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.


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.
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.


"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.
* 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.