Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 8 – 2012

29 July 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mat 7:15-23 (Jer 23:16-29, Acts 20:27-38

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Some of you might be familiar with the mural with the words “Do your job.”  It serves as a reminder to stay focused on what you are supposed to be doing, not to be distracted by the changes and chances of this life, not to be diverted by those who wish your downfall, not to allow yourself to be derailed by those who promise shortcuts and quick fixes. 

“Do your job” is an admonition to carry out your vocation – whether that calling is to be a quarterback or a father, a coach or a mother, a preacher of the Word or a hearer of the Word.  For we Christians have been bound together into one body and are all in this together.  And unlike a football team, our victory has already been won.  We are not in this for a trophy to be earned by our blood, sweat, and tears on a practice field, but for eternal life that has already been earned on our behalf by the Lord’s blood, sweat, and tears on the cross.

Our Lord encourages us to do our jobs with a warning: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” 

“But the one who does the will of My Father.”

“Do your job,” says our Lord.  We are not called upon to be hearers of the Word only, as our Lord instructs us through St. James, but also doers.  We are not to be like someone who looks in the mirror and does nothing about his appearance.  Hearing and doing go hand in hand.

Of course, central to our life of faith is faith itself.  We are saved by grace.  We receive this grace through faith.  We cannot earn God’s favor, and apart from faith, from belief, from trust – we do not have salvation.  St. Paul goes so far as to say: “to the one who does not work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, His faith is counted as righteousness.”  But lest we think that grace is license for laziness, or that faith is the opposite of work (rather than work being the outgrowth of faith), let us not forget what St. James teaches us: “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

“Do your job.”

Of course, you can’t do your job unless you know what it is.  You need to hear God’s Word in it purity.  You need to hear the Law and the Gospel.  You need to hear your pastor preaching.  You need to hear the words of absolution.  You need to believe and be baptized.  You need to eat the Lord’s flesh and drink the Lord’s blood.  You need Jesus, the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul!

And so the Lord warns us: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.”

People have a lot of choices these days – especially in matters of faith.  You can join any number of churches that will tell you what you want to hear, that will entertain you, that will accommodate your lifestyle, excuse your sins, replace the Gospel with music that you like or with impressive programs.  They may say “Lord, Lord” and even claim to cast out demons.  They may claim to speak in tongues or have thousands of people packing their sanctuaries.  But the Lord warns us not to be drawn in by distractions.

“Do your job.”

My job, dear friends, is to preach the Gospel, to teach the Word of God, to administer the Holy Sacraments, and to do battle against the devil in this place.  My job is to heed the Lord’s warning through St. Paul speaking to pastors to “declare… the whole counsel of God,” to “pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.”  My job, dear brothers and sisters, is to warn you about “fierce wolves” and “twisted things” – false teachers and false teachings – which will stand in the way of your doing your job as hearers of the Word.

Your job, dear friends, is to hear the Word, to let it have its way with you, to learn it, repeat it, confess it, pray it, teach it to your children, and allow it to reign in your hearts and in your homes.  Your job is described by the prophet Jeremiah: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you filling you with vain hopes.”  You are to hear the whole counsel of God, not the false theology of glory that “It shall be well with you,” and “No disaster shall come upon you.”

Dear brothers and sisters, you are to reject such teachers and such teachings.  You are to flee those who teach you to be lazy or who focus your eyes on the things of this world rather than on the things of God.  You are to teach your children that nothing in this life is more important than God’s Word, than the Holy Sacraments, than living continuously in Christ, in grace, in forgiveness, in communion with Him.  You are to teach them: “Do your job” and set the example by bringing them to Jesus.

We are surrounded by the changes and chances of this life.  We are assaulted at every side by those who seek our downfall.  We are barraged with offers of shortcuts and quick fixes.  But to all of these, our blessed Lord tells us to do our jobs, carry out our vocations, preach if you are a preacher, hear if you are a hearer.  Learn and listen if you are a child, lead and set the example if you are a parent.  Shun the world’s emphasis on materialism, on greed, on the lust for domination, on things that don’t matter, on temporary entertainments instead of eternal joys. 

“Do your job.”

Hear the Word of the Lord, dear friends!  Listen to it and let it form you into what the Lord wills you to be.  Let it be the focus and center of your life and of your family.  Let it be the vehicle that brings you into eternal life.  Let it grow within you to bear fruit for the kingdom.  Let it nurture you in the forgiveness of sins, in the restoration of paradise, in the glorious transformation of creation, in communion with the living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Let it deliver you to the cross and deliver you from your sins.  Let it deliver you to the altar, and deliver to you the Lord Jesus Himself in His life-giving, miraculous physical and mystical presence.  Let it be to you a chisel as the Lord sculpts you into His very image: forgiven, recreated, and reborn to eternal life!

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?  Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?  Declares the Lord.  Do I not fill heaven and earth? Declares the Lord….  Is not My Word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks rock in pieces?”

Do not be deceived, dear friends!  There is power in the Word, not in the world.  There is joy to be had in eternity, while happiness in this life is temporary.  Stay focused on what is important, keep your eyes on the prize, don’t allow yourselves to be drawn this way and that.  Do your job – for the Lord has done His saving work for you!

And with St. Paul, I call upon you, dear brothers and sisters:

“Be alert, remembering that… I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.  And now I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified….  By working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

From the Golden Age of Music Video

The Norwegian pop band a-ha sings "Take On Me" - an award-winning 1984 vignette featuring animation and live action.  The video is nearly three decades old and has nearly 24 million hits on YouTube.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 7 – 2012

22 July 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 8:1-9 (Gen 2:7-17, Rom 6:19-23)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

There are a few verses of Scripture that basically sum up the Christian faith in just a few works.  St. Paul does this in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sin is not just a little trifle.  It is not a joking matter.  Sin is tragic and horrifying.  Sin is the cause of shooting rampages in movie theaters.  Sin is the cause of war, aggression, torture, and genocide.  Sin is the cause of broken marriages, broken families, broken homes, and broken children.  Sin is the cause of inexplicable acts of violence.  Sin nothing to laugh at, gloss over, or make excuses for.  Sin is why we have hospitals and jails and funeral homes.  Sin is the cause of death.

And yet, the matter does not end there.  Death does not get the final say.  For God intervenes.  God fills the breach.  God breaks into history and invades into our lives.  God restores.  God repairs.  God forgives.  For “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Life.  Life conquers death.  Life is a gift, a free gift, a pure act of grace, of mercy, of love, of healing, of forgiveness.  It cannot be bought or sold, horded or traded, packaged in a mutual fund, or loaned out at interest.  And this free gift of life is eternal.  It has no end. It is unlimited and boundless.  It transcends reason and overtakes even the vast expanse of space and time.  For it is bound with the infinite nature of God Himself.

That which was broken has been fixed.  That which was at war has been set at peace.  That which was dead has been restored to life.  That which was corrupted has been made new.

This, dear friends, is what Christianity is all about.  And how sad that so many people mistakenly think Christianity is really about arbitrary rules, an angry wrathful God, judgmental people, hollow ritual, and much ado about nothing.  How sad that the road to destruction is broad – trodden on by those who see no value in forgiveness, in atonement, in the cross.  And yet, how glorious and blessed this Christian life is for us who are being saved, being placed on the narrow way by the Way, through the free gift won for us by Christ Jesus our Lord!

For we are not left in our aches and pains, in our suffering and sorrow, in our sickbeds and graves!  For our Lord Jesus – who took flesh to save us, who died to redeem us, who rose to resurrect us – has compassion on us, on His broken world, on His forlorn creation.  He has come to repair and heal, to roll back the effects of sin and death, and to remake the universe anew, atom by atom, molecule by molecule, person by person, congregation by congregation. 

He does this by meeting us where we are – we who are starving to death in our sins – and He feeds us.  He does not merely put food in our bellies, but gives Himself as a living bread from Heaven, a communion with the God in the flesh, a nourishment that can even roll away the stone sealing our graves because it is the Bread of Life, miraculously multiplied and bound to His Word and promise for the very purpose of bringing us from death to life.

All of this is because of the Lord’s “compassion.”

He could have simply been angry at us, at His wayward creatures.  He could have simply destroyed us and started anew – with another catastrophe like the great flood.  He could have condemned us all to hell and started all over.

But our Lord doesn’t do any of these things, because he has “compassion.”

Our pain is His pain.  Our grief is His grief.  Our cross – the cross we have earned and should be bearing – is His cross.  And our death – the death that is the wages of our sin – is His death, His passion, His body given for us, His blood shed for us, His righteousness accredited to us – is our salvation, our forgiveness, our very life!

Our Lord takes us in the deserts of our lives, in our need and hunger, in our desperation to be fed – and He directs us to sit, to gather, to come into His presence with outstretched and expectant hands.  And through His appointed ministers, He gives thanks, He breaks the bread, and He sets it before the people.  But this is not bread only – it is bread consecrated by His Word: “This is My body.”  And His body is given to us with His very blood, the blood of the New Testament, placed into a cup for “all of us” to drink.  These gifts are indeed the “free gift of God” that is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“And they ate and were satisfied.” 

Dear brothers and sisters, eat and be satisfied!  For though we are not in the garden eating of the pure, genetically perfect fruits of the flawless creation, the Lord has compassion on us.  He takes the bread that we must make with our own hands with our own work, and He blesses it with His own hands, and makes it His own redemptive work. 

He feeds us and saves us because He loves us and has compassion on us.

For our past is our destiny.  We will, in eternity, once again enjoy the sinless, painless, sorrowless, and deathless creation: the tree of life, the rivers of living water, the gold and bdellium and onyx, and the ever-present communion with the Triune God in all His majesty and glory, uninhibited by our sin and untainted by our death – for owing to this gift of God in Christ Jesus, our sin and death are no more!

This is yours, dear friends, all yours by virtue of the Lord’s incarnation, His promises, His preaching, His teaching, His miracles, His passion, His cross, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension to the Father.  This free gift is yours by virtue of His Word, His sacraments, His Church, and His grace.  It is yours by virtue of His compassion.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Church Dedicated in Former Soviet Republic

With the help of Lutherans around the world - including faithful confessional Lutherans from the LCMS Iowa East District - the former Soviet republic of Lithuania has a new Lutheran church building in the city of Palanga!

Here is a beautiful and richly illustrated article by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, the director of church relations for the synod.

Here is an additional link to his photo album of the dedication.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Talk Radio on "Spending Our Money"

Since I was in the car, and our two rock stations were both playing commercials, I flipped over to the local talk radio station.  I listened until I smelled brain cells beginning to smolder - about five seconds.  This was enough time to hear the host indignant because of the way "our tax dollars" were being spent regarding some recent bone-headed government expenditure.  And we all do this.  Left-wingers, right-wingers, middle-wingers, and no-wingers all do this.  We complain the way government spends "our" money.  

But our complaints about such matters are invalid.  In fact, it really isn't any of our business what they do with it.  After all, they took it from us "fair and square" (wink wink).  Well, they took it anyway.  It ceased being ours when we handed it over to them.  I mean, it's not like we're going to be able to call the police and say "Officer, arrest the Congress, the State Legislature, and the City Council!  They stole my money and I want it back!"  In fact, the police officer is paid from the money that was taken from us.

We don't demand the money back because we have given our consent to have it taken.  Not that there is much choice!  And I offer the same advice to anyone and everyone when the tax man cometh as I would offer if a bandit were to put a gun in your face and say: "Your money or your life!"  Give him the money.  Pay up to live another day.  Unless you are willing to testify against your assailant later on, to accuse him of theft - then let him go in peace.  There is no sense resisting either the highwayman or the revenue agent.  The result will be the same.  Your life is worth more than money - even though "life" and "property" are both inalienable rights according to the philosophical musings of the American secessionists from Great Britain.

So again, once the money has been taken from us, it is no longer ours.  Government now owns it.  Of course they are going to spend it in ways we wouldn't - otherwise, they would not have taken it away from us.  They want to use it for different things - as it easily proven by the congressional pay and benefits system.

But some people will object and say: "But we have representation!"  Of course, we all know that there is something morally and politically repugnant about "taxation without representation."  We learned this watching School House Rock and other PBS programs (funded by, well, you know...).  But let's consider whether we have "representation" in this system.  We typically have no vote when it comes to taxes.  There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, we typically vote for candidates for office.  But once elected, they act as though they have a "mandate" to take our stuff.  So even if we grant the "representation" argument, unless we get to vote on every tax dollar, we really don't.  And even when we do vote directly on a tax, I will have to pay it even if I vote against it.  The majority is permitted to take from the minority.  On the school yard, this is called "bullying."  When adults who wear bandannas do it, we call it "gang banging."  When self-important people in suits do it, we call it "government."

And then there is the little problem of mathematics, of statistical significance.  If we are to pay a 9% sales tax on, say $103.29 - that means we "owe" $9.2961.  In fact, we will actually pay $9.30 - as the .61 of a penny gets "rounded up" to the next "significant figure."  When it comes to money, we round to the nearest penny - one per cent of a dollar.  Anything less than one percent is statistically insignificant.

So, if we are involved in an election with more than 100 voters, our vote is as statistically insignificant as rounding up a penny.  That is the "power" we have at the ballot box.  Typically, a voter is way less represented than one in a hundred, or even one in a thousand.  Often, millions of people cast ballots believing that their 0.0001 of a single percent is "representation."  People who would scoff at buying a lottery ticket with an infinitesimal chance of winning will restructure their entire day to vote - when it is as statistically significant as buying a Power Ball ticket - only without even a prayer of actually winning anything.  In fact, we can guarantee that quite the opposite will happen: we vote, and government wins the lottery!

Besides, if you buy that argument that we have "represenation," then we have already provided "consent" for them to "represent" us when they take our money.  We're a republic, remember?  We're not a democracy.

So if we're going to be intellectually honest, we should not complain about the way the federal, state, and local governments spend money that they have "collected" in taxes.  It's theirs to do what they want with it.  The real injustice is that they take  it from us in the first place.

Taking something that doesn't belong to you without your consent is wrong.

For government to be truly moral, it should truly be by consent of the governed.  We should pass around a collection plate like we do in church, or send out a mailing and ask for a donation, the way charities do.  That is consent.

And if government really ran according to the consent of the governed, with real, statistically significant representation, and if we were giving our money voluntarily rather than at the point of a gun - then we might have a legitimate complaint if we didn't like the way the money was spent.

I often think talk radio is not good for the mind or for the republic.  I guess I just proved one way talk radio can actually be good for both - listen for five seconds and expose the fallacy.  Then switch back to the rock station with your cerebral cells intact and enjoy the ear-bleach when the commercial is over.

Atlas is Still Shrugging

Above is a 2010 John Stossel segment on the controversial novel Atlas Shrugged by author-philosopher Ayn Rand, still a best-seller half a century after its publication.

Rand was a victim of the Bolshevik revolution who managed to emigrate to the states.  Her philosophy is known as "Objectivism," and it stresses individualism over collectivism, capitalism over socialism, reason over faith, and personal liberty over government intervention.  Atlas caused a firestorm when it was written, and still does today.

Rand's militant atheism, train-wreck of a personal life, abrasive personality, cult-like following, and disdain for altruism made her a controversial figure.  And yet her principled defense of the individual against the coercion and violence of the mob - especially the mob of meddlesome government and mooching bureaucrats - most especially when they collude with businesses to limit or eliminate competition - is hard to attack.  Graft, corruption, and parasitism are seldom good for economies or individuals.

Her novels are often filled with unrealistic flowery prose (more philosophical manifestos than real-world dialogue), flat characters, and often extend to proportions of a marathon when a 10k would have been a more appropriate pace.  And yet, her novels are refreshing over and against the mealy-mouthed postmodern literature so common today: filled with formulaic hand-wringing themes of gender, ethnicity, and predictable political correctness.  By contrast, Rand's "good guys" are heroic and unapologetically brilliant, and her "bad guys" are smarmy and loathsome - if not creepy.  There is no waffling from Rand as to where she stands, and she is not afraid to tell a story to project her philosophy.  And as wooden as her dialogue often is, as one-dimensional as her characters often are, I resonate with this quote from Doug Casey
I can't count the thousands of times I've seen people act in ways [Ayn] Rand depicted in her novel [Atlas Shrugged]. Heroic people struggling to innovate and create wealth; the intellectually dishonest refusing to question their superstitions; hypocrites who go through mental gymnastics to make excuses for themselves; and just plain dirtballs acting the way they always do.
The novel is in the process of being made into a trilogy of movies.  Part one came out last year.  Part two is due out this fall.  The plan is for the conclusion to be released next year.  The trailers for parts 1 and 2 are below.

No Christian is going to agree 100% with Ayn Rand.  And yet, based on different premises, Christianity does defend the sanctity of the individual, as well as confessing in the Ten Commandments that it is wrong to take the property of others.  Communism and Socialism were defended and championed by many prominent but misguided idealistic Christians in the 19th century.  One example is Edward Bellamy, the Baptist Socialist novelist who wrote two remarkable Utopian novels about what the year 2000 would look like in a Socialist America.  Rand's writings looked forward to a similar time-frame and concluded that, rather than a Utopia, Socialist America will be a tragic Dystopia.  

We 21st century Americans can look back on the great thinkers and storytellers Rand and Bellamy with the 20-20 vision of the entire failed (and bloody) experiment of Soviet Communism, now on full display in mankind's past to be dissected and analyzed.  We see where Bellamy's philosophy leads.  Planned centralized economies always destroy incentive, punish the productive, line the pockets of "crony capitalists" and government bureaucrats alike, cost mankind in terms of inventions that never happened and lives ruined by Big Government, and inevitably lead to gulags and concentration camps - all under the guise of "equality" and "fairness" and "social justice."  Rand exposes the Marxism of the Nanny State and demonstrates how even soft chains only serve to enslave the minds of men.

Though there is much about which to to disagree with Rand in her philosophy, there is also much that commends itself to us today in a world where the United States federal government has nothing to check its own power, and where the brightest and best are beginning to look for other places to call home rather than comply with crippling taxes and regulations here in the "land of the free." 

We may not be too far from finding "Who is John Galt?" uttered in whispers and scribbled on walls. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The True Father of the Internet

The Internet was not created by politicians, bureaucrats, or even the military. Wireless technology (including radio and television) was pioneered by the brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla (1856-1943). This is a provocative documentary about his life, work, and legacy.

Sermon: Trinity 6 – 2012

15 July 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 5:17-26 (Ex 20:1-17, Rom 6:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Can you just imagine what life would be like if our Lord came to abolish the law.  At first glance, this would be a wonderful thing.  Can you just imagine living a life free from worry about offending God, about breaking a law, regulation, or statute, a life of total freedom from punishment?  It sounds like heaven!

And yet there is a dark side as well.  If our Lord came to abolish the Law, that would mean it would be acceptable before God and man to “have… other gods,” to “take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” and to fail to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”  We could worship whatever gods we chose – according to our own desires.  We could even worship ourselves and our own money.  We could make our own names holy and treat God’s name as a common ordinary word to express surprise or anger.  And we could also be free to avoid worship and focus on things we find more entertaining or convenient – all without fear of God’s anger or punishment.

But there is more to this world of abolished laws.

Children could choose to avoid honoring their parents and other authorities, we could murder people we didn’t like, there would be no constricting rules regarding sexual conduct, we could take anything from our neighbor that we want, we could lie to anyone anytime – even in court.  And coveting that which is not ours could be a proper way of life – all without guilt. 

Chaos would reign.  Might would make right.  And anyone without the wealth or the physical strength to resist those of greater strength would simply have to surrender spouse, children, money, home, and life itself to anyone with the means to take them.

This does not sound like heaven.

For as long as we are poor, miserable sinners, we need the law: to curb us from bad behavior, to show us that we are sinners in need of a redeemer, and to guide us to a way of life in accordance with the Christian Gospel.

For the good news is this, dear brothers and sisters, the Lord did not come to abolish the law of the prophets, “but to fulfill them.”

“But to fulfill them.”

In our sinfulness, we fulfill nothing but our own greed, lust, hatred, jealousy, covetousness, self-worship, slander, rebellion against authorities, and ingratitude for the God who made us, saves us, and comes to commune with us.

And God does not relax the law for us.  The Law is the Law.  Just as the speed of light and gravity are laws, even as a triangle has three sides and the angles of a rectangle add up to 360 degrees, just as matter exists in three states, and can be converted into energy – there are laws that govern God’s creation.  They are what they are.

And the Lord’s created moral order is no different.  The Law is not retooled so that enough people pass to meet a quota.  “For I the Lord your God am a jealous God,” He says, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to thousands of those who love me and keep My commandments.”

The Lord expects us to “keep” the commandments.  There are no loopholes or shortcuts.  And we are not graded on a curve.  Our Lord says, “I have not come to abolish the Law.”

And so we have a dilemma.  We praise the Law for protecting us from others.  But we look for ways out of the Law when it protects others from us.  We want the Law in its perfection and severity when applied to those who wrong us, but we want excuses and exceptions when applied to our own transgressions.  That is the legacy, dear brothers and sisters, of our sinful nature.

And this is why it is good news when our Lord finishes His sentence: “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

For God, in His perfect justice, cannot declare evil to be good.  But God, in His perfect mercy, can, and does, absorb evil and return good.  This is what He did at the cross.  He endured the blows and the hatred and returned blessings and love.  He suffered agony and reproach and returned forgiveness and life.  He surrendered to death and burial and returned justification and everlasting life.

For He did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  “It is finished!” 

And so it is, dear friends.  He has rewritten the rules, not by throwing out the rules, but by turning those rules into reality.  To keep the fifth commandment is not merely to avoid killing someone, but rather to have loving and forgiving thoughts toward those whom we are tempted to hate.  We are to reconcile with them even as God reconciled with us.  For which of us deserves Christ’s mercy if we refuse to show mercy?  Our Lord teaches us that we are not free to insult others, rather freedom is not wanted to insult others.  And if we say “You fool!” we are liable to hell fire. 

The good news is that we are forgiven.  We are forgiven and we are bidden to forgive.  That is what it means to reconcile.  The Law has not been abolished.  But it has been fulfilled in Christ.  And that, dear friends, changes everything.

And so, “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” asks St. Paul.  Since Jesus has fulfilled the law, since Christ has paid for our sins at the cross, since we are baptized children of God – is this license to do whatever we please?  “By no means!” the apostle replies to his own question.  For “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Part of that fulfillment of the Law accomplished by Christ is that He has rescued us from sin.  So why should we fall back into the very thing from which we were rescued?  Why should we pretend that Jesus has abolished the law?  Why should we think that the Lord died so that we could live in that lawless world of might makes right, of lie, cheat, and steal, of despising God and hating our brother? 

“By no means!”

For, dear brothers and sisters, we have been baptized.  We have been born again.  We have been made into new creatures through water and the Word, through the blood, through the cross, through the Lord’s fulfillment of the Law.

If baptism has the power that our Lord and His Scriptures teach, then it means that baptism has power over sin – not simply license to commit more.  It means that we are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

And in this victory over sin, we have the ultimate promise – the ironclad Word of God that death itself cannot destroy us, that even the consequence of sin has been “fulfilled” by Christ, that death, the one thing that comes to all men and separates us from those we love – is for us redeemed by Christ – only a temporary thing. 

“For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

Though the Lord did not abolish the Law that sinners must die – He fulfilled the Law by dying Himself, rising again, and inviting us to follow Him in new life, in receiving mercy, in showing mercy, in obeying the Lord’s commandments, in receiving forgiveness when we fail, in showing forgiveness when others fail us, and at the end of time, the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

And so in that context, Can you just imagine living a life free from worry about offending God, about breaking a law, regulation, or statute, a life of total freedom from punishment?  It sounds like heaven! 

For the good news is this, dear brothers and sisters, the Lord did not come to abolish the law of the prophets, “but to fulfill them.”

“But to fulfill them.”  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Short History of the Passport

This article is not only informative as history, but a confirmation of why history is important to individual citizens and yet another example of how our liberties as free people continue to erode and degrade over time.  Fascinating stuff!

Where are you on the global fat scale?

This quick quiz (height, weight, age, sex, country) from the BBC based on world data will statistically calculate your BMI and then plot you on a graph showing where you stand within your own country as well as the world.  It will also give you a profile as to what country has people most like you in terms of BMI.

If you're too shy to plug in your own data, you can see a sample of five random people in London and where they fall on the scale.

Friday, July 13, 2012

On the Priesthood of the Lutheran Pastor

HT: The Rev. William Weedon:

Although Holy Scripture nowhere specifically calls ministers of the church "priests," we nevertheless admit that this word can be attributed specifically and in a sound sense to ministers of the church, and was so attributed by the ancients.  Just as Paul says that was "in the priestly service of the Gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:16), so also ministers of the church can be called "priests" not only in the general sense according to which all the devout are called priests but also in a specific respect, namely, inasmuch as they make a sacrifice by the preaching of the Gospel and offer to God "a pure offering" (Mal. 1:11); also inasmuch as they consecrate themselves in particular to God, have a specific concern for the poor, and pour out prayers for their own needs and for the needs of the church. 
— Blessed Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) , On the Ministry, p. 23.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Right To Secede by Joseph Sobran

The late Joseph Sobran's brief article may be the best short essay on the the right to secede, an especially poignant topic as the world celebrates the one-year anniversary (July 8) of the birth most recent African nation through secession: The Republic of South Sudan - a country where Christians have been brutalized by their northern neighbors and former countrymen in their mother country.  South Sudan joins the 13 original states of the United States in tribute to the right of political self-determination through the right of secession - which we Americans celebrated on July 4.

What is a Fan?

[Note: Cross-posted from here at Four and Twenty + Blackbirds]

"Fan" is short for "fanatic." A fan is a person with a passion. In fact, to be a true fan of something is to place it above all things. To be a fan is to have commitment and zeal - and maybe even in quantities that some might find excessive. A fan doesn't care about that. A fan pursues his passion with gusto. 

Many people claim to be football fans.  What does a football fan look like?  What demographic characteristics define a fan, say, of the local NFL team, or of NFL football in general?  It certainly isn’t related to factors like age, sex, or race.  Football fans come in every shape and size.  There is a universality among football fans that transcends such cultural and physical markers.  Football is transcultural.  It brings people together – even across boundaries of generation, education, socio-economic status, political affiliation, and physical appearance.  There is a mutual love of team and sport that binds this “otherness” into “community.”

Local communities of fans rally around the local team, gathering at specific times and at specific places, e.g. the local stadium or sports bar.  Fans gather to discuss, to sing the praises of the team, and at times even argue about what is best for the local franchise and for the sport in general.  Fans listen to talk radio, and maybe weigh in sometimes.  Fans watch the NFL Network and local sportcasts, and they likely read articles in sports newspapers, magazines, or the Internet.

Fans share their passion with those around them, perhaps wearing an identifying mark of the team or of the sport, or perhaps decorating their homes and property with such symbols.  There may be ritual words and gestures known to other fans when they greet one another, when they cheer something positive, when they lament something negative, or when they participate on game day.

Fans observe a cycle, a season.  There is the ever-new excitement of the draft, of contract negotiations, of new players coming on and old players departing, of the pre-season games.  There is opening Sunday.  There is a regular season.  There are the playoffs, leading to the culmination of the football year: the Super Bowl.  In addition, there are special occasions, such as all-star games and other events during the course of the year.  A true fan participates with, and joins in, the cycle of the season.  Even during the off season, there are things fans can do to hold onto their zeal.  The season provides a personal and community framework that is both excitingly fresh and comfortably familiar.

Fans have a reverence for the past.  There is a Hall of Fame, there are trophies and rings and sculptures.  There are statistics.  There are cards honoring iconic heroes.  There are tributes and feasts and opportunities to call to mind times of glory, as well as to commiserate times of trial.  Fans watch videos, read books, and talk with one another about what came before.

Fans are ever hopeful for the future.  No matter how terrible last season was, true fans come back with the faith and hope to look forward.  For they know that anything is possible “on any given Sunday.”  They stand by their team, win or lose - even when their heroes throw interceptions or fumble the ball.  They are always there to cheer their kicker through the taunts of the opposition.  They will greet the team at the airport in victory and in defeat.

Being a fan is a family affair.  Children are brought in at an early age – often as babies, being initiated and photographed with a ball or a team logo well before reaching an age old enough to decide for himself which team to follow – or even to be a fan at all.  In fact, a true fan feels more that the team and sport have chosen him, grabbed hold of him, and shaped him - and not vice versa.  There is a trans-generational character of family fan life as older fans pass on not only knowledge and factual  information, but also customs and traditions, to the younger fans.  These in turn will pass the heritage on to posterity.  Season tickets are sometimes put in wills.

Family life of a football fan family revolves around the game and the team.  The family is eager for Sunday to come.  And when it does, young and old gather in stadiums or around televisions.  There is often tailgating and grilling of food and the serving of drinks.  There is special food and ritual that goes with game day – both regular Sunday games and those outside the Sunday cycle.  Birthdays and holidays are specially blessed for fans and their families, as gifts often bear the images of their favorite teams and players.  Fan families may toss around a ball or participate more fully in the sport – in both organized and spontaneous ways.  Their homes and offices bear reminders of their passion, love, and devotion for the game.

There is often great social pressure to be a fan – particularly at certain times of the season.  Many people are quick to describe themselves as fans, but do not bear the fruit of fanhood.  They may think that a fan is someone who simply says that he is a fan.  Such people may wear a jersey on occasion, or even watch a game once in a while.  There are people who claim fanship only when the weather is nice, when the team is winning, or only on Super Bowl Sunday.  But one wonders if such people are just going through the motions, seeking the benefits of being a fan without bearing the cost of fanship.  There are indeed those who will abandon the team when it is losing, when the coach or owner makes an unpopular decision, when the ball bounces the wrong way, or when another distraction comes along competing for attention.  On any given Sunday, one can observe the motion of crowds to determine where people’s passions are to be found.

To be a fan is indeed to be a “fanatic.”  It is to love one’s passion above all things – to the point even of irrationality.  A fan’s life is governed - in time and space, in family life and social fabric, in good times and bad - by that which makes him what he is.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


All that's missing is the red wine and the dark chocolate!

Bonus: a blogger with a Christian view of "going primal."

Monday, July 09, 2012

Where Are They Now? | Mark's Daily Apple

Is the primal lifestyle sustainable in the long term?  Check out this Where Are They Now? feature from Mark's Daily Apple!

The Virtual Gramophone

Check out The Virtual Gramophone - a great idea to digitize and catalog old music - like from before Justin Bieber was born...  (HT: Kirk Lyons).

Old Habits are Hard to Break...

No, this is not a reprint from 1933.  The logos and colors have changed.  Other things are still the same.

Sure, the takeover is being completed with bureaucrats instead of storm-troopers, but the results are the same.  This kind of heavy-handed statism is the real danger of a German dominated Europe.  

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 5 – 2012

8 July 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 5:1-11 (1 Kings 19:11-21, 1 Cor 1:18-25)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Most people are familiar with the 1973 movie The Exorcist.  A lot of jokes have been made about it.  A lot of horror movies have been based on demonic possession thanks to this movie – which was in turn based on a novel written in 1971.  What many people don’t know is that the story is based on a real 1949 case of the exorcism of a young boy in St. Louis.  And the way the demon was finally chased away is interesting.

In the end, what finally brought peace to this boy and salvation and deliverance to his family was a word: a single word that the demon fought unsuccessfully to keep the boy from saying.  The spiritual battle over this one word calls to mind the line from A Mighty Fortress Is Our God concerning the devil: “one little word can fell him.”

And that word was “Dominus.”  It is the Latin word for “Lord.”  When the troubled boy confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, it was then that the evil spirit made way for the Holy Spirit, and the Word had His way with the demons who were conquered by the Word Made Flesh.  The Word Himself has power over every manner of evil, whether the Word is shouted from a rooftop or uttered in “the sound of a low whisper.”  The Word created all things.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  The Word of forgiveness was uttered from the cross.  The Word of the Gospel was given to the apostles to spread around the world.  And this word is that Jesus is Lord, that He is God and Man, that He died on the cross as a full atonement for our sins, that He rose from the dead, that He is coming again to restore paradise, and that we shall rise in our flesh to be part of this restored creation.  “Dominus!”

And that word is a word loathed by the demonic forces.  For it is a confession of Christ, of His majesty, of His victory over death and the grave, of His forgiveness of sin, of His grace, mercy, and peace.  “One little word can fell him,” and the Word does indeed fell the devil, dear friends!

In our culture, we admire loudness.  Our sports figures engage in trash-talk instead of sportsmanship.  Our movies value bigger and more outrageous stunts and special effects instead of quiet honesty and integrity.  Our politicians and pundits yell and scream and insult one another rather than calmly telling the truth.

And our churches are becoming loud entertainment halls with amplified music, huge screens, outrageous antics, bragging rights, bling, and bombast – instead of being meditative places of faith, of the Word, of the Good News, and of the calm assurance that the Lord is present with us, and for us, in the quiet but certain declaration that “this is My body… this is My blood… for the forgiveness of sins.”

And yet the Lord makes it clear that He is not in the “great and strong wind,” He is not in the earthquake, He is not in the fire.  Rather He is in the “sound of a low whisper.”  For truth is truth whether screamed in an amplifier or whispered by a frail and elderly baptized child of God on his deathbed confessing, to the chagrin of the devils and to the celebration of the angels, that Jesus Christ is “Dominus.”

But to the world, what power is there in the Word?  To the world, there is power in money, power in fame, power in physical might, power in political connections, power in dominating those weaker than oneself, power in mockery of the truth, power in the silencing of the “sound of a low whisper” by the siren of the world’s hatred of the Church and of the Gospel, of the Christ and of the cross.

“For the word of the cross is folly,” says St. Paul, “to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

This, dear friends is what baffles the world and what fills us forgiven sinners, what fills us baptized saints, with joy and with hope even as the world crumbles around us.  The Word is the power of God, for “we preach Christ crucified,” which is not a stumbling block or folly to us, but rather “the power of God” to save us, and it is the “wisdom of God” to bring us back into paradise and recreate us into what we were always meant to be.

Our faith is not in ourselves, our wealth, our strength, our armies, and most certainly not in our own righteousness.  As our forbears sang “one little word can fell him,” so too did they confess the power of the Word – the power of the preached Word, the power of the crucified and risen Word, the Dominus – over and against the power of the church’s might, the claims of popes, the compromises of the councils, the politics of the princes, or even the terrifying might of the Church and the state that had lost faith in the Word.

For ultimately, the confession of the Word is faith.  It is the faith of St. Peter after being told by our blessed Lord, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  For in spite of Peter’s unbelief, he believed.  In spite of Peter’s resistance, he yields.  In spite of Peter’s protest, he complies.  The word of the Word has its way with Peter.  For even in his stubbornness and pride, there is divine power reflected in St. Peter’s confession, in St. Peter’s surrender to the Word: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at Your Word I will let down the nets.”

“But at Your Word!”

This, dear brothers and sisters was St. Peter’s “Dominus,” the one little word that fells Satan, the Word of obedience uttered even as a “low whisper” in faith – even the faith as tiny and weak as a mustard seed.  For it is not Peter’s faith, but the Lord’s faith, given through the Word, that strengthens Peter, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

“But at Your Word,” Peter confesses, and the Lord works the great miracle of the great catch of fish.  And then a greater miracle happens: St. Peter’s confession “I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  For the confession that Jesus is “Dominus” leads to the confession of our sins, and the confession that Jesus took flesh to die in the flesh, to pay for our sins in the flesh, and to rise again in the flesh. 

But the miracles are only beginning.  The Lord works another miracle that day: the miracle of the forgiveness of sins.  “Do not be afraid,” the Lord says.  For Peter’s sins that are such a terror in the presence of the Lord are no more.  Peter has been made worthy to stand in the presence of Jesus, even as Jesus has humbled Himself to stand in the presence of Peter and the rest of us sinful men.  And there would be many more miracles, for the Lord was to work through St. Peter in proclaiming this Word of the cross: “from now on,” promises our Lord, “you will be catching men.”

We have been caught, dear brothers and sisters.  We have been caught in our sins and trapped in the net, not of the law and of condemnation, but rather in the net of the Gospel, rescued through water by the very Word that impelled St. Peter to put out into the deep, the same Word that is the power of God, the same Word by which we have eternal life: the Word Made Flesh.

Indeed, dear friends, one Word can fell the devil, and that Word is Jesus Christ our Dominus, the Victor over sin, death, and the devil, the Word of peace, the Word of hope, the Word of eternal life.


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Life imitates Art?

So, let me get this straight...

The president of the United States, the champion of "the little guy" and small businesses - who himself smokes cigarettes on the sly and wolfs down all kinds of things his wife tells the rest of us "little guys" we shouldn't eat - (and who also gets campaign funds from Big Tobacco) signs into law (smuggled in a (cough) "transportation bill") an act that puts small cigarette businesses out of business, causing "little guys" to lose their jobs - all at the behest of Big Tobacco, their lobbyists, and their allies in government.

And this was done with the full aid of the "opposition" party that claims to be for economic freedom, "job creation," and personal liberty.

Yes, this sounds just like an Ayn Rand novel...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Primal Update - Update

Left: May 17, 2012 - Right: July 5, 2012
Here is an update to my earlier update on my primal experiment.

Same pants, less fat.  I still have been very lazy about starting to exercise.  I am beginning (beginning!) to do some push-ups and I have been trying to do more walking.  Mrs. H. and I went on vacation for two weeks, and we both lost weight!  I'm down to about 145 - which is in the neighborhood of 30 pounds lost since I got rid of the starchy carbs about three months ago.  I just bought some 28-inch shorts (I believe this is the size of pants I wore in high school).  The 32-inch pants shown above were (not that long ago) pretty tight.  In fact, I actually had my gut hanging over - known as "Dunlop's Disease" - where one's gut "done lops" over one's trousers.

One thing that I am very glad that I did (actually Grace and I did this together and I recommend it to anyone wanting to "go primal") was to read Mark Sisson's book The Primal Blueprint.  The book is a kind-of owner's manual for the body - not for the whole body, but rather for the metabolism system.  He explains concisely the way insulin works and why the SAD (Standard American Diet) leads directly to what we are seeing these days: obesity, diabetes, increased allergies, and a frustrated backlash that goes too far the other way: people burning out due to "extreme cardio" regimens.  And, he points out a better way by means of his "blueprint."

Sisson's argument - though based on a mythological view of the origins of man - is that the SAD is a train-wreck right down to the cellular level, that our modern western diet - based heavily on grains and starchy carbs - runs contrary to our genetic programming.  He argues (correctly, I believe) that federal dietary guidelines are based more on the exigencies of lobbyists and corporate interests than sound science and principles of good health.

His "Primal Blueprint" is a way of once more aligning our lifestyle (diet, exercise, sleep patterns, etc.) with the way we were designed instead of the demands we put on ourselves in our frenetic modern life heavily influenced by Big Pharma and Big Media.  He compares two fictional families: one ancient and one modern, and shows why the current paradigm of eating a high-carb, low-fat diet, and being concerned with things like cholesterol, leads us to the lifestyle of being unhealthy and overweight and trying to recover our health with over-exercise and prescription drugs - which actually make the problem worse.

I have found his maxim that 80% of the key to health involves food rather than exercise, to be born out by experience.  And this is not a "diet."  If I really want a hot fudge sundae or a piece of pizza, I will have one.  But what I have found is, knowing the "cost" in terms of insulin production and fat storage (as opposed to metabolism), and knowing how good it feels to be in better shape - I simply find myself wanting such things less and less.  There are so many healthy and tasty alternatives (meat, oils and fats, nuts, fruits, seeds, and vegetables), why should anyone eat "junk"?  Living primally is not a list of rules and regulations, but rather a way of getting to know how your body metabolizes foods and how eating and exercise affect you - and making decisions based on this realistic paradigm.

Personally, I really love having more energy, carrying about 30 pounds less of strain on my joints, and knowing that I am rebuilding healthier tissue from the cell level up.  I get a lot more excited about that than eating a piece of cake or having a bowl of pasta or a plate of fries - though if I want to, I have the liberty to do so.  It is not the job of government to tell me how to eat, nor can government be trusted to protect my interests.  I think this is partially why the primal lifestyle is popular among more libertarian-minded people: it is taking personal responsibility for our health by making better choices and relying on ourselves instead of Big Government and Big Business.  Ultimately, what you eat and how you move your body is up to you.

When you "go primal" you see results fast, and you don't have to count calories.  The Primal Blueprint does provide links to a couple of websites that help calculate grams of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins based on what you are eating, and this can really help to identify areas that need to change in one's food intake on an average day.  But once the overall diet has been analyzed, there is really no reason to keep journals and look things up online.

Also, the book is practical and is a quick (and entertaining yet informative) read.  As for me, I can't argue with the results!  If you are thinking of trying this, there is a 21-day experiment that you can take for a spin, and then decide how to live the rest of your life based on your how body reacts - not on what laws and rules and guidelines lobbyists have convinced Wa$hington to pass, telling us what we should and should not be doing.

The choice is yours!

Update - Update (update):  I'm back in 28-inch pants!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Can anyone explain this?

I had not seen this until a recent trip to Kansas.  This is on display at Christ Lutheran Church in Hutchinson.

Why are unborn eagles protected, but not unborn humans?  I realize that abortion is a touchy subject and a there are sharp disagreements about when life begins and at what point a person is a person.  But the protection of an unborn bird (written in the criminal code) over and against the unprotected status of an unborn human are completely incongruous for any civilized society.

Once again, can anyone make sense of this?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 4 – 2012

1 July 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 6:36-42

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us this day just how edgy and controversial the Christian faith really is. 

Christianity is no religion for wallflowers who simply want to sing pretty songs in a cozy church building.  Rather, the Christian life is a paradox, a demand for the impossible made by Him who did the impossible and continues to do the impossible, even for us poor miserable sinners who are impossible.  For with God, all things are possible.

“Be merciful,” He exhorts us, “even as your Father is merciful.”  Jesus tells us to be like God.  After all, like Father, like son; like Father, like daughter.  Do we not pray to “Our Father who art in heaven”?

This is one of those paradoxes about God.  Our Father is merciful, even as He is just.  And yet in His perfect justice, one finds perfect mercy – even as His perfect Son died the death of perfect justice in the payment of sins in perfect mercy for us who deserved the punishment.  And then, the Lord tells us to be merciful in the same way.

“Judge not,” He says, “and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.”

So how does the Christian lead a life without judging and yet pursue righteousness?  How can the Church call sinners to repentance without being “judgmental” in the eyes of the world?  This is indeed a profound paradox.  The great doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, put it this way: “Hate the fault, but love the man.”  Just as a physician hates and kills cancer in order to serve and preserve the life of a man, so too should we Christians judge sin (according to God’s Word) and yet show mercy to the sinner (according to Christ’s cross).  For this is precisely how our good and merciful Lord treats us.

He judges our sins, He condemns our transgressions, and yet in love, He forgives our sins and pardons our transgressions.  He loves us poor miserable sinners while hating our poor miserable sins.  And this, dear friends, is why He calls us to repent: because He is merciful, because He loves us.

A controversial pastor likes to proclaim that “God hates homosexuals.”  He uses a more crude way of saying this.  But God does not hate homosexuals.  Jesus came into our world to save sinners.  God hates the sin of homosexuality – which His Word describes as a form of idolatry, a rebellion against the created order.  But Jesus died to forgive every transgressor of the sixth commandment – not to mention all of us who constantly and consistently break all the commandments in thought, word, and deed; intentionally and unintentionally; knowingly and unknowingly.

So when the Lord says: “Judge not,” is this license for people to live any way they want without the Church saying anything about it?  Is this a free pass to sin without comment from those who proclaim the Word of God?  Certainly not!  We are not to judge or condemn others.  We are to discern right from wrong.  We judge doctrine, we judge deeds, but it is not our vocation to judge people, to condemn people, to decide which people are saved and which are damned.  “Judge not,” warns our Lord, “and you will not be judged.”  God is the judge.  And thanks be to our Judge that He is merciful, that He sent His Son to die for us, and that He warns us and calls us to repent when we stray, when we begin to take sin lightly, when we play the hypocrite by judging others more harshly than ourselves.

Thanks be to God that in Christ, He loves the sinner enough to die for him as a Savior, and He hates the sin enough to die for it as a substitute. 

And when we point out the faults of others, we are like the blind leading the blind.  For we know our own faults better than anyone else.  We may think we know the faults of others, but this is only because we have a log in our own eye!  “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

The Church must call the world to repent before she can proclaim forgiveness.  And yet, too often, she seems to enjoy the former more than the latter.  We Christians are often unfairly accused of being “judgmental” because we cite Scripture to judge that which is evil and condemn that which is sinful.  But, dear brothers and sisters, we Christians are often rightly accused of being “judgmental” because we cite Scripture to judge our brothers and condemn that which we are guilty of.

We must be on guard against this hypocrisy which is not only a poor witness but is also sinful and spiritually poisonous to our souls – especially in an election year when politics often drives our faith.  We Christians are ever eager to condemn homosexuals, but become eerily tolerant of divorce, of disrespect to the husband as the head of the household, of lording over and even abuse of wives, of disrespectful behavior in the home and in public, of dirty jokes and pornography, of the badmouthing of spouses, of a cavalier attitude toward television programs and movies that belittle the very notion of marital fidelity and authority in the home.

“For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

We are also very good at spotlighting abortion: those who secure them and those who provide them.  Indeed, the Church must always have the courage and the integrity to defend life – all life – especially life that cannot speak for itself.  It is her prophetic voice which condemns the murder of children.  But it is not her mandate to condemn the abortionist or the people who make use of their services.

For as good as we are at marching, voting, putting bumper stickers on our cars, and protesting against abortion, we Christians are too tolerant of allowing our own children to be harmed by every manner of evil: highly sexualized and violent TV shows and video games, being lured into worldly ways at increasingly younger ages, not praying with them and for them, not teaching them the catechism and the Bible, not making sure that hearing the Word of God and taking part in the Divine Service is of the utmost importance in their lives.  And Christians are not exempt from being abusive to their children in thought, word, and deed.

“For with the measure you use…”

Dear friends, St. Augustine’s teaching is sometimes paraphrased as “hate the sin and love the sinner.”  And that is exactly what our Heavenly Father does with us poor, miserable sinners.  He hates our sins even as we brush them off.  He loves us sinners even as we brush Him off. 

But there is a warning to all of us poor, miserable hypocrites: “Take out the log!”  In our zeal for calling people to repentance, charity begins at home.  God loves sinners.  God dies to forgive sinners.  God rises again to justify sinners.  And God is transforming sinners into saints, judgmental scolds into loving examples of righteousness, hypocrites who emphasize the sins of others in order to ignore their own sins into humble men and women who confess their own sins and live out their lives in service to others – in mercy and in love.

Loving the sinner and hating the sin is a great paradox indeed – only resolvable at the cross – where our blessed Lord, motivated by hatred of evil, loves not His own life, and where motivated by love of His creation hates not His own death.  He embraces His cross for the sake of us poor miserable sinners, promising us forgiveness (not judgment) and transformation (not condemnation). 

And this peace, mercy, and love of God has been “given to you,” dear Christians, even as you give, forgive, and show mercy, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.”  For our Lord is no hypocrite.  He is merciful.  He has not come to condemn, but to save.  He is merciful, “even as [His] Father is merciful.”  Amen.
on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on

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