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From Russia with Love

6341892558_531c1e9e93_zDonald Trump and his supporters have been dismissive of U. S. Intelligence claims that the Russians were behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee e-mails.  These made Hillary Clinton look bad and were then given to Wikileaks, which made them public.  Those intelligence agencies have released a report giving the basis for blaming Russia and Vladimir Putin’s intelligence operations.

The unclassified version of the report leaves out the details but gives the nature of their evidence.  (Read the report for yourself here.)  It says that Putin despised Clinton and wanted Trump to win.  The actions, which also included the use of paid “trolls,” were intended to discredit Clinton–though the Russians expected her to win–and to boost Trump’s chances.

Defenders of Trump have said that some other group could have done the hacking, that the CIA has often been wrong (including finding evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq), that the intelligence agencies are part of the establishment, that they are part of the Democratic administration (despite their non-politicized organization and their history of conflict with liberals), etc., etc.   Yes, lots of things “could have” happened.  But I am not aware of any evidence connecting the hacks to anyone else other than the Russians.  (Do you know of any?  If so, please let us know in the comments.  I’ll continue my thoughts after the jump.) [Read more…]

The Eighth Day

All_Saints_fontThe Gospel reading for yesterday, commemorating the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, was Luke 2:21, the shortest text in the Lectionary.  (See our recent post on the subject.)  In the course of an excellent sermon that explored the depths of this one verse of the Bible, our pastor cited the significance of “the eighth day.”

God created the universe in six days and on the seventh, He rested.  Then on the eighth day, the creation began to unfold.  Jesus rose from the dead on the day after the Sabbath; that is, the eighth day.  Christians worship on Sunday, the eighth day, which is also the first day of a new week.  With Christ’s resurrection on the eighth day, God has initiated a new creation.  Those with faith in Christ are part of this new creation.  Thus, very early, Baptismal fonts were made in the shape of an octagon, the eight sides symbolizing the eight days.   [Read more…]

Anniversaries in 2017

Luther95thesesThe new year will mark some important anniversaries.  The biggest will be the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses and thus the beginning of the Reformation.  The significance of that event–not just for theology but for culture, education, socio-economic change, and the overall history of Western civilization–will be intensely debated, especially as October 31 approaches.

Was the Reformation a good thing or a bad thing?  A high point of Christianity or the beginning of its decline?  A recovery of ancient Biblical truth or the beginning of the modern era?  We Lutherans have a special stake in all of this, of course, and we should use this attention as an opportunity to make our message–namely, the Gospel–clear.

After the jump, consider some other important anniversaries in 2017.   [Read more…]

Top news stories of 2016

12-monats-kalender-2016-querThe Associated Press polled editors and news directors to come up with the top stories of 2016.  Number one was no surprise:  The U.S. Election.

In fact, you could probably spin out ten top stories from the U.S. Election:  Donald Trump’s election, the primaries, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, the Russian connection, Bernie Saunder’s campaign, Republican party implosion, Democratic party implosion, Clinton’s campaign mistakes, Trump’s scandals, political hacking.

Number two is like unto Trump’s victory:  another unexpected populist uprising known as Brexit, Great Britain’s vote to pull out of the European Union.

Consider the list of the top 10 after the jump.  What other events of last year deserve to have been included? [Read more…]

Donald Trump news

Donald_Trump_(8567813820)_(2) (1)The Electoral College officially elected Donald Trump president.  Despite all of the efforts to persuade electors to overturn the election results, only six members of the college were “unfaithful electors,” not voting for the person they were supposed to, though this tied a record.  Two Republicans refused to vote for Trump, but  four Democrats refused to vote for Hillary Clinton. (Three other Democrats were also going to refuse to vote for Clinton, but they were replaced by their states.)

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 votes, but this is completely attributable to her huge plurality in only one state:  California.  If it weren’t for California, Trump would have won the popular vote by 1.4 million votes.  So if California secedes from the union, as some citizens of the Golden State are wanting to do, that will greatly affect America’s politics.  (See also this.)

Trump is planning to keep his private security force to supplement his Secret Service protection.  This violates tradition.  Some critics say his long-time security detail has a reputation for roughing up protesters.  Former Secret Service agents say having a second security team is a formula for confusion.  But I suspect a president who is so hated by so many people could use an extra layer of security.

Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Cancelling church on Christmas

Trinity_Lutheran_Church,_Friedheim,_Missouri_altar,_Dec_20,_2013Christmas falls on a Sunday this year.  So once again, many congregations are CANCELLING SERVICES!  That boggles my mind.  You should go to church on Christmas even when it doesn’t fall on a Sunday!  But when it does, why wouldn’t you go to church as you usually would?

OK, I understand about opening presents, making the Christmas dinner, and all that.  I understand someone missing church, though that’s not to condone it.  But what I cannot understand is a church that would not open its doors on Christmas day, that would not worship Christ on the commemoration of His birth.

I guess this practice is more common than I realized.  I’ve heard the reason given that Christmas is a family time, so we are going to be “worshipping” by spending time with our families.  But that’s just more secularizing of the holiday.  Maybe someone can explain it to me.

UPDATE:  Here is a defense of the practice, one that slams us critics.  Do you find it convincing?  I guess the big difference is one of theology.  The defense portrays worship as something we do–hard work that we sometimes need a break from–with little sense of what we receive when we worship or of Christ actually being present when we worship.

After the jump, Jonathan Aigner, gives 8 reasons NOT to cancel church services on Christmas.

Just as it’s important to keep Christ in Christmas, it’s important to keep “mass” in Christmas.  In fact, doing the latter is the best way to do the former.

[Read more…]