Saturday, February 11, 2012

No Condemnation

Paul has this big ol' discussion about how he can't act/think as holy as he desires (Romans 7) and how he just keeps sinning even though he hates it. Then chapter 8 starts with "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Where did he get that idea?

Maybe? possibly? it might have come from something he heard earlier. Paul was a pharisee in Jerusalem during Jesus' ministry, and he likely witnessed (albeit without faith) some of Jesus' miracles and teaching. Do you remember the story in John 8, where the woman was caught in adultery, and the scribes and pharisees wanted to stone her? They brought her to Jesus. They were trying to pit Moses' law against Jesus' teaching that just kept forgivin' people. This story happened in Jerusalem.

And what did Jesus tell this sinful woman? "Neither do I condemn you."

A PG Rating

From what we'd heard about Marley and Me, the movie was appropriate for entire families, including little kids. Yes, there's the sad ending that you get in all dog-stories, but scuttlebutt suggested that it was a nice, decent, heart-warming story.

We watched the movie last night. I don't know what I'd be thinking right now if the container had been labeled as a PG-13 instead. Probably I'd be thinking it was a pretty nice little story.

But all I can think is, "THIS film was rated PG? THIS?" There was language. No, not much, probably less than I hear at work or at the grocery store. But if I were watching this with my granddaughter or with an 8-yr-old, I'd be perturbed about the language. And the sex. There was way too much suggestiveness, including the main character's womanizing pal. Yes, I realize the married couple was ... well ... married, but look how far things have changed on-screen from when Lucy and Desi, when Rob and Laura, slept in separate twin beds.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just in a puritanical mood at the moment.

Or maybe this explains why I'm happier with Leave It to Beaver and Hogan's Heroes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Problem of Sin

Woe is us! The church is plagued with bad practice and bad doctrine. Maybe we could solve it by electing the right guy as synodical president. What if that doesn't work? Maybe we could go to a different church body which has a cardinal or a patriarch that will enforce the rules properly.

Woe is me! I'm a sinner. I keep on being a sinner. Even when I can control my behavior, my thoughts don't comply with my self-improvement plan. I guess I need a new self-improvement plan since the one I have seems to be such a failure.

Sin in the world.
Sin in the Church.
Sin in our relationships.
Sin in our selves.

This is a problem.

There is ONE solution to sin. Only one.

But we protest: No, surely not. Jesus' blood shed on the cross isn't enough. I have to do something. I have to find something else. I have to help. I have to try harder. Forgiveness of sins just doesn't cut it; it doesn't do enough to rid me and my world and my home and my church of sin.

If the blood of God, who made me and you and everything else, if His love and mercy and His death ain't enough to solve the problem of sin, does it make any sense whatsoever to think that something I can do will fix the problem? Do we really think the absolution is that impotent?

So Cold. So Tired.

The last week I've been freezing. It had been especially warm, so why the chills? I'm suspicious that the warmth at work might be making the 65-68° at home feel uncomfortable. I also suspect that my lack of daily outdoor exercise -- whether it's 25° or -10° -- has made me wussy.

Haven't been able to stay awake recently either. I was actually grateful for a big ol' problem at work earlier this week: it required my mind to stay aware and engaged at the time of day where I'd be snoozing on the couch were I at home.

With a calendar that looked exceedingly bare this week (woo hoo!) I had toyed with the idea of a visit in central Illinois, squeezed in between my days at work. But after a few afternoons of daily naps and being so so cold, my brain said, "You idiot, you're on the verge of getting sick. Don't drive ten hours. Stay home and get extra rest." So with sadness I dismissed the idea of visiting my mommy (who probably wasn't up to company this week anyhow).

After driving home from chapel this morning and watching cars fishtail all around me, maybe it's just as well that I didn't make the trip. The flurries forecast for today are no mere flurries.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

An Impression

A customer came in today. I've waited on the mom but never the daughter. I knew the daughter's name without being told and called up her account to begin filling out the deposit ticket. They were impressed that I remembered.

But it's not me that was being impressive.

I started thinking about the customers who made an impression on me when I started the job. There was the one to whom I gave $20 too much. An hour later she showed up with a $20 bill and said, "I think you counted wrong." I was so grateful for her honesty. She made a huge impression on me.

Another customer saw The New Girl and made sure to heckle me and give me the Trial-By-Fire, handing me a transaction that was none too simple, right at the start. "Break 'er in right," he plotted. The heckling is consistent with his fun and constantly upbeat demeanor. He made a big impression on me.

Then there was the customer that chewed me out royally for not wanting to cash a check that I wasn't supposed to cash, and taking the time to consult with the boss. The yeller made an impression on me too.

And then there was this family that came in today. When I first started work, Maggie was sick, and getting sicker. Just when I was wondering day-by-day whether we could keep her unhospitalized for another day or two, a man (who turned out to be a regular, frequent customer) came in and said his daughter was hospitalized. He started to cry. A grown man. In the bank. His strength for his wife and daughter had been holding up fine through the ordeal. But when he was running an errand, when someone asked how things were going, it was suddenly too much. His worries and the depth of his love got the better of his composure. And hitting so close to home with my own worries for my own daughter, that family too made an impression on me.


I stole some pictures from Jessie's facebook:

Mary, Jessica, Olivia

Andrew and Bryce

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Upon This Your Confession

In the Divine Service, after the congregation confesses sin, the pastor says, "Upon this your confession, I ... forgive you all your sins ...." 

There were times Pastor would be teaching, making the point that what instigates God's forgiveness is not our confessing but His love and mercy.  Pastor would ask, "Do you think God forgives you because you say you're sorry?"  You could tell from the way he asked the question that the answer was supposed to be, "Duuuuh.  NO!"  But it didn't seem like a no-brainer to me.  "Yeah," I would think or say sheepishly, "that was kinda sorta the impression I had."  Of course, I knew that God forgives sin for Jesus' sake.  But doesn't it depend on our being sorry too?

Oh, he would talk again and again about how my repentance doesn't cajole God into being forgiving.  And I do believe him.  (Do you detect a subtle "but ..." in there somewhere?)

Last night when he was talking about such things again, the liturgy came to mind.  "Upon this your confession ...."  That's what we hear, week after week.  I had tried to make sense of it for myself.  But last night, I finally asked.  And now I can finally say, "Duh!  Of course!!"

"Upon WHAT confession?"  In the confession we first confess that we are poor, miserable sinners who have offended God and deserved His punishment.  We are sorry for our sins.  But then what?  We beg "of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son Jesus Christ" that God would forgive.  And THEN Pastor says, "Upon this your confession ...." 

What confession is the basis for the absolution he's about to bestow?  Not "I'm a sinner and I'm sorry."  But the pastor forgives on the basis of the truth [that is, the confession] that God is merciful because of Jesus' death on on the cross.

Wow!  So all along, the liturgy has been saying just what Pastor had been explaining.  How 'bout that?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Jesus Hushing the Demons

I finally heard the answer to a question I've been wondering about for over forty years.

In Mark 1, there was that demon crabbing about Jesus being the Holy One of Israel and about not wanting to have anything to do with Jesus.  Jesus told him to shut up.  Then later in the chapter, after Jesus had been healing all sorts of people and casting out demons, we hear that He would "not allow the demons to speak because they knew Him." 

So why not let them speak?  After all, what they were saying was true: this guy was indeed the Holy One of Israel.  It was true that the demons didn't want to have anything to do with Him.  It was true that He did come to destroy them.  So what's the problem?

In the past I've been told that it would be unseemly of Jesus to have demons telling who He was.  Y'know, bad company, bad reputation, and all that.  But this is Jesus, for crying out loud.  He hung out with tax collectors and sinners.  He didn't seem to worry too much about His reputation getting sullied. 

But Pastor pointed out the answer in last week's sermon and this morning's chapel.  And it makes complete sense!

The demons always get it wrong.   They can't speak God's word without twisting it, perverting it, putting a works-righteous spin on it.   Even though they may say many true things, it's never fully true.  So Jesus orders them to shut up.