Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sermon: Reminiscere - 2019


17 March 2019

Text: Matt 15:21-28

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Years ago, there was a fashion among some Christians to wear bracelets and tee shirts with the letters WWJD.  This stood for “What Would Jesus Do?”  I don’t think the first thing that comes to mind is that Jesus would ignore a woman who is crying out to Him for mercy, tell her that she is the wrong ethnic group, and then call her a dog.  

The disciples don’t seem to have a lot of compassion either, as they complain to Jesus: “She is crying out after us,” and asks Him to “send her away.”

If you think that Jesus is nothing more than a role model about how to be nice, this is not the passage from Scripture that you want to use as a proof text.  But here it is.  This is the Word of God.  This is a revelation of who Jesus is.

What is going on in this passage?  

Of course, Jesus doesn’t send her away empty handed.  He does hear the prayer of the Canaanite woman.  He does have mercy on her and her daughter.  He does take the children’s bread and give it to the ‘dogs’ that are not of the house of Israel.  He does remove the demon that is oppressing her daughter.  And He does something else: He comments on the woman’s faith.  More than that, He praises her faith and calls her faith “great.”

We realize that our blessed Lord does care about the Canaanite woman, that He does respond to her cry for mercy, but He allows her, and even requires her, to prove her faith.  He tests her faith, and then uses it as an example for the disciples.

We don’t even know the name of this dear saint whose faith is great, who does not come from the house of Israel, and there are no bracelets or tee shirts that say: "What Would the Canaanite Woman Do?” – but clearly Jesus wants us to imitate her example of persistence in faith and in prayer.

In our culture, it is very easy to quit, to walk away.  Is your marriage a little difficult?  Divorce lawyers advertise their prices on billboards – and they work cheap.  The government has made it all so easy with “no fault divorce.”  If there ever were an oxymoron, dear brothers and sisters….  Parents can walk out on their children at any time.  After all, parenting is hard, and it can get in the way with one’s dreams.

Think about how easy it is to walk away from the most important things in your life.  If your boss is a jerk, you can quit.  If your class is difficult, drop it!  Is school itself a lot of work, walk away!  Don’t like the music at church, or find the other members annoying, go find one that you like better.  We learned a long time ago that it’s easier to throw something away rather than take the time and effort to be part of the solution.

But look at the Canaanite woman.  Her daughter is “severely oppressed by a demon.”  She doesn’t walk away from her daughter.  Instead, she fights for her.  She is willing to debase herself for her.  She is willing to be ignored for her.  She is willing to step out of her comfort zone for her.  Why?  Why doesn’t she just leave?  What is behind this mother’s zeal?  

And look at the Canaanite woman’s confession of Jesus.  She is a Canaanite.  Who knows what gods or goddesses she was raised to worship?  Who knows what religious practices her family was involved in that invited a demon to harass her daughter?  But notice that she doesn’t allow her ethnicity and her family’s religious tradition to stand in the way of the truth.  Canaanites don’t call Jesus “Lord” or invoke His title as “Son of David.”  Canaanites don’t pray to Jesus. 

But she does.

One has to wonder what her friends and neighbors and family members thought of this.  We aren’t told, but whether or not they approve of her appealing to Jesus for help seems not to matter to her.  She sets out to find Jesus, and when she has found Him, she continues to pray: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David,” until He grants her prayer, or denies it. 

She doesn’t just quit.

And even when Jesus implies that He is not going to help her because she is unworthy, she doesn’t deny that fact.  She doesn’t appeal to equality, or claim that she had been oppressed and marginalized for her ethnicity.  She doesn’t start a Twitter hashtag campaign that Jesus is racist or sexist or Canaanitophobic.  She owns up to the reality of who she is: a poor, miserable sinner, one who is not worthy to sit at the table of the children of God. 

And yet, she still doesn’t quit.  

She holds Jesus to His Word.  Our Lord indeed came to redeem the children of Israel, but He also came to redeem the world.  The Canaanite woman has faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord, the Son of David, and she demonstrates that faith in her persistence in prayer.  

So why does Jesus allow her to continue for so long?  Why doesn’t Jesus grant her prayer right away?  We don’t know for sure, but we do know that her persistent faith is praised by our Lord and is recorded in the Gospel.  Clearly, the Lord wants us to learn from her example.

The kingdom of God is not like the world.  In the world, if you get annoyed with Walmart, you can go to Rouses.  If you grow weary of the Big Mac, you can go up the road and buy a Whopper.  On your way, you can take a picture of the divorce lawyer’s ad.  You can move out of the house and leave your children in someone else’s care.  You can quit your job and pursue your dreams.  You can enroll in school, and then quit that too.  If your team is losing, you can pick a new one.  Something’s broken?  Throw it in the garbage.  You can do that with people too.

But the kingdom of God is different.  For when a bunch of people walked out on Jesus because they were offended by Him, by His teaching about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, Jesus asked his disciples point blank: “Do you want to go away as well?”  Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

“To whom shall we go?”

The Canaanite woman likewise came to believe and to know that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of David, and there was nowhere else to go.  Jesus is the Lord.  Jesus has dominion over demons.  Jesus has mercy.  Jesus has the power and authority to heal her daughter.  Jesus will hear her prayer.  And this is the great faith of the Canaanite woman.

Her faith is unmoved and not discouraged by those around her.  She is not swayed by hurt feelings or anger or pride.  She is unaffected by her family’s religious identity.  Her love for her daughter and her single-minded pursuit of Jesus in prayer is a clear indicator of the faith of the Canaanite woman.

And Jesus indeed hears her prayer.  He doesn’t just throw her  crumbs, but invites her to sit at table.  “O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire.  And her daughter was healed instantly.”

While it’s not a bad idea to ask oneself “What Would Jesus Do?” when faced by an ethical dilemma, maybe it’s more helpful to turn to Jesus with the persistent prayer: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David,” and seek His healing and mastery over the demons.  Maybe we should approach Him as one unworthy of His blessings, humbly, without a sense of entitlement, and still persistently imploring God to hear us and to be merciful, because He is the Lord, the Son of David. 

May our faith be like the Canaanite woman, who persists in prayer, and who doesn’t walk away from the vocations to which she is called.  Let us pray for the kind of faith that doesn’t quit, knowing that Jesus is indeed merciful.  He is the Lord.  He hears our prayer.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sermon: Invocabit - 2019



10 March 2019

Text: Matt 4:1-11 (Gen 3:1-21, 2 Cor 6:1-10)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

In the days before GPS, we used maps.  And if you took a wrong turn or got lost, you were not automatically rerouted by a computer.  You had to go back to the point where you got lost, back to the point of the wrong turn, and start over.

In Genesis chapter three, it is written, and we learn where we got lost, where we took the wrong fork in the road, where we chose death over life, evil of good, darkness over light, and the word of the serpent over the Word of God.

God had laid out a roadmap for mankind so that he would be all that he was created to be.  And at that particular time and place in God’s plan, we were not to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Maybe we were never to have that knowledge.  But maybe we were, but we just weren’t ready for it yet.

And like children who see no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to do all those things that adults can do, and like adolescents who often act impulsively based on emotion and not on what is reasonable, Adam and Eve did not need much of a nudge to be convinced that they knew better than their Father.

The serpent asked, craftily, “Did God actually say…?”  The serpent contradicted God, saying, “You will not surely die.”  The serpent promised (untruthfully): “You will be like God.”

Adam and eve were tempted.  God had given them the freedom to obey or to disobey.  He had trusted them.  But they betrayed His trust.  And this violation of the plan put mankind on a different road than the beautifully paved superhighway that God had laid out for them.  Now mankind found himself spinning his wheels on muddy trails with no map, surrounded by beasts and danger, lost, and at the mercy of the now-chaotic elements.

So now, dear friends, all sorts of things befall us that were not part of the original plan: the divine roadmap to becoming what God intended us to be.  Nature was affected.  Animals fear man and one another.  Animals (and men) are predators.  And we have things like earthquakes and floods and hurricanes and tsunamis.  None of that was in the original plan.

God told the serpent, “On your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.”  God told Eve that bearing children would now become a painful experience: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.”  And there would also be conflict between husbands and wives.  None of that was in the original plan.

God told Adam (whose curse is shared by all human beings): “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you.’”  God told Adam that the ground would bring forth thorns, and farming would be backbreaking work.  And worst of all, you will die.  You will die.  None of that was in the original plan.

We are lost, dear friends.  Our world is devastated by this wrong turn.  Our deviation from the plan, our willingness to eat the poison pill, our rejection of God’s perfection in favor of our rebellion have placed us where we are today. 

And some people still blame God for the existence of evil in the world. 

So how do we get out of the mess?  How do we turn around and get back to the fork in the road?  We can’t.  We cannot go back, at least not with ourselves in charge.  We need nothing less than God Himself to bring us back to that fork in the road and guide us back to His plan.  And this is why Jesus was born, dear friends.  This is why we have recently completed the “Christmas” part of the church year.  And this is why Jesus dies on the cross, dear friends.  This is why we have now moved into the “Easter” part of the church year.

The Second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, begins His ministry by encountering the serpent, who once again resorts to trickery and temptation to cause the Man to reject the Word of God.  The tempter entices Jesus to use His divine power for selfish reasons, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 

But instead of accepting the serpent’s word, Jesus, the Word of God in the flesh, hurls the Word of God back at him: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The serpent returns and tempts the Man a second time, this time to throw Himself off of the top of the temple in a perverse use of the Psalms to test God.  Jesus again uses the Word of God correctly as a weapon: “Again, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

A third time, the serpent tried to lure Jesus in the same way that he snared Adam, showing Him the “kingdoms of the world and their glory,” saying, “All these I will give You if You fall down and worship me.”

And this third and final time, our Lord casts away the serpent, revealing his true identity: “Be gone, Satan!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’  Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.”

And so, our Lord Jesus took us back to that fork in the road, and reoriented us back toward God’s highway and away from Satan’s dirt road.  We begin our Lenten journey with these steps.  We confessed our sins and we remembered that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  We acknowledged that we are lost, and we sought to “return to the Lord [our] God, for He is gracious and merciful!”  We have surrendered control to Jesus.  We have begun our way of repentance, by turning anew toward the Lord.  And He is guiding us along the way: the way of the cross, the way of redemption, the way of victory, the way of resurrection.  The way of returning to Paradise.  In Christ, we go back to Eden, and when the serpent says, “Did God actually say…?” we reply, “Yes, it is written!”  And when the serpent says, “You will not surely die,” we reply, “Yes, you are right this time, O serpent!  We shall not surely die!  For we reject your word and we cling to God’s Word.”  In Christ, we expose the serpent for what he actually is, and we say to him: “Be gone Satan.  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve,” even as we worship Jesus and serve Him, gratefully confessing Him not only as our Lord, but also as our Savior, not only as the Word made flesh, but also our Champion in the flesh. 

Jesus puts us on the right path, for “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

And the devil’s lies are exposed.  The grandiose promises of the devil that lead only to death and decay are laid bare for all to see.  And the lies of the world have been overturned by our Lord Jesus Christ:

“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

For Christ, by means of the cross, and for us men and for our salvation, has crushed the serpent’s head and silenced his lying mouth.  It is written.  It is done.  It is finished.  Amen.

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

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Sermon: Ash Wednesday - 2019


6 March 2019

Text: Matt 6:1-6, 16-21 (Joel 2:12-19, Jonah 3:1-10)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Ash Wednesday is both one of the most popular, and one of the most misunderstood days of the church calendar.  Some people argue against using ashes because Jesus says that when we fast, we should not disfigure our faces that our fasting “may be seen by others.”  But this is to interpret the ashes as some kind of a boastful signal that we are fasting.  That’s not what it means.  Some people treat the ashes as an opportunity to show other people that they went to church today, like the little stickers you can get when you vote.  But that’s not what it means either.

A lady preacher wanted to use Ash Wednesday to celebrate the rejection of traditional marriage, and her idea was to mix glitter with the ashes, so that it looks more festive.  Uh, no.  Some churches have a drive-through window so that people can have the benefit of the ashes (whatever that is) without having to sit through readings and a sermon.  That also misses the point.

It is interesting that the meaning of ashes is largely forgotten when the first word you hear as they are being applied is, “Remember.”

“Remember, O man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The ashes remind us of what will happen to our flesh when we die.  Just as God made the man (the adam) out of the dirt (the adamah), we, in our mortality, will return to the dust.  
And so, far from being another festive ritual in Mardi Gras, it is a somber reminder.  Far from being a celebration of deviant sexuality, it is a confession of our selfish misuse of the Lord’s gifts.  Far from being something to brag about, it is an acknowledgment of brokenness.  

When I look out from this pulpit at your faces covered in ashes, I see marks of rejection.  I see cans that cannot be sold because they are dented.  I see meat past its expiration date.  I see books with the covers torn off destined for the dumpster.  That, dear friends, is the primary meaning of the ashes: we are damaged goods.  

In our Gospel reading from the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord tells us when we give to the needy – not if, but when – when we give to the needy, “sound no trumpet before you as the hypocrites do… that they may be praised by others.”  When – not if, but when – when we sacrificially make offerings, we are not to be praised by others.  We are to keep it a secret.  For the reward is in the good deed and in our Father’s knowledge, not in having our egos stroked by other people.  And we behave this way because we are damaged goods.

And when – not if, but when – when we pray, we are to do it in secret.  We are not to pray so that the pastor knows you’re doing it, or so that your parents will praise you, or so that your relatives see it and think that you are holier than they are.  Your motivation must never be about being praised.  Prayer is about praising God; it is not about us being praised.  And we behave this way because we are damaged goods.

And when – not if, but when – when we fast, once again, we are not to tell the whole world about it.  It is between us and God.  Fasting is a spiritual exercise that is very important – especially for us as a people who are surrounded by food, which we can enjoy around the clock whenever we have the whim to get a bite to eat.  For we forget how good God is to us, and fasting is a reminder of that.  But once again, fasting is not a way to say, “Hey world, look at me!  I’m better than you are!”  And we behave this way because we are damaged goods.

We are damaged because of sin.  “Remember!”  Remember what happened in the Garden of Eden.  Remember your own sins and transgressions.  And remember that the consequences for our sinful nature is our mortal nature, that is, death.

“Remember, O man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We need to be reminded, because we do everything that we can to forget.  We even treat death as normal and natural – when it is neither.  We treat death as a solution to other problems – such as the expense of healthcare for the elderly or the chronically ill.  We treat death as a solution to the inconvenience of an unexpected pregnancy.  We treat death as entertainment, as our movies and songs and fashions have become ever darker and more fascinated with death.  And how often we hear of the rich and famous committing suicide, because their ostentatious lives are devoid of meaning?

Dear friends, we are indeed  mortal, but we also have meaning in our lives.  For we have been redeemed.  Our lives have been bought back.  We have a Savior.  Our Lord Jesus went to the cross, so that you, baptized into His name, have received the sign of the cross upon your forehead as a token and seal of the Lord’s blood shed for you, blood that overcomes death and the grave.  For that mark of death on your forehead that declares you to be damaged goods is in the shape of a cross.  You are indeed damaged goods, but Christ has come to fix you.  He went to the cross to restore you.  Christ has baptized you in order to renew you in the forgiveness of sins.  

Remember!

Remember the sin of Adam, the man of dust, and see the mark of the dust that reminds you of your mortality.  But remember the faithfulness of Christ, the New Adam, the man of salvation, and see the mark of the cross that reminds you of your redemption and your resurrection from death!

For the Lord Jesus Christ has died to take away all of our laziness, and to empower us to repent.  His death atones for our petty hypocrisy and silly self-importance and self-centeredness.  His body and blood are given and shed, and shared with you to eat and to drink as another powerful reminder: “Remember, O man, that you are redeemed.”

And so the feast of Carnival has yet again yielded to the fast of Lent.  Let us make use of this gift, dear friends, this opportunity to give to the needy, to pray, and to fast.  Let us remember that we are damaged goods, but that our Lord in His mercy has borne the cross that we now bear on our foreheads.  Let us remember our baptismal water that washes away our sins just as water will wash away these ashes from our faces.  Let us remember what a privilege it is to hear the Word of God read and preached, and to partake of the Lord’s body and blood.  Let us perform acts of charity and love because they need done, and not for the sake of being noticed.  

Let us remember the words of the Lord given to us by the prophet Joel: “Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning…. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

Let us remember the encouragement of the Apostle Peter: “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

Let us indeed remember to love, for that is what Christ does for us, his damaged goods.  He loves us, redeems us, and restores us, turning the ashen condemnation into an anointing of salvation.

“Remember, O man!”

Amen.

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

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Sermon: Quinquagesima - 2019




3 March 2019

Text: Luke 18:31-43 (1 Sam 16:1-13, 1 Cor 13:1-13)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“What do you want Me to do for you?” asks Jesus, speaking to a man who cried out for mercy.  “Lord, let me recover my sight,” responds the man.  That is his request.  That is his prayer.  And that should be our constant prayer.

For there is blindness in the narrow sense, and blindness in a broader sense.  The blind man who sat in the road to Jericho and begged, was blind in the narrow sense of the word.  He was literally unable to see.  He bore a great burden of life in this fallen world: an affliction that makes it impossible to do the simplest of things.  Blindness robs a person of seeing the faces of loved ones, of locating necessary items in the home, of walking from place to place without groping around in constant darkness.  Blindness, especially in those days, impeded a person from making a living, reducing many to begging for money as a means to stay alive.  

But there was one thing that this blind beggar could “see”: the fact that Jesus had the power to save him.  He sees that Jesus is the Messiah, the “Son of David,” the one promised by Scripture.  Although his eyes could no longer read the words on the scroll (if he ever could read at all), his mind could still see the Word of God embedded in his heart.  He could see in vivid detail the prophecies of the Old Testament and their fulfillment in Jesus Christ – even though he could not see Jesus with his eyes.  Instead, he saw our blessed Lord by means of His “eyes of faith.”  

And it was this “seeing,” that is, “walking by faith and not by sight,” as St. Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, that brought this blind man healing in his appropriation of the promise and ministry of Jesus.  For our Lord tells him: “Your faith has made you well.”  His faith saved him from mankind’s bitter triad of enemies: sin, death, and the devil.  As the author of the Book of Hebrews explains it: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Not seen.  It is believing without seeing.  And this believing has power: power to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and even life to the dead – because this faith looks to Jesus, our incarnate and almighty God, who has come to repair what is broken, and heal that which falls short of God’s original perfection.

That, dear friends, is what forgiveness is all about.  It is a restoration of a shattered communion with God, a connection to His almighty power.  Similar to a repaired wire, a restored faith completes the circuit so that the Lord’s healing power may flow to where it is needed.  This is why we are implored to offer our prayers with faith – even in the face of great mockery and opposition – even as the blind beggar did.

Did you catch it in the text, dear friends?  The blind beggar, with faith in the healing power and love of Christ Jesus, cries out in prayer: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  But what of the “mercy” of the crowds?  They scold him. They tell him to shut up.  “But he cried out all the more.”  And his defiant prayer bears fruit, because Jesus is the fruit of his prayer.  Jesus will not be deterred by mockers and naysayers.  And nor should we, dear friends.  When we are told to shut up, we should “cry out all the more.”  When our friends and employers and colleagues and teachers and opponents and those who hate us and our Lord try to stifle our faith and its expression, we need to be undeterred and continue our own prayer of: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

That is why we confess a Christian “faith.”  This is not to say that it is untrue.  Far from it!  It is the Christian truth, but we know this truth, and we confess this truth, by faith.  It is a seeing that does not come from the eyes, but from Jesus: the light of the world, which no darkness – not even the darkness of blindness or even of the grave – can overcome.  It is a knowledge that is not worked out by the brain, but is given from the head of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David, who has mercy on us poor, miserable sinners.  

We believe, we teach, and we confess this faith.  And the object of our faith is Jesus, always Jesus.  He and he alone illuminates our souls and our world.  Any other claim to illumination is of Satan, the one formerly named “Lucifer,” the bearer of light, who is now only the bearer of darkness and death.  

The blind beggar knew this, and He knew it by faith alone!  And when the Lord healed him, he “followed Him, glorifying God.”  This, dear friends, is what Christian people do.  We follow Jesus.  We go to where He is.  We have communion with Him.  We listen to Him.  We learn from Him.  We are healed by Him.  We are enlightened by Him.  We have faith in Him.  We confess Him.  And in following Jesus, what can we do but glorify God?  

We glorify Him in our prayers, praises, and thanksgivings.  We glorify Him in the divine service.  We glorify Him in the morning, at noon, and at night.  We glorify Him before meals.  We glorify Him during the course of the day as we reflect upon how He has cured us of our blindness and raised us from the dead, through the forgiveness of sins, calling us through baptism, and pouring out regeneration on us in body and soul.  

And when others see the work of God in bringing light to our darkness, they too give praise to God.  They too are impelled to follow Jesus.

For the Christian faith is about seeing: seeing things that blow the mind and expand our worldview to the realm of the miraculous.  This is how it was that a shepherd boy, the youngest and least impressive of the sons of Jesse, was chosen by God to be the great King David of Israel.  And this is how David’s Son, born in the fullness of time of the virgin Mary, is God in the flesh, the King of the universe.  We see this by faith.  We see this by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.  We see this because Jesus takes away our blindness.

For notice how Jesus told the twelve (at the beginning of our reading) exactly what was coming: His passion, death and resurrection.  And yet, “they understood none of these things.  This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”  In other words, Jesus told them plainly, but they just couldn’t see that happening.  And so they were blinded by their own reason, expectations, and desires.  The disciples stand in contrast to the blind man who truly does “see” Jesus.  For he sees by faith, and by faith, he sees – all by the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of the world!

For we still live in a world that is dark.  And for now, as St. Paul says in our epistle reading, his first letter to the Corinthians, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away…. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

We are fully known, dear friends, fully known by Jesus.  He knows our strengths, our weaknesses, our wisdom, and our folly.  He knows us as we are, and He loves us to the point of suffering and dying for us, for our salvation, for our rescue by His blood.  This is the love that St. Paul speaks of: Love that is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not insistent on getting its own way, not irritable or resentful, and not rejoicing in sin.  Rather love rejoices in truth.

Jesus is the truth.  We truly see Jesus when we see Him as the way, the truth, and the life, the Son of God, the Son of David, the light of the world, the one who hears our prayer and cures our blindness.

May His light rest upon us and illuminate the darkness of our world.  May we cry out all the more when people attempt to silence us.  May our prayer ever and always be: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Amen.

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

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sermon: Sexagesima - 2019



24 February 2019

Text: Luke 8:4-15 (Isa 55:10-13, 2 Cor 11:19-12:9)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Until recently in human history, we didn’t know how seeds worked.  Now that we live in an information age, we know about computer programs.  A seed is essentially a tiny biologically-driven computer program, in which DNA code gives a complex series of exact instructions for cell division to germinate, to create a division of labor between root, stem, leaves, and flowering mechanism, and to carry out a precise life-cycle.  The DNA calls the shots as the plant flowers, bears fruit, produces new seeds with this embedded DNA code, and sends out new plants according to these same instructions.  Leaves and stems die, the flower fades, but the instruction of the DNA code endures forever.

But the seed isn’t just code in someone’s head.  The seed actually biologically modifies itself in space and time according to the code.  In other words, the seed is a self-modifying computer program, or as technocrats like to say, “artificial intelligence” – only it is real, not artificial.  

So, who wrote the code in the first place?  For we know that computers don’t program themselves unless they were originally programmed by a first programmer.

Our Lord Jesus is being cheeky when He compares the kingdom of God to the sowing of seeds.  For He is the original Seed, and the original program.  For God said, “Let there be… and there was.”  “In the beginning was the Word.” And like the seeds in the parable, Jesus doesn’t exist as a spiritual abstraction of theoretical ones and zeros made up of electrons, but is rather of the dirt and grass and rain and sun; of blood, sweat, and tears; of waking and sleeping and talking and listening, of dying and rising again.  

There is nothing artificial about plants.  We eat them.  We plant them.  Our planet depends on them for survival.  And Jesus likewise is flesh and blood, breaking into space and time, and His Word upholds and nourishes creation.  Jesus is the Logos, the logic embedded into the DNA of the universe, the data that exists eternally, or, as John the Evangelist calls Him in the prologue to His Gospel: the Word Made Flesh.

But of course, what we see with our eyes is not so spectacular.  Seeds are tiny things that we often throw away.  They may be sprinkled on our bread for a little flavor.  They are often spat out and thrown away by aficionados of watermelon.  Seeds are used by creative people in arts and crafts.

But the real power of the seed is the embedded data of God’s creative might latent in the DNA, which awaits the launch sequence to begin carrying out the very instructions of God Himself, instructions that date back to the beginning of the universe.  And in this work of the seed, entire forests and wheat fields emerge, nations of people and animals are fed, and there is no limit to the ability of the seeds to replicate.

We would look at it as a miracle if it weren’t so common.  We would consider this undeniable proof of the existence of God if we weren’t so blinded by our obsession with explaining away God by illogical logic.

But for seeds to begin their launch sequence, they must be triggered into action.  And this is where the soil comes into play.

Jesus explains the kingdom like a sower who sows seeds.  Now, our farmer isn’t like our modern agribusiness who plans (and in some cases holds copyright) on every seed.  Our sower instead “broadcasts” the seeds, scattering them everywhere.  And so, the seeds fall on different kinds of soil.

“Some fell,” says Jesus, “along the path and was trampled underfoot,” and given that it could not embed in the soil, our Lord explains, “the birds of the air devoured it.”  Some fell into rocky ground, grew up quickly in the shallowness, but did not get enough moisture and “withered away.”  Some “fell among thorns” and its growth was “choked” off, and it died.  

With each of these three soils, the seeds’ instructions are cut short by death.  There is no flower, no fruit, and no reproduction.  These seeds never reach the potential that God built into them, because His instructions are not carried out.

But then there is the “good soil” in which the seed prospers, easily executing the computer code line by line, growing, bearing fruit, and yielding “a hundredfold” of new seeds carrying the Word and spreading far and wide, cast by other sowers unto the blessing of the world.

Of course, Jesus isn’t giving us a lesson in agriculture.  The Word of God makes its way to us in the same way that a seed bears its powerful DNA into the soil.  We are the various soils in the parable that receive the Word of God.  Our Lord even explains the meaning of this parable to his disciples.  The seed that never embeds and is eaten by birds is like the Word of God coming to a person who doesn’t take it to heart.  The “devil comes and takes away the Word.”  The rocky soil is like those who “receive it [the Word of God] with joy,” but lacking a solid root foundation, doesn’t last when a “time of testing” comes, and they fall away.  The thorny soil is like unto those who are distracted, and the Word of God is choked off by “cares and riches and pleasures of life.”  

In each of these three examples, the Word of God is prevented (by the person to whom God has given it) from bearing fruit and propagating the Word – which is what we are called upon to do.  

But we are called to be the “good soil,” who “hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

Dear friends, the Christian life is not about willing ourselves to be what we think God wants us to be.  It is about getting out of the way and letting the Word of God have His way with us.  Don’t interfere with God’s will, with His instruction, with His ongoing work of creation in our world, and of us.  

Even in our technologically-advanced world, we can’t make seeds.  But we can see to it that seeds find their way to good soil.  When asked about how the Reformation brought the Gospel to Germany against all odds, Dr. Luther shrugged and said that he didn’t do anything.  He and professor Philip Melanchthon sat around drinking Wittenberg beer while the Word did everything.

The Word does it all, dear friends.  What we do is interfere.  We sin.  Our sinful flesh gets in the way of God’s Word.  We are lazy and our priorities are messed up.  We would rather sleep than go to where the sower casts the Word of God, allowing Satan to rob our hearts of God’s Word.  We are often shallow, and don’t allow the Word to sink in by study and prayer and by drinking deeply of the riches of Word and Sacrament.  We often allow the “cares and riches and pleasures of life” to choke out the Word in our lives.  We need to repent of all of these interferences that prevent our lives from bearing fruit, from being what God has created us to be.

For ultimately, dear friends, the Word is not a series of instructions.  The Word is the one who gives the instructions.  Jesus is the Word.  He is the Logos.  He is the Seed.  And in fact, in Genesis, Chapter 3, after our fall into sin, God promised the coming of a champion, the “Seed of the Woman,” who would crush our enemy’s head.  Jesus is the Seed.  And He Himself explains that seeds only carry out the will of God by dying: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  Jesus points out that the seed goes into the ground.  It is dead, but the Word brings about a renewal of life.  And the plant lives again to bear fruit. 

Jesus died and was buried.  But He is the Logos, the very Word of God in the flesh.  His Word re-emerged from the soil of the earth.  His Word is spread by sowers who preach and baptize and administer the Holy Supper.  He re-emerges on the third day, rises again to life, and He is with us as the Word Made Flesh, embedded in our lives by the Word of God proclaimed, and the Word eaten and drunk in the sacrament: forgiveness, life, and salvation as a free gift!

Yes, dear friends, seeds may not look like much.  But they bear God’s almighty power.  The Word of God may not look like much, but it bears the might of the creative work of God.  As Isaiah prophesied: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater. So shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it,” and, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

Indeed, let us remember that the little seed of the Word is all we need, as St. Paul quotes the Lord: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

May the Seed of the Word Made Flesh find good soil in your hearts according to His Word.  May it bear fruit a hundredfold, even unto eternity!  Amen.

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sermon: Septuagesima and Baptism of David Kononov - 2019




17 February 2019

Text: Matt 20:1-16 (Ex 17:1-7, 1 Cor 9:24-10:5)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Is God fair?  Does he give us what we deserve?  No.  And for that, we should be grateful.  And to illustrate this point, our Lord Jesus tells a story, a parable, to teach us how His kingdom works.  

In this story, which we call “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,” a boss goes out in the morning to hire workers.  As the sun rises, he strikes a deal with some laborers for the standard rate of a denarius a day.  Today, we call this a “contract.”  And “he sent them into his vineyard.”

Two hours later, about eight in the morning, he hires another group, and their contract is for “whatever is right.” And “so they went.”

The same thing happens at about noon, and then about three.  Finally, at five in the afternoon, with only a single hour left in the workday, the boss hires one last group, and sends them into the vineyard too.

As the sun sets, the foreman brings the workers in to get paid.  The boss says, “Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.”  The guys that worked one single hour received their pay: “each of them received a denarius,” that is, a full day’s wage.

Imagine that!  They were paid for 12 hours, but only actually worked one hour.  So the guys who worked twelve hours, were really looking forward to getting paid.  Surely, they would receive much more, maybe as much as 12 days pay for a single day’s work (if the pay rate were to be equal).  At very least, they should be getting a lot more than what they originally contracted for. “But each one of them also received a denarius.”

Ouch!

Clearly, Jesus can’t favor such unfairness.  After all, they “have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat” unlike those Johnny-come-latelies who were sitting idle all day, and who then only worked an hour in the cool air, and got paid for twelve hours.  When you look at it from the point of view of “equal pay for equal work,” this is outrageous.  Maybe this unfair boss is going to be punished in the story.  Maybe he will be forced to pay his workers more fairly.  Jesus has to fix this, right?

But instead, Jesus sides with the boss.  “Friend,” says the business owner to one of the men who worked twelve long hours for a single denarius, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.  Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Take what belongs to you and go.  I choose to give to this worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

This is not what most people would expect.  Jesus sides with management over the workers, with capital over labor.  The workers are to be content with the contract that they had originally agreed to, and if the boss pays others more, that is his right – since the business and the money belong to him.  

Jesus is no Socialist, and He does not advocate the right of workers to seize what does not belong to them, or to violate their contracts.  Having said that, the main point of this parable isn’t property rights and contract law, not labor relations or economic theory.  Jesus told us that this is what “the kingdom of heaven is like.”  Jesus says that in God’s kingdom, “[T]he last will be first, and the first last.”  Jesus says that “fairness” according to the ways of the world is not how His kingdom operates.  If God gives someone something that He doesn’t also give us, if God shows undeserved mercy to someone else and does what He wishes with what belongs to Him, are we to begrudge His generosity?

By no means. 

In fact, we should thank God that He doesn’t judge us by what is fair; He doesn’t give us what we deserve.  For we deserve death and hell.  We deserve His wrath.  We justly deserve His temporal and eternal punishment.  Unlike the rigid laws of our fallen world, God is free to show mercy to us.  Yes, He is unfair.  Though justice demands that we die, Christ’s death pays our debt.  Though the Lord Jesus bears the burden of hour after hour suffering under Pontius Pilate, though He endures the scorching heat of exposure to the elements upon the cross, though He does not deserve to bear this punishment that is rightfully ours – He willingly does so.  He does what he chooses with what belongs to Him, even His very body and blood, offered and shed for us as our all-atoning sacrifice, given to us us here at this altar, paying each one of us a “denarius” of salvation whether we have been Christians for years, or only for minutes.

God is not “fair,” and He does not give us what we deserve.  Instead, He shows us mercy.  He gives each and every worker in the vineyard a “denarius” of salvation, as we hear the words: “the body of Christ, given for you; the blood of Christ, shed for you.”  For we are not being paid for our own work, but rather for our Lord’s work upon the cross.  God is merciful and generous.  He keeps His end of the bargain, His covenant: which is our salvation, which is our redemption, which is eternal life to those who have been baptized and who believe.

David, on this day, you are among all of us latter workers.  Like us, you don’t deserve it.  And you are made equal to all of the Lord’s redeemed.  For you have received that which is right, not in the eyes of the world, but according to the contract, the covenant, that God made with us.  

He has given you everlasting life as a free gift, by grace, through faith, poured out upon you by water and the Spirit.  God has called you to this font.  He has cleansed you of your sins.  He has placed His Son’s righteousness upon you, according to His Word and promise.  He has given you the sign of the holy cross.  He has written your name in the Book of Life.  He will not revoke, renege, or refuse to honor His covenant.  Verbum Dei manet in aeternum, that is, the Word of God endures forever.  And His Word is truth. 

It was His will to bring you to this font on this day.  He arranged this to happen before the foundation of the world.  You are not the inferior of any Christian on the planet, for you, like all of us, are a sinner who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  You are a saint, not by virtue of your work, but rather by the Lord’s work in the vineyard of His Church.

The Lord Jesus is the true Passover Lamb, whose flesh we eat under the form of the bread that he Himself broke and shared with His disciples “for the life of the world.”  His blood is the cup of the New Testament: the same spiritual food and the same spiritual drink: the Rock that is Christ.  The partaking of the body and blood of Christ is your Passover, even as your baptism is your watery escape in the ark of the church, your crossing of the Red Sea to the Promised Land, a salvation through water.  You have been “baptized into Christ’s death” so that “you might walk in newness of life.”  You have gone from being in the position of grumbling about God’s unfairness, to one who rejoices in His mercy, in His generosity.  

For we are all beneficiaries of His grace.  We are all those last fortunate workers who squeaked by according to His loving kindness, though we do not deserve it. 

“So the last will be first, and the first last.”  Thanks be to God, now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

1984

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four is one of the most important works of literature in the 20th century. 

It has shaped our view of totalitarianism and even provided a vocabulary, or more accurately, a shorthand for recognizing and articulating government overreach and abuse of our liberties.

If you have never read it, now is the time!

I have taught this book to my high school students at Wittenberg Academy since the 2013-2014 school year.

I'm sharing with you three videos: 1) a brief overview by me to my WA students, 2) a background of the alternative world of Orwell's creation (spoiler alert), and 3) a SparkNotes summary of the book (spoiler alert).

If you don't want spoilers, don't watch the latter two videos!

And if you want more information about Wittenberg Academy (a fully-accredited online classical Lutheran junior high and high school), feel free to contact me or WA directly: mrsbenson@wittenbergacademy.org!










Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sermon: Transfiguration - 2019


10 February 2019

Text: Matt 17:1-9 (2 Pet 1:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

It always amazes me how so many people have no idea who Jesus is.  The cluelessness seems to increase with each passing year, and it’s not limited to unbelievers.

Some people think of Jesus as a kind of self-help guru, like the Dalai Lama (only with a beard and blue eyes) who spouts goofy spiritual soundbites.  Other people think of Jesus as a moral scold who has come into our world to remind you not say bad words and be sure to promote social justice causes.  Some people think of Jesus as the ultimate American (who of course drinks the same beer and cheers for the same teams that we do).  Others think that Jesus is the ultimate nice guy who drinks soy lattes and only says positive, uplifting things (and those people have never, ever actually read the Bible).  There are also other people who vilify Jesus as a backward rube whose hateful followers became a cult.  

Ironically, God created man in His image, but men like to create Jesus in their own image.

Even our Lord’s first disciples were guilty of this.  And this is one of the proofs that the Gospels are truthful: the apostles at times look foolish and clueless about who Jesus is.  There is no airbrushing going on in the pens of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Our Gospel reading from St. Matthew – the account of Peter, James, and John being given a glimpse of Jesus unveiled –  is one such passage.  We know it today as the Transfiguration.

At this point, the inner circle of the followers of Jesus still don’t get it.  In the chapter before our text, the disciples hear Jesus warning them of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and they are so clueless that they think He is talking about their lunch plans.  Then Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (for which Jesus praises him), and then immediately, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying that He must be crucified (for which Jesus calls Peter “Satan”).  Peter thinks he knows what Jesus is supposed to be doing more than Jesus does Himself.  And in the chapter just after our Gospel reading, the disciples want to know who is the greatest in the kingdom. 

In reading the Gospels, it becomes apparent that a good bit of the time, the Twelve seem as ignorant of who Jesus is, and why He has come, as a lot of people are today.

And so, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John and sets them straight about who He is.  For a brief moment, Jesus takes off the figurative veil and lets them see His unhidden form.  “He was transfigured before them” – or to use the Greek term, Jesus went through a metamorphosis.  Instead of the ordinary guy they have come to love hanging out with, they see something frightening.  Jesus’ face “shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light.”  If this weren’t surreal and strange enough, they then see Jesus holding forth with Moses and Elijah.  

St. Peter, once again trying to tell Jesus how this is all supposed to work, starts plans for a building project to house Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  But “while he was still speaking,” another frightening thing happened: “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him.’”

This interruption put an end to Peter’s pontification, and the three – Peter, James, and John – immediately fell “on their faces.” 

This is not a Jesus that they can control.

No soy latte guru, no swaggering John Wayne, no finger-wagging scold, and no Mister Nice-guy – just pure, unapologetic divine power emanating from Jesus in His flesh.  Jesus is not messing around.  This isn’t about making sure you say “please” and “thank you” and use the right fork for your salad.  Not that those things are bad, of course.  But Jesus has come to eviscerate our enemy and to cure us from our mortal illness called “sin.”  He has broken into our time and space to redeem us and the world that we have corrupted.  Jesus has also come to vanquish the devil and to restore creation to its original glory.

And in order to do this, He has to die.  He comes to fall on the grenade for us.  He comes to interpose himself between the assassin’s bullet and us.  He comes to do the messy, dirty, bloody work of extracting the poison from our flesh and blood, by cleansing us with baptismal water, and then giving us His transfigured flesh and blood.  We don’t see the blazing white light from His flesh, nor do we hear the voice of God bellowing out of the clouds.  For Jesus has again veiled Himself under the forms of bread and wine.  And the Word of God is spoken by a pastor who is under holy orders by God to speak the Word of Jesus: “This is My body, which is given for you… Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood… for the forgiveness of sins.”

Those are not the pastor’s words, but the Son’s words.  And it is God the Father who says: “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.”

Jesus has come into our world to redeem the world.  Jesus has come in the flesh to cure our flesh of its mortality.  Jesus has not come to scold, but to save; not to promote a nationality, but to make disciples of all nations; not to promote niceness, but to crush our enemies: sin, death, and the devil – into the dust.

He has come to drag us out of the pit, to pull us out of hell’s flames, and to bring breath and life into our dying bodies and souls that are ridden with gangrenous sin that threatens to drag us down into the grave.  Our blessed Lord means business.

Jesus has come to put the world into its proper orbit, to order the particles and emanations of energy of the universe, to restore harmony to every creature that lives and breathes, and to put an end to all suffering and conflict, to all scarcity and want, to every manifestation of disease and discord.  Jesus has come to re-create the universe, and He comes to start with us: His often clueless disciples upon whom He has mercy.

Jesus was transfigured for our sake – to prove His divinity.  Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah for our sake – to demonstrate His fulfillment of the law and the prophets.  Jesus receives the approval of the Father who tells us to listen to Him – for our sake, to point us to the Word – even as Jesus was crucified, died, and rose for our sake.

And once more we hear His voice, His invitation to “Rise, and have no fear,” for He has come to redeem, to heal, and to save.  He has come to forgive our sins and to restore us to life.  And when we lift up our eyes, dear friends, let us see “Jesus only,” confessing Him both as God and man, both as Lord and Savior, both as the one who has come to destroy evil, and to sanctify us by His Word.

And though we did not witness this transfiguration, one who did, St. Peter, reminds us that “we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory.”  Amen.

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

Friday, February 01, 2019

The Orwellitarian Party


Nicholas Sarwark is the chairman of the Libertarian (sic) Party (LP). 

In recent years, the LP has been abandoning the libertarian principles that gave it its name.  Libertarianism is a political philosophy that stresses the limitations of government based on the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), a belief that initiating violence against peaceful people is morally wrong, and that human interaction ought to be based on voluntary cooperation instead of coercion.

Libertarianism therefore stresses private property, free trade, non-intervention in foreign policy, and advocates for private sector solutions to social problems versus a reliance on the State.  Libertarianism is thus grounded in free markets, and is the antithesis of totalitarianism that manifests itself in various forms of dictatorial Statism, such as Communism (International Socialism) and Nazism (National Socialism).  There are degrees of libertarianism, such as the more moderate minarchism, and the more radical anarcho-capitalism.

What is so vexing about the LP in recent years is its tolerance, or even advocacy of, well... Socialism!  It's right out of Alice in Wonderland, or worse yet, an Orwellian dystopia.

It has become fashionable for prominent LP members to attack noted successful and influential libertarians like:


All of the above-mentioned are readers or students of Dr. Murray Rothbard, who was one of the founders of the LP and of the Cato Institute, as well as one of the most prolific libertarian writers in history - but who is now repudiated, if not loathed by many in the current LP leadership.

In recent years, the LP has become a laughable collection of stoners, sexual deviants, celebrity hangers-on, and open Marxists.

After speaking at the 2016 national convention and witnessing the LP's hard turn away from libertarianism, I changed my party affiliation to "independent" as soon as I got back home.  The attendees (delegates and candidates) indeed included some solid and serious-minded libertarians, but the party had clearly been hijacked. 

The above quote by Chairman Sarwark is a case in point.

Stokely Carmichael was a Marxist black nationalist/supremacist who advocated violence.  It's hard to get more antithetical to libertarian principles than that.

In 1981, while I was a 17-year old college freshman, my openly-Socialist professor of Sociology strongly encouraged us to attend a lecture on campus by her hero Stokely Carmichael (who at this time was calling himself Kwame Ture).  She was so embarrassingly excited that I though she might wet herself.  I attended this event, which was essentially a Hitler rally for militant black nationalists.  Carmichael ranted against whites, referring to us as "animals" and called for our extermination.  He called for Marxist revolution and railed against "capitalist pigs."  Being a slightly built white teenager, I got out of there while the crowd was whipped up into a frenzy.  I was appalled by what I had seen.

At the next class, our professor was gushing about Carmichael's performance.  She asked for reactions.  The class was quiet.  After a couple of awkward minutes, I piped up.  I did not approve of calls of violence against whites, nor of the endorsement of Marxism.  In less than a decade, the Berlin wall and the Iron Curtain would fall, and the USSR would break up.  In the early eighties, as the wheels were coming off, we were starting to hear more and more about the cruel Gulag system and the unspeakable repression and poverty that the people of the USSR were suffering - especially as defectors managed to escape the horror.

Other students also expressed their disapproval of Mr. Ture's rhetoric.  The professor looked like a deflated tire.  Had this happened in the current environment, perhaps I would have been sent to sensitivity training or expelled on account of my criticism.

And this Stokely Carmichael is the kind of person that Nicholas Sarwark quotes as an exemplar of libertarian thought, while at the same time, trashing Rothbard and Woods and others who blazed the trail for libertarian ideas to be promulgated in contemporary America.  If libertarians wonder why the LP considers itself successful if it exceeds a mere three percent of the votes, look no further than its tired, Socialist-friendly leadership and weak candidates

If this is what the LP wishes to be, it will continue to be (at best) nothing more than an option for people to cast a none-of-the-above protest vote, and the LP can continue congratulate itself on its great success.  Any similarity to libertarianism is becoming increasingly coincidental.

The good news is that libertarianism is an intellectual tradition, a school of thought, an alternative to Marxism that transcends things like political parties, a political philosophy that is being embraced around the world in spite of the efforts of Sarwark and the LP leadership to undermine the principles of liberty and markets and human flourishing, and in spite of their tarnishing of the term "libertarianism." 

Those who are interested in libertarianism would do well to ignore the LP - like the vast majority of Americans already do.