Monday, September 22, 2008

Death: Cheaper than Life

In Oregon, if you receive bad news from your doctor and you have state-sponsored health coverage, the state might encourage you to kill yourself. "Comfort Care" medicine (euphemism for assisted suicide drugs) is covered, while drugs to prolong or improve life might not be.

American Thinker article.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Stuck in the Middle

Election season always frustrates me. I don’t associate myself with exclusively one political party. Spending time listening to dyed-in-the wool Democrats makes me want to vote Republican. Spending time with dyed-in-the-wool Republicans makes me want to vote Democrat.

Neither party is wholly virtuous.

The Democratic Party has quite a tough time with the 5th Commandment, among others, since the official party platform is to support taking the lives of pre-born babies. We should fear and love God, so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body but help and defend him in every physical need. To take the lives of babies, born or unborn, is murder. To fail to defend babies when they are in physical need, is murder.

The Republican Party has a rough time keeping the 7th Commandment, among others. Any talk about lowering taxes is always greedy. Don’t let the government take my money, goes the argument. That’s greed. We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions or get them in any dishonest way but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

And whenever election season comes around, everyone has a hard time keeping the 8th Commandment. We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him , slander him, or hurt his reputation but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. When was the last time you heard an Obama supporter defend John McCain or a McCain supporter explain everything about Sen. Obama in the kindest way. Maybe you’ve heard it. I never have.

If I stay home on November 4, it won’t be for lack of concern about the election, nor will it be from a lack of patriotism. A vote for either main candidate, inasmuch as a vote endorses his platform, is sinful. Then again, so is neglecting one’s duty as a citizen to vote. Ah, well, what to do? I’ll keep the door unlocked on Nov. 4 for anyone who wants to come confess his sin immediately after voting…

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Catechesis, First Communion, and Confirmation, part two

Pr. Oakes asked how the discussion about First Communion and Confirmation was going. Instead of replying there, I thought I'd make a new post, since the first one was buried several months ago.

Good question. After some discussion, we decided to separate first communion from confirmation and still allow confirmation to serve as a sort-of Lutheran bar mitzvah, a rite of passage into adulthood in the Church, and the opportunity publicly to confess the faith. Here is the letter that went out to all members of Hope.

"In the Agenda of the new Lutheran Service Book, there’s a rite called “First Communion Prior to Confirmation.” When I first heard of Lutheran congregations having first communion separate from confirmation a few years ago, my first reaction was to wonder if such a thing were a Roman Catholic practice. Since then, I’ve seen many Missouri Synod congregations that offer early communion. And now it’s a rite in the Synodically-approved hymnal.

"Why would such an option exist? A few reasons. Many pastors and congregations are frustrated with the current habit of waiting to admit children to the Lord’s Supper until they’ve reached a certain age and completed a certain number of years of study. If we withhold the Lord’s Supper from children until they’re 14 years old, we teach them for 13 years of life that the Supper isn’t important enough for them to be receiving it regularly. And if we withhold the Lord’s Supper until children have passed a class, we use the Lord’s gift of His Supper like a reward, which is the opposite of a gift.

"What do the scriptures say? St. Paul admonished that everyone who receives the Supper “examine himself” lest he receive the Supper improperly (1 Cor. 11:28-29). What do the Lutheran Confessions say? Everyone admitted to the Lord’s Supper is “examined and absolved” (Augsburg Confession, XXV). Faithfulness to the Lord’s gift of His Supper mandates that we let those who have been examined and absolved receive this sacrament (a divine institution), even if they are not yet confirmed (a human institution). That’s why an official service for “First Communion” is included in the new hymnal.

"What does the hymnal say? ”This rite is intended to be used to admit to the Lord’s Supper baptized children who have not yet been confirmed. Candidates for admission to the Lord’s Supper have learned the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. They have received careful instruction in the Gospel and Sacraments. Confessing their sin and trusting in their Savior, they desire to receive the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of their faith in Christ and their love toward others. Concerning worthy reception of the Lord’s Supper, the Small Catechism teaches: ‘That person is worthy and well-prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe.”’”

"Beginning now, when parents believe their children are ready to be examined in order to receive the Lord’s Supper, the pastor along with one or two elders will examine them. Ordinarily, these children will know the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. They will know of their sinfulness and of their Savior, Jesus. They will know what Jesus offers them in the Lord’s Supper, and they will confess their desire to receive it regularly. After this examination, they will have the opportunity to confess their sins and receive Absolution. Having been examined and absolved, they will be welcomed to the Lord’s Supper with this rite from the LSB Agenda.

"Parents are the chief catechists of their children. They are helped by the congregation through the Divine Service, the Wednesday evening catechetical service, and Sunday School and Bible Class. It is my prayer that this opportunity for first communion will encourage ongoing catechesis at home and in the congregation. Children whose parents faithfully teach them the faith, as explained by the Small Catechism, and who regularly attend the Divine Service and Sunday School will be ready to receive the Lord’s Supper well in advance of their graduation from eighth grade."

Irreverence: Not just for Evangelicals, anymore

Popular among contemporary worship hucksters is the desire to make church appealing and comfortable. Comfortable is the liturgical opposite of reverent. You can either be comfortable around Jesus--coming in jeans and flip flops, thinking of Him as your buddy, expecting Him to laugh at your jokes--or you can be reverent--treating Him as Lord, bowing in His presence, and dressing in your "Sunday best."

If you were invited to a dinner with the President of the United States, you'd dress up and exercise your best manners. So why, when the Creator of Everything, the Almighty God invites us to His Holy Supper, do we think it's okay not to show reverence?

Well, turns out irreverence isn't limited to Protestants. One of the local Roman churches is having their annual Polka Mass on Sunday the 21st.
Right, a Polka Mass on the Feast of St. Matthew. Maybe it's an illustration of the Gospel Lesson: Matthew 9:9-13. Or maybe it's just plain irrevrence. Either way, it's not cool in the eyes of Rome.