Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sermon: Rogate (Easter 6) – 2014

25 May 2014

Text: John 16:23-33 (Num 21:4-9, Jas 1:22-27)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Our Lord’s mission was to come into the world in human form in order to die on the cross as a ransom for our sins.  He removes our guilt, pays our debt, and absorbs the consequences that we have earned because of our disobedience.  And like the snake-bitten, rebellious children of Israel who looked to the bronze serpent on the pole, we look to Jesus and we find life instead of death. 

And we rightfully emphasize this forgiveness of sins and this comfort that at the cross, the Lord won redemption for us, and in Holy Baptism, this gracious gift is delivered to us personally, so that when we look to the crucified Lord lifted up upon the cross, lifted up from the slumber of death, lifted up in His ascension to the Father, we are lifted up out of certain condemnation to hell and lifted up to the heavenly realms even as our bodies die as a result of sin.

But there is more to the Christian life than not going to hell.  There is more to the Christian life than going to heaven.  For in ransoming us from our sins, the Lord Jesus is restoring us to a greatness that we don’t even remember from our past and that we can’t even imagine in our future. 

The going of our spirits to heaven is not the eternal part.  Life is the eternal part.  We are promised a resurrected body.  We are promised a new heavens and a new earth.  We are promised that all things will be made new.  We are promised a bodily existence without a body that is corruptible.  Our new existence in this new physical world will have no pain, no suffering, no remorse, no fear, no hatred, no diseases, and no death.

No death, dear friends!  Can you even imagine it?

Well, we really can’t.  And so our Lord preaches by means of figurative language to teach us about this kingdom, this eternal existence that doesn’t begin when we die, but begins when we die to sin, when we are baptized, an eternal kingdom that begins even here in this sinful world, a kingdom that begins when we believe.  It is as our Lord says: “The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.”

And in putting it this way, the Lord Jesus Christ speaks plainly and without figurative language.

Love and belief receive Christ and His grace.  Faith grasps hold of this gift of forgiveness, life and salvation.  Faith receives the victory our Lord won at the cross.  Faith is believing in that which we can’t see.  And our Lord is telling the disciples that He is going to the Father where they will not see Him.  And yet, their faith – itself a gift of God – will see them through.  For as our Lord tells them plainly: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Our Lord has overcome.  He has won the victory.  But we are still living in the fallen world of sin, of death, of the devil.  We are still stuck to the Old Adam.  We are still mortal.  In this world, we still have tribulation.  We have sickness, sadness, pain, suffering, and death.  And so we look to the cross, and to the One who was crucified, just as the children of Israel looked to the bronze pole, and the serpent attached to it.  In seeing this reminder of the Lord’s promise, the children of Israel were given faith – faith to overcome the ravages of death.  And we have more than a reminder, for we can look back in human history not to a suggestion of the cross, but to the cross itself.  We look to the body and blood of Christ nailed to the cross, for Him the tree of death that has become for us the tree of life.  For He “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

And in this ransom, there is more than merely staying out of hell.  We are restored to the Father.  Like the rebellious children of Israel, like the rebellious prodigal son, we have a renewed and proper relationship, a healthy and wholesome communion with the Father.  This is achieved by the Holy Spirit’s calling of us, and the Son’s physical body and blood, not only paying our debt, but being delivered to us in the sacrament of the altar.

We receive these gifts by faith, believing that Jesus came from God the Father.  But St. James warns us not to reduce this belief to a sterile intellectual assent.  Faith is belief, but it isn’t just facts and figures on a ledger.  It is rather a reality that encompasses mind, body, heart, and soul, every aspect of our being, laying claim to our very reality as creatures in this universe.  And so James warns us: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”  For “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

And in this faith that is lived out in a life of love and service and humility and separation from the world, we look to the Lord Jesus lifted up at Calvary with the eyes of faith, and we are transformed into the righteousness of Christ.  In this gift of faith, we ask the Father for what we need, and do so in the name of Jesus.

Because of the cross, we can call God our Father, and we can make our requests known to Him, for “God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”

This is what it means to pray in the name of Jesus.  It isn’t just a superstitious add-on or a magic incantation.  To pray in His name is to pray by His authority, to pray in faith through Him who won salvation for us, to pray in belief that He came from God the Father, and to trust in His passion, death, and resurrection to restore us to the Father.

And so look to the cross, dear brothers and sisters in Christ!  Look to His body and blood given and shed for you.  Look upon these elements in faith and receive them in your bodies and souls, for you will rise again, body and soul, growing up as sons and daughters of God, looking joyfully forward to the end of this snake-bitten rebellious age to a joyful eternity to come – an eternity that begins here and now as you receive His Word.  For our Lord says: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.”  Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, peace be with you!  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


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, May 18, 2014

Sermon: Cantate (Easter 5) – 2014

18 May 2014

Text: John 16:5-15

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Our Lord Jesus Christ is full of surprises! 

When everyone thought He was going to overthrow the Romans and establish a worldly kingdom, He surprised them by going to the cross.  When they thought He was dead and gone, He surprised them by rising from the dead.  And when they thought He would remain with them after the resurrection the same way forever, He surprised them by going away to the Father who sent Him.  And when they felt that He had left them, He surprised them by sending them the Holy Spirit, to transform them, to mold the church into an eternal kingdom that was to actually overthrow the Romans and conquer the world, to inspire and oversee the preaching of the Gospel, and to “call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth.”

That is why our Lord had previously told them, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send Him to you.”

It’s a little like children in the process of growing up.  Mom and Dad simply have to be less and less in control of the children, and let the children experience life for themselves.  Of course, our Lord is always with us, even to the end of the age.  And by no means does He leave us as orphans to fend for ourselves.  But He does allow us to grow, dear friends.  And this growth is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. 

In going to the Father, the Son allows the Holy Spirit to produce growth of the church – not necessarily growth in numbers, but growth in maturity.  The Lord has forgiven us all our sins by shedding His blood on the cross, and now, under the cross and by the cross, through the Holy Spirit, we grow in our faith and in the Gospel.  It is not that we ever outgrow the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting, but rather we grow up into that reality that the Lord has established us to be active in the kingdom.

Instead of growing up into the world, the Holy Spirit enables us to grow away from the world.  For look at what the Holy Spirit means to the unbelieving world, according to our Lord Jesus Christ: “When He” (the Holy Spirit) “comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

In our growth, in our sanctification by the Spirit, we become holier.  And that doesn’t mean we somehow become better by trying harder.  For we are only forgiven sinners, nothing more, nothing less.  But, dear friends, to grow in holiness is to become less and less enamored of the world, less influenced by Satan, and less tossed about by our own sinful flesh. 

And without the Holy Spirit’s work in our midst, we can’t grow, and we can’t grow up.  For there is more to salvation than simply not going to hell.  The Lord has saved us, called us to Himself to eternity, for a purpose.  He has rescued us according to His will and plan for the universe.  He loves us and has work for us to do in the kingdom, and that kingdom is the special work of the Holy Spirit.

But how are we to know?  How are we to figure out what God the Holy Spirit wants us to do?  Our Lord promises: “When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Dear friends, we can trust the Holy Spirit because He is God; He is the Spirit of Truth; He has been sent into the world to convict the world of sin and to convict the Church of the truth of the Gospel!  “He will glorify Me,” says our Lord Jesus Christ, “for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper, has gifts for us, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, He has come blazing into our world like tongues of fire to overcome every impediment to the kingdom of God.  The Holy Spirit gives us life, eternal life, forgiven life, life in Christ and life made full by the blood of Christ.  For the life is in the blood.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t come to make us “spiritual” in the sense of eastern mystics and western philosophers.  He comes to fill us with the spirit of truth, to make us whole by leading us to the body and blood of Christ, and to give us that physical union with Him in His resurrected flesh according to His Word.

The greatest surprise of all, dear friends, is the good news that by the cross and through the resurrection, our sins are completely forgiven and blotted out forever, and that because of this, we have communion with the Father, through the sacrifice of the Son, by means of the calling of the Holy Spirit.

We have this “advantage” as the Lord calls it, of everlasting life, not because we are good, but because He is good; not because we are worthy, but because He is worthy; and not because we are spiritual, but because His Spirit is true and it has been given to us as a free gift.

And it is truly a gift, dear friends, as our Lord says: “He” (the Holy Spirit) “will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  He does not sell it to us.  He does not loan it to us.  He does not dangle it in front of us like a carrot before a donkey.  No, indeed, dear friends.  He “declares” it to us.  Just as He declared, “Let there be light” and there was light, He declares all that belongs to Him by virtue of His Sonship of the Father, and He shares it all with us as an inheritance.  For listen to the promise of Jesus: “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.”

This is the gracious will of the Father.  This is the glorious work of the Son.  And this is the life-giving declaration of the Holy Spirit.  The kingdom is ours, dear brothers and sisters, dear forgiven sinners, dear citizens of a new and better country that has no end, an eternal kingdom that continues to surprise us, even while we still live here in time. 

Now to My Father I depart,
From earth to heav’n ascending,
And, heavn’ly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you. Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


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, May 11, 2014

Sermon: Jubilate (Easter 4) – 2014

11 May 2014

Text: John 16:16-22 (Isa 40:25-31, 1 Pet 2:11-20)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Our Lord tells us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.  You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”

This is a summary of how things are for us Christians living our lives on this side of the grave in the midst of a hostile world, a world that cares nothing for Christ, despises God’s Word, and holds the Church in contempt.

Though we are redeemed, though we are baptized, though we walk by faith and not by sight, we still live in a world of sorrows, of suffering and death, of the devil, and of sin.  We are surrounded by our enemies, hard-pressed on every side.  In human terms, we are doomed.  It seems like every day the noose tightens.  The courts rule against us.  Hollywood turns our children against us.  We shoot ourselves in the foot by ceasing to attend worship – typically over trifles or out of sheer laziness, oblivious to the spiritual damage we are subjecting ourselves to.  We take false comfort in our baptisms when we have no intention to repent of our sins.  

And as we weep and lament, watching the destruction of western civilization before our very eyes like a slow-motion train wreck, the world rejoices.  The world falls deeper and deeper into depravity, and even drags portions of the church down with it.  At times, it seems like we are engaging in a long surrender, slowly but surely bleeding to death at the hands of a merciless world held by the sway of the murderous devil.  The world rejoices to see the Bride of Christ slapped and mocked and paraded around in rags for all the world to see.  The world rejoices to see peaceful Christians in prisons and under sentence of death for daring to swear allegiance to Christ and His kingdom instead of putting their trust in princes.  The world rejoices over packed stadiums and empty churches.  The world rejoices that good is now called evil and evil good.

And so we weep and lament as our Lord told us we would.  And why shouldn’t we?  Did our Lord Himself also not weep and lament?  Did He not shed tears over the fate of Jerusalem, over the condition of His countrymen, over the state of the world?  Did He not shed tears of agony upon the cross in love for us poor, miserable sinners?  Did our Lord not lament over the continued existence of death in this fallen world, even just before summoning Lazarus from his tomb?

Indeed, dear friends, the world is falling apart.  It grows worse every day.  Mankind falls deeper and deeper into the pit.  Every institution of mankind has surrendered to the enemy, to the devil, it seems.

And yet, in spite of all of this bad news, the Lord tells us: “Your sorrow will turn into joy.”  For though the world is spinning out of control, the kingdom of God stands forever.  For though Satan is winning the current battle, he has already lost the war.  Although we will all yield to death, death yields to Christ, who has conquered death.  And we yield to Christ who gives us life abundant and life eternal.

“Your sorrow will turn into joy.”

This is a promise of God, dear friends, spoken by the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, He who went to the cross in sorrow, but who rose from the grave in joy.  Our Lord wept and lamented at Calvary, but rejoiced upon descending into hell to proclaim victory over Satan and his minions.  For the pain experienced in this world are not the pangs of death, but are actually birth pains of a new age to come, an age of redemption and paradise, an age of the unchallenged rule of Christ, an age of the “resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

Our Lord proclaims: “When a women is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”

On this day in which we Americans honor motherhood and show affection to our own mothers, we call to mind that the joy of the miracle of birth by far outweighs the sorrow of the birth pangs.  The Creator continues to use mothers to give birth and nurture new life.  The world imagines that all sorts of unorthodox configurations of men and women are equal to the task of raising children, and the world mocks the church for believing that the natural created order is best for children and for society – but it is ultimately the church that lives in this joy of motherhood, this “joy that a human being has been born” – even as the world takes joy in a culture of death.  Likewise, we wait patiently through the crushing pain of the crumbling world to come over us in seismic waves, looking forward to the birth of a new era, to be inaugurated and consummated by the return of Him who is God and yet was born to a human mother.  

For “He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”

This is where human history is leading, dear friends, and it is a joyful completion of creation’s journey.  This is where the pains and rumblings of this decaying world are taking us.  This is our joy that awaits us at the end of this vale of tears.  This is the cause of our rejoicing at the imminent return of our Lord and the resurrection to life of all who are baptized and who believe, who live in God’s grace, by faith, who are covered by the blood of the cross, rejoicing in the good news of His Word.

We look forward to eternity, dear friends, not placing our happiness in this fallen and falling world, but rather placing our faith in Him who created the world, who proclaimed it good, who has redeemed us from the sin that made this world corrupt, and who is coming again to make a new heaven and a new earth for us.

This is where the Christian gets his joy, his desire to be with his Lord, and his hope for the future.  It is in Christ and in the promise of eternal life that He promises and proclaims unto us.

“So also,” says our blessed Lord, our risen Lord, our Lord who is coming again, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”


Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


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

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Political Correctness and the Irony of Modern Germany

Here is the stupidity of political correctness in action.

Proctor & Gamble had to pull this detergent from the shelves in Germany because of a number on a soccer jersey depicted on the label which is supposedly a code word in praise of a universally-condemned sociopath politician who died almost 70 years ago. The numbers "18" and "88" are considered politically-incorrect and have actually been criminalized in some contexts within the modern German state.

Of course, the vast majority of shoppers in the stores buying laundry soap were born long after World War 2, have no sympathies with Nazism, and just want to wash their clothes. The company is foreign and obviously had no idea that at least 2 percent of the numerals between 1 and 100 have become politically-incorrect based on "hidden codes".  They were trying to convey how many loads of laundry the product is capable of doing (18 for the liquid, 88 for the powder).  So, just how do the forces of political-correctness in Germany expect Proctor & Gamble to communicate this information without using verboten numbers?  

Proctor & Gamble also had a politically-incorrect logo controversy in the United States which resulted in the changing its classic 1851 logo in 1985 because of an idiotic rumor that the logo was Satanic - a rumor that was exploited by its competitors. There were enough "offended" people to make it worth P&G's while just to give up and give in to the tiny but vocal minority of people who were complaining.

Is anyone's life better off now that P&G doesn't use the old logo?

The great irony here is that Hitler was a paranoid control freak - as are all dictators, thugs, strongmen, and supreme leaders.  All of these kinds of liberty-hating rulers engage in censorship and political-correctness.  When Hitler was defeated, his opponents-become-successors took the baton from the hands of the Nazis by enforcing legal codes of political-correctness and forbidden speech that exist to this day.  Hence the insanity of having to avoid the use of certain "controversial" numbers - not to mention a seemingly endless combination of other numbers.

At least put up a fight, people!  How many numbers and letters and colors are people willing to be declared off-limits to normal, decent people because an infinitesimal handful of people with a repugnant ideology also uses them?  The solution to repugnant speech is more free speech. Let National Socialism be refuted by liberty and free markets. Let freely-discussed history be its judge.  The solution is not to repress free speech.  That's like fixing lung cancer with cigarettes or treating cirrhosis with "Jack Daniels therapy." 

When people of any nation respond to tyranny or terrorism by the willful self-destruction of their own liberties, the tyrants or terrorists have won.  Germany surrendered first to the allied forces, and then to the Nazis.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Sex, Gender, and Language

One of the politically-correct targets of our English language is the inclusive "he."  In other words, if we refer to a person of unknown sex, or when we speak of someone in general, we use the pronoun "he" (or "him" as an object) to describe the person.

This practice is becoming as quaint and dated as the use of "thou" and "thee" as second-person pronouns.

The reason is that this inclusive "he" is seen as exclusive - which is about as Orwellian as one can get.  We are told that using the masculine gender to describe people of either sex is "sexist."  It's evidence of "male privilege," a holdover from the bad old days of "patriarchal hegemony."  Thus it has now become common to change between "he" and "she" even in the same paragraph so as not to offend the language-monitors and thought-police.  Sometimes we are treated to the awkward attempts at gender-neutral pronouns such as "he or she" and "him and her" construction, or even in a yet uglier form: "he/she or him/her" - or even "s/he" and "hir."  Some try to bend over backwards by reversing the order as "she/he" or "she or he."  Sometimes the plural "they" is used as a substitute for the singular "he" or "she."  A tongue-in-cheek contraction for "he or she or it" is "h'or'sh'it."  This is all really much ado about nothing.  The traditional "he" is not only more economical and elegant, it is actually inclusive - as it does not exclude either men or women. Of course, in academic and business writing, one must sometimes be politically-correct for the sake of self-preservation, no matter the inelegance or ugliness.  No doubt entire "doctoral" dissertations in "women's studies departments" have been written on this burning topic.  Perhaps even entire careers as feminist "scholars" have been forged in the fires of such "oppression" by pronoun.  And there are probably consultants whose entire reason for existence is to oversee and advise regarding the use of gender and pronouns.

The problem is: it's all nonsense.

Sex and gender are not interchangeable.

Sex is biological and ontological.  With very few exceptions, the entire animal kingdom - human beings included - are physically differentiated by sex within species.  There are two sexes: male and female.  It is a matter of reproduction.  It is so sophisticated as to be encoded into our chromosomes and our DNA, and yet typically easy enough for a toddler to identify.  Until very recently, there was no controversy over sex-segregated restrooms and locker rooms.  There was no issue in distinguishing wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, just as people don't get too worked up over mares and stallions, hens and roosters, lions and lionesses.

Even in cases of physical deformity, biological sex is simply a physical attribute of higher-level creatures - even in cases where it isn't so easy to tell just by looking at the reproductive organs.  Again, sex is coded into the genetic material itself.

By contrast, gender is a grammatical term that describes nouns, not actual living things.  Linguistically, there are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.  The word "gender" is etymologically related to the word "genus" - as in a class or category.  Words fall into one of the three categories - what we call "genders."

In English, the neuter gender ("it") is used for inanimate objects.  Overwhelmingly, the masculine gender ("he") is used for people and animals of the male sex, and the feminine gender ("she") for those of the female sex.  Some exceptions include inanimate ships or cars being referred to by the feminine gender, and until recently, it was conventional to refer to inanimate tropical cyclones in the feminine gender, while also naming them with female human names.  The latter became a sore spot for feminists, who agitated successfully to alternate between genders as tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons emerge.  This important "cause" of storm gender-equality among dangerous weather phenomena that kill people by the thousands and destroy property in the billions of dollars is about one of the stupidest, most irrelevant things ever pursued by these alleged scholars.

Perhaps some of this sex/gender confusion lies in the fact that in English there is a high correlation between the sexes and genders.  In other languages, this is not the case.  In French, for example, there are only two genders: masculine and feminine.  Men and boys are masculine; girls and women are feminine.  But then there is the gender issue for sexless objects, such as houses (feminine), pens (masculine), shirts (feminine), and bicycles (which, depending on which word is used, is either masculine or feminine).  And so maybe it is easier for speakers of romance languages to separate the concept of sex from gender, and to see the value of having and using two distinct words, one to describe biology ("sex"), and another to describe linguistics ("gender").

German has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.  Like English (which is a Germanic language), the sexes and the genders line up with a high (though not universal) degree of correspondence.  One exception is the German word for "girl" - which is grammatically neuter.  I suppose there are some feminists who might be tempted to argue that this is an attempt to degrade the feminine sex.  In fact, the reason for this word's gender has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the diminutive ending of the word which is governed by the neuter.  This is completely natural to a native German speaker.  It really isn't the stuff of patriarchal hegemony, male privilege, and the need for empowerment within Teutonic maidenhood.

Interestingly, another Germanic language seems to have eluded the "scholars" of the sacred sisterhood: Swedish.  Unlike English's inclusive "he," Swedish makes use of the words "she" and "her" ("hon" and "henne") in cases in matters of human generality.  This is because the Swedish word for "person" (in general or of unknown sex) is "människa" which is a word of the feminine gender.  Therefore, when speaking of a person in general, traditionally, the grammatically right pronouns are "she" and "her", not "he" and "him" (though in recent decades there has been a movement to compel gender-neutrality in modern Swedish, including the 3rd person pronoun).

But where are all of the "gender studies" experts and feminist historians and literary critics to lambaste traditional, historic Swedish?  Where are the cries of "sexism" and "female privilege" and the bad old days of "matriarchal hegemony" among the descendants of the Vikings?  You don't hear it because it's not there.  "Sex" and "gender" are two different things.  They have made up the entire controversy.  It's absolute balderdash.

Unless you're being compelled, you have the choice to use the words "sex" and "gender" with proper distinction.  There is very good reason that "gender" and "sex" are two distinct vocables in our languages.  And in spite of the fact that someone will inevitably cite dictionary definitions and wax eloquently about how languages evolve, the plain truth is that the notions of biological, ontological "sex" and linguistic "gender" are two distinct concepts that are not interchangeable.  And all the attempts in the world to put square pegs into round holes and to claim that words do not mean what they say notwithstanding, you are free to use words rightly and with precision - even over and against the politically-correct scolds and pseudo-intellectuals who seek to change reality and control thought by changing the way words are used.  In fact, I argue that we have a duty to do so, to resist the nanny-state of human thought and linguistic expression.

If a feminist scholar of ether sex demands that we give up the inclusive "he" or that the words "sex" and "gender" are interchangeable social constructs, he is simply wrong.  He is the one who ought to change his writing style for the sake of intellectual honesty and integrity.  Nothing says we are compelled to obey him or his linguistic agendas.  He would be well-advised to leave the world of feminist fantasy and immerse himself in actual critical thought for his own good, for the sake of the truth, and for the dignity of all of mankind.

Capitalism is the Only Divinely-Sanctioned Economic System

“You shall not steal.”
~ Ex 20:15

Methodist minister and blogger Morgan Guyton wrote an April 22, 2014 post in his blog Mercy Not Sacrifice called “Six Ways that Capitalism Fails the Church.”  He takes a common tack among modern Christian writers, from the pope to popular evangelicals of both the right and the left, that capitalism is bad for Christianity, if not inimical to our faith. 

He could not be more wrong.  In fact, capitalism is the only biblical economic system.

The seventh commandment is: “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15).  This is the basis for capitalism.  Without the seventh commandment, there is no civilization, but only barbarism, the law of the jungle, and the ethical principle of “might makes right.”  By contrast, God’s Law recognizes private property as not only a nice thing, but a commandment to be obeyed.  Respect for private property lays down the capitalist economic system.  No other system respects the seventh commandment.

By divine revelation, private property is a given, and it follows that non-aggression against that private property is God’s Law.  And by definition, property can be freely used by the owner in whatever way he does not aggress against his neighbor.  As we would like to maintain our own property, so we should do unto others (Luke 6:31).  The seventh commandment is the basis of the rule of law at home and of treaties abroad, of respected borders and is manifested in Scripture by stone markers laying out property lines (e.g. Prov 22:28).  It is the foundation of trade, in which property-owners barter with one another, or use a common medium of exchange (money) to affect mutually-beneficial transactions.

This is capitalism.  Nothing more, nothing less.

But there are rules in capitalism.  “You shall not steal” precludes fraud.  For selling something under false pretenses is not only theft, it is also a breaking of the eighth commandment prohibiting “false witness” against one’s neighbor (Ex 20:16).  Compelling the buying or selling of something at bayonet point is a violation of the fifth commandment against murder (Ex  20:13), that is, aggression against one’s neighbor in his body.  Scripture is replete with trade and price negotiations (e.g. Gen 23:4-16).  In capitalism, a transaction only happens voluntarily when both buyer and seller reach a mutually acceptable deal.  Scripture is also laden with prohibitions against fraud in the marketplace (e.g. Prov 11:1, prohibiting rigged scales – a tool for unscrupulous merchants to cheat customers based on false weights and measures).

Capitalism, like every other form of economics, is a result of the Fall.  In the Garden of Eden, there was no scarcity.  All resources were available in abundance.  Some argue that land was scarce, as two people could not occupy the same ground at the same time, but I argue that the same could be said of the air we breathe.  And even though two people cannot share the same breath of air at the same time, this does not make air economically scarce, a commodity to be bought and sold or rationed by a state or a tribal leader.  In the Garden of Eden, there was no competition for scarce resources, including productive land, as all creation was declared by God to be “very good” (Gen 1:31).  All was perfect and in abundance. 

After the Fall, we see the economic problem emerge (Gen 3:17-19).  Adam is told that the ground is cursed, getting food was to be painful, thorns would interfere with his labor, and that he would work to make bread “by the sweat of [his] face,” that is, he would have to live by his labor mixed with the resources of the soil.  Here we see the classic economic transition from a “Robinson Crusoe” scenario to an economic community of people owning property, discovering the division of labor, and engaging in productive free trade so as to enrich everyone.

So in a nutshell, capitalism is simply living in a world of scarce resources by obeying the seventh commandment.

Articles like the Rev. Guyton’s piece perform a shell-game sleight-of-hand by properly criticizing human sin, dishonestly, and fraud, but falsely labeling those things “capitalism.”  But once again, capitalism is simply private property and its voluntary trade.  Capitalism is simply the seventh commandment in action.

In each of his six citations of “capitalism” and its “failures”, it isn’t capitalism that is failing, but rather sinful man.  For there are God-pleasing ways to use one’s property, and God does not compel, but rather entreats.  God loves us, but He also allows that love to be unrequited.  God is not a rapist.  Human beings are not robots.  God allows men to have property, and to make choices regarding that property.  The ethics of the decisions we make concerning our property are not an indictment against property itself any more than the fact that there is violence in the world is proof that the fifth commandment, the ethical assertion that life is sacred, has failed the church.  The problem is not God’s Word, the problem is us.  The problem is sin.

Moreover, if capitalism “fails the church,” this implies that a non-capitalist economic system might be a more attractive alternative.  This was Marx’s view.  He believed that private property and free trade is exploitive, and that by abolishing private property and free exchange, and by reconditioning mankind to no longer be motivated by profit, then a return to Edenic life was not only possible, but inevitable.  And as a transition to this Paradise Restored, Marx believed that a period of state socialism was necessary.  In socialism, the state takes property from the one who has, and redistributes it to the one who has not.

But the seventh commandment remains: “You shall not steal.”  The fact that the stealing is done by an elected or appointed henchman, the fact that violating the God-given paradigm of private property is being carried out officially for some pie-in-the-sky hope for something good down the road, not only doesn’t excuse it, but turns the state into a false god.  And this is exactly what we have seen in communist countries that accept this Marxist dogma of a restoration of Eden without Christ and the cross, seeing an alternative pathway to redemption instead by a hammer and sickle.  According to Marxist (communist and socialist) ideology, the problem is not sin, but capitalism.

Guyton repeats the error of Marx and recapitulates the communist and socialist critique of private property, which is itself a critique and repudiation of God’s Law.

Another economic alternative to capitalism is fascism, which is not the complete abnegation of private property, not state ownership of the means of production as in Marxism, but rather it is state control of these means.  It attempts to split the baby of private property between the owner and the state.  It tries to reap the vast human benefits of voluntary trade and the innovations and incentives provided by the price system and the profit motive, while holding onto state central economic planning and skimming the profits for the benefit of the state (and its “cronies,” hence the term “crony capitalism”), in wealth and power.

But this is just more of the same.  Under fascism, there is no real respect for the seventh commandment.

Modern western states function under a “mixed” economy – which is sometimes portrayed as capitalism (with “reasonable” state regulation), when in fact, it is actually more of a mix between socialism and fascism.  Some economic sectors are completely socialized, such as government roads, “public” schools, parks, military, police, judges, Social Security, welfare, etc.  Other sectors are private, but subject to government regulation and central economic planning, such as health care, insurance, transportation, utilities, etc.  Even one’s private home and income are subject to ever-increasing taxation and regulation as to how they can be used.  Very few parts of the economy are truly privatized.  Even labor is subject to federal and state regulation and multiple price controls.

Guyton acknowledges that in addressing the question, “Has capitalism failed?” one must define the term.  And while he does acknowledge that capitalism may well be defined as “the free market system itself,” he goes on to criticize the “worship of the market.”  And here is where he begins a series of self-contradictions, wrongly labeling what he calls “worship of the market” as “capitalism” and then knocking down this straw man that he has created.  He criticizes many things by calling them “capitalism” when they are not capitalism at all.

He writes: “It’s possible to navigate the free market system without worshiping the market.  The problem is that passive participants in the capitalist market do end up making it their god insofar as they allow the market to determine the value of the created objects in our world in place of God.”

But in no place in Scripture does God assign “the value of the created objects.”  Value is a subjective and temporal matter, not an objective and eternal matter.  Oranges cost more after a freeze because the supply is less than the demand.  Computers are more powerful and cheaper today because of innovation and changing technologies.  The costs of slide rules and oil lamps have changed radically because our world has changed radically.  Prices adjust organically to these changes.  To the ancient Israelites, yokes and swords and potter’s wheels were high-demand objects, whereas in our day, the vast majority of people will never own any of these things.  The same variation exists for labor.  The demand for blacksmiths and telegraph operators isn’t what it used to be.

So what determines something’s value – be it material or labor?  It’s a matter of supply and demand and how badly an individual wants something.  To a coffee drinker, it may be entirely reasonable to pay $4.95 for a latte, but he might not be willing to pay ten cents for a cup of tea.  Others would not be willing to pay a penny for a cup of coffee, because they don’t drink it.  A coffee shop owner takes all of this into account, and sets a price that will enable him to stay in business and hopefully prosper, and at the same time, he serves his neighbor by providing beverages for customers who voluntarily make purchases.  If his product or service is not worth the price, he will adjust his prices accordingly, or may go out of business.  Competing businesses provide feedback, and incentivize the shop owners to work hard to please their customers based on value and desire to do business.  And customers can opt to buy coffee or tea, or may opt to save their money for something else.

None of this is evil.  None of this “fails the church.”  This is the biblical and civilized way for human beings to live together peacefully in society.  Anything else is aggression.  A bank robber enriches himself by fear and intimidation.  A government-granted monopoly has no concern for pleasing customers.  A fascist system sets the price of coffee regardless of what is best for buyer and seller – and being necessarily authoritarian and bureaucratic, is also unable to flex efficiently between shifts in supply and demand (e.g. a fad for drinking tea instead of coffee, a freeze in the areas where coffee is grown, a sudden glut in dairy products, rising costs of heating and air conditioning, etc.).  It is doomed to fail even under the best of intentions with the brightest minds calling the shots.

The six “failures” cited by Guyton have nothing to do with capitalism.

His first critique is: “Capitalism fails the church when discipleship becomes an industrial complex.”  He cites “a monster Christian publishing industry” that “desperately needs to sell its books and videos in order to grow.”  He cites a shift in Christian culture from true discipleship to a desire for “results” and an emphasis on “stewardship campaigns.” 

But this has nothing to do with capitalism.  The problem is not the freedom to trade.  The problem is not that the state doesn’t own the means of production.  The problem is not that there isn’t enough government regulation or central planning.  He is actually complaining about the way people use their God-given freedom.  The problem is not the God-given freedom (which manifests itself economically by the free market), but rather with human sin.

If people believe the Holy Spirit isn’t “good enough,” this is a sin problem, not an economics problem.  If people don’t understand discipleship in a capitalist-leaning economy, the problem would not be fixed by changing to a communist economy.

In fact, godly stewardship presumes capitalism.  It depends on “cheerful” givers (2 Cor 9:7) voluntarily sharing their time, talent, and treasure with the church and in giving alms (Matt 6:2).  In a non-capitalist system, there isn’t the freedom to support a church or a chosen charity – and it may even be considered “criminal” to do so.  Such matters are planned by the state and overseen by bureaucrats for the supposed common good, precisely to avoid “misuses” of freedom and resources of the type complained about by the Rev. Guyton.  In a non-capitalist system, Christian book publishers are simply shut down.  I don’t think this is a good alternative, and I don’t believe this would fix the discipleship issue complained about by the author. 

In fact, some have tried to argue that Christianity and Marxism are compatible, that the “social gospel” is a way to gainsay capitalism while looking after the poor as we are commissioned to do by our Lord.  Some critics of capitalism point to the sharing of resources in the early church (Acts 4:32) and even Marx’s maxim: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is biblical (Acts 4:34).  The crucial difference is that Christian sharing with each other and with the poor is voluntary.  There is no state mechanism to compel “gifts” to the poor.  They are freely given.  And as is the case with Adam and Eve, freedom can be used properly or improperly.  And yet, God does not remove their freedom.  They must live with the consequence of their choices, but God never removes their ability and free will to disobey Him.  All attempts to create Utopia at the point of a gun have ended in abysmal failure, in gluts and shortages and poverty and concentration camps for dissidents.

Guyton’s critique of capitalism implies that Christians ought not support economic freedom and should examine the alternatives.  The twentieth century is a hard lesson and a bitter warning as to where such restrictions against freedom lead.

His second thesis is: “Capitalism fails the church when consumerism becomes a moralistic obligation.”

He decries people using their money not to support the kingdom of God (seen as grudgingly throwing “a bunch of money at God”) but instead spending the money on sports, entertainment, education, etc. “as part of a middle-class existence that is defined by a guilt-ridden moralistic consumerism” such as buying food that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup or certain kinds of milk that might be healthier.

I agree that younger generations of people have a greatly reduced sense of stewardship and responsibility for their church and for taking care of the less fortunate.  But again, the problem isn’t capitalism – the freedom to make choices.  The problem is making choices based on a reduced priority of God in our lives (the first commandment, “you shall have no other gods” Ex 20:3).  The problem is not the economic system, but sin.  The problem isn’t the market, but idolatry.  This cannot be fixed by taking away economic freedom and having state compulsion any more than Marx’s Utopia can come about through forced redistribution of wealth.  The problem of a godless society can’t be fixed by godless communism.  The problem of a lack of respect for God’s Law can’t be fixed by we ourselves dishonoring the seventh commandment.  The solution is not in the abolition of capitalism, but in repentance.  Our freedom to make decisions is not to blame for our sin any more than the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to blame for Adam and Eve’s sin.

His third critique is: “Capitalism fails the church when churches with bling build their membership on transfer growth from churches without bling.”

I agree that the “sheep-stealing” – especially by wealthy mega-churches with all the bells and whistles – over and against modest or even poor churches where God’s Word is proclaimed in truth and purity – is a great and vexing problem.  But again, the problem is not the money, but the love of money (1 Tim 6:10).  The problem is not in the freedom to attend any church, but in the human sin of selecting a church based on the color of its screens and cup-holders rather than on the content of its doctrine and practice.  In economies that lean more in the direction of capitalism, there is more relative freedom of religion and freedom to worship.  In societies with less economic freedom, there is more state restriction on churches and on the freedom of individuals to worship as they please.

If people are taken in by “bling” and by entertainment style (self-)worship, by phony faith healing and false teachings about “name it and claim it” theology, if people are allured by false prophets (Matt 7:15) and by what their own itching ears long for (2 Tim 4:3), the problem is not economic freedom, but faithlessness.  And heresy can and does happen in any economic system.  When Esau sold his birthright (Gen 25:29-34), the problem wasn’t that God allowed him to do it through private property and economic freedom, the problem is that he did it because he was faithless and foolish in that he “despised his birthright” (v. 34).  Esau’s sin was the problem, not the mechanism of the free market.

Fourth, the author writes: “Capitalism fails the church when people who don’t tithe say the church should take care of the poor.”

Here the author criticizes those who believe the role of government should diminish, and he implies that government should, in fact, be in the business of helping the poor.  He suggests that churches “could take some of the load off of the government’s hands.”

Here he has the problem entirely in reverse.  Before the Progressive Era, before the Federal Reserve Act (1913), before the alphabet soup agencies of the federal government created in the twentieth century, private agencies – including churches – founded hospitals, universities, orphanages, relief societies, and myriads of institutions to care for the poor and needy.  Today, the average American is taxed at the rate of more than 50% of his wealth in income taxes, property taxes, excise taxes, sales taxes, etc. at every level of government.  We live in a non-capitalistic system of mandatory Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and ObamaCare.  There are differing opinions about the value and efficiency of these institutions, but what we have today is certainly not free-market capitalism.  The average churchgoer is not in a financial position to tithe a full ten percent, and most churches can barely pay their bills and clergy salaries – let alone run soup kitchens and start schools as used to be the norm.

The problem is not the capitalist paradigm, but the non-capitalist paradigm.  All charitable giving suffers when taxes rise, when government assumes an increasingly greater role in taking care of the poor.  And unlike churches and private charity, government gets its money through force. 

Here, Guyton has it entirely backward: Socialism and fascism have failed the church, failed society, failed the poor, and has crushed the ability of churches to care for the poor to virtually nil. 

Fifth, he writes: “Capitalism fails the church when ‘helping’ becomes a consumer product.”

He criticizes church-based charities that are subject to market forces, such as their stance on homosexuality.  But this is the nature of freedom.  If I start a charitable organization and I announce that I am in favor of practices explicitly condemned in Scripture, I can’t compel Christians to take part in it.  By contrast, government can, and does.  For instance, the federal government now compels Christians to pay for birth control and abortion contrary to their consciences.   While a specific agency that sponsors needy children may lose money by adopting one stance or the other regarding homosexuality, the free market ensures that any vacuum that happens as a result will be filled.  This is the flexible and adaptive nature of the market.  Entrepreneurs, motivated by the profit motive, find niche markets and ways to be more efficient and to please their customers and clients.  In the case of non-profit organizations, the “profit” is not monetary, but is what is termed by economists as “psychic capital.” 

For example, as a pastor, I am motivated to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people in my parish and to evangelize those outside of my parish.  I economize my time and resources so as to seek “profit” – not monetary, but spiritual.  In other words, if the kingdom of God will “profit” more by my spending time writing or visiting shut-ins, over and against spending the church’s money on signs or in spending my time doing door-to-door “cold calls” to try to teach people the faith, it stands to reason that I will invest my time and money accordingly in a way that increases the “profit” that I’m seeking.  This is economics 101. 

The solution is to let people make choices according to the rewards they will reap for the kingdom.  Charities will have to decide what is more important, having a stand one way or the other on homosexuality or global warming or endorsing a particular political party or controversial doctrinal stance – and they will have to live with the results.  The best way for an organization to serve the church and to serve man is to be in harmony with God’s Word and to leave the trendy political stuff to others.  Again, the problem is not with freedom of choice, but the reality is that some choices are not as wise as other choices.  The solution isn’t to take away choice.

Finally, the Rev. Guyton argues: “Capitalism fails the church when God is defined as a banker instead of a shepherd.”

Here, the author criticizes the idea of sin as “debt” – although this is precisely how our Lord describes it in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:12) and elsewhere (e.g. Matt 18:21-35).  Our Lord uses capitalistic illustrations in His parables explaining the kingdom of God, such as in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) and the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16).  Such teachings are not opposed to the “shepherd” imagery of our Lord, as the author claims.

I think his point would be better made by recounting what actually happened in the church, when grace became seen as a scarce product that could be earned, bought, sold, and brokered by church bureaucrats as a commodity.  This manifested itself in the medieval sale of indulgences and the treating of salvation as a physical good to be obtained by labor and/or purchase.  This failure was not because of capitalism, but because Christians lost their rightful monergistic understanding of grace.

Grace is not a substance, like gold or silver.  Grace is not scarce.  Economically, it is like the air we breathe.  It is not for sale.  It is limitless and boundless.  It is not a commodity, but rather the disposition of our Lord toward us in forgiving our sins and restoring us to life through faith and delivered to us in Word and Sacrament – in a true Paradise Restored, without money and without price (Rev 22:17).  And He does this by virtue of a transaction, the ransom payment of the debt of our sins on the cross by our Benefactor, Jesus Christ, “not with… silver or gold” (1 Pet 1:18) but “with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death” as confessed in Luther’s Small Catechism.

I think Guyton’s criticisms are not only misguided, but harmful.  If people buy into the myth that capitalism is not in harmony with Scripture, or to take it further, that capitalism fails the church, this may encourage more people to view aggression as a godly way for the church to exist in the world through embracing unbiblical economic systems, like socialism and fascism, that have proven themselves antithetical to the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom, the church.

Capitalism has not failed the church, sin has.  And the Rev. Guyton’s “cure” is more of the disease itself.  The only godly and biblical economic system, benefiting Christians and non-Christians alike, is capitalism. 

“You shall not steal.”

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sermon: Misericordias Domini (Easter 3) – 2014

4 May 2014

Text: John 10:11-16 (Ezek 34:11-16, 1 Pet 2:21-25)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In most cases, it’s considered an insult to be called a “sheep.” 

This expression is often used to indicate someone who isn’t too bright, who blindly follows a leader, and who is on his way to be slaughtered.  “People are sheep” we sometimes say when a group of people follow a bad leader and get themselves into a mess.

But here we see in Scripture – in all three of our readings – that the Lord calls us just that.  He compares His people to a flock of sheep who are lost, and who need a shepherd to get them out of the mess.

In funerals and in ministering to the dying, the twenty-third Psalm provides great comfort, and in that Psalm, David, himself a former shepherd who became a king – calls all of us sheep and calls the Lord our “shepherd.”

But when God is our shepherd, when our Good Shepherd is revealed to be Jesus, suddenly it’s not so bad to be called a sheep.  In fact, there is great comfort in being part of a flock and to be led by a Master.  Jesus is the eternal King who is also the Good Shepherd, the leader who has been slaughtered on our behalf and for our salvation.

Listen to the promise the prophet Ezekiel speaks to the people of God, His flock, in the centuries before Christ, addressing the people of Israel: “For thus says the Lord God: Behold I, I myself will search for My sheep and I will seek them out…. I will rescue them.”

The old saying is that if you want something done right, you do it yourself.  God Himself promises to gather us into a flock and rescue us from the trouble we get into by scattering, by sinfully separating ourselves from His Word and from His Church.  God Himself comes to us to call us back – the Good Shepherd.  He doesn’t send a hired hand.  He doesn’t send a servant.  He doesn’t send an angel.  God Himself takes on flesh and blood and takes up the shepherd’s crook.  He interposes Himself between us and our enemies.  He saves us.

And when we are described as the Lord’s sheep, when He is our Shepherd, our Good Shepherd, it isn’t insulting at all.  It is comforting and it is encouraging.  It fills us with joy and hope and expectation of eternal life.

For, compared to our all-knowing God, we aren’t too bright.  And when God Himself is our leader, when Jesus is our Shepherd, the King of Love, we don’t mind being followers.  And unlike the hired hands and the false shepherds – be they in the world or in the church – our Lord truly rescues us by getting us out of the mess we are in due to sin.  He gathers us into the flock of the Church, the assembly of those who were lost, but who are found, the people of God whom He leads to green pastures and still waters.

For we have a Shepherd who is also a sheep, a God who is also a man, a Champion who has defeated death and who has also gone through death: “the Lamb the sheep has ransomed, Christ who only is sinless.”

As St. Peter, the disciple whom our Lord told to “Feed my sheep,” reminds us today: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

In our sins, dear brothers and sisters, we were like wandering sheep, scattered from the flock, and in mortal danger of being eaten by the predator, who is the wolf, Satan.  But along has come our Good Shepherd.  Not a hired hand who “cares nothing for the sheep,” who “sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees.”  No indeed!  Our Lord took up His Shepherd’s crook when He took up His cross.  Our Lord cracked the wolf on the skull when He Himself was crucified on the hill known as Golgatha: the place of the Skull.  Our Lord “lays down His life for the sheep” being the very Passover Lamb to end all Passovers, the one final all-availing sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.  “The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.”

He says: “I am the Good Shepherd.”  He tells us He is God: “I am.”  He is the “I Myself” from Ezekiel.  “I am the good shepherd,” says our Lord Jesus, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….  I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Jesus has come to gather us, dear friends, us poor miserable sinners.  He has come to save us from our foolish wanderings, to gather us where we will be safe: in the Church, in the flock, under His divine care.  For He knows us and we know Him.  He places His brand on us in Holy Baptism, and we follow where he calls us by His Word.  And instead of hired hands to assist Him, He calls pastors who proclaim His Word and place the brand of baptism upon you.  He charges His pastors (a word that means “shepherds,” by the way) to likewise lay down our lives for the Lord’s sheep and to feed His sheep with His very body and blood.  He calls us to speak His Word of life to you.  He calls us to agonize over you, to pray for you, to go to war against the devil for you.  He calls us to speak to you only the Word of our Good Shepherd, the pastor and bishop of our souls, as St. Peter describes our Lord Jesus in the original Greek language.

For when the Lord is our Shepherd, we want for nothing.  We are restored and led for His name’s sake.  In life and in death, we need not fear, for we take comfort in His leadership over us.  We are anointed by the Anointed One Himself to the point of overflowing, and we live forever because the Lord our Shepherd, our Good Shepherd, “lays down His life for the sheep.”

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


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.