St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 15:26-16:4
May 12, 2013
What is the greatest thing a person can do with their life in this world?
Create a great work of art? Develop a cure for cancer? Build a great financial empire?
As great as those things are, there is a greater work. God gives it to fourteen-year-old girls who live on a dollar a day and cannot read as well as to women who are CEO’s and surgeons. That is the work of carrying a human being within her body, bearing that human being into the world, nurturing that life.
A human life, no matter how lowly, is greater than any scientific advance, greater than any work of art.
That is an article of faith for Christians. We witness to the world that the meaning of the world, the truth, is not an idea or a set of facts. The truth is a person. The truth is the baby that a young virgin gave birth to in a stable in Roman occupied Judea, the Son of God, the reflection of God the Father’s glory and the reflection of our lowliness.
Jesus is the truth. He did not appear in human ideas but in human flesh and blood. He did not come to earth and compose symphonies, craft peace treaties, or develop vaccines. He came to earth to preach the word of God into human ears and to fulfill the Word by being put to death on the wood of a tree.
We live in a world that believes that human life has conditional value. If you are beautiful or talented and if you are happy and comfortable your life may be valuable. If not…it may well be better for you to have not been born.
But the Church of Christ bears witness to the world that every human being is infinitely valuable because of the baby Mary bore.
That is why Christians not only with words but also with actions and attitudes.
And every other calling that Christians have from God, whether father, farmer, banker, businessman, artist, musician—is valued by Christians—not because through those things we make ourselves great in the world. But because through those things God sends us to help and sustain and heal and comfort human beings. Even if you have not carried a human being inside of you and given birth to him or her, you still have a call from God to sustain and nurture the human beings whose bodies and souls God considers so valuable as to give up His eternal Son.
God has given a glorious task to all human beings—to bring human life into the world and care for it. Love your neighbor as yourself is the summary of the second table of the law of God. That applies to all of us.
Yet as great as this honor is, we know all too well that what we are able to do is not enough to make people truly blessed and happy. That’s why we honor the seemingly “great” works so much. We honor people who do great things like cure diseases or set athletic records because they increase people’s happiness or decrease their suffering.
As great as it is to bring life into the world or bring comfort to people in their lives, in the end it is not enough. Mothers bring children into the world, but they do not live forever. Those who are not mothers have work that is meant to sustain the lives of other people. But we are unable to do it forever.
There is a greater work that God does through human beings, but not every human being can do it—only those who have the Helper, the Spirit of Truth, whom Jesus sends from the Father.
To bear witness to Jesus.
This is to bear witness to eternal life
The Spirit does it.
He does it through the apostles.
He is the Helper, the Advocate
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son
Those through whom the Holy Spirit bears witness are cast out as idolaters.
Even more: whoever kills the apostles will think “they are bringing a sacrifice acceptable to God.”
The world does this now.
But above all it will be the ones who are supposed to be holy—Israel. The Church.
Not primarily worldly people in the church
But those who claim to be holy—those who intend to be holy, who care about the word of God enough to be willing to excommunicate or to do divine service.
So that you will not be scandalized and fall away.
This will be very difficult to accept, but when it happens you will remember I told you.
This is what happened to Jesus.
When we bring our babies to be baptized, this is not what we have in mind.
But it is necessary—so that those who oppose Christ may receive witness of His love—not only in words, but embodied in the love of the church that continues to love when it is cast out and put to death.
The Helper who proceeds from the Father will keep us just as He kept the apostles.
Remember that they suffered for their witness—
As a result we are saved.
When we suffer or are cast out, the Helper will enable us to endure and use our suffering to give us joy that forgets about self and loves.
Mothers forget about themselves for love of their children.
The Triune God has done the same in His love for us;
He will do the same in us as He makes us witnesses to Christ, and the love of the Christ to whom we bear witness will swallow up the hatred and pain that comes for a short time in response to our witness to Him.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit’s Troublemaking. Holy Pentecost Sermon 2013 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Exalted to the Lowest Place. The Feast of the Holy Trinity 2013 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 3:1-17
May 26, 2013
Exalted to the lowest place
A happy ending? God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world?
Here comes one of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus—a ruler of the Jews. A Pharisee. What the disciples hoped would happen seems to be happening. Sure, Jesus was opposed and they had some hard times. But everything will turn out right in the end. It has to be, because He’s the Messiah, the King of the Jews. So the rulers hate him now, but look, they’re already starting to come around.
Nicodemus says, “We know you are a teacher from God. Otherwise how could you do all these miraculous signs, unless God was with you?”
Who would be more likely to know whether someone was from God than the students of Scripture, the teachers of God’s Word among the people called by God’s name?
Jesus didn’t deny that the Jews were the people called by God’s name. Gentiles worshipped idols.
We also don’t look for God everywhere. He can’t be found apart from His Word other than as a God of wrath. So all other religions are not the same.
But despite being a teacher of the people of God and a student of the Word of God, Nicodemus didn’t know God at all.
“We know you are a teacher from God…” To say that is not enough to know Jesus.
To say that is not enough to know God either.
Muslims say that Jesus was a teacher from God, that HE ascended to heaven, etc. They believe in one God, and as they will tell you, they believe in Jesus and they love Him.
Most Americans are not atheists. They believe in God. Most of them probably believe that Jesus is God.
But they still do not know God nor Jesus.
No one is able to recognize or perceive God’s kingdom, His reign which is here and which is coming, in which sin and death are destroyed, unless he is born again or born from above.
If Jesus had simply come to have people “accept” Him in the sense of recognizing that God sent Him, or His teaching was true, that He should be obeyed, Nicodemus would have already “accepted Him.”
But recognizing Jesus as a prophet or one with God’s authority is not enough. It is useless.
And no one can perceive God’s salvation and enter into it unless he is reborn from on high, from God.
It doesn’t matter how wise you are, how knowledgeable of Scripture, how pious you are, how long you’ve gone to church or how much you’ve served there.
Nicodemus was the teacher of God’s people. But He didn’t know God and could not recognize God’s kingdom of salvation even though it had come.
Israel’s teachers did not know God and could not see His kingdom because they thought they already knew God and were part of His kingdom.
They had the Scriptures, didn’t they?
They had God’s promise, didn’t they?
God had taken them as His people and dwelt in the midst of them in the temple, didn’t He?
They had circumcision, which marked them as people of the promise.
But without being born from on High or reborn by the water and the Spirit, these things profited nothing. They did not understand the Scriptures or believe them; they did not recognize the Lord who dwelt in the temple when He came in a new house—human flesh. They did not believe in the one who was promised to them in circumcision—Abraham’s offspring.
Nicodemus thought that he was already holy, and now this teacher from God would unfold heavenly wisdom to him—add to what he already had.
You are just like Nicodemus and most of the people of Israel.
You have the Scriptures.
The Lord is present with you in His body and blood.
You are baptized—NT circumcision.
But like Nicodemus and most of the people of Israel, we think that we can come to God without being reborn—dying and rising again.
No. You must be born from above, or you cannot recognize the kingdom of God coming to you and you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Like Moses we want to see God’s glory. But no one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven.
Only through Him can we know God. He alone knows the Father, and whoever He chooses to reveal the Father.
He reveals God not by being exalted and lifted up on a throne, in majesty.
You see how that affected Isaiah!
You see Him and know God when you see Him exalted and lifted up on the cross of shame the way that Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.
That is what Baptism is
It is coming as a sinner who is unable to know God by nature or see or enter His kingdom
God’s mighty Spirit is poured out on you, brings you into the kingdom of God.
You see Jesus as the one who became sin and is held up before our eyes to save us from deadly poison of sin.
To live in Baptism is to come to God this way—not as someone who knows something and is already holy, but as one who has nothing, knows nothing, except sin and death.
We are baptized into Him who is all-glorious but descended into the depths of sin for us and cancelled it.
All of the church year leads to today, the feast of the Trinity.
The only God who shows mercy like this is the Trinity.
He gives all of Christ to us in Baptism, all that we’ve heard about during the festival portion of the year.
The world does not know where you come from or where you are going. But you are born of the Spirit, which means you are united to Jesus the Son, who came from God and returned to Him.
That is the glory that fills St. Peter now for 156 years—not our own knowledge, wisdom, holiness, but that God lifts up His Son in our midst like the snake on the pole and baptizes us into Him, and He adds another to us today. Let us give thanks for Anthony who today is born again of water and the Spirit.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 14:23-31
May 19, 2013
The Holy Spirit’s Troublemaking
This week another pastor told me: “You risk being called a troublemaker.”
I know what you’re thinking. “He must have gotten Hess mixed up with someone else!”
I had a bad couple of days after that. It’s not good to make trouble because of your pride or because you always have to be right. There are six things that the Lord hates, says the Holy Spirit in Proverbs, chapter 6: seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6: 16-19)
It’s an abomination before the Lord to stir up trouble and fights among brothers. That’s the same word used by Moses to describe sodomy—homosexual behavior. An abomination. God hates it. It’s a grave sin to stir up strife, to be a troublemaker.
But there is a kind of “troublemaking” that I wish I did far more often. I wish that I would always be known as this kind of a troublemaker. And I wish that each one of you would also make a lot of this kind of trouble.
The Triune God and His servants have always been called “troublemakers” in this sense. The world calls God’s servants “troublemakers” because they undermine the false peace and false unity of the world. The world wants to be at peace and be left alone while it opposes and turns away from the true God, the Trinity.
But God loves the people in the world too much to allow them to have peace and quiet while they do everything they can to shut Him out, silence His Word, and avoid Him.
When the world is most religious and spiritual, when it is most moral, it is still completely opposed to God. At its most religious the world does not know God. At its most moral, it does not understand God’s wisdom but rejects it as foolishness.
At the tower of Babel, human beings were all united. They all worked together at one thing. They decided to build a tower into heaven and “make a name for themselves.” God’s name is how we have access to God. He gives us His name and reveals Himself to us so that we can “call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” But the people of the world tried to come up with their own name, their own way to access God, which made sense to them.
They may have thought that they were doing a very holy and religious and moral thing. Yet they were fighting God. His Word had been, “Go spread out and fill the earth.” But that didn’t make sense to them. Maybe they thought, “We can do more good works if we stick together.” Maybe they even thought that they would atone for the sins of Adam by building this tower. Maybe they thought this impressive work of theirs would bring honor and glory to God.
Whatever they thought, they were still hostile to God, because they did not keep His Word.
So God made trouble for them.
These days it is quite common for conservative protestants to claim to speak with the dead. At least in my experience. You often hear people speak as though their deceased loved one was in the room on a certain occasion, speaking with them, flipping the lights off and on, etc. On the other hand, conservative protestants generally think of it as a law that you don’t pray for the dead. Luther teaches exactly the reverse: you may pray for those who have died (although not repeatedly, because God hears you in Christ the first time.) But you never, ever, under any circumstances, talk to a dead person who claims to be your loved one, or believe that your loved one communicates with you in any way from the other side of the grave. Read on…
Martin Luther, Sermon for the First Sunday after Trinity (on Luke 16:19-31) http://www.lutherdansk.dk/1%20Web-AM%20-%20Trinity%201-12/index.htm
“28. The fourth question is: Shall we pray for the dead; since here in the Gospel there is no intermediate state between Abraham’s bosom and hell, and those in Abraham’s bosom do not need it, and it does not help those in perdition. We have no command from God to pray for the dead; therefore no one sins by not praying for them; for what God does not bid or forbid us to do, in that no one can sin. Yet, on the other hand, since God has not permitted us to know, how it is with the souls of the departed and we must continue uninformed, as to how he deals with them, we will not and cannot restrain them, nor count it as sin, if they pray for the dead. For we are ever certain from the Gospel, that many have been raised from the dead, who, we must confess, did not receive nor did they have their final sentence; and likewise we are not assured of any other, that he has his final sentence.
29. Now since it is uncertain and no one knows, whether final judgment has been passed upon these souls, it is not sin if you pray for them; but in this way, that you let it rest in uncertainty and speak thus: Dear God, if the departed souls be in a state that they may yet be helped, then I pray that thou wouldst be gracious. And when you have thus prayed once or twice, then let it be sufficient and commend them unto God. For God has promised that when we pray to him for anything he would hear us. Therefore when you have prayed once or twice, you should believe that your prayer is answered, and there let it rest, lest you tempt God and mistrust him.
30. But that we should institute masses, vigils and prayers to be repeated forever for the dead every year, as if God had not heard us the year before, is the work of Satan and is death itself, where God is mocked by unbelief, and such prayers are nothing but blasphemy of God. Therefore take warning and turn from these practices. God is not moved by these anniversary ceremonies, but by the prayer of the heart, of devotion and of faith; that will help the departed souls if anything will. Vigils, masses, indeed help the bellies of the priests, monks and nuns, but departed souls are not helped by them and God is thus mocked.
31. However, if you have in your house a spook or ghost, who pretends that the departed can be helped by saying masses, You should be fully persuaded that it is the work of Satan. No soul has yet since the beginning of the world reappeared on the earth, and it is not God’s will that it should be so. For here in this Gospel you see that Abraham declares that no one can be sent from the dead to teach the living; but he points them to the Word of God in the Scriptures, Deut. 31: ”They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” By these words Abraham turns to the command of God in Deut. 18:11, where God says: ”Thou shalt not be a consulter with a familiar spirit.” Is. 8:19. Therefore it is surely nothing but the contrivance of Satan that any spirits should let themselves be entreated and that they should require so and so many masses, such and such pilgrimages or other works, and appear afterwards in the clear light and pretend that certain persons are saved. In this way Satan has introduced error so that the people have fallen from faith into works, and think their deeds may accomplish such great things. And thus is fulfilled what St. Paul declared in 2 Thess. 2:10-11, that God would send upon them powerful error, and temptation to unrighteousness, because they have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved.
32. Therefore be prudent and know that God will not let us know how it is with the dead, so that faith may retain its place in the Word of God, which believes that God will save the believers after this life and condemn the unbelievers. If now a familiar spirit present itself before you, take no notice of it; but be assured that it is the devil, and conquer him with this Saying of Abraham, ”They have Moses and the prophets,” and likewise with the command in Moses, ”Thou shalt not be a consulter with a familiar spirit;” then he will soon be gone. If he leave you not, then let him make a noise until he is tired, and in firm faith suffer his wantonness.
33. And if it were possible that it were indeed a departed soul or a good spirit even, then you should neither learn nor inquire anything of him, since God has forbidden you to do so; because he has sent his Son himself to teach us all that is necessary for us to know. What he has not taught us, that we should gladly not wish to know, and be satisfied with the teachings of the holy Apostles, in which he is preached to us. However, I have further written on this subject in the Postils on the Gospel for Epiphany and in my booklet on the Misuse of the Mass; where you may read more along this line.
34. Likewise, to give an example, we read in the Historia Tripartita (A History in Three Parts) of a bishop, who came to Corinth where he had come to attend a Council, and as he could not find a suitable lodging for himself and his attendants, he saw a house unoccupied and condemned as uninhabitable, and he asked if he might not be allowed to occupy it. Then they told him in reply that it was infested with nightly ghosts, that no one could live in it, and often people were found dead in it in the morning. Then the bishop said but little and immediately entered and lodged there the same night, for he very well saw that the devil was the author of all these ghost stories, and as he had firm faith that Christ was Lord over Satan, therefore he was not moved by his stratagems and he entered to lodge with him. And thus that house was made free by the prayers and presence of a holy man from infesting ghosts and horrifying spectres. Behold, you see that the ghosts are Satan, and there is little use to dispute with them; but one should despise them with a cheerful spirit as nothing.
35. A similar story we read about Gregory, the Bishop of Cappadocia, that he crossed the Alps and lodged with a heathen sexton or clerk of the church, who had an idol, that answered him the questions he asked; and he made his living by telling the people secret things. Now the bishop knew nothing of this, and proceeded the next day as soon as it was morning on his journey. But Satan or the evil spirit could not endure the prayers and presence of the holy man, and at once he betook himself out of the house, so that the heathen sexton could no longer receive answers as before. As soon as he felt his great loss, he set up a great howl to call back his idol, which appeared to him while he was asleep, and said, it was his own fault because he had lodged the bishop, with whom he (the evil spirit) could not remain. The sexton hastened to overtake the bishop and complained to him that he had taken his god and livelihood, and returned evil for the kindness extended to him. Then the bishop took paper out of his pocket and wrote these few words: ”Gregory sendeth greetings to Apollinius. Be thou at liberty, O, Apollinius, to do as thou hast done before. Farewell.” The sexton took the letter and laid it by the side of his idol; then the devil came again, and did as before. Finally the sexton began to think, what a poor god is he, who allows himself to be driven away and lead by my guest who was only a man. And at once he started to the bishop, was instructed and baptized, and grew in his faith, so that he became the eminent bishop of Caesarea, a city in Cappadocia, upon the death of the bishop that baptized him. Behold, how simply faith proceeds, and acts joyfully, securely and effectively. Treat all your troublesome evil spirits in the same way.
…the Turk’s Koran, or creed, teaches him to destroy not only the Christian faith, but also the whole temporal government. His Mohammed, as has been said, commands that ruling is to be done by the sword, and in his Koran the sword is the commonest and noblest work. Thus the Turk is, in truth, nothing but a murderer or highwayman, as his deeds show before men’s eyes…
…Who would not rather be dead than live under such a government, where he must say nothing about his Christ, and hear and see such blasphemy and abomination against Him? Yet it takes such a powerful hold, when it wins a land, that people even submit to it willingly. Therefore, let everyone pray who can pray that this abomination may not become lord over us and that we may not be punished with this terrible rod of God’s anger…
…I think…that neither emperor nor princes believe themselves that they are emperor and princes. For they act as though it lay with their own judgment and pleasure whether they would rescue and protect their subjects from the power of the Turk or not; and the princes neither care nor think that they are bound and obligated before God to counsel and help the emperor in this matter with body and goods. Martin Luther, “On War Against the Turk”
LONDON | Thu May 23, 2013 6:58am EDT
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister David Cameron said the brutal killing of a soldier who was hacked to death in London by two men shouting Jihadist slogans was a betrayal of Islam….
“This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There is nothing in Islam* that justifies this truly dreadful act.”
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton, editing by Stephen Addison)http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/23/us-britain-killing-cameron-islam-idUSBRE94M0EZ20130523
Really, who gave political officials the authority to pronounce judgments on what is or isn’t an authentic expression of a religion’s piety or theology?
How did David Cameron get to be an authority on Islam?
How did newspaper columnists and TV anchormen become trusted authorities on what is permitted by Islam and what is a betrayal of it?
Many Muslims think it is a betrayal of Islam if a Muslim taxi driver permits someone into his taxi with alcohol; others think it is a betrayal of Islam if a woman fails to wear a hijab in public (i.e. cover her hair.) Could you ever imagine David Cameron, President Obama, or Bill O’ Reilly or whoever going on the record to declare that failures to wear a hijab are a “betrayal of Islam?”
No, they only make these statements when Muslims give incontrovertible evidence that Islam, or at least quite a few of its adherents, are implacable enemies of Western values or virtues like religious tolerance or non-violent resistance to injustice. These values and virtues are often either explicitly Christian or have roots in Christian doctrine and morals.
Cynicism suggests that this is because Western leaders in government and media hate their ancestors and Christianity and want to destroy every memory of either.
“All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall”
But that’s probably not right. It’s probably more that, no longer rooted in Christianity, the West has forgotten (or rejected) the doctrine of original sin, although we have not completely forgotten some Christian virtues–mercy, love for enemies, etc. But virtues without Christ are like chips of stained glass broken out of a pane.
Believing that people are basically good at heart, or at least not believing that they are born evil, the West finds it too painful to distinguish between good and evil. Because Europeans have frequently done evil or killed the innocent because they were sure that they were in the right and that God was on their side, they now are unable to bring themselves to fight against a foreign culture and religion that has no such doubts.
Spiritual and Temporal Authority—the Lost Protestant Doctrine
This self-doubt and willingness to turn the other cheek is part of Christ’s teaching. But the Protestant Reformation–particularly the Lutheran Reformation–rightly recognized that while this is appropriate for private individuals, it is disastrous for rulers and governments (and probably for any calling God gives Christians on earth.) If the Reformers and the princes who accepted the Reformation had allowed Jesus’ commands to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, not judge, and so on, to prevent rulers from fighting wars, executing criminals, and maintaining courts of law, the Reformation (along with society in those regions that accepted the Reformation) would have collapsed. Princes in Protestant lands had to maintain armies and fight for the right to proclaim the pure Word of God in their churches–whether against “the murderous Pope [or] Turk”. If instead of executing or otherwise punishing those guilty of capital crimes they simply absolved them, the states in which the Reformation was introduced would have quickly collapsed.
I think that’s what’s really behind our political leaders’ and media’s insistence, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, that every act of jihadist terrorism is a “betrayal” of Islam, the “religion of peace.”
It’s not that they are purposely trying to pull the wool over our eyes. I think it’s because the vestiges of Christian faith and morality remaining in the Western cultural psyche, being isolated from the other articles of the faith and thus perverted–make our leaders just as blind as they try to make us. Read more…
“The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers. And this British soldier is one. It is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the Shari’a in Muslim lands? Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather you lot are extreme. You are the ones that when you drop a bomb you think it hits one person? Or rather your bomb wipes out a whole family? This is the reality. By Allah if I saw your mother today with a buggy I would help her up the stairs. This is my nature. But we are forced by the Qur’an, in Sura At-Tawba, through many ayah in the Qu’ran, we must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments, they don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? You think politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so can all live in peace. So leave our lands and we can all live in peace. That’s all I have to say. [in Arabic:] Allah’s peace and blessings be upon you.”
YORBA LINDA — Walk into Mark Hanson’s church and nobody will greet you. The guys hanging around the foyer might even make fun of what you’re wearing, or your haircut. A sign over the entrance reads, “Grab a seat in the back and shut up. Nobody cares what you think.”
Welcome to Jerk Church.
“You know these guys,” says Hanson, the pastor and founder. “They sit with their arms folded the whole time, leave during the altar call, criticize the pastor, snort when other people state their opinions and never create lasting bonds of friendship. Their wives are always really stressed. Bingo — that’s my mission field.”
Two years ago, Hanson noticed a “growing population of total jerks” in his community that nobody was reaching with the gospel.
“They’re like white noise, filler — they’re everywhere but nobody sees them,” Hanson says. “They are trapped in their own jerk-dom. My heart went out to them.”
Hanson left a position at a larger church to plant a church aimed at this population. He played around with names like “Church for Guys,” but ended up going straight to the heart of the matter.
“I want pure jerks — the guy who cuts in and out of traffic on the highway, the guy who knows everything at the party, the guy who’s upset about politics, the guy who doesn’t know when to stick a sock in it,” Hanson says. “That’s my tribe.”
Attendance spiked when Hanson informed local churches that he was looking for “grumpy husbands and skeptics.” Some churches started recommending certain guys switch congregations. Others gave their men a choice: marriage counseling or six months attending Jerk Church. Most men chose the latter.
Hanson has designed sermons and church literature to “shut guys up before they can start.”
A prominent, attractive display in the foyer showcases every major objection to Christianity ever conceived, and invites men to read the original works before “ranting.”
“It demonstrates that I’m not afraid of their little arguments,” Hanson says. “They come in thinking their opinions are original. When they realize they are thousands of years old, they get real quiet. Nothing shuts up a jerk like being exposed as a follower.”
Hanson also knew the men would complain about everything, so he prepared answers in advance. When guys grouse about the volume of the music, too loud or too soft, Hanson tells them, “Maybe it’s ‘cause you’re getting old and your brain can’t handle it anymore.”
When they say the seats are uncomfortable, he invites them to “lose the extra 35-pound hog carcass you’re carrying around your midsection.”
On a recent Sunday, Hanson greeted them from the pulpit with, “Look at this roomful of former hotshots who became grumpy old men. Why are you here? Did your recliners break? Is your wife sick of you, big man? Or did you just lose your fishing pole and you’re too poor to buy a new one?”
Foyer conversation is argumentative. When guys aren’t poking holes in each others’ theories they stand around waiting for someone to say something so they can critique it. Now and then someone storms off to the restroom while the others snort and mock him.
Water baptism services are far from normal. A man named Darrell was baptized recently. Hanson prodded him to give his testimony.
“I’m doing this to shut up my mother-in-law,” Darrell said.
“Anything else, you wuss?” Hanson said.
“Nah, just do it,” Darrell said.
Darrell came up from the water looking annoyed, snatched a towel from someone’s hands and exited the tank. Amid a smattering of applause one man yelled, “Loser!”
“You’re the loser!” Darrell yelled back.
A cautious sense of camaraderie has emerged among the men. If a guy acts up during the service, other guys muscle him into a “time out” room which Hanson has labeled “Nursing Mothers” to humiliate them.
“I don’t need ushers. The guys patrol themselves,” Hanson says. “They know when to make each other feel like a big baby.”
Hanson fills the church schedule with events that don’t actually exist.
“Men’s breakfast at 7 a.m. on Saturday? No guy in our church would attend that,” he says. “I announce it just so they feel good about skipping something.”
Services often don’t end in prayer. Rather, Hanson just says, “I’m done. I’m not even praying for you guys today. Get out of here. Go on.”
“I want them to know I love them, but not so much that I’m a sucker,” he says. “My life would actually be more pleasant without them. I don’t hide that.”
The church web site reaches out to wives of jerks and offers a script for them to read to their husbands: “Honey, you’re a jerk. Nobody can stand to be around you. But I have a place for you …”
Jerk Church strictly enforces a “No wives” policy.
“Having a wife around gives them an audience for their stupid, critical observations,” says Hanson. “I want plain, unadulterated jerks with no place to hide and no one to listen to them.”
In their heart of hearts he says jerks just want someone to push back.
“They know they’re not right all the time. They want someone to let them know why,” Hanson says.
Guys admit they attend because Hanson “gets” them.
“He knows I’m a cantankerous, moody old b****** but he loves me anyway,” says one man shrugging. “Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll go from jerk to recovering jerk. Don’t tell my wife.”