Our Comfort amid Riots
It is without question the devil himself who is instigating the mayhem we have been witnessing in cities across the land in recent weeks. For the devil is always the one who entices the flesh away from God, as he did in the vey beginning, when he tempted Eve in the Garden. The works of the flesh are always the devil’s own works, and his temptations are always toward the stirring up of the flesh. Recall his failed attempts to tempt Jesus himself in the wilderness: with the satisfaction of his own hunger (“Command these stones to become bread”), or with the lure of glory (“Cast yourself down from the temple, for the angels will bear you up”), or with the promise of power (If you worship me, I will give you all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”).
And so the rioting we have been seeing is all in efforts to satisfy the flesh. Consider St. Paul’s list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” In this list we see in particular hatred. In the rioters there is hatred on full display in all its ugliness. Then there is variance, or better, contentions, that is, discord. This is the central feature of riots. And then, wrath, or unrestrained anger, the lack of self-control. And then, strife, that is, conflict and bitter dissensions. Then, seditions, a key descriptor in this case, that is, rebellion against all authority. Envyings is in the list as well, for these rioters clearly want what others have, and are taking to violence to get it. As the days go on, it becomes clearer that there are also murders going on during this unrest, a natural part of the riotous mobs. Over half the items listed in the Apostle’s list here are directly applicable to the wild rioting on display. What we are seeing without question is the unrestrained wildfires of the flesh. This is the work of the devil.
Contrast the fruit of the Spirit, which St. Paul describes next: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. The contrast couldn’t be starker.
It led me to begin to understand why Martin Luther had harsh words for rioters (see for instance his “Against the Peasants” written in 1525: www. historyguide.org/earlymod/peasants1525.html.) These people cannot be reasoned with or satisfied.
What is so important to understand is that the rioters have without question hijacked what were supposed to be peaceful demonstrations that were supposed to be in support of black people. Massive support for African Americans is clearly evident in the American psyche, and that is a good thing, of course. But see how everything quickly changed!
As we can all recall, the demonstrators who first came out wanted to express their long-held and laudable belief that racism is an ugly and unacceptable thing (and we all agree on that!). But little did they know that as soon as they came out in support of this cause, so did another group whose designs were entirely different (it appears to have been well coordinated). The first wave of rabble rousers infiltrated the crowds, wanting nothing other than to loot, steal, and destroy; and then, before you knew it, there followed on their heels a second wave of rioters, whose only agenda is quickly becoming painfully evident: anarchy and destruction. These are Marxist rebels whose desire is to cast off all authority and set themselves up as a new social order. They have hijacked the entire enterprise. Consider their demands: they want no government, no police, no law and order. They want to destroy statues of our founding fathers, still on the pretense of racism! And already there are calls for destroying statues and artistic depictions of Jesus! Why? Because, they say, he looks too European.
This is without question a ruse. It is the devil’s lies on full display.
But the blind rage of the rioters is already so out of control that they cannot be satisfied.
But since it is clear that this is the devil’s work, there is also occasion for great comfort for us Christians, because we know something about the devil’s trophies.
Consider the greatest of all Satan’s accomplishments. It began with the instigation of another riotous crowd, a crowd that the governor, who at the time was Pontius Pilate, could not restrain. “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (St. Matthew 27:24-26). See there? The devil’s aims were met. He gained his greatest trophy: Jesus himself! Satan had tried to entice Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but failed. Now, instead of winning Jesus over, he has him put to death.
And the devil, smugly satisfied to have gained this great victory, was greeted at once with a great earthquake. Before the body of Jesus was even taken down from the cross came the rumbling—literally—of the coming utter destruction of the devil’s lair. And on the third day, at its first moment, Christ descended into hell, inserted his divine hook into hell’s great doors, and, pulling up with all the infinite might of his holy resurrection from the grave, pulled off and destroyed the gates of that infernal lair. And he whom the devil though he had defeated, took his stand upon the earth, arisen from the dead. As the hymn writer has so eloquently put it:
Who is this that comes from Edom, all his raiment stained with blood? To the captive speaking freedom, bringing and bestowing good, Glorious in the garb he wears, Glorious in the spoil he bears?
‘Tis the Savior, now victorious, Trav’ling onward in his might; ‘Tis the Savior; oh, how glorious To his people is the sight! Satan conquered and the grave, Jesus now is strong to save.
The devil’s great trophy chest has been smashed. So now, in our day, as he seeks to gain another, what may we Christians think about all this rioting?
We ought to shrug, and say, Ah! The devil’s kingdom has already been decimated! What we are seeing now is but a faint reminder of its bygone glories. It will not succeed. It cannot succeed. Even if all earthly kingdoms crumble and fall. Even if we should die. And, as it happens, the only thing that could prevent our deaths is the return of Christ in glory! So yes, in the meantime we shall all die. The good and the evil, the peaceful and the riotous. The Christians and our enemies all.
But we Christians already have the promise of life and salvation. This is our trust, our hope, our assurance now, today. No looters, rioters, or murderers can keep it from us. For here is Jesus’ promise: “the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (St. Matthew 10:30-32).
So, in short: do not let this alarm you, dear Christian. Do not let your hearts fail from fear; for in the world you will have tribulation. Be of good cheer. Christ has overcome the world.
This article was also posted online at Gottesblog on June 23rd.
Church’s Front Doors Open Again!
Beginning on Sunday, June 28th, the front doors of the church will once again be open, as we continue our move back to normalcy. The door at the ramp also remains open of course, as ever, and we will continue distancing in the pews and at the altar for the time being.
This should be a welcome sight, particularly if the sun is shining!
July Altar Guild and Elders to meet on June 30th, with Tuesday Vespers
Due to Pastor’s schedule, as we have discussed, the First Tuesday events for July have been moved to the day before July, Tuesday, June 30th. Please make a note of it.
Altar Guild Notes
July and August Birthdays
7/2 Dana McReynolds
7/4 Sarah Kraklow
7/5 Sandra Verplaetse
7/7 Stephen Harris
7/9 Michelle Armstrong
7/10 Otis Anderson
7/10 Dale Baker
7/13 Gayle Beauprez
7/14 Pastor Eckardt
8/9 Donald Kegebein
8/11 Sam Fisher
8/11 Judy Thompson
8/13 Donald Murphy
8/16 Trista Dooley
8/21 John Sovanski
8/24 Becky Russell
July Ushers: Jim Hornback, Tom Wells, Steve KraklowAugust Ushers: Otis Anderson, John Ricknell, Bill Thompson, Jim Hornback.
July, August Anniversaries
7/1/1951 John and Emilie Ricknell
8/1/2009 Chris and Trista Dooley
Listen at Home
Our website, www.stpaulskewanee.org, has easy-to-find podcasts (recordings of studies) that you can access and listen to on demand. There are podcasts of St. Paul’s on the Air, recordings of sermons, and occasional Bible classes as well. These are also sent to Facebook to make it easy to access the website from there. Have a listen, and spread the word. Our Facebook page, St. Paul's and Friends, also regularly posts live streamed (audio and visual) services you may access at any time. There is also availability at YouTube, at the Burnell Eckardt channel.
The council will be meeting on Wednesday, July 15th which is the usual third Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, August 19th, as usual.
Please make a note of it.
Catechism Resumes in August
Junior Catechism will resume on Tuesday, August 18th, at 5:00 in the afternoon.
On the Road
The nearby July calendar shows that I will be away for Michael and Brittany’s wedding early in July, and then on a family vacation ending on July 13th. On July 5th, our guest pastor will be Rev. Matthew Synnott from Trinity in Peoria. Pastor Synnott has been here before. The following Sunday, July 12th, we will have Dr. Kenneth Schurb as our guest. Dr. Schurb is the District’s stewardship director. He will have a special program for us during the Bible Class hour. The only Wednesday evening I will be away will be July 8th, when midweek mass is cancelled.
Instead of Oktoberfest
With some sadness and nostalgia, we are not planning an Oktoberfest for this year, as it has become overwhelming to our little parish.
Instead, people are being encouraged to attend the annual St. Michael Conference at Zion in Detroit on the last Monday in September. This year Pastor is the keynote speaker, and a number of Gottesdienst editors will be on hand with presentations and preaching. It might be worth thinking about.
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443