"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Calvinistic Predestination and How the Blessed Sacrament Disproves It

For those who are unaware, there is a doctrine held by some that God in his infinite Wisdom chose out from humanity a certain number for whom Christ's ransom on the cross would be effective. Those inside this group are called the elect. Those who are outside of this are called the reprobate.

It sounds harsh for a loving God to consign a set number of people to Hell, but this view does have the merits of doing everything possible to uphold the sovereignty of God over all matters. It is also true that there are numerous passages particularly from Romans 8 and 9, Ephesians 1, and other places which would give creedence to this view. Also, before I continue, I wish to note that I believe many, if not all Calvinists, to be believers. However, the Eucharist is what I propose to be the nail in this doctrine's coffin.

In Matthew and Mark's account of the Last Supper, as Jesus gives the Bread and Wine he states that this is his Body and Blood which has been shed for many. Only "for many"? This might lend creedence to the Calvinist belief. But Scripture must be balanced with Scripture. In Luke's account, specifically Luke 22:19-20, Jesus makes the explicit claim this is my Body and my Blood which is given/shed "for you." Furthermore, in John's great Eucharistic discourse recorded in chapter 6, Jesus says "the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (6:51) Unless of course you eat and drink the sacramental Bread and Wine with faith, the Sacrament will not effect life in the recipient. However, that is not the point to be made here. Judas Iscariot took the Bread and Wine in Luke's account, and even though John 6 does not take place in the Upper Room I think it is safe to say that what Jesus said on that mountain held true when he shared the Last Supper with his Apostles. "I give you, Judas, my Flesh and Blood, my Body has been broken for you." Yet, the Scripture and Universal Tradition bear out that Judas was not a believer. Yet, the meal which represents to us and effects in us the redemption of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was offered to him. It does not make any sense to debate whether or not Judas could have changed his mind at the last minute or anything like that. He didn't. But I think Jesus is clear that the Bread and Wine, Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, are offered to even the most wretched-including those who will not repent of their sins.

In the end, when we view the passages regarding predestination in Scripture, I think it would be helpful for us to have the basic understanding that there are things we simply cannot know. It is is better that way. Could I end up being wrong about this? It certainly could be. I doubt it considering what I've cited above. I also doubt that I'm wrong about Calvinism because of Peter's address in his first general Epistle. In verse two he says that all the believers to whom he writes are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God." Again, we want to be careful with this statement because we do not want to fall into the trap that God reacts to what man does. But we should use this verse and the verses pertaining to the Institution of the Eucharist to temper what might appear in other places to be a demonstration that God elects people almost haphazardly. Instead of focusing in on these questions, let us rejoice in the humility of God the Son, who we remember this time of year came as a poor, weak, baby that he might give his life for us and for those who will never care. And may we in return give ourselves fully in gratitude for the "bread which has come down from heaven, and is given for the life of the world."

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Neglected Verse

Many hymnals are missing verses to great hymns. One of those songs is the almost universally sung (in the English world) Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. For this Carol, three verses are typically listed. All three are poetically, theologically, and devotionally great. However, the fourth verse really nails down two huge themes of Scripture: the coming of the Seed of the Woman (promised in Genesis 3:15) and Jesus Christ as that Seed, the Second Adam.
Here are the words:

Come, Desire of Nations, come
Fix in us thy humble home.
Rise the Woman's conq'ring Seed
Bruise in us the serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface,
Stamp thine image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

The title, Desire of Nations, is taken from the infrequently read prophecy of Haggai, chapter two and verse seven. This verse speaks to the universal desire for a relationship with God, as well as God's desire that he have a relationship with people from all over the world. In order to do this the Seed of the Woman, Jesus, the one who would atone for Adam's sin had to be born. By his birth he begins his mission to crush the head of the serpent. Revelation 12:4 indicates that Satan, the dragon, was there at the beginning, at the Nativity, to make an attempt to thwart Christ, but was unsuccessful. This is a complete inversion from the "births" of Adam and Eve in the opening chapters of Genesis where it appears that they nearly immediately caved to Satan. Thus, the Second Adam comes and not only avoids the temptations of the devil but is able to "efface" the old man in each of us and restore his own image.
Thus, the verse ends with the prayer that Jesus reinstate us in his love. It is important to realize several points. First, the sin of the first Adam, with which we are born, is separation from God. Secondly, that only Christ could take the initiative to grant us access to God. Jesus by his grace and mercy can and will reinstate all people who desire it.
May it be the prayer of each of us this Christmas that the Christ child, who loved us so much that he came in humility as a baby, would reinstate us sinners in his divine love.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holy Family

This is the poem I wrote to commemorate the upcoming Christmas season.

Holy Mary, blessed Daughter of Eve,
the Virgin of Nazareth did conceive
A Son; becoming on Bethlehem's sod
Holy Mary, radiant Mother of God.

Holy Joseph, blessed Son of David,
Strong guardian of the Uncreated.
Watch'd and protected the Beloved One
Holy Joseph, the Father of God's Son.

Holy Jesus, blessed Brother of all
People who seek salvation from the Fall.
By thy Conception and Incarnation,
Holy Jesus, make us new creations.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration, Its Opponents, and Why They Are Wrong

The following is an excerpt from an article by the Reformed Protestant R.C. Sproul.

"The drafters of the document, Charles Colson, Robert George, and Timothy George, used deliberate language that is on par with the ecumenical language of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) movement that began in the 1990s. The Manhattan Declaration states, “Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s Word,” and it identifies “Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelicals” as “Christians.” The document calls Christians to unite in “the Gospel,” “the Gospel of costly grace,” and “the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness.” Moreover, the document says, “it is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season.”
Without question, biblical truth must be proclaimed and the gospel preached prophetically to our nation. But how could I sign something that confuses the gospel and obscures the very definition of who is and who is not a Christian? I have made this point again and again since the days of ECT. Though the framers of the Manhattan Declaration declaim any connection to ECT, it appears to me that the Manhattan Declaration is inescapably linked to that initiative, which I have strenuously resisted. More than that, this new document practically assumes the victory of ECT in using the term “the gospel” in reference to that which Roman Catholics are said to “proclaim” (Phil. 1:27).
The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of using studied ambiguity in order to win over opponents. Let me be unambiguous: Without a clear understanding of sola fide and the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, you do not have the gospel or gospel unity (1 Cor. 1:17; 2 Cor. 5:21). The ECT initiative repeatedly avowed that the signatories had a unity of faith in the gospel. This included Roman Catholic signers who affirm the canons and decrees of the sixteenth-century Council of Trent, which anathematizes sola fide. I believe there are true and sincere Christians within the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches. But these people are Christians in spite of their church’s official doctrinal positions."

Mr. Sproul, I would like to make two observations. First, as you well know, in reference to the doctrine of justification, the only place in all of Scripture that the words "faith alone" are used, they are, to quote a video I once saw, "proceeded by the words NOT BY." Indeed, what would God have had to say in order to make you believe this? To this very simple truth could be added that St. Paul only ever teaches that a "faith working by love" (Gal. 5:6) is one that justifies, and that we are to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil. 2:12) Never unaided by grace, of course. That would be impossible. But works are necessary to justification and salvation. At the very least, even if over half of the world's Christians are wrong on these interpretations of Justification, you could at least be more charitable in your understanding of their biblical origin.
Your reply to that statement is likely to be something along the lines of "it's not charitable to allow someone to persist in error." Fair enough. But given the that these teachings have the weight of the Church and Tradition, plus the Scriptural references cited above (and many others I have not cited), perhaps you need to revisit whether or not Sola Fide is the central doctrine of Scripture, or even a Christian doctrine at all.

Secondly, this excerpt:
"At least one of the document’s framers, Mr. Colson, sees the Manhattan Declaration as a way to revitalize the church in America. In his commentary on November 25, Mr. Colson said the Manhattan Declaration is “a form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith.” He suggests that the Manhattan Declaration is an antidote to “biblical and doctrinal ignorance” within the church. However, true reformation and revival within the church and the winning of our culture to Christ will come only through the power of the Holy Spirit and our clear, bold proclamation of the biblical gospel, not through joint ecumenical statements that equivocate on the most precious truths given to us."

That last statement is something with which I would strongly disagree. There are several reasons for this. First, Jesus prayed "that they may all be one...that the world may believe." (John 17) The gospel is more effective when there is unity. To say otherwise is to argue with Jesus. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the idea that the three issuses tackled by the Manhattan Declaration (Sanctity of life, Marriage, and Religous liberty) are not integral to the gospel. While I am not an expert in anyway on the third, the first two of these issues I would like to briefly address. First, true love cannot take place outside the boundaries set by the Moral law, the ten commandments. For the summary of the law is to love God and love your neighbor. Since it is only faith that which works by love that can justify the sinner, dealing with what is perhaps the most gruesome manifestation of love's opposite, hatred, is indeed at the heart of the gospel.
Secondly, Mr. Sproul, even if you refuse to consider marriage a sacrament, you must admit that marriage is the grandest of the figures of redemption. Each man and woman that marries is participating in the love of Christ (the Bridegroom) and his Church (the Bride). The paradigm that is set up from the creation of Male and Female in the garden of Eden is that marriage is supposed to result in the creation of life. The marriage of Christ to his Church is a life-giving one. He sacrifices himself, and in death, gives us his life. Homosexuality, and all other forms of sexual infidelity, cannot function in the same way. Christian teaching on marriage is not simply meant as a set of rules to destroy the fun of pagans. It is protection of the fact, that our marriages are themselves the sign of God's life-giving love. Teaching against homosexuality is not something that is limited to a few select passages from Levitical law or St. Paul. It is the understanding that our view of redemption is, or at least should be, predicated on the figure of marriage: a groom who gives up and puts before his own interests that of his bride, who in return gives her whole self to him "for the life of the world." Indeed, defending marriage is not ancillary to the gospel, but is central to it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


"Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." (Ez. 37:9)

As I sit at my table watching the developing blizzard conditions here in Northern Maryland, I am struck not only by the snow, but the quite strong winds which seem to change direction every few minutes. The wind calls to mind many famous passages from Scripture, particularly the account of Pentecost and Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus.

But I was thinking also this morning about the above passage from the prophecy of Ezekiel. In many ancient languages, indeed in several modern ones, the words for Wind, Breath, and Spirit are the same. Ruach (Hebrew), Pneuma (Greek), and Anima (Latin). Thus when it is written "say to the wind" it would be every bit as accurate to translate the Hebrew, "say to the Spirit." As we confess in the Creed, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and GIVER OF LIFE," this should be a passage of Scripture which comes to mind. The prophet is set down in a valley of dry bones and the Lord asks him if the bones can live again. Ezekiel calls to the Wind and it comes down and brings new life to the bones. A few verses further down these bones are identified as the "whole house of Israel." But the miracle and beauty of this passage are not limited to the geographic bounds of Israel. The afore quoted verse which speaks of the Spirit coming from the four winds, indicates that the life this Spirit gives is for everyone in the world. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast today, let the snow remind you of the purity with which we are infused because of Christ. But also let the wind remind you of the Holy Spirit's operation in applying Jesus Christ's grace to our hearts and making us alive. Call to mind the sheer power of this operation to create life where there wasn't any. After all, it is also at this time of year that we remember the power of the Holy Ghost overshadowing the noble Virgin and creating in her the humanity of God's only-begotten Son.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blog Name

My first blog on this site was about my URL, enchantingrelish. It can be seen here. http://enchantingrelish.blogspot.com/2008/12/my-first-blog.html

But I also wanted to take a moment to explain the name of my humble blog, "Power of Paradox". It actually is a phrase I have lifted from a song by Michael Card called God's Own Fool. It has the following lines:

So surrender the hunger to say you must know.
Have the courage to say I believe.
For the power of paradox opens your eyes,
And blinds those who say they can see.

There are certain things that I and other Christians can see and understand which seem like utter foolishness to unbelievers. Many thought Jesus Christ himself was mad. Why should they think any more of his followers? Without denying that there are mysteries (The Most Holy Trinity, the Eucharist) I wish I understood, their is a liberation in saying I simply believe them. Without denying the place and authority of Reason, we can affirm doctrines which seem unreasonable to those whose eyes have not been opened by belief. Or said more simply, Seeing is not Believing; Believing is Seeing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

C.S Lewis the Poet

Well known as an apologist, literary critic, and author, few know that C.S. Lewis was also a poet. I recently came upon a work of his (printed below) that I had never seen. It seems to me an excellent reflection on Rom. 8:26b: "but the Spirit itself maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered."


Master, they say that when I seem
To be in speech with you,
Since you make no replies, it's all a dream
-One talker aping two.

They are half right, but not as they
Imagine; rather, I
Seek in myself the things I mean to say,
And lo! the wells are dry.

Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
The Listener's role, and through
My dead lips breathe and into utterance wake
The thoughts I never knew.

And thus you neither need reply
Nor can; thus, while we seem
Two talking, thou art One forever, and I
No dreamer, but thy dream.

The Problem of Cell Phones

I was tempted to title this post "The Problem of Evil: Cell Phones", but I restrained myself. Recently, I have become extremely irritated by the ways they interfere in human affairs. When I say human affairs, I do not mean that as an overstatement of the problem. However, cell phones are destroying humanity. Why is it that at a church service people should have to be asked to turn them off? Why is it that a concert hall must print an announcement reminding people to turn of cell phones and pagers? (side note: does anybody still use a pager?)

The more important question I wish to ask and have answered, is why do so many people act like they have no interest in being wherever they are? If I was at dinner with someone having a conversation, would it not seem odd if I never made eye contact? There is something about the physical (not sexual mind you) relationships we have. Contact with other persons has no substitute. Why then, when you are with other people in a situation where you are supposed to be interacting with them, would you resort to calling someone on your cell phone?

I understand a couple of situations. Perhaps, you are genuinely somewhere you would rather not be. I am not talking about that situation. Emergencies are another obvious exception and I'm sure there are others of which I cannot think at the moment.

But my basic point is this, cell phones cause constant interruptions which are enabled by people who find whatever they are doing less interesting than what might be on their cellular device. I find this disruption hurtful. But more than that, it rips apart the fabric of human connection by inserting an invisible other to rupture conversation. Of course, much like guns in the gun control debate, it is not the cell phone at issue, but the people who use and abuse them.

Again, I'm not condemning people who are on their phone frequently. Some of my friends work on the road, they would be alone otherwise. The cell phone for them is a great invention. The phone has also helped me out of several tight situations. I am grateful for that. But in trying to connect more people in more places with each other, what we have actually succeeded in doing is isolating ourselves from the communities in which we find ourselves.

I simply cannot imagine Jesus whipping out a cell phone while ministering to the sick. He would not have sent a text message to someone while the woman taken in adultery was brought to him. Be a friend to the people around you. Talk to them. Make your calls when you are in private or at least excuse yourself from the group if you are going to take or make one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I was thinking about the various things for which I'm thankful this week. The usual spiritual and material things came to mind-Jesus Christ, the Faith, family, friends, a job etc...

But I was struck in Church last night by words that I've prayed more times than I can count. In the prayer entitled "A General Thanksgiving", it is written "we give thee thanks...above all for thine inestimable love, in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace and for the hope of glory."

Aside from generally being grateful for the brilliance of the language, the ideas here conveyed are wonderful. We are reminded that God himself is love, as St. John teaches, and because of this great love the only-begotten Son took to himself human flesh in the womb of our blessed mother, that he might redeem, that is purchase us back from the Dark One. That alone is something for which I am thankful.

But the prayer goes on even further. "For the means of grace", is clearly a reference to the sacraments of the Church. In the sacraments, God in Christ through the Holy Spirit is working in us the salvation he purchased for us on Calvary. He is with us, as he promised until the end of the age, interfering with our selves and transforming them into his Self. "The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." (John 6) He gives himself to us in a mysterious fashion under the signs of bread and wine that we may have life, hope and joy.

And why? To give us the "hope of glory." We have the certain expectation of eternal life, because we are being prepared for it by having the eternal life possessed by the Trinity infused into our souls. C.S. Lewis once noted, I believe in the Great Divorce, that for those who are believers earth is really the outer bands of Heaven. The reason for this is clear, we have the life and joy of God in our souls even if our vision of both is limited by the corruption of our sin. Heaven will be the eternal realization of both. We expect this because we already have the downpaymet of it, as it were, in this world.

This is what I am thankful for this year. That God so loved the world that he gave and continues to give his only-begotten Son for us, that we might have the assurance of what Jesus himself promised. "I go to prepare a place for you...that where I am, there you will be also." (John 14:3)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beethoven's Mass in C and Text Painting

When I started this blog about a year ago, I intended to talk about a variety of topics. Faith-related topics and political posts are what have primarily emerged. One area that I have not given much time to is music.
Analyzing music from a structural and theoretical standpoint is great fun. But even more so, I enjoy analyzing the text painting (illustration of the words by the music) a composer does. This is particularly true of the Church's music. One of my favorite examples is the Credo from the Mass in C. Some of these examples my be somewhat incidental, but a number of them are unmistakable. Without further ado...here they are!

The first notable example comes at the line "Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum Verum de deo Vero" "God of God, Light of light, True God of True God. The music during these words is not necessarily painting the text, but the music prior to it is a great signal that Beethoven understood the claims of this part of the Creed. First, there are at this moment three beats per measure. The three measures preceeding the word "Deum" each have a dotted half note (3 beats) in them. So you have three measures, three chords, and each of them equalling three beats. What could that number of "threes" mean? No doubt as the choir begins to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God, the doctrine of the Trinity is being affirmed.
But it isn't simply the meter and rhythm that is important. Each of the three chords are E Flat major ones. E flat is the key of royalty for Beethoven. His third symphony, the Eroica, was written in memory of the great Napolean Bonaparte. His fifth concerto, the Emporer, is written in E flat. This is Beethoven's admission of whom Jesus, king of the world and co-eternal with his Father.

The second noticeable example of text painting is "Qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de caelis"..."Who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven".

The words prior to "descendit" are sung by the entire choir twice. Both times the direction of the melody is similar. However, the first time it is in a major key. The second time is is very definitely in the parallel minor. While it is incorrect to assert that Major keys are happy keys and Minor ones are sad, it is true that there is a much darker quality to the minor. Why? The text says it all. It is in one sense a joyful thing that Christ visited the earth, but we know the story. He came first to die and bear the evil of the world in his body and soul.
The "descendit de caelis" is marked both times it occurs by descending intervals-the music beginning higher and dropping markedly lower.

A third example are the words "passus est." "He Suffered." One of the ways music shows suffering is through the use of half-steps in one voice. The bass line features nothing but that on this line.

"Et resurrexit and et ascendit"-the resurrection and ascension are both marked by upward motions in the direction of the music.

Lastly, the line "judicare vivos et mortuuos" "to judge the living and the dead" is marked by strong syncopation (notes off the beat) in both choir and orchestra. It sounds harsh and uncomfortable. Divine judgment would be just that.

I'm sure there are multiple others I've overlooked or am simply not bright enough to see. But this is an awesome piece of music overall and the Credo is particularly incredible. I strongly urge anyone who hasn't heard it to go on youtube and check it out!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Some Thoughts on Healthcare

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the legislation for reforming healthcare in our nation. I of course oppose any new federal funding for abortion (something I truly believe will get slipped into the final bill if the democrats are sure it will pass), I oppose anything that would lead to death before natural death, and I would prefer that those who are in the country illegally were not using the system.

But in a way, while important issuses all three, they have been used as a shield of sorts to stop conservative thinkers from debating the merits of universal healthcare.

A major problem in our current debate is the failure to recognize that people are often talking right past each other. In other words, some are talking about universal healthcare and some are talking about universal heathcare insurance. The former is a moral imperative for any Christian. (Read the Good Samaritan) The latter is simply a means to that moral imperative. And I would argue it is far from the best means.

1.) The public option will create fewer options in the long-term. Some may argue that taking money out of healthcare and putting the health and pharmaceutical CEO's out of business is the best thing for our system. But I would disagree. I currently pay about $200/month on health insurance. Let's say the public option would give me insurance for substantially less. (It would have to or there would be no good reason for passing it.) While the Obama administration has said this will increase competition, the truth is, the govt. run system will run all the for-profits right out of business. This will leave us in a generation or two at the mercy of the federal governemnt. While Sarah Palin may not be the most articulate and well-read conservative speaker, she at least understands what all of us at the mercy of the government means. It means that when the money runs out (just as it is with medicare and SS) rationing will have to take place (or a rise in the cost of health insurance, which would defeat the original purpose of the plan). Then Grandma and Grandpa do become disposable as weights on the healthcare system.
2.) While governments around the world do medical research, they are greatly aided by private research which is paid for by the for-profit healthcare providers who will be driven out of business by the public option. Just this week news has broken about a possible vaccine for HIV/AIDS that will be up to 31% effective. Not that that is fantastic, but it's a good start and provides hope for the future that there is a vaccine and possibly even a cure. While the testing was done by the governemnt of Thailand and the U.S. Army, the vaccine itself was developed by two private reaseach companies. The loss of for-profit healthcare may not stop medical innovation, but it will slow and hinder it.

In the end, I believe there are two fundamental problems to our healthcare system. The greed of individuals and the greed of corporations. It is easy to blame the faceless guy who is raking in a billion dollars and cutting off people with certain conditions because they are too expensive for him and he is not taking the wage cut.
But I think it is also time for us to take a good hard look at ourselves. Are we really in need of discounted health insurance? Are we really ready to allow our congress to force other people to give money so that we can spend our money on things we want?
From someone who made a habit for sometime, one I have tried to break in recent years, of trying to get other people to pay for certain things so that I could use my own money on other things I wanted, I believe the heart of the problem is that we are greedy and want more than we can afford. Therefore, we ask the govt. to mandate that those who have more pay for our necessities, like health insurance, so we can spend money we earn on more enjoyable things.

Until we are cured of this greed, and only by God's grace is that possible, we will not be satisfied. And let's face it, after the health insurance companies, it will be the car insurance companies. We will ask those who have earned more than us to make the car insurance payments for those who want to spend on something else.
This society needs a healthy dose of personal responsibility. Until that time, let us pray that grace will work on our hearts so that we might be free from greed. Let us pray that those who make large amounts of money in the health industry will be freed from greed so that they may help those truly can't afford healthcare. Only then will our system really be fixed.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Christian Freedom

I thought that being between arguably the two most widely celebrated federal holidays-Memorial Day and Independance Day-it would do us well to consider the concept of freedom.

Two songs will help show us the way Christians ought to view freedom. The first is a verse from Bates' famous hymn America the Beautiful:

America, America, God mend thine every flaw.
Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

And Michael Card's Joy in the Journey:

There is a joy in the journey, there's a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey.

The concept of freedom is closely tied to the law. Bates notes that our liberty as Americans is found in confirmation of the law. That is, it exists only insofar as the law restrains the powers of the government and restrains the wrath that some men wish to inflict on others.

Yet while this freedom is wonderful for various purposes it falls far short of the freedom humans need to live in communion with God. While we may divide ourselves into countries and nations in this world, the truth is that there are ultimately only two kingdoms; that of God and that of Satan. All of us by nature belong to the latter realm and can only immigrate, as it were, to the fairer country by the bridge provided in Jesus Christ's sacrifice.

But once that is accomplished, what next? What are we supposed to do with the freedom Christ has granted us from Our Father below? Keep it. Of course, only by God's grace can it be done, but it must be done. We keep our freedom by following the commandments. Just as the Bill of Rights makes us free as Americans, as Christians it is in obedience to the Lord that we find liberty.

The freedom we enjoy as Americans is not license to do whatever we wish. Our liberty in Christ is the same. It is not the freedom to sin liberally. It is not even to test the waters and see how far we can go without violating the Divine will. It is the freedom to love God and our Neighbor as we love ourselves. It is the freedom to live unselfishly. It is the freedom to live the life God intended for mankind...the very life he possesses and into which he draws us. In short, it is the freedom to act Justly. This is the path of joy precisely because it is the road that leads to communion with God...whose presense is joy.

As Christians, we have the freedom to keep the law and in keeping it, the freedom Christ has granted and is granting, is preserved. Ben Franklin told someone after the signing of the Constitution-"you have a republic, if you can keep it." He meant you have freedom because we have devised laws that, if you follow, will preserve that liberty. As the rule of law erodes and disobedience to the laws which remain collapses, freedom ceases to exist.
You have been given the gift of a freed soul and will to serve the Mighty God. It is a paradox for sure to serve in order to be free. But as Anglican Christians it is the prayer we are to pray every morning-"O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom."
If you desire to know true freedom, love, serve, and obey God. And the chains of sin which bind our souls will melt in the sanctifying fire of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Challenging Homily

I read this homily this afternoon and was rather touched. I have re-posted it with the permission of its writer, Deacon Greg Kandra.

Back in the 1970s, when there was a lot of liturgical innovation going on, Dorothy Day invited a young priest to celebrate mass at the Catholic Worker. He decided to do something that he thought was relevant and hip. He asked Dorothy if she had a coffee cup he could borrow. She found one in the kitchen and brought it to him. And, he took that cup and used it as the chalice to celebrate mass. When it was over, Dorothy picked up the cup, found a small gardening tool, and went to the backyard. She knelt down, dug a hole, kissed the coffee cup, and buried it in the earth. With that simple gesture, Dorothy Day showed that she understood something that so many of us today don’t: she knew that Christ was truly present in something as ordinary as a ceramic cup. And that it could never be just a coffee cup again. She understood the power and reality of His presence in the blessed sacrament. Which is really the sum and substance of what we celebrate on this feast, Corpus Christi. The reason for what we will do today – celebrating with the monstrance, the music, the procession – isn’t to glorify an inanimate object, a bit of bread contained in glass. It is to remind the world that in that bread we have been given Christ. Not an idea. Not a symbol. Not an abstract bit of arcane theology. No. It is wider and deeper and more mysterious than that. Look at that host -- and you look at Christ. Centuries ago, one of the Fathers of the Church described how the first Christians received communion. They did it the way we do it today, offering their outstretched hands, one over another. And he offered this instruction: "Make of your hands a throne,” he wrote. Make yourselves ready to receive a king. Do we understand that today? I’m not so sure. Too often, I think, we see the minister of holy communion as just a liturgical Pez dispenser – passing out a sliver of bread, again and again and again, and we don’t truly, truly, realize what is happening. I’ll tell you what is happening. We are receiving an incalculable gift. We are taking into our hands, and placing on our tongues, something astounding. We are being given God. Look at the host, and you look at Christ. Too often, we take it for granted. It’s just one more part of the mass. Something else to do. No. It isn’t. When I was in formation, I remember a talk given on the Eucharist by then-Father Caggiano. He spoke of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the holiest saints of the church. During his entire life, Francis received the eucharist only three times. It was that sacred to him – and he felt himself that undeserving. He understood, deeply, the words we pray before we receive communion. “Lord I am not worthy...” None of us is. And yet, he gives us himself anyway. The God who became man for us...again and again becomes bread for us. Look at the host, and you look at Christ. Everything we are, everything we believe, everything we celebrate around this altar comes down to that incredible truth. What began two thousand years ago in an upper room continues here, and now, and at altars around the world. The very source of our salvation is transformed into something you can hold in the palm of your hand.A lot of you know Sister Camille D’Arienzo, who has been here many times to speak. She tells the story of a priest who was pouring some unconsecrated communion wafers from a bag, to get ready for mass. Some fell on the floor. He bent down and picked up the stray hosts, just ordinary wafers, unconsecrated, to throw them out. And he held one between his thumb and forefinger and showed it to her. “Just think,” he said, “what this could have become.” Just think what we become when we receive the body of Christ. We become nothing less than living tabernacles. God dwells within us. As the hymn tells us, we become what we receive. And what we receive becomes us. That is the great mystery, and great grace, the great gift of this most blessed sacrament. My question on this feast: what will we do with that knowledge? Once we have been transformed, by bread that has been transformed, how can we leave this holy place without seeking to transform the world? How can we just go out and head to brunch, or dinner, or out to do yardwork or the weekly grocery shopping? We carry something greater than ourselves. And that makes us instruments of God’s great work in the world – literally. In some small way, we have been changed. You’ll notice that when the priest or deacon celebrates Benediction, he uses what is called a “humeral veil.” He wraps this long cloth around his hands and then takes hold of the monstrance to offer a blessing. There is a reason for that. It is to signify that the blessing comes not from the hands of the priest or deacon. It comes from Christ himself. The one holding the monstrance is merely the instrument. When we receive communion, that is true for each of us. We become instruments of Christ, bearers of Christ. Dorothy Day knew that an ordinary cup that had contained the blood of Christ could never be just a cup again. Well, what’s true for a ceramic cup is true for each of us. Once we have received him, we can never be the same again. What will we do with that knowledge? How will we use what has changed us…to change the world?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Love, not Faith, is a Christian's Ultimate Goal

Tackling this subject in a blog post is nearly impossible because of all the implications which are involved. The Faith and Works controversies regarding the doctrine of justification are well known. Those who dispute in this controversy agree both faith and good works are required of the Christian. But the disputants argue over what role the good works play.

Considering the countless pages and gallons of ink spent on this subject, you would think that faith is the greatest of all the virtues; a doctrine around which ramparts should be built. But St. Paul is perfectly clear that it is possible to possess faith without possessing hope or love. (I Cor. 13:2) And in that same passage, the Apostle reminds us that love is the greatest of the three theological virtues.

Why then do Christians not speak more about the call to love, than the call to faith? Perhaps it is because being asked to believe in an all-powerful and all-loving God is a quite pleasing thought. It is enthralling to have thoughts and dreams about an infinite font of Goodness roaming the universe waiting to dispense mercy on every human being who seeks it. That mercy, that forgiveness is obtained through Faith. Obviously, for those who wish a proper standing with God, Faith is a desirable, necessary virtue, and gracious gift. Nothing which should ever be undermined.

Yet, all this being true, Faith is subjugated to Love. Why is love greater and why are so few people treating it as more important? The answer may well lie in the words of Jesus Christ on the night in which he was betrayed. "Love one another as I have loved you." (Jn. 13:34) We are required to love as Christ loved. This means the total giving up of the Self for the Other. Insofar as we keep any part of ourselves that could be given to others, we have not loved as Christ loved and we really have failed at even loving ourselves. In one of those tricky paradoxes of Christianity we discover that what we have not given away was never really ours in the first place. When we act in Self-interest that in any way offends another, we fill ourselves with emptiness. We CANNOT truly be the Humans God created us to be until we give of ourselves completely.

But selfishness remains a hindrance to this. There are parts of ourselves we want to keep for ourselves. Putting your finances, feelings, and efforts on the line for someone else can be painful; both the giving up of them, and the knowledge that they may well be misused or under-appreciated. Nevertheless, our desire should be to return to the state of Adam and Eve, who were likened unto gods in the Garden. We have the model of how to do it in Jesus. He showed us what humanity was supposed to look like. Indeed, he is the only true Human to have ever lived. That is precisely because he gave all of himself for others.

It is a lot easier to believe in that work (Faith) than to actually carry it out in our own world
(Love). God wants us to be conformed to the image of his Son. If we desire it, we must have Faith...we can never even begin to love without it. But as has been pointed out by better writers than myself; faith is like a seed, Hope is what leads that seed to spring up, and Love is the blossoming flower. When you think about it, it only makes sense that Faith is but a means toward learning how to Love as God loves, and that loving, that is, being Selfless to find your Self, is the ultimate goal of Christianity. For it was the Savior himself who taught us that the greatest commandment is "to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment and the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (MT. 22:37-39)

We must die in Baptism to live. We must appear as fools to be truly wise. We must selflessly give what we possess, that is we must love, to become our Selves, that is Human. We will then have become worthy objects of divine Love, not because we were in any way lovable, but because God loved us first and taught us how to love as he loves.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The sermon that I preached for Pentecost at Faith Anglican Church this past Sunday.

I know many of you have read C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, or have seen one of the many film adaptations. One of my favorite quotes comes from the first book in the series The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Aslan explains how he intends to break the White Witch's curse of eternal winter. He says, "When a willing victim offered himself in a traitor's stead, then the table would crack, and death itself would start working backwards." Those of you who are unfamiliar with the story will not recognize the significance of the reference to a table cracking, but I love the quote primarily for the last part, "Death itself would start working backwards." When the curse was defeated it did not immediately disappear. The winter snow finally began to melt. It was still there, but the land began to thaw. Hopefully, these themes sound familiar for they are biblical themes. In our own world, in reality, when Jesus died and was raised from the dead the curse of sin was definitively broken and started working backwards.
From Adam onward, the curse was allowed to take root. “Darkness crept into the forests of the world”, shadows grew, and the night of sin advanced. The Lord sent his prophets to preach repentance, he chastised and punished on various occasions, and yet the curse advanced until there was but a small light remaining, a small remnant out of whom was called a Virgin who gave birth to the one who would turn the darkness back on itself. You see while it is absolutely true that Jesus came by his death and resurrection to “make all things new”, what he was really doing was making all things old. He did not come to earth to invent a new world, but by his grace to return it to what it was originally intended to be. Remember the Bible begins and ends in paradise-that is, in a garden. Christ has undone and is still undoing what humanity got wrong.
What’s the point? Today is Pentecost, the day we remember the Holy Spirit descending as a mighty rushing wind on the Apostles and the cloven tongues of fire that appeared over the Apostles as they preached. But Pentecost, much like Passover is one of those holy days we as Christians have borrowed from ancient Judaism. Pentecost, now celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter, was originally the fiftieth day after the first Passover when the Angel of Death descended on Egypt slaying the first-born of every household which did not have the blood of the Passover Lamb on their lintel. It was fifty days after that event that Moses from the heights of Mt. Sinai delivered unto the people the Moral Law, the Ten Commandments. It was because of the feasts of Passover and Pentecost that there were Jews gathered from all parts of the world as our Epistle lesson from Acts 2 indicates. The cities listed in Acts 2:9-11 if you looked at a map would show you that what Luke is saying that people from the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western corners of the known world were gathered in the Holy City. This is significant because it gives us our first insight into the work of the Holy Spirit. You remember well from your Sunday school days, or even from earlier this year in the sermon series through Genesis, the account of the Tower of Babel. In the generations following the great flood in the days of Noah, men took it upon themselves to build a tower which could reach unto heaven. They were not fools, they had been told the story of the flood. And even though they had to know that God would not have destroyed the earth had it not been for the wickedness of men, these men wanted an insurance policy. They wanted a tower high enough that they would be protected from rising flood waters. This displeased the Lord as you will recall, and he decided to confound that is confuse, the language of the builders of the tower. And not only were they unable then to communicate, but as the Scriptures convey to us in Genesis 11, God scattered them abroad over the face of the earth. I hope then that you begin to see why we started with the idea that the curse while completely defeated, was not ended with the work of Christ. Instead it is in the process of being reversed, of working backwards. Pentecost is one of the great manifestations of this dramatic reversal. At Babel the people’s languages were confused and they were scattered. At Pentecost, believers from all over the world were brought together and by the power of the Holy Ghost, who appeared over the Apostles clothed in tongues of fire, each person was able to understand the Apostles’ preaching in their own language. Because of this miracle, three thousand souls were added to the Church that day.
For this reason, we give thanks to God that through the work of his Son, the curse is working backwards. Because of Christ and his Spirit, we have gone from Confusion and Being Scattered to Understanding and Unity. And to this day, people from all over the world are being gathered, unified in the one Church of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit gives men and women ears to hear.
But in this thought is also a challenge to us. Our Lord founded but one Church. Yet so often and at times for the most trivial reasons, the Church has divided, split into various sects, and fought against the Holy Spirit who promotes unity. We sang earlier that great line “in mutual love our hearts unite.” The question I have for you is rather simple: did you mean it? Are you ready to work actively for unity in the Church? Our Lord on the night in which he was betrayed prayed to his Father “Let them be one…that the world may believe.”
There are all sorts of reasons to which we can point for why the Church is not doing so well in our part of the world. But before we point the finger at the false gods of money, power, and lust, I think we need to understand the divisions in the Church, more often than not the result of sinful pride, has hampered our witness to the world. The Church to which the 3,000 souls were added was undivided. The Holy Spirit had brought people in from all corners of the earth. If we want to see that type of a revival in our own time, we must work with each other united in love by the Holy Spirit to preach to this world the “wonderful works of God,” as the Apostles did on that first Pentecost.
To lead Christ’s Church into unity, peace, truth and to extend the kingdom of God beyond the geographic bounds of Israel, that is why the Holy Spirit was sent. But the appearance of the Spirit in this passage from Acts 2 also gives us some hints on how he is going to make us Christians who love with the same kind of love and passion that the Apostles possessed. The first image, in verse two, is that he appears as a “rushing mighty wind.” We do not necessarily live in a region of the world where wind on a regular basis causes extreme damage. But the pictures and images from New Orleans circa 2005 are still pretty fresh in all of our memories. Wind is a mighty force and a metaphor and device which God employs often. You remember how he spoke to Job? Out of the whirlwind. In the lesser known prophecy of Nahum, we read that the “Lord has his way in the whirlwind and the storm.” God reveals a part of himself to us in the power of the wind. In fact, he reveals his greatest strength to us in the wind. Do you remember the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones? God commanded Ezekiel prophesy to the four winds and say come “O Breath and breathe upon these slain bones.” Breath and Spirit are the same word in Hebrew and Greek. What he was saying was “come Spirit and breathe life into the dead.” What happened on Pentecost as demonstrated by the sound of a rushing wind was the sheer power of the Holy Spirit to bring life to the lifeless. As we sang in our opening hymn “O holy Spirit by whose breath, life rises vibrant out of death.” As we confess every week in the Creed “I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord and giver of life.” The Spirit has come that we might know the life and love of Christ within ourselves. He is “the Giver and the Gift,” that breaks the chains of death and implants in our souls the very life of God.
How does he do this? The answer to this question is to some degree mysterious, but it is partially explainable if we examine his appearance in fire. As is testified in any number of places in the Scripture, the old sinful man has to be crucified in order for us to live the life God intended for us. The symbol of fire can show us how this was done. The Holy Spirit as fire burns away all that is not holy and all that is not true. Malachi wrote that the coming Messiah would be like a Refiner’s fire, so would the Messiah’s Spirit.
I’m sure many of you have probably heard the story at some point of the women’s Bible study group who were trying to figure out exactly what it meant that the Messiah would be a refiner’s fire and that he would sit as a refiner of silver. One woman offered to visit a silversmith to see if she could discover any clues. She noticed that the smith held a piece of silver over the fire, and he explained to her that this was to burn away all of the impurities. The next thing that the woman noticed was that the smith paid very careful attention to his silver and never left it for a second. She asked why? He told her, I cannot leave it here too long. If it is in the fire a few seconds too long it will ruin the silver. She asked the next logical question: sir, how do you know when it is finished? He answered her, “When I can see my reflection in the silver.”
The Holy Spirit through application of the blood of Christ, through convicting us to lead holy lives burns away all of the impurities in our hearts leaving only the silver. He will continue this process, what we typically sanctification-that is making us holy-until we are like “little Christs.” The symbol of fire can also call to mind the offering of the sacrifices. Remember that sacrifices were burnt on the altar. The Flame of the Holy Spirit in each of us is calling us to be a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.” We are called to crucify, to sacrifice in ourselves all the sin that is there by our nature. We are to be altars on which we must kill our wicked elves, our desires, our base affections, so that the new man can take root and we might have life. The fire of the Spirit represents to us both purging and purifying power of the Spirit, but also our responsibility to shun sin and wickedness. That is how the Holy Spirit brings the life signified to us by the mighty rushing wind; he destroys sin and death so that only life remains.
That is our lesson for this Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has come into the world to reverse the curse which was defeated by the work of Jesus Christ. He comes to baptize us with fire, he comes mightily, ready to bring life to a dying world. Allow him to do it. The process of being brought to perfection, literally of learning how to abandon death, will be painful at times, that is a guarantee. But the finished project, the animated bones, the pure silver, will be the image and replica of our Lord and Savior. And as the people of God press on toward the holiness and perfection into which the Holy Spirit leads us, our love for one another and those outside the faith must necessarily increase as our sinfulness decreases. Understand this, for us to be reunited as one witness for the world to see, we must forsake sin. Unity cannot be achieved without all of us growing in our love for the Lord and for one another. And we must seek it: our purpose is by the power of the Holy Spirit to lead holy lives and through our words and actions draw unbelievers into the one Church that took shape on the first Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit was a unifying act and it was because of this unity in the Spirit that the first century Christians were enabled to turn the world upside down for Christ. If you want to see that happen again, allow the Holy Spirit to consume your impurities and ignite your love with his fire. Because it is only in the rejection of sin that we can grow in the love that produces the unity necessary for the type of evangelism that was done on the first Pentecost. Then and only then, when we are making a conscious effort to allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from our sins, will our lives both as individuals and corporately as a Church, lead people to see Christ and in turn, to believe. Amen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Ascension

Today marks the 40th day since Easter and thus the Christian celebration of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven. The Ascension is a critical piece in Christian theology for numerous reasons. It was the pre-requisite for the sending of the Holy Spirit into the world. It was the final glorification of Jesus, who not only returned victorious from his battle with sin and death, but now is enthroned in the Holy City where he is worshipped day and night by the saints and angels in light.

But one of the key ideas associated with the Ascension is that we now have a Mediator who has ascended into the heavens where he lives to make constant intercession for us.

"It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us." (Rom. 8:34) Christ's intercessory work is tied closely to his ascension. Why? I believe because a mediator needs to be able to talk to both sides, both parties. In the context of Faith, Christians have always referred to God as the Other. Some have argued that you can have an Analogia Entis (analogy of being) but many, myself included, have concluded that there is a definitive line drawn between Creator and creature. It was a line that could only be mediated by one who was both Created and uncreated, divine and human, God and man.

Thus, Jesus Christ came in the flesh as the Son of the Virgin. He lived, died, and was raised from the dead in that same flesh. He has now taken our human flesh back to God. That is, the line has been crossed and re-crossed by Jesus. He can now plead our case in the throne room of his Father. He can be touched by our infirmities because he has experienced them and carries the marks of pain in his body. He knows our temptations, our weaknesses, and can plead for us as only one familiar with human strife and suffering can.

That is why St. Paul came to the conclusion "that there is one Mediator between God and men, the MAN Christ Jesus." (I Tim. 2:5) God could intercede for us prior to the Incarnation, but how much greater and perfect is the mediation of God and Man united in one Person constantly interceeding before the Father.

That is the beauty of the Ascension. Our human form has access to God Almighty through the manhood of God the Son in eternal proximity to the Father. Further, our needs, our sadness, our joy is truly felt in heaven.

"Alleluia! not as orphans are we left in sorrow now.
Alleluia! he is with us, faith believes nor questions how.
Intercessor, Friend of Sinners, Earth's Redeemer plead for me!
Where the songs of all the sinless, sweep across the crystal sea." William Dix

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Next Ten Years

I was reminded tonight in a coversation that I graduated high school in 2000, nearly ten years ago. Ten years is a substantial amount of time and I have been thinking tonight about how I spent it. I have a fair amount to show for it; two degrees, friends literally around the world, a working knowledge of a number of things I didn't even know existed, moderate fluency in Latin, a performance in a musical, and other things really too numerous too mention.

But when I look at that list, I see a list of things that are largely finished. I may work on a PH.D at some point, but not soon. I don't plan on making many more friends outside the states. And I have no real intention of learning another language. What might the next ten years then hold?

I suppose I might like to get married. But how does one bereft of social skills pull that one off? Would I like to get ordained? Sure. But can I ever overcome my fear of going through with it? I am not sure I can.
If neither of these things happen, it seems that I'm out of big opportunities for the next period of my life. So I would like to set some smaller goals over a smaller time period.

This year I will...
Read 5 of the classics...
Write an essay on Election and Free Will
Learn another Beethoven Sonata
Lose another 20 LBS.

That may seem like a modest list, but it will take me awhile to accomplish it all. Can anyone else think of anything I should do this year?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Five Books I Can't Live Without

In my senior year of college, my Latin Lit. professor posed the question to each of us regarding five books we would have to have if stranded on a desert island.
I don't remember what answer I gave that day, and I am not sure I can even answer it today, though I am going to try.

First on the list would be the Bible. I shouldn't have to explain the reason for this...if it is what it claims to be, and I believe it is, there is not a single more important document in the history of the world. (Note: I would definately have a Bible that included the so-called apocryphal books-http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2009/03/5-myths-about-7-books-catholics.html
this post adequately sums up my thoughts on the matter.

Secondly, I would bring C.S. Lewis's the Great Divorce. While a fictional story on the after-life, there has been no book that I've read on Last Things which was more influential on the way I understand heaven and hell. It also addresses the issues of the will, the elect, the damned, and how they ended up in those categories. You have to love Lewis' cleverness as well. The trip through purgatory is modeled after Dante's Divine Comedy. The Protagonist meets a historic personage on the way, just as in Dante's poem, and the book ends the exact same way. "I awoke and it had all been a dream."

Thirdly, I would want a great example of literature on the island. I can think of nothing more witty, charming, romantic, and insightful than Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The tale of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy is one of the great love stories of all time. But if you will allow yourself to be drawn into the narrative, you will see the tremendous sense of humor of Austen is every bit as good as her ability to tell a love story. The novel also allows us insights into family politics of that epoch. It is certainly a reminder to never be too proud-but not just in the obvious characters. Mrs. Bennett, manages to be too proud and prejudiced, camaflouging it in self-pity and nervous angst.

I would also want a great devotional on our fictitious island. The Imitation of Christ would be a leading candidate, as would the diary of St. Maria Faustina. John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress would also have to make this list. But having grown up an Anglican, the liturgy of the Catholic Church, reformed and enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer would be pretty close to indispensable. The prayers literally form your life...not just the outcome of your theological thinking, (the prayers aren't there for proof-texting). But the more and more you pray the Offices, the more and more your life takes on the pattern of confessing sin at the behest of God and responding in praise because "the mighty God has done great things for me." Obviously that is a simplification of the Book of Common Prayer, but it is not a coincedence that when I kneel or, lay down as the case may be, to pray...the first words I utter, almost without failing, are "Lord have mercy upon me." It causes one to live in a continual state of penitence for our miserable failures. And it is only after having cleared the conscience that one can adequately confess the Faith, as found in the three creeds. Testifying to the faith is the call of the Great Commission, the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Celebration of Holy Communion all train the person to learn to live and holiness and then confess the faith before the world.

I would also have to have a political book of some kind with me. I would want it to have the drama of elections, logical arguing of contested issues, and a section that deals with economic issues. I do not know of such a book, so I would have to settle for something that includes some of these things. Being a libertarian, the Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul would be enticing, but hardly something of epic proportion...it is not a top five book. The Communist Manifest is important, but I disagree with much of its contents, and it is very limited to economic issues. The Republic by Plato would be a leading contender, but there is one other book which has greatly influenced me that I would like to have. The book is called Money, Possessions, and Eternity. It is written by Randy Alcorn and deals biblically with the subjects its title mentions. For all people, but especially Christians, learning how to deal with material wealth is of extreme importance. This is wonderful handbook on how to use your money to your best, and more importanltly, the Kingdom's best interest. It is not so much political, as it is economic and religious.
I would miss having daily access to the web and daily newspapers...but alas! we cannot have it all in this exercise.

These books I suppose could change, but it is not likely soon. What would be your top five and why?

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Striking Admission

"It is the grimmest of ironies that one of the most savage, barbaric acts of evil in history began in one of the most modernized societies of its time, where so many markers of human progress became tools of human depravity: science that can heal used to kill; education that can enlighten used to rationalize away basic moral impulses; the bureaucracy that sustains modern life used as the machinery of mass death -- a ruthless, chillingly efficient system where many were responsible for the killing, but few got actual blood on their hands."
-President Barack Obama
April 23rd 2009

Well said, Mr. President. Perhaps one day you will see that the only difference between the Holocaust in Europe and the Holocaust in the United States is that one of them has ended.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"The bliss that is eternal is only yours when what you most desire is just out of reach."
The idea that joy is in the wanting, the desiring of something is not my own. Many people have said this in one way or the other.

Once we have what we desire, we are often left with a sense of loss, with the realization that this was not we wanted all along. But this is not necessarily a bad thing, if the thing desired is good and holy, and ordained of God. All things will eventually perish, and the pain of losing something in the future is part of the deal, the exchange, of having joy now.

But what if you never get the good thing you desire? From experience, I think I can say this statement is at least partially true, or there is a ring to it with which I am sympathetic. But the bliss that I had been feeling for some time, has now dissapeared. I wanted it so badly...or at least the joy of knowing how close I was to it! The fact that I have now taken a couple of steps back from this object...what to say!...I wonder if the torture and anguish of seeing something you really wanted slip away is worse than having had that object and lost it?

Would I have really been happy if I had gotten this object? I don't know. But I know now, knowing that I probably never will have it, has left me restless and genuinely hurt. The joy of the possibility truly was great...and the joy of having may well have been greater (if God willed it to be I have no doubt of this). But now that the exciting anticipation has languished, what was possible bliss, has become the strangest pain; a pain I really did not know I could feel.

Don't know if this makes sense...my personal life does not make a lot of sense at all right now.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thoughts on Palm Sunday

Many this weekend will remember the Triumphal Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem and the throngs which gathered who had heard about the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

I was thinking about the Old Testament prophecies of this...certianly Zechariah's...Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (9:9)

But there has been another one that I keep thinking of, which is perhaps not a direct prophecy, but still related. From the 24th Psalm "Lift up your head, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord Strong and Mighty, even the Lord mighty in battle."

As Jesus came through the proverbial gates and doors of the city of Jerusalem, sitting on a donkey, what else could the people have been thinking other than, "who is this King of Glory." Well, some of them knew. They shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David." They knew he was their king.

But things hadn't changed much. Even though they recognized that this was their King coming into them, they did not realize his mightiness in battle would be revealed in his weakest moments. They wanted just as the Hebrews at the beginning wanted, a King who could throw off the oppression of their enemies. The Israelites wanted Saul to ward off the Philistines. They wanted Jesus to cast off the yolk of the Romans.

Who is this King of Glory? The one who would finally liberate us from the tyranny of Rome; the one who would stand toe to toe with Ceasar and that awful governor Pontius Pilate.

But their opinion changed so fast. I suppose it was when they realized that Christ had come to call them to repentance that they no longer desired him as king. This is not what they had envisioned. They didn't want a king who the Roman guard could arrest and crucify.
But in their rejection of the One who became weak in battle...and in our rejection of the One who became weak in battle, the Lord strong and mighty bound and tied our real Foe and destroyed any illusion that there was any King greater than himself.

So this Palm Sunday, let us remember to bow the knee to the King who comes to reclaim this world as his own; to a King who was willing to wear a crown of thorns to save us from the Real Tyrant...the Roaring Lion, Satan.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Reflections on the propers for the fifth Sunday in Lent, Passion Sunday

I would post the entire sermon that I wrote here, but I do not believe that many people read this blog and I do not want to discourage those who do read with too long of a post.
But the propers for this past Sunday are taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews 9:11-15 and the ending of the 8th chapter of John's Gospel.
The basic thrust of Passion Sunday is to prepare us for the events we will now begin commemorating in about a week; the events that would change the course of history and the entire world. Passion means suffering and so this Sunday points us toward the Suffering Servant himself.
The two readings which are appointed teach us different sides of who had to suffer. You see Hebrews makes it very plain that God required as a sacrifice the blood and death of a spotless creature to appease his wrath. And while some animals were perfect, that is unblemished, they were all touched by the Fall. Animal sacrifices were therefore limited in their atoning capabilities. So what then are we to do? If everything is affected by sin but we need a sacrifice of blood and death which is free from sin, where are we to look?
Enter Jesus of Nazareth. The Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the taking to his divinity a human nature and fusing the two natures to form one Person, allowed for flesh and blood untainted by the Fall to be offered. John 8 is perhaps one of the greatest texts on the divinity of Jesus Christ. The reason it is read on this Sunday is to remind Christians that it took the God-Man to stand in the gap for us. There was no other conceivable possibility. Only God was pure enough to die for man, but before the Incarnation, God had no body.

With the purity of God influencing the human nature of Christ we now had a perfect sacrificial candidate, and he was a willing victim. It was hard, no doubt, "nevertheless, not my will by thy will be done." The answer to Christ's famous prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, is simply put, "no". The will of the Father was for his Son to die, because there was no other way possible for salvation to come into the world.

As we approach Holy Week, keep in mind the nature of the sacrifice that was made for you. Understand it was all that could be done, but that it was done perfectly, "to purge your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God." And as Christ in humility has obeyed his Father, so too should we humbly obey him, who has by his death given us the ability to do so.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hymn for the Annunciation

My attempt to honor the Blessed Virgin and our Incarnate Savior...I wrote this about a year ago for the feast of the Annunciation. It is to be sung to the tune Vigiles et Sancti-known best probably as the setting for All Creatures of our God and King.

O Virgin Mother of the Way,
To thee we sinners on earth pray.
Alleluia, Alleluia.
Hail to thee Mary, full of grace,
Now bear the Savior of our race!
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Mankind's deliv'rance long foretold,
The ancient prophecy unfolds.
Alleluia, Alleluia.
New Eve, in whose obedience,
New Adam comes to recompense!
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

The law, the manna, and the rod,
dwell in her womb, Mother of God!
Alleluia, Alleluia.
Fulfiller of the law's demands,
Gives bread for life by his own hand.
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Then, let us sing Magnificat,
To Jesus, our Incarnate God!
Alleluia, Alleluia!
With Blessed Mary, Virgin bright,
All saints and angels in the height!
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Amen.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Out of Place

It was St. Augustine who famously noted in his Confessions that our souls are restless until they find rest in thee. He was absolutely correct. True joy is only found in seeking out the fulness of God's presence in this world. Unfortunately, that qualifier, "in this world" must be attached as an addendum.

The Psalmist confesses that in God's presence is the fulness of joy (Ps. 16) The privileges of an indwelling Holy Spirit, and the presence of Christ in the Church through the sacraments are wonderful. And yet, we still see "darkly as through a glass." That phrase from St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians is immediately followed by the phrase "but then, face to face." That is, we have not yet reached, I do not believe, the heights of joy that are prepared for those who love God. Nor can we in this world. And this leaves a small sense of want, desire...a feeling that something is missing; a longing that is never quite satisfied.

C.S. Lewis wrote In the Weight of Glory "Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache."

The notion that I was created for another world has been pressing on me the last couple of days. I'm not saying, "I want out" of this world. But there is simply nothing here I prefer to heaven and the fulness of God's presence. I pray all of your souls have found their rest in Christ...mine has. But I also hope you never limit your vision to what we see and experience here, even in the Church. The day is coming when we will see what no human eye has seen, and hear what no human ear has ever heard, and our small imaginations will be blown away by what God has prepared for us. In that paradise, we will see God "as he is" and the old ache and nostalgia will disappear in the joy of his eternal presence.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Proliferation of Sex in the Media

Just yesterday, I turned off one of my favorite television shows of all time because of an extended lewd conversation. I went to watch a youtube video only to find that the featured video of the day was something called Miss March. I picked up my mail to find a very revealing Victoria's Secret coupon shoved between the envelopes.

Our culture is saturated in sex. And yet, for as much as we see it around us, I think very few people understand it. Even Christians, who are told right in the Bible what sex is, think of it primarily as something we just have to avoid until we get married. That is what chastity has come to mean.

No one seems to remember anymore that its primary purpose is "to be fruitful and mulitply." (see the post on Birth Control) No one seems to remember that marriage is the picture of that spiritual marriage that exists between Christ and his Bride, the Church. It is a special, rather sacred thing.

Nonetheless, it is portrayed in media as a quick way for pleasure. The nature of television lends itself to making people believe that anything they see should happen that fast. Sex is something that should be enjoyed and then the relationship forged by it can easily be discarded. No one on television portrays the eternal aspect of what is involved in sex. It's all about what I can get right now.

So is it really a shock that sex has lost almost all of its value in American culture? Do even Christian people see it as a participation in the love shared between Christ and his Church? Not to mention, it is any wonder that STD's are so rampant? Sex is a good thing created by God for men. But it is intended for reproduction and to foster the already existing love between a man and a woman.

But the modern Christian understanding of sex is no different than the pagan one-only devout Christians wait until they are married. So as something of a Lenten challenge, I am asking my readers to avoid all sex in the media. Let's use this period of time, to try and recover sex from its trivialized position today as nothing more than a means to pleasure. Perhaps, if enough people did this, the sex industry would feel economic pain, sex between married couples would be viewed in a more eternal light, reported diseases would fall, and we would again see a rise in the number of children being raised by two parents.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Economic Stimulus, Pope Benedict XVI, and the Gospel

Jobless claims soared again this month and the federal government's unemployment numbers will be released tomorrow, likely showing an incremental increase in the size of the unemployed population.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress, at the urging of the White House and newly-minted president Barack Obama, are considering an economic bailout which will carry a price tag of at least 800 billion dollars. How a government in debt by about 10 trillion dollars is going to be able to pull off this legislation is frightening. It will require either higher taxing on people and businesses in the middle, (After all, the bankers aren't paying this with their taxes and apparently as we have seen over the last few days neither are the politicians. The lower class is going to get a tax break, so they will not be paying for it either.), or the influx of more cash from the Federal Reserve. It is because of this that 50% of Americans, according to a new Rasmussen poll, oppose the economic stimulus that will likely pass in the next week or so. Only 39% of Americans think that the stimulus will be helpful.

I have my own opinion as to how the stimulus will ultimately work out, but that is not what I want to get at here. The point is that I find it disgusting that the Federal Government thinks it knows what is best for us. What is even worse, there is a sizable percentage of people in this country who feel the same way. But the truth is, this is nothing new. It does not take a president who in his spare time walks on water to claim to have the answer to all of a nation's problems.

From the earliest days of the Roman empire we find Emporers issuing Euangelion(s), (greek for Gospel) essentially edicts indicating their plan to save the world. Benedict XVI in his work Jesus of Nazareth writes the following about the Gospel and Jesus Christ.

"The term (euangellion) has recently been trasnlated as good news. That sounds attractive, but it falls far short of the order of magnitude of what is actually meant by the word. This term figures in the vocabulary of the Roman emperors, who understood themselves as lords, saviors, and redeemers of the world. The messages issued by the emperor were called in Latin evangellium, regardless of whether or not their content was particularly cheerful and pleasant. The idea was that what comes form the emperor is a saving message that it is not just a piece of news, but a change of the world for the better.
When the Evangelists adopt this word, and it thereby becomes the generic name for their writings, what they mean to tell us is this: What the emperors , who pretended to be gods, illegitimately claim, really occurs here-a message endowed with plenary authority, a message that is not just talk, but reality. In the vocabulary of contemporary linguistic theory, we would say that the evangelium, the Gospel is not just informative speech, but performative speech-not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform. Mark speaks of the Gospel of God, the point being that it is not the emperors who can save, but God. And it is here that God's word, which is at once word and deed, appears; it is here that what the emperors merely assert, but cannot actually perform, truly takes place. For here it is the real Lord of the world-the living God-who goes into action."

That's a long piece, but it is worth noting again and again that looking to the government for salvation is nothing new, and the result will be nothing new. Men can't save the world, only God can and only God has. So as the stimulus bill works its way toward passage, feel free to comment on what you think its effectiveness for the economy will be, but please do not get trapped in the idea that one man, or one congress, can make this country's problems all better.

Our financial problems as a nation, stem from a devotion to Materialism instead of Morality. No amount of money in the world can fix that problem and in fact, may make it worse. We should look to the Saving Lord who brought and performed the Saving Word, the True Evangellium.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Birth Control

There are not many issues which stir as much controversy as birth control among devout Christians. The Catholic Church has taught against it forever, and its teachings were fleshed out in the relatively recent encyclical Humanae Vitae. Increasingly, evangelicals of other denominations have begun to see the merit of not practicing birth control.

For my own part, I have not made up my mind 100%. Certainly, scriptural teaching leaves the issue somewhat open. There is no direct condemnation of family planning. However, there is a philosophical argument based off the Bible for opposing birth control.

The question we need to ask is why was marriage instituted in the first place.

"So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them; And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it." (Gen. 1:27-28)

God created man and woman to be in union for the primary purpose of pro-creation. For Anglican Christians, you are reminded of this at every wedding. "Marriage is not to be entered into...lightly...but...duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained. First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name." (BCP) Of course, sex has other purposes, but this is its primary one. So should couples ever divorce sex and reproduction? It is hard to draw a definitive yes from this passage, but I do believe it is a question that should weigh heavily on the thoughts of Christian people.

Secondly, until recently, homosexuality was universally considered sinful by the Christian Church. Vast majorities of the church still oppose it and rightfully so. The Scriptures teaching from the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the three cities of the plane to St. Paul's teaching in his letter to the Romans, and the strict forbidding of same sex relations in Leviticus See: Lev. 18:22 and 20:13) is that it is sin for a man to sleep with a man or a woman with a woman.

I wish to pose the question of "why". Now, as Christians, we are obligated to follow the commandments God gives us and don't really have the authority to demand a why. Yet, if we examine the ten commandments, we see a reason behind each one. We are not allowed to murder, because it is the taking of another life created in the image of God. We are not allowed to have gods before Jehovah because he demands our full attention. So what is the "why" behind forbidding homosexuality? I wonder if the reason behind it isn't because it is sex divorced from procreation.

If this is our premise, the sin of Onan recorded in Genesis 37 does not have to be understood as any particular sin, but as falling under the general category of separating sex and sexual pleasure from reproduction.

Any thoughts?

Update: I posted this blog almost a year ago. Since that time I have become convinced that birth control is a grave moral problem. Sex is intended to be the complete giving of two people two each other, with life being the fruit. Christ gave himself for his bride to give her life. The love of Christ for his Church, and her love for him begets life. Shouldn't then the primary image and reflection of Jesus' love, marriage and sex, also beget life? Isn't contraception then akin to going to Church but never learning about the eternal life offered to us in Christ?

Monday, January 19, 2009

On Being Good

He died that we might be forgiv'n,
He died to make us good. -Cecil Alexander.

Mrs. Alexander, an Irish woman living in the latter half of the 19th century, wrote these beautiful words in her hymn "There is a Green Hill Far Away".

I've often thought she hit on a thought that is missed by many Christians today. For those more familiar with theological terminology, you understand imputed righteousness to refer to Christ's righteousness being given to the believer so that essentially, when God the Father looks at the Christian he sees his perfect Son. Thus, even though we are not perfect we are in Christ and our standing before God could be summed up as "not guilty".

Unfortunately that is where many Christians, particularly Protestants, stop. In the beginning, when God created the world, he called everything intrinsically good. He called humans very good. The corruption of sin in the wake of the Fall ended this. Things were no longer intrinsically good, not humans, not the natural world. The Garden of Eden was no longer perfect. It was no longer Good.

However, the book of the Revelation ends in a Garden of sorts. In the 22nd chapter we see the restoration of all things. After describing the tree of life as symbolizing the healing of the nations, St. John writes "And there shall be no more curse." That is to say, as we approach the eschaton things are progressing to perfection. They are becoming more and more Good. What changed?

St. Paul writes in reference to the Crucifixion and Resurrection "we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." (Rom. 8:22) The "until now" is the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Because of what he did, not only does he clothe us in his righteousness, but he provides the grace for us and the world to truly become Good. The goodness of creation was a reality and will be again. For mankind, goodness was a reality and CAN be again.

It is our task in this life to believe in Jesus which is the beginning of conversion. This places us without question within the boundaries of God's mercy. But we are then called to be perfect, to be holy, to be good. The Lord in his mercy gives us graces through the Church to be obedient to his will and commandment, that we might progress in sanctification through co-operation with his redeeming grace.

We cannot save ourselves, but if we claim Jesus as Lord, we must treat him as Lord. Which means we become obedient servants who are truly becoming Good and are not just declared Good by God.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Playoffs: Week 2

The wild card round is in the books and there were two “upsets” last weekend. (Of course, if you were reading here like a good sports fan, you would know that there was really only one upset.) However, I was shocked and stunned that the Falcons folded under the pressure like a deck of cards. But, it is one of the perils of a rookie QB.

This week’s match-ups obviously favor from the outset the teams who are not only at home but have had a week to rest up from injury. Without further ado, the NFC picks.

At the risk of having egg on my face for the second straight week, I am predicting the collapse of the Arizona Cardinals. I do not believe that Edgerrin James has another game in him like the one he had against Atlanta. However, the Panthers’ run defense was 18th in the league, so they will have to step up their game a bit. The 9th best pass defense will overwhelm Kurt Warner and his wide receivers and the panthers 3rd best rushing offense will take advantage of the porous Cardinal defensive line. Bottom line: Panthers by 7.

The Giants and Eagles will meet for the third time this season in a rubber match. Both teams won on the road, but can that happen in the playoffs? They say that defense wins in the playoffs, and on paper the eagles are better than the G-men. This game features two proven quarterbacks, although Eli Manning has been able to advance farther than Donovan McNabb. This game will likely come down to how successful the eagles are at running the ball. The giants run defense was not great this season and allowed 131 yards to Westbrook in their home loss on Pearl Harbor Day. A hail Mary pass on the vigil of the Immaculate conception was not enough that day and it won’t be enough for the Buressless giants in this game either. In a shocker, the Eagles by 1.

Over in the AFC the Steelers will take on the resurgent Chargers, who will likely be without LT for the entirety of the game. Sproles as his backup was more than adequate against the Colts. But that was the Colts. This is the mighty Steelers. If SD running game is thwarted and they have to rely on Phillip Rivers, Heinz field will be rocking this weekend. However, the nice thing for the Chargers is that Pittsburg comes into this came with the 8th worse offense in the league and a banged up Big Ben. Likely, even if the Steelers are dominating the charger offense, the offense will be able to stick with the running game because the Steelers won’t be able to run up the score. But the Steelers will in the end be too much for the Chargers. Steelers by 4-probably something like 13-9.

Finally, we come to the much-anticipated Titans and Ravens game. This has all the makings of a beauty. The home team with a veteran QB against one of the nation’s best defenses. The Titans looked vulnerable on a number of occasions this season. Look for the Ravens to exploit any of those vulnerabilities. However, you cannot underrate the Titan defense. 9th against the pass and 6th against the run, Joe Flacco will need to be very good and probably mistake free to keep the Ravens in this game. I do not believe the Ravens can win this game on defense alone. Home field advantage is big in the playoffs but the ravens have run off a string of upsets in the Music City and you will see another one on Saturday. Ravens by 3.

So we have the Panthers, Eagles, Steelers, and Ravens. We were 3-1 last week. Let’s see what the weekend brings.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Epiphany

Today, January 6th, is the day the Church remembers the visit of the magi to see the Christ Child in Bethlehem. You all remember the story quite well. Wisemen from the East brought to Christ gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. The account, recorded in the second chapter of Matthew's gospel, teaches us as the popular hymn states it, that Jesus was "King, God, and Sacrifice."

Now I have never heard in a sermon exactly what I am about to argue, but I think it has merit. The bringing of gold, intended clearly for a king, is an acknowledgment that the Kingdom of God has come. It is an indication that the prophecies of the Old Testament (Hag. 2:7, Is. 2:2, and many others) will and have come true. That a king is coming because God promised that there would not fail to be a Son of David on the throne of Israel. But now the "See of Israel", if you will, is being extended and under the new name of the "Church" or in this case "the Kingdom of God." John the Baptist, whom we rightly honor, is often credited with the first proclamation that the Kingdom of God is at hand. But I wonder if we gyp the gentile wisemen in so saying. For it is they who first declared that the King of the world had been born by the presentation of gold.

Of course, their other gifts, Frankincense and Myrrh, have their own significance. Frankincense indicates Christ's deity. Therefore we have the requisite nature for an offering on behalf of mankind-Very God and Very Man joined together but not confused. The Myrhh foreshadows the sacrificial death of Jesus. Thus we have two gifts which indicate the means whereby man in faith enters into the Kingdom proclaimed by the third gift.

As Gentile Christians, Epiphany should really be every bit as important to us as Christmas itself. It is on this day that the Kingdom was to be permanently extended beyond the ethnic, geographical, and racial boundaries of Israel-that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Friday, January 2, 2009


*Cue the Jim Mora tape*
Everybody laugh because it is still hysterical a decade later.

It is that time of year when the twelve best NFL teams (or in this case, the 10 best plus the better than average Chargers and the mediocre Cardinals.)

The first round of the playoffs will feature four games, three of which will be quite competitive.

Beginning in the AFC, it is hard to imagine that the Baltimore Ravens at 11-5 are the #6 seed. But they will open on the road against the Miami Dolphins, a team they beat soundly early on 27-13. Since that time, the Raven defense has improved and Joe Flacco has matured. The dolphins have certainly gotten better over the same time period. But unless Chad Pennington is perfect and can pick apart the Ravens in the short passing game, this could be a long afternoon for the home team.

Then you have the Chargers and Colts going at it. On the face, an 8-8 team going against an 11-5 team, especially when the latter beat the former at home just five weeks ago, seems like an easy prediction. But not so fast. After starting 3-4 the colts ran off 9 straight wins. Of those 9, only three were decent wins. They managed to beat the Chargers, Steelers, and Patriots by a combined total of 10 points. Impressive, but hardly insurmountable totals. In the last five weeks, the colts have sharpened their playoff skills by playing bottom-dwellers such as the Browns, Bengals, Jaguars, Lions, and a Titan team resting its starters. Bottom line, both of these teams come in streaking, but the chargers have been fighting for their playoff lives for four weeks. The Colts have been on cruise control. This game is in San Diego. The chargers offensive line is back. I am going to boldy assert a Chargers "upset" by 3 of the colts.

Philadelphia and Minnesota will be an interesting game. The eagles defense has been great of late. However, their greatest strength seems to be in players like Brian Dawkins, who will not be primarily responsible for stopping Adrian Peterson. However, Jim Johnson's various blitz schemes will likely prove too much for the young Tevaris Jackson and Donovan McNabb's leadership and resurgent offense should prove too much for the Vikings. I take the Eagles by 6.

Finally, there is the formality of the Cardinals and Falcons. I think I'm a bit too kind to say what needs to be said about the Cardinals, but frankly I would be shocked if they beat the Falcons, who are clicking on every cylinder. Arizona, according to a team press release, has not even managed to sell out the game as of yet. What does it say when your fans don't support you? This team barely managed to get over the .500 mark. They limped down the stretch. Their season is the mirror opposite of the Falcons. Falcons by 10 in this game.