Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feast of Saint John

Merry Christmas! Today's readings were Revelation 1:1-6 (sermon text begins at v. 9), 1 John 1:1-2:2, and John 21:20-25.

Here is written that John the Apostle was banished to Isle Patmos (near Turkey) for preaching the Gospel. At the time of revelation, he was in the Spirit on Sunday - the Holy Spirit was moving him to write. First came letters to nearby village congregations to instruct them. All seven, taken together, have in common rebukes, admonition, and encouragement; they make a complete picture of the Church.

The picture of Christ is here too - a man with a white robe and a golden sash, standing among candles - we (traditional worshipers) see that every Sunday! It's not up to us to decide arbitrarily how to worship - let us take Biblical descriptions as our model. There are aspects of Christ's image unique to Him - feet as bronze, eyes as flame, hair as wool, face as the sun - but pastors, too, do have the two-edged sword of the mouth - the Law and Gospel of God.

The glory of God, brighter than the sun, caused John to "die" at His feet. As he did, so must we confess to God all our sin daily (look into the mirror of the Law) and receive absolution for it (let Him lay the hand of fellowship - the Gospel - on us). Why trust Him? Because with the keys He carries, He has locked you out of hell and carried you to heaven! "Fear not." He holds all in His hands.

Soli Deo gloria.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve

Tonight's readings were Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, and Luke 2:1-14 (sermon text).

There are three parts to Christ's birth: introduction (Rome's call), climax (birth), and epilogue (the angels' song). The dual purpose, depending on inflection: to accuse and to forgive us of our sin.

Jesus had an odd connection to Rome: a census at His conception and birth (born under the Law), answering appropriately to Caesar in His ministry (render unto Caesar...), and being put to death by Pontius Pilate. We put Him on the donkey to Bethlehem, our sin necessitating His coming. God, five hundred years previously, had told of His orchestration of Christ's census-undergoing.

He was born. Swaddled. Placed in a manger - not a crib - for our sin and for our forgiveness (His passive obedience). A nondescript birth is the climax of this story - how anticlimactic is that? There was no fanfare for Him...yet. Similarly, the Spirit works quietly in our hearts.

Then the angels sang a fanfare - to shepherds, not to Caesar. Why this audience? All God's plan. The glory of God shone, causing inevitable fear (accusation of sin to sinners who cannot abide His glory) as it will on the Last Day, showing all our sin. But the angel said, "Fear not!" Here is the Gospel for everybody! Give up guilt because God's Son has taken it upon Himself (forgiveness of sins). This Savior was born, innocuously, yet bearing all of God's blessings in His wake! Do not reject Him.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent 4

Finally home! On Jan. 3 I return to the icy unnamed institution of higher learning. Today's readings were Micah 5:2-5a, Hebrews 10:5-10, and Luke 1:39-56 (sermon text).

In today's Gospel is Mary's Magnificat. Here are three questions about it...
  1. What is it? "Magnificat" means "magnifies," praise to God. Mary sees both the personal (at the beginning) and the bigger (at the end) picture. In the text is a confession of who God is and a reflection of a life steeped in Scripture--she borrows from several Psalms.
  2. Why does Mary give it to us? God was gracious to her. He broke into her life of anticipating the Messiah--she would bear the Christ! Also miraculously, her cousin would bear the Christ's prophet! During the visit, John recognized God incarnate, and Elizabeth praised God for His gifts.
  3. What do we do with it? We meditate as Mary did. We sing it. Why? Because faith responds to God with song. Paul tells us to sing the Word; God is so gracious to us that sometimes we cannot sing for tears. Singing is double prayer--with our minds and voices we praise God! Let us therefore use song to tell, teach, and rejoice in what He has done for us, for all.
Faith sings prayers--the Lord's Prayer, Kyrie, and Nunc Dimittis.

Faith sings comfort--"Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side."

Faith sings praise--Magnificat, LSB 941 (a well-known versification of the Te Deum; the linked video features a friend of mine who is now in seminary).

Faith sings to teach--see the depths of the faith set to rhyme in LSB 555!

Faith sings to defy Satan--"A Mighty Fortress" and the Baptismal liturgy.

May we sing this Christmas not for ourselves, but for our Savior. Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent 3: 'Tis the season to be joyful

Today's readings were Zephaniah 3:14-20, Philippians 4:4-7 (sermon text), and Luke 7:18-28. We visited the same church as for Pentecost 23.

Advent, a season of joy, can be stressful as well. It's not the season to be jolly - but it is a season to be joyful, to rejoice in all things. What does this joy look like? Happiness (marked by smiles and laughter, affected by external factors) must be distinguished from joy. Joy is not an emotion, but is a fruit of faith in Christ. Through its lens, we see Jesus. Through it we see and believe that this vale of tears is temporary.

Jesus working in us gives us joy. Behind all disasters, God is still for and always with us. So why do we so often settle for less - pursuing happiness? Happiness is exactly that: a pursuit, nebulous, fleeting, never permanent. Paul, by contrast, had nothing to be happy about - yet he lived in joy. Why? God's wrath for sin was directed at and loaded on Jesus! He took your place and carried your sins. Why? For joy! He rejoices over you!

So we rejoice...in Jesus. Paul follows with "The Lord is near." You are not alone; your joy flows from this fact. He is near.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent 2

My dear readers, here are *two* sermons for you today! The first is from a local-to-college church, and the second is from on-campus church. The readings were Malachi 3:1-7b, Philippians 1:2-11, and Luke 3:1-20. Sermon texts were all three at the first church and the Epistle on campus.

Sermon 1:

Nothing in life is easy, although it may seem that way. What about following Jesus Christ. The readings testify that living out a life in Christ is not all roses. Paul wrote Philippians from prison because he was a disciple. John, for obeying Jesus, got imprisoned and beheaded. "Follow Jesus, go to jail"? But our Lord suffered all and died for us. Then He arose and ascended.

Discipleship requires seeing this bigger picture. Is it worth it to stick it out? Yet it's God who signs us up to follow Him. He equips us to follow through on His commitment to us. Is it worth it? God is faithful to His promises: not theology of glory (guaranteed health, wealth, and peace) but theology of the cross (we will be perfected in heaven, our sealed future). The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, keeps us in this true faith. Life has hardships, but eternal life has peace. Though we may feel helpless, we're in for the long haul: heaven with Christ, our eternal Treasure, our true Friend.

Sermon 2:

Advent: a new day dawns. Our alarm tells us: "Awake!" A new church year approaches - the beginning of the end - a cause for alarm? Though Christ came in humility long ago, we pray for Him to come in power. When will this end come? What if He comes today? Are we ready?

We can't tell when He will come. But at every moment we must trust Him to keep us ready. The ultimate purpose of the Word is not to alarm but to strengthen us in our struggle with sin and its guilt. Take heart - the Word became not only man, but also sin for us! We rely on Christ's blamelessness, not ours. Therefore, rest assured of this, but don't roll over. Luther's analogy is of a pig, washed but immediately becoming dirty again. Wake up instead, to tell others about this wonderful Word. No tunnel vision or procrastination. Live while it is yet Today.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 1

At my home church, as was Thanksgiving. Today's readings were Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Psalm 25:1-10 (sermon text), and Luke 21:25-36.

Jesus Christ tells us to stay awake and pray. Thus we meditate on the
Psalms today, praying especially 25:1-10. How to do it? (1) Morning/evening:
read a Psalm. (2) Stop after a verse or a few. (3) Pray to God, based on these
verses. Psalm 25 in particular, expressing David's feeling of utter confusion,
is appropriate for us in these times. He had been anointed Israel's next king -
Saul became furious and chased David as an enemy.

Section 1 (vv. 1-3): plea for God to prevent shame from coming; reminder
that those who wait for Him are never put to shame. Waiting on the LORD is
difficult, but its reward is an eternal seat with Christ.

Section 2 (vv. 4-5): suggests the Torah (whole counsel of God) to meditate
on.

Section 3 (vv. 6-7): humility, counting on God's mercy and forgiveness that
we need because we can't live up to God's standards. (Recall that "steadfast
love" is chesed in Hebrew: חסד). It means that "if we are
faithless, He will remain faithful." We abound in transgressions, haunting sins
from the past. But because of Jesus, God forgets them!

Section 4 (vv. 8-10): return to God's law - since He has removed the
pressure, we are now able to obey Him! He teaches sinners instead of casting
them from His presence. One can't teach a proud person - but can teach a humble person. His paths for those who keep His
covenant (unique - we believe in Him) "are steadfast love and faithfulness." He
completes our salvation, and we in return thank Him for His mercy.


Soli Deo gloria.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

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

God has given us both little and big things to thank Him for; the lepers
received their lives, a most precious gift. So have we. Details: Jesus is not
just wandering; His goal is Jerusalem, and there to die on the cross to give
everyone life. As leprosy is terminal and separates the afflicted from the
clean, making sufferers effectively dead, so also sin afflicts us, all sinners,
all in the same boat.

Dying makes us desperate. The lepers sought Jesus, who healed them - as
they went to fulfill the Law - by a word. One didn't finish the journey. He
returned to praise his Healer. A Samaritan, who should have been His enemy! We
follow the leper's example, returning on the Lord's Day to praise the Lord. This
Lord gave His life up to give us life. What unites diverse Christians is the
Christ inside. We have Life!


Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ the King Sunday

Today's readings were Isaiah 51:4-6, Jude 20-25 (sermon text), and Mark 13:24-37.

We're able to make foolish choices. But God's angels are there to intervene on our behalf. We are grateful and thankful to Him for sparing us in such close calls - of life, health, and faith. Close calls about faith are the most important; Jude devotes his epistle to them. He points to God as the only Savior from such events; while he had wanted to encourage his flock, circumstances demanded that he alert them to the close call they didn't know they were experiencing. Are we the same?

Many Christians today don't know what the Good News actually is: Christ became man, lived, died, and rose for us. They think that it's all about a change in our behavior, but it's really all about God's behavior. The results of the Gospel should not be confused with the Gospel itself.

Jude closes his epistle with an exhortation to build ourselves up in the faith by meditating on the Word, remembering our Baptism, receiving the Supper, and depending fully on God. God the Son is able to hold us up and to present us perfect before God the Father - how wonderful! In spite of all our faults, He still forgives and takes joy in doing so. Through Him we are blameless and innocent, though by nature we are sinful and guilty. We need a Justifier, and we have one in Jesus Christ alone. Rejoice!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pentecost 24

Today's readings: Daniel 7:9-14, 2 Peter 3:3-14, and Matthew 25:31-46 (sermon text).

In the parable today, we see that there are two people groups that count for anything at Judgment Day: those who believe in Jesus Christ, and those who don't. Regardless of belief, all will see that He is both Son of Man and Son of God. His blood has set us free; this is intended for all nations (Matthew 28:19). But all hear only when the Word is sent forth to all people and nations.

We are the sheep, who eat only what the Lord in His pasture feeds us. The goats will eat anything - false teachings, auto-salvation, teachings denying Christ's work. This text is often misinterpreted to call for social action. "Come--unto Me," says Christ to the blessed. These are those who eat of His body, something CHRIST does. "Inherit--the kingdom prepared for you." Not all sheep will come, for some become goats. He waits to give the kingdom because He says "Come" in patience, for He desires all to be able to enter.

Those who love the Lord honor His word, and the pastors who preach it. "He who hears you hears Me." Therefore pastors should distribute only Christ's words. Not our deeds, though His love spills over into service to each of our neighbors. To do so, we must first be hearers of the Word. This Word in Baptism immunizes us from hell's fires. God's word is not silent - so feed upon it! Later, with all the saints, we will worship Him forever.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pentecost 23

Today's readings: 1 Kings 17: 8-16, Hebrews 9:24-28, and Mark 12:38-44 (sermon text). Although I do have a few minor issues with this sermon, it was good on the whole.

Practically, the widow's mite wasn't worth counting; it could do no useful work. To the eyes of Jesus, however, it was THE most significant. God measures what remains after the gift is given. Her gift was 100% - was it foolish investment? Impractical? A sign of dementia? But her gift mattered to the Master. The legacies of philanthropists fade, but since Christ's words will never pass away, this widow's legacy echoes forever.

Now let's preach Law: you should give 100% too! (Oops...bad theology!) Rather, try the Gospel angle: are we giving from excess (what we can spare, so it doesn't hurt us at all), or from poverty ("giving till it tickles," as Steve Green would say)? Can we spare it? Is it impractical, faith-based/ Is it based on others' expectations? Is it discreet? There's a warning here too, about the ostentatious law-teachers who sought only praise for giving.

We're all like this, for the Old Adam is a first-rate exhibitionist. Yet we have Christ as well, so our motives are for God - we seek no praise from others or from ourselves. Jesus sees faith in action, for which love is the motivation. With her pennies for heaven, the widow's mite points us to Christ, who gave 100% of Himself FOR YOU. His blood was offered to God for your redemption. Through this blood, we have an eternal inheritance! Therefore, we do all out of love.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints' Day 2009

At my home church! Today's readings were Revelation 7:9-17 (sermon text), 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, and Matthew 5:1-12.

Saint John, in the reading, beheld the company of heaven--quite literally, our grandfathers' church. How do they worship there? They gather to stand around God's throne, clothed in white, holding palm branches, and singing hymns that speak God's Word back to Him. No other religion has the salvation promised by God--even Islam, the most similar to Christianity, has a paradise limited to men's sensual pleasure, a legalistic "salvation."

Let us return now to John's first vision: the kingly Lamb standing before candles that are the Church invisible. Sound familiar? It's not a "culturally relevant" way of worship (for pastors are the ordained hands and mouthpieces of Christ). It's your grandfathers' church.

Now to the Book of Life. All the universe didn't have anyone with the qualification, perfection, to open it. Even if we die for the faith, we cannot open it. But the Lamb has come to open the Book. May God grant that He will find your name therein. Those whose names are in it will get the privilege of adoring the one God, of falling on our faces in worship, the chief end of man, what heaven is all about. Christ has placed white robes on those, saints, He calls His children. He will be their light, peace, and comfort.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reformation 2009!

We sang DS setting 5 today! The entourage to the church we visited today was bubbly afterward because of this. Today's readings were Psalm 46, Revelation 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, and John 8:31-36 (sermon text, which included my confirmation verse).

The Reformation is about God's gracious forgiveness of our sins - not about anti-Catholicism. Before this Word is spoken, we are possessed and oppressed by our sin, which was brought to life by the Law (Romans 7). Looking into this perfect Law of God, we always see our inability to reach it. No matter how hard we work, how much good we do, we cannot obtain the righteousness of God. The Law's demands - even love of neighbor - we cannot keep.

In this light, look at the Gospel text. Jesus is speaking of slavery to sin, of the heart and conscience, that gives birth to death. From this we cannot free ourselves; it is indeed a body of death, a corpse affixed to us. Particularly: personal sins - unmet spousal demands, a rebellious child - that we bring to God, our shoulders slumped. That is our slavery.

Abide in My word, says Jesus, and we as disciples will know the Truth that frees the conscience. Once this happens, we see "the righteousness of God" not as Law but as a Gospel gift! We don't do it; it is given to us apart from the Law. Christ's atoning sacrifice effected it; we are now sons of God, inheritors of His infinite gift of salvation. Drink now the Blood, the vessel of His mercy.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pentecost 20: something different

Today's readings were Genesis 16:1-16, Romans 4:13-18, and Luke 24:36-49. However, in place of the sermon on this particular Sunday at the particular church we attended, a convert from Islam who is now preparing for the pastoral ministry spoke. During the service:
  • He was born in Kurdistan, part of Iraq (96% Muslim intersecting with 80% Arabic), beginning the Islamic equivalent of catechesis at age 7, as is typical. Interestingly, his first exposure to religion was hearing his friends, at age 5, talking about Easter. However, he soon learned plenty about Islam because there is no separation of religion from either state or schooling.
  • The more he learned, the more he became skeptical, eventually reading so much philosophy as to become an atheist. This lasted until Hussein invaded, forcing him to evacuate toward Iran along with his neighbors. A turning point occurred when God lowered storm clouds to protect him as he climbed out of reach of the guns of Hussein's army. Subsequently, he escaped to Iran (twice!), got some job experience with a cheese factory, and was granted political asylum in the US.
  • Once in the US, he ended up in Wisconsin, where he studied the Bible with a pastor, later comparing it in hindsight with the Quran. What stood out at him was the conditionality of Islam - Allah grants believers paradise only if they do good works and give all to him. Christianity is the exact opposite - God gives us all things and unconditionally has mercy. Christianity is also surety incarnate - since God did it all for you, your salvation is certain.
In the fellowship hall afterward:
  • The first step to evangelizing a Muslim friend is not evangelism. It's friendship. Make friends slowly and in-depth, avoiding religious conversation unless s/he brings it up.
  • Once you are good friends, ask about his/her religion.
  • After you listen, "Now let me tell you about what I believe." Start with the basics: Law (a pane of glass shattered by one pebble) and Gospel; knowing Christ from what is written about Him in the Bible; showing the depth/precision/long-range-ness of Old Testament prophecy; showing the utter reliability of New Testament eyewitnesses; knowing that Christ became man because man sinned, and He is the only perfect substitute.
  • Interestingly, one could use the Quranic statement that Jesus was the only prophet who never sinned (i.e. was perfect) as a logical step to show that He is divine (if someone does not sin, that someone is equivalent to God, whose distinguishing mark in this respect is holiness).
  • Some things must be taken on faith. If we could prove everything about Christianity, then it wouldn't be worth not believing in (not that it isn't!). Example: Trinity. Muslims generally think of it as 1 + 1 + 1, which logically does not equal 1. But, since the Trinity is in fact not three separate gods, it is rather 1 x 1 x 1, which equals 1.
  • Keep in mind that taqiyya is frequently used in Muslim evangelism. One can't necessarily trust that something your friend tells you is actually true. Hard words, yes.
  • Christianity is the only religion wherein man cannot save himself. God reaches down.
Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pentecost 19

Today's readings: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Hebrews 3:12-19; and Mark 10:17-22 (sermon text).

Whatever happened to Jesus's evangelism program? Talking about His own death had already lost Him plenty of followers. But the rich young man in today's text seemed like a perfect candidate for membership in any church: plenty of fiscal resources, eager devotion to God's commands, and good societal standing. He sought the Law, something he could keep more than others could. He was completely sincere in this - on his own terms - but completely misguided.

Jesus needs nothing we can give. So He went straight to the man's god: his money. Each of us has gods, which He attacked: lust (6th Commandment), anger (5th), money (9th). Therefore, when approaching God, you must allow 100% of you to be saved, to be controlled by God. This God-planted faith will sprout into works to love God and our neighbor.

Exhort one another to prevent hardening of conscience. Jesus gave all for and to us. We come as beggars to receive His gifts. When we have nothing, He offers not Law but Gospel. He dies our death to make us alive in Him, needing to do nothing to inherit eternal life. God must do all. Give up your Law, receive absolution, and taste sweet Gospel.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Broken promises? Or just unmade ones?

I know I haven't blogged about politics in a while, but this made me very angry. Not that I don't expect more taxes from the party in power, but seriously! Why don't politicians take the patience to do their research, come up with something that could possibly perform what they'd like it to perform, and maybe even apply a little bit of the scientific method to it? Our political history, it seems, is littered with transitional forms that either didn't make it or are corrupting the gene pool.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pentecost 18

We ventured this week to a congregation celebrating its 170th anniversary. Since it has many daughter churches around the globe, the pastor spent about 15 minutes at the beginning detailing some locations to which members had been sent in the past to proclaim the Gospel. The readings: Deuteronomy 10:12-22; 2 Corinthians 5:11-15; and Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 (sermon text).

This text is referred to as the gospel-within-the-Gospel. Here, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, who were mad at Him for eating with (i.e. accepting, noting unity with) sinners, tax collectors, the scum of society. One collector was Matthew; another, Zacchaeus. They worked on the Sabbath, extorting from their fellow men - yet Jesus ate with them. Today He eats with sinners too. He gives us His body and blood in the most unifying Supper of all.

In the parable-within-the-Gospel, the younger son said, in effect, "Father, I wish you were dead." But father says OK! Taking half of the inheritance, the son wastes it, then hires himself out to a citizen, literally "gluing" himself on. Since the gluee most likely doesn't want this elp, he gives a job geared to make the son quit. A Jew, feeding pigs? Strangely, the son accepts. Once starving, he decides to return to his father as a hired servant.

The village expects the father to beat his son. BUT Dad ran a long way to his son, having compassion, welcoming him back, and intervening. Thus, the father is the Christ figure - and we are both sons (prideful yet profligate). He welcomes us back, when we repent, with open arms. Therefore have mercy on your profligate siblings in Christ. For He welcomes sinners and eats with them.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pentecost 17

Today's readings, at yet another church on our whirlwind tour, were Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; James 5:13-20; and Mark 9:38-50 (sermon text).

Today's Gospel text is very uncomfortable. Those who reject Christ are here promised eternal judgment. For this reason, the Church must always keep and treasure the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its truth and purity. We stand on this foundation; to neglect it is to reject salvation. The Gospel, exclusive, is the Church's salt - without it, we are no different from the world.

Let no one cause a believer to stumble either. An example: the ELCA's recent actions of condoning the office of the ministry held by practicing homosexuals. This not only attacks the person and work of Jesus Christ, but it also causes some to stumble. Call false doctrine what it is - the hand of the Body of Christ that causes the body to sin - because of the fact, not because we enjoy condemning.

Keep confessing the Truth alone. There is no other name by which we, crucified with Christ, may live. This makes us be separate from the world, not to exalt ourselves, but to keep the saltiness of the Gospel. Keep repenting of sin against the salt. Don't condone false doctrine - but also rejoice wherever the Gospel is proclaimed. "Whoever is not against us is for us." For God works through right doctrine, Christ crucified.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pentecost 16

Today's readings, at yet another off-campus church, were 1 Kings 17:17-24, Ephesians 3:13-21, and Luke 14:1-11 (sermon text).

Today is the Lord's Day - unique, holy, set aside, a day of rest. It is also the weekly anniversary of the Lord's Resurrection. Today we celebrate His sacraments and receive His peace. Let your faith be strengthened today, living in this strengthened faith during the week ahead.

Going to church regularly requires self-sacrifice - but this yields lasting benefits. The Christian life is a striving to be like Christ, our Teacher. Sunday for Christians parallels the Jewish Sabbath, on which no customary work was done. On such a Sabbath, Jesus asked the Pharisees and teachers of the law whether it was lawful to heal or care for one's own on that day. "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" - Jesus Christ demonstrated this command especially on the Cross by having mercy on all of us.

The reading is not only a demonstration of mercy, but also a lesson in humility. Be humble that you may be exalted by the Highest, for prideful individuals will be shamed. Indeed, Jesus Christ humbled Himself to nothing - now He sits at the Father's right hand. Thus we learn about Him, our model.

Church is here for all - the hospital for sinners, with Jesus Christ as the Great Physician. Be humble; admit your sin. Live your life by faith in Christ, the God-Man, your Life. Kneel before Him in adoration, particularly on this holy day.
Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pentecost 15

I worshiped at another local church this morning; today's readings were Proverbs 4:10-23, Galatians 5:16-24, and Luke 17:11-19 (sermon text).

The surface meaning of the text: one came back to praise God. The deeper meaning: God's grace and love (giving) and our faith (receiving). Real faith presumes to trust God, as the lepers did, for they came to Jesus, God incarnate. We also come to God not with trepidation - for His perfect love drives out fear - but with trust.

The lepers knew that they were entirely unworthy to approach God, or even think of doing so. Leprosy was an unclean disease. Therefore, like them, our faith (before anything else) assures us that, though we are unworthy too, we may ask of God. Faith doesn't try to strike a deal with God, for it knows that whatever merit it has is from Christ alone.

This is a beautiful lesson about faith: it stands on His merits, not on ours. This is also a lesson about love: it gives, expecting no return. Jesus Christ's motivation for healing and doing other good deeds was not Himself, but us. He proclaimed through miracles the gracious kingdom of God. Doing good is not for the doer's benefit if it is motivated by selfless love - although the nine didn't thank God, they still remained healed of their disease.

The term for giving love is agape. To this neighborly love Jesus calls us. As Luther noted, faith + love = a complete description of a Christian. We receive from God (faith) and give to our neighbor (love). The reason: sin is like leprosy - each person is a leper by nature. Unless we are purified by God's grace through God-given faith, we cannot be clean. Therefore thank God, praise Him, because you have been healed by the High Priest. Sin no longer condemns, for Jesus died for sin. Only unbelief now condemns. Therefore believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pentecost 14

Today's readings were Isaiah 35:4-7a (sermon text); James 2:1-10, 14-18; and Mark 7:31-37. A special someone was the lector.

"Strengthen the hands and knees" sounds like part of a physical therapy syllabus - but the text speaks not of physically disabled people. Rather, a helping hand, often rejected, becomes feeble. And knees, when faced with difficult situations, become weak. But it is really a problem of a fearful (literally "hurried") heart. Isaiah speaks to us who have this problem, more crippling than a broken leg. God, through him, tells us to be strong, unbound, not afraid.

Why shouldn't we fear? God's answer: He is coming with vengeance!? Let's look at the context: Israel was besieged; God's wrath was against not Israel but her enemies. He slew 185,000 Assyrians for Israel, to deliver His people! Now look at our besieging armies - more spiritual than physical. The creation is groaning, a dangerous place burdening humanity with fear. Fear gives way to paralysis. But God tells us not to fear!

Jesus, while on earth, signaled the arrival of God's invading kingdom by reversing physical and spiritual paralysis. As a result of His life-sacrifice, you are a new creation by grace through faith, never to be forsaken by your Father! God has come; He will come again. Therefore actively proclaim and participate in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pentecost 13

This was given at an unnamed church close to my unnamed higher education institution. Today's readings were Psalm 51; Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Ephesians 6:10-20; and Mark 7:14-23 (sermon text).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus turns the tables on the hypocritical faultfinders. He declares all foods ceremonially clean, not able to defile a person. Neither filthy food, nor alcohol, nor anything we ingest - even if unhealthy - can defile us. The real problem, therefore, is the impurity of our hearts, the seriousness of our human situation. Apart from Him, our hearts are putrid. Even if we live otherwise uprightly, it is the sin committed by each of us - each of you - that makes the Old Adam in us abhorrent to God.

God's law is broken by both commission (doing bad) and omission (failing to do good). Trespasses are born of sinful thoughts coming from our hearts; these are what defiles us. No person is exempt. When we hear this sobering message from another's lips, we resist. We are not sinful because we sin; we sin because we are sinful.

Thank God! Our hope is not based in our hearts; it is based in God's heart! "Deliver us from evil," including the evil within. For this reason, He chose to become incarnate, the perfect Man, the God-Man, to take all our sins upon Himself without committing any sin Himself. He became sin for us! Therefore be strong in the Lord's strength. Use His gift-armor and weapon, His Word. Do not changes this Word, but pass it on, for it not only kills but also make alive. Be assured of your cleanness bestowed by God. For He is greater than your heart when it condemns you. Taste this sweet, clean Gospel.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pentecost 12

Still at the unnamed in-between church. Today's readings: Psalm 78, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (sermon text), Colossians 3:18-24, and Matthew 11:25-30.

A will ensures that your valuable earthly possessions will go to your children. But what about heavenly possessions? Begin preparing these gifts before your children consciously understand - pass on your faith through prayer, Bible reading and meditation, and otherwise bringing up your offspring in the fear and nurture of the Lord. Otherwise, you may pass on your wealth but not your Treasure.

Do you blame others for your children's loss of faith, should that ever occur? Or do you rightly blame yourself? With all our idols, the failure is our own. But the forgiveness is God's! He intervenes, breathing new life into us in our death, reaching around us in our rejection of Him. Receive Him therefore, passing your faith down to the next generation.

Let His commandments first be upon your heart. Then constantly and consistently impress them on your children's hearts. Just as immersion leads to fluency because you leave your native language behind, so also it works with the Word. Even before your children understand, talk - not *to* your kids but just *about* the Word. Immerse yourself and your spouse in this Word. The children's immersion will follow.

Pray with and for your children. This is the Holy Spirit's work - creating faith and interceding for us. The entire home environment is important as well. Also, show your children how and why to share your faith. Show by your words and deeds the totality of God's love. God uses people as His hands. What are we, save vessels to be filled with and to share God's love?

Finally, remember that our best-laid plans will fail. But God still works.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pentecost 11

I worshiped at an undisclosed WI church today. Today's readings: Psalm 34, Joshua 24:1-18 (sermon text), Ephesians 5:6-21, and John 6:51-69. I also heard the first children's sermon since going to my grandparents' church around 7 years ago.

We need "heroes of the faith," models of a life of trust in God. One such man was Joshua, a leader appointed by God during a crucial, difficult time. As the successor of Moses, his task was even harder: he had to enter the Promised Land; to dethrone pagan peoples, false gods, and outnumbering enemies; how to do it? Answer: God's promise to him was "I will never leave you or forsake you . . . do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth." God being with you, you trusting in God, obviates any fear of your enemies.

Joshua followed God's leading because he knew that God was faithful to fulfill His promises. Now, in our text, he addressed the people he led. Would they be faithful? Or apostate? Really no choice here - obviously the better choice is to serve the One who lives and saves! Obvious, yes, but easy, no. Then and now, many serve other gods - making an object the most important thing in your life. Examples: money, possessions, power, pleasure, technology, self. Gods of wood and stone? Not anymore. But they're still false gods.

The question remains for each of you who read this: Whom will you serve? Be not afraid to repeat Joshua 24:15. Look to the Source, Jesus ("YHWH saves"), the only One who can save - and has saved - you who believe in Him! Do not deny that you have sinned; otherwise you lie to God's face. Receive the One into your being who forgives all your sins.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pentecost 10

Today's readings: Psalm 34, 1 Kings 19:1-8 (sermon text), Ephesians 4:17-5:2, and John 6:35-51.

As in the hymn, Elijah's soul lay still, and the Lord delivered him. In the story's historical context, Israel was divided, Jezebel and Ahab ruled, and she had just promised to kill Elijah. Some time beforehand, his God had won a contest with Baal; as a result, 850 prophets of Baal had been put to death. God had shown that He is in charge.

Jezebel was hopping mad, not even regarding her own life in her quest to get rid of this prophet. He promptly ran to the southernmost part of Judah - Beersheba - as far as possible away from the queen. In Beersheba, there was nothing but wilderness and the occasional scrubby broom tree. Under one Elijah sat, sinning twice: first, running away from God, and second, giving up. Then he slept disconsolately. (What would we do?)

But! God had mercy on Elijah, for His mercy has no end. He gave him food, roused him, and ordered him to take heart. Twice, God (the Father and the Son - "the Angel of the LORD") fed and watered him. Don't take lightly the food and drink He gives to us - His very own body and blood for our eternal sustenance.

The story concludes. The two meals gave him 40 days' and nights' strength to pilgrimage to the mountain of God, Horeb (aka Sinai). Let us draw strength from the Sacrament of the Altar as well to continue our pilgrimages.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pentecost 9

Today's readings were Psalm 145, Exodus 16:2-15, Ephesians 4:1-16 (sermon text), and John 6:22-35.

We cherish freedom and choices, especially here in the US. But Paul presents a no-choice ("one" only) lifestyle: live in the manner worthy of your calling. No other way than Jesus? How offensive! Boring! Intolerant! Those who slander Christianity like this don't understand true freedom: not individualism, but rather a conscience owned by Christ. Ironic? Perhaps. But life in any other manner is, by comparison to Christianity, so poor as to be a non-choice.

Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians lay the basis for the "therefore" in 4:1, preceding these instructions. Briefly: you were dead in sin; God knew you before the womb; He has resuscitated you. Now ask: why does mankind exist? Answer: Christ has ransomed all mankind; they are now to walk in way of Christ Jesus. One Lord (Jesus Christ), one faith (the same), one Baptism (into Christ), one Father of all (the Father).

So your sinful self finds it hard to walk in Christ? The Old Adam tells you that there are other options? To refuse the means of grace? Answer him with the truth: he is death, dead. Not an option. Turn now to the work of God: "to believe in Him whom He has sent." Walk in His way thus: live your life to God and others; take a nap when your body tires; pray for your brothers and sisters.

Christianity isn't a bad option. It's the best and only real option!

Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pentecost 8

Today's readings were Psalm 136, Genesis 9:8-17, Ephesians 3:14-21 (sermon text), and Mark 6:45-56.

The preaching theme for the upcoming church year [at my home church] is spiritual exercises (a.k.a. piety). Today's Epistle reading sums up three components: physical gestures (bowing the knee before God), growing in the knowledge of the love of God, and growing in general spiritual discipline. Start with verse 14: bowing the knees (an example of a physical action accepted during worship) - we sing about it plenty, but tend to practice it only rarely, this expression of the faith. Later we'll learn other Scripture-based, physical gestures of piety.

What sort of piety should we have? Paul explains first the reason behind ours: the infinite nature of the glory of God. We seek to grow in the knowledge of Christ. However, the practice of spiritual exercises is alien or even "wrong" to members of the Baby Boomers. The culture is changing, though - piety is making a comeback. Now to answer the question: There exist good (Biblical) and bad (non-Biblical) forms of piety. Examples of Biblical piety are reading the Bible, growing in the knowledge of God, and expressing and applying that knowledge. The Small Catechism can be a starting point: daily (habitual) prayers, making the sign of the Cross (while kneeling or standing), etc. Get into these habits.

Christian piety always begins with God's glory, for we have been made in His image. All too often, we glory at most in the creation, rarely the Creator. His glory drives us to our knees, for "we daily sin much." So daily kneel before the Lord, whether physically or inwardly. Christian piety continues with growing in the knowledge of the love of Christ. This helps us deal with the tribulations we face daily. Why? Christ is in you! As a result of spiritual growth, grow also in spiritual discipline.

As the pastor told us, today's sermon is only a taste of the year to come. Unfortunately, I'll be gone at the unnamed institution of higher learning for much of it, though practicing these exercises is much more encouraged at that school.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pentecost 7 (Too much good stuff)

Today's readings: Psalm 23, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Ephesians 2:11-22, and Mark 6:30-44 (sermon text).

The way of Jesus: too much good stuff, more than we expect, more than we deserve. This is one of the few events common to all four Gospels, so it's very important. Here, in Mark's book, normally fast-paced, he takes time to tell of this miracle.

If Jesus gives us any good stuff, it's far more than what we deserve from the Creator whom we have disobeyed. We deserve not even one breath of oxygen, but grace comes in! Solely because of His own decision, we receive our Lord Himself under the bread and wine, earthly blessings, and the indwelling Word.

Jesus, although exhausted, had compassion on the people who had no true shepherd. "The Lord is my Shepherd," the true Son of David, our true Leader. So the first "good stuff" was His presence with the people. Next: the meal procured by faith and thanksgiving of God the Son to the Father. Seating in 50s and 100s parallels the OT Exodus; twice God fed His people in the wilderness. Both these events also prefigure Christ's orderly feeding of today's flock in the Eucharist.

Too much good stuff. Another detail: His disciples distributed the meal and collected generous leftovers. Pastors distribute His gifts today, abundant gifts we need and are given by grace. We hardly notice it sometimes, but we need this nourishment daily. Cherish it.

Amen. Soli Deo gloria.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oy

Just a comment thread I find interesting to follow. Abortion vs. capital punishment, anyone?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pentecost 6

Today's readings: Psalm 85, Amos 7:7-15, Ephesians 1:3-14, and Mark 6:14-29 (sermon text).

John the Baptist lost his head to slake a woman's grudge. Thank God that this gruesome story isn't sugarcoated; God takes evil head-on, and here's a good example. The Bible is about Jesus Christ coming to us in our sinfulness, then forgiving our sins. Have a look.

Even Herod had heard of Jesus' name and wondered about the rumors. The earlier miracles had served to draw attention to His purpose; later they would diminish. Beginning at verse 16 is the connection: Jesus' fame made Herod think that John was resurrected. Verse 17 delves into the history of the incident; but first, let's deal with Herod. This man was one of the four sons of Herod the Great; he received Galilee as his jurisdiction. Then John came along, criticizing the wrongful marriage of Herodias (Philip's divorcee) and Herod. This caused a grudge. Oddly, Herod was protecting John - never converted, but liked to listen.

Next came the banquet. Intoxicated, Herod was recklessly generous. Herodias' daughter, faithful to her mother to a fault, returned to demand the Baptist's head. Now suddenly sobered, Herod fearfully complied, placating the mother by getting the law of God out of the way. There's a lesson to us in our culture: DO NOT compromise God's Word, putting your self-trust ahead of God-trust. In the end, our earthly bodies are just bones. The one thing needful is Christ. We need nothing else; He must increase as we must decrease.

Trust in God alone, not in your stuff. After all, He's indestructible.

VBS is this coming week, with a special visitor. Please pray for the kids.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pentecost 5

Today's readings were Ezekiel 2:1-5, Psalm 33, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (sermon text), and Mark 6:1-13.

The Bible contains many stories of deliverance - Lazarus and Bartimaeus, to name only two. But our lives seem often to be deliverance-free. Paul, in the text, had a thorny situation like this - Christ did not grant his prayer's request. Let's look deeper - no shortcuts here! - to see how today's lesson applies to our lives. To do this, study the entire context.

2 Corinthians 12 (chapter context): the end of Paul's fourth (two were lost) letter to the Corinthian church. Book context: false preachers, looking for personal gain, were preaching that Christianity necessarily leads to monetary and worldly success. Paul rebutted this notion with the exact opposite, that his (Christ's) message is true. To cap it off, he boasted in his sufferings, his weakness. This segues into his thorn account.

The thorn was given him because he had seen infinitely wondrous things in visions. But what did he boast in? His thorn! A humble preacher of the Cross is weak to keep him, as with Paul, reliant on God's grace. Keep in mind that God is not the author of evil. Does He stop all evil and disease, then? No. It's a fallen world, which He allows to run its course.

Three times Paul pleaded for a miracle. His motives (unlike most of ours) are good - surely the thorn's removal would improve his proclamation of the Gospel! But Christ chose that Paul would remain weak in the body in order to point continually to Jesus Christ and His cross. Therefore he takes the lesson to heart: "For when I am weak, then I am strong." So God answers prayer in many ways, but very often calls for us just to rely on Him. Deliverance may be long in coming or even absent, but through all suffering we are to praise and trust in God as your God.

Soli Deo gloria. Amen.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pentecost 4

Today's readings were Lamentations 3:22-33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15; and Mark 5:21-42 (sermon text).

We are here in church today because of Christ and His gifts, because He is our only hope. Two examples are in the Gospel reading. Jairus's daughter was raised; the woman (the story within the story) was healed of a twelve-year disease. But the miracles' purpose was not to draw ooh's and aah's. It was rather about Christ bringing God's kingdom.

First, the woman. For twelve years she had been bleeding abnormally, using her savings to no avail. But now she had faith that a touch of Jesus' robe would heal her. It did! So Jesus wanted to draw attention to her faith: "Daughter, your faith has made you well." The woman was given her life and wholeness back! She was "treated and released." Now the main story resumes.

Second, the daughter. Her father, a Sanhedrin, was a synagogue ruler. But she had died. The messengers didn't want to bother Jesus, but He wanted to be bothered. He is bothered by death, so He went and raised the daughter. The selected disciples witnessed the neighborhood keening and mourning. This crowd didn't understand that Christ could indeed heal the "sleeping" (those who die in Him).

In this instance, Christ is interested in keeping the "Messianic secret" - all miracles needed to be tied to His main purpose: to bring His own into heaven with Him, where there exists no pain, no hurt, ho disasters, no sickness, no death. We'll live forever, by faith, with the King of Kings.

Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

On multiculturalism

Not only does this editorial today explain succinctly what multiculturalism is, it also says what needs to be said, something the WSJ does often but not always. In the context of a movie review (The Stoning of Soraya M.), Andrew Klavan deals what should be an effective blow to the support of multiculturalism.

A resource it made me remember is Understanding the Times by David Noebel. Have your children read it before college. Read it yourself! This is, by the way, a good culture to emulate.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pentecost 3

Today's readings, each referenced in the sermon: Job 38:1-11, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, and Mark 4:35-41.

The Gospel reading tells of Christ's power over nature - but the disciples were afraid. Who is Jesus, this glorious Man wielding God's power among us sinners? The "time of the Church" (Pentecost through the beginning of Advent) is an excellent time to ponder this question. It is scary to have God next to you! "Who?" is Christianity's fundamental question, in contrast to the world's clever denial of God's existence. But neither must we try to have more "spirituality," for that does not produce either stronger or more true Christians. We need instead Spirituality, but the Holy Spirit cannot be manipulated or lied to.

Neither is the Son of God at all to be trifled with. His Father, in the Old Testament reading, takes Job to task for dealing lightly with Him. We cannot even understand His creation, let alone who He is! He stayed the waves by His power. Frightening, but not the final word.

Paul tells us that "now is the day of salvation." Until Christ returns, there is no day of judgment yet. Stay in the church - "the ship of faith" - keeping our gaze on our Captain, Christ.

Have a blessed Father's Day, and to my two other friends who have birthdays on this day, I congratulate them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pentecost 2

Today's readings: Hosea 2:14-20, Acts 2:36-47 (sermon text), and Mark 2:13-22.

We see here the early Christians in addition to similarities with a Christian's life today. Four sequential points are made: (1) The pilgrims to Jerusalem crucified their one true Hope; (2) They were reunited with their Hope; (3) They were baptized; and (4) They were blessed as they continued in their Baptismal life.
  1. God the Holy Spirit, through Peter, horrified the pilgrims, cutting them to the heart. Just like them, we were enemies of Christ, betraying and crucifying our one true Hope. So we should ask, "What should we do?" And God will answer: "Repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
  2. This reunites us with our one true Hope. This is no altar call - it is anti-Scripture to decide *for yourself* for Christ. Verse 40, in Greek, has a definite passive voice (both the NIV and ESV err here).
  3. The promise of salvation is for children as well as adults. Let both be baptized.
  4. Verses 41 and 42 are grammatically linked in Greek, indicating the totality of the Christian life: Baptism --> being taught sound doctrine + fellowship + breaking bread + the prayers. The common feature to all of God's family members is forgiven sins. So, because we are family, we share in the Body, helping our brothers and sisters. We all have the very blood of Christ coursing through our veins.
Finally, prayer is us speaking back to God. The sum total of all four elements is the Divine Service, the center of our week.

"And the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trinity Sunday

Today's readings were Isaiah 6:1-8, Acts 2:14a, 22-36, and John 3:1-17 (verse 16 was the text).

The Trinity is a mystery of the Christian faith. How can God be only one God but also three Persons? How can 1 equal 3 and 1 + 1 + 1 = 1? The Athanasian Creed tries to explain it; no one can fully understand it, but we must rather receive it by faith. (What does God's Word say?) John 3:16 presents another divine mystery. Let's take a look.

This mystery had to be revealed to us; we couldn't have found it otherwise. The verse describes how the Trinity works. "God [the Father] so loved the world." - Where is God when bad things happen, when people die? God's love then is hard to see. But it's still there. When man sins, God's love remains, for He has promised us "everlasting love" according to Isaiah - agape. God loves the repulsive. God loves the world!

"He gave His only-begotten Son." Note that God didn't send His Son; that's not what love is. Instead, He gave Him. This love is too profound for our sinful selves, so we try to downplay it. But the reality remains: as the Father gave us the Son, so the Son also gave Himself for us, bearing our deserved punishment to give us salvation.

So also God the Holy Spirit comes to give us faith to believe in God the Son. If we don't believe in something, it won't benefit us - a buried treasure that you don't think is there, so you won't dig for it. Therefore we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to believe in Jesus our Substitute. As the Word is proclaimed to us, the Holy Spirit uses it to speak to us, to convince us that the Christ-proclaiming Scriptures are true. Everyone who has this faith will be saved. Amazingly, it doesn't matter what sins you commit (although you are to stop sinning!). They're all washed away in the God-given Son's blood. Therefore Christianity is not a deal between you and God - God does ALL the giving. We simply receive.

This excellent sermon came to us today from one of the Preus lineage. Those who were there know which one.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost

Today's readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14 (sermon text), Acts 2:1-21, and John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15.

Here's the vision in the text: the valley of an army of dry bones. Ezekiel prophesies to them; then they come to life and are allowed to go home. First, an overview of the prophet Ezekiel's book: (1) judgment on Israel; (2) judgment on the nations; and (3) promises of restoration for Israel. Our text falls in the last part.

Look at the first two verses. The vision begins, lifelike. Who killed the bones? The answer (chapter 21): God Himself, through pagan nations. The bones stand for those physically and/or spiritually dead because of God's punishment for their relentless sinning. Now look at verse 3ff. Ezekiel prophesies to the bones - God breathes, as at Pentecost, His Spirit into the "very dry" bones, the totally spiritually dead. (At Pentecost, three thousand came to life, those who had cried out for Christ's death.) The bones then came together as complete, articulated skeletons, by the power of God's Word using Ezekiel's preaching. The Spirit is, we see, connected to the Word and Sacraments. No other means - these are the ones He uses. Don't mistake the gift for the Giver.

Next, breath is prophesied into the bodies. This "breath" is specifically the "wind of the Spirit of God." Compare to our Baptism - we, too, are resurrected to be warriors of God! We fight using the Scriptures to show others that there is only one path to God: Jesus Christ.

Finally, God tells Ezekiel to send the army home - they were formerly cut off from God (their own fault), but were now reconnected. Apart from the Holy Spirit, we are dead. But now we are His soldiers, for He has raised us and brought us to the new Israel. Live as a child of God, therefore, walking in the Spirit.

New upcoming sermon series: how to live as a Christian. Not what you'd expect from an LCMS church? Wait and see!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Easter 7: The Family Prays Together

Today's readings: Acts 1:12-26, 1 John 5:9-15 (sermon text), and John 17:11b-19.

The Head of the family gives us life by speaking; He initiates communication. In prayer we speak back to Him. We can't speak about God and ignore Christ; to do so, says John, is to deny God.

In the Divine Service, there exists lively communication; prayer is an essential element. In Acts, we see a model for Christian family prayer life. The apostles "devoted themselves to...the prayers" - specific prayers, prayed together. When we, undeserving sinners, ask God according to His will, He hears us! Ordinary people are able to come before the Emperor of the universe!

What should we pray? For God to guide our families; for the Word to be proclaimed; for unity (preventing silly prayers - wants vs. needs). He says that He hears us; therefore we know that He hears and answers the needs of His family. Talk to Him all the time - don't relegate Him to a two-minute corner of your morning or evening. Your individual and corporate prayers are important to God. Take ample advantage of that.

We were attending a graduation last Sunday and were unable to make it to church. But I think today's sermon makes up for that. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension

Tonight's readings: Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:44-53, and Psalm 47.

Ascension is one of the three major Church festivals; the others are Easter and Pentecost. To someone who asks, "Do you know Jesus," we answer, "Yes, the ascended Lord." Ascension is one of those events that changes everything. Christ is now preparing a place for us with His Father. On the Last Day, He will come in the same way He left. We speak of Ascension - not Christmas or Easter - when we say that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

This Jesus has promised to be with us always; this Jesus is with us in the means of grace: Word and Sacrament. We no longer see Him, but He is with us to the very end of this age. Be comforted, for you have a great High Priest who resisted every sin that we must face. He now intercedes for and blesses us continually. Rejoice because of Jesus, the ascended Christ!

I'm back at my home church until mid-August.

Origins: key ideas of evolution

Other posts are under the label Origins.

The evolution model has four key ideas pertaining to the origin of the universe, life, and diverse kinds:
  1. The world is changing; it is not static. (This was postulated to rebut the concept of fixity of species, a 19th-century Creationary idea that is not part of today's creation model. Here, though, is a brief AiG article explaining the confusion wrought by changing a word's definition midway through a historical period.) This is not disputed by creationary scientists.
  2. Evolution (lower-case e) is a slow, gradual, continuous process. (However, it may be accelerated by selection.) Again, creationary scientists do not dispute this.
  3. Common descent means that all form of life have various common ancestors. (To which a creationary scientist would reply: To an extent!)
  4. The mechanism for the origin of diverse kinds of life, and of life itself from chemicals, is natural selection - neo-Darwinism adds mutations to the mix. More on this later.
My comments: Although Darwin extrapolated from artificial selection to natural selection, there is a key difference between the two. The former is based on a primary cause (the intelligent agent doing the selecting), whereas there are only secondary (natural) causes involved in the latter. Neo-Darwinian evolution adds genetics (which was conveniently ignored for many years by Darwinists because of the laws of inheritance) as a component. Granted, sport mutations do occur. But the vast majority of "new" traits are recessive ones being expressed - they were already present.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Origins: history of the creation model; some resources

For other posts in this series, look under the label Origins.

Essentially, the source of the creation model is not people (as with the evolution model), but rather the Bible. Yet there are other, non-Bible-derived creation models, but the principal one is from the Christian worldview. The Bible is revelation, written down by people yet inspired by God. This has led to a charge (mentioned again in a later post) that, since the source of the creation model is *unscientific*, therefore the creation model must be entirely unscientific, aka "religious."

How would a creationary scientist respond to that charge? Have at it!

Bonus for today: some interesting reading on the creationary side of the debate.
  • Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome by Dr. J. C. Sanford. This book, which I just finished, presents a thorough argument that genetic entropy as theorized and seen today does more than not support the basis of the evolution model...
  • "Is God an Evolutionist?" by David Menton. This article argues against theistic evolution (TE) in general, from a Lutheran point of view.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Origins: history of the evolution model

The posts in this series are under the label Origins, at left.

Evolution, at least the model thereof, wasn't handed down by some omnipotent being, since the definition excludes such a being. Rather, it was developed in spurts by many people from at least 600 B.C., culminating with Darwin, the synthesizer of all the ideas. Simply put, the source is man.

Below are various ideas pertaining to the evolutionary model (some are dated and rejected today but helped form the foundation), the people who originated them, and my comments.
  • Water (a secondary cause) was the origin of everything - Thales, section 3. Water is indeed a reducing agent (the Miller-Urey experiments required a reducing atmosphere) and is used in many biological reactions.
  • One species can become another species over time - Anaximander, bottom of page. The definition of "species" has been in at least a little flux for quite some time now, but this concept is definitely a building block in the evolutionary model.
  • Chance (a secondary cause) is a productive force by itself - Empedocles, top half of page. There's a technical definition of "chance" used by scientists in a slightly different way than the rest of the population uses it, but look at the web page and see what its understanding of "chance" is.
  • Spontaneous generation (life from non-life) is a mechanism to produce life - Aristotle. At the bottom of the page is something interesting: while Pasteur's experiments demonstrated that life cannot under today's conditions (an oxidizing atmosphere, different gas proportions, etc.) originate from dead organic matter, scientists hold firm that it could have under different conditions. It must have, in order for the evolutionary model to be true. But those conditions are for another day.
  • Uniformitarianism is a main process through history - Hutton and Lyell, both geologists. Again, this will be discussed in more detail on another day. But Hutton's reasoning behind a conclusion of uniformitarianism is very interesting. Go read it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Origins: an introduction

The material in this series (under the label Origins) is based off a class I had this past semester. With the professor's permission, I have set out to post topics of class discussion and my reactions to them, as well as outside links if I can find them.

Cosmogony, whether you know it by that name or not, is a hot topic: evolution versus creation. It's the study of origin science (historical, not observable - observable science works only in the present); therefore, neither side can "prove" its case, but both sides must rather make sure that their own models of origins are logical (which both are, as we will see) and able to encompass a wide variety of evidence (as both can), inferring as to the better model. Both models have religious as well as scientific aspects.

Why study origins at all? Answer: The meaning of something is linked to its origin.

First, very brief definitions of both models. (Ed, please correct me if I'm wrong on the definition of the evolutionary model.)
  • Creation: The universe, life, diverse kinds, and human beings have their origins in a primary cause, that is, an omnipotent designer (aka the "First Cause" - and no, Biblical Creationism is not the only subset of the model). Secondary causes, aka natural laws, govern the continuance and maintenance of the universe.
  • Evolution: The universe, life, diverse kinds, and human beings have their origins in secondary causes only; no primary cause was involved. Maintenance of these things is also by secondary causes.
  • Theistic Evolution (TE): a subset of the evolution model attempting to reconcile the Bible with current science by saying that God used evolution as a means of creation.
More later. Chew on that for a few days.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Easter 5

Today's readings: Acts 8:26-40, 1 John 4:1-11, and John 15:1-8 (sermon text).

In an ancient culture or two, there is a maturation ritual for the young men, in which they are tethered by vines to the highest branches of a tree, must jump, and in doing so must trust the village elders who fastened the vines. Like them, we are connected to the Vine - without it, we are dead. We need to trust fully the One who has connected us to it. We are part of Him, and He is part of us; this is seen clearly in the Sacrament of the Altar. It's inconceivable to us that many do not want to be connected safely.

But we're not the ones gripping the Vine! There is no such thing as us reaching out and hanging on to God...rather, He hangs on to us. Only this true Vine will give us life. There are many false vines striving for our attention. Life is indeed a jungle - popularity and drugs, to name just two false vines. But the more intertwined with the Vine we become, the better we can reject the false vines and weather the storms in life.

Poorly connected branches come loose in a storm. It's in your best interests to let Christ the Vine connect securely to you. Also, we have as the owner (vinedresser, caretaker) our Father. He abundantly cares for us; He is a very meticulous Gardener. Every branch must be either pruned (good branches) or burned (dead ones) - pruning increases the fruit a branch bears. The entire effect may resemble a topiary tree, with its elegant and precise shape, but this requires the exact pruning of every branch in His church.

As God has loved us, so let us love one another for His glory.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Of several sciences

Here's something you don't see by itself every day: a garden arranged and maintained according to the tenets of the Darwinian evolutionary theory.

If modern agriculture can compensate, Henslow's heirs aren't interested: "We do not dig if we can avoid it, we do not fertilize, we do not water, we do not spray. The plants either survive or die," Mr. Parker says. "The reason that these trees look so good . . . is that these are the survivors. They will survive under our conditions. . . . You grow them tough, they'll stay tough."

In case anyone hasn't gotten the point, he adds, "This is an evolutionary garden. What would you expect us to do?"

In a tangentially related vein, vaccinophobia is, predictably, causing outbreaks. People who have a disease are generally more contagious than those who do not (particularly if they've had the vaccine). Why were vaccines developed in the first place, you ask? Maybe it's because the diseases they now prevent - measles, mumps, etc. - actually killed people?

Finally, as a chemist-in-training, I couldn't resist this headline. Strictly speaking, everything is made of chemicals, and then some. Humans are made of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Cotton is made of hydrocarbon and carbohydrate polymers. So, if a bed sheet is "made without chemicals," what exactly is left for it to be made of? Perhaps articles like this should clarify which class of chemicals are being added - like formaldehyde, which doesn't naturally occur in the human body - instead of clumping life into organisms plus clouds of "chemicals" whose structures actually aren't all that different.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Easter 4

Today's readings: Acts 4:1-12, 1 John 3:16-24, and John 10:11-18 (sermon text).

Children are immensely important to their parents, who recognize them as their own. What if our Father refused to recognize us? Punishment is one thing; abandonment, quite another. We may wonder: does our Father love us?

St. John reassures us: God has lavished His love on us! He delights to do so, to call us His children, to transform and adopt us by the bath of Baptism. Jesus died to free us sheep from the wolves and to draw us out of the dung-heap of sin in which we would otherwise wallow.

God is with us every day; therefore, He knows us. If we are with Him each day, we know His voice, tuning out impostors, when He calls us by our name. The world does not know Him or His voice; they turn away from God's embrace. Neither does the world know us, since we are His. But they do know that we are Christ's by the love we share. Be Jesus with skin on to the lost. Show the world that you are a child of God.

Today is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Interesting quote

Courtesy GHF, who is perusing "The Education of Henry Adams". Henry is the great-grandson of John Adams; at this point in the book, he is secretary to the American delegation in London. He has just made the acquaintance of Charles Darwin...

Ponder over it as he might, Adams could see nothing in the theory of Sir Charles but pure inference, precisely like the inference of Paley, that, if one found a watch, one inferred a maker. He could detect no more evolution in life since the Pteraspis than he could detect it in architecture since the Abbey. All he could prove was change. Coal-power alone asserted evolution,—of power,—and only by violence could be forced to assert selection of type.

All this seemed trivial to the true Darwinian, and to Sir Charles it was mere defect in the geological record. Sir Charles labored only to heap up the evidences of evolution; to cumulate them till the mass became irresistible. With that purpose, Adams gladly studied and tried to help Sir Charles, but, behind the lesson of the day, he was conscious that, in geology as in theology, he could prove only Evolution that did not evolve; Uniformity that was not uniform; and Selection that did not select. To other Darwinians—except Darwin—Natural Selection seemed a dogma to be put in the place of the Athanasian creed; it was a form of religious hope; a promise of ultimate perfection. Adams wished no better; he warmly sympathised in the object; but when he came to ask himself what he truly thought, he felt that he had no Faith; that whenever the next new hobby should be brought out, he should surely drop off from Darwinism like a monkey from a perch; that the idea of one Form, Law, Order, or Sequence had no more value for him than the idea of none; that what he valued most was Motion, and that what attracted his mind was Change.


Soon I plan to begin a series on cosmogony; how's that quote for getting you started on thinking about the topic?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A possibility...

A two-year-old has died of swine flu in TX. Officials say that closing the border is no longer possible nor feasible. But something that popped out at me was this: "Obama also says schools should consider closing if the spread of the swine flu virus worsens." Naturally, what does this suggest?

Homeschooling - if only for a week or a few. Why not?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Easter 3

Today's readings: Acts 3:11-21, 1 John 3:1-7, and Luke 24: 36-49 (sermon text).

This chapter (Luke 24) is a roller coaster, the paragon of roller coasters. It begins with loss, helplessness, and fear. But when the women meet Jesus, they are elevated to joy. Alas - the disciples' disbelief frustrates the women. Then follow skepticism, doubt, confusion, sadness, and puzzlement. And so it goes, up and down. The ending is Christ's ascension, a calm ending - Christ gave the disciples peace and explained that all these events had to come to pass.

Our lives as Christians are similar. How may we be calmed? By pointing to all Scripture, all fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He has completed every prophecy spoken by God through His servants, the prophets. God had a master plan to save us from our sinful natures; this involved the torture and death of His Son.

Life is full of emotional roller coasters. But remember: God has promised to bring safely to Himself all who look to Him for salvation.

Christ is risen!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Focus/philosophy

Today's book review concerns a book on focusing. The review helped me today; I wish it would have been the same last week. The final weeks of a semester are usually not this hectic, but oh well. Go and read the article.

My apologies for the decreased frequency of posting. I can say nothing about how often I'll post over the summer, as there are still holes in my schedule. If you have an article or post of your own that you'd like featured here, please email Nashida (nashida.hakim@gmail.com), who will forward it to me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Easter 2

In Orthodox circles, today is the *real* Easter. I happened to wake up early enough to be able to travel with three friends to a Serbian Orthodox cathedral, where we were treated to a two-hour, pre-sunrise vigil of Easter matins. Christ is risen!

Back at the on-campus church, the readings were Acts 4:32-35, 1 John 1:1-2:2, and John 20:19-31 (sermon text).

War wounds persist for years as physical and emotional scars. Even so in Christ's case - the disciples saw clearly the wounds in His hands, feet, and side. Their own wounds were still fresh; they were prisoners of their own fear until Jesus came to give them peace. Thus His scars are a gift from God, showing the risen Christ's true identity.

What do the scars show? That He was crucified for my sins, was raised for my salvation. He won the war against sin, death, and Satan for me! Therefore I have peace with God. The means: a greeting and a gift, through my partaking of His body and blood under the bread and wine.

Reexamine your own scars. Perhaps they're actually present, indicating that healing has occurred. Perhaps your wounds are deep, still fresh, still festering and gaping. But, since Christ has won for us the victory, your scars are transformed by His. Remain concerned about your open wounds - let Christ heal them. Then share Him with the other wounded.

By His wounds we are healed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Holy Week 2009 mega-post

Christ is risen!

Cheryl has videos of excellent choirs singing during Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Go over and listen.

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The readings for the Communion (4pm) service on Good Friday were Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; and the Passion narrative from John 18 and 19. The homily, however, was based on LSB 450, "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded."

Christ's body was given up for us. Below: a short exposition of the verses of the hymn.
  • Hands: bound in the Garden. How ironic! The One who created the universe by His hands allowed Himself to be bound by men, His creatures.
  • Face: struck by the attendees of the high priest. Again a sinner injured Christ.
  • Back: flogged by Pilate's orders. The Romans had metal spikes in the cat 'o' nine-tails used to tear the flesh - certainly poor preparation for carrying the Cross.
  • Head pierced by the crown of thorns. These were not mere slivers - the soldiers took pleasure in digging the long thorns in.
  • Shoulders: robed in fake purple. Then the King of the Jews was mocked.
  • Lips: uttered not a word. He was a mute sheep being led to the slaughter. Yet "these lips have often fed me" with His Word.
  • Hands/feet: nailed (not roped, as would be usual) to the Cross. This accelerated death, so that His legs were not broken.
  • Side: pierced for the world. The Sacraments (blood + water out of the incarnate Word) flowed out.
"It is finished."

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Good Friday Tenebrae readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hosea 6:1-6; 1 Peter 2:21-25; Acts 4:1-12; John 19:17-30; and Lamentations 1:1-14.

"It is finished." Now rest in Jesus.

All is indeed finished - our complete reconciliation with the Father! Those words, rare today, were common on ancient debts, meaning "paid in full." Today's world is certainly "unfinished." Yet Jesus spoke these last words because He had accomplished the task for which He was appointed and about which all Scripture had prophesied: paying the full price for our sins. He was the Substitute for the entire Old Testament system of guilt and other offerings. Since He has paid the price for you, rest in Him.

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Easter vigil readings: Genesis 1:1-2:2; Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13; Exodus 14:10-15:1 (homily text); Daniel 3:1-30; and Mark 16:1-8.

What good news this evening! We've listened to the account of God's salvation throughout history; tonight we focus on the tangible joy of the Israelites who had passed through. The Red Sea being a type of baptism, this text fits with the Vigil's traditional purpose*. Because Christ rose on this day, defeating completely sin and death, we also have assurance that we will one day rise to meet Him.

Israel was terrified as Egypt approached. This was, in fact, sinful - what reason had they to forget God's power at a time like this? Then Moses spoke to them not to fear - "The LORD will fight for you!" Indeed He did. Moses and Israel in response sang a song of deliverance, of righteous joy at the defeat and death of their foes. We do too - Christ's death and resurrection are our sure hope. Christ has completed God's entire work for us. Let us rejoice!

*At this service, three adult catechumens were confirmed into the Church.

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Easter morning readings: Isaiah 25:6-9, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, and Mark 16:1-8 (sermon text).

Are we too comfortable with Easter? Contrast the astonished, fearful tombgoers. The empty tomb created this fear in their hearts, as did the accompanying angel. This was no Easter routine - we should take it seriously. His resurrection didn't sink in until Pentecost.

The women came with spices, fully expecting a dead body. Yet they found no stone, neither a body, but an angel. Instead of death, they saw God's reflected glory. When God shows man His glory, man cannot help but quake or collapse in fear. Our sin collides with God's holy glory. Often we live as if neither sin nor holiness really existed. We fill our lives with idols - even a favorite hobby can become our god.

Go to the tomb with the women, laying aside your idols. Don't think your good deeds by themselves mean anything. Begin your Easter with fear; let it be turned to joy by the angel's news. Then celebrate the Easter season for the next 50 days. God judged Christ sinfly in order to judge you sinless, sealing this forgiveness with Christ's own body and blood. Therefore cling weekly to these gifts and His words. Embrace your Brother. Live in His love. Do all to the glory of God.

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

God is dead?

The atheists say so. Dawkins, anyone?

Micklethwait and Woolridge disagree.

Who would think that we say so too? (second stanza - there wasn't an English version, though German is clearly superior anyway. :P)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

Today's readings: Zechariah 9:9-12, Philippians 2:5-11, and John 12:12-19 (sermon text - compare the parallel passage in Luke 19).

How are we to strike a balance? During Lent, things may feel off balance, but today - Palm Sunday, green amid black - is balanced. Balance the sorrow of Lent with the joy of Christ's presence. The people in the Jerusalem crowd must have felt this way - Jesus, as He rode in, finally allowed the multitude to embrace Him. It was finally time to celebrate, something greater than David bringing the ark into Jerusalem: God Himself entering!

The Pharisees tried to quiet the children, but if they had, the stones would have had to rejoice - there existed an urgent need to do so. Ironically, Jesus was rejoicing on the way to His death and burial. Yet He chose not to squelch the crowd with what He knew would happen. What remarkable kindness!

Lessons: (1) Jesus allows and tells us to celebrate, balancing future days of darkness with present times of joy. (2) Celebrate the moments He gives you, each miniature Palm Sunday. (3) Let difficult times find you, not the other way around. (4) Don't, however, let celebration insulate you from tough times ahead. (What would have happened to Thursday and Friday if that had been the case?) Celebrate today, this moment. Continue through the darkness of this weekend to the Balance.

Maundy Thursday's and the following services may end up being posted all on Easter Monday, depending on my schedule.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lent 5 (Mission Sunday)

Today's readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 5:1-10, and Mark 10:32-45 (sermon text).

How is today's Gospel a mission text? Why not use Matthew 28 instead? Before the Church's apostles go anywhere, they must be trained. First, they must be taught the content to be preached. Second, they must be conformed to Christ's image. Christ does indeed teach, in the text, the central message to be preached. But right after, two disciples get greedy. Jesus is about to die - how could they be so self-serving?

The Son was sent by the highest Authority. He was thus authorized to send the apostles. But they were selfish. Later they would remember this day, when Jesus spoke with them about the true meaning of authority: the one who wishes to lead must become the slave of all. The Cross is the center of the Church, its message, and its reason for being. Pastors are called simply to serve all, to obey Jesus Christ.

How? They forgive sins - how audacious is that! - because they've been told by Christ to do so. They baptize - or rather, Jesus Himself baptizes. They serve us the Lord's Supper - Jesus giving it by Himself. As sinners, we want to be next to Him during His triumphal cup of suffering. But we can't drink this cup; only He can (and did) forgive the world's sins. Now we drink the cup of God's blessing, not of God's wrath. Having been crucified with Christ, we live with Him in us. By these means He conforms pastors to Himself.

This sermon is from an off-campus church, which had a guest preacher.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The world of science

It's a wonder no one's thought of this before: womb-like tubs for "bubs." In goes the small one, out comes happiness and contentment...or so the Daily Mail would like us to believe.

Heretofore undiscovered spider species are being discovered. Next step: dinosaurs?

The Pentagon is spending money very well for a noble purpose: the regrowth of limbs. Now all we have to do is streamline research so it's doable in the comfort of one's own home. At least the money isn't being used for this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Madoff with immortality

A couple with a very interesting (architectural) idea of how to make humans live longer, if not forever, had this dream smashed by the loss of their savings no thanks to Madoff. But is immortality really that wonderful (ep. 19)?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lent 4

Today's readings were Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10 (sermon text), and John 3:14-21.

This text is a Lenten one - v. 1 says that we were dead in sin. We were in the family of Satan. This is Law, pure and simple. But Gospel (v. 4ff) necessarily follows.

Law. Paul had in mind pagan Ephesian converts, but we're just as dead. We were enslaved to sin, having no spiritually-related free will. Although it's countercultural (others think of sin as a wound only) to think so, we must accept this truth. We can only hope that Someone resuscitates us. Around us, angels we can't see are battling the world's prince we can't see directly. He is always battling for the souls of God's children to make them children of wrath instead.

Gospel. "But" is the hinge of much of the Bible. Verses 8 and 9 differentiate Christianity from other religions - even our works are God's workmanship! Works should make others praise God, not our flesh. Verses 4-7 are slightly less familiar but still precious Gospel. Let us not take God's life-restoring food and drink for granted. He seats us in the heavenly places - meaning perhaps that we are in Paradise (His presence) already, adopted princes and princesses of God. We've been given precious privileges paid for by Christ's blood. Let that spill over into your life, O child of the Father.

Apologies for decreased posting frequency. The evil in the world is becoming too common.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lent 3

Today's readings were Exodus 20:1-17 (sermon text), 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, and John 2:13-22.

Family portraits don't match real life - family life isn't perfect. We see the same tension in the text: God's standards for us versus our inability to fulfill them. The Commandments, however, are never presented as a way of salvation. Only Christ is.

Commandment 1 is first because there has always been unending temptation to stray from the one true God, whether by worshiping Isis or Asherah, or by worshiping the gods of ourselves. God is a jealous God. He shows favor to those who love him (N.B. this is listed first) and keep His commandments. Commandment 2 - why is our God's Name the only one misused? Commandment 3: keep the Sabbath = work as unto the Lord. Luther's explanation turns it into a means of grace - be eager to receive preaching and the Word.

Commandment 4 - the first with a promise. Follow God's intended order of authority. The fifth and following Commandments prohibit sins against our neighbor. No comments accompany them in the text, for they flow naturally from the first four. We sin against the entire family of God when we break any Commandment. So how can we keep them? Perhaps that's not what we should be asking. Look to Christ; ask for forgiveness; receive it gladly, for God's Law is good and wise. Christ died for you; you are now free from sin to serve God with your whole heart.

Today and next week I am at my home church.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Apt words

A WSJ reader draws our attention to Hamilton's warning words on government vs. liberty.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Good timing?

In science: rejoicing upon our POTUS's intended repeal of limits to ESC research funding. At least
the new policy won't affect federal laws that prevent the use of federal money to destroy human embryos. So while it will substantially broaden research opportunities on established cell lines, it won't allow the creation of new ones. That would require congressional action. The president hasn't taken a position on that issue.

Supporters say that the new policy will "attract young scientists to the field." Not this one.

In religion, a former terrorist says what we've all been thinking: If Islam is really a religion of peace, prove it. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lent 2

Today's readings were Genesis 32:22-32, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7, and Matthew 15:21-28 (sermon text).

A pagan woman sought out the One who would heal her daughter. She recognized Him at Tyre and Sidon. Jesus first focused on Israel, not answering this Gentile's plea. She persisted, finally worshiping Him as the only true God. Although He tested her - remember while reading this that we, non-Jews, are also counted as "dogs" - her faith proved true and selfless, for she sought nothing for herself.

Jesus then healed her daughter, seeing her faith. But do we seek Him and likewise cry out for forgiveness? No; we persist in our sin. But Christ still intercedes for each member of His church. Particularly in Communion, He sanctifies us, strengthens our faith, and invites us to eat and drink of His very body and blood. Let us not take for granted these gifts we freely have.

Today's sermon was from an off-campus church; what sort of differences do you see?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Policy changes

Our President wants to reverse Bush's stem cell policy. But tell me this: Is being wanted synonymous with being human? Or is that irrelevant?

Persons in the ethanol industry want to raise its levels in gasoline. Persons worried and/or opposed: the EPA, auto-industry execs, and those concerned about public health. Problems with increasing the ethanol percentage:
  • At present, E10 (10% ethanol) gasoline is all that virtually all cars can handle.
  • Like methanol, ethanol attacks rubber fixtures simply because it's a good solvent.
  • While water is effective against ethanol/methanol fires, the alcohol has a lower energy content, balancing out low pollutant emissions.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Storge

I'm currently reading C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves, on loan from a very good friend. So, naturally, this headline caught my eye. If only all we needed was this sort of love.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Interesting points

In the political arena, conservatives aren't necessarily learning lessons, says Thomas Frank. They're just opposing, something that's a perfectly valid strategy but doesn't necessarily get you anywhere.

In the political-scientific arena, responding readers are both witty and plain about what we should be doing besides going after sheep to combat global warming (and don't even start equivocating that term with 'climate change.' The climate is always changing, either up or down.).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Uncommon ways to deal with...

...the common cold. There's one going around where I am right now; here are helpful hints and factoids from the article.

  • Viruses don't make the symptoms - bradykinins (making runny mucus, congestion, and sore throats) and cytokines (inducing "fever, headache, muscle ache and loss of appetite") do.
  • Only about 25% of colds are symptomatic.
  • To make yourself less susceptible, try for at least 8 hours of sleep (my body clock apparently hates me and ensures that the most I ever get is 7.5) and lots of vitamin D. Keep your nose covered, too, to prevent it from getting cold and thus allowing viruses to replicate.
  • Avoid stress. Duh.
  • Stuff that works: "acetaminophen, hot drinks and decongestant sprays."
  • Stuff that doesn't: cough medicines and "vitamin C, nasal zinc or echinacea."
  • Listen to your body; do what it allows you to do, and no more.
  • (I didn't know this!) Colds are apparently less contagious than one would think, but do stay away from children, a.k.a. "little bags of viruses."