CHRIST, LOOK UPON OUR HOMES!
A Sermon By
Dr. Walter A. Maier
PRECIOUS SAVIOR, SON OF GOD AND SON OF MAN; Humbly but earnestly we beseech Thee: Look mercifully upon our homes! Fortify our dear ones with the saving faith that after death will reunite us with the whole family in heaven! By the cleansing power of Thy Cross forgive us, parents and children, every transgression of Thy holy Law! Make our homes havens of rest and spiritual strength by abiding in our households with Thy pardon, Thy peace, Thy guidance, Thy grace, and Thine unnumbered blessings! May Thy Holy Spirit enlighten us to start and end each day in Thy name, that is, with firm personal trust in the atonement by which Thou didst remove our iniquities and bear their consequences in Thine own holy body! Call many godless homes to repentance and reliance on Thee! Show us the terrifying results of our rebellion against Thy mercy and bring us down on our knees before Thee, Savior and Sustainer, as we plead for Thy sin removing love and the courage, the comfort, the conviction, it brings! Look upon our loved ones engaged in distant military service, and let them know that in Thee, who didst die and rise again for them, they can find the calm and quiet of a reborn and reassured life! Let the knowledge of Thy blood-bought mercy cover the earth as the waters of the sea, so that in Thy faith men and nations may turn from war to peace! We pray confidently, blessed Redeemer, because we pray in Thy name, by Thy command, and according to Thy will. Amen!
What would you do if a fully armed enemy soldier should walk through the streets of your town? This was the question recently placed before the citizens of Portland, Oregon. A United States merchant seaman, eager to know whether his countrymen would recognize a Japanese soldier, dressed himself in an enemy officer’s uniforms, pulled a helmet over his face to conceal his American features, shouldered a formidable rifle, and marched through the crowded streets of Portland's busiest district. What happened? Most of the people smiled at him as he passed. When he stopped some of them to ask questions in imitation pidgin English, they answered courteously and willingly gave him vital war information. Not a person challenged him; not a soldier or a sailor stopped him; not a policeman was disturbed by his gun. The city was totally indifferent to the potential enemy in its midst.
On a vastly larger scale our entire country has often been coolly unconcerned about a far greater menace. The homes of our nation, the family ties, the ideals of purity, faithfulness and decency—all these are being systemically and openly assailed in the tear-down-the–morals campaign which the war years provoked and prolonged. Yet, while this evil brazenly strides through the land, publicly flaunting its destructive designs, masses of Americans refuse to recognize its hideousness. Instead they applaud its proposals as progressive and praiseworthy, even cooperate in its program to ruin America.
To help us recognize this superenemy within; to defeat the increasing forces of hell that seek to destroy the Christian family; to give parents the spirit of sacrifice and devotion, children the blessing of purity, faith and obedience, we need divine guidance and assistance; we need Jesus in the family circle. Therefore we plead today:
CHRIST, LOOK UPON OUR HOMES!
This is the echo of our text, the words of Saint Luke (chapter nine, verses thirty-eight and thirty-nine) and Saint mark (chapter nine, verse twenty-two and following): "Behold a man of the company cried out, saying Master, I beseech Thee, Look upon my son, for he is mine only child. And, lo, spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again….If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us! Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!…Jesus…rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him!"
1- LOOK UPON OUR PARENTS!
Our Lord had just descended from the Mount of Transfiguration, when He met a young man possessed of an evil spirit, which drove him until he foamed at the mouth and bruised himself. What a startling change the Savior experienced! A few hours before –the mountain height, where He communed with Moses and Elijah amid heavenly glory, brilliance, and beauty! Now the contact with the curse of sin, unbelieving men, a lad torn and tortured by a satanic spirit! Yet how kind and compassionate the Friend of sinners and suffers is! He could have turned away from all misery and pain, but he deliberately seeks the heavily burdened and searches for their sorrow, just as today none of you can have fallen too far, transgressed God’s Law too frequently, endured sorrows too crushing, to be "welcomed, pardoned, cleansed, relieved," by the merciful Redeemer, if you will only personally and penitently acclaim Him your Savior and your God.
The disciples were not able to drive out this unclean spirit; for, as our Lord later explained, they had no faith—the deep-rooted reason for many failures in present-day churches. They have impressive buildings, colorful pomp and parade ,large endowments, headline preachers; but they have no trust in the atoning Savior, no message from the Bible, therefore no victory over evil, no power to comfort men in their anguish. Only Gospel-glorifying churches and Christ-exalting preachers can offer real hope to sorrowing masses in a war-racked world.
Despite his failure to find help, the distracted father did not surrender to despair. You see, he loved his son, a demoniac from childhood. Today, likewise, we need fathers—and mothers, too—who are constantly concerned about their children and find their first human responsibility in their home. How tragically the war weakened parental ties! Fathers by the hundreds of thousands torn from their loved ones; millions of mothers called from their household duties to work in offices and factories! In some cases this exit from the home was produced, not by patriotism and the spirit of self-sacrifice, but by the desire to escape the boredom of domestic duties, to earn money for nonessentials. What a heavy spending spree marks the nation! Department stores report new high figures for sales of luxury goods. A weekly magazine displays cocktail and alcoholic drinks at $1.53, $1.58, $2.03 each, as liquor sales almost double within five years. Pictures on its pages show a beauty-shop hair style for $35.00, a nightgown for $49.00, a three-ounce bottle of perfume at $150.00, a mink coat for $3,500.00, a ruby necklace for $15,000.00, a diamond necklace for $50,000.00, a diamond ring for $57,000.00—sold to customers made rich by the war, which, we often forget, cost great numbers of our American young men their happiness, their health, their limbs, their senses, their reason, even their life. Night clubs are jammed, and despite the 20-per-cent tax many are making far more than during the boom a year ago. But have you ever read of any widespread and growing interest in safeguarding the family? On the contrary, the war weakened the American home. A civic official in Detroit told me that the share-the-ride arrangement has been a most disastrous force in breaking homes. Men and women, married and unmarried, thrown together on intimate terms, often make it a practice to stop at a tavern on their return from work, drink too much and pay the many penalties. In a score of different ways marital ties are torn apart—and the result? The greatest orgy of home wrecking the United States has ever known! Reno, with forty-one divorces for every one hundred marriages, used to be regarded as the nation’s marriage-breaking Mecca. Now, however, it has lost this notoriety. Los Angeles, for example, has reached the unprecedented figure of seventy-one divorces for every hundred marriages. In Chicago domestic courts one justice recently established a new record, granting more than 4,200 divorces in a single year! To do this he opened his court an hour and a half earlier and devised a system of speeding up the testimony of witnesses.
The Supreme Soviet in Russia has taken far-reaching steps to restrict marriage fracture, birth control, illegal operations, and related evils. Consequently it is now harder to secure a divorce in Red Russia than in certain States of our own so-called Christian country. Thoughtful citizens—often even those without religious principle—are asking, "If Moscow seeks to strengthen the home, should not Washington?"
In the years ahead, when, political soothsayers tell us, everything will be rosy and everybody happy, this sabotage of marriage vows will increase. Experts predict that the nation today stands before a paganized period of immorality when, with many hasty war weddings, mixed marriages between believers and unbelievers, Protestants and Catholics, shattered, the divorce rate will be at least twice as high as in the present-day debauch. God have mercy on America then!
Since the collapse of the home can mean the collapse of the country, and the neglect of childhood the neglect of the future, we need no voices in the upper circles at Washington to proclaim how good, helpful, necessary divorce may be; no godless professors at colleges and universities to tell our young people that marriage is a game of chance, in which, if they do not succeed at first, they can try and try again; no irresponsible educators who hold that children should grow up as they please, without parental interference. With our institutions for juvenile criminals filled by delinquent boys and girls from broken homes; with more babies deserted, even destroyed, than ever before, the call which must resound over this distracted age, asks for parents who are personally perpetually concerned about their children, and who, as the father in our text, come to Jesus with all their household sorrow.
Many of you bear afflictions similar to those endured by that father. You have a subnormal child, perhaps a spastic baby. Your son may have gone wrong. A Connecticut mother writes that her fifteen-year old boy was sentenced to life imprisonment for a hitch-hike murder. You may have thankless, ungrateful children who left you without income or support. Your family may be burdened by sickness, accident, bereavement, poverty. You may suffer drunkenness in your home, constant quarreling, unfaithfulness, unbelief, cursing, blasphemy. Yet, whatever your sorrow is, follow this father in turning to whatever your sorrow is, follow this father in turning to Jesus! He can always help, even if every human remedy fails. He has comfort when there is no other consolation. He will lighten your burden when you can carry it no longer; for—and no family can ever be fully happy until it knows this lesson—He is your God, with whom "nothing shall be impossible"; your Savior, who cherished you with such heavenly, intense, indescribable, unfathomable devotion that He gave Himself, His own sinless body, as a bleeding sacrifice for your redemption, a death offering for your life. You may have hated Christ; you may have used His name in blood-curdling profanity; you may have sneered at His agonies and laughed at His suffering; yet in His endless compassion He loved you and sought to save you from sin’s penalty, hell’s terror and death’s agony.
Looking to the Cross, will you not love Him who first loved you and, by trusting God’s Son as your Redeemer, receive His heavenly blessing for yourself and your home? What glorious grace He offers! First the complete forgiveness of every sin, the entire removal of your transgressions, open and concealed, the hidden vices which make you blush when you recall them! Then, precious Savior that He is, he makes you right with the Lord. He puts you on the side of the Almighty, so that you can exult, "If God be for us, who can be against us!" He stifles selfishness by making you a new creature through the rebirth, through repentance and faith. We hear a lot about the new age before us; what we actually need, however, is new men and women, new fathers and mothers, whose hearts Christ has changed. That blessed Redeemer can supplant hatred in the household with love, quarreling with peace, despair with comfort, as He turns sorrows into benefits, afflictions into advantages, pains and crosses into blessings. However sin, misunderstanding, or even death may have overshadowed your home, the light of a greater happiness than you ever dreamed possible will dawn with a complete victory over evil and agony, if only you fathers and mothers entrust yourselves to the Savior.
Blessed by His Spirit, you will realize that babies are "an heritage of the Lord," one of the most precious gifts the Almighty Himself can bestow; and you will reject the pagan practices of sinful birth control, which have brought suffering, weakening, and loss to the nation. You will know that every child is entrusted to you by God, so that you bring it "up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," showing it the way to heaven. When that tragic circus fire broke out in Hartford, Connecticut, a father rushed his little ones to safety, only to learn that his smallest son was missing. Repeatedly he ran back, as closely as he could to the blazing inferno, each time rescuing others, but failing to find his own boy. Finally, abandoning hope, he returned to his car. Can you imagine his joy when he found the lad waiting for him there? The child explained, "You always taught me to go to the car if I ever go lost from you," Let our American fathers teach their children to take refuge in Jesus during every moment of danger; thank though the fires of destruction surround them, they will always be safe with Him.
Why do parents often fail woefully in leading their children to the Savior? A soldier who had been invited to read many letters received by his comrades in the South Pacific reports: "Too many people refuse to write anything about religion and Christ. They can devote page after page to the most trivial happenings, but somehow they hesitate to plead for Jesus at a time when their sons, far from home, need His sustaining love more than all else." God open your eyes and make you realize that for the problems of life and death, which your children face, they should have the personal faith in their Lord which your love can help them find, your letters describe, your payers emphasize!
The demoniac’s father did not know Jesus as his Redeemer when he approached Him pleading for the afflicted son, "If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us!" He was merely trying the Stranger from Nazareth as a last resort, to see whether He could perhaps offer healing, just as some of you are similarly willing to believe Christianity if it helps you, or to reject it if you think it does not. Jesus wants more than that. He told the troubled father, "If thou canst believe; all things are possible to him that believeth." You see, our Lord asks for faith, not speculation; assurance, rather than the take-a-chance-and-see-what-happens spirit. Hardly had the divine Physician uttered these words, when, in one of the New Testament’s most touching scenes, the father—doubt and uncertainty vanishing—fell on his knees before the mysterious Stranger from Nazareth, and, with tears coursing down his face, cried out pleadingly, "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!"—By hearing God’s Word, by meeting your Christ face to face in the pages of His Scripture, you too can be brought from unbelief to trust, from doubt to conviction, from curse to blessing, from death to life, from misery in your family to mercy.
Hear this touching cry once more: "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!" and realize the Savior does not demand that right from the outset your faith must be heroic, unquestioning. He cherishes even the first spark of your love, and he promises that His Spirit will fan this into a flame of personal trust. Therefore, as I ask you to envision God’s Son, the world’s Redeemer, I plead with every one who until this moment may have been uncertain about Him, to kneel in faith before the crucified Friend of sinners and declare, "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!" For then, from lips that never refused to answer a contrite, sin-sorrowed soul, you will hear the reply, "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out." Jesus will receive you just as you are, despite your weak faith; and removing your uncertainty, He will build your trust to make you a vital, forceful blessing in your home, your church, your country. What prayer, then, can be more timely and necessary than the humble plea: "O Savior, look upon the nation’s fathers and mothers! Bring them to Thee for pardon, peace, and instruction in the proper guidance of their families! Start a true religious revival in America by making our homes Christian! Give us parents who will take time and make time to unite the household in prayer and Scripture reading!"
2- LOOK UPON OUR CHILDREN
We must, however, also plead for our children. As the father in our text knelt before Jesus to cry out, "Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son, for he is mine only child!" so, on bended knees, we must pray for our youth. Never before has the United States listed as many unchurched, Christless boys and girls as today—17,000,000 under fourteen years—who do not know that our Lord lived, died and rose again for them; a total of youthful unbelievers larger than the entire population of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia and Estonia! Never has atheism worked more intensively and disastrously among young men and women at colleges, in factories, and particularly in radical youth organizations. See how commercialized entertainment constantly attacks the morals of your sons and daughters! In Montreal, Canada, a boy of fifteen was recently sentenced to be hanged for killing a detective, During the trial the defense attorney stressed the fact that young murderer had attended gangster motion pictures six or seven times each week. Who can tell how many other young lives have been ruined by the screen’s portrayal of sin, lust, and crime? Garbage publishers with scavenger minds issue filthy magazines deliberately designed to destroy purity and decency. Do you know that every month 15,000,000 copies of pornographic publications are sold in the United States? Why the government permits this is a mystery.
Above all, think of the unholy example American youth finds in the conduct of its elders! When boys and girls hear older folks curse and see them carouse; when ‘Teenagers know that people forty, fifty, sixty years old ridicule the idea of personal chastity, repeatedly break their marriage vows, do you not agree that the nation’s youth will imitate this impurity and learn to laugh when the Church asks young men and women to keep themselves clean for their future life-mates!
Regrettably many in the military forces suffer under this assault on abstinence and decency. A few days ago I spoke with a wounded and much-decorated young soldier just returned from New Guinea. He was one of three survivors of a plane crash in the South Pacific, where, after rescuing his copilot, he swam through fire to safety—a nineteen-year-old Christian, who had torn down lewd pin-up prints purposely placed before his bunk and substituted a picture of Jesus. That sergeant complained bitterly about the dirty jokes featured in the entertainment hours. Pray that every American soldier be granted the spiritual grace constantly to behold his Savior. Ask God’s Holy Spirit that we at home help exalt righteousness and purity in the souls of these men far from home and therefore close to temptation.
How necessary such pleadings are becomes evident, for example, when we read in prominently placed newspaper dispatches that a child born out of wedlock to an American infantryman in England will be flown to the United States. This action may have been prompted by a most humane motive, the desire to give that six-month-old baby a new start in life without any stigma attached to its birth; but it should have been kept secret. The fact that this story was featured on the front pages of our daily papers can make weak-principled young people feel that affairs without benefit of marriage cannot be very bad if they are rewarded with nation-wide publicity.
Daily we too should kneel before Christ to repeat that father’s plea, "Look upon my son!" or ask: "Look upon my daughter!" or: "Look upon the youth of our entire country!" As our Lord drove the evil spirit from that demoniac, so He can cleanse and purify the children in our homes. When you hear this Scriptural record testifying that Jesus "rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, ‘Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him!" and it came out, don’t think that you are dealing only with ancient history! Rather believe with all your soul that the Son of God has lost none of His power to help and heal! No matter how often you have been defeated by the forces of lust in the past; no matter how frequently you have surrendered to sin and yielded to temptation when, God knows, you wanted to stand firm; no matter how completely you may feel that an evil spirit has overshadowed your life, the same heavenly Helper who restored this possessed young man, the same merciful Lord who refused to cast a stone on the woman taken in transgression, the same Savior of whom it is written,"The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin," now, in these very moments, offers you complete cleansing, full forgiveness, perfect pardon, for all the iniquity in your soul, since He Himself, over blessed Redeemer, took your guilt away, transferred it to Himself, and at Calvary, on the cross, paid its full penalty. Let no false fear or puffed-up pride keep you from Him! Your own unworthiness, your lack of loyalty need not separate you from His compassion, if only in penitent trust—and our Lord has never spurned the weakest faith—you accept Him as your Savior.
With that confidence which—may the Holy Spirit grant it!—can be yours today, you are not only reborn into a new life, you also begin to love good and hate sin. You find strength to resist enticement and reject impurity, because through Jesus you have the "victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." If American youth learns to reply wholly on God’s Son, there will be no "lost generation" after this war, as there was in the wake of the first world conflict. Instead, our young people, led by Christ, will discover new happiness in chastity, new strength in overcoming temptation, new assurance for the future here on earth and hereafter in heaven.
During the early part of the war a French officer on the invasion coast fired a shot to destroy his house which had been taken over by German snipers. He blasted his own dwelling to pieces in the effort to serve his country’s cause. I am not asking you to tear down your dwellings, but through the Son of God to build them for yourselves, your family, your nation. Will you not decide for Jesus today, repeat the prayer suggested by our text, "O precious Savior, look upon our homes!" and then dedicate your household to Him?
When that silver-tongued orator Senator Beveridge of Indiana concluded an appeal, he often told the men in his audience, "Go home and talk this over with your wives!" or, addressing himself to the young men, "Go home and discuss this with your fathers and mothers!" Parents and children of America, now that you have heard the Friend of all families plead for admission into your household, will you not discuss this life-and-death issue together and, before this day closes, resolve to extend this invitation: "Come, Lord Jesus! Be our Guest, our Guide, our God, our gracious Savior!" May the Holy Spirit grant that now, across the continent, from the cold frontiers of Northern Canada to the tropical bloom of Mexico, many families unite in raising this prayer: "O divine Redeemer, look upon our homes with Thy mercy and might! Make them Thy dwellings through sickness and health, sorrow and joy, adversity and prosperity, like and death itself! Look upon us and teach us always and everywhere to look to Thee, our Savior and our God!" Amen!
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in October 1944