Tag Archives: gospel

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Judges 14:1-20 and Galatians 3:1-22

Sorry about the timing and the sound quality. Internet has been down all day and my good mics not here.
Judges 14:1-20
Galatians 3:1-22
What do you do with a problem like Samson?
The purpose of the law

Citizenship Glory? – A Pentecost Confrontation


Biblical Texts: Numbers 11:24-30, Acts 2:1-21 and John 7:37-39
Full Sermon Draft

There were several events that kicked off this sermon that are meaningful as Americans, but what Pentecost is a reminder of is that the City and the Unity we thirst for is not found in the Kingdoms of the world – those established by law. The City we long for is the City of God. The entrance to the City of God is Calvary which is the nullification of our self justifications our attempts to earn it. The citizenship we thirst for is only available by grace.

Here is the link to Carl Cannon’s article mentioned in the Sermon.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 16:1-22 and Luke 19:11-27

Numbers 16:1-22
Luke 19:11-27
The Holiness of God vs. The Risk of Proclaiming the Gospel

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Leviticus 26:1-20 and Luke 13:18-35

Leviticus 26:1-20
Luke 13:18-35
Elegy, the problem with the covenant of the law, God’s solution – sow the kingdom in the midst of the world

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Leviticus 24:1-23 and Luke 12:54-13:17

Leviticus 24:1-23
Luke 12:54-13:17
Law and Gospel, Demand the law and you will get it, Don’t do that instead look for grace

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Exodus 4:1-18 and Mark 15:1-15

Exodus 4:1-18
Mark 15:1-15
“Playing with the Big Boys Now”, Fear, Suffering, Man’s justice vs. God’s
Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted – Lutheran Service Book 451

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Genesis 39:1-23 and Mark 10:13-31

Genesis 39:1-23
Mark 10:13-31
The hard call of the gospel, prioritizing Jesus and the Kingdom

Law, Gospel and Barry Bonds

winter barry in spring
It is Lent which is a time for confession. First confession, this is little article is an exercise in procrastination. But I hope it is also an exercise of love.

I’m turning to Baseball. Did you know that they are playing spring training games? More interesting, did you know that Home Run King* Barry Bonds has taken a small position as hitting instructor for his old team the Giants? When I was a child I did childish things, like play basketball. Basketball is a beautiful game, although coaches and TV are doing their best to ruin it. Coach Wooden had the appropriate appreciation in never calling timeouts. To get to the core of basketball you need to be in the flow. All the time outs allow for ads and money and the coaches to feel important on camera, to get big, but they ruin basketball at its core. When I grew up, I started to recognize the poetic depths in baseball that basketball just doesn’t have the vocabulary rival. Not that the players see these things. Most players are not reflective types. Even in baseball you want to get into the flow, and turning on the brain inhibits the flow. But I’m praying for Barry. Because it is in him. Anyone who can be that big of an a**-hole on purpose, anyone who can display envy on a staggering level as he has, also has the necessary powers of reflection if turned in the right direction. And we need him.

So much of what is eating at America’s soul finds a living symbol in Barry Bonds. When I was struggling to play my last desperate games of basketball, a lanky kid was demonstrating how to play America’s pastime. But nobody was watching, or at least in Barry’s mind nobody was watching. He broke into the league with the Pirates in 1986. By 1990 he won the MVP, the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove. I remember those Pirate years. Do you remember who was the favorite? 2nd rate slugger Bobby Bonilla, if not the journeyman catcher Sid Bream. Do you remember what Bonds would become known for in Pittsburgh during those years? Not being able to win in the post-season. In 1992 Franscisco Cabrera would knock in Sid Bream ahead of the Bonds throw to end the season…and Bonds time in Pittsburgh. That kid in Pittsburgh could have been the 2nd coming of Roberto Clemente. He could have continued to win awards and the respect of the league and been that example of excellence that gets talked about in hushed tones, a first ballot Hall of Famer that people trek to Cooperstown to see the brass plaque. But those were not the lessons Barry learned.

Barry learned that HR’s, not silver sluggers or gold gloves or stolen bases or any of the really hard things, are what bring what appeared like love. Pittsburgh loved Bobby Bo and not Barry. And instead of that being to Pittsburgh’s shame, Barry learned. Barry learned that “not winning when it counted” even though the club ace was Doug Drabek with a steep drop off after that is what you get playing for small market teams. What Barry learned was to get big. Growth, at any cost, was what was needed. And get big he did. He went from that all-around player competing for every major award while hitting 30 HR’s to the epic steroid run we remember. And when being smart about it wasn’t enough, when those hacks Sosa and McGuire hogged the spotlight, Bonds went all in the following years. Forget any semblance of fielding or the player he once was. He would put up the dingers in Ruthian fashion landing in McCovey Cove. Feats that haven’t and won’t be matched until a generation comes that does not remember Joseph.

America also learned those lessons – get big. Too big to fail. We not only blew one bubble but two. When the tech-bubble burst no longer allowing 20 year old geeks to become billionaires overnight, we blew the mortgage bubble. Can’t found pets.com, buy a McMansion on a $30,000 salary and liar loan and flip it. Get big, 2000…3000…4000 sq. ft. All growth is good growth, right? And in all that growth, we lost our soul. Just like Barry.

Of course he maintains his innocence. He will still occasionally try and say he didn’t use. When asked if he belongs in the Hall of Fame Barry will answer “of course”. He is right on a completely inconsequential level. His self-justifications are “scoreboard”. Look at the stats. Even if you don’t want to credit his late career, cut it off in the year of Sosa and McGuire. He’s still hall of fame by the strict letter of the law. The problem is that even our best is nothing in that court. If you are going by the law, it only takes one blemish. What we need is a Barry Bonds who could receive grace. We need Hall of Fame voters who could say, “He was wrong, but he was us. In a way, he was the best of us, which is also the worst of us.” And from that act of grace a Barry who could stand up at the Hall of Fame and talk not about 73* HR’s, but about teaching 18 year-olds how to hit in Spring Training. I’m praying for that Barry. We need him.

(HT: The Slurve, a great little baseball newsletter for following the game, and this article.)

What Does a Funeral in The Church Say?

There is a cliche phrase among preachers – the church comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. When you flip the verbs you get a club and not the church – the club comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted. To get that phrase what you need to understand is that comfortable and afflicted is said in relation to the individual conscience and sin. If the person is comfortable in sin, you preach the law and afflict them. If the person is afflicted with doubt and guilt, you preach the gospel of grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. (There is a big strike against this in practice as it requires a church and a ministry willing to draw conclusions – i.e. go read 1 Corinthians 5 which would go over like a lead balloon in most congregations.)

The reason I’m poking around here is a relevant pop-culture item, the death and funeral of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Here are four links: WJS, ABC, RNS, and Roman Deacon Greg Kandra.

Mr. Hoffman was baptized Roman Catholic, but was not evidently practicing at the time of death. His death was the result of heroin overdose. He was also reportedly estranged form the mother of his three children to whom he was never married. There was a funeral mass today at St. Ignatius church in NYC. The priest-presider had this to say.

“Phil Hoffman was not only a baptized Catholic but also a person with a lovely soul, and so deserves a Catholic funeral,” Martin told Deacon Greg Kandra in a column for CNN. “And Pope Francis reminds that the sacraments aren’t for perfect people; they are for the rest of us.”

Deacon Kandra’s post, feeling the need to explain something, does a great job of trying to explain and filling in the relevant sections of Roman Catholic Canon Law. One particular passage he quotes is this:

A funeral Mass can be celebrated for most Catholics, but there are some specific cases in which canon law requires the denial of a funeral Mass. Canons 1184-1185 say:

“Canon 1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:
1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;
3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

Turning on evil Parson Brown (i.e. you won’t probably like the following guy). A pointed question might be how does this not give scandal to the faithful? How did Mr. Hoffman, a public figure, not ring canon 1184. We are not talking about some anonymous person here whose funeral entourage would be 15-20 people, but someone who has received coverage from national networks. Evil Parson looks at this and say the only message getting out is that you can do whatever you want, live however you want, and the church will still say “yes, yes, he’s in a better place.” Take special note of the Priest’s comment that the deceased was “a lovely soul who deserved a Catholic funeral”. And then the nice segue into questioning anyone who might be so nasty as to question – “sacraments aren’t for perfect people, but the rest of us”. Isn’t there quite a bit of difference between the Christmas & Easter Christian who didn’t worry much about these things but who never-the-less was a present father, who actually married the mother of his kids, who works a job every day to pay taxes and keep clothes on everyone and an actor who shot heroin leaving his children fatherless and never married the mother of his kids? Since when is the deceased “the rest of us”? And that doesn’t get to evil Parson’s problem with “deserving a Catholic funeral” because he was a “lovely soul”? Can Catholic Priests now see the soul, or read the hearts? The advice we get from Jesus on such things is that “you will know them by their fruits” not by reading lovely souls. And for that matter, none of us deserve the sacraments. We are granted them by grace. They are received by faith. They do no good absent faith, even if you have a lovely soul, which can’t really be lovely without the indwelling of the Spirit. Turning off evil Parson; He’s getting a little grumpy.

What does a funeral in the church say? Is it possible to hold a funeral for someone who the best thing you can say is “he was baptized”, and for any message other than “yeah, what we teach is a bunch of bunk that we don’t really believe” be the one received? The current conventional wisdom, to not be evil Parson, is that you do the funeral for the living and use it as a chance to “preach the gospel”. My question is: can anyone hear that gospel today over the yell that is simply doing a funeral such as the above, or is all anyone hears “the church doesn’t even believe what it preaches” simply because of the act. What does a funeral in the church say? That is a serious question which we should answer.

The Work of Civil Society

Trust PollThis is a great little article, especially the 2nd half of it. We Lutherans talk about law and gospel. Being a Pastor has the gospel portions of the job which are what most people see on Sunday Morning. The Law portions are just all the little things it takes keep a “civil society” institution open. On the applicability of the gospel or our need for it, I have no doubt. My doubts enter in what this article is talking about. Are we as a people willing to put in the time, money and energy to govern ourselves? In religious language are we to live sanctified lives, or do we hope to free-ride. The pernicious effect is that the more people disengage not just from churches but from formal civil society (PTAs, Rotary, and all the local organizations) the more hierarchical things actually become. Because some things just need doing. And if “we” won’t do them willingly as a free people, they will be done poorly through taxes and officials. If we don’t do them out of the gospel, we will attempt to fill in with the law. And the law never fully works. The best thing it does is point us at a better way.