Saturday, July 22, 2006

"You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up!"

“You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up!” If you are reading this and are between roughly 12-45, you have probably heard these words numerous times. These words have most likely been spoken to you in great love and with real meaning by many well-intentioned persons, fathers, mothers, Barney, Big Bird, Mr. Rogers, teachers, principals, employers, maybe even clergy.

Unfortunately, the intent of these words does not carry the same weight as the words themselves. I mean, really, think about what is being said: “whatever you want!” It sounds great, doesn’t it? I mean, talk about a boost to the ol’ self-esteem. So you were born on the wrong side of the tracks… “whatever you want!” So you were born with a physical or mental handicap... “whatever you want!” So you were born to crack addict parents… “whatever you want!” Ah, the siren call of postmodernism! It's alluring, isn’t it? I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to grow up to be whatever they want? When I was a kid, this mantra was pumped into my brain almost non-stop. I wanted to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, for crying out loud!! The first time I went to a big city with manhole covers I was really excited because I thought that if I looked really hard I could find some radioactive goo that would turn me into a mutated super-hero.

Are you starting to see one of the problems with this slogan of the Baby Boomers? First off, how can any of us really know what we want? (I love using postmodern ideas to fight postmodernism!) I mean, as a child, are we really able to rightly gauge our wants and desires? Are we able to do so realistically? NO!

Secondly, as Christians, is this a theology we need to endorse, let alone grasp onto? God says of man “the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth.” (Genesis 8:21). So, do we need to go around telling young Christians, whose intent is evil, to follow that intent? Does God’s Word uphold this antiphon of postmodernism or condemn it?

A theology that is centered on the cross of Christ says that we will bear crosses, we will be persecuted, we will be strangers in a strange land, we will partake in a death like Christ’s. A theology of the cross says deny yourself, take His yoke, become a leaf to His vine. A theology of the cross says quite the opposite of “you can be whatever you want to be.” A theology of the cross says, “You are wicked and evil to your core from your youth. You can be nothing other than that in yourself. But I will make you a prince of heaven. I will save you from yourself; I will do it all because I love you because you are unlovable! I love you with an everlasting and sacrificial love, I love you enough to die for you and wash you with My holy blood! You are redeemed and are Mine! You will be what I have ordained you to be!”

We have seen the fruits of this rotten vine, men can be women, women can be men, people who have no business in positions of leadership have been given it, because, after all, they can be what they want to be! Children are confused and parents are frustrated. “Sure, I told him he could be whatever he wanted to be, but I certainly didn’t mean he could be a dope addict!” “Yeah, I told her she could go and do whatever her imagination would allow; I just never thought her imagination would take her to a street corner!”
“The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Don’t encourage that evil, but rather “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Don’t just settle for “whatever you want;" be what God has made you in Christ!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Do we really need this?

Well, my year of vicarage is almost over. In two weeks I will be heading back to St. Louis to begin my last year of seminary.

I have learned a lot this year. One thing I have learned is how divisions within our church body are threatening to tear it apart.

Anyone who knows me knows how very conservative and confessional I am. I am Lutheran for a reason…IT IS RIGHT! But even my firm convictions and conservative ideaology have not shielded me from the St. Louis stigma.

If you are reading this and know anything about either of the seminaries, you know what I am talking about. It is assumed that St. Louis grads are rampant liberals bent on changing the church and ripping up the Confessions, while it is also assumed that Ft. Wayne grads are intent on taking us back to the dark ages of the church and snuffing out the light of the Gospel once and for all.

This kind of prejudice may not be held by everyone, but it is certainly prevalent in subtle ways in many grads from both of our esteemed seminaries. I even had a pastor tell me that he would no longer take vicars from St. Louis because they did not know what it meant to be Lutheran. I have heard other pastors say that they would never take a Ft. Wayne vicar out of fear of being turned in to the doctrinal gestapo.

The same is true with congregations looking for a Pastor. Some refuse to take one from one seminary because of ignorant assumptions about which one is more “Lutheran.”

It saddens me to think that I would be overlooked or looked down upon because my formation as a pastor took place in the wrong geographical location.

All I ask is that anyone who reads this and is a Lutheran in the Missouri Synod would think before they say something negative about either seminary. Both of the seminaries produce excellent and faithful ministers and servants of God’s Word. Both produce liberals and poor excuses for a holder of the office of the Holy Ministry. Both are human institutions through which God works to supply His Church with men to serve Her.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More Vacation pictures

Galveston July 2006, JR + LR--AWWWW!
I have an audience for my wonderful vacation pictures!
Look if you dare!
Entering Downtown Houston
Sacred Heart Catholic Church-Galveston
Those Catholics know how to build a church!
The Gulf of Mexico
No, a whale did not beach itself! That's me on the beach-my first time on a coast!
Gulls and Seaweed-exciting, huh?
Sunset on the beach
You won't find a view like that in Indiana!
Minute Maid Stadium-The Cards rule! Won in the 10th inning, it was awesome!
Our Saint Louis Cardinals-GO CARDS!
Well, that's all anybody should have to stomach of someone else's vacation pics! Maybe more later!

To the Glory of God and the Salvation of Man

My Lovely Wife, Lesa, and me at the Gulf Coast in Galveston

My lovely wife and I had the opportunity to take a little vacation to Houston and the Gulf Coast before we leave this great state of Texas. We enjoyed a great baseball game (GO CARDS!), wonderful restaurants, the Gulf of Mexico, the cities of Houston and Galveston, and a general sense of relaxation and together time. It was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

At this point, you may be wondering, what on earth do the wanderings of a simple Vicar and his extraordinary wife have to do with the glory of God and the salvation of man?

Well, we had an extra special treat on this vacation. While we were in Houston, we had the great opportunity of visiting one of the most beautiful sanctuaries of a Lutheran church I have ever seen. Our Savior Lutheran Church, which was completed in AD 2000, is truly a gem in Christendom and a jewel of the Lutheran Church.

When most contemporary churches are building pole-barn structures, and following the “mega-church” template of big screens, stages instead of altars, and coffee bars for the sacraments, it is truly a wonder and a blessing to see such a beautiful piece of art built to the glory of God and the salvation of man!

Lesa and I had the blessing of being able to tour the sanctuary by ourselves. It was amazing how the space created a sense of awe and reverence. Unfortunately, we did not have the pleasure of meeting the pastor, Rev. Dr. Laurence White, but I thank him for the vision and leadership to build such a glorious place of worship, centered around Word and Sacrament and built to the glory of God and the salvation of man.

Enjoy the pictures!

Luther's Rose on the front gate of the church.

The steeple lifting high the cross over Houston.

Bronze statue of Jesus and the Children

Breathtaking baptismal font with statue of John the Baptist and carved reliefs of the Apostle's and baptism.

Pulpit altar with archangels Michael and Gabriel and pipe organ.

One of two beautiful Trisagion banners on either side of the pulpit altar, the picture doesn't do it justice.

Statue of the Risen Christ

Christ the Good Shepherd statue

Jesus holding a baby-a beautiful testament to pro-life

Agnus Dei Stained glass window

Lion of the Tribe of Judah Stained glass

Even Martin Luther goes here!! We don't need no stinking pope!

Luther defending the faith.

A relief carving on the side of the pulpit, Our Savior's seal

Let us Pray to the Lord!

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

It is important to welcome little children into our worship services and not send them off to the nursery or some kind of “children’s church.”

I was reminded of this today when the father of one of our little ones in church told me how his son participates in the service.

John Polster is 2 years old. He is in church nearly every Sunday with his parents, Ryan and Misti, 2 older sisters, Emma and Elaine and his younger brother, Joseph. All of the Polster children are exceptionally well behaved in church.

This morning Ryan was in the church office working on the fax machine and told me that when I am chanting the Kyrie, John always joins me in praying “Let us pray to the Lord.” I thought that was one of the most wonderful things I have ever heard and I am both blessed and humbled that God would use me to serve this young man with His Word.

Thanks be to God for His numerous blessings!

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Patristic Quote

Pastor William Weedon enlightens all of my days with his wonderful posting of Patristic knowledge and wisdom.

I thought this one was particularly good:

'I renounce thee, Satan, thou wicked and most cruel tyrannt!' meaning, 'I fear thy might no longer; for Christ hath overthrown it, having partaken with me of flesh and blood, that through these He might by death destroy death, that I might not forever be subject to bondage. I renounce thee, thou crafty and most subtle serpent. I renounce thee, plotter as thou art, who under the guise of friendship didst work all disobedience, and bring about the apostasy of our first parents. I renounce thee, Satan, the artificer and abettor of all wickedness. - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Catechesis 1:4

Never assume...

I was talking with someone today and he reminded me of something I learned at the seminary. Something very important, something that, in its simplicity, is often and tragically overlooked: That something is to never assume the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Take every chance you can to proclaim it boldly! So, think its high time that I take an opportunity to do just that.

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ you ask? It is simply this: God loves us while we are unlovable, He cares for us when we are uncaring, He gives when all we want to do is take, He creates when we destroy. How do we know this? He gave His only Son, the only one BEGOTTEN, that is of the same substance, of the Father. He lived among us, ate like us, slept like us, was tempted like us, sorrowed like us, suffered like us and died like us. This only begotten and perfect Son of the Most High paid for us. He paid the awful price and penalty of our sins. He bore them on the cross and was crushed by them...FOR US.

In addition to all of that, Christ also LIVES for us! He is truly man and truly GOD! The grave could not hold Him. The gates of Hell were brought to their knees by His triumph over death, the devil and sin. All of this He did...FOR US.

And we have that precious gem, that gift beyond all price, that treasure because God loves us. We have been given the glories of sonship because God loves us. We have been given all of this, not because we have deserved it, but because Christ alone has earned it. And He bids us take it. He bids us live it. He bids us love it. All because He has loved us.

This gift, this priceless jewel of the Gospel, so perfect in its simplicity, so awesome in its complexity, and so easily overlooked by our sinfulness. This is the grace of God. This is the peace of God. And it is this peace of God that is found in Jesus Christ, it is this peace of God that confounds and surpasses all human understanding. And it is that peace of God that dwells in the hearts of His saints.