• Not so Radical Reform

    In all of our theology, we are careful to distinguish between the two pillars that stand behind all of our understanding of  the faith: Law and Gospel. This is what stands behind Two Kingdoms theology, the understanding that God rules the world through the Law on the left and so orders the world in … [Read More...]

  • ABC District

    Babbles on Reform

    Going into this weekend as a delegate at the ABC District Convention I have been thinking, reflecting, reading, and praying about what is to come. I put this forward as a discussion point: As many know, I am not a “life-long” Lutheran, I found Lutheranism after dalliances with atheism, occultism, … [Read More...]

  • Police Hero

    Why I Support the Police…and Want them Watched All of the Time

    I am a child of 9/11. I was working in the Southern Saskatchewan oil patch as a lowly swamper for a drilling rig moving and trucking company on that day. I remember very clearly that we were at the shop getting ready very early for going out on a rig move that day when I overheard on the gin pole … [Read More...]

Jan
24

It’s Time to Lay off of Justin Bieber and Rob Ford

FordMany of us are spending a lot of time lately watching Rob Ford and Justin Bieber – likely the world’s most famous Canadians right now – implode.

They have both become fodder for late night hosts, comedians, and the ubiquitous Facebook memes. Social media is buzzing like mad about their antics and disastrous fall and with people both cashing in for their own benefit and others gleefully shrieking at the spectacle like citizens baying for blood in a Roman Coliseum.

But regardless of my personal feelings about either people, I am unsettled. You see, I am a drug addict. I was just fortunate enough to not be famous when I was in the throes of my addiction. I made terrible decisions, hurt people that I loved and who loved me, hung out with people who I knew were dragging me deeper into the abyss just because I knew that for a freaking second they wouldn’t judge me for my addictions, and relapsed.

For those of us who have a progressive/evidence-
based view of drug policy and actually want to see a society wherein we actually try and help rather than punish drug addicts; especially those at the margins, know that how we interact with these instances will not only have broad and lasting legislative repercussions as politicians are always watching how we react to such things but also addicts everywhere are watching how we react to this, and they are being taught a lesson in what it is like to both have and make public an addiction.

What incentive do I have to reach out for help if I know that even admitting to drug usage us going to likely end my career? Or open myself up to scrutiny in my recovery knowing that I am going to be mercilessly mocked if I slip up and relapse?

Listen, I may not be particularly fond of either of these men, but if because I dislike their music or their politics I can treat obviously pained, suffering, human beings with a complete lack of integrity and dignity, I have lost any moral high ground in the coming debates around all substance use issues.

Jan
04

Why Liberals and Conservatives Suck at Political Discourse

Wrong on the InternetIt is taken in libertarianism as a truism: if you argue to the end to a government monopoly or a prohibition you will be accused of either – in the case of an ended monopoly – wanting that thing to end forever (like healthcare) or – in the case of ending a prohibition – advocating for the thing (like drugs).

So, most political conversations I have with liberals (usually about ending government monopolies) go like this:

Me: I believe that while healthcare must be delivered in such a way that there is no financial impediment to getting necessary healthcare for any member of society, we really must allow some level of private competition in order to gain the level of efficiency and cost-effectiveness that we need.

Liberal: You just want only rich people to be able to afford Doctors!

Me: That’s not exactly what I said. I think that all people, regardless of how much or how little they can afford, will be best served if we allow private interests to unleash the creative spirit of humanity on….

Liberal: YOU HATE POOR PEOPLE! RAAAAAACIST!

Me:……

 

And most conversations with conservatives (usually about ending a prohibition) go like this:

Me: I believe that far and away vastly more harm comes from the prohibition of marijuana, and other drugs for that matter, than comes from marijuana itself. Criminalisation of this behaviour makes no sense either from ethical or scientific point of view. Frankly, there is no rational argument one can make for the prohibition of marijuana that cannot be made for alcohol, and in every case the argument for prohibition is stronger with alcohol.

Conservative: So you want everyone to do all the drugs they can?

Me: No, I feel that a big government approach to this, as a big-government approach to almost everything is doomed to failure and is causing a lot of unintended suffering.

Conservative: YOU HATE THE CHILDREN! WHY DO YOU WANT THEM IN THE GUTTERS, SHOOTING UP THE POT?! RAAAAAACIST!

Me: ……

This is what this article made me think of. Please take time to read it.

Feb
25

God’s Love

Love is Kind

Feb. 3/2013, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians 12:31b—13:13, Riverbend Lutheran Church, Edmonton, AB

EDIT: Audio version can be found here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

As some of you may know, I am an adult convert to both Christianity and Lutheranism. I became a Christian primarily due to the outreach that was done by tiny congregation of fairly radical Charismatic-Pentecostals in Estevan, Saskatchewan. And they spoke in tongues.

They believed that the ability to speak in tongues, which for them meant a type of ecstatic utterance that they claimed was a special, non-human language only spoken by angels, was the basic evidence that every “true” Christian would show if they were really saved.

I was a brand new Christian, I was quickly devouring the Bible and every piece of Christian literature that I could get my hands on, but I was barely familiar with even the most basic Christian teachings. And so, I did what most new Christians have always do throughout time, I trusted the Christian community around me to guide me. However, I didn’t speak in tongues.

They spoke in tongues during the service, they spoke in tongues at Bible study, they spoke in tongues at congregational meetings, and they spoke in tongues in coffee shops where we met to talk about Jesus. However, I didn’t.

Their attention turned to me, and some started to act a little suspicious about my conversion. So they laid hands on me and asked God to grant me the gift of tongues while they spoke in tongues, They fasted for me while praying to God in tongues that I would be given tongues, and they started to question me, asking whether I was stopping it on purpose, and then showing me how easily they spoke in tongues. However, I still didn’t.

Then one day the Pastor of the congregation and a few other leaders were talking to me and laid it out explicitly for me: I might be a Christian, I might even be saved, they weren’t quite sure, but if I didn’t start speaking in tongues, and soon, I could never know if I was going to Heaven.

I had been reading a lot about this stuff, so I asked a few questions, “But isn’t the angelic language in Scripture actually Hebrew? Isn’t tongues just speaking in other languages known by the people you are talking to so you can tell them about Jesus? Doesn’t it seem that Paul in Corinthians says tongues isn’t that important anyways?

Their response? “Quinn, this is part of the problem, all you seem to want to do is read the Bible, and that is giving you a head-faith, you need to get spirit-led, you need to have a heart-faith.”

I was terrified. As a brand new Christian I was being told by the Pastor of my Church that my salvation, my very soul, was at stake. And so I spoke in tongues. But deep down, I knew I was a fraud. I knew it wasn’t real. You could have tortured me – nothing could have gotten me to admit that at the time – but I was a fake. And this experience led to me leaving that congregation, and nearly leaving Christianity behind forever, thinking myself a spiritual failure in the eyes of the other Christians and of God Himself.

St. Paul was dealing with something similar in Corinth when he wrote this letter. There were some within the congregation there that were bragging about the spiritual gifts that they were showing off during the service. It had become disruptive. It had become divisive. It had become a way for some in the congregation to lord their own supposed “holiness” over everyone else. But this is not how a people of love act, is it?

Now I know that many of you who are married had some of our reading for today read at your wedding. It speaks about love and in the English translations we use, seems to be perfect for that occasion as a husband and his wife celebrate their love for one another. However, and I want to be careful here, it maybe didn’t quite mean what you think it meant. You see, the word for “love” used here in our reading is “agape.” It is not exactly the kind of love that man and wife have for each other, that kind of love tends to produce babies. And it is not even the kind of love that friends and family have for each other. It is something entirely different.

Now, let me say here that a man and his wife can and indeed should have this kind of love for each other, but I think the best way to think of it is that while the other two types of love that I mentioned have as their source ourselves, “agape” has as its source Jesus Christ – God Himself.

So, that means that this section of our reading that has at its heart this beautiful discourse on love is really a discourse on how God first loves us. And only then, how we are to love one another because God has empowered us as Christians to do these things and reaches out in love towards each other through each one of us.

This is why St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “Love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” When we serve each other, when we work mercy in the lives of other human beings, God is effectively using our hands and hearts to serve His beloved children. And, when we reach out and help, when we say a kind word, when we shovel a walkway, when we drop money into a mailbox of someone we suspect needs it, we are loving both our neighbour, and our God.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

When we understand this love as the love that God gives us, and the love that He then allows us to show to others, it changes things a little, doesn’t it? With that in mind, thinking about God’s own love for each and every one of you, let’s continue onto that famous passage:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”

Be this way for one another, for God has been this way and is this way for you. And let me be absolutely clear; you will mess up. You will move between knowing that your love for others has failed in what you have done and what you have failed to do and lying to yourself by thinking that you have shown perfect love to other, or at least, “good enough” love. This is why Jesus gives us Baptism – to forgive this sin. This is why Jesus gives us Confession and Absolution at the beginning of every Divine Service – to forgive your sin. This is why Jesus gives us His Holy Supper from His altar – to forgive every sin.

He has forgiven you. He is forgiving you. He will forgive you. From the cross it was all done already.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen.

Feb
22

Seminary Now

Seminary

So, another quick update for those of you that are following my Seminary career;

Today I go before the Ministerial Program Committee (MPC), to have my final fate decided. Up to this point, everything had been going amazingly well. I have had no negative interaction with my Professors, any Pastors, anyone in authority at all, my Seminary Brothers had proven to be one of the most amazing groups of guys I have ever had the honour to encounter, my supervising Pastor was very happy with my work, and every single piece of feedback that I had gotten from my congregation had been overwhelmingly positive. In short, the experience that I have had this time at Seminary was nothing like the one I had had.

Then this Sunday a Professor of mine who also attends my congregation and sits on the MPC pulled my Pastor and me aside and explained to us that the Seminary had just received some negative feedback.

I was crushed, floored. I couldn’t think of a single conflict I had had with anyone in authority for literally – years. I asked what the conflict was, what the feedback was, and was told that I was not able to be told until the Faculty met on Wednesday and decided if the concerns were legitimate and should be passed on to the MPC.

I spent the rest of the long weekend praying, reading Psalm 130, and just attempting to deal with what had just happened. I talked to my Pastor, he said he had no idea what it could be, but suggested that it “Couldn’t be anyone here, these people really love you.”

I chose not to tell my beautiful wife. I wanted to save her having to worry for longer than was necessary. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do, but I just didn’t want to see her hurt.

I told some of the Seminary Brothers, barring one whose wife works with mine as I didn’t want to put him in the awkward position of having to keep something from his bride. Maybe that was wrong too.

Then, Thursday morning came. I met with that same Professor and he explained to me that they felt that the feedback was legitimate and would be passed on to the MPC. I asked what it was…

The response floored me. I was told that some at my congregation had said that I had been “arrogant.” Specifically, during a Bible Study that I had been assigned by my Pastor entitled, “Is it a Sin to be Rich?” this person thought I had implied that we aren’t to be compassionate to the poor because they “have a lot of money.” I honestly have no idea how that could have come across, I have dedicated years of my life to working with and serving the poor. It is what I do as a career currently. If anything, showing compassion to the poor is the only thing I care about as much as evangelism. But if I implied that, I certainly need to be more careful. It was a difficult topic.

I was also told that during Movember, when I was raising money for the Seminary’s donation for prostate cancer, that the joking manner in which I had made the announcements asking for donations from the congregation had come across to someone as inappropriate and that it had become more about “beating the other students” than the cause. I did make those jokes, and even though I passed it by my Pastor before I did them, I should have been more sensitive. I made those jokes in order to raise as much money as I could to help people suffering in that terrible way, and in no way intended to hurt people with my humour. I will definitely be more careful with that in the future.

I was also told that I had used a “sarcastic type of humour” that left someone worried that the recipient of that kind of cutting humour would have felt “bullied.” I do have two couples at my congregation that trade pointed barbs back and forth, one of whom are relatively new members that have become quite close with my family and me, and the other who I had invited to join our congregation and have known for years, also close friends. I can only assume that these conversations were what are being referred to. I have already reached out to all of them, apologizing and begging forgiveness if anything I have done was offensive or hurtful. They all assured me that there was absolutely no offense taken and that it was all in the context of our loving friendship, but I still promised to do better and must watch that this kind of humour is used in appropriate contexts.

I had also been told that some felt that I had denigrated other denominations online and my behaviour online, specifically on Facebook, had been too much. They are absolutely right. I can only say that I apologize and repent and want to do better. I will do better.

Lastly, I was told that someone said that I had also used humour in a “bullying” way at the Seminary to one of my classmates, though I wasn’t given specifics. They are absolutely right. I should be more careful, whether or not the recipient of the joke personally was hurt or someone overheard some trash-talk at the foosball table and thought it had gone too far, it amounts to the same thing. I cannot do that sort of thing.
So, this is the context I am walking into today for the MPC.

Also, I have been deluged with phone calls, texts, personal messages, well wishes on Facebook, e-mails, and personal conversations wherein people have expressed their support for me and endorsement for continuing on at Seminary. Some have sent e-mails and letters of support to the Seminary itself, including the psychologist I have been seeing, a couple of friends, my boss, my Seminary Brothers, my supervising Pastor, my congregation’s Board of Elders, and the congregational President I serve.

If nothing else, this more positive feedback shows how loved I am and I am so grateful for that.

But those on the MPC, those at the Seminary have a nearly impossible task. They have to predict the future. They are charged with preparing men for the Office of the Holy Ministry and also (and perhaps more importantly) protecting the sheep from the wolves that try to infiltrate the Church.

I am a sinner; my iniquity is more than you know, and more than I know. My behaviour in the past has placed me under the microscope, and that is a good thing. The fact that so many are taking such an active interest and taking this so seriously shows just how much care and love that they have for my beloved Synod and for Christ’s Church.

If I am unworthy to take on the Office of the Holy Ministry, I praise God that we have in place people who are willing to make the hard decisions. Pray for them, pray for them all. What they do is not easy.

And pray for those that shared their concerns, they are obviously genuine in their love and care of the Church in that they want to ensure that only the very best of men becomes a Pastor. I thank God for all of them.

Pray for me. No matter how this goes, I want to use this to become a better man and a better Christian. I want to be the most healthy and happy (spiritually and emotionally) man that I can be. Please pray that I become that man.

I have changed. The difference in my attitude and activities are like night and day. And I continue to improve in all areas. If the MPC finds that it is not enough, just pray that I can start over and come to peace with it.

Thank you for all of your love. God be with you all.

Feb
18

Quinn’s Epistle to the Estevanians

image

 

 

1. Quinn and Vanessa, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Estevan, with the Pastor and the Elders: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my time in Edmonton away from home and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel. For God is my witness; how I miss you with all of the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that that your love may grow more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may choose what is excellent and may strive towards purity and blamelessness for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I want you to know, brothers and sister, what I have done has, in the end, really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout my own family and friends and to all of the rest that my time away from Seminary that I brought upon myself, and the richness of the hand of God through all of this and most speak of the transformation in my life and the hope of a new beginning and are given hope themselves by it.

?Some perhaps still have misgivings from perhaps less than noble motivations at my re-entering Seminary, but I don’t know. Those who I do know who are cautious or skeptical about me do so out of good reason, and based on past experience. The latter do it out of love, for me and the Church, the former, I’m not sure. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.

?Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for the good, and it is my eager hope that I shall not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my life, no matter the vocation that God places me into. If it is to be Pastoral Ministry, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which shall be chosen I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to become a Pastor and serve Christ and His people in that way, but I maybe it would be better to do some other kind of work for Him, like that which I am doing now. I only know that no matter how this turns out I shall remain and continue with you all, for our mutual progress and joy in the faith, so that together we may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus.

?Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear omen to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict which all Christians everywhere are engaged in.

2. So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

?Therefore my beloved, as I have always done, so now, not only while I was there but also while I am here, I will work out my own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. I will try and do all things without grumbling or questioning, that I may be blameless and innocent, a child of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we try to shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ you may be proud that you did not run in vain or labour in vain. Even if I am to pour myself into my work here, sacrificing this time as an offering to God, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise I will be glad and rejoice with you.

?I hope in the Lord Jesus to come with Vanessa and Trinity to you all soon, that I may be cheered by your presence. I have no one like them, and Vanessa is genuinely concerned for your welfare. Vanessa’s worth, as you know, is both in working with me, and helping and supporting me as I journey through this time and all that have come before it. I trust in the Lord that shortly we will be able to come to you also. I have also heard that Melissa has visited you, my sister and now Deacon in La Ronge. She was of great support to me in my struggles and though she did have struggles of her own, and very nearly chose another career, but mercy was shown to her and she has now been successful in serving God up north.

3. Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no bother for me, and is safe for you.
?Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who would sow division among you and draw you away from Christ! For we all are united through Baptism into Christ, who worship God in spirit and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. Though I have thought that I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh, if any other man has reason for confidence, I thought I had more: converted by the Charismatics, a studier of theology, a lover of pious learning, a Lutheran raised of Lutherans, as to purpose driven – a Director of Young Adult Ministry and leader of Bible Studies, as to zeal, a hater of the “dead Christians,” as to righteousness, never missing a Monday night prayer meeting!

?But whatever gain I had, I count as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus my Lord. For His sake I would suffer the loss of all things, and count my former ways as crap, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on what I was doing, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

?Not that I have already attained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers and sister, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I strive to do is to forget what lies behind and strain towards what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.?

Brothers and sisters, you shouldn’t imitate me, but look to those among you who so live and been an example to all of us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their bank account, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on Earthly things. But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body t be like His glorious body, the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.

4. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Faith and St. Peter’s to agree in the Lord. And I ask you also, true fellow farmhands, help the people of these congregations, for they have both supported, affirmed, and loved me, and contributed to my development as a Christian together with the Edmonton congregations and Pastors and the rest of my Seminary brothers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
?Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let all men know your reasonableness, the Lord is at hand. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

?Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What I have learned and received and heard and seen in you, I will try to do; and the God of peace will be with us.

?I rejoice in the Lord greatly that you have always been concerned for me; you were indeed concerned for me over the last couple of years, but had no opportunity to help. Not that I complain of want; for I have begun to learn, in whatever state I am in, to be content. I am beginning to know how to be brought low, and how to abound; in all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.
?Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Estevanians yourselves know that in the beginning of the my journey, when I left Saskatchewan, no people entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving except you only; for even at CUCA you sent help to me once and again. Not that I seek the gift; but I seek the fruit which increases to your credit. I have received full support and more; I am filled, having received the gifts you sent to us, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

?Greet every saint in Christ Jesus, Vanessa and Trinity greet you, everyone who knows you here greets you, and those who I have told of you, especially those at the Seminary. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.

Jan
23

Is Every Opinion Valid?

Free Speech

So, Carleton University is in the news – again – and for the same reason as recently. It seems that Carleton was ranked quite poorly by Calgary’s “Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom” in regards to free speech for various reasons that became very apparent in last year’s fight with Pro-Life groups of its own students on campus. Carleton has garnered quite the reputation for being anti-free speech but being a haven for the “progressive social justice” crowd, who, ironically, seem to see a lot justice in denying human rights to the people they think suck. Those people being, of course, conservatives, libertarians, the religious, and everyone who doesn’t celebrate their purported agenda.

So, we find that a group (again of students, the Faculty, Administration, and Staff are not friends of free speech) attempting to fight for some semblance of free speech on campus by having a “Free Speech Wall,” which was just a big piece of paper that came with a bunch of markers and that you could write anything you wanted on it.

Was it troubling that a high ranking member of the University Administration (Ryan Flannagan, Carleton’s Director of Student Affairs.) came to inspect the wall and make a decision due to the fairly innocuous statement, “traditional marriage is awesome?” Well, yes. For most of us, that would be indeed mind-boggling, but that was not what prompts this post. Basically, an enraged student named Arün Smith came and tore down this wall in a juvenile act of tantrum-like rage. Like this, I assume.

Why did he do it? Apparently it is because he saw the act of allowing free speech itself it be an act of violence against LGBTQ/Two-Spirited peoples. It seems, that though the wall included a fair amount of pro-gay statements, he was worried that this would somehow hurt the homosexual community. He is a self-described “Homophobia/Transphobia Campaign Coordinator” and in his seventh year of Political Science at Carleton (you read that right, I know, just move on) and sees free speech as dangerous to his conception of social justice. This caused him to utter a phrase that seems to encapsulate much of the Progressive Movement’s views on speech with, “Not every opinion is valid.”

That’s just it, isn’t it? These people are not out to promote equality and justice, they are out to socially engineer their own utopian vision of what they desire society to be, and are willing to restrict the human rights of, destroy the property of, and in some cases, violently attack, those that disagree with them.

Freedom and liberty are completely foreign concepts to them.

Listen, as a Christian, I find myself often around socially conservative Christians who I end up arguing with for greater freedom and rights for society, especially for those issues for which they think are sinful or morally wrong for whatever reason. I think enforcing many of these concepts on society through the use of coercive force is unjust and plain wrong. But in all of my conversations with these people I have never been seriously told by an otherwise intelligent and educated person that I don’t even have the right to disagree with them. That is a dark and dangerous point of view.

It is dark and dangerous. But Arün Smith, I will continue to fight and argue in public for your right to have that opinion. This is because simply that I know that culture changes, and whatever opinion is popular today may be in the minority tomorrow, and it is the same principals of freedom and liberty that protects both of us. Freedom is something that must be given to be retained, and I want as much as can get, so I will fight to give as much as a can.

Jan
22

State of the Seminary Address

Seminary

OK, so maybe the title is not terribly accurate nor is this, you know, an address at all. But I was at a loss. I just wanted to give everyone an update at my progress thus far for Seminary, so here we go.

For previous post, go here.

 

Update
Basically, the last semester was a bear in regards to workload. I had two exegetical courses in two different languages (Greek and Hebrew), both of which I struggle in (though Hebrew is far and away my greatest enemy right now) and both of which I achieved about the same overall grade in. My other course, Apologetics, was a bunch of work as well, but it is far more in my sphere of expertise and frankly I only had to deal with English with a smattering of Latin phrases so, that’s good.

Further, I had been out of the classroom for enough time to make the transition back to dealing with the grind of readings, translations, assignments, projects, presentations and papers quite a learning curve. I started to figure it out again, but it did pile up on me from time to time and I made some rookie mistakes like completely neglecting to attend a class one time and forgetting to do a translation or readings a couple of times.

It was also hard to find the discipline to get back into the groove, to use my every waking hour as efficiently and effectively as I could while holding down the other aspects of my life, that is particular is something that I have taken steps to correct for this semester.

During the last semester I cut my Crossfit workouts down to about three a week, which allowed for some progress on my fitness goals and allowed me to (mostly) maintain what I had achieved before without cutting too much into the other areas of my life. I have, however, taken the opportunity during the break to work my butt off six nights a week before going back.

I continued to see my Pastor, who is also now my Field Work Supervisor, for regular Confession and Absolution, and receive from him forgiveness for my many sins, and also partook of private Holy Communion during these visits. He has been a fantastic help, supportive in every single way through all of this, and I could not ask for any more than he has given me. I am incredibly blessed to have such a model of the Christian faith and the Office of the Holy Ministry to learn from.

I also regularly saw my psychologist for therapy, and this has provided me with some insights and tools that, I think, have provided for a lot of transformation in my life, though she credits God alone with this healing in my life as it continues.

My family have been nothing but supportive in this endeavour and have done everything they can to make things easier for me. My beautiful daughter has even set up a little desk of her own in my study so that she can “Study my Greek too, daddy!” when I am working. My wondrous and majestic bride has been magnificent in reminding me of things I missed, helping with my bibliographies (she has become quite able with the SBL Handbook of Style) and even helping to hold me accountable when I cut down first, and then quit, smoking cigars this semester. I do miss them, though….the cigars, I mean.

I have also been helped by sudden and unexpected influxes of cash that came from absolutely nowhere, not to mention help looking after my beautiful girl and other major “favours” along the way. When I began this last semester, I was unsure how we would make it financially. Now starting this semester my last semester’s tuition, all last semester’s books, all of this semester’s books, and a small amount of money towards this semester’s tuition has all been paid purely our of the kindness of people who wanted to see me succeed. Amazing.

My work has been great! I have an incredibly understanding couple of bosses, who when I pitched the idea of working full time and going to Seminary to them were fully supportive, and only asked that we meet after the first semester and review how things were going. We did, and both my boss and his boss were in agreement that my work has not suffered and has continued to be of a high caliber during this time and they were completely supportive in my continuing on. My boss has even moved the weekly staff meeting – a massive imposition on the whole staff – to accommodate my class schedule…twice.

Speaking of my workmates; they are the most eclectic and amazing group of yahoos anyone could hope for. We have our share of disagreements and differences of opinion, but they have always treated me with respect and bent over backwards to pray for me and support me in any way that they can while I have been attending Seminary. I simply have grown to love them all, from my bosses down, and am constantly in awe at the character and integrity they bring to the very difficult work that we do. We have a tonne of fun, we share a lot of heartache and loss, we constantly tease each other, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks guys, without all of you, this semester would not have been possible.

And finally, all of my Seminary brothers – wow. I can’t even begin to thank you all for all you have done to help and support me in every possible way while I have been at Seminary. From encouraging e-mails and notes, to help when I maybe completely blanked on a translation that was due, to letting me get out of acolyting duties, to working extra hard in order to include me in as much of the Seminary life as possible, I have never seen such kindness and welcoming in all my days. No matter what my fate, to know that the future of my beloved synod is in the hands of men such as these makes me beam with pride and confidence. Which is probably a sin. But soon, some of y’all can absolve me, so there’s that.

Challenge

I did meet with the Ministerial program Committee (MPC), the group who evaluates my progress and decides whether or not to make a recommendation to the Faculty as to whether I should be admitted to the Pastoral Track, and in the short term at least, put me one step closer to a Vicarage appointment for next year. The meeting was very positive, which is a change from past meetings, and in the main went very well. They explained to me that they were very happy with the progress that I had made thus far and were very optimistic as to how things were going for me.

They did express concern that I seemed unable to explain to their satisfaction exactly what had changed in me and how that change manifests in my day-to-day activities. I see their point. The conversation was complex (and I am taking liberties with the paraphrase here) but it basically revolved around my inability to explain exactly what was going on internally in various situations wherein conflict or authority figures are present in my life. That is, when faced with these issues in the past, I would angrily yell down my “opponent” out of some sense of need to retain control of the situation, to retain power. This, I think, stemmed from instances in my life where I felt quite powerless and was left with some trauma due to the circumstances of that powerlessness. Out of some sense of survival, I needed to do that.

In the interview I tried to express my current reality, that when those situations arise now, and that time comes when the survival mechanism used to flare to angry life, now, it just doesn’t. Where a ball of rage would surface at those times and “deal with the threat” of whatever I was facing, now it simply doesn’t happen. It was, and is, difficult to explain an absence of what once was, I guess.

So, I am scheduled to meet with the MPC again in February, and in the meantime I am going to work with my psychologist on how to recognize the processes that used to deliver me to these unhealthy responses and how to articulate that process for others. She is also going to write a couple of letters to the MPC about my progress on these issues, the first of which, I think, has been sent to the Seminary.

I’m not sure what else to say about that part of things, except that I want to get better, and if there is any lack in me that they think that I can or should work on to be the best Pastor that I can possibly be, or frankly, the best and most healthy man that I can be, I am quite happy to work on anything that they wish me to, because it is all stuff that I want to get better at anyways.

What Now?

So, I work another semester. I work full time on my job and full time on my academics and full time on my family life. I pray that God can preserve and strengthen me through this process. I pray that He will continue to help me to become better and healthier as this process continues, and that He will continue to allow all of my friends, Seminary Brothers, Seminary Faculty, family and co-workers to rally around me and help me through this.

I pray that all of you will pray. It is that which I desire the most. I need the help. Thank you, and God bless you.

Jan
06

What Can Adam Lanza Teach Us?

Adam LanzaDec. 30/12, First Sunday after Christmas, Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians 3:12-17 and the Gospel According to St. Luke 2:22-40, Riverbend Lutheran Church, Edmonton, AB.

 

The audio of the sermon is here, titled “Response:” http://www.riverbendlutheran.com/sermons.php

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

Merry Christmas! This is the First Sunday after Christmas and just one of the 12 days of Christmas that starts on Christmas Day and continue until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. This part of the Christmas season always finds me in a very reflective mood, a mood that forces me to ponder. And that’s probably a good thing; we don’t do a lot of pondering in our day and age. We don’t ponder – we Google. But it is the perfect time.

Advent has come and gone with all of its demands on our time and our preparations for the upcoming Christmas celebrations, not to mention the travelling and running around and the family, and it is during this time, in the lull before New Year’s that most people have some extra time that isn’t crammed to overflowing with commitments. And so I ponder.

I think, whether we know it or not, this particular Christmas season may leave us pondering more than most. You see, during this Advent, just weeks ago, a terrible tragedy occurred in Newtown Connecticut.

I know all of you know what I am talking about. It shocked us. It riveted us. It brought tears to our eyes and an ache to our hearts. We all learned a new name, Adam Lanza.

This very sick individual went on a murderous rampage on that day in Advent, in an elementary school. He arrived, having already murdered his mother, and moved into the school. He wandered up and down the hallways indiscriminately firing at anyone that came into his path.

The terrible details about the last moments of young innocents emerged as authorities released their names and ages — the youngest 6; the oldest 56. They included Ana Marquez-Greene, a little girl who had just moved to Newtown from Canada; Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who apparently died while trying to hide her pupils; and principal Dawn Hochsprung, who authorities said lunged at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

In a first-grade classroom, Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher, was shot. All but one of the children in her classroom were also shot; a six-year-old girl was the sole survivor. Her family pastor said that the child survived the mass shooting by playing dead and remaining still until the building grew quiet and she felt it was safe to leave. She ran from the school, covered in blood, and was the first child to escape the building. When she reached her mother, she said, “Mommy, I’m okay, but all my friends are dead.” The child described the shooter as a very angry man.

I’m sorry for sharing these horrible things. I know especially for those of us that are parents this tears us apart. My baby girl is six. This could have been her. It could have been any of us or any of the people we love. Our world is Fallen and full of sin, death stalks us at every turn and we have no idea when its evil will touch us.

So what do we do now?

Our Gospel reading finds St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary taking their eldest son to the Temple in Jerusalem for the customary offering that was given after a child was born. There, some incredible things start to happen. My favourite is that of Simeon, whose song we sometimes sing after we have Holy Communion. You see Simeon was an old man who had been promised “by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Can you picture it? Joseph and Mary walk in with their baby now only a few days old and this man swoops over to them and the Bible says that, “when the parents brought in the child Jesus…he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Amazing stuff. This old man took this defenceless child in his arms tenderly and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” Lord, now I can die. Now I have seen Your Son Jesus, now I have seen You. It is no mistake that we often sing this song moments after we eat His body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In that, we have truly seen Him, been forgiven by Him, and are made ready to die.

God forgives all of our sin. All of it. He has saved us and will save us. We will be with Him in Heaven where we will await the Resurrection of the Dead. “And the dead will be raised imperishable.” Death hasn’t any power over us, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Its pain is felt only by those of us that are left behind, by us who continue to live. And we Christians respond much in the way that Pastor Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown did, with prayer. With hope. With joy in the coming of a Saviour lying in a stable – ready to take away all of our sins, our pain, and our loss.

The world looks at us like we are crazy when we react this way in our darkest moments. When in our pain and suffering and our utter lack of understanding of how something like this could have happened we turn our focus first from ourselves and our own suffering and place it on a baby born thousands of years ago. They see this as madness. We see it as the omnipotent King Almighty, God and Creator of the Universe entering powerfully to become a human being just like us so that He can serve us, those He loves.

So how do we, as God’s own children, respond in the world to the deaths of so many in this senseless way? Well, we serve each other as God serves us. Martin Luther said, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbour does.” But it is St. Paul who instructs us, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved – compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Please. This could all be taken away from us tomorrow. We have very little control in that. And while we are here on Earth we have a major responsibility. God has placed in all of our lives people for whom we must care for. People whom we must serve. People whom we must reach out to. And in all seriousness, after spending the holidays with our families, we know we have people who have hurt us, people whom we must forgive as Christ has forgiven us.

St. Paul continues, “Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Yes Lord, help us to be thankful. Not after some tragedy has befallen us and it is all taken away, but every day let us be thankful for that which you have given us. Parents, after you heard about the shootings, how closely did you hug your child that night? How many times did you tell them you loved them before you sent them off to school again? How thankful did you feel for their presence in your life?

Don’t let it take this happening to act that way. I wish you could see this congregation from the perspective that I or Pastor van Maanen or Kathy sees it. You would see how much love and help there is here for each other, for hurting people, for their families. It’s breathtaking. Keep being, above all, a people of love.

Our Bible passage continues, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

This we do. This we are doing right now. We teach each other – it is incredible what you all have taught me in my time here, we admonish each other – sometimes we need to be told when we are going off track, we sing. In the heart of darkness: surrounded by the sin of the flesh, the world, and the devil, you sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” of hope and love and the great salvation of our God. It’s incredible.

And let me tell you, I know that you all, “in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I know it isn’t always easy to put others ahead of yourselves, to resist the temptation to think of yourself first, and I know that you will fail and you have failed already. Keep trying. And know. Know that Christ has forgiven you. Know that that baby has saved you. Know with the very same faith that Simeon knew that, “my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.

Pastor Morris of Newtown, Connecticut lost a member of his congregation on that fateful day, a little child. What was his response?

He proclaimed the Gospel promise of God through our Baptisms where we were made members of God’s family and all of our sins were forgiven during his Christmas Eve sermon. The night when that child would be the most missed, He proclaimed the salvation through Baptism that was applied to that child, on a night when we celebrate the birth of a child, who powerfully became sin for us to forgive us all of our sins. Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, a newborn with His loving family.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen.

 

Nov
28

What’s Going to Happen Now?

Nov. 25/12, Last Sunday of the Church Year, Book of the Prophet Isaiah 51:4-6,  Riverbend Lutheran Church, Edmonton, AB.

 

AUDIO VERSION: http://www.riverbendlutheran.com/sermons.php

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

Today is the last day of the Church year. This week our readings follow a theme that the appointed readings of the Church have been following for a few weeks now, that of the End.

My grandmother was the first of my grandparents to die. She was my step-father’s mother, so I remember the first time I met her. My mother had told me that my new grandparents were “from the olden times” and so I remember fully expecting them to be in black and white like the movies on TV from the olden times. Much to my childish disappointment, they were live and in Technicolor. I remember my grandmother being a very tough woman; it took her years to warm up to the idea of my brother and me as new grandchildren. I remember that when she finally did, she was as warm and caring as anyone.

I remember when I got the phone call that she was dying, I had just moved to Edmonton with Vanessa and entered classes at Concordia to begin my studies towards a Bachelor’s degree and eventually Seminary. To my parents, that was enough to warrant me coming to grandma’s bedside and “Do that Jesus stuff.”

I remember being terrified, and clutching my Bible, not knowing what I would use it for, but I figured that I should have one. I remember trying to talk my family into calling a Pastor in, I even offered to do it for them, but eventually, against my objections, I was ushered into the hospital room where she lay in pain, dying. I looked at the concordance at the back of my Bible and tried to find an appropriate passage; I stumbled through some painfully awkward readings, and came back each afternoon for a few days to do it all over again, as her condition deteriorated.

On the last day of her life, she was literally writhing in agony, and could hardly communicate except to wince and moan, so I just prayed for her and read awkwardly out of the Bible some more. Then she suddenly stopped writhing, looked at me with eyes full of pain and fear with my family all standing around us and said, “What’s going to happen now?”

Our text for today is our Old Testament reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

You know, I have spent years studying theology, I have read literally hundreds of books on the topic, been blessed with learning under brilliant Professors, even once took an entire Seminary course on this book of the Bible, taught by a Professor who is a member of this very congregation. I could maybe spend some time here waxing eloquent about when this book was most likely written (8th Century BC), about the fact that some scholars believe that more than one author helped to write it, how it impacts our understanding of the various prophecies about the coming of Jesus, or even tell you about how various theologians throughout history have understood the book, from the Early Church Fathers, to Luther himself, to modern academics.

But you know what? In that moment, when faced with my grandmother’s question, I’m not sure any of it would have helped. For sure this education that I am receiving is critical in understanding the Bible, and it is in His Word that we find answers to the questions that we have, and I wish back then that I had had more of an understanding of His Holy Scriptures, but…what do you say? When a loved one is nearing the End? When you are? When they have gone?

Our text starts with, “Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.” The Hebrew translated here as “law” is torah which can mean several things, like law, but also includes the meaning of “teaching.” Here God is promising us something amazing, something gracious.

Here He is telling us to listen up, to “Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation” because His teachings are going to be given to the world, and it is within those teaching we learn of His “justice.” His teachings are contained in the Holy Bible, which is why we Lutherans demand such a rigorous education of our Pastors. It is not so that they can know a whole lot of scholarly stuff, it is so that they can prepare to guide us through incredibly difficult times with the only source of real Truth that we Christians have, God’s Word.

Our text then continues, “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait.”

In these ancient words that are given us our Holy and Most Gracious Father in Heaven speaks to us in all of our desperate times and places, in all of our needs, in all of the moments where we don’t understand and we desperately look around for any sign of Him. To those who are facing an end, to those whose loved ones are facing an end, to those who fear that inevitable enemy, death, He says, “My righteousness draws near.” To those who fear, to those mourn, to those who suffer, and to those who cannot deal with what they are going through for one more second he says, “my salvation has gone out…the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait

Isaiah continues, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be for ever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.”

Beautiful. This is the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, our Lord. This is the hope that we were baptised into. This is the hope that we receive orally when we eat His body and His blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This is the hope that we have when Pastor Van Maanen proclaims to us the forgiveness of Christ when we confess our sins at the beginning of each service. It is all here, in a scroll penned by a Prophet who was dead for almost eight centuries before Jesus was even born.

We know that Jesus read and even preached in the synagogue from the Book of Isaiah, and we know that people throughout the ages have read and re-read these words and gained comfort from them. Close to three thousand years, give or take a century or two, these words have rung out to God’s own people and been preserved by His mighty power so that today, in Edmonton, Alberta, each one of you could hear them read and know.

You will know that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” He is the source of the Promise made to you in your Baptism, and He won your freedom and salvation through His sacrifice on the cross.

This last passage of our text tells us to look around, look at everything we find so permanent, at the very Earth we stand on and the very heavens and the celestial bodies therein, at the sun, at the moon, at the very stars themselves, and know. Know that every single thing that you see can pass away. Nothing is so permanent as the Promises of God.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner, reads our text. Everything we know will pass away eventually, even ourselves. We will die and through the passage of history be forgotten. Death, the End, is inevitable, but the last part of this passage sums up our hope: “but my salvation will be for ever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.”

On the last day of her life, she was literally writhing in agony, and could hardly communicate except to wince and moan, so I just prayed for her and read awkwardly out of the Bible some more. Then she suddenly stopped writhing, looked at me with eyes full of pain and fear with my family all standing around us and said, “What’s going to happen now?”

What did I say? What could I say? The only thing I knew for sure at that moment, and I am not certain if it was the right thing or the best thing to say, but the only hope that I had to give her was what I uttered.

With my family standing around awkwardly looking at their shoes, I paused, and simply said, “Grandma, you’re going to be with Jesus soon. It’s OK.” She slowly lay back down and seemed to calm a bit, and just stared up at the ceiling. I asked if she wanted to pray, she said yes, and so I began the Lord’s Prayer, with my family joining in – the only time in my memory that has ever happened – and she was gone by next morning.

The same hope I expressed is far more beautifully put in God’s Holy Word, again, “but my salvation will be for ever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.”

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen.

 

Nov
24

I Will Remember Their Sins And Their Lawless Deeds No More

Nov. 23/12, 24th Sunday after Pentecost (Clement of Rome Day), The Epistle to the Hebrews, 10:11-25, Concordia Lutheran Seminary Chapel, Edmonton, AB

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

I don’t think that I will ever get tired of reading or hearing that. I don’t think that I am unique in this but I am often brought low, bent and stooped under the weight of my sin. I do sin in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.

I know I shouldn’t let my sin get to me like this. I am a Lutheran; I know that I am saved by grace. I know that it is not by virtue of my sinlessness that I am going to be justified in the sight of God, but sometimes, my sin – it just gets to me.

Our text tells us why it gets to us, it says, “I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds.”

We know that we do wrong. On some level, everyone knows, even if no one else remembers our sins and lawless deeds, we do.

We remember that we don’t give enough money, time, or thought to the suffering of the people of this world, even those in our own community. We remember that we don’t study the Word as diligently as we really should. We remember that we act for our selfish interests when we really should be thinking of our neighbour. We remember that we abuse the gifts that God has given us, be they material or spiritual.

And sometimes, in the quiet moments when no one is around, the words of a sermon or Bible passage starts to ring in your ears, we start to remember, and the weight comes. It’s then that we need to hear those words of sweetest Gospel: “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Are we guilty of all of these sins and lawless deeds? Yes, and more, and it is far worse than we know.

But please beloved; understand that even this is a source of comfort in our faith. You see, the Law that points out and exposes our sin, the very Law that condemns us, is that which points us to Christ. It is in the understanding and realisation of the depth of our sin, in our own remembrance of our sins and lawless deeds that we cry out for the comfort of the Gospel.

Because “Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins….For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

He has: through His own sacrifice on the cross, by His own offering of Himself – the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – made atonement for it all. It’s gone, remembered no more.

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

This is the Gospel in a nutshell.

And this text assures us over and over again of the confidence we have in the sacrifice of Jesus. When weighted down with our sin, when the cares and troubles of this world are too much to bear, when it all seems terribly, awfully too much, “Brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

Christ is faithful. He has made the sacrifice. He has done and is doing this work in us. Even when we don’t feel faithful, even “if we are faithless, he remains faithful,” for you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen.