Monday, September 18, 2017

Nazis, Fascists, and Commies are All Socialists

Here is a thorough expose of how the word "Nazi" became so popular in modern parlance, and how the Socialism in National Socialism has been hidden from view.

In this 2015 Independent Review article by University of Memphis historian Andrei Znemenski (whom I had the pleasure to meet and hear lecture this year at Mises University), the author argues that the Socialist aspect of Nazism was covered over by a deliberate linguistic shift from the use of the term "National Socialism" to "Nazism" in the English language, largely at the behest and example of the Communist Frankfurt School.

The typical viewpoint expressed in academia. the media, entertainment, and popular culture is that the Nazis (and other Fascists) were/are a "right-wing" ideology, and are representative of capitalism and conservatism. This represents an Orwellian shift from the reality that the term "Nazi" is a contraction of "National Socialist" - from the party's original name: "Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei" (National Socialist German Workers' Party) - a contraction which conveniently obscures the "Socialist" element of the party and political philosophy.

This is how it is that right-wing, traditionalist, capitalist, conservative or libertarian political leanings (which includes the nearly 63 million people who voted for Donald Trump) are painted with the broad-brush as "Nazis" when in fact, most such people decry Socialism.  This is why we are seeing modern campus Communists violently marching under the "anti-fascist" (Antifa) banner that dates back to the German Communist Party of 1932.  In an Orwellian abuse of language, such totalitarians are setting themselves up as the alternative to "Nazism" - when in fact, they are birds of a feather, kindred spirits divided only by the question of whether their Socialism is national or international in scope.

Whether the concentration camps bear the red and black banner of Stalin or Hitler makes little difference.  Both are the antithesis of liberty.

In fact, the Frankfurt School's linguistic shift represents a Hegelian dialectic that presents us with two opposite alternatives: National Socialism, or International Socialism.  In rejecting "Nazism," we are led into the arms of Communism ("Internazism"?).  In reality, the opposite of both National Socialism and International Socialism is Libertarian Capitalism or Classical Liberalism.

Instead of buying the lie that Socialism is good, and "Nazism" is capitalism run amok, we need to see the reality that Marxism in all of its forms (national and international) is a repudiation of human rights, dignity, private property, and liberty in exchange for central economic planning by boards and bureaucracies, enforced by political and police power to imprison, torture, and kill dissenters.

In his 1947 work entitled Planned Chaos, economist Ludwig von Mises sums up two patterns of Socialism:

There are two different patterns for the realization of socialism.  The one pattern - we may call it the Marxian or Russian pattern - is purely bureaucratic.  All economic enterprises are departments of the government just as the administration of the army and navy or the postal system.  Every single plant, shop or farm, stands in the same relation to the superior central organization as does a post office to the office of the Postmaster-General.  The whole nation forms one single labour army with compulsory service; the commander of this army is the chief of state.

The second pattern - we may call it the German or Zwangswirtschaft system (footnote: Zwang means compulsion, Wirtschaft means economy. The English language equivalent for Zwangswirtschaft is something like compulsory economy) - differs from the first one in that it, seemingly and nominally, maintains private ownership of the means of production, entrepreneurship, and market exchange.  So called entrepreneurs do the buying and selling, pay the workers, contract debts and pay interest and amortization.  But they are no longer entrepreneurs.  In Nazi Germany they were called shop managers or Betriebsfuerer.  The government tells these seeming entrepreneurs what and how to produce, at what prices and from whom to buy, at what prices and to whom to sell.  The government decrees at what wages labourers should work, and to whom and under what terms the capitalists should entrust their funds.  Market exchange is but a sham.  As is all prices, wages, and interest rates are fixed by the authority, they are prices, wages and interest rates in appearance only; in fact they are merely quantitative terms in the authoritarian orders determining each citizen's income, consumption, and standard of living.  The authority, not the consumers, directs production.  The central board of production management is supreme; all citizens are nothing else but civil servants.  This is socialism with the outward appearance of capitalism.  Some labels of the capitalistic market economy are retained, but they signify here something entirely different from what they mean in the market economy.

I don't know if Planned Chaos (which was appended to post-1951 editions of von Mises's 1922 work Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis) was written in German or English.  It would be interesting to see if Mises himself used the word "Nazi" or if English translators overwrote "National Socialist").  It is important to note that the Jewish Ludwig von Mises and his wife fled Austria in 1938 to escape the National Socialist threat - leaving behind his library and papers.

At any rate, von Mises, far from placing Communism and Fascism (or Nazism) on opposite poles, he places them both under the overarching heading of Socialism.  Socialism comes in two varieties: Communism, in which the State owns all of the means of production, and Fascism, in which the State micromanages and regulates the means of production.  Both are variants of Marxism: both are opposed to individual liberty and capitalism, and both rely on central economic planning by state bureaucrats.  The former is international in scope, the latter is national.  Both are ultimately authoritarian and totalitarian.  Both enforce Marxism by fear, intimidation, incarceration, concentration camps, torture, slavery, and genocide.  Both seek a "New Man" in a perverse parody of Christianity, both offering hope of an Edenic Utopia once human nature is itself evolved, goaded, and transformed through the elimination of "undesirables."  Both versions of Socialism oppose the traditional family, champion abortion, and have no scruples about crushing dissent by any means necessary.

I am no longer going to play into the deception by using the term "Nazi."  It may take a second longer to use the term "National Socialist", but that is exactly what they are.  I believe we can more accurately convey the Dirty Little Secret of our modern-day "Antifascists" and "Democratic Socialists" - that they are actually in an incestuous and inbred love/hate relationship to the very ideology that claim to oppose.

They are all Socialists.  We would do well to say so.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 14 - 2017

17 September 2017

Text: Luke 17:11-19 

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

I have heard two people this week bring up a verse that isn’t in our text, but it is an important point that touches upon our text.  That verse is Luke 18:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Most of us instinctively like this text, because we aren’t rich. It enables us to wag the finger at people we are envious of.  What’s there not to like about that?

But in fact, dear friends, we are rich.  All of us.  First of all, we live in the 21st century and in the First World.  We have luxuries that even kings did not enjoy a hundred years ago: air conditioning, refrigerators and freezers, televisions, cell phones, automobiles, the internet, and all sorts of social safety nets – so that even people who are considered poor in America are rich when compared to the rest of the world.

But we are also rich in a different way: spiritually.  For whether we believe it or not, whether we are Christians or not, we have the love of our Creator and the sacrificial death of the Son on the cross for us to pay for our sins.  Jesus died for all – including His enemies, including those who reject Him, including those who don’t believe their sins are sins at all.  And being recipients of this free offer of eternal life, we are rich beyond measure.

So instead of looking down our noses at those who have more money than we do, what we should be doing is thanking God for His superabundant mercy, for lavishing upon us the most valuable substances on the planet – more precious than all the diamonds of the world: the priceless handful of water used in our baptism, which when combined with the Word, makes us heirs with Jesus of our Heavenly Father.  And let us thank God for the richness of the precious body and blood of Christ, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, a Eucharistic feast that brings us into eternal communion with Almighty God.  What price can be put on the Sacrament of the Altar?

What greater treasures could we have, dear brothers and sisters?

And in this context, the ten lepers who met our Lord between Samaria and Galilee, were likewise wealthy beyond measure.  For though they were afflicted beggars, they were crossing paths with Jesus.  They could have had the equivalent of billions of dollars, but still would have been poor because of the cursed leprosy that was rotting their skin away and drawing them down into the grave day by day.  But in Christ, they were rich!  For they were lavished with the mercy of the Creator in the flesh, who came to restore their flesh in their time of great need.  And He did just that!

For they were cleansed.  They were healed.  Or as it literally says in the Greek, they were saved.  They were purchased and redeemed by Christ Himself!  And so they are indeed made rich beyond measure.

But there is a biblical warning about riches, is there not?  For let us not forget the camel and the eye of the needle.  Being rich can be a spiritual stumblingblock.  What do we profit, dear friends, if we gain the world, but lose our souls?

In the richness of being healed by Jesus, nine of the ten fell into the trap of having great possessions interfering with the kingdom: in this case, the riches of a restored health.  Their focus was on the health, and not the Healer.  Their focus was on themselves and not the one who gave them their very selves back.  They had already forgotten the grace and mercy of God in order to go back to being self-centered and ungrateful.

Except for the Samaritan, the “foreigner,” as Jesus puts it.  

For he too is “rich” insofar as he has been saved and given the gift of life.  But unlike the nine, this Samaritan “turned back, praising God in a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.”  He returned to Jesus to worship, to praise, to acknowledge the source of his riches: the Lord Jesus and His grace.

This gratitude, dear friends, is what makes camels capable of passing through the eye of the needle.  It is the humility to understand that health and wealth and all good things come to us from above, from Him by whom all things are possible – even camels squeezing through the eye of a needle.  That kind of humility acknowledges that we do not deserve our riches or our vigor, but that our very life itself, and all that we need to support this body and life, come from the Lord above, according to His mercy – not because we are worthy, but because He is merciful.

We return to Jesus, dear friends, not only because He gives us health and life and forgiveness and communion with God, but also to give Him thanks and praise.  For we know where our health and wealth come from.  And in many ways, we Christians are “foreigners” like the Samaritan that came back to praise God.

Like the children of Israel as they left Egypt, we are “strangers in a strange land,” and like the Samaritans, we are looked down upon and marginalized by a culture that revels in its ingratitude, a world in which we are encouraged to brag and take credit that that which we did not earn.  Let us not fall into the trap of the nine ingrates, dear friends, but rather let us follow the example of the Tenth Leper, returning frequently to the Lord in prayer, in praise, and in thanksgiving, coming to where He is, and in our gratitude, once more rising from our knees after being fed with the riches of His very self, just as He invites us: “Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well.”  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Key to the Hypocrisy of Socialism

I was recently listening to Sirius XM 's The Beatles Channel.  The song that was playing at that time was not one of the Fab Four's, but rather one that reflected one of their musical influences: Woody Guthrie's 1940 tune: "This Land is Your Land."

Like most people my age, I remember being taught this song in school as a young child.  It is a modern-day folk song that cheerfully celebrates the vastness and diversity of the American landscape.  It opens:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me

It's a rather innocuous patriotic ditty.  Only it isn't.

In this version of Woody Guthrie's anthem, I heard a verse that I had not heard before:

As I went walking, I saw a sign there
On the sign it said 'No Trespassing'
But on the other side it didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me!

This is obviously a swipe at the concept of private property. Its use as a patriotic children's song is a bit of Trojan-horse irony.

And this anti-property sentiment makes sense, given that Woodie Guthrie was a himself Communist (and a Stalinist at that).  Most versions of "This Land" are bowdlerized by removing this Marxist verse, along with another controversial stanza bemoaning hungry Americans relying on the government "relief office" for sustenance - ostensibly because the capitalist system rooted in private property is the cause of poverty.

At the end of the song's performance on The Beatles Channel, the announcer, Peter Asher, addressed the usually missing verse, and praised it for its positive expression of Socialism. He used the adjective "powerful."

Peter Asher was a bit before my time.  He was part of the early sixties folk duo Peter and Gordon. After his band's split in 1968, Asher went into the business side of music, worked with the Beatles, and eventually had a stellar career as an executive.  In 1995, he was appointed senior vice president of Sony Music Entertainment - a multi-billion dollar subsidiary of the Sony Corporation (whose revenue in 2016 amounted to $67.9 billion).  Asher was made president of Sony Music Entertainment group in 2005, and resigned in 2006 when he co-founded his own company, Stretegic Artist Management.  Asher's whole executive career is founded on contracts and the enforcement of copyright law.  Music is a commodity for which one pays money.

It's curious that an entrepreneur, executive, and former president of one of the richest and most powerful corporations would praise Socialism and trespassing.

The song itself has an interesting history.  Guthrie often performed it without the two controversial stanzas.  It has been covered many times over the decades by numerous other folk artists and rock musicians - both with and without the Marxist sentiments.  Guthrie's son, Arlo Guthrie, was roundly criticized by the Socialist Workers' Party not only for performing the "clean" version of his father's song, but also for registering as a Republican and supporting libertarian private property advocate Ron Paul for president in 2008, as well as for sympathizing with the anti-Marxist Tea Party movement.

"This Land" was performed at the Obama Inaugural celebration in 2009 at the Lincoln Memorial by Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger (who was a friend of Guthrie and also himself a Communist, publicly embracing the term as late as 1995), and others.  This performance chillingly included the anti-private property stanza (see between minute 3:00 and 3:30):

There are other pop songs that likewise denounce private property and embrace Marxist economics and politics.  John Lennon's "Imagine" (1971) comes to mind:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

But again, there is a note of dissonance in this otherwise euphonic composition, insofar as John Lennon was one of the richest musicians in the world.  One of his "possessions" that he wanted the world to "imagine" not existing was his own Rolls Royce.  Lennon's net worth at the time of his tragic death at the age of 40 was $800,000,000.  

Another pop song in this vein is the 1970 hit "Signs" by the Canadian Five Man Electrical Band.  It was written by Ottawa, Ontario rocker Les Emmerson, and was covered by the American heavy-metal band Tesla in an acoustic "unplugged" version in 1990 (and I like Tesla, so I'm embedding the video)...

The song includes the stanza:

And the sign says, "Anybody caught trespassing will be shot on sight"
So I jumped the fence and I yelled at the house,
"Hey! What gives you the right... 
To put up a fence to keep me out,
"Or to keep Mother Nature in?
"If God was here, He'd tell it to your face. 'Man, you're some kind of sinner.'"

Again, the song suggests that private property is immoral, that fences are to be jumped and disregarded, that it is wrong to keep people out of one's property, even in the proximity of one's house (which also got "yelled at" in the song's narrative.

Now, I don't know anything about Emmerson, his bandmates in Electrical Band, or the guys in Tesla.  But I suspect they live in houses, may even live in "gated communities" complete with fences - and maybe even signs!

But there is one little thing that almost every person has in his pocket that blows away all Socialist pretensions about private property: a tiny common object rooted in a primitive technology that exposes the hypocrisy of all such popular song lyrics and Socialist pontifications of corporate executives: the key.

John Lennon's Rolls Royce, Peter Asher's automobile(s) (probably not a 15-year old Chevy with a broken air conditioner and bald tires, if you catch my drift), and even the homes of people like Les Emmerson and the guys in the Five Man Electrical Band and Tesla - all make use of the simple key.  Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger probably had sets of keys in their pockets as well.  Bruce Springsteen probably still does.  Moreover, something tells me that if he came home and found me in his house, he would probably not join me in a chorus of : "As I went walking I saw a sign there/ And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."/But on the other side it didn't say nothing,/That side was made for you and me."  In fact, I would suspect that he'd call the police.  But that would never happen, because he probably has quite the security system to exclude other people from his house and property.  

Keys today may be sophisticated or simple.  They may operate by means of microwaves or primitive notches designed to turn manual tumblers.  But the purpose of the key that nearly every Socialist has in his pocket is not to open the door of the house or to start the engine of the car.  A knob or a button can do that.  The key's actual purpose is to keep other people out.  The ubiquitous key is a tool of exclusion, a means to enforce the rule of "no trespassing" and is the very antithesis of inclusivity, equality, and Marxism.  The key is a symbol of capitalism, trade, and individual liberty.  The key is a confession of the sanctity of private property, in thought, word, and deed.

Keys speak louder than lyrics.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 13 - 2017

10 September 2017

Text: Luke 10:23-37

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of our Lord’s most quoted stories.  We usually focus on the parable itself.  And it is a magnificently constructed tale, with irony and a twist in the plot. 

A man is beaten and robbed and left to die in the street.  A priest and a Levite pretend not to see the victim.  But a Samaritan, a member of an ethnic group that is hated, comes to his rescue.  He binds up the victim’s wounds, takes him to an inn. And pays for his lodging.

And then Jesus asks which person was the “neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  “The one who showed him mercy” is the correct answer.

So ironically, it is not the priest or the Levite, but the hated Samaritan who is the hero of the story.

But why did Jesus tell this story?  It all began when Jesus told His disciples privately how blessed they were to “see what you see” and “hear what you hear.”  But then another person who has seen and heard Jesus just as have the disciples, “stood up to put him to the test.”  This man was a lawyer.  He sees Jesus, but he doesn’t really “see.”  He hears Jesus , but he doesn’t really “hear.”

The lawyer isn’t submitting humbly to our Lord’s teaching, but he is rather playing a game of “gotcha.”  He wants to trap Jesus, to embarrass Him.  And perhaps annoyed that Jesus is preaching a good news of a different kind of kingdom, our lawyer challenges the very basics of the Gospel itself: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

The lawyer does not ask Jesus about God’s grace.  The lawyer does not ask Jesus about how we receive God’s love through faith.  Instead, he asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He is not interested in grace or faith.  He wants to be rewarded for his works.  He is trying to justify himself, when he should be seeking forgiveness. 

The world forces us to justify ourselves.  We have to justify our own existence at work.  We have to earn our paychecks.  We are judged by the content of our character.  We have to earn the respect of others.  We have to pass a test in order to drive.  And lawyers – including our friend who is trying to put Jesus on trial, are judged by how well they read the law.

And so, since he wished to be judged in this way, our Lord obliges him: “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”  And here is where our lawyer shines: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

This is the right answer.  If you wish to earn salvation by works, this is all you have to do.  “You have answered correctly;” says our Lord, “do this, and you will live.”

That’s all.  Just “do this.”  Just keep the law perfectly.  Just love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength – all of it, not most of it, not 90% of it, and not 99% of it.  Just perfectly love God all the time.  Oh, and your neighbor too.  Love him just as much as you love your own life.  Just love God and your neighbor perfectly, and you will live.

Congratulations, lawyer, you have got the right answer.  Now just be perfect, and you can indeed be justified by the law, by your works.  “Do this,” says Jesus, “and you will live.”

But instead of honestly admitting that he can’t do it, rather he still seeks to “justify himself.”  And so he tries to pick apart what the Bible means by “neighbor.”

And here, dear friends, is where Jesus teaches him what Scripture means by “neighbor.” 

Our “neighbor” is whoever God places in our lives, people who are in need of love. And we show love when we show mercy.  And here is where the idea that we can “justify ourselves” falls apart.  We are like the man who has been beaten up on the road.  We are “half dead.”  We have been beaten by sin.  We need mercy.  We need someone to love us, being a “good neighbor” by loving God and loving us in our need.  And neither the priest nor the Levite save us.  In other words, the Law doesn’t save us.  Only one who shows mercy can bind up our wounds, pay for our care, and transport us to where we find health and restoration.  And this merciful One is the One who is good, who is despised by priest and Levite.  The Good Samaritan is in fact Jesus.

We cannot justify ourselves, but we are justified by Him.  We cannot go from being beaten and half dead to being righteous through our own works.  We are not justified by the Law or its servants.  Instead we are justified by “the one who showed him mercy,” that is Jesus Christ.

And in this Christian life, we share this mercy with others, “You go,” says Jesus, “and do likewise.”  For He works through us in our vocations, by our mercy, to share His mercy: forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Dear friends, our Lord is merciful!  We don’t need to justify ourselves, for He justifies us not by our works, but by His work upon the cross.  He binds up our wounds even as He suffers wounds for us.  He pays for us not with two denarii, but rather with “His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” 

And this is the irony and the great twist in the plot: Jesus is willing to be hated as a Samaritan, and yet He is good and merciful.  We don’t, and we can’t, justify ourselves by means of the Law, but Jesus is the “neighbor” to us poor miserable sinners “who fell among the robbers.” 

This Parable is not just a story dear friends, it is the Gospel.  It isn’t just a call to righteousness, but rather the very means for our righteousness.  It is about mercy: the mercy of Jesus, the mercy by which we are justified and made healthy, by which we inherit eternal life.

Indeed, dear disciples, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see…. And to hear what you hear.”  Amen!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Holocaust Deniers

These people are literally Holocaust-deniers. 

They have been taught in schools (paid for by our tax dollars) and in universities (staffed by open Marxists) to deny the historical realities of what happened in the Soviet Union: the repressions (political, religious, ethnic, and artistic), the forced labor and exiles to Siberia, the Gulag death camps, the tortures, the purges, the intentional starvation perpetrated upon Ukraine ("lies made up by the Nazis!"), etc. 

They are in total denial as they display the hammer and sickle and chant mindless slogans. 

This is so common among young people that it isn't just a strange anomaly. This is the public school and university curriculum of a generation finally bearing fruit. Parents willingly sent their children off to these indoctrination centers and looked the other way while their children were taught to despise their own heritage, culture, country, and freedom itself. 

These silly little boys and girls in this and other videos, people whose life experience consists of social media and the classroom, who enjoy the fruits of freedom and capitalism that are the envy of the world, are actually pontificating to a guy who really grew up in the Soviet Union how great it was because, well, "free college" (which, as Vladimir Jaffe explains, wasn't free at all). 

Many of Jaffe's interviewees repeat the same Big Lie that the Socialism worked great in the USSR from 1917 to 1953 (until the end of Stalin's reign), and that the atrocities under Stalin never happened. According to The Narrative, the USSR ultimately failed because of the reforms from the time of Khrushchev and later. 

And they know this not from visiting Russia or talking to people who survived the Communist Holocaust - but because they want free stuff, and they will believe in whatever fairy tale that promises to give them free stuff. Oh, and chanting. Chanting angry mantras seems to be their preferred method of education. 

And these people have the ear of politicians (of both parties) who act virtually on their orders to mandate cultural-Marxist school curricula, remove inconvenient public historical landmarks and monuments that don't conform to The Narrative, denounce capitalism, raise taxes, and socialize more and more sectors of the economy to give away "free stuff."

These people actually believe that the USSR was wonderful under Stalin, and they would like to recreate that here in America. Please read that again. 

Let that sink in. 

PS: In 2011, I visited several sites in Siberia.  Here is a link to my travel notes on the day I visited Yurga, the site of a death camp that is not a memorial park dedicated to the largely Lutheran population that was interred there, including photos and a brief interview with the Russian bishop who consecrated the park.  There is a Lutheran congregation in Yurga that has survivors of the camp.

While in the city of Yekaterinburg (the site of the brutal murder of the last Russian Tsar, his wife, and children by the Bolshevik Communist revolutionaries), I visited another grim reminder of the Stalin years: a memorial park dedicated to the victims of the purges.  It is a somber place marked by a large memorial cross visible from the highway.  Here are my travel notes with pictures.

While in Yekaterinburg, I met a lady who was exiled to Siberia and whose grandfather, a Lutheran pastor, was shot under the Stalinist reign of terror.  Here are my notes and a photograph - including links to an interview with her.

Monday, September 04, 2017

G.K. Chesterton on Attitude

"Everything is in an attitude of mind.... The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."
~ G.K. Chesterton, 1909
Tremendous Trifles

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sermon: St. Gregory the Great - 2017

3 September 2017

Text: Luke 4:31-37 (Ps 116:1-9, 1 Thess 5:1-6, 9-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are living in a time of iconoclasm.  This means that literally or figuratively, people are toppling statues and redefining how we remember our ancestors.  In the past couple years, historic statues in America have been removed by governments or by mobs.  It has just been announced that the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC will be retrofitted with plaques confessing Thomas Jefferson’s sins.

Rather than honor our fathers and our mothers, we are smashing their images.  This iconoclasm happened at a couple of points in church history, as statues and icons of the saints were destroyed in the 8th century, and again during the reformation in the 16th century.  Once cooler heads prevailed, it was discovered just how many priceless works of art – and even the tomb and body of St. Thomas Becket in the Cathedral of Canterbury England – were destroyed and lost to us.

Just recently, a Roman Catholic parish and school in California has decided to get rid of statues of Jesus so as not to offend people.

Some iconoclasm is less literal, such as modern Lutherans cutting themselves off from their own history and tradition by refusing to honor our fathers and mothers of our own church history.  Some claim that honoring the saints is “too Catholic.”  This is not what our Book of Concord says.

We are not iconoclasts, dear friends.  When Luther himself was in hiding at the Wartburg Castle, iconoclasts began smashing statues in Wittenberg.  Luther came back and condemned such behavior. 

This is how it is that our Book of Concord and early Lutherans – not to mention our own Lutheran Service Book of today – honors Pope St. Gregory the Great, whose feast day is today.  St. Gregory was bishop of Rome from 590-604 AD.  He was a lawyer and politician who became a monk.  As bishop of Rome, he evangelized the British Isles and parts of Eastern Europe, he standardized the liturgy and the church year (some of our own short prayers known as collects date to his reforms), he brought what we call in his honor today Gregorian Chant to the liturgy, he was an able administrator, and true bishop to the people of Rome.  He was a writer and theologian and known for his advocacy of the poor.  But most of all, St. Gregory was a preacher and pastor.  His book on pastoral theology is till used in seminaries today.

What makes Christian saints great is not their own greatness, but in their confession of the greatness of Christ.  St. Gregory was just such a confessor – not because he could recite facts about Jesus, but because he trusted in and proclaimed Jesus.

In our Gospel text, a demon appears to be a confessor of Jesus, saying: “Ha!  What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have You come to destroy us?  I know who You are – the Holy One of God.”

But there is a big difference between just knowing who and what Jesus is (even the devils know that much) and submitting to Jesus (the devils will not submit).  For it is one thing to confess Jesus as God, but quite something different to confess him as Lord.  To call Jesus “Lord” is to submit to Him, to be His servant, to acknowledge Him as one’s Sovereign.  It is to acknowledge one as a servant.

In fact, Pope Gregory was the first to describe his office as bishop of Rome to be “the servant of the servants of Christ.”  He saw the pastors of the church as Christ’s slaves, and he saw himself as their slave.  St. Gregory submitted to Christ, and that is the source of his greatness.

How do we submit to Jesus, dear friends?  Certainly, we don’t have to be bishops to do this?  We can and should submit to our Lord in all of our callings in this life.  It is not enough to simply say, “I believe in Jesus.”  For even the demons have that kind of belief.  Better to say instead, “I trust in Jesus for my salvation, and not in myself or in my works.  I submit in every manner of my life to Christ, for He is not just the Lord, but my Lord.”  This means that nothing in our lives is more important than Jesus, that hearing His Word, than being where He is present for us – in the sacraments.  It means being a servant of Jesus, and a servant of our fellow servants of Jesus.  It means more than just talk, dear friends.

It means the cross, it means the blood of Christ, it means confession and absolution, it means being washed in baptism and calling that baptism to mind often.  It means partaking of Holy Communion as if your life depended on it, because it does, dear friends.  And this explains the church’s urgency in mission work.  The world needs the Gospel.  We need the Gospel, dear friends!

This is why we honor St. Gregory.  He proclaimed Christ!  Gregory was not perfect.  If he were perfect, he would have no need of a savior.  He had his own flaws.  He made changes in the papacy that led to later corruptions.  He accepted some newer doctrines in the church that were essentially superstitions.  Who among us will cast the first stone?

And yet, dear friends, our Book of Concord treats St. Gregory with love and respect, as a father of the church, as an elder brother in Christ from whom we can learn.  Our saints are not perfect – which is the point.  We are all sinners made into saints by grace through faith.  And St. Gregory is a sinner-saint like the rest of us.

We are not iconoclasts.  We are grateful for our brother Gregory’s work and ministry, for his proclamation of Christ, for his tireless work for the kingdom.  We have no problem with statues in his likeness to remind us of God’s mercy in sending us faithful servants of the servants of God to look up to.  We are not going to tear down his statues or add lurid plaques to tarnish his image.  We are right to have his name mentioned in our hymnal and to honor his feast day today.

Let us all remember St. Paul’s words, words that St. Gregory knew well: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”  And rather than tearing down as iconoclasts do, let us heed St. Paul’s further instruction: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

St. Gregory built up the church by his faithful proclamation of the Gospel, by his missionary work, and by the importance he placed on the liturgy.  But most of all, St. Gregory was a pastor: a shepherd who fed his parishioners with the Word of God.

And thanks to St. Gregory’s proclamation of Christ and the preaching of other faithful servants of the Lord who followed in St. Gregory’s footsteps, we can to this very day join the Psalmist in singing: “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous, our God is merciful!” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Richard Weaver on the Entitlement Society

"The spoiled child has not been made to see the relationship between effort and reward. He wants things, but he regards payment as an imposition or as an expression of malice by those who withhold for it. His solution, as we shall see, is to abuse those who do not gratify him....

"In the final analysis this society is like the spoiled child in its incapacity to think. Anyone can observe in the pampered children of the rich a kind of irresponsibility of the mental process. It occurs simply because they do not have to think to survive. They never have to feel that definition must be clear and deduction correct if they are to escape the sharp penalties of deprivation. Therefore the typical thinking of such people is fragmentary, discursive, and expressive of a sort of contempt for realities. Their conclusions are not 'earned' in the sense of being logically valid but are seized in the face of facts. The young scion knows that, if he falls, there is a net below to catch him. Hardness of condition is wanting. Without work to do, especially without work that is related to our dearest aims, the mental sinews atrophy, as do the physical. There is evidence that the masses, spoiled by like conditions, incur a similar flabbiness and in crises will prove unable to think straight enough to save themselves."

~ Richard M. Weaver, 1948
Ideas Have Consequences, pp. 103, 116

Ludwig von Mises on Intellectual Battle

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us."
~ Ludwig von Mises, 1922
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, p. 515.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 11 - 2017

27 August 2017

Text: Luke 18:9-14

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

At first glance, it appears that there are many different religions in the world.  But in fact, there are only two: the right one, and all the rest.  But to be more specific, as our theologians put it, there is the religion of the Law, and there is also the religion of the Gospel.

Religion is all about how man is reconciled to God, how we overcome the brokenness of this world of death, and how we transcend the fallen world and restore communion with the Creator.  In other words, how we close the gap between man and God.

And so there are only two religions in the world: the one where mankind climbs his way up to God (the religion of the Law) and the one where God condescends his way down to man (the religion of the Gospel).

In the religion of the Law, you can have salvation by obeying the simple little verse: “be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Just don’t sin in thought, word, and deed, and be like God.  And every religion in the world, except for Christianity, teaches this.  Every other religion has a program of steps to climb the ladder to righteousness: you have to pray, make pilgrimages, do good works, give money, avoid sin, and so forth.  But if you fall off the ladder, well, you either start over after being punished, or are sent to hell, or you come back in the next life reincarnated as a toad or something.

But in the religion of the Gospel, that is, Christianity, God Himself comes down the ladder; He meets us where we are.  He takes human flesh; He fulfills the Law on our behalf; He pays the penalty of our sins; He makes a “happy exchange” between our unworthiness and His worthiness.  And this is “good news” – which is what the word “Gospel” means.  In Latin, “good news” is called “Evangelium.”  And it’s why we do “Evangelism,” and why our Lutheran churches in Germany are called “Evangelical.”  Recovering the Gospel that had become buried under the Law was a big part of the Lutheran reformation.  We Lutherans became known as “Evangelical Catholics.” 

Jesus teaches this very doctrine by means of one of His compelling stories: “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector.”

These two competing religions are personified by these two characters.  Listen to the Pharisee’s prayer, and consider whether he is proposing the religion of the Law or of the Gospel.  He prays: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”

By contrast, listen to the tax collector’s prayer, and consider whether he is proposing the religion of the Law or of the Gospel.  “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’”  Think of the contrast between these two men.

One of them is offering his works as payment to God, a sort-of admission price to the kingdom of heaven.  The other offers nothing, but instead, prays for God’s mercy.  And so only one of these men is a Christian, or as our Lord says in the story: only one of them “went down to his house justified, rather than the other.”

Most of the religions of the world would side with the Pharisee.  For just look at all of his good works!  It’s a pretty impressive resume. He avoids the sins of “other men,” and he fasts (actually twice as much as the law requires), and he gives tithes of everything (not just after taxes).  He is clearly a “good person.”  And this was the goal of the Pharisees in the first century: they strove to be good people, to obey the law perfectly so as to climb the ladder to God.  And these were the people who hated Jesus and often got into fights with Him.  For in spite of their high and mighty attitude, they were still poor, miserable sinners.  Even their good works were tainted by sin.  They needed a Savior just as much as anyone else – and Jesus was not shy about telling them as much.  But they were too proud to ask for, or even to accept, help.  And this is why Jesus says: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The religion of the Law fails simply because we can’t keep the Law.  We’re too broken.  We need a Savior.

Of course, we are expected to strive to keep the Law, to really do the best we can.  The Law is good.  The Ten Commandments are the first thing we learn in our catechism.  Avoiding sin is good.  Fasting is good.  Giving tithes is good.  Showing mercy to one’s neighbor (like another of Jesus’ stories, “The Good Samaritan”) is good.  The Law keeps social order, shows us our need for a Savior, and gives us a guide to the good and virtuous life.  But the one thing the Law cannot do, dear friends, is save you.  It always accuses and always condemns.  And this is where the Gospel comes in: the Good News that our Lord shed His holy blood to redeem us from death and hell!  He keeps the Law where we fail.  He rescues us from our own wretchedness and helplessness.  And so we trust in Him rather than in ourselves.

The world (and even our own reason) recoils from the idea of a tax collector (which in that time and place essentially meant a crook and a thief), a man so convicted of his sinfulness that he cowers in the temple, and who has no good works to boast before God, but simply prays: “Lord, have mercy!”

And yet, there it is.  He is humble.  He confesses his sin.  He offers no works of his own to justify himself.  And because of his humility, he goes home justified, for Jesus has justified him!  That, dear friends, is the Christian faith, the faith of justification, the religion of the Gospel!

In receiving this Good News, our tax collector can now repent of his sins, joyfully confessing the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  He can struggle against sin, fast, and tithe, all as an offering to the Lord – not the kind of offering that claims to forgive sin, but rather the kind of offering the Old Testament calls a “thank offering.”

We poor, miserable sinners pray just as this tax collector prays: “Lord, have mercy!”  We plead for forgiveness.  We are forgiven.  Our sins are washed away in Holy Baptism – pure Gospel.  We hear the words of absolution – pure Gospel.  We eat and drink His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins – pure Gospel.  And we hear the proclamation of His Word, pure Gospel – and we believe – not in ourselves and our works, but in Him and His work on the cross, that is, in His Gospel!

And so, dear friends, let us never fall into the trap of the Pharisee.  Your good works don’t impress God or earn His salvation.  But having been justified, having been made holy by the blood of the Lamb, your good works are a “thank you” for what you have received from God as an answer to the prayer, the sinner’s prayer, the Christian’s prayer, the prayer that is answered by the Gospel: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  

This is good news indeed!  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 10 - 2017

20 August 2017

Text: Luke 19:41-48 (Jer 8:4-12)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The name “Jerusalem” – from which our congregation gets its name “Salem” – means “City of Peace.”  And there is a very real sense in which it is.  For Jerusalem is the site chosen by God for the Temple, the place where God chose to dwell in space and time with man, the place where the blood of the sacrifices were shed in order to make peace between man and God, sacrifices to prefigure the blood of the “Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world,” once and for all.

Jesus is Peace Incarnate, whose death on the cross is the cause of the peace that passes all understanding.  The first words spoken by the risen Lord to His disciples was: “Peace.”

But sadly, Jerusalem, the City of Peace, came to reject the Prince of Peace, and this causes our Lord to grieve deeply.  Jesus “wept over it saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

The beloved City, the Holy City, refused the peace that her Lord offered to her as a free gift.  Instead, she chose war: “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you.  They will not leave one stone upon another in you.”

This prophecy was fulfilled in the year 70 AD after a long siege by the Romans.  Jerusalem was crushed.  The Temple was flattened.  And why?  “Because,” says our blessed Lord, “you did not know the time of your visitation.”

God visited His people, even as the holy prophets spoke for centuries of this very visitation.  The prophet Jeremiah called the people to repent, for they were saying, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.  Were they ashamed,” he asked, “when they committed abomination?  No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.  Therefore, they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.”

Not knowing how to blush sounds like our own culture, a culture, dear Christians, that we are all too quick to embrace.

To be clear, there were many people in Jerusalem who followed Jesus, for they were “hanging on His words,” but the leaders, the “chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Him.”  And these “principal men” would become responsible for the shocking siege and ruthless destruction of the city forty years after these “principle men” thought they had destroyed Jesus upon a Roman cross.

“Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”

History repeats itself, dear friends, as young people often greet one another with the word “peace,” even as our cities in America have become war zones.  Politics and social media have brought about broken relationships and simmering hatreds in our country.  Many people with bumper stickers that say “COEXIST” want nothing of the sort – at least not with followers of Jesus.  There are many in our society who hate us and see us as their enemy.  They would demand that Christians be compelled to take artistic commissions that violate their consciences.  They are appalled that Christians teach their children that the Bible is literally true, that there is an objective right and wrong, that marriage is just as it has been defined in every human society for thousands of years, and that God created man in His image: “male and female” in a biologically binary way and ordered family life by His Word and by nature, and that all lives matter, even the yet to be born.

There is no peace for people who do not want peace.  

Christians are being persecuted this very day by Muslims, by Communists, and even by liberal democracies in Europe that have become intolerant and hateful of the Bride of Christ.  

And we should plead for them, dear friends, because they are playing with fire.  We should pray for their repentance lest they perish.  We should intercede for them lest they destroy our country and civilization and enslave our children in a totalitarian state.  For the enemies of Christ and the cross do not know the time of their visitation.

We know the time of our visitation, dear brothers and sisters, we know how and where and by whom this visitation occurred.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  Our visitation came in the person of Jesus Christ, and our peace came through Christ and Him crucified.  And indeed, we know “the things that make for peace.”

Those “things that make for peace,” dear friends, are those means of the Lord’s visitation of us: Holy Baptism, through which peace is made through the washing away of sin; Holy Absolution, through which peaceful reconciliation is made by the forgiveness of sin; Holy Communion, through which the peace that passes all understand is given to us to literally become part of us through eating and drinking; and the Holy Gospel is the very proclamation of peace because it is the good news of the Lord’s visitation.

Let us not take the Lord’s visitation for granted, dear friends.  Let us receive this glorious peace that He has given to us!

Peace is so much more than the lack of war.  And visitation is so much more than a quick encounter.  In Christ, dear brothers and sisters, peace is eternal harmony with God, a restoration of the perfection of the Garden of Eden, the conquest over death and the devil, and the promise of the resurrection and everlasting life!  And visitation means the continuous and abiding presence of Christ with us in His Word and Sacrament, where the Prince of Peace has promised to be with us and for us.

And while Jerusalem is a place of strife, there are countless New Jerusalems, such as our Salem, the Lord’s house that is “a house of prayer,” where the Lord’s beloved people – who know the time of their visitation – gather to joyfully receive the Lord’s peace, true peace, the peace that passes all understanding, the peace won at the cross and delivered at the font, the peace of forgiveness, reconciliation, and everlasting life.  Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, peace be with you!  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 9 - 2017

13 August 2017

Text: Luke 16:1-13

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is not part of today’s Gospel, but it certainly helps us to understand it.  In Matthew 10:16, our Lord says: “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  The word translated as “wise” can also be translated as “shrewd” – as it is in our Gospel reading.

We are to be both shrewd – even like the serpent that beguiled Eve – but not at the expense of innocence – like that of the dove, that since the days of the ark of Noah, has come to represent gentleness and peace.

Shrewd and innocent, dear friends, that is how our Lord instructed the apostles to carry out their work in proclaiming the Gospel.  It is great advice for anyone engaged in any kind of work: be honest but be smart; be innocent, but be clever; be good, but be wise.

In our Gospel, our Lord tells a story, the hero of which is a crook. Some people are scandalized by this – which is exactly what our Lord likes to do.  For in telling a story about the kingdom of God in which the hero is a crook, Jesus gets our attention and actually makes us think.

And if you were listening carefully, the crook is not commended for his crookedness.  He was not praised for his lack of being innocent as a dove, but rather for his being as wise as a serpent.  He was commended for his shrewdness.  And that is our Lord’s lesson for us today, dear friends.

Our Lord is scolding us for not being shrewd.  Hopefully, we are teaching our children to be innocent, to be honest, to be moral, and to upright.  But that is not enough!  Are we also teaching them worldly wisdom: how to navigate a world filled with crooks and liars and thieves, a culture filled with those who hate Christ and who hate Christians.  Are we teaching them to be shrewd – like this dishonest manager?  Or are we setting them up to be eaten alive by predators, like sitting ducks, or doves in this case?

In our text, the dishonest manager is about to be fired.  The jig is up.  The boss is onto him.  But before he gets fired, he shrewdly arranges a soft landing for himself.  He makes friends with his boss’s customers, cutting them special deals, so that when he does get fired, he can call in favors and land on his feet.

Now in order to carry out this plan, he had to be dishonest – which we already know that he is.  He is cheating his boss out of money that is rightfully his.

Of course, the boss is probably most unhappy about this when he finds out, but he is nevertheless amazed at the dishonest manager’s “shrewdness.”  Anyone has to admit that this is a bold and audacious act – or as we might say in the Deep South: “bodacious.”  Like a supervillain in a movie, we may not like him, but we cannot help but admire his ingenuity.

Our Lord tells us that we should be as ingenious, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”  The dishonest manager acted with passion and motivation, with calculated intelligence, and with courage – as dishonest as it was.  We Christians ought to be equally passionate and motivated, intelligent and courageous as the enemies of the cross – without surrendering our dovelike innocence, of course.

We should “make friends” with “unrighteous wealth,” so that “when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

We do not serve money, but money can serve the kingdom of God.  And if we aren’t dishonest and greedy, if we don’t serve money as a master, then we can indeed intelligently muster resources of all kinds for use in the kingdom.  

Shrewd, and innocent.  That is how we are to live the Christian faith, how we are to teach our children, and how we are to carry out our vocations in service of the church and of our fellow human beings.  

The greatest example of this shrewdness and innocence is our Lord Himself, dear friends.  For He is sinless, perfectly innocent, the very opposite of our dishonest manager.  And yet He is far more shrewd than the Serpent: the Devil.  As God Himself told Satan in the garden, the Seed of the woman would one day crush the Devil’s head even as this Seed of the woman’s own heel would be bruised in the process.

That came true in such a way that outsmarted the Devil.  For Satan struck the heel of the Lord Jesus on the cross.  He injected the venom of death into His body, shrewdly employing a conspiracy of Jewish priests and scribes and Pharisees, a Roman governor and soldiers, false witnesses, and a betrayer named Judas – in order to strike the heel of the Seed of the woman.  He brought about the death of Jesus on the cross, even as a spike pierced the heel of that Seed of the woman.  But God is more shrewd than the serpent.  In dying, Jesus paid the wages of sin and undid four thousand years of Satan’s evil corruption of mankind.  For by dying on the cross, Jesus shrewdly and sacrificially redeemed mankind from death and restored the communion with God that Satan had destroyed by his own shrewdness and his own wickedness.  In His own shrewdness and innocence, the Lord Jesus Christ defeated the Devil.  And by rising again, He destroyed the power of death, promising a resurrection to all who are baptized and who believe.

Wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove.  That is our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is how we, dear friends, are redeemed by the blood of Him who died upon the cross.  

The Father commends His honest Son for His faithful shrewdness, for the Son of God is more shrewd in dealing with our own lost generation than the sons of darkness.  The Holy Cross is our own symbol of innocence and shrewdness, the dove and the serpent, the bruised heel of the Lord and the crushed head of the Devil.  

And in carrying out this bold and audacious plan, the Lord Jesus tells you to take your bill – the wages of your sin – and He tells you to write “zero.”  For by the cross, He has given you a receipt, inscribed with His blood, that your debt is paid in full.  

For He, the Lord Jesus, is the shrewd and honest manager of the universe, the only one who is truly wise as serpents and innocent as doves, through whom we are entrusted with true riches, even unto eternity!


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Prayer for the Birthday of Gov. Francis T. Nicholls

Gov. Francis T. Nicholls (1834-1912) was a remarkable man who served the State of Louisiana in many capacities, including as a West Point graduate, 2nd Lieutenant, and combat veteran of the United States Army in the Third Seminole War, and as a Brigadier General in the Army of the Confederate States of America during the War for Independence (thrice-wounded: losing an arm, a foot, and an eye, and yet who continued to serve), as well as two terms as the state's 28th Governor (during the challenging Reconstruction Era), and afterward, Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.

I was honored to be invited by Cmdr. Steve Alvarez of the Lt. J.Y. Sanders Camp #2092, Louisiana Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, of Morgan City, to give the invocation today at the annual ceremony held around the time of the governor's birthday (August 20) at St. John's Episcopal Church in Thibodaux, Louisiana, where he is buried along with other Confederate Veterans.

Here is my prayer:

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Lord God, Heavenly Father, We thank You for the gift of memory: the power and the freedom to call to mind great people and heroic events from our past.  We thank You for the noble heritage of honorable men and women who took part in the maintenance of independence: our grandfathers courageously on the front lines of battle, and our grandmothers who stoically kept the fires of hearth and home aglow.

We thank You also, O Lord, for examples of manly leadership: for Your servant Francis Nicholls, a leader of his people in times of war and in times of peace.

We pray for ourselves and our descendants, O Merciful Father, that we may display a courage and fortitude worthy of our heritage, willing to sacrifice for that which is just and right and honorable, and also willing to defend liberty and independence, family and community, if and when they are imperiled.  

We implore Your defense, O Almighty God, of our monuments and memorials, landmarks of bronze and stone, and of the preservation of our history, recorded in pen and ink, and that we may be living monuments, memorials created in Your image, examples and guides to generations yet unborn, who will, according to Your will, take our place as defenders of civilization, liberty, and independence.

We humbly offer these petitions in the name of Jesus, with whom You reign in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 8 - 2017

6 August 2017

Text: Matt 7:15-23 (Jer 23:16-29, Rom 8:12-17)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord says things that are so politically incorrect, that if this chapter were to be read in a university classroom, it would require a trigger warning.  Some college students would be so traumatized that they would have to report to the school’s official “safe space” for coloring books and hugs from the dean of diversity.

For in this one reading, Jesus says such shocking things as: there is an objective truth, some people are wrong, natural law is a guideline for judging morality, and people who lead other people away from that which is true and right and just, will be cast into the fires of hell.

But where is the nice, happy God of the New Testament?  This Jesus sounds like the mean old patriarchal God of the Old Testament!  Of course, we can hear the critics: “My Jesus would never judge, never condemn, never point to natural law as an arbiter of some objective truth” – so says the wisdom of our age.  For Christianity is about being nice.

Nice and happy, dear friends, that is what we want to be, what we want for our children, what we want for the world.  We want niceness and not conflict.  We want peaceful coexistence and not insistence upon divisive dogmas and religious intolerance.  We don’t want to be called “fundamentalists” or “religious fanatics.” And we certainly don’t want talk about hell and right and wrong and natural law.

Because think about what this means, dear friends: it means that the nice lady pastor (whether on TV or in the local church) is a fraud, a “false prophet,” a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and she needs to repent, in the words of a former lady Lutheran “pastor” from Sweden who repented, of “leading people to hell.”  For there is right and wrong, and Jesus was not, nor is not, wrong to exclude women from the holy ministry. 

It also means that there are two genders – even as science and nature, not to mention the Word of God – speak with one voice: there is male and female, for “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Nature confesses what the Author of creation has designed.

“Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs, or thistles?  So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”

A boy is not a girl.  A girl is not a boy.  What is obvious to science and natural observation is today considered bigotry and hate.  Our culture truly has degraded to this point, dear friends, to a level of delusion not seen since the days of Communist Russia.  And speaking the obvious – as Jesus has done – can get you fired, fined, or in some places in the civilized western world, jailed.  Canadian parents who tell their children the obvious can actually lose custody of those children.  If that is not a diseased tree, dear friends…

In England, a once civilized Christian country, disabled babies may now be seized by the government and left to die rather than being placed in the hands of their loving parents in order to get treatment for disease.  And while little Charlie Gard’s diseased body bore the fruit of the sin of this fallen world, his murderers, the bureaucrats and lawyers and judges who lack respect for the created order, and for the Creator, had better repent, or these wolves in sheep’s clothing will be “cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Our Lord is not telling us this to be mean or to be politically incorrect.  He is telling us the truth, because we need to hear it.  Truth matters, and Jesus is the truth.  Pontius Pilate asked the question that many if not most in our society are too afraid to ask: “What is truth?”

In fact, many people who call themselves Christians, many who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” many who claim gifts of prophesy and exorcism and miracles, many who boast of being teachers and prophets and experts, many who are powerful and respected in the eyes of the world, will find themselves on the blunt end of the Lord’s judgment when He declares to them: “I never knew you; depart from Me you workers of lawlessness.”

This is a frightening prospect, dear Christians.  It is a warning for us to always yield to the truth, to pay attention to the natural order, to call out the false prophet and rise up against them, chase them away, and make sure that it is clear where you stand, what you confess, and in whom you place your trust.

The true prophet Jeremiah warned us: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes.  They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.”  Such prophets tell you what you want to hear: “It shall be well with you,” and “no disaster shall come upon you.”  He warns us – all of us – that “wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked.”

We know who our Good Shepherd is.  We know what His Word is.  We know what nature teaches us.  We know what the objective truth is.  We know what a man is, what a woman is, what marriage is, what is moral and what is immoral.  We know that every human life is a life of dignity, created in the image of God.  We know also, dear friends, that we are sinners, that we deserve this wrath as well, but we also know that the truth is on our side, because Jesus is on our side!

For we know, dear friends, from the mouth of a true prophet, St. Paul, that “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

By virtue of the Spirit and the Word that He inspired to be written and proclaimed and placed into your hearts, you suffer with Christ – suffering the indignity of speaking truth to power and confessing what we know to be true, in the words of St, Paul, “in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”

And while the world is enamored of the lie, enamored of the liar, and enamored of the father of lies, we can refuse to believe them.  We can refuse to be intimidated by them.  We can scorn them and mock them and confess them to be nothing more than a diseased tree to be thrown in the fire.

For there was another tree, one that bore disease, for it bore sin – sin placed on the shoulders of the One who was nailed to that tree, the One who was and is the very Truth, the true prophet, the Good Shepherd, the Savior, the Atonement, the love of the Father incarnate.  For in Him, dear brothers and sisters, we can take heart and take courage.  In Him we can tell the truth, for He is the Truth.  In Him, in His cross, in His blood, and in His Word, we confess, we believe, and we receive the blessings of forgiveness and life and salvation.  That, dear friends, is the truth!

In Him, we have the true safe space of Truth itself and Truth Himself – a Truth that promises us redemption.  And as Jeremiah told us anew this morning by virtue of the Word of God: “In the latter days you will understand it clearly.”  Indeed, dear friends. Indeed.

Come, Lord Jesus!  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Sermon: Funeral of Larry Medina

3 August 2017

Text: John 10:10b-15, 27-30

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear friends and family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests.  Peace be with you!

That was how Jesus greeted his disciples after He rose from the dead and appeared to them.  And for Jesus it wasn’t just polite words or a way of saying hello.  When Jesus says something, it is a reality.

When someone dies, a lot of people are at a loss for words.  And that’s understandable.  What can we say?  Especially when someone dies young and suddenly – as Larry did.  There were so many things that needed to be said, but went unsaid.  There were things that should have been done, but went undone.  And words can’t bring someone back from the dead – or can they?

Dear friends, Christianity isn’t what most people think it is.  It’s not about Jesus the nice guy or the great teacher.  Nice guys and great teachers are a dime a dozen.  Christianity isn’t even about going to heaven when we die, floating around like a ghost with a harp for eternity.  Christianity is rooted in the life of Jesus: God in the flesh.  He came to fix what is broken with the world.  And who can deny that the world is terribly messed up?  It is not normal or natural or “for the best” that we die.  According to what God revealed about Himself in the Scriptures, God created us to live forever.  We die, however, because we are all sinful.  We are all broken.  And that brokenness shows up in our broken bodies, broken families, broken communities, broken politics, and broken dreams.

Worst of all, we can’t fix it any more than we can fix ourselves.  

But there is good news, dear friends.  Jesus came into our world to rescue us.  He says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”  He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

Jesus died in our place, and rose again from death, so that we too might rise again – all according to His Word and His promise.  And we will not rise as a spirit or an angel, but as a flesh and blood person, made perfect, and united with all of those who “believe and are baptized” in a new heaven and a new earth.  It sounds like an offer too good to be true, but it is as true as the fact that Jesus has a tomb in Jerusalem, and it is empty.  Nobody else in history ever walked out of his own well-guarded grave.

We Christians are brought into the faith by baptism.  Jesus names us as His own when we are washed in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Our sins are forgiven, and we have the promise that we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness, buried with Him in baptism, and “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father…. We shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His,” dear friends.  This is what the Word of God says, the Word of the one who walked out of His own grave.

It is a great mystery why some people die young and unexpectedly, as did Larry.  They leave questions unanswered and loose threads hanging.  But rest assured, dear friends, in Christ, we have the promise to be reunited – bodily and in the flesh, in a new and greater world without sin, without suffering, without death – where time is not a burden and where the brokenness of our current existence won’t even be a memory.  We look forward to this joyful reunion, where everything will be made perfect and new!

All of this good news, this truly uplifting comfort, is packed into that greeting that Jesus had for His disciples after His own resurrection, a greeting that we Christians have been saying to one another for nearly two thousand years: “Peace be with you.”  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.