Thursday, December 31, 2009

Philosopher's New Year

the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short -- Hobbes

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

+ Christ-Mass Eve +
24 December 2009
Your joy may be full John 16:24

Merry Christmas! In our family, one of the important preparations for Christmas is making and distributing your Christmas gift list. The Christmas gift list is one way of letting your family and friends know what it is you are asking for this year at Christmas. Usually, these lists are comprised of things you can buy with money. Let me hasten to add there’s nothing wrong with that. However, we would do well to remember that Gift-Giving is only one of the five basic love languages. Here are the other four. Words of Affirmation: in Letters from Dad this year nine guys from Concordia discovered how powerful personal letters of love and appreciation can be. Quality Time: When our power went out last Friday night, we lit candles and played Apples to Apples together for over three hours – what an expression of love and family closeness. Acts of Service: can you cook meals, clean house, paint walls, wash and wax cars, cut grass, sew clothes? You can give love. Physical Touch and Closeness: can you give hugs, or hold hands on a walk? You can give love. and last but not least, Gift-Giving: most likely you’ve got that one covered. When Jesus says in our text, Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. I can’t help but remember that He also said, “love one another as I have loved you.” So what I’m asking Jesus for this Christmas is to learn how to love people just as God loves all of us.
Receiving and giving such a gift of love will truly make our joy full and overflowing to those who live as if God had never sent His Son to be our Savior from sin and death.

1. There is joy when the virgin bears a son: Emmanuel!
a. There is joy when The Virgin’s Son comes as the God-promised sign: For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given! Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.
b. There is joy when God is with us – Visible Words!
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices; for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born. O night divine, O night, O night divine.

2. There is joy when the love of God is made manifest among us
a. We are given joy as we see how God sent his Son into the world to save his people from
their sins. In the Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden, the Blessed Virgin Mary says, “when I was nursing my Son, he was endowed with such great beauty that whoever looked upon him was consoled and relieved of any sorrow he may have had in his heart. And so, many people said to one another, “Let us go to see Mary’s Son, that we may be consoled.”
b. We are given joy as we confess that Jesus is the Son of God, abide in God and love one another.
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we; let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever; His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

3. There is joy as we welcome and obey the Word of God
a. Joseph’s change of plans!
b. What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it?
In closing, I offer you this Christmas prayer by Ian Oliver, who serves as pastor at Yale University Church.
On that holy night
It happened.

God took a handful of humanity:
Proud, petulant, passionate;
And a handful of divinity:
Undivided, inexpressible, incomprehensible:
And enclosed them in one small body.

Somehow, the all too human
Touched the divine,
And was not vaporized.
To be human was never the same,
But forever thereafter,
Carried a hint of its close encounter with the perfect.
And forever thereafter,
God was never the same,
But carried a hint of the passion of the mortal.

If God can lie down in a cattle-trough,
Is any object safe from transformation?
If peasant girls can be mothers to God,
Is any life safe from the invasion of the eternal?
If all this could happen, o God,
What places of darkness on our earth
Are pregnant with light waiting to be born this night?

If all this could happen, O God,
Then you could be, and are, anywhere, everywhere,
Waiting to be born this night in the most
Unbelievable places;
Perhaps even in our own hearts. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

our vision

"The Holy Spirit gives the Church her vision,
which comes from our identity in Christ as His Body.
This vision is identical with the
vision of all those who have gone before us
precisely because it is the same Body, with the
same vocation, mission, and identity: to be the
Body of Christ: the One, Holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic Church. Whenever we add elements to
that vision, we distort it, no matter how noble our
qualifications and agendas may be. Whenever we
subtract from or diminish it, we do likewise. If we
change the vision in any way, we exclude ourselves
from it and from the Body which it constitutes." Metropolitan Jonah +

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the bishops' letter on family

Read the entire document at:

"At the same time we are troubled by the fact that far too many people do not understand what it means to say that marriage—both as a natural institution and a Christian sacrament—is a blessing and gift from God. We observe, for example, that some people esteem marriage as an ideal but can be reluctant to make the actual commitment necessary to enter and sustain it. Some choose instead to live in cohabiting relationships that may or may not lead to marriage and can be detrimental to the well-being of themselves and any children.
In addition, the incidence of divorce remains high. The social sanctions and legal barriers to ending one‘s marriage have all but disappeared, and the negative effects of divorce on children, families, and the community have become more apparent in recent decades.
We are alarmed that a couple‘s responsibility to serve life by being open to children is being denied and abandoned more frequently today. Couples too often reflect a lack of understanding of the purposes of marriage. There is a loss of belief in the value of those purposes when couples readily treat, as separate choices, the decisions to get married and to have children. This indicates a mentality in which children are seen not as integral to a marriage but as optional. When children are viewed in this way, there can be damaging consequences not only for them but also for the marriage itself.
We note a disturbing trend today to view marriage as a mostly private matter, an individualistic project not related to the common good but oriented mostly to achieving personal satisfaction.
Finally, we bishops feel compelled to speak out against all attempts to redefine marriage so that it would no longer be exclusively the union of a man and a woman as God established and blessed it in the natural created order."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Luther still relevant

From "Where have the young people gone?: Some churches suffering loss of attendance" By Lucienda Denson (The Broken Arrow Ledger),

...The Rev. John Wilke, senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church [in Broken Arrow, OK], has read the book (“Already Gone,” by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard.) and said he found it to be a fascinating study.

He cited one of Luther’s writings as something for church leaders to consider: “A faith that costs nothing and demands nothing is worth nothing.”

“I think that is where the church is today. I get too many things in the mail from churches that say, ‘Come just the way you are, you don’t have to change,’” Wilke, said.

“While God loves you where you are, he expects you to change. We don’t put the fear of God in our churches, we don’t have that respect. We’ve made Jesus our homeboy. He’s not our homeboy, he’s our Saviour.”

Wilke said the only church he knows of that is experiencing growth in the 20-to-29-year old age group is the Greek Orthodox Church.

“The Greek Orthodox Church is a liturgical church. Kids want to return to something different from what they get from the world. If we want to reach these kids again, we are going to have to return to what the early church was doing. We need to raise the bar,” he said.

an idea whose time has come?

Possibilities that you will not perceive in the mainstream media are permeating the population.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gaudete Sunday

+ Third Sunday in Advent +
13 December 2009
The LORD rejoices over His people

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." Zephaniah 3:17

Listen to Jesus who talked about His joy being imparted to His disciples. He said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)
"And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." (John 17:13)
Now, if Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), when Jesus says "my joy", He could well mean "my Father's joy". There's another analogy given in a verse likening God's joy to that of a groom rejoicing because of his bride (Isaiah 62:5 - "as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee"). Certainly if a proud father rejoices because of his righteous and wise son (Proverbs 23:24), certainly God, our heavenly Father, also rejoices when His children are righteous and wise.
But the most direct statement we have concerning the Joy of God is found in Zephaniah 3:17.
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Because God lives among us and rejoices over us, He invites us to be always ready for His coming by sharing his death - defeating joy with a weary, defeated world.
1. God is living among you as a mighty Savior
a. Who is living among us? Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
b. Prayer of humble access: We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful
Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

2. God takes delight in you with gladness
a. There is a wonderful collection of messages about God's joy in Luke 15.
-- There is joy over the one found lamb.
When the shepherd, leaving the 99 safe sheep, finds the one that was lost, Jesus compares the joy of the shepherd to that experienced in heaven. "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7)
Of course we know Jesus as the Good Shepherd, but God in the Old Testament is also known as "shepherd" (Psalm 80:1).
-- There is joy over the found coin.
After telling the story of the woman who finally found her dowry coin, Jesus says, "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." ( Luke 15:10) Most people think that it is the angels who are doing the rejoicing. But it doesn't say that. The rejoicing is "in the presence of the angels". So who's celebrating? Could it be God?
Whenever there is repentance and conversion, there is joy in heaven. Surely the Father would be involved in this celebration.
-- There is joy over the returned son.
This is the final story in this trilogy about joy. Notice, it is the father in the story who throws the party, and then tries to talk the elder brother into joining it. "Let's have a feast and celebrate."
( Luke 15:23) Is there any doubt that this shows God the Father rejoicing?
So we see that there are several analogies that indicate that God is rejoicing:
The shepherd rejoices because of his found lamb; The home maker rejoices because of her found coin; The father rejoices because of because of his returned son.
b. Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. Definition: The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit.

3. God calms your fears with His love and rejoices over you with joyful songs.

a. Let God calm your fears with His love as a parent comforts his/her child – kept in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You.
b. What a witness – joy in the midst of suffering, dying.
Remissio peccatorum soll dich froelich machen!


Remissio peccatorum soll dich froelich machen!

Friday, December 11, 2009


Here in East Tennessee, the fires of liberty are still burning. Keeping hope alive;

Thursday, December 10, 2009

they're drinking the kool-aid

"In October 2009 the LWF Council at its meeting in Chavannes-de-Bogis near Geneva called on member churches "to observe 13 December 2009 as a day for prayer, confession and action on the issue of climate change." Churches around the world were invited to join churches throughout Denmark on that day in ringing bells or taking other symbolic actions in solidarity for climate justice, Noko added. According to Noko, the LWF "has committed itself to raising up the voices of the vulnerable and the poor, highlighting especially the impacts of climate change on food insecurity and increasing human vulnerability."
(LWF = Lutheran World Federation)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This is not us!

CHICAGO - The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is suggesting that the Bible isn't the last word on homosexuality.

In a town hall meeting Sunday, Bishop Mark Hanson said, "the understanding we have of homosexuality today does not seem to be reflected at all in the context of the biblical writers." Therefore, he said, Lutherans should consider more modern views on sexual orientation.

At its churchwide convention in August, the ELCA lifted its ban on partnered gay and lesbian clergy, prompting some traditional congregations to withhold funds and begin forming a separate denomination.

But Hanson insisted the ELCA can accommodate both views. In his words, "God is still speaking to us."

He also suggests that more homosexual-friendly policies may help the denomination grow.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Second Sunday in Advent

Ready for His Coming
The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

1. Made Ready for His Coming by the purifying word
a. The body of Christ is purified by the Word
b. The individual believer is purified by the Word
 Acknowledge the reality of your struggles and sin
 Confess your sin
 Repent of your sin, which means turning from it and rejecting it
 Seek assistance through accountability
 Destroy all material evidence, internet access and other occasions of sins be they people, places or things.
 Put yourself under the spiritual direction of a mature believer
 Make amends, where possible, with anyone you have harmed
 Focus on learning more about Jesus, his love and sacrifice for you
 Find ways to serve others instead of yourself
 Continually turn away from deeper sins as they come to light

2. Made Ready for His Coming by the word of grace
a. The word of grace is present even in imprisonment
b. The word of grace allows us to defend and confirm the gospel

3. Made Ready for His coming by bearing fruits in keeping with repentance
a. Valleys filled, mountain and hill made low, crooked straight, rough places become level ways that all flesh may see the salvation of our God.
b. 2 Peter 1:2-11; 3:8-18.

don't forget St. Nick!

Almighty God, You bestowed upon Your servant Nicholas of Myra the perpetual gift of charity. Grant Your Church the grace to deal in generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and distressed and to plead the cause of those who have no helper, especially those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief. We ask this for the sake of Him who gave His life for us, Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Treasury, p. 989

Friday, December 4, 2009

contemplate creation

In the world of God all the creatures of God, wisely fashioned, are ranged on one side, while on the other are ranged men, endowed with the power of reason, to the end that with this power of reason they may contemplate the creatures and, seeing infinite wisdom in their creation and organization, may rise to the knowledge and contemplation of the hypostatical Word, that is before time, the Word, by whom "all things were made" (Jn 1:3). Thus from actions we naturally see him who acts, so we have but to judge rightly and soundly, and finding faith in what he has created we shall see in the creation its Creator, God.
(Fr. Lorenze Scupoli + 1610)

John of Damascus

But since some find fault with us for worshipping and honouring the image of our Saviour and that of our Lady, and those, too, of the rest of the saints and servants of Christ, let them remember that in the beginning God created man after His own image. On what grounds, then, do we shew reference to each other unless because we are made after God's image? For as Basil (the Great, c. 330-379), that much-versed expounder of divine things, says, the honour given to the image passes over to the prototype. Now a prototype is that which is imaged, from that which the derivative is obtained.
But besides this who can make an imitation of the invisible, incorporeal, uncircumscribed, formless God? Therefore to give form to the Deity is the height of folly and impiety. And hence it is that in the Old Testament the use of images was not uncommon. But after God in His bowels of pity became in truth man for our salvation, not as He was seen by Abraham in the semblance of a man, nor as He was seen by the prophets, but in being truly man, and after He lived upon the earth and dwelt among men, worked miracles, suffered, was crucified, rose again and was taken back to Heaven, since all these things actually took place and were seen by men, they were written for the remembrance and instruction of us who were not alive at that time in order that though we saw not, we may still, hearing and believing, obtain the blessing of the Lord. But seeing that not every one has a knowledge of letters nor time for reading, the Fathers gave their sanction to depicting these events on images as being acts of great heroism, in order that they should form a concise memorial of them. Often, doubtless, when we have not the Lord's passion in mind and see the image of Christ's crucifixion, His saving passion is brought back to remembrance, and we fall down and worship not the material but that which is imaged: just as we do not worship the material of which the Gospels are made, nor the material of the Cross, but that which these typify. For wherein does the cross, that typifies the Lord, differ from a cross that does not do so? it is just the same also in the case of the Mother of the Lord. For the honour which we give to her is referred to Him Who was made of her incarnate. And similarly also the brave acts of holy men stir us up to be brave and to emulate and imitate their valor and to glorify God. For as we said, the honour that is given to the best of fellow-servants is a proof of good-will towards our common Lady, and the honour rendered to the image passes over to the prototype. But this is an unwritten tradition, just as is also the worshipping towards the East and the worship of the Cross, and very many other similar things.
Moreover that the Apostles handed down much that was unwritten, Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, tells us in these words: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and bold the traditions which ye have been taught of us, whether by word or by epistle." And to the Corinthians he writes, "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I have delivered them to you."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

real peace

The theme of our first mid-week Advent service was REAL PEACE:


"I hope that God will supply everything and I feel a confidence in his divine Providence which keeps me above all troubles. So I remain calm and in peace in the midst of a thousand worries and complications in which I should have expected, naturally speaking, to be overwhelmed...Let us accept everything from the hand of our good Father, and he will keep us in peace in the midst of all the greatest disasters of this world, the fashion of which passes away in a flash. Our life will be holy and tranquil in proportion as we trust in God and abandon ourselves to him. Without that self-abandonment, there is no solid virtue, no sure repose."
(Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Claus Harms 95 Theses -- 1817

94. Herrlicher als beide ist die evangelische-lutherische Kirche. Sie haelt und bildet sich Sakrament wie am Worte Gottes.
(my translation/paraphrase) More glorious than either (Catholic or Reformed) is the evangelical-lutheran Church. She keeps and builds herself on the Sacrament as on the Word of God.

worship reasons

A contemporary understanding of what it means to be Lutheran in terms of the liturgy, then, assiduously arms the freedom that is ours under the gospel on the one hand. On the other, Lutheran liturgical understanding regards highly the liturgical heritage of catholic Christianity, in its freedom adapting it as necessary to the changing exigencies of history and culture, but treasuring and conserving it with all deliberateness for its time proven utility and for the continuity it visibly proclaims with the Church catholic of ages past. To borrow a phrase from Charles Porterfield Krauth, the continuity of the Lutheran liturgy is one of the most visible aspects of the grace given the “conservative reformation.” (From the WELS website)