Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Go to Church?

A guest post from one of the elders here at Hope, Mark Kloempken:

"Most reasons for skipping church on Sunday are all pretty hollow. It’s boring. I get nothing out of it. I don’t like. I don’t like the Pastor or the congregation. Someone said something to me. Someone failed me in some way. I, an autonomous individual have decided I have spiritual authority and I don’t need church.

"Basically, none of us have got past Genesis 3, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Since the days of Adam and Eve, we have lived in the age of the autonomous individual. Some newspaper editors sent G.K Chesterton a question, what is wrong with this world. He replied, “I am.” G.K. Chesterton got it. He was the problem. God was the answer. But how does God get that answer to us?

"And why go to church. The biggest misunderstanding we have is that we go to church so that we are doing something for God when it is precisely the opposite. We go so that God may do for us through the word and sacrament. It is not that we may do but that God may do for us. What is the obedience of the Church? It is the reception of God’s gifts. It is all counterintuitive and foreign to our way of thinking, in other words bassackwards. God created you without you and will save you without you. And the way in which He does this is through Word and Sacrament. You may not think it. You may not feel it, but when you hear the Word proclaimed and preached God is at work. You may not feel edified. You may not feel an emotional high, but it is true none the less. God’s grace is communicated through the Word and the Sacraments. When a child is baptized, the child is present, the parents are present, the sponsors are present, the congregation is present, the Pastor is present and God is present and He is at work. Through the waters of baptism and the proclamation of the word, God gives the child the gift of faith. But God does not just tip his hat and wish the child well with the fond wish that the child will make it to heaven. He continues to work through the Word and the Lord’s Supper to strengthen and preserve that child’s faith unto eternal life.

"By rejecting Church, we are making ourselves our own saviors and rejecting God’s salvation in Christ. When this country was settled, some men were known as pathfinders. The explored the wilderness and then showed settlers the way through the wilderness. Fathers are pathfinders for their children. They lead the way through life’s wilderness. There have been studies that have shown that children are most likely to continue in the faith when their fathers by their behavior show that they value their faith. This includes study of the Word, behavior toward the neighbor and attending church. We live in an age where everyone would like to see God do something and we refuse to met Him in the one place He has promised to work – Church. And that is the reason why we go to church – it is where God is at work."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Look. at. that.

You don't post in a month, and then you post your monthly newsletter article and the good folks at Issues Etc. take notice.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dependent Spirituality

“I’m just not able to do anything anymore. I feel like a burden to my congregation because I can’t help out the way I could before.”

Such was the lament of an aging member of a sister parish. The older she got, the less she could contribute. Most of the time we look forward to old age and the frailties it brings with anxiety. “I don’t ever want to be a burden on my family,” people wish. “I don’t ever want to be that dependent on others.”

More often than not, God leads us out of this life the same way he brought us into it: completely dependent on others. As infants, we relied on others to give us food, change our messy diapers, bathe us, clothe us, keep us safe from harm every minute of the day. We were completely dependent.

Then, as we grow into adults, we treasure our burgeoning independence. We can dress ourselves, bathe ourselves, feed ourselves. The more independent we get, we can cook for ourselves or even grow and gather our own food. We can transport ourselves wherever we need to go. A significant part of the American Dream is independence. So, naturally, growing older and more dependent upon others is looked on with shame by the world.

But not the church.

In fact, that God brings us down from our illusions of independence to reveal how truly dependent on others we are is a healthy lesson in humility. To learn to be dependent it to learn to be a Christian. When people were bringing infants to Jesus—yes, infants, the helpless, completely dependent, constantly-needing-to-be-fed-and-changed kind of people—He extolled them as model Christians: “To such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

So whether at the beginning of your life, at the end, or numerous times in the middle, God is teaching you through dependence on others to be a Christian, a child of God, to inherit the kingdom of God. You did not make yourself a Christian; God made you one. You did not produce faith; God gave it to you. You do nothing to earn God’s favor; He gives it to you completely as gift. You are completely dependent on Him for every spiritual need.

So as your faculties decrease, as your strength wanes, as your ability to contribute to your congregation diminishes, rejoice. God is teaching you away from independence to complete dependence on Him.

When speaking of God, the old adage is false: it is not better to give than to receive. Faith receives what God gives. It is always better to be receiving from God than to be giving to Him. That’s what happens in the Divine Service: God comes to lavish His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation on us. We respond, giving Him our thanks and praise, of course. But the most important thing is that we receive what God gives.

In this season where giving is so highly exalted, don’t neglect the most important things: to be receiving from God. It’s a season chocked full of services, times when God and His Church interrupt your regular routine to bless you with more of His gifts. Don’t get so caught up in all the giving that you neglect the receiving.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints' Day Reflection

To the cemetery or to the Altar? I found this from Lutheran pastor Berthold von Schenk while preparing for tonight's service. I'm reposting it from Pr. Petersen's and Pr. Cwirla's blogs.

It's from The Presence: An Approach to the Holy Communion, 1945, p. 130-132, reprinted in For All The Saints, v. 4, 1996.

When we are bereft of dear ones, it is a tremendous shock. For a time we are stunned. Not everyone, can feel at once their continuing companionship. We should not for that reason despair. An adjustment must take place in our lives, reaching deep into our habits, emotions and thoughts. Some souls may make this adjustment quickly. For most of us it comes slowly and hard; many an hour is filled with loneliness and agonizing doubt.

By ourselves we can never make this adjustment. We must come to a sense of the continuing presence of our loved ones, and we can do this if we realize the presence of our living Lord. As we seek and find our Risen Lord, we shall find our dear departed. They are with Him, and we find the reality of their continued life through Him. The saints are a part of the Church. We worship with them. They worship the Risen Christ face to face, while we worship the same Risen Christ under the veil of bread and wine at the Altar. At the Communion we are linked with heaven, with the Communion of Saints, with our loved ones. Here at the Altar, focused to a point, we find our communion with the dead; for the Altar is the closest meeting place between us and our Lord. That place must be the place of closest meeting with our dead who are in His keeping; The Altar is the trysting place where we meet our beloved Lord. It must, therefore, also be the trysting place where we meet our loved ones, for they are with the Lord.

How pathetic it is to see men and women going out to the cemetery, kneeling at the mound, placing little sprays' of flowers and wiping their tears from their eyes, and knowing nothing else. How hopeless they look! Oh, that we could take them by the hand, away from the grave, out through the cemetery gate, in through the door of the church, and up the nave to the very Altar itself; and there put them in touch, not with the dead body of their loved one, but with the living soul who is with Christ at the Altar!

Our human nature needs more than the assurance that some day and in some way we shall again meet our loved ones "in heaven." That is all gloriously true. But how does that help, us now? When we, then, view death in the light of the Communion of Saints and Holy Communion, there is no helpless bereavement. My loved one has just left me and has gone on a long journey. But I am in touch with her. I know that there is a place where we can meet. It is at the Altar. How it thrills me when I hear the words of the liturgy, "Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven," for I know that she is there with that company of heaven, the Communion of Saints, with the Lord. The nearer I come to my Lord in Holy Communion, the nearer I come to the saints. to my own loved ones. I am a member of the Body of Christ, I am a living cell in that spiritual organism, partaking of the life of the other cells, and sharing in the Body of Christ Himself.

There is nothing fanciful or unreal about this: Indeed, it is the most real thing in my life. Of course, I miss my loved one. I should miss her if she took a long holiday trip. But now. since she-is what some people call “dead,” she is closer to me than ever. Of course, I miss her physical presence bitterly. I miss her voice and the sound of approaching footsteps. But I have not lost her. And when my sense of loss becomes too great, I can always go to our meeting place at the Altar where I receive the Body and Blood of my Lord that preserves my body and soul just as it has preserved her unto everlasting life.

Do learn to love the Altar as the meeting place with your beloved who have passed within the veil. Here again the Sacrament is the heart of our religion. The Blessed Sacrament links us not merely to Bethlehem and Calvary, but to the whole world beyond the grave as well. For at the Altar the infinite is enshrined in the finite, heaven stoops down to earth, and the seen and the unseen meet.

Oh, God the King of Saints, we praise and magnify Thy holy Name for all Thy servants, who have finished their course in Thy faith and fear, for the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the Holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs, for all Thy other righteous servants; and we beseech Thee that, encouraged by their example and strengthened by their fellowship, we may attain to everlasting life, through the merits of Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Rev. Berthold Von Schenk (1895 - 1974)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thinking about Opposites

Reflecting on the Gospel for Trinity 15 (Matthew 6:24-34), where Jesus says it’s impossible to worship both God and Mammon, has gotten me thinking about opposites.

Trust & Worry

Trust and worry, or trust and fear, are opposites. Worry and anxiety are evidence of a lack of faith, a lack of trust in God’s gracious provision, in His day-to-day protection. Thus the Creed teaches us that our Heavenly Father “defends us against all danger, guards and protects us from all evil.” He does, He really does. Childlike faith knows this and expects it at all times, just as a child expects complete and perfect protection from her father. To worry is to believe that God either is unable to take care of you or is unwilling to do so. Faith, rather, knows that God disciplines those whom He loves, giving them crosses to bear from time to time to conform them to His Son, that their lives might likewise be cruciform, that they might likewise love others selflessly.

Thankfulness & Entitlement

“Get the car that you deserve,” says the commercial on the radio, which pretty much summarizes most marketing: you deserve better. That’s the mindset of entitlement. You deserve something nice and comfortable, some handsome reward for your hard work. That’s what you deserve, so it’s what God should give you.

Again, the First Article of the Creed teaches differently. “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” Faith is not concerned with entitlement, with what you think you deserve. Rather, repentant faith knows you deserve nothing good. Everything good you receive, is because of God’s fatherly, divine goodness and mercy. So faith receives all the daily bread God provides with thankfulness, not entitlement.

Forgiveness & Tolerance

One of the culture’s highest virtues is tolerance. Despite how liberal Christians want to reinterpret God, though, He is anything but tolerant. If He were tolerant of sin, foibles, peccadilloes, or deviations from His law, He would not have sent His Son to die for sin. If tolerance were an option, forgiveness would not be necessary. Instead of “tolerant,” God describes Himself as “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

Faith seeks not tolerance from God but forgiveness. In repentance, faith acknowledges that God is intolerant of our sin and even intolerant of sinners. The proof of God’s intolerance, of His hatred for sin, is on the cross. There, sin’s ugliness and God’s contempt for sin and sinners was displayed when God the Son cried out in dereliction—abandonment—to an unanswering God the Father. The Father had no ear for Jesus’ plea, having laid on Him the sin of all humanity, having made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.

Unbelief seeks tolerance, acceptance of our sins. Faith looks to Jesus for forgiveness. Faith knows that Jesus answered for all sin, so that we might be the very righteousness of Jesus.

All of these pairs are essentially expressions of faith and unbelief, which are opposites in every way. I’m sure there are plenty more expressions of faith and unbelief that are opposites, but these are the ones I’ve been thinking about the most.

Faith is a gift; unbelief is a work. Faith clings to Jesus; unbelief trusts in our selves. Unbelief lives inside the self; faith lives externally, in receiving the gifts God delivers outside ourselves and in loving and serving those we encounter in our vocations.

Monday, September 20, 2010

ATP: Communion how often?

What’s the Missouri Synod’s position on having Communion every Sunday?

Several times (at almost every convention in the past 20 years), the Missouri Synod passes resolutions that encourage more frequent celebration and reception of the Lord’s Supper. In 1995, for instance, she passed Resolution 2-08A, encouraging "pastors and congregations to study the scriptural, confessional, and historical witness to every Sunday communion with a view to recovering the opportunity for receiving the Lord's Supper each Lord's Day."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crosiers, and Mitres, and Crucifixes! Oh my!

Watching the installation of Synidical President Matthew Harrison might have given many Lutherans opportunity to ask that as-old-as-the-Missouri-Synod question: "Are we becoming Roman Catholic?"

Short answer: no.
Long answer: no, of course not.

And yet, Archbishop Obare of the Lutheran Church in Kenya wore his mitre (mm hm, the pointy hat).

District President Stechholz carried a traditional bishop's crosier (mm hm, the shepherd's staff thingy).

There were crucifixes galore, from the processional ones to the pectoral ones, enough perhaps to outfit a Roman Catholic seminary.

So what's the point? The Lutheran Church is bigger than Missouri. Some Lutherans choose to have bishops, archbishops, mitres, and crosiers. Some don't. Are we to suppose that the African Lutherans are too Roman Catholic? No. Maybe simply that the Lutheran Church is quite catholic.

In any case, here's the whole, official album:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ATP: Why do we stand for the procession?

We stand out of reverence for Christ.

When there is a full procession, we stand and face the processional crucifix. It is also appropriate to bow toward the cross and make the sign of the cross as it passes, as a reminder that Christ has marked us with His cross in the waters of Holy Baptism.

I’ve noticed, too, that when there’s not a full procession, people still turn to face the pastor as I walk in. Why is that? That’s not something I’ve ever instructed people to do, but the do it instinctively, because they know what pastors are called to bring them: Christ.

We stand when a judge enters a courtroom, not because the judge is anybody important but because he occupied an office which we respect. The judge may be a nice guy or a jerk, but we don’t stand for him, we stand for his judicial office.

So when we stand for the procession, even when the pastor’s the only one processing, we don’t stand for the pastor. We stand out of reverence for the Office of the Holy Ministry. The pastor may be a nice guy or a jerk, but we don’t care. Just like we make our pastors wear vestments to cover them up, to hide their uniqueness, to beautify the Office and cover the men who occupy that office, so when we stand, it’s not for the pastor, but for Christ. Standing out of reverence for Christ tells the pastor, “Buddy, we don’t care about you. We want you to give us Jesus. That’s what we made you promise to do at your ordination. That’s what we prayed for last night and this morning. We trust Christ’s Word and promise that He has sent you to us to give us His gifts.”

Pastors are nothing. The Office of the Ministry is Christ’s. Pastors are just the sacks of worms (to borrow Luther’s description of himself) God has chosen to fill that office, to use as His instruments. The Office is holy because Christ is holy. And we show reverence toward the Office because Christ uses it to bring us gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.


“To neglect your church, your prayer, your Bible study, your devotions, is to tell God that you have no desire to grow, to become more and more His child, that you are satisfied with being a weak and shaky Christian, and that you have had as much as you want from Him. How perilously such a person is slipping away from God. Everything that is not in accord with God's will is given over to death and the power of darkness. But, my friends, if we cling to Christ and His Word, growing daily in the will of God, striving to bring our lives into harmony with that will, what strength is ours, what then can harm us? When we are given over to the will of God, nothing can destroy, no more than God and His will can be destroyed. The unshakeable strength of the will of God is in us, though the world turn upside down.” (Dr. Norman Nagel,Selected Sermons, p. 245.)

Plain and simple, Christians grow.

So, are you growing? Or are you, as Pr. Nagel warns against, neglecting your church-going, your prayer life, your Bible study, your devotions?

How do Christians grow? Jesus describes it: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-6).

If a branch grows, it’s not because the branch is particularly healthy but because the whole plant is healthy. Jesus is the vine. Every branch grafted into Him, every branch that remains in Him, grow and bears fruit.

We grow by abiding in Jesus and in His Word.

So I want to challenge you to set a goal for growing in Jesus, for growing as His disciple. The only way you will grow is with more Jesus, with more of His Word. The end result of the goal is not more of you, but more of Jesus.

Here are some sample goals. Pick or modify one or more to suit you and help you grow in Jesus.
• I currently attend church less frequently than I should. My goal is to attend every Sunday that I’m healthy.
• I do not currently attend Bible class (or Sunday school). My goal is to grow in the Word by studying it at Bible class.
• I do not currently have family devotions every day. My goal is to begin using the Congregation at Prayer to have family prayer and devotions every day.
• I currently do not attend the catechetical Service of Prayer and Preaching on Wednesdays. My goal is to make this a regular part of my weekly hearing and studying the Word of God.
• I currently do not begin and end each day with prayer. My goal is to use Luther’s orders of morning and evening prayer as a basis for beginning and ending each day.

You will have the opportunity to make one of these or a similar discipleship growth goal during the month of September. Every Christian grows. We grow by being in Jesus and in His Word. “If we cling to Christ and His Word, growing daily in the will of God, striving to bring our lives into harmony with that will, what strength is ours, what then can harm us? When we are given over to the will of God, nothing can destroy, no more than God and His will can be destroyed.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another one

Welcome Little Sister

Marion Evelyn Hemmer was born at 6:43 this morning. She is 19 in. long and weighs (after a little feeding) 7 lb 3 oz. Her apgars were good and Laura's doing very well, also.

She will be reborn in the waters of Holy Baptism this Sunday at 9:30. You're welcome to join us.

She receives her name from her mother's mother and the Mother of God, on whose feast day she will be baptized, and her father's grandmother and great-grandmother.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dear Pastor,

If you preach Jesus faithfully, when people love you, it's not you they love, but Jesus. And if you speak His words and not your own, when people hate you, it's not you they hate, but Jesus. Your toil is not for their admiration but their salvation. And your goal is not that they like you but that they love your Lord.

Seriously, though. I coulda been a farmer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting De-Baptized?

Here's a report about atheists using a hair dryer to get "de-baptized."

Certainly, it's meant to be provocative more than performative, as atheists no more believe in a God who works through Baptism than they believe in that God (even if they disagree on the existence of a deity, they do have in common with many Christian denominations a common belief in the inability of God to work through Baptism).

Unfortunately, that's not how Baptism works. Once baptized, always baptized. Jesus describes Baptism as being "born again" to Nicodemus. So, just like the only way to undo your first birth is to die, so the only way to undo your re-birth is--mm-hm--to die.

But don't worry atheists, even if you can't undo with a hairdryer what God has done with His Word, the benefits of Baptism are only received by faith. If you reject the faith God delivers through His Word (yes, babies, even the Word in Baptism; you don't have to reach an age of accountability to get your ears to work), your Baptism is of no salutary effect. So, turn off the hairdryer; it's a waste of electricity.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hope Cares: A Network of Mercy

I sent this email to members of Hope last week abot a new opportunity for doing works of mercy here at Hope.

Members of Hope,

I'm excited. Time and time again, when people have had need, you have responded mercifully, showing Christ's love and compassion as you were able. Last year, when a lady and her family fell on hard times, you responded with a door offering that collected a few hundred dollars for her. When earlier this year, a family lost their house and all their posesssions in a fire, you responded with donations totallyng around $350. When a mother with four kids, two of whom are disabled, needed a huge amount of help to avoid having her power shut off, you came up with over $500 toward her $800 bill and with help form a couple other sources, we got her power turned back on. That's fantastic. It really is. And it's what the Church is meant to do: show Christ's mercy.

As people hear about how the members of Hope have helped people in this community, word has spread. I regularly get calls from people needing assistance of every kind. Someone gave me $200 a couple weeks ago that he received for doing work which he thought was volunteer work. We've used that money to help find lodging for a lady getting out of an abusive situation and to help two others struggling to pay power bills. The word is getting out. You are earning a reputation around town: These are people who care, people who will help. Awesome.

At the council meeting last night, we discussed making this a regular opportunity for those interested. I'm tentatively calling this network of mercy Hope Cares. Here's how it will work. Anyone who would like to be part of this network can tell me whether they'd like to be contacted via phone or email. Then, whenever anyone comes to me with a need, I'll have them fill out a little paperwork, and I'll pass that need along to the network. If you are willing to help in any situation and have the ability, simply give me your contribution (cash or check made out to Hope is fine). I'll then get a check from the church made out to the collector (utility, landlord, etc.) and deliver it to the person in need.

If you don't want to be a part of this network, this is the last email you'll get from me asking you to opt in, so you don't need to worry. If you would like to be a part of the network, though, even if you cannot help each time there's need, simply reply and let me know whether email or phone is the best way to reach you (or both).

Thanks for your generous outpouring of mercy when there have been needs, and I look forward to what God can do through you in the future.


And, readers of this blog, if you're in the Jerseyville area and would like to participate, let me know via email.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Idol of Choice

Contraception affords people the ability to choose against children, against God-given fertility. This pro-choice mentality is the same that drives those who are pro-abortion, even if the pro-choice, pro-contraception crowd stops short of choosing to kill pre-born babies.

I was struck by the sheer bankruptcy of this thinking while hearing people recently describe themselves as “accidents,” “whoopses,” and “mistakes.” While the conversation was largely in jest, as no one of these participants in the conversation probably sees himself as still a “whoops” in the eyes of his parents, and even unintended children can be loved by their parents, it nevertheless belies the pervasiveness of this kind of thinking.

We want to be our own gods. We want the authority to choose how many children we will have. And when a child is born against our planning and desires, when we have to face the reality that there is another God who controls fertility and who gives children as gifts, we call our children “mistakes” to avoid relinquishing control of our own lives to Him who is the Author of Life.

I’m thinking about all this as my wife and I yesterday marked the 7th anniversary of being joined together by God in marriage. Anniversaries are always bittersweet for us as the age of our marriage and the age of our children remind us of our real mistakes, of our years of choosing against God’s gift of children.

No child is ever a mistake or an accident. Every child is always a gift. That such a conversation can happen among Christians, even Christians who rejoice in God’s gift of children, whether such gifts are in concert with our plans or not, exposes the shallowness of our thinking and the pervasiveness of our culture’s anti-child, pro-self mentality even in the church. Yuck.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Skipping Church and Cheating on your Spouse

It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I think Christians should be in church not just every Sunday but every time the opportunity is available. The only good excuse for missing a Divine Service is that you are physically incapable of getting there—if you are sick or homebound (in which case, I will bring the Divine Service to you).

That’s not just what I think. It’s what God thinks, too. The Third Commandment calls you not to despise preaching and God’s Word but to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. But that’s not the only commandment that tells you to receive the gifts God offers in the Divine Service as often as you can. There’s the First Commandment, too. You shall have no other gods. We should fear, love, and trust in God alone.

Whatever could keep you from church is a false god. Work and the desire for money, recreation, vacationing, camping, resting, sleeping in, time with family or friends, laziness, anger at the pastor or other parishioners, selfishness, shopping, and more are all false gods when they keep you from being in God’s house—where He comes to deliver His gifts—during any Divine Service.

“How often must I be in church?” is the wrong question. It’s akin to asking how often you must have dinner with your family or make love to your wife. Every time the opportunity is there is the answer. Faith never says “no” to God’s gifts.

Skipping church is like having an affair. It’s never permissible. Ask your wife if it’s ok if you spend an occasional night in someone else’s bed. Ask your husband if you can be a good wife by making sure that at least 51% of your sex is with him. Being in church “most of the time” is the same. That’s not my crass illustration. It’s God’s. Want to know what he thinks of breaking the First Commandment? Grab a Bible and read Ezekiel 16, preferably in a translation like the ESV or the KJV to get a good sense of the verb in Hebrew God chose to describe Israel’s unfaithfulness in chasing after false gods. God calls pursuing false gods whoring.

The truth is our sinful selves know no other way than to wander from God, to commit spiritual adultery against Him with false gods. If it were up to us to quit “playing the whore,” we would be hopeless. But it’s not up to us.

Every day you wake up, be thankful you’re not the prophet Hosea. God called many of the prophets to prophesy both in words and in actions, and Hosea was called to be a living example of God’s mercy. The Lord called Hosea to take a wife who would be unfaithful: “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom”(Hosea 1:2). So he did. And then God called Hosea to restore his adulterous wife to himself, to forgive her: “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (3:1). God redeems His bride, buys her back from her sins, restores her to Himself, forgives her and makes her pure.

Though God through the prophet Jeremiah at the beginning of the book of Jeremiah called Israel a whore, by chapter 31, a chapter of pure Gospel, God calls Israel “virgin Israel.” You don’t need a sex-ed class to know that once virginity is lost, it can’t be regained. And a prostitute is the polar opposite of a virgin. And yet, all things, even the salvation of sinners, are possible with God. His forgiveness makes our adulterous hearts virgin and sin-free again.

Christ presents His Bride to Himself pure, spotless, dressed in white (Ephesians 5, Revelation 19). She wears His righteousness. She is pure and holy as her Groom is pure and holy. He takes her sin away.

The solution to chasing after false gods is to be found again by Jesus. The gifts He gives in the Divine Service are still here for you. They make you spotless and pure, virgin and sin-free, part of the holy Bride of Christ. Don’t ask how often you must receive them; ask how often you may.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Luther on Chastity and Happiness

"Few are the women and maidens today that even think they can be happy and chaste at the same time. Their tongues are sharp and coarse, their behavior is worldly and unchaste. This is the lifestyle that is 'in' today. Yet chastity and happiness should and could stand side by side, if they would but behold this example [of the Virgin Mary]."

Sermon for The Visitation, House Postils, v. 4, p. 346

Monday, June 28, 2010

More Jesus; Less You

The Christian life is a constant struggle. You are constantly fighting against your old, sinful flesh. The devil and the world are allies of your old self, and together they form an unholy trinity, the real axis of evil, to conspire against you, to lure you away from Jesus. When we pray in the 6th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer “Lead us not into temptation,” we are praying “that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world and our sinful flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.”

Do you see your life that way, as a constant struggle, a fighting against your own sinful flesh? St. Paul did. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15, 18, 19, 24, 25)

On June 24, we celebrated the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, or, the birthday of John the Baptist. The Church is not in the birthday business. She celebrates two days in the lives of her saints, her children: their baptismal birthdays (their re-birthdays) and their death days (their heavenly birthdays). But there on June 24 every year is the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Why? Because John is the Forerunner of Jesus, the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Lord, the one whose entire life points to Jesus.

John preached about Jesus “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He also preached against himself relative to Jesus, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

That’s the solution to the constant struggle against our sinful flesh: He must increase, and we must decrease. More Jesus, less you.

The more Jesus fills you with Himself, as He does in the Lord’s Supper, the less room there is for you. The more He covers you with His righteousness, as He did in Holy Baptism, the less you can cover yourself with sin. The more Jesus drives away sin and temptation in Holy Absolution, the less room there is for you to embrace sin and temptation. The more Jesus fills your ears with His Word, the less room there is for you to fill them with self-worship and the filth of the world. Jesus Word and Sacraments, His means of delivering His grace to you, are the victory over sin and temptation. Through these means, God holds the head of the Old Adam, your old sinful flesh under the waters of Holy Baptism.

And God gives you means, not through which to merit grace or earn forgiveness, but through which you can fight against your sinful flesh. These means have traditionally been called spiritual disciplines. Through disciplines of prayer, study, meditation, fasting, tithing, almsgiving, works of mercy, among others. None of these things earns any of God’s favor. Some of them are aimed at your sinful flesh, putting him to death and following after Jesus. Some are aimed at your neighbor, showing him mercy at the expense of yourself.

Most important in the struggle against your sinful flesh is hearing the Word of Christ. He sees beyond the veil of today to see things as they really are. He sees your sinful flesh really dead and done with. He sees you wearing perfectly and completely His righteousness. And the word He speaks about you is truer than anything you can see. Following Jesus is learning to believe your ears over your eyes. Jesus says you are forgiven, set free from your bondage to sin, completely sin-free, a perfect saint. Because He whose very words create and change reality says it, it’s true. He must increase, and I must decrease.

More Jesus, less you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Not the Morality Police

Lutheran pastors are not the Morality Police. They are God's Absolution Men. That is, I don't care what sins you commit as much as I care what sins are forgiven.

When I call people to repentance, it's always with this goal: that they would receive forgiveness. When I withhold forgiveness, it's always with this goal: that they would receive forgiveness. When I withhold the Lord's Supper from those who are impenitent, it's always with this goal: that they would receive forgiveness.

Proclaiming the Law to impenitent sinners, those who do not have Godly sorrow--repentance--over their sins and a desire to be free from them, is easily my least favorite thing to do as a pastor. But because I've been called to deliver God's Word and do God's work, I have no choice but to deliver the Law as well as the Gospel. And the Law is never the end of the story. The goal is that the sinner would allow God's Law to work, leading to repentance, so that I might get to do what is easily the most joyful thing I do as a pastor: deliver God's forgiveness.

Sometimes people complain that I'm singling out their particular sins. I don't think that's the case. I try to deal with all sin equally. Some types of sins seem more easily to become public. For the sake both of the one ensnared in such public sin and for the sake of the congregation who sees such sin, these public sins need to be dealt with with a call to repentance. And sin is never the problem. Impenitence is. There are only two categories of people: repentant sinners and unrepentant sinners. The first trusts in Jesus for forgiveness; the latter trusts in himself.

So I am not the Morality Police. I don't care about your sins. I'm the Absolution Guy. I care about God's forgiveness. And I want to do everything possible to see that you receive that forgiveness.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No More Excuses

To paraphrase the expression, “Excuses are like armpits; everyone has them, and they stink.”

Having thus set the tone for this article, there’s no need to skirt the issue or approach it delicately. You need to be in Bible Class.

Here come the excuses. I can smell them from here.

Seriously. Bible class is the place where we grow in God’s Word, where we wrestle with God’s Word, where we learn the content of Holy Scripture, where we learn more about our God who has created and redeemed us. God’s Word is a gift. The opportunity to study it is a privilege.

And yet old habits are hard to break. If you’ve been away from Bible class for a long time, it will be difficult to get into a new routine. If you’ve never been to Bible class, it will be even more difficult. But it’s worth it.

Your old sinful flesh will recoil at giving up an extra hour a week. The Old Adam or Old Eve will have no shortage of excuses. You will try to convince yourself that you don’t need to study the Word of God. In fact, however, studying God’s word is a part of being a disciple of Jesus, who promised, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). The Word of God is Jesus, our very source of life. To abide in the Word is to abide in Jesus.

Consider the psalmist who penned these words in Psalm 119.

“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! (v. 25)

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! (28)

Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word. (41-42)

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. (81)

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. (89-93)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word! (105-107)

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God. Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! (114-116)

I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” (162)

We rotate through several different types of Bible studies. Sometimes we study a book of the Bible verse-by-verse. Sometimes we study Holy Scripture as expounded in the Lutheran Confessions. Sometimes we study Scripture thematically. Our current Sunday morning Bible class is looking at the Lutheran Divine Service. How is that a “Bible” class? Simple. The liturgy is made up of Scripture. All the songs we sing, the words we speak, the words we hear: nearly everything comes directly from sacred Scripture. Even the actions, the non-verbal parts of worship, come straight from the Word of God.

Bottom line: excuses are lame. Bible class is for all members of Hope. If you’re not in Bible class, you are missing out on learning the Word of God, which gives life. The Word gives Jesus, our only source of life. Don’t let your excuses keep you from the full, free life in Jesus. Join us.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Parenting, Catechesis, and Church

Pr. Peters has this great post on the duties parents vow to fulfill prior to baptism. I, like him, have no good answer to the question he poses, even though I've asked it over and over again.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eating like Kings

We generally eat very well in the Hemmer household. Today was the epitome of fine dining. It began with a breakfast of eggs over medium, covered with pepperjack cheese and served on spinach leaves, bacon, and toast with orange-ginger-pear honey.

Then dinner was flatiron steaks with balsamic reduction, made-from-scratch dinner rolls, and fresh-from-the-garden salad with strawberries.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Siberian Lutherans

If you have 22 free minutes, watch these 3 videos about the Lutheran Church in Siberia posted at Pr. Larry Beane's blog. What a wonderful reminder that the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is far bigger than we realize. What an example of faithful pastors and bold parishioners.

Here's the website for the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society.

Russell Moore on Preaching

The day the new issue of Touchstone arrives in my mailbox is a sad day for all my other reading projects. They immediately lose precedence.

In the May/June issue, Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has this wonderful article on preaching: Preaching Like the Devil. Those who preach sermons as well as those who hear them would be well served by reading Moore's article.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Office of Parent

Early May brings Mother’s Day; likewise June delivers Father’s Day. So it’s appropriate to reflect on parenting.

The office of parent is a holy vocation, as holy as the office of husband or wife. The work parents do is holier than that of nearly any other vocation, with the exception of spouses. The work of raising children in the fear and knowledge of the Lord is one of the holiest works to be done. So it is good to honor these estates of motherhood and fatherhood, not merely on one day a year but on every day. And it is good to model our parenting after Holy Scripture and the Catechism.

From the Table of Duties of the Small Catechism: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are two styles of parenting: sacrificial parenting and selfish parenting. The world greatly prefers selfish parenting. Worse, our sinful flesh is inclined not toward godly, sacrificial parenting but toward self-interested, selfish parenting. Christian parents must constantly struggle against this sinful tendency.

In a culture where children are a choice and little more than fashion accessories, selfish parenting comes naturally. The trend to be a hip parent is far more popular than any inclination to give up our desires, needs, dreams for the sake of raising our children in the training and instruction of the Lord. There is a distinct tension between wanting to remain the centers of our worlds and needing to heed the call from God to be fathers as He is our Father.

And yet these vocations, these stations in life, these holy offices of mother and father are God-given. And as He has given them, only He can enable the work done through them. So fathers, live in repentance and faith. Learn from God the Father how to be a faithful father to your children. Learn from the St. Joseph, whom God chose to be the guardian and earthly father to the Son of God. Learn from him who taught the Scriptures to the Incarmate Word of God how to raise godly sons and daughters. Learn from him who taught Jesus how to pray to His Father to teach your children to pray to their Heavenly Father. And mothers, live in repentance and faith. Learn from the Church who raises and nurtures you as the sons and daughters of God how to raise your sons and daughters to belong to God. Learn from St. Mary whom the Lord called to be the mother to the Son of God. Learn from her who set aside her own ambitions and goals to embrace this higher, holier calling how to treasure the holy calling of motherhood when the world is quick to denigrate it. Learn from her whose few recorded words are “let it be to me according to your Word” and “Do whatever He tells you” the content of faith.

So, happy Mother’s Day. Happy Father’s Day. God has given you these holy callings, and He enables you, by the forgiveness and mercy He lavishes upon you, to live in these offices and do His work.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Reprise

Happy Mother's Day

LSB 855 For all the Faithful Women
text by Herman Stuempfle
(c) 2003 GIA Publications

1 For all the faithful women
Who served in days of old
To You shall thanks be given;
To all, their story told.
They served with strength and gladness
In tasks Your wisdom gave.
To You their lives bore witness,
Proclaimed Your pow'r to save.

6 To Hannah, praying childless
Before Your throne of grace,
You gave a son and called him
To serve before Your face.
Grant us her perseverance;
Lord, teach us how to pray
And trust in Your deliv'rance
When darkness hides our way.

8 We sing of Mary, mother,
Fair maiden, full of grace.
She bore the Christ, our brother,
Who came to save our race.
May we, with her, surrender
Ourselves to Your command
And lay upon Your altar
Our gifts of heart and hand.

13 For Eunice and for Lois
We sing our thanks and praise.
Young Timothy they nurtured
And led him in Your ways.
Raise up in ev'ry household
True teachers of Your Word
Whose lives will bear clear witness
To Christ, our risen Lord.

3 O God, for saints and servants,
Those anmed and those unknown
In whom through all the ages
Your light of glory shone
We offer glad thanksgiving
And fervent prayer we raise
That, faithful in Your service,
Our lives may sing Your praise.

4 All praise to God the Father!
All praise to Christ the Son!
All praise the Holy Spirit,
Who binds the Church in one!
With saints who went before us,
With saints who witness still
We sing glad Alleluias
And strive to do Your will.

ATP: Suicide

If you take your own life, can you still be forgiven of your sin?

If you remember a few weeks ago, the topic for the Ask the Pastor was intentional sin. (You can find that ATP here.) In short, Christians do not sin intentionally. Willful, intentional, persistent sin is incompatible with faith. In fact, it wars against faith. Christians do still sin, but they always hate their sin. They do not intentionally persist in it.

So what about suicide? Isn’t suicide an intentional breaking of the 5th commandment? Yes, suicide breaks the 5th commandment (as well as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and maybe more). But how intentional is it?

A Lutheran understanding of repentance, unlike the Roman Catholic understanding, is not something that we do for each and every sin. Rather, a Christian is always repentant, always sorry for his sin, always trusting Jesus for full forgiveness. To illustrate how much this divides Rome and Wittenburg, note the first of Luther’s 95 Theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ He meant the whole Christian life to be one of repentance.”

So the problem with suicide is not that you don’t have the chance to repent. Repentant faith is the way of life for the Christian.

Moreover, it’s incorrect to oversimplify suicide and to call it an intentional sin. Depression, which is almost always the disease that motivates a person to commit suicide, is an illness. Just like other diseases have symptoms and effects, so does depression. Among the effects of depression are despair and hopelessness. A depressed mind does not think clearly; the chemical pathways are biologically altered because of the disease. So a person does not exactly intend to sin who commits suicide.

Those suffering from depression should seek both pastoral help and medical help, even if they have not had any suicidal thoughts.

A Christian lives in forgiveness. If a person who commits suicide retains God’s gift of faith until death, he remains in that forgiveness. Nevertheless, Christians seek to avoid suicide as they seek to avoid any other sins that are contrary to their new identities in Christ. As Christians, we humbly acknowledge and give thanks to God that our whole lives are in His hands. The death of Jesus and His resurrection redeem our suffering and enable us to endure our crosses, praying for the day of His return, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

ATP: Ecumenism

Background: Hope hosted this year's community Good Friday service. Unlike years past where all the members of the ministerial alliance, because we are not in pulpit fellowship with other churches in town, I was the only one presiding at the service, which was the same Tenebrae Vespers we do every year. The only difference is that this year other congregations invited themselves to our service.

Why are we now participating with the ministerial alliance? For years we couldn’t participate.

Ecumenism is the working together of Christians of differing confessions toward Christian unity. There are two approaches to ecumenism. One is to ignore or downplay the theological differences that have historically divided Christians in favor of presenting a unified front. The other is to be honest and forthright about what divides Christians and to work toward a common confession of the faith by resolving these differences.

The first approach is not helpful. It takes a “can’t we all just get along” attitude and quips “unity not uniformity.” The problem is that the theological differences that divide Christians are not insignificant. They are huge. And they involve the proper confession of the Gospel. Since the Gospel cannot be compromised, we must not ignore, gloss over, or downplay these differences. Leaders of different denominations can and should have conversations together that acknowledge these differences and seek to come to a common understanding. This is the second approach.

Lutherans of the Missouri Synod have always preferred this second approach to ecumenism. It’s more difficult, to be sure, to be honest and upfront about how our different confessions of the faith. But because we care about the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must. So the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has always taken a careful approach when she engages with Christians of other confessions. In most clergy alliances, that looks like this: we can participate together and cooperate in service toward the community, but, because we believe differently and refuse to ignore those differences, we cannot cooperate in matters of worship.

We are always been clear in our interactions with other Christians about the limits of our fellowship. We may cooperate in serving the community, but—until we are in agreement in all matters of theology—we cannot cooperate in worship. Although we are not in altar and pulpit fellowship with other congregations in town, we were happy to have the community invite itself to our Good Friday service of Tenebrae vespers. (For that matter, the community is invited to all of Hope’s worship services.)

This was ecumenism done correctly. The service and the preaching were unapologetically Lutheran. And no one was welcome to preside in the liturgy who was not in full agreement with us.

I don’t know what pastors have done in the past. Because genuine ecumenism is so difficult in a culture that tries to downplay differences between Christian denominations, deciding not to participate at all is completely understandable. But there’s a benefit to be reaped from being in conversation with other Christians and from serving our community together significant enough to make this kind of ecumenism worth the effort.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What to Do if You Don't Believe Jesus' Words?

Change them.

Or at least that's what one of the children's Bibles we've stumbled across does. In the story of the Last Supper, Jesus says this to His disciples: "Remember my broken body when you eat the Passover bread again. Remember the blood I shed when you drink the Passover wine again."

Terrible. Terrible. Terrible. For so many reasons. First of all, it misquotes Jesus. A large swath of Protestantism refuses to take Jesus at His words when He says "This is my body" and "This is my blood." So, they have to change His simple words into something altogether different.

Moreover, Jesus at the Last Supper, Jesus wasn't continuing the Passover. We don't eat the Passover bread or drink the Passover wine anymore. What Jesus institutes is the cup of the new covenant. The Passover meal pointed forward to the Lord's Supper. Once the latter has come, the former is done.

Lastly, the misquoting Jesus omits something rather significant: the Gospel. What Jesus actually said gives comfort; these words do not. Missing are two vital parts of Jesus' words: "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins."

Sad, really. Is means is.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holy Week Schedule

Holy Week Schedule

Holy Monday:
Private Confession 6:30-6:50 p.m.
Spoken Vespers 7 p.m.

Holy Tuesday:
Private Confession 6:30-6:50 p.m.
Spoken Vespers 7 p.m.

Holy Wednesday:
Private Confession 6:30-6:50 p.m.
Spoken Vespers 7 p.m.

Maundy Thursday Divine Service 7 p.m.

Good Friday Tre Ore Noon-3 p.m. (7 25-minute services)
Good Friday Tenebrae Vespers 7 p.m.

Easter Vigil, Saturday 7:30 p.m.

Easter Dawn, Sunday 6:00 a.m.

Easter Day, Sunday 9:30 a.m.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

ATP: Prayers for the Dead

If it doesn’t do any good to pray for the dead, does it do any harm?

When the Lutheran reformers argued against prayers for the dead, what they were contending against is the false hope that because of our prayers, God might posthumously forgive those who had been impenitent. Also, while there is ample evidence in the early church of prayers for the dead, this practice had become so entwined with the Roman Catholic belief in purgatory that the Lutherans found these nearly inextricable.

And yet, the Lutheran Confessions say, “"We know that the ancients spoke of prayer for the dead. We do not prohibit this. . . .Epiphanius testifies that Aerius believed that prayers for the dead were useless. This he rejects. We do not support Aerius either" (Ap. XXIV.94, 96).

So may we pray for the dead? We teach and confess against the Roman Catholic error. And yet, there is Christian prayer for the dead, even as we pray for all the Church in heaven and on earth. The first prayer in the Prayer of the Church in the Funeral Service is “Almighty God, You have knit Your chosen people together into one communion in the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Give to Your whole Church in heaven and on earth Your light and Your peace.” We do not pray so that God would grant to the faithful departed some new or extra light and peace. They already have His light and peace in the fullest. As one Lutheran pastor explained, “to extrapolate the Small Catechism: God certainly gives his light and peace to those who rest with him, even to those for whom no one prays, but we pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would lead us to realize this and receive this gift with thanksgiving.”

The Christian Cyclopedia notes, “Luther's position is best summarized: ‘Nothing has been commanded or enjoined upon us concerning the dead. Therefore all this may be safely omitted, even if it were no error and idolatry’ (SA-II II 12). He inclines to a cautious toleration of the practice, points out that we have no command to pray for the dead, inasmuch as those who are in heaven do not need prayers, and those who are in hell cannot be helped thereby, and suggests that Christians make their prayers conditional (WA 10-III, 194–195, 409 to 410; 11, 130; 12, 596; 26, 508; 44, 203).”

We do not pray for the damned, those who died impenitently, without faith in Jesus. But, as long as we do not hope falsely like Roman Catholics that God might change the already-declared verdict on the dead, we may pray for the faithful departed, as we do in the liturgy and in hymns.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Book Worthy of an Answer

I started reading Bryan Hodge's A Christian Case against Contraception. So far, so good. Hodge examines contraception in light of the four disciplines of theology. Beginning with an historical perspective of the Church toward preventing conception, Hodge makes the argument, as the title of the book suggests, that contraception is sinful. He then moves to an exegetical look at procreation and contraception in the Scriptures, a systematic look at contraception, and a practical look at issues of contraception. So far, I'm only into the exegetical section, but the look at contraception in the history if the church was pretty good.

Inasmuch as an opposition to contraception was nearly universal in the Church until 1930, the burden of proof to demonstrate that contraception is an acceptable avenue for Christian married couples falls to the pro-contraception crowd.

Here's my challenge: pony up; get the book; read it; and let's discuss it. Email me if you'd rather not make a public answer to the book but would still be interested in the dialogue. I genuinely want a fraternal--not an antagonistic--discussion. Takers?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ATP: Forgiven of sin not yet committed?

Can you be forgiven of sins you have not yet committed?

The answer to this question exposes a huge difference between Lutherans and Roman Catholics in their understanding of forgiveness. Case in point: Baptism. For a Roman Catholic, in Baptism, God only forgives past sins. For a Lutheran, when God baptizes you, He places you into His forgiveness. That forgiveness covers past sins, current sins, and future sins. As Luther explained it, we live in our Baptism every day.

So, to the person who is worried that Jesus might return before he has the chance to confess sins and receive forgiveness for those sins, the answer is, “Yes, as long as you remain in the forgiveness delivered to you at Baptism, you are already forgiven of those future sins.” There’s no partial forgiveness. Either all of your sins are answered for by Jesus or none of them is.

But to the person who wants a license to sin, the answer is “No, you may not plan to sin and also remain in the forgiveness delivered to you in Baptism.” Plain and simple, Christians don’t plan to sin. Planned repentance (“If I do this, God will still forgive me”) is not repentance. And to plan to sin is to fight against faith and forgiveness. “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).

The means through which God forgives our sins, Absolution, the Lord’s Supper, and the preached Word, are means by which God holds us in the water of our Baptism. They don’t bestow new forgiveness or extra forgiveness. They do deliver forgiveness, but they do so in concert with Holy Baptism, not in addition to it. All of God’s means of grace have this as their goal: to hold you in the forgiveness delivered to you in Baptism. If you remain in the faith and forgiveness delivered to you at Baptism, all your sins are forgiven, taken away and given to Jesus, who has already answered for them.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Next Adult Bible Class

Beginning the Sunday after Easter, the Sunday morning Bible class will take a look at Lutheran worship, exploring the whys, whats, and hows of the Divine Service. Come check it out Sunday mornings at 8:30. A few of us gather for Matins beforehand (8:00), followed by time for fellowship (and sometimes coffee and sweets) before Bible class and Sunday school begin.

There are lots of resources that you might check out to prepare you for the class, ranging from the simple to the academic. Here are a couple I'd recommend.

CPH has a book by Pr. Scot Kinnaman, Worshiping with Angels and Archangels: An Introduction to the Divine Service. The book is aimed at all ages but would be particularly useful for children and those new to the Lutheran way of worship in order to help them understand the Divine Service. Pr. Kinnaman's blog has two tremandous resources, as well: a primer on Lutheran Worship and a glossary of ecclesiastical terms. Check these out.

Another book from CPH that would make a great companion volume to Bible class is Pr. Timothy Maschke's Gathered Guests: A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church.

Other volumes you will find helpful include some of those that should be on the bookshelf of every Lutheran family: a hymnal, The Lutheran Study Bible, the Treasury of Daily Prayer, and the Book of Concord.

For a more academic look at the Divine Service these resources may prove helpful:
Luther's Works, volume 53
The journal Gottesdienst as well as Gottesdienst Online, the accompanying blog, are also great resources for learners of the Lutheran Divine Service.

So, there you have it. Come and learn!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Product Placement

During an emergency run for diapers this morning, I noticed the proximity of two items across the aisle from each other in Wal-Mart that brought to mind this song from 80s band The Fixx. Across from the rack of diapers is the rack of ladies' unmentionables. That's right, kids. One day you're shopping for pink and black thongs. The next it's diapers. One thing leads to another.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So it begins

Lent, that is.
Here is Pr. Peters on ashes and the history of the custom.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fascinating article

This editorial from the LA Times makes the case against same-sex marriage on the basis that the one thing everyone agrees upon (or used to) is that marriage produces children. Unintentionally childless marriages are the exception, and everyone acknowledged the tragedy of those situations. Intentionally childless marriages make the case in favor of same-sex marriages. If there's no inextricable link between marriage and children, there's no natural law argument against same-sex marriage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

End of Life Care: It's OK to be a Burden

A conversation about funerals among the Blackbirds led me to search for this article by Lutheran ethicist Gilbert Meilander.

In contending against advance directives for end-of-life care, Meilander argues that it's okay to be a burden to your family members when you're dying. That's the nature of human relationshipw: they're interconnected. We bear one another's burdens all the time. It's how we live as families and as Christians.

At the end of the article, Meilander distinguishes between two questions. "What would he have wanted?" is futile. We can never know the answer. Asking that question is an unnecessary burden. Loved ones should rather ask, "What is best for him now?" or "What can we do to benefit the life he still has?" Answering those questions is a necessary and good burden.

Monday, February 8, 2010

And the Winner is...

No, not of the Best Christmas Cookies in the World Contest. I got exactly one entry in that contest who told me, upon delivering the cookies, "I'm not entering your contest." So the title is up for grabs.

This is the winner of the "Best Prolife Commercial of the Superbowl." Man-bashing commercials abounded again this year as last. Yes, yes, we get it. Men are apish, self-interested, sex-and-food-crazed, and altogether fun to laugh at. Even as infants, they are quite infantile.

The pre-game controversy was over the Tim Tebow ad paid for by Focus on the Family. So, when the commercial came on, I perked up. Then what? Little Timmy almost didn't make it. Then he tackled his mom. And you needed to go to Focus's website to figure out what it's all about. Not a strong contender for best pro-life message unless you follow through and go watch the rest of the videos.

I thought Google's commercial was more pro-life at face value. Man meets woman, courts her, leaves his father and mother (at least his fatherland) to cleave to her, has baby, needs to assemble crib. An impressive link between marriage, sex, and babies.

Pr. Baker also notes the Dove for Dudes commercial has an implied "life begins at conception" message, as the guy's life begins when the sperm meet the egg. At first I thought the picture a little shocking, but it does imply a rather impressive, however unintended, pro-life message.

So, props to Dove and Google for bucking the anti-family, anti-life mentality of society. FotF? Not so much.