Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tax Dollars at Work, Part 2,312

Alice in Wonderland, meet George Orwell. George, say "Hello" to Alice...

This is what it takes to be a criminal in Nanny State England these days.


Here is the problem with modern American "conservatism" as evidenced by a "conservative" Senator in the form of an op-ed piece.

And the sad part is, this poor guy probably really thinks he is a conservative. And so do a lot of people who voted for him. But conservatism is by definition a philosophy of small and limited government, of adherence to the Constitution, of states rights and individual freedom.

But look at Sen. Brown's objection to the health care law in his own published words.

He isn't against it in principle because it transgresses the Constitution - including putting burdens on the states and the people that run afoul of the tenth amendment and the body of the Constitution itself. When he talks of "repeal" he really means rolling back a few features of the bill that he doesn't like, a sort of cosmetic tweaking that would make it acceptable to him.

To "repeal" only the "worst parts" of the bill is no repeal at all. It is to misuse the word, and to do so in a clever way to appear to be conservative. This is a crafty and careful use of deceptive language, and it is unlikely a word he came up with himself. Conservative Americans are being sold a bill of goods by Republican strategists and focus-group driven marketeers. Brown also states that he is "working on legislation that would allow states to opt out of this federal health care bill because states need flexibility, not a federal government takeover of health care."

And therein lies the problem.

To speak of "allowing" the states to do what they already have the right to do is to grant the premise of big government - even while giving the appearance to the contrary. It is to embrace the very things the rank and file conservatives claim to be against - and to do so under the radar screen. It is to agree with the Democrat Party philosophically and to lock arms with them constitutionally - all the while using rhetoric to appease the Tea Party movement. A true conservative would have used "allow" to speak of what the federal government may or may not not do. The federal government has no authority to "allow" the states to do anything. He may be proposing a slightly longer leash, but he still wants the states under federal control. That is the antithesis of conservatism.

Sen. Brown has revealed his true colors - which are well within mainstream Republican thought.

Brown even invokes the Republican-authored Massachusetts health care plan - which operates under the same basic schema as ObamaCare, and in fact is not all that different. President Nixon's health care proposal was also quite similar to the new law. And as Anthony Gregory and Paul Krugman have shown even the allegedly conservative Heritage Foundation's proposal was basically the same thing.

But does the federal government have any authority to mandate health care in any way, shape, or form? Is it even a good idea for state governments to be so involved in the operation of the market mechanism? Those are the kinds of questions real conservatives would ask. And the answers have to do with what the law is, not what would be popular or what we think we can get away with, nor even what would be a good idea. If federal mandates over health care are indeed a good idea, then the Constitution needs to be amended to allow for it - otherwise there is effectively no Constitution and no rein or limit on government of any sort.

That is what a conservative would say, anyway.

At best, Sen. Brown is a cautious moderate or a pragmatic left-leaning centrist. He has wandered away from the conservative fold while still cluelessly waving the banner, like a sports fan who is unwittingly sitting on the wrong side of the stadium wearing the wrong colors unable to understand why everyone around him is cheering at inappropriate moments.

He also writes:

"I am leading a charge to take the billions of dollars sitting unused in the stimulus slush funds of federal bureaucracies and give immediate tax relief — as much as $100 a month — to every American worker so that they can support their families now and inject money into the economy rather than let it stagnate in Washington."

Rather than use the language of "repeal" to speak of the bipartisan stimulus plans, rather than condemning these Republican and Democrat schemes as unconstitutional, Sen. Brown simply proposes spreading the wealth in a different way. This is so typical of federal bureaucrats who call themselves "conservative." He promises to get his constituents more of the federal take, while it doesn't seem to dawn on him that the federal should not "take" to begin with.

Economically, Sen. Brown reveals that he is a Keysian at heart.

The poor fellow seems to think the government can actually create jobs in the private sector. He may be right that Americans say they want "their government to fully focus its attention on the economy and getting our citizens back to work." But the Constitution has nothing to say about "focus[ing] its attention on the economy" and tinkering with the market in an attempt to make work. That is a play right out of FDR's book, which was already torn out of Karl Marx's. The only positive thing government can do for the economy is to get out of the way. A big step would be to abolish the Federal Reserve and to bring sanity back to our money and banking system. But to do so would be for the federal government to let go of its reins of control over the states and the people and trust the market and individual liberty.

But then again, that devotion to freedom is a conservative idea, one that Sen. Brown seems to have abandoned.

Maybe the current Republican rhetoric that ObamaCare will bankrupt the country and turn America into a third-world Socialist has-been state is true. But at least they can take comfort in knowing that the destruction of America is a bipartisan effort. There is no "I" in "team" after all.

We are indeed "all Socialists now."

But the real eye-opener is Sen. Brown's goal of "faith in government." This flies in the face of not only conservatism as a philosophy, but of the Constitution and the entire American experience itself. "Faith" is the language of religion. And the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was written because our founders knew better than to put faith in government. If that was their intent, they would not have written a Constitution, but simply trusted the federal government with a lot of power - which is how the British Empire worked. Instead, they seceded from that Empire and created a decentralized government of checks and balances with a written charter of specifically enumerated powers. There is no language in this op-ed article.

But the most glaring "smoking gun": a conservative could not have written this piece without once using the word "Constitution."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sermon: Palmarum (Lent 6)

28 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 27:11-54 (Zech 9:9-12; Phil 2:5-11, Matt 21:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“Jesus Christ is Lord.” Jesus Christ is God. The name of Jesus is “the” name, the divine name, the “name that is above every name.” The name of Jesus is the Trinitarian name into which we are baptized. Jesus is the “I AM” that the Angel of the Lord spoke when Moses wanted to know God’s name.

Not every tongue confesses that Jesus is God, that His name is the “name above every name,” the name at whose mention “every knee should bow.”

In fact, there are billions in the world today who do not make such a confession. There are even some who claim to be Christians who will not bow the knee and “confess to the glory of God the Father” that Jesus is Lord and has the divine name.

In seeing with the eyes apart from the eyes of faith, it is difficult to see a humble man riding on a donkey and consider Him to be God. It is equally taxing to our reason to see a child born of a disgraced mother lying in a manger as the maker of heaven and earth. And there is no greater act of faith than to gaze upon the lifeless body of the crucified One and proclaim: Truly this was the Son of God” like the centurion; or to stick one’s finger into the nail print in the living hands of the risen One and confess: “My Lord and my God!” like St, Thomas.

This is because our sinful nature has a difficult time synthesizing God’s Almighty power with the humility of our Lord Jesus. For He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”

The prophet Zechariah implored the children of God to “rejoice” and to “shout aloud,” for as he proclaims: “your king is coming to you, righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey.”

But in spite of this king’s gentleness toward His people and His taking of a form of a servant, the prophet tells us: “His rule shall be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” From the river in which He was baptized to the very ends of the earth where His baptism is carried in His name, there is His kingdom, His domain, His might – all cloaked in humility.

The sinful nature hates humility. Indeed, the Old Adam loves raw demonstrations of might. Those who deny our Lord’s divinity make a grave error: they interpret His forbearance as weakness; they misread His mercy as a lack of power.

And yet, St. Paul points out that every knee will indeed bow before our divine King Jesus – not because of His power, but because of His humility. In love, Jesus was humble enough to lay down his life, and powerful enough to take it up again. There will come a time when even those who pierced Him, those who deny Him, those who attempt reduce Him to the status of a guru or dismiss Him as just another failed Messiah will indeed kneel in submission before His divine name.

Pilate was amazed with Christ not because of His cleverness and forcefulness, but rather by His silence. When the people had the opportunity to show mercy to a prisoner, they chose to release Barabbas, a terrorist whose name means “son of the Father” rather than release the true and only begotten “Son of the Father” who was accused falsely of being a terrorist. They petitioned for the freedom of a criminal who sought to overthrow the government while seeking the death of the rightful King, who in no way revolted against either the Jewish King or the Roman Caesar.

And when Pilate asked the mob point blank what evil Jesus committed, they gave the same answer as Jesus: nothing. Rather than answer the simple question, a reasonable question considering this was a trial, they instead “shouted all the more, ‘Let Him be crucified!’”

Not knowing what they were saying, the crowds said: “His blood be on us and on our children.” And having said this, Pilate had our blessed Lord scourged, causing that blood, that royal blood of David’s line, that priestly blood of the order of Melchizedek, that sacrificial blood of the “Lamb of God pure and holy” to be spilled and placed on the daughter of Zion, the daughter of Jerusalem. For this is the blood of the covenant, the New Testament in His blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

For truly we are all Barabbases, sons of the Father, having been released by our Lord who takes our place at the cross, who spills the blood we deserve to shed, who died the death we have earned by our many sins. And like Barabbas, we walk free thanks to our Lord’s humble mercy.

In humility Jesus endures the humiliation of the mockery and thorns, and in love he suffers the pain and agony, restraining Himself of His mighty and divine power, all for the sake of showing mercy – even to those who crucified Him, even to us whose sins were atoned for by His act of love.

They mocked Jesus for being king, and that is exactly what He is. They mocked Him for His statement about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days – and yet that is what He did as the Redeemer. They mocked Him for saving others – and yet that is what He did as the Savior. And the crucified God, the giver of life, yielded up His own Spirit, and the temple curtain that once separated God from man “was torn in two” as the God-Man Himself was being torn on the cross. Creation itself trembled for the sake of the Creator, and “the earth shook.” Even the dead walked out of their graves in a little preview of the resurrection – both that of our Lord and that of those who bow the knee to Him in faith and confess Him as Lord.

For indeed, He is Lord. Our eyes see the weakness of mortal humility, but faith sees the strength of divinity. Our eyes see a man defeated by death, but faith sees death defeated by a Man who is also, in the good confession of the centurion: “the Son of God.”

Jesus is the one name above every name, the single and strong name of the Trinity, the sole name into which we are baptized, the unique name before which every knee will bow, the only name in which we can be saved.

And indeed, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Amen.

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

Back in the USSA and the German Democratic Republic

Remember when Americans and their federal government used to universally denounce communism, fascism, and totalitarianism? I guess these once unpopular "-isms" became fashionable on this side of the pond after German unification and Soviet disillusion.

Here is what the federal government is becoming and with whom it is collaborating.

Daily Prayer

The Rev. William Weedon has wise and practical pastoral advice for Christians who want to participate in the precious and yet abounding treasury that is daily prayer in words addressed to a teenager, but applicable to all Christians. Click here.

Gonna Party Like it's 1917

Remember when "Socialism" wasn't considered a good thing? I guess the grass is always greener (or redder) on the other side...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bach and Roll on the Blues Harp

HT: Lew Rockwell

Sermon: Wednesday of Judica (Lent 5)

24 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 10:32-45

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The impulse to be rich and famous is nothing new. The desire to be seen and respected and admired by others is not something novel to our age, as though this phenomenon were born only after the age of “reality TV.”

St. Mark’s account of James and John’s request is quite an embarrassment. It is an indictment of the sinfulness of these two brothers. Here they are on the road to Jerusalem. Jesus has just told the twelve something shocking and sobering, something that amazes and frightens the disciples. He says: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.”

And having heard this horrific prophecy, this shocking revelation that Jesus is headed to a painful death by torture and humiliation, James and John respond by asking Jesus to make them famous and important.

It’s as though they were so absorbed by themselves, by their wants, by their daydreams of fame and fortune – that they completely missed the stunning words that the Lord had just told His followers.

These apostles, the men upon whose foundation the Lord built His holy church, these great bishops and preachers of the kingdom of God are behaving more like giggling Hollywood starlets than saints of the Church and disciples of God Most High.

Our blessed Lord recognizes their delusional state when He bluntly tells them: “You do not know what you are asking.”

They are so blinded by sin that in spite of following our Lord for three years, and even considering that these two brothers, along with St. Peter, formed the inner circle of the apostles, the three most privileged who witnessed Jesus at the Transfiguration – they remain utterly clueless as to what the Kingdom of God is all about. They seem to have bought into the collective, vulgar misunderstanding of our Lord’s kingdom as a worldly state, a political movement of violent overthrow of the Roman Empire. And seeing themselves as the inner circle of the future King Jesus, they seek the highest positions of honor in His throne-room – one to sit on His right hand and one to sit on His left.

How foolish and how selfish they were! For at the enthronement of King Jesus, He was placed on the seat of a bloody cross. And at His coronation, His head was crowned with painful thorns. His scepter was a club belonging to brutal Roman soldiers who bashed and battered His face into a bruised and bloody mess. And instead of a bejeweled signet ring by which to seal His royal decrees, King Jesus bore blood-dripping nail-prints in His holy hands, using His creative Word and His redemptive blood as a seal and guarantee of our salvation instead of mere decorative wax.

But nevertheless, there are James and John, whispering their selfish request to Jesus.

Our blessed Lord, having just explained to them of what His enthronement and coronation would consist, asks the petitioners: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” He asks them if they are willing to drink the same cup the Father will place before Him, the chalice of wrath that He must drain, the same cup He earnestly will ask His Father to take away from Him – all the while Peter, James, and John will be dozing, unable to stay awake even an hour.

Yet, “We are able” they promised.

Our Lord prophesies to them that in the fullness of time, they would indeed suffer for the sake of the Kingdom. But as for who is given honor and rank, that is not for our Lord Jesus to decide.

And how extraordinary!

The King, the almighty ruler of the Universe, God in the flesh Himself, tells them that this is not His call. For our Lord Jesus, being God in the flesh, does not consider His divinity a thing to be grasped. Rather He empties Himself, drinking that horrid cup of the Father’s wrath in our place. He lovingly and obediently submits to the Father. And this He does voluntarily, out of love – love for His Father and love for His creatures that He is redeeming by drinking that cup of sacrifice, by being crucified, and by rising from death to destroy death.

And in the process of saving us, our Master teaches us how to live. For no student is superior to His Teacher. Even as the Lord Jesus Christ submits, so do we. Even as we are heirs with Christ in the Kingdom, so should we strive to be humble, to be servants, to give our lives as a ransom for many – not by dying for the sins of the world, but rather by living for the sinners of the world.

And we are able to live this new life by the Lord’s grace, by way of the Lord’s blood, in the Lord’s love, and through the Lord’s faith which He gives to us as a free and eternal gift.

In spite of our own selfishness, our pouting when we don’t get our way, our indignity at the bad behavior of others, our sense of entitlement and our desire not to serve but to be served, the Lord is patient with us, and merciful. He came to serve us, with His redeeming grace and with His forgiving body and blood. He cleanses us with His salvific waters of baptism and raises us to new life with His death-defying absolution – all of which He gives to us without limit and without price.

For in spite of James and John’s selfishness and foibles, they are truly saints. They have been ransomed by the blood of the Lamb, they have been served by the Servant of all. And instead of our Lord being indignant, He is patient.

James and John would never be rich or famous. Their lives in service of the Kingdom were difficult and trying. And indeed, they would drink the cup of suffering for the Kingdom. St. James would be put to the sword as a martyr, and St. John would be exiled to Patmos for the sake of the Gospel. Both men achieved greatness through being servants. Both men, though not destined to die rich, were predestined to live eternally in the fullness of the riches of the Lord’s grace.

Their sinfulness and selfishness were all forgiven by the Lord’s death and resurrection, and they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to a different kind of greatness and glory – that of confessing the very words they previously ignored about Jesus: that He truly did suffer, die, and rise the third day.

And by the same token, dear brothers and sisters, our embarrassing desire to serve ourselves, our sinful need to be noticed and loved and fawned over have also been forgiven. For like James and John, we too are saints: forgiven sinners who have been called to serve our different kind of Kingdom and its different kind of King, confessing His death and resurrection, and offering ourselves as ransoms of service for the sake of those who, like us, like James and John, and like the entire world, urgently need the good news of the forgiveness of sins.

And in that, we are rich beyond measure. Amen.

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

Teaching and Living the Christian Faith

Here is an interesting article from Christianity Today about how teaching doctrine is making a comeback among younger Christians to augment the emphasis on living out the faith. This is an interesting look into reaching people with the Gospel in today's climate. The first anecdote in the article involves the Rev. Todd Wilken, LCMS pastor and host of the popular internet radio program, Issues Etc.

I find that there are a lot of people who want answers. I think a lot of people challenge the Church and Christians to step up to the plate and heed St. Peter's exhortation in 1 Peter 3:15, that we "in [our] hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy" while at the same time "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us]; yet do it with gentleness and respect."

This is a great balancing act of our age: to teach the Church's doctrine to a skeptical generation, yet doing so in love, respect, and true concern with more than simply "being right." We can win the doctrinal argument and lose the soul for want of compassion, and we can also win people over to fluffy kindness and lose the soul for want of true doctrine.

As part of our duty to "make a defense" of the faith and reach the world with the good news of Jesus Christ, please consider attending this weekend's Salem Retreat that will focus on the Genesis account of creation, as well as our ongoing Saturday evening reading and discussion of the Book of Concord, the collection of confessional documents that define the Lutheran tradition within the Christian faith.

HT: Kelly's blog.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Song and a Story

Above is a 2008 live performance of "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve.

The song itself is a bittersweet success for the writer and the performers. Here is the story.

Here are the lyrics, here is the original 1997 music video, and here is a performance with Coldplay.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Finnish Lutherans Have a Faithful Bishop

Just nine days after the (Lutheran) Church of Finland elected an archbishop that approves of church blessings of same-sex couples, faithful Lutherans in Finland who believe in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions now have a confessional and faithful bishop, the 75-year old Matti Väisänen.

Click here to read the rest.

This is what "awesome" looks like!

If we could only figure out how to embed smell and taste into a blog! Until we get that technology, you'll just have to take my word on this one.

Here are some newly uploaded pictures:

Big Turnout... last Saturday evening's Book of Concord class. Here is the scoop!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Motorcycle Music

In my 1980s cycling days, this was one of my favorite tunes to tool around to.

I had a Suzuki GS850L with a Windjammer-like fairing equipped with a stereo system typical of that era (FM radio and cassette player). Bach's Sinfonia to Cantata No. 29 (as interpreted by Walter, later "Wendy" Carlos in his 1968 groundbreaking experimental album Switched On Bach) was just the coolest song to ride to - especially in the mountains.

I'm sure it looked a little odd, but it is a testimony to Bach's resilience - that even on a motorcycle in the mountains and played on a Moog by a malcontented male musician, the music still rings true and fresh, exhilarating and joyful.

For a more traditional rendering, here is a virtuoso performance by organist Diane Bish - who designed the imposing organ she plays. And for electric guitar enthusiasts, check this out.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Luther Movie Study Guide?

One of my classmates and colleagues in the ministry, Rev. Paul Beisel, is looking for a "outline/character description" for the latest Luther movie.

Here is his post.

Sermon: Judica (Lent 5)

21 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 8:42-59 (Gen 22:1-14, Heb 9:11-15)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Jesus had to contend with liars, and this has not changed one bit in the last 2,000 years. This should not surprise us, for as our Lord told His hearers: “You cannot bear to hear my Word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because he has no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

We poor miserable sinners are so enamored of Satan because we like the lie. The truth hurts, and so we take shelter in that which is untrue. For the truth is that we are sinners deserving of death. In our sins, we do serve Satan as though he were our father, and we allow lies to roll off of our tongues with no fear of the consequences.

The truth hurts because it cuts us to the quick. Our initial reaction against the Lord when He tells us the truth is to lash back at Him – when the right thing to do is to repent. And calling us to repentance, forgiving us, and giving us everlasting life through His blood – not the mere “blood of goats and calves, but my means of His own blood” is truly what secures “an eternal redemption” for us. The truth may hurt, but only in the way that medicine tastes bad for a moment, or a cure may cause temporary pain to an injured body part. Instead of accusing Jesus of having a demon, we Christians know that Jesus has conquered the demons, and that we, not He, are the ones infected with their evil and their lies.

And, dear friends, what comfort there is in the following question (which is really not a question at all): “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

There are still servants of Satan lying about Jesus today. They tell us Jesus did not rise from the dead. They tell us God did not create heaven and earth. They tell us the devil did not tempt the first man and the first woman into sin. They tell us that Jesus is not God. They tell us that Jesus did not shed His blood “for us men and for our salvation.”

They tell us Jesus was merely a man, not born of a virgin, who died and remained dead. They tell us Jesus did not atone for our sins. They tell us Scripture is unreliable (while quoting it themselves). They tell us that all gods are equal, and that which is evil is good, and that which is good is evil.

Some things just never change.

But here is the good news, dear friends: our Lord Jesus not only calls Satan a liar, He defeats the liar Satan at the cross. And what’s more, He will remove Satan from existence at the end of time, according to the Scriptures. For Jesus is eternal. When the diabolical skeptics mocked Him by asking another question that was not really a question: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?,” our Blessed Lord confessed who was, who He is, and who He ever shall be, saying: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

And the liars and the critics knew exactly what He meant by this – which is why they sought to murder Him. Jesus was saying: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” They could not abide this truth. They still cannot today.

Jesus is the “Lamb of God, pure and holy, who on the cross didst suffer,” the Lamb provided by the Lord as a substitutionary atonement to redeem us. He is the “high priest of the good things that have come,” the “greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation).” Jesus is uncreated, because He is God. He is the priest, the sacrifice, the atonement, and God all rolled into one. “He entered once for all into the holy places… by means of His own blood.”

Dear brothers and sisters, the blood of Christ, shed for you, has secured your redemption, has forgiven your sins, has exposed the devil as a liar and a fraud, and confessed Jesus as God, – and this same blood is given to you as a free gift, poured into your mouth without charge and without guile to purify your conscience.

And “let God be true though every man be a liar.” Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am,” just as He said: “This is My body… This is My blood… for the forgiveness of sins.” The liars and the mockers and the cynics and the unbelievers can rant and rave and roll their eyes, but they cannot change reality, they cannot recast a lie into a truth.

For this is the truth: Our Lord Jesus Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

The death of the sacrificial Lamb places us into a covenant, a New and Greater Covenant, a covenant made not by human hands, but by God Himself and carried out in the bloody redemption of God the Son Himself. For the promise to Abraham is a promise to the children of Abraham – including all the adopted children of Abraham: “The Lord will provide.” The Lord provides the sacrifice, the Lamb, the forgiveness of sins, the payment necessary to redeem us from our sins, save us from death, and bring us into holy communion with the one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, unto all eternity.

The Lord does not ask Abraham to do anything that He Himself is unwilling to do. In love for His creatures and in His determination to redeem all creation, the Father is willing to sacrifice His Son, His only Son, His Beloved One in whom He is well-pleased, His miraculous Son born from a womb that nature and reason tell us should not be fruitful. The Father allows the Son to climb the mount of sacrifice, headed to the bloody altar atop the hill carrying the wood on His very own back.

The Son allows Himself to be bound to the wood, to be offered as a holocaust, a burnt offering to atone for the sins of the people, the sins of the whole world – “ever patient and lowly,” Himself “to scorn didst offer” – even suffering His sacred head to be entrapped in a thicket of thorns. But unlike Abraham – upon whom God had mercy by calling off the sacrifice – God the Father allows this sacrifice to happen. God the Son willingly takes His place on His cruciform throne. And from this cross, God the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, sanctifies, and enlightens the Church under the Son’s cross according to the Father’s will.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is the kind of High Priest we have who sprinkles us with sacrificial blood. This is the kind of sacrifice that has been made for us for the forgiveness of sins. This is the mediator who bears God’s wrath in our place, making us righteous. This is the covenant under which we live forever. This is the truth, the truth that the liars and the devils and the critics cannot abide: the truth that sets us free.

And nowhere do we see this truth, this sacrificial truth, this divine truth, this truth of love and redemption – with more clarity than on the cross:

Lamb of God, pure and holy,
Who on the cross didst suffer.
Ever patient and lowly,
Thyself to scorn didst offer.
All sins Thou borest for us,
Else had despair reigned o’er us:
Thy peace be with us, O Jesus.
O Jesus.


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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ham Radio and the (Really!) Great White North

On a Tuesday afternoon, August 1, 1978, I tuned in a radio station called VE8RCS.

This was an amateur radio station that also happened to be the most northern radio station in the world (450 nautical miles from the north pole), located at a small Canadian weather/military outpost in Alert, Canada - at that time part of the Northwest Territories (now Nunavut).

And at that time, I also lived up north (in Ohio, which is downright tropical by comparison to Alert) and I also had an amateur radio station - WB8VNR (which is still my call-sign today).

I tuned in VE8RCS on the 20 meter ham band (14.162 MHz) at 1758 Greenwich Mean Time. The operator, Brock, was using voice communication. I could not contact him by voice, as the FCC only allowed for Morse Code communications for American radio stations in that portion of the 20 meter band. So, when he finished his previous contact, I called to him in Morse code.

Brock was a little surprised, but we carried on a nice conversation - he using a microphone and I responding using a telegraph key. It was a little unusual, but worked out just fine. I received a QSL card from VE8RCS to confirm our contact. It is shown above. This was a more memorable QSO (contact).

I ran across the card today, and was curious about whether or not the station is still there.

So using technology that we take for granted today that didn't exist in 1978, I went to, and found out the rest of the story, which is found here. Since May 15, 1997, VE8RCS is no more. But it was temporarily revived in 2008 for the 50th anniversary of the radio station. A more complete history is found here.

Until today, I had no idea that in 1978 (32 years ago, when I was 14 years old), amateur radio was the only means of communication between Alert and the world, and that men were stationed there for six months at a time. Nor did I know that this was considered the most sought after radio contact in the world (followed by KC4AAA, the American Antarctic station, and JY1A, the King of Jordan).

Time and technology have turned my contact with VE8RCS into a thing of the past. But it was a great thing that ham radio was able to keep the guys stationed there in communication with the outside world, and did so for decades.

I do hope they keep some amateur radio equipment there "just in case." In a climate like that, I imagine it is wise to be "alert."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What a Creepy Song!

This was a hit song for Tony Orlando and Dawn in 1973. I'm sure I heard it a zillian times on my old transistor radio when I was a kid - but I never really listened to the lyrics until a couple days ago when it came on the oldies station.


It's about a wife and mother who nuts up, runs off to New Orleans, and becomes a stripper - as her husband and children pine away for her. It's downright Stephen King stuff. But the real disturbing part of the song is the happy sing-songy faux-ragtime tune that it is set to - just like the old cheesy variety shows of the 1970s.

The only redeeming part of the tune is that it mentions New Orleans - you know, "keeping the New Orleans brand out there." And if you're going to pursue a career that involves disrobing, I think New Orleans is a better bet than, say, Minneapolis or Anchorage - based on climatology and all that. But even still, it can get pretty cold here in the winter. While it had nothing to do with the weather, we do know that everyone was fully clothed on Bourbon Street on February 7, 2010.

I know it's all presented tongue-in-cheek, but I don't think I ever care to hear this aural trainwreck again. It sounds like the Osbournes meet the Osmonds. But what do you expect. This is the same band that recorded a song with the title of a yeast infection.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sermon: St. Patrick

17 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 28:16-20 (Isa 43:1-7, 1 Thess 2:2b-12)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Like Joseph in the Old Testament, St. Patrick was captured and sold into slavery. His entry into Ireland was not by his own choice. While there, however, he learned the Celtic language and the religion of the Druids. God was preparing him for a future ministry. Patrick freed himself from servitude to a cruel master in order to become the servant of the merciful Lord.

Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary bishop, preaching about our Lord Jesus Christ, establishing churches and monasteries, and opposing not only the pagan religions, but also various heresies.

In fact, the hymn we sang, I Bind Unto Myself Today, was written by Bishop Patrick more than a millennium and a half ago. This hymn has been used for centuries in exorcisms, as the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is repugnant to Satan and the demons – especially since this triple name is the one name into which we are baptized, often accompanied by the sign of the holy cross. In her centuries of expelling demons, the Church has learned that Satan’s minions scatter at the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity and the words of Holy Scripture. The demons also find baptismal water and the cross to be repellant. All of these things are reminders of Satan’s defeat.

For Bishop Patrick, and indeed all pastors and ministers, are slaves of Christ with no authority of their own. Their ministry is under orders of Christ, in whose name and stead they preach and administer sacraments. For our Lord Himself said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore,” He spoke to the eleven, delegating this authority to them, “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

St. Patrick obediently went to the nation into which the Lord called him to serve. In the name of Christ, he beat back the Satanic assaults of false doctrine and heresy, upholding the Trinity and the divinity of our Lord Jesus, preaching Christ crucified, declaring sins forgiven, and casting out demons as he obediently made disciples through baptism.

He also carried out the Lord’s instruction: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” St. Patrick was held captive by the truth of God’s Word as he bore the authority of Christ to dispel the forces of darkness and set free those held captive by Satan and false religion.

St. Patrick continued the proclamation of the prophetic Word spoken by holy Isaiah seven centuries before Christ, through whom our Lord tenderly says to us: “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, I love you.” He promises to always be with us. He watches over us and protects us from all harm and danger: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned.”

The Lord’s chosen people of both the Old and New Testament, those before and after the Incarnation of our Lord, through prophets and pastors of both Israel and the Church, have continued the proclamation of this good news – though, dear brothers and sisters, we Christians have the advantage of being able to look back in history at the coming of God in the flesh, to be able to reflect on the cross, and to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And what a glorious and comforting assurance this is!

The Lord has raised up preachers in every age to deliver this good news to “all nations.” Preaching, teaching, exhorting, calling to repentance, forgiving, casting out demons, baptizing, feeding with the body and blood of the Lord, and casting the seed of the Word of the Lord far and wide in reckless love, fishing for men, and freeing the captives.

St. Paul explains the apostolic office into which Bishop Patrick lived and worked over the course of his long life on this side of the grave: “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,” says the holy apostle, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”

St. Patrick did not win many friends when he decried the false religion of the Druids. But as St. Paul proclaims: “we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with the pretext of greed…. Though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you.”

St. Paul compares this gentleness to that of a nursing mother, affectionate and loving, as well as being like “a father to his children, we exhorted you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

St. Paul also speaks of the “boldness” that typifies apostolic preaching of the gospel. This boldness is not born of self-confidence. But rather in the victory already won by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, already given to us in Holy Baptism, already transmitted to generations of preachers through Holy Ordination, being called to serve the Holy Things to the Holy People of God. All of this is done in confidence, not in ourselves, but in our Lord who calls and sends us. For to the Great Commission to baptize and preach, our Blessed Lord attaches a promise: “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We cannot fail, because He has already won. We cannot be overcome because He has already overcome. Our preaching will bear fruit because we do not preach our own words, but the Word of God, the same potent Word that created the universe out of nothing, the same loving Word that redeemed us out of our sins, the same life-bearing Word of re-creation that always accomplishes the thing for that which the Lord purposed it. God’s Word never returns empty. That, dear brothers and sisters, is the source of our boldness as Christians, as confessors of the holy faith, as those who put their very souls into the hands of the Christ proclaimed by St. Patrick, we who are marked for eternity by the sign of the cross and in the name of the same Triune God of whom St. Patrick taught and whom he served until his dying day.

And with St. Patrick and all the saints who from their labors rest, we pray the prayer that scatters the demons and proclaims the hope within us:

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.


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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Still Time to Come to the Retreat!

There is still time to register for Salem's fifth annual Adult Retreat (March 26-27). It is less than two weeks away!

Although it is called "Adult Retreat," we do encourage young men and women to join us as well - especially since junior high and high school students are particularly under attack by teachers and "scientists" who are afraid to present evidence that opposes the atheistic evolutionary worldview. There are indeed a myriad of scientists from across every conceivable scientific discipline who hold to a creationist understanding of our origins - a scientific perspective that vindicates, rather than attacks, the biblical account from the Book of Genesis.

Ken Ham's and Britt Beemer's provocative book Already Gone posits that the reason so many young people are leaving the church (and at increasingly younger ages) is our failure to defend the faith against the ubiquitous assaults of our culture that opposes the Christian worldview. Science is on our side. Philosophy is on our side. Reason is on our side. Most of all, truth is on our side. All of these ought to be employed by Christians in defending the faith of the Scriptures and of Jesus Christ - as St. Peter implores us to do in 1 Peter 3:15. Here is a video that puts it into stark perspective.

Rather than sit idly by watching our young people be led astray, we need to take the Apostle Peter's exhortation, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, to heart. But how do we even start?

This is why we're very excited to announce that our speaker will be Dr. David DeWitt, biochemist, neuroscientist, and biology professor at Liberty University. He is also the director of Liberty's Center for Creation Studies and a speaker for Answers in Genesis. Dr. DeWitt is also an Alzheimer's researcher, has been published in many scientific journals, and is a Missouri Synod Lutheran. You can see some of his publications here. You can see some sample video of Dr. DeWitt here and here. The Washington Post ran an amazingly balanced article about Dr. DeWitt last year, and you can read it here. The picture gallery alone is worth a visit to the article.

Dr. DeWitt's four intriguing topics he will present at our retreat are entitled:
  • War of the Worldviews
  • Noah’s Ark—not just a bath tub toy
  • Image of God or Planet of Apes
  • A Day is a Day
Our retreat will begin on Friday, March 26 at 5:45 for dinner. Friday's portion will run through approximately 10:00 pm, closing with worship and some free time to get acquainted. We will start again Saturday morning at 8:00 am for breakfast, and the day will conclude around 7:00 pm with dinner, worship, and an ice cream social. Due to schedule constraints, Dr. DeWitt will be leaving Saturday afternoon. Pastor Beane will make a presentation, and we should have time for some discussion.

The cost is $30 per person, meals included. The retreat is onsite at Salem in Schmid Hall. You don't need to be a member of Salem to attend. For more information, please contact Mrs. Lisa Matherne at or call her at 504-340-2612 (home) or 504-366-0774 (office).

Note: This announcement is cross-posted from the Salem Renaissance. Please feel free to offer comments there!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Precrime. It works!

First, a disturbing Homeland Security video. It's too bad that most Americans don't know what the term "Orwellian" even means.

And second, here is an article about a guy who was arrested for buying legal guns because of the fear of what he might do with them.

Life imitates art.

Admission to the Holy Supper

A Lutheran church body (not the LCMS or the ELCA) has the following statement on admission to the Sacrament of the Altar:

Do you practice open or closed communion?

We practice “responsible communion,” which is neither open nor closed....

[Now you're either thinking 1) that this is a boring theological topic that you have no interest in reading (in which case you can click on something else), or 2) you will see this as a teaser to a really interesting theological discussion and will click here to read the rest on the collaborative Lutheran theological blog Four and Twenty Blackbirds - which actually consists of 30 Lutheran pastors ("blackbirds"). We Lutherans count editors with as much precision as we enumerate sacraments. If we were good with numbers and math we'd all be accountants or something. +HW]

Sermon: Laetare (Lent 4)

7 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 6:1-15 (Ex 16:2-21, Acts 2:41-47)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The biggest problem we sinners, we poor miserable sinners have when it comes to Jesus and the Word of God is that we don’t listen. We like to talk. We like to pontificate. We like to show how much we know. We like to grumble that things are not to our liking. We like to say what we like and what we don’t like. We like the sounds of our own voices.

But the Lord often speaks to His people in a still, small voice that can only be heard if we take our attention off of ourselves, incline our ears, and listen. Listening is a lost art in our culture. How rare it is to hear silence, especially when many people are gathered. We hear whispering. We hear joking. We hear people getting up and sitting down, going to the bathroom, heading to the kitchen, changing seats, and running to answer their cellphones. Sometimes when we try to speak to people, they only pretend to care what we have to say as they squint at their Blackberry, pretending to listen to us while they shoot off that next tweet or text message.

We do the same thing to God. We always have. And the Lord wants us to repent of it.

People came by the thousands to see and hear Jesus on the mountain across the lake. He was famous long before the days of reality TV. A lot of people wanted to know what all the buzz was about. Everyone had heard about Jesus, and many heard Jesus on that day. But did they really hear Him? It is one thing to hear, but something else to understand. This is why our blessed Lord often says: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Lord gave His Word to the people both in preaching and in the breaking of the bread. He was teaching both in Word and in deed. He called to repentance, proclaimed the gospel, and encouraged the people in the good news of the forgiveness of sins, the presence of the kingdom, and of His own kingship. But did the people listen? Did they truly hear? Did they understand?

From the accounts of the holy evangelists, we know that almost no-one listened at all. Our Lord’s preaching about the kingdom went in one ear and out the other. On this day, all they wanted were sandwiches. And when they thought they had a guy who could crank out free lunches, they took advantage of His compassion. They wanted to make him a king. And yet, this kingship they sought was not the Lord’s kingship, and the gifts they sought (bread to feed only the body) were not that which Jesus can to give (the living bread from heaven, the manna of salvation, the bread of life, His fleshly body given to us, His churchly body).

And so our Lord withdrew from them. He withdrew from them!

What a horrible thing it is not to listen to the Word of the Lord. He pours out His very self to us in His preaching, His miracles, His call to repentance, His offer of forgiveness, and His very body and blood offered to bring us into Holy Communion with the Holy Trinity – and all we want are sandwiches.

For we, like the people who listened to Jesus and witnessed His miracle on that day likewise turn our bellies into gods. We also allow our cravings to master us, our wants and desires to toss us about like a boat on the choppy seas. We too want a king and a kingdom that will hand out sandwiches without having to work for them. We want Jesus to be like a genie in a lamp, doing our bidding. And when it comes to the holy gifts of God that we actually don’t work for, the real grace and charity of God, we in our sinful nature want to turn that gift into a work – so that we have something to boast about.

For sin clogs up our ears and interferes in our ability to hear, listen to, and heed God’s Word. And this is why we must repent, dear brothers and sisters. We must repent of our refusal to listen. We need to be quiet and let the Word be absorbed into our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our lives. We must be willing to shut off the computer, put away the cellphone, turn off the TV, stop paying attention to everyone seated around us, and be willing to listen to Jesus. We must listen to the Word, listen to the Bread of Life giving you life, eternal life, abundant life, the life that is far more than a free meal to satisfy the body until the next meal.

The meal our Lord offers us is indeed a free meal. It truly does go on and on into eternity. And it delivers far more than the passing thrill of a nice taste and a full belly. Our Lord’s Supper is our eternal life in the form we can eat and drink, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, and that His mercy endures forever!

But we, like the Israelites, gripe about this bread that is offered to us for free. We grumble that the reception of this bread is boring. We have so many other things we would like to be doing instead. We want the service to be later because it is too early. We want the service earlier because it is too late. We want services on Saturday like the other churches. We want our children catechized in special classes that do not take two years. We gripe about the bread, about the wine, about the way it is served, and the time it takes to serve it.

And yet, look at the gift we’re not focusing on when we’re too busy grumbling and paying homage to ourselves!

Dear friends, Jesus is here in His flesh and blood – physically, miraculously, and entirely for you to give you eternal life through His touch. Jesus is speaking to you – physically, miraculously, forgiving you all your sins. Jesus is pouring Himself out for you, giving you the full measure of His love, and making you worthy to stand in the presence of the Father with Him, free, forgiven, and rid of death forever!

We have nothing to complain about. We have every reason to “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her.” Even in the midst of our Lenten fast, today is a feast. And the Lord Himself is the host and the guest, the victim and the priest, the Word and the sacrament – the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, – our King of our very different kind of kingdom.

Transcending space and time, stepping into eternity, with no claim of merit on our own, let us join the church of every time and place, believers here in time and the saints in eternity, those who have gone before us, and Christians yet unborn in devoting ourselves “to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” And in this miraculous coming of our Lord, silently and intently hearing and listening to His Word, may “awe [come] upon every soul” and may “many wonders and signs” be done through our congregation, bringing people to our Lord to likewise gather and hear His word, to join in that breaking of the bread, and in making disciples of all nations…

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

A Bryan and Pia YouTwofer

Bryan is Mrs. H's brother, and Pia is his wife. They are excellent parents to their two small children, and as you can see, they're outstanding musicians to boot.

These two videos are from their YouTube channel.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Buddy Holly and the Crickets

Above is a great 1957 video of Buddy Holly (1936-1959) and the Crickets singing "Peggy Sue." One has to admire the restraint of his audience - standing like statues until the end of the performance when they politely clap. Rock and Roll was still so young that a lot of folks didn't quite know what to do.

Though it isn't a period video (but rather a montage of photos), here is a Father Hollywood oldies bonus track of one of my faves, "Rock Around With Ollie Vee." While on the topic and at no extra charge, here is a live 1957 performance of "That'll Be the Day."

What did we ever do before YouTube?

Old is the New New?

Warning: This is a post that is likely of no interest except friends and family.

I just uploaded a slew of new pictures - but they're not new, they're old - they're just newly scanned, digitized, and posted online.

I'm trying to label them, but it is a work in progress.

Anyway, here are the new old (or is it old new) albums:

And remember, when you pull up an album (set) in Flickr, you can click on slideshow.

Government at Work

In his letter to the Romans (13:1-7), St. Paul instructs us that government is sent by God to keep order, and we are obliged to obey the law and subject ourselves to the "higher authorities." However, government itself is obliged to likewise submit to "higher authorities" - especially its own obligation to act out of protection of its citizens and the motivation to do good and restrain evil. Government at all levels is prone to corruption and the perils of "absolute power."

Hence, part of the exhortation of Romans 13 is for government to obey the moral law and any other limits imposed on the government by the law itself.

In 1849, Henry David Thoreau wrote: "That government is best which governs least" (a quote sometimes incorrectly attributed to Jefferson or Paine). Since this writing, we've seen such worldwide exponential growth in government as : the American federal government's complete takeover of the states, the centralization of Italy and Germany, the creation of the American Federal Reserve and the IMF and World Bank, two world wars, the Great Depression, the rise and fall of worldwide Communism, the press for a united European state, and the rise of the post-WW2 American superstate. In the 20th century alone, government has killed 203,000,000 people.

Some recent arbitrary and ridiculous examples of why small government is better than big government:
Bonus: a commenter on this last story wrote:

Stop me when this sounds familiar:

Step 1: You are free to do XYZ.

Step 2: You are free to do XYZ, but you must ask permission first.

Step 3: You are free to do XYZ, after getting permission, but are subject to reasonable "health and safety" regulations.

Step 4: You are free to do XYZ, but only after applying for a permit or license, paying the fee and getting permission. XYZ is subject to a variety of restrictions and regulations for the good of the community.

Step 5: You are free to do XYZ, but only if you are a member of a class with a certain kind of education or training and accredited by an "independent" XYZ organization or association. You must apply for a license with a steep price tag, and only a few licenses are available each year. XYZ is heavily regulated and managed by distant government bureaucrats. Cottage industries spring up to navigate you through the legal, procedural, and insurance issues involved with doing XYZ.

What's step 6? Come on, everyone, you know it.
Even a cursory glance at the news on the internet on a day to day basis is chock full of the folly of government - even here in my small city Gretna, Louisiana (the Louisiana part should have been a giveaway of funny business). And the one guy on the City Council who is saying what needs to be said is himself a crook.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Since government officials are God's ministers, they should be held to the same standards of conduct that you would expect of any other minister. We should not allow government officials to use Romans 13 as a fig leaf to cover their own misdeeds.

If you're being tired of being taxed and controlled to the hilt by corrupt government at all levels, you might want to read this book. It also explains why the majority of Americans now believe this about their own federal government and several states are starting to decentralize and wrest control back from the feds. And when you are ready to hold government accountable, you might want to read Lew Rockwell every day instead of the MSM and pro-government talk radio mouthpieces from the left and the right who all complain about Big Government and then propose the solution: Bigger Government.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sermon: Wednesday of Oculi (Lent 3)

10 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: 1 Cor 1:18-31

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

St. Paul preaches to the Corinthian Church, and to us, about foolishness. There is what appears to be foolishness – the folly of the cross – and then there is true foolishness – the rejection of the cross.

There is folly, and then there is folly.

Can you just imagine being stuck deep in a well, the walls collapsing around you, your breath ebbing away moment by moment as you desperately cling to life – and then you hear the sound of your rescuer coming. He lowers a rope to you and bids you to grab hold and be saved. But instead of being pulled to safety, you laugh at the rope. Why, it’s not even a good rope. It’s some kind of low-end knock-off from China. Who would want to be seen being pulled up by that silly thing. And in this day and age of cell-phone cameras and YouTube, the last thing anyone needs is footage of looking foolish.

“No thanks,” you say with a chuckle, rolling your eyes and staying put, congratulating yourself on your good taste and superior wisdom.

This is exactly the kind of foolishness that calls the cross foolish. This rejection of the one hope is the true and veritable folly. This is the purported wisdom of the wise and the sophistication of the sophisticated.

Satan is the father of illusion and the author of delusion. By appealing to pride and arrogance – the very qualities that removed him from his lofty place in heaven – the devil continues to convince man that it is reasonable, logical, rational, and even wise to mock the very hand that saves us, to bite the hand that feeds us, and to reject the hand that redeems us – the same nail-scarred hand that ultimately baptized us.

All the while, the “scribe” and the “debater of this age” choose to stay in the death-pit rather than allow the “word of the cross” to save them. And indeed, “to those who are perishing” the “word of the cross is folly.”

Some “demand signs” and some “seek wisdom” – but those are luxuries the truly desperate cannot afford. A dying man in a pit, who wants to live and is sane, doesn’t want “signs” and “wisdom” – he wants a rope. And if it is offered, he will hold on to it in hope and faith. If there is a time for questions, that will come later. If there is the luxury of trivial knowledge about the rope, that can come once the rescue has been complete.

The “wise” of this world are fools, for they are dying and they don’t even realize it. Few things bring denial to the extent that death does. The news that one has a terminal illness typically results in an initial reaction of unbelief. And yet we poor miserable sinners are all terminal.

This denial, this unbelief, this lack of faith, this delusion that all is good, when in fact, the good that God created has been corrupted by us sinful men – is what leads to a confusion between what is wisdom and what is folly.

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,” and St. Paul explains why this is so: “so that no human being might boast.”

It is no accident that God saved us from death using death – even the death of His Son, and what’s more, the shameful death of the cross. The world looks at us Christians wearing symbols of a torture device around our necks and tracing the sign of a capital punishment instrument on our heads and hearts – and they think it’s hysterical.

For in their minds, their deluded minds, that believe in human strength above divine mercy, and they cannot conceive of being saved by a Man hanging nailed to a tree. They cannot fathom being rescued from death itself by nothing other than God’s Word. They cannot even begin to comprehend how baptism saves us by melding the mighty Word of God and a humble washing of water. And few things are mocked in the Christian faith more than the idea that God attaches Himself to physical realities – like bread and wine, or like a baby in a manger. For “How,” they ask with eyebrows raised condescendingly, “can a wafer be God? How can an infant be the Creator of the universe? How can a dying criminal be the Savior of the world?

And so they opt to stay at the bottom of the well, content to die, all the while mocking not only the rope they have rejected, but also the only One who can save them. They spend their last few gasps of oxygen laughing at the others who were rescued, who did not reject the silliness of the rope, the folly of the “word of the cross” and the promise and hope of eternal life. How tragic, and how unnecessary. The Church has the only message of hope for this broken and decaying world, the only solution to the entropy and increasing evil that surrounds us. “For since, in the wisdom of God,” St. Paul preaches, “the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

There is folly and then there is folly.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us embrace the folly of the word of the cross. Let us shamelessly allow the Lord to save us from the pit and rescue us from sin, death, and the devil, all as an act of pity and charity, purely by divine grace and mercy, with no worthiness in us. For this path of humility is the road that leads to life. Let us serve as an example of this “folly” to our families and friends, our neighbors and co-workers, and even the whole world – even a world fixated on the Satanic delusion of worldly wisdom, shallow materialism, and transient riches – chasing after the wind, convinced of their own strength.

And let us do this in true humility, not in indignation of the folly of those who reject the Savior, but in prayerful hope that they will repent and change their minds before it is too late. We have been rescued from our own folly, and for that reason, we have nothing to boast about, except in the courage, valor, love, and mercy of the One who has saved us – forgiving us, redeeming us, and giving us eternal life.

And hear anew the Lord’s blessing spoken through the holy apostle, and let it ring in your rescued ears and dwell in your redeemed hearts as long as you sojourn in this broken world on this side of eternity:

“Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” Amen.

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

Monday, March 08, 2010

Live from Gretna, it's...

Saturday Night Confessions. Lutheran confessions, that is.

Here is a link to a post on our church's blog
, with some pictures and a description of our weekly Book of Concord class/reading group. As you can see, it is all very serious and completely bereft of any joy - as good Lutheran theology should be. [That snickering noise in the background you hear is coming from all of my brother pastors who know the truth...].

Anyway, if you are in the area and are interested, you are invited to come to our class. Once again, the details are here, including a nice pastoral photobomb.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sermon: Oculi (Lent 3) and Sts. Perpetua & Felicity

7 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 11:14-28 (Jer 26:1-15, Eph 5:1-9)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

You would think there would be more people here. This church ought to be packed. Christian churches ought to be overflowing every Sunday, with people begging for services every day. For we, the Church, have good news for a sad and tired world – we have the one message of hope for all of creation.

Instead, the world hates the good news that we proclaim. And as the world hates the message, so too it hates the messengers.

On this date, eighteen hundred and seven years ago, two women (along with many others) were executed for breaking the law. They were seen as unpatriotic. For the Emperor had decreed that no-one may convert to Christianity. But Perpetua, the 22-year old married noblewoman and mother of an infant, and her pregnant maidservant Felicity, did just that. They were arrested.

Two days after Felicity gave birth and gave her child up to a Christian woman for adoption, Perpetua and Felicity and four other Christians were put to death in a crowded stadium for entertainment. They died so heroically that their jailer likewise broke the law and converted to Christianity. These two dear sisters in Christ and heroes of the faith have been called to mind for eighteen centuries.

The world did not want to hear what they have to say – for though not preachers, they are confessors of Christ.

Jeremiah, who lived in the seventh century BC, speaks the same Word of the Lord. God sent him to preach the same message about sin and redemption, prophesying about the Coming One and calling the people, God’s beloved people, to repentance. Jeremiah was instructed to say: “Thus says the Lord, ‘If you will not listen to Me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of My servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.”

The priests and the prophets – themselves servants of the Most High God, men who likewise were called to preach repentance and the Gospel – responded to Jeremiah by saying: “You shall die.”

St. Paul likewise faced severe opposition to preaching the good news, for in light of this good news, the holy apostle calls us to: “walk in love” and imitate our Lord as a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” He bids us that: “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Like Jeremiah, Paul spoke the Word of God calling the people to holiness, that is separation from the ways of the world. Jeremiah and Paul – speaking for Almighty God – plead, beckon, and even command us to not take sin lightly, to repent, to seek forgiveness, and to “walk as children of light.”

Of course, a world immersed in darkness does not want the light. Our own dark inner sinful nature likes lurking about the shadows just fine. And the last thing we want to hear is for some prophet or preacher to tell us what to do. Who do these people think they are anyway? And what about these silly twenty-something girls with their refusal to obey authority?

In fact, Satan, the prince of demons, Beelzebul, would like nothing more than to silence this call to repentance. For in spite of its unpopularity, it is a call to life over death, of good news over bad, of grace over self-righteousness, of salvation over damnation. And this is why the Gospel has always been opposed, whether by Israelites murdering the prophets, kings slaying Christians, or the spirit of this world causing the churches to be empty and the Word of the cross to be openly mocked.

Our Lord Jesus Christ bore, in His own flesh, all of the preaching of God’s Word, all of the acrimony of the world, all of the slayings of the prophets, all the martyrdoms of the Perpetuas and Felicitys, and the blood of every faithful witness from the days of Abel to those being executed for confessing Christ this very minute somewhere in this dark and sin-laden world.

Our blessed Lord was accused of doing the work of Beelzebul, “while others, to test Him, kept seeking from Him a sign of heaven.” But He pointed out to them that He derived His authority to cast out demons from “the finger of God.” He warned them: “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.”

Our Lord cast out demons by authority that the critics and the cynics lacked. In fact, they hated Jesus because they loved the demons. They cursed the light because they reveled in the darkness.

The Church indeed has good news for a world that is dying and falling apart. The Church has a Gospel of freedom and forgiveness, or ransom and healing for people who are enslaved and hopeless. But those who hate the good, will likewise hate the good news. And those who hate the good news have always hated the bearers of the good news. And in their desire to oppose the Gospel of life, these enemies of the cross have only an evil spell of death.

However, dear brothers and sisters of the crucified and risen Lord, the merchants of death cannot undo the free gift of life. For when Satan participated in the sacrificial death of our Lord, he participated in his own demise. For the Lord’s crucifixion was the Lord’s victory. It was Satan who became mortal when our Lord breathed His final victory cry: “It is finished!” And Satan again suffered a blow when Perpetua and Felicity defied the prince of this world and embraced the holy faith, holding onto it even as they breathed their last on a field of battle against the evil one.

Satan is beaten down under our feet each time a person comes to faith, each time a sinner repents, each time the words of absolution are intoned, each time temptation is foiled by God’s Word, and each time a Christian spurns revenge and instead acts in love – even love for one’s enemies.

Death is overcome by life, and life flows from love and mercy – all given to us as a free gift, all spoken to us to repeat, all handed over to us as a treasure to hand over to the world, to friend and foe alike – for the sake of the salvation of many.

This victory over the cross and the arena, over sin and the grave, over Satan and the sinful flesh is the very essence of the Christian life. It is why we are here, dear friends. Those who are not surrounding Christian altars on this day are missing out on this good news, this Gospel of life. And we pray for them with hope, as even Perpetua and Felicity were once unbelievers and enemies of the cross. And we pray for ourselves that we may heed the call to repentance and not merely become angry at the messenger.

For nothing sums up this good news better than the words of the ancient hymn often chanted as we lay one of the saints to rest: Media vita in morte sumus, which we sang in English today. The victory of life and forgiveness over death and sin proclaimed in this sung confession is the witness of Jeremiah, of Paul, of Perpetua and Felicity, and of our Lord Jesus Himself. And it is ours today, and even unto eternity:

In the very midst of life
Snares of death surround us;

Who shall help us in the strife

Lest the foe confound us?

Thou only Lord,

Thou only.

We mourn that we have greatly erred,

That our sins Thy wrath have stirred.

Holy and righteous God!

Holy and mighty God!

Holy and all merciful Savior!

Eternal Lord God.

Save us lest we perish

In the bitter pangs of death.

Have mercy O Lord.


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