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Showing posts from March, 2005

Sermon on John 20:1-18

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The sermon text for this Easter Sunday is the Gospel reading.

Dark was that first Easter morn when Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb. A chill of fear and disillusionment hung over the hearts of Mary and the disciples. Tears tried to express what words could not, as they struggled to understand how God could take away the One whom they had loved so much. How could God take Him away when Jesus was in the flower of youth? He still had so much to accomplish, so many to teach. What now were they to think of Jesus’ promises of giving eternal life by faith in Him? It was in this despair and uncertainty that Mary and the others came to the tomb that Easter morning.

But when Peter and John had gone away, and Mary was left weeping by the tomb, two angels appeared within the tomb and said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She answered, “They have taking my Lord away, and I don’t know where th…

A ‘Eucatastrophe’ of Biblical Proportions

Life is regularly marked by catastrophes; sudden calamities or disasters that are marked by a sudden change of events from good to very bad. An earthquake or hurricane or other natural disaster is an example where peace and tranquility are suddenly interrupted and turned toward chaos and confusion. J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the popular “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, made the suggestion that the English language was lacking for a word to describe the opposite of ‘catastrophe.’ Like many other antonym word-pairs—friendly and unfriendly, difficult and easy, clean and dirty—Tolkien believed there should be a word for the opposite of ‘catastrophe.’ If catastrophe describes the sudden turn of events from good to evil, then what word describes a sudden turn of events from evil to good? So Tolkien proposed the word ‘eucatastrophe,’ adding the prefix ‘eu’ which means ‘good’ in Greek, to ‘kata’ which means ‘down or against’, and ‘strephein’ which means ‘to turn’. So why did Tolkien think we n…

The Ethics of Refusing Treatment (Part 2)

Ok, if you haven't read my first post, "Ethics and the Value of Life (Part 1)" please read that first. Here I'm going to pick up on the question of, "Ok, we don't get to determine the value of life; but how then do we make the difficult end-of-life decisions such as when to refuse medical treatment? And how do we do so without devaluing life?" As I was struggling with these questions, in light of the Terri Schiavo fight, I read a short chapter from a book titled, "Bioethics: A Primer for Christians" by Gilbert Meilander. He directly addressed these issues in a very helpful way in Ch. 7 "Refusing Treatment." I'm going to basically summarize and comment on his advice for Christians who want to face these issues with a proper Christian ethic.

First, to give us a framework for considering this, he names two opposite extremes to avoid in caring for the dying. Meilander says, "On the one hand, we ought not choose death or aim at de…

Ethics and the Value of Life (part 1)

Ok, I've been meaning to add to my blog for awhile now, but have been a little 'lazy.' So here goes...

In the light of the recent turmoil over the Terri Schindler-Schiavo case in Florida, (see an excellent article here)
There seems to be one particularly troublesome theme that arises again and again from those who support Michael Schiavo's decision to have her feeding tube removed. That theme, put simply, is that she has "no quality of life." The implicit assertion in this statement, is that because she, or any person has "no quality of life," the value of their life is somehow less. My question is this: can the subjective criteria of "quality of life" EVER be used to determine the value of any person's life?

Now, certainly one might (and they have) argue that a severely brain-damaged individual can hardly enjoy a 'quality of life' that any person 'deserves, because she is no more than a 'vegetable'. It seems they mig…

Sermon on John 11:47-53

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The sermon text is the Gospel reading, John 11:47-53,

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

Trouble was …

The Law on our Hearts

Jeremiah 31:33-34 reads, "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (ESV)

Here the Lord speaks of the New Covenant He will make with His people, a covenant different from the Mosaic covenant that they broke. Instead He will put the law on their hearts and forgive them their iniquity and sin. So here's my question for you all: What is the 'law' he is speaking of writing on our hearts? This passage is reference twice in the NT, once in Heb. 10:16-17 where it is quoted directly, and Rom. 2:15 (note also preceding and following …

Maps and the Bible

During my first year of seminary we studied the hermeneutics textbook by Dr. James Voelz, “What Does This Mean?” This essay borrows what I have found to be a very helpful analogy from Dr. Voelz’s book. I would like to expand and explore it, and use it to help illuminate one of those perplexing questions that many first year students face. That question is, “What is the relationship between our Lutheran Confessions and the Bible?”

The analogy which I have found so helpful compares the Lutheran Confessions (as they are contained in the Book of Concord) to a “collection of maps gathered into an atlas” (Voelz 350). Envision with me that the Bible, that is, the Holy Scriptures, is represented by the physical land of America. As varied and rich as the topography and geography of America is, so we can picture the Scriptures. The Bible is a giant landscape full of colorful and varied landforms expressing different Biblical themes—and yes, they are not all beautiful—there are dark and shadowy …

“Do you think that they were worse sinners because they suffered in this way?”

The other day, when I was traveling home from my visit to Audi, my new fiancée, I overheard part of a conversation next to me in the airport that caught my attention. A man was commenting on the recent tsunamis and earthquakes in Southeast Asia. Describing himself as a Christian, he went on to explain to the person that he was talking to, that if you looked at the natural disaster there in Southeast Asia “Biblically,” you would have to conclude that those people must really have p****d someone off for God to punish them with this tsunami (I assume by ‘someone’ he was probably implying God). He assumed, I suppose, that since the Bible does forecast great disasters at the end of times, then these people were getting their due punishment for their sins. I couldn’t help but think to myself that he had a serious misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about such things, and also that his comment put forward a very poor representation of Christianity.
This whole question of why God allow…

Enter the Blogger

Well, I'm finally on the blog-wagon. I initially held back from blogging mainly because I'm so often overwhelmed by the Information Proliferation that is my life. :) Too many books, articles, magazines, and blogs to read--too little time. But I finally I've caved in, deciding that if I'm ever going to jump on the blog-wagon, it might as well be now, before the cumulative weight of the rapidly increasing number of bloggers grinds this wagon to a screeching halt. No, really, in all seriousness, I enjoy honest and open discussion and debate, and have enjoyed the discussions I've seen on other blogs. So here goes!