the Church, a bride not a whore

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The Baptist had preached repentance, but it didn’t help. The Church has done the same for two thousand years, and it still doesn’t appear to have helped. It looks like other means are necessary to get people to listen. Shouldn’t we show others that we can do something really impressive? That’s a temptation that has pursued the Church throughout its history. Many times it’s been tempting for the Church to get politically involved or intervene in society in an effort to make an impression, create good will, gain sympathy, and win support.

–Bo Giertz, To Live With Christ

The Church is always tempted by the world to fall into the trap of relevance, felt needs, or some other buzzword to boost attendance and reach out to those around us. Much ink has been spilled and many dollars have changed hands in the name of church growth as pastors and congregations have chased after the next big thing to bring people in the door. Gun-infatuated Evangelicals in the Kentucky Southern Baptist Convention are even raffling off rifles as “a surefire way to get new people through church doors.” I wonder if the sermon title that evening was something to the tune of “Win a ‘piece’ from the Prince of Peace”?

Did we ever stop to think that being an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5.20) doesn’t necessitate that we behave like a perpetually-awkward teenage boy who hangs out with the older guys who tolerate him just as long as he’ll do their bidding?

If it isn’t efforts to boost numbers, Evangelicals also play the whore to the American political Right. We sell ourselves out, cheaply, in the name of conservative values, traditional family values, America’s God-fearing past, or some other righteous-sounding slogan to gain political clout and power in corrupt, worldly system. So much for rendering Caesar’s junk to Caesar.

Did it ever occur to us that being all things to all people (1 Cor 9.22) doesn’t require us to act like a desperate, ignored teenage girl who craves the affection of the jocks on the football team and thinks nothing is too slutty to gain their attention?

All these stunts are a sham, a gimmick, and a joke. They are the antithesis of everything the Church should be about. Seriously.

What did Christ give his Church to attract sinners? Word and Sacrament. Our real need is for forgiveness, so he gave us absolution in response to our confession. To satisfy the hunger of our souls, he gave us his body and blood as nourishment. It may appear that other means and methods are necessary to bring people to Christ, but this is a lie. We are the Bride of Christ. We ought to be seeking him instead of the approval of the world, because honestly, the latter only lasts as long as the girl is willing to put out or the boy is willing to do others’ dirty work.

Lord, have mercy.

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on man’s sin and God’s love

INRI

God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure. For say not, ‘I have committed fornication and adultery: I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often: will He forgive? Will He grant pardon?’

Hear what the Psalmist says: ‘How great is the multitude of Your goodness, O Lord!’

Your accumulated offenses surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies: your wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill. Only give yourself up in faith: tell the Physician your ailment: say also, like David, ‘I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord,’ and the same shall be done in your case, which he says immediately, ‘And you forgave the wickedness of my heart.’

– St Cyril of Jerusalem, Second Catechetical Lecture

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Luther on anxiety

When I feel anxious about sin and hell, I remind myself that when I have Christ, I have all that is necessary. Neither death, sin, nor the devil can hurt me. If I believe in Christ, I have fulfilled the law; it cannot accuse me. I have conquered hell; it cannot hold me. Everything the Christ has is mine. Though him, we obtain all his possessions and eternal life. Even if I am weak in faith, I still have the same treasure and the same Christ that others have. There’s no difference: we are all made perfect through faith in him, not by what we do.

– Martin Luther

tangible sin, tangible forgiveness

bread and wine #1

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.

I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
I exult in my God;
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation
and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness,
as a groom wears a turban
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth produces its growth,
and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61.1-3, 10-11, HCSB)

What is this good news to the poor and brokenhearted; to the captives and imprisoned? Quit simply this: that God in Christ Jesus has clothed us ‘with the garments of salvation’ and a ‘robe of righteousness.’

This is not our doing, for we continually fall short. This is not our work, for our deeds are routinely sinful. No, instead ‘the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up’ where before our lives and works were barren and self-centered. This is God’s work of grace, freely given us on behalf and as a result of the Beloved.

In Christ our unrighteousness and sin is covered by his righteous perfection. Those sins and scars, no less real, are no more revealed and no more remembered. We are spotless, without blemish–beloved of God our Father.

How can we grasp so great a gift? Solely by faith.

But these truths are intangible and hidden, whereas the effects of my sin are tangible and ever before me! Take comfort. In the sacrament of the altar, God has–again in his mercy–given us something tangible upon which our weak faith can cling.

Hear the words of absolution.
See, touch, smell, and taste the bread and the wine.

Let all of your senses experience the promise of forgiveness in the body and blood of Christ.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

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clothed in righteousness: thoughts on moral trauma

In Cold Blood..

War is messy. It is a mess of dirt, sweat, blood, gunpowder, rubble, tears, death, and destruction unparalleled by anything else that comes about by the brute force of humanity.

Those affected by war as either its practitioners or its victims get this mess on their bodies, their lives, and their souls. Shrapnel tears through them physically with just as much power as their experiences tear through them spiritually. Its scars on our bodies and souls seem permanent. Unchanging. Indelible. Those scars may heal in time, they may lighten–better but never quite forgotten, or they may remain raw and painful. The holds true for the physical scars as well as the spiritual ones.

It has become routine to treat those spiritual scars under the umbrella of PTSD instead of what they really are, moral wounds or moral trauma. Describing trauma as ‘moral’ necessitates a judgment of right or wrong, good or bad, righteous or sinful. The trouble is, our society with its steady prescription of moral relativism is unable to cope with the objectivity required by this sort of judgment. As a result, our warriors go untreated. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are subjected to an ineffective regime of cognitive behavior therapy that might treat some of the symptoms but fails to offer a cure. As necessary as these therapies are for coping with PTSD, they focus primarily on desensitization, not complete healing. No amount of Cognitive Processing Therapy can heal a wounded soul. No number of sessions of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing can restore a broken spirit. No dose of medication can regenerate a wounded conscious.

There is true healing for moral trauma. True restoration is possible. True hope is available.

Nearly 3,000 years ago the Prophet Isaiah declared:

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
or a bride with her jewels.
(Isaiah 61.10, NLT)

Two millennia ago, the Apostle Paul wrote:

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. (Gal 3.26-27, NLT)

True healing is found in Christ Jesus. In baptism, we are clothed in his righteousness, which covers us in his perfection. In him are we dressed with the ‘clothing of salvation’ and a ‘robe of righteousness’ which covers the stain, hurt, and mess of our own sin and experiences. All of them. Even war.

This prescription is not a ‘take two and call me in the morning’ sort of regimen. It is not an overnight cure free of struggle or pain. It is a long, hard road to recover from such wounds. But it is the path to true recovery and healing.

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dropping the ball

Somewhere along the line, I dropped the ball. I had built up a pretty good momentum. I was writing every day. I was enjoying it. I was thriving on the creative moment I got to experience each day. I was looking forward to the time I allowed myself to write.

It was good. No, it was great.

And then I quit.

I’m not sure how. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure when (though I could figure it out from the dates on my posts if I really wanted to). None of this really matters, though. The point is that I quit. And for that, I offer no excuse.

If I am to be a writer, I must write…consistently.

And so, I begin again.

the choice

Your days are numbered,
Your number of breaths finite.

You can spend your time
Consuming or creating.

Only the latter will make a difference
After you’re gone.

how the NSA made Gmail unpatriotic

Nov 3, 2008

NOTE: This post is seriously off-topic for this blog; but it is a subject upon which I regularly get questioned by friends and family…so I’m posting it here for public discussion.

Twenty-one years ago, I took the following oath of office as a new basic cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

This is an oath I have been bound to for 21 years and am still as a commissioned officer in the Texas Air National Guard.

As any school child in the US can tell you, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. They include declarations of Americans’ rights to free speech and freedom from unreasonable searches.

The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech and states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Similarly, the Fourth Amendment provides for the protection of our privacy from unwarranted prying eyes of the government:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Unfortunately, for decades since Cold War technology enabled it, those rights have gone unprotected–or selectively protected–for some Americans. After 9.11.01, with the introduction of the Patriot Act, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle essentially denied these fundamental rights to all Americans enabling the now standard practice of the NSA (and who knows what other government agencies) to collect as much data about all of our communications as possible. These communications include not just public ones–blog posts, tweets, Facebook statuses, etc.–but ones that are reasonably considered private–text messages, emails, details about phone calls, etc.

Until last summer, when Edward Snowden’s revelations about our own government’s widespread data collection and spying on US citizens became public, I was a long-time user (think back to when Gmail was invite only!) of online email and storage services by Google, Dropbox, Box, and others based in the US. These are all technologically great services that exemplify the functionality, beauty, and cross-platform elegance many of us have come to love about online services. Since the initial news broke; however, there has been a nearly non-stop string of additional, ever-troubling disclosures about the NSA’s compromise of nearly every US-hosted web service imaginable.

For one sworn to support the Constitution, this is a big deal.

Because their compromise by the NSA is directly opposed to the rights established and guaranteed by the Constitution, I no longer believe using any of these services is the right thing to do. In other words, knowingly using a service that violates the basic rights afforded to Americans is anti-patriotic because it defies the Constitution. These rights and this argument has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we as citizens have anything to hide–quite honestly I don’t. It’s a matter of principle, like the initial struggle that formed our nation. I no longer use these services because they (willingly or not, depending on which sources you believe) directly oppose the fundamental rights upon which our grand country was established.

So what services do I use? Great question. Over the past seven months, I’ve tried out many different services from around the world that offer various levels of security and privacy for their email and storage. Currently I use:

  • email: Posteo email — for 1 euro (about $1.30) per month you get email hosted in Germany (read up on their privacy laws if concerned) with 2 GB of storage (more storage is cheap), IMAP/POP, webDAV-accessible calendar, English-capable webmail interface, etc. The UI isn’t as fancy as Gmail or Yandex mail, but it’s plenty good enough.
  • online storage: Tresorit for encrypted storage (encryption takes place on your machine before being uploaded…this is important) / Jottacloud and Telekom-DE mediacenter for unencrypted storage that is easy to share. Each of these services is hosted in EU nations that are not keen on letting the US pry on their customers.

Is this a perfect solution? Nope. Can US spooks find their way into anywhere they really want to be? Probably. Like I said, it’s a matter of principle and a small one–a band-aid of sorts until such time as we the people can make legislative changes to prevent future disregard of our foundational American rights.

One final note: if you’re interested in signing up for Tresorit or Jottacloud, drop me a note (tcjudd AT posteo.org) and I’ll send you an invite. We’ll both get more storage that way! Also, if you’re intimidated by the German-only sign-up process for Posteo, let me know in the comments and I’ll put together a translated tutorial.

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on Jesus’ baptism

jesus_baptism

This Sunday, January 12th, the church celebrates the baptism of Christ. This event is recorded in all four Gospels, which clearly points to its importance. Matthew’s account is given as the reading for this Sunday:

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

– Matthew 3.13-17 (NLT)

This passage is anything but unfamiliar to us, but what exactly does it mean? What is the point? Why was Jesus–the sinless Lamb of God–baptized? Whether one understands baptism as God’s work of grace (e.g., Lutherans, Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, etc.) or our own work of obedience (e.g. Baptists and other Evangelicals) makes no difference. That Jesus was baptized can be just plain confusing, especially if we get wrapped around the axle about Jesus’ baptism to ‘fulfill all righteousness’ or ‘carry out all that God requires.’

There are two facets to Jesus’ baptism for us to consider. First, he was baptized as an example for all of those who would follow him. Baptism is our visible entry to Christ’s Church. As Christ was baptized, so we also are to be baptized. As Luther pointed out:

Christ is baptized, not in order to be made righteous—for He is the Son of God and endowed with eternal righteousness so that we may be made righteous through Him—but as an example, so to speak, for us, in order that He may precede us and we may follow His example and also be baptized.

– LW 3:87

This is perhaps the more obvious reason Jesus was baptized, but it is not nearly the more important.

Jesus was also baptized not only to serve as our example, but to become one of us sinners. Clearly, Jesus did not become a sinner in actuality. He never sinned. But he became a sinner by association–in nearly every part of his life–beginning with his taking on humanity and ending with his death and resurrection. By descending into the waters of baptism, Jesus points out that he is like us, he is with us, he is us. Again, Luther:

He was entering into our stead, indeed, our person, that is, becoming a sinner for us, taking upon himself the sins which he had not committed, and wiping them out and drowning them in his holy baptism. And that he did this in accord with the will of God, the heavenly Father, who cast all our sins upon him that he might bear them and not only cleanse us from them through his baptism and make satisfaction for them on the Cross, but also clothe as in his holiness and adorn us with his innocence.

– LW 51:315

By becoming one of us, Jesus made possible what Luther called the ‘joyous exchange’–exchanging his righteousness for our ungodliness and vice versa. In his baptism, Christ takes on the sin of the world and drowns it in the waters–an act completed for us on the cross. And in return, instead of death and condemnation, which we deserve, we are clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ.

This he did; he took the sin of the whole world upon himself; he became a curse for us, and thus redeemed from the curse all those who believe in him.

Let us joyously celebrate Christ’s baptism as we remember our own and take heart in the knowledge that in it, we are united with Christ and shall live forever. Amen.

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how do we know God? (link)

Morning View

How do we come to know God?

  • through philosophy
  • through nature
  • through the lens of the Old Testament
  • through reason
  • through religion
  • through (fill in the blank)

All of the starting places are wrong, because in each of them does God is at least partly concealed. Our starting point for coming to know God must be in Christ Jesus. In him alone are the mysteries of God clearly revealed.

As the blog, The Orthodox Life points out:

Jesus should not be treated as the endpoint to our chain of reasoning about God.

Rather, Jesus is the very beginning.
If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father,
for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Meet Jesus.
Meet Him first.
Learn from Him how God thinks, behaves, and loves.
See His gentleness, see His firmness, see His compassion.
See Him healing, see Him bringing freedom, see Him weeping.

See Him humble Himself to the point of death,
stretching out his bloody arms on the wood of the cross,
for your salvation and mine,
and then confess,

“This is God.”

Please read the rest here.

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