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The First Black Friday

Thanksgiving is one of the most beloved holidays in our society, but it might be rivaled by tomorrow. You know what I’m talking about: “Black Friday.”

The name refers to the day’s supposed power to lift businesses’ bottom line “into the black.” It’s an ironic designation, however, for a culture that has increasingly made the mall into its sanctuary, turned shopping into its vehicle of transcendence, and that worships at the altar of self-satisfaction. 

The First Black Friday did not lift us into the black but out of it.

The problem with Black Friday 

Don’t get me wrong. The problem is neither retail nor shopping, per se. These can both be good things in their own right, and I have all the respect in the world for those who operate businesses (and those who have to work especially hard this weekend). 

The problem is that the trappings of consumerism have been elevated into ultimate things. In other words, they have become idols. So in the Large Catechism Luther writes, 

“Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and, possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth.”

As Luther points out, the cult of Mammon—or we might call it the Church of Consumerism—has long been claiming worshipers, and Black Friday has become its high holy day.

The growing chasm

By designating the post-Thanksgiving consumer orgy as “Black Friday,” it also helps put the growing chasm between the Church of Christ and the Church of Consumerism into stark relief.

Because the Church of Christ already has a Black Friday. 

We more often call it Good Friday, but before it was “good” it was dark, dread and drear, it was the blackest of days that looked to profit nothing. “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” 

The day of our Lord’s crucifixion, when the Son of God was trampled by the masses and tacked up on the crossbeam like a doorbuster flyer—that day is the first “Black Friday.” And for my money, it is the only one that matters.

This Black Friday does not lift us into the the black, but out of it: the abyss of death, the void of vanity. It’s not about satisfaction for self but satisfaction for sin. This is diametrically opposed to the kind of salvation on offer by the Church of Consumerism’s “gospel.”

In that pseudo gospel, you are promised salvation not by grace, but by goods. The beatific vision is seeing your hoped-for gadget still present on the shelf. And happiness is a warm Starbucks latte.

You cannot worship two Black Fridays

“No one can serve two masters,” Jesus said. “For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” That duel is on full display today. You cannot worship two Black Fridays. One will leave more than your wallet empty; the other will keep more than your stocking filled. 

Go shopping if you must; with four kids, I understand the appeal of exceptional sales. But let’s refuse to worship at the Church of Consumerism. Let’s whole-heartedly serve the Lord who busted down the doors of Hell to purchase us for Himself—not with gold or silver, and with nary a coupon or price-cut, but at the exorbitant cost of His holy, precious blood.

Sunday's sermon

Can you see what the optical illusion at the right says? Doing so will tell you a lot about how we see God at work in the gospel and in the world. 

Listen to Sunday's sermon

News & Notes

  • Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you are able to celebrate the day with loved ones, and don't have the joy spoiled by the Lions. Speaking of football, though, at halftime the Tinettis will be playing a game out in front of church if anyone wants to join us! 
  • We had a scary moment in worship on Sunday, but there is good news to report. Paul Scheppleman had an episode and needed to be taken away by ambulance, but he has since been released from the hospital. Following tests, he was diagnosed with mild pneumonia and a case of "church syncope"—a fainting spell from sitting and standing. I thank God for the quick-acting helpers we had in church (by my count, five emergency responders!), and we offer prayers for Paul's continued recovery.
  • Due to all the drama on Sunday, the planned Heart for Arcadia survey discussion was cancelled. We'll plan to reschedule for Sunday, December 8th, during the education hour. 

From the Church Year

This Saturday in the Church Year is the feast of St. Andrew, Apostle. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

"Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade and were called from their fishing by Jesus to follow Him, promising that He would make them 'fishers of men.' The Gospel of John teaches that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led Andrew and John the Evangelist to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40). Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce him to his brother (John 1:41). According to tradition, Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross.

"We have found the Messiah. Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to His appearing from heaven, rejoicing when He does appear and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.”

- Chrysostom

Looking ahead to Sunday

The 1st Sunday in Advent
  • Readings
    • First lesson—Isaiah 2.1-5
    • Epistle lesson—Romans 13.8-14
    • Gospel—Matthew 24.36-44
  • Hymn of the Day—"Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending" (LSB 336)

+ Grace & Peace +

Pastor Tinetti

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