Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nativity Homily by John Chrysostom

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been 'in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.


Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant's food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.


To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Keeping ChristMass

(by Fr. Mark Sietsema) But if we say “Keep the Mass in Christmas,” the point is this. Christmas isn't really Christ-mas without the Mass, without the Divine Liturgy. Christmas isn't Christmas if we don't make a point of coming together on the appointed day, with all the people of God, to observe the commandment that He gave, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Christmas isn't Christmas if we don't share the Eucharistic meal of His Body and Blood with one another in the Church. How is Christmas complete without receiving your most important gift?

Christ came to earth, not simply to be born in a lowly stable in Palestine, but to be born into the humble stable of the soul of each one of us. Through the sacraments He enters into our persons so that, as the Apostle Paul says, Christ is formed in you; and with Christ in you, you have the hope of glory.

Keep the Mass in your Christmas! Of course you should get together with family and friends. Of course you should open your presents around the tree. Of course you should enjoy your eggnog and mulled wine and ham and turkey and roast beast.

But don't forget the Mass! Don't skip the Liturgy! Don't leave out Holy Communion. If you do so, you are missing the real Christmas altogether. Come to church and worship the newborn King in the way that he Himself commands, by eating His Body and drinking His Blood. Keep the “Mass” in Christmas, and you will never lose “Christ” from your Christmas either.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

John Donne (1572 - 1631)


Immensity, cloister'd in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-beloved imprisonment.
There he hath made himself to his intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come.
But O ! for thee, for Him, hath th' inn no room ?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from th' orient,
Stars, and wise men will travel to prevent
The effects of Herod's jealous general doom.
See'st thou, my soul, with thy faith's eye, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie ?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee ?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete semper!

Third Sunday in Advent 11 December 2011
How to keep the joy alive!
I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10
A beautiful bride or a handsome groom on their wedding day receive a gift of overwhelming joy from God. How to keep that joy and love alive as the vows say for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and health until we are parted by death remains for many an elusive mystery – hard to hold onto as a slippery bar of soap. The same could sometimes be said of our new life in Christ. We wonder where the joy of our salvation has gone – especially as the days grow shorter and darker -- many of us are sowing in tears as the Psalm says even on this third Sunday in Advent that calls us to rejoice always! Despite the inherent difficulties God not only desires but enables us to keep the joy of believing alive.
1. Keep the joy of believing alive by the gift of prayer and thanksgiving
a. Receive the gift as a holy habit, not based on feelings
b. Receive the gift in the church – psalms, hymns, canticles.
e.g. O Magnum Mysterium: O great mystery and wonderful sacrament: that animals see the infant Lord lying in a manger. Blessed is the virgin whose womb was worthy to carry the Lord Christ. Alleluia!

2. Keep the joy of believing alive by the gift of testing and holding fast.
a. False prophets and deceiving spirits can steal our joy
b. All believers need to examine all things with great care – even the Bereans did not blindly accept the preaching the holy apostle Paul, but searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
3. Keep the joy of believing alive by the gift of abstaining from every form of evil.
a. Forsaking all others, remain united to him/her alone, so long as you both shall live? What amazing freedom, to treat all others as sisters and brothers! Don’t even think about unfaithfulness to Christ!
b. “He who goes out weeping, bearing seed for sowing…” no matter our circumstances, we can be about our Father’s business: sowing seeds of kindness, friendship, hospitality, charity so that there remains not even standing room only for every form of evil.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy New year -- First Advent!

First Sunday in Advent 27 November 2011
What’s next? Mark 11:2-3.
“Go into the village just ahead of you and as soon as you enter it you will find a tethered colt on which no one has yet ridden. Untie it, and bring it here. If anybody asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it, and will send it back immediately.’”

1. What’s next in general…
a. Physical trials and persecutions. Mark 13:5-10. Jesus answered: Watch out and don't let anyone fool you! 6Many will come and claim to be me. They will use my name and fool many people.
7When you hear about wars and threats of wars, don't be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn't the end. 8Nations and kingdoms will go to war against each other. There will be earthquakes in many places, and people will starve to death. But this is just the beginning of troubles.
9Be on your guard! You will be taken to courts and beaten with whips in their meeting places. And because of me, you will have to stand before rulers and kings to tell about your faith. 10But before the end comes, the good news must be preached to all nations.

b. Spiritual trials and suffering. Mark 13:19-22 19It will be a time of misery that has not happened from the beginning of God’s creation until now, and will certainly never happen again. 20If the Lord does not reduce that time, no one will be saved. But those days will be reduced because of those whom God has chosen.
21“At that time don’t believe anyone who tells you, ‘Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ 22False Christs and false prophets will appear. They will work miraculous signs and do wonderful things to deceive, if possible, those whom God has chosen.

2. What’s next – specifically…
a. God cares about details and seemingly small matters – donkeys!
b. God calls us to walk by a childlike trust and confidence

3. What’s next – Jesus with us always
a. …according to His assumed human nature and with the same, He can be, and also is, present where He will, and especially that in His Church and congregation on earth He is present as Mediator, Head, King, and High Priest, not in part, or one-half of Him only, but the entire person of Christ is present, to which both natures belong, the divine and the human; not only according to His divinity, but also according to, and with, His assumed human nature, according to which He is our Brother, and we are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. Even as He has instituted His Holy Supper for the certain assurance and confirmation of this, that also according to that nature according to which He has flesh and blood He will be with us, and dwell, work, and be efficacious in us. (Solid Declaration)
b. Jesus’ “earthly ministry” will continue in our witness, mercy and life-together throughout this new church year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The not-so-great commission

(thanks to Rev. Todd Wilken for this)
How does the Great Commission read in many churches today?
I'm in charge. Therefore, go and make fully devoted Christ-followers by a process that moves people along a spiritual growth continuum. After they have started on the continuum, but only when they are old enough, baptize them as a symbol of their commitment and obedience. Teach them, matching your message to their interests. But after they reach the level of fully-devoted Christ-follower, they should be "self-feeders." And behold, I'll be with you in spirit, but I am leaving. The rest is up to you.
Any disagreemtns that this indeed is what passes for evangelical Chrisianity in America today?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

good advice to OWS

Townhall Columnists Marybeth Hicks

Some Belated Parental Advice to Protesters
Marybeth Hicks

Oct 20, 2011 Sign-Up Call it an occupational hazard, but I can’t look at the Occupy Wall Street protesters without thinking, “Who parented these people?”

As a culture columnist, I’ve commented on the social and political ramifications of the “movement” - now known as “OWS” - whose fairyland agenda can be summarized by one of their placards: “Everything for everybody.”

Thanks to their pipe-dream platform, it’s clear there are people with serious designs on “transformational” change in America who are using the protesters like bedsprings in a brothel.

Yet it’s not my role as a commentator that prompts my parenting question, but rather the fact that I’m the mother of four teens and young adults. There are some crucial life lessons that the protesters’ moms clearly have not passed along.

Here, then, are five things the OWS protesters’ mothers should have taught their children but obviously didn’t, so I will:

• Life isn’t fair. The concept of justice - that everyone should be treated fairly - is a worthy and worthwhile moral imperative on which our nation was founded. But justice and economic equality are not the same. Or, as Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want.”

No matter how you try to “level the playing field,” some people have better luck, skills, talents or connections that land them in better places. Some seem to have all the advantages in life but squander them, others play the modest hand they’re dealt and make up the difference in hard work and perseverance, and some find jobs on Wall Street and eventually buy houses in the Hamptons. Is it fair? Stupid question.

• Nothing is “free.” Protesting with signs that seek “free” college degrees and “free” health care make you look like idiots, because colleges and hospitals don’t operate on rainbows and sunshine. There is no magic money machine to tap for your meandering educational careers and “slow paths” to adulthood, and the 53 percent of taxpaying Americans owe you neither a degree nor an annual physical.

While I’m pointing out this obvious fact, here are a few other things that are not free: overtime for police officers and municipal workers, trash hauling, repairs to fixtures and property, condoms, Band-Aids and the food that inexplicably appears on the tables in your makeshift protest kitchens. Real people with real dollars are underwriting your civic temper tantrum.

• Your word is your bond. When you demonstrate to eliminate student loan debt, you are advocating precisely the lack of integrity you decry in others. Loans are made based on solemn promises to repay them. No one forces you to borrow money; you are free to choose educational pursuits that don’t require loans, or to seek technical or vocational training that allows you to support yourself and your ongoing educational goals. Also, for the record, being a college student is not a state of victimization. It’s a privilege that billions of young people around the globe would die for - literally.

• A protest is not a party. On Saturday in New York, while making a mad dash from my cab to the door of my hotel to avoid you, I saw what isn’t evident in the newsreel footage of your demonstrations: Most of you are doing this only for attention and fun. Serious people in a sober pursuit of social and political change don’t dance jigs down Sixth Avenue like attendees of a Renaissance festival. You look foolish, you smell gross, you are clearly high and you don’t seem to realize that all around you are people who deem you irrelevant.

• There are reasons you haven’t found jobs. The truth? Your tattooed necks, gauged ears, facial piercings and dirty dreadlocks are off-putting. Nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity isn’t a virtue. Occupy reality: Only 4 percent of college graduates are out of work. If you are among that 4 percent, find a mirror and face the problem. It’s not them. It’s you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eats with Sinners

(From "Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks) 'You may distrub and vex the devil, but you'll make no Christians there' - that's what Giles Alden said to me, when I first set out to preach at the wetus. And how wrong he is proven! For several years I drank the dust of those huts, helping in whatever practical thing I could do for them, happy to win the ears of even one or two for a few words about Christ. And now, at last, I begin to distill in their minds the pure liquor of the gospel. To take a people who were traveling apace the broadway to hell, and to be able to turn them, and set their face to God...is what we must strive for.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fruitful Use of Money

Reformation Sunday 30 October 2011
2 Corinthians 9:11 Fruitful Use of Money
A wise man once told me that conversion to Christianity usually occurs in three stages:
 the head – we acknowledge the reality of God and the truth of His Word, intellectual assent you might say;
 the heart – we become aware of the indwelling Holy Spirit and strive to treasure the love of God that has been poured into us;
 the pocketbook – our attitude toward material wealth is completely reoriented toward the kingdom of God, as Larry Burkett said, our finances are an outward indicator of our inner spiritual condition.
Having looked at the fruitful use of our time and talents the past two Sundays, we come to the crux of the matter of bearing fruit for Jesus: fruitful use of money. Either Jesus is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. St. Paul puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 9:11. The more you are enriched by God the more scope there will be for generous giving, and your gifts, administered through us, will mean that many will thank God. (J.B. Phililips)
Our freedom in Christ is not a mere abstraction or an interesting theory, but a new reality that empowers the fruitful use of money – by means of proportionate, cheerful and generous giving in response to God’s free gift to us.
1. The more you are enriched by God
a. God gives us spiritual and material riches
b. The only limit to the supply of goods and services we create is our imagination and our love
2. The more scope there will be for generous giving
a. The first thing Christians think about doing with money is…..followed by……finally.
b. Greater maturity = greater generosity = greater joy

3. Your gifts, administered though us, will mean that many will thank God.
a. We work with trustworthy people to distribute God’s goodness
b. I dreamed I went to heaven and You were there with me
We walked upon the streets of gold Beside the crystal sea.
We heard the angels singing Then someone called your name.
You turned and saw this young man And he was smiling as he came.
And he said, "Friend you may not know me now" And then he said, "But wait"
You used to teach my Sunday School When I was only eight.
And every week you would say a prayer Before the class would start.
And one day when you said that prayer I asked Jesus in my heart."
Thank you for giving to the Lord I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord I am so glad you gave.
Then another man stood before you And said, "Remember the time
A missionary came to your church And his pictures made you cry.
You didn't have much money But you gave it anyway.
Jesus took the gift you gave And that's why I am here today."
One by one they came Far as the eye could see
Each life somehow touched By your generosity.
Little things that you had done Sacrifices made.
Unnoticed on the earth In heaven now proclaimed.
And I know up in heaven You're not supposed to cry.
But I am almost sure There were tears in your eyes.
As Jesus took your hand And you stood before the Lord.
He said, "My child look around you. Great is your reward."
(Words and Music by Ray Boltz)

How to read the Scriptures

(by Fr. Lawrence Farley)
When one steeps oneself in the literature of the Fathers, one is aware of entering a different world, of breathing a different air. For the Fathers, the Scriptures spoke with the voice of God and an apt citation of a Scriptural text (read and interpreted, of course, through the Tradition of the Church) was seen as bringing all godly controversy to an end. This was not “proof-texting” (which involves the use of Scripture separated from Holy Tradition). Rather, it was an awareness of Scripture as a locus and carrier of that Holy Tradition and therefore as a reliable arbiter in all Christian disputes.

A casual reading of the Fathers will confirm that this was their approach. Consider the words of St. Clement of Rome:

“You well know that nothing unjust or fraudulent is written in the Scriptures”.

Or the words of St. Irenaeus:

“the Scriptures of certainly perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and by His Spirit”.

Or the words of St. Hippolytus:

“those who not believe that the Holy Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit…are unbelievers”.

Or Origen:

“With complete and utter precision the Holy Spirit supplied the very words of Scripture through His subordinate authors…according to which the wisdom of God pervades every divinely-inspired writing, reach out to each single letter”.

The Fathers did not adhere to a view of dictation, which would reduce the human authors of Scripture to merely passive conduits of the Divine Word. They knew full well that these were human documents, subject to the normal human variants of style and didactic purpose. Nonetheless, they were also very aware that these same human documents were vehicles for the Spirit of God, containing, as Divine Oracles, God’s timeless and transcendent Truth, and thus not subject to error.

According to the Fathers, how should we read the Scriptures today? I would point out two components of an Orthodox and patristic approach to the Divine Scriptures.

We should read the Scriptures in the Church. That is, we should interpret the Scriptures guided by our Holy Tradition as preserved in the interpretations of the Fathers. As Origen expresses it,

“That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic Tradition”.

This does not mean a rejection of all the fruit of modern commentary and criticism. It does mean a selective use of such modern work. The plumb-line of Tradition is to be hung against new work: only such as is consistent with Tradition is be accepted.

We should read the Scriptures on our knees. That is, we should come to the Scriptures as humble learners to be taught, not as judges to teach and correct. Humility is the pre-condition for everything in the Christian life, especially in our reading of the Scriptures. In this as in all things,

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

We are often exhorted to be diligent in reading the Scriptures. This is a valuable exhortation—but one that must be supplemented with another: read the Scriptures as the Fathers read them. We must open our Bibles as opening the oracles of God—reading, as it were, over the shoulders of the Fathers.

Only then can we gain true and eternal benefit for our souls.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's nxt?!

What's nXt?
There is something stirring in Clio. In January 2010, the congregation of Messiah launched a new worship service dubbed “nXt,” and by no mere coincidence membership has been growing.

The guiding concept is simple: reach out to those who do not know Jesus. Sure, most churches have that objective, but how is the church uniquely situated to carry out the goal?

Messiah’s Pastor Erik Cloeter has brought to life a vision of a captivating worship experience that breaks down typical church stereotypes, and the community has noticed.

In just over a year since its inception, the nXt service has inspired nearly 100 people to join Messiah’s growing membership. Many have cited being initially sparked by the presence of the band at community events, such as the Annual Fireman’s Parade and Fourth of July Fireworks celebrations.

So why “nXt?”

Pronounced “next,” the abbreviated version is intended to provoke the question, “What is nXt?” “What’s Next” is also one of the central themes of the worship service.

Cloeter explains. “I meet many people who come to church, join, and say, ‘OK, I’m a Christian ... so what’s next?’ At Messiah, the answer has always been to reach out to those who still don’t know Jesus and to help them connect with God in a real way.”

What is truly unique about the nXt service is that it is different. It doesn’t look, sound, or feel like a traditional or contemporary worship service. Nxt is for the people that have strong faith and want to express that faith. Nxt is also for people who are struggling and looking for answers. Those who may have been reluctant to come to a worship service find this to be, by design, something unlike what they may have experienced in the past. Some of those differences include: pews being replaced by chairs, the pulpit by a stage, LED smart lights, media screens instead of stained glass, and a live band. These are only a few of the changes you will notice on Sunday morning.

While the allure of the service is its willingness to boldly challenge the status quo, the heart of the message is what keeps people coming back.

Cloeter further shares, “The church is like a hospital for sinners – people in need of a Healer, of a Savior. The church is where we come together to receive acceptance, forgiveness, and love from a God who wants to be closer to people. Just as you go to a hospital when you are sick, the church is where we gather to ask for and receive forgiveness for our sin, because the price has been paid for us by Jesus Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. Everyone is welcome. Come as you are, but leave transformed to reach out to others like you—others who need Jesus. They’re nXt!”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Trashing Tim Tebow by George Weigel

No, Tim Tebow is a target of irrational hatred, not because he’s an iffy quarterback at the NFL level, or a creep personally, or an obnoxious, in-your-face, self-righteous proselytizer. He draws hatred because he is an unabashed Christian, whose calmness and decency in the face of his Christophobic detractors drives them crazy. Tim Tebow, in other words, is a prime example of why Christophobia—a neologism first coined by a world-class comparative constitutional law scholar, J.H.H. Weiler, himself an Orthodox Jew—is a serious cultural problem in these United States.

It is simply unimaginable that any prominent Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh quarterback, should such a fantasy of anthropology exist, would be subjected to the vileness that is publicly dumped on Tim Tebow. Tolerance, that supreme virtue of the culture of radical relativism, does not extend to evangelical Christians, it seems. And if it does not extend to evangelicals who unapologetically proclaim their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior and who live their commitment to the dignity of human life from conception and natural death, it will not extend to Catholics who make that same profession of faith and that same moral commitment. Whatever we think of Tim Tebow’s theology of salvation, Tim Tebow and serious Catholics are both fated to be targets of the Christophobes.

Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed with fervor, it draws opposition. The ultimate source of that opposition is the Evil One, but we know what his fate will be. What we don’t know is how democracy can survive widespread, radical Christophobia.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3215.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

some were evangelists...

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for Your servant Philip the Deacon, whom You called to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

tough love

“to remain silent in the face of false doctrine is not a demonstration of love, but rather of hate; for how then can errorists be saved?” 2

1 Walther, Essays For the Church, Volume I, (St. Louis : CPH), 1994, p. 122-123.
2 Ibid., 124.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sermon exerpt from 10-2-11

(Preached by Rev. David Kind, pastor of University Lutheran Chapel, Minneapolis, MN. www.ulcmn.org)

Let no one doubt that you are being sinned against in this. You are, but more importantly Christ is being sinned against. Yes, those who claim a fellowship with us as members of His mystical Body, who have been raised up as leaders in the Church, have chosen to serve two (or maybe more) masters. They will exchange the work of the Gospel in this place for 3.5 million dollars of mammon. And they are convinced that they will be serving God by doing so, but they are wrong. It is a pious lie, they have bought into long ago, a lie about how the Church could be better than what Christ and the Holy Spirit have made it; a lie that says if we just do things our way, if we compromise our way of worship, the forcefulness of our preaching, the strength of our confession, the discipline of Christ’s table, then the Church, and we as her people, will prosper. And if we conduct our churches more like cold-hearted businesses, then we will grow. And I say, what is this but unrighteous mammon, the mammon not only of money, but of man’s method, the idolatry of serving something other than our One True Master, Jesus Christ.
This is a frightening thing, for St. Paul warns: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Those who sow deceitfully and unrighteously against Christ’s flock will reap God’s judgment if they do not repent. For attacking the Body of Christ is the same as attacking Christ Himself, no matter how pious the misguided intention may be.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

St. Michael and All Angels

Christ, the Lord of hosts, unshaken
By the devil's seething rage,
Thwarts the plan of Satan's minions;
Wins the strife from age to age;
Conquers sin and death forever;
Slams them in their steely cage.
Michael fought the heavenly battle,
Godly angels by his side;
Warred against the ancient serpent,
Foiled the beast, so full of pride,
Cast him earthbound with his angels;
Now he prowls, unsatisfied.
Long on earth the battle rages,
Since the serpent's first deceit;
Twisted God's command to Adam,
Made forbidden fruit look sweet.
Then the curse of God was spoken:
You'll lie crushed beneath His feet!
Jesus came, this word fulfilling,
Trampled Satan, death defied;
Bore the brunt of our temptation,
On the wretched tree He died.
Yet to life was raised victorious;
By His life our life supplied.
Swift as lightning falls the tyrant
From his heav'nly perch on high,
As the word of Jesus' vict'ry
Floods the earth and fills the sky.
Wounded by a wound eternal
Now his judgment has drawn nigh!
Jesus, send Your angel legions
When the foe would us enslave.
Hold us fast when sin assaults us;
Come, then, Lord, Your people save.
Overthrow at last the dragon;
Send him to his fiery grave.
Peter M. Prange. b. 1972

Monday, September 26, 2011

Excuses, excuses

(as seen on facebook) I’m too tired to watch the ballgame. The day of the ballgame is the only day I have to myself. Everybody else will be there and I don’t want to see everybody else. There are hypocrites at the ballgame. All they want at the stadium is your money. I wish the ballgame would go faster so I could get home soon. I can think about the ballgame from home. I like ballgames, but I don’t have to go to one to like ballgames.

Sound familiar?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sermon on 9/11

+ 13th Sunday after Pentecost +
11 September, 2011
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Genesis 50:20
Faith sees even in the progressive judgments of God His guiding hand of providence that orders all things for the strengthening and growth of His kingdom.
1. The example of Israel’s 430 years in Egypt
a. Joseph’s unjust suffering and his response
b. The people under a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph – enslaved, first-born thrown into the Nile, bricks without straw provided and their response of crying out to God.
2. America also under the chastening hand of God
a. Terrorist attacks and endless wars – trust not in chariots and horses!
b. Unprecedented, out-of-control debt, economic turmoil wrought by those who control our so-called government.
3. The Christian response?
a. Turn to God and change the way we think and act, daily, seriously as never before on both a personal and corporate level.
b. Serve the King and all that advances His kingdom, of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

nativity hymn

September 8
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1. With the choirs of saints and angels,
Let the Church be joined as one,
Binding earth to highest heaven,
Praising Jesus, Mary’s Son-
Son of God-the Father’s glory
Who took flesh that we might be
Reconciled, reborn, forgiven,
From the pow’r of sin set free!

2. On this solemn, joyful feast day
Let us sing a song of praise,
Thanking God for Mary’s witness
Faithfully kept all her days.
From her birth to blessed Anna,
Mary listened to God’s word,
And, when summoned by the angel,
Lived in faith what she had heard.

3. Glory now to God the Father,
Who has made us for his own;
Glory now to Christ our Savior,
Who has raised us to his throne;
Glory now to God the Spirit,
Who renews us in his grace:
Laud and honor, never ceasing,
Be to God from all our race!

J. Michael Thompson
Copyright © 2009, World Library Publications

87 87 D

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beheading of John the Baptist

O Christ our God, you lowered the heavens when you came down to earth
to reveal to us your humility and compassion.
You have given us your Forerunner and Baptist as a model of salvation,
for he was a preacher of truth,
an example of repentance,
and a desert dweller.
You made him worthy to fight the good fight,
to finish the reace,
and to win the crown of righteousness and truth.
To those in Hades,
he announced beforehand the good news of redemption and salvation.
Grant that we may scorn earthly pleasures
in imitation of his renowened life and joyful way of penance.
Deliver us from the rulers of this world of darkness.
Protect us under the wings of your goodness.
Bless us, O Giver of blessings,
and make us worthy of the kingdom of heaven.
For through you and with you all honor and glory are due
to the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and forever.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not even the gates of hell...

+ 10th Sunday after Pentecost +
August 21, 2011
The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18b
In the war for your soul, there is no neutrality. Whether we realize it or not, we are all making daily choices to either compromise with evil, or to overcome evil with good. This great divide has been illustrated countless times in books and movies. One of my favorite examples comes from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings: As Gandalf unravels the mystery of the ring, he discovers to his dismay that the head of his order, Saruman, has compromised with the evil spirit that rules the land of Mordor. In contrast, the little hobbit Frodo offers himself to become the ring-bearer and carry it to final destruction at Mt. Doom, “though I know not the way” as he humbly says. Which will triumph: Saruman’s scheming or Frodo’s sacrifice? Saruman’s foolish compromise or Frodo’s uncompromising faith? A classic illustration of how the Son of Man came to destroy the works of the devil not by building armies or seizing power, but by His perfect sacrifice of love on the cross. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Strengthened by God’s promises fulfilled in the cross and resurrection of His Son, we can live and work together even in humility and great weakness for the triumph of love over all the forces of evil.
1. Like hobbits, we don’t always realize what powerful gifts God has given us!

a. The first disciples too thought about an earthly kingdom.

b. We are satisfied with forgiveness and heaven when we die.

2. We see in Jesus how the kingdom of heaven conquers all other powers
a. Judges 16:1-3. Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went to bed with her. When the Gazites [heard] that Samson was there, they surrounded the place and waited in ambush for him all that night at the city gate. While they were waiting quietly, they said, "Let us wait until dawn; then we will kill him." But Samson stayed in bed until midnight when he got up, took hold of the doors of the city gate along with the two gateposts, and pulled them out, bar and all. He put them on his shoulders and took them to the top of the mountain overlooking Hebron (a distance of no more than nine miles!).

b. Daniel 2:31-44. 31 "My king, as you were watching, a colossal statue appeared. That statue, tall and dazzling, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was terrifying. 32 The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its stomach and thighs were bronze, 33 its legs were iron, and its feet were partly iron and partly fired clay. 34 As you were watching, a stone broke off without a hand touching it, [a] struck the statue on its feet of iron and fired clay, and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were shattered and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away, and not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 "This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 Your Majesty, you are king of kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and glory. 38 Wherever people live—or wild animals, or birds of the air—He has handed them over to you and made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold.
39 "After you, there will arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, and then another, a third kingdom, of bronze, which will rule the whole earth. 40 A fourth kingdom will be as strong as iron; for iron crushes and shatters everything, and like iron that smashes, it will crush and smash all the others. 41 You saw the feet and toes, partly of a potter's fired clay and partly of iron—it will be a divided kingdom, though some of the strength of iron will be in it. You saw the iron mixed with clay, 42 and that the toes of the feet were part iron and part fired clay—part of the kingdom will be strong, and part will be brittle. 43 You saw the iron mixed with clay—the peoples will mix with one another [c] but will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with fired clay.
44 "In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.

3. Filled with the Spirit, the Church, despite her weakness, storms the gates of hell.
a. Examples from Acts of the Apostles – intercessory prayer.
b. As we speak the truth in love and exercise simple acts of service we fulfill the promises of Christ. Jude 20-25 But you, dear friends, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

from the Internet Monk

"…we began to get some clarity on a troubling truth: attracting people to church based on their consumer demands is in direct and irredeemable conflict with inviting people, in Jesus’ words, to lose their lives in order to find them. It slowly began to dawn on us that our method of attracting people was forming them in ways contrary to the way of Christ."

Monday, August 15, 2011

John Stott, Rest in Peace!

God has spoken; but have we listened to his word? God has acted; but have we benefited from what he has done? (p.16). . . nothing can convince us of our sinfulness like the lofty, righteous law of God. (p. 77). . . This exposure of our sin has only one purpose. It is to convince us of our need of Jesus Christ… (p.88). . . Sin had separated us from God; but Christ…suffered for our sins, an innocent Saviour dying for guilty sinners. (p. 107) . . . from Basic Christianity. These then are the marks of the ideal Church - love, suffering, holiness, sound doctrine, genuineness, evangelism and humility. They are what Christ desires to find in His churches as He walks among them. (p. 163-4). . . Basic Introduction to the NT.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Did Spurgeon read Walther?

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), in his Sunday sermon, December 31, 1871, preached from Nehemiah 8:10:
Holy sorrow is precious before God, and is no bar to godly joy. Let it be carefully noted...that abounding mourning is no reason why there should not speedily be seen an equally abundant joy, for the very people who were bidden by Nehemiah and Ezra to rejoice were even then melted with penitential grief, "for all the people wept when they heard the words of the law."
The vast congregation under the teaching of Ezra, were awakened and cut to the heart; they felt the edge of the law of God like a sword opening up their hearts, tearing, cutting, and killing, and well might they lament: then was the time to let them feel the gospel's balm and hear the gospel's music, and, therefore, the former sons of thunder changed their note, and became sons of consolation, saying to them, "This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. Go your way eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Power of the Eucharist

St. Gregory the Great, ca. 540-604

...for there His body is received, there His flesh is distributed for the salvation of the people: there His blood is not now shed betwixt the hands of infidels, but poured into the mouths of the faithful. Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always represent the passion of the only Son of God: for what right believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens be opened, and the choirs of Angels are present in that mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible? (The Dialogues Bk. 4 Chap. 58)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Search for the real Adam and Eve

A recent cover story of Christianity Today discusses the historicity of Adam and Eve. The article does not include the following important points:

Jesus affirms the historicity of Adam and Eve and the Genesis account of their creation and marriage in Matthew 19:1-6.
Jesus own human ancestry is, moreover, traced directly to Adam by the Apostle Luke: 3:23-38
And, moreover, the divinely revealed doctrine of the Fall hinges in large part on the existence of a real Adam who truly sinned as the counterpart to the real Jesus who was/is truly righteous and who truly died and rose again:
(Romans 5:12-21)
Obviously Paul understood both Adam and Jesus to be historical figures. To suggest that Adam is a merely figurative character representative of humanity as a whole not only cuts against Paul's clear meaning, but it also destroys the argument of the text itself. The historical man Adam plunged humanity into sin and death through an historical sin. The historical man Jesus redeemed humanity through his historical death and resurrection. Take away the historicity of Adam and the parallel upon which the argument is built no longer works.

On the Ministry

Reflect with me for a moment on how the three-fold ministry of bishop, pastor and deacon points us to the person and work of Jesus as well as the blessed, holy Triune God in whom we live and more and have our being. Jesus is the Shepherd and Bishop (Greek = episkopon) of our souls (I Peter 2:25). He is our Priest who lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25-28). He came not to be served but to be our Deacon, to serve (Greek = diakonesai) and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Just as God the Father is the source of unity in the Trinity, so the Bishop is also a priest and a deacon. Jesus is our great high priest who gives us His very body and blood to eat and drink, and the Holy Spirit is our deacon who serves us by calling, gathering, enlightening and keeping us in the one true faith. All work together in perfect harmony and cause the building up of the Body in love. I pray for all of us that we would be witnesses and partakers of the grace of God who is invading our grief with joy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Sower

(Peter Ditzel -- should be a Lutheran if he isn't already!) In Acts 16:14, we read of Lydia, "whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." Here we see the difference. Lydia "attended unto" (prosechein—"gave full attention to," "held to," even "became addicted to") the Word of God spoken by Paul because God first opened her heart or mind. The difference between the good ground and the wayside, the stony ground, and the weedy patch is God's miraculous and sovereign act of opening a person's mind. This opening of the mind is similar to opening or tilling the ground. It softens and gives depth of earth, gives the gift of saving faith, and imparts the Holy Spirit so that the seed of the Word can take deep root and draw upon the "moisture" of the Holy Spirit to grow.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Herman Sasse on Baptism

In Baptism the Holy Spirit is communicated; we are “all baptized into the one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Those who are baptized have been baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3). These are all realities that take place, not alongside of Baptism, but in Baptism. In the New Testament, Baptism with water, inasmuch as it is a baptism into Christ, into the name of Christ, is Baptism with the Spirit, it is a being born anew and at the same time from above “of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5). Certainly the New Testament knows of no regeneration without Baptism and independent of Baptism. Baptism, therefore, is not a sign but a means of regeneration. To take it only as a sign of a regeneration, that also takes place without it and independently of it, is unbiblical.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What our youth are learnign at Higher Things c. 2011

Breakaway Session A
Tuesday, July 12 08:00pm - 09:00pm
Available Sectionals:
•Answering Critics of the Scriptures with Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
•Christ-Types in the Old Testament with Rev. Stan Temme
•Consumed by Addictions with Rev. Dr. David Balla
•Finding Comfort in Difficult Times: The Hymns of Paul Gerhardt with Dr. Jon Eifert
•H2O: Ordinary and Extraordinary with Rev. Paul Mumme
•How Hollywood Views Christianity with Rev. Klemet Preus
•Is God Against Me? The Theology of the Cross with Rev. Kim Scharff
•Jesus and Genesis on Creation with Rev. Dr. Joel Heck
•Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes with Rev. Jeff Pflug
•Me? Play the Organ? How Do I Even Get This Thing to Turn On? with Mr. Chris Loemker
•Mormonism Exposed! with Rev. Brent Kuhlman
•Taking the “Crisis” Out of Crisis Pregnancy with Mrs. Amy Beisel
•Talking about Homosexuality in a Tolerant World with Rev. Len Astrowski
•Talking to Your Non-Lutheran Friends about Jesus with Rev. Mark Buetow
•When Should I Get Married? Why Not Now? with Rev. William Foy

A Christian response to evil action

Bishop Nicholas Dimarzio (New York) drew a new line in sand. "In light of these disturbing developments..." he said, "I have asked all Catholic schools to refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation. Furthermore, I have asked all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration... [T]he governor and state legislature have demonized people of faith, whether they be Muslims, Jews, or Christians, and identified them as bigots and prejudiced, and voted in favor of same-sex 'marriage.'" But, as the New York Bishops write, "We just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union... This definition cannot change."
We must fear God rather than man.

Monday, June 27, 2011

only a cup of cold water

+ 2nd Sunday after Pentecost +
June 26, 2011
Matthew 10:42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.
What to do in the face of bad news. When we face times of discouragement, pain and loss, we realize that the depths of evil only serve to highlight the incomparably greater goodness of God.
1. Jeremiah truly was the prophet of doom and gloom
a. The exile to Babylon and its consequences cannot be reversed
b. The LORD has truly sent that prophet whose words come to pass

2. Paul brings homes the power of sin.
a. It was sin, producing death in me…so that sin through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. (Romans 7:13)
b. You also have died to the law through the body of Christ so that you may belong to one another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we bay bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)

3. Jesus reveals the hard truths of entering the Kingdom of God.
a. Belonging to Christ comes with a cost – painful, but temporary.
b. Belonging to Christ comes with a reward.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

food for thought

The solution to marijuana prohibition is finally at hand

It is time to end those legal fictions and end the War on Drugs in America. The solution is to:

#1) LEGALIZE marijuana across the country.

#2) REGULATE marijuana and allow it to be sold through licensed retailers.

#3) TAX marijuana sales and use the tax proceeds to fund addiction support programs for those small percentage of users who end up addicted.

The results of these actions will be:

#1) A COLLAPSE of the drug gangs. If marijuana is suddenly legal, who would bother buying it from a street dealer?

#2) A COLLAPSE of drug profits. If it’s legal, the price goes down. Suddenly there’s no more money in trafficking the drug, either, so the drug gangs are instantly out of business.

#3) A HUGE INCREASE in revenues to the states from collecting taxes on the legal sale of marijuana.

#4) A REDUCTION in young people trying the drug. What teenager wants to try something if it’s LEGAL? Legalizing pot takes all the “fun” out of it for many young people. It’s no longer cool. Kinda boring, actually. And it makes you cough.

#5) A SAVINGS of billions of dollars off all the money states are right now spending arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people for possessing marijuana. This money could be used to build schools, roads, job re-education programs and more. And don’t court judges have better things to do than sentence pot smokers?

#6) AN END to prison overcrowding. End the sentences for those incarcerated merely for marijuana possession. Set them free and end the prison crowding. Save the prisons for the real criminals such as murderers, child molesters and Wall Street bankers.

#7) A FREER, more just society that respects human dignity. If you treat addicts like criminals, you take away their dignity, and your entire society suffers a net loss. By recognizing the humanity behind the addiction, we can restore human dignity to the entire process of how we deal with drug addicts in society today.

Action item: Call your Congressman to support this bill!

Thank-you, President Harrison!

Preaching Is All About 'You'
We need to preach more about the Gospel!” a wellmeaning pastor admonished his brothers at a pastoral conference. As he continued his speech, a little old man shuffled up to the microphone. It’s hard to believe that this old pastor, barely over five feet tall, had been among the very first in all the German churches to reject publicly the Nazi Party platform and then struggled against Hitler for the rest of the war. He declared to his brother pastors: “For more than 50 years I have never preached about the Gospel. I have only preached the Gospel!”

Hermann Sasse put his finger on a perennial weakness in our preaching. The sermon is not mere information. The preacher must dare to speak the biblical “you!” in both Law and Gospel. “You killed the Lord of glory!” “Your righteous deeds are as filthy rags.” “You are the man!” (Nathan to David).

And the Gospel is proclaimed the same way: “Today is born for you a Savior.” “Your sins are forgiven.” “You are raised with Him in Baptism.” “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”

Preaching is a finger-pointing business. It takes courage to stand in the pulpit and let fly, accusing full-on with all the force of the damning Law. “The Law is to be preached in its full severity” (Walther). It takes even more skill to preach the full and sweet Gospel to sinners accused. Yet the Bible is packed to the brim with Christ’s full and free forgiveness, ready to be dished up and delivered by the lips of the preacher. “By killing he makes alive,” Luther emphasized again and again. And so our preaching must kill the old man, damn him thoroughly to hell and raise him up again with Christ and His free forgiveness.

Preachers, let’s sit at the feet of the apostles. Notice how many times “you” appears in Peter’s sermon:

“Men of Israel . . . The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. . . .

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He thus fulfilled. [You] repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to Him in whatever He tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up His servant, sent Him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:12a, 13–15, 17–26 ESV).

I love a bit of humor in a sermon, a rhetorical surprise. A story is great, even the occasional personal story. I’m a fan of all sorts of styles, of changing things up and “finding a new string to thump” on occasion (Luther). But through it all, let’s stop preaching limply and merely only about the Law and the Gospel. Let’s preach the Law in all its condemnation and the Gospel in all its sweetness.

Pastor Matthew Harrison
“Let’s go!” Mark 1:38

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to get rid of Lutherans

Thanks to Pr. Bill Weedon for this post!

19 June 2011
Interesting Info from the Deaconess Conference from Dr. Herl...

...the year was 1616. Johann Georg, Margrave of Brandenburg, converted to Calvinism and sought to enforce Calvinism on his very Lutheran territory. What changes did he demand?

All images are to be removed from the church and sent to the court.
The stone altar is to be ripped from the ground and replaced with a wooden table.
When the Lord's Supper is held, a white cloth covers the table.
All altars, crucifixes and panels are to be completely abolished.
Instead of the host, bread is to be baked into loves, cut into strips, and put in a dish from which the people receive it in their hands; likewise the chalice is received by the people with their hands.
The words of the Supper are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
The golden chalice to be replaced by wooden.
The prayer in the place of the collect is to be spoken, not sung.
Mass vestments and other finery no longer used.
No lamps are candles to be placed upon the altar.
The houseling cloth is not to be held in front of the communicants.
The people are not to bow as if Christ were present.
The communicants shall no longer kneel.
The sign of the cross after the benediction is to be discontinued.
The priest is no longer to stand with his back to the people.
The collect and Epistle no longer to be sung, but spoken.
Individuals are no longer to go to confession before communing, but rather register with the priest in writing.
The people are no longer to bow when the name of JESUS is mentioned, nor are they to remove their hats.
The Our Father is no longer to be prayed aloud before the sermon, but rather there is to be silent prayer.
Communion is not to be taken to the sick, as it is dangerous, especially in times of pestilence.
The stone baptismal font is to be removed and a basin substituted.
Epitaphs and crucifixes are not longer to be tolerated in the Church.
The Holy Trinity is not to be depicted in any visual form.
The words of the sacrament are to be altered and considered symbolic.
The historic Epistles and Gospels no longer used, but rather a selection of the Bible by the minister, read without commentary.

Monday, June 13, 2011

St. Clement

Let every one of us be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect to the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because he has given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by mere words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hannh, mosther of Samuel --- her "Magnificat"


AllBlessed are those who believe,
for what God has promised will be fulfilled.

1My heart exults in the Lord; •
my strength is exalted in my God.

2My mouth derides my enemies, •
because I rejoice in your salvation.

3There is no Holy One like you, O Lord, •
nor any Rock like you, our God.

4For you are a God of knowledge •
and by you our actions are weighed.

5The bows of the mighty are broken, •
but the feeble gird on strength.

6Those who were full now hire themselves out for bread, •
but those who were hungry are well fed.

7The barren woman has borne sevenfold, •
but she who has many children is forlorn.

8Both the poor and the rich are of your making; •
you bring low and you also exalt.

9You raise up the poor from the dust, •
and lift the needy from the ash heap.

10You make them sit with the rulers •
and inherit a place of honour.

11For the pillars of the earth are yours •
and on them you have set the world.

1 Samuel 2.1, 2, 3b-5, 7, 8

AllGlory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.

AllBlessed are those who believe,
for what God has promised will be fulfilled.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Leo the Great on the Ascension of our Lord

Since then Christ’s Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope of the Body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let us exult, dearly-beloved, with worthy joy and delight in the loyal paying of thanks. For to-day not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise, but have also in Christ penetrated the heights of heaven, and have gained still greater things through Christ’s unspeakable grace than we had lost through the devil’s malice.

For us, whom our virulent enemy had driven out from the bliss of our first abode, the Son of God has made members of Himself and placed at the right hand of the Father, with Whom He lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God unto ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Islam really teaches

by David Wood:
The message of Islam is something like this: “Believe in God. Do good deeds. If you do enough of them, you’ll get to heaven. Respect Jesus, for he was a mighty prophet, who delivered God’s message to the children of Israel. Also believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he performed many miracles, and that he was the Messiah. But whatever you do, don’t believe that he died on the cross for your sins. And don’t believe that he rose from the dead. In fact, the worst possible sin you can commit is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Notice that Islam rejects Christianity’s essential requirements for salvation while accepting certain other doctrines. For instance, Muslims are commanded to believe in God, but even Satan and his demons believe in God. Muslims are commanded to do good deeds, but all religions teach this. Muslims are allowed to believe certain things about Jesus (such as his prophet status and virgin birth), but these beliefs do not save a person. Yet when we come to beliefs that are essential for salvation—the deity of Christ, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead—we find that Islam is violently opposed to these crucial doctrines.[19] Islam, then, looks exactly like the religion we predicted that Satan would form, for it denies what is necessary for people to come to God.

Sola Gospel!

What cannot be redeemed through the Gospel certainly cannot be redeemed. -- Rev. Friedrich Pfotenhauer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A new tract on the "Luther Rose"

Welcome to Concordia Lutheran Church!
God our Father loves you and wants all people to be saved! He has made this possible through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. The Holy Spirit calls us to turn from our sins and believe in the Good News of forgiveness through the Word of God. In our life together as forgiven sinners, Christians strive to grow in faith and hope toward God and in love toward our neighbors through simple acts of service. During our times of worship, God manifests and reveals His grace to us through ordinary things such as word and water, bread and wine, which move us to treasure all He has freely given us, give thanks always and tell everyone what He has done. Please feel free to contact us for further information.

The picture on the front of this tract is called the “Luther Rose ”, because it was designed by Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546).
It offers a beautiful summary of the Christian faith of all ages.

 In the center, a black cross: we are saved by the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
 A red heart: new life through faith in Jesus.
 A white rose: Spirit-given comfort and peace.
 A blue sky: the beginning of heavenly joy, grasped in hope.
 A gold ring: never-ending blessedness.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Old Covenant Stewardship!

They still kept bringing him freewill-offerings every morning, so that all the artisans who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task being performed, and said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.’ So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp: ‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.’ So the people were restrained from bringing; for what they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I will NOT be teaching in "evangelism" class.

D. James Kennedy wrote, “If you are a functionally mature, responsible, reproducing Christian, you will produce others like yourself. To a great extent the spiritual quality of life in those who were multiplied through your ministry will depend upon the spiritual quality of your life. The quantity of multiplication is determined by your passion for spiritual reproduction.” (Evangelism Explosion, fourth edition, p. 137) I shudder to think of how many LCMS clergy and laity have swallowed this theology hook, line and sinker. This should be on the short list of “koinonia project” discussion items. Do those who take issue with Pastor Curtis see the spiritual danger of Dr. Kennedy’s prescription?

Great Easter Hymn

Death is dead, the true Life liveth O'er the portals of the grave,
Life's great Sun bright-shining giveth Light our darkened souls to save;
Christ arisen bursts our prison; See His triumph banners wave.

Life's own King on Calv'ry dying, wins a crown of life for me;
E'en the grave to Him complying flow'rs in life abundant, free.
Death's chill sadness changed to gladness -- this the Easter victory!

H. Halfdanarson (1826-94)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Giving to Synod

Here are the results in dollars pledged per Baptized Member to the National Office from that district for 2011-12:

Atlantic – $1.67
Cal-Nev-HA – $3.95
Eastern – $1.59
English – $3.53
Florida/Georgia – $4.13
Illinois Central – $7.82
Illinois Northern – $5.21
Illinois Southern – $5.80
Indiana – $6.77
Iowa East – $3.31
Iowa West – $12.15
Kansas – $9.01
Michigan – $8.93
Mid-South – $16.01
Minn North – $10.24
Minn South – $10.57
Missouri – $4.04
Montana – $9.25
Nebraska – $10.67
New England – $6.18
New Jersey – $3.54
North Dakota – $10.44
Northwest – $2.60
Ohio – $4.85
Oklahoma – $9.12
Pacific Southwest – $2.02
Rocky Mountain – $4.30
SELC – $12.14
South Dakota – $10.11
Southeastern – $7.29
Southern – $4.40
Texas – $12.87
Wisconsin North – $6.33
Wisconsin South – $2.69
Wyoming – $10.90

Per Baptized high to low
Mid-South 16.02
Texas 12.87
Iowa West 12.15
SELC 12.15
Wyoming 10.90
Nebraska 10.67
Minn. South 10.57
North Dakota 10.45
Minn. North 10.25
South Dakota 10.11
Montana 9.25
Oklahoma 9.12
Kansas 9.01
Michigan 8.92
Illinois-Central 7.82
Southeastern 7.29
Indiana 6.78
Wisconsin North 6.33
New England 6.18
Illinois-Southern 5.80
Illinois-Northern 5.22
Ohio 4.86
Southern 4.40
Rocky Mountain 4.30
Florida/Georgia 4.13
Missouri 4.04
Cal-Nev-HA 3.95
New Jersey 3.54
English 3.54
Iowa East 3.31
Wisconsin South 2.70
Northwest 2.60
Pacific Southwest 2.02
Atlantic 1.67
Eastern 1.59

The “stewardship winners” here are, in descending order: Mid-South (16.01), Texas (12.87), Iowa West (12.15), SELC (12.14), Wyoming (10.90), Nebraska (10.67), Minn South (10.57), North Dakota (10.44), Minn North (10.24), South Dakota (10.12) .

The “stewardship losers” here are, in ascending order: Eastern (1.59), Atlantic (1.67), Pacific Southwest (2.02), Northwest (2.60), Wisconsin South (2.69), Iowa East (3.31), English (3.53), New Jersey (3.54), Cal-Nev-HA (3.95).

The average pledge $ per Baptized Members for these statistics is $6.94.

Monday, May 16, 2011

sobering statistics

"In 1960, the LCMS baptized 82,000 babies.

"While total LCMS membership has remained relatively static since 1960, the LCMS baptized only 31,700 children in 2005, a drop of 66% since 1960."


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Reality

“Seven Stanzas at Easter” from Telephone Poles and Other Poems by John Updike.
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ is Risen!

by St. John Chrysostom

This is perhaps the greatest sermon ever written. It is read in every Orthodox Church in the world, every year at the Paschal Vigil, during the Matins of Pascha. St. John was the Archbishop of Constantinople during the fourth century. He was fearless when denouncing sin in high places, and was a prolific writer, and bold preacher, unafraid to hit the topical issues of the day squarely between the eyes with all the subtlety of a ball peen hammer. His last words were “Glory to God for all things!”

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.

If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor.

If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.

If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second.

You rich and poor together, hold high festival.

You sober and you heedless, honor the day.

Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away. Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.

He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:

Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.

It was embittered, for it was mocked.

It was embittered, for it was slain.

It was embittered, for it was overthrown.

It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.

It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.

Christ is risen, and life reigns.

Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Prayer by St. Ambrose before Communion

O loving Lord Jesus Christ, I a sinner, presuming not on my own merits, but trusting in Thy mercy and goodness, with fear and trembling approach the table of Thy most sacred banquet. For I have defiled both my heart and body with many sins, and have not kept a strict guard over my mind and my tongue. Wherefore, O gracious God, O awful Majesty, I a wretched creature, entangled in difficulties, have recourse to Thee the fount of mercy; To Thee do I fly that I may be healed, and take refuge under Thy protection, and I ardently desire to have Him as my Savior, Whom I am unable to withstand as my Judge. To Thee, O Lord, I show my wounds, to Thee I lay bare my shame. I know that my sins are many and great, on account of which I am filled with fear. But I trust in Thy mercy, of which there is no end. Look down upon me, therefore, with the eyes of Thy mercy, O Lord Jesus Christ, eternal King, God and man, crucified for men. Hearken unto me, for my hope is in Thee; have mercy on me who am full of misery and sin, Thou Who wilt never cease to let flow the fountain of mercy. Hail, Victim of salvation, offered for me and for all mankind on the tree of the cross. Hail, noble and precious Blood, flowing from the wounds of my crucified Lord Jesus Christ and washing away the sins of the whole world. Remember, O Lord, Thy creature, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Blood. I am grieved because I have sinned, I desire to make amends for what I have done. Take away from me, therefore, O most merciful Father, all my iniquities and sins. That I may be purified both in soul and body, let me partake of the holy of holies; And grant that this holy gift of Thy Body and Blood, of which though unworthy I propose to receive, may be to me the remission of my sins, the perfect cleansing of my offenses, the means of driving away all evil thoughts and of renewing all holy desires, the accomplishment of works pleasing to Thee, as well as the strongest defense for soul and body against the snares of my enemies. Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

taking sin seriously

Though I have transgressed more than the harlot, O Good One, I have in no wise brought forth streams of tears for Thee; but in silence I supplicate Thee and fall down before Thee, kissing Thine immaculate feet with love, so that, as Master that Thou art, Thou mayest grant me the forgiveness of debts, as I cry to Thee, O Savior: From the mire of my deeds do Thou deliver me.
(Orthodox Prayers for Holy Week)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

evangelical-catholics look to the holy Fathers

We have thought it worth while only to recite, in customary and well-known words, the belief of the holy Fathers, which we also follow.

Apology to the Augsburg Confession

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cothed in Christ's Righteousness Alone

The entire righteousness of man is mere hypocrisy [and abomination] before God, unless we acknowledge that our heart is naturally destitute of love, fear, and confidence in God [that we are miserable sinners who are in disgrace with God].-- Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Article II

Monday, April 11, 2011

It belong to the Lord

Lord Jesus Christ it is Thy holy Gospel, it is Thy cause; look Thou upon the many troubled hearts and consciences, and maintain and strengthen in Thy truth Thy churches and little flocks, who suffer anxiety and distress from the devil. Confound all hypocrisy and lies, and grant peace and unity, so that Thy glory may advance, and Thy kingdom, strong against all the gates of hell, may continually grow and increase.]
Introduction to the Apology of the Augsburg Confession

Friday, April 8, 2011

We are evangelical-catholics

Only those things have been recounted whereof we thought that it was necessary to speak, in order that it might be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic. For it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care that no new and ungodly doctrine should creep into our churches.

The above articles we desire to present in accordance with the edict of Your Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our Confession and let men see a summary of the doctrine of our teachers. 7] If there is anything that any one might desire in this Confession, we are ready, God willing, to present ampler information according to the Scriptures.

Your Imperial Majesty's faithful subjects:
John, Duke of Saxony, Elector
George, Margrave of Brandenburg.
Ernest, Duke of Lueneberg.
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
John Frederick, Duke of Saxony.
Francis, Duke of Lueneburg.
Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt.
Senate and Magistracy of Nuremburg.
Senate of Reutlingen.

Conclusion of the Augsburg Confession, 1530

Thursday, April 7, 2011

moral dangers

General Douglas MacArthur retired from the U.S. Army under a cloud of controversy. He had written a letter critical of President Harry S. Truman, and it was made public. The Joint Chiefs cleared MacArthur of insubordination, but he was relieved of his command over the U.N. forces in Korea. Yet the General came home to hero's welcome. Some may disagree, but his record of dedication, achievement, patriotism and faith remains distinct among America's great military leaders.

Serving 52 years, MacArthur was senior officer in two of the three wars he fought, served as Army Chief of Staff, received the Congressional Medal of Honor, attained the rank of General of the Army (5 stars), and much, much more. On December 12, 1951, the Salvation Army presented him with their "Award for Services to Humanity." McArthur took the occasion to warn them of the evil he saw in the real threat of Communism:

History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual reawakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster...

Evil forces...seek to remove religion...to undermine public and private morals... It first assays to make traitors among those of high degree and through them... destroy nations and bend peoples to its malevolent will. Its plan is to abolish private property and free enterprise in order to secure the degree of power over material things necessary to render absolute its power to suppress the spiritual things. It first establishes collectivism as the idealistic refuge for those who lack the will and the courage and the capacity for self-expression. This is the half-way point on the direct and undeviating road to full Communism... This is how it has happened before and it can happen again...

Tolerance of this destructive force of evil should be replaced by an implacable and uncompromising determination to resist its every threat... We must condemn those who would corrupt the principles of individual liberty, freedoms' mighty instrument of spiritual power... We must refuse to indulge those who are so blind that they will not see the moral dangers now threatening the engulfment of our people... We must face the gravity of the times honestly and fearlessly so that our beloved country may survive...

This will not be easy... Our great strength rests in... patriotic Americans whose faith in God and love of country transcends all selfish and self-serving instincts. We must command their maximum effort toward a restoration of... our age-old standards of morality and ethics - a return to the religious fervor which animated our leadership of former years... (General MacArthur Speeches and Reports 1908-1964, Edward T. Imparato, pp. 197-198, in part on Google Books; Online bios here, here).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Power of the Keys

This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their calling either to many or to individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1:16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.
Augsburg Confession, 1530

Monday, April 4, 2011

Resurrection Hope

"...the mystery of the Resurrection, showing us that there is no cause so desperate, no defeat so apparently crushing, no condition so hopeless, to which, if God wills, triumph will not come." Fr. Bede Jarrett (+ 1934)

"Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done." Jesus the Christ

Friday, April 1, 2011

Try Praying this one!

“O Lord Almighty, God of our ancestors, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and of their righteous offspring… your glorious splendor cannot be borne, and the wrath of your threat to sinners is unendurable; yet immeasurable and unsearchable is your promised mercy, for you are the Lord Most High, of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful, and you relent at human suffering. O Lord, according to your great goodness you have promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against you, and in the multitude of your mercies you have appointed repentance for sinners, so that they may be saved. …You have appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner. For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea; my transgressions are multiplied, O Lord, they are multiplied! I am not worthy to look up and see the height of heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities. I am weighted down with many an iron fetter, so that I am rejected because of my sins, and I have no relief; for I have provoked your wrath and have done what is evil in your sight, setting up abominations and multiplying offenses. And now I bend the knee of my heart, imploring you for your kindness. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge my transgressions. I earnestly implore you, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me! Do not destroy me with my transgressions! Do not be angry with me forever or store up evil for me; do not condemn me to the depths of the earth. For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent, and in me you will manifest your goodness; for, unworthy as I am, you will save me according to your great mercy, and I will praise you continually all the days of my life. For all the host of heaven sings your praise, and yours is the glory forever. Amen.” (Prayer of Manasseh 1, 5-15)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

We keep many Traditions

Moreover, they teach that every Christian ought to train and subdue himself with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises and labors that neither satiety nor slothfulness tempt him to sin, but not that we may merit grace or make satisfaction for sins by such exercises. And such external discipline ought to be urged at all times, not only on a few and set days. So Christ commands, 35] Luke 21:34: Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting; also Matt. 17:21: This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Paul also says, 1 Cor. 9:27: I keep under my body and bring it into subjection. Here he clearly shows that he was keeping under his body, not to merit forgiveness of sins by that discipline, but to have his body in subjection and fitted for spiritual things, and for the discharge of duty according to his calling. Therefore, we do not condemn fasting in itself, but the traditions which prescribe certain days and certain meats, with peril of conscience, as though such works were a necessary service.

Nevertheless, very many traditions are kept on our part, which conduce to good order in the Church, as the Order of Lessons in the Mass and the chief holy-days.
Augsburg Confession, 1530

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Getting the World's Attention

"What the church believes about herself is dependent on what she believes about Jesus. If non-Christians know nothing of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, how could they possibly recognize his actual and personal presence in the world through the church? Does the church have a way of proclaiming the mystery of her existence in the world other than by proclaiming the presence of her exalted Lord? What the church is can only be shown by confessing Christ. Woe to the church, which seeks a way other than confessing Christ to gain the world’s attention."

H. Sasse

Bringing to Completion the Good Work

"I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words,) that we are now good enough, He has done all we wanted Him to do, and we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone. As we say "I hever expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap." And we imagine that when we say this we are being humble. But this is a fatal mistake. Of course we never wanted, and never asked, to be made into the sort of creatures He is going to make us into. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when he made us."
C.S. Lewis

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Divinity of Christ = the Church

The wondrous fulfillment of what Christ prophesied about the Church reveals most clearly his true Godhead. Do you see the wondrous fulfillment of this prophesy? Indeed,

“the powers of Hell cannot prevail against her.”

Looking at what came to pass, believe what is to come. No one in the future will be able to prevail against the Church. If they did not manage to crush her when she numbered but a few members, when her teaching seemed novel and strange, when so many terrible wars and so many persecutions were raised against her from everywhere, much more they will not manage to injure her today, when she has spread in the whole world, and increased her dominion among all nations, abolishing their pagan altars and idols, their festivals and celebrations, the smoke and the smell of their abominable sacrifices. How did the Apostles achieve such a great, such an important task, after so many obstacles? Surely, it was by the divine and unconquerable power of Him, who prophesied about the creation and triumph of His Church.

No one can deny this, unless he is mindless and completely unable to think.

St. John Chrysostom

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Confidence which consoles = faith

Now he that knows that he has a Father gracious to him through Christ, truly knows God; he knows also that God cares for him, and calls upon God; in a word, he is not without God, as the heathen. For devils and the ungodly are not able to believe this article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence, they hate God as an enemy, call not upon Him, and expect no good from Him. Augustine also admonishes his readers concerning the word "faith," and teaches that the term "faith" is accepted in the Scriptures not for knowledge such as is in the ungodly but for confidence which consoles and encourages the terrified mind.
Augsburg Confession, 1530

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good advice from President Walther

We are not insisting
that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing
Christians, neither dare anyone demand that everyone be of the same opinion as his
in such matters; nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes
Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the
houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls, [theaters or auditoriums], while
our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God
publicly before the world. . . . Someone may ask,” What would be the use of
uniformity in ceremonies?” We would answer, “What is the use of a flag on the
battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless
sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of
our fathers.9
9 C.F.W. Walther, Essay on Adiaphora in Essays for the Church: Volume I (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House,
1992), p. 193-194.

How to obtain faith

That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.
Augsburg Confession V On the Ministry
How would Satan seek to prevent people from coming to saving faith? First, by discrediting the Holy Ministry either by false doctrine or scandalous living among its inhabitants; Second, by casting doubt upon the efficacy of Word and Sacraments to really bring the Holy Spirit when and where it pleases God in them that hear the Gospel. We can see what a deplorable state Christianity falls into when these two strategies succeed to any extent as is the case in the Roman and Evangelical Churches. In the former the ministers of the Gospel are discredited while in the latter the means of grace are despised. We can only cry out with Queen Esther: "Help me, who am alone and have no help but you!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ecumenism in the spirit of Augsburg

"...that in this matter of religion the opinions and judgments of the parties might be heard in each other's presence; and considered and weighed among ourselves in mutual charity, leniency, and kindness, in order that, after the removal and correction of such things as have been treated and understood in a different manner in the writings on either side, these matters may be settled and brought back to one simple truth and Christian concord, that for the future one pure and true religion may be embraced and maintained by us, that as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, so we may be able also to live in unity and concord in the one Christian Church."
The key phrase that shows the difference between Augsburg (1530) and modern day "get along with anyone" Christianity, is this: after the removal and correction of such things as have been treated and understood in a different manner". When the possibility of seeing something corrected or even removed from the teaching and practice of the Church isn't even on the table, true progress has been rendered impossible. As C.S. Lewis stated, "There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake." When we are willing to be corrected, then unity among Christians will have a chance. But not before.

Monday, March 14, 2011

no more evasion

+ First Sunday in Lent +
March 13, 2011
"...and I ate." Genesis 3:13
Do you agree with the saying, Confession is good for the soul?
A full and free confession, only possible by God’s grace, truly restores the soul and brings us the joy of full and free remission of our sins.
1. Adam: The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.
a. The very best marriage in the world!
b. The ones closest to us can push us away from godly path; e.g., Peter not getting the necessity of the Passion.
2. Eve: The serpent deceived me, and I ate.
a. The fast from sin was broken by believing a lie; the autonomous individual.
b. Recognizing the deception is the first step to healing and freedom. The cross strips away all deception.

Luther's Exhoration to Confession

So we teach what a splendid, precious, and comforting thing Confession is. Furthermore, we strongly urge people not to despise a blessing that in view of our great need is so priceless. Now, if you are a Christian, then you do not need either my pressuring or the pope's orders, but you will undoubtedly compel yourself to come to Confession and will beg me for a share in it. 29] However, if you want to despise it and proudly continue without Confession, then we must draw the conclusion that you are no Christian and should not enjoy the Sacrament either. For you despise what no Christian should despise. In that way you make it so that you cannot have forgiveness of your sins. This is a sure sign that you also despise the Gospel.

30] To sum it up, we want to have nothing to do with coercion. However, if someone does not listen to or follow our preaching and its warning, we will have nothing to do with him (1 Corinthians 5:11), nor may he have any share in the Gospel. If you were a Christian, then you ought to be happy to run more than a hundred miles to Confession and not let yourself be urged to come. You should rather come and compel us to give you the opportunity. 31] For in this matter the compulsion must be the other way around: we must act under orders, you must come into freedom. We pressure no one, but we let ourselves be pressured, just as we let people compel us to preach to administer the Sacrament.

32] When I urge you to go to Confession, I am doing nothing else than urging you to be a Christian. If I have brought you to the point of being a Christian, I have thereby also brought you to Confession. For those who really desire to be true Christians, to be rid of their sins, and to have a cheerful conscience already possess the true hunger and thirst. They reach for the bread, just as Psalm 42:1 says of a hunted deer, burning in the heat with thirst, 33] "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God." In other words, as a deer with anxious and trembling eagerness strains toward a fresh, flowing stream, so I yearn anxiously and tremblingly for God's Word, Absolution, the Sacrament, and so forth. 34] See, that would be teaching right about Confession, and people could be given such a desire and love for it that they would come and run after us for it, more than we would like. Let the papists plague and torment themselves and others who pass up the treasure and exclude themselves from it. 35] Let us, however, lift our hands in praise and thanksgiving to God (1 Timothy 2:8) for having graciously brought us to this our understanding of Confession.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

daily infirmities and the remedy

We must, therefore, make a distinction here among men. For those who are wanton and dissolute must be told to stay away; for they are not prepared to receive forgiveness of sin, since they do not desire it and do not wish to be godly. But the others, who are not such callous and wicked people, and desire to be godly, must not absent themselves, even though otherwise they be feeble and full of infirmities, as St. Hilary also has said: If any one have not committed sin for which he can rightly be put out of the congregation and esteemed as no Christian, he ought not stay away from the Sacrament, lest he may deprive himself of life. For no one will make such progress that he will not retain many daily infirmities in flesh and blood.
Luther's large Catechism

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ashes to ashes

Collect for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are repentant. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Islam and Christianity

Ephraim Karsh’s book, “Islamic Imperialism: A History.” Mr. Karsh is Professor and Head of the Mediterranean Studies Programme, King’s College, University of London. His book is published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006.

In his Introduction to the book, Professor Karsh writes:

“The worlds of Christianity and Islam, however, have developed differently in one fundamental respect. The Christian faith won over an existing empire in an extremely slow and painful process and its universalism was originally conceived in spiritual terms that made a clear distinction between God and Caesar. By the time it was embraced by the Byzantine emperors as a tool for buttressing their imperial claims, three centuries after its foundation, Christianity had in place a countervailing ecclesiastical institution with an abiding authority over the wills and actions of all believers. The birth of Islam, by contrast, was inextricably linked with the creation of a world empire and its universalism was inherently imperialist. It did not distinguish between temporal and religious powers, which were combined in the person of Muhammad, who derived his authority directly from Allah and acted at one and the same time as head of the state and head of the church. This allowed the prophet to cloak his political ambitions with a religious aura and to channel Islam’s energies into ‘its instruments of aggressive expansion, there [being] no internal organism of equal force to counterbalance it.’”

As we see, the perennial problem of Islam resides in the fact that right from its beginnings politics was intimately wedded to the faith. In fact, Islam as a religious faith would not have achieved any success had Muhammad not immigrated to Medina, where he became both Prophet and Ruler. His triumph over his enemies in Mecca was a military victory. In 630, he entered the holy city as a Fateh, i.e. a Conqueror. This explains why Muslim historiographers called the expansion of Islam throughout the world al-Futuhat, i.e. Conquests. The Ottoman sultan that conquered Constantinople in 1453 is known as Muhammad al-Fateh, i.e. the Conqueror!

Professor Karsh continued:

“Whereas Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, Muhammad used God’s name to build an earthly kingdom. He spent the last ten years of his life fighting to unify Arabia under his reign. Had it not been for his sudden death on June 8, 632, he would have most probably expanded his rule well beyond the peninsula. Even so, within a decade of Muhammad’s death a vast empire, stretching from Iran to Egypt and from Yemen to northern Syria, had come into being under the banner of Islam in one of the most remarkable examples of empire-building in world history. Long after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the caliphate in the wake of World War I, the link between religion, politics, and society remains very much alive in the Muslim and Arab world.” Pp. 5, 6

Jesus only

+ The Transfiguration of our Lord +
March 6, 2011
“…they saw no one but Jesus only.” Matthew 17:8
What are we to make of this mysterious event, the Transfiguration of our Lord? We are confronted with several things that have no rational explanation. Jesus’ face shines like the sun and his clothes become dazzling white. Two dead guys, Moses and Elijah, are recognized and converse with Jesus as if it were the most natural thing in the world. A bright cloud overshadows the gathering and a voice speaks loud and clear, reminiscent of what was said at Jesus’ Baptism: This is my beloved Son…listen to Him! Not surprisingly, Peter, James and John were scared to death! But Jesus came and touched them. Today, I’d like us to consider the Transfiguration from the vantage point that this story is for us and actually about us. At the end of the day, when we see Jesus only, we will experience the power of the Gospel to transfigure our lives with faith, hope and love.

1. Moses and Elijah came to speak with Jesus
a. The Law-Giver sees the end of the Law; cures our perennial tendency to revert to the Law. What must I do?
b. The power-prophet sees the power of sacrificial love; cures our perennial desire for power and control.
2. Peter represents our temptation to climb the wrong mountain
a. This (signs & wonders, spectacular happenings) is great! Let’s wrap it up -- this success formula -- and mass market it to the world. NOT! Hush – and listen to my beloved Son.
b. The glory is hidden in the one who takes the form of a servant, in the means of grace.