Friday, March 16, 2012

for freedom

From Schiller's William Tell:

"By this fair light which greeteth us, before those other nations, that, beneath us far, in noisome cities pent, draw painful breath, swear we the oath of our confederacy! A band of brothers true we swear to be, never to part in danger or in death! We swear we will be free as were our sires, and sooner die than live in slavery! We swear, to put our trust in God Most High, and not to qual before the might of man!"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sermon for Oculi

+ Third Sunday in Lent +
1 March 2012 I Corinthians 1:18-19

Scripture speaks of wisdom in at least two different ways: first and best, as beginning in the fear of the LORD; second and worst, as finding its source in mankind and human reason alone. Let me give you a little taste of what nowadays passes for the wisdom of the wise:
 Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created. Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as the result of a continuous process. We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural;
 As non-theists, we begin with humans, not God; nature, not deity. We can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species.
 Humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.
 Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body.
 Human life has meaning because we create and develop our futures.

William Bennett, in The Index of leading Cultural Indicators (1994), pointed out that in the thirty years since 1960, violent crime in America increased more than 500 percent, illegitimate births increased by more than 400 percent, the percentage of children living with single parents tripled, as did the teenage suicide rate, while the divorce rate doubled. ‘Over the past three decades we have experienced substantial social regression. Today the forces of social decomposition are challenging, and in some instances, overtaking the forces of social composition. And when decomposition takes hold, it extracts an enormous human cost. Unless these exploding social pathologies are reversed, they will lead to the decline and perhaps even to the fall of the American republic.’
My dear fellow forgiven sinners! There is only one possible way to reverse this alarming trend, found in our text: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts. In the cross of Jesus, God destroys the wisdom of the wise by permitting the destruction and raising of a greater temple : the body of His Son.
1. The folly of man’s wisdom
a. Seen in the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the experts
Story of Belshazzar: 5 At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand. As the king watched the hand that was writing, 6 his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that his hip joints shook and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called out to bring in the mediums, Chaldeans, and astrologers. He said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this inscription and gives me its interpretation will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around his neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom.” 8 So all the king’s wise men came in, but none could read the inscription or make its interpretation known to him. 9 Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face turned pale, and his nobles were bewildered.
10 Because of the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen came to the banquet hall. “May the king live forever,” she said. “Don’t let your thoughts terrify you or your face be pale. 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your predecessor he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the diviners, mediums, Chaldeans, and astrologers. Your own predecessor, the king, 12 did this because Daniel, the one the king named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and perception, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. Therefore, summon Daniel, and he will give the interpretation.”
13 Then Daniel was brought before the king. The king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the Judean exiles that my predecessor the king brought from Judah? 14 I’ve heard that you have the spirit of the gods in you, and that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom. 15 Now the wise men and mediums were brought before me to read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not give its interpretation. 16 However, I have heard about you that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Therefore, if you can read this inscription and give me its interpretation, you will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around your neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts, and give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription for the king and make the interpretation known to him. 18 Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, greatness, glory, and majesty to your predecessor Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Because of the greatness He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages were terrified and fearful of him. He killed anyone he wanted and kept alive anyone he wanted; he exalted anyone he wanted and humbled anyone he wanted. 20 But when his heart was exalted and his spirit became arrogant, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven away from people, his mind was like an animal’s, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky until he acknowledged that the Most High God is ruler over the kingdom of men and sets anyone He wants over it.
22 “But you his successor, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. The vessels from His house were brought to you, and as you and your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them, you praised the gods made of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life. 24 Therefore, He sent the hand, and this writing was inscribed.
25 “This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.
26 This is the interpretation of the message:
MENE means that God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end.
27 TEKEL means that you have been weighed in the balance and found deficient.
28 PERES means that your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then Belshazzar gave an order, and they clothed Daniel in purple, placed a gold chain around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was killed,
b. The foolishness of trying to live as if the Ten Commandments were never given.
2. The power of God’s wisdom
a. The greater Temple destroyed and raised again – why? so that we would look to Him alone.
b. We preach Christ crucified: the foolish of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God si stronger than men. Ministerial use of human reason.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Praise God's gifts in Baptism

Gregory Nazianzus

"Let us discourse upon the second birth in baptism, which is necessary for us, and which gives its name to the Feast of the Lights (Epiphany). Illumination is the splendor of souls, the conversion of the life, the questions put to the good conscience toward God (1Pt 3:21). It is the aid to our weakness, the renunciation of the flesh, the following of the Spirit, the fellowship of the Word, the improvement of the creature, the overwhelming of sin, the participation in light, the dissolution of darkness. It is conveyance to God, dying with Christ, the perfecting of the mind, the rampart of faith, the key of the kingdom of heaven, the change of life, the manumission of slavery, the loosing of chains, the remodeling of the whole man. Why should I go into further detail? Illumination is the greatest and most magnificent of the gifts of God. For just as we speak of the Holy of Holies, and the Song of Songs, as more comprehensive and more excellent than others, so is this called illumination because it is more holy than any other illumination which we possess.

"As Christ the giver of it is called by many various names, so too is this gift, whether it is from the exceeding joy of its nature (as those who are very fond of a thing take pleasure in using its name), or that the great variety of its benefits has reacted for us upon its names. We call it, the gift, the grace, baptism, anointment, illumination and, the clothing of immortality, the font of regeneration, the seal, and everything that is honorable. We call it the gift, because it is given to us in return for nothing on our part; grace, because it is conferred even on debtors; baptism, because sin is buried with it in the water; anointment, because it is priestly and royal. It is called illumination, because of its splendor; Clothing, because it hides our shame; the font, because it washes us; the seal because it preserves us, and is moreover the indication of the Lord's dominion. In it the heavens rejoice. It is glorified by angels, because of its related splendor. It is the image of the heavenly bliss. We long indeed to sing out its praises, but we cannot worthily do so."

Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 40.3-4


Almighty and most merciful God and Father, we thank and praise You that You graciously preserve and enlarge Your family and have granted us the new birth in Holy Baptism and made us members of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and heirs of Your heavenly kingdom. We humbly implore You that, since we have become Your children, You would keep us in our baptismal grace, that according to Your good pleasure we may faithfully lead a godly life to the praise and honor of Your holy name and finally, with all Your saints, obtain the promised inheritance in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.