Monday, December 24, 2007

A Blessed Feast of the Nativity to You!


We are indeed blessed to celebrate the incarnation of the Eternal Word at Good Shepherd three times! Christmas Eve Candlelight Vespers, Christmas Midnight Divine Service and Christmas Morning Divine Service. May all of my readers and all Christians everywhere faithfully gather at the wonder of Immanuel, God with us, in Word and Sacrament tonight and tomorrow.

Christmas Meditations from the Fathers



Bethlehem has opened Eden: Come, let us see! We have found joy hidden! Come, let us take possession of the paradise within the cave. There the unwatered stem has appeared, from which forgiveness blossoms forth! There the undug well is found from which David longed to drink of old! There the Virgin has borne a child, and at once the thirst of Adam and David is made to cease. Therefore let us hasten to this place where for our sake the eternal God was born as a little child!
Ikos of the Nativity of the Lord.

He was a baby and a child, so that you may be a perfect human. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you may be freed from the snares of death. He was in a manger, so that you may be in the altar. He was on earth that you may be in the stars. He had no other place in the inn, so that you may have many mansions in the heavens. He, being rich, became poor for your sakes, that through his poverty you might be rich. Therefore His poverty is our inheritance, and the Lord’s weakness is our virtue. He chose to lack for Himself, that He may abound for all. The sobs of that appaling infancy cleanse me, those tears wash away my sins. Therefore, Lord Jesus, I owe more to your sufferings because I was redeemed than I do to works for which I was created.
Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 2:41-42.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Home Blessed

Well, we had 31 people at our home yesterday for the open house and home blessing. It was very nice and several people commented on what a nice rite it is. Thanks to Pr. Jon Krenz for officiating. This rite has a lot of great potential for sharing the faith and the Word with friends, neighbors and family who may not go to church. As Scripture says, God's Word does not return void, but accomplishes the purposes for which He sent it. Pastors, encourage your people to use this rite. Teach about it and use it yourself as an example for them to see it in practice. Laypeople, ask your pastors about it, and for heaven's sake, don't let them tell you its too Catholic! Its in our Lutheran Service Book and valuable for the edification and sanctification of the Christian life.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Home Blessing

Tomorrow we will celebrate St. Nicholas Day and the many blessings God has bestowed on us with an open house and home blessing. Our good friend, Pr. Jon Krenz from Epiphany Lutheran Church in Dorr, Michigan, will be conducting the rite from the Pastoral Care Companion. I think this will be a great way to introduce people to the ancient rite of blessing the home with the Word and prayer as well as a great time to open our home in fellowship to our wonderful parish family!

It looks like we could get a bit of nasty weather, but I'm sure we'll still have a wonderful time gathered in prayer around the Word and lifting voices in song and thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Everything I need to know about Life in Christ, I learned in the Divine Service


1. There is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and He has marked me as His own by the Cross of Christ. (Invocation)

2. I am sinful and deserve nothing from God except His wrath and punishment. If I don't believe and confess this I am a liar. (Confession)

3. Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for me and for Christ's sake, He forgives me all of my sins. So that I would believe that more completely, God has called and ordained certain men to assure me of my temporal and eternal forgiveness. (Absolution)

4. As a forgiven child of God, I am invited and commanded to offer Him my prayer and praise. I may come into His divine and glorious presence for He has had mercy on me.(Service of the Word: Psalm/Introit, Kyrie, Hymn of Praise, Salutation and Collect of the Day)

5. Holy Scripture is the Word of the Lord, it does not contain some of the Word of the Lord, but is wholly, without doubt the complete Word of God, for this reason, I give God thanks. (Readings and their responses)

6. The Holy Gospel is Christ speaking. Where else can I go to find eternal life? Because of this the Church raises up her alleluias of praise. (Alleluia and Verse)

7. I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in One Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. My faith is my own but it is the same as the Church throughout time. I cannot rely on anyone else's faith for my eternal salvation. (The Creed)

8. God's love for me is so great that He has given me a trained and ordained pastor and preacher, that His Word may be delivered to me in its truth and purity, that I may be convicted by God's Law and learn to live under it and that I may see with new sweetness and thanksgiving the life-giving and freeing Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Sermon)

9. Again, God calls me to come directly to Him in prayer. There is one Mediator between God and man, the one man, Jesus Christ. In His name I join with the Church, offering up prayers and petitions and thanksgiving for all things. (Prayer of the Church)

10. I am blessed to give God's Church a part of the blessings God has given me so that the work of the Gospel, namely the ministry of Word and Sacrament, may continue through His called and ordained servants. (Offering and Offertory)

11. The Lord is with us so we lift our hearts and give thanks, singing Him songs of praise, the very angelic hymn, which confesses our Holy Triune God to be almighty and having salvation in His wings. (Preface, Sanctus and Proper Preface)

12. God loves me so much that He has graciously taught me to pray. (Lord's Prayer)

13. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, has given me His own body and blood as He says in His Gospel which is the true and complete Word of God. The bread and wine that we receive as a testament of the Lord's death are truly what He says they are, that is Body and Blood given for our forgiveness. (Words of Institution)

14. The Peace of the Lord is found in His Eucharist which gives us Christ and the forgiveness of sins. (Pax Domini)

15. I recognize Christ in the Sacrament by the words of St. John the Baptizer and Forerunner: Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world. (Agnus Dei)

16. Again, God in His all-availing love, has not left me to my own reason and experience to know that He comes to us in the body and blood, but has called and ordained certain men to give us and assure us that we receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. (Distribution)

17. My response to God's mercy and kindness is a canticle of praise, either thanking our Lord and singing His praise, or asking Him to bless us with peace for the gift of His salvation, and coming before Him in prayer. (Post-Communion Canticle and Collect)

18. I leave this beautiful presence of the Lord, again reminded that it is in the name of the Triune God that I received and continue to receive all blessings, namely the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. (Benediction)

19. Amen, that is, it shall be done.

Let People Confess


I have a big pet peeve. Why do pastors refuse to let their people confess their sins? I'm not talking about not having times for private confession and absolution. I'm talking about those times when God's people faithfully harken to the call to repent and the pastor does, what in my opinion, is the stupidest, most faithless thing he could do..."That's not really a sin," or "That's not that bad."

If people come to you with something to confess, let them! Give them the sweet gift of Holy Absolution. I don't care if its something as seemingly trivial as going 1 mile over the speed limit, if that has caused a dear saint in Christ to despair so much so that they would come to you privately seeking the Gospel, GIVE IT TO THEM!!!

I had a pastor to whom I made confession once, many years ago. It was a big sin that I struggled with for years. He looked at me and said, "It's not that big of a deal, many people do that." Why did he do it? Why does any pastor turn away a penitent sinner? Perhaps its because they struggle with the same sin but have not or refuse to acknowledge it as sinfulness. Perhaps its because they despise their office and the Gospel, refusing to give that which was given freely, it to a beggar. Whatever the reason, if you are a pastor and have done this, REPENT! If you are a lay-person and have done what few Lutherans are willing to do by going to private confession, make your pastor forgive you. It's his job! Don't ever let him off with "that's ok, it's not a big deal!" The atonement of Christ is a big deal and He has given it to you at a high cost.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Wonderful Resource for the Confessional and Confessing Church

It bears repeating and reminding that the updated Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions is a phenomenal resource and great reader's edition for the Confessing Church. Check it out, if you don't have one and you are Lutheran, shame on you!

Moving Day... Again (sigh)

At least this one is permanent! It is so weird moving into a house, let alone a house that is OURS! But it is really great too! This will make 5 moves in 41/2 years for us. Hopefully we will have no moves for the next 5 plus years! We are having a lot of help this morning to move and my super secretary and her mom (a soon to be member) are making lunch for the moving crew. Lesa's Dad, Mom and sis are coming up from Auburn with a truck and trailer to help us move. My Dad is still busy with the harvest, but he did give the great encouraging speech: "You're a home owner now, just wait until your furnace goes out, your pipes freeze, blah, blah, blah." Thanks for the great encouragement, Dad!

Oh well, pray that this move would go well for us, please!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Don't Let the Journey obscure the Destination

We had a very hectic, frustrating, anxiety filled few days this week. We have been trying to close on a house in Middleville. We made an offer on this house exactly a month ago and we were expecting to be in it as early as last weekend, but things didn't quite work out like we expected them to.

Long story short, even though there was a lot of uncertainty, a lot of frustration, a lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication, we did close on our house this evening and will be moving in tomorrow. It is a tremendous blessing, in spite of all the difficulties.

It is easy for Christians to get so wrapped up in their earthly journey that they forget their eternal home and their ultimate hope in Christ. We do go through many ups and downs in life, but we always end up at our home. The journey can at times seem to eclipse the destination, but our Good Shepherd has promised NEVER to leave us or forsake us. NEVER! He is with us always, in the journey, in the trial, in the tribulation, in the joys and thanksgivings of our life. He is with us. And He is the one who always is faithful to call His beloved sheep to their home.

I give thanks for God's gracious and all sufficient provision. He has given us our daily bread in such great abundance and we cannot help but wonder at this great and merciful God that has called us to witness His strong weakness for our sakes. As we move tomorrow, we will continue to wonder at God's sufficiency. As we continue to move throughout our lives, we will continue to get lost in the journey, but there is One who is always near at hand, One who will not be lost, no matter how far we may try to searh Him out. This is our God, He is with us always, even unto the end of the age! Alleluia! Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Grammar of Devotional Living

I have the great opportunity to teach three classes at West Michigan Lutheran High School in Kentwood. The class is on the Lutheran Confessions, but, since I am just "subbing" I was told I could teach on whatever topic I wanted to. Lutheran Devotional living is a very near and dear topic to me. I have found such great comfort in truly Lutheran devotional living, that is, centered around the good gifts of Word and Sacrament and focused on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Tomorrow I am going to introduce the kids to the idea that the Liturgy serves as a grammar for devotional living and the language of devotion. I remember when I was their age I could not for the life of me understand why the liturgy was so important, but, through my own study, I have come to value it as the grammatical framework for how we interact and speak to God. The Liturgy teaches us how to pray using God's own Word. It teaches us to deny ourselves and take up the cross. It teaches us to set our minds on things above and to fix our eyes on Jesus.

Like any grammatical system, the Liturgy is not something you can look at once and learn. It takes time and effort, but it is well worth it. In addition to teaching us the framework of worship and prayer, it has the unique characteristic of all languages in that it binds all the people who speak it. Our historic Liturgies give us that linguistic connection with all the other saints who have learned to speak this biblical language. So, when we say we in the Eucharistic liturgy that we say with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven the Sanctus, we are truly in holy conversation with the invisible and eternal Church; and the Liturgy is the grammar of the Church's language.

To me, these ideas are all very new, but I'm sure I'm not the first one to think of them. I pray that all my readers and especially all Lutherans, would strive to learn this beautiful heavenly language of the Liturgy, that we may always speak with the Holy Church through all ages.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Just in case you didn't know...

It is NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, funny to joke with your stay-at-home, pregnant wife that her "performance review" is coming up and that she may not be getting a raise. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER funny, just a very, very, vary BAD IDEA! (Even though it was just a joke!)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

UP Vacation Pics


Here is a link to some select vacation pics. Enjoy!

A Real Dilemna

There are so many ins and outs when buying a house! It makes your head spin. We have been looking around at home-owners insurance. We have always been happy with State Farm for all our insurance needs, but they just could not beat the premiums offered by Farmers. This is the dilemna. I really like being faithful to businesses that have good customer service. I think its important to reward good business practices, but as a young pastor with a child on the way, buying our first house, we just cannot afford to be faithful to the best service. We have to go with the least expensive.

I HATE that it has to be this way, as I mentioned above, we have always been very pleased with State Farm, just as we are often much more pleased doing our business with smaller or more specialized stores as opposed to the "big box" retailers. It really makes me feel bad to do this, but what makes me feel worse is when people do this kind of thing to the Church. They are not looking for the "cheapest," but for the church that offers the most, for their children, their parents, their dogs, cats, whatever. People by and large do not look for the church that is faithful to Scripture above all else. People only want what makes them feel better, what fits their "needs." I feel like I am doing the same on some levels by leaving one company for another for a difference of $140 per year.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Vacation

I am taking my lovely wife up to the northern lands for a few days. This is our last vacation without diaper bags, strollers, bottles, etc. Pray for save travel and a restful time away.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Moving Again

The Lord has blessed us in so many ways. With my call to Good Shepherd, with a baby (in early March), and now with a home! Lesa and I are in the final stages of buying a home in Middleville. It is a mile from the church, and has plenty of room or our growing family. Here is a link to pictures of the home. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we close on this home and move in. God gives so much more than we could ever dare imagine or ask, and yet, He is always beckoning us to ask and receive, seek and find, knock and come in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Guess who's ABLAZE!

That's right, now that he has stood before his maker, that ol' arch fiend and holder of the office of the anti-Chirst, Pope John Paul II, has seen the light! Who knew that in all the issues Lutherans and Catholics have disagreed upon over the years, the ABLAZE! program would actually unite us, even after death? The pope has officially been Fanned into Flame! Ecumenism will never be the same!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Viva la Revolution!


I proudly bear the anti-mauve movement coat of arms! Next to Luther's Rose, it is the best Lutheran seal! Kids, say no to mauve, dare to not be tacky!*
* This message proudly sponsored by Mauve Must Die! (TM)

The Results are in and its a...

GIRL!! We had our ultrasound today and found out our first child will be a little girl!! How cool is that? Here is a link to our Roemke Family page for ultrasound pics. Please continue to pray for little Baby Roemke and Mom during the second half of the pregnancy. Everything looks very healthy and good and we thank our gracious Father for that.

Also to keep in your prayers: We are in the process of buying our first home. It is a great 4 bedroom, 107 year old, very well maintained home exactly 1 mile from "my parking space" at the church. God continues to bless us in such wonderful ways!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Romans 14 and My Grandma

One of the most influential people in my life is my Grandma Marian. She is such a rock of faithfulness and has been committed to the Lutheran faith for over 50 years (since she married my now at rest Grandpa, another titan of the faith). It was not easy for her to become a Lutheran. She went through adult instruction at a time when non-German, non-Lutherans were practically the same thing in the Midwest. She was seen as a dreaded Methodist outsider, what Gus Portokals from My Big Fat Greek Wedding would have called xeno. She came into this lifestyle from a broken home, a rarity in those days. She endured suspicious looks and German "converstations" about her for years. It was a long time until she felt accepted at her church. And yet she endured and grew in her faith. She now is a widow with severe arthritis and mobility issues, but she makes it to church. It is a priority, end of story.

It is no exaggeration to say that this dear woman's example is a very big reason I entered the seminary and am now serving the Lutheran Church as a pastor. And yet, we are two different Lutherans. My Grandma's church in the the greater Ft. Wayne area, so they always have field workers. I learned a lot from my Grandma about field work. She always told me while in seminary who important it was to make sure my alb was straight and ironed, how important it was not to talk to quietly or too loudly, how important it was to be polite to the old ladies in my congregation in St. Louis. She still tells me her opinions of the field workers. But I find that some of the things she finds odd and even questionable are things I do every day. For example. she has noticed more and more how these seminarians are always crossing themselves. How they bow all the time and walk around with their hands folded. It really made me realize that the things I do out of respect and a healthy piety can be objectionable, if not outright offensive to some of the pillars of the faith. Now, that does not mean that we should chuck all these "high-church" pious and reverent gestures, but it has made me very sensitive to the needs of people like my grandma: faithful men and women who have lived in their faith, who know more about being and living as a Lutheran than I do, people whose faith is firmly rooted in the gifts of God's Word and Sacrament.

They don't understand why us youngsters are so anxious to look "Roman," and why should they? They were taught by well-meaning, and perhaps some not-so-well-meaning, pastors that some things are just not for Lutherans. So, in my own congregation I continue to boldly live my own rather catholic Lutheran faith, but I try to keep in mind Romans 14 and remember that I am the weaker brother to my dear Grandma Marian:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel
over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak
person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who
abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who
eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant
of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will
be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

What makes a bad teacher?

If you do not learn something from someone, does that make that person a bad teacher? I remember using that excuse often in school. "But Mom, it wasn't my fault I got a bafd grade. You don't understand, Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. So-and-So is just a bad teacher!"

Perhaps that line of reasoning is familiar with all of us to a certain extent. Perhaps, in some cases, it is true that we fail to learn because our teachers are bad. But, who's responsibility is it to learn? A bright and motivated student can learn something even from the most inept and incompetent teacher. And yet, isn't it the very essence of our sinful nature to try shift the blame off of our own short-comings?

I pose this question to encourage thought about the liturgy of the Church. The liturgy is a teacher, very old, very wise, but not always terribly "relevant" or "with it." I myself used those reasons for putting down and refusing to learn from the liturgy as a kno-it-all high school student. How many of us try to shift the blame for our poor church attendance, our lack of basic Biblical knowledge, our lack of evangelistic zeal, or even our less-than-sanctified living on the liturgy? It is convenient for us to say in our hearts, to our elders, or pastors, "I would go to church more often if it wasn't so BORING with the same old liturgy every week!"

The truth of the matter is simple: it is not the liturgies fault that you are a sinner! It is not the liturgies fault that you don't find it entertaining! It is not the liturgies fault that you don't follow along! it is not the liturgies fault that you don't understand it! It is YOUR fault and mine! The liturgy is a beautiful teacher of God's Holy Word. When you blame the liturgy for not being interesting, you are blaming God's Word. Instead of constantly pointing to the perceived deficiencies of your teacher, look at yourself. What is it about the liturgy that you really don't like? Could it be that it does not revolve around you? Could it be that it makes you feel uncomfortable, what with all the confessing of sins?

Sometimes the teacher is at fault, but God's Word is never at fault. Be a better student and you will find that old teacher is not nearly as irrelevant as you once thought.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Busy Times

Boy...its a good things that many pastors are first ordained and begin their work in the Office in the summer time!! I had no idea how much busier it gets once school starts!
Here is our new Fall Schedule at Good Shepherd:
Sunday morning Divine Service with the Holy Eucharist @ 9:30
Adult Information Class and Children's Sunday School @ 11:15
Confirmation @ 4-5:30 (closes with Vesper's @ 5 pm)
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday- The Litany @ 12:00 noon
Tuesday- Exegetical Study in Grand Rapids (or Winkel on the 2nd Tuesday of the month)
Wednesday @ 6pm-Private Confession and Holy Absolution
Wednesday @ 7pm- Catechetical Service of Prayer and Preaching
Thursday @ 7:15- Matins

And on top of that there are the shut-ins, hospital visits, two sermons to prepare every week, services to prepare, etc.

Now, I am certainly not sharing this to complain, all of these things are wonderful gifts of the Pastoral Office. What I would like to share with the members of Good Shepherd and the community of Middleville is that I am here!! Come, make time for worship! Make it a priority to gather around God's good gifts of Word and Sacrament! I'm not just doing this for my health!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Beauty of the Knowledge of Holy Things

Tonight was my first confirmation class (it was supposed to start last week, but I was soo sick I had to cancel). We started talking about what confirmation means, how its connected to our Baptism, what faith means, what it means to be Lutheran, the first commandment, and how our Lutheran liturgical worship is a confession of and practice of the first commandment. It was a great time! The girls were like little sponges as we went through the Divine Service, just soaking up all the information. They loved it when I told them the why's and wherefore's of our worship and it was like a 100 watt bulb lighting up when they got that our worship is not just some subjective act of praise between us and God, that it is not something we do to please God, but rather a confession of our faith in the Holy Triune God and our life in the Cross.

Totally awesome!! We closed with Vespers. The girls were not very familiar with the service, but were very eager to learn more. We went through a little of what Vespers means and its significance in the prayer life of Christians. They were a little nervous, but very eager to learn the chanting. I think after a couple of more weeks they will have it down. They were also fascinated by the mention of incense. They liked the idea of such an "interactive" service, and when I explained the significance of the incense, how it ascends as a sweet smell like our prayers before God, they were delighted. So, we used in in Vespers. I would have never guessed I would have heard a 7th grade girl say that Vespers was "fun," but there you go!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

MIA

Boy, have I been out of it for a while! About 2 weeks ago I developed a very severe sore throat due to post-nasal drainage. That turned into a sinus infection, which clogged up everything and eventually moved into my eyes. Every time I went to sleep I had to have a warm washcloth to open my eyes again. What a gross mess!

Last Saturday, after overdoing it, this mess moved into my left ear. I got a terrible ear infection which ended up popping my ear drum. I never knew you could have so much pain in your head and still live! It was absolutley excruciating. I had to cancel confirmation, the mid-week catechetical service, Matins, the Litany, and pretty much everything else all last week.

I am feeling much better now, although I still cannot hear out of my left ear and there is still a little pain and pressure there. The doctor told me I should regain hearing in 2-4 weeks.

I thank God for all His faithful and caring saints at Good Shepherd and especially for my dear wife who showed so much concern and loving-kindness to me in my infirmity. I will be up to the Divine Service tomorrow with a reaffirmation of vows for a wonderful couple celebrating 50 years of marriage! Thanks be to God for His good gifts! It has been a long time since I have had such a great opportunity to pray without ceasing (there wasn't much else I could do!)

So, now the posts should start coming a little more regularly again!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sermons and the importance of the Divine Call

Rev. McCain over on his blog has brought up some real food for thought and his own concerns about the length and content of sermons. It is certainly something for a new pastor like myself to think about and I have been.

My thoughts on sermon length and the content are simple: it should be as long as it takes to tell your flock that they are sinners who deserve nothing more than eternal damnation from a holy and just God; God, the One Holy Trinity, has looked upon His people in mercy and has sent His only begotten Son, true God and true man, to earth to live the holy life we are unable to live, to die as a holy, perfect and complete offering for our sins, and to be raised to new life for our complete justification. This Jesus Christ is our sufficiency, our completeness and in Him we live new lives. In Him we are everything God wants us to be.

All of Scripture makes this clear, as Christ is the key to understanding all of Scripture. If you need 30-45 minutes to say this, so be it, as pastors, called and ordained servants of the Word, you know what your sheep need and how to best give it to them, even if that means a 5 minute sermon. Also as pastors it is your duty to teach the congregation. That can also be done with the good Law and Gospel sermon, but the main goal, in my mind, is not teaching, but reminding the people of who they are , what they deserve and what they have been freely given. The best time for going into greater depth on a text or the doctrines of the Church is in regular catechesis, that happens everyday, in every service, in every sermon, in every Bible Study, etc.

I think it is good to bring these issues up, however it must be done with care. Telling lay-people on a public blog that 10-15 minute sermons are"sermonic starvation" has a real danger of undermining the office of the Holy Ministry, and, although it is good for pastors and lay-people to consider, it must be emphasized that there is not a divine command from Scripture that sermons do anything other than preach Christ and Him crucified for sinners. Anything else falls within the realm of faithful pastoral ministry and Christian freedom.

So, parishioners, listen to what your pastors are saying. A lecture has its place, but it does not save sinners. A sermon, one that is truly faithful, makes the feet of the bearer beautiful, as he, through a divine call, has published salvation for a people in desperate need. Don't assume that a 15 minute sermon is not feeding the flock, for if it preaches our dear Lord and what He does for us in spite of ourselves, it truly is the Word of eternal life!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Saturday Night Experience

I always like Saturday night. It's one final time for me to get ready to serve God's people. I have a whole routine I go through. I lay out my clothes and make sure they are all pressed and looking good, I shine my shoes, I shower and trim any errant hairs, make sure my nails are clean and trimmed. I say Vespers a little earlier than usual and I always make sure to say Compline (it is just so peaceful and a great relaxation technique before bed.) I think about my sermon as I'm going to sleep and try to get 8 hours.

There is no nervousness in this routine for me. I have been told often that I should be nervous, but I'm not. I'm excited, I'm eager, but not anxious or nervous. May God send His holy angels over us that the evil foe may have no power over us this night. May He feed us well with His good gifts as He serves us with Word and Sacrament. May He soften our hearts and give us peace in the hearing of His Word of eternal life.

Amen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Commemoration Days

This summer at Good Shepherd we have been observing the commemoration days and festivals of saints in Lutheran Service Book. I have been moving the festival to the preceding Sunday. It has been nice because it breaks up the sea of green. There are some downsides and I don't think I would do it every summer. There is something lost with the continuity of the pericopal readings and there is only so much you can say about the saints: they were all sinners in need of God's forgiveness in Christ; they all lived in the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus; they all present faithful examples of lives lived in the faith.

One nice thing, from a theological point of view, is celebrating the saints during the season of the Church is a great way to emphasize what the church is; "the congregation of true saints and believers." It also brings a great opportunity to teach what Lutheranism is: holy, catholic, apostolic and confessional.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Real Church Web-site!!

I set up a google pages web-site for Good Shepherd today. It is so easy to use and really makes a nice looking web page with a lot of options. Take a look at it. It still is under construction, but I think it's a really good start!
http://goodshepherdlcms.googlepages.com/home

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Reason We Have Creeds

The Creed builds up in you what you ought to believe and confess in order to be saved.
--St. Augustine, Sermons for the Recent Converts, Homily 214.1.

We have begun studying the Lutheran Confessions in our men's Thursday morning Bible Study. It is so perfect and right that the Confessions begin with our catholic confession of the orthodox Christian faith in the Creeds. They truly do build us up to believe and confess as we ought.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Why Exegesis is Important

I subscribe to the weekly newsletter of Answers in Genesis. I believe that Christians must take the biblical view of a literal 6 day creation. Without this foundation the floodgates are opened to erode our faith. I found this weeks Q & A was a great example of why informed exegesis of the Biblical text is important. The following explains why the "gap theory" does not hold water.

Q: Why do some people say that there is a gap between the first two verses of Genesis 1?
A: The idea of adding a break between the first two verses of Genesis 1 is called the gap theory, and there are many different versions of this theory. But they all, in some way, try to fit the supposed billions of years of earth’s history between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.
But the Hebrew grammar does not allow for such a gap.
Genesis 1:2 begins: “And the earth … .” The use of the English word “and” there is because of what’s called an explanatory use of a waw disjunctive in Hebrew, when it is connected to a noun like “earth.” In Hebrew grammar, this means this verse is a comment on the previous verse. It is not a part of the sequence of the narrative.
Now in verse 1:3, we read “And God said … .”
When the waw is connected to a verb like “said,” this is called a waw consecutive. This means this is part of the sequence of the narrative.
Thus, Genesis 1:1 actually connects directly to verse 1:3—so verse 1:2, where there is an alleged gap, is a comment or description of the earth in verse 1:1.
The bottom line is that the original Hebrew grammar does not allow for a gap between the first two verses.

Friday, August 03, 2007

More Than We Can Imagine*

Paul is absolutely correct when he says that God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20). In contrast, our prayers tend to be weak and insignificant. Joseph didn't dare ask for what he finally received. His heart was like a bruised reed and a smolderding wick. His groaning was like smoke that rises straight to heaven. His heart was a real incencse burner! The sweet aroma that comes from a humble, groaning heart pleases God. Though Joseph may have felt like he was dying, his groaning didn't cause any real harm.

Hang on. God will remain faithful. Don't despair. Cling to the truth the psalmist proclaims: "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Psalm 27:14). The Lord won't extinguish a smoldering wick but instead will make it glow brightly. He won't break the bruised reed but instead will strengthen it (Isaiah 42:3).

God wants to give us more than we ask for, not just fulfill our weak prayers. Joseph asked for nothing more than to be rescued, released from prison, and returned to his father. God in heaven let him pray for a long time. In effect, God was saying, "You don't know what you are asking [Matthew 20:22]. I will give you more than all you ask or imagine [Ephesians 3:20]. That's why you have to wait a little longer. I want more of the smoke that rises straight to heaven." But later, Joseph received what he never could have imagined. He never would have had the confidence or courage to ask for it. We must recognize that God's wisdom, grace, mercy, and power are most certainly with us, as they were with Joseph. However, God usually doesn't give them to us in the way we ask for them.

*Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, Martin Luther, Gen. Ed. James C. Galvin
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, copyright 2005

Monday, July 30, 2007

They're just TIRES!!

I was watching the news tonight and a local commercial came on for a tire company. The "employee" who was the star of the commercial said, with great feeling and sincerity, that their tire company is about friends and family.

WHAT?!?

IT'S NOT FRIENDS AND FAMILY! YOU ARE SELLING TIRES!!
I laughed at the ridiculousness of this statement, but how many times do we do the same thing in the church. Churches and well-meaning pastors advertise that their church will give purpose, fill needs, give you your best life, and even friends and family, but this is NOT what the church does.

The Church gives God's Word and His Sacraments. Just as everyone needs tires, but does not always appreciate them, the Church gives what everyone needs, but that holy simplicity is not always appreciated.

What is it again that a theologian (or a tire salesman) of glory do? Oh yeah, they call the good bad and the bad good, kinda like saying tires are about friends and family.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Self-Denial in Pastoral Care

Today I had my first hospital call as a pastor. I used the rite from the Pastoral Care Companion, including private confession, anointing with oil and the Lord's Supper. I, obviously, have never done this before. Oh, sure, I've visited a lot of people in the hospital, but it has always been with my own words and thoughts and prayers. There is something uniquely holy about denying ourselves and giving people only God's holy gifts. It goes against the very core of our nature. I felt awkward and inept, but I had delivered what I am called to deliver: God's Word and His Sacraments. It would have been easier for me to go and visit this young parishioner as a common guy, in regular clothes, speaking regulare words that I made up, peppered with God's Holy Word. It would have been more comfortable perhaps for both of us if I would have left the communion kit at home (and the anointing oil), but it would not have been what I am called to do.

It's hard to be a pastor because we HAVE to deny ourselves to better serve God's Word. Certainly, He does use our abilities and unique personalities, but ONLY to serve His Word. There is a constant danger of pastors forgetting what they are called to do, and there is forgiveness for that, but should we continue to sin so that grace may abound? You know the answer to that.

I will continue to do things personally uncomfortable. Someday, God in His mercy will conform me to His holiness in Christ. Lord, have mercy!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Little Background on the Lutheran/Reformed use of the Litany

I did a bit of research for the perseverance podcast and found this web article:

In the first period of the Wittenberg Reformation processions and litanies were retained, although they were discarded by 1525. Four years later, however, a revised litany was restored in Evangelical worship by Luther himself, the immediate occasion being a threatened invasion of the Turks. He evidently published a separate German version of this litany, although no copy of this edition is known to be extant, but there is no ground for assuming that he issued the Latin text of it as he proposed to do. The German litany was also appended to the third edition of his smaller catechism, but was later omitted, although it then found its way into the hymnals, doubtless with its author's approval. The Latin version, in like manner, was almost certainly contained in the hymnal of Klug published in 1529 and no longer extant. It may well have included the German version as well, like the later editions of the work and a number of other hymnals of the same period. The extension of the litany through middle and north Germany by means of the hymn-books was rapid, but it was comparatively rarely found, on the other hand, in southern or southwestern German hymnody. There, however, it was spread by the church orders, the more important ones all containing it. The original Lutheran litany was closely similar to, the Roman Catholic Litany of the Saints, except that all invocations of the saints, as well as petitions for the pope and the dead, were omitted. On the other hand, the petitions are more specialized and more concrete than in the older litany, which is, nevertheless, far the richer.
In the northern and central parts of Germany no uniformity whatever prevailed in the time of the recitation of the litany. Wednesday and Friday were, on the whole, the favorite days, although it might also be recited on Tuesday, Sunday festivals, and at vespers on Saturday. Local usage in many cases prescribed it for special days, while numerous church orders required it to be said occasionally, although no special day was designated. The place which the litany occupied in the North and Middle German liturgy likewise varied. It might be recited alone, either in the morning or the evening, after the lesson, epistle, or sermon, and before or during the communion. An equal lack of uniformity prevailed in southern and southwestern Germany, but there the litany, in harmony with the intention of Luther, retained its original character of a penitential prayer more than in the north, so that in Strasburg it followed the confession and absolution. The litany was subject, furthermore, to numerous local modifications, petitions being inserted or omitted practically at pleasure.
In Wittenberg the German litany was chanted by the choir-boys, while the congregation sang the responses, although ultimately one part of the choir chanted the petitions and the other responded. The Latin litany was sung only in the latter fashion. In the seventeenth century the Latin litany was discarded altogether, and in case there was a trained choir, the pastor, kneeling or standing with his face toward the altar, intoned the petition, while the congregation, led by the choir, sang the responses. If for any reason the litany was not sung, it might be recited or read. These modes of repeating the litany gradually supplanted the singing of it, but on the whole, though it is still retained in almost all modern German liturgies, it has lost its hold in great measure on the congregations because of its monotony.
The Reformed Church had little sympathy with the litany, and rejected it almost without exception, so that wherever Calvinism gained supremacy over Lutheranism, the litany was abolished.
The Moravians have two litanies, the "Church Litany " and the "Litany of the Life, Passion, and Death of Jesus Christ." The former is used in a double form, a shorter version having been made in 1873, while the latter is derived from the "Litany of Wounds" composed by Zinzendorf in 1744.
(P. DREWS.)
The litany of the English Book of Common Prayer was originally intended to be a distinct office. A rubric in the first prayer-book (1549) ordered it to be said on Wednesdays and Fridays, before the communion-office. It was then placed after the communion-office, and in 1552 put in the place it now occupies, with the direction that it was to be "used upon Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and at other times when it shall be commanded by the ordinary." The clause in Edward's prayerbook, "From the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities," was omitted in 1559.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I are SMART!!

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Our First Baby Picture

Check out Baby's first picture at our family blog
Words fail to describe how awesome it was to see our baby for the first time!!
Thank You, our Father in Heaven, for knitting together this wonderful little life!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Litany

Has anyone used the musical setting to the Litany in LSB? I am thinking of offering it everyday at noon (at least make it known that I will be saying/singing it). I have found that the musical setting is very beautiful. Any thoughts for other uses for the Litany regularly in the Church's worship?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

That ol' sinful nature

As a new and young pastor I often do not "feel" like I'm really a pastor. I worried about this a lot before ordination. How could I possibly minister to my "elders" with God's Law and His Gospel? Would my congregation take me seriously?

Now that I am out here, I have found the most amazing reversal of my expectations. My beloved parish has no problem accepting me and has always shown the uptmost respect for the Office and for me. What is really surprising is other pastors. I feel so out of place whenever there is a gathering of pastors. Some don't speak to me at all (a few have actually ignored me when I spoke to them!) Some are a bit condescending. Some act suspicious of the "new guy." But, overall, most don't seem to want to take any time at all to even acknowledge me.

I have to say, that ol' sinful nature really gets hurt by this. I want to be accepted by my older brothers. I really want to just sit down and talk with them openly and honestly. Don't get me wrong, there are a couple around me who have been just great.

To other newbies, has this been your experience? Am I overreacting? Is this unusual? Is there something wrong with me?

Talk about being more Catholic than the Pope!

This morning I was driving through Middleville and decided to stop by the local Catholic Church. I had been curious about it since we arrived since the sign said it offered traditional Latin Mass. The priest, Father Gregory, was very nice and open in talking about their congregation, The Most Holy Rosary. What absolutely floored me, though, was when he told me that his order (whose name I have forgotten-it's back at the church) does not recognize the current pope, nor has it recognized the last 5 popes!!

He was quick to assure me that they do still believe in the primacy of the pope, apparently the pope is only infallible if you believe he is. More on this after I do some reading of the literature he gave me.

Persecution?

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:10

This afternoon I went out to get the mail at church. I was waiting for the traffic so I could cross the road when a car full of young men drove by. One of them stuck his head out the window and said something about our church and clergy in general that I will not repeat, as well as blasphemies against the Lord. As they were driving away, he flipped me off.

I know that in the great company of heaven, this counts as nothing, but perhaps it is a sign of the times. I am pretty certain this wouldn't have happened if I had been dressed in civilian clothes.

May God work repentance in these young men's hearts that they may come back to His mercy in Christ.

Monday, July 23, 2007

St. James the Elder

This coming Sunday, the Good Shepherd saints will give thanks for the faithfulness of one of the Sons of Thunder, St. James the Elder. You remember James, in one gospel we see his mother asking for her sons glory in the coming kingdom, in another gospel we see James and John asking for glory in the coming kingdom. Again, we see these sons of Zebedee seeking glory rather than suffering when they ask to call down punishment on the inhabitants of Samaria.

In the midst of all this glory seeking we are interupted by the epistle from Romans 8:28-39.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And then, as so often happens, I am reading along for fun, not even thinking about sermon preparation, and God hands me a jewel to adorn His Gospel. This quote from The Hammer of God we see the beauty of the theology of the cross:

“You see, atonement comes only through suffering. Through suffering our Savior opened the gates of Heaven, through suffering his apostles carried the Gospel out in the world--rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer. It is a great favor to bear testimony to Christ by suffering in His fellowship. I believe Scripture calls it bearing in the body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Usually we suffer only for our own sins. But sometimes we are given the favor of suffering for the sins of others. That is part of the mystery of the Atonement: when one is joined to Christ, one is given the task of lifting a portion from a certain sinner and suffering in his stead, so that he does not have to carry alone all the bitterness of his deeds.”
The Hammer of God, pg. 312

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another Fairy Tale

St. Paul tells us in I Thessalonians5:17 to "pray without ceasing."
Perhaps this fairy tale from the Grimm Brothers collection can shed some light on why we should do that.

The Fox once came to a meadow in which was a flock of fine fat geese, on which he smiled and said, "I come at the nick of time, you are sitting together quite beautifully, so that I can eat you up one afte the other." The geese cackled with terror, sprang up, and began to wail and beg piteously for their lives. But the Fox would listen to nothing, and said, "There is no mercy to be had! You must die."

At length one of them took heart and said, "If we poor geese are to yield up our vigorous young lives, show us the only possible favor and allow us one more prayer, that we may not die in our sins, and then we will place ourselves in a row, so that you can always pick yourself the fattest." "Yes," said the Fox, "that is a reasonable, and a pious request. Pray away, I will wait till you are done." Then the first began a good long prayer, forever saying, "Ga! Ga!" and as she would make no end, the second did not wait until her turn came, but began also, "Ga! Ga!" The third and fourth followed her, and soon they were all cackling together.

When they have done praying, the story shall be continued further, but at present they are still praying, and they show no sign of stopping.

The Crumbs on the Table*

A countryman one day said to his little puppies, "Come into the parlor and enjoy yourselves, and pick up the bread-crumbs on the table; your mistress has gone out to pay some visits." Then the little dogs said, "No, no, we will not go. If the mistress gets to know it, she will beat us." The countryman said, "She will know nothing about it. Do come; after all, she never gives you anything good." Then the little dogs again said, "Nay, nay, we must let it alone, we must not go." But the countryman let them have no peace until at last they went, and got on the table, and ate up the bread-crumbs with all their might. But at that very moment the mistress came, and seized the stick in great haste, and beat them and treated them very badly. And when they were outside the house, the little dogs said to the countryman, "Do, do, do, do, do you see what happened?" Then the countryman laughed and said, "Didn't, didn't, didn't you expect it?" So they just had to run away.

Now, the way I understand this fairy-tale in regards to the Christian faith is that the countryman is Satan, the deceiver and accuser. The pups are Christians who struggle against the flesh. The mistress is the Law that demands perfection. The devil comes to us and tries to get us to do what we know to be wrong. When we don't listen, he doesn't simply leave us alone, but tries to assure us that we won't get caught in our transgressions. When our mistress, the Law, sees what we have done, she beats us very badly. We may try to push our blame off on Satan, but he only mocks us.

What is missing in this story is Christ. Christians may well become dismayed when presented with the devil's schemes and temptations, and, when presented with the sterness of the Law, some are tempted to run away. But for us who know Christ, we know that in all things and in all circumstances we can turn to Him for mercy, we can turn to Him to silence the deceitful "countryman."

*Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Fairy Tales, Ann Arbor Media Group, pgs. 129-30

Why it's a bad idea to throw the baby out with the bathwater...

Because you don't want a wet and critically injured baby. I thought that was a hilarious line from the movie For Your Consideration.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Why we wear the clerical collar

Many avoid wearing the clerical collar for the same reason Pastor Torvik did in The Hammer of God.
"You must certainly understand that I want to come as an ordinary human being."

Pastor Bengtsson, an older and much sounder Lutheran pastor had this admonishment, which, in my opinion, is the best explanation of why a pastor should look like a pastor:

"Then you are sailing under false colors. You are no ordinary person. You have been ordained by the Church as a servant of the Word. You have been elected and called by the Christian congregation at Odesjo to be its pastor. You get support from the fields which godly forbears donated for the pastor's upkeep. It is pure dishonesty to take the money, if you want to be just and ordinary person."*

*The Hammer of God, pg. 254

What 5 weeks of Divine Knitting will get you

Ok, this is the official announcement. I am a father! God has blessed Lesa and me with a child that is even now being fearfully and wonderfully made in her womb!
And by fearfully I mean . . . .
take a look at this picture!
But, it is still our baby and we love it! Thanks be to God for uniting our marriage in such a beautiful way.
Please keep us all in your prayers. The baby is due March 5.
For further updates, check out our Roemke Family Blog.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Don't Hide Jesus

Another truly remarkable bit of wisdom from Giertz's The Hammer of God:

"One ought not talk about oneself, it may hide Jesus from view."*

A reminder every Christian, especially every pastor, should have daily.
Amen.
* pg 151

The Difficulty with Closed Communion

There is always a tension within the LCMS about closed communion. "Officially" it is the policy of the LCMS that all congregations practice closed communion, that is, communion for members in good standing in a Missouri Synod Lutheran church.

But, despite the official position, many congregations do not practice closed communion. The rationale of pastors is that, in the practical, "real world," a little thing called "pastoral discretion" must be used. Now, I agree, there may be times when it is good for a non-LCMS Christian to partake of the Holy Meal, but those times should be few and far between.

Pastors who take liberties with pastoral discretion often appeal to the Gospel. They do not want to turn away possible "seekers" by the strict policy of closed communion. Other pastor's prefer to play loose with the meaning of closed communion, preferring the more friendly "close communion," meaning that as long as we are "close" in our theology, we may commune together.

I have been a parish pastor now for 4 weeks. We have had non-LCMS visitors every week. I have had to explain to them our position and it is a hard thing to do. I suspect that the real reason for loose practice in regards to closed communion is because it is hard. It is much easier to take an attitude of "gospel-lead," self-righteous and missional compassion than to take the time to teach, explain and possibly offend.

In short, I do not like closed communion, but that is because my sinful nature always want to rebel against God and His Word. I also do not always like proclaiming the Law which accuses. Being faithful to God's Word is not easy, but with His guidance I will continue to faithfully serve His people with His Word and Sacraments.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What does it really mean to "give your heart to Jesus"?

Another great dialogue from Giertz's The Hammer of God. The curate, a senior pastor, has just received an assistant pastor, Fridfeldt. This young man thinks that he is truly saved because he has given his heart to Jesus.

[Fridfeldt] "But don't you know, sir, what it means to be a believer?"

"That is a word which can stand for things that differ greatly, my boy. I ask only what it is that you believe in."
"In Jesus, of course," answered Fridfeldt, raising his voice. "I mean--I mean that I have given him my heart."

The older man's face became suddenly as solemn as the grave.
"Do you consider that something to give him?"

By this time, Fridfeldt was almost in tears.
"But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved."

"You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. You see, my boy," he continued reassuringly, as he continued to look at the young pastor's face, in which uncertainty and resentment were shown in a struggle for the upper hand, "it is one thing to choose Jesus as one's Lord and Savior, to give him one's heart and commit oneself to him, and that he now accepts one into his little flock; it is a very different thing to believe in him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is cheif. One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one's heart to him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks his walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with him. That is how it is."*

* The Hammer of God, pg 122, 123.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Moderation in Everything

I'm re-reading the wonderful novel by Bo Giertz*, The Hammer of God. In it, a Swedish Lutheran peasant is given a great and generous offer by a baron. The exchange goes as follows:
"You are not like the other pietists," he [the baron] had said. "You are mery and can sing a gay ballad at times. If you will promise to keep from excesses and to show moderation also in Christianity, I'll give you half a barrel of rye right now. There should be moderation in everything."

Aron [the peasant] had answered him, "You can keep that rye, Baron, because the condition you require is too difficult for me. Moderate means, does it not, that the amount shall be the proper amount? And the right measure of Christianity is to love God with all one's heart and one's neighbor as oneself. I still have far to go to measure up."

The baron laughed and sent for the half a barrel of rye, nevertheless.
(pg 67)

* Bo Giertz, born in Sweden in 1905, was a parish pastor and then a Bishop of the Lutheran diocese of Gothenburg, Sweden. An internationally respected clergyman and theologian, Giertz has been compared to other twentieth-century Christian apologists, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Rose's Thorn

I have long wondered why people find the grace and forgiveness of God freely given in Christ is such a hard concept, myself included, to freely accept. I think I may have tje beginnings of an idea.

When our sinful nature is presented with its true depravity it wants to flee. When I, as a pastor, present people with God's Word of Law they often want to put the blame on someone else. They want to try to justify themselves by saying "At least I didn't do that or this!" If we are given forgiveness then that means we have to admit to wrong doing, and that is not comfortable for anyone.

Jesus comes as a sweet smelling rose, but to receive the benefits that He gives, we are rightly pricked with the thorn of His Law and convicted by His own perfect obedience. While the prick lasts only a moment and is out-weighed by the benefit of the rose, some people do not want even a momentary uncomfortableness and would rather live without the sweetness and beauty of the rose.

The Law hurts, it's meant to. The Law makes the Gospel all the more sweet and without it the Gospel is not free, but worthless. The Law gives the Gospel its value and worth.

Defense of the Crucifix in Lutheranism and Christianity

Rev. Paul McCain brought this to my attention through his blog. The Wisconsin Synod has given a very good answer to "Isn't that too CATHOLIC?!?!" in regards to the crucifix of our Lord Jesus Christ. Give it a read!

A Shepherd's Warning

Watch Out! The wolf doesn't attack the Lord's flock stealthily at night anymore, but in open daylight. We see him move toward slaughtering the sheep, yet we oppose him without caution and without darts of words. So then, what fruits of a growing flock can we show the Lord if we calmly watch a wild beast mangle those we have been caring for? But we must study to make our hearts passionate by imitating earthly shepherds. They often keep watch through winter nights, nipped by rain and frost, lest even one sheep should perish. And if the prowler does bite one greedily, they busy themselves to save it. They pant with rapid heartbeats, leap to rescue the sheep with loud cries, and are stimulated by the urgency, lest the lord of the flock require what they lost carelessly. Watch then, lest anything perish. And if anything is seized by chance, bring it back to the Lord's flock by cries of godly instruction. Then the Shepherd of shepherds may mercifully approve of us in His judgment for having watched over His flock.
(From Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, pg 180- Gregory I, Epistles 2.48)

Gregory I (540-604). Gregory was born into a godly family of considerable influence in Rome. After the death of his father, he proceeded to set up seven monasteries, one of which he became abbot. Gregory wasn't allowed to stay for long; the pope called him to be one of the seven deacons of Rome and subsequently sent him to Constantinople to be a representative at the imperial court. In 590, after the death of the pope, he was called to take his place. Gregory called himself "servant of the servants of God," a title every pope has used since. His most important writings are the Pastoral Rule, a handbook for bishops; numerous teachings, letters, dialogues; and the Exposition of Job.

The First and Primary Cause

When a field has brought good, rich crops to perfect maturity, no one would logically say that the farmer made those fruits. Everyone would acknowledge that the crops had been produced by God. In the same way, our own perfection isn't brought about by inactivity and idleness, but by some activity on our part. Yet we aren't credited with its perfection. God is. He is the first and primary cause of the work. Take, for example, a ship that has overcome the dangers of the sea through hard working sailors, the aid of navigation, a pilot's zeal and carefulness, favorable breezes, and the careful observation of the signs of the stars. No one in his right mind would attribute the vessel's safety to anything else than the mercy of God when, after being tossed by the waves, and wearied by the billows, it has at last reached the harbor. Not even any of the sailors or the pilot would venture to say, "I have saved the ship," but would refer entirely to the mercy of God. This isn't because these men feel that they haven't contributed skill or labor to save the ship, but the vessel's safety was entrusted by God. Similarly, in the race of life, we must work diligently and passionately.
(From Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, pg 175- Origen, First Principles 3.1)

The Dissidence of Life's Harmony

From the American Edition of Luther's Works, vol. 6, pg. 92, editied in Faith Alone by James C. Galvin.


People who are unfamiliar with the principles of musical harmony have trouble appreciating how the various sounds produced by an organ or harp can result in such beautiful music. In this life, we hear the sounds, not the symphony. It appears to us that God is asleep and the devil is wide-awake and ruling everything. Human reason concludes that neither God nor people are in control of the world, but that everything on earth happens by chance. Human wisdom can't comprehend the infinite, heavenly truth that God is in charge and allows many more things in this world to succeed than fail. God's kindness is more widespread that the devil's cruelty. But human reason makes us uncertain because we experience so much disorder and injustice. We feel uncertain because we don't see by the same light the angels do. We can't understand how right and wrong, life and death, light and darkness all harmonize.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Moderates and Confessionals

From my good friend Rev. Tom Chryst at Grace Lutheran Church, Racine, Wisconsin:
As the July LCMS convention approaches, I have been pondering the struggles of the Synod and my place in it all. I have been thinking for some time about the two camps in the LCMS and how I managed to start in one and migrate to the other.
Coming from the East Coast and out of Concordia, Bronxville, I was a prime candidate to end up in the "moderate" wing of the synod. Going into seminary, I wasn't totally convinced of Closed Communion, and had my doubts about women's ordination.
I remember even in Seminary getting into an argument about whether the LCMS should even be discussing women's ordination (I thought then, that we should - my wiser adversary saying it was a settled matter.)
Back then, I didn't like contemporary and praise type music, but still didn't really "get" the liturgy.
I remember firmly thinking that style and substance were completely unrelated.
I also figured I could and would remain neutral in all the various squabbles of the LCMS, and be "above it all."
Honestly, I also didn't study the Confessions as seriously as I should have in seminary. It didn't seem so "relevant" to me then.
How that changed. While I still am careful about how and when and where I participate in our synod's political process, I find myself increasingly taking sides with the confessional/conservative/traditionalist camp. My growing appreciation for and understanding of Lutheran theology is to blame for this.
The Yankee Stadium controversy was, for me, and for many I think, a turning point. It almost drew a line in the sand. You kind of HAD to take sides. And as I examined what happened there and studied the issues carefully, I found myself siding with a new and strange group of people. The people who used to scare me.
I was, originally, quite intimidated by the Confessional crowd in the LCMS. I think I understand why. To me, they represented the Law. Their very existence suggested there was something "less pure" or "less faithful" or "less Lutheran" about me. And I resented that. I guess I also internally knew that it was true, and so these guys became a sort of walking talking embodiment of the Law for me. By identifying themselves as certain things, they implicitly identified others as not those things. Liturgical, traditional, Biblical, concerned about Law and Gospel, faithful, confession-minded... all these have an opposite.
I have heard moderates in the synod speak derisively of the "ultra-conservatives," as they assumed I sympathized with them. I honestly don't know what the problem is, other than a feeling that because that guy wears a collar all the time and doesn't do contemporary worship, he must think he's better than us. And in a sense, I guess that's true. But perhaps he simply thinks what he is doing is better.
Sure there's arrogance and condescension on the confessional side too. And to the extent that we allow this we are sure to turn off the moderates even more. But even without it, I think a certain amount of Law will prick the honest moderate's conscience, as he sees a faithful pastor doing things he knows he should be doing - but is either too lazy, or afraid, or uninformed to do.
I have come a long way in the last 7 years. I still feel like I am on the road to becoming truly Lutheran. I appreciate the internet and all I have learned here, in the blogs and on the email lists and forums... and it gives me hope. Issues Etc. is another gem.
I hope that many who were or are like me - once the Squishy Missouri Middle - can grow and learn and see why it is we want to build Lutheran identity and stem the tide of the Neo-Evangelical influence in our Synod.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Our Hidden Lives

This morning in Men's Bible Study we were talking about looking to the cross for all good things. There are trials and tribulations in our lives, and while I will not presume to know the mind of God or His reasoning, one of the blessings of trials and tribulations for Christians is that it can point us back to our sufficiency in Christ.

This afternoon while reading Luther, I came across this very beautiful description of our hidden lives. While we are redeemed and share presently in the glory of our resurrected and ascended Lord, that reality is often hidden.

Luther says: But faith must close its eyes and refuse to pass judgment on what it sees or feels in the world. You won't become aware of eternal life until Christ raises you from the dead. Meanwhile, your eternal life is hidden in death. It's covered up and out of sight. But you have forgiveness. If you feel the weight of sin crushing you, you can still say, "My sins are forgiven." When your sins hunt you down, bite at you, and terrify you, you can look to Christ, put your feeble faith in Him, and hold on tightly.*

It seems at times that telling people to just look to Christ isn't enough. Our sinful nature wants to take the reigns from God. That is where so many church bodies and pastors get into trouble. When you get to a point where Christ's sacrificial and atoning death, His justifying resurrection and glorious ascension and mediation are no longer enough you may as well hand your soul to the devil. Faith closes its eyes to everything but Christ and Him crucified. There we have our sufficiency.

*Luther's Works AE 23:74

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why is Creation important?

In my morning devotion I read from Walther in CPH's God Grant It.
This morning I was struck by this beautiful and pregnant line about the reason for Creation:

God did not need creatures. He is an ocean of eternal love that overflowed in the creation of countless beings to whom He revealed His love and with whom He shared His goodness.*

Wow! That is awesome! Our existence is not then some cosmic accident (which I never would buy) but an overflowing of God's eternal love. That love's source is the ultimately in the cross of Jesus Christ, where the life-giving blood of the lamb was poured out for us.

Now, this is a great thought to start out my day!

O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A fitting prayer

From my evening devotional from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, Hilary of Poitiers* has the fitting prayer for the Pastor and his flock:

O Lord God Almighty, I know that I owe You the devotion of all my words and thoughts as my main duty. The greatest reward of speech You have given me is the opportunity to serve by preaching You and displaying You as You are to a blind and rebellious world. For You are our Father and Father of God the Only-begotten Son. But I am only expressing my own desires. I must also pray for Your help and compassion. Then Your Spirit's breath will fill the sails of faith and confession which I have spread out, and a favorable wind will move me forward on my voyage of instruction. We can trust the promise of Christ who said, "Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." In whatever we lack, we will pray for the things we need. We will be untiring and energetic as we study Your prophets and apostles. We will knock to enter every gate of hidden knowledge. But You are the One who answers these prayers, who gives us the things we seek, who opens the door we beat on.

Amen and Amen.



* Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315-367) is best known for his stands against the Arian sect in his two treatises, On the Trinity and On the Synods. His early years were devoted to the study of pagan philosophy and rhetoric before he was converted to the Christian faith. Around 350, he was appointed as bishop of Poitiers despite having a wife. His six years as bishop were spent refuting the Arians and upholding the teachings of Athanasius. Under the emperor Constantius he was banished to Phyrgia in Asia Minor, where he composed his treatises. Hilary returned to Poitiers and spent the rest of his life defending the Christian faith from heretical teachings. The passage in this blog post is from On the Trinity 1.37, from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, pg.169 & 374.

It went pretty well...

My first Divine Service as Pastor of Good Shepherd, that is. Being given the great responsibility and honor of serving God's people with His Word and Sacraments did make me a bit nervous, though (as it probably should.) I chanted the entire Divine Service 3, which I think went well. I got to wear my new chasuble from Kanel Bros. (I'll post some pics later this week, but it is beautiful and it matches the altar and pulpit paraments perfectly!)

What an indescribable joy and honor it is to feed the Good Shepherd's sheep! May He always go before me to prepare their hearts, with me that I may be made worthy and faithful of the task and after me to nourish and fortify the seed of His Word!

My first Sunday at Good Shepherd

I'd say this comic from Dave Coverly's Speed Bump pretty well sums up my feelings!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Installation

Today I was installed as the third pastor to serve the redeemed saints in Christ at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Middleville, MI. What a great blessing and honor it is for me to serve them in Word and Sacrament ministry.

I am also blessed with a tremendously warm, hospitable and welcoming congregation. What a day! And the meal afterward was just wonderful! Another day I will never forget. I pray that God would bless me with many years of faithful and fruitful service in Middleville.

I will post pictures later. Tomorrow it's off to work!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Pastoral Care Companion

I got this beautiful and very handy little book as an Ordination gift. So, what does a pastor do?

Services and Rites
*Holy Baptism
*Enrollment of Sponsors
*Individual Confession and Absolution
*Visiting the Sick and Distressed (including annointing with oil)
*Communion of the Sick and Homebound
*Blessing of a Mother after Childbirth
*Matrimony
*Anniversary or Affirmation of Holy Matrimony
*Commendation of the Dying
*Comforting the Bereaved
*Funeral and Committal
*Blessing of a Home
So what do all these services and rites mean? It means that I, as a pastor, want to be involved in my people's lives, in all levels, and share with them God's blessings in His Word.

From Baptisms to Funerals, from Weddings to Home Blessings.

My beloved saints at Good Shepherd, do not hesitate to call on me to be your pastor. It is my great privilege and joy to share God's Word in your life.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Some Ordination Pictures

These were taken with our camera and for some reason are fuzzy. I will be getting some more later and will post them if they are better.
http://picasaweb.google.com/aseleener/JimSOrdination

The work of a shepherd

There was once a shepherd who was hired to watch over a flock. He started out well, giving the flock everything they needed, but before too long, he grew tired of the flock he was hired to watch. He started putting out food for the goats that wandered on the hills nearby. The sheep he was set over did not like this food, but the shepherd insisted that if they were really good sheep who loved their master they would eat it and be happy about it. The shepherd ignored their declining health on this goat’s diet because he really wanted to make the goats a part of his flock.
Now, what the shepherd didn’t realize is that his master was already working on those goats. This shepherd forgot that he was just hired to work for this specific flock. He thought that he was responsible for all he sheep and goats on the hills around him. The shepherds of other flocks encouraged the shepherd and joined him in his work with the goats. All their work with the goats took them away from the work they were hired to do with their own flocks of sheep.

While they were focused on the goats and other sheep, their own flock started to wander off and the wolves started to get closer and closer. Some sheep went to other shepherds who were still putting out the special sheep food from the master. Some sheep wandered off into the hills and mountains and became wild again, and some lost their way altogether and died. Some were killed and eaten by the wolf. The whole time, their shepherd was looking out, away from his flock, at those goats.
What will the shepherd’s master say to him when he comes back to see how his flock has been managed? What will the master do with the sheep and goats he has brought to this unfaithful shepherd? What will happen to all those poor sheep who were neglected and ignored?

That was a LONG break!

I know, it was a lot longer than I said I would be gone, but I've been enjoying my time in Michigan. I will soon post some pics of the Ordination and upcoming Installation. The Ordination was a day I will never forget. I have to thank Pr. Tom Chryst for the beautiful and fitting sermon.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ok, I know I said I was on a break...

But this was just too great! From Augustine's Homily 7 on 1 John:
We shouldn't imagine God according to what we want to see. For then we would make God out to be some huge form or an immense expanse. His figure would extend in all directions like the light we see with our eyes. So either we would make God out to be as big as we could imagine or else picture Him as a benevolent old man. Don't imagine any of these things.

But imagine this if you want to see God: "God is love." What sort of face does love have? What shape does it take? What stature? What feet or hands? No one can say. And yet it has feet that carry people to church. It has hands that reach out to the poor. It has eyes that show us those in need. For it is said, "Blessed is the man who considereth the needy and the poor." Love also has ears which the Lord spoke about, saying, "He that hath ears to hear let him hear." These aren't separate parts of love, but bring complete understanding and sight to those who have it. Live in love, and love will live in you. Dwell, and you will be dwelt in.*

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hiatus

Due to all the business of the next few days and the move and everything else, I will be taking at least a week break from blogging. When I return, I will continue the Wisdom Proverbs devotional series.

Pray for us and the move! We will see you in Michigan!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Moving Update

We have safely returned to St. Louis. Tomorrow, May 24, we are going to see if we can get a moving truck this weekend (Saturday or Sunday) and move up to Wayland on Monday. Things are moving fast, literally!

Please keep us in your prayers as we have a lot to do in a short time. After the move early next week, we have guests coming in from Texas and Wisconsin for the Ordination on Sunday. We will be going to Indiana on Friday to spend some time with these guests. Then, Sunday is the big day!

After the Ordination, we will be going back up to Michigan to prepare for the Installation and our new life.

Such excitement! A lot to be thankful for and a lot of opportunities for our faith to cling ever more tenaciously to our Heavenly Father.

Wisdom: Equalizer of Men

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the maker of them all.
-Proverbs 22:1-2

Wealth and faith have always had a rocky relationship. For years the Church has proudly touted the cause of poverty. For many it was and is a means through which they could live out their faith. Self-inflicted poverty has become a way some have tried to earn their salvation. In more recent years, the heresy has arisen that if your faith is strong enough, you will be blessed with temporal health and wealth. Both of these ways have lead to a denial of the Gospel and have driven many to despair their salvation.

But this Proverb presents both ways. A good reputation, righteous living, and favor with God is more valuable than any riches. However, both the rich and the poor are made by God. And from God comes all good things.

True Wisdom is found in the balance of all things in Christ. If your wealth takes your eyes off of His atoning sacrifice, forsake it! If your poverty turns you from the comfort He has given, it is evil. If your wealth is recognized as one of God’s good gifts and is used for His glory and in thanksgiving it is a blessing. If your poverty is seen as a builder of faith and cheerfully borne as your cross, then it is a beautiful witness to the world.

In the end, both riches and poverty neither avail nor curse. It is God who is the Maker of all things. If you put your trust in the free gift of salvation won through the cross of Jesus Christ, you are blessed indeed.


+ + +
Wealth and poverty, blessing and bane, all things are given by You in Your divine Wisdom, Good Father. Giver of faith, work in us that faith which blesses You in all things, for we know that in all things You, who love us and sent Your Son to die for us, have promised to work for our good. Forgive us our faithlessness when we come across difficult times. Forgive us our forgetfulness when we encounter Your temporal blessings. Fill us with the joy of Your eternal blessings in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.
Amen.
+ + +

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What we have in common with foxes and birds...

"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)

After a short, stressful and somewhat frustrating search, we have found a place to live in Michigan!

It's a very nice duplex in Wayland Michigan, about 15 minutes from the church in Middleville. We give thanks to God for His guidance and ask His forgiveness for our unfaithfulness and doubt of His loving-kindness.

Look out, Michigan! We're coming up next week!

Continue to be with us, Good Lord, as we move next week. May Your name be praised in and through us and may we do Your work joyfully in Middleville and Wayland. Amen.

Wisdom: From the LORD

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD.
-Proverbs 21:30

From where does wisdom come? The Lord. From where does understanding come? The Lord. From where does counsel come? The Lord.
There are certainly false forms of seeming wisdom, there are faulty and incomplete understandings, there are bad counsels. These we often think of as true wisdom. But that true Wisdom only comes from the Lord.

A good indicator of whether wisdom, understanding or counsel are true and good is to see what side it is on. If it is against the Lord, it is sheer foolishness. If it is for the Lord, it is truly wise.

Seek out true Wisdom. Receive right Understanding. Find good Counsel. It is in the Lord and given freely in Christ Jesus.

+ + +
Psalm 16
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Amen.
+ + +