Monday, December 24, 2007
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.
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
Saturday, December 08, 2007
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
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.
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
Oh well, pray that this move would go well for us, please!
Friday, November 09, 2007
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
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
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
Friday, October 19, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
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
Thursday, August 09, 2007
--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
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
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.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
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
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.
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
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
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
Monday, July 09, 2007
"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
Friday, July 06, 2007
"One ought not talk about oneself, it may hide Jesus from view."*
A reminder every Christian, especially every pastor, should have daily.
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
[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
"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.
* 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 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.
(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.
(From Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, pg 175- Origen, First Principles 3.1)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
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
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
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.*
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
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.
* 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.
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!
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Sunday, June 10, 2007
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
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
Friday, May 25, 2007
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
Pray for us and the move! We will see you in Michigan!
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
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.
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.
+ + +
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
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.
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.
+ + +
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
+ + +