A key royal in Saudi Arabia dies

Yet another Arab strongman has died, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.  He was the heir to the throne, but a powerful ruler in his own right.  The current king is 87 and sick.  Expect another chapter in the Arab Spring:

Saudi Arabia’s ruling monarchy moved into a critical period of realignment Saturday after the death of the heir to the throne opened the way for a new crown prince: most likely a tough-talking interior minister who has led crackdowns on Islamic militants but also has shown favor to ultraconservative traditions such as keeping the ban on women voting.

A state funeral is planned for Tuesday in Riyadh for crown prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, who died in New York at the age of 80 after an unspecified illness, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Now, Saudi rulers are expected to move quickly to name the new king-in-waiting — which royal protocol suggests will be Sultan’s half brother, Prince Nayef.

Moving Nayef to the top of the succession ladder would not likely pose any risks to Saudi Arabia’s pro-Western policies and, in particular, its close alliance with Washington. But Nayef cuts a much more mercurial figure than Saudi’s current leader, the ailing King Abdullah, who has nudged ahead with reforms such as promising women voting rights in 2015 despite rumblings from the country’s powerful religious establishment.

Nayef, 78, has earned U.S. praise for unleashing the internal security forces against suspected Islamic extremist cells in Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet he brought blistering rebukes in the West for a 2002 interview that quoted him as saying that “Zionists” — a reference to Jews — benefited from the 9-11 attacks because it turned world opinion against Islam and Arabs.

Nayef also has expressed displeasure at some of Abdullah’s moves for more openness, saying in 2009 that he saw no need for women to vote or participate in politics. It’s a view shared by many Saudi clerics, who follow a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. Their support gives the Saudi monarchy the legitimacy to rule over a nation holding Islam’s holiest sites.

“Nayef is more religious, and is closer to the Saudi groups who are very critical of the king’s decisions regarding women and other steps he’s taken to balance out the rigid religious practices in society,” said Ali Fakhro, a political analyst and commentator in Bahrain.

via Death of Saudi crown prince puts succession spotlight on critic of reforms – The Washington Post.

God’s likeness and inscription

Last Sunday Pastor Douthwaite preached on Matthew 22:15-22, about the coin with Jesus asking whose likeness and inscription is on it.  But then Pastor Douthwaite took the text in a direction I had never thought of before. What is God’s likeness and inscription, and how do we render to God?

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, okay, got that. But what are the things of God? What are we to render to Him? What does He expect from us?

Perhaps you’re thinking obedience. Good works, the Ten Commandments, and all that. Or, since we’re on the topic of money here, maybe you’re thinking about tithing and giving to God the share of your income that is His. Those aren’t bad answers . . . but perhaps it would be better to stick with Jesus’ words and ask ourselves, whose likeness and inscription is this? Or, where is God’s likeness and inscription in this world, to give Him what is His?

The answer to that lies in the question. For the word translated there are likeness is the word icon, or image. So if it is a coin that bears Caesar’s image, what is it in this world that is made in God’s image and likeness and bears His inscription? Phrased in that way, you know the answer: it’s you. In the beginning, God made man in His image and likeness, and in Holy Baptism He has inscribed His name upon you. You belong to Him. The things of this world are not what God is interested in. His kingdom is not of this world. He wants you. Always you. All of you. He wants your undivided heart and soul and mind and strength. He wants your uncompromised fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.

Too often we stick to the coins though, don’t we? It’s easier. Less involvement. Less threatening. Repentance and faith and holy living, investing yourself, giving yourself, that’s harder by far.

But that is, in fact, why Jesus was there that day, sparring with the Pharisees and Herodians. He was there for you. Giving Himself for you. All of Himself for you.

For this episode took place probably just about 72 hours before Jesus would lay down His life on the cross. To redeem you not with gold or silver coins, but with His holy precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death (Small Catechism, and 1 Peter 1:18-19). And in laying down His life as the perfect Lamb of God on the altar of the cross, to render unto God the perfect sacrifice due for your sin and mine. That the image lost in us by sin be restored to us in forgiveness, and that our life which will end in death, be raised to life again – first in Holy Baptism, and then in our resurrection from the grave to eternal life. That even now we live a new life. That even now we begin to give ourselves, living a Christ life, an image of God life.

It’s never about money with Jesus. That’s just the symptom, not the problem. It’s about the cross. It’s about life in the midst of death. It’s about false gods and false life versus the true God and eternal life.

And so you render to God the things that are God’s when you come here in repentance and faith to receive His forgiveness, His life, His Spirit. And you render to God the things that are God’s when you take that forgiveness, life, and Spirit here received in faith and serve your neighbor in love. Being, as St. Paul said, imitators of him and the apostles, and of the Lord.

As long as you live in this world, you live in two kingdoms. And you render unto Caesar, but knowing that you don’t belong to Him. You belong to God. To the one who created you and re-created you. Who bought you with a price. For not on coins did He put His image, but on you. And not for a worldly kingdom did He die, but for you. That you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness (Small Catechism).

And so now for you He comes once again in the bread and wine of His Supper, that eating His Body and drinking His Blood, His image be renewed in you and His life and love strengthened in you through the forgiveness of your sins. Giving you all that He is and all that He has, that with He in you and you in Him, you begin to live now that life that has no end. And with His Name on you and His Spirit in you, that is exactly the life you do live!

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 18 Sermon.

Why is Wall Street supporting Obama?

Democrats are attacking Republicans as lackeys for Wall Street.  President Obama has thrown his support behind the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  He wants to pour on more regulations and restrictions to big investors and banks and to take advantage of the public backlash against big corporations.  And yet the denizens of Wall Street are giving Barack Obama much more money than they are giving Republicans.  In fact, Mitt Romney’s old company is contributing more money to Obama  than to their former CEO!

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.

As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.

Obama’s fundraising advantage is clear in the case of Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm that was co-founded by Romney, and where the Republican made his fortune. Not surprisingly, Romney has strong support at the firm, raking in $34,000 from 18 Bain employees, according to the analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

But Obama has outdone Romney on his own turf, collecting $76,600 from Bain Capital employees through September — and he needed only three donors to do it.

The battle for Wall Street cash has become a crucial subtext in the 2012 campaign, which is shaping up to focus heavily on federal banking and markets policies and the struggling economy.

Top Republicans have courted major U.S. bank executives and financiers, arguing that Obama’s policies have hurt them, while Democrats are seeking to turn the erosion of support on Wall Street to their populist advantage.

Obama’s ties to Wall Street donors could complicate Democratic plans to paint Republicans as puppets of the financial industry, particularly in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have gone global over the past week.

via Obama still flush with cash from financial sector despite frosty relations – The Washington Post.

Can anyone explain why donors would contribute to candidates against their interests?  Or do these donors think that Democrats would be far more likely to bail they out again than Republicans?  What all is going on here?

Closed communion, Catholic style

From an advice column in the U. S. Catholic:

Should you pass on communion at a Lutheran church or participate fully?

You are at the wedding of a beloved family member or friend, which is taking place at a Lutheran church. You gladly accepted the invitation to celebrate this happy day with the bride and groom. But then there is a call to come to the table of the Lord’s Supper, to receive communion. This is the awkward moment you knew was coming. Can you, and should you, a practicing Catholic, accept the invitation?

According to the Code of Canon Law, receiving communion in a Protestant church is generally not permissible. According to canon 844, “Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments to Catholic members of the Christian faithful only and, likewise, the latter may licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers.” The key term here is licit. If a Catholic receives communion from a Protestant minister, it is generally considered “illicit” or unlawful.

The reason for the Catholic Church’s general rule against sharing in the Eucharist with other churches is that a person can only be in full communion with one church. As a Catholic, the core of one’s union with Christ is union with the church. The center of this union lies in the reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist during Mass, which is both a confession and embodiment of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

But canon 844 includes an exception to the rule “whenever necessity requires or general spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided.”

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism said that, as a general rule, common worship and eucharistic and other sacramental sharing should “signify the unity of the church.” But it acknowledges that such sharing can also be seen as advancing unity. In fact, according to the decree, “the gaining of a needed grace sometimes commends” it.

Still, within the confines of canon law, the exceptions to the rule are rather limited, and receiving communion from a Lutheran pastor during a wedding would normally be seen as “illicit” for Catholic wedding guests. At the same time, some Catholics would like to, and do, receive communion on these rare occasions.

These Catholics, after a careful examination of their conscience, find compelling reasons to “gain a needed grace” by receiving communion in a Protestant church. And it is also true that eucharistic sharing has occurred at the highest levels of the church. Even Jesus occasionally broke the religious law of his day, though he did so to fulfill the “spirit” of the law.

So it is possible that one could follow Jesus’ lead. In our example a compelling reason might be to demonstrate one’s deep love and commitment to nurturing the relationship of the newly married couple. Intercommunion could be a “yes” to God by witnessing to God’s presence in the marriage and committing to God’s work of salvation in their lives.

In the end, this may be fulfilling the “spirit” of canon law while going against the letter.

via Can a Catholic receive communion in a Protestant church? | USCatholic.org.

That last bit is casuistry of the highest order!  Breaking a canon law in order to fulfill it?  What’s surprising to me is that it’s taken for granted that a Lutheran pastor would be glad to commune a Roman Catholic visitor.   See too the first comment in the consequent thread that quotes the rest of the canon law cited here, that the communion can only be in a church with “valid” sacraments, which would be the Eastern Orthodox and some of the separated Catholic off-shoots.  Not Protestants, including  Lutherans and Anglicans, who are not thought to truly have the Eucharist.  This interpretation, though, makes liberal-Protestant-style ecumenism trump everything.

At any rate, is this argument for closed communion–actually, the rejection of altar fellowship–the same as what confessional Lutherans make, or is there a difference?  Note, for example, that the nature of the sacrament is not even brought up in this reasoning.

Qaddafi is killed

Saddam Hussein, Osama bin-Laden, and now Muammar Qaddafi:

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan strongman who fled into hiding after an armed uprising toppled his regime two months ago, met a violent and vengeful death Thursday in the hands of rebel fighters who stormed his final stronghold in his Mediterranean hometown Surt. At least one of his sons was also killed.

Al Jazeera television showed footage of Colonel Qaddafi, alive but bloody, as he was dragged around by armed men in Surt. The television also broadcast a separate clip of his half-naked torso, with eyes staring vacantly and an apparent gunshot wound to the head, as jubilant fighters fired automatic weapons in the air. A third video, posted on Youtube, showed excited fighters hovering around his lifeless-looking body, posing for photographs and yanking his limp head up and down by the hair.

Conflicting accounts quickly emerged about whether Colonel Qaddafi was executed by his captors, died from gunshot wounds sustained in a firefight, was mortally wounded in a NATO air strike on his escaping convoy or bled to death in an ambulance. But the images broadcast by Al Jazeera punctuated an emphatic and gruesome ending to his four decades as a ruthless and bombastic autocrat who had basked in his reputation as the self-styled king of kings of Africa.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Qaddafi has been killed,” Mahmoud Jibril, the prime minister of the Transitional National Council, the interim government, told a news conference in Tripoli. Mahmoud Shammam, the council’s chief spokesman, called it “the day of real liberation. We were serious about giving him a fair trial. It seems God has some other wish.”

via Qaddafi Is Dead, Libyan Officials Say – NYTimes.com.

So the War in Libya, in which the USA played second fiddle to NATO, was a success, with the rebels in power and the dictator dead, with no American lives lost.  (Anyone know the NATO casualties?)  So shall we give President Obama credit?  Or do you have mixed feelings about this?

Fleeing from a victory already achieved

“Who am I?”

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer (March 4, 1945)

Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Who am I?” in Letters & Papers From Prison (New York: Touchstone, 1953/1997), 347-8.

via “Who am I?” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer | Tolle Lege.

HT:  Ryan Gilles


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