Archive

Archive for August, 2013

Putin Talks Sense on Syria; US fears fascism in unrepentant Russian masculinity

August 31, 2013 1 comment
Vladimir Putin - World Economic Forum Annual M...

Vladimir Putin – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009 (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

In his statement on the BBC page below, Putin sounds like Socrates compared to our leaders and talking heads.  He also sounds Jeffersonian compared to the high handed way the US expects the rest of the world to look to it as an infallible moral compass.  What, we’re just supposed to take the White House’s word for it that Syria used gas?  The rest of the world, too?

Putin is constantly represented by media and leaders in the English speaking world as a proto-Mussolini.  If not allowing gay pride parades or political punk rock bands to trespass on church property is all it takes to make you fascist, maybe I should move to Russia.

I am in favor of limitations on power.  I guess that’s what makes me skeptical of the US’s right to continue to swagger around the globe like it invented civil liberties, when meanwhile the US media is a de facto ministry of truth filled with sycophantic dullards who, half the time, seem to think their job is to shape public opinion rather than report the news.  And what is worse they barely make any attempt to hide the self-congratulatory smirks with which they go about it.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23911461

False Flag in Syria? Srjda Trifkovic

The "black flag of jihad" as used by...

The “black flag of jihad” as used by various Islamic terrorist organizations (since the late 1990s) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As if the Afghan blowback of the 1980s had never happened, as if the Iraqi debacle were ancient history, the Obama administration is about to involve the United States in yet another multi-faceted Middle Eastern conflict without good or bad parties, a civil war irrelevant to the welfare or security of the U.S. regardless of its outcome. The result can only be a minus-sum-game for America. If Bashar survives, the American prestige will suffer; but if the rebels prevail, Syria will become safe for jihad. As Milton Bearden, a CIA veteran who oversaw the covert program to arm the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets told Foreign Policy last June, the Obama administration should realize that if you arm the rebels, you are no longer in control. The U.S.-supplied weapons will end up in jihadist hands—with groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is active in Syria as the Jabhat al-Nusra. This is the group the Obama administration placed on the State Department’s list of “terrorist” organizations late last year. It is now the likely recipient of U.S. largesse as the best organized rebel group in Syria. – See more at: http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/2013/08/27/syria-a-classic-false-flag-atrocity/#sthash.snxCmVK1.dpuf

Weapons of Mass Destruction…reprise

kerry wmdBack in 2002 or 2003, I’d just started seminary.  I had an uneasy feeling about attacking Iraq, but I kept my mouth shut because I had no place to put the feeling politically.  I figured it must just be leftism leftover from all that time trying to be a poet.
But now I really regret that I didn’t stay with that uneasiness.  Not that it would have changed anything.  But I wish I would have said, “No, Saddam is a bad guy, but it’s better for him to be there than to give weapons and ammunition to al-Qaeda.”  How did the leaders of the country then not realize that taking Saddam out of power was more likely to result in al-Qaeda being funded and armed than leaving him there?
Then of course there was the minor inaccuracy that Saddam turned out not to have any chemical weapons.  Woops.
George W. Bush was idealistic.  He naively thought “American Democracy” could be transplanted to the Middle East, and that would solve the problem of al-Qaeda.
It’s too bad that he thought this way, since he is and was (by all reports) a Christian.  Essentially the strategy was to neutralize religion as a motivating force by introducing consumerism.  That is the Western model, right?  That’s how warring, passionate Christian sects have been tamed here.  So they thought it would work in the middle East too.
Anyway, it wasn’t quite that simple.
But Obama didn’t learn the lesson.  He still thinks that “American Freedom” is going to make life better in the middle east.  At least that’s what he says.
If anything he has ratcheted up Bush’s policies.  In the name of creating democracy in the Middle East he becomes the supporter of the folks we went into Iraq and Afghanistan to get rid of.  That was, remember, not Middle Eastern secularist dictators.  Assad and Hussein never had someone fly a jumbo jet into an American skyscraper.  It was Muslims.  Not all Muslims, but Muslims who believe that Islam obligates them to perpetrate terrorist attacks in the United States.
In the name of getting rid of the sources of such terrorism, Obama supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  He supported the revolution in Libya which killed Qadafi and then turned around and killed the American ambassador.  Now he’s supporting the “freedom fighters in Syria” who are jihadis.  Those who aren’t will be just like the pro-democracy protestors in Egypt who were quickly thrown to the side after Mubarak was gone.
Common denominator between Syria and Egypt?  Massacre of Christians by opponents of the regime.  Of course the Christians in Egypt and Syria supported the dictators!  They knew the dictators were going to give them something more like equal rights under the law than they would get under Islamic law, which makes all unconverted “people of the book” second-class citizens who are subject to discrimination, extra taxes, limitations on who they can marry…etc.
Obama really does seem like he’s more intelligent than George Bush.  That’s why I can’t believe that he doesn’t know that he’s just pursuing George Bush’s Middle East policy more vigorously than George Bush did.
Even down to the weapons of mass destruction excuse again.  Come on, Mr. President!  As easily manipulated as Americans are (see my confession above), it’s going to be difficult to convince Americans using the same excuse again even with the media feeding us Pravda twenty-four hours a day.  Can it possibly be that the White House really believes this same story about weapons of mass destruction after the same story was used to bring us into Iraq?  Even if it’s true, shouldn’t an intelligent person automatically assume that it’s not?
Most politicians become dumb from being advised by experts who keep telling them what all the experts believe and from constantly responding to what the broad majority of their constituents believe.  They are incapable of having an original thought.  If they weren’t that way before they went to Yale they became that way in public life.  John Kerry is a great example.  Rumsfeld and George Bush Sr.  seem like Republican versions.  They’re company men and know how to advance quietly, or they’re public personalities.  But they only are as useful as the experts’ opinions are correct.
Others are just yokels and rednecks.  They may be blue collar, union yokels, like Biden.  They may be southern liberal yokels.  Or they may be true gun-toting right-wing yokels.  W. Bush was one of these.
Then there are politicians and cabinet members who actually seem intelligent.  Cheney seemed that way, but his cunning didn’t extend as far as world diplomacy.  Obama always seemed like an intelligent politician, but he has a different type of intelligence than a guy like Cheney.  Unfortunately, it’s a college boy sort of intelligence that is driven by ideal and ideology and not the way things work.  I think JFK was this way too.  Ego gets in there too and that clouds your judgment.
Maybe I’m wrong about the President, but that would only mean one of two things: he does see what’s going on clearly and he wants to aid and support al-Qaeda.  Or else he thinks that it is morally necessary or in America’s long-term interest to topple Mideast dictators and support popular sovereignty even when that means people vote in Islamic theocracies who are sympathetic toward jihad and terrorism.  The first is hard to believe.  The second, which seems more likely, is despite good intentions a complete misunderstanding of human nature.  It’s better to have a bloody tyrant run countries in the middle east than a cabal of religious zealots whose ultra ultra conservatism and willingness to die terrifies the rest of the populace into submission or silence.
It’s better to have an unprincipled tyrant running the country than a principled, committed, true believer who is wrong.  The Tsarnaevs were committed enough to kill and to die exchanging gunfire with cops when every law enforcement officer for miles around was actively searching for them.  The men in Iraq who made videos of themselves sawing off the heads of American contractors were principled, dedicated, and committed.  They truly believed their god was pleased and honored when they cut off people’s heads.
No, it’s better to have bloody corrupt dictators.  It’s more moral for us to not help principled jihadists overthrow corrupt tyrants.  Why?  Because the more principled and devoted you are to a mistaken cause, the more evil you will do.
That same principle applies to our leaders.  Better a corrupt, lying politician who rules prudently than a well-meaning, idealistic fanatic.
Here’s a liberal writer in the Washington post sheepishly admitting that Obama may have less evidence for his weapons of mass destruction pretext than Bush did.

The case for Syria may be worse than Iraq

By Alex Seitz-Wald, Published: August 30 at 10:07 am

A Code Pink demonstrator in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A Code Pink demonstrator in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

With Code Pink protesting outside the White House as the administration grows impatient with United Nations inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, it’s beginning to feel a bit like 2003 in Washington.

The Iraq War is casting a long shadow over a potential  Syria conflict, as even President Obama had to acknowledge. “[We’re] not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about,” Obama told PBS NewsHour Wednesday night.

But for all the fears of repeating Bush’s mistakes, Obama is taking the country to war in Syria from an arguably weaker position than Bush did with Iraq 10 years ago.

On public opinion alone, they are worlds apart (and this is a democracy, after all, so such things should matter). “Do you think that the United States should or should not take military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq?” a Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll asked two days before the bombing began in 2003. A clear majority, 65 percent, said yes, while just 30 percent said no.

Compare that to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this morning that found that 50 percent of Americans oppose military intervention in Syria, compared with 42 percent who support it. When asked if the U.S. should prioritize removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, just 16 percent of respondents said yes. Now even Republicans are turning against a potential attack, Nate Cohn noted.

Syria is a historical anomaly here as Americans have generally supported military intervention in recent years, from the humanitarian missions of the 1990s to the Bush wars of the 2000s, to the Libya campaign in 2011.

And while Bush’s “coalition of the willing” was a joke, at least he had the United Kingdom. Obama lost London yesterday when Parliament voted to oppose the war effort. “Gosh, it’s as if they’ve had some unpleasant experience working with the United States on an armed adventure in that part of the world,” Jonathan quipped. It was a major defeat, but the Obama administration is nonetheless preparing to go it alone, the New York Times reported:

Although administration officials cautioned that Mr. Obama had not made a final decision, all indications suggest that a strike could occur soon after United Nations investigators charged with scrutinizing the Aug. 21 attack leave the country. They are scheduled to depart Damascus on Saturday.

“How very Bush-like. Or Bush-lite, I suppose,” Kevin Drum wrote.

Meanwhile, in Congress — and 79 percent of Americans told the NBC pollsters that Obama needs to get congressional approval to attack Syria — there’s mounting opposition to attacking Syria. Yesterday, 53 liberal Democrats sent a letter to President Obama saying that while the regime’s crimes are “horrific,” that alone “should not draw us into an unwise war.” That comes on top of the 140 members of Congress who signed on to a Republican letter cautioning against intervention.

It’s still entirely possible that a resolution to authorize force in Syria would get somewhere in the neighborhood of the 297 votes the Iraq resolution got in late 2002, but there’s hardly the same drumbeat for war coming from members of Congress that we saw back then.

And while the legal foundation for the Iraq war was shaky, at best, the justification for Syria is also pretty dubious. Jon Chait, who notes that he’s “predisposed to favor a punitive air strike against Syria,” explained:

The clearest justifications for military action don’t apply. This is not a case of self-defense, or defense of an ally, or the prevention of genocide. There is an international treaty banning the use of chemical weapons against civilians, but Syria didn’t sign it, perhaps correctly calculating that it would one day need to use such weapons. We would be enforcing an informal norm against the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

The sad irony here, Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ben Smith wrote at BuzzFeed today, is that many of the problems facing Obama’s war effort have their root in the failure in Iraq. “We’re now paying for the mistakes of George Bush and it hampers the United States’ ability to do something,” Howard Dean told BuzzFeed.

Fortunately, there seems to be little appetite in the White House for anything near the scale of Iraq  – “just muscular enough not to get mocked,” as an unnamed administration official said — so the actual consequences will never be as bad.

But while it’s infuriating that someone like Donald Rumsfeld is criticizing the White House for failing to justify a potential attack on Syria — it puts him in ”the Chutzpah Hall of Fame,” as Steve Benen wrote — it’s even more infuriating that Rumsfeld may be right.

Sin Raging Within–A Good Thing for Christians

August 30, 2013 2 comments

christ-on-the-mount-of-olives-1819_jpg!BlogLuther, Lectures on Galatians (1535), trans. Philip Watson.

http://lutherdansk.dk/1%20Galatian%201535%20-%20old/index.htm

On Chapter 5: 19 (“Now the works of the flesh are evident…”

These things sufficiently declare who be the true saints indeed, and which is to be called a holy life: not the life of those which lurk in caves and dens, which make their bodies lean with fasting, which wear hair, and do other like things with this persuasion and trust, that they shall have singular reward in heaven above all other Christians; but of those which be baptized and believe in Christ, which put off the old man with his works, but not at once: for concupiscence remaineth in them so long as they live: the feeling whereof doth hurt them nothing at all, if they suffer it not to reign in them, but subdue it to the Spirit.

This doctrine bringeth great consolation to godly minds, that when they feel these darts of the flesh, wherewith Satan assaileth the spirit, they should not despair: as it happened to many in the Papacy, which thought that they ought to feel no concupiscence of the flesh; whereas notwithstanding Jerome, Gregory, Benedict, Bernard, and others (whom the monks set before them as a perfect example of chastity and of all Christian virtues) could never come so far as to feel no concupiscence [or lust] of the flesh. Yea, they felt it, and that very strongly. Which thing they acknowledge and plainly confess in divers places of their books. Therefore God did not only not impute unto them these light faults, but even those pernicious errors which some of them brought into the Church. Gregory was the author of the private mass, than which there never was any greater abomination in the Church of the Yew Testament. Others devised monkery, wicked worshippings and voluntary religions. Cyprian contended that they which had been baptized of heretics should be rebaptized.

Therefore we rightly confess in the articles of our belief, that we believe [there is] a Holy Church. For it is invisible, dwelling in Spirit in a place that none can attain unto, and therefore her holiness cannot be seen: for God doth so hide her and cover her with infirmities, with sins, with errors, with divers forms of the cross and offenses, that according to the judgment of reason it is nowhere to be seen. They that are ignorant of this, when they see the infirmities and sins of those which are baptized, which have the Word and believe it, are by and by offended, and judge them not to pertain to the Church. And in the meanwhile they dream that the hermits and monks [and such other shavelings] are the Church; which honor God only with their lips, and worship Him in vain, because they follow not the Word of God, but the doctrines and commandments of men, and teach others to do the same. And because they do certain superstitious and monstrous works, which [carnal] reason magnifieth and highly esteemeth, therefore they judge them to be saints and to be the Church; and in so doing they change and turn this article of faith clean contrary: ‘I believe [that there is] a holy Church’ etc., and in the stead of this word ‘I believe,’ they put in ‘I see.’ These kinds of righteousness and holiness of man’s own devising, are nothing else but spiritual sorceries wherewith the eyes and minds of men are blinded and led from the knowledge of true holiness.

But thus teach we, that the Church hath no spot nor wrinkle, but is holy, and yet through faith only in Christ Jesus: again, that she is holy in life [and conversation] by abstaining from the lusts of the flesh, and by exercise of spiritual fruits; but yet not in such sort that she is delivered from all evil desires, or purged from all wicked opinions and errors. For the Church always confesseth her sins, and prayeth that her faults may be pardoned (Matthew 6:12); also she believeth the forgiveness of sins. The saints therefore do sin, fall, and also err: but yet through ignorance. For they would not willingly deny Christ, forsake the Gospel, revoke their Baptism, etc., therefore they have remission of sins. And if through ignorance they err also in doctrine, yet is this pardoned; for in the end they acknowledge their error, and rest only upon the truth and the grace of God offered in Christ, as Jerome, Gregory, Bernard, and others did. Let Christians then endeavor to avoid the works of the flesh; but the desires [or lusts of the flesh] they cannot avoid.

It is very profitable therefore for the godly to feel the uncleanness of their flesh, lest they should be puffed up with some vain and wicked opinion of the righteousness of [their own] works, as though they were accepted before God for the same. The monks being puffed up with this opinion of righteousness, thought themselves to be so holy because of their holy kind of life, that they sold their righteousness and holiness to others, although they were convinced by the testimony of their own hearts, that they were unclean. So pernicious and pestilent a poison it is for a man to trust in his own righteousness, and to think himself to be clean. But the godly, Woman reaching to garment 1140-165because they feel the uncleanness of their own hearts, therefore they cannot trust to their own righteousness. This feeling so maketh them to stoop, and so humbleth them, that they cannot trust to their own good works, but are constrained to fly unto Christ their mercy-seat and only succor, who hath not a corrupt and sinful but a most pure and holy flesh, which he hath given for the life of the world. In him they find a sound and perfect righteousness. Thus they continue in humility; not counterfeit and monkish, but true and unfeigned, because of the uncleanness which yet remaineth in their flesh: for the which if God would straitly judge them, they should be found guilty of eternal death. But because they lift not up themselves proudly against God, but with a broken and contrite heart humbly acknowledging their sins, and resting wholly upon the benefit of the mediator Christ, they come forth into the presence of God, and pray that for his sake their sins may be forgiven them; God spreadeth over them an infinite heaven of grace, and doth not impute unto them their sins for Christ’s sake.

This I say, to the end that we may take heed of the pernicious errors of the sophisters touching the holiness of life, wherein our minds are so wrapped, that without great difficulty we could not wind ourselves out of them.

Wherefore, do you endeavor with diligence, that ye may discern and rightly judge between true righteousness and holiness, and that which is hypocritical: then shall ye behold the kingdom of Christ with other eyes than [carnal] reason doth, that is, with spiritual eyes, and certainly judge those to be true saints indeed which are baptized and believe in Christ, and afterwards in the same faith whereby they are justified, and their sins both past and present are forgiven, do abstain from the desires of the flesh. But from these desires they are not thoroughly cleansed; for the flesh lusteth against the spirit. Notwithstanding these uncleannesses do still remain in them to this end, that they may be humbled, and being so humbled, they may feel the sweetness of the grace and benefit of Christ. So these unclean remnants of sin do nothing at all hinder, but greatly further the godly; for the more they feel their infirmities and sins, so much the more they fly unto Christ the throne of grace, and more heartily crave his aid and succor: to wit, that he will adorn them with his righteousness, that he will increase their faith, that he will endue them with his Spirit, by whose [gracious leading and] guiding they may overcome the lusts of the flesh, that they may not rule and reign over them, but may be subject unto them. Thus true Christians do continually wrestle with sin, and yet notwithstanding in wrestling they are not overcome, but obtain the victory.

This have I said, that ye may understand, not by men’s dreams, but by the Word of God, who be true saints indeed. We see then how greatly Christian doctrine helpeth to the raising up and comforting of [weak] consciences; which treateth not of cowls, shavings, rosaries, and such-like toys, but of high and weighty matters, as how we may overcome the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. This doctrine, as it is unknown to the justiciaries [and such as trust in their own works,] so is it impossible for them to instruct or bring into the right way one [poor] conscience wandering and going astray; or to pacify and comfort the same when it is in heaviness, terror, or desperation.

This is the Feast of Victory for our God. Martyrdom of John the Baptist [altar guild].

August 29, 2013 1 comment

800px-'Head_of_Saint_John_the_Baptist'_by_an_anonymous_Spanish_painter,_c__1600-1650,_Cleveland_Museum_of_ArtThe Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist [Altar Guild Opening Divine Service]

St. Peter Lutheran Church [chapel]

Revelation 6:9-11, Romans 6:1-5, St. Mark 6:14-29

August 29, 2013

“This is the feast of victory for our God, Alleluia!”

We didn’t sing “This is the Feast of Victory for our God” today.  We sang, “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

Those are both heaven’s songs.  “This is the Feast” is based on Revelation chapter five.  There John sees a vision of the divine service in heaven.  It is liturgical.  First the 24 elders, who signify the prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament and the 12 apostles of the new, sing a new song, saying

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.  Rev. 5:9-10

 

That’s kind of like the pastor’s part in our divine service on earth.  Except the 24 elders are not just the apostles and the 12 sons of Israel, nor just pastors.  But they are the whole Christian Church, because Jesus did not make just the apostles priests and kings, or just the clergy, but all Christians are baptized into Christ and share in His priesthood and His royal reign.

Next comes what would probably be the choir’s response.  The choir here, like our choir, summons the congregation to worship, or leads them.  But the choir here up in the heavenly choir loft, or rather gathered around the throne of God and the 24 elders is a choir of angels: numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  Rev. 5:11-12

 

Then finally in the eternal and heavenly divine service the whole congregation responds together.  But in the vision, the whole congregation does not consist of people, or at least not only people.  No, the congregation that sings is every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them.  And this congregation sings

To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!  Rev. 5:13

And then the four living creatures say Amen.  And all the elders fall on their faces in worship before Jesus who sits on the throne.

Like I said, we didn’t sing this.  We sang the other one, which is also a song of heaven.  “Glory to God in the highest”—the song of the angels when the Son of God was born a man and laid in a manger for us (Luke 2).  It is also the song of the crowd waving palms as Jesus our Lord and God rode to Jerusalem; the crowd sings, “Hosanna! (Matthew 21) Peace in heaven and glory in the highest (Luke 19).”  In the Gloria in Excelsis the angel’s Christmas song and the crowd’s Palm Sunday song are woven together.

Either one works for the Divine Service.  I prefer the older one, the Gloria.  But they are both having us sing the songs of the Divine Service in heaven.

So either we are like that crow in Aesop’s fable that puts on peacock feathers, and we’re pretending like we can slip into the heavenly divine service unnoticed.  Or we really have a right to sing the words that the angels and God’s holy people sing as they stand around the throne of the Holy One.

Read more…

A City Bound Firmly Together. Day School Opening Chapel Sermon 2013

david-nativity-250Opening Matins St. Peter School

Romans 12:6-8

August 21, 2013

“A City Bound Firmly Together”

Jesus, help!

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together…Psalm 122:3

 

The city of Jerusalem is packed in tight together, like sardines in a can.  A lot of the psalms are hard to understand, especially when you’re younger.  But this always seemed like a weird thing to put in a song about Jerusalem even when I was an adult.  In another translation of the Bible it says, “Jerusalem, a city that is closely compacted together…”

 

I’m not sure, but I bet it was true that Jerusalem was packed in tight like sardines in a can when this psalm was first written.  Jerusalem is a city on top of a hill, so there probably wasn’t that much room to build.  If you ever see pictures of Jerusalem today, it’s kind of sardine-can like, especially in the old parts.  The streets are really narrow.

 

But God isn’t just talking about the city of Jerusalem in the middle east and its buildings.  He is talking about His city, where the holy and righteous people will live forever and see His face.  He’s talking about heaven and the people who belong to heaven.  That means not only the people we love who have died and are in heaven, but also the people who believe in Jesus on earth and are baptized and so are holy.  Their sins are washed away.  He’s talking about the Holy Christian Church.

 

The Church is not packed in together like sardines in a can, exactly.  But it is “bound firmly together”.  Paul says that we who believe in Christ and are baptized into Him are “one body.”  We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another  (Romans 12: 5).

 

The parts of your body are all different and they do different things, but they are one body together.  They don’t all do the same thing.  They do different things, but each part of the body needs the other parts of the body.

 

That’s the way the Church is, God’s city.  We are a body.  We are all in the body together through Jesus, who died for our sins on the cross.  Believing in Him, are sins are no longer ours.  He used His power, love, and righteousness for us who are the members of His body.  He became one body with us and took all our sin on Himself and all of the punishment that sin deserves, and gave us forgiveness, righteousness, and everlasting life.

 

When He gives us faith in this and baptizes us, He binds us firmly together with Him and with each other in Him.  And along with faith He gives us different gifts.

 

We have our gifts, our things that we are good at, not so that we can brag about them and think that we’re better than other people, and also not so that we can pretend like we don’t have them.  Whatever gifts God has given you He gave you so that you can use them to help and bless the other people in the Church that don’t have them.  Use them!  But not for yourself, for other people.

 

At the same time, we all have things that we’re not so good at.  That’s just how it is.  We need to try to learn those things and do better at them, but at the same time, there are some things we will always be weaker at than other people.

 

One thing none of us had, and we needed this the most—was to be righteous in God’s sight.  Without that we have nothing, even if it looks like we are happy.  Without righteousness in God’s sight we only have God’s anger and punishment forever in hell.

 

But God came and gave us righteousness in His sight by becoming one of us.  He was knit together with us in the womb of the virgin Mary when He became a man.  He was bound firmly together with us when He was nailed with our sins to the cross.  He supplied what was lacking in us.

 

The gifts God gives you as a Christian He gives to you to use the same way for the good of the other members of His body.  That includes other kids at the school; the teachers, me, your parents.  We can’t see who believes in Jesus, but we know that Jesus wants everyone to be part of the city that is bound closely together—the city of God, the kingdom of heaven, the church.

 

So whatever things you are good at, those things are not just for you.  Jesus gave them to you so that you can help the rest of his people.  Right now my stomach is doing its work for the rest of the body.  It’s digesting my breakfast. I can’t see it, and if I could see it I would be grossed out probably.  But if my stomach didn’t do this, my whole body would be starving.  My hands wouldn’t be able to do their work, or my mouth.  My legs wouldn’t hold me up here and I couldn’t preach God’s Word this morning.

 

You are like that.  Except you are part of Christ’s body.  He supplies you with eternal life, and He supplies you with gifts to use for the good of His body.

 

So don’t be afraid to use those gifts!  Just don’t use them to lift yourself up over other people!  Use them.  Jesus wants you to use them for the good of the other people in the Church.  If you are good at sharing, do it generously.  If you are a leader, lead for the good of others.  If you can comfort other people, or encourage them, don’t hold back.  Use whatever good things have been given to you to help others where they are weak.

 

What if you don’t know what your gifts are and what place Jesus has for you in His body?  That’s okay.  You don’t have to know.  My stomach probably doesn’t know it’s my stomach, but it still does its work.

 

What you do is, you work at what God has given you to do while trusting Jesus to forgive your sins and guide you.  And He will do it.  Learn His Word this year in school, and He will teach you what things you are supposed to do—His commandments.  He will also give you the strength to do them by teaching you Who He is and what He has done for you—the Apostles’ Creed—and teaching you to pray for His help to do what pleases Him—the Lord’s Prayer.

 

Learn His Word, and do what He has called you to do now.  He has called you to be a student.  Honor your teachers and work hard at your work.  He is at work preparing you to use your gifts for the good of the world and the good of His church.

 

But above all keep your eyes upon this—we are knit closely together to each other, but above all to Jesus.  All the ways we fail today and every day—which are many—Jesus does not abandon us.  He is with us forever.  We have a firm foundation that makes us able to get up each day and go serve Jesus again with joy even though we have failed in the past.  The firm foundation is that He used all of what He is and has to serve us.  He gave it all for us and saved us.  He is bound firmly together with you and never leaves you.  And because He is bound so closely to you He makes you free to not worry about yourself but serve the other members of His body.

 

May Jesus our Savior bless you this whole year, make you a blessing to His church, and bring us to see the day when we will be perfect in love, perfectly bound together with Him and each other forever.  Amen.

 

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

The Glory of the Office Of the Preaching of the Gospel–Trinity 12 (Walther)

August 18, 2013 2 comments

walther3Trinity 12

St. Peter Lutheran Church

2 Corinthians 3:4-11

August 18, 2013 (Rally Day, Installation of Teachers)

“The Glory of the Office of the Preaching of the Gospel”

(abridged and adapted from C. F. W. Walther, “Sermon on the 12th Sunday after the Festival of the Holy Trinity”, Brosamen, Concordia: St. Louis, 1876.  Pp. 172-183)

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This morning we consider the Epistle taken from 2nd Corinthians.  In it Paul praises his office, the office of the preaching of the Gospel.  Oftentimes when a pastor has someone else preach for him, he will ask the guest preacher to preach on a topic that his congregation needs to hear about but will be better able to hear from someone else.   Because of this I decided to borrow from a sermon preached on this text by Carl Friedrich Walther, the founding father of our synod.   Today he will be our guest preacher.

 

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus!  he begins.

 

In the Epistle, the Apostle Paul praises his office as one of overflowing glory.  He does this because false teachers had come into the midst of the Corinthians, who tried to belittle Paul’s office.  They intended to hinder the blessing that comes through the office of preaching the Gospel by doing this.

 

Now in our day too, especially here in America, the office of the preaching of the Gospel is nearly everywhere an object of scorn.  Because of this the blessing of the Word of God both inside and outside the Church is hindered more than one can imagine.  Permit me today to follow in the footsteps of the apostle and praise my office before you.  I speak to you today

 

Concerning the exaltation and glory of the office of the preaching of the Gospel,

In particular

 

  1. 1.        Of its exalted purpose and goal, and
  2. 2.       Of the glorious means which have been given to it in order to accomplish this goal.

  Read more…

God justifies bloodstained hands. Trinity 11 2013

Woman reaching to garment 1140-165Trinity 11

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 18:9-14

August 11, 2013

“God justifies bloodstained hands.”

Jesus

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 

Jesus uses a word in this parable that needs to be explained over and over again until we can all define it in our sleep.  Then it needs to be explained some more, because our salvation depends on the meaning of this word.

The word is “justify”: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.”  To justify is to declare someone innocent, right, or righteous when they are on trial.  Justification happens on a daily basis.  We justify ourselves or other people.  “Why are you watching TV when you said you would get the oil changed?”  “I already got the oil changed.”  That’s justifying.

God also justifies.  He declares people right or righteous.  The question is how.  What makes a person right in God’s eyes?
Read more…

Categories: Trinity 6-15

Whoever is not yet nothing

zeroPsalm 38:21  Forsake me not, O Lord,

My God, be not far from me.

 “I am alone, despised, and forsaken by everyone.  Therefore accept me, and do not forsake me.”

God’s nature is that He makes something out of nothing.  Therefore, whoever is not yet nothing, God can make nothing out of him.  People, on the other hand, create something out of something, but their work is completely self-indulgent and futile.

 

Therefore, God accepts nothing except that which is lost.  He makes nothing whole except that which is sick.  He makes gives sight to no one except the blind, makes nothing alive except what is dead, makes no one godly except the sinner, and makes no one wise except the foolish.

 

In short, He has mercy on no one except the wretched and miserable, and gives no one grace except those who are outside of His grace.  Therefore no proud saint, wise or righteous man can become God’s material or have God’s work accomplished within him; instead he remains in his own works, and makes a fictitious, pretended, false, painted saint of himself—that is, a hypocrite.

Martin Luther, The Seven Penitential Psalms (1525).  WA 18: 497-498.

Shot coming out of Sunday School in Egypt

August 9, 2013 1 comment
egyptian-coptic-christianshttp://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/08/interfaith-outreach-in-egypt-muslims-open-fire-on-church-murdering-10-year-old-girl-leaving-sunday-s.html
“Church Pastor’s Niece, 10, Gunned Down Leaving Sunday School Class, Dozens Injured as Attacks Against Egypt’s Christians Continue,” from MidEast Christian News, August 7 (thanks to Filip):
An horrific attack has taken place against Egypt’s Christian Coptic community, after several unidentified individuals indiscriminately opened fire in front of the Evangelical church in Ain Shams, a suburb of Cairo, killing Jessi Paulis Issa, 10, and injuring dozens of Copts.
According to reports, Issa was the niece of the church’s pastor. After the killing, Issa’s young body was transferred to the Cairo forensics team as the Copt community were left to mourn the latest horrendous attack against them.
“Bearded men belonging to Morsi’s supporters opened fire on the citizens as they were exiting from the church,” one witness described. “They fled the scene in a pick-up truck.”
Pastor Nasrallah Zakaria told Mideast Christian News that the funeral prayers for his niece, Jessi Paulis, would be held this week in the church, after her autopsy is performed. He has described that his niece, Jessi, was leaving her Sunday school class at the church when she was gunned down.
The pastor said he does not know why Copts are being targeted throughout Egypt and called on the government to urgently help to bring a halt to the violence against Christians and the daily threats against them.
He added that the Copts are being used as a winning card to achieve political gains.”

The new year of Sunday School is about to start at our congregation.  That makes this story more poignant.  What would things be like if one of our little children was shot after leaving Sunday School–specifically because people were going around town trying to kill and terrorize Christians?

It’s really sad that so little of this is covered in the media, so it’s hard to tell what stories of persecution you hear from the middle east are reliable.  There are so many accounts of it though that even if you shouldn’t believe every one you read just because you read it, we need to be aware that it’s going on and make elected leaders hear our voices consistently about this. Those in our government who want to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt need to be reminded of the Christians who are being brutalized and killed by Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

More and more these days I find myself wondering and praying about Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you, and pray for those who despitefully use you.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Don’t even the Gentiles do that?…”  (Matthew 5…the quote is not exact.  It’s from memory)

When people hate my guts, talk about me behind my back, or seem to be plotting my demise in secret, I pray for them.  When I get angry I say to myself, “I don’t want their damnation, but their salvation,” and then I pray for help not to retaliate with my words or actions.  But the truth is I don’t actively want to love those people.  I don’t want to do them harm, but I don’t want to go out of my way to do kindness to them so they can hurt me some more.  I was thinking about that last night and asking for forgiveness and help.

But that’s only words.  How do you actively love people who are literally trying to kill you?

The more you love them, the more you make yourself available for them to kill you.

It’s one thing not to be afraid of suffering.  That’s why the devout Muslims are able to wield so much influence in their societies, even though you have to believe that most people in the Middle East would rather have freedom of speech, freedom to drink alcohol, freedom to not have their women entirely covered up.  I know Christianity is not a fun religion in the eyes of most people who live in Christian countries, but Christianity has almost never resulted in a true theocracy.  There have been nations that were officially Christian, but Christianity has never preached that the entire world should be conquered with the sword and have Christianity imposed on each nation by force.

Yet Islam keeps exercising influence.  Why?  Because its true believers aren’t afraid to die–and they direct that fearlessness to die toward inflicting pain and death on those who oppose the advance of Islamic rule.  They do this in Muslim societies not only by preaching but through violence.  And they do the same in non-Muslim countries.

People are impressed by the fearlessness they display, and they are also terrified–because most people don’t want to suffer or die.  Pious Muslims are willing to suffer and die.

But when they do that, they inflict injury on the enemies of their god.

But Christians are supposed to not be afraid to suffer and die in the cause of loving those who kill their children.

 

I believe that Christ teaches His church to love their enemies through suffering.  But I have to say that I do not want to be zealous and active in the love of those who hate me.

It’s not just the pain.  The worst thing is the injustice.  Someone hates you and tries to harm you.  The worst thing is you cry out about it–to them, maybe to others–and they refuse to hear you.  They have already  cast you out as evil and condemned you.  That to me is the hard part.

But if my little child was shot coming out of Sunday School, it would break me to love the people who did it.  Yet that is what we are called to–to be active and zealous in the love of our enemies.

 

Thanks be to God that our salvation is secure not in our love of our enemies, but in Christ’s zealous love of us while we were still His enemies.  He not only was silenced and falsely condemned to death by men, but also bore the most awful pain of being condemned before the judgment of God for His enemies’ sins.

May God teach us to believe this and bear the fruit of this faith–faint reflections of Jesus’ love in our love toward those who hate us.  That fruit is pleasing to God, and He will give us justice in the end.  He has already justified us by grace, and He will not allow us to be destroyed by our suffering, nor to be snatched out of His hand.

And may God give us His Spirit so that we remember and pray for our brothers who are persecuted, and gladly give what we have for their relief.

 

%d bloggers like this: