It was on this day, June 19th in 1623, that Blaise Pascal was born in France, south of Paris in Clermont-Auvergne. A mathematician, philosopher, and general man of letters, he is best known for his last work, published posthumously as the Pensees (French for “Thoughts”) mostly in aphoristic form.
Jesus has taken away sin and death, and through the cross, God's furious anger is taken away. God's Word of Law hurled God's furious anger at us, but the Gospel frees us to believe that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Holy Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost in the church calendar, turns many Christians into mini detectives. Magnifying glasses in hand, they twist themselves into knots trying to unravel and explain the mystery of the triune God without wandering into heresy.
Today, as I begin writing this, it’s Mother’s Day, and what a joyous day it is. This day is particularly special because as I look at my wife’s belly, I see the hope of new life. She’s due in a few, short weeks to give birth to our firstborn, a baby girl. This whole process has been wonderful to watch.
Once upon a time, there was a story. Year after year, decade after decade, this little story was told to children, passing on her great wisdom from generation to generation. This story gave riches and honor, comfort, and life to all who heard it.
If you google “do I have to go to” it will auto-predict the most popular questions. The first two are “do I have to go to college” and “do I have to go to church?” It seems my life is essentially one, long exercise in answering one of these two questions.
The temple curtain is torn in two. The earth shakes. The rock splits. The tomb opens. The dead get up and go home. All signs that Jesus' death is no small thing. At the same time, John writes, "one of the soldiers stabbed Jesus' side with his spear, and blood and water immediately came out" (John 19:34).
This past Sunday, we Christians celebrate the Feast of Pentecost and reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit summarized in the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed. Every time we as believers confess our faith in the words of that creed, we declare that we believe in the “communion of saints.”
We read throughout Scripture about how at various times and in multiple ways, God scatters and then gathers His people. After the scattering from the Garden of Eden, time after time, God gathered His people around Him and His promises.
The job of a Christian parent should be simple: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). This wisdom seems simple enough, perhaps even self-explanatory.
Popular opinions can be like overgrown vegetation blocking our view of reality. One overgrown opinion says Christianity and science are mutually exclusive and so must be in conflict with each other. But they aren’t.
In 1523, papist patience had worn thin within the Holy Roman Empire, and persecution of those holding the pejorative name of Lutheran began in earnest. Although God's hand managed to protect Luther from the flames, he had to endure the sad news as many of his followers throughout the empire lost postings as pastors, were imprisoned or exiled, or were burned at the stake.
Down is bad, up is good. These aren’t willy-nilly choices. Our bodies lead our linguistics. We associate “down” with sickness, collapsing in exhaustion, and dying, while “up” is iconic of vivacity, standing strong, health. Our positive and negative experiences are mapped onto the metaphorical language we use.
The Easter morning narratives that relate our Lord’s glorious resurrection in the Gospels are accented with several occasions of believable skepticism. Not for a moment did anyone anticipate a far-fetched, eighth-day miracle.
In the world, if we don't betray our spouse, it's because we've settled for good enough. Pizza delivery is faster than first responders. People fear terrorists more than God. Worshipping God interferes with our schedule, even at the best of times.
The events of human suffering and death – and how to care for the bereaved left in the aftermath of these events – present some of the most difficult pastoral challenges imaginable. There are many typical strategies of pastoral care that one could easily conscript for the task.
Scripture says things, and it says them as God said them in Genesis 1, with a creative, formative purpose and power. Scripture is not ours to play with; no, we are Scripture’s. Words mean things. The Word means things.
While we don’t have a record of when the poet Dante Alighieri was born, many historians have dated May of 1265 his likely birth month based on autobiographical records, including his most famous work, the Divine Comedy.
The Bible and church confess Jesus as king. But, what does this mean? Jesus doesn't come to conquer like other kings. There's no brutality. There are no weapons and armor. There's no show of strength. Instead, as the Bible portrays Him, Jesus comes to show us kindness.
Are there any more wonderful words in this life than, “for you?” Martin Luther writes in his Small Catechism, “That person is truly worthy and well prepared (for the Lord’s Supper) who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
It’s all about the conscience. Once we understand that, so much of what Martin Luther wrote, taught, preached, and acted on makes more sense, especially when it comes to the spiritual counsel he provided to others. For Luther the Gospel was not given as advice for religious seekers but as balm to troubled consciences, including those of people facing sickness and death.
In many churches, the pastor wears clothing referred to as “clerical vestments.” This may seem odd, particularly if you’ve never attended a church where this is practiced. Clerical vestments are the adaptation of ordinary clothing to set clergy apart from regular church members.
We are rebel children and children of God the Father. For the Baptized, this is how it goes. We're baptized into Christ. We're forgiven, but we're still sinners. We are sinners in the flesh, but at peace with God through faith in Christ. That's how it goes for us.
The place was Promontory, Utah. The date was May 10, 1869, or at the time of this writing, 150 years ago. The scene looked like this: Two locomotives facing each other, cow-catcher to cow-catcher, as if in a silent standoff. But the mood was one of celebration as crowds stood around watching, and dignitaries worked together to drive in the golden spike.
“So you also have sorrow now.” So Jesus speaks about a time of sorrow for the disciples. Even they have their days of sorrow. Jesus speaks about it here in our Gospel. And it applies to us too, that we should have our days of sorrow.
Luther’s letters of spiritual counsel have long been a favorite resource of mine. I often use them before turning in at night as a devotion. Luther’s letters and table talk comments, most of which were written in his later years, are full of down-to-earth advice and Gospel insights that are often surprisingly still relevant to the troubles of our day.