Monday, December 08, 2008

Advent Midweek Sermon Series

This year at Good Shepherd we are looking at Blessed Unions during the Advent Season. Last week it was Adam and Eve. Through that blessed union we have the disgraceful fall of humanity into sin, but we also have the promise of the Messiah in Genesis 3:15. In Luke's geneaology we see how Christ is the fulfillment of that promise as His lineage is taken all the way back to that first father Adam. Through Adam all men die, through Christ all men now live. This week we will look at the blessed union of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph Christ was brought into the world. How easy it would have been for Mary to lie about the blessing that God planted in her virgin womb. How easy it would have been for Joseph to demand satisfaction for his wounded honor. But through their faithful union, to one another and to their heavenly Father, they were made partakers of righteousness through Christ, their Son and Lord. Finally, we will look at the blessed union of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Christ came into the world for the sole purpose of giving life through His perfect and atoning life, death and resurrection. As He came once in blessing, putting on our flesh, with healing in His wings, so He will come again in judgment, establishing His eternal kingdom which will have no end. His holy Bride, the Church, will be perfectly and eternally united in that most blessed union.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Issues, etc Pastor's Roundtable on the Second Petition of the Lord's Prayer

Why ought we to pray without ceasing?

Here is a wonderful story, adapted from the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales that illustrates beautifully the reason we ought to pray without ceasing.

There once was a sly, cunning old Fox that roamed the world. Once, during his roaming, he came to a meadow in which was a flock of fine fat geese. When he saw these fine fat geese he smiled and said to them, "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 sly, cunning old Fox would listen to nothing, he had heard all the wails and begging before. He looked at them very cooly and said, "There is no mercy to be had! You must die."

One of the smarter geese mustered up her courage 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 eat us all up from the fattest to the thinnest." "Yes," said the Fox, "that is a reasonable request. Pray away, I will wait till you are done." Then the first began a good long prayer, forever saying, "Lord, have mercy!" and as she would make no end, the second did not wait until her turn came, but began also, "Lord, have mercy!" The third and fourth followed her, and soon they were all cackling together seeking mercy from their Maker.

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.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

***UPDATE***St. Nicholas Day Open House

***Due to some illness in the Roemke household, the St. Nicholas Open House will now be on Sunday, December 14th at 2 pm.***This Saturday, December 6 Middleville is having their annual Christmas Parade. Good Shepherd will have a float in the parade this year (brrrr and yay!) After the parade, anyone who would like to come is invited to our home for hot spiced cider, hot chocolate, and other finger foods prepared by the Mistress of Liverhedge, the fine Lady Lesa. The parade starts at 5 pm (meet at the church at 4 to assemble and get your marching orders!) After the parade our house will be open in joyful thanksgiving for all the blessings our loving Father has bestowed upon us this past year, for the faithful witness of St. Nicholas, and chiefly in thanksgiving for the saving work of Christ Jesus who comes to us in humility and love this Advent season.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Issues, etc and the Second Petition of the Lord's Prayer

This Thursday, December 4th (Also the commemoration of John of Damascus) I will be participating in a Pastor's Roundtable on Issues, etc on the Second Article of the Lord's Prayer from 4-5 pm Eastern Time. Hope you can listen!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I forgot all about Thanksgiving!

Lesa and I are hosting Thanksgiving for some of our family for the first time this year. My dad and sister will be here tomorrow evening and Lesa's mom and dad will come Thursday late morning. Lesa has quite a menu planned and I'm sure it will be a terrific meal. We are celebrating the Eternal Thanksgiving of the Holy Eucharist tomorrow night at Good Shepherd. If you are in the area, please join us, we will be using Divine Service 4.

There are so many things to be thankful for, chiefly the unhindered proclamation of the Word and the right administration of the Sacraments. What a blessing to live in a country where we are free to be faithful to our Evangelical Lutheran confession of faith.

Quite a Dry Spell

It has been way too long since I last posted anything. Here is the lowdown on what's been going on in my life and at our parish:
*Mid-October I took a teaching position at West Michigan Lutheran High School in addition to being pastor at Good Shepherd. I am teaching Freshman Bible History and Sophomore Lutheran Confessions. It has been a blast! Not only do I get to teach everyday, I get to do it with some really great kids who are open to traditional, confessional Lutheranism. Thanks be to God for this wonderful opportunity!
*I have had an article published in Higher Things Magazine on the Divine Service.
*I was interviewed on Issues, etc. about the magazine article. Quite an honor for me and a lot of fun. I hope to do it again soon (hint, hint)
*I have been preparing for Advent and the Blessed Nativity. Our Advent Midweek Services (using LSB's Evening Prayer, I'm even going to try using incense-Lord have mercy!) will be on blessed unions: Adam and Eve, Mary and Jospeh, Christ and the Church. Adam and Eve will focus on the fall and the promise (Gen. 3:15); Mary and Joseph will focus on the realization of the promise at the birth of the Messiah; Christ and the Church will focus on the ultimate completion of the promise now and at His second Advent.
*We will again be having two Christmas Eve Services, Candlelight Evening Prayer at 7pm, Midnight (almost) Mass at 11pm.
*Our daughter is growing by leaps and bounds. She is now 9 months old and we have started some preliminary talks about adding to our brood.
*I have been using and loving the Treasury of Daily Prayer from CPH. If you don't have it yet, get it now!
*Looking forward to an adult confirmation of Kenneth Higginbotham on December 7th and bringing Andy Wermuth into membership through transfer. Thanks be to God!

I'm sure there are a lot of other things that have been going on that I don't even remember, but I have been wonderfully busy! Just the perfect amount to keep me on my toes and to keep my mind active without being overly burdened.

Thanks be to God for all His benefits to me!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Moving Video

One of my adult catechumens shared this with me this morning and it really made my day! Hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Geometrical or Incarnational?

I was recently in a Lutheran church and noticed up in the chancel a lot of geometrical shapes. There were shield-like shapes, some other weird shapes and a cross shape. As I looked at these weird shield-shapes (I don't know if they have an actual name or not) I was struck by how strange this phenomenon is. I've often noticed it in stained glass windows too. Colored glass in strange shapes with no real meaning. It seems rather odd that a church would be into something that doesn't enhance the Gospel with clear depictions of what the Gospel is.

This, I think, is one of the real problems with a simple, empty cross. I've heard the argument made several times by clergy and laity, "We worship the risen Christ!" but that just doesn't hold water. Especially at Christmas, when so many Christians delight in nativity scenes with depictions of the Holy Family, the shepherds, wisemen, sheep, camels, manger, angels, etc. I have never heard anyone complain about these images, rather, they are often held as dear and salutary depictions of Christ's incarnation for us. But isn't this what a cross with our Lord on it is as well?

There is a real danger, and I believe we can easily see the fruits of it in the church today, of making the Gospel into some kind of geometrical abstraction that anyone can find meaning in, be it true or false. The cross is certainly dear to us, but it is just a shape. It is not the thing that saves us, but rather He who died on it is our only hope of salvation and forgiveness of sins. A cross is a shape, like weird shield-shapes, or a circle or a square. When we take Christ off of the cross we run a real danger of taking Him out of our Gospel as well.

I love the cross of Jesus Christ, for through it the gates of paradise have been opened up to humanity. A simple, plain cross can remind me of that just as well as a crucifix. But please, don't tell me that I don't worship Christ crucified for sinners! Don't tell me Christ is no longer on that cross! Don't force the God of the Incarnation off of His throne! In so doing, you will loose that sweet message of forgiveness through the merit and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I worship an incarnational God who put on flesh and lived like me in all ways except sinning. I worship a God who loves me with such ferocity that He would hang in torment on that beautiful cross and bear the full weight of the sins of the world. Please, don't take Him off of that cross.


In my previous blog post I used the word "retarded" to describe the Evangelical-Fundamental voting mentality that accepts the termination of life as long as it betters other life. While I still feel very strongly about the sanctity of life, I undercut my point by belittling those on the opposite side. It is still wrong to take human life in any way, be it through abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem-cell research. It is not just politically wrong, it is morally wrong. Be that as it may, that is no excuse to call people childish names. To anyone I may have offended, I apologize.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Should we ever stand up for anything?

I am not a political person. I don't have the stomach for it. But every now and then I hear something on either side of the political spectrum that causes me to pause as a theologian and clergyman.

So far, both O'Bama and Biden have made it clear that, while they believe life does start at conception, it is "beyond their pay-grade" to protect that life. In other words, they believe it, but not enough to do anything about it.

This is the biggest bunch of bull I have ever heard, and it is statements like this from all politicians (especially in the BS--LCMS--that is, "Beloved Synod" LCMS) that make me want to vomit. How can anyone with two brain cells say that they believe that life begins at conception and then turn around and say that they cannot impose that belief on others by trying to protect what they say is life?? You either believe it is the beginning of life and therefore should be protected as all life should or you don't believe life begins at conception and is therefore open for termination (death) for the betterment of those who are "living." The saddest part is that the retarded Evangelical/Fundamental vote swallows this reasoning hook, line and sinker.

As the Church Lady would say: "Well now, isn't that special?"

Monday, September 15, 2008

His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways His ways

In preparation for this Sunday's sermon (Pentecost 19/St. Matthew), I found these words from Bo Giertz especially powerful and important. I'm sure St. Matthew, tax-collector and sinner, would have been brought to near tears when he first heard his blessed Lord tell the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. What comfort he must have always found in that teaching.

By nature we are all Pharisees. That is, we tend to be legalistic
self-righteous snobs. We know when we shine brightly, and we like to
remember our shining moments. We think people ought to recognize us for
these shining moments and are offended if they don't. We think it's unfair
if others, who have done much less, are given preference over us. And
since God is to be the final judge, we feel that He, if anyone, should judge us
fairly, according to our merits and skillfulness.

But God doesn't do that. For our sakes, it's good that He doesn't do
that. If He did, judgment wouldn't be in our favor at all.

Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ, CPH, 2008.
From Septuagesima, Matthew 20:1-16.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Morning and Evening Prayer

Any churches have audio and/or video of Morning and Evening Prayer from LSB? I would really like to see the whole thing done from the book, so to speak.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A great new Lutheran Blog

One of my parishioners, Chuck Wiese, has started a blog that promises to present top-notch Lutheran theological insights. Please, take a few moments to check out his inaugural post here.

Keep this up, Chuck, and you will get more than a few suckers!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

An exciting opportunity to earn suckers!

Anyone who memorizes any part of Luther's Small Catechism may come to me, recite the part (or parts) that they have memorized, and receive a sucker (one for each part).

Caleb Wiese was the first to cash in with the First Commandment and its meaning this morning. Keep up the great work!

Gone far too long...

I don't know why I haven't been blogging lately. I suppose part of the reason is just being busy with life: baby, wife, work, summer, etc. Another reason is that there is just too much to talk about (and unfortunately, too many negative things at that!) I just wouldn't know where to begins and how to remain charitable in my dealings with others. I have been sinfully cynical lately and its time to knock it off.

So, I will try to keep up on blogging.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Jesus "Wordle" is Bigger than yours!

I am concerned with the obsession by some Lutheran bloggers with this "wordle" craze. So I decided to see just how our "Jesus" factors compared. Here is mine:

Here is another Lutheran blog:

Notice how much bigger "Jesus" is in mine? That must mean that I am more devoted to our Lord and Savior.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Divine Service 5 and Bearing with one another

Yesterday Good Shepherd celebrated the Holy Mysteries and received the Blessed gifts of Word and Sacrament in the 5th setting of the Divine Service from the Lutheran Service Book. I think it is very important for Lutheran pastors to present all of the services in the new hymnal on a regular basis. The reason for this: so that we all learn how to bear with one another.

Since I have been their pastor, Good Shepherd has used every service except Morning and Evening Prayer (and we will use those soon). In learning some of the new services I have gotten a lot of feedback, both good and bad about the services. That is good! In just about every service we have used I have had some people who absolutely loved them and others who absolutely hated them. I myself like some services better than others. This is a good lesson for Christians, it teaches us to bear with one another in love. And that is the lesson I try to teach my dear sheep. Sure, you may not like Divine Service 2, you may not like that I chant the Verbum in some verses, I may not like the less formal feel of Divine Service 4, but the Divine Service is not given for our entertainment, it is given as a vehicle for transporting the Word and Sacraments. As Christians who love one another, we gladly bear with a service we may not like for the benefit of our brothers and sisters. This is what Christian love and charity demands. And this is the beauty of Lutheranism. It is not about everyone doing their own thing, it is about everyone bearing with one another in love and patience. It is not about everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, but it is about bearing our crosses (and that may very well be the Lutheran Service Book or one of the services in it, or the liturgy in general). This is what it means to be Lutheran.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Crucifix...

is only TOO Catholic if Christ only died on the cross of Roman Catholics. I was listening recently to an archived episode from Issues, etc. with Rev. James Wetzstein on Church Architecture (see March 18, 2007). Several of the callers (so far) have expressed their distress at having to "nice" of a church. One caller in particular made that "ol' time religion" (read, generic American protestant dribble) argument that we don't need to keep putting Christ on the cross. I'm sure any pastor who has ever had this conversation is tired of hearing about "my Jesus" that people seem to think is somehow different than the Jesus who died for their sins. "My Jesus isn't on that cross anymore!" "My Jesus is Resurrected! Take that awful thing off the altar (or out of the sanctuary)!" "I'm not Catholic!!! My Jesus is alive!"

Those arguments are all dangerously bordering on mocking that most precious gift of God in the sacrifice of His Son for YOU! Your Jesus did die for your sins! Your Jesus bore the burden of every sinful, blasphemous, mocking thought! Your Jesus did hang on that cross for you, He bled for you, suffered for you and died for you! If that isn't YOUR Jesus on the cross, then its not YOUR Jesus who was raised and it is not YOUR Jesus who continuously offers His own Body and Blood for your forgiveness.

Enough of this foolish argument. Christ died for sinners, of which I am chief! We preach Christ crucified. Look to Him on the cross and give thanks for the loving-kindness and steadfast love of the Triune God offered on the altar of the Cross.

The Walking Witness

Last Tuesday I was given the most extraordinary opportunity. I was walking to church for an elders meeting in my work clothes (black clerical collar and black pants) listening to archived episodes of Issues, etc about the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession in preparation for the Divine Service in celebration of its anniversary when a man sitting in a car in the Shell station parking lot motioned me over.

Of course, my sinful, cynical nature assumed this young man was looking for some kind of financial help and saw an easy mark in a clergyman. I asked him if I could help him. He asked if I was a priest, I told him I am a Lutheran pastor. To that, he responded with several very deep and serious questions about our Christian faith, especially when compared with the Roman Catholic faith. We talked for about 20 minutes. It was truly wonderful. Had I not just listened to two hours on Roman Catholicism from now fired Reverends Todd Wilken and Martin Noland, I would not have had the answers I did for this young man and his friend.

This is what true mission and outreach are about. It's not all about programs and gimmicks. It's not about "critical events." It's not about asking a waitress if you can pray for her. It's about the work of the Spirit creating these amazing and low-key opportunities. It's about Christians living their faith, being ready to give and account for the hope that fills them.

These two people may never come to Good Shepherd. I have certainly been praying that they would, but it is not for me to give the growth. I am simply a laborer in the Lord's vineyard. I can only give what He has given me to plant. He will cause all the growth.

So, now I wonder if I turned this witnessing story into the Ablaze! (tm) story page, that through the power of the Spirit I was able to share our Lutheran Confession of faith. That I was prepared to do so by the teaching of two faithful men who have been fired for "programmatic and business reasons." That the opportunity came only because I was dressed for work, that is in the clerical uniform of the Church of the Lutheran Confessions.

Well, they didn't post my daughter's baptism story, so we'll see.

Issues, etc returns

"...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Appropriate words from yesterdays feast of St. Peter and St. Paul in light of the steadfast Gospel voice in the wilderness of generic American Evangelicalism. Issues, Etc. is back on the air. Despite "programmatic and business" reasons, this strong voice of reason for the thinking Christian is back, thanks be to God. If you aren't listening to it, do so...NOW!! If you can't, subscribe to it and listen later.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is this true?

I heard today from two reliable sources that CPH's Women Pastors? has officially had its certification challenged, and it will probably be pulled. There is some speculation that President Kieschnick is somehow involved and in favor of this move. I would like to have this report either confirmed or denied by someone who knows. I had been hearing rumors about it since Issues, etc. was shamefully cancelled on Holy Tuesday. Perhaps brother McCain could shed some light on the subject? Anyone else know about this?

If this is true, it is certainly disturbing news and faithful pastors and laity need to stand up for the true Biblical teaching on the role of women in the Church.

I would certainly hope and pray this is not the case considering Pres. Kieschnick affirmed the Biblical teaching that women are to not hold the pastoral office. However, in the same letter he does acknowledge that there are some disagreements about the role of women in the church.

Please, clear this up someone. There are too many unspoken, unpleasant goings on in our synod. If this is or is not happening, let's clear it up soon.

A Question of Christian Freedom

Is it permissible for thoroughly Lutheran Christians to use prayer beads (ala rosary) in their daily devotional lives? I don't mean to ask is it permissible for Lutherans to pray to Mary using a rosary, but to pray using beads or a rosary.

What do you think? Is this too "hyper-ritualistic"? Let's use our heads to rationally discuss this issue. I have some thoughts that I will keep to myself until after some discussion has ensued.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A lot of Updates to the Family Blog

The dear wife has been updating the development of our family and Lena over at our family blog. Check out how much she's grown and what we've been up to!

Come back later...

After listening to a three episode series on the Issues, etc archive with Dr. Ken Wieting, author of The Blessings of Weekly Communion, I was again taken aback by the attitude of many life-long LCMSers that weekly communion would somehow diminish the value and "specialness" of the sacred visitation and digestion of Christ's most perfectand sacred gift to us: His very own body and blood.

I couldn't help but think of that old favorite portrait of Christ at the door. I guess someone inside is telling him "Come back at Christmas and Easter, we don't want to see you too much, it would make it less SPECIAL!!"

WHERE DID THIS FOOLISHNESS COME FROM!?!? Listen to the archives with the good and faithful Dr. Wieting to learn our love-hate relationship with the Eucharist.

To quote the Church Lady, "Well, isn't that SPECIAL?!"

Cell Phones in Church

If your cell phone is going to ring in church...during the least follow the example of Ken, make sure its a cool ring-tone, one the Pastor can easily embarass you about after church. I don't know, I guess "The Imperial March" (aka "Darth Vader's Theme") would be a good one!

St. Barnabas, Beloved of God

Today the Church remembers and thanks God for St. Barnabas, Apostle. His name means "son of encouragement, consolation," and the Biblical witness gives ample testimony that he lived up to his name.

We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4 when St. Luke, the author of Acts, says that the early Christians "were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common" (Acts 4:32). In our day, when diversity is trumpeted and even Christians seem to revel in how different they can be from one another, such a comment from St. Luke is quite the encouragement that there can indeed be something better. The unity of Christians in faith and life is indeed an encouragement and consolation.

We can indeed learn a lot from the early Church of Acts, and from Barnabas himself. As we are told of the early Christians selling their own property - perhaps the equivalent of "vacation homes" and extra land - we meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36: "Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet." What a great example of Christian charity! Barnabas saw the opportunity to use his wealth to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen and to extend the kingdom of God. What great encouragement our Lord gives when His people give generously so that the Gospel may be proclaimed and His kingdom promoted.

The next time we encounter this Apostle of encouragement he comes to the rescue, humanly speaking, of the Apostle Paul. Acts 9 gives us the conversion of St. Paul, formerly a persecutor of Christians. With good reason many in the early Church were quite nervous about this man who had previously hunted down and killed their brothers and sisters in the true faith. However, "Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus" (Acts 9:27). What great encouragement Barnabas gave to St. Paul that someone would defend him and his name as a fellow Christian. What great consolation he gave to the other apostles that St. Paul was "the real deal" for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So on this day we thank God for St. Barnabas, for his selfless, generous charity, and for his defense of St. Paul's reputation as a bona fide apostle to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners. Let us pray that God will lead us also to be generous with our wealth so that the Gospel may be proclaimed and the kingdom of Christ may expand. Let us pray that God will give us the good courage to defend and support our pastors as they proclaim the mercies and life of Jesus Christ our Savior.

Collect of the Day (LSB)
Almighty God, Your faithful servant Barnabas sought not his own renown but gave generously of his life and substance for the encouragement of the apostles and their ministry. Grant that we may follow his example in lives given to charity and the proclamation of the Gospel; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings for the Day (LSB)
Isaiah 42:5-12
Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3
Mark 6:7-13

Hymn Verse
For Barnabas we praise You,
Who kept Your law of love
And, leaving earthly treasures,
Sought riches from above.
O Christ, our Lord and Savior,
Let gifts of grace descend,
That Your true consolation
May through the world extend. (LSB 518:17)

Sorry, First (Insert Denominational Title Here) Church, someone beat you too it!

This fascinating news story tells of the discovery of the "first church," supposedly the church of the 70 with a mosaic describing the charter members as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine." I look forward to hearing more about this one.

Technicolor Theology

That's what I always think of when I watch those Biblical epics from the 50's and 60's (think Charleton Heston in the Ten Commandments, or older CPH "art"). I think this portrayal of Biblical figures and events has greatly influenced our thinking of Scripture and Christ. Everything is perfect, the colors all vibrant, the characters beautiful or majestic. Not a hair out of place, not a speck of dirt on any one's clothes. In other words, these people were not human. And it has hurt at least one whole generation's view of their faith. This "technicolor theology" is just as bad as the prosperity gospel in that it has given such a perfect view of the lives of the faithful. I have seen the dangers of this first hand. "Pastor, why do we need a crucifix? It is so dark!" So, what has replaced the truth of our faith? Bright pictures and saccharin worship that has given the church a bad case of spiritual diabetes. Jesus smiling, or worse, laughing, has distorted our understanding of who Christ is and the purpose of His coming. It was not to smile or laugh or to make us smile or laugh. It was not to make us feel warm fuzzies, as if He were some sort of heavenly Lawrence Welk (note: Welkian Theology is closely related to Technicolor Theology--both are fake!) with the lovely Andrew Sisters singing "So Long, Farewell" at the Ascension.

Christ came to earth to DIE for SINNERS! It was a dirty and grimy job. It was often thankless and unappreciated. People are not good, they do get dirty and in fact they ARE dirty, down to the very fiber of their beings. We are so disgustingly filthy with sin. And this is why "technicolor theology" is so attractive. It tricks us into thinking we came from a idyllic, epic, majestic, beautiful spiritual lineage. It ultimately would trick us into believing that we can obtain that technicolor glory on our own. It lulls us into a false sense of security. Behind the glitz and glitter, Satan is cunningly whispering, "See, you're not that bad. Look at the power you have, you can cover any blemish so well no one will ever see it!"

And we do try to cover the blemishes. When Christ walked the earth they whitewashed their tombs, today we present our faith in brilliant technicolor. But when it comes down to it, be it technicolor or the latest high def picture, it is all infected with sin and grime. When it comes down to it, anything that takes our eyes off of Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the CROSS, is an idol.

Don't get me wrong, you can watch your technicolor Biblical Epics and enjoy them. You can think Lawrence Welk is truly "wunnerful," but beware the effect those temporal entertainments may have on your faith.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Travel Itineraries

For my family's history, I have traveled quite a bit. I was born and raised in a northeastern Indiana farm family. My entire family (all aunts, uncles, cousins, great-aunts and great-uncles, 2nd cousins, grandparents, etc.) live within 20 miles of each other (most still do to this day!) When I was young, a two-hour car drive to the huge city of Indianapolis was a HUGE trip and very special.

But, I was not content (or really able) to stay in my family's homeland. After getting married my new bride and I moved to St. Louis so I could attend seminary and she grad school. I never imagined living that far from home for so long! My vicarage year took us to central Texas and I was not blessed to see the flat lands of corn, soy beans and wheat for a whole year. Back to St. Louis and now in Western Michigan.

My wife and I have done a lot of traveling by car in our five years of marriage. One constant about any kind of travel or moving is having an itinerary. You need to plan a trip. Know your stops, plan how far you want to go in a day, where you want to eat, pack up everything that you could conceivably need (and now with a little one, that list of "conceivable" needs boggles the mind!)

One thing is certain: when you travel, you want to be prepared. Nothing, in my mind is worse than getting to your destination and finding you have left a key component at home. Or worse, not even getting to your destination because you didn't plan well enough! I guess given my family's history of putting down deep roots in a place, my sometimes obsessive trip planning is understandable.

Perhaps that is why the Gospel reading for the fifth Sunday in Pentecost (Matthew 9:35-10:20, Series A) causes me to worry just a bit.
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying,'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Jesus sends His disciples out without any earthly travel itinerary! They have a very broad destination (the lost sheep of the house of Israel), they have a truly miraculous and earthly impossible goal (heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons), and Christ goes so far as to tell them NOT to prepare for their trip (Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff). They are sent out with Christ's word and promise as their only preparation! And this terrifies me!!
Could I be so faithful as to leave all the preparations and comforts I have set up for myself to follow Christ's word? Could I go someplace without making any plans other than to proclaim the kingdom of heaven? Is it possible that Christ is really able to do what He says? Even more amazing than that, is it possible that I could actually put my faith completely in His sufficiency?

As if all that weren't bad enough, the destination for Christ's disciples is not even that rosy. Check this out: "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

What would we do if told to leave every thing we know and love, make no provision for our journey, and be persecuted severely as a reward for our faithful following? No doubt, our practical side would scream "GET OUT OF THERE!! THIS MAN IS CRAZY! HE'S TRYING TO GET YOU KILLED!!" And indeed, Christ is trying to get us killed. He desires to tear down the old, sin-filled, foul, diseased Adam in each of us so that He may build up a new creation that is perfected in His life, death and resurrection. He calls us to deny ourselves completely and rely fully on His guidance. He calls us to loose ourselves and find in Him a perfection of righteousness and holiness. He calls us to let Him do everything, to relinquish power and control, to be found in His loving-kindness and all sufficient grace.

This is the radical call of Christ: to throw away our perceived eternal travel itinerary and to trust in Him to get us to our heavenly home. Do not be anxious about how He will do it, do not be anxious about how He will use you, but trust in His guidance and His work, for in loosing ourselves we are found in His perfection.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Happy Anniversary, my Love and my Darling!

You have made me the most blessed and fortunate man on earth by your love. You are a wonderful wife and the best mother to my daughter I could ever hope for!

All my love!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Maintenance or Mission--Which one will get you there?

We just got back from a very nice vacation. We drove from western Michigan to Northeast Indiana to St. Louis, Missouri, to Warsaw, Missouri back again to Western Michigan--about 1800 miles in all. As we were driving something became abundantly clear to me--we spend ENTIRELY TOO MUCH TIME and MONEY on MAINTENANCE!!

That whole trip I never once FELT the importance of spending money on oil changes or tires. Sure, it could be argued that had I not spent the time and money on gas, oil changes, tires, brake repairs, air filters, wiper blades, wiper fluid, insurance, registration, etc. we would not be able to drive, but I don't buy it!!

What we really need to do with our cars is make them MISSIONAL!! That's right, it makes perfect sense. We use cars to get places, they take us on our missions, so we need to invest all of our car money into the MISSION of auto-ownership! Our car trip would have been much nicer had we had more room. Think of all the extra seats we could put into our car if we just didn't buy gas. And if we would cut out oil changes we could make those extra seats leather with massagers, cut out tire maintenance and those seats could be heated and cooled!!

If we stopped wasting all of our time and resources "maintaining" we could have high-def, flat-screen DVD players for all the passengers. Everyone could have their own choice of seat type, climate control, and entertainment choices. Why stop there? Why not give everyone their own STEERING WHEEL!!! If it wasn't for all that wasted time and money on maintaining we could make the mission of car ownership a truly spiritual and self-satisfying experience for all.

But, then again, if I would have done that I would not have made it to my destination. Oh well, at least I wouldn't be labeled a "maintenance" car owner!!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Our Desperate Search for Glory

Everyone has some singular event in their lives that they look back to (or forward to) with fondness. Perhaps it is that High School athletic championship. Maybe it is that professional accomplishment, or it could even be some wonderful family achievement.

The world is full of people who want to be something, who want some kind of glory. Why do you think the Guinness Book of World Records is so popular? Some of the bizarre things that are recorded therein were certainly not done for any one's health. We crave glory, we want to be immortalized because of something we have done, be it good or bad. Most people have a real desire to leave their mark on the world. Let's face it, Eve didn't eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because she needed to for nourishment or even because she thought it would taste so much better. She, and all humanity, wanted the glory that is reserved for God alone; the glory that comes with supreme knowledge.

At first glance, Christ's High Priestly prayer from the Gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter seems to be another bid for glory. We like that, and I'm sure the disciples liked that. You can almost hear them say, "Finally! He's gotten off of that 'repent and believe' soapbox and is going to go after the glory, fame, power, might that is truly His! And, goody for us, we will get a part of the swag for ourselves too."

But to read that beautiful prayer and only see our eventual glory falls far short of our present situation. St. Peter beautifully illustrates the constant strain the Christian is under: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.

While it is true that through Christ's glorification we will also be glorified, it is not the time or place to focus only on that. We must own up to the fact that we are sinful. So sinful that we hate God, so sinful that we want to reach up, take Him by the hand and force Him to bless us with His own glory. We are indeed poor, miserable sinners. We must have that blessed humility of repentance. So, with the full realization that we are sinners, we humble ourselves UNDER (not above, not side-by-side, but under--far, far under) God's might and glory. We dare not even lift our eyes to His glory, lest we perish. But, God in His infinite love, does not hate us or cast us aside as we deserve, He loves us and shows us the immutable, everlasting and glorious love He has had for us from the foundation of the world. He shows us this in the person and work of Christ.

Through His humiliating passion and death all of our self-sought glory is nailed to the tree to die. Through His glorious resurrection we have been justified. Through his wonderful ascension, our human nature, with all its sins and ugliness, has been lifted up, by Christ, to the glory of His eternal kingdom. So, we follow this most holy example of the Lamb. We humble ourselves just as He did and really, because He did it first we are now able to. We humble ourselves and bear our cross trusting that in His good time our Father may exalt us.

Our glory is coming, but not at our own hands or in our own time. It comes from the Father through the work of the Son and we are called to be partakers through the Holy Spirit. We humble ourselves, knowing that in His good time God will exalt us and glorify us for all eternity.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What about the tip?

One of my favorite days of the week is Thursday morning. On Thursday morning a small number of faithful souls gathers in the sanctuary of Good Shepherd to pray Matins and celebrate the Eucharist. Afterwards, we usually go to lunch at Thornapple Kitchen; one of those great little local places that so often times have the best breakfasts.

It is usually only three of us who go to breakfast. We talk about everything: current events, history, Scripture, the doctrines of the Church, funny things that have happened since the last week, etc. We take turns paying for breakfast and it always comes up that one of us who doesn't pay for the breakfast will leave the tip.

This is very awkward for me. I never carry cash. All of our purchases are made with a debit card and you can't very well leave a tip with a debit card. It always makes me feel bad when I have to decline paying the tip.

One Thursday morning after breakfast I got to thinking: What about the tip?

Is there some greater theological comparison that can be made here?

If someone agrees to pay for your meal, shouldn't they also get the tip?

How does this compare to what Christ has done for us?

Does He leave us to pay the tip?

My first thought was absolutely NOT. He has paid everything, I don't need to worry about any payment.

But then I stopped to ponder this a little more. Where does the tip go? Does the tip technically have anything to do with the actual bill? Could I not leave a tip? If so, who would I be hurting?

The tip is the theological equivalent to good works done to and for our neighbor. God pays the necessary bill, the bill for our eating and drinking eternal life and salvation and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ alone. We don't owe anything for that bill.

However, we are called to serve our neighbor, to do good works. After all, from this week's Gospel (John 14:15-21) Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." He gives us that ability. All the burden and crushing weight of our sin have been removed and totally paid for by the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ. His love has freed us to truly keep the commandments, not for our own sake, but for love to God and our neighbor. This is like the tip. It does nothing really for the owner of the restaurant, he is paid when the bill is paid. The tip only serves our neighbor, the nice lady who always has our coffee (and tea) without being asked, the one who knows I like a glass of water with my coffee, the one who knows that I like two brown sugars with my oatmeal instead of raisins. She serves me gladly and kindly through her vocation and because Christ has freed me from the damning sentence of the Law, I may now serve her with the sweetness of the Law. That sweetness is the very Gospel.

So, what I first I had thought was a great illustration of God paying the WHOLE bill (thereby justifying me not having cash for a tip when my turn came) turned out to be a great illustration of how our loving Father frees us and gives us wonderful opportunities to serve our neighbor in love and not for selfish or forced motives (I will start making sure I have cash on Thursday mornings!)

"Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."

There, Laura, now I have updated the blog!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Great Insight

"Guilt makes a proud man dangerous."
From Edward Rutherfurd's Russka, page 114.
How true this is, especially in the church. How many times have proud men and women turned away from the grace of God and instead lurked down the path of destruction rather than humble themselves before the Lord and confess their sins?

Pride is the source of so many sins and yet it's banner is brazenly flown in almost all sectors of society without apology or rebuke. Lord, keep us ever from the death trap of pride, that we may always humbly seek Your grace and mercy over and above ourselves.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Whose Grandpa are we talking about?

There has been a lot of talk about our Synod "not being your grandfather's church." Many people find this offensive and a sign of bad things to come. I, on the other hand, being a youngster and a new pastor, am greatly releaved that this is not my grandfather's church. My grandfather is the age of the men saying this is not "their grandfather's church." But do they not realize that they themselves are now grandfathers? I joyfully reject the church of these grandfathers. I give thanks that God in His infinite wisdom has given every man a brief season and I am hopeful that these grandfather's season is coming to a close. May it come quickly!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What would you do...

if our Synod, suddenly and without explanation fired a pastor who had faithfully taught the Lutheran faith to one of the largest parishes in the synod on Holy Week? What would you do if the synod suddenly and without explanation went to the hospital and kicked out the wife of one of its faithful employees? What would you do if the synod suddenly and without explanation bull-dozed one of the most confessional and largest churches in the synod on Holy Week? What would you do if the synod suddenly and without explanation went to every Concordia, both seminaries, the Historical Institute and your own church library and systematically took out all the books and burned them in front of the Purple Palace on Holy Week? What would you do if the synod suddenly and without explanation took our beloved symbols and Holy Scripture and tossed them in the trash?

Whatever you would do, do it! Our Synod has done all of this and more with the cancellation of Issues, etc and the termination of Rev. Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz. As if this act were not dispicalbe enought, all was done in the most holy week of the Church's calendar, the day on which we hear the word of Christ:

"Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Joys

There is no greater joy that I have ever known in my life to this point than that of sharing the holy Christian faith with my daughter. I take her with me when I pray Matins, Vespers and Compline (not every time, but often). The beauty of sharing that with her is beyond words. I know she doesn't understand it yet, but she really seems to love my singing and the candles and the different atmosphere.

The week after Easter we will take our little one to be drowned and reborn in the waters of Holy Baptism. It will be my first baptism. I'm sure that will be another inexpressible source of joy as well. Despite all the late and sleepless nights, the poopy diapers, the spit-up, the crying, and general high demand of having a child, it is the most wonderful thing ever. I thank God for the gifts of wife and child! Blessed be the name of the Lord, for His mercies are from generation to generation!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What a week!!

Ok, I have never had a more stressful, exhilarating, terrifying, happy, exhausting, fill in adjective of your choice kind of week. Last Thursday I was on my way home from a hospital visit. I stopped into a coffee shop to get a little pick-me-up and Lesa calls, absolutely hysterical and weeping, "MY WATER BROKE!!" (She did NOT want to have a leap day baby and this was about 12:30 pm on the 28th). So I hurry out to my car amdist strange looks (it's not everyday that a man in a clerical collar starts yelling out in joy that his wife's water just broke). I get home and load up the soggy mama and we head over to the hospital. We get through OB Triage and into a labor and delivery room and the nurse and doctor are monitoring everything. You know how doctors have that way of talking really quietly and intensely, so as to not "disturb" the patient with the potential of bad news? That's what they were doing. The doc was concerned about the baby's heart-rate being too high for the stage of labor Lesa was in. So they inform us that they have decided to do a c-section. They whisk Lesa out of the room and hand me a pair of scrubs, face-mask, hair-net and little paper booties. 15 minutes later I am in the OR sitting next to my wife's head while two doctors, an anesthesiologist and several nurses work on getting our baby out. Another 15 minutes pass and we hear the doctor say "It's a girl, she's adorable and she's pooping!"

Unfortunately, our little Lena had aspirated some of the poo-poo and also had a fever. She was whisked away into the special care nursery while mommy was being sewn back up and taken to recovery.

To make a long story short, our little girl, Carolena Reve Roemke was born wieghing 8 lbs. 3 oz. and 19 inches long. She was in an oxygen tent for the first 20 hours of her life. We got to leave the hospital on Monday, March 3. She has her last dose of antibiotics (due to the aspiration) this evening (a nurse comes to our house and gives it via IV). Our first few days have been so hectic, but a real joy.

I have learned in these few days a whole new depth and intimacy in prayer. What a wonderful thing! Here is a link to several pictures of our little Lena.

Thank you for your continued prayers. Thankfully, Grandma Sheryl is coming tonight to spend the weekend with us, hopefully we will get things a little more stabilized and get some sleep.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Our Baby

NO...she has not come out yet! But the doc was a little concerned that she was not moving enough (even though my wife was very clear that little Baby Girl moves plenty!), so we had an ultrasound today. The technician was kind enough to get some views of our Baby's precious face to motivate us and lift our morale in these last days. Here is the link to our family blog:

It will hopefully happen any day now! Pray for mother and baby.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Burdening God

No one ever wants to be a burden to their loved ones. We want to be the ones who help, who comfort, who bear the burdens of others. I have been a pastor for a short time, but already, that has been one of the biggest fears I have encountered, "I just don't want to be a burden."

And yet, we are a burden to God. We burdened Him on the cross, we burden Him with our sinful pride, we burden Him by refusing to let ourselves recognize that we are a burden.

I think that is why Jesus emphasized child-like faith. Children are fist and foremost a burden. This is not a criticism of children, it is just the truth. I can see the burden our child puts on my wife's body. I can see the burden I put on my parents as a child. I do not feel bad about that. Children never do feel bad about burdening their parents. It was what we must do. In order to survive childhood, we must be a burden at some point.

This is why a child-like faith is so important. It is not that it is innocent, on the contrary, a child-like faith is one that happily burdens our Lord. A child-like faith is one that looks at the burden of Christ crucified and says, "Thanks, daddy!" A child-like faith lives in the simplicity and peace of depending on another so completely that every thing it does is borne by the love of another. This is the faith we are called to have. In reality, we can have no other faith. Faith that does not burden God is no faith at all. Hence our Lord's words, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (St. Matthew 11:28-30)

And maybe this being a burden is why some find the crucified Lord so disturbing. The thought of burdening another is so utterly repellant to them that they run the risk of missing the beauty of the Gospel. It is always important to remember that Christ Crucified is both Law and Gospel. And this is what we preach.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Isn't it annoying when...

you realize you are one of the biggest perpetrators of your own pet peeve?

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say "That's ok" in response to an apology. I think this is especially damaging in the communion of saints. It's not "ok" when someone sins against you. It is bad, so bad that God Himself is the only one who could make it "ok." He did this through the blood of Christ Jesus. And we so casually say "That's ok."

And I do this just as much as anyone. But I am going to make a conscious effort to stop. When someone asks me to forgive them, I am going to tell them that I forgive them. I'm not going to shrug it off and just say "That's ok."

I'm sure many people will be uncomfortable by this practice. Ultimately, I don't think people really want to be forgiven. They just want to have their sins and tresspasses overlooked. God does not overlook our tresspasses, He overwhelms them with His mercy and loving-kindness and He tells us to do the same..."forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us."

Where you find vigilantes...

You often find a society, institutions, justice system that is either totally corrupt, useless or ineffective(or all of the above!)

I bring this up because some have said my e-mail from the previous post is vigilantism. It may be.

Think about what kind of institution would breed vigilantism. Is that necessarily a bad thing? If things are not getting done, if rules are blatantly being broken or just flat out ignored with absoltely no consequence, what is the responsibilty of the individual? Should we sit around and wait for the proper authorities to do their job? If the proper authorities refuse to do their job, are they still proper authorities?

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Joys of E-mail...

The following is an e-mail correspondence I had with a fellow pastor in the Missouri Synod. It is regards to my concerns about a video he had posted on YouTube of a woman preaching. To be fair, she was not preaching from a pulpit or to a congregation. However, this pastor teaches a homiletics class at his church and this was her final exam. At best, this kind of thing is confusing and borders on false-teaching and a vast misunderstanding of AC XIV, at worst, this is a denial of what Scripture teaches regarding the role of women, our Confessional Documents and the doctrine our church body holds to.

I admit that I was a bit over-zealous and have called him to apologize for being so harsh. I have left two messages with my brother in the hopes that we can work this out.

As you will see in his response, he was not interested in explaining himself or his actions. He was condescending, trite, and arrogant in his response to me. I am a new pastor and I do strive for integrity to the Holy Scriptures and the Confession of Christ's Church. I encourage all Lutherans to strive for the same integrity, however, learn from my example. Don't be jerky in defense of your beliefs.

Also, do not assume new, young pastors are somehow fundamentally lacking because they have not been infected with "life-experience" (i.e., blatant liberalism and a compromising attitude toward all doctrine). If someone asks you a question, even if it is a bit (or a lot) snarky, you can't automatically play the "Pharisee" card. We are supposed to be in communion with one another. I still am waiting for a defense of his practice.

I saw a video on YouTube of a woman preaching and it claims she is studying homiletics under your supervision. Is this the actual case? If it is, as a brother pastor in the Missouri Synod, I am very disappointed and disturbed by this disdain for Scripture, the Confessions and our own church's
teaching on the role of women in the Church. I can certainly understand if you
do not agree with the teachings of Holy Scripture, the Confessions, or our
church body, but if you do not agree, why would you so blatantly scandalize and your brothers and sisters? Why not leave? Do you want there to be a rift? Are you trying to cause problems, to offend your weaker brother?
Please clarify this for me, as your dear brother. I will await your reply
while putting the best construction on what I hope is an innocent mistake.


I read your email and couldn't help but think of how Jesus continually attacked the Pharisees. The Pharisees were white washed tombs. The outside of their cups were clean but the insides were dirty. Jim, you are a modern day Pharisee.

In your email you call me brother. I can assure you that you are not a brother in any sense of the term. You are self righteous, proud and arrogant. I checked and I see that you are a recent sem graduate. Now your email makes sense.

You are young and in need of a mentor. I suggest you find a pastor who has life experience to take you under their wing. You and any ministry you are involved in need that help.

I will not read any further correspondences from you. I will delete them immediately. If you want to give me a call and apologize I will be happy to discuss any and all issues you would like.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"We upped ours..."

Both the LCMS and the ELCA have recently come out with new hymnals. Our hymnal price will soon be going up, but still is reasonably priced. I can just hear the heads of CPH and Augsburg Fortress now. (CPH Guy to AF Guy) "Hey, we just upped our price, up yours!!"

I know, its corny and tacky, but it makes me laugh every time I think about it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

NEW from ABLAZE! (TM) Industries!

Light your friends on FIRE! with the enthusiasm of something in the new ABLAZE! (TM) game! Don't let the cold, stodgy, waters of Baptism and Doctrine stifle your enthusiasm! WE NEED TO BE RELEVANT!!!

Our Heavenly Heritage

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, our country saw an explosion of immigration from several European countries. This is not really all that new, our country is, after all, technically made up of entirely of immigrants. What was interesting about that wave of immigration was that it presented a much larger scale problem for U.S. culture. The problem of assimilation. It is a problem we face with the increasing immigration from Mexico and Latin America today. How much of your native land do you hold on to and how much do you assimilate and become like the new land?

I think it is funny when older people, especially 1st or 2nd generation German-Americans, complain about Hispanic immigrants not learning the language. Truthfully, if there had not been two devastating wars in which Germany was a very big pain in the butt (to say the least), many Midwestern Lutheran Churches would still be having exclusively German services, there would be exclusive German neighborhoods, businesses, schools, libraries, etc.

This struggle with assimilation into a new culture is a very real struggle with Christians. We must never forget that, as Christians, this worldly truly is not our home. We are foreigners, strangers in a strange land. So, how much of our heavenly heritage do we hold on to and in what ways can we be like our present culture? Over and over again Scripture tells us that we cannot assimilate one bit. It is, in fact, impossible because we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.

It is part of the pastoral office to maintain our heavenly heritage. That's one very good reason why we do not simply do things the same on Sunday as we do the rest of the week. Our worship should be the last place we assimilate, and yet it is often the first place. My Fathers would weep to know of my limited knowledge of their native language. They would find it inconceivable that I do not have the German Small Catechism memorized. They would wonder if I were, in fact, truly Lutheran.

Perhaps our church Fathers would also weep to know of our limited knowledge of the native language of the Church, the divine liturgy. They, I'm sure, would find it inconceivable how little I know about the doctrines and struggles of the Church, perhaps they would even wonder, from all outward appearances, if I were even a Christian at all.

Our heavenly heritage is of great importance. While assimilation is a tempting thing, it is not an option for one who truly loves and longs to return to the Fatherland.


An excellent post by Pr. Tom Chryst on what "open" communion really is.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Pendulum of History...

seems to always swing between extremes with a brief encounter with stability. The problem is knowing what is true stability and what is your own brand of extremism. Our guide as truly orthodox, catholic Christians (i.e., Confessional Lutherans) is always Holy Scripture, which never changes. Again, the problem is knowing what is truly Holy Scripture and what is your own brand of faulty interpretation.

Is there a connection...

Between the generation (mostly, from what I can discern, in my grandparents age, commonly called the "greatest generation") that was told by "knowledgeable" doctors, nurses, mothers, friends, etc. that breast feeding their babies was the worst thing they could do and the same generation that was told by "knowledgeable" pastors, district presidents, seminaries, etc. that weekly communion was the worst thing they could do???

It seems to me that there must be some connection and it seems the connection lies in some uber-confidence in the know-how, intuition and ultimate perfection of man through scientific reason and theory. In both instances, the good gifts of God, given for the perfect nourishment of His people are utterly disregarded in favor of a starvation diet of the intellect.

As my lovely wife and I are taking pre-birthing classes, I am amazed, as are many of the younger nurses and doctors, that there was ever a time when something as perfect as breast feeding would have been cast aside. My parents generation, and in many cases, my own generation are now reaping the bitter fruit of that "wisdom" of men with lowered immunities, hightened allergies and a long list of other possible ailments that came from this denial of God's provision.

Many of my peers in the Office of the Holy Ministry are also amazed that there was ever a time when pastors, well-meaning or not, would have denied the faithful feeding of their flocks. Our Church is also reaping that bitter fruit with apathy, spiritual anemia, allergic reactions to sanctification, and general disease.

And yet, there are still some die-hards who insist breast feeding is not nearly as good as formula, those same die-hards insist that weekly communion is not nearly as "special" as monthly, or even, God forbid, quarterly communion.

What a shame. God, preserve us from looking too highly on our own abilities and know how and turn us to Your perfect wisdom which shines forth from the bright light of the Incarnate Word!