Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Issues, etc. Audio Open Lines: The ELCA and Gay Clergy

We, as Missouri Synod Lutherans, need to know as much about this as possible so that we may answer the question: "Oh yeah, you're Lutheran, don't you allow...?"

Rev. Matt Harrison on the ELCA's decision to ordain openly gay and lesbian clergy

This man speaks wisdom with force, with confidence, with humility and wisdom. I pray that God would raise him up for the office of Synodical President in the LCMS at our next convention.

A great sermon by Rev. William Weedon

May be listened to at Issues, etc. [Rev. Wilkens gives some commentary, which one may or may not find helpful, but the sermon is great with or without the commentary.]

A Great Interview of Issues, etc on Images in Christianity

Brian Godawa really gives the listener a lot to think of when it comes to the proper use of the senses, especially vision with images, in the Christian faith.
Listen to it here:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Hymn Writer and Theologian

Today the Christian Church gives thanks for our brother, Bernard of Clairvaux, who beautified the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ with wonderful hymns such as this:

From our Synod's Website:
Bernard of Clairvaux, Hymnwriter and Theologian
A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the 11th century A.D., Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of 22. After two years he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some 68 daughter houses. Bernard is remembered for his charity and political abilities, but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by Saint Bernard.

And from Issues, etc. :

Monday, August 17, 2009

Johann Gerhard on Prayer

Today the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod commemorates Johann Gerhard. If you have never experienced the beauty and depth of the truly Evangelical piety of our dear Gerhard, you must check out Meditations of Divine Mercy, translated by Rev. Matthew Harrison.

Gerhard has some of the most moving and beautiful words I have ever read about prayer:

Pious prayer offered in faith is familiar conversation with God. It is the salutary remedy to all the difficulties of life. It is the key to heaven and the door to paradise. It shows us how much we depend on God. It is a shield for our defense and a faithful messenger of the ambassador. It is refreshment in the heat of misfortune; it is medicine during illness. It is a winch, drawing us to heaven, and a vessel that draws water from the font of divine kindness. It is a sword against the devil and a defense against misfortune. It is a wind that blows away evil and brings earthly benefits. It is a nurse that nurtures virtue and gives free access to God. It is a spiritual feast and a heavenly delicacy. It is a consolation for the dejected and a delight for the holy. It
grants knowledge of the secret things of God and acquires His gifts. It upholds
the world and rescues people. It is a joy for the heart and a jubilation for the
mind. It follows God's gift of grace, and it leads ahead into glory. It is a
garden of happiness and a tree full of delights. It calms the conscience and
increases thankfulness. It sends demons running and draws angels close. It is a
soothing remedy for the misfortunes of this life and the sweet smell of the
sacrifice of thanksgiving. It is a foretaste of the life to come and sweetens
the bitterness of death.

You can imagine the beauty, poetry, depth of piety and faithfulness of the
prayers the rest of this little gem of a prayer book contains!

From our Synod's Website:

Johann Gerhard (1582–1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483–1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522–86) and the most influential of the 17th-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (23 large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of 15 he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the Superintendent of Heldberg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read.

And from Issues, etc. :

Commemorating the Blessed Virgin

Yesterday at Good Shepherd we observed the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I did something I don't usually do, I "free-texted." Don't anathematize me yet! I love the Magnificat, but that beautiful hymn of the Blessed Virgin is not the only confession that she makes about her adorable Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Just as beautiful, though not as poetic, is her faith in her holy Son at the wedding feast at Cana: "Do whatever He tells you." This is a beautiful teaching of the Blessed Virgin. It flies directly in the face of that view of her as intercessor or mediatrix. She is not interested in turning His head. She is not interested in manipulating His will for His people. She trusts that He will work for good for His people. She doesn't know how He will do it. She doesn't know when He will do it and she doesn't know if He will do it the way she wills. She simply trusts that doing what He tells us will be to our blessing.

And it always is! Christ is always interested in our blessing. We may not always recognize it, but it is true. Mary knows this and she teaches us to trust this truth as well. He whom she held in her motherly arms, He whom she cradled and nursed, He whom she cared for as an infant will care for her and us more thoroughly than we can ever imagine. Had He not changed the water into wine, He still would have given Mary and the wedding guests what they truly needed.

Mary does not turn the head of her Son any more than any other saint for whom He has shed His holy and precious blood, but she is indeed blessed amongst women, for she trusts in her holy Son for all good things. What a blessing the faith of the Virgin Mother is to us! We listen to her as our Mother as well and do whatever her precious Son tells us to do, trusting that His loving-kindness and mercy is more than sufficient for our eternal comfort and peace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Emotional gods

You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean?

We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

When we hear this, we are often distracted by things. Like money, cars, and anything else that falls within the category of Mammon. But how often are we deceived by the evil foe into making gods out of our emotions? Especially when it comes to worship? For example, perhaps you have thought sometime before, during or after the Divine Service: "This service/church/liturgy/pastor/music/etc. makes me feel bored so it must not really mean anything." You have made your own emotion of happiness, joy, excitement or boredom more important than God Almighty.

When Elijah heard the threats of Jezebel in I Kings 19, he allowed his fear for his own life to become a god that was more powerful than the true God of whom he was a humble prophet. Every footfall that took him farther from Jezebel and closer to perceived safety was a creed confessing his belief in his own fear.

Emotions are not the be-all and end-all measure of whether or not something is true. They often deceive, lead astray, tempt, lie and even kill. Emotions certainly have their place, but even the fact that I always feel compelled to make that disclaimer shows just how dangerous the temptation to deify our feelings is.

We are to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, that includes our emotions. Satan will do everything he can to try to keep us focused on how we feel about our relationship to God, but ultimately, we must trust that God has loved us with an ever-lasting love and we see that in His Word and in the blessed Sacraments which He gives to His people for the sake of His holy, precious and adorable Son, Jesus Christ.

Agreeing to Disagree

I've heard this little nugget of supposed civility and "wisdom" many times in my life and I have used it myself before. I've heard with increasing frequency as the "discussion" on health care continues. Those in favor of government run health care for all are using this little gem to quiet their opponents. I think at the heart of this idea to agree to disagree is really a desire to have our own way without having to give any explanation or justification for what we believe. Sometimes that is acceptable. I may, for example, agree to disagree with a neighbor who does not put in a garden. We have one, but our neighbor does not. That's OK. But I don't think it wise to agree to disagree about such important things as health care. How can you agree to disagree with something that will directly affect you? This is a spineless excuse for not standing up for what you really believe in and I get quite uncomfortable when I hear public officials telling the public whom they serve that we must just agree to disagree.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

In addition to being St. Lawrence day, it is also my dad's birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad! I've been blessed by you in many ways, some of which I have only come to appreciate recently. I pray many more years of God's blessings to you!

St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Today the church catholic gives thanks for the life, service, and faithful martyrdom of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr.
From Foxe's Book of Martyrs*:

Now let us enter the story of that most constant and courageous martyr of
Christ, St. Lawrence, whose words and works deserve to be as fresh and green in
Christian hearts, as is the flourishing laurel-tree...Let us draw near to the
fire of martyred Lawrence, that our cold hearts may be warmed thereby. The
merciless tyrant, understanding him to be not only a minister of the sacraments,
but a distributor also of the Church riches, promised to himself a double
prey,by the apprehension of one soul.... With furious face and cruel
countenance, the greedy wolf demanded where this Lawrence had bestowed the
substance of the Church: who, craving three day's respite, promised to declare
where the treasure might be had. In the meantime, he caused a good number of
poor Christians to be congregated. So, when the day of his answer was come, the
persecutor strictly charged him to stand to his promise. Then valiant Lawrence,
stretching out his arms over the poor, said: "These are the precious treasure of
the church; these are the treasure indeed, in whom the faith of Christ reigneth,
in whom Jesus Christ hath His mansion-place. What more precious jewels can
Christ have, than those in whom He hath promised to dwell? For so it is written,
'I was hungry and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty and ye gave me to drink; I
was harbourless and ye lodged me.' And again; 'Look, what ye have done to the
least of these, the same have ye done to me.' What greater riches can Christ our
Master possess, than the poor people, in whom He loveth to be seen?"

Laurence, Deacon and Martyr

Early in the third century A.D., Laurence, most likely born in Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Laurence to produce the “treasures of the church.” Laurence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young church. Almost immediately, the date of His death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.

Almighty God, You called Lawrence to be a deacon in Your Church to serve Your saints with deeds of love, and you gave him the crown of martyrdom. Give us the same charity of heart that we may fulfill Your love by defending and supporting the poor, that by loving them we may love You with all our hearts, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


*edited by W. Grinton Berry, reprinted by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House Company, Spire edition published 1998.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sometimes you feel like a nut...

Sometimes you don't. That's how I've felt about blogging lately. For a long time I really loved blogging. And then life just got busy, I was busy, I didn't feel like sharing my thoughts about anything. I didn't want to engage electronically. I didn't feel like a nut.

I guess I'm starting to feel like a nut again. It's been a crazy busy summer, but in a great way. I won't go through all the minutia of our summer activities, if you would like to see what our family has been doing over the summer, my wife has done a wonderful job chronicling the many adventures of the Roemke family.

I have had many wonderful opportunities this summer, including presenting at Higher Things Sola in Grand Rapids. If you are a pastor, a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or and uncle and you have youngin's who dare to be Lutheran (or you are gently and dutifully pushing them to dare to be Lutheran) Higher Things is the best thing out there. It is wonderfully encouraging to see over 900 high school kids sing out with real vitality the hymnody and liturgy of the Lutheran Church. It is also a wonderful and encouraging thing to see 900 plus Lutheran young people interested in topics that encourage Lutheran living and a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and life from a uniquely Lutheran perspective. Next year they are having two conferences, one in Logan, Utah and the other in Memphis Tennessee. The theme of these conferences is "Given" and you may read more about them here. I am hoping to take our Good Shepherd youth and maybe I will be blessed to present again!

Another wonderful thing I would like to direct you to, especially for summer vacations. If you are travelling over the weekend and are looking for a place to worship that is Lutheran and not some kind of generic methobapticostipal mix-mash of "me" religion, I strongly recommend you check out the ELLC Directory. I was talking with a dear father in the faith today about the ELLC Directory and he was lamenting the need for something like this in the LCMS (he is not convinced that this kind of thing is necessary, I disagree). When Christ commanded Peter to feed His sheep He meant all of them, not just those who are ignorant, willfully or otherwise, of the Church's rich heritage and tradition. It is a terrible shame that some churches, in the name of missions and outreach will totally neglect a whole segment of people, young and old, who desire to be fed with the Word and Sacraments in the beautiful platter of the historic liturgy of the Lutheran Confessions. This directory is a help to those who desire to experience the Church in her full historic beauty and majesty. Now, this listing is certainly not exhaustive and I have been to very good churches that are not listed on this directory, but this is a great way to take out some of the guess-work of what you will get in a Lutheran church when out of town. We had a family visit us this past weekend because of the ELLC directory and it was a blessing to them and us!

There have been a lot of other things going on this summer, some good, some bad, some indifferent. I find that my nuttiness is beginning to wear off. I do hope to be a bit more regular with my postings, but I can make no promises.

Friday, April 10, 2009

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

A very blessed Good Friday to everyone! This afternoon we were blessed at Good Shepherd to gather around the blessed Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ in both Word and Sacrament as we celebrated the Chief Service. My dear faithful and pious wife and I observed our annual watching of The Passion of the Christ after service. In a bit, we will again gather around the Light of the World as we extinguish the candles during the meditation on the last words of our Lord from His blessed throne. Tomorrow morning we will again gather to meditate upon His holy repose in the tomb and the faithless faith of His disciples and the faithful faithlessness of His enemies. And joy beyond telling, we will gather at the foot of the cross as we keep the Vigil of His glorious and blessed Resurrection through which we are given the assurance of life and justification through His holy sacrifice. This year one of the faithful saints of Good Shepherd has constructed a life-size cross beneath which we will gather at the fire and await the raising up of our Phoenix, Christ, the Life and Light of the World.

This week is very busy for faithful pastors, but a better busy I could not hope for! If you are in Western Michigan and would like to stop by to join us that would only make our joy more wonderful. For my brothers and sisters who await the joyous dawning of the Feast of the Resurrection, God's peace and comfort as we wait expectantly at the foot of the cross and the door of the tomb!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Want to preach good funeral sermons?

Then start by preaching the commemorations and feast days of those blessed saints who have gone before us in the faith whenever possible (although I think it best to keep with the Sunday readings unless a saint's feast day falls on the Lord's Day and it is not already a feast of Christ).

That is how I look at funerals, as feast days of saints of God in Christ, for that is truly what those faithful departed are, full and complete saints, revelling the in the glory of the Lamb who was slain. When preaching on a saint day or commemoration, we Lutherans know that we do not preach about the individual, but rather about that golden and precious thread of faith that binds them to Christ and through Him to all the Church, militant and triumphant. Indeed, precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My prayer closet

I have debated for a long time whether or not to share this with others on my blog, but I have decided it may be a good thing. When we bought our home in November of 2007, one stipulation that I had was that the home would have a place devoted to prayer and devotion. I believe it is vitally important for Christians to actually devote such spaces in their homes for this one and only purpose for many reasons, but mainly because it stands as a witness that we need to pray. Just as the kitchen and dining room stand witness that we need to eat, the bedroom stands witness that we need to sleep, the living room stands witness that we need to rest and spend time with our family, and the bathroom stands witness to the fact that we need to do other things (let the reader understand!), so too a space in the home devoted to prayer and meditation on Sacred Scripture stands witness to our need as Christians to pray, praise and give thanks.

So, in our home office there is a small (3'X3') closet that my wife and I both decided would be a good place for a prayer space. Now, the pictures that follow are what I have done and I do like icons and candles. It is not necessary to have these things, but it helps me and is a faithful confession of the Evangelical Lutheran faith. I do not post these pictures to brag or to show how "holier than thou" I am, but the use of a prayer closet or devoted prayer space has been a great source of blessing to me as a Christian and as a pastor and I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to devote their own spaces to prayer and meditation.

This prayer altar is a cabinet I got at a garage sale and painted. The icons on the three sides are (from left to right), The Blessed Virgin Mary with the Christ Child, Our Lord's Crucifixion, the Archangel St. Michael. One of the most important things about my closet is that it must be centered on Christ and Him crucified.
These pictures should give you the main idea of what I have done with my prayer closet. If you have any questions of concerns about it, please don't hesitate to ask either in the comments, via e-mail or in person. Everything in this prayer space was carefully thought out that it may confess Christ and Him crucified. Please keep in mind that the use of Eastern icons is my own personal preference, it in no way is meant to suggest that I am swimming any rivers. I am Lutheran and I give thanks to our evangelical freedom that allows any art that faithfully confesses the truth of Holy Scripture.
I also use prayer beads (aka, a rosary) but I do not pray to Mary or the saints. There is one Mediator between God and man, the one man Jesus Christ. They simply help me to focus my attention on the Psalms (and I also use them to pray the Small Catechism).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us!

Very near to the top of Mount Calvary in our Lenten journey, we weary travelers are given a reminder and joyful feast to fill our hearts and souls.
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, or, perhaps more appropriately, the Feast of the Incarnation. For that is surely what it is, the incarnation of our good Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of His holy mother.

It is that incarnation, that putting on of our flesh, that allowed our dear Savior to bear our sins bodily on the cross. It is that same flesh that rose again on that still more glorious Feast of the Resurrection. It is that flesh, glorified and whole, that sits at the Father’s right hand making intercession for us even now. It is that Feast of the Incarnation that we celebrate every time we take the incarnate Word of God into our mouths at the Holy Supper and into our ears and hearts at the hearing of the beautiful Gospel message.

Also at this under celebrated feast we give thanks for that faith of the Virgin Mother. That faith which says in the midst of uncertainty, improbability and foolishness "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." That faith first uttered on the lips of Eve when she was given a son, that faith acted upon by Abraham with his Son. That faith that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the faith that we give thanks for and the faith that, through our baptism, we share. Such amazing faith!
+ + +
Lord, give us such faith as we look upon the awful cross of Christ, that we may not turn in fear from the gifts You give us, but, with Your good gift of faith, embrace that gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation found in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The angel Gabriel from Heaven came,
With wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame;
“All hail, to thee, O lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

“For know a bless├Ęd mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify God’s holy name.”
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say—
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
* The Annunciation by Fra Angelico

A Blessed Feast of the Holy Fetus

Isn't this what we should start calling Annunciation? Those who are pro-death use words like "fetus," and "embryo" to dehumanize the babies they say it is ok to kill. But Christ makes no distinction. He came to save those whom He lived for. He lived as a fetus and and embryo in the blessed womb of the Virgin Mother. Christ died for those He lived for, and today the Church celebrates His life as a fetus and gives thanks that those whose lives are so tragically and brutally taken have a Redeemer who lives for them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whoa! What a break!

To those of you who may have feared that I had given up the ghost, I am still alive, still preaching and teaching, still thinking about things, but I have not had much desire to blog for quite some time.
We are in the midst of the Lenten season, as are all Western Christians. At Good Shepherd this Lent we are looking at the faithful example of the saints who have gone before us: Ash Wednesdaywas faithful Polycarp who boldly and faithfully served his Lord until his grizzly and blessed death. Next was Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas, young mothers who gave up everything rather than deny their Lord and Savior, St. Patrick with his missionary zeal and faithfulness to the orthodox teaching of the Holy and Blessed Trinity, may we all bind unto ourselves Christ and Him crucified! Tonight we looked at St. Joseph, the chaste and faithful guardian of our Lord Jesus Christ. He teaches us to guard that good and godly treasure of Christ crucified, the only begotten Son of the eternal Father.

We look forward with repentant joy and contrite anticipation to the dramatic events of Holy Week. Good Shepherd will gather to pray a cappella Matins Holy Monday through Holy Wednesday at 8 am. Maundy Thursday at 7 pm we celebrate our Lord's Institution of the Holy Eucharist and His command to love one another (we also will have individual Holy Absolution the the somber Stripping of the Altar). Good Friday we celebrate the Cheif Service with the complete Passion account and the Holy Eucharist at 12 noon and Tennebrae Vespers with the seven final words of Christ from the Cross at 8 pm. Holy Saturday a cappella Matins at 9:30 am, Easer Vigil at 8:10 pm (sunset, weather permitting we will begin outside of the church and process in with candlelight). Easter sunrise Matins (again, beginning outside, weather permitting) at 6:55 am, we break our Lenten fast with Easter breakfast at 8 am. We then feast the Resurrection with the risen Body and Blood of Christ with the Divine Service at 9:30 am.

If you are in the area, join us! A blessed Lenten, may your hearts be prepared to celebrate the Paschal feast.