Monthly Archives: February 2011

Perfection

Full Text

This sermon isn’t so easy to break down. It is really a longer argument around that call to be perfect. We don’t hear perfect the way the disciples did. First I had to try and restore that original sound which is more completeness and wholeness and maturity. In a world of children demanding their rights, their honor, Christians were to be mature. That maturity would be salt and light.

The modern world, miracle of miracles, learned something from the church. That is good news. The modern world is better for that. The common good has increased. Something has been restored. But it has left Christians a little less salty, looking a little less mature. Figuring out how to again be salty – to be whole – to be perfect, is part of the disciple’s call.

Righteousness – Salt and Light, failing and striving

Full Text

The call to be a disciple of Jesus is a call to failure. But it is in that very failure that we find our Hope. The disciple is called to keep the law. We are called to do and teach it. To strive with it. But the disciple knows that is an impossible task. It is a striving against the wind. We are not able to keep the law. That doesn’t mean we get to neglect it or cast aspersions against it. What the law does is instruct us. It points us to the better way. Blessed are the poor in Spirit. God raises up the lowly. The law is not the final word. It points us to God’s final word, Jesus Christ.

Public Confession

Most people see that word Confession and think the Roman Catholic rite of penance or those booths with a little sliding door to talk through. Lutherans have what is most likely an archaic definition. Confession is to publicly profess one’s beliefs; to lay out before people this is what I believe. At St. Mark’s we weekly confess one of the historic creeds. That is the core of our catholicity. As LCMS Lutherans we hold to the Book of Concord as our fuller confessional document. Within that book is something called the Augsburg Confession. Lutherans of all stripes like to claim that one. And that one is something special. It was written by Philip Melanchthon. Philip was Luther’s right hand man, but he was also a layman. Also Philip was not the person who publicly confessed it. Those were an important group other laymen. The top of the list was John the Duke and Elector of Saxony, but it also included the senate of Reutlingen (town Burghers). They did this at an imperial meeting before the Emperor Charles V who in no way wanted to hear it. The Augsburg is unique in its simplicity and lay-lead nature.

This was brought to mind after reading this and watching the video below.

I don’t quite know how 25% of the nation think Mr. Obama is a muslim. I’m more staggered at this quote, “Fewer than half of Democrats and African-Americans, core components of Obama’s political base, correctly identified Obama as Christian.” And I wonder what drives that. In a darker mood I’d posture that it is becoming tougher to be a religious person on the political left, and those on the left have a hard time seeing Mr. Obama as a Christian. If that is true, that is not a good for the faith. As Cardinal Wolsey would quip, “would I had served my God as well as my King, He would not have given me up in my gray hairs.” A Christian party usually ends up serving the party and smearing Christ.

It is not the Augsburg Confession and this is not 1530, but in its way, this is a public confession. [Highly personal, not overtly doctrinal and slips into generic God, but he is a politician who needs votes at a prayer breakfast. It is clearly informed by mainstream American Protestantism in its words and emphasis and cadence. It goes beyond simple civic religion just by using the word Lord. It has the basics – sin/forgiveness, a personal God, a continued walk of discipleship.]

UPDATE: Anyone who might doubt my darker mood statement, or go the other way and think that crediting the words as confession should read this from a Georgetown prof.

Raging Christ-fest? While the president thankfully steers clear of “Christian Nation” rhetoric, there was simply too much of Obama the Christian yesterday…Such a nation, one would hope, would be led by a person who understands that this type of rhetoric can be deeply troubling to those who don’t believe in Christ. Just as it may offend those Christians who believe that Christ’s teachings tend to become distorted when they are mouthed by the worldly powers that be.

Debt

I suppose this is something that is on many people’s minds recently. I have a very low tolerance for debt. Maybe that is just another way of saying, I have a strong imagination for all the ways plans can go wrong. Not that you don’t take risks, but 14 years of financial planning prove to you that “all trees don’t grow to heaven”. It pains me even to take a car loan. The chip on the front windshield of our new van that we got with less than 1000 miles on it just whispers at me – “to dust this shall return”. Probably while I still owe on it.

My dad and mom live part of the year in Arizona. Arizona is one of the those states that had property values decrease by 50%. One day you took out a $500K mortgage and the next that house could sell for $250K tops. I made a throw-off comment in the heat of the government bailouts that “I’m sorry, if the government is going to make whole rich people who should have known the risks, I see very little moral compulsion for the wage-slave to continue to pay that $500k mortgage.” That was the finance guy in me speaking. You ditch your losers fast and move on. Dad on the other hand came down on those “jingle-mail” folks hard. He said they signed the papers, they should pay their debts if they are able. If you were asking me which nation I’d rather live in, one where people ran away from their mistakes or stood behind them, Dad is the wiser course. It might feel good to run, it might even make business sense, but is that where you want to live?

But here is a deeper question I have. The CBO projection for the 2011 budget deficit is 1.5 trillion dollars. That number is up $500 billion from their previous view. That is the deficit. That is the amount we are putting on the debt in one year. That is roughly $5,000 for every man, woman and child in the USA. The federal government for the year 2011 is borrowing $25,000 in my family’s name. The federal government in one year is adding more than half my yearly salary to the debt. I choke on buying a car, and yet I still have the car. Where is this money going? And where is it coming from? Given the bailouts where do you see us as a people ever getting that money from? Are they really going to tax the rich who somehow got the government to make them whole on bad investments, or is this more likely my kids future? We probably want to be a society that pays our debts, but is it moral to foist this level of debt on millions who don’t even vote? Do we want to live in a society that makes us feel good right now, but is in no way sustainable and will come to roost on our kids?

The bible uses debt more than most English speakers might realize. English translators often just make the spiritual jump to sins and forgiveness short-circuiting the emotional heft of the debt metaphor. The Lord’s prayer is really forgive us our debts, as we forgive the debts of others. Forgiving debt hurts. Look at how hard the banks who were forgiven in the bailouts have fought forgiving or renegotiating mortgages. Even when they do, they rarely forgive capital, but instead have attempted to lengthen the terms or other ways to reduce the payment, but not the debt. But forgiving creates a way to move forward. The impasse of the debt is removed. That is what the Father did. He removed the entire debt. He removed the built up accumulation of debt of the millenia of missed jubilee years. The proverbs say “just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov 22:7). But the Father did not want debt-slaves, who turned out to be dead-beats anyway. He just erased the debts in Christ. Somehow, Christians are called to follow that one.