld Christ on the cross, “I came to Him as my living Savior.” David Mendel, descendant of a distinguished family, known for its social interests, but also for its hatred of Christ, through the guidance of two fellow-students met the royal Redeemer on the pages of the New Testament and acclaimed Him God and Savior. At his baptism David Mendel took the name Neander, which means, “the new man,” and with a true newness of faith he became a great defender of Christ’s Gospel in the last century’s rationalism and unbelief. One of Neander’s students was Alfred Edersheim, the son of a well-to-do Vienna banker. He likewise rejected Christ without ever having seen the New Testament until a Scotch missionary in the city of Budapest handed him a copy. Then, in the trust of the same faith which brought the centurion to Christ, he gave himself to Jesus and “glorified God.” The monument to his faith is a long list of imposing books that center about Christ, particularly his widely read and authoritative The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.

More vital than all this, however, is the personal challenge that Calvary places before you, when it asks you to “glorify God.” If up to this time you have been stolidly unconcerned about that lifeless figure on the central cross, now is the time for soul-searching. If nothing has ever been able to convince you of the necessity of Christ, of your hopelessness without Him, but your blessed hope with Him, pause now to measure the eternal consequences of rejecting or accepting that Savior. Do not try to evade this issue; for you cannot from this moment on, now that I point you to the Crucified and tell you plainly that the direct cause for the torture and agony of the cross, the force that drove the nails into those martyr hands and feet, the hatred that was stronger even than the timbers that held Christ,—all this was your sin, your thankless disregard of God, your wilful transgression of His Law, your headstrong rebellion against His grace. Once you have heard this solemn warning and then this promise of greater grace, that the blood and death of Calvary are the message of God’s mercy, the evidence of your heavenly Father’s abundant pardon for all your sins, the proof of His free, complete, and positive grace for your soul and body, that inescapable, unavoidable question “What shall I do, then, with Jesus?” demands an answer. You either accept Him as your Savior in the clear-cut recognition of the centurion, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” or you reject Him and drown your soul in the deep sea of everlasting regret.

You may call this theology narrow and draw unfavorable comparisons with the broad, genial, tolerant compromise that some people call modern Christian faith. But with the approach of Good Friday I must, on the one hand, be as narrow and as exclusive as the bleeding and dying Savior Himself, who warned, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” I must repeat that “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” On the other hand, in the foreshadow of the cross I must be as broad as the world itself, as ageless as all history, as universal as the sin and sorrow of all mankind, and plead, “Glorify God” through your Savior! “Believe in Jesus! Come to Christ just as you are,—not half-heartedly, not experimentally, nor with one hand reaching toward the cross and the other burning incense at the gilded shrines of money and selfish ambitions, but whole-heartedly, humbly, penitently. Poised as many of you are in this moment at the crossroads of your life, in the name of your Redeemer of the thorn-crowned head and the riven side, I ask you in whose life Christ has never found acceptance to lay your sins and your pride at the foot of His cross and with remorse that springs not only from your lips, but from your soul to repeat the confession of the centurion, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God!’ my Savior, my Redeemer!”

You cannot analyze and explain the mystery of His deity, I know; but with all your hearts you can believe it and make this truth the base, center, and summit of your faith. If even the mightiest human intelligence has bowed before this unfathomable and unsearchable verity, you, too, will appropriate for yourself these words chiseled into the memorial of William Gladstone, British statesman, “All that I think, all that I write, all that I am, is based on the divinity of Christ, the great hope of our poor deluded race.” And as that brilliant leader wrote in his last will, “I surrender myself to God through the infinite mercy of His revealed Son; this is my only and my great hope,” so may you, please God, face life and death with the confidence that acclaims Jesus your God and your Savior!

I have a word also for those who are Christ’s. This first convert after Christ’s death was a soldier. Before the crucifixion he had fought against Christ; now he enters the battle of life for Christ. We need warriors today, too, and a Church Militant that will battle for the deity of our Lord and thus “glorify God.” As Gustavus Adolphus, kneeling on the battle-field of Luetzen, where he was to fight for the Cross, prayed, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, help me this day to fight to the glory of Thy holy name”; as General Gordon, who in Africa and China fought heathenism, proclaiming Christ wherever he went, took as his life motto this favorite Scripture-verse “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he in God,” so we need men and women, young and old, for spiritual warfare against every enemy that seeks to dethrone our Savior. Great sections of American Protestantism are honeycombed with the denial of this fundamental doctrine of Christianity. A Catholic priest in New York created a stir among the clergy of that city when he declared, “I do not think any minister in Brooklyn or New York City believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ.” Of course he was wrong. I thank God that in the Church which I represent not one of our thousands of pastors, students, and teachers even questions the absolute fact that the Crucified is “very God of very God.” But it is true that in some denominations a large proportion of the ministers have openly and finally rejected the godhead of our Savior. In one church-body two-thirds of a representative group flatly denied this crucial truth. And then we wonder why year after year thousands of pulpits in this country are said to fail in winning even one convert during the entire twelve months.

If this denial increases in the same proportion that has marked its growth since the beginning of the century, it will not be long before only numerically insignificant minorities within larger denominations accept this pillar truth. One after the other of our older theological seminaries have been sold out to unbelief. One after the other instructors have been tolerated in Christian schools who say of our Savior’s deity, as one did, that it is “a teaching from which one flees as from a ghost,”—teachers who condemn our hymns immortalizing the Savior’s suffering, as one took these lines from Watts:

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down

and said, “That hymn is not fit to be sung in a slaughterhouse.”

Before it is too late and Liberalism seizes control of more American pulpits, we should have a determined counter-movement among all conservative Christian groups. Instead of supporting efforts to unite superficially entire church-bodies saturated with this unbelief, Scripturally minded Christians should consider ways and means of breaking away from denominations where the deity of Christ and His sacrificial redemption are discarded. History shows that the longer orthodox Christians remain affiliated with Christ-denying groups, the weaker and less effective their protest becomes. The time is here for a new alignment of Christian forces in America. As a matter of personal interest and encouragement I should like to hear particularly from friends outside my communion and to learn of their willingness to fight against this invasion of infidelity. How long can the Christians of our country mark time while one church after the other surrenders to the battalions of unbelief?

For this crisis hour may God give us the faith, love, prayers, support, of all who are Christ’s in spirit and in truth! May He graciously bless thousands of boys and girls who this morning in the rite of confirmation pledged themselves to their Savior and strengthen these young lives for faithful and courageous testimony! May our Father of all mercies behold with especial grace those who on earlier Palm Sundays sang their hosannas to the Savior, but who today are crying, “Crucify Him!” In short, may the blood of the cross not have been shed in vain for any one of us, but may we in daily strengthening stand beneath the cross to “glorify God” with a faith and life that exults, “Certainly this” all-merciful, all-forgiving, all-atoning Savior is “the Son of God.” Amen.

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

Date: March 14, 1937

Prayer for Trust in the Accomplished Atonement

Ever-blessed Redeemer of our souls:

Throughout vast stretches of this country and our neighboring nations many prayerful hearts are raised to Thee in this hour of far-flung radio worship to thank Thee for the accomplished atonement and the perfect pardon wrought for us and all men on Thy cross of agony and blood. Preserve this glorious truth for us at all costs. Deal with us, according to Thy mercy, as Thou wilt, but always and ever keep this blessed knowledge of Thy full and free pardon for our many transgressions uppermost in our hearts and souls. When we are in danger of losing this keystone in the arch of our faith, jolt us out of our sinful carelessness and bring us, repentant, to a new and heartfelt appreciation of this sacred assurance. Since some are unconcerned about their eternal destiny or are trying to earn heaven by their own frail and faulty devices, send Thy Spirit to accompany our message, so that they may behold Thy cross with eyes of faith and in its pure mercy penitently find forgiveness, grace, life, light, and salvation. We need this glorious Gospel faith every moment and in every place. Bring it into our hearts now and keep this confident trust there forever; without it we are hopeless and lost, but with it the glorious vision of our completed redemption, heaven, is ours. Grant us this confidence, O Jesus, our only, but all-atoning Savior! Amen.

It is finished.John 19:30

FEW of us realize how unfinished and incomplete most of our endeavors are. A mother’s work is never done, we say; and the late hours spent in sewing and planning, the early hours devoted to the children and the household duties, the long hours required for washing, cooking, cleaning,—all merge into the ever unfinished task of a mother’s life. The same striving, but never finishing confronts fathers. They complete a day at the factory, the office, the store, or the classroom; but after a night of rest another day dawns with its new demands. Like the moving platform in our automotive factories, life rolls on before us. We take our place in the line to perform our trivial tasks; but we never finish, and the line never ends. Surveying the activities of a typical day in our lives, the duties that we should have met, the opportunities that could have been accepted, we ask, “Will we ever finish?” Even when release comes in the last hour, it often brings an overwhelming sense of incompleteness. Death—and the artist’s brush slips from his lifeless hands! the author’s pen blots the unfinished page! the musician’s bow falls from his fingers! a mother’s needle left in her mending! a father’s plans for his family only begun! a young life, on the threshold of promising manhood, taken away forever!—How overpowering the tragedy of incompleteness!

Nor have our most astute minds dispersed this heavy cloud. We institute peace commissions; but have they perfected peace and completed an understanding among the nations? You have the answer when you see London mothers putting gas masks on their babies during the emergency drills; when you behold five civilized, cultured nations engaged in the insanity of the most stupendous naval race in all human history; as you hear Colonel Lindbergh break his silence to warn the world that modern warfare, through the airplane, will bring destruction into your homes. The newspapers headline, “Labor Strike Settled”; but it has not been settled. We witness only an armed truce. Let six months or a year elapse, and the fires of this class hatred may flare up in the flames that consume far wider areas. And we have not finished with a hundred major, crucial problems.

How we ought to thank God on our knees, then, that, while incompleteness is the curse of our existence and the hard struggles of life often remain unfinished or unrewarded, the greatest blessing of heaven and earth combined, the salvation of our souls, has been finished with divine finality, completed forever by the substitutionary suffering of our ever-blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! If our surety for this life and for that to come were built on the inventions, the philosophies, the research, the study, and the opinions of the last five hundred years, the last fifty years, the last five years, there would be no finished faith, no certainty of completed redemption.

But in one of the shortest of the Savior’s seven utterances on the cross (it is only a single word in the original Greek; but what a blessed, faith-building word of eternal promise it is!) Jesus puts the keystone into the arch of our Christian faith and shows us the completed redemption as He speaks this divine, deathless assurance: “It is finished!” (St. John, chapter nineteen, verse thirty.)

Let us study the glory and the comfort of these three words as I employ them, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to bring you the most blessed of all messages that the radio can ever convey, the promise of—

SALVATION COMPLETED

the immovable assurance that in Christ our redemption is eternally perfected.

THE BLESSED ASSURANCE OF OUR COMPLETED SALVATION

When the death-marked lips of Jesus spoke the sentence “It is finished,” barely audible above the din of Calvary, the dying Savior signified that the sufferings of His soul were drawing to their close, that on the cross He had drained the cup which His Father had placed before Him to its last death-dealing dregs. To us that cross has become an emblem of splendor; we glorify it with our choicest artistry, wreathe it in flowers, entwine it with garlands. But for Jesus it was an accursed tree, raised by the regiments of hell, stained with His life-blood. We sing hymns that glory in the cross of Calvary; yet how the Savior shuddered before that cross! We bless the cross, but the men who saw Jesus crucified cursed it; the ancient world knew no more protracted anguish than that gibbet on which victims sometimes writhed for three days in indescribable torture. Yet the sharpest pain and the deepest darkness in the Savior’s sorrow were the anguish of His sin-bearing soul. You know the pain and the convulsion of a single death. How indescribable, then, the agony of Him who “should taste death for every man.” You know what the wages of sin are in one life; how appalling the punishment of Him who gave “His life a ransom for many”! Now, however, these long hours of sleepless agony are drawing to their close, and the Savior, disowned by His own, taunted by men who had become demons, the Savior who lived as no other man has ever lived, who spoke as no other voice has ever spoken, was to die as no other man has ever died.

Yet this dying-hour cry “It is finished” proclaims an infinitely more vital message. These words show us Christ not only as a sufferer, an innocent victim of astonishing cruelty, an apostle of peace who could forgive His executioners and lay down His life for His friends, as a patriot or an idealist sacrifices himself; this cry “It is finished” means that our deliverance is completed, the eternal plan of our redemption fulfilled, the suffering that brought our salvation ended. By this “one sacrifice for sins forever” in the temple of Calvary, on the altar of the cross, Jesus, as both High Priest and atoning Sacrifice, paid the full price for all sins. There, rejected by the common man and the cultured, priesthood and laity, religious and irreligious, Jew and Gentile, Jesus wrote the last words in Heaven’s volume of salvation, the first pages of which had been recorded as the gate of Paradise closed. He left in His creed nothing for His disciples to complete; nothing that could ever be added to change or restrict His redemption. There were no mistakes in His life that had to be corrected, no blot on the stainless record that had to be removed, no heedless word to be recalled, no thoughtless deed to be undone. By that one perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice full and free redemption was finished for a race perishing in its own rebellion.

“It is finished”—that was the cry which would quench the fire and smoke on temple altars and lead the children of God gratefully to offer the prayers of their blood-bought hearts as incense and sacrifice. No more rams and bullocks to be slaughtered; for on the high altar of Golgotha is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” No more blood of bulls and goats to be sprinkled before Jehovah, for the Son of God and Son of Man offers His own cleansing blood as it drips from His wounded head and His nail-torn hands. No more Sabbaths; instead, by the great freedom wrought for all men and for all times, every day of the seven devoted by thankful hearts and redeemed souls to the worship, praise, glory, and honor of the triune and merciful God! No more Old Testament ceremonial, with the priesthood restricted to the tribe of Levi; instead, a universal priesthood, with every believer enjoying free and untrammeled access to the mercy-seat of Jesus! Gone forever the sway of the Old Testament Law, but now, blessed forever, the sweet New Testament Gospel of mercy! Hushed for all times the rumbling thunders of Mount Sinai and its message of terror “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”; instead, the finished faith, sealed in the blood of the cross, proclaimed, “If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death.”

This, then, is the full, unabridged, unabbreviated Gospel: Christ on the cross paid the full price for our sins; therefore we need not, we cannot, pay for them ourselves. Christ on the cross suffered the complete punishment for all our sins; therefore, if we will only believe Him and trust in Him, we need not and we cannot atone for our guilt. The eternally blessed Savior has done everything for the salvation of all men, at all places, in all ages; and as our merciful Mediator He has done everything completely.

It is not the teaching of Jesus that we must meet Him half way or a quarter of the way or an infinitesimal part of the way; for He says: “I am the Way!” Salvation is not made up 50 per cent of Jesus’ suffering and the other 50 per cent of our own good works, good resolutions, good intentions and purposes. The proportion is not 99 per cent Christ’s and 1 per cent ours; not even 99.99 per cent the Savior’s love and one small .01 per cent ours. Christ is everything, all in all. And when we believe this, we are His. As the apostle triumphs, we are “justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law.” We can repeat to a gainsaying world: “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”

That true Christian faith, as it is assured by the dying declaration of Jesus, “It is finished,” is not the Gospel plus anything else; not Christ in addition to any one else; not the blood of the cross supplemented by any human cleansing power; not the Bible on the same level with any new book of revelation, completing key, or human addition; not the cross as an incomplete, developing manifestation of God, but Calvary as the absolute completion when God Himself, dying in human form, cried, “It is finished!”

Hold fast to this firm Gospel, for it is attacked as never before! We have more than three hundred creeds, cults, and isms, divisions and subdivisions, in our country today. Classify them according to their adherence to Scripture, and you will find that many of them make the fatal error either of adding something to the completed Christian faith or subtracting and altering some of its truth. No error has been productive of more uncertainty and despair than this, that the atonement of Jesus must be completed by human endeavor. The great message that the churches of the country must shout from the housetops and broadcast from coast to coast is not the immature discussion of social, cultural, economic, moralizing questions, but the triumphant summoning of the nation back to the completed salvation of the cross. When everythini else is gone and forgotten, that cross will be remembered.

My friends in the ministry, preach that Cross, teach that Cross, live that Cross, exalt that Cross! The world will thank you little for it, nor will it long remember your self-denial and courage; but in some solemn hours when human souls approach the threshold of the next world, their faith will bless your loyalty. It has well been called the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls, this heaven-born, Scripture-grounded teaching of the all-sufficient, universal grace and the salvation completed at Calvary. Build your Church on that rock, your sermons on that theme, your theology in implicit obedience to the Word of God; and then not even the gates of hell, combined with the cunning of men and the strategy of organized opposition, will prevail against you.

And may God give those of you who are not preachers of His Word, who may have denied or rejected His mercies, the grace to treasure these dying-hour words of your Savior in penitent, believing hearts! This message of the blood, this punishment on the cross, can cut to the quick and wound deeply; and I pray to God that it will cut and wound some of you who spurn the Savior’s grace and live in the hard slavery of sin. You big, boastful men; you hard, sneering women; you smart, sophisticated young people, who think that you have outgrown the Church of Jesus Christ, that the Bible is only ancient history, that you can hush Christ out of your lives, follow your own dictates, and be responsible to no one but yourself,—as you behold Jesus bleeding for you, suffering for you, pleading for you, dying for you, may you be shaken from your security into a sense of terror over your sins and gripped by a quaking fear for your soul!

The swift and sudden approach of death and judgment should warn you against the disaster of delay. Last week a man in a California prison raised his hand in oath, asking God to strike him dead if he were not telling the truth, and a moment later he collapsed in a lifeless heap. Last week hundreds of your fellow-countrymen drove away from their homes or their places of business, high-spirited, eager, confident; but they never returned. Death snatched them on the highway. Last week hundreds of others, secure in their own homes, seemed safe from the hazards of the highway; but they met death within their walls. How do you know that the inevitable moment may not come to you this week? Oh, turn to the cross that wounded Christ, but that heals you! Learn what it cost Jesus to redeem your soul; behold your Savior’s love greater than the vastness of this universe, and as He gasps, “It is finished,” believe, from the very depths of your soul, that all you need for forgiveness, life, and salvation is the redemption completed there on the cross,—especially for you.

THE ASSURED BLESSINGS OF OUR COMPLETED SALVATION

I beseech you in the name of the Crucified to accept this completed salvation for the glorious blessings which it offers. With your redemption sealed in Christ, you have the blessed pledge that, as long as you cling to Jesus, no mist or haze of uncertainty can enshroud your hereafter. It is a lamentable truth that we have too much empty speculation in spiritual matters, too many question-marks, too much guesswork, in our modern creeds; but because Christianity is no try-it-and-see-what-happens speculation, no theory subject to change, evolution, and modification,—instead the eternal, unchangeable, immovable truth of God, completed at the cross, sealed in its finality by the blood of the Savior, you need not cringe in fear for the future if you have Christ. You need not despair over the hereafter if you can call the Crucified your Ransom, your Substitute, your Friend in life and death. If our salvation were not completed, if there were still something to be done, some victory yet to be won, we would be lost in the labyrinth of doubt. Because the Son of God has performed every sacred act required for our redemption by the divine justice of His heavenly Father, you and I, grasping the Cross of Christ with the firm grip of faith, are raised above that uncertainty which limits us to hoping, yearning, praying, for our salvation. We have everlasting, time-defying, doubt-destroying assurance in these three words of golden truth “It is finished.” Do not think that, if you have Christ as your Savior, the question of your redemption is still open to debate. It is the closed, certified, infallible, unchangeable truth of truths, approved by the Word, acknowledged by the Father, attested by the Spirit, glorified by the angels of heaven.

How marvelously faith in this complete salvation fortifies our lives and strengthens us for our troubles! Under the blessing of this finished faith the eternal, errorless Word promises: “Thou [O God] wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” “Perfect peace,” that triumphs over the discords and the rankling hatred of life! “Perfect peace,” that can place a gleam of heavenly joy into eyes filled with tears! “Perfect peace,” that enables us to look at life through the eye of faith and see, as we mark the dark, desperate days of our affliction when there seemed to be no justice in earth or heaven, no help in God or man, how all this, by the marvel of God’s mercy, has kept us closer to Him and farther from sin; how in these blessed trials He has purified and refined, sifted and strengthened, our faith and given us that “perfect peace” “which passeth all understanding” because it is built on a sealed, assured salvation.

What comfort for our last hours we can take from this cry at Calvary, “It is finished!” I have often thought that much of our human zeal is misplaced, focused on the few fleeting years that we live on earth and only incidentally concerned about that which lies beyond the grave. We like to learn how to live fully. We study how to live intelligently, gracefully, usefully, successfully. Our whole education is pointed toward the objective of teaching each generation how to live according to the best standards of its age. Yet we need to be taught how to die.

These Lenten weeks bring us that lesson, and the crucified Savior is our Teacher. When our last hour comes, if the eye of unfaltering faith is directed to Him; if, like the British essayist Addison, we can ask our beloved ones and friends to gather about our deathbed and tell them, “See how easy it is for a Christian to die,” then our departure will be blessed by a radiant prevision of eternal glory, where our Savior, no longer suspended on the cross, but enthroned in His heavenly eternity, repeats the cry “It is finished” in the words of St. John’s Revelation “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending.”

My fellow-sinners and my fellow-redeemed, let us ask God for strength to live in this trusting faith, so that with St. Paul, as he awaited the end in his Roman prison, we, too, can say: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” It is told of the Venerable Bede, father of English history, that he was working on the translation of the four gospels into the common language when death overtook him. In his last hours he had come to the concluding chapters of St. John, from which our text is taken. With his end rapidly approaching, he summoned the scribes for the last time and in a race with death dictated his translation with feverish speed. The quill pens flew across the parchment, the twentieth chapter of the last gospel was finished, and his voice broke. One of the sorrowing disciples whispered into his ear, “Dearest master, there is yet one chapter wanting. Will the trouble be too severe?” The question roused the dying servant of God. “Trouble? There is none,” he slowly replied. “Take your pen, prepare your parchment, and write fast.” With amazing strength his spirit mastered the weakness of his dying body; but again, overcome by the exertion, he fell back exhausted. Once more the disciple approached him and, with tears coursing down his cheeks, whispered, “Dearest master, there is yet one sentence unwritten.” After a short struggle Adam Bede gasped in faltering tone, “Write quickly.” The last verse was completed, his Savior confessed and exalted in his last moments; and as a happy smile illumined the countenance of the venerable prophet, he exclaimed, “It is finished!” A few moments later he died.

God grant us all, not primarily money, honor, security, but the grace likewise to be found faithful to Christ and zealous in His service. Then His cry “It is finished” will become a joyful “It is begun” in a better and blessed life, side by side with those who have gone before us in this faith, face to face with our ever-blessed Redeemer! God grant us that end and that beginning for the Savior’s sake! Amen.

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

Date: March 7, 1937

Prayer for the Sovereignty of Christ in Our Lives

Blessed, sin-removing Savior:

One all-embracing petition we now bring before Thy mercy, the plea that we may be given the faith in Thine atoning love, which leads us always and everywhere to crown Thee King of our souls and Sovereign of our lives. Grant us that courageous trust which is determined, first of all, to seek Thy kingdom, to come to Thee with our sins, the impure thoughts, the selfish words, the cruel acts, that abound in every life and before Thy cross in humble contrition to have these marks of our all too human nature removed forever by Thine atoning blood. Teach us that in Thy kingdom there is room for every one, but particularly for the weary and heavy-laden; that there is grace for every repented sin, especially for those transgressions which seem to have wounded Thee too deeply to be pardoned. Illumine our minds, so that we may earnestly seek to have Thy kingdom come into the hearts and lives of our Christless fellow-men. Help us to believe that in Thy realm here on earth we can find an answer to the glaring question-marks of earth’s sorrows and the hope that will sustain us until, all praise to Thy mercy, we join Thee in Thy heavenly mansions with their never-ending glories. Grant this to us all, our Savior and King of the crowned, but bleeding head! Amen.

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world.John 18:36

AS the British Empire happily prepares for the solemn crowning of its king, our thoughts during the Lenten weeks revert, by sheer contrast, to another coronation. In Westminster Abbey, with all its stately tributes to past glory, George VI, descendant of a long and honored dynasty, will be publicly acclaimed as head of a vast empire; but in an austere Roman judgment-hall Jesus of Nazareth, beaten and bleeding, makes the announcement of His kingship. At the London coronation reverent hands will place a crown of pure gold, studded with thousands of precious gems, on the head of the young monarch; but on that first Good Friday branches of thorns, not the short, softer, rose-bush thorns, but the long, hard, sharp Palestinian thorns, woven into a coronet of hatred, were pushed on the head of the captive Christ. The fur markets of the world have been combed to find spotless ermine for the kingly coronation robe; but the only royal apparel that Jesus had was the mockery of a casual crimson gown thrown over His naked body. The scepter that England’s new sovereign will grasp is of chaste silver, studded with one of the largest and most famous of all diamonds; but it was a reed, ripped from the nearby marshes, that scoffing soldiers forced into the right hand of Jesus. Peers of the realm, distinguished visitors, selected from the world’s great, will throng to London from the ends of the earth; but even the friends and followers of Jesus fled from the scene of His judgment and deserted Him in the hour of His coronation. High-churchmen, ranking archbishops, will officiate at the British crowning and implore the benediction of God upon King George and his empire; but instead of blessing Jesus, the high priests of Jerusalem cursed Him; instead of praying for this King, their hatred, pent up during more than three years of jealous antagonism, broke forth to scream: “He is guilty of death!” When the English coronation exercises are completed from the lips of that august assembly in Westminster Abbey as well as from loyal British hearts throughout the world, the cry will reecho, “Long live the king!” But the only cry heard at the cruel coronation of Jesus was the hoarse, blood-lusting, “Away with Him!” “Crucify Him!” “His blood be upon us!”

By an even more startling contrast, however, we realize today that Jesus, thorn-crowned King, scourged and nailed to the cross, is in Heaven’s truth and by the fact of faith the King of Kings, acclaimed since the day of His death by many millions as the Lord of Lords. What glorious triumph of Christ is recorded in the fact that the crown of England is surmounted by a figure of the cross on which Jesus shed His life-blood; that another cross rises on the top of the British scepter; that a golden orb, again cross­crowned, will be placed into the new monarch’s hand to show the triumph of Jesus throughout the world! What evidence of divine power that the kingdom of Jesus, increasing through nineteen centuries, has pushed its way to earth’s remotest frontiers, claiming as its subjects men and women of every continent, climate, and condition!

Through this message I pray that the Holy Spirit gain new subjects for the kingdom of Christ and strengthen those who have pledged Him their loyalty; for I ask you, in the most vital appeal that can ever be directed to your heart and soul, to—

CROWN HIM KING

and to swear your allegiance to His Kingdom of Grace, of which the Savior Himself says (St. John 18, 36), “My kingdom is not of this world.”

HE RULES WITH LOVE

When Pilate, presiding over the civil trial of our Savior, pointedly demanded, “Art thou a king, then?” and heard from the lips of Jesus this declaration of His royalty, “Thou sayest that I am a King,” his coarse, grasping, heathen mind was dumfounded. Before him stood a prisoner upon whom malice and hatred had rained blow after blow, lash upon lash, until His body was covered with blood. How could He be the virile, challenging figure to direct the affairs of a kingdom? Clad in a common working-man’s clothes, now blood-spattered and torn, how could He lay claim to the crimson brocades and purple silk of royalty? How could this silent figure fire the hearts of any people with impassioned oratory when His lips were repeatedly sealed in silence? Spurned by rabble and leaders alike, supported largely by a few fisherfolk, how could this visionary prisoner from despised Nazareth who admitted that He had not “where to lay His head,” who had openly declared, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me,” hope to win any part of the world when His doctrine repelled every man of the world?

And when Jesus, reading the mind of Pilate, continued, “My kingdom is not of this world,” they who heard Him increased their ridicule. A king without an earthly kingdom! A monarch without land and men and money! It was so absurd that they would make Him a king, if only for a few mocking moments. They would furnish Him a crown, and they pressed the spiny thorns into the head of Him who was “fairer than the children of men.” They would give Him a robe of royal estate, and they threw the purple on His bleeding back. A king must have a scepter; so they forced a sharp marsh weed into the hands that had rested on the bodies of sick and sinful men to impart pardon and healing. This kingdomless king, their sneering sarcasm concluded, must have kingly acclaim; and in the final act of that hell-born slander “they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews,” until their bestial hatred threw off even its ridicule. They spat upon Him, ripped the crimson robe from His body, snatched the reed from His right hand, and with that mock scepter beat His lacerated head.

We marvel at the mercy of God that restrained the heavens from hurling the fire of death upon these blasphemous defamers of our Lord. Yet this same mercy continues today toward those who disavow Christ because His kingdom is “not of this world”; because He lays emphasis on the soul rather than on the body. Some leaders in American churches are tempted by the vision of earthly power that lies in church unions and church alliances; and more than ever before we are told how much influence the churches could wield in the political, social, and economic life of the nation if they would all join hands, forget their differences, and present a united front. But only one church union can enjoy the blessing of God, and that comes not when different denominations agree to disagree or to force minorities into unholy combines which ultimately are against Jesus because they are not entirely for Him; that true, God-pleasing unity is found only where men and women with a perfect loyalty accept every doctrine of the Scriptures.

It is not the wealth of the churches, their social influence, their size, and the number of their adherents that can give them real strength and abiding power. Our generation has been eyewitness to the fact that church money and buildings and influence can be quickly destroyed. Survey the downfall of the churches in Mexico, Spain, Russia, and the precarious situation of churches in France or Germany, and you will see how easily and suddenly churches entrenched in these countries for centuries have been driven out in spite of their jeweled treasures, their lands, their accumulated wealth and endowment. When the churches shake hands with Caesar, they always lose. The Christians worshiping in the shadows of the catacombs, singing muffled hymns within the protection of spectral burial vaults, were stronger in spirit and in faith than many Christians today, when churches are recognized and politicians bid for their votes. The Church of the first centuries that wrote its record in the blood of the martyrs was more vital and energetic than many churches in this day of highly organized Christianity, when men think that the kingdom of Jesus Christ is part and parcel of this earth.

We must return to that pure picture of Christ’s kingdom which lives in the faith enthroned in men’s hearts. When we heard the President of the United States say that in this nation over one-third of the entire population are ill clad, ill housed, and ill fed; particularly when we look about us to behold almost twice as many who are spiritually ill clad because they cannot repeat the prayer that many of us have learned as children:

Jesus’ blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

spiritually ill housed because the Christ who knocks at their doors is never admitted to bless their homes and abide in their households; spiritually ill fed because they are not strengthened by the Bread of Life and the Living Water; and when, on the other hand, we see churches of America heavy in their wealth, mighty in their influence, forgetting the still forgotten souls of many men, entering the lists in behalf of political men and measures, trying to teach people how to live only for this life and not for the next, picturing Christ as a Reformer and not a Savior, His Gospel as law instead of love and His Church definitely of, with, by, and for this world, we are forced to wonder how long it will be in the social revolution that surrounds us before American churches will bring serious restrictions upon themselves.

Only one thing, by the grace of God, can restrain this hostility toward the churches: they must rededicate themselves to the establishment of the Savior’s kingdom, which is “not of this world.” They must disavow all thoughts of pomp and display, all impressions of greatness and power, and all handshaking and back-slapping with the world. Christ, our perfect and eternal High Priest, had no priestly robes when He completed his ever valid sacrifice for all men on the altar of Calvary; let the churches think less of large and costly wardrobes and more of the naked souls that grovel in sin. Jesus spurned every thought of political alliances and bargaining with civil authorities; let the churches follow Him by seeking first of all the kingdom of God, by purifying men’s hearts with the regenerating Word, before they clean the outside. Jesus denounced all attempts to spread His kingdom by force; let churches which have forgotten this repent of those bloody massacres in which men have run their swords through other Christians and bitterly persecuted those who would not conform. to their selfish, secular ambitions. Let them read the abject confession of an American cleric, whose organization for social justice recently ceased functioning, as he admits: “What doth it profit bishops, priests, ministers, and laity if they gain political prestige or patronage for themselves or their friends and lose their souls in the gaining thereof?”

We must return to the words of our Savior, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and reaffirm that the true reign of Christ is marked by the Savior’s love and not by man’s power. Thanks be to God for “His great love wherewith He loved us”! When we behold our King on Calvary (and may you never tire of raising your penitent eyes to that Savior’s cross!), you find there a love that did not select a chosen few, but that reached out over the globe and over the centuries to include all mankind in its universal grasp. There at the cross you witness a love that did not center itself on the best or the noblest of sinful men, but that stooped down to the gutters of life. Beholding the Crucified, you are face to face with a love that does not change, that is not estranged when we prove ourselves faithless and close our hearts to Christ’s renewed and repeated mercy. That Savior’s love does not have to be earned, deserved, and merited. We cannot buy it; for were all human wealth laid beneath the cross on the crest of Calvary, it could not pay for a single drop of His atoning, purifying blood. Rather does the glorious grace that this King of heaven and earth offers us by His suffering and death grant us the assurance, “By grace are ye saved, through faith.”

When you approach the cross with this faith, you are in the kingdom of God, for then “the kingdom of God is within you.” And because Christ is your King and you live in His kingdom, you can exult in this cry of victory: “This Jesus, true God and true man, who suffered on the cross as my Redeemer, my Substitute, my atoning Savior; this Jesus who on the first Easter morn with glorified and exalted power proved Himself the Conqueror of death and the Victor over the grave for me; this Jesus who now, at the right hand of God the Father, continues to intercede for me until He will call me to one of the many mansions in His Father’s house, this Jesus is my King, my Lord, the Sovereign of my soul, the Ruler of my life.”

How, then, can I keep my lips from forming this question: “Have you crowned Christ your King? Do you live in His Kingdom of Grace, which is ‘not of this world’”? If any doubt lingers in your hearts and you hesitate to pledge yourself to Jesus, remember that His is the only kingdom of love. Glance through volumes of history to read that, while some kings have died with a curse or a plan of revenge on their lips, the dying hour of Jesus’ life is marked by the plea, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Because His deathless love prayed that prayer on the cross for you, whose daily sins would crucify Him anew; because that forgiving love helps to tear hatred out of your heart, will you not crown Jesus Christ your King? Our torn and discordant world, with its spleen and bad blood, its hymns of international hatred, its bloodthirsty malice, needs more, infinitely more, of Christ’s love and forbearance.

This absence of love is felt in the smaller circles of life. Why is it that people who claim to worship the same God can hate one another and feed the fires of religious bigotry? Why is it that our own nation is torn by class hatred and that we now hear dangerous and inflammatory utterances which may help to make this country a house divided against itself? Why is there so much self-assertiveness, quarreling, and hatred within American homes, where above all love and forbearance should rule? These tragedies come from unbelief, mistrust of Jesus, weakness of faith, the unwillingness to crown Him King for all places and for all times and for all men. May God hold before your eyes this figure of the divine Savior pleading, “Father, forgive them,” and as this King of Love is ready to pardon you, may you learn to pray in spirit and in truth, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Dying Stephen caught the view of that love when he prayed that his martyr death might not be laid to the charge of his murderers. Four hundred years ago in Holstein, Henry Mueller, a Lutheran preacher, sentenced to death by fire because of his faith, but brutally hammered to death because the fire failed, looked up to heaven and prayed shortly before he entered eternal paradise, “Father, forgive them!” Louis XII, king of France, ascended the throne amid much hostility. When those who had opposed him learned that he had marked their names with a black cross, they were terrified and sought safety in flight; but Louis told them that he had put the cross behind their names only to remind himself of the cross on which the Savior prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Will you not use the cross of Christ in this same way, to help turn family hatred, race hatred, business hatred, religious hatred, into the love that lives in Christ’s kingdom and that is strengthened by His grace?

HE RULES WITH BLESSED PROMISES

For Christ rules not only with love, but also with blessed promises. His “kingdom is not of this world” because it triumphs over all disappointments, contradictions, misplaced hopes, sorrows, that crowd into our daily lives. Yet, though His “kingdom is not of this world,” it is in a very helpful sense in this world, in the heart of all believers, and every day those who are the children of the Kingdom can take part in the struggle of life under the promise that Christ, their King, will battle for them.

Periodically some one writes to ask, “Of what practical good is Christianity?” and recently a national figure who advocates a radical financial reform demanded, “Why does not Christianity get down to earth and solve the questions of food and labor and money?” He misunderstands Christian faith; for in a certain sense it is always “down to earth.” If men would only let the kingdom of Christ saturate our entire social system to check sin, to inspire virtue, we would have a great era of peace and harmony through the comforting and sustaining power which Jesus offers for our everyday problems of life. The Gospel-lesson read in many of your churches this morning told of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, and it repeats the promise that once Christ is King in our lives, He whose omnipotence multiplied fish and bread for that hungry throng, can use the unlimited resources of His kingdom to provide us richly and daily with all that we need for body and soul. Many can testify publicly that, when all seemed dark, when the family pocketbook was empty, when the food supply was exhausted, Christ proved His promise “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” No other king, no other human power, can grant the protection by day and night with which Christ has blessed our homes nor offer the helping hand which Jesus extends to His followers in their weakness, loneliness, sorrow, heartache. The kingdom which is “not of this world” is in this world of worry to give those who are Christ’s guidance for the unmarked paths, strength to resist temptation, power to grow in grace.

In a higher sense, Christ’s kingdom “is not of this world” because its fuller glories come in the next. Earthly empires rise only to fall, and their emperors are born only to die; but the eternity, the blessed everlastingness, of Christ’s kingdom makes our Christian faith a trust of joy, particularly in the hour of death. Not long ago, in an Illinois town, we laid to rest the earthly remains of a veteran pastor, and hundreds crowded the church in which he had preached for more than a third of a century. Amid the tears of human sadness that always fall in the hour of parting it seemed to me a dominant note of triumphant faith marked that simple service. We knew with absolute assurance that our faithful friend and pastor was in Christ’s kingdom, “not of tins world,” but of heaven. And as some of us contrasted the quiet reverence of that service with the shrieking and desperate moaning, loud lament and wailing, of those who have never believed the Savior’s promise “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” we were impressed once again with the truth that, if all of us could crown Christ King and fully believe His mercies, we would thank God that through death He has blessed our loved ones, His disciples, with the glories of His heavenly kingdom. We should not mourn as do those that have no hope, charge God with cruelty, shudder with the thought of returning to homes and rooms that have been emptied by death. If it is true,—and I know it is,—that Christ’s kingdom continues with glorified blessings beyond the grave; if “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” in the heaven that heals all of earth’s sorrows; if you who experienced a deadening succession of hardships and sorrows can look to your King and His heavenly kingdom, where the wrongs of life will be righted and “your sorrow will be turned into joy,”—should our incessant and continued hope and endeavor not be directed toward the faith which keeps the kingdom of Christ in our hearts? Should our daily prayer not repeat the trust of the penitent on the cross “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom,” so that from the lips of the Redeemer we may hear this same promise of paradise reopened by His love?

Heavenly Father, as we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” may Thy Spirit now lead us to come into Thy kingdom through the death-destroying, life-bestowing love of Thy Son, our Savior! Amen.

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

Date: February 28, 1937

Entreaty for Contrition and Courage

Christ, our blessed Redeemer and perfect Ransom:

We approach Thy mercy with bowed heads and contrite hearts to confess our thanklessness concerning Thine atoning sorrows and death, to acknowledge our having been ashamed of Thee, whose grace never was ashamed of us. Forgive us, blessed Savior, and by the mercy of Thy blood shed on the cross blot out this ingratitude. Look upon this vast radio assembly, upon the unbelieving, the scoffing, the denying, the selfish, the secure, and from the East to the West bring repentant souls to faith in Thee and their eternal salvation. Graciously behold also Thy redeemed worshipers who trust in Thee, but are still weak and inconsistent, often lonely and disheartened, yet cling to Thee for immovable support in their wavering hours, for Thy companionship on their solitary paths, for the victory of Thy faith over the onslaughts of doubt and question. Particularly do we commend to Thy strengthening power the womanhood of our nation. Bless the mothers and daughters of this land with a pure and holy faith, that reflects itself in their devotion to our homes and their defense of Thy Church. Hear us, bless us, and prepare us for our part in Thy kingdom for Thine own name’s sake and because of Thine own holy promise, O Christ of all mercies! Amen.

When Pilate was set down on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with this just man.Matthew 27:19

WHILE few issues have divided the nation as sharply as President Roosevelt’s proposal to enlarge the United States Supreme Court, let us direct your attention this afternoon to a bit of legal history on which there can be no disagreement, the trial of Jesus Christ, which by friend and foe is stamped the most vicious miscarriage of justice that men have ever witnessed. Take all the bribery, the sordid betrayal of right and truth that has ever impeached American judges or sent them behind prison-bars, and the total of this iniquity in the name of truth will be completely outweighed on the scales of eternal justice by the verdict of “guilty” which sentenced Christ, the Son of God, the world’s Redeemer, to execution on a criminal’s cross. So infamous is the Savior’s crucifixion that periodically some of His own countrymen have pleaded for a new trial, for a modern Sanhedrin, which, reversing that sentence, would pronounce Jesus not guilty. They know that the whole trial was a legal farce of prearranged revenge; that even a mediocre lawyer could have secured the release of Jesus on any one of a score of counts by which His arrest and His several trials outraged the accepted legal procedure of that day.

But Jesus had no attorney. Far worse than this cold­blooded, black-hearted attack of His enemies was the treachery of His friends and the tragedy that during His entire trial not one of Jesus’ followers spoke in His defense. Where were the disciples? One of them betrayed Him, and his lifeless body would soon dangle from a suicide’s rope; another, having denied Him, turned away, weeping as he went; the other ten, gripped by selfish fear for their lives, fled to cowardly safety. Where were the hosanna­singers and the palm-branch-wavers who five short days before welcomed Jesus and spread their garments for His triumphal entry into the royal city? Not one of these now lifted a voice to counteract the fraud and falsity that combined to crucify Christ. Where was Nicodemus, the influential friend, a member of the very court that sentenced our Lord? He should have defended Jesus before his fellow-judges; but by his silence or his absence, Nicodemus placed his name, too, below the Savior’s death­warrant. Where were the thousands of His countrymen whom Christ fed when they were hungry, healed when they were sick, blessed when they were cursed by afflictions of body and mind? Not one appeared for Jesus. While the Savior stood on trial before Pilate, a hate-crazed mob outside the governor’s palace prepared to demand Barabbas instead of Jesus, a rebel rather than their Redeemer, a murderer in preference to their Messiah.

In that hour, only one voice spoke in behalf of the Son of God. It was the voice of a woman. “When Pilate was set down upon the judgment-seat,” his wife sent a messenger to her husband with the warning that St. Matthew has recorded (chapter 27, verse 19): “Have thou nothing to do with this just man!”

Because we need women today who will defend their Savior, this message addresses itself particularly to the mothers and daughters of the land with the plea:—

AMERICAN WOMANHOOD FOR CHRIST!

—for Christ in their faith and for Christ in their lives.

CHRIST ACCLAIMED BY AMERICAN WOMANHOOD

The defense of Jesus by Claudia—for so tradition names this brave woman—looms up more courageously when we remind ourselves that Pilate’s wife represented the highest society of her day, with its power, wealth, influence, learning. Yet when her thoughts are directed toward Jesus, that mysterious Galilean prisoner arraigned before her husband, majestic even in His bonds, serene, though bruised and battered, she casts rank and position aside. The warning that God has sent in a dream grips her heart, and she prepares to intercede for Jesus. What if the upper classes of Jerusalem demanded His death? What if the high priest, formally bedecked in ceremonial robes, cried out only a few hours before, “Ye have heard His blasphemy!” and his priestly henchmen answered, “He is guilty of death!” What if her own weak, favor-currying husband sought above all else to retain the popular good will! Sweeping all this aside, with a courage that is unparalleled by any other human figure in the Savior’s trial, she proceeds to vindicate that mysterious captive whose fate had caused her much suffering and heartache. “He is a ‘just man!’” she warns her husband. “He is innocent of all those absurd charges, the victim of priestly jealousy and professional pride. I warn you,” she pleads in this lone defense of Jesus; “He is faultless, stainless, guiltless.”

When we plead, “American womanhood for Christ!” we ask all the women of the land to behold the same Savior and repeat the confession of Claudia, “This Jesus is a ‘just man!’” You need no dream to impress this truth upon you; the women of our country have the Bible with its divine proof of the Savior’s innocence. His challenge “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” remains unanswered. Pilate’s first judgment, “I find no fault in this man,” becomes the verdict of the centuries.

Our faith in Christ must go far beyond the claims of His guiltlessness. We must understand the cause of that pain of body, anguish of heart and agony of soul, so intense that these combined sorrows almost killed Christ before He could begin to drag His cross to Calvary. Tradition has it that Pilate’s wife was converted to the faith. However this may be, the appeal “American womanhood for Christ!” asks you, the mothers, the daughters, the wives, the sisters, in our American homes, to acclaim this Christ as more than a “just man.” We must believe with all our hearts that He is almighty God Himself, who descended from the high heavens of power and beauty and glory into this vice-ridden, sin-saturated world deliberately to take from my life and yours, from the two billion human beings that swarm over the earth today, as well as from the countless myriads that have preceded us and that may follow us, every sin individually and all sins in their totality that separate us from God, extract the joy from life, and leave us doomed to unrelieved punishment and unending death.

We need in this nation today eager and alert women, talented and accomplished women, skilled and artistic women; but far more than that we need Christian women, who with trusting faith and undaunted hope will behold this Savior, as the ancient prophet envisioned Him, “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and in His lowliness, His bleeding agony, confess Him as their Lord and Savior, who has redeemed them, lost and condemned creatures, purchased and won them from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death that they might be His own.

No one has ever done so much for womanhood as Jesus. When His Word proclaimed that in Him there is “neither male nor female,” but that He is the Savior of all, that blessed truth became the Christian constitution for womanhood. To see these blessings by contrast, look at Mother India today with its dirty zenanas and harems, with its 27,000,000 widows, forced to live by charity or prostitution, made to believe that the husbands’ deaths were caused by sins of the wives. Step into the hut of Mohammedans at mealtime, and you will often see the father and the sons sit around a huge bowl of food. Occasionally they throw a few bones and scraps to a figure huddled in the comer—the wife and mother. Cross the fence that surrounds a Zulu kraal in South Africa, and you may hear a father planning to sell his daughter for a dozen sheep to a multimarried suitor. The fact that in America today our wives and mothers are not called “cows” as in the Moslem world is not due to education; for some of those who would degrade womanhood by proposals of loose family ties and free love have been men and women of university training. The fact that womanhood has been placed on the pedestal which it now occupies is not due to modern thought. The Soviet program for women has offered plenty of new and revolutionary proposals, but it has dragged women down to a new low level of lust. The respect which we accord to womanhood does not come from American wealth and progress; for in some of our wealthier homes you will find women regarded as pampered playthings, welcomed as long as their beauty and attractiveness serve the gratification of lust, but discarded or exchanged before collusive divorce courts when this glamour fails. Every blessing that motherhood today enjoys comes from Christ. As you behold womanhood saved by Christ from slavery, purified, exalted; as you hear the Word of God demand this high standard, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it,” can you not see why womanhood has found a powerful appeal in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

It is disastrous enough when a man rejects Christ, but how shocking when a woman brazenly joins with those who would crucify Christ today if He were with us. May God save the women of America from the terror of that denial! May His Spirit lead you, if need be through hardships and disappointments and shocking reverses, to this Christ and to His cleansing love!

CHRIST DEFENDED BY AMERICAN WOMANHOOD

Unswerving faith in Christ’s redemption must create in you the holy desire to defend Him against the attacks of our hostile and unbelieving world. If, as I pray to God, Christ is enthroned in your heart to direct the affairs of your life, you cannot sit idly by while modern denial continues to rain blasphemous blows upon our Savior. You must plead His cause as did Pilate’s wife and stand up for His truth. Has it ever occurred to you that the enemies whose evil scheme Pilate’s wife sought to frustrate are in principle the same foes that assail Christ today? As she fought against the clergy which in the trial of Jesus had denied the Savior’s deity, so, when some of the loudest and most insistent voices in American churches boast that they, too, deny this central doctrine, you must be prepared, even if you, too, stand alone, to uphold the glorious truth, asserted by Jesus, acknowledged by the Father, repeated in the gospels, reinforced by mighty miracles, that Christ is not merely godly or godlike, but that He is, was, and ever will be very God of very God.

When Claudia spoke to defend Jesus, she opposed the Pharisees of her day, the false teachers who rejected Christ because they wanted to save themselves and through the fulfilment of ritual work-religion earn their own way into heaven. They were the smugly self-satisfied who gloated before God that they were better than the rest of the human herd. If any of you are members of churches that have kept this delusion alive; if you sit before pulpits that dilute the Gospel with this pay-your-own-way-to­salvation creed; if you would remain Christ’s, you cannot stifle your protest and remain silent while souls for which the Savior bled and died are being turned away from His full grace. If the pictorial sections of our newspapers show us the Spanish women fighting in the front ranks of the civil war, can we not expect that the courageous spirit of Christian womanhood, which in every crisis of past church history has rallied to the defense of the Cross, will be ready to take its determined place for spiritual warfare against the enemies of Christ? Let there be no mistake about this—the attack on unbelief will not be easy. It may mean the breaking of long-established connections. Four hundred years ago Martin Luther predicted that because of infidelity and false teaching in some churches the Word of God would have to be taught in Christian homes rather than in pretentious church­buildings; and rather than expose yourself to the sarcastic barbs of sneering unbelief and let your children attend Sunday-schools where they are taught to paint and draw, and weave and mold, but learn nothing of the incarnate redeeming Savior, speak up in protest, and if your defense of Christ is unheeded, come out from among them, be separate and be strengthened in your loyalty to Jesus.

It was not easy for Claudia to defend Jesus since everything for which He stood—His emphasis on purity, His glorifying of marriage, His benediction upon childhood, His esteem for the home—was bitterly opposed by the sensuous world of Claudia’s day. Yet as she loyally acknowledged Jesus’ innocence, so you must answer the Savior’s appeal for a firm, consecrated womanhood by rising to the defense of His teachings concerning the home, family life, and the preparation for their blessings. This is a day of easy, slippery morals, an age that is ready to dose its eyes to the sins of the flesh, happy to encourage young women in the first and small evasions of the pure life, eager to applaud the sowing of wild oats, happy to help Satan pose as an angel of light, and we have stood by while notorious women have been headlined in newspapers, glorified in our magazines, applauded by repeated curtain calls in our public entertainments. False standards consequently are held up before the impressionable minds of America’s young women; and in some of the thousands of letters that come to us the truth of God’s Word finds its distinct fulfilment, “Whatsoever a man”—or a woman—“soweth, that shall he”—or she—“also reap.”

To repel this violation of Christ’s demand for purity, to hear His Word plead, “Keep thyself pure,” and then to keep ourselves pure, we need the sustaining, preserving power of Christ’s Word. On the night of His betrayal He told His disciples, “Now are ye pure through the Word which I have spoken unto you”; and if American womanhood is to be Christ’s, it must learn to fight the rampant evils of this day in His strength and with a faith that is fortified by His Word. So I ask you: Do you pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” and then make the Bible an essential part of your own life? Do you give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to purify and ennoble your soul through this building Word? Do you know the old hymns, built on the rock of Scripture, by which you can sing your way from temptation?

We must present a solid, unmoving defense for Christ’s glorified teaching concerning motherhood and childhood. Never before have medals been bestowed upon those who have labored to restrict motherhood, nor has the moral life of the nation been attacked as viciously by those who have tried to make childlessness a virtue. Despite the fact that the first of all commands and blessings that God gave the race (recorded in the very first chapter of the Bible, repeated, to avoid all possibility of misinterpretation, three times in its next eight chapters) is His holy word “Be ye fruitful and multiply,” we stand face to face with this perversion that children, “an heritage of the Lord,” are sometimes hated as social impediments. Every student of history knows assuredly that, when a nation spurns the gift of healthy, happy children and regard its families of six or seven boys and girls almost as vulgar; when the intelligent classes refuse to reproduce themselves, the handwriting of warning appears upon the walls of the national structure. How long will we tolerate the cheap, lurid, sometimes fraudulent advertisements flaunted before the eyes of high-school boys and girls by those who promote this unholy birth restriction? God give us leaders for a mighty movement of protest!

In our text Claudia, moved by a concern for her husband’s welfare, warned him to hold back his hand from the Christ of God. Her plea was not heeded. Pilate, sneering man of the world that he was, “delivered Him to be crucified.” However, many other wives have helped to restrain their husbands from the sin of unbelief and have brought them to faith. If you have a life partner who is cruel or unbelieving, do not rush to the divorce court. Hold off argument and scolding; work and pray in deep and persistent prayer. Even though harshness seems to echo your love and indifference answer your entreaties, speak kindly day after day and give a Christian example of forbearance. Let the Spirit of Christ shine forth from your life; and as the apostle reminds us that many wives have won their husbands for Christ by their “chaste conversation,” so focus your attention, your love, your prayers, on the home.

“How quaint!” “How old-fashioned!” I hear some of you say as the Church pleads for a back-to-the-home movement on the part of American wives who have neglected their first duties. Indeed, the popular appraisal of greatness reveals a curious trend of the modern mind, which regards a woman as distinguished not because she is a good mother and a faithful wife, but because of achievements and ideals which lie outside the home. In the face of this attitude, responsible for many broken homes and bankrupt family happiness, let us remember that woman’s greatness lies not in political preeminence, in airplane flights, in stage successes, in literary distinctions, in business leadership, in social acclaim, but in her devotion to the development of her home, in the support of her husband’s interests, in the training of her children for Christian manhood and womanhood. Take your Old Testament, turn to the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs, and you will see that three thousand years ago the inspired author of these remarkable truths settled the question of woman’s greatness by bestowing the palm of distinction upon a God­fearing mother, the woman who is primarily concerned about her husband, her home, and her children.

This loyal defense of Christ and His teaching brings rich returns,—not always in dollars and cents, of course, but in those greater gifts beyond the power of purchase that come with the abiding companionship of Christ in the home: a happiness that rejoices even in adversity; a loving comradeship between husband and wife that thanks God for the necessities of life; the confiding trust between parents and children that makes father and mother watch over the souls of their own flesh and blood, bring them to Baptism, and in this uncertain age teach their sons and daughters the absolute certainty of Christ’s saving, strengthening love; the serene joy of trusting faith, maintained by daily Scripture-reading, nurtured by daily prayers; the power to meet sickness, disaster, sudden parting, and death with the hope of a blessed resurrection and a glorified reunion in heaven.

As Christ now holds out these blessings to you women of America, will you, should you, dare you, reject them for the glitter of unbelief and the tarnish of indifference? God strengthen you, every one of you, with the grace, the wisdom, and the love to give yourselves, your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole mind, to Christ, your Savior, now and in eternity! Amen.

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

Date: February 21, 1937

Prayer for Grace and Strength

Blessed Savior, Thou who didst seal our eternal redemption with Thine own holy blood:

Have mercy upon us and behold Thy children with a glance of Thy strengthening grace, so that in the hour of trial and temptation we may never turn our backs upon Thine outstretched arms. We remember in keenly felt sadness the fatal ease with which our flesh can surrender instead of resisting, deny Thee instead of affirming our faith in Thy mercies. Contritely do we beseech Thy forgiveness, and humbly do we ask Thee to preserve us at all costs from that most terrifying and damnable of all sins, the denial and disavowal of Thee who didst not forsake us, even on the cross, burdened with the sins and sorrows of all mankind, as Thou didst finish forever the blessed work of atonement. With the vision of Thy suffering and death before our eyes, help us to renounce sin, to rise victoriously above our afflictions, to walk more closely with Thee. Send us Thy Spirit to bless this broadcast and use it mightily, bringing the message of Thy judgment upon sin to many selfish and secure sinners, comforting the weary and heavy-­laden with eternal hope, strengthening those who know the joy of Thy salvation and would grow in grace! Hear us, O Christ, Thou sin-bearing Lamb of God, as Thou hast promised to hear us! Amen.

The Lord turned and looked upon Peter. . . . And Peter went out and wept bitterly.Luke 22:61-62

A FEW days ago the nation paused in impressive ceremonies to honor the memory of Abraham Lincoln; but do you know that a Civil War newspaper, attacking the great Emancipator, denounced him as “a horrid-looking wretch” and snarled: “After him, what white man would be President?” Will you believe that a prominent statesman, maliciously assailing Lincoln, the Preserver of the Union, the liberator of enslaved millions, called the Martyr President “the original gorilla”? Tomorrow, when grateful hearts throughout our forty-eight States commemorate the birthday of our country’s father, it may serve a vital purpose to recall that newspapers of Washington’s day berated him who of all men should have been first in the hearts of every American as a “tyrant, an impostor, a crocodile, a hyena, or even an embezzler.” On the day that Washington retired from the Presidency another hate-filled editor gloated: “This man [Washington], who is the source of all the misfortunes of our country, is . . . no longer possessed of the power to multiply evils upon the United States. Every heart ought to beat high with the exultation that the name of Washington ceases from this day to give currency to political iniquity and to legalized corruption.”

“Despicable and treacherous!”—harsh terms like these express our revulsion from such monstrous lies and hideous disloyalty of man toward his fellow-men. But what can we say of that immeasurably more shocking denial which makes men disclaim their God? If, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us, even dumb, brute creatures—horses, oxen, mules—know their owners and recognize their master’s crib, how can we describe the depravity of intelligent men and women who as the basest of all ingrates turn their backs upon the Lord and His rich and daily providing for all their needs? Above all, what words can we find for the man who has acknowledged Jesus Christ as his Redeemer, enjoyed the privileges of His sacred companionship, and yet in the hour of trial denies and disavows that Savior?

As our second Lenten message takes us from the gloom and the grief of Gethsemane to the high priest’s courtyard, the enormity of this denial of Christ confronts us in Simon Peter, the Galilean fisherman disciple. Blessed as only eleven other men in all history, through his high calling as Christ’s disciple, he had been singled out by his Lord for notable distinctions. He was one of the privileged three who beheld the Savior both in His transfigured glory and in His deepest suffering, beneath Gethsemane’s ancient olive-trees. Of the twelve disciples—this would be our quick conclusion—Simon Peter should have been the last to forsake his bound and captive Christ. Yet when he hovered around the fire with the avowed enemies of Jesus and there in the priestly courtyard warmed himself against the early morning chill, Peter, the impetuous disciple, the spokesman of the Twelve, the sword-bearing crusader, loses his faith; and when the repeated challenge is hurled at him “Art thou not also one of this man’s disciples?” weak, disloyal, thankless Peter deliberately denies his Lord, protests three times, “I know Him not,” and curses and swears to prove his contempt of Christ.

Had this record of Peter’s faithlessness stopped here, had that disgraced disciple been cast away forever, there could be no charge of injustice; for if ever a man failed in a great emergency, it was Peter, the coward. But praise be to God’s marvelous mercy, disloyal and disgraced as Peter was, he had not fallen too far to be reclaimed and restored. As Jesus was led, bound and beaten through the court, we read (the twenty-second chapter of St. Luke, verses 61 and 62): “The Lord turned and looked upon Peter; . . . and Peter went out and wept bitterly.”

I pray that Christ may look upon every disloyal heart in this audience and bring every truth-denying life to repentance while I speak to you of—

THE SAVIOR’S GLANCE OF GRACE

and show those who have set themselves against Christ the love and strength that you, too, can read in the eyes of Jesus.

A GLANCE OF ALL-FORGIVING LOVE

Peter is pictured to us as the most human of all disciples. As he lives on the pages of the gospels, we find in him the same frailties that shatter our own loyalties. Unforgettable is Peter’s previous and heroic confession of faith. When the masses had turned their backs upon Jesus and the Savior, addressing the Twelve, asked, “Will ye also go away?” it was Peter who sprang to this deathless answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”

How can this courageous conviction come from the same lips that spoke the shocking betrayal, “I know not the man”? Or let me ask, how is it that some of you, sons and daughters of godly parents, pledged in your youth to the same Christ, once outstanding in your church and Sunday-school work, enlisted in the service of Jesus Christ as ministers of His grace, have fallen, just as Peter, and repeat: “I know not the man”?

Perhaps your denial is to be traced to a fatal self-confidence and emotionalism in your relation to Jesus. There was something of that in impetuous, self-reliant Peter. He beholds his Savior radiant on the Mount of Transfiguration, and, overcome by the joy of it all, he can think only of the ecstasy of living near the glory­colored clouds. He sees Jesus striding across the Galilean sea, and in one moment of high-pitched enthusiasm he begs permission to walk the waves, and in another moment of cringing fear he screams, “Lord, save me!” Listen to him, but a few hours before he proves himself the traitor, impulsively promising Jesus: “Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended.” “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee,” and then remember that only a few moments later the Savior finds him asleep. There is too much of this boiling hot and icy cold emotionalism in many hearts today, too much of weathervane Christianity, too much appealing to the senses by pomp and parade, by color and ceremony, and too little of the plain, direct, personal preaching of Christ and Him crucified. Too much of sugary, sentimental song and music and too little of the virile, militant battle-cry for Christ: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Too much of the sweet saccharine, dripping, maudlin messages that deliberately toy with the lighter heart-strings; and too little, far too little,—may God forgive us!—of sound, Scriptural preaching and pure Biblical doctrines! Too many people with ears itching for pretty phrases and pulpit ether to anesthetize their conscience; too few who crowd emotionalism to the side as they demand, “What must I do to be saved?” Too many who want to feel their religion and demand a surcharge of emotions; too few who want to believe with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind that in Christ they have, now and forever, perfect pardon, perpetual peace.

Another factor in Peter’s denial is the disappointment when his dreams of Jesus’ grand and earthly kingdom collapse and his own recourse to arms is condemned by the compassionate Christ. How many people are there today who repeat Peter’s question: “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” In view of the fanaticism of certain clergymen the unholy attempts to inject churches into purely political affairs which we have witnessed in sectarian lobbies, the formation of special political parties, and the arrogant claims of some religious bodies for supremacy over the State we ought to pray fervently that God preserve us from churchmen who seize the sword, forgetting their sacred duty to help the wounded souls of humanity. And when the ambitious plans of sword-brandishing zealots fail and people hear Jesus say: “My kingdom is not of this world”; when we see that the popular answer to the demand: “What, then, shall I do with Jesus?” is still: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” they are often ready to surrender their faith and disavow a Savior whose ultimatum is still: “Take up the cross and follow Me.”

By the same process of sin that made Peter turn away from his Lord some of you deny Jesus. You may never have stood in a public place and openly repudiated Christ; but your life, your words, your attitudes, cry out more decisively than any mere rejection in words: “I know not” the Christ! It seems to be in the air, even the religious atmosphere, this washing one’s hands of Jesus. I sometimes rub my eyes to see if I am reading aright when I review some pronouncements of churchmen in high position, with words piled upon words, many of them so colorless and Christless that they could be uttered in a mosque, in a synagogue, or in many a Buddhist temple. In many circles the only unpardonable pulpit sin is the clear, ever-repeated, ever-emphasized message of the cleansing blood and the saving mercies of Christ.

Some of you write to ask why we must speak out so clearly against the betrayal of Christ in modernist churches. Do you want us to tiptoe where the saints of God have firmly trod? Do you want preachers who close their eyes and stuff their ears and bring lilac-scented “cheerio” messages? Does America need “yes” men at the microphone who sidestep that most unpopular of all subjects, sin, except perhaps to throw a few harmless verbal brickbats at European Fascism or to rise in indignation against hairy Communists, white-slavers, and brutal murderers, but let the rest of sin, the moral poison that infects every life, go by? Whatever you may think, this broadcast, God helping us, will give public testimony to “the hope that is in” us and testify to the divine Christ of the Scriptures, the saving Christ of our souls.

It is only in this Jesus that the great issues in your life and mine can find their heavenly solution and that the disgrace and disloyalty of our denials can find their forgiveness. “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” And how merciful that Savior is and how all-compassionate the glance of grace which He directs even to those who have forsaken and rejected Him! As He passed by Peter, He might have transfixed the ingrate disciple with the same power which a moment before had struck the proud legionnaires of Pilate prostrate. He might have focused a penetrating gaze of fiery anger upon weak-kneed Peter. He might have turned away in disdainful contempt. He might have stopped to speak words of scorn like these: “Peter, you promised to watch with Me, but you slept. You promised to stay with Me, but you deserted Me. You promised to march at My side, into prison and even death, and here you are, in the midst of My crucifiers, with one denial after the other tumbling from your traitorous lips. As you rejected Me, so I now reject you!” But that could not be Jesus. He spoke not a word; He simply directed His all­eloquent, all-revealing glance of grace toward the discredited disciple, and as their eyes met, pity and forgiveness overshadowed all wounded trust or pain of grief. This was the last glance that Peter had of His Savior before the end at Calvary; but it was a glance of love. Beneath that glance Peter must have lived through all the past promises again. The memories of the Savior’s daily mercies, the assurances of the Savior’s daily prayers, the recollections of the Savior’s daily teachings, the evidences of the Savior’s daily miracles, all these must have passed before him in glorious pageant as he stood face to face with Jesus. In a flash, with the assurance of Christ’s mercy hammering at his heart, penitent tears stream from his eyes and convulsive sobs shake the frame of that rugged disciple. The hope of forgiveness has triumphed over Peter’s terror of guilt.

We acclaim the love that men show for their fellow-men on fields of battle or by their bravery in the treacherous turns of life. We write glowing chapters about a mother’s devotion and a father’s self-sacrifice for their children. We exalt the self-effacing love that makes a husband crowd his wife into the last life-boat and remain on the deck of a sinking liner to await his doom. All this is love for those whom we love. But has the world ever known a fervor of devotion like that which gleamed from the Savior’s glance of grace? Denied, He denied not again; reviled, He “reviled not again”; cursed, He blessed.

This Jesus, no longer bruised and bleeding, but glorified and triumphant, looks down upon every one of us with the same glance of grace, calling us by the same mercies to sorrow and tears over our sins, but to the same blessed promise of forgiveness. No matter how long you have been away from Christ; no matter if you have lived every waking day and sleeping night of your life against Christ, His love is so great that it cannot be quenched by denial upon denial. It asks you, not merely for an uncertain, unhappy feeling over your sins, but for soul-deep repentance, heart­grounded contrition, that measures your sins in their fearful consequences: death, an eternity of remorse, and everlasting banishment from God. Above all, Christ asks for the fearless faith in the same mercies that saved Peter for eternity. Only this alternative confronts us: either the despair of unforgiven sin, which sent Judas to his shuddering end, or the promise of forgiven sins, which was granted penitent Peter. Which will you choose? For choose you must. God grant that, as you look to your Savior and as His eyes of all-seeing mercy behold your life, this warming glance of grace may bring you through tears of deep penitence to the joy of your salvation!

A GLANCE OF STRENGTHENING LOVE

Peter never forgot that glance of grace; for the Savior not only forgave him, but also strengthened him for a victorious life and for his great apostleship in the Church. Moments of weakness were still to overtake Peter, just as they becloud every life; but with the impress of the Savior’s loving glance printed upon his soul, he truly became the rock disciple. Listen to him on the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Easter, when without fear or favor he testifies to Christ, accuses his fellow-countrymen of having nailed the Savior to the cross, and invites them to the one Source of divine mercy. Read through the early chapters of Acts and see how this bold faith guides the destinies of the early Church. They might threaten and scourge him; they might cast him into prison again and again; they might take counsel to slay him; but all persecution and torture combined could not bring him to reject his Savior. He gives his life to Christ with a holy zeal. In the two letters that bear his name the closing words: “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever!” summarize his own career for Christ, which was cut short by a martyr’s death, perhaps, as tradition maintains, when he was crucified with his head downward.

What strength every one of us should find in the promise that we, too, can look to Jesus and, beholding His glance of grace, find the strengthening, purifying, ennobling, uplifting power that nothing else can bestow! Many people are troubled with the tragic intrusion of evil into their lives. They want to overcome temptation; they want to conquer sin. But though they try a hundred different human remedies and experiment with the modern theories of character-building and self-improvement and moral development, they are confronted with failure after failure when they give way to sin and find that the one devil which has been chased out returns with seven more deadly spirits. If they battle against lust and the treachery of their sins in their own strength, they are doomed to that hopelessness which, I know, is torturing some of you, the repeated failures in advancing to a better life. For this you need a superhuman source of building energy; you must see Jesus more clearly day by day and have His glance of grace brighten and strengthen your lives. You young men and young women who have to fight against the lusts of the flesh and repel more attractive temptations than any generation of young people before you, look to Christ and let His glance of grace endue you with power. If tempted to give way to sin, deny your faith, or reject your Christ, look to the Savior (and this is just another reason your homes should ban the paganized, nude, and seminude statuary and pictures, all suggestive magazines and lust-laden books to make room for Christ and the portrayal of His grace);—if you turn from the Tempter with the Savior’s command “Get thee hence, Satan,” in the name of Jesus Christ and turn toward the eyes of the Savior’s sustaining grace, you will find a living, powerful, antidote to the passions of life. You will know what the apostle means when he promises that, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” with a renewed loyalty to Jesus and a reborn resistance to evil.

And when some of you, repeating the wish spoken in the days of our Lord’s earthly pilgrimage, “We would see Jesus,” ask, How can we have the constant vision of His grace and maintain a strengthening companionship with Him? take courage in this truth: You can meet Jesus in His Word; you can come to Christ in the cleansing and purifying Sacraments, in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; you have prayer and with it the vast resources of Heaven’s omnipotence.

For cancer treatment today doctors direct powerful X-rays on the diseased tissue to destroy the malignant growth. And when you and I let the bright and all­ pervading light that streams from the countenance of the compassionate Christ focus its beaming rays upon the cancer of our sins, the power of this hideous, deep-rooted, soul-destroying growth is broken. You know that for convalescence after sieges of wearying sickness doctors prescribe the warm rays of the healing sun; and when the Greater Physician, Christ, the Purifier of our souls, meets us face to face, then the radiance which streams from His glance of grace will heal our penitent souls and give us renewed vigor and determination to carry the burdens of our daily cross.

Once more, then, I have set before you in the name of Jesus Christ the full and unconditioned promise of forgiven sins and the pledge of His strengthening grace. Many of you know this blessing and can testify to its changeless truth. God strengthen you, my fellow-soldiers in the army of Christ, united as we are in the Church Universal, divided as some of us may be by denominational lines! God bless you and give you who stand the wisdom to take heed lest you fall as Peter fell. Others once knew Christ, but like the disloyal disciple you have told the world: “I know Him not!” and are living on as doomed men and women, into whose hearts the Savior must strike terror when He says: “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” O may the God who pardoned and restored Peter now send His Spirit to melt the icy chill of your self-righteous and stubborn hearts and make your eyes fountains of hot, contrite tears of faith! And still others may never before have heard of the Savior’s glance of grace until today, when by the providence of God you were led to this broadcast to be told of the Savior’s multiplied mercy. From this moment on, my friends, you are again under the duty of decision. You are either for Christ, or you are against Him. You either look to the “bleeding Head and wounded” and find the glance of grace for your repentant soul, or you turn away from Christ and His cross, and that means away from hope, from life, from salvation. My prayer asks that every one of us, in the spirit of penitent Peter, may fall on his knees before the Crucified to plead:

My faith looks up to Thee,

Thou Lamb of Calvary,

Savior divine!

Now hear me while I pray;

Take all my guilt away;

O let me from this day

Be wholly Thine!

Amen.

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

Date: February 14, 1937

Lenten Prayer

Christ, our Lord:

Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us and grant us Thy peace! On the threshold of the Lenten season, as we prepare to follow Thy footsteps from the gloom of the Garden to the death­cry on the cross, send Thine enlightening and purifying Spirit that the grace and promise of forgiven sins, life and salvation may not be lost for any poor, struggling, sinful heart. Help us to stifle every suggestion of self-righteousness and personal goodness and to find in Thy suffering and death the appalling price which Thou didst pay for our sins. Then put the joy of Thy blood-bought salvation as a living, triumphant faith within our repentant souls. Come especially to those who are discontented with life, the disillusioned young and the world-worn old, to those who are restless and tormented, the burdened of soul and conscience, to those who have their religion in their heads, but not in their hearts, on their lips, but not graven on their souls; and turn all of us to that Lenten radiance which illumines Thy cross, amid the besetting darkness of our sin-clouded world. Grant that al Calvary we may all find the blood­bought pledge of our eternal happiness, granted by Thee, our Savior, who, having loved us, lovest us to the end. Hear us for Thy truth’s sake! Amen.

O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me except I drink it, Thy will be done.Matthew 26:42

“GOD wills it! God wills it!” So, eight hundred and more years ago, a French hermit, small of stature, fiery of eye, swift of tongue, fanatical of mind, a screaming rabble-rouser, shouted to the masses of Christian Europe, demanding that Jerusalem and the holy places of Palestine be wrested from the grip of the infidel Saracens. “God wills it! God wills it!” the mountains and the valleys, the walled cities and open farmlands echoed for two demoralized centuries and for many bloody crusades. “God wills it! God wills it!” ran the echoing refrain clear across the continent to the British Isles, as endless armies recruited from castle and cottage, lured by the promise of full indulgence for all their sins, enlisted in the holy war. All the bigotry and fanaticism of those two hundred years; all the innumerable hosts that perished by famine, shipwreck, disease, exposure, and battle; all the ten thousands of boys and girls enticed into a heart­breaking crusade for children, only to disappear forever or, worse, to end in slavery, could not bring success. True, Jerusalem was taken after an inhuman butchery when men, bearing on their own uniforms the crimson cross of the loving, merciful Savior, in three days slaughtered 70,000 Moslems and burned the Jews alive in their synagogues. But the Holy City was soon recaptured, and the crusades collapsed. In spite of the crusaders’ battle-cry God had not willed it.

Today the call for a victorious crusade must sound throughout the land, a flaming appeal, not for gory conflict on a religious battlefield, but for unrelenting opposition to rampant anti-God, anti-Christ forces. Do you know that at the recent World Congress of the Godless in Moscow forty-six nations were represented; that after eighteen years of the vilest war against Christ history has ever witnessed, over half of the 120,000 Russian churches have been demolished and many of the others desecrated; that 42,000 clergymen have been dragged to Soviet concentration camps; that international war against religion has been declared in twelve different languages; that millions of rubles are being gathered, by contribution and lottery, to erect a down-with-God broadcasting station and to finance seven thousand away-with-Christ clubs, schools, and museums?

Yet far more perilous than these attacks of organized atheism and the like-minded efforts in our own country are the folly and tragedy that blight our own lives when we stubbornly resist God and change the Savior’s prayer “Thy will be done” into the selfish, arrogant “My will be done.” We must take the cry of the crusaders “God wills it!” but in pure and holy love entrust the divine direction of our souls and lives to Jesus. Without Christ or against His will you and I can find no quiet of mind, no serenity of soul, no genuine joy of life. But with the stamp of divine approval “God wills it!” on our impulses and action, while awaiting the glories of a heavenly tomorrow, we can find peace in the war-ridden world, shelter in the storms of life, guidance in the endless maze of surrounding error by obeying God and resigning to His will.

In this first week of the Lenten season, then, I come to you in the name of Him whose agony and crucifixion we now penitently behold and beseech you to accept God’s guidance for your souls and bodies with the resolution:

“THY WILL BE DONE!”

What mightier incentive could there be for this unflinching faith, we ask, as we remind ourselves that it was our own blessed Savior who, at the outset of His ordeal in the gloom of the Garden, prayed these words of our text (St. Matthew 26, 42): “O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me except I drink it, Thy will be done”?

THE PRAYER OF THE SUFFERING CHRIST

It is one of the most sacred scenes of divine revelation that unfolds itself before us, a sight that human eyes hardly dare behold, this glimpse of God’s own Son kneeling in the depths of prayer that human reason can never sound, lying prostrate on the damp earth, clutched by agonies beyond man’s comprehension. Gethsemane, only a scant half mile from a teeming city! Christ only a stone’s throw from the three chosen disciples! Yet the distance of universes separates that Savior from deliverance, as three times His piercing prayer rings unanswered through the chill of night: “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.”

I hear men speak of the Gethsemane in their own lives, and I read eloquent passages of poetry and prose that portray sorrow-laden sufferers kneeling in their garden as Christ knelt. But I resolve never to speak of any Gethsemane in mortal life or to symbolize any human sorrows by my Lord’s suffering beneath those gnarled olive-trees. Can you classify a molehill with cloud-crowned Mount Everest? Can you compare a single drop of water with the 150,000,000 square miles of the earth’s raging and roaring seas? Even less should all the sorrows that aching hearts and bruised souls and wrecked lives can heap upon any bowed head and warped life be mentioned in the same breath with the agony in the Garden that almost killed Christ, that made the sweat of terror drop from His forehead as blood oozes from a wound, that left Him faint, quivering, helpless, and called down an angel from heaven, a creature, to restore the Creator.

What was it, you may well ask, that brought Jesus to these appalling depths? Not merely the shuddering and fear of pain, as terrifying as the bleeding scourge, the inflamed fire of nail wounds, the blister of parching thirst, the unrelieved weight and tension of the body, must have been. For He who faced the infuriated mobs eager to stone Him; He who slept unconcernedly in an open boat while a Galilean storm made even His fishermen disciples despair of their lives; He who in the unbroken wastes of a Judean wilderness “fasted forty days and forty nights,” knew no terror of torture. Nor was it merely the dread of death that made Him wrestle with His own fears. How could He cringe only before death who had repeatedly comforted His disciples with the truth that He was Life itself? How could He recoil merely from life’s end when a few hours later, nailed to the cross, He joyfully promised that before night He would enter the paradise of His heavenly kingdom, there to welcome the penitent and pardoned thief?

The great reason for this thrice-moaned “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” is the dread of bearing alone the consequences of all sins of all the corrupted ages. If you behold Christ in the Garden gripped by the furies of punished sin,—and in no other way can you interpret Gethsemane aright,—if you realize that from those conflict hours until His death on the cross the wrath of God against sin was focused on Him, the sin­bearing Savior, that the weighted punishment of all the self-damned was concentrated in the suffering and death on Thursday night and that black Friday, you will understand that our atoning Savior could not have been truly human, as He was truly divine, unless He knelt, faltering and feeble, to ask His heavenly Father for deliverance from the eternity of suffering, to be crowded into less than twenty-four hours. The author of “Rock of Ages,” in the protracted debate that led to the writing of this beloved hymn, claimed that every young man of twenty years has committed in thought, word, and deed more than 630,000,000 sins; at the age of fifty, so Toplady figured, a man is guilty of more than 1,500,000,000 sins. Who knows how near or far from the truth the cold mathematical calculations behind these utterly shocking, inconceivable figures may be? But this we do know, that not all the adding-machines of the world can compute that towering price of sin: separation from God, exclusion from heaven, spiritual death, terrors of hell. And all this Jesus was to bear “in His own body on the tree.” Fathers and mothers whose hearts bleed because a worldly son or a wayward daughter is racing downward on the highroad of sin know what the exacting payment of the wages of sin means in a solitary life that is lost. How terrifying the aggregate of all iniquity! If you and I have been troubled by our own sins (and if any of you think lightly of evil and let yourselves be persuaded by the smooth, sin-denying, grace-deriding prophets of falsity, look once more at the prostrate Christ and find the evidence of your own iniquity; if nothing has been able to whip your conscience into fear for the hereafter and force you to your knees for the confession “I am a sinful man,” go with Christ from the beginning of His Passion here in Gethsemane to its close on bleak and darkened Calvary and ask God to plant ineradicably into your heart the clear, cutting consciousness of your sins); if we shudder as we measure, even imperfectly, the doom that follows our own depravity, O God, how full of fear and dread must that punishment have been when Thy Son, our Savior, “wounded for our transgression” and “bruised for our iniquities,” took “away the sins of the world”!

Yet Christ’s love, His deathless devotion to you, to me, and to the entire wayward race, triumphs over His abysmal sorrow, and He who “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” continues to pray: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt,” “Thy will be done”! We read about bravery and heroism as rewarded by medals and citations today. Was there ever anything in the most courageous moment of any career that does not pale away before the brilliance of the Savior’s self-giving? Some sixty statues adorn the public circles and parks of the nation’s capital. But do you think that all the threescore of history’s giants whose forms and features have been cast into these heroic bronzes are worthy to approach the world-redeeming Christ? Do you think that these national memorials, including the tribute to Luther, the dauntless Reformer, Washington, the lion-hearted Father of our Country, Lincoln, the intrepid Emancipator, are even types of the heroic, self-effacing, self-destroying love of Christ, who prayed: “Thy will be done,” and God’s will was done? The salvation of the entire world—and this afternoon that means particularly the redemption of your soul and mine—was completed wholly and universally, now and forever.

THE PRAYER OF A SAVED SINNER

Strengthened by this saving love and by Christ’s obedient “Thy will be done,” you and I must strive to make ours resigned, surrendered, obedient lives of trusting faith. It will not be easy always to say, “Thy will be done”; for we are the children of an age in which men tenaciously cling to their own will. Let us be frank: how much of the will of God can we find in this decade, which has given rise to tyranny, dictatorship, and the concentration of power, that specializes in human plans and scientific programs? How much of the will of God is there in American business and industry? I know, of course, and I thank God for it, that we have high-souled Christian leaders in American finance who have generously given hundreds of millions for the advancement of their fellow-men. But is it the will of God that capital and labor should continually be thrown into conflict, relieved only by temporary truces? Is it the will of God that fraud should cheat industrious, frugal men and women of their life’s savings? How much of the will of God is there in the moral life of the nation, with five million fingerprints of criminals on file in Washington, with venereal diseases annually costing America many hundreds of millions of dollars? How much of the will of God is there in the religious life of America with 60,000,000 people outside the Church; with Christ’s Church split into hundreds of splinters; with theatrical women profaning the teachings of the Bible and socially prominent pulpits allied with unbelief?

Surrounded as we are by this defiant exalting of puny man, you and I must pray for the power and the grace to say with Christ, “Thy will be done,” even in life’s darkened hours and in the depths of the valley of death’s shadow. Turn to the stories behind our Christian hymns to find examples of this courageous resignation. Are you rising up against the will of God in your life because of sickness? Think of Frances Ridley Havergal, who is said to have spent twenty-one of her forty-three years in an invalid’s chair, yet who, with unwavering hand, penned this prayer of faith:

Take my will and make it Thine;

It shall be no longer mine.

As a young woman she memorized the entire New Testament, the Psalms, and the sixty-six chapters of Isaiah. No wonder that, with the Holy Spirit working mightily in her heart through this Word of God, “which is able to build you up,” she could triumph over her suffering to say: “Not my will, but Thine be done!” And some of you who do not even read your Bibles make life miserable for yourselves and for others when accident or illness keeps you on your back for a few weeks, because you have never learned to pray: “Thy will be done!”

Are you one of the millions in this cruel day who have suffered from the dishonesty and the greed of your fellow-men? Think of George Neumark’s heroism. After he had been robbed of practically all his property with the exception of his prayer-book, he sat down, a penniless and destitute student, to pen these immortal lines of trust in God:

If thou but suffer God to guide thee

And hope in Him through all thy days,

He’ll give thee strength whate’er betide thee,

And bear thee through the evil days.

Is your home broken by quarrel and hatred, and are your dreams of a happy family life shattered by the cruel reality of strife? John Wesley lived in an unhappy marriage for thirty years. His wife rose up publicly to ridicule him even while he was preaching. She resorted to libel and forgery in the demoniacal desire to ruin his career. An eyewitness tells us that he once found Mrs. Wesley foaming with fury, clutching in her hand the hair she had torn from her husband’s head. Yet the more violent the storm of his domestic troubles, the more tightly John Wesley clung to the Cross and, translating the gems of European hymns, he gave us this psalm of resignation:

Leave to God’s sovereign sway

To choose and to command;

So shalt thou, wondering, own His way,

How wise, how strong, His hand.

Have you been whipped by the lash of men’s hatred? Are you a minister of God who has been pushed aside because you have testified to the saving grace of Christ without compromise or consideration of person or rank? May God give you the courage of Benjamin Schmolck! He was a pastor in Silesia when the religious tyranny (which has repeatedly spilled Lutheran blood and which one day must answer to God for these bloody massacres of regiments in Christ’s marching army) brutally tore the churches away from the people. For more than one-third of a century Schmolck, who was not allowed to give his dying church-members Holy Communion except by the permission of his enemies, worked under opposition to which hearts that beat less bravely would have succumbed. Yet he wrote:

My Jesus, as Thou wilt;

Oh, may Thy will be mine!

Into Thy hands of love

I would my all resign.

Through sorrow or through joy

Conduct me as Thine own

And help me still to say,

My Lord, Thy will be done.

And if you would look to Jesus in the same trusting faith and remember that the Savior says: “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father, which hath sent Me,” you, too, could blend your heart and your voice in the refrain of triumphant faith, “Thy will be done!”

Are you rebelling against God because death has entered your home, and with clenched hands and clenched teeth do you stand before the Almighty to demand explanation? I ask you to recall the life of Horatius Bonar, whose faith was enriched and mellowed by the ministry of sorrow. Five times death came into his home, and five times death snatched away one of his young children; yet he dried his tears, and, looking to the Christ of the Garden and the Christ of the cross, he prayed in one of his 600 glorious hymns:

Thy will, not mine, O Lord,

However dark it be.

Lead me by Thine own hand;

Choose out my path for me.

Look to the same light in the darkness of your bereavement, cling closely to the Christ who promises, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” and as you comfort yourself with the divine assurance of a reunion in the heavenly mansions, your faith, refined by the fires of affliction, will triumph over your fears to exult, “Thy will be done!”

All these stories of trusting submission to God are taken from the lives of hymn-writers; yet today many of you are overcoming your life problems in the same spirit of obedient love for your Savior. Your letters, from Nova Scotia to California, tell me not only that there are many thousands who have not bowed their knees to the Baals of unbelief, but who have taken as the guiding star for their life’s course these four short, simple words: “Thy will be done!” Others among you, however, are still struggling against the will of God, trying to earn salvation when Jesus grants it to you freely; trying to beat down the barriers of life yourself, spurning the help of Heaven; worrying, fearing, trembling, over difficulties from which God can save you in a twinkling if only you will break down your stubborn resistance, your wilful pride, your besetting unbelief, to grasp Christ as your Savior and to say, “Thy will be done!”

Even if you cannot see the final blessings of God’s will nor understand His ways, simply trust Him. Find Christ in His Word and, building your hopes on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, commit your destiny to His love. Give Him the mastery of your life! Even if it seems as if God’s will runs full in the face of your happiness, tears down when it should build up, brings tears instead of smiles, remember that you and I cannot look far enough to see the end of grace and find the morning light after the night of waking; that you and I cannot hear clearly enough to discern the “still, small voice” of grace midst the rumble and thunder and earthquakes of sorrows; that you and I cannot think deeply enough to discover the beautiful harmony of life by which the hand of God places the light stones and the dark stones in beauty and symmetry to complete the heavenly mosaic of a ransomed soul and a sanctified life.

What better pledge for your happiness, now and forever, can I ask of your heavenly Father for you than that His Spirit will never let you forget Gethsemane and the sinking, sorrowing weakness of His Son, the Savior of your soul, as He bows under the world weight of sin, yet persists: “Thy will be done”? What prayer can I ask to be more firmly rooted in your hearts than the psalmist’s plea, “Teach me to do Thy will; for Thou art my God”? Heavenly Father, “Thy will,” Thy good and gracious will, “be done” among us and all men, now and forever, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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

Date: February 7, 1937

Petition for Heroic Youth

God of all mercies, Savior of all men:

We raise our voices to Thee in behalf of our youth, surrounded by problems and temptations of this new age. Because of their desperate need of Thy fatherly guidance, Thine atoning mercies, and Thy purifying indwelling give our young people a strong faith in Thee and an unswerving trust in Thy power to save and lead. O blessed Redeemer of our souls, who as a young man didst bring the kingdom of God to a sin-choked world and on Calvary didst make an everlasting atonement for our guilt, unite the youth of the nation in great companies under Thy cross during the coming Lenten weeks. Impress them with the guilt and the wages of sin; let them behold in Christ the cure and pardon for all their moral failures. As they tear down iniquity and raise up righteousness, by Thy power make these young people, who must be the architects of tomorrow, more faithful defenders of Thy Church and builders of happier homes and a better nation. Hold before them high hopes for their future and fill them with pure, clean ambitions. In their battle against the entrenched troops of unbelief and impurity show them the divine power in Thy Word and Sacraments, the sustaining strength of trusting prayer. Bless them, strengthen them, preserve them, through Christ, the Shepherd and Savior of all youth. Amen.

See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.Jeremiah 1:10

AMERICA is ripe for revival,—not the emotional hallelujah shouting and sawdust trail, but a return to God on bended knees, a fiery, fighting recovery of Christ and His cross in a day of listless, phlegmatic religion. With many American churches less than one-third filled, luring listeners into empty pews by pulpit pranks; with church societies staging vaudeville shows, breaking the clear laws of the land by conducting raffles and a hundred different games of chance, while every hour of every day thousands of our fellow-men all over the globe are snatched away by death (more than half without the positive comfort of Christ); with playing churches instead of praying churches, the cry goes out for a reawakening to a Christ­centered faith, a Christ-marked life, a Christ-directed zeal, a Christ-focused hope. Because many church members are more active in trying to win prizes at bridge and bunco parties than in testifying to the eternal grace of the Savior; because some preachers are pussyfooting when they ought to stand fast, preaching Pollyanna sermons instead of Law and Gospel sermons (last week in a religious broadcast from Chicago I heard a minister speak on the subject “The Romance of the Telephone Book”) ; with all this dabbling in side issues instead of concentrating on the supreme privilege of bringing Christ to sin-sick and world-weary souls, the appeal of the hour is unmistakably for a declaration of war against the milk-and-water indifference that masquerades under the name of Christ’s holy faith.

For this red-blooded return to a heroic Christianity and for a happier, God-pleasing tomorrow we must have the love, the courage, the strength, the energy, the optimism, of the Christian young men and young women of America. We need a nationwide youth movement; but unlike the youth division of the black shirts, the brown shirts, the blue shirts, the green shirts and other nationalistic organizations, our youth movement must be a spiritual awakening. Our young people must be mobilized for God and not for godlessness; for Christ and not against Him; for the protection of the Bible and not for its destruction.

In many crises of past history young people have rallied resolutely to the cause of God. Back in the hoary yesterday Joseph, a young Hebrew slave, saves the Egyptian empire from starvation. Moses, when a young man, is called to liberate Israel after four hundred years of slavery. Youthful Gideon defeats the swarming hordes of God’s enemies. The stripling David fells a towering Goliath and helps Israel to victory. On the pages of New Testament triumph, proud, blood-thirsty Saul, in the strength of his young manhood, becomes persecuted Paul and the mightiest messenger of God’s atoning love. A young monk, Martin Luther, writes his Ninety-five Theses before his thirty­fourth year and with this declaration of the soul’s independence of manmade religions begins the greatest reformation known since the days of Christ. A young king, the lion-hearted Gustavus Adolphus, rides down from the North a century later to risk his Scandinavian kingdom on the battlefield and to give his life-blood for God’s Church. Thousands of young missionaries in the conquests of the heathen world lay their lives on the altar of Christ, living sacrifices to the glory of their Savior and the salvation of their fellow-men. These names from the roll-call of youth embattled for Christ find their power in the Savior Himself, who as a young man traveled the highways of Palestine and traversed the lake country of Galilee with twelve other young men and who at thirty-three, before He reached the prime of His miracle life, let Himself be nailed to the cross so that His blood, the agonies of His pain-racked body, the torture of His sin-crushed soul, the blackness of His death, might bring us, every one of us, our sins forgiven, back to the open arms of God.

I appeal especially to the young men and women of America,—and may the Holy Spirit charge these words with His blessed power!—asking your prayers, your talents, your time, your means, but first and foremost the gift of your own blood-bought souls, for help in a mighty spiritual awakening, a nationwide return to God. In the name of Jesus I give you this afternoon

CHRIST’S YOUTH PROGRAM

and I find this in the words of God Himself, addressed to a young man, the divine commission to Jeremiah (found in the tenth verse of his first chapter) : “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

YOUTH AS DESTROYERS

If you want to take part in Christ’s program and fight with the prophet that is set “over the nations and over the kingdoms,” you must know Christ and believe in Him and trust in Him for the salvation of your soul and for the guidance of your life. I ask every one of you first of all: Do you know Christ in this way? Have you earnestly and honestly knelt before His cross to accept His full, free, final mercies, to have His blood wash away your sins, to pledge yourselves in grateful love to Him, God’s Son, your Redeemer? This is always the most vital question in your life; but it comes this week with double force as we prepare to begin the Lenten season and to review, as far as our limited powers permit us, the eternity of anguish, the world weight of soul-suffering that hurled itself upon the Savior in the agonized hours of His crucifixion. With your thoughts and mine directed to the central, spectral cross on the crest of Calvary, I ask you once more: Have you accepted Christ as your own personal Savior?

Don’t evade the question by telling me that you have godly parents and come from a Christian home. Thousands have gone straight to hell in spite of a father’s warnings and a mother’s tears. Don’t answer this question by replying that you belong to a church; for outward membership, even in a true Church, is not enough. The Savior Himself warns: “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Don’t object that you cannot believe in Christ since you do not understand how He can be both God and man; how He can die and still live; how He could take your sins and bear them Himself. If you cannot fathom the thousand mysteries of your body and of this life, how can you expect to understand the deeper marvels of your soul and of the life to come? Above all, don’t dare to say that you can get along without Christ. A withered tree can exist more easily without water, your body without food, your heart without life-blood, your lungs without air than you and I can find blessing and salvation without the life-bestowing and death-destroying Christ. And if now, by the power of the enlightening Spirit, some of your hearts begin to beat in unison with the Savior’s love and you ask: “How can I come to Christ? How can He be mine and I His throughout all eternity?” the answer to life’s greatest question “What must I do to be saved?” comes to you now, as it has come, unchanged, down through the centuries: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Bow down in spirit before your Jesus and say to His heart of love, “O my Savior, here I am with all my sins and blemishes; take me and cleanse me, make me Thine, keep me in Thy grace!” and by His pure love, without any price or payment, He will receive you, save you and bless you.

When this salvation is sealed in your heart, then you are prepared for your part in Christ’s program. As He told His young prophet that he was to “root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down,” so Christ’s youth today must be ready to destroy.

First of all, they must help to “destroy” the widespread assault on the Christian Church and the Savior’s redemption. Here, in the arch-tragedy of our day, we see churches once built by the prayer and sacrifices of Christian parents now rooting out the faith of their children. Entire denominations which fifty years ago stood fast and firm on the fundamentals of Christian truth are now wavering. We shake our heads at the revival of paganism abroad, yet in our own country false altars are being raised throughout the land; and these altars must be broken down and trampled to pieces. If you, my friends, attend churches that continually exalt the goodness of man instead of the goodness and mercy of God, that perpetually teach human merits instead of Christ’s sacrificial merit, churches which unblushingly deny that man must be saved or, at best, insist that we must save ourselves, there is finally only one course for you. When your protests remain unheeded and the truth of the saving Gospel is perpetually banned from your church, you must separate yourselves. I read many letters sent to me from listeners who complain that Sunday after Sunday they hear no warning against sin and no promise of Christ’s blood-bought grace; I behold week after week the studied denial of the divine inspiration of the Bible, the denial of our Lord and Savior’s deity, the denial of His blessed atonement and His resurrection on the third day, the denial of His return to judge the quick and the dead,—all this not by outcast and outlawed preachers, but by leading figures in American pulpits and guiding influences in American church-life; and I ask myself, as unbelief waxes bolder, Have the churches of Christ lost courage? Why is the voice of protest subdued, the indictment of disloyalty and treachery so gentle and muted? This barricade of unbelief which bars the road to Christ must be torn down, no matter how wealthy, how prominent, how lavishly supported these apostles of ancient untruth may seem; and for this we need, under God, the transfusion of the red-blooded courage that comes with a youth consecrated to Christ.

We must also tear down the antichristian spirit in the American educational world, especially in State universities and schools, maintained by the hard-earned money of Christian families; schools that must, according to basic American principles, refrain from attacking the religious creeds of the students and accordingly keep their hands off the Bible. But we have enough evidence to fill a book that instructors in many of our State colleges reduce God to a glorified guess; faith, to a colossal question-mark; decency, to a doubtful expedient; marriage, to an outworn and unwelcome restriction on one’s private desires. I come back to that betrayal of the American public school, which I shall endeavor to hold before you until, God helping us, there is a mighty mass movement of protest. At a recent State teachers’ conference in Flint, Michigan, mimeographed sheets were passed to the teachers showing the work done by a fifth-grade (ten-year-old children) science class in one of the most modern and advanced schools of that city. These sheets deliberately ignore God as the Creator of the world, teach the children of Christian parents that the earth is an ancient accident; that the first life forms were jelly-fish and worms; that through many thousand years of slow changes the pollywog evolved; all this millions of years before the appearance of man, who according to the Bible was created in the image of God, but according to these teachings was evolved from the likeness of an ape. Now, the people of Flint have lived through trying weeks, with riots and vigilantes and ominous threats of darker things to come; but let the children of Flint push God out of their lives; let them grow into sneering, scoffing manhood and womanhood, and the worst that the sit-down strike can bring will be but a ripple compared with the tidal wave of this debauchery, which wipes out progress and blessing wherever men, believing that they have come up from the beast, pull their moral standards lower than the beast.—How long before the Christian world, supported by an eager youth, will call a halt to this fraud, this half­concealed attack on God’s truth? How long before a righteous wrath will rise up to declare: “You cannot use our money to poison the minds of our own children! You shall not!”

How long, we repeat, before we are aroused to action in mastering the flood-tide of filth that would sweep the youth from the shores of decency and clean living into the undercurrents of unbridled lust? Many are prone to criticize young people today. But much more than criticism they need sympathy; for never has any generation in this country come to grips with such “masterpieces of hell” as the average young man or woman have today. The praise of lust and vice; the applause of filth and perversion; the stimulation of crime and racketeering; blasphemy and the ridicule of the sacred and the divine,—all this in the leprous, soul-tainting influences of unclean books and sex-mad magazines, on the stage, the screen, and sometimes on the radio,—will these unholy forces pass by our young people without touching their minds and shaping their desires? With the discouraging example of elders and the morals of those gilded, careless days before 1929, with streams of liquor flowing on all sides, taverns springing up as mushrooms, gaudy night clubs and their close alliance to vice and disease, we have stood by while the youth of the land has been locked in a close ring of sensual appeal. All this must be torn down if we are to survive and to meet our sacred responsibilities. In the past, church groups, civic organizations, and reform societies have attacked these legions of lust alone, but without success. The time has come when every honest and industrious citizen of the nation must unite in one great movement and when the churches must increase their efforts tenfold or a hundredfold “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to thrown down” these entrenched forces of impurity before it is too late.

Youth must also help to tear down and to destroy the greed and the worship of gold in our age with poverty in the shadow of wealth; with its $100,000 party for an Eastern heiress and the heart-breaking destitution in the slums a few miles from the scene of that glamorous splendor; with New York socialites reviving the spirit of decadent Rome as they gather in a famous hotel to milk champagne from a mechanical cow and to call perfumed pigs across the polished floors of a hotel salon, while the Red Cross asks the nation for help in thousands of relief cases, where families that never enjoyed one degree of luxury now see the little they had, taken away as the river-shacks they call home are swept away by swollen floods. In the maze of get-rich-quick schemes and the promises of easy and unearned money we need a rugged, honest, hard­working, energetic youth that through faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of His Spirit will try to destroy this old, encrusted greed, remembering the Savior’s warning: “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Youth must also tear down the walls of disappointment and destroy the barriers of adversity that seem to bar many from the joy of their young lives. Our thoughts still linger in the wake of flooding sorrow as the Mississippi rolls on to create new and serious life problems. We think of the 6,000,000 children under sixteen who live in homes entirely dependent on governmental dole and who grow up into a blank, colorless, hand-to-mouth existence. We sympathize with the army of young men and young women who have prepared for a useful career of service, but who now, their idealism crushed, find themselves a drug on the market of human labor. Then there are those whose youth has been irreparably blasted, who early in life have drunk the cup of suffering to its bitterest dregs, the crippled, the paralyzed, the bed-ridden; these and all the others in the unhappy legions of life, young people of shattered romance and broken heart; those who thought that they did not need Christ for their married happiness and who now see the truth of His warning “Without Me ye can do nothing”; married couples with the dreams of happy marriage and self-sacrificing love disappearing under the curse of sin and selfishness; husbands refusing to speak to their wives for months at a time; parents-in-law who cruelly seek to dominate and warp the joy of their children’s homes,—to all these this youth command reechoes with redoubled force: Do not begin to pity yourself! Do not surrender to despair! Tear down and destroy the blank wall of doubt, root up and pull down the barriers that harass every step in your life by coming to Christ and “casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” Do not ever, even in-the blackest darkness and weakest moment, doubt the love of that Savior who in His own youth knew poverty and distress, who in His manhood was so moved by the sins and the sorrows of His fellow-men that He shed tears over their follies and failures, wept as He saw the ravages of disease and death.

YOUTH AS BUILDERS

All this tearing down, however, makes room for building; and as Jeremiah was called “to build and to plant,” so every one who is Christ’s must be ready to follow in constructive service.

And what tremendous opportunities loom up before us! The building of a better life, the walking more closely with God, the living more deeply in Christ, the firmer faith, the purer heart,—these, the highest of life’s blessings, Christ would help every one of us build. If we make Christ the cornerstone and build on the rock of His atonement, then the simplest and most unassuming Christian, the most unnoticed young man and young woman, become “coworkers together with Him.” When the flood waters rose dangerously high and the director of operations on the Mississippi levees near Memphis was asked what was needed most, “men or sandbags,” he replied, with a faith not too frequently seen in this age of self-reliant men: “We need the help of God.” To build the levees protecting your life against sin and doubt, despair and disbelief, you, too, need more than the sandbags of human courage, training, skill; you need the help of God.

And if you are Christ’s, think of the blessed help He offers you. The blueprints for building this better life are in God’s Word. Remember that in your Bible you hold the wisdom and love of Heaven written particularly for you,—the divine plan of soul-building that has never proved wrong, that never can make a mistake. Here, in the help that God gives you to build a faith and life that will last into eternity, you have His sacred ordinances, Holy Baptism (and again I pray that none of you has neglected this washing of regeneration, this rebirth by the Spirit and by water) and the Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of your Savior given and shed to seal in your burdened heart the assurance of forgiven sins that all the research laboratories in the world can never impart.

You have the power of prayer, the confident outpouring of a heart that lives in intimate communion with Jesus, the pleadings of an unbroken, undismayed faith in Christ, that can unlock the treasures of divine omnipotence and bring earthward to you God’s power for the upbuilding of your soul.

When young men and young women, through the Spirit’s help, build spiritual walls against swirling sin and the flooding misfortunes of life, they are helping to build a better world far more effectively than all the legislation, crime crusades, education, and other programs for uplift and improvement. Building with Christ, Christian young people are confident that, united in one faith with a real helpmate for life, they are planning to start a happy home for themselves which, whether it be large or small, modern or outmoded, will always prove a radiant haven of happiness, blessed by the presence of Jesus. In this new age, when a changing social order confronts us on all sides, Christ’s youth is strengthening the foundations on which all national blessings must rest. Short-sighted critics of Christ may look to the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the constitutional amendments, new policies, and political programs as the pledge of a safer and happier nation; we look to faith in Christ and to the power of His love in the lives of Christian citizens, God­fearing, honest, industrious men and women, for the righteousness that “exalteth a nation.” When Christian youth builds for itself, for its home, for its nation, for its age, it also builds—and God bless this most vital construction—for the kingdom of God, for the salvation of souls bought by the blood of Christ, for the extension of mission-work, for the growth of Christian education, for the spreading of Christian charity, and for the innumerable blessings which come through the power of Him who promises: “Behold, I make all things new.”

This is—and I thank God for His blessings and for the high privilege—my hundredth Lutheran Hour chain broadcast. What better appeal can I issue on this centenary message than a prayer that the hearts of many American young men and young women may be brought close to God by accepting Christ’s youth program and serving as destroyers of iniquity and builders of power. God grant that, as five thousand friends in this far-flung radio audience wrote us last week to express their interest in our messages or to pledge their support for this broadcast, so this week the Spirit may touch the hearts and lives of many more thousands of young people and unite the youth in vast numbers for Christ, for the support of His kingdom, for the blessings of a Christian home, and the strengthening of our beloved land. Amen.

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

Date: January 31, 1937

Supplication in Sorrow

God of Life and Love:

Together with our sorely beset fellow-men who have come before Thee with their sorrows of the past week we humbly approach the throne of Thy majesty in the name of Jesus and by His atoning mercies to implore Thy protection upon the afflicted sections of our nation. Behold with mercy those who suffer from the flooding waters and the multitude of others, lonely, cold, discouraged, broken­hearted, who, without Thy sustaining love, may surrender to disbelief or remain in despair. Deliver us from the bondage of this doubt and fear. Send Thy Spirit into our hearts; make us penitent and trustful of Jesus, who knows our sorrows since He suffered for us, so that our moments of trial may be turned into glorious triumph. Show us, when we are inclined to doubt Thy judgment or question Thy ways, that the most crushing adversities are not hard enough to separate us from Christ’s mercies; that these seasons of sorrow should serve only to bring us closer to Thee, to refine our faith, clarify our vision, open our hearts and hands for the afflicted, and prepare us for the heavenly homeland with its perfect peace and the glory of beholding Thee, heavenly Father, in the blessing prepared by Thy love, restored by Thy redeeming Son, and assured by Thy purifying Spirit. Hear us and bless us for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.Romans 8:35, 37

WHAT grave and sobering lessons the past week’s flood and death should teach the nation! More than a million of our fellow-countrymen driven from the sheltering warmth of their homes by the pitiless rise of swollen rivers! More than 200,000 destitute, many with no homes to which they can ever return, since the rush of mad flood waters has swept their houses, their barns, their livestock—everything they owned beside the clothing on their backs—downstream to destruction. Thousands weakened by exposure, hunger, and fright, laid low by pneumonia and the ravages of contagious disease! Hundreds dead by drowning, fire and explosion, cold and privation!—This is tragedy as it was written over an unparalleled area during the seven quick days since I spoke to you on last Sunday.

In the first lesson of this vast inundation we see that one of the factors which helped to swell the rushing waters was the greedy, ruthless cutting down of American forests on hillsides and mountains, where the rain and melting snow, no longer restrained, rushes in torrents to swell the heavy streams. The careless waste of other resources may likewise produce alarming disaster. In the oilfield of a single Texas district enough natural gas is wasted every day to supply the household needs of the entire nation. Tons of California oranges have been permitted to rot on orchard floors; hundreds of thousands of apples, thrown into the Columbia River; carloads of Alaska salmon, dumped into the Pacific; extended acreages of farm products, plowed under. The Christ who, though He could miraculously multiply the loaves and the fishes, insisted that the crumbs be gathered, cannot look down with favor upon a people that abuses His blessings or upon homes that throw away more food than many European families would require for their existence. This waste must be stopped; for no nation is wealthy enough to destroy its own blessings.

The other lesson that comes to us now that the swirling rivers begin to drop quietly from many of the waterlogged districts is that of God’s grace. A swelling anthem of praise and thanksgiving should be raised to the Almighty, since the destruction might have been unspeakably more disastrous. The overflow of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, as terrifying and devastating as it is, cannot be compared, in point of loss of life, for instance, with the flood tragedies of China. There, in 1911, the rising Yangtze Kiang took 100,000 lives; just fifty years ago the Hoangho spread over its banks, with a death-toll of more than a million, while the total recorded loss of life in all major American floods has not reached 11,000. For every American life taken by floods far more than one hundred Chinese lives have been destroyed. We have been blessed as no other nation even in the protection which Divine Providence has granted us in great catastrophes.

More personal, however, is the lesson that would teach us to study the meaning of these sorrows. Countless thousands of you in the swamped lowlands are asking the ever­recurrent “Why?” “Why did this happen to me?” But you do not have to live in a refugee camp to ask that question. Many of you have been caught in the floodtides of far greater miseries than the lurching currents of untamed rivers or sorrows that threaten to pull your soul and body down to destruction. All over the country, in every city and village from coast to coast where this message is heard, disconsolate, bitter, resentful men and women are asking this disconsolate “How?” “How can I find peace for my grief-torn heart?” They are repeating that searching “Where?” “Where can I find an immovable assurance for time and eternity as life adds affliction to adversity and problem to perplexity?” “Who,” their crushed heart beseeches, “can help us build our hopes high, never to be swept by the floods of life?”

I thank God in the name of the Savior, who once pleaded, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” that I can show you

FAITH FOR THE HOUR OF TRIAL

as this triumphant conviction is immortalized in Romans, chapter 8, verses 35 and 37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

CHRIST-CENTERED FAITH CONQUERS SORROW

When the apostle presents these seven sorrows: “tribulation,” “distress,” “persecution,” “famine,” “nakedness,” “peril,” “sword,” it seems as though he were scanning a page from many present-day life stories. “Famine” and “nakedness” and “sword” may not be particular twentieth­century menaces that haunt most of you. Instead, a hundred related afflictions rise up to provoke worry and fear. In this catalog of catastrophes, first of all, are the least significant of your losses, your money troubles: collapse of income and investment; mounting bills and unpaid mortgages; the discharge slip in the pay envelope and the heartless removal from the pay-roll because you are over forty-five; the overnight destruction of your property through flood or fire; the failure of your crops through blight and drought; the black withering of your orchard because of scale and frost.

Then come the harder blows, the heartaches in the family circle: an unfaithful husband or an untrue wife; a wayward son or disgraced daughter, deaf to parental tears and prayers; drunkenness, godlessness, cursing, hatred; divorce or desertion; death and the solitary path of life.

We turn then to pains of the body: the loss of sight and hearing; the weary waiting of invalids and shut-ins, who count the siege of sickness by decades; the sufferings of the crippled and paralyzed; the torture of those whose maladies are incurable; the collapse of the body in the years of advanced age. Add to these the agonies of the mind, nervous and mental breakdowns; fears and phobias that lead to insanity, worse than death itself.

And now we have reached the most deep-rooted of all sufferings: the sorrows of the soul, the fear that you may not be saved, the terror, repeated in many of your letters in which you ask me whether you have committed the unpardonable sin (and let me say in passing that you never need fear that you are guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost as long as you can pray these simple words: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me!”); frozen, prayerless hearts, a thousand times worse than the cold numbness of the body; defeated lives that try to climb higher to God, but that slip back more deeply into the quicksands of sin; stabs of an aroused conscience; shaking before the specter of hell and the doom of death;—these are some of the sorrows that have made many of you shudder before the dawn of every new day and in the blackness of your soul plan that most vicious of all sins, which kills the body and damns the soul.

In these dark hours, when the thunders of life break over your defenseless head (and you for whom the song of life has been a sweet and unbroken melody, remember how quickly heart-sinking sorrows can come to overwhelm you and yours), where can you find shelter and hope? Or—paralyzing thought—is there no shelter, no hope? Are we pieces of wreckage swept by the swift river of life, broken branches whirling in the funnel of a tornado? Are you and I accidental atoms in a world of chance and haphazard fate?

You do not have to be a Christian or believe the Bible to know that you cannot ignore the problem of suffering with a cold shrug of the shoulder. Reason tells you that there is a God of truth and justice, and your conscience reminds you that you must get right with Him. Why is it that wanton killers who sneer at death often have to be dragged, raving, moaning, cursing, to the electric chair? Why is it that in sudden catastrophes haughty, high-spirited men and women who boasted, “With bleeding head, but unbowed, I will fight my own battles,” have trembled in blanched terror and gibbering fright? Is all this bleaching of bravery not to be explained by the fact that without God and without Christ there can be no satisfying answer to the questions of suffering and death and that, if we lean on the arm of flesh, we are lost? Go back to the disaster of the flood. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent for flood control in the valleys of these raging rivers. Corps of the nation’s outstanding engineers have built mighty dams and hundreds of miles of river walls; yet many of these barricades broke like egg-shells under the impact of flood currents. For the smaller troubles of your life do not look to money, brains, or human resources for guidance and strength. I have seen millionaires cringe and sob as their plans for happiness crashed before their eyes; university men, skilled in meeting great emergencies, helpless before their own sorrows; physicians who could heal others, yet who knew of no medicine for their own heartaches; attorneys who could argue the cause of their clients, but who were powerless to plead the cause of their own soul.

We must look beyond ourselves to behold with the apostle in our text “the love of Christ,” the Savior, who says: “Let not your heart be troubled.” I cannot promise those whom I again invite to accept this Christ as their Savior that in Jesus all troubles will vanish. Some would tempt you with a creed that promises to banish sickness and sorrow; there are high priests of modern unbelief who dream dreams and envision this sin-cursed race ever marching higher in its evolution to a golden, painless, sinless, sorrowless paradise here on earth.

But what does Jesus say? “Take up the cross and follow Me.” Clearly and unmistakably His Word warns, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Pointedly and uncompromisingly He declares: “The disciple is not above his Master.” And if He Himself was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” you, now called to the cross, must be prepared to follow Him along the pathways of sorrow. Indeed, sometimes it seems that Christians suffer doubly. It often happens that men who lived in wealth before they were born again in faith were plunged into poverty soon after they came to Christ. “What good is your faith?” Job’s wife taunts as she coaxes her leprous husband to “curse God and die.” “What good is your faith?” pagan Rome sneers back at St. Paul when he speaks of “tribulation,” “distress,” “persecution,” “famine,” “nakedness,” “peril,” “sword.” “What good is your faith?” a sensuous world haughtily mocks in echo.

We exult: Though Christ offers us no soft, easy, frictionless life, nevertheless He gives us what no one else can offer: Heaven’s solution to the problem of sorrow. When we know “the love of Christ” that St. Paul mentions at both the beginning and the end of our text, we are assured that through Christ every sorrow of our lives becomes a blessing, every adversity the manifestation of His saving grace.

And once more we have come to the truth which I promise to bring you in every message, “the love of Christ.” As soon as you know that Christ loved you; as soon as you can stand beneath the cross and believe that the Crucified, Son of God and Son of Man, loved you in spite of your sins; once the Spirit of God speaks into your soul and says: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” and you believe firmly and confidently that Christ loved you into that God-forsaken, heart­breaking end from which even the sun hid its face and the heavens darkened, you know that He will not desert you; His love will watch over you by day and by night, and you can exult even in the bloodiest adversities: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

Behold the width of that sin-bearing love, stretching out to the farthest reaches of the world, but now focusing on your soul; measure the height of that sin-atoning love, reaching by the golden ladder of faith into the heaven of heavens; plumb the depths of that sin-destroying love, sinking down, as it does, to the lowest levels of life to tell the worst sinners that they cannot approach Christ too often or too closely; and believe that your Savior will help you to emerge safely from the hottest fires of affliction, to rise with renewed strength after each adversity. All other love will finally be broken. Husbands are separated from their wives and parents from their children by that break in life’s chain we call death. But here, in the unchanging, unending, unceasing love of Jesus, is the permanent refuge and the rock of all ages.

My friends, do you know this “love of Christ”? Is it a life-giving, hope-instilling, death-defying power within you? No other question of man can begin to mean as much to you in body and in soul. God grant that you will take the time to see your Savior face to face in His own Word and that the Holy Spirit may enlighten you through the truth of His Bible and the blessing of Baptism!

You of starved souls and stunted lives, who have never examined the truth of Jesus, should listen to General Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur. In writing this story, with its background in the Savior’s day, Wallace tells us: “I was in quest of knowledge, but I had no faith to sustain, no creed to bolster up. . . . I was earnest in my search for truth. I weighed, I analyzed, I counted and compared. . . . At length I stood firmly and definitely on the solid rock. But whether Ben Hur has ever influenced the mind of a single reader or not,” he concludes, “I am sure . . . if it has done nothing more, it has convinced its author of the divinity of the lowly Nazarene, who walked and talked with God.” If you, too, will throw off doubt and unbelief and come to the holy Word with a prayer for enlightenment, you will find in it your loving Savior and with Him the victory over all of earth’s sin and sorrows.

CHRIST-CENTERED FAITH DOES MORE THAN CONQUER

When the apostle continues: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us,” he assures us through Christ that we not only overcome the trials of life; with deepened faith we can do immeasurably more; we can understand our afflictions, find strength in the ministry of sorrow, and discover God’s love in every chastening.

First of all, “we are more than conquerors” through the love of Christ if we know that sorrows serve to bring us closer to Him. Many in the flooded valleys of the nation who were living careless, heedless lives will be brought to God through this flood. Some of you, as you write me, have had to be locked with chain gangs before your stubborn, sinful pride was broken. George Mathison turned blind and was spurned by the faithlessness of his promised bride, who refused to marry a sightless husband,—all this before he could sing: “O love that will not let me go!” Sometimes our heavenly Father imposes a burden so heavy that we realize we must turn to Christ for grace to bear it. It is hard and bitter for our human pride, this cure that brings us back to the cross on our knees; but as we see the stars only in the darkness, so often the night of adversity must come before we can see clearly the radiance of the Savior’s help. There is no rainbow without the rain; and much of the beauty and happiness of our faith is unnoticed until the tempests of life strike us.

“We are more than conquerors” through Christ because we know that the trials of life often serve to restrain us from sin. God sometimes takes our money lest our money will take us. He sometimes checks youthful ambitions and shatters mature hopes because, as His all-seeing eye searches the future, He knows that the fulfilment of these plans might lead us astray. Sometimes He calls the young away from this world home to Him and writes what seems to be a heart-breaking end to a promising life; but “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,” and to save young lives from long contact with earth’s sins, He often transports them to eternal holiness.

“We are more than conquerors” in our adversities because through Christ we know that these sorrows only serve to bring us closer to our suffering fellow-men, to turn selfish passion into unselfish compassion, and to realize that we are our brothers’ keepers. Those who have fought their way through the fires of affliction know that their heart beats in sympathy with those other sufferers. When we heard the response to the ceaseless radio calls appealing for doctors and nurses, serums and medicine, boats and motors, food and clothing, and saw how the nation responded, American hearts and homes and hands being opened to alleviate sorrow, we witnessed one of the great blessings of suffering.

“We are more than conquerors” because through Christ the adversities that crowd in upon us only serve to purify our faith and to deepen the trust that confesses: “He hath done all things well.” Once we have walked the steep and stony uphill path and climbed the heights to a tried and tested life, we can see the great panorama of God’s love and wisdom from that higher plane. There we no longer hotly charge our Father with injustice. No longer do we question His mercies or repeat the disconsolate “Why?” And though we cannot rime our afflictions with our reason, there is that heavenly, all-knowing, all-seeing love before which we exclaim: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

The greatest blessing in this ministry of suffering is the more than victorious conviction that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” the triumphant faith that the tears of this life are to help us prepare for the next life, where there will be no more weeping; that the cross below brings the crown above. There, when we see what we have believed and know that the blessed Savior has kept every promise, we shall change the text of today into the confidence of that blessed tomorrow and in heavenly strains exult: “Who” has separated “us from the love of Christ? . . . Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we” have been “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” God grant you this faith for the hour of trial, this glory for the eternity of deliverance, through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

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