Thursday, July 24, 2008

a first time for many things

We plan to travel, all six of us! leaving on Friday 7/25 and returning Friday 8/1 for a brand new destination for the Becker bunch: Hilton Head, South Carolina. We will also be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on 7/30. More when we get back to town, and all the other technical accessories that we might be able to live without for a week:)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

apostle to the apostles, St. Mary Magdalene

Mark 16:9
Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.

John 20:1, 20:15-18
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her.

Apostle to the apostles! How much we have in common with Mary from Magdala.

We too have had the evil spirit cast out of us in Holy Baptism. We too have been transferred from the kingdom of Satan (darkness) into the kingdom of His beloved Son (light).
We too would weep for a world without Jesus. We too need to be asked, “why are you weeping?”
We too have been sent to tell what we have seen and heard.

Mark 16:15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae

The 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae is upon us. May I encourage you to read these brief, prophetic excerpts, if not the entire document if time allows. Given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the 25th day of July, the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of our pontificate (Pope Paul VI).
“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.
... Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who "is love," the Father "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named."
Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.
The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.
"Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare."
Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

moral authority

As I try to finish up "Visioneering" by Andy Stanley for our monthly study group next Wednesday, I was struck by the story of Mother Teresa's speech at a Washington D.C. national prayer breakfast on February 3, 1994. Among other things, she said "the greatest destroyer peace is abortion, because Jesus said, 'If you receive a little child, you receive me.' So every abortion is a denial of receiving Jesus, the neglect of receiving Jesus...Abortion is really a war against the child, and I hate the killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that the mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?...Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion." (President and Mrs. William Clinton and Vice-President and Mrs. Al Gore did NOT join the lengthy applause.)
Fourteen years have passed since this truthful, prophetic word was spoken to thousands of our nation's powerful leaders and not much has changed regarding the protection of life from the moment of conception to natural death. If you don't see the connection between how we are treating God's gift of life and the judgments currently falling on America, I pray God to open your eyes before it is too late for this sweet land of liberty.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

jumping to conclusions

Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. (I Samuel 1:13) So much for spiritual discernment from those entrusted with positions of leadership in the church. Simply being in a spiritual office does not grant spiritual insight -- look at Eli's two boys, Hophni and Phineas who "were good-for-nothing priests; they had no faith in the LORD...the sin of Eli's sons was a serious matter to the LORD, because these men were treating the offerings made to the LORD with contempt" ( I Samuel 2:12,17 God's Word).
Reminds me of the Day of Pentecost when "others mocking said, they are full of new wine" (Acts 2:13). Then I recall the Anima Christi prayer with its famous line, Sanguis Christ, inebria me (Blood of Christ, inebriate me). The body and blood of Christ do give the gift of sober inebriation, of prayer in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20) so that with all of our thoughts, words and actions as we are going , we might be "speaking the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

laws of nature and nature's God

This from the July/August 2008 issue of "Family Foundations" by Dr. Stephen J. Genuis: Although the importance of enduring marriage is increasingly evident, the question remains as to why cohabitation does not prepare for marriage. Essentially, successful marriage is just as much about commitment and willingness to self-sacrifice as compatibility issues. Not to diminish the importance of mutual communication, healthy attraction as well as shared beliefs, values and goals, a fundamental ingredient for successful marriage is commitment and intention to persevere. While marriage is a wonderful blessing, couples cannot anticipate the various challenges and circumstances that arise. Perserverance and commitment, not intuition and emotion are the glue that binds through difficulty and strife. Those willing to engage in a cohabitation experiment are, by definition, willing to engage in a relationship that does not require permanence or commitment. Perhaps the most important ingredient of marital stability - commitment - is a virtue based on character and loyalty, not on emotions or feelings...As a physician who observes the outcomes of life choices on a daily basis, I am continually astonished at how many life changing courses of action are decided by feelings, intuition and transient emotion, without studying the realities of facts or consequences. Marriage is a profound covenant with supreme implications for individuals, offspring, and social stability; decisions about marriage or cohabitation should not be taken lightly...Strong marriages depend on couples maintaining values of respect, self-sacrifice, commitment and perseverance, not succumbing to contemporary fads of playing house. Commitment is the virtue that transforms vows into reality. If we wish to benefit society and diminish the anguish associated with fractured homes, enhanced marital marital stability can be secured by training in virtue, not trials of living together.
Amen! and thank you, Dr. Genuis for truth spoken in love. As Mary and I approach our 25th wedding anniversary next week (7/30/83) I would only add that virtues such as commitment, self-sacrifice and perserverance are made possible by the grace of God and seeing holy marriage as an icon of the relationship between Jesus and the Church (Ephesians 5:32), the ultimate commitment of all history. When I begin to see myself (within the context of marriage) as an icon of Jesus Christ who is called to love Mary as much as Jesus loves the Church, even to the point of dying for her, I can see also more clearly my daily need to turn to God and change the way I think and act (a good translation of "repent!"); and when Mary sees herself as an icon (within the context of marriage) of the Church that is deeply moved to love and serve Jesus because of the way He has first loved us, her love for me will likewise be an ever-increasing blessing in more ways than we could have imagined. Just as Jesus could never break His commitment to the Church and the Church cannot cease confessing her Lord, so a Christian husband and wife cannot separate what God has joined together.
Revelation is required to see marriage in this light, and to recognize as a LIE the common belief that living together is good preparation for marriage, that no one is hurt by sexual activity outside of holy marriage, etc.
A website worth investigating from that same issue:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Christus vincit

One of my favorite images of Jesus' resurrection victory comes in this verse from today's first reading: "But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron" (Judges 16:3).
1) the residents of the city assumed they were safe since the gates were securely locked -- likewise Satan, death and Hades were lulled into a false sense of security that was eternally disrupted by Jesus' resurrection;
2) Samson carried the gates an unbelievable distance of approximately 30 miles -- the simple point being that NO WAY could those gates be reinstalled. Christ Jesus defeated our enemies and left their "city" desolate.
What confidence and joy God has given us in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, the greater Samson who has plundered our enemies FOR US. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Monday, July 14, 2008

preseciption passed

third concern: need for diversity in worship. The Pastor will establish a worship task force by September 15th that includes at least two members from the present worship committee, one elder and two members at large. The Pastor and task force will present a recommendation to the congregation that will provide opportunities for both traditional and praise styles of worship, which maintain the core elements of Lutheran worship by January 15, 2009. The voters will approve the recommendation and the services will be evaluated at the end of six months. Until this recommendation is implemented the congregation will continue to offer the "new song" service at least once per month.

fourth concern: lack of communication. By August 15th, the Executive Director will appoint a Communications Task Force including the Pastor, the paid secretary and three members at large. As a part of their work, they will contact three congregations having successful communications programs. By September 15th, the Task Force will make recommendations regarding the use of eletronic, written and oral communications to the lay leaders. The lay leaders will approve the process and all members will be notified of the communications process by October 1, 2008.

fifth concern: structure. The pastor and leaders will lead the congregation in suspending those particular bylaws that describe how the congregation functions in its boards. These bylaws by vote of the congregation will be put into abeyance for two years. At the end of the two years the congregation will vote either to return to the current bylaws or adopt new ones that are written to reflect how ministry is being done at that time. The vote to suspend the bylaws will be held by November 1, 2008.
Once the bylaws are suspended, the congregation will adopt an accountable leader model of governance. In this new model there will be a Board of Directors of five people; fdour members elected by the voters and the pastor. These five will represent an outward focused mission and the new vision when it is adopted. Their role will be to goven the church. The pastor's role will be to lead the church. The role of staff members will be to manage the church. The role of the members will be tdo conduct the ministry of the church. The accountable leader model including goals for the pastor and staff will go into effect November 2, 2008.
The pastor will engage a coach by August 1, 2008 who will be able to help him learn what is needed to lead the congregation to its next level of effectiveness.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

$.02 worth

Could there be a greater waste of money and time than we see in this current presidential campaign? When the approval rating of Congress has fallen into single digits, can’t we find a different, perhaps better pool from which to draw our candidates? Apparently not -- go figure.
So, in the face of this unrelenting pain, here’s my $.02 worth of suggestions to save us from four more months of insults to our intelligence and sensibilities.
1. The candidates for president will refuse to spend another dime on television or radio ads, and limit their pronouncements to the internet or public debates. Supporters will create and post signs in their own communities directing us to the website(s) in question. This will both prevent damage to the environment from unnecessary travel and save time and money for productive purposes.
2. The candidates for president will hold a formal competition on the best way to spend untold millions of dollars in their campaign pockets for the common good, for example: a) empower small business starts in economically hurting areas, b) reward scientists and entrepeneurs who bring to the market affordable fuel and clean energy alternatives, c) provide scholarships for disadvantaged students who have excelled and desire to pursue higher education in areas where America needs to regain her competitive edge. Newspapers and magazines will cover these news-worthy events.
These two simple suggestions would transform and possibly redeem the experience of American politics. They offer real change right now. Hoping for leaders who believe “That government is best which governs least”,
The second concern: Lack of Clear Vision.
The pastor will engage the Mid-South District to come and lead a Day of Envisioning for the Congregation. Prior to the Envisioning Day the pastor and executive director will convene two community awareness events and arrange for two prayer walks. Following the Envisioning Day the pastor in cooperation with the congregation's leaders will develop a vision for the congregation. The main vision statement needs to be articulated and adopted by December 15, 2008.
The pastor and leaders of the congregation need to conduct a Mission Audit of all ministries of the congregation. The purpose of the audit is to determine that each ministry in the congregation is consistent with the newly developed vision. Ministries that do not fit with the vision must be changed and brought into alignment, or be discontinued. This Mission Audit of all ministries needs to be completed by July 15, 2009.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

About six weeks ago, our District President, Pr. Ken Lampe with able assistance from Pr. Jim Kirk held a consultation with our congregation as part of a revitalization effort. For the sake of better understanding what this might look like and mean for our "little flock", I thought it good to put the ideas up for all to see and comment on. The visiting "team" identified five areas of "strength", five areas of "concern" and five "prescriptions" to address each concern.
This coming Sunday, July 13, we will have the opportunity to vote their recommendations up or down. Each prescription addresses an area of concern.
The first concern, "Inward focus".
The prescription: The pastor and leaders will call Concordia to a Day of Prayer and Repentance. THe purpose of this Day of Prayer is twofold: First, the congregation needs to confess its failure to fulfill the Great Commission with regularity and for being apathetic in living it out consistently. Second, the congregation needs to pray for God to move in the hearts of the leaders to produce a vision of a changed community, where hundreds are encountering the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Day of Prayer needs to occur by September 1, 2008 and the members need to continue to pray for its leaders as a clear vision is being developed.
At the direction of the Pastor and leaders, the congregation will conduct at least three "net fishing" events in their community and begin at least two interest groups in support of the vision adopted by the congregation. As many members of the congregation as possible should be enlisted to participate in the net-fishing events. The first of these events shall occur by December 1, 2008 and the remaining two by July 1, 2009. The interest groups need to be formed by January 1, 2009.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

issues, etc returns

LUTHERAN TALK RADIO. You can listen to Issues, Etc. on-demand at Issues, Etc. is hosted by LCMS Pastor Todd Wilken and produced by Lutheran Public Radio. This week's topics include: Islam, The Gospel, Religion & the 2008 Election, Evangelical Style, Lutheran Substance, the Purpose Driven Movement and more. Listen to what you want when you want at!

This morning I was considering St. Paul's exhortation not to be pressed into (conformed to) the mold of this present world but rather be transformed by the ongoing renewal of our minds, I asked myself, what does this mold look like? If I can recognize it, my chances of choosing to avoid it increase exponentially. Two things came to mind: a) the curse of this present age is overstimulation, and b) the individualization of all values. The former makes it exceedingly difficult if not impossible to "be still and know that I am God" and manifests in the general neglect, misunderstanding and rejection of contemplation and meditation as fundamental Christian experience. The latter pushes in the direction of judging all things on the basis of what "I want" or what "I feel" (YUCKKKK!!!). If , therefore, I "don't want" or "don't feel" I most likely will vote with my feet and my pocketbook regardless of what I might be missing if only I could perceive a greater good, a communion of saints, the very body of Christ that transcends my personal pettiness and gives me a place in the Kingdom of God that really matters, that has eternal significance, because it is so much bigger than myself.
Come, Holy Spirit, mold-breaker, and fill our hearts with your love!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Two recommendations

Issues etc. is back! It began again June 30. It can be found at
Live internet radio from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. ET

Here is a great site that plays sacred music -

Thursday, July 3, 2008

read the declaration

"Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God? Thomas Jefferson

May I encourage you to read the Declaration of Independence and ask: What is the Foundation of Freedom?

America’s Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4th 1776, has been called the true Preamble to the Constitution. Notice the following passage, especially the highlighted phrases:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

led by the Spirit

Sometimes we are given the grace to see things in Scripture that we haven't seen before. I trust this will continue until the Last Day when we will see face to face.
"Let seven priests holding seven holy trumpets likewise pass before the Lord, and let them signal vigorously; and let the ark of the covenant of the Lord follow after them. Let the men of war go in front, and let the priests be the rear guard behind the ark of the covenant of the Lord as they proceed, and sound the trumpets" (Joshua 6:7-8). As the story unfolds, the entire people followed in procession around the walls of Jericho once a day for six days, and on the seventh day they went around the city seven times after which "the priests sounded the trumpets, and when the people heard the sound of the trumpets, all the poeple shouted together with a great and mighty shout. Then the entire wall fell round about, and all the people went into the city" (Joshua 6:19).
What I saw more clearly: the blessing of following the Holy Spirit (always connected to the Word and Sacraments), represented by the number seven (cf. Revelation 1:4) as we go through this life enlisted in the "church militant". Being led by the Spirit results in God's good and gracious will being done among us also, in God's perfect time and in His supernatural way -- always beyond anything we coud have imagined.
Let's join in prayer this day: "Almighty God, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, come to my help and deliver me from this difficulty that besets me. I believe Lord, that all trials of life are under Your care and that all things work for the good of those who love You. Take away from me fear, anxiety and distress. Help me to face and endure my difficulty with faith, courage and wisdom. Grant that this trial may bring me closer to You for You are my rock and refuge, my comfort and hope, my delight and joy. I trust in Your love and compassion. Blessed is Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

summer reading

The Catalog of Testimonies (an appendix to the 1580 Book of Concord) deserves to be better read and studied by evangelical-catholics, if for no other reason, than to marvel at how familiar 16th century theologians were with the early Church Fathers. Why did they create the Catalog? "Therefore they are printed in goodly number as an appendix at the end of this book, in regard to particular points, for the purpose of furnishing a correct and thorough account to the Christan reader, whereby he may perceive and readily discover that in the aforesaid book nothing new has been introduced either in rebus (matter) or in phrasibus (expressions), that is, neither as regards the doctrine nor the manner of teaching it, but that we have taught and spoken concerning this mystery just as, first of all, the Holy Scriptures and afterwards the ancient pure Church have done."
Just one small example, quoting the Council of Chalcedon:
"Following, then, the holy fathers, we confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and we all set forth with one voice that the same is perfect in deity and the same perfect in humanity; that the same is truly God and truly man, consisting of a rational soul and a body; that He is consubstantial with the Father as regards the deity, and that the same is consubstantial with us according to the humanity; that He is in all respects like us, excepting sin; that He was begotten before the world out of the Father according to the deity, but that the same person was in the last days born for us and for our salvation of Mary, the virgin and mother of God, according to the humanity."