The blog of a lutheran pastor, writer, and political animal.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Five Links 3: Trans-Pacific Partnership edition
Jamelle Bouie of Slate suggests the Senate Minority Leader
spot that Harry Reid is vacating is a spot for a moderate, because this
position represents all Democrats, not just the liberal wing… therefore
Elizabeth Warren isn’t the right person for the job. If she became Senate
Minority Leader she’d be pulled to the right and no longer be a firebrand for
Douthat believes Cruz’s main liability is his lack of
likability… more specifically he noted multiple people have described Cruz as
“Oleaginous.” A quick definition for those of you who aren’t familiar with the
term (myself included), “1. Covered with oil 2. Distastefully complimentary.”
What is TPP? A trade deal being negotiated between the US
and 14 or so Pacific nations, perhaps a little more NAFTA-ish than most people
would like. It appears to be the economic portion of Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”
Asian countries are creating all kinds of trade pacts that
are economically integrating the Pacific, if we don’t get on board, we get left
It may add 0.5% to the national income of the nations
It will revive the American manufacturing sector by opening
up new markets for our goods.
A 0.5% increase in national income may be optimistic.
Most of the protections that benefit the USA will mainly
help Hollywood and big Phrama—it’s about patents and copyrights, not labor,
jobs, and the environment.
I’ve heard from friends over in Europe that the EU is crying
foul on this agreement—though I do not know the specifics.
The deal is being hammered out in a sort of secretive way.
So, a few thoughts:
If this is a race to the bottom, that’s no good, I hope the
“most progressive trade deal in history,” statements are more than just
The idea that America can be cut out of regional markets is
a relatively new one for a whole generation of Americans, who assume
globalization is the norm and that the USA (or at least American Corporations)
is its main driver. We’re living in a more multi-polar world economically and
we will act as such.
My knee-jerk inclination is to separate “American
Manufacturing” from Big Phrama and Hollywood, but truth be told entertainment
and drugs are staple American exports.
Here we are, close enough to Easter, or at least close enough to Holy Week, that we can see, in the distance, the resurrection Dawn… and we are deep enough into Lent, that we can see the story of this season in full.
Covenant after covenant has come before us, so that the one promised by Jeremiah, the one placed within us and written on our hearts,
this covenant is a relief to us.
We know of the condemnation that is to come, we’ve heard of Christ’s upcoming death, we’ve been commanded to bear his cross, we’ve been driven out into the wilderness with him these 40 days… so Christ’s promise to draw us to him… Christ’s promise, more literally, to drag us to himself, comes as a great comfort.
Drawn to our Lord, who is the life giving Seed,
promise placed in our hearts, so that we may know the LORD
The graciousness of this strikes us dumb
—or if we can speak, the best we can come up with is the pleading, yet wonderful, words of the Greeks in today’s Gospel, “We want to see Jesus.”… I want to see Jesus.
I want to see Jesus
I want to see Jesus, but
But I look in the mirror.
I look and see, that I am not right.
I look at those heavy stones, etched 10 times.
I look at the commands of God, and know I do not measure up… I know I’ve committed so many acts of idolatry, in so many ways
—I seek cover in those things, which are convenient, to be saved by them, instead of being covered by the Covenant God made with me.
I look to my neighbors, and do not love them
—I injure them in many ways, by things I do and by things I don’t do. Even moral neutrality is active rebellion.
I want to see Jesus but I am a sinner from way back
—every covenant, every agreement with God glints with my guilt
Paradise Garden, gutted
All of God’s promises to Abraham, undermined at every turn
Freedom from slavery in Egypt, “let’s make a U-turn back to bondage.”
God provides at every turn, let’s complain about it.
Time and time again, I want to see Jesus, but
But I am separated from God by my own sin.
I want to see Jesus
I want to see Jesus, but
But this sinful world keeps me away.
Measures me as not only failing, but by my very nature not welcome
I’m a Samaritan
—as close as a shadow to being God’s people
—yet as unwanted as a pagan priestess, or any other pest.
If you read our 2 year vision plan in
the last Newsletter, you’ll know that we are posting all the Sunday sermons
online on Youtube… one of the interesting things I am able to do,
being the account’s administrator,
is look at the statistics about how
people watch the sermons online.
a few exceptions the average person watches one of my sermons for a little over
3 minutes. I initially felt kinda bad about that… but then I remembered just
how badly the American attention span suffers
—the average person as of 2012 can
only keep focused on one thing for 8 seconds
—a whole one second less than a
—and the three minutes and fifteen
seconds I get from a viewer on Youtube is a whopping 33 seconds more than the
average youtube video gets.
with those three minutes in mind—I’d like to try something a little different
today—I’d like to do a sort of Machine Gun sermon—the Gospel in three minutes
or less, four times.
at us, raising a generation on our complaints about God and God’s people. We
keep claiming things used to be great
—we point to God’s acts in the past so often we’ve in fact pushed God there
By ushering God into the past, we’ve
destroyed our children’s future relationship with God. We’ve poisoned our
community with our nostalgia—we’ve ensured we’ll be the last generation of
look, God doesn’t leave us here, wailing in the wilderness
—we complain of no food, yet we eat
Then we complain of no good food, and
God offers us quail.
We complain of no water, yet from the
very Rock of God our thirst is quenched. We are brought low, humbled, by a
poison that parallels our own poisonous, venomous words
—snake venom for our snake tongues.
then, like someone going through the steps, at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting,
we are forced to look up and face the poisonous creature.
We name the elephant in the room, we
look our troubles in the face.
We survive, wounded but aware and
—facing the world as it is
--facing our own culpability and
facing the fact that it is God alone
who has brought us this far.
at us. We who are scattered, so far
away from what can be called home—so far away too from one another. We’re strangers here.
Yet God grabs us up, and brings us
home, holding our hand as we travel to safety. God also searches far and wide
to gather us in, that we might be together again. We are no longer immigrants,
no longer strangers, but brothers and sisters reunited, together again with
those who we love.
at us. We who are sick, so low and
oppressed by the power of death, that simply putting water to our lips, or food
in our bellies, is impossible. Truly we’re
Yet God is the Good Physician. God
saves us from distress, with His Word, so often spoken by a sister or brother
in the faith, He heals. His steadfast love is balm and a Band-Aid, it is
prescription and ointment—recovery and release, healing and wholeness.
He is with us through the whole
process, steadfast and never abandoning, unceasing in His care.
My God! We are dead and disobedient.
We are an uncomfortable point…
A metaphor and a truth that no one
wants to speak—but here it is,
we’re controlled by death and captured by powers which defy God.
hardwired with habits and inclinations that hurt us and those around us. There
is this rut running through the world
—catching our tires and pulling us
—a rut that runs into a ditch that is
My God! Our God! God, loved us even
when we were dead, and God raised us up.
saved us from our disobedience and has taught us a new way
—has walked a different path,
one that leads us out of the ditch,
one that raises us out of that rut,
and runs right into our neighbor’s
Right to places that have been placed
before us so that we might live for, and with, each other.
new way is nothing short of re-learning how to live.
one big turn around,
one big ongoing U-turn
A turn we’vebiff on often enough,
but still we are called to follow.
often we think of the trajectory of our life as this: “We live, and then we
die. Point A is life, and point B, sooner
or later, is death.
that’s not the path we’re on
—that’s not the path we Christian are
We can say, in truth, we were dead,
but now we are alive.
Point A was death, and point B,
sooner or later, is life!
were dead and damned in Sin.
of Christ, you are alive and saved.
sometimes wonder why we worry about eternal punishment.
Why do we look to the future for a
sorting out of all things?
Why do we wait for judgment to be
upon us? Look at how we live now. Look how we treat one another, how we choose
to act and to live.
Our condemnation is right here—no not
but consider all those things we hide from one another
—sometimes we even hide them fromourselves…
consider all that is done in
darkness. Consider those things we think to turn a blind eye to, those things
in ourselves and in our neighborhoods and in the larger world, that we would
rather pretend don’t exist.
the Light of Christ is shined there
—shined on us
—those things we are not proud of
skitter away, like Cockroaches running under a fridge when the light comes on.
The hidden, is revealed.
This brings both pain and healing—because often you are only as sick as your
the Light of Christ shines here…
When the light of Christ shines, it
shimmers with those precious words,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone
who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.”
A light that shines like the sun
after a long winter—
melting away the dirtied snow,
revealing the good God intended for
His creation and his children.
Like the sun, giving good growth to
long dormant seeds, and fresh leaves to trees long dead in winter’s grasp.
In Luther’s Small Catechism he gives a brief, easily memorizable or even, in
this day and age, tweetable (for the social media crowd), explanation of the
basics of Christian faith, the 10 Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer,
Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confession.
In his brief explanation of the 10 commandments, he hammers home that these
commandments are about keeping us from idolatry—from making those things we
fear, love, and trust, into false gods. In doing so, he reminds us of the one
true God who is our Gracious Lord.
Additionally, he expands the don’ts of the 10 commandments—just as Jesus does
in Matthew’s Gospel “You’ve heard it said thou shall not kill, I say don’t even
Finally, in Luther’s Small Catechism he adds a positive command to each
negative one—in other words, “Don’t just refrain from the evil, but also do the
also wrote a Large Catechism. In addition to exploring more deeply what it
means to fear, love, and trust—in addition to widening the negative and
pointing to the positive—he also highlights Jewish practices at the time of
Moses—using the best learning of Luther’s age,
pointing, sometimes very sharply, to how these command are to be lived
out in the society of Luther’s day.
So, today, I would like to present a hybrid between Luther’s Small and Large
Catechism—not too large nor too small—sort of a goldilocks and the three
bears kind of thing—a “Just right” Catechism—a Medium Catechism.
I would like to present, “Christopher’s Medium Catechism.”
shall have no other gods before me.
It all stands and falls here. The other 9 commandments are moot, if we’ve not
grappled with this first one. The measure of our actions is simply this, “How
are they a response to God’s freely given gift of life to us?”
You see, we easily declare idolatry to be an ancient thing—or something
practiced in far off temples—a relic of an idea with no practical application
these days… but that is not so.
Ask yourself this:
do you fear—what goes bump in your night?
do you respect, above all other things?
stuff hits fan, and you are hard pressed between a rock and a hard place, Where
do you turn?
answers, dear sisters and brothers, are your idol.
Because, there is One who has told us “be not afraid.” One who earned our
respect through His humility and His grace. One to whom we can always turn. The
one true God found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And so, be on guard against idolatry yes, but even that prohibition is grounded
in the positive, that God has freed you to live life unafraid, trusting in him,
who loves you deeply.
shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
We humans are creatures of clay, and have unclean lips—thus it is dangerous
when we speak about God—God, who alone is not an idol, God who alone is Holy
might speak in such a way that we create a false god out of the one true God.
We might cloak a lie in God’s name.
might hide those things, which are sinful under a cloud of piety.
greed, our lusts, our envy, our violence and our strife, done in God’s name—and
thus done in the name of a false god.
of course, of those fanatics who murder and maim in the name of God—it is
wickedness and idolatry.
too of those preachers of false gospels—gospels of escape and gospels of
prosperity, which dishonor Christ, who did not escape, but entered into
of whom it is said, “to gain Christ is to lose the whole world.”
To honor God’s name, we ought to call upon God in all times of need, and pray
to God, and praise God with our lips and in our lives.
the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
I’ve preached to you all about the Sabbath before. Sabbath is about rest,
liberation, and holiness.
Sabbath is a time that ought to be “good… for nothing.” Good in and of
itself—not clogged up with cares and the frantic pace of the rest of the week.
Truly a time to rest.
Sabbath is also about liberation, acts of kindness and justice are part of
living in the holiness of God’s time—such acts honor God’s love of everything
God has created.
Sabbath, finally, is holy in and of itself, dragging us into the reality of God
though our worship together, where we receive the cherished promises of God.
What does this have to do with fearing, loving, and trusting, you might
ask—well, what keeps you up at night?
keeps you from rest, from service of neighbor, and from worshipping and
receiving the promises of God?
exposes all of those—points out our idolatries.
your father and your mother.
As you may know, I insist parents attend confirmation class with their
children… and for some reason, when we get to this command, the parents are
It’s a very practical commandment, and one that follows Luther’s attack on all
the idols that we put our fear, love, and trust in.
It is from our parents, and all those who raise us, that we learn what is
dangerous and what is safe. It is from them that we establish, or don’t
establish, a sense of love and trust.
We’re like little sponges and what we sop up will enter into our lifeblood for
the rest of our lives—our basis for fear, love, and trust, are established in
For good and ill, all authority figures shape our views of God—thus we ought to
not only honor them, but also pray that they, while filled with foibles and
folly, might reflect, on occasion at least, the one true authority, the one
true parent of us all—that they might reflect at least a little of God’s
authority, which is found in humility and weakness.
shall not kill
Christ takes this command, and raise it to great heights, saying, “All who are
angry at a sibling, or curse them, are guilty.”
We should instead spend our days giving life to our neighbor—Luther says
following this one commandment would be a full time job. Being life
giving is a lifelong task.
shall not commit adultery
There are many relationships we will have in life; our relationship with our
spouse will likely be the deepest.
Yes, there will be ups and downs—perhaps you will cycle from lust, love,
loathing, and back to lust. Perhaps it won’t live up to a romance novel or all
those romantic comedies—but, I would remind you, holding real people up to
such standards is idolatry too.
Marriage is a place where trust is formed, or broken. If we cannot trust our
spouse—can we trust anyone?
a break can deform so many of our relationships, even our relationship with
God, after all, marriage can be a metaphor for that relationship, the
relationship between God and God’s people.
This is why we ought to honor those who struggle to love one another and trust
one another with their whole lives
we ought to support trust and trustworthiness in relationships
we ought to build up our neighbor’s marriages.
shall not steal.
Luther is a little scary on this point… he states that if every thief were hung
there would be no one left on the earth.
Theft, is not just pocketing soap and not paying, or even knocking over a bank.
It’s gaining other people’s things by a multitude of means.
the scale when weighing things,
an inferior product, or price gouging.
giving 100% at work, not paying people enough to live on.
things that cause the suffering of others.
Pretty soon we’re all on the gallows, and forced to swallow a hard truth—none
of these things—not one of them—can we take with us… As that country song says,
“I’ve never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.” Theft is ultimately trusting,
fearing, or loving things, instead of loving people and loving God.
We ought to protect the integrity of all our neighbor has, and work to better
shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Any time we wield our tongue against another human being as if it was a weapon,
we’ve broken this commandment.
This is doubly so when we do it from the shadows of anonymity. When we gossip
about others from the darkness, we defame and dishonor them. Any claim we make
about someone else, we should be willing to defend in the court of law, with
the danger of libel and perjury pointed against us.
And it is so much more complex now—what of social media? Is “re-tweeting”
something that proves false, a crime? Is “Liking” a lie on facebook, an
Our tongue wagging and our typing, both tempt us toward sin. I pray we train
them to only talk well of our neighbor, and defend them from all defamation, that
we might interpret all they do in the best possible light.
shall not covet your neighbor’s house, or household.
These last two commandments knock any self-righteousness out from under us. We
might look to the first eight, and pretend that we’ve never broken a single
one, but this pushes the breaking of the commandments into our hearts and
you coveted any of those things you did not steal,
wished someone dead who you did not kill,
lusted after someone’s wife but never acted on that impulse,
thought of dishonoring your parent, but kept quiet about it?
any of those breaches of the Law cross your mind or fill your heart with hope?
Additionally, I would venture to guess, if you own a TV, you are unable to not
covet. The average American watches 8 hours of commercials a week—and what are
commercials, but a continuous call to covet?
yourself these questions:
idols does an honest reflection upon these commandments reveal?
can you live your life as a joyful response to God’s grace?
is your neighbor and how can you serve them?
has freed you to live life unafraid, trusting in him who loves you deeply,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today, we read in Romans 4,
Paul’s unique interpretation of the Faith of Abraham. He goes to the 15th
chapter of Genesis and considers a timeline of Abraham’s faith…
he notes that the father of the faith, Abraham, lived centuries before
the time of Moses and the giving of the Law.
More than that, Abraham is
made right with God, before he is even circumcised.
In fact, Paul points out, Abraham
receives the promise of God, on account of his trust in that promise. That he
believed in God who gives life to the dead—that is, God gives a child to one
who is impotent and one who is barren.
And there Paul pivots.
Paul then points to us and points out that we Christians too receive the
promises of God,
are made right with God,
because of our belief in God, who gives life to the dead.
That is our connection-point to Abraham—that is what makes us children of
Abraham—Justification by Faith, apart
from the Law or any work of our own,
is what connects us to Abraham’s faith.
Now, as a rule I don’t read
Hebrew Scriptures the way Paul does here in Romans—it often disrupts the
integrity of the text—it doesn’t let Genesis be Genesis, or Jews be Jews.
But, today, I’d like us to
try on Abraham’s faith for size, and compare it to our own. Not to dismiss the
Jewish tradition, or do any permanent damage to Genesis (not that it is within my paltry mortal powers to do so), but to
hear the faith anew, to see Abraham’s faith, and our own, again.
To hear the ways in which:
God claims Abraham,
and stays in relationship with Abraham.
To hear as well, of God’s
claiming us, answering us, and staying in relationship with us.
Let us pray
God calls Abraham out of
Ur. He takes him out of the East and brings him to a new land in the West.
Abraham leaves all that he knows—it’s stripped away from him… and as anyone who
has moved a time or two knows, a new
location calls for a new identity.
You get to recreate yourself when you move—people only know you from the
time they lay eyes on you, you are something of a blank slate, a new person…
or as happens in Abraham’s case, God recreates him, presents him in a new
place, a blank slate for God to write God’s blessings upon, that he might be a
blessing to others.
Abraham can tell others, “Hi, I’m Abraham, and God sent me here.”… and
that’s who he is.
And then later, as we read
in today’s lesson, God even erases Abraham’s name and writes him a new one
—he replaces the name Abram with Abraham—“You will be the father of a
multitude of nations.” And Sarai, became, Sara, Princess—for from her will come
nations and kings.
See, their origin and their identity, are from God—that is part of the
Faith of Abraham.
We will also find Abraham
bargaining with God, hoping to save a city, doomed for destruction. He is
willing to call upon God again and again, pleading to God with prayers of
We will also find Abraham
unable to believe, and so will ask for a sign that God’s audacious promises are
And God responds, by cutting a covenant with him.
He takes some critters and cuts them up, and walks between them. In the
ancient world such a thing would be done by both parties—signifying the
consequences if this promise is broken
—but in this case God alone walks the bloody line—God alone agrees to pay
the price if the promise is broken. God gives to Abraham this gracious sign of
his promise to him.
risky requests, pleading and proof of the promise—they too are part of the
Faith of Abraham.
Now, this whole
relationship between God and Abraham gets started with a promise of Land in a particular place, Children by a particular woman, and Blessings… and with the noticeable
exceptions that I have already outlined, the majority of the Abraham Story is
Abraham endangering these promises…
Abraham doing seemingly everything in his power
to lose his land,
to be childless,
and to thwart any blessings that might come his way.
God promises Land, and Abraham leaves the land
promised to him and lays low in Egypt and refuses to take land when offered to
God promises Children, and
Abraham gives his wife away to another man for marriage, not once, but twice.
He tries to make his
Servant, his Nephew, and his son by another mother, into his heirs
—instead of waiting for the promised son.
He sends that first son off
to die, not once, but twice. Then, when Sarah bears him a son after such a long
wait, he takes the kid up a mountain to sacrifice him to the God who provided
the child, who offered him the son.
God promises blessing, and
Abraham’s son Isaac was tricked out of it, and then Abraham’s one grandson
gives it away twice, and the other steals it and leaves the land.
In short, nothing.
Not one thing Abraham does secures the promises of God.
It’s only God’s constant faithfulness to His word
—only God keeping the relationship going
—only God protects the promise, and bears the brunt of its weight.
God’s ongoing faithfulness—that too is part of the Faith of Abraham.
Abraham’s faith involves:
Being claimed completely by God,
Calling on God,
Receiving a sign,
And ultimately it rests on God’s unwavering commitment.
So too it is with us
—all these things point to our own faith as well.
We are claimed completely by God
…Hopefully we see clearly that our origin is from God, and hopefully we
cling to the name we have received from God—that in Baptism we are made to be
For that matter, one of the
things we do when we take up the Cross, is we give over our multitude of
identities and become identified with the crucified one.
We call on God
…Hopefully we can follow Luther’s advice, and call upon God in every
need, rubbing God’s promises in God’s ears, and interceding on behalf of our
sisters and brothers, and the whole hurting world.
We receive a sign
…Hopefully we are regularly fed with the bread of life
—a sign of God’s promise made solid for our sake
—a sign of God’s covenant with us
—of Christ broken to mend our break with God and with one another.
Our faith ultimately rests on God’s unwavering commitment
… Especially in this Lenten season, we recognize and
repent of our threats to God’s promise. We trust not in our own merit, but
instead in the merciful works of God.
In so far, as we are claimed by God
In so far, as we call upon Him.
In so far, as we receive a sign of promise from God.
In so far, as God’s ongoing faithfulness it our center.
Insofar as all that is true, we may say ours too is the faith of Abraham.