Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sermon: St. Luke - 2017

18 October 2017

Text: Luke 10:1-9, (Isa 35:5-8, 2 Tim 4:5-18)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Saint Luke was not one of the twelve apostles.  He was not flamboyant and boisterous like St. Peter.  He was not the evangelist covering of most of the empire as was St. Paul.  He was not the “disciple whom Jesus loved” as was St. John.  He wasn’t a fisherman like many of the early leaders of the disciples.  As far as we know, he wasn’t a bishop who oversaw pastors and churches, as were James, Peter, Timothy and many of the apostles and early disciples.

In fact, Luke was probably an intellectual.  His Greek writing suggests that he was highly educated and had studied history.  St. Luke was a medical doctor.  Early historians teach us that he was one of the 72 that our Lord sent out ahead of Himself in areas where he planned to go.  It is also said that he was an iconographer, a painter of portraits of our Lord and His mother.  St. Luke is also said to have been executed as a martyr at the age of 84.  From Scripture, we know that he accompanied St. Paul on many journeys, and that he was one of the few faithful who stayed with Paul at the end of his life in Rome.

But St. Luke’s greatest acts were literary in nature: between his Gospel of Luke and the sequel, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke wrote some 27% of the New Testament.  His greatest legacy is actually the Word from the Holy Spirit given to teach us about Jesus. 

And there is no greater honor for a pastor and preacher – that he did not give glory to himself, but to Christ alone!  In a real sense, St. Luke is still one of those 72 evangelists sent out to prepare the way for Jesus to come, “into every town and place where He (Jesus) was about to go.” 

Just as St. Luke remained faithful to St. Paul, Luke still remains faithful to every pastor and preacher today, being his constant companion in the Word.  It is impossible not to love St. Luke and to see him as a faithful brother in the Office of the Holy Ministry when one preaches Jesus in the very words of St. Luke.

And it is Luke who speaks to us today, dear friends, explaining the work of the evangelist in the very words of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  There is so much work to be done in the kingdom, so many who need to hear the Good News, people to reach with the Gospel: those here in our neighborhood and in our families, as well as those on the other side of the globe.  So we must “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers” to preach and teach and baptize, to visit and absolve and feed with the Holy Supper. 

And of course, we pastors cannot do this alone.  We are dependent upon the church.  The 72 were told: “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals…” meaning that we are to depend upon the kindness of others for our own livelihood, “eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages.”  It is the holy work of the laity to support their pastors and their families at home, and to provide for missionaries abroad.  

Preachers are ambassadors of Jesus.  They are spokesmen for the King.  They proclaim amnesty and pardon to sinners.  They are authorized to speak forgiveness in His name and by His authority.  They preach Christ crucified, and do so in season and out of season, proclaiming the Good News that because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we have received His grace – grace that redeems us from sin, death, and the devil, grace that brings us into communion with God, grace that delivers to us everlasting life in the flesh, in the new heaven and the new earth.  This is the church’s happy and urgent message – inscribed by the pen of Luke, proclaimed by the lips of Luke, and read today from the Gospel of Luke.

And Jesus sends these preachers out “as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  Satan seeks to destroy the church by attempting to shut down the proclaimers of the Gospel.  There are wolves out there, dear friends, wolves who stir up churches and cause dissent.  Sometimes these wolves are bishops and church leaders, sometimes pastors, and sometimes lay people.  And the Lord’s servants are like sheep.  They are followers of Jesus: shepherds who become like sacrificial lambs; for no servant is above his Master. 

And in a sense, all Christians are to be lambs amid wolves.  We are all sent out in all of our callings as innocents into a violent and evil world, under the spell of the devil, who wishes to devour us and destroy our faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, were we on our own, we would certainly fail.  But we are not on our own.  We have Jesus and the angels guiding us, guarding us, delivering us from evil and from the evil one.  We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and working through us, no matter what our Christian vocation is.

St. Luke was with Paul, who wrote, “Luke alone is with me,” when he exhorted Timothy to “always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”  And we must, as Christians, strive to carry out our Christian callings so that we might likewise say, “I am ready to be poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

For the Gospel is about fixing everything that is wrong with our world, as Isaiah prophesies: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”  All of these impediments are removed by Christ our Savior and Redeemer.  We will see an end to deserts and hunger and thirst, to be replaced with the lushness of life and the Way of Holiness, a pathway for those declared righteous by the Lord and His Gospel!  

This, dear friends, is the message of Luke, which is the message of the church, which is the message of our preaching and teaching, which is the message of the Gospel, which is the message of Jesus Christ – the one in whose holy name we gather, whose praise we sing, whose body and blood we eat and drink unto eternal life, and whose servant Luke continues to bring us Good News – and will do so until the Lord’s return.  Amen!

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

Are human beings valued intrinsically or instrumentally?

This is no mere academic debate between ivory-tower philosophers.  This is a crucial question that touches upon culture and laws in the real world.  And it is not hard to understand.  It's a basic question about how we treat other people.  These two short videos viewed together really expose why we are seeing so much oppression and violence in our culture.

Alan Shlemon speaks on two opposing worldviews of what it means to be human: the Intrinsic Value Theory, vs. the Instrumental Value Theory (beginning at 28:44)...

Summer White with Apologia Studios interviews feminists on the most basic questions of what it means to be human and to have rights...

Shlemon's distinction between these two worldviews is clearly demonstrated by such interviews. This topic is worth pondering and discussing.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 21 and Baptism of Gilbert Hart - 2017

15 October 2017

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

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord reminds us yet again that we are at war.  St. Paul exhorts us to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”  He urges us to “take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

While the world is in denial that we are at war – it is made very clear to us Christians.  We are on the front lines of battle “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil.”

And this war, dear friends, is different than the skirmishes and conflicts and combat between earthly nations.  It is not waged with marching armies and high-tech explosives.  It is not about killing our fellow men.  For the soldiers in this war include every citizen of Christendom, every person in our nation that transcends all nations, every member of our tribe and race that transcends all tribes and all races.  Our warriors include even little children, including our newest enlistee, Gilbert Benson Hart.

To a world in denial that we are even at war, they see nothing more than a baby and an unimportant ritual, an opportunity to take pictures and congratulate the parents on their new child.  But to us Christians, there is more going on.  Warriors are not born, but made.  And like most Christians, Gilbert became a warrior even before he was old enough to steel his body and spirit for battle through training and discipline.  There will be that, of course, as all Christian parents know that it is their duty to train their children through prayer and catechesis, through living an active life in the church, through Word and Sacrament, through a warrior’s vocation of militancy against the “cosmic powers over this present darkness.” 

But, dear friends, in our militant forces of the church, warriors are made by something as common and unassuming as a splash of water, made powerful and active through the miraculous and mighty Word of God – the very same Word that brought the universe into being, the same Word that took on flesh within His creation, the same Word whose mastery extends not only over the chemical properties of water and wine, but even over sickness and death.

Like all warriors, Gilbert joined us in our oath of loyalty to our King as well as oath to repudiate the enemy, his works and ways.  And Gilbert was endowed with a new spirit through a miracle of the Word of God continuing to act in our war-torn land, continuing to call and rally His troops to join in the great victory that He achieved at the cross.

Our Lord was there in the beginning, as the Word brought order to that which was “without form and void.”  The “Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Word brought light by His command.  He separated the primordial randomness into beautiful order.  He began space and time itself, and culminated his creation by creating man in His own image, male and female, and placing them in the paradise that He had created.  “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”

Every creature, from the mightiest galaxy to the smallest electron knew its place in this order, and obeyed the will of God.  But mankind was given something that no other creature was given: a will of his own.  Made in God’s image, Mankind was empowered to make decisions and was trusted to be creation’s caretaker.  But instead of loyalty, we displayed treachery.  We took the beautiful peaceful universe and turned it into a battleground; we received our beautiful paradise and left it in rubble. 

Dear friends, our Lord did not give up on us, but fights for us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  The Word became our fleshly King, and He makes war for us, and enlists us to join in the struggle against the “spiritual forces of evil.”

The pinnacle of this war, its turning point, the crucial battle that altered the course of history and assured our victory was the Lord’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection.  Like many military victories, this was an ambush that drew the enemy in, trapped him, and unleashed a torrent of arms upon him, destroying him, and re-establishing peace through victory.  Jesus won this war at the cross, by His bloodshed, by His willing sacrifice, by His obedience to His orders, by His ingenious strategy, and by His love for the nation – our nation that transcends all nations.  And our risen King rallies us all to join in the resistance to the devil, to become Christ’s warriors to save others, and to look forward to the eternal victory triumph when we will eternally serve our King in peace.  For by His blood, our sins are forgiven, order is restored to creation, and the very concept of death yields to a renewed obedience of every galaxy, every electron, and every person created in God’s image once more being happily obedient in eternity.

The worst thing about warfare is death.  There are horrific casualties.  The carnage seems pointless, and often it appears that there is no end in sight.  After our Lord’s first miracle of water and wine, a man prayed to Jesus to heal his dying son.  By the power of Jesus and through the belief, the faith, of the child’s father, death was turned back.  Our Lord would go on to establish a continued ministry of saving the dying, of empowering parents with faith to save their dying sons and daughters by means of future miracles involving water and wine.  And lest we miss the point, the body of our victorious Lord issued water and blood at the point of the Roman spear.  For His death saves us by these means.

Today, we see the ongoing miracle of salvation by means of baptismal water, as well as the wine of the Lord’s Supper.  We witnessed the water and the Word being applied to Gilbert’s head, even as he was helmeted with salvation and girded for battle.  We will take part in the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ forgiving our sins anew by means of bread and wine, through the Word of God, made into His very body and blood, to steel us for battle, to strengthen our faith, and to fortify us for war against the old evil foe.

Though the battle rages, the war is won!  Though we fight to the death, we are assured of life!  Though Gilbert’s parents have turned him over to militant service, they have brought him to eternal life with them and with all believers in the peace that passes all understanding! 

For there is nothing that all warriors value more than “peace.”  This word “peace” was the first thing the risen and victorious Lord said to His disciples after the resurrection.  “Peace” is the meaning of the word “Salem” that our forbears chose to name our congregation.  And “peace” is that which Jesus won for us at the cross, and that which the waters of baptism ultimately remind us of: that peaceful and good creation began when the Word created an expanse in the midst of the waters, when we were created in God’s image, and it was all very good!

Rise to Arms! 
With prayer employ you.
O Christians lest the foe destroy you;
For Satan has designed your fall.
Wield God’s Word, the weapon glorious;
Against all foes be thus victorious,
For God protects you from them all.
Fear not the hordes of hell,
Here is Emmanuel.  Hail the Savior!
The strong foes yield
To Christ our shield,
And we, the victors, hold the field.


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

Monday, October 09, 2017

New SLMS Newsletter!

The October 2017 issue of the newsletter of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society (edited by yours truly) is up!  Past newsletters (15 years' worth!) can be found here.

To support the work of the SLMS (with 100% offerings doing directly to Siberia), click on the donate button!

Bonus: a short documentary of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, made in 2007, is available here:

If you would like to see my travel blog from my 2011 tour of many of our Siberian cities and sister churches, you can click here.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 20 - 2017

8 October 2017
Text: Matt 22:1-14 (Isa 5:1-9, Eph 5:15-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“The kingdom of heaven,” says Jesus, “may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.”

This is the story of mankind: rejecting God and the gifts that He offers because we are too busy, we are bored, we have other priorities, we don’t get anything out of it.  It’s boring, I want to sleep in, I already know this stuff. I read my Bible at home, I watch the preacher on TV, I’m a good person, my parents made me go to church, my children should pick their own religion.  And so on.

And yet, God sends servants “to call those who were invited to the wedding feast.”  I can’t tell you how often my colleagues in the office of the holy ministry are hauled on the carpet by the leadership of their congregations: we want open communion, we want the sacrament less often, we want Polka services, we want children’s sermons, we want contemporary worship, we want you to be less Lutheran, we want you to overlook the children of legacy families who are living in sin, we want you to stop hassling us about coming to church.

And those servants are sometimes removed from their pulpits, and in some cases, thrown out of the ministry entirely.  I have seen a shocking number of faithful pastors treated shamefully, and it seems that this number grows with each passing year.

But again, God, “sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner… everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”

God is inviting us to live fulfilled lives feasting on the finest that He has to offer!  He invites us to live like kings and share the choicest morsels at His table.  He offers us the Holy Supper of the body and blood of His Son, a glorious eternal wedding feast that gives us everlasting life!

“But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”

This, dear friends, is how the Israelites treated the prophets whom God sent to call them to repentance.  They silenced them.  They killed them. 

And so God invited others to take their place at the table.  “The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.”

Think about this, dear friends.  Our worthiness is not in ourselves, but rather in trusting and responding to God’s gracious invitation.  We did nothing to be invited to the feast.  We didn’t even prepare the meal.  This is how the kingdom of heaven works.  We are poor, miserable sinners, and yet God, in His mercy, sends servants to call us.  These servants may be parents who teach us to pray, or teachers who teach us the catechism, or pastors who preach the Word of God to us.  The prophets and apostles continue to speak God’s invitation to us through the Holy Scriptures.  Jesus Himself continues to bid us to come to His feast, to take part in the Supper that rebuilds us from the inside out, and to hear the transformative Word of God, that bears the power of the Creator and the promise of the Redeemer. 

These servants drag us in from the roads and the byways of life in all its complexity, all of us who desperately need Good News and a new life, people of every walk of life, “both bad and good,” and we are called to be where our King is and to join Him at the table.

And this is how it works, dear brothers and sisters.  We are not here because we are worthy.  We are here because Jesus is worthy.  We are here because we were invited.  We are here because we have the “wedding garment” of Holy Baptism, being invited to join Christ in His burial and death, buried with Him in His sacrifice for our sins.

And maybe this is why we have such a problem with the invitation.  To come to the Lord’s table is to make an admission of guilt: “We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”  Without this confession of sin, and without the cleansing of this sin by Holy Baptism, we are unworthy, and we will be cast out of the feast.

If you try to get into the banquet in the style of Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “I did it my way,” you will hear the King say, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Dear brothers and sisters, we are chosen when we come to the feast Christ’s way, in our humility, in our need, in our desperation to find the truth, to find Jesus where He promises to be.

If people truly believed this promise, this gracious invitation by God Himself to partake in a literally miraculous meal that transports us into eternity – paraphrasing Luther, we would be willing to walk a mile on our knees on broken glass to get to the church.  Our churches would be as packed as our stadiums. 

But the good news, dear friends, is that you are invited.  You have been brought here by the will and providence of God.  Maybe you didn’t feel like it this morning.  Maybe you worked hard all week and are a bit resentful of having to be here.  Maybe you would rather be somewhere else.  But hear the Word, dear friends, listen to the gracious invitation you have received from God Himself!  Think about our Lord’s suffering and death upon the cross to save you, to love you, to give you life that extends beyond the grave!  Think about His patience with us in our rebellious attitudes.  And think that He holds out His very flesh and blood to you, withholding nothing from you.  

In His mercy, He has brought you here for this reason: to hear this Word and to receive His gifts, to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him, and to join with the people of God of every age to participate in the eternal feast. 

By God’s mercy, we were spared the destruction of a hurricane.  By God’s mercy, we woke up this morning, our loved ones with us, enjoying prosperity and freedom that is the envy of the world.  By God’s mercy and His Word, you are being forgiven by the Lord Himself, and by God’s mercy, you recall your own baptism through which the Lord issued you a wedding garment.

Now is the time to stop resisting, and revel in His kindness.  “Seek the Lord while He may be found,” says the prophet Isaiah, “call upon Him while He is near.”  He is as near as the Word that He caused you to hear; as near as His body and blood.  “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts.”  For we are all invited, “both bad and good.”  We are all dependent upon Jesus to be invited.  “Let him return to the Lord,” says Isaiah, “that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

St. Paul exhorts us to make “the best use of the time,” to be wise, since the “days are evil.”  St. Paul invites us to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This, dear friends, is why we are worthy to come to the table: because He is worthy, and He has invited us.  “Everything is ready.  Come to the wedding feast.”  Amen.

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

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Do the Dead and the Unborn Have a Say in our Society?

In his thoughtful work, Moral Matters: A Philosophy of Homecoming, Irish Roman Catholic writer and philosopher Dr. Mark Dooley makes an eloquent, nearly poetic case for cultural conservatism, based in part on a Chestertonian sense of a cultural and filial duty to the dead.

Dooley sees our lives in a great chain of continuity with our ancestors and with our future descendants rather than the way narcissistic post-moderns - with shockingly short time preferences - only see their immediate desires, with no gratitude and with no consideration of those yet to be born.

Conservatism (Latin: conservare, "to preserve") allows the dead, as it were, to have a say, as G.K. Chesterton famously quipped about tradition being a "democracy of the dead."

In the current battle between traditionalist conservatives who wish to preserve American and Western history - warts and all - versus the largely-socialist iconoclasts who tout grand Utopian dreams of a new "Socialist Man" liberated from so-called "oppression" at the hands of those very traditionalists seen as "oppressors," we are seeing this philosophical clash.  Even if conservatives and radicals can't themselves articulate why they seek to either keep monuments in place, or topple them, I believe Dr. Dooley is spot on about the cultural forces that are smashing into one another, like great tectonic plates, in the current seismic shifts in Western Culture. 

The following comes from Chapter Three ("Dealing with the dead") of his book Moral Matters (2015).  I'm still reading it, but find it not only illuminating but inspiring.  If you are looking for an apologetic for cultural conservatism, one that not only captures our current malaise by connecting it to the Great Tradition of Western thought, look no further.

The last word belongs to Mark Dooley:

"When [Edmund] Burke wrote that great book [Reflections on the Revolution in France], the Jacobins were laying siege to the cultural, religious, and political patrimony of France.  They were doing so in the name of 'liberty, equality, and fraternity', the guiding slogan of all subsequent liberalism.  However, in disconnecting France from her past, the Jacobins favoured the living above the dead and the unborn.  Their aim was to destroy those established institutions which conserved the social, spiritual and historical capital for what Burke called 'absent generations'.  This meant actively forgetting that ours is 'not a partnership in things subservient to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishing nature', but a partnership 'not only between those who are living, but between those who are dead and those who are to be born'.  Burke called this 'the great primeval contract of eternal society'.

"Burke's essential point was that what we have, and who we are, is not something that we (the present trustees of society) make or choose.  Rather, it is a gift transmitted from the dead to be conserved in trust for future generations.  The gifts of the dead are embodied in our customs, values, institutions and cultural monuments, all of which pre-exist the individual and through which his sense of self is nurtured and formed.  It is though these monuments that the dead continue to dwell among the living, thus ensuring intergenerational continuity.  Deconstruct those monuments, however, and you sever the unborn from their 'canonised forefathers' and the world they created.  You silence the voice of the dead, silence their wisdom as it is transmitted through the ages....

"The world contains the consciousness, what Hegel again called the 'spirit' (Geist), of those who went before.  Everything, in other words, has a history which is manifest in and through the object.  If we can tell stories about our homes, belongings, and artefacts, it is because they contain the spirit (Geist) of previous generations.  They contain traces of the dead which animate them for the living.  The dead, as it were, live on through their work and possessions.

"A principal objective of the communist system, as indeed that of the Jacobins, was to exorcise the ghosts of the dead from the land of the living. It did so by attempting to scrape from the surface of the world all trace of the old order.  Art, architecture, and religious iconography were all drained of their character, smashed by the sickle until such time as the world could be redesigned in the image of the 'new socialist man.'  The purpose of this vandalism was to disconnect the living from the dead, to empty the world of its spiritual (Geist) significance.  In that way, or so the communists believed, the people would embrace the future instead of perpetually looking to the past as a guide to the present.  Rather than genuflect before 'canonised forefathers', they would now become subservient to the State and its hollow promises of socialist utopia.  By severing people from their heritage, they sought to deplete the storehouse of memory until such time as it no longer existed.  At its most diabolical, this took the form of Pol Pot's 'year 0', in which the Cambodian dictator sought to erase all vestiges of human history.

"As subsequent events proved, however, the spirit of the past is impossible to completely vanquish.  No matter how hard the advocates of of progress endeavour to silence the dead, we remain haunted by their ancestral voices.  We can, of course, pretend that the dead do not dwell among us.... [w]e can become convinced that we are what we make of ourselves, that we are fully self-sufficient.  That, however, leads only to alienation and a false sense of identity.  By contrast, when conservatives look at the world, they see an omnipresence of ghosts. For them, all objects bear witness to their creators.  Even the so-called 'natural world' is imbued with consciousness, with the signs, traces and marks of those who planned, settled and worked on the surrounding environment.  Understanding the world, and thus oneself, requires learning from the dead, incorporating their consciousness into one's own....  [T]he family and education provide children with their first glimpse of ghosts, their first encounter with a world shaped by absent generations and the debt they are owed.  Hence to undermine the family and traditional education is, once again, to detach from the dead....

"Liberalism has been often criticised for promoting a 'culture of death'.  I prefer to say that it fosters a culture of amnesia or one of denial, in as much as it actively strives to forget the dead by cutting its links to the past.  By driving the deceased out of our mind, we are thereby relieved of having to answer their summons to sacrifice.  We no longer have to undertake the hard work of mourning, memory or recollection.  And when that happens, we can simply ignore 'the great primeval contract of eternal society' between the living, the dead, and 'those who are to be born'.  We need only answer to ourselves, for life begins and ends with us.  But that, once again, is to live in a condition of self-deception.  For, it is only by recognising the dead and by honouring their sacrifices that we can establish who we are and where we came from.  It is only by acknowledging that... we are nothing without those who laboured hard so that we might live in relative ease.  It is only by giving new life to our ghosts, by following their direction and continuing their work, that we can find our way back home.  

"To conserve is to remember and cherish with 'the warmth of their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchres, and our altars' (Burke). It is to gaze upon the world as one fashioned by our forbears, one abundantly imbued with their spirit and wisdom.  It is to recognise that the rootless, self-sustaining identity which liberalism advocates is an illusion predicated on a denial of dependence, dependence on those who nurtured and shaped us.  It is to foster a culture of thanksgiving in which we offer grace for all things, knowing that they bear the trace of those who sacrificed on our behalf.  However, it also involves the responsibility to ensure that we uphold and maintain existing monuments so that others may one day enjoy their benefits.  

"When looked at in this way, we see that the core message of genuine conservatism is this: standing, as Eliot put it, at the intersection of 'the timeless and time', we, the living, serve to unite, in Burke's majestic words, the 'visible and invisible world'.  That is why conservatism rejects rejection in favour of love: love of those absent others within oneself and of the world they bestowed to us: love of those others who depend on us for their survival and who, one day, will look upon us as their dead, love, in other words, of all those things which can never be made 'the object of choice', and which, when denied, lead not to 'progress' but to an 'antagonistic world of madness, discord, vice, confusion and unavailing sorrow'."

~ Mark Dooley, Moral Matters, pp. 49-56

The Civil Aeronautics Board: Regulating Sandwich Sizes and Raising Prices

"In 1938, the federal government's Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) began regulating prices, routes, administration of new airlines, and just about every other aspect of the airline industry.  For the next forty years, the CAB administered a monopolistic cartel that benefited corporate airlines rather than consumers.

"The CAB severely restricted competition in the domestic airline industry by allowing no new airlines after 1938 when there were sixteen airline companies operating in the United States.  Several airlines became defunct, so that by 1978, there were only ten remaining, operating under a monopolistic route-sharing scheme. Because airlines could not compete on prices or on routes, both of which were set by the CAB, they competed in other ways, such as offering 'free' alcohol and food.  In response, the CAB began regulating the size of sandwiches that could be offered.

"Government-enforced monopolies are very effective tools of corporate welfare.  In 1974, it cost $1,442 to fly from New York to Los Angeles. In 1978, after the industry was deregulated, the same route cost $268.  This is a typical example of how 'regulation in the public interest' isn't."

~ Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo, The Problem With Socialism, (2016), pp, 154-155, Emphasis added

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 19 - 2017

1 October 2017

Text: Matt 9:1-8 (Gen 28:10-17, Eph 4:22-28)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

All our advances in medicine and technology, all of our solutions to the problems that plague mankind, all of our milestone achievements are, at best, a masking of symptoms.

The world is messed up.  Our lives are messed up.  We are messed up.  And we cannot actually fix a single thing.

But Jesus can.  Jesus did.  And Jesus does.

For example, the paralytic in our Gospel. Even with our technology today, it is rare that paralysis can be repaired.  But even if he would have had surgery to reconnect his nerves, and had he been able to recover from atrophied muscles, and assuming he could get therapy and learn to walk again – the root cause of the problem still exists: sin.

Sin – that of our ancestors as well as our own – has given us a world in decay.  This is the answer to the age-old question: “Why is there evil in the world?”  As if we really need to ask such a question.  The answer is “Because we like it.”  What can you expect a world of seven and a half billion poor, miserable sinners to be like?  And so we find people suffering from every imaginable ailment – some self-inflicted, others not – but all the result of sin.  “For the wages of sin is death.”

And this is why there is Christmas, dear friends. And this is why there is Good Friday.  And this is also why there is Easter – for our Lord was born, and died, to defeat death.  And he doesn’t defeat death by putting a band-aid on the wound or by treating symptoms.

Jesus comes to defeat death by forgiving sin.  And this shocking revelation from God will enrage those who are so invested in appearances and symptoms, like the scribes and Pharisees, that they will attempt to defeat Jesus by arranging His death – which ironically becomes the means of the payment for the sins of the world.

For “behold, some people brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed.  And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven.’  And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’”

Jesus saw the faith of the friends of the paralytic, their belief in Him, that He could and would show mercy to this man trapped by his own body because of sin.  “Take heart,” he tells him.  That is, “Have courage.”  That is, “don’t worry.”  That is, “Don’t despair.”  Jesus doesn’t come with medical tools, but with His Word and the authority of God to forgive sins.

The scribes, by contrast, lack the faith of the paralytic’s friends.  They accuse Jesus of blasphemy.  Jesus calls them out for the “evil” in their “hearts.”

To question the authority that Jesus has to forgive sins, to question Jesus when He breathes on His disciples, and tells them, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven,” anyone who thinks this is blasphemy, is guilty of “evil” down to their very hearts – in contrast to the heart of the paralytic, the courageous forgiven heart of faith displayed by him and by his friends in receiving Jesus’ gift.

And here, dear friends, is where our Lord turns words into deeds, where He puts the flesh on the skeleton of Holy Absolution, where new life is literally poured into the disease-ridden body of the man, who is then renewed by the Word of Jesus Christ. 

Directing the challenge to the scribes, to His accusers, to those with contempt in their hearts, Jesus puts the question: “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk.’?”

Jesus has not come to treat symptoms.  Nor does He simply describe forgiveness.  Rather, He delivers it.  He declares it firmly and with authority by means of His Word.  And he brings it in its fullness!

And so that the scribes, and so that we, “may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He commands the paralytic: “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  Jesus says, “Rise” – the same word used to describe our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, the same word used by Christians to greet one another the world over: “Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!” – the same word used to describe our own resurrection from the dead that assuredly follows our forgiveness by the Lord’s cross and by our baptism and faith, “Rise!” commands our Lord to the sin-burdened flesh of the man, “Rise!” invites our Lord to the forgiven soul of the man, “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  For just as our Lord said, “Your sins are forgiven,” He also said, “Rise” and “go.”

“And he rose and went home.”  His sin was removed.  His disability was withdrawn.  His flesh was restored.  And the crowds were “afraid.”  They had never seen such a display.  They had seen doctors cure diseases, and they had seen priests declare atonement – but they had never seen the effects of sin truly removed by direct command of the Word of God. 

“And they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”  God gives this authority to men, through the Man Jesus, by means of His authority that comes from the Father. 

Indeed, dear friends, do you want to be cured of death?  That is what Jesus does.  He dies so that we might be released from the curse of our own sins.  He says to us: “I forgive you all your sins,” and in baptism, He says, with authority, “Rise and walk” – walk “in newness of life.”  And even in death, according to the will and promise of God, He will call to us just as assuredly as He did to this paralytic: “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”  For we will rise from death and will go to our eternal home: a new heaven and a new earth in a new body unencumbered by sin, disease, or death.

And though we appreciate all that medicine and technology give to us and ease our burdens, only Jesus actually addresses the problem: sin.  Dear friends, in Christ, you are forgiven, made new, and invited to “Rise” on the Last Day. 

Jesus says to you, “Take heart, My son, My daughter, your sins are forgiven.” Amen.

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mises on Communist and Fascist Varieties of Socialism

"The history of mankind is the history of ideas.  For it is ideas, theories and doctrines that guide human action, determine the ultimate ends men aim at, and the choice of the means employed for the attainment of these ends...

"Such people [anti-social individuals] condemn the formalism of the due process of law.  Why should the laws hinder the government from resorting to beneficial measures?  Is it not fetishism to make the laws supreme and not expediency?  They advocate the substitution of the welfare state (Wohlfahrsstaat) for the state governed by the rule of law (Rechtsstaat).  In this welfare state, paternal government should be free to accomplish all things it considers beneficial to the commonweal.  No 'scraps of paper' should restrain an enlightened ruler in his endeavors to promote the general welfare.  All opponents must be crushed mercilessly lest they frustrate the beneficial action of the government. No empty formalities must protect them any longer against their well-deserved punishment.

"It is customary to cal the point of view of the advocates of the welfare state the 'social' point of view as distinguished from the 'individualistic' and 'selfish' point of view of the champions of the rule of law.  In fact, however, the supporters of the welfare state are utterly anti-social and intolerant zealots.  For their ideology tacitly implies that the government will exactly execute what they themselves deem right and beneficial....  They want to exterminate all opponents, that is, all who disagree with them.  They are utterly intolerant and are not prepared to allow any dessension, Every advocate of the welfare state and of planning is a potential dictator.  What he plans is to deprive all other men of all their rights, and to establish his own and his friends' unrestricted omnipotence.  He refuses to convince his fellow-citizens.  He prefers to 'liquidate' them.  He scorns the 'bourgeois' society that worships law and legal procedure. H himself worships violence and bloodshed....

"This was the true meaning of the Lenin revolution.  All the traditional ideas of right and legality were overthrown.  The rule of unrestrained violence and usurpation was substituted for the rule of law.... They we free to kill ad libitum.  Man's innate impulses towards violent extermination of all whom he dislikes, repressed by a long and wearisome evolution, burst forth.  The demons were unfettered.  A new age, the age of the usurpers, dawned.  The gangsters were called to action, and they listened to the Voice....

"It is important to realize that Fascism and Nazism were socialist dictatorships.  The communists, both the registered members of the communist parties and the fellow-travelers, stigmatize Fasism and Nazism as the highest and last and most depraved stage of capitalism.  This is in perfect agreement with their habit of calling every party which does not unconditionally surrender to the dictates of Moscow - even the German Social Democrats, the classical party of Marxism - hirelings of capitalism....

"In recent years the communists' semantic innovations have gone even further.  They call everybody whom they dislike, every advocate of of the free enterprise system, a Fascist....

"Dictatorship and violent oppression of all dissenters are today exclusively socialist institutions.  This becomes clear as we take a closer look at Fascism and Nazism."

~ Ludwig von Mises, 1947
"Planned Chaos"
Published in the 1951 edition of Mises's Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, pp. 566-573

Mises on Nazi Germany: A Left Wing Socialist Ideology

"The philosophy of the Nazis, the German National Socialist Labour Party, is the purest and most consistent manifestation of the anti-capitalistic spirit of our age....

"These [Socialist] parties proclaim income equality as the main thing. The Nazis do the same....  They aim at a fairer distribution of the earth's natural resources.  As a 'have not' nation, they look at the wealth of the richer nations with the same feelings with which many people in the western countries look at the higher incomes of some of their countrymen.  The 'progressives' in the Anglo-Saxon countries assert that 'liberty is not worth having' for those who are wronged by the comparative smallness of their incomes.  The Nazis say the same with regard to international relations....

"For more than seventy years the German professors of political science, history, law, geography and philosophy eagerly imbued their disciples with a hysterical hatred of capitalism, and preached the war of 'liberation' against the capitalistic West....

"The Nazis were quick to adopt the Soviet methods.  They imported from Russia: the one-party system and the pre-eminence of this party in political life; the paramount position assigned to the secret police; the concentration camps; the administrative execution or imprisonment of all opponents; the extermination of the families of suspects and of exiles; the methods of propaganda; the organization of affiliated parties abroad and their employment for fighting their domestic governments and for espionage and sabotage; the use of the diplomatic and consular service for fomenting revolution; and many other things besides.  There were nowhere more docile disciples of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin than the Nazis were."

~ Ludwig von Mises, 1947
"Planned Chaos"
Published in the 1951 edition of Mises's Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, pp. 578-580

Mises on Socialism: Common Sense and Moral Courage

"The intellectual leaders of the peoples have produced and propagated the fallacies which are on the point of destroying liberty and Western civilization.  The intellectuals alone are responsible for the mass slaughters which are the characteristic mark of our century.  They alone can reverse the trend and pave the way for a resurrection of freedom.

"Not mythical 'material productive forces', but reason and ideas determine the course of human affairs.  What is needed to stop the trend towards socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage."

~ Ludwig von Mises, 1947
"Planned Chaos"
Published in the 1951 edition of Mises's Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, p. 592

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sermon: St. Michael and All Angels - 2017

24 September 2017

Text: Mat 18:1-11 (Dan 10:10-14; 12:1-3; Rev 12:7-12)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

St. Michael has long been associated with warfare.  A common statue of Michael the Archangel depicts him standing on the throat of a disfigured and ugly Satan, sword aimed at the beast ready to run him through.

Such a violent work of art!  So different than the feminine depictions of angels, or even the bare-bottomed cherubs, shown in more recent religious art.

Our Gospel opens with a dispute among the disciples about greatness: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Would the greatest be brash and bold like Peter?  Or maybe erudite and intelligent like Luke?  Maybe John, the one whom Jesus loved?  Maybe the greatest isn’t one of the twelve at all!  Maybe a biblical scholar or great speaker, a former of opinions in the Sanhedrin or Senate?  Maybe a famous actor or athlete?

Of course, Jesus puts a child in their midst.  

He tells them that to aspire to greatness is to “humble himself like this child.”  He speaks of greatness as “receiving” a child – sometimes translated as “welcoming” a child – for whoever welcomes a child welcomes Jesus.  And Jesus came into our world as a child, as one dependent upon parents, one who is weak and in need of social protection and human love.  We have an obligation to welcome children, to protect them, to love them, to nurture them, to teach them, to baptize them, and to raise them in the faith.

And our Lord explains that the opposite is always true: “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe” in Him, “to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Better to be put to death by having your neck broken and being drowned than that “one of these little ones who believe” in Jesus to be harmed, to be misled into sin.

The Lord points out that this isn’t just about social customs.  This is a matter of a great cosmic war: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.  For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”

Lest we forget, dear friends, we are at war.  

Our epistle lesson from the Revelation explains this cosmic battle: “Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon….  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

In the crosshairs of this war are children.  Satan hates them.  He drowned the Hebrew boys in an attempt to enslave the people of God.  He murdered the holy innocents in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the Christ child.  The ancient Satanic religions practiced human sacrifice, including little children.  And since 1973, in the modern American religions of statism and convenience-ism, infanticide has become a sacrament among those who despise the little ones.

Things have degraded since that time.  This year’s movies that are under consideration for Oscar awards feature vulgarity and debauchery in general, and also unspeakable acts with children – which, of course, the Hollywood critics think is so wonderful.  Children from young ages are now being indoctrinated in American schools that boys may not be boys, and girls may not be girls, and that what Jesus and their Bibles and their churches teach about marriage, is actually bigotry and hate-speech.  Children are systematically being taught to despise their great-grandparents, and to disobey their mothers and fathers – and this is happening openly while we go about our lives as usual.

We are in the midst of this cosmic war between good and evil, and the children, as they always are, are in the crosshairs.  

If you don’t realize that we are at war, consider the armed mobs of masked youth waving Communist flags and calling for the death of police officers – scenes that are being repeated week after week in city after city in America.  Consider how the Roman Catholic diocese of Pittsburg is beginning to consolidate its parishes, looking to close 75% of them because of diminishing numbers.  Our own Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, as are all authentically Christian churches, are suffering terrible losses, as our children and our youth have been led into sin by a godless youth culture, and by college professors who deny the existence of truth itself, and by monstrous entertainers whose idiotic and vulgar words are treated like oracles from the living God (and yet these people are really nothing more than very rich clowns).  This is all happening right under our own noses.

Our children are bombarded with propaganda, and they grow up to leave the church, and in some cases, attack the church.  Satan and his angels are racking up a large casualty list in this war, dear friends.  

We all need to be in this war.  There is something for everyone to do.  Our armament is spiritual.  St. Paul teaches us to take up the armor of God, for we are in a spiritual war.  Your only offensive weapon, dear friends, is the Word of God – living and active, like a two-edged sword.  We need to be praying the Word of God, placing it not just in our hands but on our lips.  That sword in the statue of St. Michael, that sword that slays the devil, is the Word of God.

We Lutherans celebrate that very thing that happened five hundred years ago, when the Word of God was restored to its place of primacy, and put in the language of mothers teaching their children.  For children who are not being raised with the Word of God are being disarmed, and only waiting to be conquered.  And in Europe, the homeland of the Reformation, the churches today are empty, and the mosques today are full.

This is a war that cannot be won by political action or government policy or street fighting.  It can only be won by God’s will being done.  How is God’s will done?  We should have the answer memorized: “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”

We are in dire straits, dear friends, and we have been so many times in history.  This is why the Lord dispatches angels to strengthen and protect us.  This is why St. Michael and his sword are needed now more than ever, brothers and sisters.

In 1941, Winston Churchill spoke to a group of young students.  He said, “Never give in.  Never give in.  Never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.  Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…. Do not speak of darker days; let us speak of sterner days.  These are not dark days; these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part.”

Dear friends, whether we win or lose battles, our Lord has triumphed in the war.  For on our shields is the cross, and on our banners is the name of Jesus.  Like the martyrs, we have conquered by “the blood of the Lamb.” Our Lord has triumphed over Satan when He declared “It is finished!”  He calls us to fight for our little ones from this position of strength and right.  Ours is not a petty squabble over territory, but rather our time of militancy is the ancient struggle between our Lord and the serpent; between our ancestors and Satan, and between generations yet unborn and the devil who despises them and leads them into sin.

This is no time to sit on the sofa and allow others to go into battle.  The church has been called to arms.  “Never give in!”  “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away!”  Come to where the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us!  Come to where the Word is proclaimed, and where you are fed and fortified for battle!  Stop fighting on the enemy’s ground, and renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.  Come to this field hospital to be bandaged up, and to help bandage up others.  This Divine Service is not only about “what you get out of it” – which is eternal life – but it is also your service to your brothers and sisters, closing ranks with them and marching with them into battle, “for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows his time is short.”  

This is why Dr. Luther taught us to pray every day in the morning and evening a line that says: “Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”  

Let us give thanks and praise for St. Michael and all angels, and let us pray for ourselves and our children, for our church and world, for our civilization and country, for our repentance and for our zeal for the cross.  Let us never give in.  Let us never get discouraged.  We are soldiers of the cross – the cross of Christ, the “Valiant One whom God Himself elected, the God whose Word promises:

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  Amen.

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nazis, Fascists, and Commies are All Socialists

Here is a thorough expose of how the word "Nazi" became so popular in modern parlance, and how the Socialism in National Socialism has been hidden from view.

In this 2015 Independent Review article "From 'Nationl Socialists' to 'Nazis'" by University of Memphis historian Andrei Znamenski (whom I had the pleasure to meet and hear lecture this year at Mises University), the author argues that the Socialist aspect of Nazism was covered over by a deliberate linguistic shift from the use of the term "National Socialism" to "Nazism" in the English language, largely at the behest and example of the Communist Frankfurt School.

The typical viewpoint expressed in academia. the media, entertainment, and popular culture is that the Nazis (and other Fascists) were/are a "right-wing" ideology, and are representative of capitalism and conservatism. This represents an Orwellian shift from the reality that the term "Nazi" is a contraction of "National Socialist" - from the party's original name: "Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei" (National Socialist German Workers' Party) - a contraction which conveniently obscures the "Socialist" element of the party and political philosophy.

This is how it is that right-wing, traditionalist, capitalist, conservative or libertarian political leanings (which includes the nearly 63 million people who voted for Donald Trump) are painted with the broad-brush as "Nazis" when in fact, most such people decry Socialism.  This is why we are seeing modern campus Communists violently marching under the "anti-fascist" (Antifa) banner that dates back to the German Communist Party of 1932.  In an Orwellian abuse of language, such totalitarians are setting themselves up as the alternative to "Nazism" - when in fact, they are birds of a feather, kindred spirits divided only by the question of whether their Socialism is national or international in scope.

Whether the concentration camps bear the red and black banner of Stalin or Hitler makes little difference.  Both are the antithesis of liberty.

In fact, the Frankfurt School's linguistic shift represents a Hegelian dialectic that presents us with two opposite alternatives: National Socialism, or International Socialism.  In rejecting "Nazism," we are led into the arms of Communism ("Internazism"?).  In reality, the opposite of both National Socialism and International Socialism is Libertarian Capitalism or Classical Liberalism.

Instead of buying the lie that Socialism is good, and "Nazism" is capitalism run amok, we need to see the reality that Marxism in all of its forms (national and international) is a repudiation of human rights, dignity, private property, and liberty in exchange for central economic planning by boards and bureaucracies, enforced by political and police power to imprison, torture, and kill dissenters.

In his 1947 work entitled Planned Chaos, economist Ludwig von Mises sums up two patterns of Socialism:

There are two different patterns for the realization of socialism.  The one pattern - we may call it the Marxian or Russian pattern - is purely bureaucratic.  All economic enterprises are departments of the government just as the administration of the army and navy or the postal system.  Every single plant, shop or farm, stands in the same relation to the superior central organization as does a post office to the office of the Postmaster-General.  The whole nation forms one single labour army with compulsory service; the commander of this army is the chief of state.

The second pattern - we may call it the German or Zwangswirtschaft system (footnote: Zwang means compulsion, Wirtschaft means economy. The English language equivalent for Zwangswirtschaft is something like compulsory economy) - differs from the first one in that it, seemingly and nominally, maintains private ownership of the means of production, entrepreneurship, and market exchange.  So called entrepreneurs do the buying and selling, pay the workers, contract debts and pay interest and amortization.  But they are no longer entrepreneurs.  In Nazi Germany they were called shop managers or Betriebsfuerer.  The government tells these seeming entrepreneurs what and how to produce, at what prices and from whom to buy, at what prices and to whom to sell.  The government decrees at what wages labourers should work, and to whom and under what terms the capitalists should entrust their funds.  Market exchange is but a sham.  As is all prices, wages, and interest rates are fixed by the authority, they are prices, wages and interest rates in appearance only; in fact they are merely quantitative terms in the authoritarian orders determining each citizen's income, consumption, and standard of living.  The authority, not the consumers, directs production.  The central board of production management is supreme; all citizens are nothing else but civil servants.  This is socialism with the outward appearance of capitalism.  Some labels of the capitalistic market economy are retained, but they signify here something entirely different from what they mean in the market economy.

I don't know if Planned Chaos (which was appended to post-1951 editions of von Mises's 1922 work Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis) was written in German or English.  It would be interesting to see if Mises himself used the word "Nazi" or if English translators overwrote "National Socialist").  It is important to note that the Jewish Ludwig von Mises and his wife fled Austria in 1938 to escape the National Socialist threat - leaving behind his library and papers.

At any rate, von Mises, far from placing Communism and Fascism (or Nazism) on opposite poles, he places them both under the overarching heading of Socialism.  Socialism comes in two varieties: Communism, in which the State owns all of the means of production, and Fascism, in which the State micromanages and regulates the means of production.  Both are variants of Marxism: both are opposed to individual liberty and capitalism, and both rely on central economic planning by state bureaucrats.  The former is international in scope, the latter is national.  Both are ultimately authoritarian and totalitarian.  Both enforce Marxism by fear, intimidation, incarceration, concentration camps, torture, slavery, and genocide.  Both seek a "New Man" in a perverse parody of Christianity, both offering hope of an Edenic Utopia once human nature is itself evolved, goaded, and transformed through the elimination of "undesirables."  Both versions of Socialism oppose the traditional family, champion abortion, and have no scruples about crushing dissent by any means necessary.

I am no longer going to play into the deception by using the term "Nazi."  It may take a second longer to use the term "National Socialist", but that is exactly what they are.  I believe we can more accurately convey the Dirty Little Secret of our modern-day "Antifascists" and "Democratic Socialists" - that they are actually in an incestuous and inbred love/hate relationship to the very ideology that claim to oppose.

They are all Socialists.  We would do well to say so.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 14 - 2017

17 September 2017

Text: Luke 17:11-19 

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

I have heard two people this week bring up a verse that isn’t in our text, but it is an important point that touches upon our text.  That verse is Luke 18:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Most of us instinctively like this text, because we aren’t rich. It enables us to wag the finger at people we are envious of.  What’s there not to like about that?

But in fact, dear friends, we are rich.  All of us.  First of all, we live in the 21st century and in the First World.  We have luxuries that even kings did not enjoy a hundred years ago: air conditioning, refrigerators and freezers, televisions, cell phones, automobiles, the internet, and all sorts of social safety nets – so that even people who are considered poor in America are rich when compared to the rest of the world.

But we are also rich in a different way: spiritually.  For whether we believe it or not, whether we are Christians or not, we have the love of our Creator and the sacrificial death of the Son on the cross for us to pay for our sins.  Jesus died for all – including His enemies, including those who reject Him, including those who don’t believe their sins are sins at all.  And being recipients of this free offer of eternal life, we are rich beyond measure.

So instead of looking down our noses at those who have more money than we do, what we should be doing is thanking God for His superabundant mercy, for lavishing upon us the most valuable substances on the planet – more precious than all the diamonds of the world: the priceless handful of water used in our baptism, which when combined with the Word, makes us heirs with Jesus of our Heavenly Father.  And let us thank God for the richness of the precious body and blood of Christ, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, a Eucharistic feast that brings us into eternal communion with Almighty God.  What price can be put on the Sacrament of the Altar?

What greater treasures could we have, dear brothers and sisters?

And in this context, the ten lepers who met our Lord between Samaria and Galilee, were likewise wealthy beyond measure.  For though they were afflicted beggars, they were crossing paths with Jesus.  They could have had the equivalent of billions of dollars, but still would have been poor because of the cursed leprosy that was rotting their skin away and drawing them down into the grave day by day.  But in Christ, they were rich!  For they were lavished with the mercy of the Creator in the flesh, who came to restore their flesh in their time of great need.  And He did just that!

For they were cleansed.  They were healed.  Or as it literally says in the Greek, they were saved.  They were purchased and redeemed by Christ Himself!  And so they are indeed made rich beyond measure.

But there is a biblical warning about riches, is there not?  For let us not forget the camel and the eye of the needle.  Being rich can be a spiritual stumblingblock.  What do we profit, dear friends, if we gain the world, but lose our souls?

In the richness of being healed by Jesus, nine of the ten fell into the trap of having great possessions interfering with the kingdom: in this case, the riches of a restored health.  Their focus was on the health, and not the Healer.  Their focus was on themselves and not the one who gave them their very selves back.  They had already forgotten the grace and mercy of God in order to go back to being self-centered and ungrateful.

Except for the Samaritan, the “foreigner,” as Jesus puts it.  

For he too is “rich” insofar as he has been saved and given the gift of life.  But unlike the nine, this Samaritan “turned back, praising God in a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.”  He returned to Jesus to worship, to praise, to acknowledge the source of his riches: the Lord Jesus and His grace.

This gratitude, dear friends, is what makes camels capable of passing through the eye of the needle.  It is the humility to understand that health and wealth and all good things come to us from above, from Him by whom all things are possible – even camels squeezing through the eye of a needle.  That kind of humility acknowledges that we do not deserve our riches or our vigor, but that our very life itself, and all that we need to support this body and life, come from the Lord above, according to His mercy – not because we are worthy, but because He is merciful.

We return to Jesus, dear friends, not only because He gives us health and life and forgiveness and communion with God, but also to give Him thanks and praise.  For we know where our health and wealth come from.  And in many ways, we Christians are “foreigners” like the Samaritan that came back to praise God.

Like the children of Israel as they left Egypt, we are “strangers in a strange land,” and like the Samaritans, we are looked down upon and marginalized by a culture that revels in its ingratitude, a world in which we are encouraged to brag and take credit that that which we did not earn.  Let us not fall into the trap of the nine ingrates, dear friends, but rather let us follow the example of the Tenth Leper, returning frequently to the Lord in prayer, in praise, and in thanksgiving, coming to where He is, and in our gratitude, once more rising from our knees after being fed with the riches of His very self, just as He invites us: “Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well.”  Amen.

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Key to the Hypocrisy of Socialism

I was recently listening to Sirius XM 's The Beatles Channel.  The song that was playing at that time was not one of the Fab Four's, but rather one that reflected one of their musical influences: Woody Guthrie's 1940 tune: "This Land is Your Land."

Like most people my age, I remember being taught this song in school as a young child.  It is a modern-day folk song that cheerfully celebrates the vastness and diversity of the American landscape.  It opens:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me

It's a rather innocuous patriotic ditty.  Only it isn't.

In this version of Woody Guthrie's anthem, I heard a verse that I had not heard before:

As I went walking, I saw a sign there
On the sign it said 'No Trespassing'
But on the other side it didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me!

This is obviously a swipe at the concept of private property. Its use as a patriotic children's song is a bit of Trojan-horse irony.

And this anti-property sentiment makes sense, given that Woodie Guthrie was a himself Communist (and a Stalinist at that).  Most versions of "This Land" are bowdlerized by removing this Marxist verse, along with another controversial stanza bemoaning hungry Americans relying on the government "relief office" for sustenance - ostensibly because the capitalist system rooted in private property is the cause of poverty.

At the end of the song's performance on The Beatles Channel, the announcer, Peter Asher, addressed the usually missing verse, and praised it for its positive expression of Socialism. He used the adjective "powerful."

Peter Asher was a bit before my time.  He was part of the early sixties folk duo Peter and Gordon. After his band's split in 1968, Asher went into the business side of music, worked with the Beatles, and eventually had a stellar career as an executive.  In 1995, he was appointed senior vice president of Sony Music Entertainment - a multi-billion dollar subsidiary of the Sony Corporation (whose revenue in 2016 amounted to $67.9 billion).  Asher was made president of Sony Music Entertainment group in 2005, and resigned in 2006 when he co-founded his own company, Stretegic Artist Management.  Asher's whole executive career is founded on contracts and the enforcement of copyright law.  Music is a commodity for which one pays money.

It's curious that an entrepreneur, executive, and former president of one of the richest and most powerful corporations would praise Socialism and trespassing.

The song itself has an interesting history.  Guthrie often performed it without the two controversial stanzas.  It has been covered many times over the decades by numerous other folk artists and rock musicians - both with and without the Marxist sentiments.  Guthrie's son, Arlo Guthrie, was roundly criticized by the Socialist Workers' Party not only for performing the "clean" version of his father's song, but also for registering as a Republican and supporting libertarian private property advocate Ron Paul for president in 2008, as well as for sympathizing with the anti-Marxist Tea Party movement.

"This Land" was performed at the Obama Inaugural celebration in 2009 at the Lincoln Memorial by Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger (who was a friend of Guthrie and also himself a Communist, publicly embracing the term as late as 1995), and others.  This performance chillingly included the anti-private property stanza (see between minute 3:00 and 3:30):

There are other pop songs that likewise denounce private property and embrace Marxist economics and politics.  John Lennon's "Imagine" (1971) comes to mind:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

But again, there is a note of dissonance in this otherwise euphonic composition, insofar as John Lennon was one of the richest musicians in the world.  One of his "possessions" that he wanted the world to "imagine" not existing was his own Rolls Royce.  Lennon's net worth at the time of his tragic death at the age of 40 was $800,000,000.  

Another pop song in this vein is the 1970 hit "Signs" by the Canadian Five Man Electrical Band.  It was written by Ottawa, Ontario rocker Les Emmerson, and was covered by the American heavy-metal band Tesla in an acoustic "unplugged" version in 1990 (and I like Tesla, so I'm embedding the video)...

The song includes the stanza:

And the sign says, "Anybody caught trespassing will be shot on sight"
So I jumped the fence and I yelled at the house,
"Hey! What gives you the right... 
To put up a fence to keep me out,
"Or to keep Mother Nature in?
"If God was here, He'd tell it to your face. 'Man, you're some kind of sinner.'"

Again, the song suggests that private property is immoral, that fences are to be jumped and disregarded, that it is wrong to keep people out of one's property, even in the proximity of one's house (which also got "yelled at" in the song's narrative.

Now, I don't know anything about Emmerson, his bandmates in Electrical Band, or the guys in Tesla.  But I suspect they live in houses, may even live in "gated communities" complete with fences - and maybe even signs!

But there is one little thing that almost every person has in his pocket that blows away all Socialist pretensions about private property: a tiny common object rooted in a primitive technology that exposes the hypocrisy of all such popular song lyrics and Socialist pontifications of corporate executives: the key.

John Lennon's Rolls Royce, Peter Asher's automobile(s) (probably not a 15-year old Chevy with a broken air conditioner and bald tires, if you catch my drift), and even the homes of people like Les Emmerson and the guys in the Five Man Electrical Band and Tesla - all make use of the simple key.  Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger probably had sets of keys in their pockets as well.  Bruce Springsteen probably still does.  Moreover, something tells me that if he came home and found me in his house, he would probably not join me in a chorus of : "As I went walking I saw a sign there/ And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."/But on the other side it didn't say nothing,/That side was made for you and me."  In fact, I would suspect that he'd call the police.  But that would never happen, because he probably has quite the security system to exclude other people from his house and property.  

Keys today may be sophisticated or simple.  They may operate by means of microwaves or primitive notches designed to turn manual tumblers.  But the purpose of the key that nearly every Socialist has in his pocket is not to open the door of the house or to start the engine of the car.  A knob or a button can do that.  The key's actual purpose is to keep other people out.  The ubiquitous key is a tool of exclusion, a means to enforce the rule of "no trespassing" and is the very antithesis of inclusivity, equality, and Marxism.  The key is a symbol of capitalism, trade, and individual liberty.  The key is a confession of the sanctity of private property, in thought, word, and deed.

Keys speak louder than lyrics.