Tag Archives: gospel

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Psalm 94:8-14, Luke 22:24-46

Psalm 94:8-14
Luke 22:24-46
The Law as Blessing
Christ as the blessed one

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Metaphysics

This is an article by a former High School classmate of mine and it addresses in a calm clear way the reality of AI. And it treads, without knowing it, on a pet theory of mine. That pet theory is that most of what causes us angst and trouble today is simply that we have un-learned basic metaphysics. Big word, I know, but it shouldn’t be scary because we all have a metaphysic. Metaphysics is simply what we believe about being, consciousness and purpose or will. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we think, and why do we seem to share the same world? Are we pointed toward something, or just random cause and effect chains governed by butterflies in China?

None of those questions are directly about the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Lutheran terms they are all about the law. The first use of the law we usually teach catechism students is a curb or the civil use. This is one of the places I like using a sports metaphor. The basic law is the out-of-bounds lines. The game takes place within these lines. The first table or the first three commandments really cover this ground in a specific way from revelation. Why is there something rather than nothing? You shall have no other gods before me. God made it. Why are we conscious and seem to share an existence? This might be the biggest stretch, but the second commandment is about the name of God. Don’t misuse it. The name of God is taken as shorthand for his essence and attributes which in Christ he shares with us. We think because we were thought. In Him, we live and move and have our being. Don’t abuse this image of God given to you by grace. Are we pointed toward something? Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Yes, we are pointed toward the joy of God, that day of the perfection of all creation.

Now specifically the short post is about AI and the fears of it. The fears could be summed up in one word, Skynet. (Or maybe today I have to use Ultron. I’m getting old.) The problem with this, and the entire “singularity” movement, of which I take the pinnacle to be the “uploading” of your consciousness to a non-organic based body, is that they confuse intelligence with consciousness and purpose. We encounter this problem all the time with the law. We can know what the law says, but that doesn’t mean we live it. Intelligence is not either consciousness or will. Watson can beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy, but Watson’s will is still directed by those programmers. Watson doesn’t have any self-conception of itself. Of these three first things: being, consciousness and bliss/purpose, we humans have zero power to make any of them. We come the closest with being. We can create new things out of the stuff that already exists. We can fashion artificial intelligence, even AI that might pass a strong Turing test. But these are always going to be things made in our image. To steal a title, they are children of a lessor god. Or tapping into the zeitgeist, I bet we can make zombies, but zombies don’t have consciousness or will.

I’m not afraid of Skynet. I’m more afraid of the distilled consciousness and will of the programmers of these AIs. That these intelligences would behave more like our crooked timber than we would like. And they wouldn’t do it because they chose to. They would do it because we told them to. That we don’t know what we are doing. But that is not a new problem. That is the same problem we’ve always had, except the nails in the boards are getting bigger. The load on the cross is beyond our comprehension.

(Note: I’m a theist. Hard core philosophical materialists have answers to being, consciousness and bliss/purpose. I just find them severely lacking. Good thinking on First Things is like a coarse adjustment. It gets you in the right ballpark so you aren’t playing football on a baseball field.)

Can I Get a Witness?

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Text: Acts 1:1-11, John 17:11-19
Draft of Homily

On the Sunday we celebrated Ascension Day (actual Ascension Day was Thursday) we had a mission Sunday. This seems fitting because the last words of Jesus at His Ascension were that we, his disciples, would be His witnesses. We would also be clothed with power from on high, the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilled 10 short days later on Pentecost. For this reason we invited Scarlett Aeckerle, the executive director of LINC-Rochester which is the local Lutheran mission society for the city of Rochester, to come speak. So, my little homily served a couple of purposes. The first was a mission charge. Don’t fall in the ditch of being mute or the opposite ditch of distorting the witness of the sake of “effectiveness”. The power is the Spirit’s. We get to take part. The second was to introduce Scarlett. So, you’ll hear me and then Scarlett.

Scarlett brought visuals, so at the end she moves away from the mike. I’ve amplified it in line with the rest and think it sounds ok, but if the background sounds a little louder, that is why.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 9:1-23 and Luke 16:1-18

Numbers 9:1-23
Luke 16:1-18
Grace and Mercy and the roll of the Law in following God
Getting the order of Lord’s correct

Program note: The phrase I was struggling to remember about Luke 16:16 is “the violent bare it away”. That is a better translation of the phrase. It is another example of what we’ve seen in Sunday bible class recently of the translators bringing a “cheery” gloss to a verbal aspect or metaphor instead of the “sign of contradiction”. In this case the Kingdom of God comes and meets violent rejection. The verse is not about everybody’s scramble to be part of the Kingdom, but in context how the things of God are violently rejected by men, in this case the Pharisees. Never-the-less choose your Prince. The one who rewards in this life alone, or the one who welcomes into eternal dwellings.

Fruitful Friends

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Biblical Text: John 15:9-17
Full Sermon Draft

The text is a continuation from last weeks Gospel reading which has Jesus declare “I am the true vine”, but here Jesus drops the metaphors and talks very plainly. The Christian life starts at a very simple point – God loves you. It has as its goal something likewise simple – fruitful living. Jesus ties these things together here. The Gospel, God’s love for us, take precedence as we are declared his friends. We are no longer slaves to the law, but friends. Love first. But it is directed love. A love directed toward fruitfulness which is defined by the commandments. What does love look like? When a friend gives his life for another. The Christian life has a cruciform shape. But it is a life of invitation into communion with God. It is a call to a life of prayer and a life of love.

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

Leviticus 24:1-23
Luke 12:54-13:17
The hardness of the Moral Law
The Necessity of Mercy

Sweet, Pure and Costly

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Biblical Text: Mark 14:1-11, Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:1-15, Mark 15:25-37
Full Sermon Draft

The appointed texts for Palm Sunday have morphed into The Sunday of the Passion. The introduction to the passion story in Mark is the story of the woman who breaks an alabaster jar and anoints Jesus with perfume worth a year’s wages. This sermon uses that as the main text with the two trials of Jesus as the supporting texts. Its focus is upon the human fascination with Justice and what these trials have to tell us about our justice. The woman’s beautiful act or good work marks Jesus response to our calls and his alternative. We can always do justice. What we have we can do. But calls for justice miss the instruction of the passion of Jesus. The better path is mercy – sweet, pure and costly.

Musical Note: The season of Lent to me has the best Hymnody (which I know could just be because of the inherent drama), and it really ends on Palm Sunday which has a huge stable of great songs. All Glory, Laud and Honor and Ride on, Ride on in Majesty are two of them. What I left in the recording here is a modern hymn that is climbing my personal favorites – No Tramp of Soldiers Marching Feet (LSB 444). Many of the Palm Sunday Hymns reflect the irony of the triumphal entry being followed by the passion, but this hymn makes that its central theme. In the service it makes the perfect transition hymn from the festivity of the Palm Procession to the Passion Readings.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Exodus 5:1-6:1 and Mark 15:33-47

Exodus 5:1-6:1
Mark 15:33-47
Bricks without Straw, the deliverance of God
True Man and True God

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Genesis 44:1-18, 32-34 and Mark 12:28-44

Genesis 44:1-18, 32-34
Mark 12:28-44
Judah as the replacement offering
Returning God’s own Spirit

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Genesis 24:32-52, 61-27 and Mark 8:1-21

Genesis 24:32-52, 61-27
Mark 8:1-21
Isaac passed from mother to wife/Isaac in the wilderness
The both/and of the gospel or the sameness of the gospel for Jew and Gentile