Friday, April 6, 2012

A very Good Friday

Good Friday April 6, 2012
It is finished!
Until I opened the e-mail yesterday, I was unaware of the fact that on March 1st of this year, a Christian missionary – Jeremiah Small – was shot and instantly killed by one of students while opening his class in prayer. Moments later, the student turned the gun on himself and died a few hours later. There is precious little understanding as to the reasons for this tragedy. To be sure, Jeremiah was very open and honest about his own walk with Christ, both in the classroom and outside of school. He was very well loved and respected for that very reason. The 11th grade student was not a strong Muslim, and for years even denied the existence of God. Recently, he had begun to show sincere interest in the things of the Lord. Upon his shoulders was the reputation and hopes of one of the best known and most powerful families in Iraq, -- his grandfather’s brother is the President of Iraq.
Jeremiah was the first American, civilian or military, to be killed in the Kurdish region of north Iraq. The entire country felt the shame and bloodguilt of this teenager’s action. They were all waiting for revenge from the Americans. What they discovered, and broadcast on national TV, was Jeremiah’s family’s forgiveness. Hundreds attended his memorial. His students mourned and were inspired. He began teaching history and literature at the Classical School of the Medes in Sulymania, Iraq in January 2006. He returned to teach year after year because of the great gospel changes and hope he saw in the lives of his students. In one of his last e-mails, he wrote the following: I see great things being accomplished and am amazed. Kurdistan is already transformed. May our hearts be stirred both to faith and action.
In 2008, Pope Benedict said this: “Through the sorrowful way of the cross, men and women of all ages, reconciled and redeemed by Christ’s blood, have become friends of God, sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. “Friend” is what Jesus calls Judas, and he offers him the last and dramatic call to conversion. He calls each of us friend because he is the true friend of everyone. Unfortunately, we do not always manage to perceive the depth of this limitless love that God has for his creatures. For him, there is no distinction of race or culture. Jesus Christ died to liberate the whole of humanity from ignorance of God, from the circle of hate and vengeance, from the slavery to sin. The cross makes us brothers and sisters.
Many, in our age as well, do not know God and cannot find him in the crucified Christ. Many are in search of a love or a liberty that excludes God. Many believe they have no need of God. Let us allow his sacrifice on the cross to question us. Let us permit him to put our human certainties in crisis. Let us open our hearts to him. Jesus is the truth that makes free to love. Let us not be afraid. Upon dying, the Lord saved sinners, that is, all of us. The apostle Peter wrote: Jesus “himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (I Peter 2:24). This is the truth of Good Friday.”
Because Jesus cried out “It is finished!” for the past 5 and 1/2 years Jeremiah Small was able to serve his brothers and sisters in Kurdistan and ultimately lay down his life. Because Jesus cried out “It is finished!”, we are certain that Jeremiah’s death was not in vain, nor were the deaths of countless martyrs – witnesses who joined Stephen the first martyr in praying for those responsible for their deaths, whose blood becomes the seed of the Church. May we pray that because of Jeremiah’s death, another Saul of Tarsus would meet Jesus on a different “road to Damascus” and be transformed into a mighty missionary, bringing thousands of Muslims to saving knowledge of him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus the Anointed One. May we never see the cross, remember the cross, make the sign of the holy cross without remembering Jesus’ last triumphant cry: “It is finished!” When our last our draws near, may these words be upon our lips and in our hearts:
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes,
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee!
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
We adore You, Jesus Christ, and we bless You. Truly Your cross and passion bring us life and healing, Amen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Obstoacles to synod and concordia

At the risk of sounding heretical, I will say that the way back to synod and concordia will only be found by returning in humility and child-like faith to the Giver (Jesus) and His gifts (word and sacracment). In my experience, there are two major historic (LCMS) obstacles to reaching this blessed end.
First, We were taught with great certaintly that the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls is justification by grace thrrough faith for Christ’s sake, aka forensic justification. As Dr. Jack Preus, Jr. points out in his book on Biblical Metaphors for Jusitification, however, this is only one of many biblical metaphors describing how we are being saved by the person and work of Christ. Yet we have made the whole enterprise stand or fall on this one aspect of the truth. This begs the question, if I am declared righteous for Christ’s sake, why do I need Holy Communion? What good can it possibly do for me? The way Luther’s Large Catechism speaks of the Sacrament of the Altar was not reflected in the teaching and practice of the LCMS in which I was raised. Until we see the whole life and mission of the Church flowing from and returning to the Eucharist, I fear we will remain divided.
Secondly, we were taught with great certainty that we have the pure doctrine. Aside from the problems of triumphalism inherent in such a view and its somewhat unscriptural base (we see through a glass darkly — if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, etc.), it leads us to the false assumption that it doesn’t matter how we practice so long as we believe correctly. Ironically, the questionable proposition of pure doctrine splits asunder what the church desperately needs to hold together: the law of prayer and the law of belief. I am not trying to say that we cannot know and confess true doctrine, but that we cannot claim to have it “pure” apart from our worship and life.

Friday, March 16, 2012

for freedom

From Schiller's William Tell:

"By this fair light which greeteth us, before those other nations, that, beneath us far, in noisome cities pent, draw painful breath, swear we the oath of our confederacy! A band of brothers true we swear to be, never to part in danger or in death! We swear we will be free as were our sires, and sooner die than live in slavery! We swear, to put our trust in God Most High, and not to qual before the might of man!"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sermon for Oculi

+ Third Sunday in Lent +
1 March 2012 I Corinthians 1:18-19

Scripture speaks of wisdom in at least two different ways: first and best, as beginning in the fear of the LORD; second and worst, as finding its source in mankind and human reason alone. Let me give you a little taste of what nowadays passes for the wisdom of the wise:
 Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created. Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as the result of a continuous process. We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural;
 As non-theists, we begin with humans, not God; nature, not deity. We can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species.
 Humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.
 Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body.
 Human life has meaning because we create and develop our futures.

William Bennett, in The Index of leading Cultural Indicators (1994), pointed out that in the thirty years since 1960, violent crime in America increased more than 500 percent, illegitimate births increased by more than 400 percent, the percentage of children living with single parents tripled, as did the teenage suicide rate, while the divorce rate doubled. ‘Over the past three decades we have experienced substantial social regression. Today the forces of social decomposition are challenging, and in some instances, overtaking the forces of social composition. And when decomposition takes hold, it extracts an enormous human cost. Unless these exploding social pathologies are reversed, they will lead to the decline and perhaps even to the fall of the American republic.’
My dear fellow forgiven sinners! There is only one possible way to reverse this alarming trend, found in our text: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts. In the cross of Jesus, God destroys the wisdom of the wise by permitting the destruction and raising of a greater temple : the body of His Son.
1. The folly of man’s wisdom
a. Seen in the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the experts
Story of Belshazzar: 5 At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand. As the king watched the hand that was writing, 6 his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that his hip joints shook and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called out to bring in the mediums, Chaldeans, and astrologers. He said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this inscription and gives me its interpretation will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around his neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom.” 8 So all the king’s wise men came in, but none could read the inscription or make its interpretation known to him. 9 Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face turned pale, and his nobles were bewildered.
10 Because of the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen came to the banquet hall. “May the king live forever,” she said. “Don’t let your thoughts terrify you or your face be pale. 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your predecessor he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the diviners, mediums, Chaldeans, and astrologers. Your own predecessor, the king, 12 did this because Daniel, the one the king named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and perception, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. Therefore, summon Daniel, and he will give the interpretation.”
13 Then Daniel was brought before the king. The king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the Judean exiles that my predecessor the king brought from Judah? 14 I’ve heard that you have the spirit of the gods in you, and that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom. 15 Now the wise men and mediums were brought before me to read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not give its interpretation. 16 However, I have heard about you that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Therefore, if you can read this inscription and give me its interpretation, you will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around your neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts, and give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription for the king and make the interpretation known to him. 18 Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, greatness, glory, and majesty to your predecessor Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Because of the greatness He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages were terrified and fearful of him. He killed anyone he wanted and kept alive anyone he wanted; he exalted anyone he wanted and humbled anyone he wanted. 20 But when his heart was exalted and his spirit became arrogant, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven away from people, his mind was like an animal’s, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky until he acknowledged that the Most High God is ruler over the kingdom of men and sets anyone He wants over it.
22 “But you his successor, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. The vessels from His house were brought to you, and as you and your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them, you praised the gods made of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life. 24 Therefore, He sent the hand, and this writing was inscribed.
25 “This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.
26 This is the interpretation of the message:
MENE means that God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end.
27 TEKEL means that you have been weighed in the balance and found deficient.
28 PERES means that your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then Belshazzar gave an order, and they clothed Daniel in purple, placed a gold chain around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was killed,
b. The foolishness of trying to live as if the Ten Commandments were never given.
2. The power of God’s wisdom
a. The greater Temple destroyed and raised again – why? so that we would look to Him alone.
b. We preach Christ crucified: the foolish of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God si stronger than men. Ministerial use of human reason.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Praise God's gifts in Baptism

Gregory Nazianzus

"Let us discourse upon the second birth in baptism, which is necessary for us, and which gives its name to the Feast of the Lights (Epiphany). Illumination is the splendor of souls, the conversion of the life, the questions put to the good conscience toward God (1Pt 3:21). It is the aid to our weakness, the renunciation of the flesh, the following of the Spirit, the fellowship of the Word, the improvement of the creature, the overwhelming of sin, the participation in light, the dissolution of darkness. It is conveyance to God, dying with Christ, the perfecting of the mind, the rampart of faith, the key of the kingdom of heaven, the change of life, the manumission of slavery, the loosing of chains, the remodeling of the whole man. Why should I go into further detail? Illumination is the greatest and most magnificent of the gifts of God. For just as we speak of the Holy of Holies, and the Song of Songs, as more comprehensive and more excellent than others, so is this called illumination because it is more holy than any other illumination which we possess.

"As Christ the giver of it is called by many various names, so too is this gift, whether it is from the exceeding joy of its nature (as those who are very fond of a thing take pleasure in using its name), or that the great variety of its benefits has reacted for us upon its names. We call it, the gift, the grace, baptism, anointment, illumination and, the clothing of immortality, the font of regeneration, the seal, and everything that is honorable. We call it the gift, because it is given to us in return for nothing on our part; grace, because it is conferred even on debtors; baptism, because sin is buried with it in the water; anointment, because it is priestly and royal. It is called illumination, because of its splendor; Clothing, because it hides our shame; the font, because it washes us; the seal because it preserves us, and is moreover the indication of the Lord's dominion. In it the heavens rejoice. It is glorified by angels, because of its related splendor. It is the image of the heavenly bliss. We long indeed to sing out its praises, but we cannot worthily do so."

Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 40.3-4


Almighty and most merciful God and Father, we thank and praise You that You graciously preserve and enlarge Your family and have granted us the new birth in Holy Baptism and made us members of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and heirs of Your heavenly kingdom. We humbly implore You that, since we have become Your children, You would keep us in our baptismal grace, that according to Your good pleasure we may faithfully lead a godly life to the praise and honor of Your holy name and finally, with all Your saints, obtain the promised inheritance in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2012

conversation overheard

(Thanks to Pr. John P. Freitag for this!)

Pardon My Dying
A Sequel To Ash Wednesday

Today's first lesson recalls yesterday's Imposition of the Ashes, Genesis 3:19: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." The second lesson is I Corinthians 15:49: "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven."

'A conversation overheard,
at least imagined,
a private conversation
between a husband and his wife--
she on her deathbed,
he seated close beside,
both of them hoping still to say
what needed saying most
before the end.
"Before I leave," she said,
"I do have something to confess."

"Please don't," he said
"Now's not the time for that.
If there's confessing to be done,
let's let it go at saying
you're my girl
and that I've loved you always."

"That's right," she said, I'm only yours.
And that you love me, that I know.
It's just because you do
that I believe
that you could handle
my confession now."

"But don't you understand,"
he said,
"that I don't need
for you to say you're sorry,
not for anything."

"Well," she agreed, "you may not need that
but I do.
And I do understand
that if I have that need
--the need to make confession
and to be forgiven--
you're strong enough to hear me out."

"Maybe," said he, "I'm not so strong at that,
At least I'm not afraid
that some last, unacknowledged sin
still stands between us.
And if I'm not afraid of that,
why should you be?"

"Oh, Adam, you poor dear,
Is that what you had thought I said,
that I'm afraid,
that that was why
I wanted to confess?
I'm not afraid, at least not much.
At any rate that wasn't why
I wanted to apologize:
not out of fear
but out of hope.
I dare to hope that I'm absolved
and hoping that, I want to hear you say
I really am.
And hoping that I am
does make it easier to say
I'm sorry."

"All right," said he, "You win.
What is there to forgive?"

"Forgive my dying.
Pardon this damned mortality."

"Your dying? Pardon that?
But girl," said he,
"that's something you can't help.
Dying is . . .
only natural."

"No, it's not natural at all,"
she said.
"Life wasn't meant to die.
Neither were we.
We both know that.
We've known that ever since
we've known of Easter.
Death isn't natural at all.
It's a downright dirty, dastardly demeaning defeat.
We're not meant to 'accept" it,
not even if with 'dignity.'
We're meant to trump it,
as we shall."

"But then," said he,
"if death is conquered anyway,
if we outlast it,
(and we shall)
why do you still think
dying needs forgiving?"

"Does that," she asked, "disturb you so,
for me to say that death
is what we've brought upon ourselves,
what we've got coming to us?
Does that strike you as morbid,
despite the fact I'm not afraid?
Despite the fact that it's my hope
and not my fear
which frees me to admit
the shame of dying,
do you see that
as merely clinical escape?
Come, Adam, can't you deal with that?
I believe you can."

"I wouldn't say," said he,
"that that is morbid.
Still, it does seem - -
how shall I say? - -
a bit too self-important
for us to take the credit for
so vast a thing as death.
Are we, for all our guilt,
really that influential?"

"That does seem hard to believe,"
she said,
"unless we manage first to believe
that God is interested enough to judge
because he's still more interested
in resurrecting and forgiving.
For him to let us die is judgment,
not contempt.
And there's a difference.
Ignore us? That he never does.
But deal with us he does.
That important we all are."

"But then," said Adam,
"why do you
ask now to be forgiven
by me?
Forgiveness, yes. But why from me?
I'm not the one who judges you."

"But you're the one I hurt.
For, Adam dear,
I do hurt you by dying.
You know I do.
It hurts me, too, of course.
Death even hurts my vanity.
Death isn't pretty
and, as you know,
I've always liked being pretty.
But worse than that by far,
it hurts to have to liquidate
the fondest love affair
that any wife could want.
And it's for that, for interrupting that,
That I do say I'm sorry."

To which he said, "I do forgive,
I too forgive."

"And thanks for that," said she.
"Meanwhile, Adam, think spring.
Think Christ."

"I'll see you later, girl."

Robert W. Bertram
Concordia Seminary
St. Louis, Missouri
17 February 1972

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Where are you going?

"Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire Cat. "I don't know," Alice answered. "Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Exclusive use?

Resolved, that all district mission efforts, including church planting and campus ministry, be directed by a mission council composed of an equal number of Pastor and Laity from each electoral circuit, and be it further
Resolved, that all mission work center around the ministry of Word and Sacrament and use Synod-approved worship and educational materials exclusively.


Last Sunday after the Epiphany + Transfiguration
19 February 2012 2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We have been given a unique opportunity in the Transfiguration of our Lord to consider the glory of God. The glory of God can certainly create misunderstanding and misplaced priorities, false hopes and mistaken dreams even for believers. There was a good reason only three of Jesus’ closest disciples were invited to witness this supernatural event, and were enjoined to strict silence until after the Savior’s resurrection from the dead. Knowledge of such an event could very easily detract from the necessity and the power of the cross. In fact, something we call a theology of glory betrays our ongoing vulnerability on this exact point. The following statements illustrate how this theology of glory might play out in our lives:
 Human beings, though flawed and sinful, are fundamentally capable of doing good and knowing God;
 God is to be sought by ascending ladders of mystical experiences, religious or philosophical speculation or moral achievement;
 Seeks direct, unmediated knowledge of and encounter with “the naked God” and sees such a direct encounter as an unqualified “good thing”;
 Can contemplate God’s omnipotence and majesty without fear;
 Views worship primarily as a celebration, seeking to ascend to God;
 Feels it knows God immediately through His expressions of divine wisdom, power and glory.
In contrast to this popular but erroneous view, the glory of God has always been revealed through means such as the Law and the Prophets, the face of Christ Jesus and through His body the Church.
1. The glory of God in the Law and the Prophets
a. Moses, the Ten Commandments, curb – mirror – guide
b. Elijah, false prophets condemned, people called back to fear, love and trust in God rather than their idols

2. The glory of God in the face of Jesus and the Church
a. Going down into the depths of humiliation, temptation, suffering and death
b. To serve the neighbor, overlook the offense, love the enemy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Visible Words

Visible Words: Holy Baptism
Jesus’ words of institution are found in Matthew 28:18-20. When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to do everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”
Disciples of Jesus are not self-made, but are those who have been baptized and taught the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Scripture tells us that God’s Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). We are taught the Word of God in spoken or written form. We are given the Word of God as a Visible Word in the water of Holy Baptism: because of his mercy he saved us through the washing in which the Holy Spirit gives us new birth and renewal (Titus 3:5). This passage (see also Ezekiel 36:25-27, Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:11-13) clearly teaches that in Holy Baptism God acts powerfully and decisively on our behalf, doing what only God can do, i.e. forgiving sins, saving from death, granting new birth and renewal in the Holy Spirit by joining us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We call this supernatural event baptismal regeneration, fulfilling Jesus’ words to Nicodemus: “If anyone isn’t born of water and the Spirit, he can’t get into God’s Kingdom….you must all be born from above” (John 3:5, 7).

The hymns of the Church also reflect that Baptism grants Jesus’ blessing:

Cradling children in His arm, Jesus gives His blessing.
To our babes a welcome warm He is yet addressing.
Take them, Lord, give life anew in the living waters!
Keep them always near to You as Your sons and daughters!
Hymnal Supplement 98 #843

The church fathers also extol the power and blessing of this Visible Word:

Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…
We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift.
It is call gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own;
grace since it is given even to the guilty;
Baptism because sin is buried in the water;
anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed;
enlightenment because it radiates light;
clothing since it veils our shame;
bath because it washes;
and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.
(St. Gregory of Nazianzus)

Visible Words: Holy Communion

Jesus’ words of institution are recorded by St. Paul:
I passed on to you what I had received from the Lord: On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He broke the bread and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” When supper was over, he did the same with the cup. He said, “This cup is the new promise made with my blood. Every time you drink from it, do it to remember me.” (I Cor. 11:23-25)
In “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis put it like this, “It explains why this new life is not spread by purely mental acts like belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion. It is not merely the spreading of an idea; it is more like evolution—a biological or super-biological fact. There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.”
In Martin Luther’s Large Catechism, we read, “It is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word or regard it without the words, you have nothing but mere bread and wine. But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then, in virtue of the same, it is truly the body and blood of Christ. For as the lips of Christ say and speak, so it is, as He can never lie or deceive.”

The hymns of the Church clearly confess Christ’s real presence:

What is this bread? Christ’s body risen from the dead:
This bread we break, this life we take,
Was crushed to pay for our release.
Oh, taste and see—the Lord is peace.

What is this wine? The blood of Jesus shed for mine;
The cup of grace brings His embrace
of life and love until I sing!
Oh, taste and see – the Lord is King.

Yet is God here? Oh, yes! By Word and promise clear.
In mouth and soul He makes us whole –
Christ, truly present in this meal,
Oh, taste and see – the Lord is real.

Is this for me? I am forgiven and set free!
I do believe that I receive His very body and His blood,
Oh, taste and see – the Lord is good.
Hymnal Supplement 98 #850

The church fathers also extol the power and blessing of this Visible Word:
Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ.” -- Ignatius of Antioch

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Have you ever heard of a "Christophobe"?

We've all heard of homophobes. Some of us who are willing to speak out about the political agenda of the homosexual community have heard that term more then a few times. On my part, I've come to terms with that language. Since I cannot find any reason to identify someone based solely on their sexual practice I tend to not use the common terms for people who chose uncommon means of expression. I prefer to respect people as oppose to labeling them, but I get called names all the same.

It's hard to be a homophobe if you are not afraid of uncommon people or of what they do or of becoming part of all that. What is there really to be afraid of? I am not afraid of people who commit adultery or people that have premarital sex. People are people and like the President said, we are all sinners, saved only by the grace of God.

But the uncommon people seem to have a common fear. They seem to be afraid of Jesus Christ. They don't want to hear what He said, nor what the Bible teaches about Him. They seem to prefer rewriting the text to fit their own lifestyles and prejudices. And they seem incredibly intolerant of anyone who mentions His name in public or takes His teachings seriously.

It seems like a clear case of "Christophobia" - the fear of Jesus Christ, His teachings and His followers. So the next time you get called a name because you read something from the first chapter of Romans, or the Book of Exodus, or the writing of St. Peter or Jude, just take a moment and reflect. Are you afraid of homosexuality? Or is someone else afraid of the truth.

Just something to think about

Monday, January 30, 2012

This ruling effects all Christians!

Fr. Tim Ralston – Homily for January 29, 2012
I have some very unbelievable, yet very real, news for you today: religious liberty in this country is now dead. Or if not dead, it’s at least been condemned to death. I know, I was shocked when I first heard it too. But as surprising and confusing as that may seem, it’s true.
And while we all know that our country has faced some pretty tough times over the last few years, with a divided people, with economic crises, and with natural disasters, I would be surprised if any of us here saw this coming. For our own government has decided to completely toss aside the First Amendment of the Constitution and try to mandate that Catholics, and Catholic organizations, deliberately violate the teachings of the faith, as well as their very consciences.
How, you may ask? Well, as a way to summarize, I’ll read an excerpt from a letter sent out by our very own Archbishop, Dennis Schnurr.
He writes, “The US Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employee’s health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).” (end quote)
So, basically, Catholics and Catholic organizations will have to pay to provide sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees, or face serious punishments from the government. Our Catholic schools, universities, nursing homes, hospitals, and social services would seemingly all be included in this group. And just so everyone is clear, sterilization, the use of contraception, and abortion are all serious sins that cannot be approved of. The dignity of every human person, born or unborn, the sanctity of marriage as a lifelong, faithful commitment between one man and one woman, which is open to life, and the fundamental role of the human family in building and sustaining a strong society, are too important, and too beautiful, to denigrate and destroy.
The Catholic Church has always held this and will always believe it. And throughout the history of this great country of ours, we’ve always had the freedom to allow these beliefs to guide how we live, not only as faithful disciples, but also as faithful citizens. However, that freedom to practice our religion, that freedom to live out our faith, as I said earlier, has been condemned to die. It’s not quite dead yet, simply because our government did grant it a stay of execution for one year. This one year window is meant to help us figure out how to comply with the new mandate. But, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York put it, “In effect, the president is saying that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
And violating our consciences is something we cannot do. As Archbishop Schnurr so bluntly puts it in his letter, “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.” Let me repeat that: “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.” This is our Archbishop saying this. And he is being joined by bishops all around this country on this issue. They are standing united, providing clear and strong leadership for all of us. And they are speaking out with a sense of outrage, and a sense of urgency, but also, with a sense of hope.
After all, as Christians, everything we do should be done with a sense of hope. Even witnessing the potential death of religious freedom is not enough to make us despair. For at the center of our faith, is the idea of resurrection. We know that during His life on earth, Jesus raised people from the dead, including Lazarus. And then, He Himself, after dying a horrible, painful death on the cross, conquered death by His own rising from the dead. So Christ has conquered death and can bring our religious freedom back from the brink of death. And again, quoting Archbishop Schnurr, “Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible.”
So, what can be done? Even if we have this hope that we can still fix this problem, what actions can we take to help this happen? First of all, we need to educate ourselves about this extremely serious matter. Read the letter that Archbishop Schnurr sent out. It is posted on our website here at St. Charles, as well as on the website for the Archdiocese. We will also print it in the bulletins next weekend. Also, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has great information on their website regarding all of this. I encourage you to check that out as well. We need to know what is at stake here.
Along with educating ourselves, the Bishops have asked us to “commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and just may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.” Prayer and fasting – we won’t get anywhere without these two things.
And finally, we need to let our elected officials know that we will not stand idly by and just watch our liberties taken away. So, again on the US Bishops website, there is information on how to contact Congress to encourage them to support legislation that will reverse this unjust mandate given to us by our current Administration.
Please, I beg of you, take this very seriously. Our country that has long been known as the land of the free is in danger of forfeiting that title. Our bishops have acted quickly in showing their leadership. But they don’t want to stand alone. They are asking us to join them. I, for one, am choosing to do so. I hope you will too because this country that I still love, despite her flaws and weaknesses, is in trouble. Your country needs you.

Gregory Nazianzus

To speak concisely, the Godhead is undivided in separate persons. There is one mingling of light, as though three suns are joined to each other. When then we consider the Godhead, or the first cause, or the undivided majestic unity, that which we conceive is one. However, when we consider the persons in whom the Godhead dwells, those who timelessly and with equal glory have their being from the first cause, there are three whom we worship."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
29 January 2012 Mark 1:26.
“And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.”
Today’s Gospel deals with a subject that is often met with skepticism or outright unbelief in our modern world: the reality of evil, unclean spirits. Those who have been baptized and taught to pray, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, however, know differently. We know all too well what it means to be harassed and tempted by evil and unclean spirits. They whisper lies and half-truths and try to confuse us. They try to influence us to do things we know are wrong – even things we don’t want to do. We have all felt their influence at different times. We know how they have tried to sow division, to make us fearful, to get us down on ourselves, to lie, to manipulate people, or to doubt God’s love. Today’s Gospel story concerns us directly. In it we see both an urgent warning and a powerful promise of safety in the presence of the Savior, Christ Jesus.

1. Give Satan a foothold and he will build a stronghold.
a. The poor man in the synagogue didn’t get there overnight – neither do we. Perversity, promiscuity, pornography, drug use invite the unclean spirits.
b. Consider those who have given evil and inch and seen it take a mile:
Cain -- 6The LORD said to Cain: What's wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? 7If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don't let it! Samson -- 4Some time later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, …..
5The Philistine rulers went to Delilah and said, "Trick Samson into telling you what makes him so strong and what can make him weak. Then we can tie him up so he can't get away. If you find out his secret, we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver."
2. The gates of brass before Him burst, the iron fetters yield.
• A. He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him! "The presence of the Savior is the torment of the devils." Bede the Venerable
b. The same power and authority can be found in the Word of God today, as well as in the sacraments and in the body of Christ.
"When sin is forgiven it is certain that the devil is driven out from the sinner's heart, and for this reason Christ embraced all sinners in His statement: 'Now sentence is being passed on this world, now the prince of this world is overthrown.' God removes the sin of the one who makes humble confession, and thereby the devil loses the sovereignty he had gained over the human heart." -- Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 6.4, The Works of Bernard of Clairvaux (vol. 2); The Song of Songs I, pg. 34.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

bread and wine, body and blood

St. Ambrose of Milan

Perhaps you will say,

“I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ?”

And this is the point which remains for us to prove. And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.

Moses was holding a rod, he cast it down and it became a serpent. (Exodus 4:3-4)

Again, he took hold of the tail of the serpent and it returned to the nature of a rod. You see that by virtue of the prophetic office there were two changes, of the nature both of the serpent and of the rod. The streams of Egypt were running with a pure flow of water; of a sudden from the veins of the sources blood began to burst forth, and none could drink of the river.

Again, at the prophet’s prayer the blood ceased, and the nature of water returned. The people of the Hebrews were shut in on every side, hemmed in on the one hand by the Egyptians, on the other by the sea; Moses lifted up his rod, the water divided and hardened like walls, and a way for the feet appeared between the waves.

Jordan being turned back, returned, contrary to nature, to the source of its stream. (Jos. 3:16)

Is it not clear that the nature of the waves of the sea and of the river stream was changed? The people of the fathers thirsted, Moses touched the rock, and water flowed out of the rock. (Exodus 17:6)

Did not grace work a result contrary to nature, so that the rock poured forth water, which by nature it did not contain?

Marah was a most bitter stream, so that the thirsting people could not drink. Moses cast wood into the water, and the water lost its bitterness, which grace of a sudden tempered. (Exodus 15:25)

In the time of Elisha the prophet one of the sons of the prophets lost the head from his axe, which sank. He who had lost the iron asked Elisha, who cast in a piece of wood and the iron swam. This, too, we clearly recognize as having happened contrary to nature, for iron is of heavier nature than water.

We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet’s blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world:

“He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created.”

Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.

The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims:

“This is My Body.” (Matt. 26:26)

Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.

Christ, then, feeds His Church with these sacraments, by means of which the substance of the soul is strengthened, and seeing the continual progress of her grace, He rightly says to her: “How comely are your breasts, my sister, my spouse, how comely they are made by wine, and the smell of your garments is above all spices. A dropping honeycomb are your lips, my spouse, honey and milk are under your tongue, and the smell of your garments is as the smell of Lebanon. A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed.” By which He signifies that the mystery ought to remain sealed up with you, that it be not violated by the deeds of an evil life, and pollution of chastity, that it be not made known to thou, for whom it is not fitting, nor by garrulous talkativeness it be spread abroad among unbelievers.

Your guardianship of the faith ought therefore to be good, that integrity of life and silence may endure unblemished.

(On the Mysteries 9.50-55)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thoughts from a candidate for the Holy Ministry

“I love praise and worship music, and I love heavy metal.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a story in the January 19 edition (written by reporter Tim Townsend) about David Ellefson, a student in the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program of Concordia Seminary-St. Louis. go to the site to read the whole article, “Megadeth bassist studying for Lutheran ordination at Concordia,” and to see more photos and comments.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who really believes in choice?

Texas Gives Women a Choice, Planned Parenthood Goes Apoplectic
Steven Aden

The basic components of a choice are easiest understood as a selection of one option out of the two or more options that are presented at any given time. Often choices are simple: vanilla or rocky road, for example. But sometimes they are difficult, especially if the choice in view carries life-altering—and perhaps even life-ending—consequences. One thing, however, is for sure—when only one avenue or one side is presented there is no real choice to be made.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott understands this and also understands that Planned Parenthood hasn’t really been providing mothers in Texas with a choice when it comes to abortion. Therefore, he supported passage of a new law that requires doctors to show mothers a sonogram of their babies before aborting them. Once they see the child, they can make a real (informed) choice to allow Planned Parenthood to kill him or her. Or not, more than likely, since studies have shown that mothers who see their babies before making that decision overwhelmingly choose life.

This law—the Sonogram Bill—was immediately challenged in court upon its passage, and federal district court Judge Sam Sparks halted parts of the law’s implementation just two days before they would have gone into effect. In turn, Abbott appealed Sparks’ decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which reversed Sparks’ decision by declaring the law constitutional earlier this week.

In expressing the court’s opinion, Chief Judge Edith Jones said that Texas had “legitimate interests in protecting the potential life within [mothers].” And concerning the issue of making informed choices, Jones wrote, “Denying [a mother] up-to-date medical information is more of an abuse to her ability to decide than providing the information.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry responded by calling the ruling “a victory for all who stand in defense of life.”

He also addressed the fact that women now have the information necessary to make an informed choice: “Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy, and this important sonogram legislation ensures that every Texas woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying, and understands the devastating impact of such a life-ending decision.”

But not everyone was happy with the fact that Texas women now have a choice. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, referred to the 5th Circuit’s ruling as “abhorrent.”

Sunday, January 15, 2012

tolkein on the liturgy

Tolkien on the Liturgy

I've never understood how people can just sit in the pew and not sing. If you don't like the liturgy here, you're going to really be bummed out in heaven. It's one endless Divine Service with an endless liturgy sung by angels and men. Now, I can understand (with sensitivity) the timid in voice, those who are afraid of "how it might sound," but just to sit in silence without as much as a quiver of the lip, or a silent hum-along. That I don't understand. Neither did Tolkien.

Even if you've only spent a short time in Middle-earth it is quite apparent that men and elves, hobbits and wizards, even the trees love to sing. They sing of sorrow and joy, dark days and homely day dreams. All of life is encompassed in song in Middle-earth. Come to think of it, that's the same way it is in the Church. The liturgy envelops sings along with our sorrow and sadness as much as it does our great joy and celebration. Whatever day we might be having, the liturgy gives us a song to sing, filling our lips with the Word of God. The liturgy is what fulfills and consumes all songs (even our very lives) in heaven and on earth, even in Middle-earth.

In a letter to his son, Christopher, Tolkien makes a similar point:

"If you don't do so already, make a habit of the 'praises'. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudete Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need words for joy."

The liturgy not only gives our voice God's Word to sing, but it shapes our lives with the very Word of Christ, the forgiveness of sins and above all, the liturgy points us, leads us and woos us to the Sacrament, from whence all liturgy leads to and flows out of. The road to the Altar goes ever on...even unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures (of earth and Middle-earth) here below. Praise Him above ye heav'nly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Posted by Pastor Samwise Praetorius (Samuel Schuldheisz) at 9:30 PM