Monday, May 30, 2005

Old Bones???

Check out this interesting article:

Scientists recover T. rex soft tissue
70-million-year-old fossil yields preserved blood vessels

could these bones really be 70 Million years old and still contain well-preserved soft tissues? Or might scientists perhaps have over-inflated these ages??

Monday, May 23, 2005

Where Does Faith Look?

Perhaps it’s not a question we’re accustomed to asking ourselves, but it’s certainly one that requires an answer: “Where does our faith look?” But I suppose that before we can even answer that question, we first have to answer the question of “What is ‘faith’ in the first place?” The textbook Bible definition is Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (ESV). So faith is essentially a firm trust and belief in things not seen, but hoped for. It should also be pointed out that the word ‘faith’ comes from the same root (in Greek) as the verb ‘to believe.’ But to ‘believe,’ ‘trust,’ or ‘have faith’ in something is different than just simply a ‘head knowledge’ about something. For example, Jesus cast out many demons that knew who He was. A demon-possesed man said in Mark 1:24, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—The Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked the demon and cast it out. So faith is more than just knowing God, as James reminds us somewhat sarcastically in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Faith certainly includes knowledge, but more than that, the primary aspect of faith is as Hebrews 11:1 describes, a trust or conviction.

So if faith is a belief or trust, then it has to have an object or something in which to believe. In other words, faith isn’t just some quality that exists in itself—it is actually directed to something—something not seen, yet hoped for. This brings us around to our original question, “Where does our faith look?” Is faith’s object inside ourselves or outside ourselves? When a person is troubled over their sin, where do they look for their comfort and hope? The answer that the Bible gives repeatedly, is that we are to have faith in Christ, or in God, or faith in Jesus’ blood (Rom. 3:25), or faith in the power of God (Col. 2:12). So the object of Christian faith is always Jesus Christ, our true God, and His powerful workings for our salvation. Galatians 2:16 says, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Therefore, faith finds its object in Jesus Christ, the Son of God “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Then we have the answer to where faith looks. Does it look inside ourselves or outside ourselves? The answer is outside ourselves! Faith looks outside ourselves to Christ, to God, and to God’s powerful working. Which powerful working? Christ loving us and giving Himself for us at the cross! Because this event is outside of us, it is a certain objective reality for all to believe in!

This is why Christian faith, properly speaking, is never turned inward on itself, but rather is directed outward, to it’s sure and certain object—Jesus Christ. This is certainly not to say that Christ is not dwelling in us—for the same passage I just quoted says this: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ is indeed living in us, because we have been “crucified with Christ” (2:19), but our faith doesn’t look inside for Christ, it looks outside to the Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Does that seem to make sense? Maybe it would help to consider why this is so important. It is important because the place where we can find Christ, and securely grasp a hold of Him by faith, is where He has been revealed to us, namely in the Word of His Gospel—the account of Jesus’ deeds of salvation, from His life to His death to His resurrection. When faith is improperly directed inside ourselves, it can never be certain or have that conviction; at least not for very long. Because when doubts and fears arrive in life, especially those pertaining to faith, where do they most often arise? From inside us! And if the fears and doubts come from inside us (perhaps because we see some insufficiency within ourselves), then how could faith ever be a solid trust and hope if it too were directed inside us? No, when faith is shaken, and needs to find conviction and sufficiency, it must look outside of us to Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us. He alone is our sufficiency and our hope. He and His forgiveness for us and His promise of eternal life is the thing hoped for and not yet seen. So where do we find the Christ who we believe in? In the Word of God that reveals what He has done for our salvation at the cross—outside of us.

Sermon on Matthew 28:19-20 (Trinity Sunday)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Although Trinity Sunday comes only once-a-year, that isn’t meant to suggest that we shouldn’t be singing, praising, speaking of, or teaching about the Holy Trinity year-round. Rather it draws special attention this Sunday to the question of “Who God is;” and I think, as a special bonus, it gives us a fitting day to use the Athanasian Creed. The sermon text this Trinity Sunday will be Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” I also will be making frequent reference to the Athanasian Creed, so you may want to look at that creed in your bulletin insert.

When I say it’s a special bonus to say the Athanasian Creed this Sunday, I’m not joking. It gives such a clear picture of the Scriptural doctrine of the Trinity, that is named in today’s text and in our baptism and at the beginning of each service and in our prayers and in so many other places. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each one of the three ecumenical creeds that we use—the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds—testify or bear witness to the Scriptural teaching of the Trinity. And we confess these creeds because in saying them, we are bearing witness to the objective truth of who God is—the God in whom we believe. As Romans 10:10 says it, “With the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” In other words, the faith in our hearts speaks what it believes. So as a natural response to what God has revealed to us through His Word and Holy Spirit, we speak back that Truth which we believe. And those words that we speak are not our own personal, individual words, but the corporate words and faith of our common Christian confession throughout the ages. The Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds each arose both out of the natural response of faith, and also in response to errors in the church. And these errors weren’t just a problem in the first few centuries of Christianity; they are still with us today, in new clothes. Specifically, the creeds address false teachings concerning the Trinity and the Person of Christ. The Athanasian Creed was written probably in the late 5th century AD, and especially focuses on the equality of the three persons of the Trinity, and on the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Let’s briefly look at how the Athanasian Creed answers the question who is God? The first half of the Creed describes God’s qualities or attributes, and how they are shared among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons have a shared and equal glory and majesty, and are all equally uncreated, infinite, eternal, almighty. The three persons should not be confused with one another, yet they remain and are One God, not three Gods. One Being, not three beings; One Lord, not three lords. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be worshipped alone, and neither one nor the other is greater or lesser than the other persons. Thus we avoid falling into the errors of saying there are three gods or three lords, or on the other hand of not acknowledging the distinct persons. The Athanasian Creed also outlines the distinctiveness of the Three persons of the Trinity. The Father, is neither begotten nor incarnate (in human flesh) like the Son. And the Holy Spirit is neither begotten nor incarnate, but is proceeding from both the Father and the Son.

Of course this is not the half of what could be said concerning who God is, or what the doctrine of the Trinity is; but it already tells us quite a bit. But now that we know something about Who God is, the next question the Athanasian Creed answers is “How do we know Him?” The answer to this question is given in the second half of the Athanasian Creed, beginning with the line, “Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s precisely through the second person of the Trinity becoming incarnate as a man, that God has been revealed to us. Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no ones knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27). Apart from the Son’s choosing to reveal Him, none of us could know the Father.

Through Jesus, the Trinity is revealed to us, and we learn of what God’s purpose is, and the relation between the Three Persons of the Trinity. Through Jesus, this description of who God is begins to take shape in it’s meaning for us. Through the appearing of Jesus, death was abolished and life and immortality were brought to light through the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:10). Through Christ’s incarnation we learn that He is the Word, the Son of God, who was there at the beginning with God, and through Him all things were made. Through Jesus we learn of the work of the Holy Spirit, who points us to Jesus and guides us in faith, so that we are able to confess that Jesus is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3). Through Jesus we see the love of God not only in word, but also in action. For being in darkness and dead in our transgressions and sins, we could neither know God as He truly is, nor could we come to Him. Without the revelation of Christ and His Word, we could only know vaguely of a god of wrath, judging from the suffering, pain, and death in this world. Yet it was the very sin that blinded us that brought this wrath and death upon us. But only through Christ could we come to know more than God’s wrath against sin, and to see His true love for us in the willingness to take that wrath upon Himself at the cross, to provide forgiveness for us. Only then could we see that God still desired to save us from our sins and had a plan to do it.

And here again the Athanasian Creed speaks so clearly and distinctly about the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.” For it is essential to our salvation that Jesus was and is truly both God and man. Again, this is partly why the Athanasian Creed was written, to counter the various errors that were arising in the early church, that either denied Jesus was fully man, or that He was fully God. If He was not fully man, than He could not have truly been our substitute and truly paid our penalty of death. Had He not been fully God, then He would have been unable to rise from the dead, or to make His death effective to forgive all sin. So the words of the Creed affirm those essential Biblical teachings, that Jesus’ divine nature came from God, and that His human nature came from Mary, so that He was perfect God and perfect man. But not as though He were two, but rather is one person, the Christ. In His Godhead He is equal to the Father, but in His humanity He was subordinate to the Father.

And Jesus didn’t become the God-man by transforming the Godhead into human flesh, but rather by taking up the human flesh into God. Not so that it was absorbed or changed into something that is not human, but so that Jesus’ divine and human natures were united as one Person. This is what it means when the Creed says “One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.” So divinity and humanity were not confused or mixed together, but united as one. All of this was essential to what comes next in the Creed, namely the description of Jesus’ suffering, death, descent into hell, rising from the dead, ascension to heaven, and His return to judge the living and the dead. And this is where the Athanasian Creed concludes. Those who have done good—namely those who have believed in Jesus Christ, will rise to life, while those who have done evil—namely those who have not believed the Gospel, will go into everlasting fire. And here you might notice that the Creed ends by saying this is the catholic faith by which we are saved, just as the Creed began by saying the same thing. And so the entire Creed is bracketed at beginning and end with what the purpose of this all is—our salvation. For who God is and how we know Him ultimately leads to what He has done for us in salvation through Christ Jesus.

The words “whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith” is an earnest reminder to us of why we believe, confess, and teach this Christian faith. For without it you will perish eternally. And this is why we have the earnest responsibility to pass this faith on to those who follow after us, just as it was passed down to us. We aren’t the first Christians, and neither they nor we are innovators of the faith, but rather we carry on what was handed down to us and revealed in Scripture. Neither can we ignore this faith, because unless the Lord returns first, we will not be the last Christians either, and the generations ahead need to believe this same faith.

But here in the Creed we are reminded how the importance of the Trinity comes down to us. For this God who is 3 in 1, and who revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ, is the God who saves us. And this Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the one God whose name we have been baptized into, as the words of Jesus said: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In baptism, the God who is 3 in 1, became the God who saved us by the washing of the baptismal waters in His name. Here the great mystery of the Trinity and the salvation Christ accomplished for us is made our own, and marks us as God’s saved children. Here in baptism we are joined in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who creates, redeems, and sanctifies us. Here there is forgiveness and life, full and free. Amen. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Lutheran Blogger's Unite!

My buddy wildboar asked me to post this on my blog, and I'm happy to do it. You're welcome to join us!

For those of you who enjoy reading/commenting on Lutheran blogs, I have a cool opportunity I’d like to bring to your attention. Some friends of mine (also Lutheran bloggers) recently started a Lutheran chat channel called “tabletalk.” There, we can do all the things that attract us to writing/reading blogs… enjoy one another’s company, share ideas, relate joys and concerns, air our opinions on current events and pop-culture, and yes…discuss/debate theology!

This channel offers all of the above and I was hoping many of you might stop by for some good conversation. We’re hoping to populate the channel with Lutheran bloggers/readers so we can discuss issues we believe are important to us. Please, feel free to invite any other confessional Lutherans you think might be interested.

If you are interested, here are the instructions on how to get into the chat room.

Hope to see you there

Monday, May 16, 2005

Million Dollar Baby (Ethics Part 3)

I had promised back in March to give a third part to my discussion of ethics, see here and here, but I never got around to it, partly because everyone knows how the Terri Schiavo saga ended. (although I still haven't heard anything about her autopsy results).

So today I saw the movie "Million Dollar Baby" with Hillary Swank, Clint Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman. I saw it because I knew it dealt with the ethical dilemma of euthanasia. It's certainly not the first movie ever made with a blatant agenda behind it. Perhaps not even the first to have the agenda of euthanasia (I can't think of other's off-hand). But what I began to realize after seeing it, was that movies like this are training us. Now what disturbs me about this is not that someone is making a movie to push an agenda. But I see it as an illustration of what is happening in our modern America. There is a growing sympathy toward euthanasia, which at some point in the not too distant past was recognized for what it truly is: murder. But at some point in the not too distant past we started to feel sympathy. Maybe Dr. Jack Kevorkian (Dr. Death) was one of the earlier and more publicized examples of euthanasia, where it started to become more obvious that at least some people were having sympathy for what he was doing. Even calling it 'mercy killing.' But however this came upon us, it's not at all far from becoming a full-fledged, legal reality. In fact it could be argued that this is already happening with the likes of the Schiavo case.

But can you see how it's happening? Go watch the movie if you haven't, and notice how your emotions are pulled to create a kind of sympathy (I'm certainly not suggesting that we shouldn't feel sympathy for people in such cases, far from it), a kind of sympathy that will overrule your conscience's knowledge of what is right and what is ethical. It's training you to think that euthanasia really isn't bad. And what's frightening is not that this is happening in a movie theater (I thought the movie was otherwise well-made and interesting), but this happened in real life with the Schiavo case. They aren't comparable in medical terms (Swank was conscious and in her full mental faculties, but had total, permanent paralysis and was on a ventilator), but in both cases they were euthanized. And you can see how those who moved for Schiavo's death portrayed it as the compassionate thing to do. I think both the movie and this Schiavo case show how we have been trained to think that life is only valuable if we consider it to be of a certain 'quality of life.' Or perhaps if someone's life has 'meaning.' Or maybe people are just biological machines made up of so many parts, and once you remove an arm or a leg, or maybe once some of the parts stop working, that 'machine' no longer qualifies as a life. It is entirely understandable that a person stuck in a situation like Swank's in the movie, would lose the will to live. But does that then give them the 'right to die'? Does a person even have to be in that condition to have that 'right to die', so long as they have lost their will to live? Does it reflect on what we have been taught (or trained) to believe regarding the value of life, that we think its just as kind to euthanize a person who's not dying, as it is to put an old dog to sleep?

It seems I've heard somewhere recently that a person said Americans have rendered themselves incapable of suffering. I can imagine (with horror) a future that now seems to be not all that distant, where "euthanasia clinics" are as common as abortion clinics. Imagine how sanitized death could become--a casual building much like a hospital, but with soft, sentimental music playing; an artificial brook babbles through the lobby offering the soothing sound of trickling water; cheerful nurses lead 'patients' to their 'farewell chamber' where they are peacefully injected with drugs that will kill them in a matter of minutes, without pain. Maybe they'd call the clinic "Peaceful Transistions", or "Tranquil Gardens", or something equally saccharine. After all, who wouldn't rather die like that than suffer in a hospital bed for weeks on end? Who wouldn't rather die like that than live paralyzed or brain-damaged? Do you see how 'sympathy' and 'compassion' can become so distorted? If we are to stop this scenario from happening, we cannot tolerate this kind of talk about 'mercy-killing' or 'quality of life' to go by unnoticed. We must take a stand that all life is inherently valued, not because we give it value, but because God gives it value. Now this is not to make life into the ultimate good, as if we were to deny death (see previous posts on ethics), but it is to acknowledge that we are not given the right to take life away from ourselves or someone else because we or they have lost the will to live, or because we or they feel that we no longer have sufficient 'quality of life.'

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A lost Art? Disputation

I meant to put this quote up for quite awhile. It describes the art of disputation as it should be: a genuine pursuit of the truth through sincere and thoughtful debate,with careful attention given to listening to your opponent . Much of what happens in modern debate creates such a muddle with personal attacks, straw men, etc, which detract from the real issue. It would do much for the discussion of theology (and other things as well!) if we could emulate what is described in this quote:

"If this fundamental conviction is genuine, it must necessarily affect the mode of listening as well as the mode of speaking. Dialogue does not mean only that people talk to one another, but also that they listen to one another. The first requirement, therefore, is: Listen to the interlocutor, take note of his argument, his contribution to the recherche collective de la verite (anyone translate French?) in the same way that he himself understands his own argument. There was one rule of the disputatio legitima which made this kind of listening mandatory: No one was permitted to answer directly to the interlocutor's objection: rather, he must first repeat the opposing objection in his own words, thus explicitly making sure that he fully understood what his opponent had in mind. Let us for a moment imagine that the same rule were put into effect again nowadays, with the infraction of it resulting in automatic disqualification. How this would clear the air in public debate!"

While I certainly can't claim to have practiced this habit of disputation the best myself, I think the author is right that it would clear the air in debate. This doesn't mean it would be a miracle cure and everyone would suddenly agree, but it would eliminate so much wasteful talk and confusion about what people really mean. And in ecumenical dialogue, it would make it more evident that there are REAL differences between the various Lutheran, Reformed, Arminian, Roman Catholic, etc confessions of faith. After all, how can we communicate if we don't rightly understand both our own, and our opponent's views?

>>Quote by Josef Pieper, in the essay "Disputatio: A Needed String to Theology's Bow?" by John R. Stephenson. p284, All Theology is Christology: essays in honor of David P. Scaer 2000.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Is this True?

In the book Classical Rhetoric and its Christian and Secular Tradition by George Kennedy, I came across this quote on p. 151. My question is whether this statment is an accurate representation of our Christian understanding of Scripture:

"Much of the work of Christian exegesis in the following centuries is built on the assumption that there is a wisdom in the Scriptures, deliberately obscure, which human beings can, in part, come to understand with God's help. The view of St. Augustine and many other Christian exegetes was that God had deliberately concealed that wisdom to keep it from those who were indifferent to it, but would allow those who sought the truth to find a road to understanding."

Now, in consideration of the quote verse like these certainly come to mind:
Matthew 11:25 (ESV) "At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;"

and 2 Cor. 4:2-3 (ESV) "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. [3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to f those who are perishing."

So with those verses (and any others) in mind, does the statement accurately reflect our Christian belief? WHat about the 'perspicuity' (clarity) of Scripture? I think that perhaps the statement is basically correct, with the exception of God making it 'deliberately obscure.' I think the second phrasing, of 'deliberately those who are indifferent' is more accurate, and in keeping w/ the above passages. Any thoughts?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Sermon on John 17:1-5 (Happy Mother's Day!)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The sermon text for this Seventh Sunday of Easter is John 17:1-5,

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

From the beginning of the Gospel of John, when Jesus performs His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, the stage is set for something truly monumental to happen. The first eight chapters of the Gospel of John have a recurring phrase that tells us that all of these signs and events and teachings in Jesus’ life are building up to something big. A climax of everything He has done. This reoccurring phrase is “My time has not yet come;” or depending on the translation you use “My hour has not yet come.” So the whole time that you are reading through the Gospel, you pick up on these cues, that Jesus’ time had not yet come. Then finally in chapter 12, when He has arrived in Jerusalem for the final time, He says, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Then He says it a second time here in chapter 17 during this great prayer that we often call the “High Priestly Prayer,” the longest prayer that Jesus prayed that we have written down. The time has come. Everything that Jesus’ earthly ministry had been building up to was now about to begin. The time for Jesus’ Passion had finally arrived. Here was the pivotal point of Jesus’ mission to earth—the pinnacle of what He was to accomplish for God—the redemption of humanity by His suffering, death, and resurrection.

Since this is the defining stage of Jesus’ ministry; the climax to which the whole Gospel is building; then how should it not also be central to, and define our ministry as pastor’s and teachers of God’s Word? And likewise this suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ is central in all our Christian lives. As St. Paul said in the letter to the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Our task as preachers is to proclaim this message so that by hearing of Christ’s death and resurrection, you will have faith to believe this good news. Yet some may be taken aback at how central Christ’s death is to Christianity. It seems such a brutal and shameful thing to talk about so much. However, from the words of today’s text we hear differently. From the verses I read just before, you might have noticed that there is a whole lot of “glory talk” in today’s Gospel. Why all this talk about glory, when seemingly the opposite—humiliation and shame—was about to take place?

Jesus says, “Father, the time has come; glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you,” and again, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” But before we sort all that out, let’s consider for a moment what the word “glory” means. After all, we have a lot of “glory talk” in our worship service. I count a minimum of seven different places where we speak of “glory” in the Divine Service, and every time it is directed to God or Christ specifically. The Bible Dictionary defines “glory” this way: “properly, it is the exercise and display of what constitutes the distinctive excellence of the subject to which it is spoken.” So glory is the exercise and display of what makes up the distinctive excellence of the subject. It’s a matter of recognizing the honor and majesty that God deserves. And here in today’s Gospel we learn that this pivotal time that had come was precisely the time and manner in which God chose to display His distinctive excellence. Jesus’ Passion is the very thing that reveals precisely what shows God to be excellent above all things, and worthy alone of our praise and glory.

Apart from knowing the Word of God, this reality of God revealing glory in humility is so foreign to us simply because we are accustomed to glory being shown in much different ways than in suffering, death, and humility. In olden times, it might be expected that a king would win glory for himself by great feats of strength or amassing great wealth and prestige, with which to impress His subjects and enemies alike. Yet contrary to worldly wisdom, the recognition of the true honor and majesty of God as our King, comes through Christ descending from the heavenly throne, making Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in likeness of men, humbling Himself to death, even death on a cross. So that as the crown of His Lordship, as the display of all that made Christ distinctively excellent, this King came to lower Himself and become and live as one of His own subjects, and ultimately die. And this was His chosen glory. The letter to the Hebrews says it best, “Jesus [is] crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).
Though the world doesn’t recognize or understand this kind of glory, there is a parallel to this in our everyday lives. This mother’s day we express gratitude for our mothers who raised us. There in our mothers we see a parallel to the kind of glory that Christ displayed on the cross, and went unrecognized by the world. A mother’s glory, that which marks her as distinctively excellent, is found in that same self-sacrificing, self-giving love that protects her children, binds up their wounds and cares for them. The humility with which she raises her children, often without reward. But the truest reward and glory for her is to see her children grow up into godly men and women, who have been raised in the sincere faith in Christ taught them by their mothers and fathers. Here we see the glory that God has given to mothers, in a parallel way to the glory that God gave and revealed in His Son, through humility and self-sacrifice.

Jesus prays, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” So Jesus’ glorification comes from the Father, and likewise the Father’s glorification comes from the Son. How is this so? Because in this way the Father chose to be glorified—in the display of the humiliation and death of His Son. Not as some mere spectacle, but to show His love and His purpose for entering the world, as the next verse describes, “For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him.” And what is eternal life? Jesus says, “That they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” By bringing eternal life to believers, Jesus glorifies His Father. And in His death and resurrection, the Father glorifies Jesus. So here we see that the Father and the Son have a shared glory. To us, this may hardly seem surprising, and rightly so, since we believe. But to a first-century Jew hearing this, it would be stunning. Why?

In the book of Isaiah, in a passage that prophesies Jesus’ coming as God’s servant, God says these words, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other” (Is. 42:8). God says that He gives His glory to no one else; so it would have been stunning for the Jews to hear Jesus asking the Father to glorify Him. And Jesus also prayed, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Hearing this with the ears of a person who knew the Old Testament, it would be unmistakable that Jesus was saying that He Himself was God. The only way Jesus could say these words, and not be blaspheming against God, was if He were in fact true God. And His words show this—that He was not only going to be glorified in His coming death, but that He also had gotten glory for His Father by completing the work given Him to do. And furthermore, He already possessed glory before this—the glory that he shared with the Father from before the creation of the world. Here we see Jesus speak of His eternity as the Son of God. So Jesus’ glory shows that He is true God. He had said “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” These words are echoed for us in the letter of 1 John, where he writes, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). So this Jewish man, who died and rose from the dead, is the true God and eternal life, who is One with the Father and shares in His glory—the glory that belongs to God alone.

This chosen time, this pinnacle of Jesus’ work, was the time God chose to glorify His Son, and be glorified Himself, by His Son’s death and resurrection. This time, this hour, in weakness, suffering, and humility, God found glory like nothing the world had ever seen. A cursed man, hanged on a tree was the glory of God! How was there glory in that? Because this is how God wants us to know Him. He wants us to know Him through Jesus, the humble, suffering Jesus. Where God gave the final answer to all our suffering, pain, and death. Here at the cross is God’s answer to the sin that ruined our love for God, cast humanity out of Paradise, and left us dying. Sin was our own fault, and it is the source of all the evil in this life. But here at the cross, God gave His answer—He put forth His full love for us by taking the punishment that we deserved. By dying for our sins, Jesus’ forgave every last sin, and crushed the serpent’s head for us. His triumph over death in His resurrection gained for us eternal life! Truly, by redeeming us from our sins and winning eternal life, Jesus got glory for the Father! By this great redemption and resurrection, He has shown His distinctive excellence as the Son of God. He truly is worthy of all glory, laud, and honor as our Redeemer King! For our God has revealed His glory in humility. A crucified and risen Savior; FOR US!

Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Preacher's Fundamental Sin

The preacher must learn that his fundamental sin is not to preach the gospel. He may be tempted by sins just as other people are, but the fundamental sin of his life is false preaching, false teaching, false theology. If the builder of a bridge were to build his bridge of pasteboard he would be prosecuted, he would be made responsible for the consequences, criminal action would be taken against him. But how about our preaching? What if our teaching and theology are like building bridges with pasteboard? What if the bridge we build here leads men to destruction instead of salvation? What if what we teach and proclaim is contrary to our ordination? What if the sole reason for our existence as preachers of the gospel be obliterated by ourselves? We preachers are capable of sinning in many ways like other people and it is good and right to remember this. But the work by which we must be tested as preachers and in which we must constantly examine ourselves is our preaching. There the question is, what is the substance and responsibility of our proclamation?

-Martin Fischer
p. 246, The Minister's Prayer Book, ed. John Doberstein