Archive for March, 2014

Kings not by force. Laetare 2014. St. John 6:1-15

Laetare (4th Sunday in Lent) + St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet, Illinois + St. John 6:1-15 + March 30, 2014

Kings not by force


Iesu Iuva!


You see here that this Jesus, our Jesus, your Jesus, has far more power than just to work wonders and impress men. This isn’t a stunt designed to get people to go home and tell their neighbors, “You know what I saw that wonderful prophet Jesus do?”


This is the work of the Creator, Who caused life to multiply on the earth, fish to fill the sea, livestock and beasts of the field and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.


Who still renews the face of the earth and waters it and makes one grain fall in the earth and bear a thousand.


He feeds the young ravens when they cry. All the beasts of the forest are His, and the cattle on a thousand hills.


He governs the earth still, and holds the hearts of the rulers of the world in His hand.


The Lord multiplies bread on the earth every day. He’s been doing it every day since the first day life appeared on earth. And He does it even though we hardly ever consider it much less thank Him for it.


So He doesn’t do this little wonder of multiplying the barley loaves and the little fish to get fans. He doesn’t accept honor from men; the same sinners who want to make him king today will complain about Him tomorrow when He tells them He has come from God to give them bread which a man may eat and not die.


The multiplication of the loaves and fishes shows Jesus’ power—the quiet, effortless power with which the Creator provides food for His creatures.


The miracle is impressive. But the actual food provided? People want more than barley bread and sardines. Barley was used to feed animals and poor people. Even if the people would have been more than happy to have an unlimited supply of barley loaves and sardines back then, eventually they would have wanted more, especially if they knew Jesus could give more.


Today a meal of bread and sardines even with a miracle might cause some complaining. We’re used to more food and better food even for poor people in our country.


That’s what the gods of the modern world have provided for us.


Jesus fed 5000 people by a miracle. But we drive down the street and see a sign that says “Billions and Billions of people served.” And even though Mc Donald’s didn’t exactly work a miracle to do this, it’s still pretty impressive. And the food they made tastes a lot better to most people than barley bread and sardines.


If Jesus was a competitor you can bet that McDonald’s would have done a study on how Jesus’ food compares to a Big Mac, fries, and a coke in terms of taste. I bet if you gave those people from Galilee the choice between the bread and fish and a Mc Donald’s value meal, they’d go for Mc Donald’s too.


This is the problem for Jesus. Even though He can do anything He doesn’t give people what they want. Isn’t that why the parts of the world that have been Christian for hundreds of years now seem to have grown out of Christianity?


Read more…

Pakistani Christian Sentenced to Die Under Blasphemy Law


A Pakistani Christian was recently sentenced to death for blasphemy against Muhammad.

Pakistani Christians routinely have their property confiscated or destroyed, are imprisoned or sentenced to death on the basis of Pakistan’s blasphemy law which makes it a crime to say anything negative about Muhammad or the Quran.

I’m grateful for the freedom of speech in the United States we still have, where I am allowed to publicly say and preach that Muhammad is a false prophet and that the Quran comes from the devil.

However, Pakistani Christians cannot say such things without the very real risk of death or imprisonment.

And even if they don’t say them, it is easy for them to be prosecuted under the law on the basis of false witness.  This can happen when people want to take their land or property, or it can happen simply because people resent the presence of Christians in Pakistan.  No doubt in a country where Christians are a despised minority, their presence in the country itself is a walking affront to people who think that Pakistanis should be Muslim.

We are seeing this kind of resentment against Christians just beginning in the United States, although here we are not an affront to Muslims but to “tolerance”; the fact that there are still Christians who haven’t been shamed into agreeing that homosexuality is okay or at least being silent in public provokes more and more people.   When pressure is ratcheted up and you don’t deny the faith, it just makes some folks madder, even if you say nothing, because even if you say nothing, the fact that you haven’t given in is a testimony to their condemnation.  The fact that you suffer and don’t give in makes them feel even more threatened that maybe what you confess about God’s wrath and judgment is true.  That’s what the New Testament is talking about in verses like these:

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27-30)


4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.  (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10)


At any rate, even though we can see the seeds of this resentment starting to sprout in the US, we still have lots of legal protection.   In Pakistan the Christians  have few advocates and almost no defense.  If they’re hated just for existing, or someone covets their property, all they have to do is get a couple of people together to say that they heard this or that Christian say Muhammad is a fake prophet.


Read more…

Clergy have highest job satisfaction in UK

FILE: Tax Increase On Tobacco & Alcohol Announced In Government's 2012 Budget

Vicars report greatest job satisfaction while publicans are least happy

Overall job satisfaction has little to do with salary, figures drawn from Office for National Statistics data show

Although publicans earn almost £5,000 a year more than vicars on average they are the least happy in their work. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Want to be happy in your work? Go to theological college and avoid a career pulling pints. That would seem to be one conclusion to draw from a new study into wellbeing and public policy, which found that employees reporting greatest job satisfaction were vicars, while publicans – who on average earn almost £5,000 a year more – were the least happy in their work.

Overall job satisfaction, in fact, has little to do with salary, according to the figures drawn from Office for National Statistics data. While company chief executives, earning £117,700 a year on average, were found to be the second happiest employees (mean clergy income by contrast is a mere £20,568), company secretaries, fitness instructors and school secretaries, all earning less than £19,000 a year, emerged among the top 20 most satisfying careers.

Slumped with pub landlords at the bottom of the list of 274 occupations were construction workers, debt collectors, telephone sales workers and care workers, all earning significantly below the national average salary of £26,500. But chemical scientists, earning almost £10,000 more, only scraped into the top 200, while quantity surveyors, on £38,855, could do no better than 234th place.

The data has been used to help inform a report, published on Friday by the Legatum Institute, an independent thinktank that examines wellbeing as a core part of national prosperity, alongside wealth.

“Not only does GDP fail to reflect the distribution of income, it omits intangibles, or feelings, that are not easily reducible to monetary values,” note its authors, who were chaired by Lord O’Donnell, formerly the head of the civil service. “There is a growing recognition that the measures of a country’s progress need to include the wellbeing of its citizens.”

The government has taken some steps towards measuring and incorporating the nation’s happiness into policymaking – the ONS was asked to include four questions in its annual population study relating to life satisfaction, while David Cameron has said: “If you know … that prosperity alone can’t deliver a better life, then you’ve got to take practical steps to make sure government is properly focused on our quality of life as well as economic growth.”

The director of communications at the Legatum Institute, Shazia Ejaz, said: “A lot of careers advisers will tell you, ‘If you become a doctor you will earn this much, as a teacher you’ll earn this much. But perhaps people should also know what different careers can do in terms of their life satisfaction.”



Top 10

1. Clergy

2. Chief executives and senior officials

3. Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture

4. Company secretaries

5. Quality assurance and regulatory professionals

6. Healthcare practice managers

7. Medical practitioners

8. Farmers

9. Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors

10. Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors


Bottom 10

265. Plastics process operatives

266. Bar staff

267. Care escorts

268. Sports and leisure assistants

269. Telephone salespersons

270. Floorers and wall tilers

271. Industrial cleaning process occupations

272. Debt, rent and other cash collectors

273. Elementary construction occupations

274. Publicans and managers of licensed premises

Beloved, Let us Not Contend with Evil Men

March 27, 2014 2 comments

john-chrysostomJohn vi. 1, 4.-“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, into the parts of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw the miracles which He did on them that were diseased. And Jesus departed into a mountain, and there sat with His disciples. And the Passover of the Jews was nigh.”

[1.] Beloved, let us not contend with violent men, but learn when the doing so brings no hurt to our virtue to give place to their evil counsels; for so all their hardihood is checked. As darts when they fall upon a firm, hard, and resisting substance, rebound with great violence on those who throw them, but when the violence of the cast hath nothing to oppose it, it soon becometh weaker and ceaseth, so is it with insolent men; when we contend with them they become the fiercer, but when we yield and give ground, we easily abate all their madness. Wherefore the Lord when He knew that the Pharisees had heard “that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,” went into Galilee, to quench their envy, and to soften by His retirement the wrath which was likely to be engendered by these reports.


A Sermon of St John Chrysostom

(Homily XLII in Vol XIV, NPNF (1st))

Familiar Chains. Wednesday after Oculi, 2014.

False Witnesses Before CaiaphasWednesday after Oculi + St. Peter Lutheran Church + What sins should we confess? [Small Catechism] (Passion History Part III) + March 26, 2014 +  Familiar Chains


Iesu iuva!

What sins should we confess?  Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer.  But before the pastor we should confess only those sins that we know and feel in our hearts.



If you get away from God, you’ll have freedom. Absolute freedom. You won’t have to worry about doing what He says and you won’t have to worry about dying.


Get away from God or get rid of Him; then you’ll be free. Unlimited freedom.



But really, chains.

Adam hides. That’s his freedom.


Peter hides and he won’t come back because he’s trying to escape chains and death. But he gets a different kind of chain. He has to keep lying and stay away from God in order to maintain his freedom.


Jesus doesn’t look like He’s free to us, but He is.

He confesses the true God. He confesses Himself.

He knows full well what this means; the people will want to kill Him.

He also knows that it is the Father’s will.

It seems to us that denying His Father (and Himself) would make Him free and that doing the Father’s will has made Him a slave.


Sin is a chain.

It gets you away from God. It cuts you off.

But to turn back to God is to turn back to punishment; the wages of sin is death.

To confess your sins to God is not like a get out of jail free card. Confessing your sins does not earn you freedom. Confessing your sins is like turning yourself in to the police.


It is to agree with God’s law that you deserve death.


It doesn’t make you not a sinner anymore. It’s like if Jeffrey Dahmer turns himself in to the police or pleads guilty. He isn’t now good and fit for life in normal society. He’s still worthy of punishment. He still would do unspeakable things if you let him out on the street again.


It’s not confessing that makes us free from the chains of sin.

It’s Jesus receiving our penalty of death and hell for us.

Then rising from the dead with our new life.



Read more…

The Power of Darkness and the Finger of God. Oculi 2014. St. Luke 11:14-28

finger of godOculi (Third Sun. in Lent) + St. Peter Lutheran Church + St. Luke 11: 14-28 + March 23, 2014

“The Power of Darkness and the Finger of God”


Iesu Iuva


Let each his lesson learn with care,

And all the household well shall fare.


Toward the end of Luther’s Small Catechism is a section that doesn’t get much attention—the “Table of Duties.” It is a list of verses from Scripture that show the holy stations to which God has assigned us, and how God wants us to live in those holy stations and callings as Christians. At the end of it comes that little rhyme: Let each his lesson learn with care, and all the household well shall fare.


If you don’t care whether you do good or evil to your neighbor or whether you please God, the table of duties isn’t going to help you very much. But for Christians, who want to do good to their neighbor and want to please God, the table of duties is very helpful and necessary. It tells you what work God has assigned you to and how He wants it done.


The basic unit of human relationships is the family, the household. From the household comes the government and the church. When the household doesn’t fare well, the church and the state won’t either. And the household can’t fare well unless its members do the tasks God has assigned to each station. Even if you are a Christian and want to please God and serve your family, things won’t work well if you don’t do what you’ve been called to do.


For instance: “To Parents.” “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Which means that parents aren’t supposed to drive their kids to distraction with over-strictness. But they are also not supposed to fail to discipline them at all. God wants parents to bring children up in the Lord’s nurture and admonition—to teach them God’s strict law and threats of punishment, but also His gracious promise of the forgiveness of sins through His Son.


Or “To children”. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Which means that children are supposed to honor their parents as God’s representatives, and obey them in whatever they say, trusting that God sent these parents to them to do them good.


The table of duties also tells us how we are to conduct ourselves in the state and the church. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and the praise of them that do well.”


“A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre…holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”


“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”


But when these callings aren’t carried out as God ordained, the welfare of the household (or the church, or the state) suffers.


The Power of Darkness

Jesus tells us: “A kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a house against a house falls.” What applies to earthly households, earthly government, also applies to spiritual powers and authorities. The devil doesn’t fight with himself. He doesn’t allow his angels to divide their strength fighting each other. He doesn’t willingly give up the territory he controls.


What territory does the devil control?


The wealth and power and wisdom of the world.


Human souls, minds, bodies.


Read more…

Laetare–Summary of the Gospel (John 6:1-15). Bugenhagen

cranach_johannes_bugenhagenUsually it’s the negative effects of internet and communication technology that occupy my attention.  Like an old man I shake my head when I see people glued to hand-held screens every spare moment.  I regret the loss of letter writing and the gain of status updates about a friend of a friend of a friend’s latest trip to Burger King.  I feel a chronic uneasiness about the power now held by government and intelligence organizations–and corporations and advertisers–to read my mail, track my online activity, and profile me in order to work on making me a better consumer or citizen.

But there are incredibly positive things too.  There are all these great old books available for free on the internet; possibly lost, valuable information.  That is increasingly possible in regards to early modern and pre-modern works of theology and piety, which are likely to be overlooked in a world like ours in which there are fewer Christians with the patience for spirituality and theology with depth, and fewer scholars who have the erudition and the faith necessary to make a person willing to spend time on these texts instead of tossing them aside as antiquated.

I just found another old book online which contains Bugenhagen’s summaries of the Gospels, which no doubt was composed for common Lutheran preachers to use as a reference.  They are pithy (surprising, given Bugenhagen’s reputation for preaching too long, which Luther frequently jokes about).  And they are gems.  Here’s the one for Laetare.

Laetare, 4th Sunday in Lent

St. John 6:1-15


Christ feeds and provides for those who obey/follow the Gospel. They must have enough, for their stomachs too, Matthew 14. Man’s reason seeks and hopes to receive nourishment from its own provisions, by its own power. Thus, Andrew said, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what is that among so many?” Other examples like this in the Scriptures are many: Numbers 1, 2 Kings 4.


Christ fled when they wanted to make Him king. Likewise, we should also be afraid of the world’s honor. Before we can preach well, or do some other good work, we should certainly resort to prayer, as we would if we were undergoing the greatest and most perilous attacks by Satan or were in the greatest need and distress. We must pray that we would not be blinded by the devil or the world through our greed for honor, for otherwise this would indeed easily happen, Proverbs 17.


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