Friday, January 30, 2009

Blogo is a Democrat

Just for the record, since no one in the mainstream media seems aware of this, Rod Blogojevich, the governor of Illinois, who was removed from office for corruption is a democrat.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sermon for January 24-25

Life Sunday
January 24-25, 2009
Text: Genesis 18:16-33

Dear Friends in Christ,
What is Life Sunday? It is a solemn commemoration of the great evil perpetrated by the U.S. Supreme Court when it issued the ruling Roe vs. Wade on January 22, 1973. This ruling made it legal to murder the unborn, right up until the time of their birth. Theologians like Francis Schaeffer immediately insisted that the legalization of abortion would inevitably lead to legalization of euthanasia of the elderly and infirm within a generation or two. Today we have a strong euthanasia movement in the United States led by men such as Jack Kevorkian. Several states have now legalized euthanasia under the name “assisted suicide.” We find ourselves today, as a nation, at the same moral crossroads as Germany was in the early days of the Nazi’s. Will the tide of death be turned back? Or will we also descend to same depths of moral depravity as many nations before us? This is the question that we as a nation must answer.

At first glance, this might seem an odd text to Life Sunday. It does‘t talk about the unborn. It doesn’t talk about God as creator. It speaks of God’s wrath and anger. It speaks of God’s role as judge and avenger. Yet, this is a text we would do well to consider at this time.

Our text is part of the greater story of Abraham which covers more than eleven chapters in Genesis - or more than one fifth of the entire book. Abraham had just dined with Christ and two angels. They had told him that in one year, Sarah would give birth to a son. But now Christ in moving on to another matter. He tells Abraham what He intends. He will go down and see if the outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah is as bad as He has seen. Of course He’s God, so it is that bad. Abraham understands in these words that Christ is not just going down to see what the situation is. He’s going down into the valley to do something about it. This is a mission of wrath.

At this point, I think, most people misunderstand what is happening. Abraham asks God if He
would destroy the cities if there were fifty righteous people there? Then he asks Christ, what if it were only forty? And it goes on from there. Abraham is not negotiating with God. Nor does Abraham then go to search for the righteous people. Christ already knows how many righteous people are down there. The inevitable conclusion is that there are no righteous people down there. Even Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family are, at most, marginally righteous. What is happening here is that Abraham is asking to what lengths God will go to protect the righteous.

What does it mean to be righteous. There are two ways to define this. And both are important for us today. First we have the truly righteous - that is those that are righteous before God. Scripture is clear on this. Abraham believed the promises of God and this was counted by God as righteousness. The righteous are the believers. They are those who trust in God. They are those whose sins are forgiven. In other words, the righteous are those who are on their way to heaven - those whom God has saved. The second category of righteousness is that of civil righteousness. This is righteousness before the world. Certainly believers are called to be righteous before the world as well. But there are a good many who are righteous before the world who are not righteous before God. So who are the civil righteous? They are those who are not true believers, but seek to do good and right in the world. It’s sort of the creed of community service clubs. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, there were not even ten people who had civil righteousness.

Now it should be noted that while homosexuality was one of the sins of Sodom, it surely was not the only sin. These were corrupt people consumed by their worldly passions. We can safely assume that the sin of homosexuality that is revealed in chapter 19 of Genesis is only the tip of the iceberg.

Christ is the judge over the living and the dead. He holds the right of judgement in His hand. Many today think of Christ as this milktoast sort guy who’s all about some superficial notion of love. Indeed Christ does love more than we could comprehend. The depth of God’s love is beyond measure. But so too is God’s anger and wrath. God’s hatred of sin and evil is a greater and deeper hatred than man could ever generate. Christ punishes both in earthly terms and in heavenly terms. He does this for the sake of the righteous who might be oppressed or led astray the evil. In this case, it appears that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for the sake of Lot. It’s not that God won’t destroy any of the righteous along with the wicked. But for the sake of a very few righteous, God will stay His anger, at least for a time.

We spend most of our time talking about personal sin and repentance. We spend most of our time talking about how Christ died for our sins and takes us to heaven. And that is right and good. This is where we need to spend most of our time. But on occasion we need to speak of the sins of the nation and our role in them. Just like individuals, God holds nations accountable for their sins. But there is no redemption for nations. Christ only died for persons, not nations. Nations, no matter how great, are only for this life. In fact, nations are, on one level, the result of sin. We need nations and governments to restrain evil in the world. And these are more matters of civil righteousness than heavenly righteousness.

All nations fall into sin, worldliness and decay. Often the decay sets in just at that point where the nation is at the height of its power and glory. In other words when things are very good. This has certainly been the case in the United States. We now live in a nation beset with all manner of sins of worldliness - greed, corruption, power seeking, rampant fornication, homosexuality, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. We have a cult of youth and beauty. We have an aggrandizement of the self. But the civil righteous are those who push back against this. They are those who speak up in defense of the unborn. They are those speak up in defense of marriage. They are those who speak out against pornography. The righteous cry out that women are not walking pleasure machines for men, but real human beings. Abortion is just one part of this larger complex of sins of worldliness. Nor is it enough to speak against these sins, but we are to vote our conscience in elections, and we are to help those trapped in these sins find a good and healthy way out of them. We understand the old saying “There but for the grace of God, go I.” So the end we seek is repentance and restoration. We want to help find options for the young pregnant girl. Then we want to help her change her self image and her life, so she doesn’t feel she has to return to the life sex. We want to help the homosexual come out of that life and return to the life God intended.

When God looks down on the United States, how many righteous does He see? Are we among them? Are we living up to God’s command to be salt and light in the world? God will continue to preserve this nation for a time, for the sake of the righteous. But if the righteous are silent, and thus become unrighteous, God’s preserving hand will be withdrawn, as we have seen countless times in Scripture and throughout the history of the world. Some might say, what is the use, we are in the minority? We can’t change things. That doesn’t matter. The righteous must still speak against the worldliness of our nation, and in defense of the helpless and voiceless. It might not matter to Barrack Obama, David Obey or anyone like that. It will matter to Christ. And that is what is most important.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sermon for January 17-18

The First Sunday after the Epiphany
January 17-18, 2009
Text: Mark 1:4-11

Dear Friends in Christ,
In what things do you trust? Do you trust your car? Do you trust other drivers? That’s a little harder isn’t it? Do you trust in your furnace? Let’s hope so, this last week! Do you trust the government? Only as far I can throw my congressman. Do I trust the mafia? Actually, more than I trust government. At least with the Mafia they are honest crooks. Captain Jack Sparrow, in Pirates of the Carribean, made an interesting observation. You can always count a bad person to be bad. Do I trust Wal Mart? Yes, but rather like the bad person. Wal Mart is a store that you can consistently rely upon to sell you the cheapest stuff for the cheapest prices. If you keep that in mind, Wal Mart is perfectly trust worthy. Do you trust doctors? Well, to a point. My Grandmother Walter had the idea that doctors were supposed to be able fix anything. After all, years ago, Doctor Allen could. Many times doctors would just end up saying to her, look you’re an old lady. Stuff’s just worn out. Do I trust myself? Should I trust myself? No. Why don’t I trust myself? Because what is within me is sin. Christ tells us that it is out of own hearts that evil comes. And if a person is honest with themselves - something that is quite a feat in itself - we must admit that indeed evil, unbidden, springs forth from within ourselves. This is in fact the mark of maturity of faith - that we are able to recognize our own sins.

Yet, many Americans, many American Christians, are constantly seeking ways to place their trust in themselves. It my works, my faith, my trust, my, my, my...” But is it really my works? Well, again, Scripture is clear. If we are talking about my sins, yes, then they really are my works. But what does St. Paul say about the good things that we do? It is not me, but Christ living in me that does them. What about my faith and my trust. Surely these belong to me, don’t they? Do they? Consider the trust of an infant. It doesn’t choose to trust. But it learns to take comfort in the soft warmness of its mother’s arms and to trust those arms. It learns to trust it mother’s breast, that it will be filled. Often this trust is established before birth, or immediately upon birth. One of the saddest things we could ever see is a newborn who has no trust. But it does happen, when its mother has no care for it, and the hands it encounters are rough and uncaring. We don’t choose to trust. We learn to trust that which is proven trustworthy. So while we trust many things, we don’t own that trust. In fact trust is owned by the object of that trust. In other words if we have a friend that we trust, we don’t own that trust, our friend does. And if they violate that trust, our ability to trust them is lost.

Of course faith and trust are really closely related, virtually the same thing. And so if trust does not belong to us, neither does faith. Nor would a faith that we generate within ourselves be of any value. For what proceeds from the heart? Sin - fornication, slander, theft, murder and the like. Martin Luther goes so far as to say that we are not to place any trust in our own faith. Rather, we are trust in Christ, we are to trust in our baptism, we are trust in the absolution, we are to trust in the Holy Supper.

Today, of course, we are celebrating the Baptism of Christ. This event is one of the great theophanies - the places where Christ is revealed as God. This is why it is placed at the beginning of the Epiphany season. But more than this, by His baptism, Christ made water to be a holy thing. That is He sanctified the water. Christ made the water a thing fit for our washing.

Christ does not institute baptism until after His resurrection. The sedes doctrina, or seat of doctrine for baptism is found in Matthew 28. “Go and make disciples from the peoples of all nation by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all the things that I have given you to do.” In these words, Christ is commanding baptism. But baptism was already an established practice among the Jews. It was even associated with conversion to Judaism. So Christ didn’t have to tell to disciples how to go about it. They already knew how to do it. Nor did Christ need to further define who should be baptized. Anyone converting to the faith or born to the faithful - just like circumcision. But already at His own baptism, Christ was setting the stage for His command to baptize. He was making this a fitting thing for His people.

In Baptism we are placed into the tomb with Christ and thus also rise to life with Christ. Baptism is a drowning of the old man, that is the man of sin, so that the new man can rise to life. This is a continuous action on the part of baptism. In the catechism we learn that the old man is daily drowned in the waters baptism when we make confession of our sins. You see, confession and absolution are simply the living out of baptism. Baptism is our new birth as a son of God. Christ develops this in John 3. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Christ is clearly speaking of baptism, as He would later institute it. Christ states that unless one is born again, they cannot enter the kingdom of God. That new birth would be of water and the Word. The new birth is needed because we are born under God’s wrath. We are sons of Adam. We are born in his image. That is, we are born sinners. In Baptism we are born anew, as sons of God. We are made part of His family and His kingdom.

Some will say that Baptism, as we teach it, is cheap grace. We are accused of saying that if a person is Baptized they are saved regardless of what happens after that. This is in fact not our teaching at all. I must note, however, that many who make this accusation are in fact proponents of some form of work righteousness and do themselves deny the grace of God. Certainly many later reject the gifts given in their baptism. Sadly we see this every day. This does not mean that God’s power wasn’t active, or that it was in any way incomplete. Nor are these gifts ever withdrawn by God. The gifts are still there for the person, even if they have rejected them. Thus, if they were to return to the faith, they are not rebaptized, but simply reconnected to the gifts which God had already given to them. What we are in fact saying is that the true believer is a baptismal believer. A true believer doesn’t trust in their faith, or even a some vague notion of Christ. They trust in their baptism, where Christ made us His brother, and a Son of God the Father. For us, Baptism is an unshakable pillar to which we can cling at all times, regardless of the trials and tumult of this life. Thus Luther could say to the devil, “Ah, but I am Baptized!”

Christ came to be baptized by John the Baptist. By this act, Christ sanctified the waters and prefigured His own command make disciples by baptizing. Baptism is no small matter, no insignificant thing. It is not a mere command. It is not a place to confess our faith. Baptism is the place where God acts to wash us clean from sin and death and make us His child. Christ went down into the waters with us, so that we would be made clean before God, forever. Amen!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sermon for January 10-11

The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6)
January 10-11, 2009
Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Dear Friends in Christ,
Sometimes we have expressions to describe something. The lightbub went on. He suddenly got it. The elevator finally went to the top. He wrapped his mind around it. It dawned on him. He had an epiphany. Yet, we don’t always understand the words we use. Epiphany doesn’t mean to figure something out, though it is often used that way. So for example, if Barack Obama suddenly came to the conclusion that Ronald Reagan was right and the way to fix a faltering economy is to cut spending and taxes, one might say he had an epiphany. That would indeed be a dramatic change in his thinking. And yes, this word is often used this way. But what does that word, epiphany, really mean? It means to be revealed as God. So far from figuring something out ourselves, an epiphany is when something is revealed to us from outside of ourselves.

After the season of Christmas, which is literally Christ’s Mass, we have the season of Epiphany. The two seasons fit naturally together. Yet, they are opposites in many ways. In Christmas the focus is that God is revealed to us as a man. In Epiphany, we focus on the idea that a man is revealed to be God. Thus in one of our Epiphany hymns we sing “God in man made manifest.”

The season of Epiphany is framed by two of the great revelatory events in Christ’s life - His baptism and His transfiguration. At both of these events, God the Father confirms to the world that this Man is indeed God the Son. Traditionally, the interior texts were focused on the great miracle texts. In recent years, with changes in the lectionary system we see more missions texts. This is, in my opinion, one of the great weaknesses of the three year lectionary. These missions texts are focusing us on telling people about Jesus, but they never explain what we are to tell them about Jesus. The traditional approach is more catechetical in that it teaches that Jesus is God. That’s something we can tell people.

Between the season of Christmas and Epiphany there is a natural transition. That transition is the Feast of Epiphany itself. Epiphany begins to move us out of the manger and into the world. The event itself, that is commemorated, is the coming of the Magi. These gentile scholars came following God’s revelation in the sky.

Who were the Magi? They were priests of the Zoroastrian religion. The term also applied to the advisors to the various eastern monarchs in Persia and Babylon. Thus, for example, Daniel might well have been listed among the Magi of his day. In this broader sense the term “wise man” might well indeed apply. Likewise, when we examine the practices of these eastern monarchs we see that they frequently had foreigners among their advisors. So the court Magi of the Parthian Emperor, would have been a pretty international group. And it is most likely that the Magi who came to worship Christ, were from the court of the Parthian Empire - Rome’s chief rival in the east.

The Magi were also practitioners of astrology. This is the belief that the events of this world are determined by the positions of the stars. Thus Nancy Reagan would figure out when the stars were aligned just right for her husband to meet with this or that person. While they were in their eastern land, they saw a star that they interpreted to mean that a divine king had been born in Judea. We don’t know what they saw. We don’t know if it was spectacular or not. It might have meant something only to them. It probably appeared some time before Christ’s birth foretelling it. So they well could have arrived within a few days of Christ’s birth. Scripture is clear however, that they were not at the stable with the Shepherds. The Magi found the Christ child at a house in Bethlehem. So it was at least a day later, though perhaps as much as several months. And from the various clues in Scripture, we can say it was less than a year after His birth. Further, due to the stresses on the timeline of Christ’s life as a whole, it would seem that an early arrival makes the most sense. This allows for Christ to have been born very shortly before King Herod’s death in March of 4 B.C.

Why is this important? It is significant that God would place a sign in the heavens for the whole world to see. Christ does not just claim to be the God of the Jews. His claim is universal. Christ is God alone. There is no other god, apart from the God revealed in the Child of Bethlehem. Christ is the God of all people. Thus His coming is declared to all people, though many didn’t know how to grasp it. But that is not the point. God placed this sign in the sky for all future generations, so that we would be assured that Christ is indeed our God. More than this, that Christ came for us. He came to take our sins away. He didn’t just come to save the Jewish people. Rather the Jewish people were to be God’s witnesses in the world. At times they did function this way. The witness was so profound that King Nebucudnezzar of Babylon declared the Jewish God to be God above all gods. And the Persian emperor, Cyrus the Great, ordered and financed the construction of the second temple in Jerusalem. But all too often the Jewish people failed to be God’s light in the world. Yet, from among the Jewish people, the true light of the world came - a Savior who is Christ the Lord. As the angel said - this shall be to all people. So was Christ the Jewish Messiah? Yes, at least the One that God intended. But He is our Messiah as well. He is the One who came to make peace between God and man by taking away our sins.

Epiphany - to be revealed as God. In Christmas we looked at how God was revealed as a man. In Epiphany, we look at how a Man is revealed to be God. And we begin this season by reminding ourselves that Jesus Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem was born as God and Savior to all people. He was not just a local, tribal god. Christ was God to the Magi. They are invited in to worship their God. And so for us, all the people of the ages since. We are invited into the house, not to see someone of earthly import. We are invited in to worship and kiss the very feet of the One true God, Who is, incredibly, also our Savior.

Funeral Homily

Funeral of Gerald L. “Pete” Krohn
January 10, 2009
Text: Romans 8:31-39
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

Dear Friends in Christ,
If someone would have told me a few weeks ago that Pete would take his own life, I would have said, no way. Not Pete. But here we are. There is no way to sugar coat it or to avoid it. Death is always like that. But sometimes the circumstances of a death make it more stark and undeniable.

What then must we say at this time? We must say that it is not God’s will that a person take their own life. It is a sin. It is a violation of the Fifth Commandment. No private person can ever take a human life, not even their own. This is because we are not the author of life. All life comes from God. And yes, God has given man the authority to take the life of animals for food and such. But human life is made in the image of God. It is different. Since we cannot give human life, we are not to take it. Only those acting properly in self defense, or according to certain offices, such as soldier or policeman, can take a life. In all other circumstances it is a sin to take a human life. And we can see the effects of this sin, in the shock and pain that we have experienced in these last few days.

What else must be said? We must say that God had something better in His mind for Pete. Yes, there were medical problems, and since the tests were not complete, we don’t know the full extent of those problems. But in God’s way of reckoning, there was something better here for Pete. What that better thing was, we don’t know. It might not have even looked better from a human perspective. But God who sees all ends, knew it was a better thing.

What else must we say? We must say that Jesus Christ died for all sins. As St. Paul says: “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.” What St. Paul is saying is that because Jesus Christ died for our sins and paid the price of our sins in our place, no charge can be brought against the believer. We are not guilty before God. Nothing can separate us from Christ, our Savior. There is no power that can do that - not even death.

Some will say, don’t we need to repent of our sins? Certainly, we are to have an attitude of repentance. This why we include confession of sins in our regular services. But no one can know of all their sins. Nor can we make a final confession and go into heaven sinless. For everyone of us, there will be some sin at the last moment of our life or the last moment of consciousness. This is how completely sin has wrapped itself around us. So if we must confess every sin to be saved, not a single human being could ever be saved. This is not a license to sin, but rather an understanding that Christ’s forgiveness is greater than sin and also greater than our ability to recognize our own sin.

I am often told by people that Christians are not to judge anyone. Often people will quote from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. But this is a misunderstanding. Christ is condemning those who judge falsely based upon things that cannot be known. Christ also says as you judge, so you shall be judged. In reality we cannot function in the world or in the Church without judging people. But we must judge by what we know. I do not know what was in Pete’s head on that last morning. I can make no judgements on this because it cannot be known. But I can make a right and proper judgement based upon what is known. Pete was baptized at that very font. In Holy Baptism, Pete died with Christ and rose to life with Him. So Christ’s resurrection to life was also Pete’s resurrection to life. Pete was in the Divine Service nearly every week. There he received Holy Absolution - that is forgiveness of sins. We know from the Small Catechism that we receive the word of Absolution from the pastor as if it were Christ Himself speaking it. In the common Absolution the pastor states: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins...” So Pete’s sins were forgiven before the heavenly throne. Pete participated in Christ’s sacrifice for the sin of the world by taking the Lord’s Supper. By eating and drinking the very Body and Blood of Christ, Pete claimed Christ’s sacrifice as a credit to his own account. In the Divine Service, Pete heard God’s Word read and explained. So I can state with great confidence all the things that God did for Pete. I can state with certainty that these things were applied directly to him. They weren’t just floating around out there. This is the great comfort we can take from the fact that Pete was a regular church attender. If he were not a regular attender, I could not make this judgement. Much less would be known.

So what does this all mean? Yes, Pete was a sinner. Yes, Pete caused us all great shock and pain, in the manner of his death. We will all need to come to peace over this and learn to forgive Pete, as Christ has forgiven Pete. But I can also state that Pete is with Christ. Why? Because I know all that Christ did for Pete and I know that these things were applied to directly to him. Christ died for all sins. That’s my sins. Your sins. And Pete’s sins. I know that these gifts given by Christ were directly applied to Pete. Knowing what Christ has done, I can say that Pete is now with Christ, his Savior. Christ died for Pete. Nothing in this world can change that.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sermon for January 3-4

The Second Sunday after Christmas
January 3-4, 2009
Text: Ephesians 1:3-14

Dear Friends in Christ,
For most in our world, the Christmas trees have been put away, the presents have been exchanged, cards sent and the like. The cookies and other treats have all been eaten. But we, in the church, are still lingering a little longer at the manger. It wasn’t always as it is today. Originally, Christmas was a solemn time. There were church services and vigils. Slowly as time progressed through the twelve days, there were an increasing number of gatherings and parties. Finally, on Twelfth Night, the Eve of Epiphany, there would be a blow out party with the exchange of gifts, dancing and much revelry. So in this case, Monday night, would have originally been the night for the big Christmas party.

The history of the celebration of Christmas is interesting in itself. In England and early America Christmas was not a big deal. Under the influence of English Puritanism Christmas was, in many cases, not celebrated at all. Massachusetts had even outlawed Christmas. Catholic countries always made some celebration of Christmas, but it was always a fairly solemn affair, midnight mass and all that. Christmas, as we know it is really an ethnic festival. For some reason, those gruff old Germans, would get all choked up about the birth of a baby. The Christmas tree is a German tradition. Many of our carols go back to Germany. Martin Luther saw no problem with the celebration of Christmas and did nothing to curb it. In fact he even wrote Christmas hymns like “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”. The nineteenth century saw a renaissance of Christmas in England. The English tend to copy the royal family. The ruler of England for much the of the nineteenth century of Victoria of the House of Hanover. She was obviously of German ancestry. But her husband was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha - an actual German. So the royal family had a proper German Christmas tide, with a humongous tree and so forth. And the nation copied it. And so from Victorian England and our German immigrants we get our Christmas traditions. The only real American contribution is Santa Claus. A father Christmas figure, often associated with St. Nicholas, was common in Europe. But the Dutch Immigrants of New York changed this historic image into the modern image of Santa Claus. The poet Samuel Johnson appears to have been one of the real movers in this regard.

However, we must not let any of this obscure the original purpose. We are celebrating the coming of God the Son into our world. That is an event worthy of our time and consideration - worthy of a great deal of our time. St. Paul uses a special phrase for the time of Christ’s birth. He uses this term in a couple different places. He calls this the fullness of time. It is as though time itself became pregnant. Time was great with child. Time was full and could hold no more. Then God’s plan for the fullness of time was fulfilled. Christ came to bless us with every spiritual blessing.

At the root of this is what read in out text: “In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace...”
We call this the doctrine of Justification. Let’s pull this apart. It starts with the love of God. God the Father, acts, on our behalf in love. Do we deserve His love. Teenage girls love Orlando Bloom because he’s handsome. I love skilled, versatile actors like Richard Harris or Alec Guinness. We love these people because of something in them. But God doesn’t love us because of something in us. There is nothing in us that is deserving of God’s love. We are rebellious sheep who love our sin. We have no love in our hearts for God. Rather God loves because He is love. His love comes from within Himself. Further divine love is always a giving of self. It is not an emotion. So when we speak of God loving us, that means He gives of Himself for us. There was no word for this in the Greek language. So the New Testament writers attached this idea to one particular Greek word for love - Agape. God predestined us. That phrase has caused a great deal of consternation over the centuries. At the root of the problem is that we don’t understand the things of God. So we have trouble just taking God at His Word. But what it simply means is that God chose each one of us to be His children. Now, don’t try to think on this too deeply. It is getting into something that not even the most learned theologians fully understand. But we need to take this the way Paul and the Holy Spirit intended it. We are to take comfort from the fact that God chose each one of us to be sons of God. We are not worthy. We are poor miserable sinners. But nevertheless, in love, God chose us to be His children. Then God gives of Himself, to make His choice a reality. He sends His Beloved Son to earth to bring us redemption through His blood.

This image of adoption is crucial to understanding God’s purpose. Adoption is what happens when a man or woman or couple, takes a child that is not theirs, but makes it theirs. They take responsibility for that child. They pay for its costs and they see to its needs. They raise the child to take it’s place as an adult in the world. So we think of Cindy McCain, who, at the urging of Mother Teresa, flew home with two infants on her lap. They adopted one girl and arranged for some friends to adopt the other child. These children were very ill with serious deformities. They paid a great deal of money for their medical care. The McCains and their friends made these children their own, even though they were not their own. They had no obligation, but they committed themself freely to pay great expense for these children. That’s what God does for us. He has no obligation. He doesn’t have to do it. But God the Father looks to the Son and says go down to earth and get Your brothers. Seal their adoption with Your own blood and bring them home to live with Us. Nor was this an improvised change of plans for God. Rather, God had planned our adoption as His sons before He started creating this world.

And so as we put away the lights and the blow up Santa, and we listen to the Christmas carols one last time, we do well to consider why Christ came to earth. He came to earth to adopt us as sons of God. He was born in the Bethlehem and laid in the manger for the purpose of sealing our adoption with His blood. This is why Christ came and why we should linger at the manger. For this is the mystery of the ages. This is our God in the manger. He is there not to judge us, but to save us. Yes, the time will come when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. But this time, at the manger, He came to save, to fulfill God’s plan and adopt us as sons of God.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Obama today said the economy is like a patient getting sicker by the day. Apparently he hasn't been in a Wal Mart recently. They are like a zoo. There is no recession at Wal Mart, at least not from what I've seen or from my wife has reported from her vantage point behind the service desk. I don't think we have to worry about her being laid off any time soon.