A Better Idea?
St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor
26 January 2017
If you are of a certain age, you will remember the advertising campaign of the Ford Motor Company, "Ford has a better idea." At the time this claim seemed so plausible. But now, of course, it sounds silly. Yet, everybody wants to make this claim, "No, wait! I have a better idea." When I was a teenager working in the family business I always had a better idea. And it was always calculated to save me from work. I would harangue my father, "There has to be an easier way to do this." But this is just the way of teenagers, as I have come to learn.
Church meetings are inevitably full of people who think they have a better idea. The old joke tells of the Lutheran church voters' assembly attended by ten grizzled old Lutheran farmers. Maybe they were even Norwegian bachelor farmers; although, I suspect that they were Germans, because after counting up all the differing opinions offered it was found that the ten farmers had provided 13 different opinions. Everybody had a better idea, maybe even two! This is typical of Lutherans, you know.
Just maybe Lutherans don't have a corner on the power of their own opinion. Perhaps it is hard wired into us by the fall of Adam. The original temptation was a better idea on the part of the slithering slayer of our race. Death was worked upon us when Adam succumbed to the better idea of becoming like God. And you can see how that better idea worked out for them and us. And despite the less than helpful outcome to the first better idea, ever after there has been a debate raging between the truth and opinion; between God's Word and our better idea. Christ, the Word made flesh was God's idea. He was not a better idea, or one among many ideas. He was the best idea. And this by reason of His overarching claim to overcome the world's better idea. Indeed, He is so much greater than an idea. He is the best in the flesh. Thank God we have been rescued by Christ from our better ideas.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
"It is manifest that there is nothing which men have ever said which is not liable to opposition. Where the will disagrees the mind also disagrees. Under the bias of opposing judgment it joins battle, and denies the assertions to which it objects. Though every word we say is incontrovertible if gauged by the standard of truth, yet so long as men think or feel differently, the truth is always exposed to the quibbling of opponents, because they attack, under the delusion of error or prejudice, the truth they misunderstand or dislike. For decisions once formed cling with excessive obstinacy: and the passion of controversy cannot be driven from the course it has taken, when the will is not subject to the reason.
"Inquiry after truth gives way to the search for proofs of what we wish to believe; desire is paramount over truth. Then the theories we concoct build themselves on words rather than things, the logic of truth gives place to the logic of prejudice; a logic which the will adjusts to defend its fancies, not one which stimulates the will through the understanding of truth by the reason. From these defects of partisan spirit arise all controversies between opposing theories. Then follows an obstinate battle between truth asserting itself, and prejudice defending itself. Truth maintains its ground and prejudice resists. But if desire had not forestalled reason: if the understanding of the truth had moved us to desire what was true, instead of trying to set up our desires as doctrines, we would let our doctrines dictate our desires; there would be no contradiction of the truth, for every one would begin by desiring what was true, not by defending the truth of that which he desired.
"Not unmindful of this sin of willfulness, the Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, after many injunctions to bear witness to the faith and to preach the word, adds, 'For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myth' (2Ti 4:3-4). For when their unhallowed zeal shall drive them beyond the endurance of sound doctrine, they will heap up teachers for their lusts, that is, construct schemes of doctrine to suit their own desires, not wishing to be taught, but gathering together teachers who will tell them what they wish: that the crowd of teachers whom they have ferreted out and gathered together, may satisfy them with the doctrines of their own tumultuous desires.
"And if these madmen in their godless folly do not know with what spirit they reject the sound, and yearn after the corrupt doctrine, let them hear the words of the same Apostle to the same Timothy, ' Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared' (1Ti 4:1-2). What advancement of doctrine is it to discover what one fancies, and not what one ought to learn? Or what piety in doctrine is it not to desire what one ought to learn, but to heap up doctrine after our desires? But this is what the promptings of seducing spirits supply. They confirm the falsehoods of pretended godliness, for a canting hypocrisy always succeeds to defection from the faith, so that at least in word the reverence is retained, which the conscience has lost. Even that pretended piety they make impious by all manner of lies, violating by schemes of false doctrine the sacredness of the faith: for they pile up doctrines to suit their desires, and not according to the faith of the Gospel. They delight, with an uncontrollable pleasure, to have their itching ears tickled by the novelty of their favorite preaching; they estrange themselves utterly from the hearing of the truth, and surrender themselves entirely to fables: so that their incapacity for either speaking or understanding the truth invests their discourse with what is, to them, an appearance of truth."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 10.1-2
Titus 1:1-9

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you- if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.  (ESV)
Collect for St. Titus
Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher.  Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For all doctors, nurses, medical researchers and other health professionals that they might provide through their calling the care of God to those who are suffering
For President Dale Meyer and the faculty and staff of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that they might be strengthened in their calling to teach the Truth
For Betty Summers, who has been brought through two surgeries for fractures, that the Lord would grant her healing and that she would be filled with thanksgiving
Art:  Russian Icon of St. Titus
Memorial Lutheran Church
©  Scott Murray 2017