Monday, June 22, 2015

Romans Part Three Podcast

Romans Part Three

Part 3
“The Weight Beneath the Water”

10 May 2015         The Sixth Sunday of Easter     
Year A  Color: White

First Reading:Acts 10:44-48 ; Psalter; UMH 818
Second Reading: Romans 2:1-12 (Alt. Rd.) Gospel: John 15:9-17

First Light Reading: Romans 2:1-12;

In Romans chapter two Paul is going to speak about two topics: the judgment of God and his (Paul’s) own extended family, the Jewish people.  And, Paul is going to show us that his own extended family, the Jewish people, were in just as much need of God’s mercy and grace as any other family.

A Ship’s ballast is the weight beneath the boat.  Sometimes the ballast is internal, built into the bottom of the ship.  This is common in freighter ships.  Sometimes, ballasts are external, such as in sail boats.  The external ballast helps these boats be more agile and faster.  Ballasts are to ships what foundations are to buildings.  They keep them standing through tough times and rough passages.  

Today is Father’s Day, and it seems a proper time for my family to begin getting to know your family.  Family days are important to churches; but they are difficult and awkward days for some families, because they are embarrassed that their family has been through some tough times.  They may also be embarrassed, because they know that their family is far from perfect.  They may even look at your family and mine and mistakingly come to conclusion that our families have never had difficult times or embarrassing and awkward moments; and they begin to really feel that their own family is somehow inadequate, while our families are strong and healthy.  But, if they could just look below the surface, they would find out that what keeps Christian families strong is not something that can be found in the exterior, human components of the family.  Below the surface, is a unseen source of stability and strength, and his name is Jesus.

In Romans, chapter two, Paul is going to talk about the judgement of God, which all people must sooner or later face.  He is also going to talk about his extended family, the Jewish people.  He is going to tell us that his extended family needs the grace and mercy of God as much as any other family.  

The good news this morning is that God is impartial in his judgement.  That is also the bad news, by the way.  God is completely fair and even better than fair, he is merciful.

If God was looking for a reason to send us to hell, he would not have to look very long or hard.  If God were ready to pounce upon us, punishing us for every wrong doing, we would have been hopelessly lost forever.  But, God is merciful

But, part of the logic of love is that love freely offered, can be accepted or rejected.   There is a hell and people do go there.   But, hell is not what many think it is.  Our idea of hell has likely been shaped more by the literature of the Late Middle Ages than it has been shaped by the Bible.  When we use the word Hell, many of us picture a Turkish prison, where boiling pots and devils with pitchforks wait to torture humans for doing bad things.  

I want to suggest to you that what makes Hell a terrible place is that it is the result of people saying and an eternal “NO” to God, not some Medieval torture chamber.     It is the state of living in an eternity without God, who is himself the source of all that is good and blessed.  

God judges evil and wrong doing, not because God likes doing mean things to people.  Judgement is real and must take place, otherwise, evil would be able to hold God and God’s world hostage forever.  

Have you ever tried to do a family outing with the extended family only to discover that there was one family member or friend who simply refused to be happy, no matter what choice was made or what destination was selected?  Sometimes people choose to stay in sorrow and unhappiness.  At some point, every family has a choice to make.  They can allow that one person to hold the family’s happy outing hostage, or they move on without the unhappy person, or in spite of them.

I know that our sense of fairness leads us to think that no one should ever be left behind; and, I basically agree, to a point.  But, at some point, the bus driver has to close the door and the trip has to begin.  And sadly, there will be some who will not consent to the world’s true happiness.  Judgement has to take place in order for God to be good, and for the sake of the world’s good.    

But God is slow to anger and quick to give mercy and pardon.  God is committed to our world and the people who live in it; even the most stubborn of sinners. That is the foundation of our hope.  But, God will deal with sin and wickedness.  And, the judgement of God leaves no one standing superior and smug.  

Paul will soon remind us, in the words of the Psalms, that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  

Even the most moral and upright person cannot claim to have never sinned.  Now, Paul does not imagine that every person has committed every single sin or that we all have the same moral weaknesses.  But, the Law of God is like a mirror; it really doesn’t matter at what point you break it.  Broke is broke.  God is impartial this way. 


At this point in the argument, Paul stops to reflect on the fact that not every one starts at the same point in the race.  Some, like his fellow Jews, had been given the advantage of growing up with the Scriptures, the Torah or what we call the Law of God.  But, he also knows that having it has not done them a whole lot of good.  Torah was suppose to be the blueprint for how the Jews lived, but most of them had not followed it.  But, no matter.  God is completely fair, knowing that not every one starts from the same place.  Paul assures us that God will play no favorites, instead, God will do what is right by every man, woman, and child.  


What is Paul’s deal, being so hard on the Jewish people?  He is anti-semitic?  No.  He is Jewish.  Well then, is he being disloyal to his own people.  No.  He knows that no family can start to address their problems and seek holiness and wholeness, until they admit they have a problem.

Paul starts by talking to his own people, the Jews.  Israel was meant to be light to the nations, by which all the world would come to know the Lord and learn to walk in his ways.  But, Israel had not just made a few mistakes along the way.  They had completely failed in their mission.  

The point Paul is making is not that all Jews were complete hypocrites, or that everyone of them were notorious sinners.  The point is that there was just as much corruption among them as there was among any other group of people; and that this fact discredited the mission God had given them.  

When nations looked at Israel and found them to be just as broken as every other nation, it caused the nations to write off the Lord as being no better than the gods of all the other nations.  The Jews were God’s chosen people and the Torah is holy and good, but Israel had failed in their mission.  

Israel’s Messiah would take the impact of that failure, so that the covenant could be renewed and the mission completed.  He would be the light they were meant to be, so that God would be glorified throughout the world.  God would be faithful, despite Israel’s unfaithfulness.  

Yes, the Jews are the chosen people, meant to be holy and good, but they had failed to be faithful to God. Yet, God would be faithful to his covenant, in spite their failures. 


Circumcision was the outward sign of the old covenant and marked the Jews as God’s people.  But Paul points out that an outward mark means nothing if heart is not faithful.  Paul is not the first person to have made this point.  He and the OT prophets of God anticipated a day when what marked people as belonging to God was not physical circumcision, but what they called the circumcision of the heart.  

Deuteronomy 10:16New International Version (NIV)
16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.

Deuteronomy 30:6New International Version (NIV)
The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Jeremiah 4:4New International Version (NIV)
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
    circumcise your hearts,
    you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire
    because of the evil you have done—
    burn with no one to quench it.

Jeremiah 31:33New International Version (NIV)
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

Ezekiel 11:19New International Version (NIV)
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

This was something that the Messiah alone could do; something the Torah was not capable of dong, not because it was bad or deficient in some way.  It was because it remained external from us.  The Jewish people awaited the time when God’s Messiah would write his law upon their hearts.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6New International Version (NIV)
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Jesus had come to reform his people, not around the outward law, but around the inward law, the circumcision of the heart.  It alone would be the mark of the New Covenant.  

Paul’s argument would have raised questions among Paul’s original audience.  If all of this was so, then what good was it being Jewish?  

To summarize chapter 3:1-8 Paul says, are kidding me!!!

The Jews have a very special place in God’s plans and in his heart. The Jews had been entrusted with God’s divine message, contained in what we call the Old Testament.  What an awesome privilege.  The problem is that Israel was supposed to deliver that message to the world.  But, instead, they kept it to themselves.  So, it begs the question, what good is being messenger if you never deliver the message?  

Not only did the world not receive the message, but they actually assumed all the wrong kinds of things about Israel’s God, because of the way many of the Hebrews lived.  Thus, the world ridiculed and vilified the Lord instead of praising him.  

At this point, you will sometimes hear people say something like this:  In the Old Testament, God had a plan, but it went terribly wrong.  So, in the New Testament, God scrapped the Old Plan, so that he could go with a new plan.

You will hear people say that in the Old Testament God set the bar so high no one could meet the standards.  So, in the New Testament God set the bar very low, so that all we had to do is say we believe in Jesus.  That, by the way, is a terrible way of explaining how the Old and New Testaments are related.  

In the New Testament, the bar is still set high.  Holiness is still the standard. What God does in the New Testament is that he comes, in the form of Jesus, grabs us in his arms, and runs, jumping to clear the bar with us in his arms. He meets the standards of righteousness and holiness, doing for us what we could never have done for ourselves.

Yet, God being God, he not only stayed faithful to his ancient people.  He also stayed faithful to the original plan.  But, what God needed was a completely faithful Israelite to carry out the Old Plan.

It is around this Israelite, named Jesus, that God is rebuilding Israel.  But, then what good is being Jewish?  Paul tells us that God has not abandoned his Hebrew people.  We will come back to this theme in another sermon.  

Paul is raising questions to which he would come back to.  At this point, he wants to be clear that being Jewish is not un-important to God or God’s people.  The point is, God has been faithful to his promises to them and to the original plan. 

The original destination had been right, the boat just couldn’t make it the journey.

Michael Plant was experienced and passionate about sailing the ocean's wild winds. But his third trip around the world was different. He designed and built a $650,000 racing vessel called the Coyote, a lightweight fiberglass-coated, foam-core-hull sailboat that was very fast. Equipped with the latest in technology, on October 16, 1992, Plant launched from New York and headed across the Atlantic toward France, a 24,000 mile four-month race. But it wasn't long into the trip before Plant began experiencing trouble. No one heard anything from him for several days. 

Then, on October 21, a passing Russian freighter picked up his transmission.
"I have no power," Plant communicated, "but I'm working on the problem." He ended the transmission with his only request: "Tell [my fiancé] not to worry." That was the last direct communication anyone ever had with Plant. After 32 days, the Coyote was finally spotted on a Sunday morning by a Greek tanker. It was drifting upside down, and there was no sign of Plant.

The mast, still fully sailed, plunged some eighty-five feet into the frigid waters. The hull was intact. The keel was vertical, and it exposed the fatal problem: the eighty-four hundred pound lead keel bulb that weighted the boat had been sheared off. To this day, no one knows if it was a rogue whale, sea garbage, or just a faulty build that damaged the boat, but without the weight of the ballast, the small boat was useless against the crosscurrents and high winds of the open seas. The ballast's weight in the lowest part of the vessel would give it stability and balance in the rough seas, and without it, the vessel would become top-heavy and be easily overpowered by the angry ocean.

To put it simply, without a keel and ballast, the boat was broken.
Possible Preaching Angles: For a sailboat to navigate the open ocean there must be more weight beneath the waterline than above it. It's the weight beneath the waterline. It's the epicenter, the core of everything.

Adapted from Wayne Cordeiro, Doing Church as a Team (Regal, 2009), pp. 79-80

According to Romans chapter two, the people of God had become like the stranded ship.  Jesus came to finish the course God had set, so that the people of God might see promises of God fulfilled.

In our passage, Paul talks about his own family, the Jewish people.  He is not being disloyal or mean when he talks about their many disfunctions, failures, and shortcomings.  He stops, in them middle of describing their failures, to say that God deeply loves and cares about the Jewish people, just as he love all disfunctional and broken families. 

He is saying to them, “Family.  My people, if your going to make it through the turbulent waters of this world, you have got to have more weight blow the surface than above.  You’re going to need an unseen source of stability. God has offered one, who is the long awaited Messiah.” 

In this sermon, I say to you, “Family.  Milan First UMC, if you are going to make it through the turbulent waters of this world, you have got to have more weight below the surface than above. You’re gong to need an unseen source of stability. God has offered one, and his name is Jesus.“

Thursday, May 21, 2015

United Methodist Hymnal 1989

I have always said that Methodists hymnals are our best collection of collective theology.  The 1989 edition of the United Methodist Hymnal may be the last hymnal produced by the UMC.  Geography, language diversity, costs, and the use of electronic media may prevent us from every producing another hymnal.

Below, I have included a link to one of my Spotify playlists, entitled United Methodists Hymnal 1989.  I have spent weeks producing this list, and it includes nearly every song in the UMH, in the order they appear in print.  My attempt was to include every song.  I didn't quite meet my goal, but I did come close.  I hope it will edify many and be enjoyed by all.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

“Extra Pieces”

19 April 2015         The Third Sunday of Easter     
Year A  Color: White

First Reading: Acts 3:12-19; Psalter UMH 741; 
Second Reading: Romans 1:1-5 (alt. rd.); Gospel: Luke 24:36-48 

First Light Reading:Romans 1:1-5        

Romans 1 New International Version (NIV)
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

Since the 16th century the Book of Romans, (more properly, the letter of Paul to the Christians at Rome) has been the battle ground around which Protestants and Roman Catholics theologians have wrestled over which view of salvation is most accurate and true to the Bible.  One of the un-intended consequences of this theological joust has been to cause most of the Christians in the Western Church to misread the book of Romans.  This misreading has occurred because each side has been busy, scouring through the pages of Romans, looking for ammunition for their arguments, rather than paying attention to the story Paul is actually telling.  We have also been ignoring how the rest of the Church, prior to the 16th century, and in the Eastern church have read Romans.  

You have probably been taught to read the Book of Romans in this way.  If so, you have been taught to see the book of Romans as an outline of doctrines.  For example, one summary of Romans I found on the internet says, 

•    In chapters 1-8, Paul explains the fundamentals and foundations of the Christian faith. In chapter two Paul teaches about the sinful nature of all men in the eyes of God, in chapter three he teaches about justification, and in chapters 7 and 8 he teaches about freedom from sin, and victory in Christ.

This isn’t all together wrong; but this clunky sort of reading seems to leave a lot of extra pieces left over.  Paul does seem to cover justification in chapter three, but if Romans is all about outlining doctrines, why does he suddenly want to start talking about Abraham in chapter four?  And why, then, does he want to spend so much time talking about the role of the Torah?  

The outline then goes on to say that chapters 9-11 are about God’s sovereignty and about election and predestination; which seem almost right. But then, why does Paul go on for so long, talking about God’s love and commitment to the Jewish people?  Again, the reading strategy that teaches us to read Romans only as an outline of doctrine seems to leave too much un-explained.

The outline I found on the internet ends by saying, that having laid the proper beliefs and doctrinal foundations, Paul spends the rest of his time talking about how to live in light of this Gospel.  This part seems mostly on track, but again, it leaves much to be desired.

When I was growing up, it seemed that my mom always had something she wanted my dad to build.  Sometimes she wanted something for herself, like having dad put up a porch swing.  At other times, she had something in mind for the kids, like having dad assemble a swing set or a bicycle.  

Whenever dad worked on something, it was always good sign if at the end of the project all the parts in the box had been used.  It was always a sign of future trouble if there were extra parts still lying around after dad had finished the project.  As most of you know, companies do not usually include extra and un-needed parts.  Chances are good that the instructions have not been read correctly or carefully enough if there are parts left lying around.  

If, at the end of the project, you have parts left over, you are probably going to have to go back to the instructions and re-read them. 

The same thing is true of reading a portion of the Bible.  If your reading strategy leaves too much unexplained, the chances are that you have not read it correctly or carefully enough.  Paul and other early Christians believed that they and most of Israel had mis-understood the plot. The destruction of Temple and the realization that they had failed in their vocation was quite shocking.  Also, it must be said that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah most of God’s people were looking for.  And, he had not done some of things they thought Messiah would do.  Realizing who Jesus was forced them to go back and re-read the ancient words of Scripture, re-interpreting them through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus changed the way they read God’s book.

Paul wrote the book of Romans to show how God is fulfilling his ancient promises to Israel, in and through Jesus.  Paul is taking us on a tour of the of the Old Testament (what Jewish people call the Tanak) showing us how Jesus fulfills every chapter of the Old Testament and showing us how Jesus becomes the lens through which we come to truly understand the promises God has made to Israel.

That is why I am giving this series the title, Romans: the power and relevance of Israel’s ancient story.  This title could really be given to a series on any book in the New Testament.  Every book of the New Testament is an interpretation of the Old Testament.  But, I think the reason for giving this title to my series on Romans is that it helps us to read it correctly, in a way that covers all that’s in the book Romans without leaving extra pieces lying around. 

The first five verses lay all of this out and provide on outline for the book of Romans.

verse 1 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news.” 

In the book of Genesis, God set apart the family of Abraham and called them to be the human instrument through which the rest of the world come to know the LORD.  That was Israel’s vocation, which of course, they failed miserably.  But, through Jesus, God was calling Israel back to their original calling and vocation.

The reason Jesus called 12 disciples was because he was sending an unmistakable message that he was renewing Israel, even as the book of Deuteronomy and the prophets promised God would. God was giving his ancient people another chance to live out their calling. And, when God renewed Israel, he would again set them to the vocation of making God known to the world.  Paul and other early Christians, all whom were Jewish were part of this calling.  And now, they were calling their fellow Israelites to take up their vocation and calling to bring the good news to the world. 

verse 2 called to be an apostle of God’s good news, “which he promised in the sacred scriptures-”

The story of Jesus is the fulfillment of the same story found in the Old Testament.  Long ago, God made promises to his ancient people Israel.  What Paul and other Christians were sharing with others was that God had kept those promises.  The story of Jesus is the climax of the story of the Old Testament.  It is not a stand alone story or something new.   What Paul will do through the rest of the book of Romans is walk us through the entirety of Israel’s scriptures, showing us how they are all about Jesus.

This should sound familiar to us.  In Luke 24 we read about something that occurred shortly after Jesus’ resurrection: 

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Through the book of Romans, Paul does for us what Jesus did for his disciples, on the road to Emmaus; he is opening Israel’s Scriptures to us, so that we can understand them correctly.

verse 3 and 4  the promises God made in the Old Testament is fulfilled in“the good news about his Son, who was descended from David’s seed in terms of flesh, and who was marked out powerfully in the resurrection as God’s son in terms of the spirit.”

Humanly speaking, Jesus was the rightful heir of David’s throne, and the heir to the eternal dynasty God had given to David’s family.  Through the Holy Spirit God appointed - the Greek word “orinthentos” means something like “demonstrated or to make something clear or understandable.  I would paraphrase the verse like this:  “Through signs like the resurrection, the Holy Spirit made it obvious that Jesus was more than the human descendant of David.  He is none other than the LORD himself in human form.”  God fulfilled and kept the promises in an extraordinary and unexpected way.  

verse 5  “Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.”

Because of what Jesus had done, not only has Israel been remade and given a new opportunity to live out its vocation, but the world has finally been given a chance to know and serve the Lord.  All of this comes from God’s own faithfulness, received by us through faith, so that the glory of God might be known throughout the world.

That, my friends, is Paul’s outline of the book of Romans.  That is his summary of what is book is about; and that is what we are going to explore together for the next several months.

A writer in his 50s had written a manuscript for a book, and had sent it to several publishers without success. He grew so discouraged that he threw the manuscript into the wastepaper basket. His wife tried to salvage the manuscript, but he told her sternly: "We've wasted enough time on it. I forbid you to remove it from the wastebasket!"

Undeterred, she decided to show the manuscript to at least one more publisher. When she arrived at that publisher's office, she pulled out the most unusual looking proposal that the publisher had ever received. Underneath a wrapping of brown paper was a wastepaper basket still holding the writer's manuscript. This way, she reasoned, she was not technically going against her husband's wishes. She did not remove the manuscript from the waste basket the publisher did it for her. And when he read it, he loved it.

The writer in this story is Norman Vincent Peale; the manuscript was The Power of Positive Thinking. The book that Peale tossed in the trashcan eventually sold 30 million copies.

Israel had been called to be a light in a dark world.  They were God’s chosen people, blessed with the task of helping the world come to know the salvation of God.  Unfortunately, Israel was in as much need of being saved as any of the nations of the world.  By the end of the Old Testament, Israel had failed to live up her calling and was in exile.  She had broken faith with God and not upheld her end of the covenant.  But, that was not the end of the story.  

God still loved Israel, broken and dejected as they were. God came to them, wooed them back to him, and gave his life for them, so that they might be given a new opportunity to live out their calling of bringing the good news of the rest of the world.  That is Israel’s story and it is the message of the book of Romans.  It is full of explosive power, capable of turning the world upside down.  It has more voltage than a power plant and is capable of transforming the lives of men, women, and children everywhere.  Nothing could be more relevant for our times.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Episode 1 Podcast

Episode 1 Notes

Tracts for Our Times

Episode 1

“Pot, The Fatherhood of God, and Once Upon a Time”

Happy Wednesday, everyone.  Today is April 1st and this is episode one of Tracts for Our times.  The idea of Tracts for Our Times is to simply create a platform from which I can offer some theological reflections on current events, theology, and popular culture, in way that is not always suitable to a Sunday Sermon.  Pastors who preach have a responsibility to teach from the Biblical texts, so that Christ’s Church may be nourished by God’s word.  In that context, it is not always easy to take time to comment on current events and culture.  

However, the people of God do need for their spiritual leaders to help them think biblically and theologically about trends in their culture.  And, that is what Tracts for Our Times is all about.  Now, don’t worry, if you are only interested in my Sunday messages.  Those are still being made available.  In fact, I am so excited about our next series, through the book Romans.  The first message in this series will be podcast on Monday, April 20th.  The series is titled, Romans: The Power and Relevance of Israel’s Ancient Story.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.”


William J. Bennett and Robert A. White have released a new book, entitled, Going to Pot: Why the Rush to legalize Marijuana is Harming  This is book that should be in the hands of every policy maker and community leader in America.  These men have done their homework in writing this book; laying out the clinical evidence for how the legalization of marijuana is impacting the youth of America.  One of the article they sight is from The New England Journal of Medicine.  The article is titled, Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use    I have linked a copy of the article in my blog post notes of today’s show. 

I want to give you just two snippets from the book.  The first is from the introduction:

“We are at a curious, as well as critical, moment in our country.  Just when we are spending more than ever on early childhood education (and many are arguing for even more spending), just when we are debating the intellectual and motivational needs of our present and future work force, just as we are concerned about unemployment numbers that are too high (especially in the youth and young adult population), just as we are unveiling a new experiment on universal health care coverage, and just as we are condemning other products deemed unhealthy, like sugars and trans fats, we are - at the same exact time - moving in fact and opinion toward more and more marijuana legalization.  We are spending money and political capital on strengthening health, education, and productivity for our populace, yet society believes it appropriate to push for great availability of a drug that hinders, and negatively affects (perhaps dramatically), those very efforts.” 

In the last 20 years, our country has been on an anti-tobacco crusade.  And, as an asthmatic, I am really glad to be able to go into a restaurant and not have to put up with someone else’s second hand smoke.  I don’t like the smell or having to use my rescue inhaler.  That said, our civic leaders have been like health-dictators over tobacco.  Their zeal against smoking and smokers has been a little Nazi-like.  

How is it, then, that we go from making villains of those who want to smoke tobacco to nearly making the smoking of marijuana seem like a good thing to do?  To me, smoking marijuana instead of tobacco just seems like trading one weed for another.  It is common knowledge that tobacco companies used to promote tobacco as being good for you.  In the 1930s, professional athletes were proud to be spokesmen for cigarette brands.  In the 1950s, cigarette companies gave out free packs of cigarettes to doctors at medical meetings.  As late as the 1970s we thought it was cute to give kids candy cigarettes, so they could pretend to smoke, like adults.  We gasp in horror over of that now; but in our sophistication, we are now promoting the idea of smoking something else.  

I predict that in 30 year, we are going to see another round of huge numbers of people dying from emphysema and lung cancer because of exposure to marijuana smoke.  How could we possibly think that carcinogens in the lungs could be good for you, simply because it comes from a plant other than tobacco?  

The second snippet from Going to Pot comes from page 127:

“..since 2011, the Dutch government has been working to classify higher-THC marijuana with other, harder drugs.  According to the Economic Affairs Minister of the Netherlands, weed containing more than 15 percent of its main active chemical, THC, is so much stronger than what was common a generation ago that it should be considered a different drug entirely.  The high potency weed has ‘played a role in increasing public health damage.’”

Today’s marijuana is not your parent’s pot.  Today’s pot has more than 5 times the THC levels as the pot from the 1970s and 1980s.  The levels of THC in today’s weed can cause permanent damage to the brain; including a permanent reduction of one’s IQ.  This is no laughing matter. 

The Fatherhood of God

In the liturgy of the Church, we frequently invoke the Trinity, saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  It has become common to hear pastors and priests say, “In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.  The reason for this substitution is that it is an attempt to be more inclusive, by not using masculine language for God.  The problem is, that this language introduces on old heresy back into the Church.  

The heresy is known as modalism.  Modalism is the heresy of reducing God to list of functions or roles.  The problem is that God is far more than a list of functions or actions.  And, each member of the Trinity participates in each of these actions, including creation, redemption, and the sustaining of God’s people.  A great source for understanding this issue better is The Trinity Pamphlet, by Rose Publishing.  I have provided a link in the notes for today’s show.  You can find them on my blog, Tracts for Our Times.

James C. Goodloe IV  has a great article on his site about this topic.  I’d like to read just a bit of it:

“The substituting of "Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer" for "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" does more than avoid male references. It substitutes an incomplete list of God’s functions for the naming of the persons and relations of the Trinity. This moves inexorably to modalism, a form of thought about the Trinity which was rejected as heretical about 1,500 years ago.

Some forms of modalism teach that God has existed in three different modes, one at a time. God was first Creator, then Redeemer and now Sustainer. This was rejected on the basis that God is all three of these all the time. Another form of modalism is monarchianism, which teaches that God the Father is the real God, and that the Son and the Spirit are projections of the Father. 

Again, this was rejected on the basis that the distinctions of the persons of the Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are understood to be not merely the way that God presents himself to us but actually the way that God is, in God’s inner being.

Against modalism, the church affirmed the reality of the three persons as distinct but inseparable, so that while it is appropriate to associate some of the works of God more closely with one person than another (for example, redemption with the Son), nevertheless we understand all three persons of the Trinity to be present and active in all the works of God.”

Another blog post I found had this to say:

“To name God merely as Creator is like naming Mom as Cook, Chauffeur, Nurse, etc. The Mom we know is far more than any attributes we could use to describe her.” 

Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei
by Scott Hahn.  Published September 26, 2006

“‘Divine filiation is the basis of the spirit of Opus Dei…we are convinced that God is our Father.’  To know God as Father is to know the God of Christians; the God of Jesus Christ - For God’s Fatherhood is a uniquely Christian idea.  Only Christians identify Father as God’s proper name.  Other religions say that God is like a father…but in non-Christian religions, the Divine Fatherhood is ultimately metaphorical.  God acts as a father, only in relationship to other beings… God is fatherly, only once he has created something or someone to care for.  Thus, Divine Fatherhood, in the the non-Christian sense, is dependent upon other beings.  It is related to God’s action in time, but it is not of his essence…Only Christians dare to say God is Father from all eternity; before time, before creation.  He is Father, in himself, because he is eternally the Father of the Son, within the blessed Trinity.  So, for Christians, God’s Fatherhood is of his essence.  Father is who he is.  Divine Fatherhood, therefore, is not metaphorical.  It is metaphysical.  It would be more accurate to say human fatherhood is metaphorical; a temporal sign of an eternal reality.  God’s Fatherhood is true fatherhood, in the truest sense.  God is the Eternal Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, God is Father of all who live in Jesus Christ, through baptism.”  -from chapter 2.  

Once Upon a Time

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

My family and I are absolutely hooked on the television series, Once Upon a Time, which airs on ABC.  Here is what wikipedia has to say about it.

Once Upon a Time is an American fairy tale drama series that premiered on October 23, 2011, on ABC. The show takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, whose residents are characters from various fairy tales transported to the "real world" town and robbed of their real memories by a powerful curse. Episodes typically feature a primary storyline in Storybrooke, as well as a secondary storyline from another point in a character's life before the curse was enacted. The show airs Sundays at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT.[2]

We love it because it has to do with fairy tales.  C. S. Lewis believed that fairy tales were important for a number of reasons; including the fact that they help us to think clearly about issues of right and wrong, honor and duty, valor and villainy.  I believe that fairy tales play a role similar to the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament.  Both help us to wrestle with what it means to live lives of wisdom, without always giving the answer away.  Instead, both challenge us to think often about the meaning of living a good life. 

At first, I wasn’t sure I liked Once Upon a Time because the writers take creative license with the stories, putting their own twist on familiar tales.  It then occurred to me that Walt Disney did the same thing.  The versions of these stories that most of us are familiar with are the versions Walt Disney told.  The original forms (or pretty close) of the classic fairy tales can be found in the first edition of Jacob and Whilhelm Grimm’s Children’s and Household Tales, published in 1812.  In this first edition, the Grimms produced a volume of classic fairy tales, in the forms they had been passed on in for generations.  In their second edition, published in 1815, the Grimm brothers decided to polish-up these stories, and to add their own editorial and creative touches.  It was the second edition that made it into popular circulation in the U.S..  Of course, in the 20th century, Disney produced their own tellings of these stories.  Once Upon a Time is simply continuing the tradition of telling these stories.  I believe in doing so, they have still preserved the essence of the tales. 

Romans Series Coming April 20

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mark 12:28-34 Podcast