Now This is Just Frightening

It always scares me a little when the Big Bad East jumps on the bandwagon [as of 9:00, Mike Holmgren’s smiling face is on the NFL frontpage] on behalf of a sports team from the Northwest. But Michael Smith’s column sends absolute shivers down my spine. That’s the thing about being a fan of Seattle sports. No matter what the record is (remember the Mariners’ 116-win season and then a complete, four-tire blowout in the playoffs?), no matter what the positive expectations (can you say, ‘I hate Al Harris’?), they always manage to find a way to let you down. (Come to think of it, it’s a lot like God’s grace; it’s got to be unconditional!)

13 wins, a first-round bye, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs can give a fan a lot to be excited about–and a lot more to be scared about. The flinch-mechanism is in place; I hope I don’t have to use it. Here’s a good ol’ lift of my glass (Schlafly Coffee Stout) to proving Michael Smith right. This, however, is the best column on ESPN.com.

(This weekend’s not quite the big game it looked like from September, is it Michael?)

Timotheos

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All Saints Sermon

[I should have read this sermon from Pr. Petersen when I first got it, but the end of the calendar year seems as good a time as any. Take your time; this is good, good stuff.]

All Saints (observed)
November 6, 2005 A+D
St. Matthew 5:1-12

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

God has given us good things in creation. They are ours to enjoy in their proper place. Christians should not be strangers to the joys of fine food and wine, sexual intercourse, music and dancing. Even mindless fun like video games or baseball have their place. We should delight in them all. But these pleasures, food, drink, sex, and baseball, are severely limited. They quickly vanish. Why would we store up treasures here? They pale in comparison to the greater gifts and joys of mind and soul.

All the pleasures of gluttony and lust are overrated. They are fleeting and unsatisfying. Part of this comes because they corruptions of good things. A man does not have the right to lust after his wife. For lust seeks not to love and serve but to use. It is not as inappropriate inside of marriage, nor as destructive, as it is outside of marriage. But it is still selfish and harmful. Men seeking to gain their lives lose them. Men seeking to gain pleasures find them just out of reach.

Pleasures of the flesh, be they intoxication, food, or tingling skin, never last. Like the cliché about Chinese food, you’re always hungry again an hour later. Nor will we be satisfied with the same Chinese dish an hour after we’ve eaten. We are always on the prowl for new adventure. The pleasures are never as pleasant as the fantasy anyway, and while they do not last, the guilt does. Men destroy themselves in seeking these vain things and they sell their souls cheap. Repent.
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Communion Fellowship: Thesis X

“Holy Communion is also a mark of confession of the faith and doctrine of those with whom one celebrates it. Therefore the admission of members of heterodox fellowships to the celebration of Communion within the Lutheran church is in conflict with:
1. Christ’s institution
2. The commanded unity of the church in faith and corresponding confession;
3. Our love for the one to whom the Sacrament is administered;
4. Our love for our own fellow believers, especially the weak, who by this action would be given grievous offense;
5. The command not to become participants in the sins and errors of others” (C.F.W. Walther, “Communion Fellowship” in Essays for the Church: Volume I [St. Louis: Concordia, 1992], 220).

Please Stick to Surveys, Mr. Barna

Kevin Miller offers a critique of George Barna’s new book.

The second question: How vital can a Christian revolution be that views the local church as optional?

Revolution is passionate for the church, so long as it’s the capital-C church, the universal group of believers in Jesus, the church I can’t see and don’t have to relate to. When the Reformers distinguished between the local and universal church, they did so to point out that not every church member had justifying faith. But they insisted that every believer be immersed in a local congregation, where the gospel is rightly proclaimed and the sacraments rightly administered. The notion of freelance Christians would have made them spit out their beer.

If Barna gets his way, not only will there no longer be local congregations, there will no longer be Christians. Individualist notions of Christianity and where the “spirit (sic) is guiding me” kill faith; they do not enliven it.

…this new movement “entails drawing people away from reliance upon a local church into a deeper connection with and reliance upon God.” Already “millions of believers have stopped going to church,” so Barna expects that in 20 years “only about one-third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means for experiencing and expressing their faith.”

The Montanist and enthusiast heresies have been around a long time, and they will continue to perpetuate themselves. It must continually be said, as Luther found it necessary to say: the Spirit does not come apart from the Word. The Devil comes apart from the Word; my own proud notions come apart from the Word; but the Spirit does not.

Barna might respond that these “revolutionaries” are indeed reading the Bible. They probably are. That doesn’t change the point, because reading the Bible outside the Church–and the only place where the Church is manifested is in local congregations of Word and Sacrament–is more dangerous than not reading the Bible at all. Hauerwas’ concern is appropriate here.

Whatever; it’s the next Christian fad and it will be gone by next year.

Timotheos