Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Decrees of God and the Will of His Creatures

In II Chronicles 18 we get a rare insight into God working to accomplish His purpose through the will of his creatures. In this account, the creatures are a good but stupid king, Jehoshaphat; and evil, pompous king, Ahab; the apostate clergy of the day, the four-hundred false prophets from the state-accredited seminary; some demons looking for something to do; a righteous prophet, a horse, and a bored, tired soldier with an extra arrow to get rid of.

The Westminster Confession compresses the Bible's teaching about how God accomplishes His purpose in the world:

Article III: God's Purpose -- "The eternal purpose of God includes all events; it is holy and wise and does not deprive man of freedom nor make God the author of sin. God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, no is violence offered to the will of the creatures nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

However, how God does this is never really explained in the Scriptures. We have the facts without most of the means given in the Bible. But in this passage, we get a little window into God's working.

Jehoshaphat, the good but not-so-bright king of Judah (the southern kingdom), decides to join forces with Ahab, the evil king of Israel (the northern kingdom). It is God's stated purpose to destroy Ahab, whom he hates. Jehoshaphat foolishly joins forces with him. God uses his foolishness, drawn on by his success as king.

As the two kings are meeting in war council, the evil king, being a pseudo-religious man, wants to hear from the preachers as to what he should do. He has four-hundred on staff, all state-approved apostate reverends, including the Most Holy Right Reverend Sounding-brass, and Bishop Tinkling-cymbal. They come before the kings and put on a show, telling king Ahab to go to this battle and that he will win and prosper. But while this is going on here on earth, there is a council in heaven. The Lord calls an assembly of spirits, evil spirits, and asks for a volunteer to go deceive Ahab. One says he will go be a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets, and he is sent to accomplish this mission. The false reverends, possibly unbeknownst to them, become the mouthpiece of a lying spirit, commissioned by the Lord to deceive Ahab to go to the battle. Ahab takes the bait.

An aside, this makes me wonder how often the false pastors of our day, whether Liberals or Word of Faith teachers, or the Robert Schuller types, or the Oral Roberts types, or the Prosperity teachers, how often are they just speaking out of their own ignorance and desire for success and money, and how often are they agents of demonic deception to mislead people who have rejected the truth of the gospel and are now subject to God causing them to believe a lie, that they might be damned? (II Thessalonians 2: 10-12)

Jehoshaphat has sense enough to request a true prophet of the Lord. Micaiah is brought in, whom Ahab hates "because he never says anything good about me," and tells Ahab he will be killed in the battle. He condemns the state-approved prophets for being false, and is sent to prison for being a faithful preacher.

The kings prepare to go into battle.

Ahab talks Jehoshaphat into putting on Ahab's uniform. The enemy general gives orders to an assassination squad to go after Ahab and kill him. The assassination squad goes after Jehoshaphat, thinking he is Ahab because of the clothes. Ahab, though he disregarded Micaiah, has disguised himself as a regular soldier in regulation armour.

The battle rages, the assassination squad goes after Jehoshaphat and almost kills him. But they realize they have the wrong man. They cannot pick Ahab out of the soldiers, and so fail in their mission to find and kill him. But toward the end of the day, when the battle was finishing (armies did not fight at night or in bad weather back then), when Ahab thought he had beat Micaiah's prediction, God moved something or someone in such a way that the horse pulling Ahab's chariot, or the driver of the chariot, attracted by something, moved the chariot into exact position so that --- and while that happened, an archer, who had one arrow left, for no reason that he knew, put the arrow in the bow and shot it at nothing in particular --- so that the arrow met Ahab exactly as the horse had moved him, where two pieces of his armor joined. And the arrow went through the little opening in the armor, killing him.

Now, Jehoshaphat acted freely in his foolishness; Ahab acted freely in his wickedness and arrogance. The demons who were summoned by the Lord in the heavenly council acted in accord with their nature, freely; the false prophets acted freely in seeking to please the king for their own advantage; the lying spirit acted on them with their consent, because they were practitioners of religious deception for gain; the horse pulling the chariot moved into position because he was drawn by something that interested him; the chariot driver let the horse do it because the battle was over and he was tired; the soldier with one more arrow shot it just to get rid of it so he could go home and have a beer; and the arrow found it's mark, and God killed his man.

Jehoshaphat was later chastened in chapter 19, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore wrath is upon thee."

What are some lessons here?
1. God always gets his man.
2. He uses His control of nature to induce His creatures to act, according to their own desires and inclinations, to freely choose what He has eternally ordained to come to pass.
3. His purpose cannot be thwarted.
4. He acts in ways and by means that are not normally observable to us.
5. He uses evil people, people who are His enemies, to accomplish His purposes. See Psalm 17: 13-14 "Wicked men who are thy sword, men who are thy hand."
6. Most important, that we should discount our own understanding and put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, obey Him, and keep His commandments, and not cast in our lot with His enemies.
"Trust in the Lord and do good. So shalt thou dwell in the land."
"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Here I sit with my cup of tea, pondering.

I was reading in Genesis and my curiosity got snagged on 3:22. “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us: and now, lest he put forth his hand and take of the fruit of the tree of life and live forever . . .” and the account goes on about Adam and his wife being driven out of the garden so that they would not be able to access this tree, which deprivation consequently caused them to succumb to death.

The verbs are what intrigue me in this passage. It is a pivotal passage in the overall story of redemption.

So I did what I always do. I got my Hebrew Old Testament, and a reading lexicon and an analytical lexicon and Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar and I began to work through the passage. I just love this kind of study. I live on it. I’m a nurd.

The reading is not that difficult. I am no Hebrew scholar, but I can read if I have a lexicon handy. But what engages me in this particular passage is a phenomenon called “the consequence of the verb” which, according to Gesenius, is a peculiarity of ancient Hebrew. Verb consequence has to do with the way the tenses work together in a narrative. It was fun. I was at this for hours, reading the lexicons and all of their comparitive references for the structure, and Gesenius’ pages of text with notes and cross references and notes and references about the notes and references -- on and on.

Now I know this is getting boring. But I am telling you this to tell you the upshot of all of it. I was intrigued that Adam, according to the story, was not immortal, that is, he was not immune to death (because he was threatened with it); and that God deprived him from access to the tree, the fruit of which would have enabled him to go on living indefinitely, which is what the word “forever” means in this context. His “forever” would have eventually been limited by his mortality which would have been held at bay by continuing to eat from this tree of life.

But even if he had not eaten of the forbidden tree, and if he had continued to have access to the tree of life and had gone on in an ever-living condition, he still would have been unable to inherit the kingdom of God, because he was a mortal -- just flesh and blood.

I Corinthians 15 teaches us that this cannot be. Adam still, at some time how ever long, would have had to undergo the immortalization that is now promised to believers in Jesus Christ in the resurrection to immortality and incorruption -- the beginning of a forever life that really will go on endlessly (because we will then be immune to death) in a world that has been put back right. All this has been made possible through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ as a sin offering for His people.

Adam sinned. (Genesis 3)

We sinned in him. (Romans 5:12)

We sin on our own. (Romans 3:23)

Christ died on behalf of sinners. (Romans 5:8)

Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners who cast themselves on His mercy. (Romans 3:23-24)

By this, even though we die in this world, we are given the gift of resurrection to immortality and eternal life in the world to come . (John 11:25-26).

Well I have pondered myself past midnight, and the clothes are finished in the dryer. Enough pondering for one day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Value of a Diminished Life

This is a funeral homily that I gave at the funeral of my aunt. I have been asked to put it in writing and post it.

The Value of a Diminished Life

We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to our sister, aunt, cousin, Rosa Belle. Rosa Belle was born in a small, now almost non-existent town in North Florida in 1924. She was the oldest child of Faire Belle and Cephas.

We are all well aware that Rosa Belle was significantly handicapped. A part of this handicap was mental and may have been congenital. But at about the age of five years, as my father has told me, she was severely injured in an accident. She was pushing my father around in a wooden crate in the little house where they lived. Her mother had a gallon can of water boiling on the stove. Somehow Rosa Belle pulled the can of water over on her and the boiling water poured down the right side of her neck, right arm and down the right side of her body. She was badly burned. There was little medical help and less money to get it. So the burns healed into disfiguring and disabling scars.

Because of these disabilities, Rosa Belle was limited in her education. She had to be taken out of school early. She was unable to live away from her parents for the rest of their lives. She was limited in her associations to immediate family and had few friends. She had no independent life, yet she was mentally aware enough to know how here disabilities diminished her life.

After both her parents died, she moved into an assisted living facility. There she discovered the world of coloring. She loved to color. How much less the grinding boredom of most of her life would have been if we had known this. We could have kept her in coloring books and crayons.

As we think about this life of suffering today, we must address an obvious question: What was the purpose of this diminished life in God's plan? What value can we understand to attach to such a life? And what lessons can we learn from it?

1. In Romans eleven, the last few verses, St. Paul teaches that God's ways are so wise and His purposes so high that they are past finding out.
The "why" of God in allowing things like this, as the Psalmist says, is "too high for us; we cannot attain to it."

2. In Daniel four, the LORD God taught a world dictator an important lesson in the only way he would learn it and like only God can teach it. In reciting the lesson back, Nebuchadnezzar said, "I praised the most High . . . . He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. And none can stay His hand, or say to Him, "What doest thou?"
God does as He wills. He is not caught off guard. He is not and cannot be frustrated in His purposes. His will cannot be thwarted. He accomplishes all that He sets out to do.

3. In Exodus chapters three and four and in John chapter nine, we are instructed that handicapped and diminished lives are created as such by the Lord in order that He might be glorified through them. This is a hard lesson.
The Lord uses the harsh effects of sin in a fallen, broken world to bring glory to Himself.

4. In Matthew chapter twenty-five we see that the Lord Jesus appears in disguise in the world, masquerading as "the least of these" to test how we might treat Him.
Jesus often appears in our world in the costume of a diminished life.

So, we ask again, what is the value of a diminished life?
Its value is that God uses it to accomplish His purpose for good in a fallen, broken world in such a way that, in the end, His creation will glorify Him.

And what lessons may we learn from such a life?
1. The fear of the Lord: These weighty disabilities and their sequelae should remind us that the Lord is to be feared for what he could do to each of us.

2. Gratitude: Those whom God has permitted or caused to suffer so should make us give thanks to God that He gives us better and more than we deserve. He is kind to the wicked and the unthankful. That is us.

3. Compassion: We, as recipients of God's abundant and undeserved kindness through Christ in our day to day lives, have an obligation to show compassion to the suffering as indirectly repaying kindnesses to Christ Himself.

4. Hope: As the diminished life reminds us that we live in a fallen world, so it awakes in us the intuition that God must set things right. Thus we are made keen and receptive to the doctrine of a future life and the restitution of all things, which are the results of God's ultimate act of kindness, the forgiveness of our sins through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son.

Moses, in Psalm ninety reminds us of our mortality:

Lord, thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made, thou are God from everlasting, and world without end.
Thou turnest man to destruction; again thou sayest Come again, ye children of men.
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
The days of our age are threescore and ten; and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years, yet is their strength then but labor and sorrow; so soon passeth it away, and we are gone.
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

St. Paul tells us in I Corinthians fifteen of the promise of a resurrection to immortality for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ:

Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall al be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, Where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

And Jesus teaches us in John fourteen that He is the way to the Father and to eternal life:
I go to prepare a place for you. And I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, ye may be also. I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Let us pray:
O merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life; in Whom whosoever believeth, shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Him, shall not die eternally, who also hath taught us by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for those who sleep in Him; We humbly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, may rest in Him; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in Thy sight; and receive that blessing, which Thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all who love and fear Thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen

Unto Almighty God we commend our departed loved one and we commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ; at Whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the earth and the sea shall give up their dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in Him shall be changed, and make like unto His own glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.

Thus ends the service.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It Found Me continued

Sorry to be so long completing this post. I've been working the last few nights and when I come home from a twelve hour shift of patient care and teaching a student (I currently have a student) I just don't have two functioning brain cells to rub together.

John (cowart.info) asked me to give the link to the book discussed in the last post. Here it is: http://www.amazon.com/New-Testament-Original-Greek/dp/0759800774/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201512804&sr=1-1

And now, without further ado, the rest of the story.

Alphaeus’ son, Matthew Levi, was a tax-collector. He was considered something of a traitor by the Jews. He had taken this position because it provided him an opportunity to make a good living without a lot of manual labor.

Tax collectors were assigned a certain amount they had to collect from their district. They could use what ever method necessary to collect the amount required by the Romans. All they collected over and above this amount was theirs. If they failed to collect at least the required amount, they were subject to retribution by the Roman official.

All this means that he was accustomed to detecting fraud and deception on the part of those from whom he was to collect money.

He was an expert at detecting deception.

He was also accustomed to compressing the results of his investigations into tight statements of fact.

He was also a convert of John Baptist. He had investigated him and found him to be legitimate. He had been convicted about the way he did business. He had straightened up and made restitution to those whom he had ripped off. He had believed John’s preaching that the Messiah was about to appear. He knew that John had identified Jesus of Nazareth as this person.

It only stands to reason that Matthew collected the information given in chapter two of his gospel account from Mary and possibly Joseph, the still living witnesses, Jesus himself and from the synagogue records in Nazareth. (In the last 150 years there have been those who assert that the gospel accounts are forgeries written in the second century. These assertions break down under examination, and are only attempts to assasinate the witnesses (the gospel writers) because their testimony is unimpeachable as it stands.)

Matthew was a disciple of John Baptist. He had been watching Jesus for months. Jesus had been identified by John Baptist as the one who was to come, the Messiah of God. Matthew had been investigating in his spare time. He had though about what it would mean to throw in with this Jesus. He had considered the cost in time and money.

One day Jesus stopped by the office and called him to make the decision and be his full-time follower. Luke says he just got up and left it all and followed him.

Now, a balanced man would not do this unless he had been investigating. Evidence is that Jesus’ mother and brothers were somewhere proximal to him and his disciples during his early ministry. At one point they wanted an audience with him and could not get at him because of the crowds. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think that at some time, possibly in the days of transition from being a disciple of John Baptist to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, Matthew Levi interviewed Mary, Jesus’ mother, and investigated the official records of the elders in Nazareth to find out about the rumors of his birth.
So in his little summary sentence, “she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Ghost” what does he imply?

“She was found” means that there were other people involved in the investigation. It would be no problem to figure out that she was pregnant. But how would the investigators “find” that she was with child by the Holy Ghost?

Her own story, along with her known character would be the first line of evidence.

Then Joseph’s account of what happened to him is another.

The critics assert that in those times, people believed that a woman could become pregnant by the gods. However, the Jews did not believe in “gods”. And, as C. S. Lewis points out in his essay “They Asked for a Paper”, if they believed this, then why the investigation, and why did Joseph seek a way to divorce her? Why didn’t they all say, “Yeah, well, these things happen once in a while.”

Then, in a tiny little town with the strict Jewish/Middle-Eastern customs that required young women to be completely separated from young men except under the most careful supervision, it would have been sure she was not pregnant by Joseph.

Read the outline of the ritual related to this in Deuteronomy 19:15ff. If she were found to have been seduced, she was under sentence of death at the door of her father’s house, which would bring reproach on the whole family for not watching and protecting her from such an occurence.

It would have been against Mary’s interests because of the consequences. It would have been completely against the interests of Joseph for him to get her pregnant before the wedding. He could lose his business, his standing in the synagogue, his life. Matthew’s record states that it was before they came together.

If she had been courted by another man it would have been common knowledge.

If she had been raped, it would have been known.

When she told her story to the women folk, there would have been some kind of a gynecological examination by a rabbi or priest to see if she still had her hymen, called in the Deuteronomy passage “the tokens of her virginity”. There would have been a report entered in the official records of the synagogue.
There was just everything against it happening by any other means than by the Holy Spirit. There would have to be a report made to the elders. There would have been some kind of documentation in the city or synagogue records about this.

So she had been kept separate, she still had her hymen, there were no other men, it definitely was not Joseph. and her story was in accord with the expectation of elect Jews that one day this would happen to bring the Messiah into the world, and apparently she was of a character that made her story believable.

The matter had been investigated by the group of people who are charged with investigating such things. They had interrogated and looked and examined and thought and verified.

Matthew had interviewed, asked, read the synagogue record, talked to the still living witnesses, sifted the evidence, looked for fraud, deceipt, or just a plain mistake. He was convinced. It was settled in his skeptical and analytical mind.

And in his summary he reports, “She was ‘found’ to be with child by the Holy Ghost”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"It Found Me"

I was sitting and drooling the other day when I came upon a shocking realization.

I suppose I should explain the drooling part. I was at work, taking a break in the nursing station, fooling around on Amazon.com. And their automatic cross-referencing system took me to a new critical edition of the Greek text of the New Testament following the Byzantine text-type. I clicked on it and went to the page. Without realizing it, I was transported out of the nursing station, away from my near-sitting co-workers, into the cloud land in my head where I spend most of my time.

I was immediately taken with the beautiful cover. Being a printer by trade, I am attracted to beautiful printing. And on the cover was a nice reproduction of a papyrus fragment of a New Testament Greek manuscript. I was also taken by this.

I clicked on the “Look inside!” feature. I read through the table of contents, all in Uncial letters, which I find difficult to read. I was interested in the arrangement of the books with the Gospels, followed by Acts, then the catholic epistles, which is not our accustomed order, then the Pauline epistles, then Revelation. I flipped to the first page of Matthew and read through the geneology. I was interested in the presentation of some orthographic details that have interested me in this passage.

I was lost in it. If one of my patients had coded, I don’t think I would have known it. The orthography, and the classical type-font, unlike these modern utilitarian sans-serif Greek fonts that are so unlovely, and the critical apparatus at the bottom of the page -- all these details held me, like Solomon beholding his beloved Shunamite, drooling.

I became aware that I was attracting the attention of my co-workers. I had been mmmm-ing, and laughing, and ooooooh-ing. They wanted to know what I was so interested in. Their little clatter came into the periphery of my attention, and then I edged it out. I read on.

I clicked to turn the page and began to read chapter two. And there -- lying in wait for me -- was a statement I have read hundreds of times. But, as my attention was drawn away from seeing what one is accustomed to seeing in a familiar text, a word suddenly pounced on me. I was off balance, then overcome, then enthralled with this word in its setting. “The generation of Jesus Christ was like this: His mother, having been bethrothed to Joseph, before they came together, was found to be pregnant by the Holy Ghost.”

“Found” -- “found” -- The Greek word is from the verb root eurisko. And thereby, as my father used to say, hangs a tale.

You remember (or not -- so I will tell you) the story of Archimedes and the gold crown. Some time in the third century B.C. (I think) a Greek king, whose name escapes me, gave the local crown maker a hunk of gold to make a crown. After he got the crown back, he got wind that the crown maker had substituted some silver into the crown, and had kept the surplus of gold for himself. But how to detect the theft? Simple: ask Archimedes, the local Thomas Edison of this time, to look into it.

Archimedes thought and thought about how to determine if the crown was pure or an alloy. He searched and sought and figured. Then one day while taking a bath, the solution occured to him. You can read it for yourself on the internet. But, upon realizing the solution, he jumped out of the tub and rushed home, clad only in his birthday suit, shouting “Eurika! Eurika!” Eurika is the perfect tense of our verb root above, eurisko, which means I find. He was saying “I have found it.”
This word found is specific in meaning. It means to find something after seeking, investigating, searching, interrogating. It is scientific in nature.

This statement, “she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Ghost” is pregnant with meaning.

And, while I was not paying attention, it found me.

But this post has gone on long enough. I will talk more about this in the next one, which I will probably post tomorrow.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jesus Christ, Morons, and Blood Clotting

I am reviewing a medical disorder called DIC (disciminated intravascular coagulation). This is the kind of thing I do for fun. It is related to my job as a nurse.

DIC can kill a patient in short order, and is fairly difficult to detect. It is more suspected than directly seen. Certain things, like bacterial infection in the blood, can cause the clotting system to go crazy and form thousands of little blood clots all over the body. This dams up blood from tissue down stream, thus killing the tissue and eventually the whole patient. It also uses up all the clotting factors in the blood thus causing the patient to be susceptible to sudden, irreversible bleeding. Nasty.

Stick with me. This all has a point. When a blood vessel is damaged and starts to leak (bleeding), a number of things happen. Fibers in the blood are acted upon by chemicals released by the damaged cells and start joining together to form a mesh over the wound from the inside. Red blood cells, other things in the blood, and activated platelets get stuck in the mesh and stop the bleeding. After the clot has formed and stopped the bleeding long enough for the vessel to close and start to mend, the fibers in the mesh start to break apart because they are acted upon by other chemicals. The fibers break into their component parts (fibrin degradation products) and are: 1. Unable to form any more clots; 2. Consumed by scavenger cells in the blood and secreted as waste. Fibrin degradation products can be created by other processes like inflammation. However, there is one that is specific to the dissolution of a clot called D-dimer.

When a person is suspected of being in DIC, a panel of tests is run which checks for D-dimer and some other things. If D-dimer is present in large amounts, along with a lowered platlet count and elevated clotting times, it is indicative of DIC.

This, believe it or not, is a greatly simplified explanation of what really happens when blood clots, either normally or abnormally. The process is unbelievably complex. The understanding of it has undergone several revisions over the years because the researchers continue to fine additional factors in the process.

The other day, I was watching another iteration of Darwin’s proposition about the origin of life and how life got to it’s present state. In a sentence, the Darwinists believe that some kind of simple life form (there is no such thing) got started by accident and continued to mutate and differentiate until all the different life forms that now exist developed. This occured by random chance processes over a long period of time.

That intelligent people actually believe this in the face of the remarkable wholistic complexity of everything is almost beyond me. No one believes that his computer is the product of random chance. It is obvious every time one must be repaired that the owner thinks that the machine is a product of intelligent design, was made for a purpose, and had irreducible complexity (all the parts have to be present and working for the whole thing to work).

But this same person may believe that the person who built or repairs the computer is just the product of random processes operating by chance over a long period of time.

However, the explanation for this is fairly simple. And, of course, it is in the Bible.

Paul states in Ephesians chapter four that those whom Christ has not regenerated by His Spirit “walk in the emptiness of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. . . .” And in Romans chapter one, he says that Adam’s race once knew God, but did not like Him, and did not want to retain him in their system of knowledge. For this reason, God handed them over to this ignorance, and, while they (and we) profess to be wise, they (we) have become morons. Morons who will nevertheless face the wrath and judgement of God because, in the face of the evidence to the contrary, namely the majestic, infathomable complexity of all that can be observed, we insist that this God does not exist or that He is irrelevant, and refuse to worship Him or to believe on His Son Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of crimes against the Creator. All of Adam’s race is guilty corporately and personally of discounting God our Creator in some way. We are all guilty of volunteering to be morons. We are all, in our natural state, volunteer criminals against the Living God.

Jesus Christ said to all us morons, “I am the light of the world. He that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but he shall have the light of life.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our Bounden Duty

Day before yesterday (actually it was night before yesternight) one of my patients asked me to bring her Communion, since none of the pastoral staff of her church had been to visit her during her long hospital stay. In preparation, I was attempting to determine the Gospel reading for that Sunday, since I use the Anglican liturgy when I do weddings, funerals, and Communion.

The Anglican Church is not to be outdone by anyone for making the simple absurdly complicated. They have fancy names for regular things. For instance, the janitor is called the Sextant. Now you could throw your chest out and say you are a Sextant by profession, and non-Anglicans would think you to be a navigational expert.

Well, it was kind of like that, trying to figure out the Gospel reading for this Sunday. I wasn’t in church because it was a work day. So I began going through all the tables in the front of the BCP (Book of Common Prayer), the book that contains prayers, collects, ceremonies for every occasion imaginable, and maybe including Elizabethan imprecations to pronounce on your children when they “get to be too much.”

The Anglican Liturgical calendar starts with Advent Sunday, which is usually the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Then there are the Sundays of Advent, then Epiphany, then St. John the Evangelist Sunday, and Holy Innocents Sunday then in the spring are the Gesima sisters, Septuagesima, Sexigesima (she’s the bad girl in the family) Quinquagesima, and their little step-sister, Ash Wednesday. Then there is Lent (or Lint, depending on what kind of filter you have), and Easter, and then the rest of the year is the first Sunday after Easter, the Second, etc., until Advent comes back around.

Well, I finally ran out of time and guessed that this was the 427th Sunday after Easter. Using this bit of divination, and reckoning that, since last Sunday the Gospel reading was the last part of Luke 16, this Sunday, it might be the first part of Luke 17. So I chose that for the Gospel portion to read when I said the Eucharistic Liturgy for my patient.

In Luke 17, Our Lord tells a parable of a man who has a servant. He asks if the man should thank his servant for doing his job. “I trow not,” he said. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done that which was our duty to do.’“

In the Eucharistic Liturgy there are a couple of passages which resonate with this passage from Luke.

One is , “It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.”

Another is “And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto thee . . . .”

My point is this, that it is our bounden duty to give thanks to God for His goodness to us and to offer up our selves, our souls and bodies in His service, even to the point of death. But even if we should do these things perfectly and to the letter (which we don’t), we would not give back to God any surplus on His investment (this is the meaning of unprofitable). We would only have done that which is right and “our bounden duty” to do.

Which brings me to the bare truth of the matter which is stated in the prayer of confession: “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed . . . provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.”

We haven’t even done that which is our duty toward God to do. And we engage in that which it is our duty not to do.

And yet, we can pray that, through the substitutionary merit of Jesus Christ, God would receive us and forgive us, “not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Thanks be to God! Amen.