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.