Bible spine dwtx.orgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 12:12-17

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

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Last week’s post discussed the previous set of verses, difficult to digest in some ways, about discipline from God. I suggested that we liken God to a divine coach, strengthening us through our trials the way an athletics coach would build up his charges’ strength through rigorous exercise.

The author of Hebrews is encouraging the new converts from Judaism to be strong and persevere with the faith, no matter what trials befall them. They lost their families and friends because of their Christian faith. Not surprisingly, they were faltering.

There were also Hebrews who were attending Christian worship services but had not fully committed themselves as followers of Christ. The author of Hebrews wanted them to make that commitment.

John MacArthur explains that the author’s intent was to save both groups from apostasy (emphases mine):

Sprinkled among these believing Jews were some who hadn’t even yet been saved. And they had identified superficially as professing Christians with this Jewish community of believers, and they were there in name only, not in truth. And they were in danger of turning around and going back to apostate, to be apostates, to apostatize if you want the verb. They were in danger of saying, “Oh, this is ridiculous. I’ve seen enough of this; I’m going back to Judaism.” And had they done that, they would have been locked in unbelief forever because they would have rejected against full information. And that’s what apostasy is.

These verses are addressed to faltering believers. Therefore, the author exhorts them to get themselves in position for the endurance that faith demands (verse 12), an analogy used elsewhere in the Bible, including the Old Testament:

What he’s really saying in athletic metaphor is get your second wind. Sure, the outward man is perishing, but what did Isaiah say? “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their” – what? – “their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” That’s a promise of God.

These converts, like any other Christian throughout history, needed to be stronger spiritually. Poor spiritual positioning could cause them to become spiritually lame, when they should be healed (verse 13).

MacArthur explains the running analogy based on his own personal experience at school. The upper case ‘He’ below refers to the Holy Spirit, who inspired the author of Hebrews along with every other author of the Bible:

You know, if you’re an athlete, and you’re going to train for a track meet, you’re going to discipline yourself or you’re not going to be any good in the track meet. Can you imagine a guy coming out to run a mile who’s never worked out? You see, the discipline isn’t meant to slow him down; the discipline is meant to speed him up. It’s meant to make him faster in the race. And God brings things into our lives in order that He might speed us, not slow us down.

You know, in any kind of a race, you can always tell when a guy gets tired. I ran enough track to know this. And you can always tell two things automatically happen. I know this from my – I’m telling you, personal experience; this has happened to me many, many times. The first thing that happens to a good runner, when he gets tired, is his arms drop. One of the first things you learn in running is the motion of your arms is very important and very strategic to the movement of your body. And the rhythm is all – all needs to be in congruity. It has to be going together. And you can always tell when a guy gets tired, because his arms start dropping, and that breaks his rhythm. You see, your arms are powerful enough to pull you into your stride. And any good runner works very diligently on the motion of his arms. And as he gets tired, his arms begin to drop, and then he begins to lose the drive.

The second thing that always happens to a runner, when he gets tired, is his knees begin to wobble. Now any of you guys that have run track, you know this; you know what it’s like to say, “Go, leg, go,” and it doesn’t. Right? And your knees are just going like this. Well, I can – I can remember so many times running a 440 and coming around to the 380 mark, with 60 yards to go, and saying, “Go, knees, go,” and they just – you just have to go – “Mmm” – like this, and just put one out in front of the other, almost forcing each leg individually.

And so, this is a very graphic illustration that He has here. The arms begin to droop, the rhythm is lost, and pretty soon he’s fighting against the growing numbness in his legs. And you know what happens then? If he begins to concentrate on the numbness in his legs, he’s finished. There’s only one thing that a runner can do at that point, and that is to look at the goal line. To look at that goal line and tell himself, “I am going to make that goal.” It’s the only thing he can do.

So, it is with a Christian. There may come times in the Christian life when your arms begin to droop, and your knees begin to wobble, and you don’t know if you can get one in front of the other one again, where you don’t look at your wobbly knees, and you don’t start looking at your drooping arms, and you just look at that finish line. And better than any guy who ever ran a race, you have the about guaranteed condition that you’re going to be the victor. And with that in the back of your mind, you fire on.

The author says that the converts must not only strive to make peace with everyone but also be holy, because without holiness, none of us will ever see God in the life to come (verse 14). Both of those are very difficult to do, especially when we spend so much time in the world of work and leisure outside the home. Temptations are everywhere.

Matthew Henry says:

Observe, First, It is the duty of Christians, even when in a suffering state, to follow peace with all men, yea, even with those who may be instrumental in their sufferings. This is a hard lesson, and a high attainment, but it is what Christ has called his people to. Sufferings are apt to sour the spirit and sharpen the passions; but the children of God must follow peace with all men. Secondly, Peace and holiness are connected together; there can be no true peace without holiness. There may be prudence and discreet forbearance, and a show of friendship and good-will to all; but this true Christian peaceableness is never found separate from holiness. We must not, under pretence of living peaceably with all men, leave the ways of holiness, but cultivate peace in a way of holiness. Thirdly, Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. The vision of God our Saviour in heaven is reserved as the reward of holiness, and the stress of our salvation is laid upon our holiness, though a placid peaceable disposition contributes much to our meetness for heaven.

This is why God gives us trials and tribulations, so that we endure them and come out as stronger Christians.

The author continues, exhorting the converts to make sure that everyone can obtain God’s grace. He also tells them not become bitter people, because bitterness takes root all too easily (verse 15). This verse concerns our personal behaviour and the example we must set as Christians.

MacArthur says that everyone who encounters us is affected in some way by the example we set. MacArthur tells us:

Christians, so often this is true – isn’t it? – when you say, “When I sin, it’s only my business.” No, it’s not. When you fall, somebody’s watching.

And our example to others will give either a good or a bad impression to them of Christianity.

MacArthur relates a true story about a father who was fond of strong drink and his young son:

I always think of the story my dad used to tell about the father who went out to get drunk again, and he was walking through the snow to the bar. And he hadn’t gone very far from his house, and he thought something was following him. And he turned around, and here was his little boy, six years old, stretching as far as he could to make sure he put his feet in his dad’s footsteps in the snow. And his dad said, “Where are you going?”

He says, “I’m just following your footsteps, Dad.” And as the story goes, his dad went home and broke down and cried, and some – through some other instrumentation, God sent somebody, and that man became saved and later told that story.

Therefore:

Well, you know, somebody’s walking along, just putting their feet right in the spot you’ve made. And if you’re wobbling around, knocking into everybody’s lane you’re going to mess up a lot of Christians. Make our paths straight, stay in your own lane. Run a smooth, clear, straight path. The Greek word here is a smooth, straight path. Now there’s a – this again is an Old Testament concept. I’m thinking it’s Proverbs 4 – I might be wrong – 25, yes, “Let thine eyes look right on” – that’s good; you didn’t know that was in the Bible, did you? – “Let thing eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look” – straight ahead – “straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” Make a straight path and go. Don’t wander from side to side, looking over the edge, seeing what the world’s doing. You’re going to mess up some other Christians.

Now, I like the term that is used here for paths, trochias in the Greek, and it means the track left by wheels. You know, the cart would go down in a straight line; it would leave tracks. And the point is that you’re not only running, you’re leaving a track. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? You’re leaving a pattern for somebody to follow. And there’s – somewhere back there are Christians who are either going like this after your life or like this. See? Knowing over other Christians while they follow you.

And so, continuance, beloved, isn’t just for your sake; it’s for whoever’s looking at you. It’s so that you can provoke each other to love and good works that you’re to run a straight path. It affects other people.

The author tells his audience not to engage in sexual immorality or to be unholy, like Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew (verses 16, 17). Esau could find no peace after that.

Henry explains the seriousness of Esau’s sin. God passed judgement on him and gave him no inner peace for his foolishness. Henry also picks up on this as a way for the author of Hebrews to warn about apostasy:

The apostle backs the caution with an awful example, and that is, that of Esau, who though born within the pale of the church, and having the birthright as the eldest son, and so entitled to the privilege of being prophet, priest, and king, in his family, was so profane as to despise these sacred privileges, and to sell his birthright for a morsel of meat. Where observe, First, Esau’s sin. He profanely despised and sold the birthright, and all the advantages attending it. So do apostates, who to avoid persecution, and enjoy sensual ease and pleasure, though they bore the character of the children of God, and had a visible right to the blessing and inheritance, give up all pretensions thereto. Secondly, Esau’s punishment, which was suitable to his sin. His conscience was convinced of his sin and folly, when it was too late: He would afterwards have inherited the blessing, &c. His punishment lay in two things: 1. He was condemned by his own conscience; he now saw that the blessing he had made so light of was worth the having, worth the seeking, though with much carefulness and many tears. 2. He was rejected of God: He found no place of repentance in God or in his father; the blessing was given to another, even to him to whom he sold it for a mess of pottage. Esau, in his great wickedness, had made the bargain, and God in his righteous judgment, ratified and confirmed it, and would not suffer Isaac to reverse it.

The Jewish converts were in danger of throwing away the birthright they had been given when they became Christians. The worst thing that a Christian can do is to spit in the face of that birthright, denying Jesus Christ and God the Father only to embrace the world and sin.

Henry explains:

We may hence learn, [1.] That apostasy from Christ is the fruit of preferring the gratification of the flesh to the blessing of God and the heavenly inheritance. [2.] Sinners will not always have such mean thoughts of the divine blessing and inheritance as now they have. The time is coming when they will think no pains too great, no cares no tears too much, to obtain the lost blessing. [3.] When the day of grace is over (as sometimes it may be in this life), they will find no place for repentance: they cannot repent aright of their sin; and God will not repent of the sentence he has passed upon them for their sin. And therefore, as the design of all, Christians should never give up their title, and hope of their Father’s blessing and inheritance, and expose themselves to his irrevocable wrath and curse, by deserting their holy religion, to avoid suffering, which, though this may be persecution as far as wicked men are concerned in it, is only a rod of correction and chastisement in the hand of their heavenly Father, to bring them near to himself in conformity and communion. This is the force of the apostle’s arguing from the nature of the sufferings of the people of God even when they suffer for righteousness’ sake; and the reasoning is very strong.

This is the second half of Hebrews 12, designed to put a holy fear into the converts. This passage is in the Lectionary and read on one of the Sundays in the season after Pentecost:

A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

People don’t believe that. It’s an analogy, they say. Or they say that it was true at the time it was written, but no longer.

No. If Scripture says that God is a consuming fire — and similar phrasing occurs throughout the Bible — then, we should take it on board as truth.

In closing, returning to verse 15, we need to watch out for others, too, lest they stumble. MacArthur explains the Holy Spirit’s intention in that verse:

Here’s a guy who comes to the church, sees Christianity, sticks around, sticks around sticks around — falls away into apostasy. Hebrews chapter 6, classic definition. Now He says, “Hey, people, take the oversight; don’t let that happen. Don’t let that guy go.”

You say, “Well, I don’t want to say anything. I-I-”

That’s the stupidest remark you could ever make. Ridiculous you don’t want to say anything.

“Don’t want to offend.”

Offend! Offend! Go offend! Wow, the cross itself is an offense, and let’s do a little offending. I mean if a guy’s going to go to hell just because we’re afraid to offend him, that’s the worst offense imaginable. And these people – you know, grace is available. He says, “They’re going to – grace is available, but they’re going to fall back from grace.” He says, “You take the oversight, and you watch and don’t let it happen to them.”

There is much to consider in these six verses. We have great responsibilities as Christians. This is why God is continuously training us to be better, holier people. He wants us to persevere in patience, with our eyes on the reward to come in Heaven.

Next time — Hebrews 13:9-14

The last Sunday in the season of Epiphany is named after the Transfiguration of Christ.

Transfiguration Sunday is February 23, 2020.

This is also Quinquagesima Sunday, 50 days before Easter.

What follow are readings for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

All the readings are about God’s magnificent, majestic manifestations to His people as well as a powerful one of Christ’s own glory in the Epistle and Gospel.

There are two Psalms from which to choose this week.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the dramatic story of God’s delivery of the Ten Commandments to Moses.

Exodus 24:12-18

24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”

24:13 So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.

24:14 To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.”

24:15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.

24:16 The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud.

24:17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

24:18 Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Psalm — first option

Although David’s establishment of his kingdom, according to God’s will, was controversial and fiercely opposed, he prevailed in the end. While this Psalm looks to be about his kingdom, Matthew Henry says that it prophesies Christ and His kingdom. Henry points out that, while all the verses apply to Christ, not all apply to David.

Psalm 2

2:1 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?

2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying,

2:3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”

2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision.

2:5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

2:6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”

2:7 I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.

2:8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

2:9 You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

2:10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.

2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm — second option

This Psalm exhorts the faithful to worship God, for He reigns over all. How much more reason we have to do so, knowing that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to Earth to deliver us from sin and give us life eternal.

Psalm 99

99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

99:2 The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.

99:3 Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!

99:4 Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

99:5 Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!

99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

99:7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.

99:8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

99:9 Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

Epistle

Peter recounts his experience as one of the three Apostles to see the Transfiguration. Note verse 16, in particular.

2 Peter 1:16-21

1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.

1:17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

1:18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

1:19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

1:20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

1:21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Gospel

This reading needs no introduction. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be Peter, James and John on that mountain, especially as they could speak to no one about it until after the Resurrection (verse 9). That Jesus would rise from the dead was something that they could not fully comprehend at the time.

Matthew 17:1-9

17:1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.

17:2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

17:3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

17:4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

17:5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.

17:7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

17:8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

17:9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

I hope there are some excellent sermons tomorrow. There is much to preach about regarding what the Apostles understood of Jesus’s ministry at the time of the Transfiguration. Peter wanted to stay with heavenly company. I would have felt the same way. However, Jesus had much more to accomplish. Yet, He chose His best and brightest to whom to reveal His true nature accompanied by a very personal message from His Father.

Lent starts next week. Shrovetide — comprising the ‘-gesima’ Sundays — ends on Shrove Tuesday, February 25. Ash Wednesday is February 26.

The Iowa caucuses, both Republican and Democrat, took place on Monday, February 3, 2020.

They truly were a tale of two parties.

The Iowa caucus is the first presidential candidate — and delegate — selection during a general election year in the US.

On the eve of the Nevada caucus on Saturday, February 22, it’s worth revisiting.

Republican caucus

Not all of the Republican Iowa caucuses have gone smoothly in recent years.

This year’s did, and so did 2008‘s.

However, 2012‘s was very tight between Rick Santorum who finished narrowly in first place with 24.6% of the vote and Mitt Romney, in second with a nail-biting 24.5%.

In 2016, Ted Cruz was still at the top of his game, finishing first with 27.6%, and Donald Trump in second on 24.3%. Yet, that was the year that Cruz’s campaign workers spread false rumours to Ben Carson’s supporters that the good doctor had dropped out of the race. A lie! However, Carson’s paltry 9.7% ensured that he did drop out soon afterwards. Terrible!

That was how Donald Trump was able to attach the word ‘Lying’ to ‘Ted’ in a tweet with photos of both their wives. The Telegraph has more on the story.

Trump never let up on Cruz, either. Cruz folded in tears a couple of months later. Marco Rubio dropped out a day or two later, leaving candidate Trump the last man standing.

This year, Trump, the incumbent, had two minor rivals and ‘other’. William ‘Bill’ Weld, a former Massachusetts governor, garnered 1.3% of the vote and one delegate. Joe Walsh, a former Congressman for Illinois, came in third place with 1.1% of the vote and no delegates.

President Trump received 31,464 votes and 39 delegates.

There was a record turnout for an incumbent president, breaking Obama’s record of 25,000:

It was like a mini-rally in places:

Democrat caucus

The Democrat caucus resulted in confusion, much like 2016’s.

The 2016 caucus was held on February 1 that year. The Des Moines Register asked, ‘Iowa’s nightmare revisited: Was correct winner called?’

‘Nightmare revisited’ refers to the Republican result in 2012. As the newspaper reported in 2016:

This time it’s the Democrats, not the Republicans.

Four years ago, the top Democrat candidates were Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (emphases mine):

Even as Hillary Clinton trumpeted her Iowa win in New Hampshire on Tuesday, aides for Bernie Sanders said the eyelash-thin margin raised questions and called for a review. The chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party rejected that notion, saying the results are final

At 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire announced that Clinton had eked out a slim victory, based on results from 1,682 of 1,683 precincts.

Voters from the final missing Democratic precinct tracked down party officials Tuesday morning to report their results. Sanders won that precinct, Des Moines precinct No. 42, by two delegate equivalents over Clinton.

The Iowa Democratic Party said the updated final tally of delegate equivalents for all the precincts statewide was:

Clinton: 700.59

Sanders: 696.82.

That’s a 3.77-count margin between Clinton, the powerful establishment favorite who early on in the Democratic race was expected to win in a virtual coronation, and Sanders, a democratic socialist who few in Iowa knew much about a year ago.

Incredible.

In 2020, the result was also contested. Bernie Sanders came in a very close second to Pete Buttigieg:

– Bernie won the popular vote: 45,831 to 43,273, or 26.5% to 25.1%;

State delegate equivalents were as close as they were four years previously. Mayor Pete ended up with 563.2 and Bernie with 563.1.

Good grief.

Turnout was also low:

So, why, then, was it so difficult for the media to get the results?

This is what happened at CNN:

Bernie, understandably, was not best pleased as Buttigieg announced victory:

Two theories abound as to what happened this year.

One blames the fiasco on a new app that the Democrats were using. Another pins it on incompetence.

Here is a good summary of both:

The new app

Those who blame it on the new app point out that some high-profile people working on the campaign of Mayor Pete — dubbed Mayor Cheat after the caucus — knew the developers:

Questions also arose over ACRONYM:

Here’s more on that:

Shadow’s app looks as if it is/was set to be used in Nevada, too:

One hopes the bugs get ironed out by tomorrow, the 22nd, otherwise, it could look like another case of:

Incompetence

A week later, Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi wrote an excellent article about what he saw: ‘The Iowa Caucus Was Waterloo for Democrats’.

If you enjoy politics, you’ll want to read about his experience and about the Democrats he met on and before February 3.

Taibbi discounts the app as having been a factor in the caucus vote meltdown. He adopts the British philosophy of ‘cock-up before conspiracy’.

Excerpts follow.

There were problems with unauthorised precinct captains. The night before the caucus:

a 36-year-old Minnesotan named Chris Storey called a number he’d been given, for a woman who was chair of the Waukee 4 district. Thanks to a new rule allowing out-of-state volunteers to be precinct captains, he was set to represent the Sanders campaign there.

“We got along, it was great,” he recalls. “She told me she was looking forward to seeing me the next day.”

The next day, caucus day, Storey showed up at Shuler Elementary School in Clive, Iowa. The same official he’d spoken with the night before met him at the door. “It was like two different people,” he recalls. “I was told there was a written directive from the county chair that nonresidents could not be precinct captains.”

Sanders had to get a last-minute replacement captain in Waukee 4, someone not formally aligned with the campaign. He fell short of viability there by five votes. County chair Bryce Smith, who made the decision, said he was responding to a late directive from the Iowa Democratic Party that said they would allow one nonresident captain per campaign, per precinct, but “the discretion of the chair is what goes,” i.e., this ultimately was a judgment call for county chairs. Smith said he didn’t like the change to the long-standing rule — “What’s stopping a campaign from hiring professional persuaders and high-profile people?” he asked — and decided to bar nonresident captains. The IDP has not yet commented.

As a result, some would-be captains from multiple different campaigns in Dallas County were pulled off the job (Smith said he got “five, six, eight” calls to complain). Meanwhile, in other districts, nonresident captains were common

There were other issues:

Caucus participants later in the week would offer an eyebrow-raising number of other issues: bad head counts, misreported results, misreads of rules, wrong numbers, telecommunications errors, and other problems.

Taibbi says this should have been a straightforward caucus:

The basics of the caucus aren’t hard. You enter a building that is poorly ventilated, too small, and surrounded by mud puddles — usually a school gym. You join other people who plan on voting your way, gathering around the “precinct captain” for your candidate. If your pile of people comprises 15% of the room or more on the first count, your candidate is deemed “viable” and you must stay in that group. If your group doesn’t reach 15%, you must move to a new group or declare yourself undecided. There is a second count, and it should be done.

The caucus results, such as they were, continued to cause confusion the rest of the week:

What happened over the five days after the caucus was a mind-boggling display of fecklessness and ineptitude. Delay after inexplicable delay halted the process, to the point where it began to feel like the caucus had not really taken place. Results were released in chunks, turning what should have been a single news story into many, often with Buttigieg “in the lead.”

He explains that, although it looked as if Sanders actually won on paper, there was cause to call the win for Buttigieg:

Though Sanders won the popular vote by a fair margin, both in terms of initial preference (6,000 votes) and final preference (2,000), for most of the week Mayor Pete’s lead with “state delegate equivalents” — the number used to calculate how many national delegates are sent to the Democratic convention — made him the technical winner in the eyes of most. By the end of the week, however, Sanders had regained so much ground, to within 1.5 state delegate equivalents, that news organizations like the AP were despairing at calling a winner. 

This wasn’t necessarily incorrect. The awarding of delegates in a state like Iowa is inherently somewhat random. If there’s a tie in votes in a district awarding five delegates, a preposterous system of coin flips is used to break the odd number. The geographical calculation for state delegate equivalents is also uneven, weighted toward the rural. A wide popular-vote winner can surely lose.

Returning to the aforementioned Chris Storey from Minnesota, who was ultimately turned down as precinct chairman:

Is it incompetence or corruption? That’s the big question,” asked Storey. “I’m not sure it matters. It could be both.”

Conclusion

Whatever went wrong with the Democrat caucus, President Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale had this to say:

Democrats should hope for a more carefully conducted caucus in Nevada on Saturday.

Yesterday’s post on Democrat support for abortion featured Pete Buttigieg and a Fordham University bioethics professor who was so distraught by the mayor’s pro-choice stance that he resigned from the board of Democrats for Life.

Last week, the Revd Franklin Graham was astonished to hear Bernie Sanders say that being ‘pro-choice’ — supporting abortion — was part and parcel of being a Democrat:

The son of the late Billy Graham rightly wondered where the ‘outcry’ was against such a stance.

The Breitbart article of February 12 linked in the tweet tells us that Graham sent a sharp warning about socialism before urging Christians to ‘wake up’ (emphases mine):

The evangelical leader went on to urge Christians to wake up to what is happening in the Democrat party and to take to heart their civic duty to vote.

“This is an example of why it is so important for people of faith to research who you vote for in every election and understand where they stand on issues that are important to you,” he said.

I urge Christians to pray for our nation, our leaders, and the upcoming elections, from local to national. Make sure that you are registered to vote, otherwise we will lose our country,” he warned.

True.

This November, Republicans, the supporters of the rights of the unborn — and, yes, as God’s creation, the unborn do have rights — need to win back the House of Representatives and maintain, if not increase, their majority in the Senate.

I despair of notional Christians, including clergy, who are lukewarm on the subject of abortion. They laud the Democrats as the only politicians with ethics. The way it looks to many of us, even overseas, is that most Democrat politicians lack ethics, pure and simple. I am struggling to think of any in the House or Senate who deal honestly and fairly.

One thing is for sure: most Democrats no longer support life in the womb.

Where do Democrats stand in defending the rights of the unborn? Sadly, nowhere.

Yet, it has taken several years for this truth to dawn on lifetime Democrat voters.

It is unfortunate that Pete ‘Mayor Pete’ Buttigieg (pron. ‘Budd-uh-judge’) of South Bend, Indiana, is an Episcopalian. He puts the denomination to shame in his support of late-term abortion. Yet, many other Episcopalians — also Democrats — do, too:

On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, at least one Catholic Democrat saw the light, as Mayor Pete defended abortion until the bitter end. Interestingly, Mayor Pete’s dad was a left-wing professor at the University of Notre Dame who was a co-founder and past president of the International Gramsci Society. Who can make sense out of that? But I digress.

LifeSite News reported that the professor who termed Mayor Pete’s views as ‘the straw that broke this camel’s back’ is:

Charles Camosy, an associate professor of Theology at Fordham University, has also resigned from the board of Democrats for Life. 

Camosy, who specializes in biomedical ethics, explained his reasons for his decision in an op ed he wrote for Thursday’s New York Post: the Democrats’ complete disregard for the unborn child.  

Also (emphases mine):

it was same-sex married Pete Buttigieg’s attitude to late-term abortion, aired last week on The View, that convinced Camosy that pro-life Democrats are “fighting a losing battle” in convincing their party to respect their position. Buttigieg had indicated that he didn’t think the government should have any say regarding late-term abortion or post-birth infanticide

“The straw that broke this camel’s back was Pete Buttigieg’s extremism,” Camosy wrote. 

“Here was a mainstream Democratic candidate suggesting, at one point, that abortion is OK up to the point the baby draws her first breath.” 

He concluded that if the party was “willing to go all-in on the most volatile issue of our time with a position held by only 13 percent of the population, it was time to take no for an answer.”

Camosy also predicted that, thanks to its pro-abortion “extremism,” the Democratic Party will lose the next election

We can but hope. If they win, they will have cheated; of that, I’m sure.

Dr Camosy does not think he will be able to vote Republican, though:

My broader values mean I can’t vote Republican, however, and this makes me one of many millions of Americans for whom our political duopoly doesn’t work,” he wrote.

That’s too bad. Opening up other minor yet established parties does not work, either. The British proved that in their December 12, 2019 election.

LifeSite News has more of what Camosy wrote for the New York Post, all of it worthwhile reading. It also quotes Mayor Pete’s views for The View.

In closing, this is what Camosy had to say in his op-ed about the Democrats’ stance on late-term abortion:

Camosy asked them to participate in a thought experiment in which they suppose that “hundreds of thousands of children are being killed each year in horrific ways,” either because they have Down syndrome, or because their grandparents think their parents are too young, or because an abusive partner demands it.

And then suppose a political party claimed this killing was a social good. Just another kind of health care. Something to shout about with pride,” the ethicist asked.

“This party, it should go without saying, would be unsupportable,” he concluded.

Just so.

Sounds a lot like eugenics, doesn’t it?

More will follow on the Democrats’ views on abortion.

Over the past week, I have watched this touching video more than once.

A young FedEx delivery man found that an American flagpole had fallen on the ground in strong winds. He removed the flag and folded it in the customary triangle, despite the weather and his tight time constraints:

I found his reverence and respect really moving.

Would that more Americans had that much respect for the flag.

It’s more than a beautiful fabric design.

It represents the Great Republic.

E pluribus unum: out of many, one.

Continuing my series what’s on Episcopal priests’ minds, the Anglo-Catholic FrKeithV posted a succinct tweet on inclusion in the Church:

I couldn’t agree more. We should be transforming our lives through the gift of faith and God’s infinite grace: becoming more Christlike and rejecting the bondage of sin.

It is unclear whether his next tweet is related to inclusion, but one of the reasons people find inclusion upsetting is that a handful of those who wish to be included do tend to demand it, rather than approach the Church in humility and goodwill.

One remedy for this is to rely on Scripture rather than one’s personal feelings — emotions:

It is hard being a Christian. Sometimes we love our personal baggage, which often keeps us in a sinful cycle. Satan can readily supply us with any number of excuses not to grow spiritually, to remain in his snare.

Our emotional resistance — wilful disobedience — to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is one of the devil’s best tricks. Don’t fall for it.

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 12:4-7

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s reading discussed the faith that Moses displayed. The rest of Hebrews 11 described the travails and trials other persons in the Old Testament endured; despite them, they never faltered in their faith.

In Hebrews 12, the author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, takes that steadfastness in faith from the Old Testament and encourages the Hebrew converts to apply it to their own Christian journey.

These are the first three verses (emphases outside of the subtitles mine):

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do Not Grow Weary

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

This chapter, John MacArthur says, is dedicated to the new converts who have been persecuted by their families and friends. Their joy and confidence in Christ is faltering. Some regret the choice they made:

the primary target of these words, as we shall look at them, is to the saved who are going through some terrible trials, some real sufferings, some tribulation, some anguish, some affliction. Unless they think that this is something bad within Christianity, and unless they begin in their minds to disqualify Christianity on the basis of trouble and say, “Well, I thought Christianity was a happy thing; I thought there was supposed to be joy; I thought there was supposed to be peace; I thought God was supposed to take care of us and supply our needs and give us answers for our questions, and smooth a way, and etcetera, etcetera. Now I’ve got all this trouble and worse than I had before. I’ve got everybody I used to love hating me.”

That holds true today, doesn’t it? A convert among agnostics or atheists is sure to lose some of his family and friends during his Christian journey.

That can also happen when one formally changes denomination.

However, we have to weigh our tribulations in these circumstances against what God’s people endured in the Old Testament. Granted, some Christians are being physically persecuted and put to death. However, millions of others are not. Therefore, we need to keep a perspective on personal trials and tribulations when they are not that severe.

MacArthur elaborates, revisiting the second half of Hebrews 11:

11:37, “They were stoned; they were sawn asunder, were tested, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy): they wandered in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” The Holy Spirit has already shown them the great heroes of the faith. Great men and great women, of years past, lived amidst terrible suffering, terrible affliction, excruciating pain, and faced it victoriously because they faced it – watch this – with the right attitude. With the right attitude.

Now, having shown this at the end of chapter 11, that there were some who faced it with the right attitude, He then calls upon the Hebrews to do the same. And He says to them in verse 1 of chapter 12, “Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses” – in other words, so many people to testify of the victory of faith over adversity – “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Listen we have enough people to prove to us that faith endures, that faith is victorious, that suffering may come, and suffering may go, but there’s still victory. We have enough witnesses to confirm that; let’s get in the race and let’s run it with the same endurance that they ran it with.

And then He gives the key to running it the right way. Verse 2, “Looking unto Jesus.” Looking unto Jesus.

The author reiterates this by telling them they were not in danger at that point of ‘shedding blood’ for their faith (verse 4). MacArthur says this means they needed to look at the example of Jesus:

Verse 3 and 4, “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in your minds.” You think you’ve got troubles, look at Jesus. “You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” None of you have died for the sins of the world yet. None of you know what it is to be absolutely pure, pristine to the very core, without a possibility of defilement, and then to have poured out on you all the sins of all the ages. You don’t know anything about that. Don’t cry about your troubles; look at Jesus. He endured, and His was victory.

And so, already, you see, He begins to move into the subject of suffering and how to handle it. Jesus suffered far beyond what we will ever suffer, and He endured. And you and I can endure as the Old Testament saints did, as we look at Jesus. Every Christian needs to remember that life is a marathon. The Christian life is a marathon, and there are obstacles all along the course. It’s like the 3,000-meter steeplechase. There are water hazards, and there are hurdles, and we have to go over. It’s not just flat ground. And we must face it, and we must run it with endurance.

Then the author addresses the subject of divine discipline (verses 5 and 6), citing Job 5:17

“Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
    therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.

Psalm 94:12

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord,
    and whom you teach out of your law,

… and Psalm 119:67:

Before I was afflicted I went astray,
    but now I keep your word.

The author then says that God disciplines us because we are His children (verse 7). If He did not discipline us, it would show that He does not love us as His own.

MacArthur explains that discipline — ‘chastisement’ in some translations — does not mean punishment, but, rather, refinement:

Now, to begin with, we’ve got to understand some introductory things. Here we go. There is a word that repeats itself in the passage. It is the word “chastening,” “chastising,” “chastisement.” You see, chastening in verse 5; you see chastening in verse 6 – chasteneth in verse 6; chastening in verse 7; chastisement in verse 8; chastened in verse 10; chastening in verse 11. You get the idea that’s an important word. You’re right.

What does the word “chastening” mean? Well, most people think it means God’s browbeating us or punishing us for sin. That’s not what it means at all. The word “chastening” comes from a Greek word, a Greek verb – really, the noun form is paideia, and paideia has to do with children. It is the word that means to train and educate your children. Get that. The word should not really be translated chastisement; it should be translated discipline. Discipline. I think the New American Standard does translate it discipline. But the word means simply a very broad term; it speaks of whatever – now watch this – of whatever adults use toward their children to cultivate their souls, to correct their mistakes, to curb their passions that they might mature in the most positive, effective, mature, disciplined way. It is a very broad word. It speaks of instruction that will increase virtue. It’s not just punishment. That – if it was only punishment, it would be a different word. It is – it is instruction through discipline. It does not have only the idea of punishment in it. Punishment is part of discipline, isn’t it? But that’s not all of it. But it has the idea of corrective measures and preventative measures that bring up a child in the right path. And the word is used repeatedly to speak of a parent working with his children.

So, what we’re talking about tonight is not God punishing the Christian; it is God disciplining the Christian into maturity. And so, we’ve entitled our study, “The Discipline of God.” And the figure changes here in chapter 12 from a race to a family: a loving Father disciplining his beloved children. And the obstacles in the race are now the disciplines of the Father training His children.

Did we — will we — ever suffer as God’s only begotten Son Jesus did? No, never. He endured the greatest suffering in the world — for our sins. He took our punishment for us.

Therefore, we will never have to endure that same pain, the same torture or the same humiliation. That isn’t to say that people aren’t dying viciously in attacks on their homes or churches or in prisons under dictatorial regimes, but it will never match what Jesus endured for His father for our sakes.

MacArthur explains:

Christ has already borne the full punishment of God. Right? And God will never exact double payment for the same sins. So, the punishment end is finished in terms of punishment as regards guilt for sin. John said, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” He completely bore our sins in His own body on the tree. Neither the justice of God nor the love of God would ever permit God to exact payment for what Christ has already paid in full. Okay? So, in no way does a Christian suffer the punishment that redeems him from sin. That’s already been done.

However, God will bring corrective action our way because we are His children. He wants to direct us from sin to holiness:

Now, mark this, friends. Mark this, and mark it well, the difference between that kind of punishment – listen – and discipline lies not in the nature of the pain, but in the purpose of the pain. You see? In other words, the suffering of an unbeliever and the suffering of a believer may not be too much different. Both can get cancer. Both can have loved ones that die. Both can lose their jobs. But in one sense, a man is being punished for his sins; in the other sense, he is being disciplined by God. The pain may be the same, the purpose is different.

In punishment, God is the judge; in discipline, He is the Father. In punishment, the object is His enemy; in discipline, the object is His child. In punishment, the goal is condemnation; in discipline, the goal is holiness.

I know. It’s hard to grasp. However, think of it as God driving us away from sin, something that could only be relieved through blood sacrifice. That is how much God hates sin.

Matthew Henry has a more encouraging explanation, even though he wrote it centuries before we were born. He tells us of the objective of the author of Hebrews, which was to strive against sin:

1. He owns that they had suffered much, they had been striving to an agony against sin. Here, (1.) The cause of the conflict was sin, and to be engaged against sin is to fight in a good cause, for sin is the worst enemy both to God and man. Our spiritual warfare is both honourable and necessary; for we are only defending ourselves against that which would destroy us, if it should get the victory over us; we fight for ourselves, for our lives, and therefore ought to be patient and resolute. (2.) Every Christian is enlisted under Christ’s banner, to strive against sin, against sinful doctrines, sinful practices, and sinful habits and customs, both in himself and in others.

2. He puts them in mind that they might have suffered more, that they had not suffered as much as others; for they had not yet resisted unto blood, they had not been called to martyrdom as yet, though they knew not how soon they might be. Learn here, (1.) Our Lord Jesus, the captain of our salvation, does not call his people out to the hardest trials at first, but wisely trains them up by less sufferings to be prepared for greater. He will not put new wine into weak vessels, he is the gentle shepherd, who will not overdrive the young ones of the flock. (2.) It becomes Christians to take notice of the gentleness of Christ in accommodating their trial to their strength. They should not magnify their afflictions, but should take notice of the mercy that is mixed with them, and should pity those who are called to the fiery trials to resist to blood; not to shed the blood of their enemies, but to seal their testimony with their own blood. (3.) Christians should be ashamed to faint under less trials, when they see others bear up under greater, and do not know how soon they may meet with greater themselves. If we have run with the footmen and they have wearied us, how shall we contend with horses? If we be wearied in a land of peace, what shall we do in the swellings of Jordan? Jeremiah 12:5.

II. He argues from the peculiar and gracious nature of those sufferings that befall the people of God. Though their enemies and persecutors may be the instruments of inflicting such sufferings on them, yet they are divine chastisements; their heavenly Father has his hand in all, and his wise end to serve by all; of this he has given them due notice, and they should not forget it, Hebrews 12:5.

If this is still difficult to grasp, think of it as training in sport or in the military. What does the coach or the drill sergeant ask his subordinates to do? Try harder, work harder, get rid of the flaws. Be a better athlete. Be a better soldier. Put up with gradually increased training and, through it, become a professional athlete or a professional soldier.

What are the objectives of training? Perseverance and endurance. We want to win sports matches or athletic competitions. We want to win battles so that we win a war.

Discipline from God works along the same lines. He wants us to be with Him at the end of our Christian race. He’s training us to endure, to persevere — and to be victorious.

The subject continues next week, but if we keep these thoughts in mind, next week’s verses will be easier to understand.

Next time — Hebrews 12:8-11

What follows are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, February 16, 2020.

This particular day is also Sexagesima Sunday, 60 days before Easter. Centuries ago, Lent would have already begun a week earlier, the Monday after Septuagesima Sunday.

The readings are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Moses reveals God’s rewards and penalties with regard to the Ten Commandments. Matthew Henry calls our attention to the number of times Moses says ‘the Lord your God’, a clear indication that He had made a covenant with His people. One of my favourite verses is the second half of verse 19.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

30:15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.

30:16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.

30:17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them,

30:18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,

30:20 loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

First reading – alternate (Catholic)

This alternate first reading about the Ten Commandments is from the Book of Sirach, found in the Catholic version of the Bible.

Sirach 15:15-20

15:15 If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

15:16 He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

15:17 Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.

15:18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything;

15:19 his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every human action.

15:20 He has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

Psalm

Matthew Henry says that David gathered all of his praises of the Lord that he had written during the course of his life and placed them in this magnificent Psalm. Henry describes Psalm 119 as a ‘chest of gold rings, not a chain of gold links’.

Psalm 119:1-8

119:1 Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.

119:2 Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,

119:3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.

119:4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.

119:5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

119:6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

119:7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.

119:8 I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

Epistle

Readings from 1 Corinthians continue. We are now on 1 Corinthians 3. Paul explains that the converts of Corinth were still ‘infants in Christ’, needing spiritual milk rather than meat. They were dividing themselves up into factions, based on the church leader who baptised them. He wanted them to remember that they were all followers of Christ, therefore, all servants of God.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

3:1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.

3:2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready,

3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

3:4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.

3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

3:7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

3:8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.

3:9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Gospel

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount continue. Jesus discusses reconciliation, temptation, divorce and idle oaths. N.B.: Jesus did not mean verses 29 and 30 literally; He means for us to walk in the Spirit and not be tempted by what we see. Walking in the Spirit will cut off our carnal appetites.

Matthew 5:21-37

5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’

5:22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

5:23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,

5:24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

5:25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.

5:26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

5:31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’

5:32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’

5:34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,

5:35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

5:36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

5:37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Those were hard words for people to hear then. They are just as difficult these days.

Super Bowl LIV (54, in new money) took place on Candlemas, February 2, 2020.

It is hard to imagine any half-time display less worthy of a Sunday, let alone on an important feast day in the Church.

February 2 is also Groundhog Day, and that found its rightful place in the advertising.

Half-time show

Not being an American football fan, I did not watch any of it but saw tweets about the half-time show the next day. You’ll have to click on the link to see the content.

Was this family viewing?

Jeb! liked it, though:

Yes, it does sound creepy. Quite something for a convert to Catholicism and a Fourth Degree in the Knights of Columbus.

The self-described ‘Follower of Christ’, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) also enjoyed it. He gave the half-time show an A+:

The SGT Report wrote about child grooming on February 7, mentioning the half-time show. This excerpt begins after the introductory section about a mother who posed online as an 11-year-old (emphases mine):

This is the new face of how predators are grooming young girls (and boys) to be trafficked, molested and raped. However, it starts much earlier, with a culture that has brainwashed itself into believing that sexual freedom amounts to a Super Bowl half-time show in which barely-clad women spend 20 minutes twerking, gyrating (some of it on a stripper pole) and showing off sexually provocative dance moves.

This is part and parcel of the pornification of American culture

Pop culture and porn culture have become part of the same seamless continuum,” explains theatre historian and University of Illinois professor Mardia Bishop. “As these images become pervasive in popular culture, they become normalized… and… accepted.”

This foray into porn culture—the increasing acceptability and pervasiveness of sexualized imagery in mainstream media—is where pop culture takes a dark turn. “Visual images and narratives of music videos clearly have more potential to form attitudes, values, or perceptions of social reality than does the music alone,” notes author Douglas A. Gentile in his book Media Violence and Children. In fact, music videos are among the worst culprits constantly bombarding young people today with sexual images and references.

Screen time has become the primary culprit for the oversexualization of young people.

Danger, Will Robinson, danger.

Mar a Lago party

President and Mrs Trump held a large private Super Bowl party at Mar a Lago in Palm Beach.

It looks as if they were filing in to the dining room during the half-time show. Actor Terrence K Williams was with them. Good for him:

The US president gave a pre-game show interview to Sean Hannity. This was before his third State of the Union address and his impeachment acquittal:

Advertising

The Super Bowl is the advertising world’s biggest day of the year.

Some American viewers are just as interested in the adverts as they are in the game, if not more so.

However, some advertising themes are more worthy than others:

That day, Ad Week posted ‘The 10 Best Super Bowl Ads of 2020’. They chose ads in reverse order for Porsche, Tide, Microsoft, Mtn Dew Zero Sugar, Snickers, Hyundai Sonata, Amazon Alexa, Google AI (artificial intelligence) and Jeep.

What, no Budweiser? Well, the iconic Clydesdales were nowhere to be seen — at least not this year.

Jeep won the top spot, in Ad Week‘s estimation. Those responding to Jeep in the tweet below also raved about it. I found it rather frustrating to watch. Then again, I never liked Groundhog Day:

Although this next video on Super Bowl LIV advertising is just under 20 minutes long, the two presenters from The Corbett Report offer an amusing, yet sound, critique of three adverts, which one of them chose to analyse:

The three adverts chosen have one running theme: artificial intelligence.

The first ad they played was Budweiser’s. It was poorly put together. This is because most of the advert shows an Alexa-type device in a young man’s flat. Where’s the brew, you might ask? Nowhere. Or maybe a bottle showed up briefly at the end. I don’t recall. (That is what makes it a bad ad.) This is a safety announcement about drinking responsibly. The Budweiser logo shows up only at the end.

The next advert the men looked at was the one Ad Week rated second (see above): Google’s. A man went through old photographs of his late wife Loretta and spoke to Google, narrating a caption for each photo. Each of his phrases began with the word ‘remember’. The helpful electronic Google assistant confirmed that it was logging all his captions.

The two presenters rightly pointed out that people were unwittingly posting their life stories to the cloud. How would Google use those data? How many thousands or millions of lives would be logged for Google’s use? Food for thought.

The third ad was for Verizon. It showed clips of first responders in emergency situations. Verizon’s superior network capabilities help them get to the scenes of accidents and fires that much quicker. What’s not to like, right? Yet, as The Corbett Report presenters said, pandering to the public’s emotions is a very slick and underhanded way of getting people to accept and rely on artificial intelligence.

So, we have Alexa monitoring one’s drink levels, Google ‘helping’ with memory problems and Verizon’s GPS (tracking) capabilities.

Danger, Will Robinson, danger.

Next week: How Cannes Lions ad winners shape your worldview

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