The Elder’s Turn

Biblical Text: Ephesians 5:22-33
Full Sermon Text

I was on vacation this Sunday, so our Elders filled in. One elder in particular, Dr. Warriner, you will hear on the podcast delivering the sermon.

I didn’t want to appear like the biggest chicken selectively picking the week of one of the toughest texts to modern ears to be on vacation, so I ghost wrote it. I would make a lousy speech-writer. I’m too much of a narcissist to get into someone else’s voice. Anyway, the text is St. Paul on marriage. The attempt is to find the grace in tough words.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Walking in Hope

Text: Proverbs 9, Ephesians 5:6-21
Full Sermon Draft

We are in the middle of VBS this week, so I’m running behind. Short post for a sermon I really liked.

We continue reading Ephesians. This time Paul links the Hebrew Wisdom tradition into the gospel. We walk differently because we walk in hope. We walk in hope because our time horizon is not shortening. Christ had given us eternal life. Stealing from the popular books, do you have a poor dad/foolish mentality about this life, or a rich dad/wisdom mentality? It will change your walk….

Midweek Vespers, Compline, Evensong?

The Vespers and Compline music and chants are some of the most beautiful in the Lutheran Tradition. (Heck, Bach created an entire series of Cantatas for Vespers although I’m talking something much more humble.) But we so rarely have or create the opportunity to sing these. So, this is what I’ve been wondering or thinking. Is there anyone who might desire to take part in a regularly scheduled Vespers sometime midweek? Tuesday or Wednesday evening. Fall to Spring or maybe advent to lent. Couple times a month. If you might be interested or would be willing to commit to get it started drop me a note: pastor at saintmarkslutheran dot org. There are professional or concert like complines, but I’d want this to be a true liturgy which has its roots in the words of the people.

Reformation Ripples

This is a great short article in the NYT on the Euro Crisis, Germany and the Lutheran roots of German reaction. It even quotes Freedom of a Christian!

…But rather than scour tarnished Weimar, we should read much deeper into Germany’s incomparably rich history, and in particular the indelible mark left by Martin Luther and the “mighty fortress” he built with his strain of Protestantism. Even today Germany, though religiously diverse and politically secular, defines itself and its mission through the writings and actions of the 16th century reformer, who left a succinct definition of Lutheran society in his treatise “The Freedom of a Christian,” which he summarized in two sentences: “A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none, and a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all.”

Consider Luther’s view on charity and the poor. He made the care of the poor an organized, civic obligation by proposing that a common chest be put in every German town; rather than skimp along with the traditional practice of almsgiving to the needy and deserving native poor, Luther proposed that they receive grants, or loans, from the chest. Each recipient would pledge to repay the borrowed amount after a timely recovery and return to self-sufficiency, thereby taking responsibility for both his neighbors and himself. This was love of one’s neighbor through shared civic responsibility, what the Lutherans still call “faith begetting charity.” …

Highlights one of my hobby-horses. We all have a theology even if we can’t actually explain it or put it into words. I’d rather we were able to explain them instead of drive them underground. I’d also like people to have good theologies rather than poor ones. This is actually the work of a real education. Angela Merkel – “a born-and-baptized daughter of an East German Lutheran pastor” – knows hers and its a good one.

Walking in Hope

Text: Ephesians 4:17-5:2
Draft of Sermon

From Pentecost (50 days after Easter) until the first Sunday of Advent (4 Sundays before Christmas) the church is in what used to be call ordinary time. Others labeled it the time of the church. I offhandedly call it the green season. That is because the color that is on the altar for the entire season is green. By Advent you are ready for the blues or purples and then the whites and reds of the festival season. The thought that ties them all together is that now is the time of grace. The tree is green now.

One of the features of the lectionary (the assigned readings (and introits, prayers and psalms)) during the green season is a straight reading of some of the epistle lessons. This year one of those letters we read is Ephesians. This sermon is the fifth in the series (started July 15th). If I was to put a subtitle on the Letter to the Ephesians is would be Walking in Hope. Much of the earlier letter and sermons hung on the Hope portion. The lesson this week turns to walk the walking look like.

And Paul treats the walking in two ways: 1) what a false walk looks like (Paul would say, “walking how the gentiles do”) and 2) what walking in the Spirit looks like. Paul is very clear and this should be a great help to Christians today when so many are saying walk in many different directions. Anytime you are talking about what a Christian walk looks like it runs the risk of being turned into a law. But it is exactly the sickness of the time that calls for the explicitness. In any explication of how we should live there is an element of the law. If we are honest examining ourselves, we know when we don’t measure up. Even Christians need that to drive us toward and remind us of our hope – the gospel of Jesus Christ. The walk breaks us. And when the walk breaks us, when we die to the that walk on our own, is when Jesus is able to replace the heavy yoke and give us his light one.

St. Paul proven right again or Law & Gospel Markets Edition

St. Paul in Romans 1 gives the standard Christian anthopology, we are sinners. More than that, we invent ways to sin (Rom 1:30). The civil response to that is usually for greater calls for law and order. The problem is that the law does not bring forth obedience but greater sin (Rom 5:20), that whole inventing ways to sin thing. Of course this anthropology, the only empirically verifiable Christian belief, is the one overwhelmingly rejected by man. Especially by the heads of civil government who have all that power at their disposal.

Whatever your thoughts on global warming this notice of the ingenious invention of ways to corrupt the law was the latest proof.

Here is an excellent New York Times story on payments to firms that destroy HFC-23, a by product from the creation of air conditioning coolant. The gas is 11,700 times worse for climate change than C02 so the UN set a price for destroying the gas 11,700 times higher than for eliminating C02. N.B. In a real market prices are based on supply and demand not just demand! Hi jinx ensue:

…since 2005 the 19 plants receiving the waste gas payments have profited handsomely from an unlikely business: churning out more harmful coolant gas so they can be paid to destroy its waste byproduct. The high output keeps the prices of the coolant gas irresistibly low, discouraging air-conditioning companies from switching to less-damaging alternative gases.

…The production of coolants was so driven by the lure of carbon credits for waste gas that in the first few years more than half of the plants operated only until they had produced the maximum amount of gas eligible for the carbon credit subsidy, then shut down until the next year, United Nations reports said. The plants also used inefficient manufacturing processes to generate as much waste gas as possible…

The invisible hand is subtle and difficult to duplicate with manufactured markets. The UN is trying to stop the payment program but, as usual, the rents attracted rent seekers who are now using their profits to lobby to keep the system in place.

In other offset news, Ted Frank’s chicken offset will let you eat at Chick-fil-A and still keep your liberal conscience clean.

August 2012 Newsletter

Churches or organizations have a generation gap. A Newsletter is one of those things. On one side of the divide you could say that the newsletter is probably the most faithfully read thing. They often get a circulation and reading far beyond what you would believe. Pastor’s articles in newsletters have a half-life of years as old newsletters get pulled out of odd places and glanced at. On the other side of that divide, a paper newsletter is as archaic as getting a morning paper. Probably best described in this scene from Phineas & Ferb starting at the 25 sec mark.

But this issue of the newsletter is important enough, if you are member of St. Mark’s you should be sure to read it. So I’ve put a PDF copy right here …newsletter August 2012