Friday, January 22, 2021

The Commemoration of St. Timothy

Sermon preached on the Commemoration of St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor, observed on Thursday, January 21, 2021.

When St. Paul urged young Timothy to fight the good fight, he was not primarily talking about battles in congregations or with obstinate members or even with the powers of the world around us.  Not that there would not be battles of this kind.  There were and there are.  No congregation is without its conflicts and no parish is without those who resist the voice of Scripture and no church is without those difficult members who make it harder to love your brother than to love your enemy.  Of course, these battles were and are and will continue to afflict the church until Christ comes again in His glory.  But the fight St. Paul refers to is personal.

The good fight is that which takes place within you.  St. Paul knows this only too well.  He was a persecutor of the Church before he was ever an apostle to the Gentiles.  He held the coats of the people in whom he had aroused the tempting scent of murder.  He was still a difficult person to get along with.  Ask only Silas, Barnabas, Luke, and, yes, Timothy.  They all felt the barbs of St. Paul’s words and actions when something went wrong.  St. Paul daily fought against the powers of anger and discontent and pride and arrogance.  Some days, he lost that fight and the power of ego lived larger in him than the power of Christ.

We would like to believe that our pastors are like Nathanael or Bartholomew – people of such single-minded hearts that it could be said of us as it was of him that there was no guile of deceit in him.  We would like to believe that our pastors are holy all the time, that they wear this holiness like the rest of us wear clothing.  We would like to believe that temptation is easy for the men of cloth – perhaps we want to believe this because we find it so hard to resist the advances of the devil, the deceitful words of evil, and the tempting, well worn paths of sin.  Just maybe if our pastor has learned not to have such a problem with sin, we too might learn how to be holy.

Pastors would like to believe the same thing.  They would like to believe that for the pastor marriage and family are not difficult relationships, that for the pastor there is never any temptation to want or steal or lash out in anger or speak lies instead of truth or lust in the shadows of the heart while appearing so decent on the outside.  Pastors would love to think that sin was no longer a problem, that they had dealt with the dark side enough to know how to resist and fight off its influence.  But every day proves that every pastor is a sinner like every Christian.

The faith is a fight.  The life of the faithful is a fight.  It is not a lost cause.  No, we do not fight with human weapons but with the whole armor of God.  With the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the feet shod with peace, the shield of faith held up with the hand, the helmet of salvation to guard the mind, and the sword of the Spirit to wield against our enemies, we fight.  Even when the enemy is within us, we fight with the same weapons and are guarded by the same armor.

Yes, we fight, but no, we do not fight alone.  Christ is fighting in us and through us the great enemies of the faith that capture our hearts with that which has no value and deceive us from the true treasure with cheap trinkets of the moment.  Christ is fighting in us and through us those who whine and moan and complain about how hard it is to live by faith and how difficult it is to resist temptation.  Christ is fighting in us and through us the complacency that would put off the things of God and the laziness that would surrender every virtue every time it seemed that we might have to work to keep what God freely gave.

As pastors and people, St. Paul bids us fight – waging war against the old Adam and its voice of defeat and against the world and the devil working all around us to steal our hearts away from God.  But fight is what we do.  With weapons of the Spirit we fight against haughty pride and learn humility.  With the training of the Spirit we fight against the sins that stain our consciences and confess them to the Lord.  With the wisdom of the Spirit we fight against the rush to judge or speak and learn to put the best construction on everything.  With the vision of the Spirit we fight against the disappointment of eyes that see only wrong and learn to see with the eyes of faith the promises of God that will not let us down.  With the truth of the Spirit we fight against hearts that know the cost of everything but the value of nothing, especially life given by God.  With the heart of the Spirit we fight against in the safe space in which the hurts of others are theirs and never ours – unlike the mercy of God which bore the weight of sins and sorrows which were never God’s but are always ours.

Though devils all the world should fill and hearts too quickly surrender to the old Adam and his ways, we will not give in and we will not give up.  None other than Christ Himself fights for us.  Every day He works to reclaim us as His own people and restore us by the power of His grace.  Every day He speaks with the voice of His Word to make us wise unto salvation and every day He washes us with the once and forever baptismal water.  Every day He feeds us the taste of heaven in His body broken for us and His blood poured out for us.  Every day He sends us back home minus the sins we came here with and with a strong hope to replace our fading strength.  My friends, there is no rest for us but only the battle for our lives that takes place in us every bit as much as it takes place outside of us in the world.  But do not lose heart, we fight as victors to keep what Christ has won.  

Do not lose heart, the devil and our own sinful flesh and the world around us cannot win without our own surrender of the good and precious mercy that first made us Christ’s own and still keeps us as His own.  That was the comfort to St. Timothy.  That is the comfort of those who dare to pastor as he once did.  That is the comfort of those who hear the Word and receive its sacramental grace in water, bread, and wine.  It is a fight, but we do not fight alone.  It is a fight against enemies outside of us but they are already defeated.  It is a fight inside our hearts and minds but the Spirit is working to transform our minds and make our hearts His temple.  It is a fight, but it is the good fight of the redeemed to lay hold of the redemption which is ours in Christ Jesus.  May God fill us with boldness, equip us with courage, strengthen our faith, and support our hope, until that day when at last we shall surrender the weapons and rejoice to live in the victory of Christ forevermore.  Amen.

Funny how we just realized death was real. . .

It seems that COVID has awakened the national conscience to the reality of death.  But did death just suddenly appear?  Are we just now realizing that people die?  Did we not pay attention to this sooner?

Why was death not an issue for the nearly 50 years of legal killing of the unborn?  Why does the death of someone diagnosed with COVID 19 (either as primary or a secondary cause of death) suddenly warrant shutting down the nation, closing businesses, masking everyone, and keeping distant?  It would take a couple of three COVID 19 years of death to equal one year's worth of killed babies and yet abortion is deemed a social issue?

Why was death not an issue for the elderly or infirm or those who simply decide life is not worth living?  We work to preserve life at great cost all the while making it legal for people to decide for themselves or others when they can check out with the aid of drugs that guarantee a painless death (for everyone except those on death row, it would seem)?  So abortion is merely a health care decision but the corona virus is an existential threat?  

I am not being insensitive to those who died during this pandemic.  I am wondering why we suddenly have decided that their deaths are worth so much more than the death of the unborn, the aged, the infirm, or those who just want to die?

Either death is real and bad for all or it is for none.  Death is, after all, no respecter of persons.  It kills every age, every race, every economic status, and every person deemed worthy or not.  Why is it okay to kill some and have the government pay the cost of this death and why is it okay to spend untold trillions and change our lives to protect others?  Why do we think we are morally superior to those who before us endorsed slavery when we routinely kill thousands of babies each and every day (and call it a protected right)?

I wish someone would explain this to me. . . and to folks who presume it is entirely logical to work so hard to protect some life and not to bat an eye at taking others.  Perhaps the Supreme Court could venture to explain what they began with their legalization of this murder.  It cannot be about the rights of one set of people against another unless we are willing to grant that some lives matter more than others.

These are the things I think about on a day like this when the anniversary of a SCOTUS decision hangs in the air like the stink of death.  I can only hope it causes other to ask the same questions.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The depth of misunderstanding. . .

There are those who are insisting that the children of Trump supporters be sent to re-education camps or that the Congressmen and Senators who objected to the electoral vote be censured or worse or that the Trump voters be somehow prevented from voting again.  It is bizarre.  Biden talks unity but speaks with a forked tongue.  The enemies of Trump who have objected to his presidency from the very beginning have four years of pent up anger which they are now unleashing.  But along with this vindictive bent is something even more disconcerting.  These supporters of Biden and his liberal agenda seem to have little real understanding of the great issues that divide our nation.  They cannot conceive of what would move any thinking individual to support Trump.  The Trump voters are, in the words of Hillary Clinton, the deplorables who must be rejected, punished, and prevented from power.

Those who supported Trump had other things in mind other than the flawed man himself.  They were fighting for things that progressives had long ago given up.  If they were like me, they did not love Trump but they feared those who would cast aside the valued treasures of morality and liberty and believed (in most cases rightly so) that Trump would protect them.  Here I am speaking of great issues that have divided our land for some time and will continue to be the source of conflict among us.  Issues such as abortion and the cause of life cut deep into our national identity.  Euthanasia and assisted suicide are other sides of the same pro-life positions openly attacked and mocked by Biden and his supporters but held sacred and precious by most of those who elected Trump once and voted for him again.

The pro-life issue is pivotal but it is not the only area of difference.  Privacy is also a profound issue of disagreement.  Some would gladly surrender any personal liberty and privacy for the sake of a better sense of security but many, if not most, of those who supported Trump are deeply concerned for the loss of personal liberty and privacy that has accelerated in the years sin 9-11.  While we joke about Siri or Alexa listening in or the cloud mining of personal information that has become normal, this is one of the great divides among us.  Perhaps half our nation is willing to surrender privacy and personal liberty for convenience or security, the rest of us are fearful of the technological big brother that watches what we do and listens in to our conversations.

Another area of division revolves around personal responsibility.  Many today have surrendered personal responsibility and accountability for victimhood in which your wrongs are caused by others and you bear little consequence for your actions.  In this culture of rights, the privilege being sought is right not be at fault for anything.  Along with personal liberty and privacy, those who seek a government solution for every problem seek a nanny state in which we are treated like children.  Some of us find it impossible to reconcile the gift of liberty for the pursuit of a victim culture.  Guaranteed income, relief from debt, free education, and government provided health care all relieve the person of any responsibility but at what cost?  Biden and his followers stand for the unfettered expansion of government and the restriction of personal liberty and privacy.

Freedom is not just a word.  The shocking shut down of free speech by social media platforms who claim to exist to foster conversation and the free exchange of ideas will not quickly be forgotten.  When an industry bills itself as the primary conduit of information and dialog, defends itself against those who want free speech moderated, and then, sensing a change of public opinion, silences that debate, we see the true colors of progressivism.  Some of us know that when their ideas can no longer be credibly defended, the response is to silence their opponents.  That is exactly what we have seen happen.  Biden and his liberal supporters are welcome to debate ideas but debate is not what is happening.  Instead they are shutting down venues of honest debate.  It is no wonder that some have become advocates of a vast conspiracy theory.

Freedom of religious expression is not merely the right to private belief or even private worship but the right for that faith to inform the conscience, influence politics, and address the public arena.  Without this guarantee, such freedom is shallow and empty.  Nobody gains from the religious whose belief is hidden deep down inside and kept from influencing public speech and public action.  What good is it for Biden to promote his Roman Catholic affiliation if he insists that his faith either does not influence his public policy or he disagrees with the basic tenets of that faith?    Religious conservatives expect that those who wear the name confess the truth.  Even more so, religious conservatives expect that this truth is deeper and wider than the individual and the moment.  Biden and his administration have already signaled their objection to a religious order maintaining their beliefs against insurance regulations and this is but the start of a concerted effort to allow free access only to those churches willing to change their doctrine.

Education does not flourish in the protected environment that the university has become.  Instead of challenging ideas and providing a venue for debate, conversation, and dialog, the university has become intolerant of any ideas except those sanctioned by that university.  A university which refuses to allow a diversity of ideas is no university at all.  The politically correct have taken hold of most of the colleges and universities in America and especially the graduate schools.  By shutting down debate before it begins, the great universities have surrendered themselves to the power of fear and to the dominance of the moment.  Trump's disdain for the liberal elite universities tapped into psyche of many Americans who have been ridiculed by those elite as hillbillies or hicks for a very long time.

I could go on.  The change in presidents is more than the difference between men.  It is the start of an effort to radically reshape America.  From personal freedom to access to free speech forums to religious freedom to abortion to liberal education to victimhood to governmental intrusions into every aspect of our lives, we find ourselves at a crossroads.  It could be that the men are less significant than what they stand for or stand against.  Those who voted for Biden voted for this radical change and those who voted for Trump were voting against it.  In the end it may not have that much to do with Democrats and Republicans as it does with these competing visions of what our national identity is to be about.  In this some of Trump's supporters fear that the old party designations no longer apply and that both parties are securely in the hands of progressivism -- their only difference is in degree and pace.  

Although not a supporter of Trump the man, many found him to be less threatening to America's future than those who believe we must radically re-invent ourselves and make a clear break with our past.  That is one profound area which most of the pundits have either dismissed outright or refused to discuss at all.  What happened January 6 was shocking to us all.  There is no justification for such violence.  Indeed, the violence stole the thunder from any debate that might have been held.  It may have made it more difficult for any real conversation to begin.  Whether we were talking rioting in Kenosha or Minneapolis or Portland or Seattle or Washington, DC, these distract us from something we need to talk about openly and honestly before it is too late.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Simple Word, Great Revelation

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany B, on Sunday, January 17, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich. 

    It’s our habit as modern people to question simple things.  Our world has gotten so complex that we overlook simple things, we don’t think too much about them.  Simple things are unremarkable.  Instead, we want and trust in elaborate and sophisticated things.  It’s the amazing and even the miraculous that we want.  Simple just doesn’t cut it, and yet, there’s that old saying: Keep It Simple Stupid. We question the simple, but it’s exactly through the simple Word of God that He reveals Himself to you and gives you salvation.
    The Lord always revealed Himself through His Word, His Word spoken and written.  We see this in the call of Samuel.  Young Samuel, lying in bed, heard the voice of God calling to him.  Hearing his name from a distant voice, he got up and ran to the priest Eli, thinking he was the one calling.  Even in the middle of the night,  Samuel was ready to serve when called. 
    Finally, Eli figured out what was going on.  He realized it was the voice of God that Samuel heard, and he told him what to do.  And just as Samuel was willing to serve Eli at all times, he was willing to serve the Lord.  Hearing God call again, Samuel said, “Speak, LORD, your servant hears” (1 Sam 3:10). 
   At that time, Scripture says Samuel didn’t know the Lord, that is, he didn’t know the Lord’s voice.  He never heard God audibly speak to him before.  But Samuel surely knew God.  He knew Him by faith.  Serving in the temple, he heard the words of Scripture.  Through simple words written and proclaimed by Eli and other teachers, Samuel knew God, even before he heard God’s voice.  Through simple words written in Scripture, Samuel was given faith...and so are you.  You know the Lord because He’s revealed Himself to you in His Word written by the prophets and evangelists.  
   We live in a similar time as young Samuel.  The Bible says that at that time the word of the LORD was rare; that there was no vision.  God wasn’t directly revealing Himself and His Word to any prophet.  And that’s how it is today, and it will continue to be until Christ comes again.  
   Ever since Christ, there’s been no prophet like the prophets of old.  The writer of Hebrews says, “In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb 1:1-2).  The time of direct revelation is over.  Now we know the Lord through the Word of Scripture.  But many of us still desire to have the miracle experience of direct revelation.  
   We want to audibly hear the voice of God.  We want to feel Him talking to us in our hearts.  We want this because we think our belief will be stronger because of that experience, that we can know for sure that God’s there, caring for us, loving us.  We want this because we’re sinners that don’t trust the simple Word of God, just as Nathanael didn’t trust the simple.
    After John the Baptist pointed to Christ and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), and after Jesus had called Andrew and Peter to be His disciples, He went to Galilee and told Philip to follow Him.  Hearing Jesus’ simple words, Philip followed, and then he went and told his brother, Nathanael.  He said, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn 1:45).  But instead of hearing that the Messiah had come, Nathanael only heard the Nazareth.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46).  Can anything good come from a small, insignificant town nowhere mentioned in the Scriptures?  Can anything good come from a place that’s simply a wide spot in the road?  Nathanael doubted the Good News his brother shared because Nazareth was so simple and unremarkable. 
    But, giving in, Nathanael followed, and as he was approaching Jesus, Christ identified him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit” (Jn 1:47).  Nathanael was taken aback.  How did Jesus know him?  And then Christ revealed who He was in a miraculous way, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (Jn 1:48).  Jesus displayed His omniscience.  He revealed something that only Nathanael would know, and hearing this, Nathanael believed.  He confessed Jesus to be the Son of God, the King of Israel. 
    Nathanael wanted the remarkable.  The simplicity of Nazareth was a stumbling block for him, just as the simplicity of God’s written and preached Word can be a stumbling block for us.  We want to see the miraculous.  And yet, the miracle Christ performed for Nathanael was nothing compared to what he would see.  He would see all the prophecies of old fulfilled, the Son of God walking among His people.  He would see salvation won in an unlikely way with Jesus’ death on the cross.  He would see the risen Lord ascend into heaven.  And he would see thousands upon thousands of people come to faith through the simple Word of Christ proclaimed.  
     Nathanael relied on the miracle, but Jesus was revealed long before that through the simple words of Scripture.  Philip said they’d found the Christ that Moses and the prophets wrote about.  And Jesus, after His resurrection showed His disciples that truth.  It’s all there, in black and white.  It’s all there in the simple Words of Scripture: Christ revealed, His saving work revealed.  It’s all revealed and given to you.  
    We may not think too much about God’s Word written and proclaimed.  We might think too much about the simplicity of water and bread and wine.  These simple things don’t impress us.  We want to hear and see greater things.  We want to audibly hear the voice of God like Samuel did.  We want to witness miracles like Nathanael did.  But in the simple Word we hear and see greater things.  We see new life given in the waters of baptism.  We see sins removed by the word of God’s forgiveness.  We see our Savior among us as He feeding us His body and blood.  We may not think too much about these simple things, but it’s exactly through the simple Word of our Lord that we receive the not so simple: forgiveness, life, and salvation.  So hear the simple Word of God, and with faith, respond like Nathanael, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God, the King of Israel,” respond like Samuel, “Speak, Lord, your servant listens.”  Hear the Word, know your Savior, and have everlasting life in Him.  In Jesus’ name...Amen.  

An uneasy peace. . . or not

It is common for Christians and those outside the faith to believe that the world is a neutral place, a place receptive to ideas and religion if proclaimed in winsomely.  Christians often are confused because they assume that there is something wrong with the message (out of date or irrelevant to modern society) and it needs adjusting or wrong with the medium (preaching is old fashioned and worship needs to be updated) to explain the empty pews.  Even at the worst, those inside and outside the Church have figured upon an uneasy peace between the world and the faith -- albeit one occasionally breached by crazies on one side or another.  After all, we live in America don't we?

However, the uneasy peace, if it ever was, has long ago given way to a conflicted relationship.  It is not because the Church has become more rigid (in fact, the Christmas message has become almost unrecognizably broad and open among many Christians).  It is because mankind, the very jewel of God’s work of creation, is at war with God its Creator.  Though we are loathe to admit this or to say it publicly, this is the condition we live in -- even in America!  The Church is caught in the cross hairs of a world at odds with its Creator, rejecting that Creator now every bit as much as in Eden, and therefore rejecting the Church -- her message and her people.

I grew up in a time when it was easy to forget this, when it was almost presumed that Church and society were partners working toward common goals of morality, harmony, virtue, goodness, generosity, compassion, and excellence.  But it was never the easy relationship that is often presumed.  In fact, to believe in the 1950s was to believe in a church that did not even exist -- except in the imagination.  There was no unanimity, no common community and life, and no formal compact to frame out goals and purposes of either or of both.  Perhaps the 1960s came along as the imagined cooperation was coming undone.  In any case, by the 1970s it was clear that things were not what we thought.

Jump ahead 40-50 years and you see the reality no longer hidden by artificial structures of obscured by manufactured images.  The words of Christ are now must easier to understand.  As the world hated Me, so it will hate you.  You will be delivered over to persecutor, judge, and death for My sake.  No more can we get by with an assumption of either an easy peace or an uneasy one.  There is war against creedal and confessional Christianity -- except in those churches that have abandoned creed and confession for accommodation to the prevailing mood and surrender of all ideas to the social constructs deemed good, right, and salutary in this moment.

Surely this will become clearer as we see political leaders readily and with impunity rejecting the doctrinal and moral stands of their own churches.  In this new world, what God thinks is not nearly as important or relevant as what we think -- or more importantly -- what we feel.  It is no secret that the Roman Catholics who are the most visible and prominent political leaders present a problem for Rome.  They have long ago rejected the most sacred tenets of the faith in favor of a humanistic religion of preference and individual conscience.  Abortion is the most public of the many stands violated by these individuals but it is not nearly the only one.  It is but the most prominent tip of a large iceberg.  And Rome is not alone in having folks who wear the colors of their churches while picking and choosing what they believe on the basis of political expediency.

It is better for us to admit the tension and to deal openly with the heightened conflict between orthodox Christianity and the world around us -- not quite so far advanced as Europe or even Canada but still very real.  We all know that to be acceptable in modern society any Christian must reject most of what orthodox Christianity confesses and Scripture teaches.  So if the Church must grow smaller in order to be more faithful, we must be willing to accept this.  But we accept this with regret, lamenting that the enmity between the world and the Church has too long gone hidden or unnoticed.  We were always in the world but not of it.  Perhaps the world knew this but we did not.  Now it cannot escape our notice.  And it will be upon us to choose to whom we will be faithful.  It should not be as difficult a choice as it will be and the pain will not last only a moment.  To surrender the idea that we are all kind of in this together, though coming at it from different sides, is a cost many are not yet willing to pay.  But pay we must if we are to be true to Christ, to His Word, and to the orthodox tradition of belief and life in Christ.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

When shepherds won't shepherd. . .

Already some folks have nodded their head at the headline.  Yes, we know of shepherds like that.  The presumption is that the shepherds who will not shepherd are those who are not friendly, winsome, welcoming, and gabby -- the kind who seem to do everything well except glad hand the masses.  As annoying as it might be when your pastor is more of an introvert or not adept at mingling with folks, this is not the big problem.  The big problem is when shepherd's don't shepherd -- not when they fail to make the small talk with their sheep and strangers.  That is not shepherding -- as nice as it is when a pastor is able to and feels comfortable doing the casual conversations with folks known and unknown.  Shepherding is preaching the whole counsel of God's Word, baptizing and then catechizing the baptized, hearing confession and speaking absolution to the penitent, presiding at the Lord's Table, visiting the sick and housebound, addressing the erring with God's Word, burying the dead, and consoling the grieving with the hope that is in Christ.  This is shepherding.  The other stuff, as much as you like it and as helpful as it might be to winning over the hearts of the sheep, is not the essential work of the shepherd.

The truth is that there are pastors (shepherds) who are stars at the small talk, friendly with strangers, and gifted with the gift of gab.  But if they are not preaching faithfully Law and Gospel, baptizing, teaching, absolving, presiding at the Eucharist, calling the fallen to repentance, burying the dead, and giving the grieving the real hope of a blest reunion with all who have died in the faith, he is not shepherding.  We have become too willing to accept lapses in the essential duties of the shepherd in Christ because the man may be popular and loved for the other stuff.  Now we should not have to choose between the qualities of our pastors (shepherds) but at minimum we should expect faithfulness to the real tasks and purposes of the ministry.  If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times to people who complain to me about their pastors.  If they preach faithfully the Word of God and administer the Sacraments faithfully, teach the faith to young and old, visit the sick, bury the dead, etc..., then you have a good pastor.  Strangely enough, I hardly ever get a complaint from people that their pastors fail to do these essential things but I heard complaints all the time about the other stuff when the shepherd is not adept at these things.  Are we satisfied for our shepherd to be friendly even if his sermons are empty of the Truth that endures forever?  Is it okay to have a shepherd who does not preach and teach so the the hunger for the Lord's body and blood is not awakened?  Is it okay to have a shepherd who does not proclaim baptism and catechize the baptized so that they know truth from error?  You get my drift.

The reason Lutheranism is in decline is not because our shepherds have been too faithful in preaching and teaching the faith, too encouraging to the baptized to receive absolution or the heavenly food of Christ's Table, too faithful in calling the erring to repentance, and too faithful in providing the pastoral care of God's Word to the sick, suffering, grieving, and dying.  Lutheranism is in decline because we have too many shepherds who do not do these things.  Friendliness is no substitute for faithfulness.  The shepherd is is good at everything but actually being a shepherd is doing no service to the people in his charge, the congregation in his care, and the faith that is supposed to be his primary domain.  As we begin a new year, it might not be a bad time to think on these things.

Monday, January 18, 2021

New life for blogs?

I got into blogging after many others and most who once blogged have stopped.  Every now and then I make my way through the blog roll I keep for personal use and find more and more of those addresses are no longer active.  I understand.  I am kind of a dinosaur.  But I tend to stick with things and so I have stuck with this forum.  Over time some changes have been made, though not many.  One is the switch to moderated comments.  It a pain for me; the comments awaiting moderation do not get looked over regularly or often and sometimes I just plain forget to publish them.  But the numbers of robo commenters increases as people try to ply their wares masquerading as commenters.  On top of that, those who comment with the same predictable comments on the same predictable topics -- less to comment on what was posted than to promote their own idiosyncrasies -- have become very tiresome.  Sadly the number of comments and commenters has dropped precipitously since the comments are now moderated.  I regret that since some strings of comments were very informative.

All that said, I wonder if maybe the dinosaurs may again roam the interwebs.  With Facebook becoming more and more persnickety about what is put on their platform and the ubiquitous fact checkers looking over everything, people maybe looking for another venue for commentary.  I am not all that sure about Parler and what its future might be and it is still in its infancy anyhow.  It seems that whatever platforms there are, the same problems will surface.  We seem to have rather thin skins and do not tolerate a vigorous discussion.  We live in a world of echo chambers and we each love the sound of our own voice most of all.  I am certainly no different.  

There was a time when blogs were the forums for opinion and for discussion.  This meager blog still gets more than its fair amount of attention -- usually some 60,000 folks a month venture over to see what thoughts are meandering from my brain.  Some come for the sermons (God bless you) and others to see if the old man is still cooking.  I suggest that blogs could see a resurgence but I have no way of knowing.  At least in the blogger end of things, something other than the party line might be allowed and, if people are polite and spammers do not bother too much, we might enjoy a decent debate.

Earlier this month the ALPB Forum banned anonymous posters and has undertaken a few other measures to try and pour a little oil on the troubled waters.  That forum was once much more vigorous and is now an argument that can be had without even the arguers being present.  I come and go from it but have become rather picky about the threads I will survey.

So we will see if 2021 sees the blog format and perhaps this blogger decline a bit or if the whole form sees a bit of a second wind.  In any case, I guess you will have me here, for good or for ill, until I find I have nothing to say.  Ask my family and the folks in my parish, that might be a long time!