"And They Shall Be Taught By God" John 6:45

Pentecost 12
August 12, 2018

     In the beginning of the movie Animal House, the camera pans across the campus and we see carved into the base of the school founder's statue the words “Knowledge is good.” That quote is such a silly cliché that it tips off the audience not to take any of what they are about to see seriously—that this movie is going to be a satire about foolish college students behaving badly. It’s a very funny movie that makes us laugh at ourselves for sometimes being silly, sophomoric, and irresponsible.

       The Gospel of John is about as different from Animal House as you can get. John’s Gospel begins with the sobering words, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Where the director of Animal House prepares his audience for a farce, John from the first sentence of his gospel prepares his audience to meet God.  The central theme of John’s Gospel is that Jesus Christ has made God known in a way that no one else has or possibly could (John 1.18). Jesus did not just teach about God, but God revealed himself definitively in Jesus of Nazareth such that it may be said that if you don’t know the man Jesus Christ, you don’t know God; or, to put it another way, you don’t know God until you know Jesus Christ, the only man who was, is, and forever will be fully God (John 10.30).       

       In the third chapter of his Gospel, John introduces us to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, who came to Jesus by night saying to him, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher come from God” (John 3.2). By calling him “rabbi," Nicodemus meant to pay Jesus a compliment. But Jesus did not take it as a compliment. A rabbi is a teacher. Jesus was much more than that. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a teacher. One of the great joys of life is learning from a good teacher. A good teacher is able to touch her students on a spiritual level and get them to be as excited about her field of study as she is. You don’t become a good teacher just by having expertise in a certain field. You’ve got to love the study, and you’ve got to love your students and want them to love it as much as you do. It’s that love of learning and the ability to impart it to others that enables a good teacher to make a great difference in a person’s life.

      Jesus was a great teacher. We first meet him at age twelve in the Temple teaching the rabbis and impressing them with his love for the word of God and with knowledge of scripture way beyond his years. And then we meet him again in the gospels as a mature man employing parables to teach his disciples about prayer and the faith. We hear him in the Sermon on the Mount inspiring his disciples to hope and trust in God’s mercy, to love one another, be servants of each other, be charitable to all, be kind and generous, be compassionate and forgiving of every wrong. He teaches us today, as he taught his disciples, to be prayerful, stay sober, respect marriage, control our sexual desires, honor our parents especially in their old age, and obey the Ten Commandments. Jesus taught people by word and example to imitate God and be merciful, be holy, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” he said  (Mt.5.48). If that isn’t good teaching, teaching people to be good, then I don’t know what good teaching is. So, we can’t be too hard on Nicodemus. Jesus was teaching people to obey God’s commandments and inspiring them with his passionate love for God’s word. He was in that sense a very good rabbi indeed.

       But what sets Jesus apart and makes him unique is that He was doing much more than teaching people about the Kingdom of Heaven. His larger mission was to open the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven and lead us in. “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me,” he said. “ And this is the will of him who sent me…that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6.38-40). A man who says that cannot be a good teacher. He can only be one of two things. He is either a narcissist with delusions of grandeur, a man out of his mind. Or he is who he claims to be. If he isn’t who he claims to be than he is a bad man, teaching a false doctrine and, therefore, anything but a good teacher. But if he came down from heaven to be the one from whom we sinners may receive eternal life, the one who will judge us in the end, then he is far more than just a good teacher. He is the redeemer of our souls, a man among men but a man with no equal. If he was who he claimed to be then he was not only a messenger of God, he was the message. If he was who he said he was, then he not only had an expertise in scripture, he was the one who caused the scriptures to be written and of whom the scriptures speak. If he was who he said he was, he was the Word of God.

      So you can’t blame people for wondering about him. They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, I have come down from heaven?” It’s a natural question to ask of a man who lived at home with his mother until age thirty. How could this nobody from Nazareth possibly be from heaven? He must be out of his mind, right? And yet, when we see Jesus interact with all sorts of people and hear him speak, he doesn’t seem to be insane. He seems to be perfectly sane. So, what’s going on with Jesus? Who was he really?

       Well, he told us who he was when he said, “it is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God’.”  “And they shall all be taught by God” is a prophecy from Isaiah 54.13, a prophecy that Jesus fulfilled. If there’s any doubt that he fulfilled it, the passion, death and resurrection of Christ is more than enough to take that doubt away. For what did he teach the Jews? He taught them that they didn’t understand their own scriptures, because they did not understand that the Savior would come to them and be rejected and suffer at their hands, be killed by them and then rise again on the third day. Jesus alone understood that. He proved his divinity by being the only rabbi in the entire history of Israel who understood how salvation would come to Israel and to the world and then accomplishing it. And by fulfilling every detail of the prophecies, even rising from the dead on the third day, he left no doubt in the minds of those who knew him that in Jesus, all Israel had been taught by God.

        Jesus called his message the gospel or good news. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk.1.15), he boldly said. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that “at long last the promises of God announced by the prophets of Israel to forgive our sins and welcome us back into the kingdom of God from which we were exiled because of Adam’s sin is over. The Savior is among us, as he promised he would be, and our redemption is near.” In Jesus Christ, God fulfilled his promise and kept his word.  He promised that one day they will all be taught by God and they will all know me (Jer. 31.31-34), and in Jesus Christ that is what he did.  God came among us as one of us and by so doing fulfilled the scriptures that promised eternal redemption to all who believe in him and are baptized in his name. That is the gospel.

       You would think that the whole world would rejoice in this since what Christ accomplished on the cross, the expiation of our sins, benefits us all (1 John 2.1-2). Nevertheless, the gospel of God (Romans 1.1-5) is rejected by Jews who think Jesus was an unorthodox rabbi and a false prophet; it’s rejected by Moslems who claim he never died on the cross or rose from the dead; it’s rejected by liberals who worship reason while denying the supernatural and  rejecting even the possibility of divine revelation; it’s rejected by Hindus and Buddhists who worship many pagan gods and no gods; and it’s rejected by communists who believe that humankind will create its own salvation when the dictatorship of the proletariat is established on earth. I suppose there are as many reasons people reject the gospel as there are people who reject it.

       But one reason stands out to me. It’s hard to believe that God, if God exists, would come down from heaven. If you were in heaven would you come down here? We love life and are grateful for what we have in this world but if heaven, where love is perfected and suffering unknown, is half of what they say it is, I wouldn’t want to come back. It’s hard to believe that someone would come down from heaven if he didn’t have to. And God being God didn’t have to. But Jesus revealed to us, and this is his greatest teaching, that God is three eternal co-equal persons sharing one divine nature in perfect love. God is love (1 John 4.8). And the nature of perfect of love is that love does what it doesn’t have to do. Love is heroic and love is selfless. What our Lord did, he did for us from love. Heroically and selflessly, in the words of an ancient Christian hymn, “He, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2.5-8). The gospel of God coming down from heaven to suffer and die for us so that we might receive his Spirit and live eternally with him is a love story, the greatest of all love stories; the greatest because Christ’s love for us is the greatest of all loves.  When someone loves you, you have to make a choice. You can either receive that love and return it or say no and walk away. Faith is a heart that’s open to receiving the love that Jesus Christ offers us, love poured out on the cross for you and for me, for all sinners everywhere.

      We have all been taught by God. The question now is: who will listen? Will America quit self-destructing, in an orgy of drugs, promiscuity and violence, and listen? Will the world ensnared in a thousand false faiths listen and receive his teaching? And what about you, will you listen? I hope so because his teaching is the greatest truth, the greatest love and the greatest promise ever made. And everything, really everything depends on whether you believe him. “This is the will of my Father,” Jesus said, “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6.40).

Science and the Existence of God

Pentecost 11
August 5, 2018

Last Sunday I told you about an 11-year-old boy who recently graduated from college in Florida. When asked what his goal in life was, he said that he wanted to become an astrophysicist and use science to prove the existence of God. That sounds like a formidable task, but it’s easier to do than you’d think because modern science, despite all you may have heard to the contrary, supports our faith in God, the Creator. Nevertheless, this boy has an uphill task and he’ll need courage because American academe into which he is headed is dominated by agnostics and atheists, many of whom use science to convince our children (to whom we entrust their education) that the belief in the Christian and Jewish religions, which hold that God created the universe out of nothing to be a home for human beings with whom God has a special relationship having endowed each one of us with an immortal soul, is a fantastic myth. They claim it is no more based in objective reality than are the stories of the ancient Greek gods on Mount Olympus. Many point to the stunning success of modern science in the fields of technology and medicine as evidence that human reason and intellect are the keys to our survival and that God’s grace is irrelevant. Our great technological achievements and first-world prosperity give some the impression that even if God exists, we don’t need him. And because so many prominent, popular scientists—Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking for example—following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, have professed themselves to be agnostics and atheists, millions of people have followed them. It’s easy to see why. After all, if the smartest people in the world don’t believe in God, that ought to tell us something, right?

       Well, not so fast. Just because a person knows a lot about physics, astronomy, math, or biology doesn’t mean that he knows anything about relationships, love, justice, truth, or theology. There is more than one kind of knowledge in this world. It is one thing to know how a diamond is made; it’s another thing to know what it’s good for. If you take your girlfriend out to dinner and explain to her the molecular structure of a diamond you will bore her to tears and put her to sleep. But if you set that diamond in a platinum ring and put it on her finger, then you’re really going places. See what I mean? Just because someone is a “genius,” doesn’t mean that person really knows anything about life. If you can tell me how to calculate the speed of light, you’re giving me useful information. If you can tell me what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the light of the world," you’re giving me priceless wisdom. The first kind of knowledge may help me get a job with NASA and launch a rocket. The other kind may help me enter heaven’s gate. My point is that knowledge gained through scientific study is important, but wisdom gained through the study of ethics, philosophy, and theology is also important. For a full understanding of life we need it all. The problem with the modern age is that it has turned science into scientism, an ideological belief that all other forms of knowledge are inferior for not being objectively based. This is nonsense, but it has become a ubiquitous prejudice of secular society that is leaving us confused about the eternal truths that give meaning to our existence. In other words, modern science has done a lot to improve our quality of life, but in diminishing the importance of faith and of the revelation of God in Christ that inspires it, it’s leaving us bereft of wisdom and uncertain as to what we’re living for.

        The good news is that the advocates of atheism who push the narrative that modern science has utterly discredited the Gospel and proven God to be a superstition are sinking in quicksand. They get away with it because they have had hegemony over our universities now for decades and therefore their political influence throughout the society is formidable. They will remain the established power for the foreseeable future but eventually the truth will win out. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free," Jesus said. God can be denied but God cannot be defeated.

        How can science help prove the existence of God? Well, let me emphasize first that we already know for certain from revelation and reason that the universe exists because of God and could not exist without God.  We know from divine revelation recorded in the Old Testament and affirmed by Christ in the new that God created the universe for human beings. We need nothing more than that for faith. But we also have a variety of proofs for God’s existence through philosophical argument and logic. Aristotle was not a Jew or a Christian but he was a brilliant thinker who used logical argument to prove that the universe could not exist without outside help. What we call God he called the “Unmoved Mover,” but his logic is as clear today as it was 2,500 years ago. Other great minds, including Saint Thomas Aquinas, further developed the arguments that Aristotle began, leaving no doubt in any sane person’s mind as to the dependence of this universe on its creator. We know by revelation and reason that we live in God’s universe. Science cannot disprove the existence of God. But modern science does offer some evidence that denies the atheists claim that the universe and the human beings in it came into being without God.

       Ask the question: did God create humankind or did the human mind create God? And I think most people today would either say, “I don’t know” or would come down on the side of believing that man created God. One of the reasons that people would answer this way is because Darwin’s theory of evolution is, though theory, taught in our schools as fact. Going back to the Scopes trial about a century ago, the special creation of human beings formed in God’s image is no longer taught in the schools; we’re all descended from apes don’t you know? And “creationists,” as we are now called, who resist the new atheist revolution are viewed as backward anti-intellectuals living in the fundamentalist dark ages. But is Darwin’s theory settled scientific fact? No, it’s not. Darwin said that the fossil record would support his thesis. But here we are over 150 years later and there is no evidence in the fossil record to support his theory. The biggest discovery in this field of paleontology is known as the “Cambrian explosion." This refers to the discovery that in the Cambrian era life forms emerged whole, with no gradual evolution to form them in all the different phyla. In other words the fossil record undermines Darwin’s theory. Furthermore, Darwin’s theory offers no clue as to the actual origin of life. How did conscious life emerge out of unconscious non-life? Darwin surmised that lightning struck a warm little pond and caused life to begin. No divine Creator was necessary either to begin life or to form a human being from an amoeba. It all just happened by chance, randomly over many millions of years by a magical process of natural selection that oh, by the way, no one has ever observed. According to Darwin’s theory, life is just a freak accident of nature. There’s nothing really special about human beings.

       The problem with that argument is DNA. It turns out that Darwin’s warm little pond theory doesn’t hold water because we have learned that DNA, the basic building block of life, is so complex that it would take longer than the planet earth has been in existence to make by random chance even one strand if it. What does DNA do? Well, think of the human cell as a city and the DNA is like a computer that runs all the traffic lights and so keeps the traffic flowing. Modern microscopes have let us see into the human cell, and what we see going on there has been compared to Times Square at rush hour, a fury of activity all being organized perfectly by DNA. That is why DNA has been compared to a super computer. But no computer can program itself. Information is put into a computer by a programmer on the outside. Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project during the Clinton administration, called DNA “the language of God.” He wrote a book about it with that title and told the story of how he came to believe in God through his study of DNA. He’s not alone. Many others have said the same thing: that evolution cannot explain the existence of DNA. The theory of evolution which purports to prove that human life emerged from the earth by purely natural processes without the help of an intelligent Creator is undermined and discredited by the discovery of DNA.

       Another dramatic discovery of modern science in support of the Creator is called the “Big Bang." The Big Bang is the name given to the discovery, gained from information gathered through the Hubble telescope, that the universe has not always existed. The universe began to exist about 13 billion years ago. Once there was nothing then suddenly out of nowhere there appeared what is called a singularity, something slightly smaller than the head of a pin and then “bang!”, it exploded. Suddenly there was light and all the stuff from which the planets and suns were made burst forth as from a fountain. There was nothing and then suddenly there was something; a universe appeared out of nowhere. And when we say there was nothing, we mean nothing—no time, no space, no matter. What caused the universe to come into being? Nothing comes from nothing. Did nothing create a universe out of nothing? Or did God, a supernatural intelligence bring nature into being by an act of divine will? The answer is as obvious as the sunrise: The Big Bang is scientific evidence supporting the account of the origin of the universe given in Genesis 1.

       A fourth discovery of modern science supporting the Creator is something that cosmologists, those who study the origin of the universe, call the “anthropic principle." Cosmologists have learned that the chances of all the events happening that had to happen for carbon-based life to form on this planet are so remote that it’s inconceivable that human life could have happened by chance. We’re talking odds of trillions and trillions to one that carbon-based life, equipped with DNA and a rational soul happened by chance. As Sir Fred Hoyle, a prominent British physicist put it: the odds that human life emerged by sheer chance are equal to the odds that a wind could blow thru a junkyard and out comes a fully functioning 747 jet. What are the chances of that? The anthropic principle proves that the chances that life formed on this planet by sheer luck with no help from an intelligent creator on the outside are trillions and trillions to one.

       I’m not going into any of this further today. My point is simply to give you confidence that science has not made the case for atheism, but that modern science has produced discoveries that strongly support the gospel. There are more holes in Darwin’s’ theory than in a piece of Swiss cheese. The discovery of DNA makes it all but impossible to believe that human life happened by chance. The Big Bang supports the account of creation given in Genesis 1. And the anthropic principle further shows how utterly remote the odds are that human life came into existence on this planet by chance.

     So with all of this scientific evidence on their side, how is that Christians who believe in God the Creator of heaven and earth find themselves on the defensive, being called “creationists” and mocked for their faith in the Creator? The answer to that question is obvious. Atheists have succeeded in establishing themselves in the institutions that govern our intellectual life and they aren’t going to let go willingly without a struggle. We are fighting a cultural struggle of epic proportions. And we are right in the middle of it. People who are rebelling against God won’t admit they're wrong because their careers are at stake and they don’t want the humiliating responsibility of going to church on Sundays and kneeling before God. Nor do they want to conform their lives to the moral order by which God has structured the universe. In a secular society you don’t have to. There are no social or political consequences to being faithless in modern America. The secular society sets us free not to believe in God and many today won’t give up that freedom as false as it is. They run our schools and they want to keep it that way. Consequently they don’t teach Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas in the classroom. My guess is that most college graduates haven’t even heard of the things I talked about in this sermon today. But many Christians haven’t heard these things either because scientism and atheism have found their way into our seminaries as well, so that many modern liberal clergy are part of the problem. You can’t teach what you don’t know. So have confidence. God exists. Revelation, philosophy, and modern science all point to God, the Creator.

      If and when you wonder whether God exists or not, ask this question. Do you really think that the universe appeared out of nowhere by chance for no reason? I once had a young woman explain to me that she was an atheist because “everything is random," she said. But we couldn’t get further into the conversation because she was on a tight schedule and was in a hurry to get to the airport to catch a plane. But I felt like saying, “If everything is random, what’s the hurry to catch a plane? It probably won’t be there.” If everything is random, why does everyone here today have plans for this afternoon? And plans for the week to come? How is it that we live in such a highly organized world? Human beings are builders and planners and organizers. If everything is random, how did we get that ability and felt need to put everything in order? We got it from the Creator who created this perfectly balanced world for us, in whose image we are made. Don’t let the secular society psyche you out. There is every good reason to believe in God and no good reason not to. Modern science supports that view. As Saint Paul said in this letter to the Romans, open your eyes and look at the world around you. Life is not absurd, and this planet is no accident. Those who don’t believe in God have no excuse (Romans 1.20).


Where is the Wisdom we have lost in Knowledge?

Pentecost 10
July 29, 2018

“They understood not concerning the loaves, for their heart was blinded” Mark 6:52

       There was an interesting story in the news this week about a boy who graduated from a college in Florida recently at age 11. His mother said he was doing advanced math at age one. Stories about child prodigies inevitably leave us feeling humbled and awestruck. Although we hear the story and see the picture of the boy in cap and gown receiving his diploma, we nevertheless shake our heads and say to ourselves, “This is totally incredible. I don’t believe it.” We live in a world full of wonders, many of which are hard to believe. But just because something is hard to believe, doesn’t mean it didn’t really happen. Saint Matthew said that when Jesus appeared to his disciples bodily resurrected on a mountain in Galilee they all fell down and worshipped him, “but some doubted.” In other words, the disciples had a natural human reaction to the miracle they witnessed. They were joyful to see Jesus alive after seeing him crucified and buried but they also shook their heads while rubbing their eyes and said to themselves, “I’m seeing this but I can’t believe it. This is incredible!” While it’s an event considerably more mundane then the resurrection of Christ, it’s nevertheless incredible that an eleven-year-old boy graduated from college. But he did: true story.

       But the most amazing part of the story to me was what the boy said about his goal in life. When asked what he wanted to do next, he said that his goal in life was to become an astrophysicist and use science to prove the existence of God. He’s eleven mind you. His ambitions reminded me of the story of Jesus in the temple. At age twelve, Jesus disappeared for three days in Jerusalem. When his anxious and distraught parents found him debating with the rabbis in the Temple he said to them, “Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” The point of that story is that Jesus had a unique relationship to God our heavenly Father. He didn’t become the Son of God at his baptism. He was always, from before his birth, one with God whom he alone had the divine right to call “my Father.” He was never at any time without the divine nature. He was God in the womb of Mary his mother, whom we call the Mother of God. Therefore, Christianity is not just one more religion among many. Christianity alone was established by God who become a man, and suffered at the hands of men, in order to establish true religion in this fallen world. That story also reminds us that just as Jesus was doing God’s work from birth, we must also follow him in doing God’s business every day. Neither you nor I is called to die on a cross and ascend into heaven. Christ has done that for us. But each one of us, baptized in his name and blessed with the Holy Spirit, is called by God to do something important for his kingdom. You may think you’re insignificant, but you’re not. God has given each of us a part to play in this great drama of salvation that he has created and this drama is not complete without you. If you’re alive on this earth, God has you here for a reason. Don’t let a sinful world bring you down or intimidate you. It takes courage to live. It takes courage to faithfully serve the Lord. Have courage, keep your baptismal vows, and always, always live for God.

      This young boy who feels called to use science to prove the existence of God is going to need courage. Modern American academia, into which he’s headed, is dominated by hardened atheists who will resist his attempts to use science to prove the existence of God.  Fortunately, his task is not as daunting as it sounds. Science already points convincingly to the Creator. (In fact, I’m going to give that sermon next week. Be here next Sunday, I’m going to prove the existence of God using science.) The bigger challenge lay in convincing a modern agnostic audience to listen to reason. Modern science is not the problem. The problem is that no matter what evidence you put before them, modern people hesitate to believe the Gospel because they have been taught and have come to believe almost without question that science has all the answers; that faith is just romantic fiction whereas science deals in cold hard facts. This is utter nonsense and yet it has become the common belief of the modern age, a kind of secular dogma that’s hard to break.

        How did the modern world become so faithless? Today’s Gospel story in part explains it. Saint Mark tells us that Jesus’ apostles, even after seeing Him feed the five thousand, did not understand about the loaves; that is, they did not believe in his divine nature. Therefore, God blinded their hearts so that even as he came to them walking on water, they could not rejoice in the miracle they were witnessing. When they could have been jubilant they were fearful and confused. In other words, Jesus used the occasion of his walking on water to teach his church a valuable lesson about faith and where it comes from. Faith is needed for salvation; and not just any faith. No one is saved without faith in the divinity of Christ. As Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14.6). It’s not enough to recognize that Jesus was a great man and to admire him, speak well of him, and imitate him. He was a great man and we are called to imitate him and “to walk in love as Christ loved us” (Eph. 5.1-2). But Jesus was also fully God, something no other man has been or could be. And therefore we are called to worship him and him only. Anyone who is worshiping someone or something other than him is worshiping someone or something other than God. That’s not good enough for salvation. The faith that leads to salvation is convinced of the divinity of Christ.

      That means that all of this talk about the “faith community,” putting every faith no matter what it teaches about God and Christ on the same level, is nonsense. Christ did not come into the world to bless every pagan cult in the Roman Empire and every faithless Buddhist sect in the Far East. He came to establish what he called “my church,” the one institution in the world with whom God has deposited the revelation of himself, the Gospel of our salvation. It’s good to get along with our neighbors and live in peace with everyone regardless of what they believe, but that does not mean that what they believe is true. Jesus’ parting words to his church before he left them to return to heaven was “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”(Mt. 28.20). In other words, no one will be saved who has not been baptized in the name of the one true and living God. Christianity is important in a way that no other religion is important, because Jesus Christ is important in a way that no other religious leader is, was, or ever will be. He’s not just important to us who know him. He is important to the whole human race because he is God. What I just said may be extremely offensive to a politically correct society that values religious pluralism and multiculturalism. But as unpopular as that teaching may be, it has the advantage of being true. “Blessed are you who take no offense at me “Jesus said. He wasn’t looking for acceptance from a diverse politically correct culture when he said that. He was making a point, however divisive, that If you don’t know Jesus Christ, crucified, died and risen, you don’t know God.

      That’s one important lesson to take from this story of Jesus coming to his church walking on water and here’s another: faith is a gift we receive from God. If you have faith in Jesus Christ you have God to thank for it. God gives us faith when we’re ready to receive it and he gives only as much as we are able to receive. Once he opens your eyes and lets you see the truth of the gospel, it’s then up to you to keep the faith and to seek more of it. That is why the disciples asked Jesus at another time to “increase our faith.” He alone can do that. Faith comes to us from him who alone has the power to reveal the Father to us (Mt.11.27).  But he only reveals the truth of the Gospel to those who hunger for it and whose heart is ready to serve him (Mt.5.6). If you feel your faith is weak and your understanding of the Gospel is confused and partial at best, then do this: confess your unbelief to God and ask God to increase your faith and remove your doubts. Ask for conviction, rock-solid conviction in the truth of the Gospel, and tell him how you will use that faith once he reveals it to you. Tell him what cross you will bear for him. Tell him the suffering you are willing to endure for him and thank him for the suffering he endured for you. This means that you have to pray, really pray. There is a detail in the story we read this morning about prayer. Did you catch it? After feeding the five-thousand, Jesus escaped from his disciples and from the crowds for a while and “went into the hills to pray.” Prayer doesn’t just casually happen. You have to be intentional about it. You have to go away into a quiet place to be alone with God. And then talk to God. Talk out loud, move your lips. Prayer is talking to God from the heart and being honest with God about your feelings. Jesus set the example. We saw him praying in the Garden of Gethsemane with intense emotion. Follow his example in prayer and he will increase your faith.

        The message from the pulpit today is this:  Put your faith in Jesus Christ and pray that your faith in Him who has come down from heaven to accomplish our redemption will never waver. Pray for faith to know and to do God’s will and God will increase your faith. Keep praying and God will change your Sunday-school faith into an unshakeable conviction. Keep praying further and God will transform you from a person hiding in the pews into a saint, a faithful soul who bears witness to Christ everywhere she goes, everyday, by everything she says and does. After church today, when asked what the sermon was about, tell them it was about the importance of having faith in Jesus Christ and of praying for faith.

       But as we all know modern men and women are reluctant to pray to a divine savior because we live in an age of radical unbelief, an age that believes that science has discredited the Gospel of God and has effectively proven that prayer to a Creator is just superstition. And to make matters worse, it’s not just non-Christians who are infected with this spirit of agnostic doubt but so are many of the clergy, Catholic and Protestant alike. Many people today even inside the church do not believe in the divinity of Christ or in prayer. Like the apostles to whom Jesus came walking on the water, they are in the boat, they belong to the church but they don’t understand about the loaves. They love Jesus but they don’t really understand who Jesus is, they don’t believe in his divine nature.

      How did it happen that so many Christians lost their faith in the supernatural elements of the Gospel and have succumbed to the agnosticism of the modern age? It’s simple really. Somewhere around 1960, we let go of the traditional teaching of the church that seemed old and tired and we ran away with new teachers who promised exciting changes. Like the old man who leaves his wife of fifty years to run away with a twenty something, we made a mistake and today we’re paying for it with empty pews and a nation that no longer takes the voice of the church seriously.  God wants us to believe in Him and when we do not, God disciplines those he loves by withholding his grace.

        The Gospel story for today illustrates this point. After witnessing the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus’ disciples still did not believe in his divine nature. Therefore, God let them go out in a boat rowing by their own strength into a wind at night. Without Jesus in the boat to help them, they accomplished nothing.  And then he blinded their hearts so that when He came to them walking on the water that night, they did not celebrate in joy the advent of their Savior but they recoiled in fear of him as though he were a ghost. God would eventually give them faith but only after they had suffered the humiliation of deserting him when he went to the cross; only after they saw him bodily resurrected and finally believed in his divinity. That same thing is happening to the church today. Because of our unbelief, because we have caved under pressure from a modern secular state and accepted multiculturalism as the norm, denying Jesus Christ his divine right to rule over us as king, and virtually ceasing to  evangelize, God has blinded our hearts. God is angry with his church and has left us with blind guides who are presiding over the decline of Christianity, people with no understanding of how to turn this slowly sinking ship around.  God is punishing his church today for surrendering to secularism and for conceding an argument to atheistic science when the case for faith in the Creator and in Jesus Christ is really so easy to make.

       Who knows? Maybe God will act through that precocious boy who wants to prove by science that God exists, and maybe he’ll lead us out of this. But one thing is sure; God will lift the veil from our eyes and give us understanding again only after we have suffered enough and when the time is right. Until then, the churches in America and Europe will continue to be on the defensive and to decline in influence because God doesn’t give a damn about secular society, political correctness, or multiculturalism. God cares about the Gospel. And he has little use for a church that won’t do evangelism because it is afraid to offend others.

      There is only one thing to do: pray for faith. Ask God to increase your faith in direct proportion to the sincerity of your repentance, and ye shall receive. And make no mistake about it: the faith that saves begins with the full unconditional acceptance of the unique divinity of Christ. When we get that straight in our minds and in our hearts, in our public schools and universities and in our church seminaries blessings will follow. And ask God to raise up a new generation of priests and bishops who have unshakeable faith in the truth of the Gospel and who are not afraid to make the case for Christ to a secular society that is, like the disciples in that boat rowing into the wind in the dark but going nowhere, perishing without Him.


Here’s what I mean.  The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church caused quite a sensation with the feisty homily he served up at the royal wedding last month. It was a long discourse about romantic love, the power of love, and how wonderful and good it is to be in love, as though that is all marriage is about. But it was very well delivered which diverted attention away from its totally humanistic content. The most revealing part of this teaching about love and marriage came near the end, when he quoted Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and then expounded upon his teaching for another five minutes. There are two ways to make yourself seem smarter than you are. One is to affect a British accent. The other is to quote a French author. But it’s very alarming when a bishop quotes Teilhard to support his view because Teilhard, although he was a Jesuit and a scholar, was also an atheist and a communist. His works are on public display with those of Marx and Lenin in Moscow’s Hall of Atheism. So why would any preacher or priest bother with him? Many do because he became arguably the most influential theologian in the Catholic Church in the twentieth century.  And all the churches are suffering today because of it. I’m not delving into Teilhard’s theology in detail but only to say that in his faithless view everything in the universe can be accounted for by evolution. He did not believe in the Creator nor did he believe that God had come down to us in Christ. He believed that human beings are naturally evolving into a higher spiritual community and that the goal of evolution is to make us all one, and when that perfect unity of humanity is achieved by evolution that will be our salvation. In other words, the Gospel is a hoax. There is no supernatural. There is no original sin, no heaven-sent redeemer, no atonement on the cross, no sacramental absolution of our sin. Nor is there need for it. The only thing in the universe that deserves our worship is nature itself. The only thing we have that is really sacred to us is love.

       That I suspect is why the presiding bishop chose to quote him. Quoting a French theologian who speaks about love is very impressive to people who know next to nothing about theology and so are easily impressed by those who seem to know something. But when your bishops begin to quote atheists and communists, alarm bells ought to sound. The church has a problem. Teilhard died about fifty years ago, but his influence over the church is still enormous. Why is that? He was great writer with a big personality and a Jesuit pedigree but his writing was condemned by John XXIII. And yet the present Pope, a modern Jesuit, is clearly one of his disciples as is our presiding bishop. How did this happen?