Monday, May 26, 2008

A Must Read

Want to know something about gas prices? Go read this article!

Never Again?

Each year the Rotarians of the Town of Vienna (where my church is) hold a street festival named “Viva Vienna.” My church has a booth at this festival where we give out information about our church, homemade baked treats, lemonade, and prizes for kids, as a way of getting the name of our church before people and inviting them to come hear the Word of God. It makes for a very long and difficult weekend for me, getting everything together and helping man the booth and meet people. And every year I come home exhausted and with a headache and say “Never again!”

And then each year, we do it again.

Why? Where else can you meet thousands of people in just two days? Where else can people see (and ask!) about the name of your church and you get to talk about Christianity and the Nicene Creed? Where else can you tell so many people so quickly about what Lutherans believe and what makes us different? Where else could we give away so many Good News magazines, pro-life information, books, Portals of Prayers, devotionals, and talk to people from ages 2 to 82?

I just wish it was on a different weekend. For on Memorial Day weekend businesses are busy, folks travel, many have family plans, and it makes recruiting workers for the booth harder. I also wish I could have the day to go to a Memorial Day parade and picnic again. And relax. Maybe someday my church will be big enough to allow me to do that. In the meantime, yes, I will be grumpy at the end of another long day, and yes, I will probably say “never again!” And yes, we will do it again. And I remember Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “Do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Tim 4:5)

You were right Paul. It is hard work.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Doctrine and Life

A couple of weeks ago, when my son Robbie competed at the state-level for National History Day, I got to look around at look at some of the projects he was competing against. The theme of this year’s competition was “Conflict and Compromise.” One project I saw was on the Battle of the Bulge. Now (I thought to myself) the conflict here is clear, but what was the compromise? Looking in his paper, I saw the following: “my grandfather was forced to compromise his belief and break the fifth commandment as a soldier in the army.”

Wow! How grateful I am for the doctrine of the two kingdoms and of vocation, so that I could explain to my children how a person can be both a Christian and a soldier. I told them what Luther said about a Christian executioner – that as a Christian, he should pray for the person being executed, while as an agent for the government (which is given the power of the sword, Romans 13) he can “thrown the switch” and not be guilty of breaking the fifth commandment. And how this is true also of soldiers, of judges, of policemen, and others who serve us in keeping the peace.

I also felt very sorry for the young person who did this project, the confusion he had, and the distress he must feel for his grandfather. I am sorry I did not get a chance to meet him/her and explain. It also reminded me of how doctrine and life go together, and how important pure doctrine is.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Not So Good Quote

Another quote from our Good Shepherd Seminar this past Saturday . . . but this one not so good, from Rick Warren and his book The Purpose Driven Church:

“Bringing enjoyment to God is called ‘worship.’ Worship is not for your benefit . . . Worship isn’t for you. It’s for God.” (p 64, 66)

To me, this is a stunning denial of the true nature of worship. On this basis alone I do not know how this book could be used and held up as a good and salutary thing in any Lutheran Church. For basic to our understanding of the Divine Service is that in His Word and Sacraments God is serving us. He does not need us, we need Him. And so Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28). Acts 1:1 says that Luke’s first book (his Gospel) tells us about all Jesus began to do and to teach until He was taken up – which work of serving He now continues through the Office of the Holy Ministry in His Church. The “Acts of the Apostles” is better named the “Acts of Jesus through the Apostles.” And so it is today. The Divine Service is Jesus still coming to sinners today with what we need the most: the forgiveness of our sins.

Now, does serving us with the forgiveness of our sins, life, and salvation give God joy? Surely. But to say that worship is not for our benefit but God’s, is a complete misunderstanding of the Scriptures and the Gospel. And with such a basic misunderstanding, all theology is turned on its head. The doctrine of the Church, the sacraments, vocation – all is scuttled, and all that is left is the Law . . . Christians trying to find a way to please and bring enjoyment to God through their deeds. How sad.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Good Quote

A good quote from our Good Shepherd Seminar this weekend, which explains the Divine Service in a simple and clear way: "The Liturgy is not the work of the priest or the work of the people -- it is the work of Jesus."

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Sorry I haven’t posted – its been a busy week!

First of all, my report from Williamsburg and Robbie’s National History Day Virginia State competition there. The competition was stiff! Robbie did not place in the top three, and so will not be moving on to the national competition. He is happy though – he did not want to do any more work on this! However, he did win a prize: The Naval Order of the United States Award in Naval History, given to the outstanding entry on any aspect of naval history. That was pretty cool. It was the first award given out at the end of a long day.

After we returned home from Williamsburg, I drove up to New Jersey late Saturday night to preach at one of our circuit churches in the morning. Then Monday morning I drove up to Greenwich, CT for my pastoral circuit meeting. Being in a “non-geographic” district, we sometimes travel far for our meetings, and when we meet, it is for two or three days at a time. All in all, it was a good conference and a good few days with my fellow pastors.

We ended the circuit meeting at Noon on Wednesday, so then it was driving home, swinging through Philadelphia to pick up my father, and then make it down to church for our Ascension service on Wednesday night! (We made it with a hour to spare!) Then home for some rest before picking Dr. Naomichi Masaki up from the airport on Friday for our Good Shepherd Seminar this weekend. Our seminar grew a little this year, and was again very well received. It is a joy to put these on and to be on the listening end of teaching again for a day!

Tomorrow I will try to catch up on many things . . . but did you ever notice, when you use a day as a catch-up day, it puts you behind again for the rest of the week!