Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sermon: Holy Trinity

30 May 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 3:1-17 (Isa 6:1-7, Rom 11:33-36)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

A lot of people are mad at us today, dear Christians. For this is one day of the church year in which we Christians do not play nice with the rest of the world. We are exclusive, and we make claims about God that many other people on the planet cannot stomach nor will tolerate. We confess, as God’s Word has taught us, that God is far more complex than we simple human beings can comprehend.

We confess “one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.” We do not acknowledge the god of the Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Pagans, or Unitarians. As we have been taught in Scripture and as we have been baptized: we confess the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be the only true God. And we do so in spite of the world’s mockery and hatred, “neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.”

For this is the “catholic faith” universally held by the Church, the “one true faith” as our Small catechism words it. And as such, we are “compelled by the Christian truth” to confess the Trinity, and we are “prohibited by the catholic religion” to deny a belief in many gods. And what makes us most hated of all, we dare to confess before God and one another that: “Whoever desires to be saved must hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.”

Some look upon this confession as a way for us to condemn nonbelievers and gloat over the true and saving faith which we believe faithfully and firmly. But this is not so.

We confess with our Blessed Lord Himself: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We do not confess this one true faith to condemn people, but rather that they might be saved. We are fishers of men and we draw people into the net of salvation; we do not desire people to be condemned. As our Lord says: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

We confess that which is true, not to berate those who do not believe, but to clarify what is taught in God’s Word. For to deny this truth is as deadly as fooling oneself that the train bearing down upon you as you lie on the tracks is only an illusion. We Christians confess real, concrete truths in our creeds, so as to call out to people lying on the railroad tracks. We want them to move, and we warn them and plead for them to confess the truth with us, and be saved.

This is not easy. We live in a day and age of human triumph. Just look around at our technological marvels! Look at what we can do as “one people” – far more than what our ancestors at Babel could do with bricks and mortar. Our temptation and burden is that we see our human triumphs as signs of our own glory instead of singing the praises of God who created a universe that is comprehensible, the God who made us with minds capable of grasping its mysteries.

For as much as electrons and mu mesons and genomes and the speed of light are things we human beings can grasp, God is not in that category. What we know about God is what He wants us to know and reveals to us in His Word. “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” proclaims St. Paul, “How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscritible His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord?”

Theology is not technology, and confession of divine truths cannot be discerned by logic.

Those who expect God to make sense according to our small human minds and limited reason will mock our humble confession of the “one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.” They will scoff and cast aspersions upon our confession of “the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ… the Son of God” who is “at the same time both God and man.”

And yet this is the overwhelming revelation of God Himself in the Holy Scriptures, the catholic and saving faith confessed by centuries of Christians – many of whom were not merely mocked, but executed for holding this faith and refusing to compromise with those who deny it.

Make no mistake, dear friends, those who deny the Trinity and the Incarnation of our Lord would gladly send you to the lions and claim they are doing “a service to God.” Our divine Lord has said so Himself. And yet we confess it in the very jaws of them that want to devour us. And we do so out of love for them, that they repent and believe, and join us in the one holy catholic and apostolic church and have eternal life through the free and boundless gift of the gospel! Jesus took human flesh to save the world, having been “lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

He instructed us that this belief is bundled with being “born again” of “water and the Spirit.” And it was our Lord Himself who would charge and commission the church and her pastors to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” There are not three names, but one name into which we are baptized – even as there are not three Eternals, three Uncreateds, or three Infinites, but only one Almighty.

Those who rely on their own reason and refuse to submit to this “Christian truth” have made their own minds into a false god, and they do not hold the one true faith that saves. We plead with them, like a lighthouse in a storm, like a watchman at the precipice of a washed-out bridge, to turn back and prostrate themselves before the true God.

For this is what Isaiah did. He fell on his face. He did not quibble about how it was that he saw God and lived. He did not stand around demanding a logical answer as to why God was praised as “holy” three times. Instead, he confessed his sin, his inadequacy, and his unworthiness. And while assuming a posture of submission and adoration, the angel placed the holy element from the altar onto his tongue while pronouncing that this was indeed done “for the forgiveness of sins.”

Isaiah did not force God to fit into the mold of his own small mind. He did not ask how a physical element placed into his mouth could remove guilt and atone for sin. But rather accepted the mystery, received the gift, inherited eternal life, and joined in the ancient and eternal liturgy of the church, the common worship enjoined in unity by saints in heaven and on earth, by angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” singing the praises of the Most Holy Trinity.

For we Christians join our Lord’s defeat of Satan by the fact that “we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity,” being united in Him by being baptized into Him, into His death, and into His Triune name. We bind unto ourselves today and every day, the “strong name of the Trinity.” And it is no accident or coincidence that this hymn has been used for centuries to cast out very real demons and to exorcise truly malignant evil spirits that themselves know the truth about God, but nevertheless seek to confuse us, cause us to doubt, and make us more palatable to the unbelieving world. The evil one hates the Trinity and hates the divinity of the Son. And that is why he hates the church.

Take heart, dear Christians! The Lord has not come to give us complex theology to master, but rather a simple faith to confess. Just as a child does not have to understand the complexities of DNA and the mechanics of genetics to place his trust in his loving parents, neither are we bound to understand the “unsearchable” and “inscrutable” God.

Rather, we hear His word, we receive the gifts, and we believe. We are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, forgiven by the Father for the sake of the Son and quickened by the Holy Spirit. We receive absolution and the Lord’s Supper in the one true faith confessed by the holy church. We respond with joy to the good news of forgiveness and eternal life. We taste and see that the Lord is good, and we sing, even unto eternity, “His mercy endures forever.”

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all good things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”

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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Crooked Theology

So, according to the Rt. Rich Rev. Duplanti$, living things cannot be "brought," God is not omniscient, Adam (not God) gave life to all of the animals, and then filled in God's ignorance about creation with his own superior knowledge. The amazing thing is that people (and not just a few) actually believe this nonsense! And shame on Duplantis for exploiting them. It is this kind of person that gives creationism a bad name and furthers the work of Satan in turning the world against the Church and the Scriptures.

If he doesn't repent, he had better hope he's right about man's ability to give life and God's impotence. Pro-tip: There are no private jets in hell.

Lutheran Volunteers in the French Quarter

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is the coolest video of Lutherans from Arlington Heights, Illinois eating oysters, hanging out at Cafe du Monde, and listening to A Mighty Fortress played on a glass harp in the French Quarter (after spending a week doing volunteer work) that you will see all day.

Bons temps!

Curse of Babel Rolled Back - Part Two

A hat tip to the Rev. William Weedon for this example of Babel's curse being rolled back.

This is the beginning of a Lutherishe Messe (Lutheran Mass) in Thüringe for New Year's (the Holy Name of Jesus).

Lutherans will recognize immediately not only the liturgical structure, architecture, vestments, and postures of the Divine Service, but also the hymnody - even if you don't speak a word of German. This recognition is a testimony to our tradition. The liturgy not only allows everyone to participate together within the congregation, it allows worship to transcend the barriers of national borders and language caused by our disobedience on the plains of Shinar four millennia ago.

This is the great timeless heavenly worship revealed in Rev 7:9. The church's liturgy is our ongoing Pentecost miracle.

Quality of Life Worldwide

Some interesting findings in the 2010 Mercer Quality of Living survey.

This year's top city in terms of quality of life was judged to be Vienna. The small-government, neutral, and guns-and-gold friendly Switzerland has three of the top ten cities, including number two Zurich and number three Geneva.

The top American city (Honolulu) came in a disappointing 31st, well behind Canada's top five cities of Vancouver (4), Ottawa (14), Toronto (16), Montreal (21), and Calgary (28).

Of course, such surveys are rather subjective. But this is an interesting snapshot of our changing world and America's current place in it.

Athanasian Creed Video

As we move on into Trinity Sunday, here is a really cool little video presentation of the Athanasian Creed - which is traditionally used in the place of the Nicene Creed in Lutheran (and other western catholic) churches on the Feast of the Holy Trinity.

The Creed is from the sixth century, was not written by St. Athanasius, and is a clear articulation of the Christian faith from a time (very similar to ours) when the truths of Christianity were being challenged.

The video is a helpful way to meditate on these timeless truths to which we Christians of every time and place bind our very lives.

Interestingly, this video was made and narrated by an LCMS pastor of a church that is not very traditional in its worship.

Remembering Babel

The curse of the multiplicity of languages as recounted in Genesis 11 is often mocked by skeptics, or at least treated as legendary and not reliable as history. However, linguists are coming to the same conclusion as Scripture, that human language is something that is thousands, not tens or hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of years old; that there is a small number of language families from which all modern languages descend; and that not all languages can be traced to a single common ancestor.

All of this fits in with human history as presented in Genesis.

Answers in Genesis has a fascinating look at the lingustic ramifications of the Babel account, especially in light of the lingustic theory of the prototypical languages from which our modern tongues descend.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Curse of Babel rolled back

In this week of Pentecost as we approach the Festival of the Holy Trinity, I can't help but reflect on the miracle of Pentecost and the merciful overturning of the curse of Babel.

The Church transcends tribe and tongue, culture and country. We worship the same God and we have worshiped in the same way for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands, of years. One can go anywhere on earth and hear the same liturgy and even the same hymns - though the tongue may well be different.

The above video is from the opening procession of a Lutheran Högmässa (High Mass) in Sweden. The vestments, church architecture, liturgical structure, hymns, and even the order of the Divine Service itself are familiar to nearly all Christians in the world - especially to us Lutherans. The opening hymn is a setting of the ancient Te Deum beloved by Christians from every nation for more than 1,500 years - and it is set to a tune familiar to American Lutherans (Holy God We Praise Thy Name - LSB 940).

Babel's confusion of tongues was overturned by the Holy Spirit's descent upon the disciples in the form of tongues of fire, as well as their ability to preach in foreign languages. Today the One Holy Church proclaims the Gospel in every known language. Today, language is no barrier. And thanks to the liturgy of the church, even without knowing the local language, today, one can still participate in worship no matter where one goes around the globe.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

When Shepherds Devour the Sheep...


What amazes me more than the greed and contempt for Jesus and for the true Christian Church is the cultish devotion of the sheep who are being sheared by these wolves. These "ministers" never seem to run out of victims, people willing to buy into their theology of glory. These self-servants are only able to carry out their avarice because people are willing to send them money.

It only serves to suggest that there is more than slick salesmanship afoot here - something more than meets the eye.

Hopefully, the people who will inevitably become disillusioned with this kind of thing will not give up on the real way in which God works: the theology of the cross.

Namaste, y'all

If you think curry and grits are mutually exclusive, check this out.

Actually, the article is about the resurgence of grits in American cuisine, but the recipe for Curried Grits with Greens is sublime. Mrs. H. made it for us a couple days ago. If you like either food from the American South or from the Indian Subcontinent, you'll enjoy this.

Curried Grits with Greens

Adapted from a recipe by chef Sonya Cote, East Side Showroom, Austin, Texas.

2 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil, divided

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup grits (see Note)

2 cups water

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 teaspoons red curry paste

1 teaspoon yellow curry powder

1 large bunch Swiss chard, collards, spinach or other greens, chopped

HEAT 1 tablespoon oil over medium-low heat in heavy saucepan. Add onions and salt. Sauté onions until caramelized, about 20 minutes.

ADD grits and water to onions. Stir. Cover and cook for 7-9 minutes. Add coconut milk, red curry paste and yellow curry powder. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat and sauté greens for 3-4 minutes (longer for collard greens) until softened. Serve with grits.

NOTE: Hominy or yellow cornmeal will work fine, but Cote prefers yellow cornmeal.

Yield: 6-8 Servings.

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Pics Uploaded

Find the unhappy camper

Another batch of photos uploaded to my flickr sets:

Salem's New Chasuble

Salem now has a complete year's worth of chasubles custom made for our congregation with the completion of the red chasuble in time for Pentecost.

It joins our purple, green, and white chasubles.

The red chasuble features Luther's Seal, a heraldic emblem employed by Martin Luther that was quickly adopted by the churches of the Augsburg Confession as a symbol of our evangelical Lutheran tradition within the church catholic. It includes Luther's addition of the Latin word "vivit" - which means "He lives!"

Thank you to all the donors who gave generously to beautify our divine worship with these chasubles, and thank you to Mrs. H. for all of her hard work not only in research, design, and sewing, but also in shopping around for the best prices for quality materials and saving us thousands of dollars in the process.

Although we are now completely covered for the church year, there are additional optional colors we can look into getting down the road - especially black for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and rose for Gaudete and Laetare - if it be the Lord's will.

For the short term, there are already other projects in the pipeline. Stay tuned!

Soli Deo gloria!

Leo was outvoted on this design...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sermon: Pentecost

23 May 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 14:23-31 (Gen 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The Lord God created man in His own image. He gave him a mind and reason, as well as a way to communicate. And when many people communicate with one another, it is as though our brains are wired together in a kind of super-computer. We build on the thoughts of each other, and we advance in knowledge and technological prowess. And this technology can be used for good or for evil, to either obey and praise God, or to rebel and dishonor Him.

Since the Fall in the garden, we have been wont to do evil.

Around 2000 BC, near what would later be the sinful city of Babylon, the people rebelled against the Lord’s command to spread out around the earth. Instead, they used the latest building technology – bricks and mortar, to do the opposite: to gather all the people together in a single city on the plains of Shinar. And to compound their sin, our ancestors sought to make a name for themselves by seeking to use their reason to conquer heaven in the form of the world’s first skyscraper. And the thing that drove all of this technology was man’s ability to communicate – for the “whole earth had one language.”

And lest anyone underestimate the power of those made in the image of God, it was God Himself who observed: “Behold, they are one people, and they all have one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. Nothing they propose to do will be impossible for them.”

For post-flood man wasn’t interested in obedience, in repopulating the earth. He was rather interested in his own technology, in making a name for himself, in building and concentrating wealth, in challenging God’s authority and undermining His rule.

And the result for man – just like every other time when we poor miserable sinners choose our own way instead of the Lord’s way – was tragic. Not only was this wonderful technology (that could have been used for good), suddenly arrested, not only was the city (that could have been a place for God’s honor) abruptly abandoned, but mankind’s unity was tragically destroyed. The languages were multiplied as humanity was forced into tribalism.

And with this division quickly came wars, prejudice, and the inability of mankind to work together as before. As a result of our rebellion, of our sense that we could enter the heavens on our own terms by our own technology, by disobeying God, by misusing the wonderful gifts of mind and language – we found ourselves cursed with division, distrust, and a destroyed ability to speak with one another.

But the Lord is merciful, dear brothers and sisters. For even as the Lord said 2,000 years before Christ: “Let us go down there and confuse their language,” so too does our Lord, 2,000 years afterward, come down to us to be born, to walk with us, to teach and preach, to open our eyes to the Word of God, to heal and forgive and restore to life, to give us baptism and absolution and His very body and blood on the cross and on the altar. He rises to bring us to everlasting life. And then He does something else, something unexpected apart from His promise to do so. He sends us God the Holy Spirit who comes down to us not to confuse our language, but rather to unite us in speech – not so that we can climb to the heavens, but rather so that the heavens may descend upon us through the preaching of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit does not come to scatter sinners, but to save them by scattering the Word through them.

On that first Pentecost after our Lord’s crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension, the Holy Spirit came rushing like a wind and dividing like tongues of flame on the heads of the apostles – reminding man that his tongues were divided as a result of sin. And then the apostles, “filled with the Holy Spirit… began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

The Jews from around the empire, who themselves had been scattered and who themselves were divided in tribe and tongue, were brought together in Jerusalem for the feast. The Lord drew them in to hear the Gospel. But the Lord did not make them all speak the same language, but rather empowered the Church to preach to all of them – whether their tongues were Parthian, Mede, Elamite, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, or Latin. The good news of Jesus Christ was preached to the glory of the Father by the Creator Spirit by whose aid the curse was nullified and the foundations of the Church first were laid.

This Pentecost miracle was promised by our Lord along with the admonition that “if anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will love him and make our home with him.” For our Blessed Lord promised “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name.” The Holy Trinity works in unity to draw His scattered sheep into one fold, into unity, into one holy Church. And not even the curse of Babel, not even the multiplicities of languages spoken by the people of God, and by those to whom they preach – will interfere in that promise and plan.

For the Lord has promised us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” The divisions of the great linguistic dispersion are swallowed up by our Lord’s Word even as death was swallowed up by our Lord’s death. All of those things that accompanied the great dispersion – our inability to communicate, our hatreds and prejudices, our disunity and tribal warfare – all things which stand in the way of godly peace – are swept away by the purifying flames of the Holy Spirit.

And though there is still much division and warfare to come in man’s history, though there will indeed be “wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke,” and though the “sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,” the same Helper who broke through the confusion of tongues will break through our fears and anxieties, bringing us peace, harmony, and Christian unity as we await “the day of the Lord… the great and magnificent day.”

For the Spirit testifies through the Church, the body of Christ, the truth told in every corner of the globe and the proclamation preached in every tongue: “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Dear friends, the curse of Babel has been rolled back. The dispersal is now not a punishment for sin, but rather a remedy for sin. For now, we are commissioned to “disperse over the face of all the earth” baptizing and preaching the good news as the Spirit gives us utterance, in every tongue, the “mighty works of God.”

And according to the mandate of our Lord, “Rise, let us go from here.” Let us confess the truth, proclaim the day of the Lord, preach the forgiveness of sins unto all the world, and herald the good news in every tongue and to every tribe. For we are no longer building a skyscraper of brick and bitumen to reach our way sinfully to heaven to make a name for ourselves, but rather we are being formed into a holy temple, an edifice of living stones of flesh and blood, as our mighty and merciful Lord has come down to us, not in judgment and punishment, but in love and mercy. And it is His name we proclaim and praise.

For the Spirit of the Lord fills the world. Alleluia.

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Siberian Newsletter

Click here for the May 2010 newsletter of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society.

You will be amazed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Big Voice Silenced

The noted rock musician Ronnie James Dio died from stomach cancer at the age of 67 yesterday.

He had quite a musical career, spanning from singing in doo-wap bands in the late 1950s, through the folk music of the 1960s, and finding his groove in the hard/rock heavy metal of the 1970s and 1980s. He was still performing and touring right up until his diagnosis and decline in health late last year.

In his metal career as the front-man for the bands Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio, he was noted for his theatrical performances, operatic voice, and songs focusing on dark themes. How much of this was part of the show (as it was for Alice Cooper, who is, in fact, a rather straight-laced Reformed Christian and occasional Sunday school teacher) and how much reflected a genuine anti-Christian conviction is beyond what I know.

But the guy sure had a set of pipes.

Interestingly, Dio sang two songs on Seeds of Change, a wonderfully over-the-top prog-rock 1980 album by Kansas-member and songwriter Kerry Livgren (who had recently converted to Christianity, and who, like Alice Cooper, today teaches Bible classes at his church). Seeds of Change featured overtly Christian lyrics. Dio's two vocal offerings were sung as a favor to his friend Kerry Livgren, and were about our Lord Jesus Christ ("To Live For the King") and the devil ("The Mask of the Great Deceiver") respectively. The latter song features a two minute long synthesizer-laden dramatic introduction that just screams "Nineteen Eighty!"

If Ronnie James Dio died as a believer, the Big Voice will resonate throughout eternity. If not, his great gift has been tragically silenced. That isn't for us to know. But metal fans can still rejoice in the Lord's gift of soaring vocals and the kind of creativity that grew out of the last few decades of popular music.

Thanks to technology, you can still hear the Big Voice as an electronic echo. Here is "Rainbow in the Dark," and here is a live performance of "Man on the Silver Mountain" by an energetic 60-year old showman Ronnie James Dio.

Certainly he will be missed by his family and friends.

Politicians Telling Us What to Preach? "No."

Dear Mrs. Pelosi ("dignity and worth of every person"? Please),

As a Christian preacher, I have a simple reply for you: "No."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sermon: Exaudi (Easter 7 or The Sunday After Ascension)

16 May 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 15:26-16:4 (Ezek 36:22-28, 1 Pet 4:7-14)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Once again, the risen Lord Jesus is revealing deep and profound truths about the Most Holy Trinity. He teaches us that He, the Son, will send the Holy Spirit to us, the Church, from the Father. The Spirit “bears witness” about the Son, and the Spirit is our “Helper.”

And it should be obvious that this title “Helper” for the Holy Spirit means that we need help. The Lord Jesus, having ascended, having retaken His full heavenly glory at the Father’s right hand, means that we no longer have our fleshly human God – our Lord, Master, Redeemer, and Savior – walking the earth with us as He did when He ministered with His apostles in the first century.

And yet, Jesus does not leave us defenseless.

In fact, He doesn’t leave us at all. By the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, He is physically present with His Church. By the mighty power of His Word, His voice still resounds around us, surrounds us, and protects us from all harm and danger – even from the evil one himself. And the Lord has given us another manifestation of the Triune God, the Helper.

The Helper has come because we need help as embattled sheep of the Good Shepherd, sojourning in a hostile world, ever stalked by a “roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”

The Helper not only helps our Lord shepherd us to green pastures and still waters, but more importantly, He helps us when we are attacked by Satan. As long as the devil lives, as long as we are in the sinful flesh, as long as our fallen world limps along until the Lord recalls it for re-creation – we will be attacked, assaulted, harried, hassled, abused, and abased by the father of lies and his ugly hordes.

But once more, it is because we are in need of help that we have a Helper. For Jesus tells us forthrightly the cost of discipleship. We Christians make enemies. In our confession of the cross, we are made to bear the cross. The authorities of this world will, and indeed do, remove Christians from respectable society. We are mocked and marginalized. We are accused of believing in a flat earth and abhorring science. We are accused of bigotry and intolerance. And in many places around the world, we are persecuted and killed – just as the holy apostles and those who followed after them. In fact, in some places, the killing of Christians is seen as a holy war, a sacrifice made to appease a false god, “offering service to God” in their murderous jihad. And our Lord says: “They will do these things” – not they “might” do these things – but rather “they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor Me.”

Apart from the Holy Trinity, into whose name all Christians are baptized, no-one knows God.

It is our Lord’s prayer that we not fall away from the faith. Salvation is free for us Christians. It is a gift. But the living out of that gift, the Christian life, costs us our very lives. As the Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer confessed: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” The Holy Spirit gave life to Dr. Bonhoeffer’s words when he was given strength to die on the Nazi scaffold in 1945.

The Christian faith is a martyr’s faith, even as our Lord taught us: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” It stands to reason that we followers of our Lord Jesus follow our Lord Jesus. We march behind him as soldiers of the cross, and we march to the cross. Our Lord laid down His life for us, and we are called to lay down our lives for our neighbors and for the sake of the kingdom. And Satan cannot stop us. The Helper, the Lord and giver of life, strengthens us for the journey – even as our Lord stood firm in His suffering out of love “for us men and for our salvation.”

We follow Him to proclaim good news to the captives. We follow Him in His manhandling of the demons. We follow Him in forgiveness and love, in gentleness and self-control. We follow Him in being attacked and denounced. We follow Him up Calvary’s hill, and we follow Him down to the grave. And, we follow Him in His triumphant march out of the sepulcher. We follow Him to eternal life itself. And He has sent the Helper to strengthen our resolve and keep us in step.

The Holy Spirit gives us the power we need to beat back every assault, every temptation, each and every incitement to quit. The Holy Spirit empowers us to resist the lure of sin, Satan, and even our own fallen flesh. No power in the world – not even the might of empires nor the brutality of concentration camps can defeat the will of the Father, carried out by the Son, and helped along by the Holy Spirit – given to us as a free gift.

As the Danish Lutheran pastor, poet, and martyr Kaj Munk – who, like his fellow martyr Bonhoeffer, was executed by the Nazis – summed it up: “Kill us on Good Friday, and we shall rise on Easter Day!” The Holy Spirit gave life to Pastor Munk’s words when he was given strength to die at point of a Nazi gun in 1944.

This faithfulness unto death is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit. For Jesus was faithful unto death. We follow Him. And we indeed need help in that walk.

But how often the Holy Spirit is mocked by preachers who paint a very different picture of Christianity – one marked by financial success, bereft of the cross and suffering. How often the Helper’s miracle of empowering the apostles to speak in earthly languages that they have not studied is turned into a joke of people jumping around and rolling around on the floor babbling nonsense, claiming this is the work of the Spirit. How different this is from the resolute faithfulness of Bonhoeffer and Munk, of the promise of the Helper given us by our blessed Lord! How different is this from St. Peter’s Spirit-inspired exhortation that we be “self-controlled and sober-minded.”

Dear friends, the work of the Spirit is to guide us to a holy life, and if necessary, lead us to a martyr’s death. The Spirit teaches us how to pray, gives us the words to say, instills within us a confession of the faith, glorifies Christ, comforts us, and hovers over the waters of the world and the baptismal font – calling us to repent and giving us courage in the face of evil.

The Helper draws us to be where the Lord Jesus is. The Helper guides us to incline our ears to hear our Lord’s Words. The Helper gives us the strength to bear our cross to the very end – even to death.

The word “courage” is related to the Latin word for “heart.” For the courage of the martyrs is not of themselves. We can take comfort in that, dear brothers and sisters. For if we need such courage, the Holy Spirit is promised to be our help and stay. As the Lord Himself has promised in the Spirit-inspired Word through the prophet:

“I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you… you shall be My people and I will be your God.” Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

Blessed Kaj Munk
"Never the Chameleon"

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tax Morons, er, Dollars at Work

We need protection from criminals and wild animals like these...

What would we ever do without zealous government bureaucrats? I mean, how could we ever live without such heroes of the common weal?

And to think independence was declared in the Keystone State, for reasons including: "swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance."

Oh, how a mighty and freedom-loving people have fallen into servility and parasitic infestation.

Now that's doing the splits!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sermon: Ascension

13 May 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Acts 1:1-11 (Mark 16:14-20)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

This is the time of year for graduations. And in those ceremonies, we often hear the same things over and over. We hear the explanation that the word “education” is based on the Latin words for “to lead out of” – as in leading someone out of ignorance to knowledge. We also hear that graduation is a commencement – not an end, but a beginning. And at a point in the ceremony, the graduates may move their tassels from one side of their hats to the other to indicate that one chapter in their lives has ended, and a new one is beginning.

And when it is all said and done, when the cake has been eaten and the last picture snapped, the graduates scatter from their alma mater and go on to other schools or to different stations in life.

This is also the time of year for the Church to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus. It is a kind of graduation as well – not for our Lord, but for His students, His disciples. We don’t know all the details of what Jesus said to them on this august occasion, but Scripture reveals some of the words and deeds of our Lord to His students.

We know that they were told not to scatter from their mother city of Jerusalem until the fulfillment of “the promise of the Father,” of which the Son says “you heard from Me.” That promise is to be fulfilled in a baptism of the Holy Spirit in just a few days. The disciples (students) are not to become apostles (those sent out to preach) until the Holy Trinity has declared them to be ready and has ordered the commencement of their ministries.

Like many students of the Bible and disciples of Jesus today, there is a great curiosity among the Lord’s first graduating class of the Eleven about the future: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” But not every question is to be answered by their Divine Professor. The Lord rebukes them gently with a reminder that not all things are a matter for their knowledge and education. Their task and calling is not to know the hidden details of the Lord’s plan for the world, but rather to first “receive power” from the Holy Spirit, and then to be His witnesses in an expanding series of concentric circles, beginning from their place of learning at Jerusalem, throughout the region of Judea, moving outward among the Gentiles in Samaria, and finally among all nations to the very ends of the earth.

Rather than seeking inside information about the Lord’s second coming, they are rather to turn the world inside out with the proclamation of His first coming. They are to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” and “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

And though the Lord will not be visible with them while He sits at the right hand of the Father, He will surely be with them unto the end of the age. And this will be manifest from the signs the Church will demonstrate in her Master’s name, as He Himself prophecies: they will “cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” For wherever the Gospel is preached, miracles will follow. Devils will flee. The good news will be proclaimed in every language of the globe. Christians will be supernaturally protected from all harm and danger. And healing and forgiving hands will be laid on the sick and sinful who will repent and be restored to life.

And indeed, “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.”

But before working any of these signs, the Lord handed authority over to the Eleven and was taken from their sight and lifted in to a cloud. He was taking His place of heavenly glory. And He sends forth His disciples to carry out His divine mandate to do His work as His servants and preachers.

And like many students who have just graduated and are filled with a sense of both excitement and dread, asking themselves: “What now?”, so too are the apostles gazing aimlessly at the sky. They are called out of their daydreams by a couple of fellow servants of the Lord, two angels in white robes who essentially tell them that it is time to go to work now.

The Lord Jesus, who was addressed as “Rabbi” (meaning “Teacher”) by His “disciples” (meaning “students”) had spent three years educating these men. It was not for the sake of a piece of paper or even for the purpose of getting a good job. But rather they were being trained to preach and teach, to baptize and to forgive, and to suffer for the sake of the kingdom. The Lord established the Church on this apostolic foundation, and the Church finds her commencement with the Ascension of the Son to the Father and the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The Church finds her very life in the most holy and blessed Trinity.

And, dear friends, this education of the apostles was not at an end. We never run out of learning in matters of the Lord and His kingdom. For the life of the Church was only beginning. And even for us, we who have been baptized and taught by those who would come after them, the consummation is yet to come.

The Ascension of our Lord is not the end, but the beginning. For He is the Alpha and the Omega. And as time marches onward, as the Gospel makes its way among every people and nation, as new disciples are baptized and taught, as signs continue to mark the Church’s hopeful work in this dismal world, we wait expectantly for the Lord to return as He has promised. We don’t know times and dates, but we do know the promise. We do not wear scholars’ robes and mortar-board hats, but rather baptismal gowns and the crown of life given to us by our Great Teacher and Master.

Like all Christians who have come before us and all who will come after us – one chapter in our lives has ended, and a new one is beginning. And having been led out of darkness into light, we look to a future so bright there will be no need of sun or moon, as the commencement gives way to consummation and communion that will have no end. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

Monday, May 10, 2010

Extraordinary Christians in Russia

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

I had previously blogged about our remarkable Lutheran brethren in Siberia. I had the privilege of studying with some of our brother pastors and deacons from the former Soviet Union while at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Currently, the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) is in talks with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod towards full altar and pulpit fellowship and communion between our jurisdictions.

And now I am absolutely thrilled that this moving and inspiring video (about 22 minutes total) is available on YouTube. Any American pastor who thinks he is overworked and underpaid should watch this. American laypeople who have no idea what it is like to suffer in poverty or persecution or want of a church or a pastor should watch this. We all take so much for granted. This video should serve as a call to repentance and a putting of things into perspective.

It is also a call to unity in prayer and action for the sake of the Gospel. It is a miracle that the faith of these persecuted brothers and sisters did not die in the atheistic revolution or in Stalin's concentration camps. It is a miracle that the Christian faith survived the onslaught of 70 years of hostile Communism, and continues amid the rough ride Russians have had to endure since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

These Siberian Lutheran Christians - their bishop, priests, deacons, and laypeople - are true heroes of the faith.

The Siberian Lutheran Mission Society (SLMS) has a fantastic website, including archived newsletters that will awe and inspire you. Please consider supporting the SLMS with your prayers and donations (all of which go directly to Siberia).

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Siberia also has a beautiful website as does the Seminary in Novosibirsk with many breathtaking pictures (and here are more photos from the SLMS site).

Note: SLMS's new website is in progress and is up and running here.

Like the early Christians who overcame Roman persecution, outlasting and even winning over the ruins of the Empire for Christ and the Church, so have these faithful servants of our Blessed Lord overcome Communism, and now continue in the Good Confession amid the ruins of totalitarianism, in the midst of poverty, cynicism, and atheism. And as part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, against which not even the gates of hell will prevail, they continue their labor in the kingdom to the glory of God alone.

Big Pharma vs. God

In case anyone was wondering of man's arrogance knows any bounds, here is your answer.

We know from science that red wine has wonderful health benefits. We can observe the benefits by looking at the overall health of cultures that tend to drink wine daily and moderately. The benefit of wine is also attested to in Scripture.

But since Americans live in a pill-driven culture (and since drinking a glass of wine takes time, is relaxing, is associated with ethnic groups that American WASPs deem inferior, and is also associated with "un-American" countries), Big Pharma comes to the rescue to give us wine in a pill. Of course, the pill will probably cost a ton of money, will most certainly be pushed by doctors, and will be paid for by insurance premiums and taxes.

Instead of inexpensive, pleasure-bearing, God-made, natural wine in a glass, many Americans would prefer expensive, sterile, science-manufactured, chemical-laden SRT501 in a capsule.

From the article:

"SRT501 is a formulation of resveratrol, a molecule found in small quantities in the skin of red grapes and in red wine. Resveratrol is thought to be the source of red wine’s reported health benefits."

But now we find that Big Pharma's artificial chemical wine in a pill has "side effects" - you know, annoying things like kidney failure.

So, the clinical trials have been suspended. Not to worry, I'm sure that GlaxoSmithKline has a strategy to get the wine pill to market - even with the "risk of side effects." I'm sure we'll soon be hearing how dangerous wine really is, and how alcohol ruins lives. And I suspect we will soon see commercials of smiling people on porch swings and children running in flowery fields while the disturbing voice-over drones on with the usual eyes-glazed-over litany about "possible side effects" such as "kidney failure" and imploring us to make sure this drug (whatever sterilized scientific-sounding name they give it) is "right for you."

Or, you could just go to WalMart and buy a bottle of God's good and inexpensive natural red wine, enjoy it, be healthy, save money, and not have kidney failure and God-know-what-else thirty years from now.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sermon: Rogate (Easter 6)

9 May 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 16:23-33 (Num 21:4-9, 1 Tim 2:1-6)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

When someone is ill, it is customary for the pastor to come to him, pray over him, and anoint him with oil – as St. James instructs us in the fifth chapter of his epistle. This prayer and anointing bear a promise – of restoration and forgiveness of sins. For, as James says: “The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power.”

Christian prayer is effective not because of the righteousness of the Christian himself, nor due to the righteousness of the pastor bearing the oil and offering the prayer. Rather, the “righteous person” who prays for us is our blessed Lord Himself, who intercedes with His Father on our behalf.

Indeed, we often explicitly pray “in the name of Jesus.” For we creatures living under authority know the power of name-dropping, and we have been authorized to make use of the name that is above every name as an invocation before God. For, as St. Paul teaches us, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Prayer is a gift from God, and t the same time, is access to God. The Lord Jesus taught us to pray to “our Father who art in heaven.” And He teaches us to “ask in My name” and in that kind of prayer, the Lord hears us and Jesus plainly tells us: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

To pray in the name of Jesus is so much more than just name-dropping, and it certainly isn’t a mere formula that we attach onto the end of our prayers like a magic spell. We can pray in the name of Jesus because we have been baptized in the name of Jesus and we have believed that he came from God. We have been marked with the cross of Christ, redeemed by His Word, liberated by His Gospel, and ransomed by His crucified body and blood.

And nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Even when we sin, we can call upon the Lord’s name in confession, in repentance, and in forgiveness. And even “when the people spoke against God and against Moses,” grumbling in their impatience and expressing a shocking lack of faith in the Lord’s servant who was chosen to lead them from bondage to freedom, the Lord chastened the people with the fiery serpents. But the people repented, and they asked Moses to intercede for them: “Pray to the Lord, that He might take away the serpents from us.” The Lord instructed Moses to give the people a visible element, a preview of Christ crucified, a serpent raised high on a pole.

Moses also prayed for the people, but more importantly, Christ prayed for the people. For we know that even before He was incarnate, God the Son was with His people, He was the “Righteous Person” praying to His Father on behalf of His people – even in the Old Testament.

And in the New Testament, St. Paul in his First Epistle to Timothy urges us to make intercessions “for all people” – especially for “kings and all who are in high positions.” Interestingly, the holy apostle links these intercessions to salvation itself, for this prayer “is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Our prayers are pleasing to God. And we pray for the leaders of the world, for those who defend and protect the peace, for mothers whose calling is higher than that of any king or president, for fathers who mirror (even though imperfectly) the Fatherhood of God. We pray for the sick, the suffering, and the persecuted. We pray for the Church throughout the world and for all pastors, teachers, and congregations. We pray for our families, friends, parish, and community. We pray for daily bread, for forgiveness, for the ability to forgive others, and for deliverance from the evil one.

We pray to our Father who art in heaven, we pray to our Redeemer God the Son, and we pray to the Lord and giver of life, the Holy Spirit. We pray in season and out of season, when times are good and when times are tough. We offer prayers of thanksgiving, and we plead for things we need and desire.

And as Christians, we pray without ceasing, and we pray ever in Jesus’ name.

“For there is one God,” proclaims St. Paul, “and there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”

Think of what this means for us, dear brothers and sisters! We can pray, we can approach the most holy throne of God, we have access to the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit. We are not just tolerated by the Father (whom we have indeed offended by our sins). No, we are actually loved by our Father, “because” as our Blessed Lord testifies: “you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.”

We have been welcomed into the Holy of Holies. We have been invited to ask for anything, and have been given the Name of Jesus as a gift, as a kind of password of access to the Creator and His love, to His forgiveness, and to eternal life in unity and communion with God and one another.

This is not to say that we should abuse this glorious gift to seek after sinful, selfish desires. For our Lord teaches us that material things only rust and get eaten by moths and are stolen. The lure of the world’s riches are but a flash in the pan. No indeed! Our Lord invites us to go much deeper and be bolder in our prayers than to ask for trinkets and mere worldly symbols. For we are invited – even commanded – to “ask… that your joy may be full.”

For we still live in a fallen world. We still struggle with sin, temptation, disappointment, disease, betrayal, hurt, pain, and even death. We still live in a time and space where we do need to ask for the Lord Jesus to intercede for us. We have not yet reached the consummation of the promise of eternity and everlasting life. And yet, in spite of it all, our joy can be full. We can ask with boldness and confidence, in faith and with joy. For we have the promise of God’s Word, and that promise has been sealed with the Holy Spirit and delivered by way of blood and water. The promise is marked with the cross and has been attested to by the empty tomb. Your sins are atoned for. Death has been defeated. In the name of Jesus, you have been invited to live forever.

Pray, dear brothers and sisters! Pray not because you have been ordered to as a duty, but because you have been invited to as a privilege! And do not be afraid to pray when times are at their darkest. For our Lord Jesus Himself, He who prayed as sweat and blood dripped from His brow at Gethsemane, tells us: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This name that is above every name, the name of God in the flesh, the name into which we have been baptized, the name of Him who has overcome the world, the name of Him who has crushed the head of the serpent, the name placed above the cross, and the name of Him who has burst the bonds of the tomb – is the very name in which we pray. He is the “Righteous Person” whose prayers are effective. And He prays for us, now and forever. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Dear Santa...

Attention Artillery Buffs

The Incredible Shrinking Dollar

Here is an interesting article about how the U.S. dollar is continually shrinking - now being worth around 1/1200th of an ounce of gold. That's quite a drop from 1933 when the dollar was worth 1/20th of an ounce of gold. This was just before the federal government made gold illegal for American citizens to own and pulled all the $20 gold pieces out of circulation.

If any other standard weight or measure were to continually get smaller and smaller by government tinkering, we would be marching in the streets. But this is exactly what the U.S. government and its puppet, the Federal Reserve, has been doing for nearly a century.

If you think about it, the dollar is no different than the gallon or the ounce. It is a standard of measure. And it is "legal tender" - meaning we "must" use it. The Constitution actually defines money as gold or silver. But since 1913 - one of the worst and most tragic years in our erstwhile republic - the dollar has been subject to outright manipulation by the Federal Reserve. Since 1971, all ties binding the dollar to gold have been severed.

And now it is worth whatever the Fed says it is. And it isn't much.

This manipulation is why the dollar routinely shrinks. Prices always go up. This is why government handouts are often doled out on a sliding scale according to COLAs - "cost of living adjustments." In fact, we're so accustomed to it, that when comparing prices over time, we have to "adjust for inflation" by measuring in "2010 dollars" or "1980 dollars" or some such. Why don't we ever speak of "2010 ounces" or "1980 gallons"?

It's because those measures don't change. But the measure of money does.

This is an example of the "dishonest scales" that are an abomination to God according to Proverbs 11:1. The manipulation of the U.S. dollar by big government and big banks is nothing less than a criminal enterprise. And guess who pays. Every time you see prices rise, you can answer that question. Inflation is nothing more than a hidden tax. It is indeed "taxation without representation." And inflation is not prices going up - prices naturally go up and down depending on the market. Inflation, rather, causes prices to rise because of the devaluation of the money used to measure the cost of an item.

In other words, if we changed the definition of a "quart" from 32 ounces to 31 ounces - and kept redefining it as one less ounce every year, a gallon (4 quarts) of milk would actually get smaller and smaller. Think where it would be headed in 20 years. And if the government actually did this, we would all be scratching our heads and demanding that they quit messing with us and making it harder to figure out how much to buy and how much to spend. We would be trying to figure out who is making money off of the sliding scale. But when they do it with money, we accept this as normal.

But in our real world of technological advances and competition, naturally falling prices (due to market forces) often cover up the manipulation of the dollar that is going on - but when the economy sours, that camouflage disappears. The emperor's nakedness is there for all to see. Rising prices garner our attention. And we finally start asking "why?"

I think this is what is happening now, as fortunately, more people are asking questions. Thanks to the public's outcry and Congressman Ron Paul's remarkable persistence, there is a popular and bipartisan bill in Congress to audit the Fed for the first time. Of course, powerful forces are also arrayed against shining any light into the process of why our money is being literally sucked out of our wallets. The federal government is the Fed's greatest benefactor. They are the ones stealing from us when the dollar continuously drops in value over time. The federal government borrows directly from the Fed to finance its deficits, and it "pays back" the loans in inflated money. It's a racket the Mafia could only dream of.

The bill to audit the Fed may or may not ever make it into being a real law with teeth (I suspect it won't) but the real blow for liberty and the first step to making government honest - or at least obedient to the Constitution again - will be to once and for all slay the dragon, make the dollar a sound and reliable measure, and "End the Fed!"

Friday, May 07, 2010

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Jesus in the European Parliament

The freedom-fighting "Euroskeptic"member of the European parliament (MEP) Daniel Hannan is an orator that is as out of place in this century as his reference to our Blessed Lord. And both are a delight to observe in the above clip.

Not too many modern politicians out there would ever end his speeches with: "Pactio Olisipiensis censenda est!"

They just don't make them like Dan Hannan anymore.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sermon: Cantate (Easter 5)

2 May 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 16:5-15 (Isa 12:1-6, Jas 1:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

God’s will for us is hard to understand. Our sinful and impulsive flesh wants God to just fix everything all at once. But in His infinite wisdom, He has His own plan about how to get us from death to life, from sin to forgiveness, from brokenness to wholeness, from corruption to perfection. And part of that plan is revealed to us anew today.

How and why God works the way He does is a great mystery. We hear anew how all three persons of the Most Blessed and Holy Trinity work in unison to bring us the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation that we ourselves neither deserve nor could hope to merit.

The Father has sent the Son into the world to be one of us, to bear our cross of pain and death, to bear our burden of sin, to lie in our place in the grave – and to rise victorious for us. But following this victory, the Son returns to the Father to rule from His right hand. The Holy Spirit is then sent to our world, to our Church, and into our hearts. He does many things – most of which are behind the scenes, not seeking glory to Himself.

And yet, the Holy Spirit “convicts the world.”

To “convict” is to find fault, to expose sin, and to justify punishment. And yet, the word “convict” does not, in this case, mean condemnation and punishment. Far from it! For our Lord Jesus Christ has come to bring us Good News and take away our shame, guilt, and reproach. The Holy Spirit’s conviction is not to condemn, but to save. For in order to be saved from our sins, we have to acknowledge them. And even the ability to discern good from evil, even the feelings of guilt we have when we sin, is the work of the Spirit, the “Helper” that our Lord speaks of.

“And when He comes,” proclaims our Lord Jesus, “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

The Holy Spirit brings us to see and then to confess a truth that is not merely unpleasant, but a truth that is shackled to death itself, binding us like a chain to death and the grave, to punishment, to guilt, and to a destroyed communion with God. The Helper helps us to see the shape we are in, and to be able to speak the unthinkable: we are sinners deserving of death and hell.

For this Helper’s job is not to glorify us, whisper sweet nothings into our ears, and tell us how wonderful we are. Indeed, His divine work is to glorify Jesus, the only perfect One of our race. As for us, the Helper’s work and ministry is “to guide you into all the truth.”

Dear friends, this is the object of the Christian faith – to bring us into truth. The Creator of all that is good, of all that we have corrupted, reveals that which is true, and He reveals it to us by His Word. And that truth is something we don’t want to hear. In spite of this, the Holy Spirit makes sure we do hear it. He also makes sure we say it right back, that we confess this ugly truth. But the Good News is that we confess in order to be absolved, we bear the guilt of the truth of who we are, so that we might be forgiven by Him who is the way, the truth, and the life.

For not only does the Holy Spirit glorify Jesus, the one who truly forgives us and binds us to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism and in the Gospel, but He also reveals the truth to us, the truth that our Lord Jesus promises: “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

What great news this is, dear friends! And it is the truth – the glorious truth. This is the truth of the Gospel.

Though we are convicted of sin, we are forgiven. Though we are too sinful to even see our condition, the Helper shows us the truth. Though we are burdened with death, we are quickened unto life in the Spirit, by the Spirit, through the Spirit.

For the Spirit reveals truth to us, which is why St. James implores us: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Good gifts, even perfect gifts, are showered upon us like rain from the sky. Don’t be deceived! Don’t buy into the lie that God doesn’t care about you, or that He leaves you to struggle alone and forsaken. Don’t believe the untruth that what you have is what you have earned. Nothing could be further from the Truth! For we have a loving Father, a merciful Savior, and a caring Helper – pouring gifts upon us through His Word.

And thanks to God’s Word, we can put it all into perspective. We can be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” We can indeed “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word.” For that Holy Word of God, implanted in us like a freshly watered seed, “is able to save your souls.” This is God’s Word, and His Word is truth!

The prophet Isaiah sums up the Christian faith, the one true faith, in a way that we can understand it; showing us the big picture of what God is doing even if the “hows” and the “whys” remain mysteries hidden from us. For we confess and pray with the blessed Isaiah: “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that You might comfort me. Behold God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”

The Holy Spirit has revealed the truth to us, the truth that the Father loves us, that the Son offers Himself sacrificially to save us, and that the Spirit convicts us and draws us into the mysterious life of the Holy Trinity, the life which has no end. This is the life of forgiveness and joy, a life of thanksgiving and praise, the life of singing that will last unto eternity.

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song.” “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

The Velvet Gloves are Off Now

Wow. It's not that people are becoming anti-government so much as government is becoming anti-people. Who works for whom anyway? How much longer will we stand for this kind of approach to government?

I guess this is where historical and philosophical illiteracy leads. And it isn't far from here to the concentration camp. Lord, have mercy!