Holy Cross 2014

Posted on September 14th, 2014

As Adam lay dying, his son Seth went to the border of Eden. There he said to the angel guarding the way in, “My father is dying; give to me from the Tree of Life, that I may bring it as medicine to him.” But the angel would not give him from the Tree of Life. Instead, he gave him a shoot from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. “When this bears fruit,” said the angel, “Adam will be fully restored.”

So goes the legend. And the legend continues, that this shoot, planted on Adam’s grave, endured as a great tree, whose wood finally became used for the cross, thus fulfilling the angel’s words, “When this bears fruit, Adam will be fully restored.”

So goes the legend. And it is but a legend. It’s a legend I would love to believe, on this Day of the Holy Cross. For the fruit of this tree, the tree of the cross, is the death of Jesus for the life of the world, by which Adam and all his children will be fully restored.

Why keep remembering the legend about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil becoming the tree of the cross? Because the legend conveys a truth, the truth that by the cross comes healing, restoration, the undoing of the fall.

There is another legend, closer to our own time, but still far distant. This legend is also closer to known facts, for it deals with the Roman Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena. Constantine, you may remember, issued the Edict of Milan, in the year of our Lord 313, granting religious liberty to Christians. In 326, his mother Helena went to Jerusalem to build churches on holy sites and to establish organizations to care for the poor.

Discovery of the True Cross

There, Helena discovered the hiding place of the three crosses of Jesus and the two rebels. Not knowing which was the true cross, the one on which Jesus hung, the leading official of Jerusalem, a man named Macarius, devised a test. Reasoning that the true cross would bring healing, he brought a noblewoman who had long suffered from disease, and while praying, they determined to touch her with wood from each of the three crosses. And, so the story goes, the instant one of the crosses was brought near her, she was made well. That must be the true cross.

It is a story, not at all certain. That’s the fun of legends; they spark the imagination. But theological legends do even more: whether real or not, they illustrate a truth: the cross heals.

The search for the true cross by Helena, along with the holy sites of the nativity, upper room, and holy sepulcher, demonstrate something vital about Christianity: the history matters. We’re not dealing with ideas or ethics, politics or philosophy. A real man was crucified on a real cross and laid in a real tomb. The search for the true cross is a search for a piece of that history.

Such searches are prone to superstition and fraud. Luther once said that if we gathered all the pieces of wood supposed to be from the true cross, we’d have enough to build a barn!

But if the authenticity of this or that piece of wood is doubtful, the authenticity of the event is not. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate, an event seen by many and documented by eyewitnesses. And on the third day he rose, was seen by over 500. His resurrection was documented by eyewitnesses, whose testimony was written in blood.

If we had a piece of the true cross, we would surely keep it, because we preserve objects that remind us of special events. Brides preserve their wedding dresses, graduates keep tassels, parents take pictures on the first day of school. When someone dies, it can be very hard to get rid of their things. The objects remind us of the person. We want to remember.

In the church, the tokens of remembrance that were kept, both of Jesus and the saints, were called relics. Now there’s nothing wrong with saving an object. The problem comes when magic, or some kind of spiritual power, is attached to the object.

Fast-forward more than a thousand years, and you see a transformation from pious remembrance to superstition to ungodly abuse. In the Large Catechism, Luther slices through the fog of false worship and hammers home the key point:

The Word of God is the true holy thing above all holy things. Indeed, it is the only one we Christians acknowledge and have. Though we had the bones of all the saints or all the holy and consecrated vestments gathered together in one heap, they could not help us in the slightest degree, for they are all dead things that can sanctify no one. But God’s Word is the treasure that sanctifies all things. By it all the saints themselves have been sanctified.

God gives us His Word through the Bible, preaching, and Sacraments. The material of the Sacraments is not holy in itself; i.e., there’s nothing holy about the water for Baptism or the bread and wine for the Lord’s Supper. What makes these things holy, what makes them life-giving, is the Word of God attached to them. Jesus gives us His promises of new birth, the forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit, in Baptism; and likewise, His Words instituting the Sacrament are what makes it His Body and Blood.

All that is directly connected to what St. Paul says in the Epistle for Holy Cross day: “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV). He continues, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23–24 ESV).

To say, “Christ was crucified” is not to say much. It says the history. History is important. But faith believes the effect of the history. What does the cross mean? Not, “Christ was crucified,” but: Christ is crucified for you. For your sins. He dies your death. He is cursed with your curse. He is punished with your punishment. He fears your fear. He endures your shame. And in exchange, He gives you His righteousness, His sonship, His life.

The Word of the Cross is, “Father, forgive them.” That’s folly, foolishness, if your life is wrapped up in the treasures and pleasures of this world. Forgiveness? Who needs it?

The Word of the Cross is, “‘Behold, your King!’ A wretched, pathetic loser in Roman or Israeli power politics.” We don’t want a mild king who forgives sins. We want someone who can play smashmouth, fight for our rights, win the election, win the war.


But all of that is wrapped up in the love of this world, the attachment to this world, which is really the attachment to yourself. We want to win. But the victory of Jesus is in being a Victim who forgives. He does not demand payment from you but becomes Himself your payment. He is King not by demanding a tax from you but by being Himself your offering.


Rising from the dead, He strips death of its power. Which means death is also stripped of its power over you. Not only in some distant future kingdom, but even now. As the world is frantic about death, and clings therefore to possessions and worries about legacies, the disciple of Jesus lives without bondage to all of that. You can forgive, for all claims have been released. You drop your demands upon others, for all demands have been satisfied on the cross.

The legend of Helena and the woman healed by the wood of the cross is a beautiful story. But Clive’s baptism is no fable. Today the Father makes Clive His son, the Son makes Clive His brother, the Spirit makes Clive’s heart His home. And when we witness a Baptism, we rejoice that all those gifts apply also to us.

Likewise this Eucharist is no fable. You are touched here with no piece of wood, but with the holy body and precious blood of Jesus, which cleanses you from all sin, and will heal your body completely at the resurrection.

So everywhere in church and home and school we hang up crosses and crucifixes, not to worship wood or metal, but to be ever mindful of the one thing in this vain life that matters: Jesus and His victory over death.

Jesus died on a real cross, was really dead, and really rose again from the dead. You are really baptized, your sins are really forgiven, and even when you seem to be really dead, such death will have no power over you, for you shall really rise again. +INJ+

Dreaming of a Christian community

Posted on September 11th, 2014

Idealizing people, politicians, pastors, and churches leads to disillusionment. Some go from church to church searching for the perfect pastor or small group, then move on when they discover problems. The same is true on a denominational level. In Life Together, Bonhoeffer addresses these longings for the perfect church and how such longings can make things worse:

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly.

The corrective is to recognize that the church is always a community of sinners, a hospital for those seeking healing from the contagion of their nature. Just as we would not be surprised to find sick people at the hospital, with the operating room a bloody place, so we should not be surprised to find sinners at the church, and sins brought out into the open and manifested so we can begin the healing process through the medicine of absolution.

Meditation on Psalm 94

Posted on September 10th, 2014

An appeal to the God of vengeance sounds exceedingly inconsistent with the Scriptures that present Jesus as bringer of shalom – peace. Yet that is how tonight’s psalm begins: “O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!” Have not the storms of your heart similarly cried out for justice? The world is not fair, the rich and influential are invited to the table and you are left out in the cold. Someone at work, those scoundrels in government, someone in your own family has turned on you, and you would like to see the tables turned. “Repay to the proud what they deserve!”

What sort of psalm is this? The sort you can understand. The anger turns to questioning. How long, God, are You going to let this go on? “O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?” How long, how long?

And then from questioning to receiving mockery: Your religion is worthless, you’ve trusted in something foolish.

But then God speaks. And indeed, He calls us fools. “Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise?” Indeed, the Lord says, “I hear, I see, I discipline, I teach, I know … I know that your thoughts are like a breath: they last for a moment, are not seen, and soon gone forever.”

To all this, the believer responds: “Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law.” The person who began in anger, crying out for vengeance, concludes by crying for his sins. The first and necessary discipline was not on the wicked and proud; or rather, it was not on those other wicked and proud people, but on the wicked and proud man whom we see reflected in the mirror.

The Lord disciplines the one whom He loves; and so your cancer, your gray hair, your lack of recognition, your lack of the money you crave, your dysfunctional family and melancholy soul: it all is working for good, God is working it for good to turn you from the one crying out for vengeance to a person who cries out for mercy – both for yourself and for others.

The psalm is not done with the wicked, the legislators “who frame injustice by statute.” No, the Lord has use for them too: “They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.” We can look upon the innocent babies condemned to death by the abortion industry; we can see the righteous, the saints in Syria being brutally murdered by crucifixion and beheading, after they see their wives and daughters raped.

But these are not ultimately who the Psalm means. The Lord Jesus is the righteous one, the only innocent one. He is the true victim of this Psalm: “They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.” And we know how that ends: absolution and resurrection. This is the consolation that cheers us. As we go through the hardships of this life—and really, we know little of hardships compared to most Christians in most times and places—but as we go through our raging for vengeance, our impatience with God’s schedule, and finally come to see His discipline lovingly training us, then we can say aright, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

Decomposing bodies, living bread

Posted on September 10th, 2014

planting seed

A gem from St. Irenaeus:

A cutting from the vine planted in the ground bears fruit in its season, or a kernel of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed rises and is multiplied by the Spirit of God, who contains all things. And then, through the wisdom of God, it serves for our use when, after receiving the Word of God, it becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time. The Word of God grants them resurrection to the glory of God, even the Father who freely gives to this mortal immortality, and to this corruptible incorruption. This is so because the strength of God is made perfect in weakness in order that we may never become puffed up, as if we had life from ourselves, or become exalted against God with ungrateful minds.


A new and real human fellowship

Posted on September 10th, 2014

Regarding “the question of truth,” Hermann Sasse observed that

The American concept of the church basically avoids this question. It surrenders dogma and liturgy as something unessential—“ trifling matters” as Goethe put it. For us, however, both of these belong to the essence of the church: the Word and the Sacrament, confession and liturgy. We understand the protest against an ossified orthodoxy and a dreary ritualism , and we agree with this protest. But we believe that the church possesses in the Verbum Dei [“ Word of God”] the eternal truth, over against all the relativism of human knowledge. And we believe that in the evangelically understood Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, that in the liturgical life of the church which is grounded on these things, the powers are present which are able to establish a new and real human fellowship, even in an age in which all human fellowships are unraveling.

Letters to Lutheran Pastors – Volume 1 (Kindle Locations 973-979)

The human genome and the mind of God

Posted on September 9th, 2014


An intriguing argument from Oxford mathematician John C. Lennox on the existence of information pointing to a source of creation outside of our material universe:

Above and beyond that, there is the major scientific discovery— one of the greatest of all time — that in each of the ten trillion cells of our body we humans possess a “word” of mind-boggling length, the human genome. This “word” is 3– 5 billion “letters” long, written in the four chemical “letters” C, G, A, T. (Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science, p100).

That word encoded within each human being is information. Information is recorded and communicated via matter – but the information itself is non-material.

“The nonmateriality of information points to a nonmaterial source — a mind, the mind of God” (ibid.)


Sermo Dei: Trinity 12, 2014

Posted on September 7th, 2014

Trinity 12

September 7, 2014

Baptism of Landon Robert Andrews

Mark 7:31-37

When God made man, He did not make him defective. His ears were opened to the music of creation. His tongue, discovering nourishment and sweetness planted all around him, responded by singing the praise of his Maker, who had done all things well.

Sucking in a gulp of air, the man was glad. He did not know how to sigh except in contentment.


All this changed when death entered the world. The man’s sigh became his bitter companion. Breath burst forth from his rancid mouth in anger, annoyance, sorrow, until the day he sighed his last and returned to the earth. Gone were the days when a man said of God, “He has done all things well.”

Then, God entered His creation. In Jesus, God became man. And when this perfect Man Jesus comes to a broken man—and indeed we all are broken—what does Jesus do? “Looking up to heaven, He sighed.”

What does this tell us about Jesus? What does a sigh mean? For us at least, often frustration, discontent, melancholy. What does it mean for Jesus? Perhaps all of those together. He confronts, in this one man, the situation of every man: the purpose of creation has been circumvented. An architect comes to a house and says, “This is not how I designed it.” Yet such an analogy fails us, for what God has made is not merely an object, but a person. A physician may want to restore proper functioning to the body, but the Creator is interested in more: God wants to restore the human person to communion with Himself, and to participate in the ongoing care of creation and procreation.

All this is broken. So Jesus sighs. Elsewhere in the New Testament sighing is expressed as groaning or grief. And the sighing which is a groan is typically indicative of the corruption of creation and the longing for a remedy. St. Paul says to the disciples in Rome, “We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8.23). And again, the same idea in 2 Cor. 5:2, 4:

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven … For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

He is anticipating the hope of the disciple of Jesus, which is not a bodiless heaven, but the resurrection of the body, being “further clothed” with a glorified, fully restored body.

The enfleshed God, Jesus, goes through all this groaning in a twofold way: both for Himself, as He experiences the brutal beating and execution, but also on behalf of others, such as the deaf mute in today’s Gospel, whom Jesus loves both as a fellow human and as the man’s Maker.

So Jesus is God in the flesh, who enters His creation to repair, redeem, restore. Our vocation, man’s calling from the beginning, was to care for and tend the creation as God’s representatives upon the earth.

The friends of this man with broken hearing and speech did not have the means to repair their friend. But they knew Who did. So they bring their friend and request to Jesus. That’s all prayer is: bringing your requests to the One who promises to hear and answer, the One who made and still cares for His creation.

Our participation in the ongoing care of creation is an important part of the framework for how we think about the sexual ethic for the disciples of Jesus. The church does not forbid, for example, sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman for the purpose of repression or upholding a supposed patriarchal system; rather, everything is for the promotion, protection, and preservation of the family, especially those who are most often victimized: women and children.

An excellent article in The Week with the clearly written title “Why So Many Christians Won’t Back Down on Gay Marriage” (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, Sept. 3, 2014) is one of the best summaries of the reason for the Scriptural teaching on sexuality. Here is just a portion:

Christian opposition to homosexual acts is of a piece with a much broader vision of what it means to be a human being…. Everything in the Universe has been put here to be used by God’s children to reflect his loving glory — and to teach them about God’s love. This is particularly true … of the unique sexual complementarity between men and women. The sexual act is meant to reflect God’s love by fostering a union at once bodily and spiritual — and creates new life. … The fruitfulness of the marriage act reflects that God is a creator and has charged man to be an agent of his ongoing work of creation. And, finally, if God’s love means total self-giving unto death on a Cross, then man and wife must give themselves to each other totally — no pettiness, no adultery, no polygamy, no divorce, and no nonmarital sexual acts.

The inclusion of pettiness alongside adultery indicates what’s really going on: are our relationships oriented toward winning—getting our own way—or toward the blessing, the healing, the care and love of spouse? Our pettiness is a sign of our brokenness. Repent, and ruminate on what Jesus did in today’s Gospel.

Jesus Heals the Deaf Mute

What results from Jesus’ healing the deaf mute is not simply a successful medical procedure, or even a miraculous medical procedure. Ephphatha, “Be opened!” Jesus says, just as at a baptism, and his hearing was renewed, and the man spoke plainly, rightly.

Last Thursday Mrs. Hull at our Back to School night spoke about the students studying logical fallacies this year. She emphasized that it is not enough to teach the students how to detect logical fallacies; it is imperative that they learn how to respond to bad arguments with charity. When we hear about the deaf mute “speaking plainly,” or literally, “speaking rightly,” we learn that it is not enough to say the right thing, but as God’s Word teaches us, to speak the truth in love.

What would it mean for us to speak rightly? What would it mean to hear correctly? We must listen before speaking. Above all we listen for what the Word of God says about us: I am a creature of God (creature and not Creator, and thus a man under orders, under authority). I am broken – but redeemed by Jesus. Sins forgiven, I’m sent back to my family to forgive sins, and out into the world to do honest work that helps my neighbor.

Thus hearing, we speak, plainly with no games, but correctly, i.e., patiently with love. With such speaking, you bring your complaints to God, and your thanksgiving to God. And then speak positive, constructive words about your neighbors. And where they have gone astray, you forgive.

James Julius Esget

The ceremonies of Baptism are not the main thing; the only necessary thing is water and the Word of God. But we include things like the saying of Jesus, Ephphatha, “Be opened!”, the sign of the cross on the person’s lips, and speaking the Our Father directly into the baptized one’s ear to indicate that Baptism is not a task to mark off your spiritual to-do list, but the entrance of the Spirit of God into your life, transforming your hearing and speaking. It’s important that we pray for Landon Robert today, for all the baptized, and for ourselves, for that ongoing work of Jesus and His Spirit in our lives, that receiving the Father’s forgiveness, we also are transformed to hear and speak rightly.

Then in the resurrection, not only will our body be restored, but the soul that drives ears and lips, and we shall say, “He has done all things well.” +INJ+

Vocation and Virtue

Posted on September 5th, 2014

Vocation and Virtue:

What’s the Purpose of a School?

For Immanuel Lutheran School’s Back to School night; adapted from a longer essay written Spring 2014.


Our culture pressures us to parent in unhealthy ways. Last Spring, the Washington Post had a feature on the parenting culture that drives children to succeed to the detriment of other values. The Post profiled Wilma Bowers, leader of a movement “that seeks to upend the achievement-at-all costs intensive parent and school culture” in northern Virginia.

“There’s such a status thing here: ‘I went [to] Georgetown. I want my kid to go to Georgetown or better.’ It’s such a rat race,” says Bowers.… “Nobody is taking a step back and asking, ‘Is going to Princeton going to make me happier in the long run? Is this even right for my child?’ Because there are real consequences to living this way.”

Bowers knows it’s a high-stakes parenting arms race in McLean and communities like it. The obsession with grades and college résumés can overwhelm everything.

As Immanuel transitioned in the last decade to a classical school that is both serious about Christianity and demanding academically, we have attracted two kinds of families: those who wanted a rich Christian environment for their children, and those who had aspirations of success for their children with hopes that the classical curriculum could help them achieve that success.

Yet that is too simplistic. The truth is, most of us want both of these – but they can end up in competition with each other.

If you could only choose one for your child: to be a disciple of Jesus, or to have a successful life as the world counts success, which one would you choose?

And now think about that tension a little differently: What kind of life do you hope your child will have? Not what kind of living, measured by money or status, but what kind of life, lived in service to God and neighbor?

I would like to address that question through the lens of virtue and vocation.

ILS chapel

Defining Terms: Virtue and Vocation


Virtue is having “an inner disposition to perform morally right acts.” In the plural, virtues includes wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice, as the cardinal virtues, and faith, hope, and love as the theological virtues. (See “VIRTUE,” Pocket Dictionary of Ethics, 125.)

The virtues work together for virtues, doing what is right. We need wisdom to know the right thing, courage to do it, temperance in the face of opposition, and justice in our actions. As Christians, we perform such things with faith in God’s mercy, hope in His redemption, and love for His creation.

Whereas the world pushes us to ask, “How can our children be successful?”, we instead want to ask, “How can we cultivate in them these virtues?”

This is done by teaching them about their callings, the doctrine of vocation.


The secular meaning of Vocation is a job done for money. This is deeply problematic, revealed by the question frequently put to stay-at-home mothers: “Do you work?” “When are you going back to work?” Domestic work, the care of home and family, is not regarded as an authentic calling, authentic vocation.

Christian theology recognizes callings not centered around employment but relationships, centered around home, family, church and neighborhood. From birth we have the first calling from which all others flow: “Honor your father and your mother.” To this is attached other callings to the people with whom we share relationships: brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, neighbors, pastors, then teachers and classmates. Growth in strength and intellect generates new callings: citizen, worker, employer, husband, wife, and as God blesses us, children of our own as we become father, and mother. While the responsibility of a father is different from that of a son, both are summarized by God with a single word, “Love.”

The son loves his father by obeying him. The father loves his son by protecting him, clothing him, feeding him, educating him.

Every vocation is a calling to love.

Where does the school fit into this? The school is not a separate authority, equal to or higher than the parents. Lutheranism understands the pedagog to be acting in loco parentis.

Parenting - hands

In loco parentis – The Purpose of Parenting

In loco parentis means that the school acts under the authority of the parent. The parent, not the government or church, is the ultimate temporal authority over the child. Before God made church or state, He made the family, the first and highest of all institutions.

The ultimate eternal authority over the child, of course, is God. So the church should tell you what it means to be a parent, what God’s Word says, but the Church should have no police powers to punish you.

So the school acts under the aegis of the parents to help father and mother carry our their vocation, their calling toward their children.

What are these callings? After food, clothing, shelter, and security, we parents need to teach our children to be independent, prepare them to serve their neighbors, and guide them toward the kingdom of God, recognizing that we will one day be separated in this life and they will have to continue their journey without us.

How does the school help you in your vocation to parent your children? There is practical wisdom to be inculcated: germs infect; fire is good for heating and cooking, but must be controlled; you need to sleep; “Stop, look, and listen before you cross the street; use your eyes, use your ears, then use your feet.”

All this is part of the meaning of the Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” This is wisdom. But for things to truly “go well,” our children must take in the higher wisdom: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

There are so many things we parents need help with. There’s a reason why the “What to expect…” books are so popular: we need wisdom from those who have been there before, and often an objective look by a person not as emotionally invested. For with the people we love, especially our children, we can panic over the slightest spot on the skin, but also rationalize away serious problems in our child’s mind or heart.

Here is where the Classical Christian school comes in, as a partner with parents in preparing children to fulfill their callings before man and God.

The Classical Christian School: Partnering with Parents to Prepare Children to Fulfill Their Callings before Man and God

The first level of school is typically Kindergarten, “children’s garden.” Our children are like little seedlings, and just like growing things in the soil have enemies in the form of rabbits, bugs, weeds, and disease, so do our children have enemies: a hostile culture, distractions, the infection of sin. Plants need watering and pruning, gardens need weeding, and your children will need a pruning and weeding force in their lives. This is never for the purpose of hurting the plant or the child, but for their growth and fruitfulness.

Parents, and a classical Christian school, take these precious little seeds, and every day water and weed the garden, shepherd and tend them in such a way that they grow into human beings of virtue. We take little boys and girls with the goal of them becoming men and women who know wisdom, and can apply it in the world.

Perhaps you have aspirations for your children to be admitted into a great university and get a great job. That’s not wrong, but must not be your primary aspiration. What they need most is to learn virtue.

For that, you need help from the outside. You know your children best – but you are not able to be entirely objective. The school helps parents in their vocation by identifying strengths and weaknesses that our subjective positions as parents may not see.

We understand this easily with physicians: we bring our worries about this or that medical concern, and he tells us not to worry; but then he finds something else that we did not even see, and guides us to the remedy.

Along with our bodies, our minds and souls need healing. The school serves not only to impart knowledge, but to impart wisdom to use knowledge to good purposes, which is to say, to bring a child to the point where he or she can be virtuous.

I am looking forward to our partnership this year, and may God grant us growth in virtue to fulfill our vocations.

Meditation on Psalm 93

Posted on September 3rd, 2014

We live in a world of uncertainty and instability. Alarm bells clang regarding climate change, with fears of rising sea levels as harbinger of impending ecological devastation. Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, the Ukraine, and elsewhere spark fears of a great conflict on a global scale.

But the uncertainty and instability now goes to the human person itself. Point to an ultrasound picture of a pregnant woman’s womb and ask, “What is that?” The scientific and moral reality gives way to an unstable world where only the strong are allowed to survive.

4D Ultrasound of baby yawning in the womb. Image from LifeNews.com

4D Ultrasound of baby yawning in the womb. Image from LifeNews.com

The simple matter of boys and girls is no longer so simple. Mount Holyoke, an historic women’s college, has announced a broad redefinition of eligible students, recognizing “that self-identity may change over time.” That does not mean self-identity as Christian or atheist, Republican or Democrat, carnivore or vegan, but self-identity in terms of whether you are a man or a woman. Here is Mount Holyoke’s new policy:

The following academically qualified students can apply for admission consideration:

•Biologically born female; identifies as a woman

•Biologically born female; identifies as a man

•Biologically born female; identifies as other/they/ze

•Biologically born female; does not identify as either woman or man

•Biologically born male; identifies as woman

•Biologically born male; identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman

•Biologically born with both male and female anatomy (Intersex); identifies as a woman

The following academically qualified students cannot apply for admission consideration:

•Biologically born male; identifies as man


All this with the recognition that what you identify as may change, as entire new categories of human persons are invented.

When tonight’s Psalm, Ps. 93, says, “The world is established; it shall never be moved,” this is speaking about the structure of the cosmos. We are created as particular people in a particular time, and there are challenges associated with your life in your body lived out in your time and in your place. The vocation of being you is a calling to live out who you are not in the realm of fantasizing about being someone different but about being God’s creature in the place where He has put you.

There is something extraordinarily freeing to confess, “The world is established; it shall never be moved.” God made the world, and although it is now in bondage to decay, and the principle of death permeates all things, still, the God who made the world promises the regenesis of the cosmos, the resurrection of the dead at the renewal of all things.

Which means that, on a practical level, the wasp which has invaded your home or the leaking toilet must be dealt with, yet there is no need for fear about the sun exploding in nuclear fury or an asteroid careening into us. It will be no surprise if the world ends this way, or more likely through a nuclear holocaust of our own making. Still, “The world [the cosmos] is established; it shall never be moved,” and God the Creator cares for all things, even at the end of all things in this age.

It also means that, if your life is difficult, if you do not have enough time to work on this or that, if you cannot achieve something you dreamed about, then you should instead say, “This is the concrete life God has given me to live out. I will act in the here and now according to God’s will, and not despair that things are like this.” For the LORD is enthroned above the  roiling waters, and they shall be still at His command.

In the ancient world, waters particularly were associated with chaos. But the Lord reigns upon the waters, He is mightier than their thundering (Ps. 93:4). Into the chaos and churning waters teeming with sin stepped Jesus, and precisely there did He reign; He is “robed in majesty” as the Spirit descends upon Him. He did what the Father willed, taking on our nature, and what is more, taking on our sin. For all this, He was tormented by the devil and mocked by the world. Even still—or rather, precisely because of all this—to Him the Father says, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

Baptism of the Lord Jesus

To us, in our little lives in our little corners He says the same thing: “You are My beloved son, My beloved daughter, in You I am well-pleased.”

Step back into the chaos and be who you are: a baptized child of God. Face down the despair and the uncertainty with the concrete knowledge that by the decree of Father, Son, and Spirit, “The world is established; it shall never be moved.” +INJ+