Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Confirmation of a seminarian

Vicarage is a very magical and intensive time in any seminarian's life. I have been thinking that a better name for Vicarage might be “Seminary Confirmation.” And instead of Vicars, we’d be called Confirmands. I know we already have confirmation and confirmands, but in the four months that I’ve been a Vicar, the thing that strikes me the most is how I have been “confirmed” in my desire to serve God’s Church and His people with Word and Sacrament.

The process of Vicarage is absolutely essential for forming LCMS pastors. It gives so many opportunities to “stretch our wings” before we are set free at ordination.

So, to any of you who struggle to fully explain what the heck vicarage is, just say it's like confirmation for seminarians (except we generally tend to stay in the church after it's done!) I think that is the best explanation of the true intent and purpose of the Vicarage year.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Proud Winner of a Golden Aardie

It's nice to know that my deranged and often disjointed thoughts are receiving critical acclaim. It's also nice to know (and frankly terrifying!) that my deranged and often disjointed thoughts are being read!

Thanks for the Golden Aardie! I continue to strive and struggle with what it means to be a Lutheran. There's a reason "What does this mean?" is all over the catechism. If we stop thinking about what this means, we will lose the true meaning of what it means to be Lutheran...if you get what I mean!

Thanks again Aardie for this most esteemed honor! Check out Aardvark Alley! It's a great blog site!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Who Are We?

I am beginning to realize that the Missouri Synod knows some things very well. For example, we know who we are NOT. For example, we are NOT Roman Catholics, we are NOT Orthodox, we are NOT Reformed, we are NOT mainstream American Protestant, we are NOT charismatic, and we certainly are NOT EVANGELICALS!!

When my parents and grandparents were growing up in the Lutheran Church, the thing NOT to be was Catholic. As a matter of fact, there was nothing worse than the idea that we were just a different “kind” of catholic. As I am growing up in the Missouri Synod and learning more and more about our history, it seems that we have a long line of groups that we are NOT. It seems that in my career in the Missouri Synod, the thing so far that we are trying to distance ourselves from (at least the more vocal among us) is that of the dreaded Evangelical. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I am NOT one of those mainstream, mega-church, feel good, polo-shirt wearin'-to-church-on-Sunday Evangelical ministers (actually, I’m not quite sure what I am sometimes, since I am, after all “just a Vicar.”) The atmosphere among the “in-the-know” theologically educated shuns this feel-good Evangelical, smiley, nice dressing and generally watered down group of happy-clappies.

Unfortunately, no one is clearly telling our people or our clergy what we ARE. Are we liturgical? If so, how liturgical can we be without crossing the historically dreaded line of Catholicism, or the mysterious, although somewhat alluring, line of Orthodoxy? Are we contemporary? If so, how many praise bands, testimonials, and “worship leaders” are we away from being general Protestants, or worse (gasp!) Evangelicals?!!

It's always a fine line that I find no one wants to cross. As a matter of fact, no one even really knows where it is, that is, until it's been crossed. By the time the line has been crossed in either direction it is not much longer until accusations are being made, threats are being lobbed by all sides and the fear of schism rears its ugly head in our beloved Synod.

So, here’s a real question, and I hope I will get some constructive feedback on this. Who are we as Missouri-Synod Lutheran Christians? How far can we go in either direction? Is incense too far one way? Are all out heavy metal Divine Services too far the other? No one really seems to know until it has already been done, and often times by that time it's too late.

I am confident that, for the most part, the majority of our pastors and theologians are well right of the center as far as theology goes. But what are we going to do about who we are? Can anything be done? Who knows? As for me, I’m gonna keep pushing that liturgical envelope until I can someday have people, without fear, follow Luther’s suggestion to “make the sign of the holy cross” as a rememberance of their baptism, to “let their prayers rise before God as incense” and all sorts of other fun and meaningful liturgical stuff that may be considered “too Catholic.”

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Commemoration of the Faithful Departed

This is a day that few of us in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pay much notice to. Maybe it's too "catholic" sounding, maybe it's just weird for us, who knows. But I think it's a wonderful celebration in the church year.

It is on this day that we give thanks to God for His faithfulness in leading His people to their eternal home. The focus in on GOD’S work, not the work of any saint. We give thanks to God for sending Christ so that we can be saved through Him and faithfully carrying His people to their eternal home in heaven.

So, today give extra thanks to God for His faithfulness, thank Him for the gift of faith that He works in us, thank Him for using His people over the ages to spread the Gospel of Christ.

Collect for Commemoration of the Faithful Departed

Almighty God, in whose glorious presence live all who depart in the Lord and before whom all the souls of the faithful who are delivered of the burden of the flesh are in joy and felicity, we give you hearty thanks for your loving-kindness to all your servants who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labors, and we humbly implore your mercy that we, together with all who have departed in the saving faith, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, in both body and soul, in your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Weird Pictures

Last night my good wife, Lesa, went through all my blog posts and edited them. Apparently I am not perfect and needed to have some errors corrected. That's what wives are for.

She asked me where I got my picture for my profile. I told her I took it myself and that it was one of my favorite self-pics. She told me that she couldn't quite figure it out, but there was something wrong with it and she really didn't like it.

I had taken the picture of myself in a mirror. The reason I liked it is because that is how I always see myself. That is the same reason my wife disliked it. She never sees my reflection and it looked off to her.

I"ll leave you, the good reader, to make your own theological connections to this. I just thought it was interesting that how I see myself and how my wife sees me is different. What I like is not what she likes and vice versa.

If you want a picture of yourself that you'll like, take it in a mirror!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Some Hymns I'm working on

Christ, the Source of all Praise and Worship

The holiday season is swiftly approaching! The Advent of our God is our theme in prayer! I have been bitten by the hymnology bug (if hymnology is a word.) These are a few attempts to leave my mark on the world, for better or worse.

I wrote this to be a Thanksgiving offertory. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei are also for our Thanksgiving service.

Give thanks to God for He is good.
He blesses us with home and food.
His steadfast love continues on,
Praise Christ who has the vict’ry won!

Be not concerned with anything,
But to Him with thanksgiving bring
Our supplication and our prayer,
Our needs with Him we gladly share.

Praise be to God who is our gain,
Daily He blesses us with grain.
Come let us now respond in love,
To the Eternal throned above.

Now may this peace from God above,
Given in Christ with perfect love,
Guard us in all our thoughts and ways
Till He returns at end of days.
(Text: James A. Roemke, 2005 Tune: Old Hundredth)

Sanctus (sung to “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel” LW #1)

O Holy, holy, holy Lord
In all the heav’ns and earth adored.
Thou art the Lord of power and might,
You fill us with Thy radiant light.
Holy, holy only Thou art holy
We come to Thee humble and lowly.
(Text: James A. Roemke, 2005)

Agnus Dei (sung to Puer Nobis, “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” LW #14)

O Lamb of God, perfect and mild
You came to us a little child.
The weight of sin you came to bear,
Now in your righteousness we share.
(Text: James A. Roemke, 2005)

These verses I plan on using for the Advent theme. I will be preaching on the names of Immanuel in Isaiah 9:6 using a different name each Wednesday service. I plan on inserting the appropriate stanza for the week's sermon in LW #12 "The Advent of Our God."

Wonderful Counselor, who guides us all our days, stay close to us abide with us and lead us through life’s maze.

Come Mighty God, arise. Defend us from all harm. Lord Jesus comes to save us with His Almighty arm.

Everlasting Father, beginning and our end, Alpha , Omega, Eternal your sheep you came to tend.

O Christ, our Prince of Peace, you died to give us life. Sins bonds are broke, the price is paid an end to all our strife.

(Text: James A. Roemke, 2005 Tune: St. Thomas)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Importance of Sacred Space

In previous posts I have shared my prayer habits and practices. The establishment of “sacred space,” that is a space devoted entirely to God and His worship, a place that is set apart from the daily tasks, a place that is special and reflective of one’s faith is, I believe, very important in our faith lives.

I have set up in my home a small prayer altar. It is just a bookcase with a crucifix, Bible, candles and a place to burn incense, but it has enriched my prayer life and devotions. It is a place set apart from all the cares and concerns of my day, a place with limited distractions, a place for me to be quite and know that God is the Lord.

Now, mind you, I am NOT saying that this cannot be done without “sacred space.” In any and all circumstances we are able and privileged to call upon the Lord. We have the blessing, because of Christ, to go boldly before the throne of God with our prayers and supplications. We who have been baptized have received the righteousness of Christ and in a very real sense are always covered with “sacred space.” What I am suggesting and even advocating is using set apart “sacred space” as a tool, a help for meditation on God’s holy Word, a focusing upon the sacrifice of Christ.

The main reason for this post is that this weekend, and for at least the next two weekends, at my vicarage congregation we have to worship in the gym because of remodeling. My bishop and I went to great lengths to turn the gym into a worshipful, meaningful “sacred space” so that the minds and senses and hearts of the people would not be focused on the basketball hoops, but where they should be focused, on Christ and Him crucified.

I encourage those who read this post to consider setting aside a “sacred space” for your prayers and devotions. It can be a real blessing to have a Sabbath rest away from the everyday toils and trials of life.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hurricane Rita and the Love of Christ

I know, I know, it's been a long time since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. But, a word in my defense, I have been pretty busy with this vicarage thing. Since I’ve been here in the great nation of Texas, I’ve already had a lot of great experiences; my first (gag) meetings, my first sermon without notes, my first solo funeral, my first shut-in calls, my first hospital visits, my first aramadillo sighting, my first Dove Festival, and, oh yeah, my first experience with a hurricane!!

This past weekend, as Hurricane Rita grew ever more ominous and people around Hamilton were really getting a little nervous, I had my very first experience with ministering to evacuees. There had been some talk about us taking some evacuees in our gym, but, this is Hamilton, it’s a very small town and surely there would be better places for displaced families to go. But, because of Hurricane Katrina, all those other places were full. It was last Thursday when we were informed that we would indeed be taking some people. We got a call that a family of five was on their way. We were able to get enough bedding for three right away and there were other members who still needed to be called, so we felt pretty confident of our abilities to give this family shelter.

They arrived, very tired and anxious looking. They had been on the road for over 18 hours on a drive that should have taken six hours max. We were feeling pretty sure of ourselves and proud that we could care for this family. About ten minutes after they pulled in, about 20 other people came. We had no idea what we would do or how we would accommodate 25 people. That is when I really started to realize that we in the church are not the ones that “do” anything. We are just the servants of the Lord and we have to turn to Him for all our needs. I learned that even more the next morning when there were over 80 people in the gym. Over the night we had had over 100 people who had just stopped in to rest.

It was a great blessing for me and my brothers and sisters in Christ to care for these people. It was humbling to realize that without God even our best efforts to do good would fall far short of the need. It was tremendously comforting to see God’s provision for us as a church and for these people who had been displaced.

I have learned a lot as a vicar. I have learned that serving God means humbling oneself. I’ve learned that the Love of Christ is more powerful than any storm. I’ve learned that “outreach” can be done right in the church. It’s been a great experience and for anyone who cares I will try to be more dilligent in posting my experiences.
The Lord be with you!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Peace that God gives in Prayer

My bishop left for a mission trip to Russia. I was a little nervous about being "in charge," but we had finished all our shut-in calls, there were no scheduled meetings, and things had been quite at the hospital.
Monday morning I got a call to come to the hospital right away, a member who had been ill for some time had been re-admitted and was not doing well. As you can imagine from the title of this post, that member died.
I was all alone with a funeral to prepare for! I was nervous, but it was such a great opportunity to share the gospel, such a great opportunity to minister to God's people and show them His love and the hope we have in Christ.
I cannot overemphasize the importance that prayer played in my week. Numerous hospital visits with a grieving family, other hospital visits, office equipment problems, preschool open houses, sermon preparation, funeral preparation and three nursing home services sure is a lot to get done. Thankfully, the burden of all this was not on my shoulders! Because of the wonderful gift God has given His people in prayer, because we know that Christ has won for us righteousness before the Father, because we have the assurance that God works for the good of all who love Him and have been called to Him, we have peace.
It is this peace that God gave to me over this last week. It is the peace that passes all human understanding, it is the peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It is that same peace that will sustain the greiving family now after the funeral, and the same peace that is available, at no cost, to all who greive and are in difficult situations.
This was a busy week for me. It could have easily been used by the devil as a tool to discourage me, but thanks be to God we have prayer.
My encouragement to any who still read this thing after so long with no posts is to establish an active and vigorous prayer life. I am not suggesting some kind of "works righteous" activity by saying this, I am suggesting we use the gifts, the tools and the weapons our Father has given us.
When you feel overwhelmed or discouraged, turn to God as a child and seek His peace!

Monday, August 15, 2005

I'm a Vicar...and I'm a little scared!

I’m a vicar now! I have a lot more responsibilities, people to visit, sermons to write, Bible studies to lead, oh, and my bishop is leaving in a week and a half for two weeks in Russia. It’s great, right?
I’ll be honest, I am scared to death of all the stuff that lies before me. I am excited about it and I know it will be a great experience and I love the town and the church and everything else we’ve encountered up to now, but I am scared! What if I mess up? What if I forget someone or something? What if someone dies? I know that there is a pastor who can help me in all these circumstances, but I’m still scared. I guess it’s the fear of the unknown. Seminary just can’t prepare someone for all the experiences one will encounter in the parish. That is, of course, the reason for vicarage, but I’m just a little uneasy. I don’t like messing up, especially when I am in charge.

So, what will I do if I mess up? I will give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His steadfast love endures forever! If I forget someone or something? I will give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His steadfast love endures forever! If someone dies? I will give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His steadfast love endures forever!

What it all comes down to, and what I have to remember is that it is not about me and what I do. It is all about God and what He has done for us in and through Christ. I will mess up a lot, but Christ be praised! I give thanks that it is by grace through faith, not by my talents as a vicar or lack thereof, that I have been given the free gift of salvation, forgiveness of sins and the ministry of reconciliation.

I am a vicar now! To God be all the glory now and ever and unto the ages of ages.
+ + +
Oh Lord, help me to remember to give You all thanks, honor and praise in all I do. You have established the ministry of reconciliation and have given me the gift of participating in that ministry. You will be my Guide and Comfort. You will be my Good Shepherd and lead me in Your paths of righteousness for Your namesake. I turn all my shortcomings and fears over to You. I thank You, Holy Trinity, for uplifting me with the peace that surpasses all human understanding. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Hope of our Resurrection

Why is death so painful? Certainly, we as Christians, have that sure hope of everlasting life in Jesus Christ. So why is it then that upon hearing of the death of one of my favorite professors, Rev. Dr. Deomar Roos, that I was so sad? Paul says in I Thessalonians, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Yes, we do have hope in the resurrection and glorious return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but we still can mourn the loss of one who is dear to us. The truth about death is that is plain sucks! Death is the result of a fallen world and the consequence of sin in that world. Jesus tells us “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” Lord, by Your sacrifice and full atonement of all the sins of the world, You have turned our sorrow into joy. We may weep and lament the loss of one so great as Brother Deomar, but You have taken away the sting of death and given us the peace that surpasses all human understanding.

I'm here and ready to Vicar!

So far, my first impressions of vicarage have been fantastic! I love the church, I love my office, the pastor is great, our house is great everything is really above and beyond all my expectations. I will be inducted as vicar on August 14, then the work of vicaring will really begin! I will post more as I’m able and as new experiences come. Until that time, pray for me!
The Lord be with you!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Traveling Soon

To any and all that read this blog: We are packing everything up on a trailer tomorrow and getting ready to move. I and my family appreciate your prayers for us as well as for the members, Ed Moyers, and his sons, Ben and Ernie, who have come down to help us move. It will be a long drive after a very hectic and busy weekend, but we eagerly look forward to getting to Texas.
The Lord be with you!!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My Vicarage Goals and Prayer

Christ washing the Disciples feet
The big day is getting closer! On Monday my wife, cats, ferret and I will drive down to Texas to serve St. John Lutheran Church as Vicar. As it gets closer I am pondering more and more what it means to be their Vicar, or a servant of God’s people in general.

The ministry is one of the few professions remaining that is not just a job, but a life. I grew up on a farm, my cousins are farmers, my dad and uncle are both farmers, and my grandpa was a farmer. They never punched a time clock. It was never “quitting time” for them. I am thankful to have had that model growing up because it has prepared me for entering the ministry.
Pastors and vicars don’t have a quitting time either. I know, the trend is sadly going toward a 9-5 “servant” (as long as it's not inconvenient) of the Word. But my attitude as I begin serving as a vicar is one of real service. I want to establish a relationship with the church I will be serving. I want to be more than the guy who preaches once in a while, or does liturgy, or visits you in the hospital. I want to be the vicar who the people know they can call at 2 am if they have an emergency. I want to be the guy they invite to their kids' graduations, confirmations, weddings, etc. I want to be the kind of vicar that is not puffed up with his own theological training. I want to be the kind of vicar who is ready to serve and show the love of Christ.

It will be difficult at times. I am a sinner, just like everyone else. But I think its important to make goals and expectations for yourself. I didn’t get to this point on my own, the Lord has been with me all along. I pray that He would use me as a humble instrument, to work under His called servant of the Word. I pray that the Spirit would teach me, that I would be open to learn, open to criticism, open to growth.

As I begin “vicaring” (if that is a word), I pray for God’s guidance.
+ + +
Holy God, may Your love, grace, comfort and wisdom attend me as I embark to serve Your people as a vicar. May I be attentive to the direction of my Bishop, may I be mindful of the needs of Your people, may I be ever lead by Your rod and staff. I have nothing apart from Your loving-kindness. Help me with Your Holy Spirit to serve as Christ as showed us how.

Our Lutheran Culture

The Company of Heaven
“a racial, religious, or social group; the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes a company or corporation” from

A couple of months ago I was at a Wal-Mart. The more I go there the more I dislike it and this morning was particularly bad. I happened to be there in the middle of one of their store “pep-rallies.”

All the employees, or most of them, were gathered together in the middle of the store under the supervision of well-dressed management. The thing that upset me the most was at the end of the meeting they all had to say a cheer for Wal-Mart. I, being the meanie and grump that I often become at Wal-Mart, found one of these well-dressed managers and told them what I thought of this meeting, how it was disrupting to my shopping experience and how I thought it was demeaning to the employees.

The manager listened to my concerns and then said with a straight face, “I’m sorry you feel that way sir, but that is the Wal-Mart culture.” I don’t know about you all, but when I go to Wal-Mart it is not to have a “cultural” experience, and I know it does not fulfill the requirements of a “cross-culture” field work module at the seminary.

The point of this story, and there is one, is that we are surrounded by cultures. Some are in odd places and are meant to force a sense of togetherness of unwilling parties. Some are at ball parks, some revolve around sexual perversions, etc. Some cultures are formed by outside influences and some are developed in opposition outside forces.

So, what kind of culture do Christians have? In particular, what kind of culture do we have as confessional Lutherans in the Missouri Synod? I think a strong sense of culture is lacking in our church.

We have dropped the ball somewhere in teaching our people “what this means.” Why do pastors wear what they wear? Why do we value so highly the Holy Supper of our Lord? Why do we baptize infants? “Pastor, what makes us different from the (insert denomination, or, sadly, other non-Christian religion here), aren’t we all trying to get to the same place? Why can’t we all get along? Does Jesus really like all this division?”

No, Jesus doesn’t like it when Satan lures people from Him and the true Church, but He doesn’t like it when Satan uses this argument to tear down His Church either.

So, what are we to do? We are Lutherans. We are a liturgical, sacramental church. We have the most orthodox doctrines. So why are we so afraid to be Lutheran? Why do we want to water things down and undercut our heritage? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

What am I going to do about it, as a Vicar? I am certain that the key is in education. We need to teach people how to be, how to live, as liturgical, sacramental Christians. They do not need to know how to find purpose in 40 days, or how to be happy and healthy with Jesus, or how to be better people. If we emphasize our heritage, our traditions, our rich biblical liturgies, then the sanctification will grow. When people instinctually say the “Our Father” in times of anxiety, when they confess the Creeds, when they sing the Offertory, the Sanctus or whatever while they work and exercise, then they will be steeped in the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will be there working faith and holiness in there hearts.
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Holy Trinity, bind and unite us in the culture of Your Word and with the gifts of Your Sacraments, with the center being the Cross of Christ, through which You have redeemed us and made us Your own.
In the Name of the Father, the Son + and the Holy Spirit

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What's with this guy?

St. James of Jerusalem (not me!)

So…some of you may be asking, “What’s with this guy? Is he Lutheran or Catholic or Orthodox? Is he really ‘Daring to be Lutheran’ like he says? He prays these strange prayers, has a ‘prayer altar,’ and I bet he even uses prayer beads (yep I do), so, what’s his deal?”

I started working with an orthodox Jewish family after Christmas. You may want to see my earlier post on this. I had never known or encountered any kind of Jew, let alone orthodox Jews. The first thing I thought about this religion was that it was intimately tied with their god, that is the Law and man’s interpretation of the Law in the Talmud. Everything they did, from the way they prepared and ate, to the clothes they wore, to walking through their house, they were constantly reminded of that connection with the Law. I was intrigued by this and quite honestly a little envious of such an intimate relationship.

However, upon giving it greater thought, it made me very sad for these people and all others like them. There connection was indeed intimate and infused with every part of their lives, but it was a connection to something that they could never obtain; namely the perfect fulfillment of the Law. Sadly, it is not just Jews or Muslims that have this deadly intimacy, many Christians are also in this unhealthy and deadly relationship with the Law.

So, that still doesn’t answer your first question, what is up with me? Isn’t my prayer life dangerously close to the verge being Law-oriented? It could become that way, but the key is Christ. He has done all for me. He is the perfect fulfillment of the Law and the perfect sacrifice for my multitude of sin. I could never do enough to be righteous on my own in God’s eyes. That is the gift of the Law, it shows us that. The gift of the Gospel is that it frees us to respond to the love of God in Christ with thanksgiving.

Having a prayer altar in my home, praying certain liturgical prayers, and even using prayer beads are not necessary for my salvation, but they do increase my connectedness to my Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. I want the connectedness that those Jews have, but not to the Law and man’s crazy and sinful interpretation of them. I want to be hidden in the wounds of Christ, at the foot of the Cross, in the Glory of the Holy Triune God. I’m not going to let practices that make sense and have been historically beneficial to our Church Fathers and the saints scare me away because they seem too Catholic or Orthodox. I believe that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is the stronghold of orthodox and confessional Christianity and to deny historic practices out of fear and suspicion in not “Daring to be Lutheran.”

You guessed it...I pray before bed too.

Christ Pantocrator

These are some of the prayers I say before sleep. I got them from the same Orthodox source and edited them in the same way I did the Morning Prayers. They are not displayed in their entirety. For the original prayers visit The prayers are in the upper right hand section of the home page. Also, a great store with really nice owners.
+++Prayers Before Sleep+++
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Heavenly King
O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of Life, come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Thrice
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins; O Master, pardon our iniquities; O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy name's sake.
Lord, have mercy. Thrice
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father
Our Father, Who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us; for at a loss for any defense, this prayer do we sinners offer unto Thee as Master: have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Lord, have mercy on us; for we have hoped in Thee, be not angry with us greatly, neither remember our iniquities; but look upon us now as Thou art compassionate, and deliver us from our enemies, for Thou art our God, and we, Thy people; all are the works of Thy hands, and we call upon Thy name.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The door of compassion open unto us, O blessed Christ, for, hoping in thee, let us not perish; through thee may we be delivered from adversities, for thou art the salvation of the Christian race.

Lord, have mercy. Twelve times

Tuesday Prayer, to the Holy Spirit
O Lord, Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, show compassion and have mercy on me Thy sinful servant, and loose me from mine unworthiness, and forgive all wherein I have sinned against Thee today as a man, and not only as a man, but even worse than a beast, my sins voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown, whether from youth, and from evil suggestion, or whether from brazenness and despondency. If I have sworn by Thy name, or blasphemed it in my thought; or grieved anyone, or have become angry about anything; or have lied, or slept needlessly, or if a beggar hath come to me and I disdained him; or if I have grieved my brother, or have quarreled, or have condemned anyone; or if I have been boastful, or prideful, or angry; if, as I stood at prayer, my mind hath been distracted by the wiles of this world, or by thoughts of depravity; if I have over-eaten, or have drunk excessively, or laughed frivolously; if I have thought evil, or seen the beauty of another and been wounded thereby in my heart; if I have said improper things, or derided my brother's sin when mine own sins are countless; if I have been neglectful of prayer, or have done some other wrong that I do not remember, for all of this and more than this have I done: have mercy, O Master my Creator, on me Thy downcast and unworthy servant, and loose me, and remit, and forgive me, for Thou art good and the Lover of mankind, so that, lustful, sinful, and wretched as I am, I may lie down and sleep and rest in peace. And I shall worship, and hymn, and glorify Thy most honourable name, together with the Father and His Only-begotten Son, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

Daily Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner and deliver me from the besetting presence of the demons. Yea, my Lord and Creator, Who desirest not the death of a sinner, but rather that he be converted and live, grant conversion also to me, wretched and unworthy; rescue me from the mouth of the pernicious serpent, who is yawning to devour me and take me down to hades alive. Yea, my Lord, my Comfort, Who for my miserable sake wast clothed in corruptible flesh, draw me out of misery, and grant comfort to my miserable soul. Implant in my heart to fulfill Thy commandments, and to forsake evil deeds, and to obtain Thy blessings; for in Thee, O Lord, have I hoped, save me.

Evening Prayer
I thank You, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this might. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.

Prayer of Mortality of Saint John Damascene,
O Master, Lover of mankind, is this bed to be my coffin, or wilt Thou enlighten my wretched soul with another day? Behold, the coffin lieth before me; behold, death confronteth me. I fear, O Lord, Thy judgment and the endless torments, yet I cease not to do evil. My Lord God, I continually anger Thee, the Holy Triune God, with all my offenses. I know, O Lord, that I am unworthy of Thy love for mankind, but am worthy of every condemnation and torment. But, O Lord, whether I will it or not, save me. For to save a righteous man is no great thing, and to have mercy on the pure is nothing wonderful, for they are worthy of Thy mercy. But on me a sinner, show the wonder of Thy mercy; in this reveal Thy love for mankind, lest my wickedness prevail over Thine ineffable goodness and merciful kindness; and order my life as Thou wilt.

And when about to lie down in bed, say this:
Enlighten mine eyes, O Christ God, lest at any time I sleep unto death, lest at any time mine enemy say: I have prevailed against him.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Be my soul's helper, O God, for I pass through the midst of many snares; deliver me out of them and save me, O Good One, for Thou art the Lover of mankind.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Then kiss thy Cross, and make the sign of the Cross from the head to the foot of the bed, and likewise from side to side, while saying:
The Prayer to the Precious Cross
Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee from before His face. As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of them that love God and who sign themselves with the sign of the Cross and say in gladness: Rejoice, most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus

Christ Who was crucified on thee, Who went down to hades and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us thee, His precious Cross, for the driving away of every adversary. O most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, help me together with the holy Apostles, and with all the saints, unto the ages. Amen.
Compass me about, O Lord, with the power of Thy precious and life-giving Cross and preserve me from every evil.

Remit, pardon, forgive, O God, our offenses, both voluntary and involuntary, in deed and word, in knowledge and ignorance, by day or by night, in mind and thought; forgive us all things, for Thou art good and the Lover of mankind.

The Glorious Cross of Christ
By Your death, I have life, by Your cross I have victory, by Your wounds I have been healed. Blessed art though Holy God, Father, Son and +Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My first and only attempt at hymn writing

I wrote this song for a second-grade class I was teaching religion to as part of my requirements for "Pastor as Educator." It was written to teach about the miracles of Jesus for Mrs. Sherry Langford's class at Our Savior Lutheran School in Fenton, Missouri.

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Word

All hail the power of Jesus’ Word, all nature prostrate fall.
He is the Lord our Savior, so crown Him Lord of all.
He is the Lord our Savior, so crown Him Lord of all.

The water turned to wine so sweet at Cana’s wedding feast.
Proclaim Him Lord at His first sign, and crown Him Lord of all.
Proclaim Him Lord at His first sign, and crown Him Lord of all.

Upon the mount He fed the crowd by power of His Word.
He fed them all by His Strong Word, so crown Him Lord of all.
He fed them all by His Strong Word, so crown Him Lord of all.

By His strong Word He stilled the waves, said to the wind “Be still.”
“Why did you fear? O, Trust in Me! I am the Lord of all!”
“Why did you fear? O, Trust in Me! I am the Lord of all!”

Blind Bartimaeus sat alone on Jericho’s grim gate.
“Receive your sight my faithful son, I am the Lord of all!”
“Receive your sight my faithful son, I am the Lord of all!”

From through the roof was low’red the man that could not walk at all.
“Arise my son, pick up your mat. I am the Lord of all!”
“Arise my son, pick up your mat. I am the Lord of all!”

At Simon-Peter’s home did He by strong Word rebuke the fev'r.
The woman rose and served her Lord; she crowned Him Lord of all.
The woman rose and served her Lord; she crowned Him Lord of all.

The faithful Roman officer came to the Lord of Love.
“Just say the Word , it shall be done, You are the Lord of all.”
“Just say the Word , it shall be done, You are the Lord of all.”

Then Jairus came before the Lord and fell down at His feet.
“My daughter’s ill, but you can help. You are the Lord of all!”
“My daughter’s ill, but you can help. You are the Lord of all!”

Jesus the Christ, He is the Lord of heaven and all earth.
By His strong Word He heals us all, He is the Lord of all.
By His strong Word He heals us all, He is the Lord of all.

Text: James A. Roemke, February 3, 2005
Tune: Coronation, Oliver Holden, 1765-1844

A Great Devotional Companion From CPH

I don't know how long this has been out, but I first saw this week at the Concordia Seminary CPH Bookstore. I highly recommend it for its travel size, its liturgical content and hymns. A great price too!
Check it out here!

Some Great Prayers that I use in the Morning

Icon of the Pharisee and the Publican

The following are prayers that I got from an Orthodox website. I "Lutheranized" them, if you will, so that they would be acceptable for me to pray (I removed all prayers that were not addressed to God the Father, Son and or Holy Spirit.) I hope they might be useful to someone else who desires to have a richer prayer life.

+++Morning Prayers+++
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of the Publican
O God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Thrice

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Thrice Amen.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Heavenly King
O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of Life, come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

Trisagion (three times Holy)
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Thrice
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins; O Master, pardon our iniquities; O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy name's sake.

Lord, have mercy. Thrice

Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father
Our Father, Who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Troparia to the Holy Trinity
Having risen from sleep, we fall down before Thee, O Good One, and we cry aloud to Thee the angelic hymn, O Mighty One: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God; through Christ, have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

From bed and sleep hast Thou raised me up, O Lord; enlighten my mind and heart, and open my lips that I may hymn Thee, O Holy Trinity: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God; through Christ, have mercy on us.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Suddenly the Judge shall come, and the deeds of each shall be laid bare; but with fear do we cry at midnight: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God; through Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy. Twelve times

Tuesday Prayer, of St. Macarius **
Having risen from sleep, I hasten to Thee, O Master, Lover of mankind, and by Thy loving-kindness, I strive to do Thy work, and I pray to Thee: Help me at all times, in everything, and deliver me from every worldly, evil thing and every impulse of the devil, and save me and lead me into Thine eternal kingdom. For Thou art my Creator, and the Giver and Provider of everything good, and in Thee is all my hope, and unto Thee do I send up glory, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Daily Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ
O my plenteously-merciful and all-merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ through Thy great love Thou didst come down and become incarnate so that Thou mightest save all. And again, O Saviour, save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee. For if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty; yea, Thou Who art great in compassion and ineffable in mercy. For he that believeth in Me, Thou hast said, O my Christ, shall live and never see death. If, then, faith in Thee saveth the desperate, behold, I believe, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Let faith instead of works be imputed to me, O my God, for Thou wilt find no works which could justify me. But may my faith suffice instead of all works, may it answer for, may it acquit me, may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory. And let Satan not seize me and boast, O Word, that he hath torn me from Thy hand and fold. But whether I desire it or not, save me, O Christ my Saviour, forestall me quickly, quickly, for I perish. Th ou art my God from my mother's womb. Vouchsafe me, O Lord, to love Thee now as fervently as I once loved sin itself, and also to work for Thee without idleness, diligently, as I worked before for deceptive Satan. But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Morning Prayer
I thank You, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me.

Troparion to the Cross
O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance; grant Thou victory to Orthodox Christians over enemies; and by the power of Thy Cross do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.
Then offer a brief prayer for the health and salvation of thy spiritual father, thy parents, relatives, those in authority, benefactors, others known to thee, the ailing, or those passing through sorrows.

The Glorious Cross of Christ
Oh Lord God, Holy Trinity, You have given Jesus Christ as a holy, pure and perfect offering for me while I was still weak. Jesus, I thank You for humbling Yourself to be born of a Virgin for me while I was yet a sinner. Oh, Lord, Almighty God, You endured the suffering and humiliation of death on a cross as a criminal for me while I was still an enemy. I thank and praise You for Your bounteous goodness. How much more will you save me and hear my prayers now that I have been reconciled to You through Christ? I pray that You would hear my prayers that I ask in faith. Grant me greater faith that I may serve You in thanksgiving all the days of my life.
By Your death I have been given life; by Your cross I have been given victory; by Your wounds I have been healed. Praise the Lord God Almighty and Blessed be His name unto the ages of ages.

Heart of Jesus, think of me.
Eyes of Jesus, look on me.
Face of Jesus, comfort me.
Hands of Jesus, bless me.
Feet of Jesus, guide me.
Arms of Jesus, hold me.
Body of Jesus, feed me.
Blood of Jesus, wash me.
Jesus, make me this Thine own,
Here and in the world to come. Amen.
** I pray a different prayer every morning that is historically attributed to different saints, this was the prayer on the morning I posted this.

Is Christianity "Judaism Light"?

Moses Receiving the Decalogue

“Jesus was a Jew.” I heard that almost everyday I worked with the old man. He was an orthodox Jew and very proud of his faith, race, nation and ability to “keep” the Torah. I was sent there by the agency I worked for to ease some of the burdens of his family. It was a busy house with a lot of kids and it was easy for him to be forgotten. We talked, played cards, listened to music and every evening I would take him to the synagogue to pray.

He knew I was Lutheran and studying to be a pastor, he had even helped me with my Hebrew a few times. But he just could not wrap his mind around my “silly” worship of a “dead Jew.” It was a touchy situation. I was hired by his family, all very orthodox Jews and I didn’t want to get into religious debates with this old man every night, but whenever he brought it up I answered truthfully and respectfully. He just couldn’t understand. I, along with the angels, apostles, saints and white robed martyrs, was not worshipping a “dead Jew” as he so flippantly put it. We worship the Living Christ, the Son of the Living God, the God of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus is Yahweh, whose name is forbidden to even speak in Orthodox Judaism.

When I first started working with this man, I knew nothing about modern orthodox Judaism. It is an intriguing and ancient religion with a rich history. But is it just another “way” to heaven? It certainly is NOT an extension or compliment to Christianity. Orthodox Judaism is a religion that worships the Torah and man’s interpretations of that Torah. Orthodox Judaism is, as Jesus said, “A whitewashed tomb.” It looks very pious and holy on the outside, but inside it reeks of the death and decay of any religion of the Law. There is just no hope there.

This old man told me time and again that there are 613 laws in the Torah that all have to be followed perfectly. He would often ask me why I didn’t follow all of them (like the prohibitions against pork and meat and dairy, the wearing of a tzis tzis, and many others) and I would tell him that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed of God and He came into the world to be the fulfillment of the Law and free all humanity from the curse of the law. Upon hearing this I could tell that this old man wanted to “rend his garments and pull out his beard.”

He really believed that he followed them fully, but he didn’t count the accidents, like the time he…gasp…ate chocolate less than 6 hours after eating meat, thereby breaking the interpretation of Exodus 23:19b "You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.”

So, when asked, “Vicar, aren’t Judaism, Christianity (and Islam) all really just the same thing but with different covers?” I will emphatically say “NO! We have Christ and hope, they have the law that brings only doubt and sorrow.”

My First Sermon "This is the House that God Built"

This is the very first sermon I wrote and delivered.
This is the House that God Built!
Sermon Manuscript for II Corinthians 5:1-10

Grace, peace and mercy to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The sermon text is the epistle reading for today, II Corinthians 5:1-10
1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

My friends, I have a question for you. Where do you want to live?
I’ll make it easy and give you two choices:
A.) In a frail and faulty tent in the deserts of Iraq or B.) In a warm and welcoming home filled with love and family.

At first this question seems like a no-brainer.
Of course, I want to live in a home, where I am safe and secure, where I am part of a family, where I belong. However, as is so often the case with us sinful mortals, our actions contradict our desires.

St. Paul himself even lamented this in Romans “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing(7:19). We may say that we want to live in a home with all the comforts that entails, but we continue day after day to live in a tent, full of holes, stinking, weathered and windblown. We choose lifestyles that are like stinking piles of rags and despair, we moan and groan about the injustice of it all, about how it stinks and we try on our own to get out of it. We strive to prop up the tattered rags, to mend them, but the more we sew pieces together the more pieces fall apart. We are blind to the fact that all we accomplish is putting more holes in our pathetic little shelter. We open up more weak spots for misery and despair to seep in.

The epistle reading for today speaks of tents and homes. Paul describes our bodies as tents, the physical elements that make up our hands, feet, arms, legs, and all our members, the things that seem to make us who we are. Our earthly home is the in the flesh and we have corrupted that flesh that God gives by our sinfulness. These sin corrupted tents of flesh are a pathetic defense against the temptations that buffet us from all sides. Jesus spoke of His body in a similar way when He said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19). Jesus was not referring to the temple in Jerusalem, not to a thing built with human hands, but about His own body.

Describing the flesh as a building or dwelling place is a good metaphor. The flesh has a builder, God “formed my inward parts; [He] knitted me together in my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:13), it protects from the elements to a certain extent, and because of our sinfulness it is bound to see decay. My friends, our tents are not long for this world. The frail coverings of flesh give minimal protection from the daily trials and tribulations this world throws at us. Our sinfulness has created this state. Our sinfulness, which we cannot of our own good works overcome, is the storm that tatters our pathetic little tent. It is the hail that batters, the rain that soaks, the sun that bleaches and bakes, the snow that freezes our hearts into hard lumps of ice. We daily fall into sin and we daily have to be cleansed of that sin in the waters of our baptism. Paul says we groan in this tent, and not just us, by no means, our sinfulness is not secluded from the rest of humanity, nor from the rest of creation. Paul says in Romans that we groan with all creation (8:23). We can see all around us that our world is in decay. Just within the past few weeks we have bore witness to the sin corrupted creation; the devastating tsunami in Asia is a result of the all of creations fall into sin. We are burdened with the putrid and smothering weight of our sinfulness.

This, my friends, is Paul, great theologian and evangelist, the man of God who was chosen to convey so much of God’s Holy Word to us. He isn’t writing to heathens, he isn’t writing to heretics or false teachers, he isn’t confronting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. No, he is writing to other Christians. He is writing to us. These are our hearts that his quill is reaching out through the ages to prick.

He knows that we will struggle. He knows that if we aren’t reminded, we will wallow in our rags. We will wallow in hopelessness, despair, debauchery and all kinds of filth. More importantly, God knows that we will struggle. God knows that we are weak. God knows that His laws are impossible to keep. God knows and He cares.

Up to this point, I have focused on the tent of the flesh, but there was another option, one you all likely picked and wish I would talk more about. We have a home! That’s right, we have a HOME! It is not a home that we build, so that no one can boast. Only God has the power to give us this home.

He not only gives it to us, but he built it for us. This house is not made with human hands, it will not crumble or see decay. This, beloved in the Lord, is the house that God built! It is eternally set in the heavens. The cross of Christ is the weight-bearing beam. On that cross, Christ suffered the ultimate humiliation, suffering, alienation and death because He loves us, even while we are still sinners. All the filthy tents and putrid rags of our humanity have been piled on top of His glorious cross and it holds that burden off of us. Because of Christ’s work on the cross for us, death is swallowed up in victory! Thanks be to God!

As our brother Paul told the Corinthians, he also boldly and joyfully proclaims to us “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (5:5). What a miracle! What an extreme comfort. We, who were bound to be swallowed up by life, can be of good courage. With our eyes firmly fixed on that precious cross we can walk by faith and not by sight. We know that the things that are unseen are eternal. We are away from our homes now, we reside in the tents now, we are in a hostile place now, but we have the assurance and the clear Word of God that through Jesus Christ we have a home. And this is not just any home. This is the home that God built with the cross of Christ holding it all up.

What is our response to such great comfort? What is our goal as we overcome this terrific problem? Paul tells us in verse nine: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”(5:9) Not so He’ll build us a room or a nice condo, but because he has build us the house, the whole dwelling is ours and set eternally in the heavens. This is our aim because, having received such grace, what else can we possibly do? What other response would be appropriate?

One day soon, we will appear before God in this house. We will be lead to the very Judgment seat of Christ. But we will be able to stand. “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”(Romans 5:2).
My friends, this is the house that God has built! We will have a home there for all eternity, a new physical creation, thanks to the sacrifice that has atoned for all sins. Thanks to the cross of Christ, the tents of our flesh and sinfulness have been lifted off of us and replaced with robes of His righteousness. We know that when the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Let us pray:
O gracious and loving Father, you have set an eternal dwelling place for us who cling to the blessed cross of Christ. Help us to be of good courage and to see by faith rather than sight. We are looking forward, O Lord, to a new heaven and a new earth, our home of righteousness.
Now may Your peace, O God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sermon: The Love and Power of God in Christ

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, in whose name this message is given.

Our dear Lord Jesus knew what loss was. In the beginning of our Gospel reading for today, we are shown a portrait of Jesus in mourning and loss. Jesus had just heard of the violent death of John the Baptist and Forerunner of Christ: the man who had been sent to prepare the way for the Christ, the man who had leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of the unborn Lord and His mother. The man who baptized Jesus himself. John was most likely a friend of the Lord and undoubtedly an assistant to His ministry.

Jesus just wanted to be alone. He wanted to sort out His grief and mourn for His loyal messenger who had just died such a gruesome death. So He got into a boat by Himself and went to a solitary place. It was certainly an understandable response to the loss of a loved one. But such an important man as Jesus could not find a solitary place.

Matthew tells us, “when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” What was it that the crowds heard? Was it that Jesus was near? If that was the case, then their following was not very considerate. Maybe they were coming to console Him. Maybe they too had heard about the death of John and wanted to mourn with Jesus. The death of John was also a loss for them. John was a well-known teacher and had quite a following. Maybe these multitudes wanted to mourn with the man they perceived as John’s successor. Certainly Jesus would know what to do. Surely He would have some words of encouragement or at least their sorrow would have company with His.

Whatever their motivation, the crowd did not perceive that Jesus was so much more than John, or any other teacher or prophet they had encountered before. “When he [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” When Jesus has compassion He gives more than comforting words or a pat on the back, He works miracles. He shows the love and power of God.

Our Gospel lesson for today says He had compassion on these people. Jesus’ earthly ministry was all about compassion. In Matthew 9:36 we are shown a motivation for His compassion that likely applies to this situation too. “He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The crowd that met Jesus on the shore was without doubt “harassed and helpless.” John, the Messenger of Christ and their teacher and Baptizer, was gone. They were sick in body and soul and couldn’t heal themselves. So Jesus, who was their shepherd and who is our shepherd, healed them with His great love and power.

Our Lord’s own emotional needs to mourn the death of His faithful messenger were cast aside. He, like the Good Shepherd that He is, put all of His own feelings and needs aside so He could tend His flock. Jesus had compassion on them and healed them. He showed them His love and power. Matthew doesn’t say how many He healed, or from what afflictions, or how He did it. Matthew doesn’t even spend much time on this miracle. The disciples had been with Jesus long enough to know that He could do such things. It was becoming a “normal” thing. To be with Jesus was to see extraordinary things. Jesus had a special understanding and mastery of human ailments and disorders. It was no big deal that He should heal these people.

There were a lot of people in that crowd that needed to be healed, well over 5,000. It was getting late. The disciples knew Jesus would stay all night and heal His beloved flock, but they, and the crowd, were getting tired and hungry. The crowds had come out from the town on foot and were grimy with dust and sweat. There were no provisions for these people, it was a desolate place. There was no plumbing, no drinking water, no food, no comfort and no rest.

The disciples saw that it was getting late and felt they needed to do something. They could see their dear Master was exhausted from His grief and healing the crowd. So they took matters into their own hands. Can’t you hear the concern in their words? “Jesus, don’t you worry, we know these people need to get going, we’re out in the middle of nowhere and it’ll take awhile to get back to town. We know you’re tired and maybe not thinking clearly with all the commotion. So we’re telling you it’s ‘ok’ to send these people to the town to get some food and go on home.” Sounds perfectly reasonable to me! The disciples were tired, some of them were sick of the smelly crowd; many of them were concerned for Jesus’ well-being. He was their Master, but they knew that He would just get too caught up in helping the people. They knew better than He did and were just trying to help. For the sake of their Master’s health and His ministry they had to take matters into their own hands.

Jesus was the Master, though, and He had one more miracle to show them before the day was over. To make it stick in their minds even better He presented the disciples with the impossibility of what He was about to do. “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Outrageous! They only had five loaves and two fish, barely enough for them, let alone all these people. Jesus must have been really tired and hurting from the news about John. Poor Jesus. If He only understood how little they had and how many people there were He would understand. But of course, the disciples knew better and would just chalk this crazy talk up to grief and exhaustion.

Jesus had no interest in what the disciples could offer or what they could do for the crowd. He knew they could do nothing. Jesus was interested in what He could offer and do for the crowd. With the five loaves, two fish and a blessing, Jesus showed His love and power. Despite the disciples disbelief Christ showed forth His awesome power. Jesus fed the people, every last one of them, until they were so full they were throwing bits and pieces that wouldn’t fit into their full stomachs on the ground. With meager rations that would not have even satisfied the disciples for a meal, Jesus satisfied over 5,000 people. He filled their cup to overflowing. This crowd came to Him with nothing, “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1) and He filled them with twelve basketfuls left over, one for each of the disbelieving disciples.

“And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.” Jesus worked a great and astonishing miracle that day. He did it because He loved the people and wanted to fill their needs. Jesus would continue to show His love and power to people throughout His ministry. Despite abuses and humiliation, Jesus gave all people, without money and without price, without any works of their own, the food they so desperately needed to be satisfied.

After dying on the cross for the sins of all, He rose in glory and victory! He showed His love and power for you, and you, and you and me and all sinful people. His death paid the penalty of all sins, from the very first bite of that fruit in the garden to the very last evil thing that will ever be done before His glorious return. Again, He invites all to come to Him, without money and without price, and be filled in body and soul.

Dear friends, Christ’s work did not end at His death and resurrection. This work of Jesus feeding a crowd and satisfying their needs was not the only time He would show concern for the physical needs of people. He continues to satisfy us to this day. Despite our sin and forgetfulness of His great sacrifice, He continues to show us His love and power. He provides us with homes, food, relative prosperity and safety. He also provides us with all our soul’s needs as well: total and free forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Jesus satisfies our physical needs and He fills our soul’s needs by providing us with His atoning death on the cross and the means of His grace in Word and Sacrament.

We are often like the disciples. We don’t want to bother Jesus. We think we can just do it on our own. But, despite our best efforts to make it on our own, Christ still works for us and in us. In the Gospel Christ worked for the people by showing His love and power in a miracle. But Christ did not want them to simply see a miracle; He wanted them to see the complete fulfillment and satisfaction He offers. He doesn’t want us to only see a miracle. He wants to show us, His dear flock, His complete love and power that was shown perfectly on the cross and at His resurrection.

He continues to show His love and power in the waters of baptism. By the washing of the water along with the Word, which is Christ, we are made new. He shows His love and power by the preaching of His Word. By hearing His life-giving Word we have the sure knowledge that we cannot obtain salvation on our own but that He has won it for us and has forgiven all our sins. He shows us His power and love when we come to the altar to be fed by His very body and blood. Jesus is in the midst of this crowd feeding us without money and without price. We need not leave this place empty, for Christ has filled us to overflowing with His love and power!

Let us pray:
Dear Lord and giver of life, You have shown Your immeasurable love for us in the Person and Work of Jesus. We come to you in need and you have compassion on us. Feed us, oh Life giver, that we may be ever satisfied. Now, oh Holy Father may your peace, which surpasses all human understanding guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

The word "Hoosier"

**I was born and raised in Indiana. I went to Indiana University and growing up I had many shirts with "Hoosiers" emblazoned across the front. Some of you who read this will be laughing because, outside of Indiana, the word "Hoosier" is a derogatory term meaning, what we call in Indiana, redneck, hillbilly, white trash, etc. People in Indiana just are not aware that this bad meaning is out there.

I had actually never heard the word used in that way until I moved to St. Louis. I was shocked, appalled and indignant to hear this familiar word that I had always worn proudly used in such a callous and insensitive way. It is my goal (and my wife's too) that the use of this term for any other than noble purposes be stopped. That is how and why I chose the name of this site.

For more info on the word Hoosier and the special place it holds in the hearts of all those who long for corn fields, basketball and have a penchant for red and white, check this out

**This posting is done with some serious tongue-in-cheek. Although I do not endorse nor will I let anyone use "Hoosier" in its derogatory form, I really do not get my panties bunched up about it. Since this is one of my first posts I thought it would be good to differentiate between serious and non-serious posts (I know, I'm a dork, get over it.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

On the importance of prayer

Icon of Jesus Praying in Gethsemane*

I went to a Baptist High School. Being the only Lutheran in the place I always got weird looks when I pulled out my Small Catechism. The criticism that I always got was something along the lines of, "Why would you want to just memorize stuff? Your faith and prayers should come from your heart."

Upon entering the seminary I have been barraged by the need and critical function of daily prayer and devotion. I have long struggled with the "made up" prayers that I was taught to value so highly. I just couldn't do it and it made me feel terrible.

Then I rediscovered the treasury of prayers handed down from our fathers. David, Augustine, Paul, Peter, John Chrysostom, Luther, and other saints of the church are a valuable and deeply meaningful source of prayer.

Many of my Lutheran brothers will think I've lost it when I reveal my next step in my journey to reestablishing a more liturgical and historical prayer discipline. I set up a small "altar" (for lack of a better word) on one of my bookshelves. It is a wonderful thing to wake up every morning, rub the sleep out of my eyes and go to the Lord in prayer at a special place. It isn't for everyone and it certainly does not make me more holy or pleasing to God. Prayer never does that, on the contrary, regular prayer makes God more holy and pleasing and REAL in our lives. He doesn't need prayer to do this, but it is the means of communication He has set up for us.
Prayer is a gift. It is a blessing. It is renewing and centering and regular daily prayer in the morning, noon and before bed centers my thoughts on the Holy Trinity, the Great King of Heaven.

More to come on this and the importance and relevance of liturgical prayer.
The Lord be with you.
*I love the art of Orthodox Iconography-more on this subject and my feelings about the importance of reverent and meaningful ecclesiastical art later.

My First Post

My name is Jim. I am 25 years old, the husband of a wonderful wife, Lesa (for 2 years.) I am a seminary student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. I am a Lutheran who is not afraid to be one. I will be starting my vicarage year in one week. For those of you who are not familiar with the term "vicar" it is like an internship for men entering the ministry in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The word is from the same root as vicarious, meaning "a : serving instead of someone or something else; b : that has been delegated 2 : performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit or advantage of another" ( As a vicar I am placed under the authority of an ordained pastor, my bishop. Through his office I have the opportunity to preach, teach, make visits and pretty much everything else except sacraments (absolution, baptism, and consecrating the elements.)
I will be serving my vicarage under Rev. Russell Nebhut in Hamilton, Texas. It is a small town in a rural setting.
I hope to keep this up over my vicarage year and into my entrance and service in the Holy Ministry.
On this blog site I will talk about my experiences as a vicar, maybe post sermons if they are any good, and orthodox Lutheranism.
The Lord be with you!