Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Punishments of God are not Gifts?

This from a GQ interview.  Stephen Colbert describes the plane crash that suddenly killed his father and brother when he was 10 years old.
 “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”…
I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien’s mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”
He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I’m grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.”

Monday, January 23, 2017

Prayer to End Abortion on the 44th Anniversary of Roe v Wade

  Heavenly Father, rise up to protect every unborn child in our land.  We pray to you for them with confidence 
and firm trust knowing that it is your Holy Will to remove the scourge of abortion from off the face of Your 
earth. Thank you that, on this, the 44th anniversary of our Supreme Court’s infamous decision about these 
things, You have helped Your people and given many victories in defense of unborn life since then.  Continue 
these victories by Your mercy.  Change the minds and melt the hearts of all who promote this evil, or who 
seek abortion as a remedy for the troubles of their lives, which troubles are – for many – very great. Make 
us – in our lives – a testimony of sexual purity; those who cherish human life, love and help our neighbors,
 guard and adopt the fatherless and unwanted, honor Your holy image wherever it is found in mankind, and 
willingly sacrifice of ourselves, our comforts and possessions, so that we might truly be your servants and in practical ways, bring about Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. Heavenly Father, we ask you this in the 
name of Jesus, Your Son.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Givenness of Things

"There is no freedom except when what we are, and do, corresponds to what has been given to us to be and to do."

-Oliver O'Donovan, The Desire of Nations

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why NOT to pray and fast on Election Day

Yesterday I preached what was probably the hardest sermon of my ministry career.  I told my congregation that - while I am all for things like prayer and fasting - I think there are important reasons NOT to do so tomorrow, in attachment with election day.  That was a shocking comment, and not one I made lightly.  I attempted to explain it and would like to elaborate here.

The entire sermon was an attack on the ways we make an idol of politics.  My community is a military community and we, of all people, in our closeness to the activities of the state, are tempted in the direction of political idolatry.  I fear that I made too little of the anguish that my parishioners feel as they watch our country arrive at this new low point.  Many of them have given their lives in service to our nation, and the heartache that is their current portion is significant and warranted.  It was not my intention to make light of it.
But where that heartache means total despair, it reveals the presence of an idol.  This is what I find so alarming about the way American Christians are calling for prayers and fastings in association with the voting process.   On the very day when the impotence of our idol is being exposed, we still cling to it with our eyes tightly shut refusing to acknowledge the judgment and truth.  We can pray and fast and hope it ain't so.  But there it is.  Our politics cannot save us.  We are not going to vote ourselves out of this mess.

Politics is very limited institution, mostly negative in it's power of enforcement and authority.  Law brings guilt, as the Apostle says, not life.  To look for solutions or lifegiving power from a political swordbearer is to put our trust and hope in a prince, which Scripture famously warns against.  It is like giving a farmer a hundred plowed acres, but only allowing him to use pesticide and a machete while expecting a bumper crop.  These are tools of excision, not growth.

A call to fast and pray is usually regarded as a call to repent.  Yet, at the top of the list of the sins we need to repent of nationally, are our political idolatry and our childish hunt for quick fixes to profound problems.  Yet, paradoxically, connecting a call to pray and fast with a political election will mostly likely simply reinforce and perpetuate both of those sins!

Our nation is like a morbidly obese man who is seeking relief from a peddler of pills.  The problem is that his own living throughout the decades of his life is what is killing him, and no pill will cure him of his own behavior.
Furthermore, I fear that calling for prayer and fasting on the day of elections is like that obese man calling his family to pray and fast on the day of his doctor's examination.  But the damage has already been done.  He ought to call them to pray and fast as he is driving to the grocery store, or as he is looking to join the membership of a gym, or pulling into the parkinglot of a buffet.  On the morning of the doctor's exam, it is too late.  Abraham told Dives, your time is up.  You had your fun.  The season of prayer has come to an end.

And this gets at the point.  Civil Government is not intended to solve our problems.  So stop praying that God would use it in that way.  We need to repent of thinking that our social problems have political solutions.

If you want to pray and fast for our country on a level that matters and on the day that counts - pray and fast on the first day of Christian school year - and then on the first day of summer break.  Pray and fast when your children are baptized or when a church building is under construction or when a neighbor moves in next to you, or a nursing home closes.  Pray and fast during Advent, Lent, and Holy Week - and repent of your own sins with the same zeal that you bring to bear when discussing taxation policies, illegal immigration, or gun rights.

Further thoughts ...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our Hitler; Our Holocaust

There has been a lot said from both sides about the importance of the current election cycle.  There has been a lot said from both sides about the similarities of Trump to Hitler.  To be honest, I don't believe these are unfounded.  He strikes me as an obviously ego-centric, unstable, and generally untrustworthy person.  He certainly does remind one of the Furor and make one shudder to wonder what sort of holocaust might follow his election as a worst-case scenario.

But what if we're getting the analogy wrong?  What if the holocaust has already long-since begun?  What if we are already living with it and our Goerings, and Goebbels, and Eichmanns are nothing more than mainstream politicians reasonably proposing to maintain the status quo?  What if - for over a full generation now - the incinerators have been quietly humming in our midst and we - like so many nice German people - have turned a blind eye to them, refusing to believe that atrocities like these could ever actually be taking place in a land such as ours?

How then should we vote?