Monday, April 30, 2007

Stealing and Feeding

PETA is asking the AP to stop referring to animals as “it” and “which.” Instead, the suggestion is to amend the style and refer to animals with respect due persons. Animals, says PETA, should be known as “he,” “she,” and “who.”

Does it matter? Of course it does. Animals aren’t people, they are animals. But try arguing that with the folks from PETA—or any other wigged out feminist-influenced cause.

Sure, I’ll lump this in with feminism. Why? Because it’s a part of the package that begins first with denying God’s Word as his word. That’s why feminism is actually rehashed liberalism in the first place. The fact that feminism has a widespread appeal in the secular arena only intensifies its venom as it seers its way throughout the church, turning that which is sacred into the profane.

Feminist theology rejects the veracity of the Mosaic text. Rosemary Radford Ruether contended:

Any principle of religion or society that marginalizes one group of persons as less than fully human diminishes us all. In rejecting androcentrism (males as norms of humanity), women must also criticize all other forms of chauvinism:... making Christians the norm of humanity... They must also criticize humanocentrism: making humans the norm and ‘crown’ of creation in a way that diminishes other beings in the community of creation. This is not a question of ‘sameness’, but a recognition of value which, at the same time, affirms genuine variety and particularity.

How interesting… humans must not be held above animals, lest animals be diminished in any way. Yet did not God tell the man he created that he was to “subdue” and have “dominion” over the earth and all the living creatures upon it (Ge 1:28)?

Feminism has already demanded the Scriptures be feminized to accommodate a gender-neutral reading to suit their own agenda. Suppose now PETA requires the same. How would that go down? Will the Judeo-Christian world eventually be accused of practicing person sacrifices to a blood-thirsty God who demanded the same sort of offerings the pagans practiced? Kill a lamb for God… kill a child for Moloch… what’s the difference? If the language doesn’t sort it all out, and zeitgeist insists that animals are people, too, then Christianity is a barbaric religion.

And thank God it is according to some. God did demand a sacrifice of a Child. Certainly PETA has it all wrong, as do the feminists. And surely if ever there is a move to PETA-ize the Scriptures (I’ve only been imagining that there might be one), Christians ought to fight against it. Animals are not people, and we ought to keep the distinction clear for many reasons. Still, God did require that his own Son sacrifice his life so that the whole world might live eternally and not die. It is not animal, but human flesh Christ assumed in his incarnation. It is not animal, but human flesh Christ resurrected to the glory of the Father, and is now ascended to the right hand of the Father. It is not animal, but human flesh Christ feeds to us in, with and under the Bread along with his human Blood in, with and under the wine. From the Father’s right hand, the Son’s mouth feeds and sustains the whole church on earth. Apart from him nothing is done.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Welcome, Babylon!

Reports of persecution against Finnish pastors who confessed the Apostolic faith and orthodox practice by not celebrating the Mass with female pastors may seem both at once foreign and alarming. Let the news sink in and become comfortable with it. Such persecution can and most likely will happen in this country one day.

First and foremost, women’s ordination has nothing to do with equal rights. Women’s ordination is a question of scripture’s veracity, reliability, and authority dressed up as an equal rights issue. In 1958 Krister Stendahl, then Bishop of Stockholm, argued that there was a direct connection between women’s ordination and their political and social emancipation. “The question about the ordination of women cannot be separated from the total problem of emancipation of women in our society. In the United States where we have learned to detect the dangerous flaws in the slogan ‘separate but equal,’ that insight gives urgency to our concern for the right place and role of women in our churches and in our ministry.” ( The Bible and the Role of Women: A Case Study in Hermeneutics ed. John Reumann, trans. Emilie T. Sander (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966. Preface). He argued that women’s ordination was not “a pragmatic question but a question of principle, and a matter of deep religious conviction.” Stendahl contended there was a “basic agreement between the exegetes... with regard to the interpretation of the Pauline attitude: for Paul the question of the position of women was of fundamental significance.” Nevertheless, “The problem is not exegetical in the strict sense of the word, but lies at the opposite, or in any case different, principles of application and interpretation. In other words, it is the view of Scripture that is at the issue” (Stendahl, 9).

One’s view of scripture is one or the other: Either the biblical text is God’s revealed, inspired by him, and therefore inerrant, infallible, sufficient and authoritative word—or it isn’t. In this world there are two religions. That’s all. There is the religion God gives of and from himself through his Son by his grace and mercy. And then there is the religion the world gives from itself as it tries to find, define, and describe its god, and then consecrate itself to that one. Satan offered Eve the latter when he told her there was one more thing she needed to do in order to be like God—when in fact she had already been created in his likeness and image. The religion of God’s unaltered word leads to the truth, and where there is truth, there is Christ. With him is the Father, and where the two are together there the Holy Spirit resides with and proceeds from them. There is no path to God save through Christ and his truth. (Jn 14:6).

Stendahl is correct on one point: one’s view of scripture is at the heart of women’s ordination. The quest for equal rights, mistakenly believed to have not already been given through God the Father in his Son already, drive the agenda for women's ordination. The crumbs to the witch’s house have already been tossed upon the trail with little tidbits like these, written by Mary Todd on page 2 of Authority Vested:

Adherence to verbal scriptural inerrancy guarantees that the pastoral office will remain filled by men alone because the authoritative texts the church uses to support its position insist that women keep silent in the church and exercise no authority over men. Taking the words of scripture literally where the service of women is concerned provides the surest case for the synod’s dogged but also relatively recent adherence to a doctrine of verbal scriptural inerrancy and infallibility... (Authority Vested: A Story of Identity and Change in the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans. 2000.)

According to Todd, vested authority in the LC-MS means the synod continues to keep women locked in virtual prisons of inequality simply because it won’t give up on the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility.

The true issue, as has been proven by the facts in Finland, is one of social and political equality. This is vested authority of another kind. It’s the authority of the Law. The ordination of women has not been given by God, but it sure as hellfire will be enforced by the state.

Paul bases his instructions regarding whether women are to be ordained on two things: God created Adam first, and he was not deceived (1Ti 2:13-14) into the first sin. (See Ste. Em Revisits St. Gregory). However, if the church doesn’t necessarily need to believe that God was actually speaking to us in the Bible, or if those words can be determined to be “good for then, changeable for us now,” then we don’t need to be concerned those details of the Christian faith. In fact, it doesn’t even really matter if we are “Christian,” at all.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton recognized that if she was to advance her cause for the emancipation of women, she would need to nullify the effect of the Bible and religion in women’s lives. That was her purpose in writing The Woman’s Bible. She held to the rejection of religion and the miraculous, the acceptance of Darwinism, a strong belief in individualism, and a conviction that human reason will triumph. To this Stanton added her own unique twist: She believed that ultimately woman was the savior of mankind, as if the woman’s movement was the next step in Evolution. This is actually finalized a loop. For, she taught that if there had actually been a fall in an actual Garden of Eden, then “when Eve took her destiny in her own hand and set minds spinning down through all the spheres of time, she declared humanity omnipotent...” (Women Without Superstition: “No Gods-No Masters”. Madison, Wisconsin, Freedom From Religion Foundation. A. L. Gaylor 1997, 134). Reason and knowledge always trumped religion for Stanton. There were no moral absolutes, save that of individual choice.

Stanton was convinced that the Bible only degraded women, especially with regard to maternity and their role as wife and mother. “Her sex was made a crime, marriage a condition of slavery, owing obedience; maternity a curse; and the true position of all womankind one of inferiority and subjection to all men...” (Gaylor 1997, 113). Stanton recognized that her most formidable enemy was the Bible itself. Not only were Pauline proscriptions being used by men against her quest for woman suffrage, women themselves would not join the fight with her because they were still too adhered to their religious upbringing. In order to overcome her enemy, the Bible, she decided to revise it. She said in an interview, “In the early days of woman-suffrage agitation, I saw that the greatest obstacle we had to overcome was the bible. It was hurled at us on every side” (Gaylor 1997, 172). She wrote, “It is one of the mysteries that woman, who has suffered so intensely from the rule of the church, still worships her destroyer and ‘licks the hand that is raised to shed her blood.’” (“An Honored Place for the Bible In English Literature,” New York American and (?), Sunday, October 5, 1902) (Gaylor 1997, 175). Stanton wrote a commentary to a Nebraska newspaper lauding a court decision barring bible-reading from public schools as both religious and sectarian exercise. “Inasmuch as the Bible degrades woman in innumerable passages and teaches her absolute subjection to man in all relations in the State, the Church, the home and the whole world of work, it is to her interest that the Bible in its present form, should be taken from the schools and from the rising generation of boys, as it teaches lessons of disrespect for the mothers of the race” (Gaylor 1997, 157).

Honored place in literature! How deluded the critics of the biblical text are! When God says we shall have no other gods before him, he literally says, "Before his face." Where is his face? Where is it not? He says he is everywhaere, even in sheol. The First Commandment is not one of serial gods, and no god shall come in line ahead of him; rather, no god shall ever be placed by us where God is. Since God is everywhere we are, no other god shall be there also.

How true is that of his word, also. How can his word have an honored place in literature if it is God's word, and therefore separate from literature, which is man's work? To put the Bible in literature, as if it were an equal among others, is to dishonor it. Yet this is precisely what Stanton and feminism has achieved by making the Bible merely a text which can not only be retrofitted at whim to suit the felt needs of each individual. Stanton used the scriptures as a political tool in order to rip religion from women. Instead, she drove women to the Bible in order to revise the text to justify and rationalize their political agendas. Stanton instigated the use of the Bible as a political tool under the guise as religion for and by women.

While Stanton’s efforts were rejected in her lifetime, they have been well received in our own. Current readers find her a blessing. Modern feminism in all its forms finds its foundation in what Stanton began. It is Stanton who gave the political character of the feminist theological pursuit when she formulated the necessity of biblical revision for the sake of women and their emancipation. If scripture needs to be revised in order to achieve the equal status of some members of the human race, then the text which declares itself to be God-breathed and profitable for all teaching is itself not inerrant, infallible and authoritative.

What does this mean?

It means that when Christ said, “It is finished,” it wasn’t. There was more yet for us to do in order to assure the reclamation of some. His redemption of them and Baptism’s delivery of that doesn’t guarantee their oneness in Christ, only the state can assure equality.

It means that that when Christ says no one comes to the Father but by him, he doesn’t mean that literally. He will kindly welcome all religions, even those who don’t believe in him. One of the persistent themes in feminist theology, (which was legitimated by women’s ordination and could not have been so unless women had been ordained!), is ecumenism. Ecumenism allows not merely variances in ceremony, but in confession of Christ. Ann E. Carr admits that “Feminist theology values this diversity of approaches” and was “ecumenical from its origins, as the discussion has included Christians of many denominations, Jewish feminists, and feminists of other traditions or of no tradition at all” (“The New Vision of Feminist Theology,” in Freeing Theology: The Essentials of Theology in FeministPerspective, ed. Catherine Mowry LaCugna (San Francisco: Harper, 1993), 11).

It means that that if you don’t want the savior you’ve been given, then re-imagine and revise until you finally name the one you want.

It means that saying that Christ is the only way to heaven may one day wind you in the lap of the Law for practicing racism. Feminists have already made such threats known. Just as androcentrism is an anathema, so, too, is proclaiming Christianity as the one true religion.

Now, then… how innocuous is Open Communion? How distantly related are doctrine and practice?

Where do we ever hear Jesus say he spoke differently than his own Father’s words, or that he objected to his Father’s authority over him? Instead, where the Father has already spoken and made his will known, Christ takes up those same words and makes them his own. He used Moses and the Prophets to explain more fully the events of his own death and resurrection (Lk 24:27). The Gospel of John records Jesus making clear that he is the Apostle (sent one) of the Father, speaking only on the Father’s behalf (Jn 5:30, 36, 37; 6:39, 44; 8:18, 29, 42; 12:49; 14:10; 17:21). Jesus is definitely culturally and exegetically bound to his presuppositions because he speaks of one mind with the Father’s (Jn 10:30). His Father’s will is his own, even though he did not wish to suffer death (Lk 22:42). Not even the sinless Son of God corrected his Father’s prophets. His apostles follows Christ’s example, being of one mind with him (Ph 2:2-3). Paul is careful to clarify his credentials as the apostle of the Apostle – the sent one of the Sent One of the Father. Paul does not speak on his own behalf, but in the stead of Christ (Ro 1:1; 1Cor 1:1; 2Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1Ti 1:1). Perhaps we ought to do as [the sainted] Marquart wisely advised,” [S]imply see how the Lord and His apostles treated and regarded the sacred text, and then ... obediently do likewise” (Anatomy of an Explosion. Vol. 3 Concordia Seminary Monograph Series, ed. David P. Scaer and Douglas Judisch. Ft. Wayne: Concordia Seminary Theological Seminary Press, 1977. 133). (Paragraph taken from author’s own unpublished essay, Feminism and the Church.)

Contrary to the assumptions of some—who continue to maintain that our doctrine is sound even though our practice needs some fixin’—if our practice is unsound, then our doctrine will follow suit. Women’s ordination is a result of a particular presupposition of scripture—that it is not inerrant or infallible, so it may be revised because it is not authoritative for the church today. That is, it is not God who is speaking to us through his Son, but another voice now tells the church how it should live and what it should be. If the text is no longer authoritative today, then who, or what, is in authority? In Finland it’s the state. The Law runs the church. Now isn’t that special?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Draftees and Volunteers

Recently I spoke with a friend of mine whose wife has been struggling through cancer. She has already tried several forms of chemotherapy. To date none has been successful. The treatment she is currently taking is her last option. The treatment itself causes pain and suffering. She is literally at a crossroads. She is ready to for release from her body of death. Her husband is loath to let go of his wife of too few years. They were barely home from the honeymoon when they received the news of her cancer.

Knowing what they are going through would only be a pretense on my part. John and I will be married thirty-eight years this June. Cleaning up after each other is second-nature. He straightens out my checkbook (which no man nor beast but he can fathom); I wipe the walls when he pours the spaghetti sauce too quickly into the bowl and it splashes everywhere. We’ve both had medical needs requiring the other to be the other’s nurse, and, if need be, orderly. It goes with the territory called marriage.

Generally speaking, though, these are things that are worked into gradually—over years of knowing each other intimately and after having had years of “the better” before “the worse” is thrust upon the marriage. There is simply a “not fair-edness” when a marriage is barely months old and it is plunged into the burdens of bearing the worst of what life has to dish out.

To add to this husband’s burden, two congregations decided they would not bear his wife’s illness with him. He was unceremoniously and without cause sent packing from both congregations, in part because they tired of a pastor with an ill wife.

Maundy Thursday brought welcome respite to their lives. Pastor Husband was invited to officiate at Mass for the first time in several months. His bride was well enough even after a recent hospital stay to attend. When I spoke to him afterward he talked of nothing but the joy he had being in the pulpit once more, and even more of serving his wife the precious Body and Blood of our Lord. “This may be her last Easter this side of heaven.”

Simon of Cyrene was not a volunteer, but a draftee. He was just a visitor to Jerusalem who stood by the side of the road watching the proceedings, when suddenly a cross was thrust upon him to carry. And not just any cross, but Jesus’ cross. It was the cross on which a murderer, thief, adulterer, or a liar should be hung—and was. Jesus became all those things for our sakes. Barabbas, the murderer whose name means “son of the father” was set free so that on his cross the innocent Son of the Father was crucified in order that all men—all sons of the father—might be free.

Christians are brought to Baptism by the Holy Spirit working through the word, often in others who carry little infants to the font. It is then the cross of Christ is placed on the Christian, even little babies. Paul says all those who have been baptized were baptized into Christ’s death, and then raised from that death just as Christ was by the glory of the Father (Ro 6:3-4). Baptism is not for volunteers, but draftees.

The cruelty of sin strikes us in its unfairness. Baptism levels the playing field once more. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no division by enmity (Ge 3:16) between male and female—nor even any illness of body or soul—because all are redeemed in Christ (Gal 3:28-29). The redeemed in Christ are those baptized in Christ. Christ makes all things new again (Rv 21:5). Christ takes the baptized into himself, yet his cross still rest upon them. Just as Simon was drafted to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not, the baptized have also been drafted in Baptism to bear the cross for others when they are unable. It’s vocation: faith in Christ becomes love for neighbor.

It is by dying we live. In baptism we died on Christ’s cross. We are brought to death in baptism so that we might live by the glory of the Father, just as Christ did before us. For the Christian, life begins in water. In his work De Baptismo, Tertullian writes, “But we, little fishes, after the example of our Icqus (Icthus, fish) Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water.” What Christ has wrapped in himself by water we dare not unwrap—nor let dry out by neglect. This includes dumping the cross placed upon us because we think it’s just too bothersome to carry any longer.

We tire too easily of our crosses. We craftily manipulate the Law to suit our desires, and then we employ the Gospel to justify our sins. We flip and flop, exerting much energy trying to breathe, not really noticing that the font in which we are supposed to be flourishing is actually drying out. Woe to the one who actually leaps from the font, imagining from the desires of his heart that his life will be better outside it (2Pe 2:21).

Absolution—ever notice how wonderfully wet a word that is?—is tied to baptism. It plunges us once more into the depths of cleansing baptismal waters, wrapping the penitent once again in Christ. Absolution is a return to the cross for the sake of freedom from sin, but there is no escaping the cross that is to be borne for the sake of others. That is the life of the baptized: We are freed from the cross in order to bear the cross for others.

In Christ the playing field is leveled—even when it comes to the devotion of spouses bearing crosses for each other in their marriage. It is only sin that “unlevels” the field, makes it all unfair. In baptism—in Christ—what is done for one is done for Christ himself.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lent 6 Preaching - Wednesday

Pastor Rick Sawyer
Shepherd Lutheran Church
Brandon, MS

Luke 20:9-19/LentWed6.07

Dear Baptized, when it comes to talking about an inheritance, sometimes the conversation can get a bit, well, awkward. Even if what parents leave behind isn’t all that much, it does some pretty strange things to siblings when it’s time to get together and receive what Mom and Dad have left the kids. Imagine when the estate is HUGE!

Over the past couple of Sundays, we’ve heard about children and the inheritance. In our Lord’s Parable of the Prodigal Son, one boy tells his Dad, “Drop dead! I want my money NOW!” and then runs off to squander it in reckless and wild living. This past Sunday, we heard how tenants plot to kill the Owner’s Son, because in doing so, they hoped to make the inheritance — the vineyard and its fruit—their own.

In the Book of Hebrews tonight, we hear that Jesus “is the mediator of a new covenant or testament so that those who are called may receive th the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant or testament.”

Jesus is the One Who sets up God’s estate — for US — by dying in our pr place. He came into our Flesh and lived the perfect life. Then He died the death we ought to die, in place of every sinner. Before doing so, the way that parents do when they are thinking of the children they will leave behind — so they are taken care of and not left destitute — Thinking of you and me, Whom He desires to care about for all eternity, Jesus gets His family together before He dies and puts His will in place.

His Last Will and Testament. The NEW Testament in Jesus’ Blood. That’s the final section of the Catechism that we hear about tonight — The Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Table of our Lord. These are the names by which we speak of that Meal which our Lord established, in which He gathers His family, the heirs of His estate, and divvies out to each the blood-bought, flesh-secured inheritance. That’s what happens at the reading of a Will and Testament, isn’t it? You get what someone else worked hard to earn. You get it, because they died, and before they died, they set up some provision for the way it goes out to the heirs.

Every time we gather for the Supper of our Lord, we proclaim His death. Without that, there is no giving out of His estate. There is no gathering of heirs to get what He worked hard to gain. But since He died, there is no question: What belongs to Him now comes to us. We’re His beneficiaries, and whatever He accomplished by His going to our cross, that HE gives us here, in the New Testament in Jesus’ Blood!

Do you see what joy this is? Yes, JOY! Be honest now; you know it’s great to get a big, fat inheritance! It’s been around 2,000 years since Jesus died and rose. This is all joy now. Oh, at first there was sorrow. There surely was the night of Christ’s betrayal. Little did they know that they’d been gathered for the reading of the will. Talk of Jesus dying was upsetting, frightening. But then He rose. And now, so many centuries have passed — there isn’t any reason we should weep or mourn for Jesus. Instead, we should learn some sorrow over how we treat His property; how we behave when we’ve been given such a treasure.

Kids who get what they’ve done absolutely nothing to attain can put on such a show! It’s embarrassing, shameful. Arguing, bickering, then wasting what they’re given. Let’s learn some sorrow over how little we appreciate what we receive. Let’s learn to weep and mourn about the ways we squander our inheritance, like spoiled brats.

What IS it we’ve inherited? Jesus tells us. So does the Catechism. “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and drink.”

That should teach us good behavior every time we gather for this Feast. God isn’t throwing money at our feet. He’s not so crass or foolish. Jesus didn’t redeem us with gold or silver. Could you imagine what piggish fools we’d make of ourselves if He had? The Lord’s Altar is abused enough as it is, without God catering to our basest greed. Imagine if Christ paid for you in cold hard cash, and then set in place a man to doll that out as often as you come? What pushing and shoving we would expect to see, as sinners who care little for the God Who saves us scramble for the god who all men care about: MONEY!

What parents would keep their children from the Service THEN? “No, honey, you don’t need your thousand dollars from the pastor THIS Sunday! We gave you $5 for your allowance last week!” Ha! Parents whom we see now coming only on occasion would become — with all of us — most religiously faithful, and parents who don’t mind their children running off to other churches where this is all pretend, would DEMAND they come HERE. “Go to a church where the pastor DOESN’T give a thousand dollars to you? No, you’re GETTING your grand. You’ve got college to pay for. And don’t even THINK you’re going to a church where the pastor only PRETENDS that it’s a thousand dollars. Our pastor GIVES a grand to everyone who comes. One Sunday away is a thousand dollars poorer, and we cannot afford to lose that kind of money – just because YOU want to run off with some friends and hear some upbeat music. Kids, you can get your rock music ANYTIME. But where else will ANYONE, much less a PASTOR, simply hand you a thousand dollars just because you act like you cannot live without it? And kids, have you heard there are actually TWO services a Sunday? I’m told the PASTOR’S wife comes forward TWICE! The Pastor too!”

Oh, yes, it’s clear what kind of people God has chosen. If only He would be the kind of GOD we think we need!

Sorrow over all of this, dear Christian, since your God has given you what outlasts every ounce of gold and silver that there is. He has given you His holy precious blood, which He shed for you at His innocent suffering and death. What He gave on a cross for you, THAT’S what He gives you here in bread and wine. Many will tell you it’s only make-believe, symbolic, pretend, a representation. You wouldn’t stand for make-believe if God had given MONEY for your life, forgiveness and salvation. Don’t let anybody rob you of the Body and the Blood of God Himself. A pretend God won’t do you any good. An absent God won’t save you. JESUS says, “My Flesh is REAL Food, and My Blood is REAL Drink.” After all, you’re REAL sinners, and you’ll die a REAL death. JESUS says, “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood HAS eternal life, and I WILL raise him up at the last day!”

This is the REAL deal, as the Holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and St. Paul tell us. It’s what the Church has called the Medicine of Immortality. Along with Baptism, Absolution and the Preaching of the Gospel, it delivers “forgiveness of sins, life and salvation . . . for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

Point your friends to Jesus’ Table. There is where He wants us to see God and eat and drink. This is what all the eating and drinking in the Old Testament was pointing to. The Tree of Life? We are eating from it here, and we will partake of it for all eternity in the Paradise of God. The Passover Lamb? Here is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world; your sin and mine! The Manna which sustained God’s people in the wilderness? Here is the Bread Come down from heaven, which a man may eat of and never die! The Peace or Fellowship Offerings Israel partook of in the Tabernacle and the Temple? Here He is. The Peace of the Lord be with you, His Body and His Blood for you in Bread and Wine. Here is the foretaste of that eternal banquet God has promised He would set before His people on His Holy Mountain: the fat portions, the best of meats and the finest of wines! From the four corners of the earth, God will gather His elect to join Him at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, which has no end; and here, He’s started it already — with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven; all the heirs, all the family, gathered for the reading of the Will and Testament of Jesus, and the giving out of all the treasures Jesus spent for our salvation! Whew!

Point the world to this, dear Christian. But tell them not to come like pigs, but like repentant sons, dressed up — as only the Father can get them ready; washed,, absolved, instructed and admitted by the Master of the House Himself. People want to admit themselves, have you noticed? People behave very badly when there’s an inheritance around, or when there’s something that they want, no matter what it is. The tenants in the Gospel for this Sunday beat men up and killed a son. They wanted what they wanted and to hell with anybody else’s way but theirs! God has been trying to make sons out of sow’s ears for a long, long time!

Read your Bibles, dear Christian, and realize that the vast majority of men won’t do the same. Won’t learn. But you, repent and wallow in something that can do some good. God told His children they were free to eat from anything He planted; only, they were not to eat from the Tree at the center of the Garden. They were to be His children by not putting their mouths where God had told them not to. Later, Israel received God’s meals. The Peace offerings. Those who were unclean were not to eat. God has a way of bringing sons to His table, but pigs must stay away. If foreigners wanted to partake of Israel’s Passover, God said they could be circumcised. Be made sons, then eat and drink — as members of the family.

Do strangers come in off the street and sit down at the reading of the will? If someone says, “I get a share of that,” we want to know, “And how are you related?” No one apart from Israel could partake of Israel’s suppers. And no one but whom Christ Himself instructed sat down with Our Savior and communed with Him the night He was betrayed. Jesus taught the Twelve to hold everything He had commanded. When He’d washed them, got them all prepared, He fed them His own Flesh and Blood.

Read all the Gospels and you’ll see, that’s how the Lord has fellowship. Only with sinners. No one’s ready on account of anything in THEM! Jesus didn’t feed St. Peter ‘cause He saw how full of FAITH that dear disciple was — swearing not to falter — only hours before He did. And Jesus didn’t feed poor Judas ‘cause that man had such a heart for Jesus. But when he left to do turn His Master over for a price, no one knew he was a traitor. No one knew he was a hypocrite. Judas left the Faith, but all that anyone knew then was that he’d been instructed by the Master, and was one of them.

Our Lord has NEVER taught us what the world wants now; communion that is open, even to those who deny the articles of Faith, even to those who want to live like pigs, unrepentant in their sins; even to those who want no part of being “family,” but only want a place to grab a bite and then move on. Fast-food Communion! The Lord has never taught us to be spoiled, like brats demanding to be catered to. Oh, God forbid! The Lord has raised up CHILDREN for the Father, children who know they should be well-behaved; children who know their manners and their place.

Read, children. Actually open up the Bible and read how Jesus teaches faith. He treats a woman badly; He ignores her, makes her wait, says He wasn’t sent for such as her, and calls her names. And when, despite such treatment, she persists in needing Jesus, in holding to the One She trusts to even treat a dog to crumbs, Christ calls that FAITH!

And a person who is not admitted to the Table on the first occasion, who is unknown to the pastor and to hardly anybody else — Such a person gets OFFENDED, and are we supposed to think that such a one is well-prepared? Please! Read the Bible.

When someone says, “But St. Paul says a man should examine HIMSELF,” and on that basis presumes to make the steward of God’s Mysteries a lackey, a hired hand, a pill-peddling physician who doles out God’s prescription Medicine to people just because they rudely make demands? Can you say, “Malpractice”? “Criminal negligence”? “Unloving behavior that is worthy of hell”?

Our Lord has NEVER taught us to be rude before Him. Read your Bibles, and learn that Jesus teaches that we should NEVER seat ourselves in places of honor at a Feast, lest the Master bid us leave. Instead, we should take the lowest seat, and let the Master admit us higher. And the man who came into the feast without the proper garments? He didn’t stay. No one admits or prepares himself.

Examine yourselves, and you will learn how little you deserve what God hands out. Examine yourselves, and you will learn how rude and piggish and unprepared you really are. No one comes because they conclude they ought to. That’s why NO ONE admits himself. We come to BE admitted. Like Peter, we are washed, despite our lack of faith, and Jesus clothes Himself in Bread and Wine and feeds us our inheritance.

“For you,” is what He gave upon the cross. “For you” is what He gives you still. “For you” is what He’s all about, dear Children of the Father. So no one needs to be FOR themselves — scrambling about to get, demanding what they want. That is JUST the opposite of having faith in these words, “given and shed for you.”

Dear Beneficiaries of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, “For you” means you NEVER have to seat yourself, or worry that — if you don’t pitch a fit and act a sight — you won’t be seated. You are heirs. He’s stated it in His own Will and Testament. Don’t act the fool, or the pig, or the spoiled brat. Sit quietly as the Testament is read again, and then, in due time and with due reverence, receive what’s yours. Yours v not because you demand it — but because He’s given it for you on His cross and TO you here in bread and wine, according to the preparations and provisions He has made. No need to be rudely impatient, like the Prodigal. No need to make what He intends to give you YOURS, the way of those ungodly tenants. Instead, the way of Faith and Joy is the way of being GIVEN to — of sitting and hearing and being sure: “This is FOR YOU!” So it is, In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It Is Written

Wallace Schulz has wriiten a paper delineating the synod's drift from scripture as her "plumb line." You can either read it or download it in PDF here.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lent 5 Preaching - Wednesday

Pastor Rick Sawyer
Shepherd Lutheran Church
Brandon, MS

2 Cor. 5:16-21/LentWed5.07

Dear Christian, there was a reason Martin Luther said, "When I urge you to confession, I am simply urging you to be a Christian." There is nothing MORE essential to the Christian life than that we should cry out to our heavenly Father for His help and mercy - not only from a distance - not simply in the midst of our suffering, like the Prodigal Son in his pigsty. But like that repentant son, embraced in the arms of his Father, God wants us to receive His mercy and His help in our times of need. There is nothing more fundamental to the Baptized life, than that Christians recognize their sins, confess them, and receive from the Lord His forgiveness, simply on account of Jesus. So, as your children cry to you when lights go out and shadows crawl, when they scream your name when knees get bruised and battered, call to God in true repentance, and receive His absolution, that is, forgiveness of sins, from your pastor, as from God Himself. That, as Luther says, is simply being . . . Christian.

In this evening's text, St. Paul locates our whole discussion in the waters of Holy Baptism, where it properly belongs. He says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come." What a beautiful description of what happened at your baptism. You are New Creations IN Christ Jesus through His Water and His Word! Read Romans chapter 6. Recite the Fourth Part of Holy Baptism in your Small Catechism. "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live - or walk in - NEWness of life."

Dear NEW Creations, your baptism wraps you up in Jesus, in His holy life and in His innocent suffering and death. You are so clothed with Christ, that God now sees you only in His Son. His righteousness becomes YOUR righteousness. We hear that from St. Paul tonight. "He Who knew no sin became sin for us." That means that Christ was wrapped up in YOUR sin and death upon His cross, dying as if HE were just another sinner. God counted our sins against Him, so that WE might be the righteousness of God, in Jesus. We are that, simply by God's grace. As He considered His Sinless Son to be sin for us, so He considers us to be as sinless as His Son. As St. Paul says in Ephesians chapter five, "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word." Through that, He will present you to Himself "in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish."

You are holy, because you are IN Christ through Holy Baptism. That's a done deal. There's nothing imperfect about it. But you can look at yourself and see a different story, can't you? We can all take stock of our daily thoughts and words and deeds and find an alternate reality. It seems that our being holy and righteous and pure is some VIRTUAL reality in GOD'S mind, because He's looking at us with His Son wrapped all around His face - 360 degree Jesus-vision! But look in the mirror? Check out our hearts, our minds, our actions? And there is this other reality, the one we feel and experience and see each day. It's reality as well. Not MORE real than what is only true in the mind of God. Don't make THAT mistake. After all, how can your sin and mine be MORE real than God's forgiveness in His Son? But it IS reality that we are sinners. A fading one - thank God! - but real nonetheless.

I say "fading" because, for us in Christ, it is. Through Baptism, we are holy. And because we are in Christ by grace, He is in us also by the same. That is also part of being New Creations. Having been reconciled by God, having the forgiveness of sins, the Spirit works in us new impulses, new desires, new thoughts and strengths. St. Paul says, in Romans 6, "Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Jesus Christ." In the next chapter, Paul confesses that he WANTS and desires to do as God demands. He even AGREES with the Law, that it is good. Yet, in his flesh, that is, in his sinful nature, he does not succeed in doing what he wants, but what he does not want, he ends up doing. So, there is a struggle, a war in the Christian. The Old Man, who lives according to the sinful nature, wars against the mind we have in Christ, His Spirit, His Word, and often, that Old Man makes us captive to the sin that still remains.

This is where Luther urges us to BE a Christian, to live the Baptized life, to - by daily contrition and repentance, drown and kill the Old Adam in us, along with all sins and evil desires, so that a New Man daily emerges and arises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. That's what we call repentance, and for that, we have the Sacraments and Absolution.

Dear New Creations, if you were nothing but absolutely holy - as you will be on that coming Day - If sin did not continue to infect you, head to toe and through and through - then you wouldn't need God's Holy Absolution. And, if - being holy in Christ Jesus (as you are, by grace) - If it therefore doesn't matter whether you unseat the Old Man from his perch, where he loves to lord over you with sin - If it doesn't matter whether or not his corrupting influence daily decreases so that the longer you live the more gentle, patient and meek you become, the more free from greed, hatred, envy and pride - If that doesn't matter, we wouldn't have the Sacrament of Repentance, as we may call it, and Luther wouldn't urge you to confession.

But it DOES matter! Where no amendment of life takes place, but the Old Man is given free reign and continually grows stronger, Baptism - says the Large Catechism - is not being used, but resisted! That should not be! The Old Adam is a corruption, a viral-like infection that permeates our whole being. Left unchecked, unrestrained and unsuppressed by the power of Baptism, he goes his merry way, wreaking havoc, making us useless to anyone but ourselves, and not that much to us even! But when we become Christian, the Old Man meets His match. In Christ, we have God's Spirit and power to suppress the Old Man in us, so that a new man may come forth and daily grow stronger.

So, go right ahead and take on the Old Man, dear Christian. You can confess and hear the Absolution together as a group on Sunday mornings, or you can turn it up a notch and take the Old Man on a bit more in-your-face. Take it from your personal physician, the doctor of your soul: Everybody knows they'll die of something. But when it comes YOUR time, that's a different story. And hardly anybody hasn't taken something for a headache. But when the aches and pains are just a bit more PERSONAL, we go for what the doctor can prescribe for US - as individuals. Here on Sunday mornings? We confess what's true of all of us, in general. We deserve to go to hell. Then we hear the general absolution from the pastor. But what about when we are off and separated from the herd? When our sins are obvious? When it's not just, "I'm a sinner," but "I've lied, I've failed again, I've cheated, I've hurt someone or hurt myself?"

Dear Christian, recognize the weapon private absolution is, especially when Satan isolates you from the herd and points out sins specifically! Make use of the physician of your soul. Confess your sins and receive the absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it your sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

Now, the Old Man's gonna put the skids on, so beware. He doesn't mind you being dirty. It's life the way he's used to it. He's like a child who, having grown out of his diapers and learned to use the potty, doesn't do a thing to stem the tide he feels is coming on. You know the kid. He's playing with his friends and moving kinda funny. You ask, "Do you need to go to the bathroom?" He knows he does. But he lies and tells you, "No." He's too busy playing. He wants what he wants and doesn't give a thought to the mess he'll make for someone. Besides, he really doesn't mind that warm wet feeling, even if it does turn cold too quickly. So he resists all efforts to avoid his filth. Even when your nose has caught a whiff of how he's fallen, and you ask him, "Did you make a mess?" he'll look you in the eye and shake his head. As if to say, "No. I'm clean." Such a dirty little liar!

The Old Man so opposes our being Christian like that, but the New Man, dear Baptized, as fledgling as he is, knows better. Like a toddler who trusts his mom and dad completely, he will speak right up - no matter who may hear him - "Uh-oh!" A poopy diaper! It happens. He wanted to avoid it, to be a big boy. The New Man doesn't want to live in filth anymore. He's eager to make use of God's forgiveness and live in Jesus. So, when an accident occurs, he doesn't hide it. Doesn't say it didn't happen. He's disgusted. Yuck! How gross! And so, he comes to those who have the means to do something about it.

As we mature, we learn to despise the feel of filth against our bodies. Get a dog. Chances are, eventually, you'll step in something! And that feeling in between your toes? That just ain't RIGHT! It's repulsive. Where's a towel, and would you kill that stupid dog for me?! There's the New Man, in some semblance of maturity. He AGREES with God's Law. He DELIGHTS in it, in fact. And so, he hates sin; he hates the Old Man in us and the sinners that we ARE because of him! He does not doubt God's faithfulness, His Fatherly divine goodness and mercy. The New Man doesn't hesitate to go to Him for comfort. The New Man LIVES from God's forgiveness! He is sure that there is not an angry bone in God's whole body, and so, should sin break out, break in, whatever, the New Man doesn't hide it, doesn't think that there is something terrible and frightening in coming to the Lord for help.

The New Man is IN Christ, and since when did our Lord have any doubt about His Father's will, His Father's heart and favor? You are not just rebellious sinful natures, dear Christian. You are New Creations in Christ. You stand before God holy on account of Jesus. And something holy and new and confident and strong is started on account of that IN you. According to the New Man, you agree with everything God says. When I point you to Confession and Absolution, you agree that it is good. You agree that, if you can go to the doctor and have him poke around in places best left secret - but you'll let him do that for your earthly good . . . You agree that so much more a blessing is a pastor who will leave SUCH places secret, but will cover up what's even worse - your sins. He'll hear what's true of you, which the Old Man's beating you up with, and he'll give you something to kick the Old Man in the teeth. "I forgive you all your sins." And by that, I mean YOUR sins, THOSE sins, not just some sins in general. But the ones the Old Man's making use of, to disturb your conscience, to sink you in despair, to rob you of your peace, to destroy your marriages, your home-life, your walking on this earth in view of heaven. How could anybody think that such a gift is painful, dreadful, hurtful, or deadly? . . .Because it IS! But not to the NEW Man. Only to the OLD Man! Only to the OLD!

Dear Christian, live from God's forgiveness, whether spoken generally or individually; whether coming from my mouth or yours, to those you live beside each day. Live in your baptisms. Drown your Old Adam. Be reconciled to God, and reconciled to one another. On the day Christ rose, having died your death, He started something NEW - He breathed on His disciples, saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained." In that, He gave His Church on earth a new and wonderful authority, to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant, as long as they do not repent. The New Man has no place to live but where the Old Man's going under and the righteousness and purity of God are going on by way of His forgiveness. Since the Old Man only stands in the way of that, the called ministers of Christ must sometimes exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation. That's just smackin' down the Old Man! Taking him seriously, especially when he has some poor deluded sinner half way down the gullet. But you? To those who repent and want to do better, who step in it daily and much, but want a towel and, "Would someone please help me kill that dang-dog?" For that, God has a man in place to tell you, "I forgive you all your sins." And that's as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our Dear Lord dealt with us Himself.
In Jesus' Name, Amen

Lent 5 Preaching

Pastor Rick Sawyer
Shepherd Lutheran Church
Brandon, MS

Luke 20:9-19/Lent5.07

Dearly beloved: Jesus is the capstone of God's Kingdom; He holds the whole realm together. By coming into our flesh, He became the best friend of sinners. But remember what a sinner is: one who is crushed; one who admits mistakes, pleads God's mercy for the sake of Jesus' good life and innocent death. As Jesus said, He did not come to call the vast majority of men, those who can point to themselves and brag that they are not like other men. Jesus came for sinners; to call us to repentance.

That is what He means by the stone that falls on men and they are crushed. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." That was Ash Wednesday, remember? Christ only came to call such into the Kingdom of God. So, when He calls out, "Repent!" sinners repent all the way, make no excuses, rise up trusting in the capstone of God's kingdom, and thank God by their lives. We may be crushed, but we are crushed by Him!

But those who stumble at what Jesus accomplishes and teaches, these are broken to pieces. They are the chaff that the wind blows away; they will not stand in the judgment of the truly righteous. The leaders of Israel knew that Jesus was talking about them being broken to pieces, killed and cast out of the vineyard. So, fulfilling Jesus parable, they plotted to kill God's Son.

Friends, our Savior and our God calls on us today to judge everything and everyone only on the basis of His Word. What He calls sin and death we must trust is so. What He calls true righteousness in His eyes must be righteousness in our own.

There is a real temptation in this world to judge according to our own whims, feelings, prejudices. Thus, people may say that they believe in God, but they deny that God would punish men harshly for their sins. "After all," the world chants, "we're only human." You and I are tempted to fall for this also. This does our friends and relatives no good, since we lose any urgency then to teach them God's Word. And this sort of lazy, hazy, self-satisfaction does us no good either.

In place of that, God's Word had us calling on Him for judgment today in the entrance Psalm: "Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men." Those words, of course, belong in the prayers of Jesus to His Father. He is the truly godly Man, Who fell into the hands of the wicked. But by faith, trusting that what counts for Jesus now counts for us, these words, "Vindicate me, O God; judge me righteous; rescue me from a wicked world,"- these words belong in our prayers too.

Hard words to pray; for they are hard words to believe. There is something in us, the Old Adam, that just does not want to admit that we are surrounded by evil people, or that we ourselves could be labeled as evil, unrighteous, ungodly. The great herd of humanity basically sticks together, denying any great sins, except in a few notorious criminals; and this world's religions tell us that you can buy God's favor on the cheap, with minimal effort. Just get on God's good side, somehow.

How far is this from our Lord's words of crushing and breaking to pieces! How far the world's opinion is from today's parable!

The leaders of Israel knew that Jesus was talking about them. Of course they did: they knew their Bibles! The Lord had often spoken of His people as His vineyard, the most famous being Isaiah 5, in which the Lord laments that the vineyard He planted produced no fruit. They worshiped other gods, alongside the true god; they lived only for their own pleasure. Therefore, He threatened judgment against the vineyard, taking down her hedges, removing her towers, tearing it all up. The Lord brought down that punishment in the Exile of the Jews, all the way back to the land Abraham came from originally, as if Abraham's people had never come out of Ur or the Chaldees, out of Egypt, or taken the Promised Land.

But then, as Isaiah 43 tells us today, the people were to forget all about Abraham coming out, or the Exodus from Egypt. "Forget the former things! Behold, I am doing a new thing!" That "new thing" was to bring Israel out AGAIN, back from Exile, back from Abram's native land. The desert that stood in the way would be no problem, with God providing streams in dry places. He would choose Israel again, despite their great evils of worshiping multiple gods. He would make them His people again, who would proclaim His praise.

God brought them back, as He promised. Then He did THE new thing, "the only thing that ever REALLY happened!" The Lord God of Israel sent His Son into our flesh. God had sent many great men into this world: Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets. But each sinned in his own way; none could redeem himself, much less his brothers.

But God's Son never sinned; and being God, His never-sinning counts for all men, for all who share His flesh. And God's Son suffered for sins; again, being God, His suffering removes THAT threat from us. Not one of us will ever suffer God's displeasure for what we have done.

But wait a minute! Where do you and I fit in, in this whole scheme? The vineyard is God's people Israel, descended from Abraham. He did new things to THEM, over and over, even sending His Son as a child, descended through Mary and Joseph all the way back to David and father Abraham. Yes; but St. Luke tells us that our Lord's family tree goes all the way back to Adam. He came not just for Israel, but for all of Adam's line.

And the Lord has kept His Word. Since a great many in Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah, their Savior, their God, after all His repeated sendings of His men, the Lord has been pleased to give the vineyard to others. The Promise of being planted in God's Kingdom does not belong to just one race of men. This Promise, the Promise of the Gospel, now belongs to all nations, even to the ends of the earth.

That is why, friends of Jesus, we who bear the Name of Christ, from our Baptism, have been crushed by the Word of God, by the Rock which is Christ. His Word falls on us; today He comes to us, looking. He only helps us if we are sinners. What does the Lord find when He comes to you, looking for fruit from the vineyard?

Does He find a man, woman or child crushed by His Word? Does He find His Word on your lips, in your hearts, in the ears of your children? But wait! Don't get all defensive and self-righteous. Don't do the world's thing and say: "Hey! I do some of that! I go to church. I read the Bible now and then. I'm all for God's Word."

No, no, no! A million times, No! Don't you do that! Let every other church in the world teach people to defend themselves and polish up their resume, and boast of being different. Let's us give to God what St. Paul teaches us, this sort of fruit: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me...Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Now, there's fruit!

Is God's Word where it should be in our lives, all over, everywhere, all the time, lighting our path, guiding our ways? "No, Pastor, it is not! But it should be! So there's another sin to admit, then forget, then run from, to the glory of God. We've been called heavenward by the Christ Who lived and died for us. So we'll strive to have God's Word where God's Word belongs."

Know what Jesus calls that response? Fruit; just what He came for; the only thing He wants. All Jesus wants from you and me are our sins. It is not the self-sufficient who need a lawyer, but those who make mistakes now and then; it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick; Jesus did not come to call righteous people, those who have attained perfection. Jesus came to call people just like you and me.

Do you children honor your parents as you should? "No, pastor, we sass back a lot! Thanks for a sin to repent of, what Jesus wants. Then, forgiven, we'll try better to take mom and dad seriously, next to God Himself." Fruit!

Do you love your spouse as you promised on your wedding day? "No, pastor, I do not. Great mounds of stuff for repentance there! Maybe I'll even apologize to my husband, to my wife! Won't that crush the Old Adam? And I can go back to God's promise: what God has joined together, let man not separate!" Fruit, abounding, not there yet, but on its way beyond the stars. That's the judgment of God! "If I got sinners, I got fruit, just what I've been looking for!"

Admit that you envy those who have more, that you lust for what God's given others. Admit, confess, apologize; then trust that your Baptism gives you another day of God's forgiveness, run from what you've been doing and strive toward heaven. In other words: You are going to live in the sky One Day soon, with God your Father and Jesus your Friend-so start getting used to the idea! Don't be smug, thinking you've reached the goal. But don't wallow, self-indulgent; nothing to live from but your sins, your failings. Ick! That's not fruit. That's just more of the same, centered on ME! Jesus and his apostle show us the better way. Jesus tells us just what fruit His Father is looking for.

Learn God's Law, live in it, and tremble. But learn the Gospel, live from sins forgiven, and proclaim God's praise. Confess your sins; but then drop sin entirely, glorify your Father who is in heaven-NEAR, NOT FAR! How can He be far from you, you who are named with the Name of Him Whom they cast out of the vineyard, out of the city, and killed? Heaven is not some distant land for you now. Heaven is where God is with you, teaching, forgiving, planting, watering, pruning, feeding, and producing fruit.

A new thing! No religion man has patched together has anything like this. All that God wants from us are our sins: confessed, fled, forgiven, forgotten. We know this, because He sent us Jesus, to bear our sin and be our Savior. In Him, we're bound for heaven. In His Supper, dear friends, this morning we're already there. In Jesus' Name, Amen

O lord, open thou my wallet...

What’s filling the mouth of your young children? I often find I need to remind my students that God didn’t create mouths just to have them filled with filth. Neither did the Holy Spirit author languages in order for us to daily embarrass the angel with whom we have asked God to protect us from the power of the devil (Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers).

Here is an article about those who advocate another practice, and are rationalizing it. I’m waiting not-too-patiently for the day when scientists announce they have isolated the sin gene, and are soon on their way to eliminating it entirely. Why bother? The numbing effects of societal accommodation work just as well.

On the South Side of Chicago—out near Midway Airport somewhere—there is one of those very unique and specialized museums, the Latvian Folk Art Museum. Latvia is one of the Baltic States that were independent before it was absorbed into the USSR. Later it took advantage of the glasnost under Michail Gorbachov and became independent again.

One of the unique displays is the number of Soviet Bibles and hymnals. Of what use does an atheist government have for ensuring the production of religious material for the people of Latvia? The museum’s instructional materials make it clear. The most precious language of the people was translated into Russian, daily prayer and the liturgy of the church in order to facilitate Sovietization and collectivize the citizenry. The Soviets were not being kind, but cruel. Once the Latvian language had been taken from the land, Latvia would be entirely Soviet. Just as Luther’s translation of the Bible into German helped to establish a standard for German Grammar in the sixteenth century, the prayers of the people would establish Russian as the new language in Latvia.

This is how totalitarian ideologies manage to make headway. After all, they know what’s best for everyone, so that’s what we’re all certainly going to get. America has its own system of dispensing overrunning destructive ideologies. She doesn’t have to look to foreign invaders. She solicits them from China and Taiwan, then stocks them at the local kids mega cathedrals, Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys-R-Us.

The last word in communion is “union.” Who or what one unites himself to is that with whom he is in communion. That’s really not too hard to follow, is it? (Of course, those Open Communion guys just can’t seem to get it!) Madison Avenue has made fortunes on this principle. Which superstar’s athletic shoes will make you perform as he does? Which hair color will change your life? Thomas the Tank Engine adorns piles of goods, as do the “Cars” characters. Little tykes imitate the sounds and voices of their favorite characters. How many girls pretended to be Ariel or Barbie?

Feminism is a totalitarian ideology that takes full advantage of Madison Avenue techniques. It’s no different now with how it is packaging language as innocent little bits of verbiage that only mean what each speaker means what she wants it to mean. So we are supposed to tolerate even our youngest girls filling their mouths with language that would make their grandmothers blush, not to mention their guardian angels—if they even pray for such anymore—and then turn a deaf ear as if it were all playtime. If that were so, then why are grown men still castigated for saying the “N” word on stage in a comedy routine? Somewhere the Queen of Hearts is laughing loudly and pouring yet another cup of tea. Money speaks loudly in absolution.