by Matthew C. Harrison
Our world is completely unhinged.
The evil rampage witnessed in Las Vegas, which tragically and deeply affected also many LCMS people, is but a symptom of the chaos of these “gray and latter days.” The political world is unhinged. The ethical world is unhinged. The social world is unhinged. The religious world is unhinged. The racial world is unhinged. The educational world is unhinged. The entertainment world is unhinged. Merriam-Webster puts it this way:
Definition of unhinged:
upset, unglued; especially: mentally
“… attacked by an unhinged
St. Paul saw it already, and he knew that it would get worse.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 TIM. 3:1–7).
And yet, there is a candle in the darkness. Like a lone Paschal Candle lit before Easter sunrise, the light of Christ is burning and the dawn of resurrection is glowing on the horizon. “Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (JOHN 8:12). And joyous wonder, as we look eastward for His return, Jesus brightens our faces even now, even as He pulls us out of darkness toward and into His marvelous light! And He makes those who are His shine like Himself, for the sake of the lost.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (MATT. 5:14–16).
It is right in this same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus tells it like it now is, and puts a surprisingly joyous spin on it:
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (MATT. 5:11–12).
And so I shall “rejoice and be glad.” In the face of everything, I shall not be burdened with anger and hatred. I shall confess it, and then I shall rejoice and be glad! In the face of fear and a myriad of pressures and challenges in the church, I shall rejoice and be glad. In the face of unspeakable and unfathomable evil (Luther said that the evil of original sin is so profound it can’t be understood, but only believed), I shall “rejoice and be glad.” And in this merciless world, marching to a funeral dirge because it does not yet know Christ, with St. Paul, I shall sing Christ’s name among those who don’t yet know Him:
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people” (ROM. 15:9–10).
And because Christ has grabbed my heart and soul, my body and being …
because He has brought me from darkness to light through Holy Baptism;
because He regularly forgives my sins anew in Holy Absolution;
because through my pastor He preaches forgiveness, peace and joy into my ears and down to my soul;
because He consoles me by the words and Christian encouragement of brothers and sisters in the faith;
because He sets before me a feast of His very body and blood for my forgiveness …
I shall rejoice to be fully Lutheran — Joy:fully Lutheran!
From the Aaronic blessing at the end of the service until I return again for the Trinitarian invocation, I shall march into my vocation as a light amidst the darkness — yes, as a sinner to be sure, worn and torn, but glowing with Christ’s own light.
I shall rejoice wherever the truth of Christ is known, whole or even in part, and yet I shall be fully Lutheran, for that is to be fully biblical.
And all of this, come what may.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (ROM. 15:13).
— Pastor Harrison
The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod