Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dinner Problems

I was invited to a stranger's house last weekend. I did not know these people, they may have been very nice, or they may have been psychopaths. But, I decided to go, since I was invited. It’s always nice to be invited. I arrived at the specified time. There were a lot of strangers there. It seemed kind of weird; I had never been to a house like this before. What was even stranger is that these people, who I didn’t know from Adam, asked me to eat with them. Now, I’m not a paranoid person, but I don’t know who these people are. I don’t know if they know that I don’t like certain foods, or even if they know that I am lactose intolerant and have a deadly peanut allergy. On top of that they are serving something that doesn’t look like what they say it is. How can I trust these people? They are so danged persistent that I eat with them. It’s really weird, and very awkward. What should I do? I mean, it was nice to be invited, but I don’t think I want to eat what they say they are eating. I’m not even sure if I believe they are eating what they say they are eating. What if I’m allergic? What if it’s laced with poison that they are immune to? And why are they so danged persistent? This must not be a very important meal if they have to push it onto people. Ok, I’ll eat it, but I’m not coming back the next time they invite me!

Can you believe how rude these people are?

I was out and about St. Louis last weekend and I got hungry. I was not really that close to home, and I was very hungry, so I stopped in a nice looking house, and they were just sitting down to lunch. How lucky! I was hungry; they were having lunch, a perfect connection! I sat down at the table next to some old guy and waited to get some grub. But can you believe that these rude people actually asked me to leave? They were all like, “Who are you?” And, “What are you doing in our house?” They actually threatened to call the police if I didn’t leave! Can you believe it? I tried to explain to them that I was hungry and that being hungry is a personal thing and did not affect them. Appetite and hunger is from God, so ultimately, these rude people were trying to interfere with my personal relationship with Jesus Christ! Now that is rude, that is more than rude…it’s… (Gasp)…intolerant! HOW DARE THESE PEOPLE DENY MY PERSONAL RIGHTS!! I should call the police on them! They are sure to see my side of things! Maybe I can petition the Supreme Court and make it unconstitutional to deny anyone free range of your dining table!

That’s what I’ll do! No one, not even God Himself, has the right to deny me a personal relationship between me and my stomach! And, if some rude person dares to serve some food that I am deadly allergic to, I will also be within my rights to sue them! HA HA!! I think I’ve stumbled upon something great here. I mean, it works in the Church, why not for me?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 looks like Luther wasn't the first.

I think it is obvious that Luther did not create a new religion or a new observance of Christianity with his nailing of the 95 Theses. He was simply the vessel through which God called by grace His holy catholic church back to orthodoxy. This was emphasized for me by Pr. William Weedon.

Patristic Quote for the day from Pastor Weedon:

What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest apart from the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering. -- St. John Chrysostom, *Against Judaizing Christians* Discourse VII:III 2

Thank you Brother Chrysostom and thank you Brother Weedon!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Shake off the dust...Law and Gospel Evangelism

Matthew 10:14
And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.

Mark 6:11
And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.

Luke 9:5
And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.

Evangelism is important. It is the comission to the Church to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God. For some reason I was thinking about evangelism today, especially evangelism in light of the above mentioned verses.

Jesus tells His disciples in three of the gospels to “shake off the dust from their feet” as a testimony against anyone who will not receive them as servants of the Gospel or listen to their words of salvation.

But what does this mean for evangelism? How does this form our response to those who do not receive the Word of Eternal Life? Should we give up after one try? How do we apply the law in evangelism?
These are things I have never thought of before. I think we do need to apply the law to those who refuse the gospel, but how do we do that? I would appreciate any thoughts on these things.

Some Reflections

As I prepare to start my fourth and final year at the seminary, I can't help but reflect on my attitudes, knowledge and assumptions from my earlier years. For example, in my first year of seminary I did not know the difference between a theologian of glory and a theologian of the cross. But I did know, upon hearing the two theologies which one I wanted desperately to subscribe to and to follow.

It was the winter quarter of my first year. My wife and I had been invited by the second year field worker at our assigned congregation and his wife to have dinner and spend the evening together. The specific details of the conversation are now vague to me, but the second year guy and I started to talk about things of a theological nature. Before I knew it he was accusing me of being a theologian of glory! I was quite upset by this, even though I wasn't entirely sure what it meant. I have since learned the difference between the two theologies and with God's help and work in my life, I am able to preach and teach a theology of the cross. But I have learned something very important over my 3 + years in the seminary: NEVER ASSUME!

It seems reasonable to me that any LCMS clergy or lay-person would want to follow the theology of the cross. It is biblical and it gives so much comfort. But, alas, not all do. It also seems reasonable to me that non-LCMS types would prefer a theology of glory. If they were theologians of the cross, why wouldn't they just be LCMS?

But, that is not the case. Many LCMS clergy and laity are active and proud theologians of glory and many non-LCMS clergy and laity are very outspoken theologians of the cross. I guess my naivety is just beginning to weaken, but that took me a long time to understand!

What can I do about this?
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. I John 4:1.
How can I test the spirits?
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. II Timothy 3:16-17

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Tree of Life

The tree of life with ev'ry good
In Eden's holy orchard stood,
And of its fruit so pure and sweet
God let the man and woman eat.
Yet in this garden also grew
Another tree, of which they knew;
Its lovely limbs with fruit adorned
Against whose eating God had warned.

The stillness of that sacred grove
Was broken, as the serpent strove
With tempting voice Eve to beguile
And Adam too by sin defile.
O day of sadness when the breath
Of fear and darkness, doubt and death,
Its awful poison first displayed
Within the world so newly made.

What mercy God showed to our race,
A plan of rescue by His grace:
In sending One from woman's seed,
The One to fill our greatest need--
For on a tree uplifted high
His only Son for sin would die,
Would drink the cup of scorn and dread
To crush the ancient serpent's head!

Now from that tree of Jesus' shame
Flows life eternal in His name;
For all who trust and will believe,
Salvation's living fruit receive.
And of this fruit so pure and sweet
The Lord invites the world to eat,
To find within this cross of wood
The tree of life with ev'ry good.

LSB 561
Text: Stephen P. Starke, b. 1955
Tune: BruceW. Becker, b. 1952; Henry V. Gerike, b. 1948

And is Good!

So, let me give you a glimpse into many of my converstaions with my dear and wonderful wife:
Me: Baby, you've got to see this cool cross/liturgical doo-dad/book/icon! Isn't it the coolest thing ever?!?
My Wife: (Somewhat exasperated and suspicious) Yeah, it's ok, why do you ask?
Me: I really want to get it and it's only so much, I really need it, can I get it?
My Wife: (sighs) Do you REALLY NEED another cross/liturgical doo-dad/book/icon? I mean, our small apartment is already filled, do you really NEED another thing?
Me: (conceding) You're right. (sighs) I guess I don't REALLY NEED it, but it's so cool!
My Wife: I know, Baby. Maybe later.

I thank God for a wife that is so fiscally conservative and is willing to tell her adorable and persuasive husband "no" when he needs to hear it.

However, this time I had a real reason! The Lutheran Service Book!! I have to know what's going on with our new hymnal, and my wife, although somewhat reluctantly, saw the wisdom in this and agreed that it would be good for us to have a copy.

What can I say about this fantastic new hymnal? I mean, it's beautifully put together, it has a big variety of service options, it just could not be any better in my humble opinion! I love it!

When I first opened it, I fully expected a choir of angels to starting singing and light to eminate from its pages (that is how excited I was about getting it!) I know, and I embrace my dorkiness in this area. So there is no need for comments about it! If your church is considering adopting this new hymnal, encourage it, if your church needs new hymnals, get this one! Also, the book Worshiping with Angels and Archangels: An Introduction to the Divine Service is an excellent and very reasonably priced resource to go along with the new hymnal. Check them both out, and for heaven's sake, get excited about Lutheran Worship!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fall Classes

I registered for my last year of fall classes!! A lot has changed in registration since I left last summer; it's all done online now and could not be easier, but you have to be quick!

Here are my fall classes with descriptions:

Exodus and Torah
This course consists of two related parts: (1) an overview of the first five books of the Old Testament in which topics of an isagogical nature will be discussed; (2) an exegetical study of selected sections of Exodus on the basis of the Hebrew text.

Pastor as Counselor
Theoretical and practical consideration of counseling foundations, techniques, and practices as these pertain to parish and institutional ministries, with a view toward developing a personal methodological approach to pastoral counseling for individuals and families which integrates the Law/Gospel principle.

European Lutheranism
Continental and Scandinavian Lutheranism prior to the Prussian Union of 1817 and its ramifications and consolidation during the 19th and 20th centuries. Special emphasis: theology, missions, and church-state relations.

The work and person of Christ according to Scripture. The Christological problems and conclusions of the early church. The Christology of the Reformation. The modern discussion in Christology.

Byzantine Theology
A study of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the context of their history and church life, based on readings in ancient and contemporary Orthodox writers, with special focus on the doctrines of God, salvation, and the church.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Where's the...GOSPEL?!?

Remember those comercials from the 80's with that little old lady asking "Where's the beef?" I have a vague memory of them, I was a wee lad in the 80's, but I do remember that we had this really dorky beach towel that said "Where's the beef?" on it.

Well, being back in St. Louis, there is a wide variety of churches to pick from. My lovely wife and I went to one today (of which I will not name names) and were very, very disappointed by the sermon. The preacher talked for 25 minutes about the dangers of getting caught up in sin. How it sneaks up on you, how we need to avoid it at all costs, and going into great and graphic (and, I thought, inappropriately violent) accounts of sinful actions. His point was that sin sneaks up on us unawares, that we are powerless against it and that despite our best intentions, we fall victim to the ravages of sin. All very well, but what are we to do? This sermon was terribly short on the beauty and safety of the gospel. Christ was mentioned, I'll give him that, but in such small amounts and comparatively of such little importance that all my wife and I left with was a feeling of impending doom.

What was even more discouraging is that this message was from a seasoned retired pastor, who, in my humble opinion, should have known better. It is a tragedy when a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ focuses solely on clever stories, illustrations and the sinful life. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that many (not all, but many) retired ministers in the LCMS are prone to preaching in this way. It is as if they are above the gospel, that they have lived such lives of service and have had so much experience that they cannot be held down or bound to the gospel alone. This is very sad and somewhat discouraging for me as a young man just about to begin a life of service to the precious Word.

Do you, my dear readers, have any thoughts on this? Have you seen similar things? Are we to just sit back and take this kind of disservice of the gospel? What is to be done if anything?
I have learned that one must never assume the Gospel of Christ!


Friday, August 18, 2006

A Good Reason to STAY REFORMED!!

Ewww...I certainly hope this is not what the Blessed Virgin and God-bearer looked like!!

Ok, I'm not a big news guy. Pretty much all I get is whatever my Yahoo! page notes as important. This is one of those stories that was Yahoo!'s "top news stories" of the day. In my opinion, its a good reason to keep a healthy distance from the folly of Rome, as well as a real threat to the chocolate Easter Bunny cartel.

The main question in all of these stories, and for Catholicism in general, "Where's Christ?"
I know your popery arguments for praying to the Blessed Virgin and other Saints, but it is just not biblical. I know that your intentions are good and your desire to honor holy things, but remember, "the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth,"(Gen. 8:21) and
"Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens."(Psalm 119:89).

I can see nowhere in God's Word where He has told us to look to his lowly handmaiden in chocolate.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

An open question...

Ok, I mean this in all seriousness and I hope to get a lot of responses to this. To all my readers, lay and clergy, why are you Lutheran? More specifically, why are you Missouri Synod Lutheran? This is something I have often wondered about when I hear about extremes within our synod, both liberal and conservative. So, if you are reading this and are Missouri Synod Lutheran, please tell me why you are. Be as specific as possible!

What a week!!

Well, I am no longer a Vicar. It's a bittersweet thing. I'll miss the congregation of St. John in Hamilton. They really loved me and I loved them very much. But, we all knew from the start that I would have to leave and if I didn't leave I would never be ordained. So, after over 2000 miles on the road, we have moved back to St. Louis and are now back home again in Indiana for a little vacation.

To my dear brothers and sisters in Hamilton, thank you for everything! You will always hold a dear place in my heart because of your kindness, hospitality, love and faith. May God richly bless you as His people and may you ever grow in love and charity towards one another. The Lord has begun a good work in you and He is faithful to bring it to completion!

The Lord be with you!