Other Gods
Wednesday of Easter 3
3 May 2017
In an editorial some years ago, the media critic Brent Bozell waxed indignant about the insults to the holiest feast of the Christian church which were perpetrated by the ABC network during Easter weekend. Mr. Bozell's article confirms again the family decision that led us to stop watching television. I have no idea what programs are like anymore. Perhaps more people should consider this radical and freeing tactic these days. One of the outrages was a commercial "teaser" (uh-huh) in which one of the actresses on Desperate Housewives "stripping off her blouse and skirt to reveal black lacy underthings as the announcer urged, 'This Easter, take off your Sunday best, and turn on your favorite shows.'"
 
While I agree with Bozell's assessment, I think we Christians should worry less about it than he does. The filth that spews out of the one-eyed brainwashing machine is good only for those who have no hope for a world to come. For such people the empty pleasures of this life are all that matter. Of course, all they think of Easter is that it is an opportunity for a three-day weekend. "Let's go to Las Vegas for the weekend!" Why should we Christians be surprised, shocked or even indignant about the decline of the world from bad to worse? It is really easy to harrumph loudly about the moral devolutions perpetrated by the media. Moral outrage is a slam dunk.
 
What worries me more is the degree to which we Christians still allow the entertainment media to set our moral agenda. What makes us think we are immune from the power of the television to modify our behavior? How has it modified how our children think about life, moral responsibility, sex, love, family life, and so on? How many Christians are perfectly happy to bow down to the Supreme Court's reinvention of marriage as an adult relationship of any kind at all? I am worried that we are bringing up a generation or two of self-centered swine. We can't control Hollywood and wouldn't want to. However, we can control the on-off switch on our remotes. Conserve energy. Turn off your television. Turn back to the life of Christ and away from the life of Desperate Housewives (cancelled in 2012). This is much more difficult than moral outrage. Let's pray for our declining and always dying world. That is much more useful than moral outrage. Perhaps if we exercise the moral wisdom to shut off our television, we will actually have the time to pray without ceasing as God encourages us (1Th 5:17).
 
Perhaps there is just enough wickedness within us to fill our time of repentance here on earth, so that we have no time left for indignant harrumphing. So as valid as Mr. Bozell's point may be, we ourselves should be repentant for our complicity in this filth in our own hearts. Let us struggle against the Old Adam and be ready to pay the baptized price in suffering every day. The world will mock us and ridicule us for not being up-to-date enough, out of touch, and positively medieval. The shocked look on peoples' faces when I tell them I don't watch any of the programs on television except some baseball tells the whole story. The world would consider it preferable  for me to cast doubt on the doctrine of the holy Trinity, rather than to deny the boob tube its right to command the minds of my children and family. I have committed the worst possible secular heresy by denying the TV its place among the household gods.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"St. Paul concludes: 'If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied' (1Co 15:19). That is tantamount to saying: 'If it were true that there is no life after the present one, I should gladly forgo Baptism, pulpit, and all of Christianity.' For observe a Christian and compare him with people who do not believe. The latter live in a whirl of pleasure; they have and they do what they please, and when they have lived their life, 'they perish forever without any regarding it,' as Job 4:20 says. They never experience what real suffering or sadness, misery and grief are.
 
"In contrast to them, we who want to be Christians endure all kinds of troubles and misfortunes, so that people despise and vilify, revile and slander us. The world is so hostile to us; it begrudges us our very life on earth. Daily we must be prepared for the worst that devil and world can inflict on us. In the face of this, who would be stupid enough to be a Christian if there were nothing to a future life? Who would not say: I, too, want to have good times and revel as those people do? With what wrongdoing do I charge myself that I let myself be tormented so and endure such sorrow, spite, hatred, and envy from the world? In addition to this, a Christian must suffer so much inward grief and heartache, such fear and terror of death, of sin, and of God's wrath. These are real blows indeed.
 
"For that external suffering is only child's play, it is only the ABC of a Christian's misery and trouble with which the world persecutes him, exiles him, and displays all sorts of malice. But this fear and woe caused by God's wrath really pierces his heart: the fear of eternal death, of becoming partners of the devil in the abyss of hell. This haunts him day and night. Against this the Christian has to contend, well-nigh sweating blood. I should much rather lie in jail for a year, suffer hunger and thirst, than to endure such mortal fright with which the devil afflicts Christians, who, after all, believe and are certain of the future resurrection and of eternal life awaiting them and, on the other hand, of judgment and eternal fire awaiting the evildoers. And just because they know that, they have no rest until they are rescued from this vale of tears. For here the two paths lie before them; in addition, the devil and their own conscience attack them, telling them that they are not pious and calling Scripture to witness that we are all sinners and guilty of damnation. The devil knows how to turn that to account and to torment a person so that he breaks out in cold sweat. Therefore it is necessary for a person to struggle and contend, lest he be engulfed in sadness and fear, but that he may instead remain confident that God is gracious to him and wants to take him unto Himself in heaven.
 
"The others, the great multitude, know nothing of this. They fear neither God's wrath and judgment nor devil or death. They think that their own death is not unlike the death of a cow. In the meantime, they are secure and happy and experience nothing at all of such a heartache. Therefore a Christian is an especially wretched person, suffering more of whatever may be termed misery than others. His heart is daily roasted on the fire. He must always be terrified, fearful, and trembling when the thought of death and God's severe judgment occurs to him. He must always worry that he has angered God and merited hell, although he may be pious and well practiced in faith. For such thoughts will not cease; rather, they are felt more and more and always become stronger than the good thoughts. Therefore we behold some people who are so depressed and so beaten and so assailed and wretched in their hearts that they can impart this to no one. They are bereft of all joy and happiness and do not care to live.
 
"Therefore, St. Paul says, we would be mad and foolish to subject ourselves to such misery, fear, sadness, and distress and never be safe from death and devil for a moment, if we had nothing but this life."

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 16-19
James 1:16-27

Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.  My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does.  If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.   (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have brought us into Your kingdom through the cleansing flood of baptism which drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and his army. Help us to live in that victory shaped by Your cross. Grant us the strength to flee the devil's onslaughts and to stand firmly upon the living Word of God. Amen.
 
For those who have been overcome by the desire for pleasure and have abandoned the suffering of Christ, that God would call them back to the true faith
 
For Archbishop Christian Ekong of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, that he would be upheld in his calling to lead many to righteousness and life in Christ
 
For all those who are abandoning holy marriage, that they would be led to repentance and not forsake those to whom they committed themselves to death
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias   Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017