Higher Things

Scuba Diving for Sins and Learning Theology in the Devil's Classroom

I had two articles published this week on different websites that might be of interest to you: "Scuba Diving for Sins" on Higher Things and "Learning Theology in the Devil's Classroom" on 1517 Legacy. Here's an intro to both of them, along with a link that will take you to the full article. Thank you!"Scuba Diving for Sins"

He suspected it was an ambush. The sweet-sounding invitation to come over and join her on Tuesday afternoon. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafting through the air. The glass of cold milk sweating on the table. "Have a seat," she smiled. He did. Polite small talk. He thanked her and ate a cookie. Drank half the glass of milk. Wiped his mouth with the perfectly folded napkin.

"So, you wanted to talk?"

She did. Not about the unseasonably warm weather or her grandchildren's new puppy. Other things weighed heavy on her mind. She was concerned, she said. There were things he needed to know. Things about someone in the church.

"Oh," he said.

"Yes," she said.

Because he just needed to be aware of a bit of this person's history. You know, since he was the new pastor and everything.

"Oh," he said.

"Yes," she said.

He took another bite of cookie. She cleared her throat and began, "Well, Pastor, there's a person in this congregation who..."

"These are good cookies," he said.

She was good at what she did. She concealed her frustration. Just an ever so slight tightening of the lips. "Well, thank you," she said. "So, as I was saying, there's a person who..."

But again he spoke. "Before you begin, can I ask you something?"

There was that tightening of the lips again. "I suppose, if you must."

"Are you about to tell me about someone else's sin? Because if you are, I need you to do something for me first."

"And what exactly might that be?"

"First, tell me three of your deepest, darkest sins-you know, the ones you've been hiding from the world for years, the ones you don't want anyone to find out about."

"I can't do that! Anyway, that's no one's business but my own."

He picked up another cookie. Met her eyes. Chewed and swallowed. Finished off the milk. "So, what I hear you saying is that you are perfectly willing to confess someone else's sins, but not your own?"

A long silence followed. Finally, she said, "Have I told you about my grandchildren's new puppy?"

Everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor, says Luther in the Large Catechism. And not only hear, but like the lady in this story, they'd rather speak evil than good about their neighbor as well.

It's like this: When people hear that God has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19), there are always some who put on scuba gear. Click here to read the full article...


"Learning Theology in the Devil's Classroom"

He was a dwarf of a man with coke bottle glasses, but when he told us boys about the Israelites walking dry-shod through the Red Sea, or Jacob rolling in the dirt with the angel, it was like he morphed into a giant Moses. With him, we were right there in the thick of things. He was my first Sunday School teacher. He was good. And he taught me about God. But he wasn’t my best teacher.

He exuded energy and excitement as he marched into the classroom, chalk in hand, to whiten the boards with declensions in Greek or paradigms in Latin. He ushered Rome and Athens into our classroom. Soon we were reading Paul in Paul’s original tongue. He was my language teacher in college. He was good. And he taught me about God. But he wasn’t my best teacher.

And along came more. Seminary profs who led us through the labyrinths of ancient heresies and dined with us on the rich cuisine of prophetic oracles. Jewish teachers in my graduate years who showed me how to swim in the deep waters of the Talmud and rabbinic lore. All of them were good. And they taught me about God. But they weren’t my best teachers.

My best teacher, the instructor who taught me more theology than any other, has been the devil. Click here to read the full article...

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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!