Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Waiting for Isaac - but not like Abraham and Sarah

Hurricane Supplies

Tropical Storm Isaac is on the way.

It is likely to become a hurricane.  There is a good chance that we will take a direct hit.  It is possible that it will hit as a category 2.  It's not likely that we're looking at Katrina-level devastation, but you just don't know until you know.  We were prepared for Grace, Leo, and our five indoor cats to head out to Georgia in case of an evacuation - while I planned to stay behind in case I'm needed here.  However, over the course of time, the consensus emerged that we should all hunker down and weather the storm together.  And so that's what we are going to do.

We have prepared our best, so we wait and we pray.  And we hope our outdoor feline friends survive.

We bought ten gallons of water, as well as a good number of cans of meat and vegetables.  We got the generator gassed up, tested, and ready to keep a little power on in the house in the likely event that we lose electricity.  We stocked up on cat-food, lunch meat, coffee, and wine.  And as a tribute to Miz Grace's forethought and devotion to the mental well-being of the family, she padded the pantry with a few bars of Green & Black's organic dark chocolate.

Did I marry the right one, or what?

Even though this hurricane is not a monster like Katrina, for New Orleanians, there is still a sick feeling in the pits of our stomachs.  The horror of seven years ago (to the day this coming Wednesday) is still fresh in our minds - as well as the familiar sights of boarded up store fronts, the 24-7 meteorological coverage, the somber warnings of elected officials, the ghostly empty streets, the ever-changing computer models and ever-shifting "cones of anxiety," and the seemingly endless debates about the fitness of our levee system.

Some people are evacuating, some are staying behind.  Offices and schools and stores and other businesses have been closed, even as other professionals, such as medical and police personnel, have been put on alert and must work until further notice.

At this time (Monday night, August 27), some of the news bodes well, some not so well.  Some of the models project us being on the "weak" side of the storm, some are calling us to get pounded.  The storm is still considered only a tropical storm, and yet it is slowing down in its movement across the Gulf - which threatens us with worse flooding when it arrives.  In spite of all the kings technology and all the king's men, no-one knows just where the storm will hit, nor how strong it will be.

  Round and round she goes...

We have no choice but to wait and see.

Our family decided not to dip into our food supply this evening, and we did the stereotypical New Orleans thing: we went out to eat.  None of the fast food places were still open.  But life experience teaches that when all the restaurants seem to be closed, go for Chinese.  Wasn't that one of the lessons of the movie A Christmas Story?

This is a Chinese food day in the City of Brotherly Love!

We learned that lesson nearly 20 years ago in Philadelphia.  One winter, after the entire state was deluged in snow, the governor declared a state of emergency and closed all the roads.  Our cars were buried.  The businesses were utterly deserted.  Aside from military and first-responder vehicles, the streets - even the always-busy U.S. Highway #1 - were eerily dead still.  Nevertheless, our local Chinese restaurant was open for business.  The proprietor, an elderly lady we called "Grandma," greeted us at the door in her usual cheerful and energetic way.  She really was like our grandmother - and we enjoyed every meal we ever had there.  She never closed the restaurant.  Not even on the governor's orders.

Fast-forward to today...

A hurricane-ready primal Asian meal

This evening, we headed to Chopsticks.  Sure enough, they were open.  Instead of NFL, NBA, or world soccer matches, the televisions were carrying coverage of the storm.  We always enjoy speaking a few (a very few!) words of Chinese with our waitresses - who are always friendly and fun.  I learned that the Mandarin word for "hurricane" is 颶風 - which to western ears, sounds a bit like "typhoon."

New Orleans is blessed to have a vibrant Asian community with a lot of Vietnamese immigrants.  Earlier in the day, we realized that we could not locate our emergency stove that runs on small cans of gas.  We have the cans, but not the stove.  At this stage of the game, we were highly unlikely to find anything of the sort at Pep Boys or WalMart.  So, I headed over to Hong Kong Market - and found loads of them in stock there.  A lot of Asian immigrants shop there (and work there), and nearly every customer today was buying the little gas stoves.  It struck all of us as funny.  Even though we could not speak the same language, we were all thinking the same thing.  I am always impressed with the management and the employees of the store - all of whom are Asian immigrants.

Some people complain about immigrants.  As for me, I am happy there are so many Asians here.  I especially find members of the local Vietnamese community to be industrious, innovative, friendly, gregarious, and though the immigrants often have trouble learning English, their children have no difficulties at all.  In fact, it is almost a stereotype to see young Vietnamese women at Starbucks or Barnes and Noble studying - even though we have also seen quite a few young men who are on the playboy/ne'er-do-well side, with expensive cars, spiffy clothes, not in the Starbucks or Barnes and Noble with their textbooks and flashcards.  Hopefully, they will do a little better for themselves than Prince Harry.  If nothing else, their wives (or sisters) will keep them in the kind of lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

Though local older Vietnamese immigrants are mostly Buddhist, the younger Vietnamese population is  overwhelmingly Christian.  On one occasion at the Vietnamese-owned Cherryberry, we saw two teenage girls studying the Bible - both obviously immigrants - while one was reading explaining, and translating to the other, in great detail, a narrative from the Old Testament.

I'm sure I will be offending someone by singing the praises of the local Asian community - but I'm not going to apologize for saying good things about the folks I deal with on a day to day basis.  At the expense of being called a "lib-rul," I do believe they add to the gumbo-bowl of our unique cultural melange here in Southern Louisiana.

When we left the restaurant, the sun was setting, and yet there was a huge rainbow spanning the darkening sky.  I was reminded of two things: 1) a song by Ronnie James Dio, and 2) the promise of God not to destroy the world again with a flood.

Kyrie eleison!
So, may God have mercy on us.  If we can get through yet another hurricane on yet another August 29, perhaps this will be one more step for us on the road to recovery and rebirth.  We pray that the levees hold, that there be no loss of life, no significant property damage, and that we emerge stronger, more compassionate, and even more prepared as a community and people.

And barring that, we have wine and chocolate.  So I think it will be okay.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Love It or Leave It" or "Government By Consent"

Historian, economist, and political analysist Dr. Thomas Woods addresses a common line of reasoning that says that if you live in America, you implicitly consent to its government.

This short video is a helpful reply to those who would quell dissent with the reply: "Love it or leave it." I enjoy Dr. Woods's conversational and common sense approach to political and economic philosophy that is anything but dry and boring.

 Be warned: Tom Woods will make you think, re-think, and maybe even make you reconsider your past assumptions!  In short, he is a great thinker and teacher - one who makes it fun to use your brain cells!

Power Packed Paleo/Primal Podcast

Here is an outstanding short interview with primal/paleo expert Robb Wolf.

How often do you get free information from someone (with proof that this stuff work)s who comes out and says: "You don't have to buy the book."

You don't need to buy pills, powders, gimmicks, or gadgets.  There are no special meals to buy, drinks to load up on, calories to count, or gyms to join.  Just make a few basic changes in your approach to your body - especially in the choices that you make regarding eating.  Try it for 30 days!  It could not only save your life by preventing you from getting diabetes and heart disease, making you more resistant to auto-immune disorders and even cancer - it could save wear and tear on your joints and cardiovascular system, increase your longevity, and just plain make you feel better.

I have not yet read any of Robb Wolf's materials, but from this interview, his philosophy is very similar to that of Mark Sisson.  Again, take a month and try this and see if the federal government, Big Pharma, the corporate food industry, and the medical establishment have been telling you the truth.  This is not a matter of opinion, but is rather demonstrable and measurable in a way that can absolutely change your life for the better.

Anybody can do this!  Prepare to be amazed at how easy it is to be healthy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Joyful Introduction to Murray Rothbard

Our economic and political education is so woeful in America, that aside from a few talk radio entertainers, anyone with anything to say on economics is largely unknown.  There is even more ignorance when it comes to the modern liberty movement - whose detractors only seem to be able to conjure up Ayn Rand and point out that she was an Atheist and not a very nice person to boot.  Rand seems to be appearing recently in political cartoons and even in popular culture references - usually treated as an evil and vile person whose ideas are worthless.  The shrillness of it ought to give any reasonable and fair-minded person pause.

But the panoply of contemporary thinkers and scholars devoted to human freedom is so much more broad and wide and deep than any one individual.  There are many who moved in Rand's circles who agreed with some of her premises and disagreed with others.

In fact, there are a plethora of brilliant minds among those who advocate for a radical increase in personal liberty - men who have accomplished great things even in mainstream academia - and yet, who are ignored (or even attacked) by the Establishment.

Interestingly, in the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown and collapse of the housing bubble (predicted by a handful of economic thinkers), and owing to the inability of the Establishment to control the  Internet, thinking people all around the world are becoming acquainted with great minds like Murray Rothbard.  I found the following podcast - a talk by one of his proteges, Dr. Tom Woods - to be a warm and delightful introduction to Rothbard's life, work, and legacy.

By all accounts, Dr. Rothbard was one of those rare men of greatness who was genuinely humble, who truly loved learning, who made everyone comfortable, who had an ebullient sense of humor, who made friends all across the political spectrum, exuded a genuine joie-de-vivre, and who was unbelievably prolific.

I enjoyed reading his fast-paced memoir The Betrayal of the American Right - which is available in pdf as a free download.

I believe the writings of Rothbard may well enthrall and influence younger generations of Americans (perhaps some of whom yet to be born) who will have to pick up the pieces of failed Democrat-Republican policies of Socialism, Fascism, crony Capitalism, and the Welfare/Warfare state.  It may well be that Rothbard was one of those prophetic individuals who was born a century before his time.

Who Said That?

"We have to accept Big Government for the duration - for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged... except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores."

So, who said it?  Googling is cheating.

Sermon: Trinity 12 – 2012 and Baptism of Kyle Rumfield

26 August 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 7:31-37

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Ephphatha – be opened!”

There is an old saying: “Minds are like parachutes.  They only work when they’re open.”  Books are a lot like that too.  And in the miracle of the healing of the deaf-mute, we see the Lord at work opening that which was closed, and releasing that which was impeded.  We see a sick man cured, his ears opened to hear the Word of God, his mouth opened  to confess his faith and sing the praises of his God.

Openness is part of what we lost in the fall in the Garden of Eden, dear friends.  God used to walk with us openly.  We were completely open with God to the point of unashamed nakedness.  God openly spoke to us, and we openly stood in His presence.  God opened the ground to us without our having to till the soil.  Our hearts were opened to God’s will, trusting in His promises and open to the blessings He poured out upon us.

But when Adam and Eve sinned, they closed in on themselves.  They enclosed themselves with clothing.  They closed themselves off, hiding from God.  And for His part, God closed off access to Himself, and closed the Garden of Eden for all time.

In time, the Lord would close the world up by covering it with water and closing out His work of creation as it had become so corrupted by sin and violence. 

God closed Noah and his family up in the ark as an act of mercy, and reopened the door when the flood was over.  God opened the veins of sacrificial lambs even as He opened the path back to Himself with the open doors of the temple.  And in the fullness of time, He opened the womb of Mary with a divine Child, who is the One who opens the ears of the deaf and opens the mouths of the mute.

“Ephphatha – be opened!”

And He also opened the way to heaven by opening His arms on the cross, opening the curtained barrier between God and man, and He opened the grave from the inside.  In the words of the ancient hymn, the Te Deum, He “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.”

As a result of this opening, we can open ourselves up to God.  We can confess to Him our sins.  We can pray to Him intimately.  We can open ourselves to His will, to serve Him without fear of condemnation, open to His Word and Sacraments, which in turn re-open the closed path to the Tree of Life.

This is the mystery of the Lord Jesus’s “Ephphatha” – “be opened!” 

The early Church grasped the importance of this opening to the point where baptisms often included the pastor touching the ears and lips of the person being baptized, symbolically showing what Jesus does literally through the washing of Holy Baptism.

Dear Kyle, your path to heaven has been opened in Christ.  For the Lord Jesus has opened the kingdom of heaven to you.  He has opened your ears to hear the Good News.  He has loosed your tongue to confess the creeds of the Church and sing the liturgy of the Church.  The Lord has opened your mind, your heart, your flesh, and your spirit.  And you also have the promise that He will open your tomb!

“Ephphatha! – be opened!”

This is the Christian life in one word of Aramaic, spoken by the Word Made Flesh Himself – and we see the results of the Word of God.  The Lord has opened heaven to all of us whose ears and mouths, hearts and minds He has opened by water and the Word.

At the Lord’s baptism, the heavens were “opened.”  At the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord promised, “knock, and it will be opened to you.”  After His resurrection, the Lord “opened” the “minds” of the disciples “to understand the Scriptures.”  And in His final revelation to the Apostle John, the Lord promised: “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

“Ephphatha – be opened!”

And though our eyes have not yet been opened to the point of seeing God in all His glory, we have the promise, dear brothers and sisters, that this once-closed path back to Eden is being opened.  And in eternity, nothing more will be closed.  Paradise will again be opened. 

“Ephphatha – be opened!”

Let us ever keep our ears open to hear the Word of God.  Let our minds be open to the revelations revealed in that Word.  Let our hearts be open to hear the Law and repent.  Let our hands be open to receive the Lord’s holy gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Let our arms be open to receive our neighbors in love, drawing them into the open ark of the Church.  And finally, let our mouths be opened, to eat the body and blood of the Lord, as well as to confess the faith that has been opened to us, and to openly tell of the hope that is within us, singing the praises of God and opening the doors of the Church to those of closed minds, closed hearts, closed of hope and closed out of the kingdom of heave.

May the Lord’s baptized people ever be people of the “Ephphatha – be opened!” the command and the promise of Jesus.  Let us always be open to the Lord’s very presence in Word and Sacrament, and ever open to carry out His will in word and in deed.

And on the last day, He who “has done all things well,” He who “makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” will open our graves with that one last great command: “Ephphatha – be opened!”


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.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sermon: Funeral of Audrey Woolen – 2012

20 August 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 16:1-7 (Isa 25:6-9, Rom 8:28-39)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Chris and Ellen, Colin, family members, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests, “Peace be with you!”

St. Paul speaks about the “sting of death.”  The passing away of a beloved mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, teacher, and sister in Christ stings.  It hurts.  And the closer we are to the person who has fallen asleep in Christ, the deeper that wound is.  It is painful and sorrowful.

There is a famous quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”  But in the case of death, there is nothing sweet about this parting.  It is bitter.  It is hurtful.  It causes us to grieve.  It is the separation that is so painful.  It is a separation, a parting that we are never really prepared for.

And try as we might, we cannot make death natural, normal, or some kind of relief from suffering.  For according to the truths revealed in the Bible, death is none of these things.  Death is nothing good.  Death is what mankind brought into the world by sin.  Death is our failure to live as we should.  Death comes to all of us because we are all guilty of sin.

Our dear sister in Christ Audrey knew this.  She heard the Word of God preached again and again.  She confessed her sins and she confessed the faith.  She studied the Scriptures, she received the forgiving washing of Holy Baptism as a child, and she received the forgiving nourishment of the Holy Supper even to the end of her nine decades of life in this fallen and grief-stricken world.  Audrey knew the sting of death.  She endured it many times.  But Audrey also knows that Jesus has conquered death.  She enjoys this in eternity!

Audrey was created in the image of God, redeemed by the grace of God, and has now been brought into the perfect sanctified peace of God.  She has conquered sin because her Lord Jesus has conquered sin.  That, dear friends, is why Audrey spent her ninety years worshiping the Lord in the Lord’s church.  We Christians do not gather around altars because we are perfect, but rather because we are sinners.  We come here seeking the antidote to death – and we find it here!  We are indeed forgiven and transformed sinners.

And yet, when death confronts us, we grieve.  And what could be a more normal reaction!  We are saddened by our separation from those we love.  And would it be any other way?  But, dear friends, I have good news for you: tombs are only temporary resting places for the forgiven sinners that we Christians are!  Our Lord Jesus blazed that trail, when after dying to take upon Himself our death, our punishment, He rose victoriously from the dead! 

When the grieving Mary’s walked to the tomb in their sadness and mourning, they found it empty.  The angels turned their weeping into boundless joy with these words: “He has risen!”  And Christians ever since that first Easter have responded: “He is risen indeed!”

Dear friends, because He lives, we live.  Because He lives, she lives.  Because He loves us, we have hope.  Because He redeemed us, we have life.

Life, dear friends!  Life that cannot be taken away, life that never ends, literal life, awaiting the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  This is the promise of the same Jesus who walked out of His own grave.  This is the same promise of the same Jesus who greeted His disciples after the resurrection with the words: “Peace be with you!”

For though we mourn, we do have this peace: the peace that passes all understanding.  We may not feel it right now, but it is there.  It is the peace of the assurance of God’s Word, declared by God’s Son, proclaimed through the Son’s resurrection, who promises our own resurrection.

And even in our sorrow, we can take comfort that as St. Paul teaches us in the Word of God: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

“All things,” dear friends, are worked by God for our good – even when it seems to us to be hopeless and beyond repair.  “In all things” Scripture teaches us, God works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called.” 

Blessed Audrey was called at her baptism, and God continued to share Himself with her, His beloved child, every time she communed with Him in His Word and in the Holy Sacrament.

“What then shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Is there any more comfort than this, dear friends?  God is on our side – we who mourn, we who struggle emotionally with the separation from our loved ones.  For this separation is only temporary, and it is limited. 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?....  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

“Through Him who loved us,” dear friends in Christ.  Our Lord loves us.  Our Lord dies for us.  Our Lord rises again for us.  Our Lord prepares a place for us.  Our Lord promises a reunion with us and with all those whom we love.  This is not just a way of speaking.  This is as real as the empty tomb in Jerusalem and as inevitable as any future event in history.

Listen to these words of comfort, dear friends.  Listen to what the Lord has to say to you – especially to Chris, to Ellen, and to Colin.  Listen to the Lord’s Words anyone who suffers for any reason in this life.  Listen to the ironclad promise of the One who conquered death and the grave, who defeated Satan and sin, who breathes new life into men and women the world over through His atoning blood and mercy, listen to St. Paul comfort us in Holy Words that are not merely eloquent like Shakespeare, but are true and eternal because they are God’s promise: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

For though we feel the sting of death, death is defeated.  Though we are separated from our beloved Audrey, nothing shall separate her, or us, from the love of God.  Though we are wounded by sorrow, the wounds of the Man of Sorrows has delivered the free gift of life and forgiveness to us at the cross.  And though weakened by very real and profound grief, we are strengthened by the sure and certain promises of God’s almighty Word: “Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us.  This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

And so we Christians wait eagerly for the return of our Lord, our loving Lord, our risen Lord, our almighty Lord.  We wait in hope for our reunion with those we love, for our mourning to become dancing, for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  We wait expectantly with the ever-comforting greeting of our risen Lord on our lips: “Peace be with you!”

Dear friends, peace be with you, now and even unto eternity!  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.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 11 – 2012

19 August 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 18:9-14 (Gen 4:1-15, 1 Cor 15:1-10)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Two men, one is righteous, one is a murderer.  In fact, he is the world’s first murderer who has just slain his only brother.  Which one of these two brothers do you identify with?  Are you the innocent victim who offers the Lord sacrificially “the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions,” giving back to God from the finest and the first-fruits of your labor, a cheerful giver who prays every day for whom the Lord has regard, with whose offering the Lord is pleased?  Are you really like the faithful servant Abel?

Or are you a murderer, like Cain.  Of course, very few people – and perhaps none in this sanctuary – have actually illegally taken a human life.  But have you wanted to?  Have you been angry enough to?  Have you had bitter thoughts about another person?  Have you ever called anyone a fool?  Have you ever gossiped about a person behind his back?  If we actually believe our Lord Jesus Christ, if we truly accept His Word as truth – then we all know the painful truth of that Word.

The truth is that we are more Cain than Abel.

For we meet the Lord’s criteria for murder.  And in fact, dear friends, we have been given the death penalty, like all poor, miserable sinners.

And in another case, two men are praying.  One boasts of his righteousness: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”

The other is a poor, miserable sinner, a “tax collector, standing far off, [who] would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’”

We know who the good guy in our Lord’s story is.  We know which one we are supposed to identify with.  We know that we are expected to admit that we are “poor, miserable sinners” – and it is even in our liturgy, right along with “Lord, have mercy.”

And so we say the words.  But do we really repent like this tax collector?  Or do we examine ourselves with rose-colored glasses.  How often I hear this: “I believe in God.  I believe in Jesus.  I pray.  I read the Bible.”  All of this is to convince me of how righteous someone is – especially if someone is repeatedly absent from the Divine Service and from Bible class, allowing other things to get in the way instead. 

But what does our Lord say about these excuses?

Better yet, what does our Lord say about poor, miserable sinners who truly confront their sins, who repent, who  change on the inside and manifest that change on the outside, who ask for absolution and receive it, who sincerely pray “Lord, have mercy” instead of just singing what’s in the book?

Our Lord says this: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

And what about the murderer Cain?  Did he repent?  Does he have a share in God’s kingdom as one of the redeemed?  Scripture is not clear, but one thing is certain: the Lord did show him mercy.  The Lord treated him with grace.  The Lord placed a mark upon him as a divine protection “lest any who found him should attack him.”

Dear friends, our Lord has also placed a mark on us as a divine protection lest we be attacked.  And that mark is the sign of the cross.  We were signed with the cross when we were sealed by the Holy Spirit, when we were delivered by Holy Baptism.  The sign of the cross is our mark of Cain, a holy protection for us, the unworthy who pray: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  For this, dear friends, is the Christian life.  It is humbly beating our breasts and confessing our sins.  We are Cain.  We are the tax collector.  Lord, have mercy upon us!

But there is good news, dear brothers and sisters, under this Mark of Cain, under this sinful curse of death, under this gracious redemption: “God is merciful, and He is merciful to you – by His Word declared to you from the cross, delivered to you at Baptism, spoken to you anew in Absolution, shown to you by His mercy lived out in the Christian life, the life of the redeemed sinner, “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

For this confession, this repentance, this reception of the Lord’s free gift of redemption, of justification, is precisely how it is that our offerings are made acceptable before the Lord.  They are not regarded by the Lord because of our goodness, but rather because of our forgiveness.  And, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiveness is freely given to those who pray with the tax collector: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

For as St. Paul reminds us of the “gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the Word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.”

For we do not preach to you of your goodness; we do not proclaim to you the goodness of our own works.  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

“Christ died for our sins.”

Dear friends, Christ died for sinners.  Christ died for Cain.  Christ died for the tax collector.  Christ died for the murderer – whether actual blood was shed or not.  Christ died for you, for me, and for the entire world.  And the Lord has regard for His offering, His act of atonement as the true Keeper of Sheep, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, the One who has done well and is accepted.

We confess our sins and we confess our faith – the same faith of the apostles, the same faith delivered to us and received in faith: “Christ died for our sins.” 

And with St. Paul and with the church of every time and place, we confess: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.

He is faithful Abel.  And though we killed Him, though innocent, we gives us His innocent life as an offering of forgiveness, life, salvation, grace, and mercy.  To Him be thanks and praise now and forevermore!


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.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 10 – 2012

12 August 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 19:41-48 (Jer 8:4-12, Rom 9:30-10:4)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus weeps over Jerusalem as He draws near.  He knows that He will enter the Holy City welcomed as a King, and He will be driven out of Jerusalem reviled as a criminal.  And yet His tears are not for Himself, but for Jerusalem.  As in the case of Lazarus in the tomb – which also brought the Lord to tears – Jesus laments the results of sin.  “For the wages of sin is death.”

Jerusalem was dying.  The city whose name literally means City of Peace was going to be destroyed in an act of war by the Romans exactly 40 years after the Lord moistened the ground with His tears and with His blood on a Roman cross.  The temple – where God Himself would make peace with man through priestly sacrifices – was also to be leveled in the process.  But unlike the temple of the Lord’s body that was to rise on the third day, the Jerusalem temple was never to rise again.

The Lord weeps because Jerusalem was so corrupted by sin that she refused even to receive the gift of peace from the Prince of Peace Himself in the priestly sacrifice of His own body and blood at the cross.  She refused the gift of forgiveness that makes peace between God and man won for man by the Man who is also God. 

“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes….  And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Their lives were occupied by other things.  Their minds were filled with other priorities.  Their worship was reserved to other gods.  Their attention was drawn to other words.  And when the Word Made Flesh came and dwelt among them, when the Prince of Peace came into the City of Peace to make peace, when God Himself consented to be both Priest and Sacrifice – in order to make for a final and lasting peace, an end to sin, and the death of death itself – Jerusalem didn’t care.

Her spiritual life was more concerned with buying and selling in the temple than worshiping God, than having their sins atoned for and forgiven by the sacrifice of the Lamb, than by seeking peace with the God who made them, loved them, brooded over them, suffered for them, and brought them the “peace of God that passes all understanding.”

Instead, they used the temple as a business opportunity.  Instead they allowed themselves to be manipulated by their leaders.  Instead, they wanted to free a terrorist.  Instead, they wanted His blood on them and on their descendants.

“And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer,” but you have made it a den of robbers.’”

The Lord cleansed the temple.  The Lord cleansed Jerusalem.  The Lord cleansed the world. 

In the terror of the cross and in the pain of the passion, in the loneliness of rejection, and in the agony of betrayal and denial – our Lord carries out His mission of love, of mercy, of atonement, of peace.

For just outside the walls of the City of Peace, the Prince of Peace made peace: true peace, eternal peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

This was all part of our Lord’s plan to save us, dear brothers and sisters.  For was “laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” 

“Whoever believes in Him…”

The Lord weeps over Jerusalem, they who “have healed the wound of My people lightly, saying ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”  The Lord weeps for all who refuse to receive the free gift, the most precious gift in the universe, the most costly gift in the cosmos – yet a free gift nonetheless –a peace offering from the God against whom we poor, miserable sinners have declared war.  But more importantly, the Lord dies “for the sins of the world, paying the price for all of the sins of the cosmos, and then extending this “peace that passes all understanding” to everyone, offered with His own blood-drenched hands, sealed by the blood and water that flowed from His side, poured out upon us in Holy Baptism and dispensed to us in Holy Communion.

Dear friends, our Lord offers us peace, true peace, eternal peace, cosmic peace – the kind of peace that overcomes sin, conquers death, and restores “everyone who believes” to a state of perfect innocence, forgiveness, health, and salvation.  It is fitting that this congregation is called “Salem,” peace, the second half of the word “Jerusalem” – a congregation of the people of God who have been baptized, forgiven, and united with Jesus in His body and blood.  We have come here to partake of the Lord’s cross and to receive the Lord’s gift.  We have come here to affirm the Word of life presented to us at baptism and to claim the peace the Lord offers us in the foretaste of the eternal banquet at the Eucharistic feast.

Let us wage peace, dear friends!  Let us be instruments of the Lord’s peace to our friends and neighbors who know nothing but trouble and strife.  Let us live in the joy of the Lord’s peace in what we say and do, in how we worship and work, in our conduct of life among our friends and our foes.

Let us not be like the sellers in the temple, ever distracted by the world’s obsession with money and trinkets, with things that ultimately don’t matter.  Let us rejoice that the Lord cleansed the temple and that He has come to chase away the sin in our own lives, cleansing us with baptismal water, and making war on the evil one in order to win the peace for us sinners.

Let us come to this temple of peace to receive the Lord’s peace as He draws near to us anew, to renew our lives of peace, to receive the gift of peace.  For our King is also the Prince of Peace.  The one who weeps for Lazarus raises Lazarus from the dead.  The one who weeps for Jerusalem dies and rises again, redeeming the world and rolling back the curse of the wages of sin.  For “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  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.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Burgers and Beanes at Christian Pastor Retreat

My family and I owe a big debt of gratitude to Tom and Joyce Pickard.  They run a non-profit organization, Christian Pastor Retreat, that provides for pastors to take retreats with other pastors and their families.  They own several cabins in rural Tennessee and make it extremely affordable for pastors to go off and get pastoral care of their own.

We had the privilege to enjoy a few days of rest, respite, and pastoral care with my classmate, Rev. Christopher Burger and his family.  We have known the Burgers since almost day one of seminary.  We had numerous classes together, and sang in the Seminary Kantorei.  Christopher serves Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, South Carolina - his first and only call.  I had also served as deacon and vicar from 2003-4.

This is the second time that we have taken this retreat with the Burgers (the first was three years ago).

Pastor Burger is not only a faithful servant of the Lord, an outstanding theologian and good friend, but he is quite the cook!  It is unbelievable what he is able to do with ordinary stuff from ordinary grocery stores: extraordinary cuisine!  Thank you Christopher and Evelyn for inviting us again, for sharing your cabin with us, for your friendship and mutual service of Christ and His Church!  And thank you to the lay leadership of Salem Lutheran Church for recognizing the blessings of providing their pastor and his family with time to receive pastoral care.

If you are a pastor in need of time to think, pray, and get pastoral care, or if you think your pastor might benefit from a few days in the country - check out Christian Pastor Retreat.

More pics here.

Sermon: Trinity 9 – 2012

5 August 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 16:1-13 (2 Sam 22:26-34, 1 Cor 10:6-13)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Sin is more than breaking rules.  Sin is a violation of the order of the universe.  In the Lord’s creation, everything has its place to fit in.  The Lord created all things, made them work together, and declared the whole thing “very good.”  But as anyone who lives in this world knows, sin has changed everything.

Sin is when the creature thinks it knows better than Creator.  Sin is when the order gets reversed.  Sin is when the servant wishes to be the master.  Sin is when the child claims authority over the parent.  Sin is when the man desires to be a woman, and the woman desires to be a man.  Sin is when Lucifer demands that God serve him.  Sin is when Eve defies God, wishing to be like God.  And sin is when Adam submits to her desire to defy God instead of submitting to God.

And the results are disastrous.  When drugs or alcohol master the person, people die in car accidents, their bodies wither away, and relationships suffer.  When anger masters the person, violence ensues – even the kind of violence that leads to mass murder.  When sexual desire, jealousy, or greed master a person, every manner of destructive things happen.

And the wages of sin is indeed death. 

St. Paul points out the terrible consequences of sin, calling to mind historical biblical examples of idolatry: “the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play,” of “sexual immorality,” of “putting Christ to the test” and “grumbling” – for all of these things involve our sinful nature’s refusal to submit to God, to His will, to accept where He has placed us, to be content with what He has given us – and St. Paul warns us, dear friends, he warns us Christians, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

For what sums up our culture better than this: idolatry that focuses on eating, drinking, and playing; a casual attitude toward sexuality; making a mockery of Jesus; and constant negativity and grumbling? 

Our Lord similarly warns us of our sinful refusal to submit to Him as our Master when He teaches us: “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”

Money is not the root of all evil as people often misquote Scripture, but rather “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”  Money is simply a convenient way to trade.  Unless the dairy farmer needs his oil changed right now, the mechanic cannot buy a gallon of milk.  But both can accept silver coins to trade.  Money is not evil.  It’s just a way to barter. 

What is evil is when money is stolen, when people scheme to get money dishonestly, or when the money itself is corrupted.  In the middles ages, bankers began to loan money that they didn’t have – a practice that continues to this day.  In modern times, governments began to print money out of thin air to pay their own bills – also a practice that continues to this day.  This is nothing more than theft, and it is sinful.

The love of money indeed can tempt honest people to all kinds of evils – even to seeing the honest servant of money itself become a wicked master, even to the point of being a god.  Given a choice between receiving Holy Communion, the forgiveness of sins, hearing holy absolution, and studying the Word of God – or getting rich – what does our culture prefer?  What do we prefer?  Do we daydream about being in perfect, sinless communion with the living God, or do we rather fantasize about winning the lottery?  Would we rather be kneeling anonymously at the rail, or famous and bowing to an adoring audience?  Would we rather receive the keys of the kingdom through the forgiveness of sins, or are our thoughts more consumed by the keys to a new luxury car?

“For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”

We are servants, dear friends.  We are servants of the Lord who created us, or we are enslaved by things that were made along with us.  Either we serve our rightful Lord and Master, or we allow unrighteousness to master and lord over us. 

We are sinners.  We need to confess.  We need to repent.  We need to be forgiven.  And that is why we are here.  The Lord has given the keys to His church, to be entrusted to His pastors, to be used for the benefit of those who repent and to the judgment of those who do not.

Dear friends, our Lord is trying to get our attention.  “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”  For that is the lesson of our Lord’s story of the cheating manager.  In order to receive worldly riches, the manager was willing to do what he needed to do.  And yet, as the Lord points out, we, “the sons of light” lack this shrewdness.  We are so often spiritually clueless.  Rather than seeing the writing on the wall, rather than fearing our potential destruction, we freely participate in our culture’s behavior: eat, drink, play, be sexually immoral, put Christ to the test, and grumble.  The Lord is calling upon us to display the shrewdness of the “sons of this world.”

The crooked manager forgave debts.  We Christians ought to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  And we ought to carry out our part of the petition.  For our Lord has come into our midst to forgive us.  As the prophet Samuel prays to God: “With the merciful You show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man You show Yourself blameless; with the purified You deal purely, and with the crooked You make Yourself seem torturous.”

The Lord has come into our world as a Man – conceived, born, dead, and risen again – all “for us men and for our salvation” – to overcome the sin that we have invited on ourselves by our greed and idolatry.  He offers us His Word of forgiveness, our baptism, and His body and blood as a way to tear up the bill of our debts, as One who is shrewd for us even though it meant a cross for Himself.  Our Lord’s shrewdness is rewarded by the Father by restoring us as His servants, being received again into communion with Him, our true Master and our life’s joy – an eternal joy that nothing the world has to offer in the form of money, sexuality, eating, drinking, playing, putting Christ to the test, or even fashionable grumbling and trash-talking can approach.

The Lord calls us to be shrewd by receiving His gifts, by serving our true Master instead of money, and by receiving His faithfulness in much as atonement for our dishonesty and our unfaithfulness in much.

For this is your true treasure, dear friends: forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, riches that await you in eternity, contentment in your present service of God and the joyful hope of praising your Master, surrounded by wealth that cannot be imagined (let alone coveted) in this life.

“This God – His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him….  This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.  He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.”

This is indeed our treasure, dear brothers and sisters: living forever in the peace and joy in which we were created, perfectly, within the order of God’s perfect creation, when He declared it all – especially His beloved people – to be “very good” – fitting in perfectly where we have been made to be, without sin, without death, without sorrow, in perfect peace, perfect health, and perfect love – world without end!  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.