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