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Psalm 6

 
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.  My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD-how long?
Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?

I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. 
(ESV)
Utopia Is Not
Monday of Easter 4
18 April 2016
Christianity does not promise a utopia. This is well, because utopia literally means "no place." The promise of "no place" is the promise of absolutely nothing. Beware then, of those who promise such a thing to you; they are promising nothing at all. And in exchange for their utopian dreams for you they are demanding a great deal from you; including your freedom. The promise of external peace, comfort, prosperity, and ease comes at a fearful price.

The Christian church does not have a utopian view of the world. Christians accept that there is real struggle, suffering, sorrow, failure, and even death in the world that cannot be wished away through utopianism. This realism confronts us with the world as it is; not as it is hoped to be. Christians recognize that they are unlikely to make the world vastly better than it has been for the last two millennia. They seek not to meddle with the world and fiddle with your material conditions so that you can live the good life. They are willing to let you live out your life in this world; providing the indefatigable hope of God's coming kingdom. Perhaps this is why Paul warns Christians against being busybodies (2Thess 3:11). A busybody knows how to run your life better than you do.

Even though the material conditions of our Western culture have improved so greatly over the last hundred years, we have not experienced greater freedom, but rather tighter and tighter control through the technological and material advances available to us. Busybodies in government and the academy are more than willing to force you to live in such a way to impose on you their much-vaunted utopian dreams; whether those dreams be environmental, sexual, or political, or all of the above. Who wouldn't want this paradise? Or so it's thought. Watch out for the fixers, because their ultimate goal is to fix you. To change and re-purpose the old canard, utopians are so utopia-minded that they are no earthly good. Indeed, utopians are positively dangerous.

The church seeks not to fix you, because it confesses the fallen world is irremediable on its own terms, but to give you the divine gift of life and salvation in Christ Jesus. Anything else is only hopeless half measures. The Christian peace is head and shoulders above the utopian dreams of the worldly-minded. This is why the church invites those whom the world considers broken, hopeless, and helpless; because it recognizes that there is no worldly help worth the name. The founding fathers of American republic understood this when they established a constitution that limited government through the frustrating separation of powers. The US Constitution makes it difficult for wicked men to control enough conditions to fix things for you. The founding fathers had a sense of the fallen nature of humanity. Our desire to elect a fixer is an attempt to overturn their well-tuned, and seemingly frustrating, balance among the various branches of government.

Christians take into account the conditions on the ground, rather than attempting to force what is inside our heads upon others. This is what Luther calls being thrown into the world by God. This puts us at a handicap in the battle with the progressives, who fight for outcomes enforcing their utopia on others, while Christians are willing to be disadvantaged for the sake of principle and the needs of other people. We are restrained, while they are not.

Christians accept the creation as it is; a gift of God bent by our human perversity through the fall. Paradoxically, Christian disdain for the world makes us more useful in the world, because we are not striving for mere comfort or prosperity in the world, but we strive for the sake of principle; principle that comes from beyond us, that does not promise ease and demands suffering. True freedom demands the discipline that restrains personal liberty for the sake of the neighbor's good, instead of for self-aggrandizement. The Christian world view is about reality. Utopia is not.

 

Martin Luther

"To those who would like to keep their conscience clear, we have this to say: God has thrown us into the world, under the power of the devil. As a result, we have no paradise here. Rather, at any time we can expect all kinds of misfortune to body, wife, child, property, and honor. And if there is one hour in which there are less than ten disasters, or an hour in which we can even survive, we ought to say, 'How good God is to me! He has not sent every disaster to me in this one hour.' How is that possible? Indeed, as long as I live under the devil's power, I should not have one happy hour. That is what we teach our people.

"Of course, you may do something else. You may build yourself a paradise where the devil cannot get in so that you need not expect the rage of any tyrant. We will watch you! Actually things go too well for us. We are too happy and content. We do not know how good God is to us and we believe neither that God takes care of us nor that the devil is so evil. We want to be nothing but wicked scoundrels and yet receive nothing but good from God."

Martin Luther,  Lectures on 1 Timothy, 2
 
Prayer
Lord Jesus, You have risen to grant the paradise of Your kingdom to us where we shall be as fully human as You have created us; free from sin and depravity. Keep us from hankering after the utopian dream offered to our first parents by our primeval enemy in the Garden. Give us the courage of our own convictions that we might embrace the world with all of its brokenness and suffering, looking forward to the hope of glory, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For all our catechumens, that the Lord would enable them to confess the Lord into whom they have been baptized and through whom they have been named

For Mary Lewis, that her Lord would strengthen her in her body

For the candidates for the office of the President of the LCMS, Matthew Harrison, Dale Meyer, and David Maier, that they would confess the faith with integrity and truth
Art: RUBENS, Peter Paul  The Resurrection of Christ (1611-12)

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