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."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lent 1

Today's readings were Genesis 22:1-18 (sermon text), James 1:12-18, and Mark 1:9-15.

God's leading, showing, and testing of His children are the focus of today's readings. People are taken into the wilderness from their comfort zones. How do they hold up? How did Abraham, for that matter, hold up? God had told him that he would be the ancestor of the Messiah; Isaac ("laughter") then arrived; finally, God asked for the death of this only son of Abraham (!). Abraham obeyed Him nonetheless, trusting that somehow God would always pull through and keep His promise.

We usually begin Lent by focusing on sacrifice. We give up something for the season to remind us that the substitutionary Sacrifice that He makes is the true focus.

What of Isaac's trust in his father? He carried the wood for his own sacrifice, not knowing what God had asked. How does God's promise in Jeremiah 29:11 fit with this? He did indeed pull through. He may ask us to sacrifice something precious to us as well; sacrifice in the Israelites' time involved bloodshed to remind of sin's consequences.

God provided a "ram" - a male sheep, acceptable for sacrifice. What of Jesus being the "Lamb"? A ram was simply the more perfect version. Looking at Jesus Christ as the Sacrifice, we see that He is indeed perfect, having conquered all temptation for us. God's intention was for Him to be tempted - and to resist it. Now we can pray for faith also to resist Satan's ever-specific temptations. We indeed are led through the wilderness. But we do not walk alone, for we cannot manage on our own. We need Jesus.

If any of you, dear readers, are without Christ, please think on this.