Thursday, September 29, 2005

Study: Religion Bad.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

Apparently they is serious. According to this "study", nations/societies which are more "religious" have a higher incidence of "dysfunction".

You know what drives me NUTZO about this kind of news story? It's not just that I disagree with the results. It's something that happens a lot with "studies" on everything from the latest food linked with a certain disease to the factors associated with teen drinking or whatever.


I can't stress this enough. But the media, in its sensationalism, and the idealogue with an agenda will fuzzy-up the distinction to suit their purposes. Here's a typical example from the above article:

He [the author of the study]said that the evidence accumulated by a number of different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social ills.

One might argue that societal problems possibly cause more people to turn to religon. Or one might argue that there are a multitude of factors invovled here - from which "dysfunctions" are counted, their relative weight, the cultural, economic, and historical factors (how does a study "control" for all these?).

Add to that the question of what "religious" means - which religion are we talking about? Christianity, in all its forms? Islam? I wonder if this study would say Islamic countries are "dysfunctional" or not.

Does anyone else here smell an AGENDA???? The whole thing is laughable - that something like this could even be scientifically knowable. Give me a break.


It appears the author of the study is a member of the Council for Secular Humanism. His bio:

Gregory S. Paul
A respected expert on Dinosaur anatomy, paleontology, and geology, Gregory Paul is an excellent candidate to counter young-earth creationists. His book, Beyond Humanity, discusses the impact of intelligent cybertechnology on religion, further equipping him to speak on the role of religion in society. Because of his scientific background, Paul is also able to speak on broad debate issues, such as evolution v. creationism and the like. Paul has written two articles for Free Inquiry: "The Secular Revolutionof the West" (Summer 2002) and "The Great Scandal: Christianity in the Rise of the Nazis" (Oct-Nov 2003, Dec 03-Jan 04).

A Personal Preaching Anectdote

St. Michael and All Angels Day

It was on this day, as a Senior at Baltimore Lutheran High School, 15 years ago, that I gave my very first “message”. Couldn’t call it a sermon, but I’ll get to that in a moment. I have to say at the outset that as a 15 year old I had no business speaking at a chapel service – giving a homily /sermon/message/whatever– but as one interested in becoming a pastor some day, I was thrust into it. Looking back now, I am amazed at so much of what passed as normal back then.

Anyway, I got down to business, doing (in my mind) exhaustive research on the topic of angels. Types, names, number of occurrences, etymology, etc… I had become, in my mind, a self-studied expert on the topic. And I was so proud to share with Wednesday morning chapel ALL that I had learned. I thought it went rather well.

Later in the day, though, I learned otherwise. The religion instructor who had “gotten me into this” pulled me out of a class, and rendered a harsh critique of my efforts. “That was NO sermon” he informed me. “You didn’t share the Gospel. You didn’t talk about Jesus. You gave a lecture. But it was not a sermon”. And on this point, he was right. It was a hard lesson to learn, but one I will never forget.

Looking back, I don’t feel so bad about it as I did then. I never should have been put in that situation with so little preparation. I simply didn’t know what I was talking about. How could I, at that age? But I do believe God used the experience to help shape my preaching. To this day, every sermon I preach, I ask myself the same questions. Is this a lecture, or a sermon? Am I pointing to Christ crucified for sinners, or just spewing information?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Great Site- Check it Out!

The Lutheran Devotional Corner

Just found this great (new?) site. It has a collection (quite large!) of LCMS sermons available on the internet. Other resources too. Good idea!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sports Chaplin Skandalos

Skandalos, scandal, stumbling block. It's what Scripture says the message of the Cross is to the Jews.

A scandal has erupted out of the Washington Nationals' locker-room.

Team Chaplin Jon Moeller answered a question about Jews being lost without Christ - in the only way a Christian can answer the question - truthfully. And a firestorm erupts, an investigation is held, and of course, the chaplin is suspended.

This is an ominous portent of things to come, my friends. When a Christian can't even say what Jesus says so clearly without kicking the hornets' nest of haters. Sad, but expected. For isn't this what scripture tells us will happen?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sermon - Pentecost 19 - Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32

19th Sunday after Pentecost – September 25th 2005
Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32
“The Blame Game”

I. Introduction –
In a 1966 speech, Robert F. Kennedy said, "There is a Chinese curse which says, "May he live in interesting times."

The prophet Ezekiel lived in interesting times. He had witnessed the siege of the Holy City, Jerusalem. He watched the Babylonians breach the city walls. He saw them burn and destroy the city, and the temple. And he was among those carried off into exile. Living in Babylon, far away from his homeland, Ezekiel received the call of a prophet, and a message from God for those exiled Jews. Interesting times.

The question was, why did this happen? It’s the same question any time disaster comes our way, “why me?” or “why us?”. Is God being just? Many of the Jews rightly saw that the destruction of their homeland and temple was God’s judgment for sin. But whose sin? Just who was to blame? Amidst all the swirling questions, God sends the prophet Ezekiel with the words we read today. The soul that sins, dies. So repent and live!

We Christians have much to learn from Ezekiel’s reminders. For we too can play the blame game. And we too are called to repent, and live, in Christ.

II. The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far…
There has been much talk about “blame” in the wake of the recent hurricane disasters, and especially with Katrina. Who is to blame for this disaster? The President, the Federal Government, the State or Local officials, the Mayor, the people of New Orleans themselves, Mother Nature, or God? Or some combination of the above? We like to pin blame, don’t we?

But who is to blame for the messes of our lives? Here we like to blame others too. The boss is a jerk, my spouse doesn’t listen to me, the kids were driving me crazy, the devil made me do it. We point the finger of blame at just about everyone but ourselves.

That’s what the Jews were doing in Ezekiel’s day. That’s what the proverb about the fathers eating sour grapes means. They were blaming the generation before them for the woes of today. We can relate to that. From the psychologist who queries, “so tell me about your mother”, to the “lack of a father figure” warnings, parents are certainly given blame for much of what is wrong in our lives. Perhaps you heard the recent story of a disgruntled child suing her parents for “wrongful birth”. Now that’s taking it to an extreme!

To be sure, what we do has an effect on other people, perhaps especially our children. But are we, and were the Jews back then, right to blame the generation before for the troubles of today?

What about when it comes to sin itself? Here’s a case where the apple never falls far from the tree. For we inherit our very sinful nature from mom and dad. “In sin did my mother conceive me”. Like father, like son. Can we blame them for our sinful state?

And can we then, ultimately, blame the inventors of blame themselves, Adam and Eve? “It wasn’t me, Lord, it was the woman you gave me” “No Lord, it was the serpent who tempted me, and I ate”.

In a sense I thin k we can blame them. In a sense, we are still paying for the sin of Adam and Eve. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, even when that tree is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Even when the fruit of that tree was sin and death. But we can blame them only in one sense. We can see the root causes of our sinfulness in the Garden, but the guilt and responsibility are not so easy to shake. For God tells us so…

III. The Soul Who Sins…
Ezekiel speaks so clearly the word of God, “The soul who sins is the one who will die…” In other words, each of us is responsible to God for our own sin. This, the Jews likely didn’t want to hear. This is hard for us to hear too.

It’s so much easier and self-justifying to blame others for our sin. But it is difficult to look at ourselves. To examine our own faults, failings, to admit our own guilt and blame. To say, “Lord, I have no excuse for what I have done. It is my sin, my own sin, my own most grievous sin. No one else to blame, just me.”

It isn’t God who is unjust here, it is us! We want the punishment to go to someone else. We want another to get the blame. But God, in his law, rightly targets each of us for the sin we commit, and leave us with no escape from the punishment we deserve. Well, only one escape. It is not to blame or make excuses. It is not to rationalize or justify our sin. We can’t hide from God either. There is only one way for wicked people like us to be rid of our guilt and sin. And that way God gives us: Repent, and live!

IV. Repent and Live!

A simple definition of repentance is “turning” or “turning around”. It means not hanging on to your sins for dear life, but admitting that you are wrong, and that no one else is to blame. It means standing humbly before God and saying, “I messed up”. So God invites us to do, when he calls us to “repent and live!” So we begin our worship – confessing sins of thought, word and deed, done and undone.

But for God’s people, true repentance also implies faith. And faith means Jesus. Ezekiel and the Jews knew that God was a merciful God who forgave sins – they just weren’t so clear on the why and how. God told them he didn’t desire death for them – that he takes “no pleasure in the death of anyone”. Here is not the angry judge of the Old Testament so often depicted. He wants them to repent and live. But we know why and how God can say, “repent and live”. We know the Savior by name, Jesus Christ.

It is he, Jesus, who takes away our blame. He takes it on himself. He becomes the “fall guy” for our sin – taking the blame for all of us. And we are free and in the clear.

This is no cosmic shell game. He isn’t fooling God with a switcheroo. This is God’s plan. That Jesus stands in our place, or rather, hangs on our cross, and becomes for all men the “soul that sins” and dies. Therefore the soul that sins, our soul, does not die.

Repentance means trusting Jesus who has done all this for us. After all, why would we confess our sins to a God who wouldn’t forgive them anyway? We can only “repent and live” because of the one who died and lives again, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

And notice, repentance means life! Forgiveness is assumed here, but that is the process – repentance, forgiveness, life! Not just eternal life in Heaven some day (but that too!). Life begins now, here, on earth – a new heart and new spirit. Like the Psalmist says, “Create in me a clean heart Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me…”.

Life with God begins the moment we come to faith. When the water touches our head and the word reaches our ear. For in the New Testament, repentance is also connected with Baptism – “repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of your sins!”

Life which is renewed each time we repent and receive the forgiveness Christ brings. Each time we hear His words of absolution, each time we eat His Holy Meal.

“Repent and Live!” means more than just “feel bad, be sorry, and have a nice day.” It is a summary of God’s plan for us all. It is shorthand for salvation in Jesus Christ. It sums up the grace and love and mercy of a God who does not want death but brings life – and does so in the most profound ways. From Ezekiel’s day to ours, the call goes out from God the same. Can you hear it? “repent and live!” In Jesus Christ, Amen.

V. Conclusion
Though we are affected by each other’s actions, each of us is ultimately responsible to God for our own sin. We are not caught in a hopeless web of sin, for God calls us to repent and live, in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hymn - "Jesus Christ, True God in Nature"

Jesus Christ, True God in Nature
Tune: Grosser Gott
(LW# 171 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name)
Based on Philippians 2:6-11

Jesus Christ, true God in nature,
Yet not grasping for God’s place
Made himself a lowly servant,
Taking on a human face
Found in likeness of a man,
So his work for us began.

Jesus Christ, true man in nature,
Humbled now, submits to death,
Even on a cross – the torture!
For our spirit, gives his breath,
For our sin he pays the price,
Through his death he brings us life.

Jesus Christ, by God exalted,
God the Father, His Son claims.
Once made low, but now in Heaven,
Christ o’er every kingdom reigns.
Seated at the Father’s hand,
Son of God, and Son of Man.

God has given Christ the glory,
Name above all other names.
That when any hear of Jesus,
High and low, should bow the same.
Every tongue their Lord confess,
Every one Your name to bless.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Why Join a Church?

An interesting post on Burr in the Burgh reminded me of something...

This link shows a partial result of our congregation's "Help Us Minister to You" Survey, completed in 2004.

I think this illustrates Rev. Stiegemeyer's point, at least for our congregation.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sermon - Matthew 20:1-16 - Pentecost 18

Pentecost 18, September 18th, 2005
“It’s Not Fair!”
Matthew 20:1-16

A million dollar golf tournament was held which drew contestants from near and far. Many experienced golfers who had worked for years and years on their game came for their shot at the jackpot. The winner would be the closest to the pin. Golfer after golfer tried for the hole, and one skilled veteran made it within six inches. Not too shabby.

Then he watched as a certain hacker came to the tee, and swung the most horrible looking swing had ever seen. But luck was with this amateur. His ball bounced off a nearby photographers’ cart and landed just one inch from the hole. He won the contest. He won the money. Who ever said life was fair?

There’s an old farmer’s saying about people who just stumble into good luck without working hard – “The dumber the farmer, the bigger the spuds”. It’s another way of saying, life is not fair.

I. “It’s Not Fair!” Said the Servants
Jesus knew the same, that life isn’t fair. And so he told a parable about it.

The parables of Jesus are masterful. He takes a common situation and tells a story we can remember. He puts heavenly meaning into earthly things. And we can all relate to it. This parable is no different.

The situation is common enough – an employer is hiring. As was the norm in the ancient world, and even in some places today – the employer hires day-laborers. The vineyard owner hires men to help him at 4 different times during the 12 hour work day. Now this is a little strange. Especially the hiring at the 11th hour.

The first workers are promised a denarius, a typical day’s wage. The terms of the subsequent hirings are a bit vague, though. “whatever is right” will be what they are paid.

When payment time comes at the end of the day, those working longest begin to wonder – what will I be paid? “Whatever is right!” in their mind, was more than those latecomers. So when they received the same – they were upset. And we can relate to that feeling. It didn’t seem fair.
But after all, it was the agreement they made, it was the owner’s money, and his right to pay others in line with his own sense of fairness.

Where is Jesus going with this parable? What does it mean? He’s talking about fairness in the kingdom of God - the vineyard, that is. God, of course, is the owner. And we are the workers. But what kind of workers, and what is a fair price? It seems this parable raises many questions. Chief among them, “what is fair?”. Let’s ponder fairness today in light of God’s work in Christ, and gain a deeper understanding of just how unfair – and just how fair – our God is.

II. When We Say “It’s Not Fair!”

Fairness is a concept we Americans are familiar with. From an early age, we learn what “fairness” is all about. Soon after the words “No!” and “Mine!”, children learn that handy phrase, “It’s not fair!”. And we find ourselves echoing our own parents, “Who ever said life was fair?”

Still, we have an expectation that it will be! When someone cheats and gets ahead of us, we feel indignant. Slighted. It’s not fair!

“I’ve been at this company for years, and that young upstart gets the promotion while I’m passed over? It’s not fair.”

“I’m a good parent. I really, really love my children. How come everyone else has perfect kids, and mine have all the problems? It’s not fair!”

“I lived a good, clean, life. No smoking – I tried to eat well. And now the doctor says I have lung cancer. But my sister-in-law has smoked a pack a day for 40 years, and is just fine. It’s not fair.”

Or how many other examples of UN-fairness could we think of? In the end, our sense of fairness is most keen when we feel WE are the victims of an injustice. Or when we feel someone is treated more favorably than we are – for no good reason.

The common thread in this thought process is this:
1) I am good. I deserve good things.
2) I am not receiving good things.
3) Something must be wrong.
4) Who’s going to fix it?

But is this the way the Christian should think?
1) Am I that good really? Not according to the law, and my sins it shows.
2) Am I receiving good things? We all do, in abundance. Sometimes just not the ones we want when we want them.
3) Is something wrong? Yes, but with us, not with God.
4) Don’t worry. God will fix it. He already has.

III. God Says, “You’re right, it’s NOT fair!”

God is supremely unfair and supremely fair at the same time.

Unfair – “he does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities”. Some would say this is not fair. You might look at the sinner over there and WANT God to punish him or her. You might expect that a fair and just God would mete out due punishment to THOSE people. If he doesn’t, it’s not fair!

But if the bank error is in YOUR favor, you are usually not the one to complain about it. Was the servant who came last to the field the one complaining about receiving an entire day’s wage? No. It is the other servants who felt they deserved more – they spoke up.

Perhaps one lesson in this story is the great danger in comparing ourselves to others. We risk losing sight of our own faults and failings.

So which servant are you? Which one am I?

We should see ourselves , with humility, as that final servant – the one who deserves it least. We should all say with Paul, “I am chief of sinners”. For, in all fairness, none of us deserves the blessings God gives. Perhaps this is where the extension of the parable must end – for workers deserve a wage, but sinners deserve punishment, not grace. We deserve damnation not glory. Even our so-called “good work” is disgusting to God on its own. For us to receive a wage at ALL is definitely not fair.

So God is, in a sense, unfair. He is unfair to US, and that is something to be thankful for. But God is, in another sense, ultimately fair.

Fair – he demonstrates his justice in Christ, who bears the wages of sin for all men. God’s divine wrath is meted out, but it is focused on one many, channeled through his cross. All the righteous anger and punishment that – in all fairness, we deserve – is executed. But not on us! That’s the wonderful twist in God’s sense of fair play. He satisfies his own demands himself.

So now, in Christ, we rightly claim a place in God’s kingdom. We claim the inheritance of sons. We have, by Christ’s work, an earned credit with God. His work on the cross, and his perfectly lived life – we get the credit for all that. Like the workers who slaved in the fields all day, and the latecomer benefits from their efforts – how much more do we latecomers benefit from the work of Christ? In fact we bring nothing to the table.
We are beneficiaries of his “unfair fairness”.
Reflecting on this parable of Jesus, we could say: In God’s kingdom, life isn’t fair. If it were, we would all be in deep trouble. But Jesus took what we deserved, and gave us what we don’t. He satisfied God’s sense of fairness, and brings us the wages of His death – which are eternal life, forgiveness, and peace. It’s not fair! Thank God. In Jesus Christ, Amen.

We put a premium on fairness in our world, but God’s view of fairness is much different from ours. But in Jesus Christ, God’s sense of fair play is a true blessing to us.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hymn- "The Owner of the Vineyard"

”The Owner of the Vineyard”
Tune: Munich
(LW# 355 “O Word of God Incarnate”)

The owner of the vineyard,
Hired workers in the morn,
And all throughout the work day,
He kept on hiring more.
The wage for those first working,
A fair one for the day.
The owner told the others,
A fair price he would pay.

And when those early workers,
Saw all were paid the same,
Their jealousy apparent,
The scoffing, grumbling came.
The owner called the question,
“Am I not fair to you?
With my own wealth I pay those,
As I see fit to do.”

Forgive us in your vineyard,
For greed and jealousy.
Remind us of your mercy,
Oh Lord, and let us be,
In Christ, all faithful workers,
No thoughts of the reward,
Until the work day closes,
Then call us heavenward.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More PETA Stunts...

Here's the latest:

A new pamphlet produced by an organization funded by the food and restaurant industry presents 19 examples, including:

-An image of the Virgin Mary cradling a dead chicken with the text "Go Vegetarian. It's an Immaculate Conception."

-A photo of emaciated Jewish Holocaust victims cramped in their sleeping quarters juxtaposed with a picture of chickens in coops at a modern factory farm, all under the headline "To Animals, All People Are Nazis."

-A picture of a pig's head next to the slogan "He Died for Your Sins. Go Vegetarian."

PETA continues to deny man's unique creation in the image of God. To elevate animals to the level of man, to me, is to disregard the creator, who made a clear distinction here. It's like the old pagan cults which idolized animals.

This will disgust you...

"Souther Decadence" goes on, despite the Hurricane. Read more here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hymn - "Have Mercy On Your Servant"

"Have Mercy On Your Servant"
Tune: King’s Lynn
(LW 193 “By All Your Saints in Warfare”)
Matthew 18:21-35

“Have mercy on your servant,”
The servant begs his king,
“Oh, sir, be patient with me,
And I will payment bring,”
But what he owed was weighty,
The debt great and severe,
No hope for restitution,
With judgment drawing near.

But lo, the King had mercy,
The servants’ debt forgave,
No penalty he rendered,
No sentence he proclaimed,
But simply, freely pardoned,
He cancelled what was owed,
The debt no longer weighing,
The king his mercy showed.

The servant met another,
Who owed a small amount,
But he, no mercy showing,
Would settle this account,
He had the debtor punished,
The irony, how great,
Unmerciful, ungrateful,
This servant filled with hate.

But when the king heard of it,
The servant was denounced,
“You are a wicked servant”
The righteous king pronounced,
“Why did you not show mercy,
as I had done to you?”
The servant jailed and punished,
Received what he was due.

O Lord, our king and master,
Our debt of sin is great,
But we know your forgiveness,
In Christ you clean the slate,
Now move our hearts to mercy,
In all we say and do,
That we reflect forgiveness,
Which we know first through you.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Sermon - Pentecost 17 - Romans 13:1-10

Pentecost 16, September 4th, 2005
“God is Right-Handed”
Romans 13:1-10

I want to begin by saying just a few words about the recent hurricane Katrina and the damage left in its wake. I’m sure our hearts and prayers go out to the many victims of this tragedy, and perhaps you even know some personally. I know that many will also give generously to support relief and cleanup and rebuilding efforts. The loss of life and property has been, and continues to be staggering. But God is still God. We don’t always know why he allows one tragedy to occur while preventing another. His ways are mysterious. But may this event serve for us as a reminder that life is short, that we live in a broken world, and that only God can fix it. And he has promised to fix it one day. As all creation groans with the pangs of childbirth, looking forward to that day, may we continue on in faith, looking forward to the kingdom that is to come, through Jesus Christ.

Our sermon today is based on the Epistle from Romans 13. Here St. Paul gives some instructions about the Christian in relation to the Government. His line of thinking is built on the commandments, and on Jesus’ own teaching about government (Render unto Caesar what it Caesar’s). Today we will examine all this a little more closely, but also move on to another authority, a greater authority in Christ.

A little boy wanted $100 to buy a new bike, and his mother told him to pray to God for it. He prayed and prayed for two weeks, but nothing turned up. Then he decided perhaps he should write God a letter requesting the $100.00.
When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to God, they opened it up and decided to send it to the President. The President was so impressed, touched and amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a check for $5.00. He thought that this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy.
The little boy was delighted with the $5.00 and sat down to write a thank-you letter to God, which read:
Dear God;Thank you very much for the money. I noticed that you had to send it through Washington. As usual, they deducted $95.00 for themselves.

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but would you believe God tells his people they should? That the Bible tells us to obey the government, honor it, and respect the governing authorities as agents of God?

I. The Fourth Commandment
The fourth commandment reads:
You must honor your father and mother.
Q. What does this mean?
(Our Small Catechism explains):
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will neither look down on our parents or superiors nor irritate them, but will honor them, serve them, obey them, love them and value them.

Notice, our parents AND “other authorities” or “superiors” are to be honored. Just like Paul says here in Romans 13. We should give everyone what we owe him:
Different authorities, different spheres on influence, with differing demands on us. But each of these is to be respected by God’s people, as an authority put in place by God. Do we always do this? And why does it matter?

If you disrespect the (rightful) authorities, you are in effect, disrespecting God. If you break the law of the land, you are breaking God’s law. God does not rule and keep order in the world directly, but he does it through parents, teachers, bosses, police officers, judges, kings and presidents, and through any earthly authority in its rightful auspices.

Notice I said “rightful”. The principle of Peter always applies here, “We must obey God rather than man!”. Earthly authority can never supersede God’s authority or conflict with it. If it does, “we must obey God rather than man”. But in most cases, we honor the authority as representative of the Lord.

II. Two Kingdoms
Martin Luther used a handy phrase to explain this. He called it the theology of “two kingdoms”. The idea is, that God rules the world in two different ways. Through earthly government and earthly authorities, he rules by laws, regulations, power, and (as Romans also makes clear) through the power of the sword. This is what Luther called the left hand kingdom. Then there is the right hand kingdom – the realm of the church, the Gospel and grace. It’s more foreign to us by nature, but infinitely more full of blessings.

In the Left hand Kingdom rules a kind of authority we humans are used to, the exercise of superior force to make people do things, and prevent or deter them from doing other things. When we think of an authority figure, we think of someone strong, maybe overbearing. Someone worthy of respect, perhaps, but also to be feared. And someone who, ultimately, tells you what to do.

Now the left hand kingdom is good. God brings many blessings through it. For one, he keeps a general sense of order in the world. We have seen what can happen when law and order break down – and sinful human nature is let loose. Violence and theft run rampant. Through governmental authority order is kept so that we may live in peace.

Also in the left hand kingdom, God provides for our physical welfare, safety and security. And yes, even roads and schools and the like, blessings of the body, are part of God’s ordering through the left hand kingdom. Humans authorities are never perfect, but they are ordered by God himself.

Why do we then, so often dishonor such authority? And what is it in us that urges rebellion against authority of any kind? When someone tells you, “you HAVE to do this!” why is your first reaction, “Oh yeah? Make me!”. Like when you tell a child not to touch something, but they stick their finger out and get it as close as they can without touching, watching, testing the limits. What can I get away with?

We are sinful humans. We don’t like laws and rules, much as we need them. Because we are not perfect, and we don’t meet the standards of the law.

A college friend of mine once went to a workshop in which the presenter illustrated how many years of jail time each of us would be serving, had we been caught for each and every minor law-breaking we committed. If every time you went over the speed limit, every time you jaywalked, parked illegally, or ripped a tag off a mattress, every time you broke a copyright law, or fudged on your taxes… if we ALWAYS got caught, most of us would be in jail for a number of years.

How much more would we be in hot water according to the laws of the right hand kingdom, that is the moral laws of God? The laws of the state are fairly limited, compared to God’s law which says, “Love God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself”. Yes, the laws of the right hand kingdom are harder to keep. But one other thing about the right hand kingdom of God is different. There we find forgiveness. There, we find Christ!

III. God is Right Handed!
Perhaps the most important thing to know is that God is Right Handed!

If the Left hand Kingdom seems to take, take, take, ($5 for you and $95 for us), in the Right Hand Kingdom, God simply gives (100% for you, free and clear).

In the left hand kingdom, you must pay for what you get, earn your living and guard your property. In the right hand kingdom, God’s riches are a free gift in Christ, he guards them for us, prepares for us heavenly real-estate.

The left hand kingdom can mete out punishment, judgment and the like. But in the right hand kingdom, sinners are forgiven! The left imprisons, but the right sets free!

In the left hand kingdom, if you break the law, you can be put to death. But in the right, Jesus faces death and takes our place in the grave.

The left hand kingdom has the power to take life away. But in the right hand kingdom, Jesus Christ brings us life!

God administers justice in the left hand kingdom through government and authority figures. In the right hand kingdom he gives Pastors who bring his grace, in word and sacrament.

What a blessing to know and be known by the true king of all, Jesus Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world. Who rules our hearts and minds in peace. Who makes us co-heirs of God’s kingdom, and promises us mansions in heaven.

We Christians have a sort of dual citizenship – in the world, but not of it. We live in both kingdoms, and enjoy the benefits of each.

Both the left hand and the right hand kingdoms are good gifts of God. Through both he brings order and blessings to his people. The left hand, the secular, the earthly kingdom is far inferior, though. For in the Right hand kingdom God brings his Grace in Jesus Christ – which will last forever. Isn’t it nice to know that God is right handed? In Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Fourth Commandment teaches Christians to honor rightful authority, for it is a gift from God. Earthly authorities remind us of the heavenly authority who rules on our behalf, Jesus Christ our Lord.