Friday, July 24, 2009

leaders of the church

GRAND RAPIDS -- Amy Fleming started going to summer conferences for young Lutherans because her father, a local pastor, suggested it.

Now she returns each year to see old friends.

So next week's Sola 2009 gathering of about 900 teenagers at Calvin College will be a reunion of sorts for Fleming, one that organizers hope will continue reshaping her identity from Lutheran pastor's daughter to Lutheran woman.

"Just being with some of those people helps strengthen your faith that you're not the only one out there," said Fleming, who will be a senior this fall at West Michigan Lutheran High School.

The conference, Tuesday through Friday, dares young Lutherans to grab hold of their faith.

It is organized by Higher Things, a grassroots effort of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which ran a similar conference this month for about 800 teenagers in San Antonio.

Like many Christian churches, the denomination is losing touch with what could be its next generation of leaders, said the Rev. William Cwirla, a California pastor and president of Higher Things.

"It's a genuine concern for us that a large number of young people abandon the faith of their fathers when they are given the freedom to stand on their own two feet," he said. "Part of the problem is they haven't been apprenticed."

Cwirla said Higher Things puts the tools of Christian faith in teenage hands, urging youth to see the faith as a tradition that perhaps they can uphold better than the previous generation.

Named on the theme "Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone," Sola aims to cultivate a Lutheran identity through three to four daily worship services and a series of workshops offering a Lutheran take on topics ranging from atheism to economics to relationships to organ playing.

"We're daring them to embrace their Christian faith and their Lutheran tradition," Cwirla said.

"Kids like a crowd, and kids like to see other kids from different parts of the country worshipping the same way and believing the same things.

"These kids develop long-distance, long-term relationships with each other. The conference becomes like an annual reunion. We've had Higher Things marriages and Higher Things babies, in that order."

Cwirla said the "liturgical, hymn book worship" steers clear of laser light shows and rock bands, embracing organ music instead.

"I think American culture more and more sees worship as a kind of personal entertainment event," he said. "The focus (in worship) is not on us and what we're doing and how we're feeling, but the focus is on God in Christ, the gifts of Jesus Christ. Out of that come our prayers and our hymns."

Although formal, worship at past conferences has been loud, Fleming said.

"It's amazing because everyone sings," she said. "When you're surrounded by all those people, it's sort of like more OK to do it."

sing to the Lord

Lord Jesus, We Give Thanks to Thee; Christoph Fischer 1597 (TLH 173);

Lord Jesus we give thanks to Thee
That thou has died to set us free;
Made righteous thro’ Thy precious blood,
We now are reconciled to God.

By virtue of Thy wounds we pray,
True God and Man, be Thou our Stay,
Our Comfort when we yield our breath,
Our Rescue from eternal death.

Defend us Lord, from sin and shame;
Help us by Thine almighty name
To bear our crosses patiently,
Consoled by Thy great agony.

And thus the full assurance gain
That Thou to us wilt true remain
And not forsake us in our strife
Until we enter into life.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

holy anger

Do we not understand that the stings of anger have also been given to us for a very good reason, so that we might be displeased with our vices and errors and occupy ourselves instead with virtue and spiritual pursuits by being most loving to God and patient to our brothers?

- St. John Cassian, The Institutes VII.iii.3, trans. Boniface Ramsey [NY: Newman, 2000], p. 170).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

why do we commune?

In the first prayer of St. John Chrysostom in the Prayers Before Communion:

For it is not insolently that I draw near to Thee, O Christ my God, but as taking courage from Thy unspeakable goodness, and that I may not by long abstaining from Thy communion become a prey to the spiritual wolf.

from the worship/concord journal

I like using the metaphor of a tennis match to explain the idea of Gottesdienst, because it visually captures the rhythm of worship. Throughout the traditional worship service, the act of “serving” moves back and forth between God and the worshipers. First, God (astonishingly!) comes to us. The Creator of all things chooses to serve his people with a great gift, placing his Name of blessing upon our gathering. As a tennis ball is then returned over the net, we respond to God’s action in the only way that makes sense, by falling to our knees and confessing our unworthiness.

Speaking through his called and ordained servants, God then serves our greatest need through the assurance of forgiveness. In response, we offer a song of praise and words of prayer. We are then once again the recipients of service through the reading of his Word, the great source of faith and growth. And on it goes, back and forth, in a deliberate and beautiful pattern of giving and responding.

But the tennis match metaphor has a significant weakness. It implies an activity played out by equals. Although our responses – our prayers and praise, confessions and offerings – are a core element of worship, they are only that: responses to the great things God is doing as we gather in his name. I am only a hungry beggar. I do not go to worship because I have something I want to say to God, or because I have to show him how much I love him. I go to worship because I am starving, and God has invited me to a feast. Perhaps surprisingly, in our fallen world, the function of divine worship is not primarily to satisfy God’s righteous desire for praise and honor. Rather, as described in the Lutheran Confessions, “The chief worship of God is to preach the Gospel” (Apology XV.42; see also Apology IV.152-154; IV.310).

Worship is a place and time in which Christ’s forgiveness is offered through readings, preaching, sacraments, song. By the Spirit’s work, it is a place and time in which this saving Gospel is received and believed. And as those things happen – as children of God are born and comforted and strengthened – it is a place and time in which we unworthy guests are invited and enabled to join the angels themselves in great songs of “praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Timothy Frusti

+ sdg +

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NEA strikes again

The National Education Association has thrown its full support behind homosexual "marriage."

The NEA recently held its annual convention in San Diego, California, where members voted on two issues of importance to those involved in the culture war. One of those issues was whether the union would support same-gender marriage. According to Jeralee Smith, co-founder of the Conservative Educators Caucus, the resolution passed by roughly a two-thirds majority.

"There are quite a few items where the NEA absolutely puts its political muscle behind taking down any legislation in any state that they consider to be discriminatory to homosexuals," says Smith. "And some of the language in the resolution also hints that the NEA will try to take down the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] on the federal level."

Smith told Baptist Press that when a representative of the Conservative Caucus spoke against the resolution and mentioned the words "marriage should be between a man and a woman," the speaker was booed.

Also up for a vote was a resolution for the NEA to take a "no position" stance on the issue of abortion. That proposal was voted down 61 percent to 39 percent.

During the meeting, the organization's retiring general counsel, Bob Chanin, complained that "conservative and right-wing bastards" are after the NEA and its state affiliates. Smith called that statement "refreshing honesty" on Chanin's part about how he feels about conservatives. (See related article from

from Larry Christenson

"One of the great traps in living the Christian life is the tendency to substitute principles for the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit...The danger in this approach is that it can foster a belief in Scripture that effectively neutralizes the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans run the danger of all but handcuffing the Spirit to "Word and Sacrament". THe Holy Spirit is politely invited to confine His work to inspiring and authenticating the Word. We end up with a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Scripture....The ways of the Kingdom of God cannot be mastered simply by knowledge...We need divine presence, we need the indwelling Holy Spirit."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bishop Bo Giertz on Baptism

That baptism truly can be the foundation for a person’s deepest personal
faith—this is rarely seen when one looks out into the world. Rather, the vast
majority break their baptismal covenant. It can occur through wilful defiance
of God’s commandments or disregard of God himself, which most clearly
manifests itself in that one never prays and never seeks His church. More or
less intentionally, man has for his part ended the covenant with God. But he
is not capable of destroying it. I certainly cannot nullify God’s promises; I
cannot wipe out the heading which he has written over my life. It follows me
as an accusation—but also as a promise. I have an inheritance, which, it is
true, I can scorn, but which nonetheless is preserved with God and is waiting
for me. Even more so: I have a home. I can leave this home and become a
prodigal son. But I cannot wipe out the fact that I have a home and a Father
who has not forgotten His child and never ceases to yearn for it. I also cannot
prevent Him from seeking me and sending offers to me.
And this is exactly what God does. So this is how “man finds the way to

Monday, July 13, 2009

let us pray

Prayer at Daybreak
to be said each day on rising from sleep

Eternal King without beginning, You who are before all worlds, my Maker, Who have summoned all things from non-being into this life: bless this day that You, in Your inscrutable goodness, give to me. By the power of Your blessing enable me at all times in this coming day to speak and act for You, to Your glory, in Your fear, according to Your will, with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage, wisdom and prayer, aware everywhere of Your presence.

Yes, Lord, in Your immense mercy, lead me by Your Holy Spirit into every good work and word, and grant me to walk all my life long in Your sight without stumbling, according to Your righteousness that You have revealed to us, that I may not add to my transgressions.

O Lord, great in mercy, spare me who am perishing in wickedness; do not hide Your face from me. And when my perverted will would lead me down other paths, do not forsake me, my Savior, but force me back to Your holy path.

O You Who are good, to Whom all hearts are open, You know my poverty and my foolishness, my blindness and my uselessness, but the sufferings of my soul are also before You. Wherefore I beseech You: hear me in my affliction and fill me with Your strength from above. Raise me up who am paralyzed with sin, and deliver me who am enslaved to the passions. Heal me from every hidden wound. Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit. Preserve me from every inward and outward impulse that is unpleasing in Your sight and hurtful to my brother.

I beseech You: establish me in the path of Your commandments and to my last breath do not let me stray from the light of Your ordinances, so that Your commandments may become the sole law of my being in this life and in all eternity.

O God, my God, I plead with You for many and great things: do not disregard me. Do not cast me away from Your presence because of my presumption and boldness, but by the power of Your love lead me in the path of Your will. Grant me to love You as You have commanded, with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength: with my whole being.

For You alone are the holy protection and all-powerful defender of my life, and to You I ascribe glory and offer my prayer.

Grant me to know Your truth before I depart this life. Maintain my life in this world until I may offer You true repentance. Do not take me away in the midst of my days, and when You are pleased to bring my life to an end, forewarn me of my death, so that I may prepare my soul to come before You.

Be with me then, O Lord, on my great and sacred day, and grant me the joy of Your salvation. Cleanse me from manifest and secret sins, from all iniquity hidden in me; and give me a right answer before Your dread judgment-seat.


Friday, July 10, 2009

unfortunate necessities

In late 2007, Congressman Ron Paul introduced the American Freedom Agenda Act of
2007. The Act says, "No officer or agent of the United States shall kidnap, imprison, or torture any person abroad based solely on the President's belief that the subject of the kidnapping, imprisonment, or torture is a criminal or enemy combatant: provided that kidnapping shall be permitted if undertaken with the intent of bringing the kidnapped person for prosecution or interrogation to gather intelligence before a tribunal that meets international standards of fairness and due process." Knowing violations of this section are to be punished as felonies. Paul states, 'It amazes me that this kind of legislation should even be necessary in America. These are principles that Americans should insist their presidents not only observe, but actually believe in.' (The Revolution, p. 124)
Is this the USA we live in or Stalinist Russia?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

overruling Providence

In the exercise of this power of intermeddling with the private pursuits and individual occupations of the citizen a Government may at pleasure elevate one class and depress another; it may one day legislate exclusively for the farmer, the next for the mechanic, and the third for the manufacturer, who all thus become the mere puppets of legislative cobbling and tinkering, instead of independent citizens, relying on their own resources for their prosperity. It assumes the functions which belong alone to an overruling Providence, and affects to become the universal dispenser of good and evil.
(The Revolution by Ron Paul, p. 72 -- quoting William Leggett)

Friday, July 3, 2009

from the founding fathers

Before the Inhabitants
the Town of Newburyport,
at their request,
the Sixty-First Anniversary
the Declaration of Independence,
July 4th, 1837.

By John Quincy Adams.

"Say ye not, A Confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say A Confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid." Isaiah 8:12.


Why is it, Friends and Fellow Citizens, that you are here assembled? Why is it, that, entering upon the sixty-second year of our national existence, you have honored with an invitation to address you from this place, a fellow citizen of a former age, bearing in the records of his memory, the warm and vivid affections which attached him, at the distance of a full half century, to your town, and to your forefathers, then the cherished associates of his youthful days? Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? – And why is it that, among the swarming myriads of our population, thousands and tens of thousands among us, abstaining, under the dictate of religious principle, from the commemoration of that birth-day of Him, who brought life and immortality to light, yet unite with all their brethren of this community, year after year, in celebrating this, the birth-day of the nation?

Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?

sage advice

From Second Terrace, a blog by Fr. Jonathan:

A man gets married and has a wife as his closest friend, and children for whom he lays down his life. He has friends. There are no "soul mates."

Making a soul mate with someone else, while married, is already unchaste.

So here is my suggestion for a rewrite of Sanford's script. So that in the movie version, the actor can do his role better than he actually did:

Governor Sanford: "I betrayed my wife, as I have done so numerous times."

"I am unchaste. The passion of lust is in control of my soul."

"I resign all public office."

"I will learn about remorse. I will ask for the sacraments."

"I will repent and be baptized. I will seek to be born again."

Then, maybe, the image of manhood will emerge just ever so slightly out of the murky depths.