Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reflections on the Loss of Liberty

Judge Andrew Napolitano (former New Jersey Superior Court judge and FOX News analyst) holding forth on American History, the Constitution, Just War Theory, and the NY Yankees and Mets. An absolutely spellbinding talk!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sermon: Reformation – 2012

28 October 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 8:31-36 (Rom 3:19-28)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus preaches: “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Our Lord links truth and freedom.  Of course, the opposite of truth is a lie, and the opposite of freedom is slavery.  These two, lies and slavery, are linked as well. 

Not long ago, we prayed together, confessing before God the truth that “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.”  We are in bondage, dear friends, we are enslaved.  We are enslaved by a lie, an untruth, a sin that “infects us all,” from the Fall in Eden.  The lie: “God did not actually say…” is the all-enslaving untruth.  And the opposite of this bondage-laden falsehood is the powerful liberating truth proclaimed by Jesus, the Truth Incarnate, who says veritably: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

“The truth,” dear brothers and sisters, “shall make you free.”

This truth is confessed by the seal of Dr. Luther on the back of this chasuble.  It shows a black cross within a heart, confessing the truth that in the depths of our hearts, we are sinners.  And while the black inside the heart confesses sin, the cross confesses the truth of how that sin is forgiven.  Around the heart is a white Christmas rose, symbolizing the purity of the Christ child born as a shoot from Jesse’s stem into our black-hearted world.  This confession is surrounded by the gold ring of eternity, having no beginning and no end.  And the glorious truth of Christianity is declared in a little word, something that you don’t always see in representations of Luther’s Seal.  That “little word” is “Vivit.”  It is Latin for “He lives.”

He lives, dear friends.  Christ lives!  He who was slain for our sins lives, the Lamb of God lives, for He rose the victor over sin, the vanquisher of death, the conqueror of the devil.  Vivit!  He lives!

One group of Christians that certainly understands the relationship between truth and freedom, between the lie and slavery, is our sister Lutheran church in Russia.  For nearly all of the twentieth century, our brothers and sisters in the USSR were enslaved by a lie.  And that lie also began with: “God did not actually say…”  For the leaders of the Russian revolution denied there was a God at all.  They told the lies that Jesus was not God’s Son, that Jesus did not die for the sins of the world, and that Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Instead, they substituted a lie for a truth when they spoke of Lenin, the leader of the Russian revolution, whom true believers in the false god of Communism believed would be raised from the dead.  Children would sing: “Lenin lives” in school.  “He lives” they confessed about their false failed god whose dead body is still shockingly on display in a glass coffin in Moscow.  In that context, “he lives” is a great lie.  And this lie enslaved people for decades.

The red we see on Reformation Day, unlike the red of Communism, is a reminder of the blood shed by the martyrs who confessed the truth.  The Romanov family: the last Tsar of Russia who had resigned, his formerly-Lutheran wife, and their innocent children were murdered by Lenin’s thugs (called the “Reds”) in 1917.  They were told a lie that they were being photographed before being moved to the basement and shot.  The Russian people were lied to for decades about the fate of this Christian family whose blood was shed by the liars of Communism.  The Romanov’s bodies were destroyed and buried in a mine shaft in an attempt to suppress the truth.

But truth eventually comes out, dear friends.  Truth always trumps the lie, even if it takes a long time to do so.  And in the 1980s, the truth of the martyrdom of the Romanovs became known.  The truth that Communism is a lie, that Lenin does not live, that Christ lives, that God wants people to be free, that the state is not a god – all came out in the 1980s as well.  Today,  a magnificent Christian church stands in Yekaterinburg on the site where the blood of the Romanovs was shed.  It is called “The Church on the Blood.”  And the Blood of Christ is freely distributed, proclaiming the truth that He, our Lord Jesus, lives, and that He is true God and true Man, the Savior of the world.  The lie was told for decades, but the truth lives unto eternity.

There is another church nearby in Yekaterinburg.  It is a small Lutheran church called Sts. Peter and Paul.  The original church was bulldozed by the great father of lies Joseph Stalin.  The previous pastor was shot.  Today, the truth of the risen Lord is proclaimed by another Lutheran pastor in that revived Lutheran congregation, and the evangelical truth that the blood of Christ covers the sins of the world is proclaimed there.  One of the faithful who receives Christ’s true blood in that parish is Albina Becker, a lady who was deported to Siberia after her grandfather, a Lutheran pastor, had been shot.  Today, the USSR is dead and buried, along with Lenin and Stalin and the lie that the state is god, all the while the truth of the Gospel of the risen Lord Jesus Christ is proclaimed as His true body and blood are freely distributed for the true salvation of all who believe.

Albina’s ancestors, and those who went before us in the 1500s also confessed the truth over and against a great lie.  For they held the truth that we are saved by grace, through faith, and that this truth is confessed in Scripture – even over and against mighty popes and councils and other church bureaucrats.  And many of our pastors and people likewise shed their blood making this good and true confession.

The early Lutherans understood how the lie enslaves and how the truth sets free.  They understood that the Scriptures proclaimed the truth, and that anyone and everyone who sets himself up against the Scripture is a liar, and only enslaves people deeper in their sins.

It doesn’t matter how big the lie is, how important the liars are, or how long the lie is told.  One little Word of truth fells the lie along with the father of lies.  The lie had been told a very long time that the Lord’s atoning death on the cross was not all-sufficient, that there was a place for the dead to suffer their remaining sins being purged from them, and that by doing good works, one could purge away sins.  Later, it was suggested that this purging could be purchased.  Of course, these are ridiculous lies that made church bureaucrats rich and powerful.  There were other lies as well: that the saints can hear our prayers and do little jobs for us, that the pope had the power to speak infallibly, that salvation could be had by mere ritual apart from faith, and that lay people should not read the Bible.  

Our Lutheran forbears knew the truth, and they also knew the truth that “the Truth shall make you free.”

Once liberated from the lies of the medieval church hierarchy, the truth of the Gospel spread around the globe, liberating people from the lie of slavery to the church bureaucracy, and most importantly, liberating men and women and children from the bondage of sin through the preaching of that Truth that makes us free, Jesus Christ.

The Truth has indeed made us free, dear friends, the truth of the atoning death of our Lord on the Cross, the truth that “He lives,” the truth that although “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” nevertheless, we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… a propitiation by His blood, through faith…” and that we are “justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”

For we have joined Lutherans around the world hearing this  response to our confession, the liberating truth: “I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  And we have joined truth-loving Christians of every denomination and nationality, of every time and place, in being liberated by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ from our sins, by grace, through faith, as indeed is confessed in Scripture.  And with all our brothers and sisters we give our Lord all thanks and praise, for being the Truth that makes us free.  Moreover, we proclaim the glorious truth that “He lives,” now and forever.


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.

Albina Becker today worships freely at Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church in Yekaterinburg 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jesus, Rubrics, Football, and Intellectual Property

IP violations at 3:37 and 4:24?

I just read an intriguing essay on so-called intellectual property by Jeffrey Tucker ("A Book That Changes Everything" - from his collection of essays Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo) in which he recommends a seminal book (Against Intellectual Monopoly) on the topic.

This is a timely issue in this day and age of digital reproduction.  Is copying theft?

And what about patents and trademarks, not only of words, but of gestures?

How is it that a young professional athlete can drop to a knee on the football field to pray can now "copyright" an ancient gesture of submission to God?  What kind of a crazy world do we live in?  The athlete has now registered his name with the United States government as a synonym with the gesture that theoretically means he can demand royalties for it.  Now, I understand that the trademarked rubric is not mere genuflection (as done above in this clip from my first Mass (when You Know Who - are we allowed to say his name? - was barely old enough to drive) at 3:37 and again at 4:24 at the high altar of the magnificent Historic Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana), but also involves touching the forehead.  Fair enough, but I routinely do that when I kneel at my own ad orientem altar at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Gretna - as the height of the altar makes it happen sometimes without my even thinking about it.  Should I be thinking about a football player instead of Jesus when I genuflect?

I hope this young millionaire athlete doesn't come after me, my Church, or the Lord Jesus Christ for royalties, or sue us for breaking some kind of federal writ of IP.  Of course, this young man could become the world's richest man if he gets a few shekels every time someone reads Phil 2:10.  And how many other Christian liturgical gestures can be copyrighted by sportsmen?  Doesn't judo involve bowing?  Don't hockey players sometime cross themselves when they hit the ice?  And what about a water polo Ave Maria?

For the record (and may I say "after further review"?), I don't plan on changing the rubric of the Western Mass for the sake of anyone - not even someone as remarkable as a Really Important Football Player with the full weight of the federal law (here all may genuflect) of the USA and the bureaucracy of the NFL behind him.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Truth in the Coin Shop" by Jeffrey Tucker

Here is an insightful little essay by Jeffrey Tucker, written just a couple months before the Big Crash in 2008, when this essay would have been denounced and scoffed at by Respectable Economists and Politicians Who Know Best - even though Tucker's logic is unassailable.  But when it comes to The State, logic doesn't matter.  Statism is a kind of competing religion, which makes the "IN GOD WE TRUST" motto on American tokens and paper currency very clever.  Faith in The State has been shaken since the Big Crash, but its priests in Washington continue to exhort the faithful to bow down and pray the Keynesian rosary.

You can download two collections of Tucker's lively and thoughtful columns free of charge from the Mises Institute: the delightfully titled Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo (in which Truth in the Coin Shop is found), and It's a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes.  His latest work, A Beautiful Anarchy: How to Create Your Own Civilation in the Digital Age is not available for free, but can be had here at a very reasonable price, both in digital and in paperback formats.  I have not read it yet, but look forward to doing so.  He also speaks on this short video analyzing Ayn Rand's 1937 novella Anthem.

Not only is Mr. Tucker a great writer and free-market economist of the Austrian School, he is also a Christian of the Roman Catholic tradition and a defender of traditional music and liturgy.  He is the editor of The Chant Cafe.

So enjoy this taste of "Truth in the Coin Shop" and feel free (indeed, feel free, dear reader!  Don't you love the sound of that?) to follow the link to read all of it:

You are uptown in a shopping district of a small community, and you pass by the meat shop, the wine shop, the coffee shop, two churches side by side, a coin shop, an antique store … and hold it right there.

A coin shop? This is irresistible, because, as implausible as this may sound, all political truth can be found in a coin shop. And not just political truth: you find in here the story of the whole of modern life on exhibit, and learn more from looking than you find in a multivolume history.
There they are on display: coins from all lands. Why are they worth more than the coins in your pocket? Because they are old? That's part of it but not the essence of it. There are some new coins here that are also just as valuable as the old ones.
What is critical is that they are made of gold and silver. You can pick them up and tell the difference. They are heavy. Stack them and let them fall on each other, and they make a different sound from the coins that usually rattle around in your pocket.
It strikes everyone and anyone immediately. Somehow these coins are "real"; the coins we use today are not. But what does this really mean? And what does it imply?  Continue here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Unwelcome Pulmonary Visitor

I had a small piece of boiled egg "go down the wrong pipe" - which sent my body into a tizzy.  The lungs are not made to digest food, and sometimes, weird things can happen when things get out of wack.

The above article also shows the tenacity of life, especially given the Creator's implantation of DNA and life's ability to germinate and survive in the most extraordinary circumstances.

I wonder if the guy was able to keep the plant alive?

Girl Scouts Plant 100 Trees in Gretna

Here is an article about the October 13 event, and here are a few pictures.

The increasingly ineffectual Times-Picayune was on hand, but who knows 1) if and when there will be an article in the paper, and 2) if anyone will be able to find it on their webpage? [Note: it actually did make the paper here].

My parishioner Nina Poche was the coordinator for the event (several of my parishioners are members of the Girl Scouts as well).  Several representatives of the city of Gretna (namely mayor Ronnie Harris and councilmen Belinda Constant and Vincent Fox) were on hand and gave short speeches as a magnolia tree was planted in front of the soon-to-come Gretna Visitor's Center at Huey P. Long and 11th.

I was given the honor to open the event with a prayer, which went as follows:

The Lord be with you!

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

Hear the Word of the Lord from Genesis 1:11-13:

And God said,“Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.”

Hear the Word of the Lord from Genesis 1:28-29, regarding mankind:

God blessed them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”

Let us pray:

Lord God, Heavenly Father,

We give You thanks for the gift of creation, especially on this day for the blessing of trees given to us for food and for shelter.  We give You thanks and praise that these Your creatures reproduce according to their kinds.

We confess that we brought sin into the world through misuse of a tree.  We confess that we sometimes turn the creatures of nature into a false god.  We also confess that we sometimes abuse or take for granted the created order You have provided - treating ourselves as gods instead of stewards.

We acknowledge that Your Son came into our world and died for our sins upon the wood of a slain tree.  And in His name and by His authority, we appeal to You to bless these + trees and the + girls who plant them - in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We implore You to bless our community, that we may be good stewards of Your creation even as we seek to be humble servants of our Creator.  We offer these prayers, dear Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Bull (Market for Truth) in the Euro Shop

"There's a bull market for truth." ~ Lauren Lyster (at minute 4:58)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bukovsky on Power and Submission

Heroic Soviet dissident and author Vladimir Bukovsky

"We had grasped the great truth that it was not rifles, not tanks, and not atom bombs that created power, nor upon them that power rested.  Power depended upon public obedience, upon a willingness to submit.  Therefore, each individual who refused to submit to force reduced that force by one two-hundred-and-fifty-millionth of its sum.  We had been schooled by our participation in the civil-rights movement, we had received an excellent education in the camps, and we knew of the implacable force of one man's refusal to submit.  The authorities knew it too.  They had long since abandoned any idea of basing their calculations on Communist dogma.  They no longer demanded of people a belief in the radiant future - all they needed was submission.  And when they tried to starve us into it in the camps, or threw us into the punishment cells to rot, they were demanding not a belief in communism but simply submission, or at least a willingness to compromise."

~ Vladimir Bukovsky, To Build a Castle: My Life As a Dissenter, (New York: Viking Press, 1979), p. 33-34.

Bukovsky's conclusion follows in the train of the great 16th century French political theorist Étienne de la Boétie as expressed in his The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude.  Vladimir Bukovsky continues to resist Big Government in the form of large artificial political unions.

One has to wonder if we in the United States are moving toward a political prison state.  Is Vladimir Bukovsky's nightmare our future?  Just how much do we value our liberty in these United States?  

The only thing that will bring this disturbing trend to an end is when a critical mass of the people decide that enough is enough.  It will not be through armed revolt or violent resistance, but rather through ideas and peaceful discourse.  We need to win people over with our words and with our love for liberty and non-aggression.  There is a big difference between withdrawing consent and rebellion.  Bukovsky helped overthrow Communism in Russia without firing a single shot.  Guns and violence are absolutely useless in this conflict; real power is in ideas and ideals spreading from person to person.  The First Amendment trumps the Second - especially in a day and age when the federal government has even nuclear firepower.  In the battle for liberty, your iPhone & facebook are many times more powerful than Smith & Wesson.  And when the State starts putting people in prison for reading books, that is the beginning of the end of that tyrant.  They will eventually lose the consent of even the most brainwashed of the people.

There is light at the end of the tunnel!

A Free City-State (or Stateless City?) in the Western Hemisphere?

HT: Liberty Crier

FBN’s John Stossel interviews Michael Strong about his plans to build a “free city” in Honduras. 

This new State of the Art city-state, inspired by New York University economist Paul Romer, has the backing of the libertarian-minded government in Tegucigalpa. It has also received plaudits from noted economists, pundits, and policymakers across the globe since it emerged nearly two years ago. Many of these experts see the proposal as a real-world test of a set of economic principles that have been floating around academia since the 1980s. The thrust is simple: the most powerful tools for sparking growth and busting poverty are not just jobs and financial capital but a suite of intangible assets like fair government, reliable rules, and independent courts, plus something even bolder—allowing workers and investors maximum freedom to join or quit a market.

Blood-sucking Parasites and Ubiquitous Pests

Mosquitoes are blood-sucking parasites that have been causing mankind grief since the fall in the Garden of Eden.

Most of the time, mosquitoes are annoying.  They buzz around and sometimes manage to bite.  They inflict a small amount of venom.  Their wounds itch and cause a rash.  And we get drawn into a tit-for-tat game with them, appealing to the market to rid us of the pests.

Occasionally, the destruction caused by these evil little beasts is more than a little itching and a bit of lost blood.  Sometimes the little buggers are fatal.  And when they are, they can be a veritable plague of biblical proportions.

Now here is an example of the just how ubiquitous the pests are.

While enjoying the tail end of a delightful collection of essays by Murray Rothbard ("The Irrepressible Rothbard"), I decided to sit on the porch swing outside.  Preparing to meet the parasites head on, I asked my wife for the ingenious little Off! Clip On device that repels the pests.  The gadget needed a refill.  She glanced at the instructions, and immediately after the rubric "Directions for use" we learned the following:

"It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.  Read and follow all directions and precautions on this product label."


I know about the dire consequences of tearing of mattress tags, I remember the oft-told childhood warning about the protected federal status of praying mantises, I'm also aware of the dire consequences of a U.S. flag touching the ground, and was once told that using a gym treadmill without the little safety clip was a "violation of Federal law" - but this label thing was a new one for me.

How wonderful of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Office of the President and the Supreme Court of the United States of America to take interest in little old me, protecting me from myself from potentially misusing "this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling."  My gosh, what would we ever do without our dear Honorable Members and Commander-in-Chief to keep us from using "this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling"?  Can you just imagine the chaos, the horrific consequences if the Federal Government had not stepped in?  I mean, the State of Louisiana and the City of Gretna would have been paralyzed, crippled from protecting me from "use... inconsistent with its labeling" - not to mention my own common sense.  What would we ever do without bureaucrats - especially Federal Officials - to save us from the illegal scourge of "inconsistent" use?

I might have wedged the package of refills under my door as a door stop.  I might have used the thin envelope as a book mark.  I might have taped the packing to the wall as a form of pop-art.  Thanks be to God for Washington, DC for protecting hapless citizens like myself who are obviously at the mercy of the evil S.C. Johnson Company.  Without the Federal Government, who knows what might have happened to me this evening!  One shudders just to think of it.

And of course it goes without saying that the Interstate Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause empowers Washington, DC to have jurisdiction over how I use my little packet of Off! refills on my own property.  Never mind that I am not selling it, not crossing state lines with it, nor am I a member of the armed forces.  Never mind the 9th and 10th amendments.  Never mind that there is nothing in the Constitution granting the federal government jurisdiction over mosquito repellent being used on a private citizen's front porch.

Come to think of it, maybe mosquitoes are not the only "blood-sucking parasites that have been causing mankind grief since the fall in the Garden of Eden."

Maybe it is not only the mosquitoes that can be described thus: "Most of the time, are annoying.  They buzz around and sometimes manage to bite.  They inflict a small amount of venom.  Their wounds itch and cause a rash.  And we get drawn into a tit-for-tat game with them, appealing to the market to rid us of the pests."

Maybe this applies to other institutions besides mosquitoes: "Occasionally, the destruction caused by these evil little beasts is more than a little itching and a bit of lost blood.  Sometimes the little buggers are fatal.  And when they are, they can be a veritable plague of biblical proportions."

Indeed, maybe mosquitoes are not the only ubiquitous pests.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 21 - 2012

14 October 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 4:46-54 (Gen 1:1-2:3, Eph 6:10-17)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Wars are terrible, mainly because people die.  And typically it is the young people who suffer the most.  Wars make widows and widowers, but most often, wars make orphans.  And who is it that typically goes off to fight in wars?  Usually the young men.  They are the ones sent to the front,  to be injured, and to die.

The Lord Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  He has come to end the war against the Creator and against creation declared by the evil one.  Our Lord has come not so much to win a war, but to win the peace.  He has not come to kill more people on the other side, but to save the world from the ravages of sin, death, and the devil.

And as followers of Jesus Christ, we are enlistees in this army, we are the Church Militant, we are the ones equipped with armor to combat the “flaming darts of the evil one.”

One casualty in this ancient war was a young man who had been attacked by the enemy and was dying on the battlefield of life in this fallen world ruled by Satan and his minions.  A man who worked for the government was suffering because his son was “at the point of death.”  For this is what war does, it kills.  And this war is made on all of us whom God created in six days.  This war has waged so long that we have forgotten what peace is actually like – which is why God’s Word reminds us in the Genesis account of God’s creation, harking back to a time before the war began, a golden age of peace and prosperity. 

The decisive blow in this war was dealt when the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  When God became Man, He took control over the enemy. He enlisted His people into an unstoppable army that runs not on its stomach but on its faith. He Himself made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation by dying for us – and by rising again to life.  Today we await our General’s return to finally rid the universe of all death and destruction, of remaining sin and corruption. 

St. Paul reminds us of what it means to be a Christian.  The world thinks Christians are weak.  Sometimes I think Christians think Christianity is something we dabble in on Sundays, something that gives us suburban comfortableness,  something that makes us respectable in the eyes of society.

In fact, Christianity is the enemy of all that is respected in the world.  The world respects money and power, while Christianity believes these to be transitory.  The world respects positions of authority, while Christianity scoffs at the world’s self-serving pomp and circumstance.  The world glories in idleness and selfishness, while Christianity glories in working for the kingdom and in serving those in need.

Parents, do you really want your children to be Christians?  This means they will love God more than you.  This means they will follow a call to their Savior even if it means giving up a life of comfort to serve the Lord anywhere on the planet.  This means they will be willing to forsake anything and everything in order to perform the most menial tasks for the Kingdom.  To desire that your children be Christians is to want your children to have to put on armor and do battle against mighty “rulers” and “authorities.”  To be a Christian is not to get along with the world, fit in and not make waves.  To the contrary, Christians are ever eager to tweak the nose of the beast – even if it means a prison cell or a hangman’s noose.  “Take up your cross and follow me” – is this really what we want for our children?  To follow Jesus means a cross.  Nothing is more contrary to our culture.

The government official who sought Jesus may not have understood all of the ramifications, but he got this much: he did not want his son to die.  He did not want his child to be a casualty in this cosmic war between the evil one and the Creator – with all of God’s creation, “the heavens and the earth” – caught in the crossfire.

Our Lord criticizes the weak state of His troops: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”  How often this describes us, dear friends!  We want a sign.  We want proof.  We want something other than the mere Word of God to hold onto.  We want science to confirm what we believe.  We want the world’s approval of our faith.  We want to make sure we are on the winning side before we strap on the armor.  But here is reason for hope: the official did believe the Word of Jesus.  “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  This is faith in action, it is a prayer that Jesus has the power even over death.  It is a humble petition that acknowledges the Lord’s superiority.  Jesus said: “‘Go; your son will live.’  The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.”

The man believed.  The man believed!

This belief is what St. Paul calls a “shield” – “with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

And so, dear Christian brothers and sisters, dear fellow soldiers under the orders of Christ, the Christian life is not for those who seek clean hands and a light load.  Prepare to get dirty and muddy in the trenches, to be wounded and bloodied and to take up the battle against the dragon.  Train your children to be warriors, for our Commander and King is also our Savior and Redeemer.  He has come to liberate us from the enemy and to steel our hands for battle.

We are in the last days, and the stakes are high.  This is no time for cowardice and for malingering.  The Lord has achieved victory for us at the cross, and the shield that St. Paul speaks of is emblazoned with that emblem, the sign given to us at Holy Baptism.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Our Lord does not send us to the front unequipped, to be cannon fodder in a senseless war of glory for politicians, but rather He Himself leads from the front and calls us to charge with Him in the expulsion of sin, death, and the devil from the creation that the Lord made through His Word and by His will.

We are ready to fight, dear friends!  Even now when the battle is at its hottest.  We are baptized!  We are redeemed!  We are covered by the Lord’s body and blood.  We have the “belt of truth” and the “breastplate of righteousness.”  We have the Gospel of peace as shoes to protect our walk.  We have the “sword of the Spirit,” the only offensive weapon in our armory, and the only weapon we need.  With the sword, we can decapitate the dragon.  And that sword, dear friends, is the Word of God!

“Go; your son will live.”  Go, dear friends, you will live, your fathers and mothers, your grandfathers and grandmothers, your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters in the Church – will live.  For we have been given the shield as a free gift, the shield of faith that renders the attacks of the evil one as harmless darts falling to the ground.

Our Lord, the Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier, the One into whose name we have been baptized, the One who died and rose again, the One who fortifies us for battle by His body and blood, the One who has forgiven us all our sins and conquered death and the grave, the One who overcame Satan and promises us eternal life, is rallying us to final victory! 

And in this victory, dear friends, we will see the “very good” paradise restored, the dead will be brought to life, and the Church’s dreadful warfare shall end in glorious peace – now and even forevermore!  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.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Tommy Gunner on Espresso

This latest interview is classic Camille Paglia - my favorite lesbian left-wing feminist atheist professor.

Of course, I don't agree with everything she believes, and she is capable of some pretty over-the-top stuff, but hey, the world would be terribly boring if everybody simply agreed with me on everything.  Dr. Paglia is a thinker, a scrapper, a philosopher, a social and literary critic, pop-culture commentator, and interpreter of art who fearlessly articulates what she believes - with elan and erudition.  She is a feminist who outrages nearly every other feminist, a Democrat who praises the Republicans, a "liberal" who was a guest on Rush Limbaugh, an atheist who defends religion and pulls no punches when it comes to the modern atheist elite.  She is a true scholar.  If you read or listen to her, she will make you think, will challenge your premises, and will give your intellect a workout.  And just when you think you might be able to predict which direction she is headed, she will zag back and hit you upside the back of the head with a two-by-four before you can even turn around.

Camille Paglia is fun!

I got to see her lecture at Haverford back in the late 90s when Mrs. H. was a McBride Scholar at Bryn Mawr College.  Miss Grace was in the trenches doing battle against irrational and totalitarian Gender Feminism as it was being pushed on hapless students by dour-yet-smirking baby-boom faculty members - who were, by the way, all there when the diminutive lady professor swaggered to the podium like a tigress looking for something to toss to her cubs to play with.  It was as though the movie suddenly switched from drab Soviet-style black-and-white to full-blown HD color.  Paglia unleashed a mile-a-minute tirade that would not let up - off the cuff, laden with facts and figures, teaming with history and art, pop culture, rock and roll, political philosophy and literary references - all punctuated by quick breaths - a Tommy gunner on espresso.  She took fearless aim at every one of the Sacred Cows of Gender Studies.

The smirking guardians of Gender Feminism slinked away licking their wounds as Paglia held the field and held forth for hours.  Her talk began at 7:00 pm and she was still fielding questions at 1:00 am. when Mrs. H. and I finally left - toting our Camille Paglia books that we had brought with us to be signed by the author - who spoke with us in person with a humility and kindness that was almost shocking after her overwhelming stage persona.

And yet, it was not just an act.  What you see is what you get.  She is as real as they come, and doesn't play around trying to fit in or craft an acceptable image.  She can fit in with anyone.  She can offend anyone.

Here is the final three paragraphs of her interview, strafing such topics as homeschool mothers, the Tea Party, religion, atheism, art, the Democrat and Republican parties, pop culture, the 1960s, and drugs.  Take a deep breath, put on your seat-belt, count to ten, and pull the ripcord:
No, the Republican Party has become very provincial in terms of culture. Nelson Rockefeller, in contrast, was a collector of first-rate abstract art! That’s one of the things I’m trying to remedy with my book. One of my target audiences is home-schooling moms — whose powerful voices I heard calling into conservative talk radio at the dawn of the Tea Party. They are formidable and capable personalities whom feminism has foolishly ignored.
I don’t like the situation where the Democratic Party is the party of art and entertainment, the party of culture, while the Republicans have become the party of economics and traditional religion. What that does is weaken both sides. One of the themes in my book is the current impoverishment of the art world because of its knee-jerk hostility to religion, which is everywhere. That kind of sneering at religion that Christopher Hitchens specialized in, despite his total ignorance of religion and his unadmirable lifestyle, was no model for atheism. I think Hitchens was a burden to atheism in terms of his decadent circuit of constant parties and showy blather. He was a sybaritic socialite and roué — not a deep thinker — whose topical, meandering writing will not last. And I’m no fan of Richard Dawkins’ sniping, sniggering style of atheism, either. 
A responsible atheist needs to be informed about religion in order to reject it. But the shallow, smirky atheism that’s au courant is simply strengthening the power of the Right. Secular humanism is spiritually hollow right now because art is so weak. If you don’t have art as a replacement for the Bible, then you’ve got nothing that is culturally sustaining. If all you have is “Mad Men” and the Jon Stewart “Daily Show,” then religion is going to win, because people need something as a framework to understand life. Every great religion contains enormous truths about the universe. That’s why my ’60s generation followed the Beat movement toward Zen Buddhism and then opened up that avenue to Hinduism — which is why the Beatles went to India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Then it all disappeared, when people became disillusioned with gurus. But spiritual quest was one of the great themes of the ’60s that has been lost and forgotten — that reverent embrace of all the world religions. This is why our art has become so narrow and empty. People in the humanities have sunk into this shallow, snobby, liberal style of stereotyping religious believers as ignorant and medieval, which is total nonsense. And meanwhile, the entire professional class in Manhattan and Los Angeles is doping themselves on meds and trying to survive in their manic, anxiety-filled world. And what are they producing that is of the slightest interest? Nothing. Nothing is being produced in movies or the fine arts today (except in architecture) that is not derivative of something else.

Faith and Hope in Siberia: Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin

The Rt. Rev. Vsevolod Lytkin, bishop of SELC
 [Note: This is from Faith and Hope Newsletter #216 from the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church and it has the remarkable story of Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin and his incredible journey to the Christian faith from childhood in the atheist Soviet Union.  The bishop is at the same time one of the most remarkable and most humble men I have ever met, a model for how pastors and presidents in the LCMS ought to live the life of churchmen among 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" (Acts 20:28)  - Ed.]

Peace to you dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Recently our Bishop Vsevolod celebrated 25 years of his holy baptism. 

He didn’t make it public. But we remembered it anyway and decided to ask him to tell us how it was in that distant Soviet time.

Here goes the Bishop’s story: 

"I was baptized as an adult; it was my conscientious choice. As majority of people in the Soviet Union, I was not baptized as an infant, and nobody told me about God.
I was born in Akademgorodok (University district of Novosibirsk); my parents were scientists, both of them holding PhDs in Mathematics. As many scientists, they were in opposition to Communism. Of course, it was a “quiet” opposition, they did not participate in the public actions of protest and did not go out to a central square, but they were critically inclined toward the regime.

Very often I heard how they sit in a kitchen with the friends and disapprove Soviet regime. While falling asleep, I heard from another room my parents listening to the “Voice of America” and the “Radio Liberty” at the small transistor radio receiver. These radio stations were silenced in USSR, but one could hear certain programs from time to time.

My parents taught me critical thinking so that I would not be gullible towards official propaganda. If the authorities said “yes,” we understood it as “no” and vice versa.
In a way, it was my parents who were responsible for me coming to faith. Because when I heard that God did not exist, I thought, what if He did, what if He were out there? This is how my parents taught me to think.

At that time the Bible was the forbidden book. And one could learn about religion only from the atheistic books. Thus, the atheistic books have become the main books for me. I found out much about Christianity from them. Of course, these books spoke about Christianity only to criticize it, but we were the Soviet people, we knew that if they said “no,” it meant, “yes.”  If they say there is no God, then, perhaps, there is.

I’ve read dozens of books; I carefully wrote down Biblical quotations from them, I tried to get them in order so as to understand what the Bible was talking about.  

When I finished school, I practically thought of myself as a believer. And I knew a lot about different confessions from the books, and I realized that it was the Lutheranism that was the purest Biblical teaching. Of course, there was also a terrible mess in my head at that time, as nobody was teaching me.  

(By the way, I am still sure that it is Lutheranism that confesses the purest evangelical doctrine.)
I knew that I had to be baptized, and finally I have decided to go to Leningrad (which is St Petersburg now) and from there to Riga (it was a capital of the Soviet Republic of Latvia at the time).  I knew there were Lutherans there, and I hoped I would be able to find an open church there (all the Lutheran churches in Siberia have been destroyed) and ask to be baptized.
It was supposed to be a long journey of about 2,500 miles, but it was no problem for me: inhabitants of Siberia are used to such distances. I came to a train station in Leningrad and tried to buy a ticket for a train to Riga. But there were no tickets available.  Instead there were tickets to Tallinn (capital of Soviet Republic of Estonia). So I went to Tallinn.

Later on I thought about it on a number of occasions: what if I had gone to Riga then? I would have become then a member of theLatvian Church instead of Estonian. It is interesting how life turns out sometimes.
I went out to look for an open church in Tallinn and found it not far from the train station. It was the Holy Spirit Church.  There was a guard there who spoke some Russian.  We talked about politics. I said that I sympathized to Estonians that their country was occupied by the Soviet Union.  The guard said: “Oh, you are a good man. But you are Russian; you must be baptized in the Orthodox Church”. I answered: “No, no, please, I came here specially.”
He said: “Fine, come tomorrow then, there would be wife of a parish priest here, you can talk to her.”  Next day I came and got acquainted with the wife of the priest Jaan Kiivit (the future Archbishop of the Estonian Church). She happened to be a very kind and intelligent woman.

Bishop Vsevolod with Archbishop Jaan

And still one day later I met Jaan Kiivit himself. He gave the Luther’s Catechism to me and said that I should go home and memorize it, and then he would baptize me upon my return. I said that I came a long way to be baptized and that I could not go back home unbaptized. Then he gave me three days and said that I should know Catechism by heart.
I did not have a place in Tallinn where to live and I had almost no money, so I spent nights at the train station. It was warm there. Various homeless and drunk people gathered there in the evenings, and I slept in their company. I memorized Catechism in three days, and Jaan Kiivit baptized me. I returned to Novosibirsk already a Christian.
And then step-by-step people came around who were interested in Lutheranism, and we began to gather together and read the Bible. But this is another story."
Please, pray with us for our Bishop Vsevolod, and pray for many people in Siberia to be able to hear the Gospel, believe and be saved.

“Faith and Hope”

Father Vsevolod's priestly ordination in Talinn

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Best Video on Civics Ever!

5.4 million hits and counting!

Gas prices and politics

The price of gasoline is a barometer of the economy.  At any given time, we can check the price at the pump and then compare it to a later date.  This gives a snapshot of the health of the economy.

It also makes it easy to blame the political party that the president happens to belong to.

I filled up my motorcycle today (1.9 gallons) and it cost me nearly seven bucks.  I was thinking about how it wasn't all that long ago that I routinely filled my car tank for seven bucks.  And now I know who is to blame.  I know which political party has controlled the presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate since that time.

It's those blasted Democrat-Republicans.  The DR party has been in power in the U.S. since decades before the Russian Revolution, and have won every election up to the present - twenty years after the collapse of the USSR.  The DR party has bankrupted the country, especially since their 1913 coup that created a central bank, and the bursting of the 2008 housing bubble.  Priced in gold or silver, gas prices have actually remained pretty stable.  It's the dollar that has actually become virtually worthless under the Democrat-Republicans.

I'm guessing they will be re-elected this year.

I don't think we can vote them out any more than the Russians could vote out the Commies.  Maybe when gasoline is a few trillion bucks a gallon (like in Zimbabwe) even the Democrat-Republicans will have a tough time filling the tanks of their limos and government jets and won't be able to indolently and maliciously control our lives from their marbled halls.

We just have to think positive.  We have got to keep voting them in.  And paper money is the way to go!

Helicopter Ben says we're good to go!  Woo hoo!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Joe Cocker, Jesus, and New Orleans

Above is a "closed captioned" (lol) video of Joe Cocker's 1969 Woodstock performance - which includes Jesus and New Orleans.  If this doesn't crack you up, you are definitely "humor impaired."  Speaking of Joe Cocker and humor, here is the late John Belushi's impression.  And if that is not enough, check this out!

Below is last night's epic performance of "With A Little Help From My Friends" by the now 68-year old Joe Cocker at the Mississippi River Levee in Gretna, Louisiana overlooking the New Orleans skyline. I did video it, but my phone ran out of juice before the conclusion. A lot of people were filming, so this is someone else's YouTube. Cocker performed for an hour and a half, and really rocked it. Age has slowed him down - but only a little. He can still scream, growl, and hit the high notes in that Ray Charles-like gravelly British-bluesy voice. I was blown away. It was really a good call to bring Joe Cocker to the Gretna Heritage Festival. What a joy!


Sermon: Trinity 20 – 2012

7 October 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 22:1-14 (Isa 55:1-9, Eph 5:15-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord speaks in parables for many reasons.  One advantage of parables is that they are open to different interpretations.  There is a central message of every parable – but the same parable can be applied to any time or place.

The Lord’s Parable of the Wedding Feast is about those who are invited into the kingdom, but take that kingdom for granted.  The Lord patiently repeats his invitation over and over.  “Come,” He pleads.  The Lord even tolerates a certain amount of stubbornness and even abuse.  And yet He continues to invite: “Come!”  But eventually, the Lord withdraws the offer and calls in other people into the kingdom.

Of course, the Lord is speaking of the Old Testament people of God, the children of Israel, and the rejection of the Messiah by most of them.  When the Lord’s own dear people turn against Him, the Lord’s mercy is directed to Gentiles, and the kingdom begins to be filled with them.  He invites them to take the vacant pews: “Come!”

That is certainly one interpretation, and it is a correct interpretation.  It’s also a comfortable interpretation for us.  But this parable was not recorded in order to make us glad that we’re not Jews.  The Lord is warning us, dear friends.  For just as surely as first century Jews in the Roman Empire found other things more important than the kingdom, so too do we twenty-first century Lutherans in America.  Perhaps even more so.

For the Lord is still throwing a banquet, a feast, a holy meal of thanksgiving – and that banquet is offered in this place twice a week.  The Lord is still inviting His beloved people to come, to dine with Him, to receive the gifts of forgiveness and life and salvation, to hear the Good News, to pray, praise, and give thanks, “making melody to the Lord” with others who have been called. 

And yet, how few answer that invitation.  The Lord calls servants to invite the guests again and again: pastors and elders and lay people, calling us to come and dine, enjoy the Lord’s richness and mercy, “but they would not come.”

He calls yet again and again.  He invites yet again and again.  He sets the table of the Holy Altar yet again and again, week after week, month after month, year after year, “but they would not come.”  And again He pleads: “Come to the wedding feast.”  But “they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.”  Instead of attending the feast, the invitees work, they play, they find other more important uses of their time.  They teach their children through their absence that the kingdom of God is unimportant, and that Jesus is unimportant in our lives.  Unimportant.  They confess before the world that Christianity is a hobby at best, certainly not anything of importance.  “One to his farm, another to his business.”

And when the servants of the Lord reissue the invitation, when the pastor or the elders or loving family members call or write or visit, many respond angrily or defensively – as if their willful and longstanding absence from the Lord’s Feast is no-one’s business but their own.  They may well insult the one who loves them enough to re-invite them to the feast, “while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”  And here is where it becomes frightening, dear friends, here is where we shudder for our beloved family members, friends, and fellow Christians who continue to refuse to come to the feast: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘the wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.’”

Dear brothers and sisters, please hear these words: the Lord is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”  But the Lord is also just, and when His mercy is rejected and spurned, He will not force Himself on anyone.  He called Noah to build an ark and called Noah to invite the people to be saved from destruction.  But when they would not answer the invitation, when they would not come, God Himself closed the ark and sent the cleansing flood.  Their foolish pride was drowned with all life, except for the eight souls who responded when the Lord said, “Come.”

Our Lord’s parable is a warning, dear friends.  It is a warning for us to be diligent in our continuous and ongoing battle with our own sinful flesh and with the devil.  It is a warning that we must plead with our family members, our fellow parishioners, and others who continue to spurn the Lord’s invitation, to come back!  Come to the feast!  Come without defensiveness or excuse.  Just come!  Come and taste the Lord’s goodness and feast on His mercy!

“And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good.  So the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

This invitation is a common thread running through the Bible: “Come,” cries the prophet Isaiah, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

For indeed, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food…. Come to Me, that your soul may live.”

“Come to Me,” says the Lord, “that your soul may live.”

Those who reject the invitation, those who find farm and business, hobby and entertainment more important than the Lord’s Supper, are killing themselves spiritually, cell by cell, poisoning themselves with “that which does not satisfy.”

Dear friends, “come!”  Come one and all, “both bad and good,” come back to the feast!  Bring your brothers and sisters, your friends and relatives who have forgotten just how sweet the Good News of Jesus Christ is, just how satisfying the Feast is, how glorious is the Lord’s Word and forgiveness. 

Hear anew St. Paul’s invitation: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish… understand what the will of the Lord is….  Be filled with the Spirit.”  Sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Just come.  And when you are tempted to stay away, when Satan gets the best of you and convinces you not to come, that is when the invitation is all the more important. 

Don’t wait for the door to close – whether it is the door of the Ark, the door of the church building, or the door of your coffin.  Now is the day of salvation!  Come!  “Seek the Lord while He may be found,” says the holy prophet.  “Call upon Him while He is near.”  Come!

“Come to the wedding feast!”

Among the last words spoken to us by the Lord Jesus Christ in the last book of the Bible, the final revelation to us before His return, the Lord Jesus re-issues the invitation in this age of grace, in the time of this window of opportunity, these final days in which the door is unbolted and open: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

And “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!”

In the name and by the authority of the One who is coming, who has called me to call you, I say to you again, “Come.”  “Come to the wedding feast.”  Come week after week.  Come and hear the good news.  Come and feast on Him who is coming soon.  Come to the table where the sacrificial Lamb is served.  Come to Him who pleads with you to come.  Come, “return to the Lord… for He will abundantly pardon.”  Come!


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.