Gradualism and the two senses of Grace

Roman Catholic theologian David Cloutier gives a lucid explanation of “gradualism,” that take on moral theology that allows for greater acceptance of same-sex and cohabiting couples without, supposedly, compromising traditional morality.  (This is the view that gave us the first report from the Vatican’s synod on the family, though not the final report.)  What do you think of this reasoning?  (I’ll offer some thoughts after the excerpt after the jump.) [Read more...]

You are the pearl of great price

 

Two Sundays ago, the sermon was on these parables from Matthew 13:

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

These are usually interpreted as the Kingdom of Heaven being so valuable that we need to do everything to get it, but Pastor Douthwaite pointed out that the Old Testament reading for the day, Deuteronomy 7:6, says that God’s people are His treasure.  And that   .  The one who spent the most valuable thing He had to buy something He wanted was Christ redeeming us (1 Peter 18:20). The ones who are buried and covered are us (Romans 6:4).  Therefore, you are the treasure in the field.  You are the pearl of great price.  Christ has paid everything for you. [Read more...]

Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist dies

Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas, is dead.  This congregation of 80 members–most of which are members of the large Phelps family–made a name for itself with its “God hates fags” protest signs and its protests at military funerals with signs reading “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Read this to learn about the Westboro congregation and its beliefs.  Phelps was reportedly excommunicated from his own church recently for advocating “kinder” treatment of fellow members, though this has not been confirmed.

Here we see the dysfunctions of legalism, in which a zeal for righteousness results in unrighteousness, in which the Christian gospel that proclaims “God loves you” is countered by the proclamation that “God hates you.”  Isn’t this a pretty clear example of  the Devil having his way in the church to undermine its message and to discredit Christianity? [Read more...]

Coming, calling, and promising

More from our pastor’s sermon last Sunday on Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus (John 3).  From Rev. James Douthwaite,  St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Lent 2 Sermon:

Nicodemus is thinking about what man does or can do; Jesus is talking about what God does, and what God has promised. Nicodemus was thinking of how man can get to God; Jesus is talking about God coming to man. Nicodemus is thinking works; Jesus is talking grace, or gift. [Read more...]

“Begone, Satan!”

More from that Lenten sermon on the Temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11).  From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Lent 1 Sermon:

This story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness shows you Jesus fighting for you. And that’s more important because I could stand up here all day and tell you to fight against satan with the Word of God until I’m blue in the face and you know what? You’ll still sin. Satan will still get the better of you. You’ll still fall for and believe his lies and false goods, especially when he attacks you in your weaknesses and at the worst possible times. You know it’s true. Jesus as your example cannot save you.

But Jesus as the one who came to fight satan for you and win can. And does. We sang it earlier: But for us fights the valiant One, whom God Himself elected. Ask ye who is this? Jesus Christ it is! (LSB #656 v. 2) And so right after Jesus stands with sinners in the Jordan and is baptized for us, He is led out into the wilderness to begin the battle – the battle that will culminate at the cross. And there satan’s “if you are the Son of God” will ring in His ears yet again, coming this time from the mockers, taunting Him to come down from the cross and show that He really is who He claimed to be. That would be good . . . To show everyone that He is the Son of God . . . right? [Read more...]

What’s whiter than snow?

Here in Northern Virginia we woke up to about 12 inches of it, and it looks like there is that much still in the air coming down. And we’re supposed to get another wave tonight. It’s a snow day–one of those gifts of free time that are unplanned for so are not already booked with other kinds of busyness–so it’s peaceful, with the fireplace blazing, with my mug of coffee, as I look out the back window watching the woods fill up with snow.

I know, though, that the winter storm is wreaking havoc across much of the nation. And I dread having to shovel all of this. And I hope the power lines don’t come down.

In the meantime, I am taking consolation in this: The utter purity of snow covering up all of the dirt, dead grass, and pretty much everything is a sign of what God has done with our sins:

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

“Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

Since weather is one of those great topics of conversation, how are you doing where you are? Are any of you in desperate straits, in need of prayer from the rest of us?


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