Friday, January 8, 2021

Truth and the Duty of Citizenship for Christians

I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. – John 18:37

Our society is in need of truth. This is a responsibility of every Christian. The events at our nation’s Capitol this past Wednesday drive home the significance of citizenship for all. From the earliest days of Christianity, responsible citizenship that bears witness to truth has been a hallmark of Jesus’ followers. This hallmark of truth has provided a meaningful contribution from Christianity to every society and it is required of each of us today.

Lake County is a long way from the U.S. Capitol. But an otherwise educated man and leader in business who lives a short drive from our church was arrested for his participation in the riotous attack on our nation’s deliberative body. This arrest suggests to me that our own community is afflicted by misguided and destructive impulses.

I have listened to many members of our church express a sense of personal assault as the violence was wrought on our Capitol building this week. I found myself remembering words of Jesus’ lament over his capital, Jerusalem. “See, your house is left to you, desolate.” (Matthew 23:38). In that scene of lament, as Luke records it, Jesus was approached and encouraged not to threaten Herod, but Jesus sent word to him, saying, “Look, I’m throwing out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete my work.” (Luke 13:32)

Eric Gill, 'Jesus before Pilate', Woodcut, 1921

This is the context of events that placed Jesus before Pontius Pilate, governor of the Roman Empire, when Jesus stated his duty of testifying to truth. The Apostle Paul followed in the footsteps of his Savior both in front of leadership in Jerusalem and before the Roman Empire. In one scene, “the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Be encouraged! Just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so too you must testify in Rome.’” (Acts 23:11) Testimony to truth is a responsibility of any disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul shared his truth and claimed it in the context of his citizenship in the Roman Empire when a centurion commander, “went to Paul and demanded, ‘Tell me! Are you a Roman citizen?’ He said, ‘Yes.’” (Acts 22:27)

The Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America

Each of us, as citizens of the United States of America, have been offered a unique gift of self-governance. The constitution of our nation offers us the spiritual privilege of religious freedom. As Christians in this nation, we are not only called upon to speak truth, but also to sustain the constitution so that we may continue to bless our land with the benefits of our spiritual work. It is clear that as followers of Jesus, part of our work is to heal and confront the corrosion of falsehood. 

I was struck by the witness of John Kelly in a television interview on Thursday. General Kelly had a distinguished career in the Marines and answered the call and was confirmed to serve in the Presidential Cabinet and as Chief of Staff for President Trump. In the interview, he said, “The behavior yesterday and in the weeks and months before … has just been outrageous from the President. What happened on Capitol Hill yesterday is a direct result of his poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the frauds …." It is possible for people of various political stripes to quote their own preferred expert on recent events. But the phrase that leapt out at me from the testimony of this man who has been a firsthand observer of events in recent years was his reference to “poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the frauds.”

As followers of Jesus Christ, I believe this moment in history is asking each of us in our own lives to take extra care when bearing witness. There are otherwise well intentioned people who have fallen prey to a poison of falsehood in our society. Familiar political banners of 2020 were carried into the capital alongside individuals who wore clothing that celebrated the Auschwitz concentration camp or proclaimed similar heinous wishes for tomorrow. This is truly a poison which requires sincere and sacrificial truth in love for every community including our own. We are charged in the Ten Commandments not to bear false witness. Our witness as Christians must always be truth in love.

This Sunday is the annual congregational moment for the renewal of our baptismal covenant. We do need a cleansing. It is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. Bearing truth is not for the faint of heart. We know ourselves. Each of us is flawed and we all bring shadows of our own personal journeys. But a Christian is always brought back to the light of life that we discover in Jesus. That life is our testimony. It shapes our character and becomes a contribution we can offer as citizens. Let us pray for our nation and its leaders. Likewise let us look in the mirror with sincerity of heart and pray for our neighbors. Hope persists.

Friends, never forget. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Brian R. Paulson, D.Min.

Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville

(This is an article first published in the Parish Life virtual newsletter of the First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville.)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Resources for New Officers

Here are some resources for New Officers of the First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville

Video invitation to consider what we believe:

Take a moment to watch this conversation. Dave Tomlinson, the man being interviewed is a priest in the Church of England who is actively working and writing with agnostics and various non-believers as his church seeks to connect with our increasingly secular society. Use this conversation as a place to ponder what you believe and why. The video is not meant as an affirmation of our congregation, but as a prompt for your own exploration within the context of our faith tradition.

Presbyterian Church (USA) Constitutional Links

Here is a link where you can download a pdf version of the Book of Confessions -

A pdf version of the Book of Order has been emailed to all new officers.

Here is a link to a searchable web version of both the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order -$fn=default.htm

Presbyterian Initiative and Presbyterian History

Here is a link to the Matthew 25 Initiative page of the Presbyterian Church (USA) -

Here is a link to the Prezi presentation about the history of Presbyterians:

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Holy Saturday - The Tomb and The Light

“Our favorite place is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” That was the response of Arab Lutheran friends that my wife and I visited many years ago in Jerusalem. We asked which holy site was the most meaningful for them. They knew it all. They were lifelong residents of East Jerusalem. My father-in-law was an executive for Pan American Airways and was friends with Samir, a travel agent, and his wife, Mary.

Jill and I were more impressed by the garden tomb that is maintained near the Jerusalem bus station. It has the look and feel of the tomb that artists have represented throughout the centuries. Whereas the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jesus’ tomb according to legend) is in a crowded part of town.

There are layers of church built upon the site. Each part of Christianity has claimed a portion. The Ethiopian Orthodox church maintains a community on the roof of the place. It seemed like a grand aggregation. We wondered what the fascination for our local friends was.

They told us they marveled to see all the world gathering in one spot to show veneration for the one who demonstrated love and followed that love to the point of death. I wonder, have we stopped on this Holy Saturday to offer thanks to Christ for his great love?

What I appreciate about this place, is an event that happens in the Orthodox tradition. It is the tradition of Holy Fire that claims the light of God enters the tomb and a holy fire is lit as we remember Jesus’ resurrection. I wonder, are we ready to come aflame with the light of resurrection hope?

I understand that Covid-19 has closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre this year. Are you ready for the light of resurrection to flood your life?

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Work of Love

The work of Jesus was love. On this day, we consider the depths of that love. It is steadfast, never-ending. It conquers death and the deepest sense of abandonment.

Detail of a painting by Eustache Le Sueur

I have been thinking about this reading from Mark all morning. It tells us Jesus was crucified at 9 in the morning. I have been thinking about the memories that would have been in the heart of the women and other onlookers who watched him suffer the depths of abandonment.

John writes about Jesus in his gospel saying, “in him was Life, and the Life was the light of all people.” (John 1:4) When I gaze at the cross, I see a continuation of love. I consider the work Jesus undertook with outcasts and sinners. I see him sit at table with the privileged and the marginalized. I witness him teaching and healing. He gave it all away – and he did not come down from the cross.

Marc Chagall - "Jesus in the Night"

I remember reading Bonhoeffer say that when the worst was done to Jesus, thrusting him onto the cross, the powerful good news is that Jesus went through the cross and into the arms of God. I want to have that trust. I am teaching myself to lean on the steadfast love and mercy of God.

In these days of Covid-19 pandemic, we all feel thrust into a state of abandonment. I pray that you will do the work of love. Jesus did the work to the end so that we might begin anew.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

150th Anniversary Guest Preacher, The Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes - Sermon Clip

Here is a portion of a video by Dr. Craig Barnes, our preacher for the 150th Charter Day worship.

You can see the whole sermon, and view all of his sermons at Princeton Theological Seminary, where the Rev. Barnes serves as President, by clicking here.

See you in church!

- Brian Paulson

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Ten Commandments Described in the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of 1647

For centuries, Presbyterians had one guide for understanding scripture. That was the Westminster Confession of faith that was adopted by the Scottish Presbyterians in 1647. It is encyclopedic in its approach and for that reason it is powerful to read this legacy (although in many ways archaic) of faith. Powerfully, it not only lists the things which are prohibited, but also the positive duties of love that are required of us to faithfully follow the "Law of God."

I am not suggesting that we slavishly follow every interpretation of the Ten Commandments in this 17th century affirmation. But I am suggesting that there are few guides in the church that so carefully reflect on the nuances of God's Law. Remember that Jesus named the summary of God's law as the path to eternity - it is instruction to Love God and Love our Neighbor day by day. Take a look below and consider what insight you can find from our brothers and sisters in faith who learned from this extensive catechism over the course of many generations.

"Moses Receiving the Ten Commandments" by Marc Chagall


Question 102: What is the sum of the four commandments which contain our duty to God?
Answer: The sum of the four commandments containing our duty to God is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind.

Question 103: Which is the first commandment?
Answer: The first commandment is, Thou shall have no other gods before me.

Question 104: What are the duties required in the first commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended; and walking humbly with him.

Question 105: What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the first commandment are, atheism, in denying or not having a God; idolatry, in having or worshiping more gods than one, or any with or instead of the true God; the not having and avouching him for God, and our God; the omission or neglect of anything due to him, required in this commandment; ignorance, forgetfulness, misapprehensions, false opinions, unworthy and wicked thoughts of him; bold and curious searching into his secrets; all profaneness, hatred of God; self-love, self-seeking, and all other inordinate and immoderate setting of our mind, will, or affections upon other things, and taking them off from him in whole or in part; vain credulity, unbelief, heresy, misbelief, distrust, despair, incorrigibleness, and insensibleness under judgments, hardness of heart, pride, presumption, carnal security, tempting of God; using unlawful means, and trusting in lawful means; carnal delights and joys; corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal; lukewarmness, and deadness in the things of God; estranging ourselves, and apostatizing from God; praying, or giving any religious worship, to saints, angels, or any other creatures; all compacts and consulting with the devil, and hearkening to his suggestions; making men the lords of our faith and conscience; slighting and despising God and his commands; resisting and grieving of his Spirit, discontent and impatience at his dispensations, charging him foolishly for the evils he inflicts on us; and ascribing the praise of any good we either are, have, or can do, to fortune, idols, ourselves, or any other creature.

Question 106: What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
Answer: These words before me, or before my face, in the first commandment, teach us, that God, who sees all things, takes special notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God: that so it may be an argument to dissuade from it, and to aggravate it as a most impudent provocation: as also to persuade us to do as in his sight,: Whatever we do in his service.

Question 107: Which is the second commandment?
Answer: The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Question 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.

Question 110: What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?
Answer: The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God's sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.

Question 111: Which is the third commandment?
Answer: The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.

Question 112: What is required in the third commandment?
Answer: The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and: Whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and
Answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.

Question 113: What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the not using of God's name as is required; and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked mentioning, or otherwise using his titles, attributes, ordinances, or works, by blasphemy, perjury; all sinful cursings, oaths, vows, and lots; violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; murmuring and quarreling at, curious prying into, and misapplying of God's decrees and providences; misinterpreting, misapplying, or any way perverting the Word, or any part of it, to profane jests, curious or unprofitable

Questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, or sinful lusts and practices; the maligning, scorning, reviling, or anywise opposing of God's truth, grace, and ways; making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; being ashamed of it, or a shame to it, by unconformable, unwise, unfruitful, and offensive walking, or backsliding from it.

Question 114: What reasons are annexed to the third commandment?
Answer: The reasons annexed to the third commandment, in these words, The Lord thy God, and, For the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain, are, because he is the Lord and our God, therefore his name is not to be profaned, or any way abused by us; especially because he will be so far from acquitting and sparing the transgressors of this commandment, as that he will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment, albeit many such escape the censures and punishments of men.

Question 115: Which is the fourth commandment?
Answer: The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Question 116: What is required in the fourth commandment?
Answer: The fourth commandment requires of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian sabbath, and in the New Testament called the Lord's day.

Question 117: How is the sabbath or the Lord's day to be sanctified?
Answer: The sabbath or Lord's day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God's worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.

Question 118: Why is the charge of keeping the sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors?
Answer: The charge of keeping the sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone ofttimes to hinder them by employments of their own.

Question 119: What are the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required, all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.

Question 120: What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it?
Answer: The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it, are taken from the equity of it, God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs, and reserving but one for himself, in these words, Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: from God's challenging a special propriety in that day, The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: from the example of God, who in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: and from that blessing which God put upon that day, not only in sanctifying it to be a day for his service, but in ordaining it to be a means of blessing to us in our sanctifying it;Wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Question 121: Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment?
Answer: The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment, partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it, and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments, and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion; and partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restrains our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it comes but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it;and that Satan with his instruments much labor to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.

Question 122: What is the sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man?
Answer: The sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man is, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to do to others: What we would have them to do to us.

Question 123: Which is the fifth commandment?
Answer: The fifth commandment is, Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God gives thee.

Question 124: Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?
Answer: By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.

Question 125: Why are superiors styled father and mother?
Answer: Superiors are styled father and mother, both to teach them in all duties toward their inferiors, like natural parents, to express love and tenderness to them, according to their several relations; and to work inferiors to a greater willingness and cheerfulness in performing their duties to their superiors, as to their parents.

Question 126: What is the general scope of the fifth commandment?
Answer: The general scope of the fifth commandment is, the performance of those duties which we mutually owe in our several relations, as inferiors, superiors, or equals.

Question 127: What is the honor that inferiors owe to their superiors.?
Answer: The honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defense and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.

Question 128: What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
Answer: The sins of inferiors against their superiors are, all neglect of the duties required toward them; envying at, contempt of, and rebellion against, their persons and places, in their lawful counsels, commands, and corrections; cursing, mocking, and all such refractory and scandalous carriage, as proves a shame and dishonor to them and their government.

Question 129: What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
Answer: It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God has put upon them.

Question 130: What are the sins of superiors?
Answer: The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them, an inordinate seeking of themselves, their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; counseling, encouraging, or favoring them in that which is evil; dissuading, discouraging, or discountenancing them in that which is good; correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath; or any way dishonoring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behavior.

Question 131: What are the duties of equals?
Answer: The duties of equals are, to regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honor to go one before another; and to rejoice in each other's gifts and advancement, as their own.

Question 132: What are the sins of equals?
Answer: The sins of equals are, besides the neglect of the duties required, the undervaluing of the worth, envying the gifts, grieving at the advancement of prosperity one of another; and usurping preeminence one over another.

Question 133: What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment, the more to enforce it?
Answer: The reason annexed to the fifth commandment, in these words, That thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God gives thee, is an express promise of long life and prosperity, as far as it shall serve for God's glory and their own good, to all such as keep this commandment.

Question 134: Which is the sixth commandment?
Answer: The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Question 135: What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

Question 136: What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge;all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and: Whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

Question 137: Which is the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Question 138: What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.

Question 139: What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections;all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and dispensing with unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them; entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage; having more wives or husbands than one at the same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.

Question 140: Which is the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.

Question 141: What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

Question 142: What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man_stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing land marks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depopulations; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor: What belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God has given us.

Question 143: Which is the ninth commandment?
Answer: The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Question 144: What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things: Whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of: Whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

Question 145: What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice;speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults;hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession;unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering: What we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

Question 146: Which is the tenth commandment?
Answer: The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

Question 147: What are the duties required in the tenth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the tenth commandment are, such a full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his.

Question 148: What are the sins forbidden in the tenth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the tenth commandment are, discontentment with our own estate; envying and grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter 2018 sermon, "Look for Life!"

Sermon: “Look for Life!” [Also available on Podcast and YouTube]
Easter Sunday – April 1, 2018
© The Rev. Brian R. Paulson, D.Min.
First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville, Illinois


I love the James Harnish story about a boy that was none too happy about going to church on Easter morning. His new shoes were too tight, his tie pinched his neck, baseball season was starting and there was just something wrong about getting cooped up inside a church on Sunday morning.
He sulked in the back seat, and all the way to worship and his parents heard him mutter: “I don't know why we have to go to church on Easter, anyway; they keep telling the same old story and it always comes out the same in the end.”[1]

But the gospel of Mark is not so very sure about the ending. At least, the followers we meet were not so very sure about the way things are turning out. So I want to begin the message at the end of the story this morning.

At the end of a story that most of us here today know so well but which the world could scarce imagine in that first Easter morning.

The Resurrection by Annibale Carracci

Anxious Paralysis
When the angel announced, “He is raised!” these first followers were afraid.
They had a disease that is afflicting society today. It is the first thing I want to examine with you this morning: Something afflicted those followers. Something that is afflicting us as well. Something we might call, “Anxious Paralysis.”

We know that malady right here, don’t we?

Just name your anxiety: School safety; Nuclear threat; Stability of governance; Terror alerts; Market volatility; Ethical abuse; Domestic abuse; Substance abuse – the list goes on and on.

The consequence of this anxiety afflicts young and old alike. We are anxious as a people these days, and that anxiety has deadly consequences.

Dr. Laurie Santos of Yale says that today, “students report being more depressed than they have ever been in history at college, more anxious.” She developed a class to address this phenomenon called “Psychology and the Good Life: The Science of Well Being.” The class is the most popular on campus at Yale bringing about 1200 students to a lecture hall at Yale twice a week. It is a mass gathering seeking relief from anxiety in pursuit of happiness. It is such a draw that Yale has opened the course online via Coursera.[2]

We all are afflicted by anxiety and that is precisely where the Gospel of Mark ends – suddenly, with anxiety.

“Terror and amazement seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”[3]

They were seized in spirit because in the normal course of events when a person dies, you make preparations, make your way to the grave. You pay your last respects.

That is what the women of our story were doing.

Trying to piece together the events of the past few days, they were focused on practical matters, like who will roll away the stone.

They were tending to details, but suddenly there was a new shock to absorb.

He is Raised!

So here is the second dynamic I want to consider with you today – it is our “One Verse” for Easter morning – “Do not be alarmed (“anxious”), you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised!”

Now I wonder, how can anyone consider that to be predictable? How is that predictable in a world that is seized by death every day?

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia!

That was a surprise which did not fit the followers’ plans.

Now, for us, on Friday night we were tending to details here at church and one of our Good Friday ushers was a very capable young man. A grandson of one of our members. Of course, that particular service is our most somber of the year. It is a service of darkness. It was such a moving service that I hated to raise the lights after the congregation left. But we had preparations to make for Easter Sunday.

The ushers were helping me in this effort. Our mood was somber, and we all were still whispering as we worked. But this wonderful boy had a great story he just had to share with the Pastor.  

So I halted and listened. He said, “What did angel say when the women came to the tomb? April fools! Surprise!”

“He is not dead, he is raised!” He was crucified. But he is raised!

It could not have been a more perfect word for this April Fools Easter!

How is it that we have become so immune to the most powerful surprise that the world has ever known?

How can our spirits be so jaded, seized, anxiously paralyzed, when the miracle of “Resurrection/Being Raised” is constantly confronting crucifixion, constantly raising up life over death all across the earth? How can we be so paralyzed? So jaded in the face of such life giving power?

And how could little boy, that I named at the start of the sermon (not our magnificent young usher) but the little child, (who like so many in our world today, did not want to come to church at all), how did that little boy, how can any of us, find the Easter story to be so very predictable?

Friends, Resurrection is the improbable, unpredictable, life giving outburst of joy and possibility which God accomplished for you and for me.

Life conquers death. Grace conquers sin. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Why do we all anxiously look for life among so many deadly things in this world? The grave will not hold us! For he is raised!

Resurrection is the antidote for our anxious paralysis and it is high time we start using it.

Use the Resurrection

Yes, I said use the resurrection!

That is the third thing I want to consider with you. The challenge to use the resurrection!

That is what the angel had in mind when he shared the good news: “Jesus has gone ahead of you to Galilee.” “Tell the disciples,” said the angel, “tell the disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee” – back home – back to the daily grind – from “super/natural” to “daily/habitual.”  Jesus will meet us there – in daily life.

Resurrection means our spirits “come awake.”

Whenever the Bible speaks about being raised, it uses a world that, when literally applied, means coming awake.[6]

And so many of us are sleep walking through life.

Most of us face anxiety by finding a way to numb out. Anxious paralysis.

In the past several years, I have watched the downsizing of corporations, and the upsizing of liquor licenses in our community. I have seen the last vestiges of sabbath in our schedules fall prey to a spirit killing scheduling frenzy.

We are driven by a restless insecurity and anxiety that is killing our spirit in Lake County.
Worshipping friend, wake up!

Christ is Risen. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Face your daily anxiety by being awake to resurrection.

You know. The passage ends by telling us that they said nothing. But I gotta tell you. Someone squealed. Someone broke the news. Someone came alive, believed, and shared resurrection – Used the resurrection!

Resurrection is a new life – alive, awake – and you and I can access today. We can share it, in our own way.

An Example

And it can be one simple thing. So I have one simple example of a way one man helped the people around him come awake – if only for a moment.

Frederick Buechner remembers late one afternoon. He was walking to teach his college class. He noticed the beginnings of what promised to be one of the great local sunsets. It had just the right kind of clouds. The sky was starting to burn, and the budding trees were perfect silhouettes against it. 

Independence Grove Easter Ecumenical Sunrise Worship 2018

He said, “When I got to the classroom, the lights were all on, of course, and the students were chattering, and I was just about to start things off, when I thought of the sunset going on out there, and on impulse,” he said, “without warning. I snapped off the classroom lights.”

He said, “I am not sure that I ever had a happier impulse. The room faced west so as soon as it went dark, everything disappeared except what we could see through the windows, and there it was -- the entire sky on fire by then, like the end of the world or the beginning of the world. You might think that somebody would have said something. Teachers do not usually plunge their students into that kind of darkness, and you might have expected a wisecrack or two.”

“But the astonishing thing,” he said, “was that the silence was as complete as you can get it in a room full of people, and we all sat there unmoving for as long as it took the spectacle to fade slowly away.”
“For over 20 minutes nobody spoke a word. Nobody did anything.”

But they were not numb. They were coming alive.

Now, that’s just one little thing. But you can do a thing like that too.

Resurrection - Being Raised: In a classroom; Over dinner; At the office; Over coffee. Renew and transform your spirit. Walk into the transforming color of resurrection!

Let yourself be surprised by this miracle of life – this one beautiful glorious victory that echoes across the ages: Life over death!

Resurrection for you and for me. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Come awake!


[1] James A. Harnish (Tampa, Florida), in his 1993 Easter sermon.
[2] Christian Science Monitor, March 29, 2018, “Yale students find anxiety relief in popular happiness course” - Angela Moore.
[4] You may sign up with this link to receive devotions about the “One Verse” in worship every week.