Happy Presidents’ Day

Today is Presidents’ Day, which began as an amalgamation of George Washington’s birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, but now is nobody’s birthday but just honors our chief executives.  So let’s take a pause from the current presidential campaign to discuss the institution itself.

Is it wise to have the same person be head of state and the  head of the executive branch?

Most democracies today have a Prime Minister as chief executive, who is the head of the party that has the majority in the legislature.  Is that better than our elected Presidents?  If not, why are Prime Ministers more common in modern governments?

Do our presidents have too much power or not enough?

What does it mean to be “presidential”?

Who do you think was our greatest president? The top five?



“Epiphany.  3  a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b : a revealing scene or moment”

via Epiphany – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

And the essential nature and meaning, the grasp of reality through something simple and striking, the illuminating discovery, realization, and disclosure is Jesus:  God in the flesh for you.

And thus the time of Epiphany in the church year, which begins today, marking when the Wise Men had their epiphany, and continues to celebrate the other epiphanies of Jesus described in the Bible (when His identity was revealed at His baptism, His first miracle, and on and on through His transfiguration).

May you have your own epiphanies of Jesus in this season–in conversion, in hearing a sermon, in receiving the Lord’s Supper–and may your other kinds of epiphanies be taken up in Him.

UPDATE:   Kenneth in the comments asks counsel for how to battle the spiritual blues.  I gave him some advice, but what do I know?  What could you say to encourage him?

Happy New Year!

January is named after the Roman deity Janus, the god of thresholds.   He had two faces, one that looked back and one that looked forward.  So that’s what we do on New Year’s.  We look back on the year that has passed and we look forward to the year ahead.

Whether your 2011 was a year of trials or thanksgivings or both and whatever 2012 will hold for you, I hope that you will know the promise of Psalm 31:15:  “My times are in your hand.”

Last year’s predictions & contest results

A New Year’s custom on this blog is to have readers predict what will happen in the year ahead.  That’s not particularly unique.  But what is unique is our other custom:  To review those predictions at the end of the year and actually check how everyone did.  Whoever has the most impressive prediction wins universal acclaim and bragging rights for the whole year.

I urge you all to read Your predictions for 2011 | Cranach: The Blog of Veith.  You will get a kick out of it, and you will be encouraged that the year was not quite as bad as many of us thought it was going to be.

Most notable is that Webmonk and Kerner actually made a bet over the number of troops that would be in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Kerner said that we would have fewer than 155,000 troops still fighting in those wars, and Webmonk said that we would have more than that.  Webmonk said that if Kerner is right he would write on this blog an ode “to the greatness of Kerner and all things Lutheran (LCMS).”  Kerner called the bet, agreeing to write an ode to Webmonk and to the religion of his choice.   Well, combat troops have withdrawn from Iraq, though 91,000 remain in Afghanistan.  So Kerner wins!

Webmonk, we await your ode. Not a limerick or a sonnet.  An actual ode.

Special Loser Awards for the predictions that most spectacularly did NOT come to pass go to:

 (1) The Jones, for predicting that Mitch Daniels would be the Republican presidential front-runner, with Tim Pawlenty “right at his heels.”  (We wish!)

(2) WeCanKnow, a follower of Harold Camping, who insisted that the world would end on May 21.

Honorable mention goes to someone who has placed in this contest I believe each year that we’ve done this:  Cindy Ramos.  She predicted that the Green Bay Packers would win their division this year with a record of 13-3.  She didn’t nail the record exactly–it will be either 15-1 or 14-2 (if, as if likely, the Packers rest their starters against Detroit, the perfect season being gone and the team already with a bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs).  Still, few people expected the Packers to have the kind of season that they did.  Cindy’s prediction I still consider remarkable, and more remarkable still is her record of at least three years making remarkable predictions in this contest.  (She is one of my former students.  I taught her all about how to do effective analysis and interpretation.  Wait a minute.  The Jones is also one of my former students.)

This year’s winner started off making some generalized predictions, then realizing that no one could agree on whether they happened or not, he took a different tactic:

The only way to surefire Prediction Glory is to make a rather unforeseen, falsifiable claim and manage to get it right. So I’ll shoot for the moon and say that some event (death or general incapacity) will cause Kim Jong-Un to succeed his father as leader of North Korea.

Kim Jong-Un!  Who even knew who Kim Jong-Un was this time last year?  But sure enough, with just a couple of weeks left in 2011, he became North Korea’s new dictator.  So all Prediction Glory goes to:  tODD!


Your predictions for 2012

Now it’s time for you to predict what will happen in 2012!  See the accompanying post that looks back on last year’s predictions for how the contest works.

Don’t worry.  We are not enforcing the Deuteronomy 18:22 rule.  Anyway, we aren’t asking for prophecy, just predictions.

The more specific the prediction the more remarkable it will be if it comes true, and the more likely you will be a winner.  (Highly generalized prediction:  “Politics will continue to be polarizing as the country goes through a bitter presidential campaign.”  Highly specific prediction:  “The deadlocked Republican convention will finally nominate a candidate who could defeat Barack Obama:  Hillary Clinton.”)

So what are your predictions for 2012?

Eating for death vs. eating for life

Our church was not one of the 10% of American churches that cancelled Sunday services on Christmas day, I’m happy to say.  We had a wonderful service.  Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon was on the “great reversal” of the Fall of Adam and Eve that God worked through the gift of His Son.  Especially striking was something that I had never thought about:  Our fall took place when mankind ate the fruit of the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil.  So the reversal of this curse also involves eating.  We eat the fruit of the Tree of Life; namely, the body and blood of Christ crucified.

The Word who became flesh is flesh still and comes to you, for you, in that same body and blood today on this altar. And that final, dreadful part of the sentence once spoken to Adam has been reversed – and now the fruit of the Tree of Life is ours again! And so while Adam ate and died, for you and me it has been proclaimed: the day you eat of this, you shall surely live! This is My Body, this is My Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin. And we feast upon the Lamb of God. The flesh and blood of our Lord is truly the first – and best – Christmas gift.

And so the darkness of our sin is enlightened by His glory. The glory of the Creator dying for his creatures. The glory of the strong become weak. The glory of God in the manger. The glory of Jesus. The glory of the Word made flesh. The glory of God who gives Himself to us. Is this not a marvel?

But perhaps there’s even one more marvel for us this happy morning . . . that your Saviour didn’t just redeem you from your sin that you may serve God as a slave, or be an indentured servant, or to be on parole to see if you’ll live up to it – the Son of God came to make you a son of God. A full son! With all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto! For that’s what His forgiveness does. It doesn’t just restore part of the way, but all of the way. . . .

Today, marvel at that. Rejoice with the angels. Kneel with the shepherds. And take the body and blood of Jesus not in your arms, like Mary, but in your mouth, and depart in peace. Your sins are forgiven, dear child of God; your exodus complete.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Christmas Day Sermon.