Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent 1 (St. Andrew)

Today's readings were Ezekiel 3:16-21, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, and John 1:35-42a (sermon text).

The best thing that ever happened to St. Peter was the event of Andrew, his brother, telling him about Christ. Andrew was a disciple of John (in fulfillment of Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3 and 4); John's purpose was to open the way for Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

John's Gospel parallels Creation Week (in John, this ends at 2:1) to emphasize the fact of the new creation. John's disciples left him for Jesus because John had named Him the Lamb of God. This is our mission too: tell others about this Lamb, not just keep Him in your heart. All Jews were, since Abraham, anticipating the Messiah, especially at each Passover. Even though we don't pass on anticipations like this, we should still share the Messiah.

They had a different idea of what the Messiah should be, but at least Peter and Andrew had set their sights on the correct one. Christ enters our hearts likewise in the Sacraments and Word; then we pass Him on to others. Share the message of reconciliation that takes the place of judgment. The Gospel is a positive message, not just avoidance of hell (negation of negative). Therefore we look forward to being with our Abba - Daddy - forever. No matter how long it takes, Christ will come, fulfilling His Word. And we'll see Him face to face.

Spread the Gospel, telling of the Center of our lives, by word of mouth. We use our mouths to tell about other things - why not our most precious treasure, our Lord Jesus Christ? We have a sure eternity; spread it!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Three reasons not to abort

Reasons One and Two: These lovely twins in Britain, gestated and born under unhopeful circumstances.

Reason Three: Psychiatry, naturally.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008: Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's words, the Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, are fitting here.

It is the duty of nations as well as of people to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sin and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord!

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens.

Amen.

Thanksgiving 2008: sermon notes

Today's readings were Deuteronomy 8:1-10, Philippians 4:4-13, and Luke 17:11-19 (sermon text).

What is it like to be near - but never with - your family? What's it like to be slowly dying? Is this prison? No; it's leprosy in first-century Israel. It's existence, not life. Therefore Christ, upon seeing the ten lepers, effectively says "Get a life!" He likewise gives life to all, including those afflicted by various hurts of body and spirit.

The world tells Christians to "get a life" in a different, hostile sense. But is this religion of ours really a crutch? Not if it relies on Jesus, the only Way, only Truth, only Life. We have life because He is life. The nine Jewish former lepers who didn't return to give thanks didn't realize this.

The blood of Christ crucified is the cure for the terminal disease, sin, of all people. Hence, by it we are cleansed to stand before God, as the lepers did, and to give thanks with our own Blood brothers and sisters in the whole Church! Rejoice and give thanks for all God's gifts today, including this most precious one. Be like the one Samaritan who came back: understand your terminal disease (in fact, it has already killed you if you haven't repented), come to Christ, and thank Him for the forgiveness He gives.

This service was at my home church, as will be Sunday's.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tagged: 7 random facts about me

I've been tagged by Cheryl. Here goes...

1. I dream about organic chemistry in strange, mixed-up ways. For instance, a recent dream involved a milk cap that sprouted carbonyl groups as if it were cyclooctane.

2. I chew grain kernels as a snack, courtesy our 50-lb bags we purchase annually.

3. A good friend of mine is studying Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and theology; he also is in the process of putting the entire works of Mozart on his iPod. Talk about matching tastes!

4. In one of my classes this semester, I have a wonderful, grandfatherly professor. Said professor believes in teaching homeschool-style. As a result, we've been doing a lot of hands-on things, many food-related. Currently we have a mushroom farm going, as well as a batch of wine that's supposed to turn out dry and white...maybe a bit too much so at last inspection.

5. People still confuse me with my younger brother when we answer the phone. I like to think that he's my twin, only born three years after.

6. I get an endorphin surge before, during, and after exams. This comes in handy quite often.

7. Finally...I'm going home in about five hours!

Whom to tag? Or shall I have mercy? If you read this post, consider yourself tagged if you want.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Food for thought

Today's WSJ article about Proposition 8 and the implications, circumstances, and conundrums surrounding it is mind-boggling. Hypocrisy by some is involved. Go read it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christ the King Sunday

...a.k.a. the last Sunday of the Church year! I'll be worshiping at my home church next Sunday to kick off Advent. Today's readings were Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; and Matthew 25:31-46 (sermon text).

Business - we sometimes use it as an excuse for self-time. Today's text puts time as a whole in perspective: when will Christ return? We see a picture of our glorious God, Judge, and King. He gathers all peoples of the world - all nations - who will then be separated like sheep and goats. Those who are His, on His right, are called "blessed of My Father." Wow! He has a place for each of those who are His.

Next, He commends the sheep (right) for their good deeds toward Him - rather, toward even the least of His brothers and sisters. They're dumbfounded. Likewise, He condemns the goats (left) for their lack of similar good deeds. The sheep and goats finally go in opposite directions.

Works-righteousness? No! Rather, what are we doing in anticipation of the end? Sure, He's coming soon. But He also comes often, unexpectedly, even daily or hourly. We don't "see" Him in this light too much. But the thing to remember is that Jesus, the Christ, entered time that He might empathize with us, for us, to forgive our misuses of time and ignorances of Him in the form of one of His brothers or sisters. Give of your time; don't use business as a club for self. Why? Because you are His sheep too.

Later this afternoon will be a concert. I'll try to find some links to well-performed versions of the pieces so you can enjoy it too.

Update:YouTube is notoriously deficient in this area. However, I did find this lovely recording (video) of SLANE (tune for "Be Thou My Vision"), which had a custom text written for my school's 2008-09 school year. Perhaps text later. My other favorite item of the evening was a setting of "Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain" that I've sung several times at my home church.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fame and lies

The media and a certain President-elect repeatedly tell us that America is loathed worldwide and needs to rebuild its image. But we're still popular where it counts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Leaks

Names of members of the British National Party (BNP), along with children and relatives, have been leaked. Said members don't think that's fair. Neither do I. MK has a good synopsis of and reaction to the stated views of the BNP.

Update: KG is angry. Very angry.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pentecost 27

Today's readings were Zephaniah 1:7-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30, and Psalm 90 (sermon text).

Do we number our days aright? Do we strive for a heart of wisdom? Realize that everything around us is impermanent - jobs, money, stability, a sense of community. Decay and death surround us. But, Moses says, keeping the end in view is essential. You and I were created for an eternal home (Psalm 90:1).

Consider the life and "homes" of Moses. First he was brought up by Pharaoh, then became nomadic for years. At the end, he couldn't even enter Canaan. But this reminded him to walk by faith in God, for God was his true destination. Likewise it is with us - God, our home, goes with us. We will not be homeless, but will rather be welcome. We've been created for that home.

Life is filled with transitions. Remember, though, that Life is more. Return to God, your true home. There is no permanent dwelling place apart from Him. Sin separates us from Him; abundant dispensed and imputed grace reunites us to Him. Admit your sinfulness, therefore, and flee to God.

This brings back memories of Pentecost 22.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wow.

This article was the most interesting thing I have read about Islam in a very long time. Go read it.

Cross posted at Exploring the Quran.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ducks, Bibles, and sugar

This week has been moderately hectic, so I apologize for the longer-than-usual blogging break. Cheryl does it the opposite way. But patience reaps its rewards...

David Gibson comments on the Roman Catholic Church's recent efforts to get people to read the Bible for themselves. Whether this will start another Reformation is still an open question.

Scientists still love using rubber ducks to do research. Now if only everything could be as lighthearted...

Doctors not only use placebos in clinical trials, but also prescribe them in some cases. Shocking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Difficulties

Today's WSJ has a story about Clostridium difficile, affectionately known as C. diff and literally translated as "difficult hidden thing." It's now reached the point where this intestinal superbug of sorts has infected more than 1% of hospital patients in the US. Spores can be destroyed by bleach but not by weaker cleaning solutions.

Hopefully unrelated is a piece telling us that forgetting can be good. So long as we remember the important things - sola gratia, sola fide, sola Scriptura, how to avoid superbugs, celebrating Veterans' day, etc. - we should be fine.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reasons to read more

Have you owned or read any of the "Five-Foot Shelf of Books"? Or any of the great books? Robert Landers reviews a book that exhorts us to read them. Since I was considering St. John's College years ago in my college search, the last paragraph tickled my academic funny bone:

Molly Rothenberg, a student at St. John's in Annapolis, Md., told Mr. Beam of comparing notes when she was a sophomore with a fellow graduate of the public high school in Cambridge, Mass. St. John's sophomores study works by such authors as Aristotle, Tacitus and Shakespeare. Her friend was attending Bates College in Maine. "She told me they were studying Rhetoric," Ms. Rothenberg said, "and they would be watching episodes of 'Desperate Housewives' and listening to Eminem. They were going to analyze it. I just laughed. What could I say?"

WSJ readers exhort us to read the Constitution as well. A citizen-passed amendment or two would not be out of order.

Update: No Compromises has alerted me to a piece written by Jefferson Paine concerning RINOs and freedom. Read it here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pentecost 26

Today's readings were Amos 5:18-24, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (sermon text), and Matthew 25:1-13.

"We don't want you to be ignorant" about the dead in Christ. The first part of that sentence is for all teachers, the second for preachers in particular. The message: You are going to die. So is everyone you know, love, and everyone else. But what really happens when we die? Our perspective on death is decidedly limited.

Paul, though, does tell us what will happen on the Last Day. Some may doubt him - how do we know he's telling the truth and not a fantasy? What proof is there? Are we now misinformed instead of uninformed? Paul, in answer, gives two points: (1) Jesus Christ's resurrection guarantees ours. (2) He revealed this to Paul directly. Therefore we don't grieve hopelessly or need pity from unbelievers.

Pagans long ago viewed death, as many do today, with pure horror. We grieve as well - but we have a sure hope of resurrection and eternal life at the side of our Lord and Savior. Be encouraged by these words.

The Gospel reading adds: Stay awake. We don't know when He's coming back, only that He is. Be alert, ready, joyful in hope. Share your joy and hope with others so that they may be with us in heaven. Keep your attention fixed on the Bridegroom; rest in Him.

This sermon was particularly appropriate for me today, as I got the news this morning that my aunt, S, passed away late last night.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Blocking

How to block AIDS: transplant bone marrow from an immune individual (i.e. someone who lacks the protein CCR5) or genetically engineer the patient's own cells to stop producing that protein. The medical disadvantage is that the person becomes more vulnerable to West Nile Virus.

What are the moral and ethical implications of this? Fire away.

How to block a liberal agenda: Let's use the Democrat strategy and filibuster!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reactions

Yesterday I deliberately insulated myself from the election coverage: I, and many others, have stressed out enough about the race. Many predictions came true; others fell dreadfully. Here's a collection of wise reactions from around the blogosphere and elsewhere.

Aurora already has a great compilation of snippets and a historical perspective.

GM Roper (who, I trust, is celebrating three years free of cancer!) posted a video the day before Election Day that more people should have watched.

Phil, blogging over at Orion Hood, reminds us that the military serves the POTUS, regardless of that POTUS's identity.

My friend, P., wrote a note which I here quote in part:

“So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause!” This line from Star Wars echoed through my mind as I watched Obama’s acceptance speech. The people seemed in awe of this man who speaks of change but has proven nothing, done nothing except vote present. They praise him as the difference, the hope for the future. They say his charisma is overpowering and his speeches force people to stare in wonder. Sound familiar? This is also what was said about Adolf Hitler in Germany when he was elected chancellor. The Obama rally had a sea of red, white, and blue but all I could see was swastikas. Have we learned nothing from history? . . .

. . . Tonight was the first step; he was elected and hailed with praise. How long until he changes are democratic system? How about in the next four years. How could we let this happen? We sat back and allowed this “Change” and all of us should be ashamed. We allowed a man with such liberal views and agendas to become the next President of this great country and in the process have sealed our fate.

Thomas Frank tells us that conservatism isn't finished. Who knows? This upcoming administration may give the US a taste of liberalism at its worst - but, I hope, only a taste.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election stuffs

Item one: As I type, two people at computers near me are talking about large numbers of homeless voters using a park bench as their stated place of residence. It reeks of ACORN.

Item two: Not to be malicious, but Weird Al's song "Weasel Stomping Day" (video) popped into my head this morning. Figuratively, at least, it could come true.

Item three: Cheryl is confident of an outcome. Australian bloggers Aurora and MK are supporting this outcome by prayer. Which leads to...

Item four: Today's Days of Praise (ICR, authored by Henry M. Morris III) is a helpful reminder of what really matters today.

The Powers That Be
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." (Romans 13:1)
This day in our country we will vote for themen and women who will lead us for several years. Their beliefs and philosophies will impact our lives far beyond their specific terms in office. The choice we make is both a rare privilege and an awesome responsibility.
There are three perspectives that would be good for us to review as we prepare to exercise this duty.
First to consider is what this will require of us as subjects of those who are appointed over us. We will be required to:
  • Submit to the laws they enact (1 Peter 2:13).
  • Pay the taxes they require (Romans 13:6).
  • Honor their authority (1 Peter 2:17).
  • Pray for them by name (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
  • Fear them if we do evil (Romans 13:4).

Then, there is the anticipated behavior of what we should expect them to do. They should:

  • Be a terror to evil works (Romans 13:3).
  • Exercise the "sword" of judgment against those who do evil (Romans 13:4).
  • Promote a "quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Timothy 2:2).
  • Punish evil and praise good (1 Peter 2:14).

Finally, all who ultimately are placed in authority over men are there by God's appointment (our text). Sometimes the most unassuming are raised up (1 Samuel 2:8) or the evil leader is used to demonstrate God's power (Romans 9:17). We must seek God's will in our choices, but we can be assured that He is in charge (Psalm 11:4).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pentecost 25

Today's readings were Micah 3:5-12, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, and Matthew 23:1-12 (sermon text).

"Posers." There are three main categories, all of which the Pharisees fit into quite well: pretending to be someone or something outwardly (e.g. a nurse) while not being thus at all inwardly; trying to resurrect a good past to pose in place of one's bad present; and trying to make rosy future promises pose in place of a poor present record. The Pharisees loved adulation and being seen by others, so of course they posed, especially in the areas of praying, fasting, and giving offerings. Posing tempts us sorely as well.

Stop posing, Christ tells us. He fills the needs that posing's vacancy leaves with something better and more satisfying: pointing. By pointing, our outward selves will come to match the Truth living inside of us. Baptism is like this - since through the Sacrament we are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, we therefore walk in newness of life. Be fixed on this truth. The same is true with the Lord's Supper - the outward marks of bread and wine embody the inner truth of forgiveness and strengthening of faith, to which we should point.

Our past is Christ, who fought and won the fight that matters. We now live by faith, Christ in us, based on His past death and resurrection. That love was, is, and will always be true. Christ's promises for our future ought to be pointed to and lived as well. Children of God will see and be like Him; our future reality will be obvious: loved by God!

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Technology

It is increasingly, disturbingly used for snooping on things that ought not to be snooped upon, at least in Britain. (MK et al., you've been complaining vehemently about this for some time.) However, there's always the upside - check out this story about a brain-damaged girl given the power to communicate verbally. MK, again, caught the connection too.