Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sermon - St. John - John 21:20-25

December 27th 2009
John 21:20-25
“St. John”

In the month of December, we have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel in connection with various saints whose commemorations happen to fall on Sundays and Mondays throughout this month. St. Andrew, St. Nicholas, St. Lucia, and St. Thomas. One last saint in this crowded December lineup, one last believer of old who points us to Christ. Today, December 27th is the day remembering St. John, the apostle.

John was the writer of the Gospel account that bears his name, the fourth Gospel, with a different viewpoint than Matthew, Mark and Luke. A very distinct portrayal and emphasis on the same Jesus. John shows Jesus as the Word of God made flesh. John gets us thinking about deep mysteries wound up in simple concepts like light and darkness, the world, water, bread, and life. He shows Jesus as Yahweh with 7 great “I AM” statements, for instance, “I am the way, the truth and the life”, “I am the resurrection and the life” and “I am the Good Shepherd”. The Holy Spirit used John to give us great insight into our Lord Jesus Christ that we could find nowhere else.

John also wrote three letters and recorded his vision in the book of Revelation. Perhaps second only to St. Paul, John is our most important New Testament writer.

Like all the saints we've been hearing about, let's not look at John in his own right. Instead, let us see him as another lens for seeing Jesus Christ, John's savior and ours.

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Not that Jesus didn't love all his disciples. But that was John's way of referring to himself in the Gospel account he wrote. “The disciple whom Jesus loved”. Perhaps a way of showing his humility. Perhaps a way for John to show that the most notable thing about himself, about all of us really, is that we are objects of Christ's love.

Peter, James and John were the inner circle of the 12, the three closest to Jesus. With him on the Mount of Transfiguration. With him in Gethsemane. John was the only one of the disciples recorded as being present when Jesus was crucified. Jesus trusted him with the care of his mother Mary, “Behold your mother”. John was also first to enter the empty tomb on Easter morning, running past Peter in great excitement at the news.
I mentioned that John's Gospel gives a distinct view of Jesus as the word of God made flesh. John doesn't begin his Gospel account with shepherds and angels or wise men from the East. He says, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God... and the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”. This is John's version of the nativity. That Jesus Christ is the living Word of God, and God himself from the beginning, by whom all things were made. And he, the agent of creation – pitches his tent in human flesh, among us. A profound mystery.

John was, like all saints, also a sinner. And perhaps we see that best in the account where John and his brother James request a special place in the kingdom. Through their mother, they request to sit at Jesus' left and right hand when he comes into his glory. This selfish request shows they had their own glory in mind, and totally misunderstood the point of Jesus' work. He was a savior from sin. But in John's mind, sin wasn't as big a problem as those Roman occupiers. In John's mind, he would share in the glory when Jesus led the rebellion to win Jewish freedom from oppression. He would sit at Jesus' right hand.

Not too unlike us, who sometimes want Jesus for our own purposes, rather than his. What can he give us, what prayer can he answer? How can he make me feel? Do we forget or ignore the true nature of his work, the real reason he came? He's here to deal with our sin. Which means we need to admit our sin problem.

Interestingly, it appears John did sit at Jesus right or left, at the Last Supper. He was “reclining at table close to [Jesus] and said, 'who is it that is going to betray you?” John was given a place of honor, though he didn't deserve it. And as we approach our Lord's table at his invitation today, we too are honored, even though we don't deserve it. We are forgiven for our betrayals and denials, our cowardice and laziness – every way that we fail as his disciples. Still he feeds us. Still he loves us.

Tradition tells us that John moved to Ephesus and served as pastor and bishop there, and that he was the only one of the 12 apostles not to meet a martyrs death, but to die instead of old age. That doesn't mean he didn't face persecution! He was imprisoned once with Peter, and later sent to exile on the island of Patmos. But as one of the youngest apostles became a last living link to those who had personally known Jesus... John had gotten pretty old. And the rumors began. Even as John was writing his gospel, he corrected the false idea that he, John, would never die. Jesus never said exactly that, John clarifies.

But still, he did say in John's Gospel, “he who believes in me will live even though he dies” and “he who lives and believes in me will never die”. What a great mystery John reveals, that in Christ we have life, even in death. In Christ we live forever, even when we die. And so, John did, and John does live – in Christ. As do we, and as we will forever.

Let John serve also as an example of lifelong faith in Christ, and as we grow into old age let us never forget the promise of life in Christ forever. Let John's words, God's words recorded by John, be a continual source of encouragement to us as we daily grow in repentance and faith through Christ.

The Christian church gives thanks for all the saints who have gone before us, who show God's mighty working in the lives of people like us. Thank God for John the fisherman, turned apostle and evangelist, and visionary and pastor. John who showed us Jesus, the resurrection and the life.

Sermon - Christmas Day - Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Day 2009
Luke 2:1-20
“Christmas is. Christmas isn't”

It's finally here. After all the preparations, all the waiting, all the expectation. Christmas is today. And Christmas is many things.

Christmas is decorations and celebrations. Christmas is Ham and Egg Nog and Cookies. Christmas is white, and red and green. Christmas is visions of sugarplums and big-hearted grinches.

Or is it?

Christmas is family. Christmas is spending time with loved ones. Christmas is love and joy and peace and good cheer. Christmas is giving, not receiving.

Or is it?

Is Christmas all these things? Surely it's not the crass and the outward, the greedy selfishness and sparkly lights. Perhaps it's the higher ideals, the love and generosity, the “spirit of Christmas” sort of thing.

Or is it?

What is Christmas, without Christ? It isn't.

And for all the moaning we do about “keeping Christ in Christmas”, for all the tisk tisks we point at our culture and world. For all the rightful criticism of those people who lose the true reason for the season... We aren't much better.

We are payers of lip-service. We say it's all about Jesus. We make of point of saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”. We even come to church when everyone else is home unwrapping presents and relaxing. We look good on the outside. But on the inside, from within us, comes the rot. Sin. Deceit. Selfishness. Anger. Revenge. Doubts. Lusts. Arrogance. Self-righteousness. And when no one is looking, and even sometimes when they are, the fangs come out. We show ourselves.

Christmas is, for many of us, another opportunity to lie to ourselves. To find comfort and peace somewhere other than in Christ. To tell ourselves how good we are for all our generosity. To pat ourselves on the back for how hard we worked to bring it all together. To distract ourselves from reality with some warm fuzzies and fleeting nostalgia. But none of that is really Christmas.

For some, Christmas isn't even that. It's a time to remember, perhaps in great sadness. It's a time to lament the losses of our life, the loved ones who are gone. It's a time of loneliness and helplessness. A sad little corner of the year that no one else seems to visit like you do. Is this what Christmas is?

Whenever we take our eyes off Jesus, we lose Christmas, no matter the reason. No matter what the date on the calendar says.

If Jesus is the reason for the season, what is the reason for Jesus? Why did he bother? Why give up his throne, his honor, his power and glory? Why be born a human? Why follow all the rules, heal the sick, raise the dead and preach good news to the poor? Why the betrayal, the suffering, the mockery, the sentence of death? Why the cross?

Jesus has a reason. To save. The reason he was born, was to die. The reason he died, is to save. To save you and me and all people from sin. To save us from the devil's power when we were gone astray. To save us from death by his death. To save us for life by his rising to life again.

Without Christ – the Christ who lives and dies for us – Christmas is nothing. But with Jesus, Christmas is everything. It is cause for wonder and joy. It is a treasure for the heart. It is glory to God and peace on earth. With Jesus, and in Jesus, Christmas is cause for singing and rejoicing, celebration and good cheer. Because Christ comes to save us from sin.

Christmas isn't anything more or less than the recognition that God's own Son sets foot on our little pebble of a planet. That he stoops so low as to put on our skin and bones. That he fulfills his ancient promises to his people. That he, and he alone is the worker of salvation. Christmas is about Christ, what he does, and who he does it for. Jesus Christ – for you, for us all.

Christmas is life: it is the beginning of Jesus' earthly life, and the beginning of our eternal life. It's the first earthly step in the Son of God's walk to the cross, and of our flight with him to heaven. Christmas greens – evergreens – do well reminding us that in Christ, our life is forever.
Christmas is love: God is love, and that love became flesh at Christmas. But love isn't just feelings, it's action. And greater love has no one than laying down his life for his friends. That kind of love was just what this baby is about.

Christmas is gifts. It's not about your little gifts, given OR received. But it is about God's greatest gift, and the multitude of gifts he brings. Jesus gives life, salvation, righteousness, healing, relief, atonement, resurrection, new birth, new creation, a crown of victory, a place in the Father's house, God's love and favor. He gives water and word in a flood of blessings. He gives his body and blood in a feast of forgiveness. Christmas gifts, if you will, from God's gift to this earth.

Christmas is all about Christ. Have a blessed Christmas, in Jesus Christ our newborn king. Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sermon - Advent Midweek 3 - Matthew 2:10-12

Midweek Advent 3 – December 16, 2009
Matthew 2:10-12
“Myrrh for the Prophet”

The wise men brought their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. The Gold reminds us of Christ's kingly office – for he rules our hearts by the Gospel. The Frankincense connects to his priestly role – the one who offers up the pleasing aroma of prayer and sacrifice, even self-sacrifice, to God on our behalf.

Today we come to that last gift, myrrh. Like the other gifts, there's more to it than something expensive and nice to show how much we appreciate this important person. There are hints of meaning in these gifts which point to the identity of this child. We'll draw connections between the myrrh and Christ's final office of prophet.

Myrrh is, like frankincense, an aromatic substance made from dried tree sap. It, too, was used from ancient times, and was very valuable. Myrrh cost up to 5 times as much as frankincense, and was sometimes worth more than its weight in gold.

While it was, like frankincense, a common ingredient in incense and perfumes, we think of myrrh mostly in connection with burial rites. It was burned along with the body in Roman cremations, and used to embalm Jewish bodies in preparation for burial.

Another way to understand the significance of a word is in Scripture is to see where else it is mentioned. Should it surprise us to see myrrh reappearing in the New Testament account of Christ's passion?

When Jesus was crucified, the soldiers offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he would not drink it. This mixture of wine and myrrh was a mild anesthetic – a small gesture of mercy afforded to crucifixion victims – a little something to numb the pain. But Jesus wouldn't take any less than the suffering that was appointed for him. He would meet his fate head on, no holding back. He would suffer the full measure of God's punishment for sins – our sins.

And then myrrh is mentioned again, after Jesus dies. In John 19, Nicodemus brings a mixture of myrrh and aloe, a hundred pounds worth, to prepare Jesus' body for burial. Perhaps Jesus' Mother Mary, when she smelled the myrrh on that good Friday, recalled the visit of the men from the East, and their unusual gifts.

Remember the woman who poured perfume on Jesus' feet, and he said she did a “beautiful thing” because she anointed him for burial. He knew ahead of time how he would face death. Just as he had repeatedly predicted it to his apostles. But he wasn't the only one.

John the Baptist called it publicly – that Jesus was the “Lamb of God” , foreseeing his sacrifice. The prophets of old – they saw it too. Isaiah: “he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted... wounded for our iniquities”. The Psalms: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and “You will not abandon me to the grave”. In fact one of the most striking predictions the prophets made about the coming Messiah was that he would die for his people.

The word of the prophets, you see, pointed to the Word made Flesh. Jesus, the ultimate prophet. King of Kings, Priest of Priests, Prophet of Prophets. The ultimate messenger of God.

He is the messenger, and he is the content. The medium IS the message! The good news is all about Jesus Christ – who he is, what he does for sinners like you and me. There is no gospel apart from him. There's nothing worth knowing or hearing, if not for him.

Most people think of a prophet as one who tells the future. Strictly speaking, the prophet is just a messenger, who might happen to tell the future. But Jesus does show us what is to come. The one who not only predicts but brings hope to our future. His resurrection is prophetic in this way – it shows us our own future. He goes to the grave and is raised again, and so shall we. He lives with God forever, and so shall we. Death has no power over him, nor will it over us for eternity.

To be a prophet is to bring a message, and often to die at the hands of men who don't want to hear it. Isaiah, Jeremeiah, Habbakuk, even John the Baptist. All slain by wicked men without ears to hear God's word.

The myrrh of the wise men reminds us that this baby Jesus was born to be a prophet – and to die a prophet's death. His message from God would be rejected by many, but received by some. Those in power would put him to death, but his message could not be silenced anymore than death could hold him in the grave.

What do we do with the word of our prophet? Do we seek to silence and bury God's word? Especially those words which expose us for our sins? Do we make our sins smell better with a thin perfume of good works or rationalizations? Do we try to point to the meager trinkets we think are fit to lay before him?

Or do we daily drown the Old Adam in repentance by returning to our baptism? Do you have ears to hear the good news of the Prophet – the message of Jesus Christ for you? He who died your death and gives you his life?

Can you see in the manger, not only the holy infant, tender and mild, but also the prophet, the priest and the king worshiped by the wise men? The one who was born to die, and to give us HIS gifts – not of gold, frankincense and myrrh... but of forgiveness, new life, and salvation.

As you celebrate Christmas, with all the sparkling lights, and all the smells and sounds and warm fuzzy feelings, and even as you receive and give gifts, give thanks for the one who received gold, frankincense and myrrh, but who gives us so much more – even himself, his life. What child is this? This, this is Christ the Lord. Amen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Interesting story about the Samaritans (still around today!) and their genes.

Sermon - Advent Midweek 2 - Matthew 2:10-12

Midweek Advent 2 – December 9, 2009
Matthew 2:10-12
“Frankincense for the Priest”

This Advent, we've been taking a closer look at the three gifts brought by the wise men to the infant Jesus. In particular, we're paying attention to what these three gifts say about the one who receives them – how they show him as our Prophet, Priest, and King. Last week we considered the gift of gold, and its association with royalty. Jesus is our king, but he is a different kind of king. He redeems us not with gold, but with something more precious – his blood shed for us. He's our king.

But the next gift mentioned is the frankincense. Tonight, let's consider the frankincense along with Jesus' role as our great High Priest.

Frankincense has been used for thousands of years. It's an aromatic ingredient in perfumes, but more than just the “yankee candle” of its day.

It's made from a milky tree-sap that was sometimes difficult to harvest. One story from southern Africa says the trees that were tapped for it were also home to highly venomous snakes. The natives would smoke the snakes out of the trees in order to collect the sap.

In any case, this substance was greatly valued by the ancients. Frankincense was one of the treasures found in the tomb of king Tutankhamen, for instance. So along with the gold Jesus received, it was a thing of value. But this sweet smelling substance also had a religious significance.

Frankincense was a major ingredient in the incense that was burned for the various rituals at the Tabernacle. It was associated with the prayers of the people and the sacrifices. “Let my prayer rise before you as incense” the Psalmist writes, and the picture was of the people's prayers rising like the smoke of the sweet smelling incense, the aroma of which was pleasing to God above. Some Christians still use incense, even today, to signify our prayers ascending to God. As the smoke of ancient burnt offerings arose, it was also mixed with the desirable scent of frankincense. And so both the prayers and the sacrifices were offered to God, on behalf of the people, by the priests.

To present Jesus with frankincense is a not-so-subtle reminder that he is a priest. Not just any priest, but the great high priest. A better and more important priest than any other. The priest to which all other priests point, and from whom they derive. But what is the role of the priest?

The priest is, chiefly, a representative. Someone who stands in the place of the people before God. An intermediary figure. A go-between.

We need a go-between because of sin. Sinful people like you and me can't stand on our own in the presence of God, for he is holy. We need a buffer – a mediator – a priest to get us there. And God, in his grace and mercy, provides the priests to stand in the gap and deal with those sins.

When the high priest of the Old Testament transferred the sins of the people to the scapegoat – he was doing it for all the people of Israel. When the blood of the bull was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant, it was for the sins of all the people. Everyday Israelites didn't make their own sacrifices. They bought or brought animals and grains and such, and these were offered on their behalf by the priests.

So too Jesus acts on our behalf. He is our representative, taking our place, before God, in life and death.

He lived for us. There's a reason he didn't come to Earth in majesty and glory, but as the humble babe of Bethlehem. There's a reason he took on human flesh, born of a virgin. He came to live a human life – as a priest – to walk the walk of humanity in order to redeem it. He lives the perfect human life we all fail to do. He upholds the law of God to a tee. He is like us in every way, yet without sin. And as our representative, he earns for us a righteousness we could never earn on our own. And his good works are pleasing to God, like the pleasing aroma of incense. God smiles on Jesus, and on us.

And Jesus died for us. The irony is that the priest is also the sacrifice. The Lamb of God who offers himself on the altar of the cross. Jesus' death is also a pleasing aroma to God, and as he commits his spirit to the hands of his Father, again it is for us. The price of God's wrath is paid by his substitution in our place. He took the punishment we deserve. He paid the debt we owe. And again, God is pleased with us, because of Christ.

Jesus rose from the dead, and thus shows that God accepted his sacrifice. Which is good news for us! Jesus rose from the dead and shows that we too will rise to eternal life. He's not only the priest, but also the fore-runner, the first born of the dead, the priest who lives forever.

And Jesus is still our high priest, even now. Seated at the right hand of the Father, we understand he does so also for us, as our representative. His prayers for us still rise to God's ears, his intercession for us as pleasing incense to the Father. Jesus continues to serve as our go-between, bringing our prayers and petitions to God. That's why we pray “in Jesus' name”. That's how we can have confidence of our standing before God.

Jesus received gold, for he is the king of kings. He receives frankincense, for he is the priest of priests. He is the one who sacrifices himself for us. He is the one who intercedes for us. His person and work are a pleasing aroma to the Father. And through our Great High priest, we approach that same heavenly throne.

Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, our prophet, priest, and king! Amen.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Church is a Family, Not a Business!

I live in a town in which the most influential company is SC Johnson, whose tagline is, "A family company". While I hear lots of nice things about this company, the fact is, it's still a corporation and not really a family.

Lately, I keep running across this little aphorism, "The Church is a family, not a business!" And it rings true.

So it got me to thinking about how a family is DIFFERENT from a business:
  • A family is based on relationships of love. A business is based on numbers and profits.
  • A family is about who you are. A business is about what you do.
  • The family is instituted by God. A business is founded by man.
  • The family is structured to reflect deep truths about our relationship with God - we are his children, we are part of Christ's bride. A business is structured for maximum efficiency toward the goal of producing and profiting.
  • A family thrives when it is spiritually strong. A business doesn't care about things spiritual.
  • Membership in a family is permanent. Employment at a business isn't so sure.
  • Families value each individual as equal members. Businesses pay employees based on value to the company.
Like families, churches have squabbles and tensions, and sometimes even that crazy uncle. We sin against each other, but hopefully reconcile under the cross. Dysfunctional churches are like dysfunctional families, and growing up in one can be just as damaging. But as a haven for the hurting and a place to learn what love is all about - the church is very much a family. We are God's children in Jesus Christ. We are Christ's bride, the church. We are loved by him and we love each other for Jesus' sake. We are HIS family, and he is the head of the household.

So why do so many want to make church a business? While some lessons can translate from the business world into the family (or the church), there is a real danger of "going corporate". Perhaps it's our American obsession with "success" that drives it. Or maybe its our declining ability as a culture to make distinctions. Certainly, we can point modern Evangelicalism which has imported business models and ideas and language into churches. Is it confusion about what the church is? Is it a lack of trust in churchly things to solve the church's problems?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Sermon - Advent Midweek 1 - Matthew 2:10-12

Midweek Advent 1 – December 2, 2009
Matthew 2:10-12
“Gold for the King”

For our midweek Advent series, we'll be looking at the gifts of the wise men from the east. These foreigners who worshiped the Christ-child brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Each week we'll be looking at one of the threefold gifts for how it connects to Christ's threefold office of Prophet, Priest and King.

I won't belabor the background of the story. You know the account of the wise men from the East, and how they followed the star to the baby Jesus. We usually think of three men, though it's really only their three gifts that are numbered. We make the wise men and their gifts part of our nativity scenes, even though they probably came over a year after Jesus' birth. Still, Matthew's Gospel, which intends to show Jesus as the true Messiah, is careful to include these strange visitors and their noteworthy gifts. There's more than just Christmas card sentimentality here. There's a profound message that answers the question, “What Child is This?”

Tonight, let's take the first gift, gold. We hear a lot about gold nowadays. Companies are even offering to buy your spare gold – you can send it through the mail. It still is today like it was then – a precious commodity, one of the most valued substances on earth.

So much so, that when John sees his vision of Heaven in the book of Revelation, it is pictured as a city whose streets are paved with gold. Likewise, believers in Christ are promised a golden crown of victory. The Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple were adorned with Gold, including the Ark of the Covenant, the very throne of God on earth.

Gold is also a likely object of our sinfully placed affections. The Golden Calf incident in Exodus reminds us of the many false gods we construct and worship. Money itself, earthly riches, whether gold or green, are just as much a temptation to sin. Gold usually means trouble for us in our sins and temptations.

Sometimes we think we bring some value to God. That our gifts are worth something to him. But if that's why we bring our gold, it's insufficient. God doesn't need our money, and it can't buy us his favor. Likewise, some bring their good works and lay them before him as if he's impressed by such filthy rags. No, there is no gold ring that makes this pig pretty enough for God. Instead we need him to give us something. We need him to do something for us. The good news is, he does just that. Jesus our king, gives us better than gold, and does for us even better than that.

If gold is associated with anything in Holy Scripture, it might first bring to mind royalty. A gift fit for a king. When the wise men come to worship the Christ-child, their gifts make a statement. They speak powerfully. This child deserves such gifts, he is worthy to receive this gold, because he is a king.

Remember they asked crabby old Herod, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” Did they know who they were asking? Herod, who was appointed by the Romans to be king over the Jews? “Herod, where's your replacement? Where's the person who REALLY belongs on your throne?” No wonder King Herod was threatened.

Years later, Jesus would stand before another Herod. And while that King Herod wanted Jesus to do parlor tricks, Jesus gave no answer. He said little to that other earthly power, Pontius Pilate, either. Like a lamb before slaughter, he was silent. But he did tell Pilate this: “my kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight...”

No, Jesus is a different kind of king. Kings of this world hunger for power, glory and honor. Kings of this world have armies and troops and wage wars. Kings of this world amass riches and wealth and silver and gold. But not Jesus.

He came as a servant-king. He came to rule not our land, not to take our gold, but to rule our lives in love. A benevolent dictator indeed.

His authority isn't by birthright or royal lineage, though he had that too. Son of David, descended from Israel's great king of old. Even today Jews look back to king David as the pinnacle of their ancient glory. David's rule was mighty, and his kingship worth remembering. But Jesus is great David's greater son. In fact, Jesus is David's Lord. Jesus is David's savior and ours. Jesus is the one to whom David looked forward, and in whom he trusted.

This king, Jesus, does have an army - a heavenly host of angels, sent with his message, sent as his agents. He sends them to guard and protect us, and one day to gather the elect and execute judgment on the wicked.

Pilate confessed it in spite of himself, Jesus was and is a king. “This is the king of the Jews” Pilate wrote, and posted the sign above the cross. This king wears a crown not of gold, but of thorns. This king doesn't kill his enemies, he dies for them. This king is not of this world.

We are redeemed, purchased and won back from sin and death by Jesus. And our king redeems us with some thing more valuable than gold or silver. He sheds his holy, precious blood. He endures suffering, death, and the wrath of God.

All this royal mystery wrapped up in swaddling clothes – or perhaps by the time of the wise men, toddling around in Bethlehem. And when Herod, the king of this world, tried to kill Jesus, the holy family fled to Egypt. They probably paid for the trip with the gold brought by the wise men. And when Herod died, they returned, and God's plan of salvation in Christ continued to unfold.

It would lead to Nazareth, to Jerusalem, to the cross, to the empty tomb, and from Judea, to Samaria, to Rome, to the ends of the earth. For Jesus is king of kings and Lord of Lords. He is king of the Jews, but also king of the gentiles.

He deserves all our gold and more – for he gave us everything he had, even his life. And he makes us rich. He proclaims to us the Gospel – more precious than gold – the message of salvation through Him.

Until his second Advent, we trust our king to rule well. Seated at the right hand of God, he oversees all things for the good of his church, his royal priesthood. We anticipate the day when our king comes again in glory. For he promises us a crown of gold – a victory at the last, and a reign with him for eternity. What a gift! What a king! Amen.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Tiger Woods

I've enjoyed watching Tiger golf over the years. I'm not huge into golf, but I'm much more likely to watch while he's in the hunt. I guess that's why I am mildly interested in the recent kerfuffle over his accident, and now, apparent marital affairs.

I read his statement. As a pastor, it interests me when public figures use words like, "transgressions" and "sins". Tiger makes the case that while his actions were wrong, they are a private matter between him and his family.

I don't think the media should be intruding here, and should really leave it alone. There's no good purpose in embarrassing him. There's no benefit other than the lurid details will make money for the media who report them.

But I think Tiger is missing something here: Marriage is a public estate. It's a legal arrangement recognized by the government and society. Marital infidelity is not, therefore, entirely a private matter either. It's one thing to get into a fight with your spouse. It's quite another to push the marital nuke button. There is a difference between a private matter and a public scandal.

His status as a public figure makes these sins all the more damaging. Not only is he embarrassing his family in an exponentially more public forum, but he's also contributing to the ever-declining cultural regard for marriage. People see what other people do, and people see what famous people do even more.

If he means what he says in the statement, then it's good as far as it goes. Obviously, it's not a Christian statement of repentance - it doesn't reference Christ who died for these sins and all sins. I don't know what, if anything, Tiger believes about that.

He wants to avoid a "public confession". I think that would be appropriate and helpful, considering what he's put his wife through.

But his stated intention to do better from now on is more we've seen from many public apologies. Let's just pray for his sake that he finds forgiveness not only from his wife, but from his Lord. Now THAT would be a good public example.