Sunday, June 26, 2011

Twofold Tackiness

One of my Facebook friends posted these photos of tacky church signs for my benefit. Thanks, Alan!

First, here's one I believe I've seen before. The underlying message seems to be that, given enough heat to make it warm and soft, and a generous amount of sugar, sin can be preserved, and perhaps even marketed as a church fundraiser. Mmm, mmm, delicious!

Then there's this one, which chaps my hide all the more since I took a nine-mile walk yesterday under a lowering sky, heat heavy with humidity, and occasional rain showers; by the time I got home, whatever parts of me weren't cruelly chafed were sunburned. Blistered toes and sore muscles, however, are not to be compared with the eternal agony advertised by this cheery example of community outreach!

PS - The closer you are to Jesus... Wasn't Judas Iscariot, like, Jesus' treasurer?

PPS - Lutheran Satire hits the nail on the head again!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Accidental-on-Purpose Tackiness

This week's inspirational message from the neighborhood ELCA purveyor of lighted-sign tackiness:


With this sentiment coming hard on the heels of Trinity Sunday and Fathers' Day, I couldn't help but think that an amendment was in order:


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Super 8

I missed my chance to see Thor. But other than that, today offered a "perfect storm" of summer blockbusters. I could have chosen a Jim Carrey vehicle, the adaptation of the beloved children's book Mr. Popper's Penguins; another comic book flick, The Green Lantern with male eye-candy Ryan Reynolds in the hero role; sequels to The Hangover and Kung Fu Panda, both hilarious movies that I enjoyed; and yet another X-Men prequel with a cast crammed full of hot young things. There was even a Pirates of the Caribbean picture playing at one of the theaters I frequent. Overwhelmed by all these guaranteed hits, I opted for a J. J. Abrams film with low-key publicity, good buzz, and a very vague online synopsis: Super 8. And for the first time in I don't remember how long, I was so pleased with my choice that I was sorely tempted to stay for a second screening.

Let me lay it out flat: Super 8 is this generation's E.T. Spielberg can't be feeling too bad about that. He exec-produced it. It has a cast of everybody's-next-door-neighbor kids who can really act, topped by a super-cute couple including Dakota Fanning's younger sister Elle, and supported by the considerable (but underrated) talents of Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, and Noah Emmerich. It has the period look of 1979, which would put the main characters about 5 grades ahead of me in the everybody's-hometown setting of Lillian, Ohio; and it has a story that is mysterious, scary, violent, gently sad, and sweetly hopeful, one after another and all mixed up together.

It's like Predator, The Iron Giant, and E.T. stuck in a blender and pureed together. Nicely structured, funny, touching, action-packed, full of vibrant characters and weird surprises, it adheres to the scary monster-movie convention of keeping you wondering what the beastie looks like until the last drop of horror has been wrung out of it, then switches to the expected [DELETED FOR SPOILER REASONS] scenario, but only at the very, very end. The alien is much less cuddly and cute than E.T., another point in favor of this movie. The music is good, the special effects are great, the cast does a terrific job, the pacing is perfect. Frankly, I don't know how to recommend Super 8 strongly enough.

I went into the theater not knowing whether I was going to like or hate this film, but did not expect to end up loving it. I was impressed before a single word of dialogue was spoken. The first two images were of a man on a stepladder changing the numbers on a steel mill's "Days Since Last Accident" sign from "754" to "1," followed by a boy in church clothes sitting on a backyard swing with his mother's locket drooping from his hand. Before anyone says a word about what has happened, you already know the general shape of it, and the early dialogue can thus devote its energies to revealing the quirkiness of the youthful characters, including the fat nerd who shoots zombie movies on a Super 8 camera, the shrimpy metal-mouthed pyromaniac who never goes anywhere without a Zippo and a sackful of hand-rolled fireccrackers, the aspiring actor who can't remember his lines but can projectile-vomit on cue, and the little boy from Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium as, ironically, the most neurotic but least interesting member of the hero boy's club.

The film then traces the arc of the boy's relationship with his sheriff's-deputy father, the daughter of the local ne'er-do-well, and the locket itself, in a way made no less touching by the fact that a colossal train wreck interrupts the innocence about 10 minutes in, followed quickly by the arrival of some dangerous customers in U.S. Air Force uniform and of a creature that seems to be as ravenous for human flesh as for the machines that keep disappearing all over town. Eventually it transpires that [DELETED FOR SPOILER REASONS], but then [BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH], and all's well that ends well, right? I mean, seriously, go see the movie yourself! UPDATE: Be sure to watch the closing credits. There's a nice bonus to make it worth your while!

A Catholic Day

Here is my sermon for tomorrow, based loosely on all the readings for Trinity Sunday. Following the same pattern as last week, I pretty much preach a whole sermon before I get around to about a paragraph of exposition of each lesson for the day. And perhaps I err on the side of preaching a "doctrinal sermon," but I think you have to do so now and again, to make sure some teaching is getting through. If I were challenged to identify where Law and Gospel were in this sermon, I would probably say: "Law: If you let go of the doctrine of the Trinity, etc., you lose the Gospel. Gospel: God has revealed so much about Himself so that you can believe in His salvation for you, and thus be saved."
Today is a good day to talk about creeds. In a way, the Feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates the creeds we share with all Catholic Christians. Yes, you heard right. We are Catholic Christians. We are Catholic because we believe, teach, confess, and worship One God in Three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We are Catholic because we believe, teach, confess, and worship Christ, whose Two Natures—God and Man—remain forever complete and distinct within one undivided Person.

We are Catholic because we share in the faith confessed in the Catholic creeds. These creeds are a standard of faithfulness to biblical teaching that unites all truly Christian communions and denominations. These creeds also separate us from groups who reject our most essential articles of faith, so they cannot properly be regarded as Christian. For if we do not agree on the nature of God, or on the person of Christ, then we cannot worship the same God or believe in the same Christ. So the Feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates the teaching that unites all true Christians, and that protects us from false teachers who deny Christ and serve another god.

So this is what it means to be Catholic—no more and no less than what it means to be Orthodox. Yes, the root meaning of the word “catholic” is something like “ecumenical” or “worldwide.” But don’t be led astray. When the Athanasian Creed says, “This is the Catholic faith,” the doctrine it confesses is precisely what “Catholic” means. Don’t be misled by cant words like “catholicity” and “ecumenicity,” which are often used as though they meant no more than “cultural diversity” or “religious unionism.” Being Catholic means believing these articles of faith. As members of the Church Catholic, we have a profound unity with all other Christians who share the same beliefs.

We disagree on many points of doctrine with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. Our differences with them in faith and practice are serious matters, and it is very right in view of these differences that we withhold from them full fellowship in Word and Sacrament. But we regard them as fellow-members of the one holy, Catholic and apostolic church. We regard them as Christians; and in spite of the errors mingled with their doctrine, we recognize that they worship the Triune God and particularly the Divine and Human Christ. And so they are not without the Holy Spirit, or the true and saving faith.

One of the creeds we hold to is the Apostles’ Creed. It’s that short statement of faith that we say once or twice a month, when we use the order of Divine Service without Communion. It seems so basic, simple, and lightweight. Yet it condenses a huge amount of life-changing, world-shaking teachings into an amazingly compact package. A package so small that every one of us, down to quite young children, could carry it anywhere without lifting so much as a scrap of paper. It is the creed we were baptized into, the creed to which we renewed our vows when we were confirmed, the creed whose explanation in Luther’s Small Catechism may be among the most beautiful things you ever learned by heart.

I challenge you to think about it intently when next you speak it. Don’t just mumble it thoughtlessly. Don’t let it dribble off your lips like the drool that comes when the dentist numbs your mouth. Think about what it means when you confess the article on creasion, on Jesus’ virgin birth, His death and rising again, His ascension into heaven, and His long-expected return. Realize that you are confessing a Church that is the communion of saints, and that you profess the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. This is not meaningless mumbo-jumbo to recite like a good-luck charm. These are present realities that the world cannot see, that many people firmly deny, and that better men and women than you or I have laid down their lives to confess. And if we have to, so shall we.

Then we have the Nicene Creed. Like the Apostles’ Creed, it confesses the Three Persons of the Trinity by name; but it also specifically says, “One God.” It distinguishes the invisible things God created at the beginning of time from the Son who was begotten in eternity. “God from God,” it says of the Son: “Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, one substance with the Father.” So God the Son isn’t just a lesser god, or a similar being, or a created person whom God lifted up above all others; the Son is God, exactly as the Father is God. And yet, at the same time, He comes from God, in the same way that a son comes from a father. The Son shares in the same divine substance as the Father, and by the Son were all things made, as John 1:3 teaches.

And just as God the Father begets the Son without a mother, the same Son is born of a human mother, without a human father. The Nicene Creed borrows the language of John 1:14 in saying the Son “became flesh,” or “was incarnate,” through the Holy Spirit. The creed then distinctly adds that He “was made man.” The Nicene Creed adds still more details that the Apostles’ Creed left out. These distinctions were added not to split Christians into smaller, conflicting parties, but to defend the faith against the tireless ingenuity of false teachers, and even against well-meaning believers whose sophisticated ideas carried them too far. So the Nicene Creed makes it clear why Jesus suffered and died, namely: “for us men and for our salvation.” When it tells us that Jesus rose from the dead, the Nicene Creed adds the words, “according to the Scriptures,” so we understand this in the context of Old Testament prophecy. And now, having ascended into heaven, He will come again, not in terror but in glory, with a kingdom that will never end.

The Nicene Creed also has more to say about the Holy Ghost. He is the Lord and the giver of life, as it were the “breath of life”; He proceeds from the Father and the Son as a distinct person, but not in the same way that the Father begets the Son; He is equally to be worshiped and glorified as the Father and the Son; He spoke by the prophets. That’s really all the Holy Spirit needs you to know about Himself, as He directs your eyes to Christ and glorifies the Father. We then confess not just that the church is holy and catholic, but also that she is “one” and “apostolic,” that is, built on the apostles’ witness. And we confess one Baptism which actually gives the forgiveness of sins.

In third place we hold the Athanasian Creed, though we only publicly confess it once a year. Today we will confess it after the sermon, in place of the Te Deum. This is a good place for it, when you consider that Martin Luther regarded the Te Deum as one of the creeds. In a sense, much of our liturgy is a confession of faith. In the Gloria Patri we worship Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In the Kyrie we call on Lord, Christ, and Lord—a threefold pattern that signifies the Trinity. In the Gloria in excelsis we worship all three Persons of the Trinity, calling the Father “Lord God, heavenly King,” and calling Jesus the “Lord God, Lamb of God...that takes away the sin of the world,” who “sits at the right hand of the Father,” and who shares with the Holy Ghost in the glory of the Father.

In the Sanctus we echo the hymn of the seraphim in Isaiah 6, whose “Holy, holy, holy” signifies the Three Persons of the Trinity, and where the coal from the altar cleansing Isaiah’s lips signifies the sacrifice of Christ for sin. By joining this Old Testament hymn to the song of the Palm Sunday crowd, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” we mark Jesus as the same God whose glory filled Isaiah with awe. In the Agnus Dei we repeat our prayer to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world—the sacrificial Lamb who is Jesus. And in the Te Deum, which regretfully we are skipping today, we again confess all Three Persons of the Trinity, repeating the seraphic hymn to the thrice holy Father, rehearsing the Son’s virgin birth and sacrificial death, his resurrection which “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers,” his ascension to God’s right hand, and His return to be our judge.

As for the Athanasian Creed, it will shortly speak for itself. It expands the Nicene Creed’s description of the Three Persons in God, and the Two Natures in Christ, even further. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not separate Gods, but one God. They do not possess pieces of the divine substance, like slices of a pie, or even like the peel, core, and flesh that together make up an apple; rather, the Father is the whole God with none left over, and so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit. They are not aspects, modes, roles, or masks that God puts on in turn, like an actor who uses different voice to play all the parts in a one-man play. Nor is He like a man with three jobs who puts on a different hat to do each job. God is always the Father, always the Son, always the Spirit. His full essence is utterly committed to each Person, without dividing the essence or mixing up the Persons.

And if this isn’t difficult enough to understand, just wait till the part of the Athanasian Creed that talks about God and Man in Christ as One Person, never divided or separated, nor yet an indiscriminate mixture of the two—not like oil and water stirred together into a white, creamy, mayonnaise, which is apt so separate as it settles; not like two strings twisted together; not like two boards glued together; not like a man possessed; nor yet a divine being that has taken on a human disguise. He is a man in every sense; but also, He is God, with all the fullness thereof, and never shall the two be separated. Do we get it? No. Do we forget it? Never.

Why is this important? Why could we not be Christians if we didn’t believe this stuff? All three of today’s readings give part of the answer. In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet was faced with an appearance by God in the temple: a vision of awful majesty that made Isaiah tremble with fear, as would any unclean sinner in the holy, holy, holy presence of God. But this same overwhelmingly glorious God is also compassionate and forgiving. He is a God who sends a sacrifice to cleanse us of sin. So why do we need these far-out teachings on the Trinity and Christ’s Incarnation? Isaiah’s answer is: “This is what God has revealed about Himself. Even if we are overwhelmed by it, He cleanses our lips to speak it, and commands us to confess it.”

In Romans chapter 11, the apostle Paul praises God’s deep knowledge, His rich wisdom, His unsearchable judgments, His un-find-out-able ways. We do not know His mind; we cannot advise Him on anything; we can give Him nothing so that he will owe us in return. For all things come from Him, exist through Him, and return to Him and to His everlasting glory; a statement which Paul ends, creedlike, with “Amen.” So again, why do we need these creeds and their teachings? Paul says we need them because they are so far above us that they must be taken as articles of faith. No human being made this stuff up. If they had, they would have made up something that made sense to our reason. But what God reveals about Himself is so far beyond reason that it fills us with awe, and it compels us to say, “Amen.” There is no point arguing about it. There will never be an explanation that satisfies everyone. There can be no analogy that will not break down. If you pull out any one point that seems to keep the other pieces from falling into place, the whole thing collapses in an unrecognizable heap. What God has revealed is sufficient. Even though we cannot fully understand, it is our place simply to trust.

And finally, we are faced with Jesus’ own words to Nicodemus in John chapter 3. As a good Jew, Nicodemus struggled to understand how Jesus could be “God from God.” His Jewish upbringing had emphasized the “oneness” of God to the point where he had become blind to the Old Testament’s testimony to God’s Threeness. Because I have so little time left, I’ll spare you a list of these testimonies unless you want to discuss them privately. Instead, let’s look at what Jesus has to say. He says God the Father sent His Son into the world, and even gave Him up to death, so we might not perish but have everlasting life. The Father sent the Son to judge sin, not by judging sinners, but by becoming sin and being judged for us, so that we might be saved through faith. And we get this faith by being born again, born from above by water and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit and the Son together bear witness of the Father. This Spirit gives us life in a way that we can not understand, or command, or choose. The God who came down from heaven reveals to us the God who remains in heaven, yet He is one God. By looking on this incarnate God, by believing in the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, we are healed like the snakebit children of Israel who looked on the bronze serpent in Moses’ hands. Only we are healed for eternity, healed from the disease of sin and death. In short, what God has done to save us could only be done by a Triune God.

What other God could sacrifice God to God and make satisfaction for the sins of all mankind? What other God could bear witness to God, Two Persons—Jesus actually uses the word “We” to describe Himself and the Holy Spirit—Two Persons reflecting the glory of the Third? What other God could lift up the same God and show Him to us in His dying glory so that we might live? What other God could both rise from the dead, and be the ever-living God who raised Him from the dead? What other victim could atone for all sin than the One who can truly die as a man, yet who can offer Himself as a substitute for all mankind precisely because He is God? What other God could blow God out as the breath of His mouth, making Holy Baptism a washing of rebirth? What other God could be both just and the justifier of those who believe, both the object of faith and the author of faith? What God could do all this while remaining one God altogether?

So you see the most important reason why the Catholic creeds are to be cherished with faithfulness and thanskgiving. Their teachings are blessings from God, truly worthy of a celebration like today, a day on which even Protestants can proudly claim the name of Catholic. On this catholic day, we learn from Paul that the mind of God is so far beyond our grasp that we can only gape in awe and submit in childlike trust. We learn from Isaiah that although God’s self-disclosure is terrifyingly far above, beyond, and alien to our mind and senses, He has revealed it expressly so that we may speak of it, and He graciously sanctifies us to do so. And finally, we learn from Christ Himself that the very salvation for which we depend on Him with all our being, is a consequence of the Trinity and His own Divine-Human Person. It is this God who both intercedes for us and hears that intercession. It is this God who both gives us faith and dwells in us by faith. It is this God who both condemns sin and forgives our sins for Jesus’ sake.

Celebrate, little children, on this Catholic day, and every day! Celebrate the Triune God in Christ. Celebrate Him by reciting one of the creeds, or even by singing one of the pieces of liturgy I mentioned before. For it is the Triune God who has created us, redeemed us, and now leads us on to life everlasting. What He has revealed of Himself we will believe, teach, confess, and praise, for through Him we are saved. Glory be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever! Amen.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Other-Worldly Peace

Here, as a historical relic, and as a supplement to my sermon for tomorrow, is the sermon for Pentecost that I preached during my first full year as a pastor. It also happened to be Confirmation Sunday in the congregation I then served; thus many of my remarks are directed at the three confirmands, who are in my prayers today, a decade later!
After these last weeks and their high-pressure memory-work marathon, the three young people in the front row might well breathe a sigh of relief. When everyone is done looking at them, when they have survived this rite of passage called confirmation, when they have tasted the Lord’s body and blood for the first time, they might breathe another sigh of relief. The parents who have driven them to class and pushed them to study their catechism may also breathe easier. There is a sense of accomplishment, a sense of hard-earned peace.

But on this day of Pentecost, I urge all of you, especially Emily, Matthew, and Sara, to keep a more important peace in view. There is a peace more precious than peace of mind, more wholesome than rest from your labors, a peace more vital to your well-being than family or social harmony. Even if bombs begin falling around you, even if you are harassed and hounded, even if heaven and earth tear themselves apart, you still have that peace. That is what Jesus means when he says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

What I mean is other-worldly peace—peace in heaven, peace with God. This peace is not disturbed by the afflictions of the body or the temptations of the soul. We find it only through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Though we can experience some of it in this life, we will perfectly know this peace only in the life of the world to come. We strive for it; we hope on it; we look forward to its final unveiling in the kingdom of God. It is the reward promised to those who remain faithful in Christ; as the word says: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered”; and, “He that has endured to the end shall be saved.”

All mankind searches for peace. But too often, any peace they find is an illusion. Most people’s faith, if they have any, is misplaced. Human institutions crumble and fall. Human accomplishments blow away in the winds of time. Beauty fades, and possessions do you no good in the grave. There is no cause, no faith, no thing that you can take with you beyond this life. Our only hope is in Christ, the Son of the living God.

He has dealt with the reason our world yearns for peace. He has healed the primeval conflict between God’s offended majesty and man’s offending sinfulness. He has reconciled you to your Lord. He bridged the chasm between earth and heaven, for he is at once God begotten of the Father, and man born of woman. In Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s son, God is at one with man. That Son of God presented himself to the Father, a pleasing sacrifice to make up for your sins. He shed his blood and died for you on the cross. If there be any doubt whether his suffering and death made peace with God, He rose from the dead on the third day. Then He returned to heaven as true God triumphant over death and hell; yet he also returned as the true Man, Jesus Christ, to rule over all things at God’s right hand.

So as certain as anything can be, it is certain that God is pleased with man, and that your sins are forgiven. You, fellow redeemed, are already at peace with God. You will taste of heavenly peace today, when you eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus, with which He secured that peace for you. And when you see your Savior face to face, you will know peace full, free, and without end. That inheritance has been yours since your baptism; that is the hope I have tried to teach you, and the faith in which you renew your vows today. The peace you have earned, by finishing your memory assignments, is nothing compared to the peace Jesus gives you for free. Never let anything come between you and your Savior; never take your eyes off that prize.

Again, hear what Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.” With these words, you could say he confirmed his disciples. He bestowed His peace on them as a gift, not because of their faithfulness. For soon afterward, Judas betrayed Jesus, soldiers arrested him. The disciples fled and scattered. Peter denied knowing Jesus. After the Lord was crucified and buried, the eleven huddled behind locked doors. They didn’t understand God’s Word yet. They were scared by events, they tottered in shock and disbelief, they expected arrest, imprisonment, death—anything but Jesus rising from the dead. Yet Jesus had already given his peace to them, and it was theirs. You know what that means? That means that the peace Jesus gave to them, before all this happens, wasn’t “peace of mind” or a promise that “everything is going to be OK” on this side of heaven. The peace Jesus gave them was peace with God—in other words, the forgiveness of sins. “My peace I give to you” means, “I forgive you all your sins.”

Another thing now becomes clear. The disciples weren’t done sinning, stumbling, and being confused and discouraged. The worst was yet to come. But Jesus’ peace means that they would keep getting forgiveness from the Lord, just as surely as they kept needing it. This “confirmation” of the disciples doesn’t mean they knew everything or were ready to go it alone; it meant precisely the opposite. It meant that they needed Jesus’ help always, and he promised them that they would get it. Obviously they still had much to learn, there was room for growth. This didn’t take away from their inheritance in heaven, from the eternal peace Jesus promised—but before reaching it, they had miles to go, lessons to learn, suffering and toil to face. And so do you.

You will certainly not be a greater Christian than Peter, James, or John. But Jesus has given you the same promises. He pledged his Holy Spirit to you in baptism; He promised to be with you always; He has gone to his Father’s house to prepare a mansion for you. He left his otherworldly peace to sustain you through this world’s turmoil, and to await you in heaven. What this means is that He has left His Word and Sacraments to keep giving you his forgiveness, because you will keep needing it; and to keep teaching you the faith, because you still have much to learn; and finally, to lead you to the peace eternal in heaven. So today, just as Jesus confirmed the disciples, he will likewise confirm in you the peace of God which passes all understanding. But don’t for a minute think it’s all over.

No, young sisters and brother, you are not at the end of your journey. You have not learned all you can, or all you need to learn. Like the eleven, you still have a long road to walk, with pothole after pothole to muddle through. You have suffering ahead of you, tests of your commitment to Christ, sins to repent of, urgent questions to ask and requests to make—and you may not get the answers you expect or like. But whatever the answers may be, God’s design for you is clear. He is leading you to enjoy the other-worldly peace your Savior purchased for you with his body and blood.

What remains ahead is clear from Jesus’ next words. “If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father… And now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.” Jesus bestows peace and wishes joy on men who are about to be dismayed. They were dismayed when Jesus went to the Father in his death on the cross, and again when the risen Lord went away to sit at God’s right hand. But these should bring joy, not sorrow; for in them we have peace with God.

“I will not tell you much more, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, even so I do.” Jesus was about to be betrayed into evil hands, mistreated, and killed. The ruler of this world was at work—meaning Satan, who has his fingers in every pie. Satan is enraged by the preaching of the Gospel, and thrashes violently against it.

Consider the troubles of the apostles and Paul, as they preached the Gospel throughout the world. They were tortured and killed in the most horrible ways. The early Christians were persecuted and martyred in large numbers. Luther and many faithful Christians faced opposition from the church itself. So don’t be surprised when, the more you practice your faith, the more you experience problems. There’s nothing wrong with your faith because of it, God’s Word isn’t any less reliable. Rather, it’s to be expected that the devil will kick and bite in mute rage wherever the Gospel holds sway, wherever God’s kingdom gains ground. He cannot harm you, he cannot take away your other-worldly peace, as long as you remain in Christ. Since Jesus was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death on the cross, the ruler of this world can do what he may—God’s peace remains yours.

But this peace does not zap you out of the blue. It must be fed. Hear again what Jesus says in our Gospel: “If anyone loves Me, He will keep my word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; what you hear is not My Word, but the Father’s who sent Me.”

So don’t just count on the fact that you were confirmed, as your ticket to everlasting peace. You can walk out of this church today and, like two-thirds of confirmands, never come back again. But don’t do that. Don’t confuse the peace of “being done with confirmation” with the eternal peace in store for Christians. Don’t think that, once you’ve done this, you have nothing else to learn, nothing else to get from the church. If you think that, you shouldn’t be here, for confirmation by its very nature is a vow to be a committed Christian, to love Jesus. And as Jesus pointed out, those who love Him keep His word. Only those who abide in Jesus’ Word, who continue to draw benefits from it, will find the peace of God. You cannot live a year without food; you cannot live a month without water. You will not inherit heaven’s peace without being strengthened and nourished along the way.

A baby will not live long, if it takes one drink of its mother’s milk, decides that’s enough, and refuses to eat from then on. A new car will not run long, if you fuel it up only once, and expect that first tank of gas to carry you everywhere. Nor will you live eternally, if you take this first taste of Jesus’ body and blood, but do not come back often to receive it again. To say to yourself, “I’m done! I don’t need to go to church anymore!” defeats the purpose of confirmation. To say, “I’ve had the Lord’s Supper once, that’ll do for me,” defeats the purpose of receiving the Sacrament for the first time. Your confirmation and your first Communion today, means that you have started on a road on which you need to continue. As long as you keep Jesus’ Word—as long as you keep hearing it, learning it, receiving forgiveness from it, eating and drinking it—you are God’s child, bound for eternal peace.

Again, Jesus says: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” The promise of the Holy Spirit came true for the church that first Christian Pentecost, and the Spirit continues to be poured out to this day. He is poured out through the Word and Sacraments to which you three are about to pledge yourselves. He is poured out in the name of Jesus, put on you in baptism; He is poured out in the blood of Jesus, which bears witness of his suffering and dying for you. The Holy Spirit is the reason you must keep Jesus’ Word, the reason you need to live by your confirmation vows from now on. He is the one who works God’s power on you when you hear the word. He knits faith into your heart. He convinces you that your sins are forgiven. He gives you strength to face the evil one, he sustains you through life’s turmoils and assures you of the peace Jesus promised.

For this reason I urge every one of you, and especially Sara, Emily, and Matt, to make good your vows—or rather, to receive the fulfillment of God’s vows to you. Make this confirmation day really mean something. Let today be the start of a diet on God’s good things, that will sustain you into everlasting life. Make your recent lessons in God’s Word the beginning, not the end, of your Gospel journey. Make use of God’s gifts often, that he may build on the foundation that so far has been laid. Do not quiver at the tasks you may be called to do, or at the sorrows you may be obliged to suffer; do not be discouraged if the answers to your prayers do not live up to your every desire. For when this race is finished, and the thread of this life is cut, you who remain in Christ by faith will be saved.

What you know in part here, will be completely revealed over there. What you here yearn for, without satisfaction, you will there receive in full. The wedding is arranged, but the date no one knows, when Jesus will come and take you to the rest promised to the faithful. Only then will you fully see the peace Jesus now gives us in part; therefore we need to make constant withdrawals against that future, perfect peace, in order to make it through the present. Let the Lord supply strength to your weakness, faith to your doubt, forgiveness to your sins, life to your dying and decaying body. Do not settle for this world’s peace; let this day mark a new commitment, to seek your peace from Him whose gifts cannot fail. Let it be a true confirmation, confirming that you will keep Jesus’ words—so that the Holy Spirit may lead you into all truth. To the Triune God be all the glory!

The Language of Peace

Here is my sermon for tomorrow, the Day of Pentecost, when I will be filling the pulpit at my LCMS church in St. Louis city south. The lessons for the day are Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; and John 14:23–31.
Look at the members of this church, or any Christian congregation, and what will you see? One classic answer, given by people who don’t like going to church, is “a bunch of holier-than-though sticks in the mud.” And that answer is often true. Many Christian individuals and organizations are very proud of themselves. They think that if they open a parish meeting with a prayer that the Holy Spirit would guide them, then anything they decide to do is God’s will and must succeed—though they often make up their minds what they want to do without consulting God. They congratulate themselves for having built such a nice church; they believe in their powers, gifts, or plans to make it grow, and if it does grow they may let God share the credit—though mainly out of politeness. And if the results are discouraging, they fight back with human solutions because they can’t bring themselves to trust the power of God’s Word.

This nasty pride is especially seen in many churches that have strayed from the Word of God, where you can listen to a month worth of sermons without hearing Jesus’s name, except in passing; without being confronted by biblical teachings that might make anyone uncomfortable; without even hearing the Bible qutoed, except perhaps one phrase repeated over and over. But their message is so relevant and so welcome to the ears of so many people that other churches are either losing members to them, or rushing to imitate them. Yet under the veneer of success is something rather disgusting: a lack of care for individual members, especially the poor, afflicted, and dying; a tendency to value people according to the size of their pocketbook; a focus on keeping new members flowing in while doing nothing to stop old members gushing out. For all their outward success, such churches often prove to be built on a weak foundation, with dry-rot in the walls.

King Solomon writes, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” He isn’t talking about hiring the right contractor to build your split-level. He’s talking about the church. Hear it again: “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” These words come from Psalm 127, a “pilgrim song” for those who going up to Jerusalem to present offerings in the temple. They are singing about the church. And the lessons for the Day of Pentecost resonate with their song.

In Genesis 11, Moses gives us the strange story of the Tower of Babel. At this point in the early-morning gloom of civilization, the descendants of Noah had increased in number and advanced in culture till it seemed nothing could stop them doing what they chose. It was a crucial point when men’s pride had reached so far that it seemed impossible to check them, for they were all one big family and spoke one language.

It’s not that they threatened God; but nothing threatened them. So they could disregard God’s commands, such as “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). They didn’t have to listen to Him; they didn’t have to believe in Him, or worship Him. Their tower was going to be a temple—not to God, but to themselves. They meant to overthrow God and create their own perfect world, and who could stop them? Well, God showed them who: each other! Once a language barrier stood between them, the people split up into smaller groups. Now every man was a stranger, working at cross-purposes, frustrating each other’s plans. And so the tower they had begun to build was abandoned, unfinished. Indeed, “unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

On the first Christian Pentecost, however, the confusion of Babel was reversed. I say “Christian” Pentecost because, as you may know, Pentecost was already a holy day for the Jews. It commemorated Moses’ delivery of the Law to the children of Israel. It was one of those holy days on which people made pilgrimages to the temple, and that’s why Jerusalem was full of devout Jews from all over the world, marveling to hear Jesus’ disciples preach in the languages of their home countries. Now God was breaking down the barrier He had set up at Babel. By this miraculous mingling of languages, God began to gather people from every corner of the world, and to build them up together in a living temple: His church.

The miracle of Pentecost is still going on today. It may not be as visibly evident as it was then; but I assure you, it is so. Today, in cities, towns, and rural communities across the country, and in countries around the world, the people of God are gathered in the house of God. They are one people, though they come from virtually every nation, tribe, and tongue on the face of the earth. They worship one God, though He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each Person being the whole God with none left over. And this one God has but one house, though the world has more Christian cathedrals, churches, and preaching stations than a dog has fleas. In each separate place where the faithful gather, the whole church is present. With them we are one people, one family, one body, with one head—who is Christ. And with them we speak one language—which, if you will bear with me, I will call the LANGUAGE OF PEACE.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” This is the house that the Lord built. I do not speak of this physical building, as beautiful and functional as it is. I am speaking of us as a spiritual house built out of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). We are mortared together in such a way that even the distinction between Jew and Gentile no longer applies, as Saint Paul writes: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

As Paul goes on, the point becomes even clearer: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:13–22).

Notice what Paul says about the house of God. Christ is the cornerstone. The foundation is the apostles and prophets, which is to say God’s revelation handed down through them. And it is not a building for us to dwell in; rather, we are the building, in which the Holy Spirit dwells. The Holy Spirit dwells in the household of God because it is founded on God’s Word—particularly, on the message of Christ. Christ is the key to God’s Word; He is the keystone on which the whole church, and every member of it, depends.

And Jesus is all that because of His blood, His flesh, His cross, His death. His blood brought near those who were far off. His flesh brought together as one those who had been alienated. His cross wiped out the Law’s condemnation of us. His death reconciled us to God, destroying the separation caused by our sins, and making peace. This is the message of Christ to which the apostles and prophets bear witness. This is the foundation on which the church stands. This is the keystone of the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells: Christ was crucified to deliver us from sin and to make us acceptable to God.

This is the language of peace: the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ death on the cross. It is a language spoken in words, when you hear that message proclaimed. But this language of peace also embraces Baptism, in which we share in Christ’s death as we are drowned and buried in water and the Spirit. And this language of peace embraces the Sacrament, where we absorb Jesus’ body and blood into our own. In the Lord’s Supper, it is not as though one person gets this little piece of Jesus and the next person gets that piece; rather, each of us gets the same Christ, and none of Christ is left out.

This is good to know; for if you have trouble being patient, you can be sure that the patience in Jesus will be given to you. If you are wavering in your faith, you can be certain that Jesus’ faithfulness will feed you. If you are bitter and unforgiving, you shall share Christ’s forgiving mercy. If you are proud, you shall taste Christ’s humility. If you are weighted down with knowledge of your sinfulness, or if you feel powerless to resist temptation, know He will give you His strength. But most importantly, know that you are forgiven through His body and blood. The language of the Lord’s Supper says so: “Given for you...shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”

All that I have said so far is prologue to what Jesus says in today’s Gospel from John 14. On the eve of His suffering and death, what did Jesus want to leave His disciples with? Quote: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” How does Jesus give us this peace? Quote: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” How will we keep Jesus’ word? Quote: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” And what does Jesus want His disciples to remember? Quote: “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do.”

Which is to say: Even in the darkest hour in world history, when the ruler of this world—the devil—was at his strongest, when the powers of the world were united against Jesus, when the sin of the world lay heavily upon Him, the Savior of the world became utterly defenseless, yet obedient unto death, even death on the cross. For us this is news of joy and peace. The Son of God returned to the Father, bearing the wounds of His death for all sin, and presenting us to God as righteous and sinless. The Son of Man ascended to heaven; no greater favor could God bestow on our race. And as the man Jesus reigns in heaven, He is also present with us on earth. This is not just a message; it is a language: a way of thinking and interpreting the world. At the heart of this language is the peace Jesus promised us, an out-of-this-world peace, the peace of God that we call forgiveness.

It is a language taught by the Holy Spirit, who dwells among us while we stand on the message of Christ and Him crucified. This language of peace is precious to us because we are poor, afflicted sinners; but we have forgiveness, healing, and a rich inheritance in Christ. We have all this by faith, which the Holy Spirit has breathed into us. We have the love of God, because we keep the Word of Christ; or rather, because it keeps us. We have peace with God, because we are one body with Jesus Christ, who reigns at the the right hand of the Father. And so the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pointing Macros

Here are a few more Word macros that you liturgical scholars may like to snap up, provided (1) you use Windows XP and MS Word 2003; (2) you own a copy of the Melody Fonts (Melody A, Melody B, Melody C), which (alas) are no longer serviced by the tech-savvy monks of St. Meinrad's Abbey in Indiana; (3) you have set up a paragraph style (titled, say, "Music") in which the font is Melody A, based on no style, with Normal as the style of the following paragraph, while the font in your Normal style is Times New Roman; and (4) you follow the initial steps in my previous post on Word macros, so that you have the appropriately named, blank, keyboard-activated macros ready to fill in with code. Then it's just a matter of typing the codes shown in the image below into the visual basic editor above the "End Sub" line of each respective macro.The upper row of macros is especially handy if you want to use breves (those whole notes squished between short line segments) to designate the "reciting note" of a particular phrase. I have included the low D and E ones even though I have no particular application for them, just in case they are of use to you: See how nice I am?

The "versicle" and "response" macros simply save you having to remember, and constantly repeat, the key strokes for two very special characters that liturgical typesetters use to distinguish between the minister's and the congregation's lines. The second line of code in each of these two macros is important because it restores the font to Times New Roman, whatever font it may pull these special characters from. If you're not a TNR fan, feel free to substitute your favorite "Normal" font instead.

Now go and have a good time pointing chant tones! That's what I have planned for my Friday night, anyway...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ambulatory Tackiness

This week's tacky lighted sign message on display at the neighborhood ELCA parish:


Single Take: The cure for what? Tackiness on holy ground?

Double Take: Are you really making a pun on The Happy Hooker?!? Oy vay! That's tacky!!

I would totally support this walkathon, provided that the person who makes up these tacky signs would pledge to walk 500 miles in any given direction and not come back.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Read the Fine Print

Here is my sermon for this coming Wednesday, the week of Exaudi, the Sunday after Ascension. The text is the Gospel according to John, from the 15th and 16th chapters, where Jesus says:
"But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

"These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you."
If you sign a contract, it behooves you to read the fine print. Whether you’re taking out a loan, starting a lease, or accepting a job offer, some of the terms may not be self-evident. You don’t want to be surprised when the bank repossesses your firstborn child. You don’t want to find out too late that having your brakes overhauled at Dobbs voids the warranty on your car. Salesmen accent the positive. They want to close the sale. Not that they’re dishonest, they just won’t volunteer some information you may want to know. So you need to read the fine print.

That goes for Christianity, too. Before you pass the point of no return, there’s some information you need to know. A less than scrupulous preacher might not mention those things unless you twist his arm. And there are really dishonest ones who skim right over the hidden costs of being a disciple of Jesus. But Jesus was straightforward with his disciples, and he told them what the score was going to be. “These things I have spoken to you,” he said, “that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them”—and, “that you may be kept from stumbling.” He showed them the fine print.

Our vows of faithfulness obligate Pastor Landskroener and every Lutheran pastor to do the same. Before we confirm a child or adult, we lay it all before them. You’re about to take a very serious oath, we say. You’re about to swear, on the pains of death, that you will abide faithfully by the teachings you have learned. You will endure anything, even death, rather than fall away. Should we hide from you the fact that there may be much to endure? Shouldn’t we tell you, so that having been warned you may recognize the things of which we speak when they happen, and so you may be kept from stumbling over them.

Being a Christian isn’t guaranteed to be rosy. Chances are, you will pay a price in this life because you belong to Jesus. Your commitment will be tested. Your faith will be proved by suffering. How that will happen, I do not know. But don’t buy the line some would like to sell to you; don’t believe it when they say the better the Christian, the better off he will be in this life. Remember the apostles to whom Jesus said: “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue; but an hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God.” Things were about to go bad, and then they would get worse. Imagine that! The saints of blessed memory, whose names we honor as heroes of the faith—they suffered more for the name of Christ than any other Christians. What does that tell you about the idea that good faith makes for the good life?

And consider the Christians just after them, when the church’s zeal was lively, and its unity was wondrous; when love of the truth and joy of salvation were young and fresh. They were the ones crucified, tortured, imprisoned, fed to lions because of their faith in Jesus. It was a golden age of the church, yet there was no lack of hardship. Or consider the suffering of the first generation of Lutherans: besieged by armies, misused by their rulers, plagued by controversy, ridden with religious pests. Since his covenant with the Old Testament Jews, God has never promised his faithful ones peace and prosperity in our time. Rather, if we follow the example of our forefathers, we can expect no better than they got.

You’ve been warned. Assuming you learned from an honest pastor, you’ve always known what is possible for Christians in this life. If not, or if you don’t remember, maybe you should take out that fine print and read it once more. We follow the example of Christians who suffered; they followed the example of Christ who suffered. And if we expect anything in this life but sorrow and horror and hardship, we have not read the fine print about the cost of discipleship in Christ. Here are some more paragraphs of it: “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Again Jesus said: “I send you out as sheep among wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles… Brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but he who has endured to the end will be saved.”

And again: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have come not to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it.”

Or finally, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jesus aimed these words chiefly at the apostles; and they came true chiefly for the apostles. The highest mark we can aim for as Christians is to be like them—and therefore, to suffer like them.

And yet we do not. In this day and age it almost sounds silly to talk about trouble and pain. Other than daily frustrations that everyone experiences, we have nothing to complain about. Indeed, we experience less suffering than any people in history. We are comfortable, well-fed, healthy, and all things necessary for our material happiness is within reach. To suffer on account of Jesus is unheard of in our experience. Is that a sign that the world has become more Christian than it was? Or is it a sign, perhaps, that we Christians are less than faithful? Do we shrink back from the daring confession of faith that the Apostles risked? Are we ashamed to speak, act, and interact differently with the society around us? Are we embarrassed to stick out of the crowd? Do we suffer less because the name of Jesus is not written all over us, as on the early Christians? Maybe so. Maybe we are too comfortable with our comfort. Maybe we’d rather not deal with the fine print.

But is that desirable? Is comfort and safety really what the church needs? Or is the fact that people are not crowding into the church perhaps because they see no difference between Christians and everyone else? Is our fear of being different—to be dangerously, recklessly faithful to our Lord—the reason the church does not grow? I do not mean this of our parish only. I could ask this of all Christians everywhere—except in a few places like Kenya or Nigeria, where people suffer hardship and even violence for the sake of Christ. They’re willing to pay a price for God’s free gifts, and by golly, they’re paying it. FREE GIFTS, I say: forgiveness, eternal life, the comfort of Word and Sacrament.

All these come to them, and to us, by God’s pure grace. But God’s Word is the most important thing in their lives; for us, it comes after everything else. To them, hearing the Gospel is worth going days without a meal, walking through miles of shin-deep mud, being menaced by bandits and soldiers, by dangerous beasts, and possibly by their un-Christian neighbors. All this to stand for hours in smothering heat with little more than a canopy over their heads and dirt under their feet—yet they are overjoyed for the opportunity every few weeks to receive God’s gifts. For us, the word of God is far easier to obtain. Is it worth that much less? We live minutes away from church, and spend a few minutes a week there in safety and comfort, if that isn’t too inconvenient. So I ask you, who is better off?

American Christians have become very cozy with the culture around us, though the coziness doesn’t go both ways. The press is no longer shy about portraying Christians as fools or fanatics. Hollywood’s been at that game for years. Most schools from pre-K on up work fulltime to install un-Christian and anti-Christian attitudes. It’s time to ask yourself: Am I prepared to be branded an extremist or a nuisance to society because of my beliefs? Am I prepared for the day when it will be hard to find a church where the faithful worship in freedom? Am I prepared for the fine print to become bold reality?

I do not tell you this to scare you, but so you may remember when these things happen that Jesus told you about them—and so you may not stumble. I tell you this so you will recognize the blessing Jesus speaks of when he says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” I tell you this so when the world shows its true colors you will not be disturbed, but you will say: “Aha! This is exactly what was supposed to happen!” And I tell you this, so you may know how important Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit is.

“When the Helper comes,” he says, “whom I will send you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me—and you will bear witness also.” Jesus said this to the apostles, who had been with him from the beginning. We have received the same Spirit through them, as the church has handed down to us their words and the words of Jesus. We are not alone; the Holy Ghost, the promise of the Father, is with us, because we belong to Christ. How cleverly or how vividly we tell the story is not what makes disciples; it is the Holy Ghost who bears witness in that story. It is not our techniques or talents that grow the church; it is the Holy Ghost who plants, waters, and raises faith where he wills.

We are not given an inert message which we must bring to life by our powers and actions. Rather, we are given a Gospel and Sacraments that act like bottled lightning. We cannot harness them or control them, we cannot make them do what we want; but when we turn them loose, tremendous power is at work. It is not in us to move mountains or divide seas. It is not in us to galvanize the faithful or impress the unchurched with our love and commitment. Nor is it in us to endure hardship and make sacrifices, to keep the faith and save the world. We have inherited the Holy Spirit, and we live and move in Him, because the Gospel is our life.

If something else has taken first place in your life, look back on what your Lord has promised you and read the fine print. There is nothing in the world worth having or doing, that would take us away from Christ. Only he gives us freedom from our sins; only he promises to raise us from the dead and take us to heaven. Nothing in this life is more precious than what Jesus gives us—and that is ours for free. He paid for it with his body and blood. We have God’s favor again; we have a hope that overcomes all the threats and injuries this world deals us. And we have the Holy Spirit as down-payment on the final delivery of what Jesus bought for us. What can stand in his way?

But free though it be, there are costs—and we make them freely known to you. There is a price for being in Christ. It is not a price you must pay to God, but a price that the world will exact from you. To make the payments, you need every bit of what God richly pours out in Word and Sacrament. God willing, you may convince some of those who exact that price from you, to sign on and pay the same price or more. So it was with St. Paul, who first persecuted Christ and then was persecuted with him. But Paul was not ignorant of the costs of discipleship. He goes on at length in 2 Corinthians describing some of the cost he paid. Yet Jesus paid all our costs for us. So we need nothing—and so there is nothing we cannot afford to lose. Let the world take what it will; for at the bottom of all the fine print, there is written in Jesus’ blood: “Paid in full—on Calvary.”

O Christ, grant us the Spirit of Truth, through your word of truth. And so may we stand firm, without stumbling, when everyone rejects us, casts us out, and hurts us thinking they are doing God a favor. Let us abide wholly in your holy truth, that as you were with us from the beginning, we may be with you at the end. Glory be to You, O Christ. Amen.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Farscape Season 4

+++ POST IN PROGRESS +++ Jump to the bottom of this post to see my reviews of Farscape Seasons 2 and 3, which I finally finished writing! And stand by also for Babylon 5 Season 5, and maybe some other cool stuff! +++

Crichton Kicks

What Was Lost, Part I: Sacrifice

What Was Lost, Part II: Resurrection

Lava's a Many Splendored Thing


Natural Election

John Quixote

I Shrink, Therefore I Am

A Prefect Murder

Coup by Clam

Unrealized Reality


Terra Firma

Twice Shy

Mental As Anything

Bringing Home the Beacon

A Constellation of Doubt


We're So Screwed, Part I: Fetal Attraction

Were So Screwed, Part II: Hot to Ketratzi

We're So Screwed, Part III: La Bomba

Bad Timing

See also my review of Farscape seasons one, two, and three. For more on spaceship-based TV series, see my reviews of Star Trek: TOS seasons one, two, and three; of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of DS9 seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of Voyager seasons one and two; and of Enterprise season one. As a control group, see also my reviews of Firefly, and of Babylon 5 seasons one, two, three, and four.