Joke of the Week: Harry Truman’s Favorite Joke
A man keeled over at a cocktail party one evening. Medical personnel called to the scene pronounced him dead, so a funeral home was called. They took him to the funeral home and laid him in a coffin; they would make preparations for a funeral and burial the next morning. When the morning sun lighted the room where the body lay, the man awoke and sat up. He looked around at his surroundings and saw that he was in a coffin. “If I’m alive,” he said aloud, “why am I in a coffin? And if I’m dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom?
Men, Mother’s Day is next Sunday
When I was a child my church always honored certain mothers with a corsage: the oldest mother present, the youngest mother present, and the mother with the most children (present or not, I think.) Motherhood then was physically demanding, as today, but society still honored it, as did our church. Today it is not as highly esteemed as it was then. Women who give up the rewards of a career–the monetary rewards, the prestige of some professions–in order to raise children are not esteemed by segments of the society we live in. Stay at home moms have it tough; mothers who have to work or want to work and also raise a family face even greater challenges, more than we men imagine.
By all means, let’s honor the mothers among us next Sunday. But let’s show them all year long, by word and deed, that we appreciate and love them. In particular, let’s make a special effort to pray for our own mothers, the mothers of our children, and the mothers in our church. And let’s also pray for women who ache to be mothers but have not been granted that; they have struggles few can know.
Luther’s 95 Theses for 20th Century Christians
We skip Thesis 9 and consider Theses 10 and 11. Thesis 11 is long, but worth your reading.
- Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
In Thesis 10 he says it is both ignorant and wicked for a priest to say that suffering in purgatory substitutes for canonical penalties (acts of penance) not completed before death. These priests act ignorantly, for (so he thought at the time) the pope always remits acts of penance that cannot be carried out before death (Thesis 9). Luther says they act wickedly as well as ignorantly, possibly because they are making up their own rules.
Here is Luther’s first mention of purgatory. In 1517 he accepted the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. It was not till 1528, eleven years after posting the 95 theses, that Luther finally came to reject the doctrine of purgatory. Most of the remaining theses deal with the selling of indulgences, writs of remission of time to be spent in purgatory.
- Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt. 13:25).
Matthew 13:25 is part of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares (weeds) which Jesus spoke in his sermon by the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” Mt. 13:24-30
Jesus interpreted the parable for his disciples:
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” Mt. 13:36-43
Luther’s reference to the parable is by way of analogy. The tares (weeds) in the parable were false Christians, not canonical laws. Luther is suggesting that an enemy—the Evil One, as in the parable—is responsible for substituting a wicked canon law for a wholesome one. To decree that a Christian must undergo the pains of purgatory if he or she has not performed acts of penance prescribed by the priest is a wicked and untrue thing, a device of the devil. The bishops should have been alert to this change and quashed it, but they “slept,” unaware or unconcerned about the change.
For 21st century Christians the danger is different. Unbiblical practices and doctrines have crept into the Church, even the evangelical church, while church leaders have slept; indeed, while some leaders have embraced the changes. Examples follow.
The gospel message has been perverted into “therapeutic, moralistic deism,” as some have called it. In too many churches the message is that God can heal your anxieties, feelings of inadequacy, and unhappiness. God wants you happy; he wants you to feel good about yourself and your abilities and potential! Sin? We can talk about that some other time if you insist. We call on God when we need or want something; we ignore him the rest of the time.
God becomes our cosmic servant, ever ready to satisfy our wants. Sure, he wants us to be kind and loving, but that’s his desire, not a command with consequences.
The Bible’s demands for a holy life have been perverted into a message that says “love” as WE understand love is the only rule. If two people love each other, anything they do together is permissible, whether or not those two people are married or not, whether or not they are of the same or different sexes. Just be sure you don’t hurt the other person. The coming judgment is never, never mentioned; that would be too negative. Moreover, God is love and would never send anyone to hell.
These changes are not a recent thing; they have been creeping into the Church for a century or so. As a song from the 1950’s put it, “Though it makes Him sad to see the way we live, He’ll always say, ‘I forgive’.” That same decade saw Norman Vincent Peale, a minister, television preacher, and author, rocket to popularity by preaching “the power of positive thinking.”
As we survey today’s church scene, we see that too many ministers have not confronted this false gospel the way the Apostle Paul confronted the false gospel that had crept into the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:6-10). Perhaps, like the bishops in Luther’s day, ministers of the 20th and 21st centuries have been sleeping.