“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”

The readings in church last Sunday included this passage from John 20:

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

We get into a lot of good theological discussions on this blog.  Some of them get heated–and I apologize when they cross the line of Christian charity–but I know I learn from them.   I’d like to ask the non-Lutheran readers of this blog, what do you do with this passage?   We Lutherans, as is our wont, take it literally:  We see the office of disciple in the office of pastors today, so we believe that pastors, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, can forgive sins.  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.”   This happens individually, in private confession and absolution, and also every Sunday in corporate confession and absolution.   The whole congregation prays a prayer in which we confess our sins, and then the pastor says, “upon this your confession, as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  This often freaks out non-Lutheran visitors.   But I’ve wondered, how do they get around this passage?  One could have a different theology of the ministry and apply that ability to ALL Christians (actually, Lutherans do say that laity too can forgive sins), but surely this passage clearly gives human beings who have the Holy Spirit the power to forgive sins.  This is as clear statement as I can imagine, and I can’t see how it could be interpreted any other way.

So I’m asking, what do you Reformed, Arminian, Baptist, Pentecostal, and adherents to other Protestant Bible-believing theologies do with this passage?

The journalism/Hollywood/political complex

The big social event of the year in Washington, D.C., is last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, which is known as the “prom” for the journalism/Hollywood/political complex.  Dana Milbank of the Washington Post feels guilty about what it has become:

The fun begins, appropriately enough, at the offices of the American Gas Association, where White House reporters are feted by the lobbyists of the Quinn Gillespie firm. More lobbyist-sponsored entertainment comes from the Motion Picture Association. Along the way, journalists wind up serving as pimps: We recruit Hollywood stars to entertain the politicians, and we recruit powerful political figures to entertain the stars. Corporate bosses bring in advertisers to gawk at the display, and journalists lucky enough to score invitations fancy themselves celebrities.

Cee Lo Green sings for us. Seth Meyers tells us jokes. Lindsay Lohan’s ex, Samantha Ronson, is our DJ. All the cool kids — Sean Penn, Kate Hudson, Steven Tyler, Paula Abdul, Courteney Cox, David Byrne and Bristol Palin — want to party with us. A Johnnie Walker “cigar tent” furnishes us with scotch and hand-rolled stogies. We are handed Fiji water, or Grey Goose vodka, to slake our thirst and Shea Terra Organics Vanilla Body Butters to soothe our pores.

The correspondents’ association dinner was a minor annoyance for years, when it was a “nerd prom” for journalists and a few minor celebrities. But, as with so much else in this town, the event has spun out of control. Now, awash in lobbyist and corporate money, it is another display of Washington’s excesses.

There are now no fewer than 20 parties, plus a similar number of receptions, at the Washington Hilton before the dinner. A pre-dinner brunch, once an intimate affair in a TV producer’s backyard, was moved this year to the Georgetown mansion of multimillionaire Mark Ein. Democratic and Republican consultants shell out five figures apiece to join the Cafe Milano owner as hosts. (Cafe Atlantico’s owner, by contrast, is cooking for the Atlantic’s party.)

Time Warner booked the St. Regis for the People and Time fete; Conde Nast has the W Hotel for the New Yorker and the French ambassador’s residence in Kalorama for its Vanity Fair party done with Bloomberg. The MSNBC party is in the Italian Embassy, while others choose the Hay-Adams, the Ritz-Carlton or the Ronald Reagan Building. A few sponsors, generally Hollywood-oriented nonprofits, hold cocktail parties masquerading as charity benefits.

Hungover hobnobbers reconvene Sunday morning at Politico publisher Robert Allbritton’s Georgetown manse to “nosh on hand-rolled sushi and dim sum prepared by Wolfgang Puck’s The Source.” The news release continues: “The Allbrittons’ lush garden, filled with 200-year-old poplar trees, will feature a white century-style tent adorned with blue-and-white ceramics” — not to mention Ashley Judd and Janet Napolitano.

Is it Politico’s job to get Judd and Napolitano together? Is it ABC News’s role to unite “Glee’s” Jane Lynch with White House chief of staff Bill Daley or “30 Rock’s” Elizabeth Banks with national security adviser Tom Donilon? What’s the purpose of Fox News introducing actress Patricia Arquette to Rep. Michele Bachmann, National Journal presenting “The Vampire Diaries’ ” Nina Dobrev to Obama strategist David Axelrod, NPR introducing REM’s Michael Stipe to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, or The Post connecting Trump and House Speaker John Boehner?

I don’t fault any one host for throwing a party or any journalist for attending. Many of them are friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with savoring Johnnie Walker Blue with the politicians we cover.

But the cumulative effect is icky. With the proliferation of A-list parties and the infusion of corporate and lobbyist cash, Washington journalists give Americans the impression we have shed our professional detachment and are aspiring to be like the celebrities and power players we cover.

via How the journalist prom got out of control – The Washington Post.

Here is the problem:  Both journalists and politicians are trying to become or have been reduced to or think they are Hollywood-style celebrities.   This debases both journalism and politics.

C. S. Lewis translates Virgil

Is it a good idea to publish EVERYTHING that a good author wrote?  His notes, scraps, unfinished projects, and what he never intended for publication because it wasn’t good enough?  I have my doubts, but it appears that we are getting virtually everything from C. S. Lewis.  Just out from Yale University Press, no less, is C. S. Lewis’s translation of Vergil’s Aeneid:  C. S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid: Arms and the Exile.

Well, it’s actually only the first book of the Aeneid, along with fragments of the other eleven.  Still, a true Lewis fan can’t help but be interested.  It would be worth tracing Virgil’s influence on Lewis, and a work like this can show us Lewis’s imaginative response to the great epic in ways that may illuminate its translator’s own original work.

Sarah Ruden, herself a translator of classical literature, likes Lewis, but she doesn’t think much of this work as a translation of Virgil.  She does, though, have some interesting things to say about both writers.  See  C. S. Lewis as Translator from Books and Culture.

Who do the Republicans have?

When Americans have to pay $60 to fill their cars up with gas, they usually aren’t going to vote for the incumbent president. And yet, who is there to run against him?

Mitt Romney? Newt Gingrich? Donald Trump? I can’t see Christian conservatives rallying behind any of those guys.

Ron Paul, the libertarian?

Mitch Daniels, who is calling for a truce on cultural issues to focus exclusively on the economy?

Sarah Palin, who for better or worse has been turned into a punchline?

Mike Huckabee, who may be happier as a pundit on Fox News?

Rick Santorum or Tim Pawlenty, but are they too obscure to win?

And do any of these individuals have the gravitas to seem presidential enough (which I’m convinced is a major factor in this era of image over substance) to compete successfully against the actual president?

Are there any potential candidates who might ride in on a dark horse to win this thing?

Whirlwinds

I grew up in Oklahoma, right in tornado alley.  We didn’t have a basement or a cellar so when the sirens blew we would get in the car and drive through the wind, often us kids still in our pajamas, to the church basement.  When we didn’t have time, we’d hide under our parents’ bed.  I remember vividly looking out their window and seeing a funnel bearing down.   I’ve seen a lot of massive wreckage.  Few things are as scary or as awe-inspiring as a tornado.  But I never went through anything like what happened on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with  among the worst tornado outbreaks in history:

At least 290 people were killed across six states — more than two-thirds of them in Alabama, where large cities bore the half-mile-wide scars the twisters left behind.

The death toll from Wednesday’s storms seems out of a bygone era, before Doppler radar and pinpoint satellite forecasts were around to warn communities of severe weather. Residents were told the tornadoes were coming up to 24 minutes ahead of time, but they were just too wide, too powerful and too locked onto populated areas to avoid a horrifying body count.

“These were the most intense super-cell thunderstorms that I think anybody who was out there forecasting has ever seen,” said meteorologist Greg Carbin at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

via Tornadoes devastate South, killing at least 290 – Yahoo! News.

“Cross & the Switchblade” author killed in auto crash

Rev. David Wilkerson, a pioneer in youth and urban ministry who founded Teen Challenge and wrote The Cross & the Switchblade, was killed in a car wreck.   The pastor of Times Square Church in New York City, he was 79.

Rev. Wilkerson was successful in reaching the seemingly unreachable. And yet he didn’t seem to pander or water down or conform to those he was trying to reach. At least that is my impression, though some of you may know more about his ministry than I do. If so, what was his secret and what is his legacy?

Religious Icon Rev. David Wilkerson tragically killed by a car crash in Texas – San Jose Christian Perspectives | Examiner.com.

HT:  Grace


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