Sunday, June 06, 2010

Word of the Week for June 1, 2010

What affects our Faith? Materialism.

This week we celebrate the festival of Holy Trinity. During the first half of the Church Year we focused on three main festivals. The first was Christmas. This included everything from the First Sunday in Advent until the end of the Epiphany Season with the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.

The lessons during the Christmas Season teach us about the gift that God the Father gave to us by sending His Son into our world, born of the virgin Mary.

The second main festival was Easter. The Easter season includes everything from Ash Wednesday, through Lent, Holy Week, and all the 40 days following Easter until we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus Christ to the Right Hand of God the Father. The lessons during this season teach us about the gift that God the Son gave to us with His life for us, His death in our place, and His resurrection from the dead. All of the lessons focus us on Christ as our redeemer from Satan, sin, and death itself. We have the resurrection from the dead because of Christ’s work for us.

The third main festival was Pentecost. The Pentecost festival celebrates the gift that the Holy Spirit gives to us of faith, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life through the Word of God and the Sacraments established by Christ. These Sacraments are given to us to refresh us in the forgiveness of sins, to build our faith, and to keep us as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23)

The Sunday after Pentecost we celebrate the Festival of the Holy Trinity as a summary of the previous festivals and looking forward to the application of the Word of God on our lives as sinners in this world who look forward to the resurrection on the day when Christ will return.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2: 4–10

Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. 
 
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 
 
None of us grows up in a vacuum. We are affected by all the social, political, philosophical, educational, and media influences that surround us as we grow up in this world. But we don’t always know what these influences are, where they come from, or how they might contradict the truth of God’s Word.

Let us focus on just one of the world views that strongly influence us: Materialism. Materialism teaches that only those things which we can know by our own senses, reason, and tools are of any value. Materialism rejects the spiritual. It rejects miracles, angels, demons, the devil, and God. Materialism places its hope and trust in the ability of humans through their senses and intelligence to be able to figure out anything and everything that might be of any value. Materialism is utilitarian. That means that the main argument of Materialism is that “the ends justify the means.”

Materialism is the foundational philosophy behind Communism, Socialism, eugenics, evolution, modern astrophysics, sub-atomic physics, and all so-called “scientific” branches that deal with the origin or end of the universe.

But Materialism is a blind faith in human reason as the power that can solve all problems: physical, emotional, societal or otherwise. It is an empty deceit of human pride. It is used to justify all kinds of atrocities against living people in the name of “the greater good.” Which means that someone in higher human authority tells you that you must go without and suffer so that many others can be served by the authority.

Throughout the 20th century the German death camps, the Soviet gulags under Lenin and Stalin, the Chinese prisons under Mao and his successors, the workings of Pol Pot, Che Guevera, Castro, and many other Materialist governments have killed hundreds of millions of people. All of these deaths were justified by “the greater good.”

Of course, this “greater good” was only what they could try to make out with their reason.
Think about the number of people killed. That number dwarfs the total of all those who died fighting the wars of the 20th century added together with those who died of crime. The only cause of death that comes close to this record during the 20th century is the number of babies killed by abortion. And abortion is fully justified by Materialism.

For the Christian, Materialism is a very strong influence. While we have been taught that our home is heaven; and while we live here in this world under the temptation and isolation that confronts every Christian of every age—we tend to doubt God’s presence in our lives. We doubt His Love because our senses do not tell us He is there. We want to feel His presence and Love, but we simpley do not at times of trouble.

But where did God say He would come to us? In His Word and Sacraments. His Word is not spoken lightly. The Son of God gave his life and suffered great torment to build the “many mansions” for us. Do you want to know how much God loves you and stands by you? Look to the pain of Christ in His great suffering from the time of His betrayal on Maundy Thursday until the time He gave up His spirit on Good Friday.

Our senses cannot confirm this truth. But it is true. God died for us that we have forgiveness and eternal life. Materialism is a way that leads to death. But faith in Christ gives us eternal life. Only through His Word and Sacraments does God confront us with His gift of love in Christ. We cannot find Christ in nature or by our reason. Only the Word of God gives us Christ.

As we celebrate the Festival of Holy Trinity we remember the great gifts of each person of the One True God who has secured our eternal salvation. This gift is beyond our reason and our senses.

For we know that if our body is destroyed, God will resurrect us, a body not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this sinful flesh we groan, earnestly desiring to be resurrected at home in heaven, if indeed, having been having been brought to faith in Christ we shall not be found faithless. Because we who have been given faith in Christ groan, being burdened, not because we want to die and leave this world, but because we want to live with God forever, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the One who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.

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