Ain't No Fortunate Son (or Daughter)
In 1969 Credence Clearwater Revival sang an anti-establishment, anti-privileged class song entitled "Fortunate Son." They sang, "I ain't no senator's son, no millionaire's son, so military son, no fortunate son." A Christian too can sing that last one. We ain't no fortunate sons or daughters.
People outside of Christ are sons of fortune. Luck, chance, fate, fortune rule them. The ancient Romans embraced fortune as one of the two keys to success in this world. The first was virtue; the second was fortune. Modern man thinks he has been delivered from such childish notions by his science, technology, and knowledge. I think our langue, actions, and thoughts betray us. They show us that though we don't publicly embrace fortune; we nonetheless are in fortune's embrace.
Our language betrays us: "I have a chance at getting this scholarship." "Luckily the cop didn't stop me." "It promises to be a fateful day." "It was fortunate that I didn't get sick." These words show us at fortune's altar, and the fact that none of us can go a week without saying them shows that in our fallenness we too consider ourselves fortunate sons and daughters.
Our outward actions betray our inner faith. We knock on wood thinking this a harmless superstition rather than an ancient way to ward of evil spirits. Our science, technology, and knowledge can't get us over our fear of 13th floors in buildings or the number 666 on license plates so we just don't have them. And time would fail if I listed all the superstitious practices we incorporate into our wedding rites.
More than our words and actions, our thoughts betray us to be fortunate sons and daughters, at least mine do. I didn't wear seatbelts till some time in the 90s. Once the government all over cracked down, I decided belted was better than a fined, but then I started to worry. I'd never had an accident in over 20 years of not wearing a seatbelt. If I wore one, surely I'd be increasing my risk. Likewise people tell themselves, if this happens that won't; if the time is all odd numbers that's a good sign. Not science, not technology, not knowledge has freed us from fortune's family.
Jesus has. We aren't fortunate sons or daughters we're children of the heavenly Father. We're in the hands of the One who says he counts hairs and sparrows. As Jesus said concerning the flowers of the field, "Stop what you're doing and actually contemplate these, focus on them." Even if you're phobic about losing your hair, I doubt you count every missing one you find. God does. Even if you're a birdwatcher, I doubt you pay attention to every sparrow. There are about 50 different sparrows in North America. To us a sparrow's a sparrow. Not to God; He knows why and when each one of the millions of sparrows fall.
Why? Because God is a "detail man." He pays attention to every single detail and because the true God became a Man. God the Son took on flesh and blood to enter the world of hair on heads and sparrows in the air. He cares about this world fallen though it be; He cares about mankind though fallen we be.
Fortunate sons and daughters see the gods of luck, chance, fate, and fortunate governing things. Sons and daughters of science, technology, knowledge see the laws of nature governing things though as we saw in reality they too bow before fortunate's altar. In truth a God who is Man rules all things. Do you think Jesus was joking when He said, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me?" Do you think Revelation is just being poetic when it calls Jesus King of kings, Lord of lords, and shows Him reigning and ruling over all things right now?
God the Son was sent into the world to overcome the Devil who by reason of God's holy laws and our sinfulness had taken over creation. God's law gave Satan a right to be in heaven because God's law promised death to sinners, but He was passing over their sins instead. Satan had a right to demand justice according to God's own laws.
What could be done? Punish us? God loved us. Keep passing by our sins? Then Satan could keep accusing us. So God sent His Son as a Man. Jesus broke no laws. Never once did He say, think, or do anything that credited luck, chance, fate, or fortune. Not once did He fear, love, or trust anyone other than the true God, but God loaded your sins, my sins, the world sins on this Man, and there punished all the sins He had been overlooking.
St. Michael is shown in Revelation pitching Satan out of heaven because he has no right to be there anymore. What Law can Satan say man needed to keep when the Man Jesus kept all laws in our place? What sin of man did God have to punish once the Man Jesus was punished for them all? With no broken Law to accuse us with, with no sin of ours he could point to and demand it be punished, the Devil had no right to go before God's throne.
Neither the laws of nature nor the fickleness of fortune govern this world. The true God does through His right hand Man, Jesus. And Jesus uses the angels. John 1:51 says that the angels of God ascend to heaven and descend to earth continually on Jesus. Jesus is the contact point for angels. He paid for us to have their ministry. Hebrews says that angels are ministering spirits to aid those who will inherit salvation. In your Baptism you became an heir; in your Absolution you're declared an heir of righteousness in Jesus' name; in Communion you bodied and blooded to the King Himself.
Another classic rock and roll song applies here. "Teach Your Children Well." Children love superheroes, wizards, and anyone who can do supernatural things. Nothing wrong with make believe, but teach your children there are real beings who can do what make believe can only imagine. One angel took on 185,000 Assyrians and beat them. An angel walked Peter out of a heavily guarded prison another shut the mouth of Daniel's lion. These invisible, spirit beings took on form and physically did these things.
Listen carefully. It's not luck, chance, or fate that keeps two vehicles from colliding. If the laws of math and physics have them on the path of collision, they're going to hit. Luck, chance, fate can't change that. It takes another force to push them away from each other, to stand between them, or to deflect one or the other. This is what angels do for Jesus' sake as a ministry to those who will inherit salvation.
Teach your children what Scripture says. God sends His angels back and forth between heaven and earth on Jesus, in the things of Jesus, for those in Jesus. This is constantly going on day and night. Second, teach them that Scripture teaches they have a guardian angel. I had a seminary professor who named his. If your kid can have an imaginary friend with a name, he can certainly have a real angel with one. Make sure it's a man's name. All the pronouns in Scripture and the two actual names we know are masculine names. Third, teach them that these angels can't make mistakes. Matthew 18 say the angels of the little ones always behold the face of the Father. They're constantly looking to their Lord to get their marching orders.
Of course, now you have the 64,000 dollar question from your child, don't you? Cars do collide. Cars with Christians in them. The heirs of Jesus' salvation get hurt and even die. Where was that Christian's angel then? It was either in World War I or II that a pastor is making a call on a father who had just lost his only son in the war. The grief stricken father demanded to know from the pastor, "Where was God when my son was dying?" The pastor responded softly, "The same place He was when His Son was dying."
Where was that Christian's guardian angel when their car collided with another? The same place the angels were when Jesus was suffering on the cross. Don't you remember how an angel was sent to Jesus in Gethsemane to strengthen Him for the task of suffering and dying in place of all men as a Man? Don't you remember how in Gethsemane Jesus said that if He wanted to He could call for 12 legions of angels to rescue Him from the mob? Don't you recall what we sing on Palm Sunday? "The angel armies of the sky look down with sad and wondering eyes to see the approaching Sacrifice?" The angels sat there with folded wings, folded hands, and sad and wondering eyes as Jesus died painfully and horribly on the cross for us.
We Lutherans have taught our children for over 400 years to pray morning and evening, "Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me." Do you think that 400 years worth of Lutheran parents didn't see the apparent disconnect between their prayer and bad things happening to Christians? Sure they saw that, but they saw a much more important connection.
The 72 pastors return to Jesus with great joy that even the evil angels are subject to them in Jesus' name. Jesus affirms that their preaching of the Gospel was bringing about the fall of Satan as swiftly as a lightening strike. Then out of the blue Jesus starts talking about walking on serpents and scorpions, why? He's referring to Psalm 91:13 where the Lord promises His people will tread on lions, cobras, and even dragons. He doesn't pull this Psalm out of thin air. This is the Psalm Satan shoved in His face in the great temptation. Satan said Jesus ought to throw Himself from the temple since God promised to give His angels charge over him to keep him.
Satan tempted Jesus to put Himself in physical danger. Jesus didn't jump, and here He points His disciples to the fact that what Psalm 91 promises is having all spiritual power over the enemy, and yet He does say "nothing shall hurt you." Wasn't Jesus hurt in Gethsemane? Wasn't Jesus hurt on the cross? Didn't Jesus die there? Yes, for a time, for a passing moment compared to eternity. If the angels had rescued Jesus physically we would have been harmed eternally. Likewise, our Lord has bigger plans for us, our kid, our grandkids than mere flowers in the field that only live for today and tomorrow wither. He has not left those eternal plans in the hands of the laws of nature or fortune but in the nailed pierced hands of His Son and the angels that minister to us in His name. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
St. Michael and All Angels (20120930)