Thursday, February 22, 2007

Liturgical Continuity

Liturgical Continuity

— Immovable Faith —

For the Last Sunday in Epiphany, Quinquagesima, TLH hymn # 47, “Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise,” served as our final hymn for the day. In the first stanza a very wonderful knowledge and appreciation for the historic liturgy is displayed by the author. Consider the words of first stanza:
Savior, again to Thy dear name we raise
With one accord our parting hymn of praise.
Once more we bless Thee ere our worship cease,
Then, lowly bending, wait Thy word of peace.

First is the clear recognition of the one of whom we sing when worship is rightly focused. His office and ministry is before the congregation as the reason for gathering. His name is the reason for all confidence and joy.

The next point shows in the second line. The gathering is of one accord, praying, singing, communing as one body. As St. Paul admonishes in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 those singing have examined themselves to know that they are part of a communion that truly is the Lord’s body, and having partaken together of the Holy Communion, they acknowledge again the unity that the Lord has created and maintained. This understanding is stressed also in the fourth chapter of Ephesians:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Then, once more before the divine service ceases, the congregation blesses the Lord. This is a reflection upon the way that the service begins, with the Invocation, whereby those gathered call upon the name of the Lord given to them in their baptism and bless the name by which all blessing has been poured out upon them. This name is what unites them in common faith as the body of Christ. This is the name of their Salvation. Naturally, in drawing near to the close of the divine service they will once again bless, that is, to speak well of, this holy name of blessing.

Finally the service closes with this holy name being spoken over the congregation in the benediction. To receive this benediction from the Lord the congregation humbly bows their heads as the pastor puts the threefold name of peace upon those who bear this name and trust in the Lord and depart to go about their daily activities in the peace that surpasses all understanding.

This very beautiful hymn demonstrates the unity and continuity that the historic liturgy preserves for those who do not abandon it. From beginning to end the mighty arm of the Lord acting on behalf of His children is emphasized.

How anyone could hope to improve upon this focus I do not know. What could possibly be more blessed than this focus handed down even from the time of Moses and continued by the apostles of our Lord?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

“Lord, that I May See!”

Quinquagesima is the last Sunday in the season of Ephiphany and the last Sunday of the Prelenten preparations for Lent. The appointed Gospel reading, Luke 18:31-43, is certainly well chosen for its theme of restoration of sight to those who are truly blind. In the text a blind man makes a request of the Lord saying, “Lord, that I may see!”

Yet the text begins by teaching us that this blind man is not the one who is unable to see what is truly necessary. For the blind man sees Jesus for who He really is, the Son of David, who has come not merely to restore physical sight to the blind, but to restore spiritual sight to those who think that they can see.

In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus restored sight to another blind man. Later, when the Pharisees accused Jesus of not being of God because He worked this miracle on the Sabbath Day, the following was spoken:
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:39-41)

In our text from Luke the apostles and the multitude were in serious danger of being like the Pharisees. For they thought that they could see, and yet they did not see. Even though Jesus plainly spoke of what His ministry of salvation was about, still they did not hear or see.

The realization of how often we all are in this spiritual blindness would terrify us if we really counted it as seriously as we should. For we also approach matters of the true faith with blindness and do not even realize that we do not see. Truly we should be like the blind man in our text and as we approach the Scriptures and the life of the Church and our own personal daily walk of faith, we should continually cry out with the blind man, “Lord, that I may see!”

We generally are better off when we are infants, knowing nothing and looking to our parents and others to teach us. But then we grow older and go through a period of catechesis (often mislabeled “Confirmation Class”) and we imagine that we have learned sufficiently to see clearly. Then we approach the Scriptures and matters of faith with the thought, “Well, now, let’s see what I shall find in the Scriptures today.” This is truly a sad state of mind and spirit, for then we are relying upon our own reason and strength to try to understand what can only be revealed by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. How much more clearly we would see if we approached the Scriptures and all matters of faith with the thought, “O Lord, what would you have me to hear and see from this text?” At first this seems like a very subtle distinction. However, it is really a 180 degree reversal of approach and attitude. The first presumes with the blind Pharisees, “We see!” The second is a humble cry like with the blind man, “Lord, that I may see!”

You may ponder this matter further, if you like, by reading or listening to the sermon for Quinquagesima by clicking here.

By the way, don’t forget that Ash Wednesday is this week!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day Card

For anyone who still needs to find a Valentine's Day Card, you may use mine if you like (for personal use only, not for sale). I have it posted on my new Greetings Card Site at PAS Cards.

My wife has encouraged me for nearly twelve years now to get this site up and running. I've toyed with it for about ten.

Anyway, if you enjoy the card, I'd appreciate hearing from you. Soon I hope to have a variety of cards available for sale.

Happy Valentine's Day!

~ Paul

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Why do so many Christian sects, also called denominations, exist? Why are there so many different “brands” of Christianity?

This really is a puzzling question since each of these groups claim to be following Christ, the same Christ who forbids disunity among those who are His disciples. Yet each “Christian” group claims to be following Christ and adhering to His Word.

Can this really be? Can they all be Christians?

Why are there so many groups that cannot get along with each other? Why do they not all join as one big happy family united in common faith in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord?

Actually, most who call themselves Christians are not really all that different. Most are really walking quite closely on the same path. Why do I say this? Because they all ultimately say that all that matters is that a person confesses Jesus as Lord. “As long as a person believes in Jesus, that person will be in heaven.”

If this is true, why then are there so many denominations? Why do they continue to separate from one another? After all, if confessing to believe in Jesus is all that matters in the end, why make a fuss about the various articles of doctrine that show that not everyone agrees?

Does it really matter? Does it really make a difference?

The Lord Jesus made a declaration that few Christians ever really take seriously. He said,

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt 7:21-23)

And again:

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)

Does it really make a difference how we call “Lord”? What does it mean to do the will of the Father and to do the things that Jesus says?

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
(Matt 10:32-42)

Jesus warns us that not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” will be at peace, because many will not really look to Jesus as “Lord.” Most will call Jesus “Lord,” even doing mighty deeds in His name, but they will also call family and friends and job and church trappings “Lord.” In fact, they will remain where they feel comfortable, forsaking and laying down their crosses. They will continue to “gather in the name of Jesus” and to sing together and even partake of the Sacrament together, but they will not really be looking to Jesus as “Lord.”

Wherein is the difference?

It is in this: And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

Yes, they will offer water to many. They will say to themselves, “Look at how I love the disciples of Jesus.” But their hearts will be far from Him. St. Paul says it like this: For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. (1 Cor. 11:29)

Who really are Christ’s disciples? Where is this body of Christ that we are to discern? Is it really possible to know? Jesus says that it is. The prophets and apostles say that it is not only possible, but necessary, to keep from eating and drinking judgment on oneself.

Who are the little ones to whom we should be moved to give a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple?

Does it really matter with whom we are in communion (fellowship)? Does it matter whether we are in a gathering where those gathered are known as bearing the name of a disciple?

And what does this say of us if we have not clearly discerned this for ourselves? Even more, what does this say of us if we have discerned for ourselves that we are in a communion that is not clearly named as disciples of Jesus? What if we know of others who are disciples but we do not embrace them and do not give them even a drink of water as a disciple?

Does it really matter with whom we gather and to whom we give a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple? Where does this leave us?

Is this really such a strong statement of the Law as it sounds? Is there any other kind of statement of the Law?

The Law is all that we can hear until the Holy Spirit calls us to repentance. By His mighty work we are turned from the things of our own focus to that which the Lord would have us to know. And where does the Lord want our hearts to turn? To Him!

This is where we go awry in our search for unity. Where does St. Paul direct our attention? To the discernment of the body. And what does this statement follow? It follows a clear definition and explanation of the Sacrament of the Altar and the proper administration of the means of grace. It includes an absolute and united and pure proclamation of the Lord’s death till He comes. He states that this is dependent upon a man examining himself and thereby eating the bread and drinking of the cup. In other words this is dependent upon each head of every household continually catechizing his family so that they recognize their need for the Sacrament so that they seek it where Christ’s body is truly gathered and the body and blood are administered as Christ gives it, for the forgiveness of sins.

Of those who call “Lord, Lord” who would be denied at the Last Day, Jesus says, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The key point is that Jesus never knew them.

Why not? Why did Jesus not know them? How does it happen that Jesus knows His sheep? He knows them because they are His. How are they His? They are “called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Where the Word is preached purely and the Sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command, this is where the body of Christ is. This is where His bride, his body, lives. Christ knows His own bride, his own flesh and blood. This is where His holy communion is known. The ultimate expressing of Christ knowing His disciples is in the Holy Communion, where He gives them His body and blood and they receive His life from Him.

This is the basis of true unity. Christ does not know us by our works. He knows us by His works. It is when we receive His works through faith that we are brought into true communion with Him and thereby with one another. We are united in Him and in what He does for us.

This is why Jesus calls those whom He does not know workers of iniquity. Why? Because they are not really trusting in Him and His works of grace but in themselves and their works of calling out “Lord! Lord!” These are the very works of iniquity for which they are judged.

It is not by our decision or commitment or confession that we are joined with Christ and kept in His holy communion. It is by being joined with Him in Baptism and renewed in Him through the Holy Communion that we are empowered to live as His disciples who daily take up their crosses and follow Him, recognizing their fellow cross bearers and offering water and every other display of love to one another. And the purest act of love that we are moved to show one another is by rightly proclaiming the Lord’s death together as we eat His body and drink His blood as communicants of His forgiveness and life together.

So then, why can’t we all just get along? We can and we do, when we stop trying to make it happen for ourselves and together we receive the unity that Christ works for us in His body. You see, it is not because we say and do the right things together that we are united. Quite the opposite is true. Because in Christ we are united we say and do the right things together. Then we see and understand.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

When we wake up to find that we actually believe this, we find that not only can we get along, but that we do. This is the miracle that the Holy Spirit works, which we confess in the Creed as “the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints.” It really does exist, and it truly knows and lives in the love and peace of Christ.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Valentine’s Day - Anna Nicole Smith

Valentine’s Day
after the style of Anna Nicole Smith

Today the famed (or infamous, depending on one’s perspective), made the news again today. Today she is in all the news for her final act in this world. In today’s Wichita Eagle the headline reads Billionaire's widow, Playmate dies at 39.

Anna leaves her little girl behind with no mother and with more than one man claiming to be the father. At least one paternity suit has already surfaced. Of course this is motivated by love. Sadly the question that surfaces is whether the love is for little Dannielynn or for the money she stands to inherit. Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Eagle’s update has the following quote: "I think she had too many drugs, just like Danny (Smith's late son)," Smith's mother, Vergie Arthur, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday. "I tried to warn her about drugs and the people that she hung around with. She didn't listen."

How sad for Anna’s mother and Dannielynn.

Even more, how sad for the many other young ladies who believe that this is an honorable way to live and to advance themselves in this world. How sad that our society treats women as less than human, as objects to be lusted after and tempted with monetary reward for allowing themselves to be exploited.

On Tuesday the Eagle also promoted the following article: 'COLLEGE GIRLS' EDITIONWSU senior poses for Playboy

The article begins, saying:

Wichita State University senior Marty Spence said posing in Playboy was among her life's ambitions.

WSU senior Marty Spence, left, shows a Playboy page featuring her picture to her boyfriend, WSU alumnus Jon Shaffer.

Spence's uncle, Randall Spence of Rose Hill, said he was proud of his niece, who is listed as a marketing major in the magazine.

"My niece is trying to make something of herself, and everything, and she just looks for the best in just about everything she does," Randall Spence said. "I didn't go to college, and she's going to make more of herself than I did."

Even so, he said, there will be some who criticize Spence for posing.

"A lot of people are prudish, and they can't see that a young girl nowadays is looking for a way to get ahead for the future," he said. "If they've got to do what they've got to do, more power to them. I've got an open mind."

An open mind. I suppose that this is the prevailing mentality that led to today’s headlines regarding Anna’s unhappy departure from the world, leaving her little daughter to live without her mommy. Will Marty follow Anna’s footsteps and end up as she did?

Actually, Marty has already followed Anna up the steps to the Playboy mansion, or at least to the camera studio. She already has accepted that this is an acceptable way to be viewed not only by others, but by herself. She has already labeled herself as a woman who wants to promote herself and to gain money and fame by tempting men to look upon her in ways that are neither noble nor healthy.

Will she be glad for this when she is a mommy? Will she want her daughter to follow her footsteps to the cameras? Will she want her son to look upon women with the hungry eyes of testosterone driven lust? Will she be proud to hear of the next pornography related victim of rape?

I guess these are not really important questions. We really should all approach this and all other matters of morality and decency with Open Minds and extreme tolerance.

Do I sound sarcastic? Oh for shame! Happy Valentine’s Day Anna, Marty, and all.

Yet I dare not presume to be above such things myself. Nor dare anyone else. We all yield to unholy and unhealthy desires. We all prostitute ourselves in many ways. We may not sell our bodies or pictures of our bodies, but we sell our standards and our integrity in many ways. Lust of the flesh is more than sexual lust, though I don’t know anyone who is free of that either.

Valentine’s Day stands in contrast to such things, calling us to remember the true source of Love and to live in that love. Wikipedia gives an account of Saint Valentine in the section In the Golden Legend saying that St Valentine refused to deny Christ before the "Emperor Claudius" in the year 280. Before his head was cut off, this Valentine restored sight and hearing to the daughter of his jailer.

What a wonderful account to consider in view of what we have seen in the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith. Perhaps Valentine’s Day will serve to restore sight and hearing to some of us as well, so that we are restored to see and hear what Love really has to say and to show us.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Women's Reproductive Rights

Today I was terribly frustrated when I heard yet again the association made that those who seek to defend the helpless are seeking to take away women’s reproductive rights. This is a sad commentary on the politically correct mindset that pervades America’s spokespersons.

I must admit that it is a very clever deception. Not that I applaud such “cleverness.” Nevertheless, those who choose to press for their agenda by use of this phraseology truly know how to manipulate the language. They are very effective.

Certainly I and all who love the gift of life are in favor of “women’s reproductive rights.” It is angering to be accused of the exact opposite of what I believe and say. Yet that is what is done by those who promote and profit from abortions. It is a deliberate deception to refer to abortion as a Reproductive Right, for abortion is the exact opposite of reproduction. Abortion is the termination of the reproduction that has already taken place.

The fact is that the woman has already exercised her reproductive rights. That is why the one that she and her sexual partner produced is living within her. The conjugal couple have already exercised fully their reproductive rights and the result is that they have indeed reproduced humanity as a living and growing baby.

There are, of course, those occasions where the baby is the result of a rape, whereby the woman’s reproductive rights were violated by the villain who abused her. This violation is most certainly a horrific crime against humanity and against the woman. Such a crime most certainly should and must be punished.

However, the baby is the not criminal. The baby did not violate its mother. The baby is a newly produced and beautiful example of love, even though the sexual act was not one of love. This baby is a genuine reproduction of humanity and must be protected from the same violence that was perpetrated upon the mother.

The mother of the baby, even in the case of rape, is blessed with a true choice that brings loveliness every time. What may have begun as an act of selfish, sexual self-gratification has been turned into an act of life. Both the mother who carelessly succumbed to sexual lust and the mother who suffered the lustful violence of another can choose to receive the little reproduction with joy and love. This is the natural choice of any woman until something else causes her to go against her loving instincts. Fear or other pressures can lead her to seek to choose what everything in her being tells her is wrong. Life is the natural choice, as her own body and hormones tell her. Life is the natural choice as is evidenced by the fact that the sexual encounter produced life within her. To end life is unnatural. To end life is to end all hope for future choices both for the baby as well as the mother, as well as for the father and grandparents and the entire family of the world.

Yet those who seek to promote the end of all choices promote themselves as “Pro-Choice.” This lie seems appealing, especially to one who is frightened and facing unplanned responsibilities.

Two of perhaps the best known proponents of this inhuman fallacy call themselves NARAL Pro-Choice America and The Center for Reproductive Rights. (For Wikipedia’s history of NARAL click here.) What they promote truly is inhuman because they promote as a choice the end of the reproduction of humanity, and a great injustice to humanity, especially the humanity of the little child and of the mother of this child.

Nevertheless, they call this deception a defense of rights and especially of the right to choose. If this is truly what they seek, why then do they resist making information available to the mother to help her choose to protect her baby? Why do they refuse to warn the mother of the damage caused by choosing to go against her womanhood and her psyche, which continually argue within her in defense of her motherhood and in defense of her child? Why do they fight vehemently against laws that would require abortionists to give all available information to those who are considering ending their motherhood and the life of their child? Why do they hire attorneys to find ways to prevent laws that would require abortionists to supply information about what alternatives to abortion are available to these mothers?

The contrast is stark. On one side stand those who shout angrily against their neighbors and fellow countrymen, accusing them of stealing from women their reproductive rights. On the other side stand those who beg abortionists to set aside their greed so as to be honest with those who feel trapped and fearful, begging women to consider what they are doing both to themselves as well as their unborn children. Is there any comparison between the two sides?

Such an article as this will surely not appear in any major magazine or newspaper. Yet perhaps through the Internet some dear woman or young lady will come to realize that she is not trapped and that she truly does have a choice. The choice that women have is to rejoice in their womanhood and to receive the gift of life with thanksgiving, to live rather than to suffer, to step into the light rather than to hide in shame and guilt for many years afterward.

The Pro-Choice group has always been directed at concealing the truth and destroying and ending the life of children along with the life of freedom for the mothers of these children. The Pro-Choice movement began long before the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v Wade. The beginning of the Pro-Choice movement is recorded in Genesis 3, where the serpent presented a choice to the woman in the garden. The choice was between trusting the good life that she had been given or choosing to know both good and evil. The Lord forewarned that it would be a choice between life and death. The serpent presented the fallacious notion that the woman was being deprived of something more, that freedom would result from her choice. She was very sadly disappointed, as was her husband, and as all mankind has been ever since.

As we stand back and observe the Pro-Choice group in contrast to the Pro-Life group, which group truly appears to be free? Which group truly appears to be informed? Which group appears to be truly open with the truth and with the facts? Which group appears to be happier? Which group truly appears to be defending women’s reproductive rights?

From which group would you want to have your mother? Oh, but then, that wouldn’t be your choice, would it?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Why Men Are Always Wrong

There is a standing joke that goes: If a man who is standing all alone in a forest with no woman around, speaks, is he still wrong? This is a rhetorical question with the anticipated answer being “Yes.” However, I have heard more than one woman speak up and answer, “Of course!”

Have you ever wondered why this is? Is this merely an attitude? Is this merely a clash between the genders?

Why are men always wrong?

The answer is really very simple: Because we are.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)

It is true. Because of one man’s refusal to act like a man, no man would ever be right again. Because of one man choosing to listen to the voice of a woman rather than standing on what he had already been told is right, everything would be wrong from then on.

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:17-19)

God has declared that it is true. Men are always wrong. What man can argue against it? No man can ever stand alone and not be wrong.

No man except one.

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21)

Apart from Christ, no man is ever right. Apart from Christ, no man can ever expect to speak and be heard. It is only when we men remember our place that we dare to speak. It is only when our words repeat the words of Christ that we are able to stand without shrinking back.

When men speak as they are meant to speak, their women do hear them, at least if their women are also truly in Christ. After all, when men remember their place and speak only what God has given them to speak, why would anyone who is of God turn aside? For God is love. His Word proclaims His grace.

When a man is in Christ and walks according to spirit rather than according to flesh, he speaks faithfully and lovingly, even as Christ does with His bride, the Church. Then a man is patient and continues seeking only what is good. Then a man continues gently pressing what is right until what is right is received and heard. This means that the man does not press for his own will to be heard and done, but the will of the One who is Love. This means that the man always counts others as more important than himself and seeks the good of others before seeking his own good. This is the way of love.

Do you suppose that this could be a good theme for Valentine’s Day? I expect that St. Valentine would think so. This is the way that God has pronounced to be good. And He is never wrong.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Storms tear through Central Fla.

This morning I heard on the radio that Central Florida had been hit by killer storms and tornados. My first thought was of my family and friends in Orlando. I wanted to find out whether the storms had hit in the areas where they live. I wanted to know whether or not I needed to find out more about their condition and needs.

As I pondered this situation and my response to the news that I heard, I immediately thought of the following admonition from the Apostle Paul:

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Gal 6:9-10)

I was relieved to learn that my family and close personal friends apparently were not hit directly by these storms. Was I glad that it hit other people instead? No. I was just glad to hear that those whom I know personally were not affected. I also was glad to learn that I did not need to respond immediately.

Yes, a person feels and acknowledges an obligation to those whom God has placed in his life. Parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends, are all given by God. These associations are important. Through our loving response to one another God provides for us, even as the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s prayer teaches us.

Then, yes, our responsibilities also extend into our communities and beyond. Yet these responsibilities are not as clearly defined or pronounced as to our immediate family and neighbors and friends. The primarily responsibility toward these more distant “relations” is entrusted first to their family members.

This does not mean that we care less for others who are beyond our circle of association, for we pray for all men in all places continually. Yet in our sense of duty we recognize that God has created us with limitations that must be acknowledged. Thus we respond first to the people whom God has placed into our lives.

The apostle carries us a step farther in our understanding. He says, ” let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” By this he teaches us that there exists for the Christian closeness that is even more important than genetics. It is the relationship that exists between those who are bound not merely by bloodlines but by the blood that endures forever. The blood of Christ, applied with the waters of Baptism, creates a union that exceeds even the familial ties that we feel in our very being. This is a bond that even death cannot break. Of all our relationships in this world, this is the most important. It is the only relationship that will never end.

With this is included something quite wondrous. It is the sense of loving responsibility concerning those who are not of the household of faith. It is the love that God’s love for the world generates in us so that we love and pray for even our enemies. We honestly confront the world with their need for more than government help and insurance funds to rebuild after the destruction of a storm. We do all that we can for those who suffer worldly troubles, but our greater witness is that of the true communion that we share in Christ. This loving witness is more powerful than a vaccine, more powerful than a Habitat for Humanity project, more powerful than a donation to United Way or the Salvation Army.

Therefore we should never be ashamed of the love that is demonstrated first and foremost within the household of faith. After all, this is the love that moves us to look beyond ourselves, to our neighbors, to our fellow countrymen, to the world, and even to our enemies, and not to grow weary in well doing.

How Can We Repay Them?

How can we repay the military veterans?

The following is a letter of response to something that was stated today on the Rush Limbaugh radio program:

Dear Mr. Limbaugh,

On your program today you shared the amazing attitude of the veteran who lost his legs and yet counts it as nothing, willingly sacrificing himself for the safety of his countrymen and for liberty. You asked, "Where do we get these people? How can we ever repay them?"

While your sentiment is noble, it misses the point. Sacrifice cannot be repaid. Sacrifice is given freely by one on behalf of another/others. It is given for the sake of what one values and believes. Thus we should not ask what you asked. Rather we should listen to those who sacrifice themselves and what they believe is worth their sacrifice. Then we will see what they hope for us, without regard for themselves. They offer themselves for the good that the US Constitution promises. They offer themselves in honor of the republic for which the flag stands.

Those who voluntarily sacrifice themselves for this cause do not want to be repaid. Rather, they want us to follow them in their conviction to what is right and good, declared by the US Constitution and represented by all that has been poured out as blessings upon this nation. What we "owe" those who sacrifice themselves for us is to live in the freedom that they have purchased for us, using that freedom to further the good that these valiant warriors have demonstrated by their sacrifice.

So, rather than wonder where we get these people, let us look to the convictions that produce them. Rather than wondering how to repay them, let us live the life that they have purchased with their own.

If you haven't guessed it, I believe that the good for which they stand is founded in a greater source of good than the US Constitution, the primary declaration of good upon which the founding fathers stood and called upon for the basis of their Constitution. Most who have sacrificed themselves for this nation have at least in some degree shared in that understanding. This is why such sacrifice seems so far beyond us: because it is. It comes from a source far beyond our comprehension, but not beyond the faith that trusts in that source of good.