Friday, December 31, 2010

Back Home

Well, had a nice few days to relax with family. Yes, we did drive into the snow on Sunday. Everything was fine until we hit NJ, then the interstate was snow covered and dicey. What usually takes us an hour in NJ took two and a half! But we made it safe and sound, then the next day helped my father-in-law dig out. Now we're back home and getting ready for church tonight and Sunday. I'll post more later. A great New Year to you all.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Peaceful Night

I like Christmas night . . . after the services are over, thinking back over the past two days, the words, the music, the meaning . . . relaxing and enjoying the day. I tried to stay up for the Vatican's midnight mass last night, but couldn't make it.

This year the day is not quite so peaceful, however. For tomorrow is Sunday and there is the Divine Service to be ready for. I was not quite done, so still some work to do. Then also traveling to see family right after the service, and so getting the kids packed and ready to go, organizing, loading. Oh, and did I mention my wife is working tonight? Oh, and did I mention it's supposed to snow tomorrow, starting at daybreak, and that we'll be driving into it as both our van and the storm travel north? It's gonna be a looong day tomorrow . . . so even though the "5-hour energy" drink is one of the vilest tasting things on earth, I'll chug one after the Divine Service to keep me going as I drive, as my wife sleeps in the back seat, as the kids bounce off the walls of the van with excitement, and as the snow blankets the road!

See ya' Friday when we get back!

But I must say, despite all that awaits tomorrow, it's still Christmas, and Christ is born! Our services were small (my folks mostly go away for the holidays) but good, as we rejoiced in the birth of the Lord.

I leave you, then, with one of my favorite Christmas hymns, by Paul Gerhardt:

O Jesus Christ, Thy manger is
My paradise at which my soul reclineth.
For there, O Lord, Doth lie the Word
Made flesh for us; here in Thy grace forth shineth.

He whom the sea And wind obey
Doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness.
Thou, God's own Son, With us art one,
Dost join us and our children in our weakness.

Thy light and grace Our guilt efface,
Thy heav'nly riches all our loss retrieving.
Immanuel, Thy birth doth quell
The pow'r of hell and Satan's bold deceiving.

Thou Christian heart, Whoe'er thou art,
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee!
For God's own Child, In mercy mild,
Joins thee to Him; how greatly God must love thee!

Remember thou What glory now
The Lord prepared thee for all earthly sadness.
The angel host Can never boast
Of greater glory, great bliss or gladness.

The world may hold Her wealth and gold;
But thou, my heart, keep Christ as thy true treasure.
To Him hold fast Until at last
A crown be thine and honor in full measure.

[LSB #372 (c) 1941 Concordia Publishing House]

Friday, December 17, 2010

O Come, O Come, Immanuel!

Today, the 7 "O Antiphons" begin.
O come, O come, Immanuel!

Done.

5:30 pm yesterday! Final over. Didn't need the full two hours. Either it was way easier than the mid-term, or I just studied the right stuff. Been sick most of the week, so was coffee-energydrink-pill-andthroatlozenged up pretty good yesterday. Very much looking forward to a few weeks off of school and just writing sermons and enjoying Christmas. One thing I know: if I can survive this semester, I can survive any!

Oh, and what were the essays I answered yesterday, you ask?
1. How did the four popes leading up to the Council of Trent deal with Luther and why did their efforts fail?
2. What were the internal and external factors that effected the Catholic Church to 1540 and what were their prospects (for success and failure) after that?
3. Why were the Catholic Controversialists ineffective against Luther?
And then we had to identify 15 (out of 30 or so) people, events, bulls, etc.

Oh. My.

Cliff Lee? Really? Merry Christmas, Phillies fans! (Of which, yes, I am one!) In high school and college I used to sell food at Veteran's Stadium. Those were good days, too. Even got in to see Game 2 of the 1980 World Series (confession time: Got in with my employee ID even though I wasn't working!).

The new moniker: R2C2. (Roy, Roy, Cliff, and Cole)

So to the rest of the National League: Thank you for coming. Your participation is no longer needed. (How's that for obnoxious?)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One Down, One To Go

Paper submitted, one class done. Now to start studying for final exam on Thursday for the other class. The end of a long semester is in sight . . .

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How?

Looking around the internet and my fellow bloggers, there have been the usual posts that pop up this time of year - the hand-wringing over how the season of Advent has been neutered and is really no longer Advent at all; how the agenda of the world has taken over the church and Advent is now just preparation for Christmas, as all December is in the world, and the emphases on repentance and the coming of Christ in glory and judgment have been lost.

I agree with much of their analysis of what has happened. This post is not to argue about that, but to ask: what are we to do about it? And how?

Some say: ignore the world! Keep Advent, Advent! Blue paraments are evil (yes, I am overstating here), they must remain purple! Join the resistance! I sympathize with this view, and am even partial to it. But I don't think it does much good. I remember when I was little, having a pastor that did this. I asked him one day why we didn't sing Christmas carols in church before Christmas. He told me: Because it's not Christmas! It's Advent. You know what? That didn't help. I had an answer, but was still confused.

Others have given in to the world and do not see the point in fighting for Advent. Times have changed, they say, and people don't understand. People want Christmas, so give 'em Christmas. I do not agree with this approach, and believe the church year is good, right, and salutary in teaching our people.

So what to do? And how? How do you take a culture heading full steam for Christmas and put the breaks on it? How do you preach to people who are inundated with the cultural Christmas since Thanksgiving (if not before!) and preach Advent to them? And preach it without sounding like a grumpy, old, puritanical man that doesn't want them to have any fun?

That's the challenge I, and all preachers, face every year. I don't think it does any good to ignore Christmas and just preach Advent - that just leaves your people confused and a bit schizophrenic. The challenge is to help them see the reason for Advent. And not just tell them that there is one, but preach it so they realize it. It's the same difference between talking about the Gospel and preaching the Gospel. The first is easy; the second more challenging. For to preach is to penetrate not just the ears, but the heart. Yes, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, and for that I am most grateful, because if it were up to me, no one would ever believe! And yet it has been given to me - with whatever talents and abilities God has given me - to preach the Word.

And so I often agonize - how do you preach John the Baptist to people at this time of year? How do you help them understand not just Christmas joy but, as our liturgy says, repentant joy? How do you teach them to love our Advent hymns as much as our Christmas carols? As much as I love Advent, for me, it is one of the most challenging times of the year.

Monday, December 6, 2010

One More Gift, Please.

While you're buying gifts this season, why not give the gift of water? Click here for information.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Flood of Posts!

I posted a bunch of things today . . . finally getting around to it!

My post on "Virgins Again!" was picked as a "Blog of the Week" by Issues, etc. Thanks Jeff! Very cool.

Also wanted to point out a new blog for your consideration, from our Synodical President and his staff. Click here to check it out.

What to Get Your Pastor for Christmas

Cards and presents and gifts are nice, but here's what your pastor really wants for Christmas:

YOU.

He wants you to come to church. He wants you to come to private absolution. He wants you to come to midweek services and Bible studies. He wants to teach your children. He wants to give you the Lord's Supper. He wants you to receive all God's gifts in abundance, spend time in the Word, and grow in your faith.

Your attendance says that these things are valuable and important to you, and that your pastor and his work is important and valuable. When you're absent . . .

Give it some thought.

Discussing Luther with Papists

Some of you wanted me to report on my discussion of Luther with my class of "Catholics" (i.e., Romanists, Papists) in Grad School. Sorry it has taken me a while to get to it.

First, many of them were surprised to find that, in actually reading Luther, he wasn't as bad as they thought. They found themselves agreeing with him at times, and one woman said that if she had lived back then, she would probably be a Lutheran! This, even though the author we read (a Catholic giving snippets and summaries of Luther's main points) I think didn't do a very good job. I thought his presentation was a bit confusing, and (as you all know) presenting Luther in snippets often doesn't do justice to his teaching.

One of the books we were discussing was about the Catholic Controversialists and how they responded to Luther and wrote against him. It was an interesting book, and showed very starkly the main issue at that time and which my fellow students also had: authority. The Scriptures cannot be the authority. They need the Church (i.e., Councils, Popes, Scholastic Theology) to interpret and explain them. My classmates simply could not understand how it could be any other way. Yet I think they were surprised at the weakness of some of the Controversialist positions and arguments.

The other thing they could not quite understand was simul justus et peccator. It is a concept completely foreign to them and their way of thinking. And interestingly, in our discussion of this, as I was pointing out the differences between Lutheran and Romanist thinking on justification, my professor kept trying to minimize the differences and portray us as not so far apart. That made for an interesting dynamic!

All in all, it was a good discussion. I got some questions outside of class as well. On the whole, they feel more sympathetic toward Luther and realize he was not quite "the evil leader of the revolt" as so many portray him to be.

Just Because I Like It

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Class

In 30 minutes, my class will start wherein I will be discussing Luther and his teaching with a room full of Catholics. Should be interesting!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Virgins Again!

In the reading from Jeremiah for today, we read this verse (31:4a) "Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!"

What makes that verse astonishing is that Jeremiah has just spent 30 chapters telling Israel how she is not a virgin, but has prostituted herself with foreign gods and committed spiritual adultery time and time again. Things have gotten so bad, in fact, that he compares Israel to a she-camel in heat, looking for any foreign gods who will service her! (Put that picture in your mind!)

And yet, the Lord here calls her a virgin again! She will be redeemed from her sin and restored to her purity by the only one who could do so - by the Lord Himself. Through the one who will come and take her sin upon Himself, she will again be a virgin through the forgiveness of her sins! Think about that! Think about the power and fullness of our Lord's forgiveness!

And so it is for you and I. Whatever you have done that you are ashamed of, whatever sins have defiled you, and whatever false gods you have bowed down to, loved, and served, the death and resurrection of your Saviour Jesus Christ has redeemed and restored you in the forgiveness of your sins. You are no longer impure, but a holy, clean virgin again! Thanks be to God.

59-28

Living in DC and having to listen to insufferable Redskins fans all year round (yes, all year round!), last night's 59-28 shellacking by my Eagles is extra sweet. I will enjoy listening to their whining, especially all the questions that have arisen concerning Donovan McNabb. They are discovering what we Eagles fans have had to put up with for 11 years - yes, he is a good quarterback and leader and will make some spectacular plays, but he will also throw many should-be-easy-completions into the ground. And while he was an upgrade from your previous quarterbacks, did you really think you were getting a Pro Bowl quarterback for a second round pick? Like it or not, the Eagles knew what they were doing when they traded him to you. But hey, at least you're above the Cowboys!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Can Incense be dangerous?

Think incense is harmless? Watch this. Oh my. Think we should try this at St. Athanasius next time we use incense? :-)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All Saints Day (observed)

We are observing All Saints Day in church tomorrow. I am very much looking forward to it! I think these hymns are among the very best. Now, just to make sure I don't sing too loud and hurt my throat! :-)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why Join a Church?

Something I wrote last week that I thought I would post here . . .


Why Church membership?


I have been asked this question a few times over the past couple of years. Why should I join a (or your) church? Why can’t I just keep going and attending without joining? The Bible doesn’t say anything about church membership.


This is a good question that I think we would do well to explore. For I think it reflects the days in which we live, where “joining” is no longer seen as a good thing. And not just for churches - organizations all across the board are experiencing declines in membership, whether they be civic, social, or religious. It is a sign of the times.


First off, there are a few things to be said.


First, is it true that the Bible doesn’t say anything about church membership? Well, not exactly. It doesn’t speak about congregational membership, but inclusion into the church as the people of God, the body of Christ, by circumcision in the Old Testament and by Holy Baptism in the New Testament, is very important. And so there is a sense of “joining” in the Bible.


Now, where do today’s “congregations” fit into the picture? They are the visible manifestations of the church in the world today. Each congregation is not only part of the church, but is the church in the fullest sense. Each congregation, no matter its size or building, has the fullness of Christ in His Word and Sacraments and so is the church in that place. What this means for today, I think, is that to be in the body of Christ (a baptized Christian) but not to belong to a congregation which is the church in that place, is not a picture that fits in with the biblical witness. One was circumcised into a people, a community. One is baptized into a people, a community.


What has complicated this for us today is the mobility of our society and the plethora of churches that people can, and do, attend. In the not too distant past, one was baptized, catechized, married, and buried, from the same church. Not so today. This is a rare exception to the rule. Instead, people frequently move from place to place, and “church shopping” has become a reality to be dealt with. What church will I attend? Will I join? Do I have to join? Why?


Which brings us to the next question: Why can’t I just keep going and attending and not join?


Well, you can do this. Maybe some pastors will draw the line and force a decision at some point, but I think this is something that people are doing. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


Where this becomes a difficult subject is when people have been burned and hurt by churches they have been members of, and do not eagerly want to experience that again. And I think that is understandable. They feel vulnerable and at risk. So maybe it would just be better to not join and just be there . . .


As I thought about this, it seemed to me that this is the same argument that many folks today make to avoid marriage and instead just live together. I don’t need a piece of paper (I don’t need to join); we’ll just live together (I’ll just attend); that doesn’t mean I don’t love them and am not committed to them. But what does it mean? For yes, it does mean something. In truth, this is done because it is easier to walk away; there is no real commitment.


Now, certainly, there is a difference here: living together apart from marriage is sinful, and we’re not talking about sin with regard to church membership. But I still think the analogy is apt. Especially because the relationship between Christ and the church is described in the Bible how? As a marriage! Christ as the bridegroom and His church as the bride. They become one flesh.


As any husband and wife can tell you, marriage involves a certain amount of risk and vulnerability. Your spouse is now going to see you at your worst. You are making a serious commitment. You are opening yourself and your emotions up and so there is the possibility of hurt. Your love may not be returned. Sinful spouses sin. Forgiveness is needed.


So it is also in the church and with church membership. Joining a church is a commitment (vows are made before the congregation!) and there will be a certain amount of risk and vulnerability. And yes, there will be sin. The church is full of sinners that will act like sinners (count on it!), and much forgiveness will be needed.


And so faith is needed. Spouses have faith in one another, certainly; but for a Christian couple, it is faith in our Saviour that keeps a marriage together. That this is the spouse He has given me and who I need. That this is the spouse I am to lay down my life for. That this is the spouse who’s going to need my forgiveness and who is going to need to forgive me. And it may be scary. Couples get “cold feet” before they marry; maybe we are hesitant to join a church because it isn’t exactly what I wanted. Maybe not. But perhaps it is the church you need. The church that your Saviour is giving you, to feed you and strengthen you. The church that also needs you.


To join, then, is an act of faith and commitment, to the heavenly bridegroom and to that particular congregation. It is to promise faithfulness and love and forgiveness; a vow which the congregation, in turn, makes to you. And like in any marriage, there will be good days and bad days, but through it all is the promise of God to bless, and there are great blessings in a Christian marriage and in being a member of a congregation.


Are there “divorces?” Times when people are forced to leave congregations? Surely. And they hurt, just like a divorce. And it takes time to heal. So take the time to heal! That is important. But equally as important: confess your sin and receive the healing love and forgiveness of the One who will never fail you; the One who is perfectly and always faithful; the One who laid down His life for you on the cross, to wash you clean and make you a spotless bride. Pray that He will give you the faith and love to forgive those who sinned against you, and then live that faith boldly! Fully confident that our Saviour is working in you for your good, and through you for the good of others.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yes, this actually happens . . . often.

Good humor always concerns the truth. I find this hilarious - about planning for a wedding.

HT: Gottesdienst Online

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Week at School

Well, the good news is that I passed the Latin proficiency exam I took last week (only three more language exams to go!); but the bad news is that the mid-term exam in my class on "The Catholic Reformation from 1400-1560" was impossible. I actually thought I was decently prepared, but he pulled out some minutiae that just . . . wow. Well, it's over. Gotta move on.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Please, stop.

Dear NFL,

The wearing of "throwback" uniforms is a fad that has run its course. No one likes these uniforms. They are ugly. There is a reason why they are not being used anymore. Please stop. We like our teams to look like our teams. Thank you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Which Letter?

Just a fun post . . . which letter on your keyboard gets the most use? For me, it seems to be the letter "A." On two computers now, this is the letter that has shown the most wear. Which is it for you?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Good Sale on Good Books

CPH is having a sale you might want to check out.

First, the Readers Edition of the Book of Concord is on sale. The hardback edition is on sale for $20 (regularly $31). But you may want to check out the "premium leather edition" which is on sale for $25 (regularly $70!!). That's 64% off for you math majors. Click here to see the leather, and here to see the hardcover.

Secondly, a new book called "Lutheranism 101" is on sale. I have not read it yet, but it has been receiving many good reviews. I just ordered one - they're on sale right now for $15 (regularly $25). Check it out here.

Third, the new and improved edition of Walther's Law and Gospel is on sale for $20 (regularly $30). This book contains a series of lectures given by our first synodical president to the students at Concordia Seminary on how to preach, rightly dividing God's Word of truth as Law and Gospel. It is a must read for every seminarian and pastor, and good for layfolk as well. Click here for information.

Lastly, the sale on the Lutheran Study Bible continues. There are many editions to choose from. Go here to check them out.

I'm not sure how long all these sales will last for, so go check them out! And if you want to see any of these books before buying them, just let me know - I will be happy to show them to you. (Unless, of course, you are reading this blog from somewhere across the US or the world. Then you're on your own!)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Church on the Road

We had "church on the road" yesterday, one of the joys of not having our own church building. The Adventist church we rent space from scheduled a special event for themselves yesterday and told us (10 days ago!) that we needed to make other arrangements. We did, but not happily. We met in the home of some members where we usually meet for Holy Week services (since we cannot use the church building for those services either). It is a bit cramped, and we lose some people with the new location, but all in all it works okay. I try to maintain a reverent atmosphere so that the surroundings will fade and the gifts that are being given will be highlighted. I know one of our members that did not get the word and went to the church - I am sorry! I pray there were no visitors who showed up . . .

But as I was thinking more about this early this morning, I was thinking of how things work in a marriage, and the promises "for better, for worse." Sometimes being the pastor of a church without its own building is for better (no maintenance headaches!), and sometimes it is "for worse" (like yesterday). But that we're in this together, pastor and people, there is no doubt.

Now to start making plans for where we'll celebrate Christmas. I hope they'll let us use the building on Friday night for Christmas Eve, but with Christmas Day on a Saturday, I'm sure the Adventists will be using the building that morning. So we'll again take our church on the road - but wherever we'll be, our Saviour will be with us, faithfully forgiving and feeding His little flock called Saint Athanasius.

Latin

My Latin is coming along. I've been translating a bit of Ambrose and am getting better at recognizing many grammatical constructs. My problem is that while I can more easily determine the grammar of a sentence, my "getting it into good English" is still a bit lacking. My competency exam is October 12th, so I still have a little time to improve.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Where ya' been?

I was asked the other day why my blogging has begun to crawl. The short answer is: my blog is at the bottom of my priority list. When I get busy, the blog gets put off. And I've been *very* busy, between a new semester at school with two very demanding courses, trying to do lots of Latin translating in preparation for my competency exam on October 12th, lots of pastoral visits and stuff at church, our campus ministry ramping up again, and family obligations. Nights have been late, mornings early, and sleep in short supply. So . . . I'll try to blog a bit more, but no guarantees!

Friday, September 10, 2010

An Inside Glimpse

Ever wonder what out synodical president does? What does his office look like? It seems that our new president, Matthew Harrison, is making a concerted effort to show what is happening in his office. One of his assistants, Rev. Dr. Al Collver, is making many pictures and explanation available on his blog. Here are some of the posts:




I think this kind of glimpse into the workings of the "synod" is helpful and will help to build trust in our church body. It has been long known that giving to the synod is down - perhaps because no one knew where all that money was going and for what? We heard where the money was not going, but not the other stuff. To be able to see this and know our president better is a good thing.

As for the orientation theme: "Witness, Mercy, and Life Together," what do you think? I think you'll see this showing up a lot . . . like as the theme for the next convention! This replaces Dr. Kieschnick's "One Mission, One Message, One People" theme.

My first impression is favorable. It seems wider than Dr. Kieschnick's. It seems to take into account our congregational structure as well as our life together as a synod. I am not surprised that "mercy" is in it, given Harrison's work for the last 10 years. It will be interesting to see what our president does with this now and for the years to come.

One last thing: although President Harrison officially took office on September 1st, his service of installation is tomorrow, Saturday, September 11th, at 10:00 am CT. You can watch the live internet stream here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The End of an Era

I learned yesterday that Elizabeth died.

Who is Elizabeth? She was one of the members of the congregation I first served out of seminary, Holy Trinity in Yonkers, NY. But not just one of the members. Right after my installation, she asked my mother if she could adopt me as a son, since she had been given three daughters but no sons. She was my first pastoral visit later that week. She befriended my wife and showed her around Yonkers - even the pretty seedy parts. She was always at church doing something - weeding the gardens, cleaning, fixing. She always baked a cake and brought it to every funeral viewing. She came to every Bible Class with her list of questions from her devotional readings - often written on the back of a receipt from a store, or something like that! She loved to laugh and make others laugh. She loved her Lord and loved her church, and couldn't picture being anywhere else. She was a tough old Slovak who lived a tough life and wouldn't have had it any other way. She prayed for years that her husband would join the church and kneel beside her at the altar. He did, and now she has gone to be with him with her dear Saviour.

She cried when I accepted the call to serve the saints at St. Athanasius. She still called from time to time to check up on us. When I first left, she told me she wanted me to come back and do her funeral. That changed, for she received a better pastor now than I. But I also told her then that I wouldn't, because she had told me before that she was going to be buried naked, for "naked she came, and naked she would go." I told her I didn't want to see that! :-) She died Friday night from a heart problem - I think I shall call it a broken heart. Why? Well, her congregation recently voted to leaved the SELC District of the LCMS (the old "Slovak district") and join the Atlantic District. I do not condemn them for that decision, and pray that it work out well for them. But I'm sure it saddened Elizabeth, and broke her heart.

Now she has joined the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven around the throne of the Lamb in heaven. I am so happy for her. She knew much sadness here on earth. She will know such joy there. She sang in my choir in Yonkers while we had it, always telling me that her voice wasn't very good and that other pastors didn't let her sing in their choirs! Now what a choir she is a part of! I will think of her today during the Divine Service when we sing the Sanctus, that she has taken her place beside my own mother, on the "other side" of the altar.

Rest in peace, dear Elizabeth. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Blessed indeed, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (Revelation 14:13)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Thumbs Up for CPH

I think Concordia Publishing House has some of the best customer service around. Whenever I call them, they always cheerfully make the problem right. Thank you, CPH!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Church Directory

Q: How is my church directory like a computer?
A: It is obsolete as soon as it is published!

We have so many people coming and going and moving and changing that it's never right - I have more scribbles in it than I have untouched entries.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Playing With Words

The Hebrew language is great for playing with words. I remember Dr. Wenthe at the Seminary marveling at some wonderful Hebrew words and phrases in the classes I was privileged to have with him.

Well, we found a good one yesterday in our Psalms Bible Study. We began studying Psalm 37, which begins:

"Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb."

The Hebrew word play is in verse two, with the verbs for fade and wither: in Hebrew they are yimmalu and yibbolu. So, I told the class, whenever you find yourself fretting or getting angry at someone or something, just tell yourself: yimmalu and yibbolu! It will not only bring a smile to your face to say such silly words (and so diffuse your worry and anger), it will also remind you of the rest of the psalm - that the Lord is caring for you, He is faithful, He does not forsake His children, and that the things of this world are passing - but the Word of the Lord and His steadfast love endure forever.

Gotta love Hebrew! :-)

Update: I am pleased to say that I have broken new ground by posting these transliterated Hebrew words. If you do a Google search on them, my post is the only hit that comes up!

Monday, August 23, 2010

From Today's TDP


"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead." ~ 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

Amen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Confirmation

Today was the confirmation of my second child and first daughter, Sarah. Whenever you have a confirmation, I highly recommend singing the hymn "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It: I am Baptized into Christ." We sang this as our opening hymn today and it definitely set the emphasis for the day in the right place - not on what Sarah has done, but on what Jesus has done, and continues to do, for her. Click here to read the sermon, in which I used this hymn. (And in case you're wondering . . . no, we do not project stuff on the screen behind us in the Divine Service! We're stuck with that there in the building that we rent.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Change and Updates

I've updated my blog a little and changed the look. I've seen others use this template and I thought it looked nice. I've also fixed some broken links and added some new blogs to consider. Hopefully I'll keep up with this part of blogging a bit better. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lots of Luthers!

Ever go to a city and see those colorfully decorated animals on the street corners? Lots of cities have done it. They've had pandas in DC, dogs and cats in CT, and cows in NY.





Well guess who's coming to Wittenberg? [Click here to read about it.]

I wonder what they're going to do with them all when they're done . . . Maybe instead of those garden gnomes . . .

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm Not Making This Up

The Gulf Coast Synod of the ELCA actually brought to the floor and debated (don't know how long) a resolution to ask the NFL to schedule its kick-off times at 2 pm EST so the games do not interfere with church services. And the winner of the Floor Committee with the dopiest resolution is . . .

And in a strange turn of events (an eruption of common sense!), the resolution failed. Geesh - if you're going to spend time on it, might as well pass the thing. How else will the work of the church get done? . . . What? That's not the work of the church?

Sigh. kyrie eleison.

HT: Forum Letter

Monday, August 9, 2010

Another Reason


Here's another reason why I like our new synodical president. Not only is he a theologian, pastor, and historian, he can also do this (in his office and not in the Divine Service).

The Church and the Business of Marriage

Will the church need to get out of the marriage business? I have thought this likely for a while now. With more and more states approving (or being forced to approve) of gay marriage, what will happen when the state tells pastors they have to do these kinds of marriages and not discriminate, or not do marriages at all? For me, the answer is clear: I will do no more marriages.

This raises questions among our people, though. Questions like: I want to be married before God (or by God) and not by a judge. How can I do this now? This will give us a tremendous opportunity to teach about the doctrine of the two kingdoms, the doctrine of vocation, and how God works through not just pastors, but others, even judges and those who govern. Marriage is God's institution and He is the uniter of a man and woman in marriage, even if that be through the ministration of a judge.

This was the case during the time of Luther, where couples were married publicly and civilly at the door of the church, and then came into the church for the Word and blessing of God. What a good witness to the two kingdoms and the role and place of each. Therefore we should not fear what is coming down the road, though a few brides may have to rethink their plans for their wedding and what that will look like. (That might be good too!)

And yes, I do think this is coming. In my state, Virginia, we passed a constitutional amendment stating that marriage is only between a man and a woman, but I'm sure it won't be long until activist judges shoot this down. Like in California. It seems as if the will of the people does not matter anymore. Who cares how those uneducated slobs vote? We judges know better. Yeah. And pretty soon, even the constitution will be unconstitutional.

"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

VBS Picture

My favorite picture from our Vacation Bible School this year. This is what it's all about!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Luther: diakonia = Amt

I am slowly reading my way through the book At Home in the House of My Fathers and came across a very interesting sermon by CFW Walther on the Office of the Holy Ministry (p. 146ff). What is interesting here is that he follows Luther in interpreting Romans 12:7-8 as a kind of “job description for pastors.”


In the ESV, these verses (6-8 to give context) read: Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.


Reading the translation as it is given above, most modern interpreters apply these verses to all Christians in general. Luther, however, does not. And he does not because he translates what is rendered above generally as "service" (Greek: diakonia) as more specifically "Office" (German: Amt). So for Luther, one of the gifts given by God is the Office of the Holy Ministry, and what those in this Office then do is listed in five participles: teaching, exhorting (admonition), giving (concern for the poor), leading (discipline and order), and mercying (concern for the sick, weak, and dying).


Now, don’t let the punctuation in the English verses above make you discount this theology and think Luther a bit crazy on that account - that we obviously have here a list of things that cannot be broken apart as Luther has done. The punctuation was added by editors of the Greek NT later, and in examining the Greek (though I am no Greek scholar), it seems that Luther’s interpretation is indeed possible.


Why don’t we see it that way today? Perhaps because we have been so infected with the “everyone a minister” theology and an aggressive egalitarianism that chafes against the idea of Office. But seeing things here as Luther does honors the Office but does not harmfully aggrandize it, as some would accuse. For clearly, the Office is an Office of serving (diakonia), and of serving the people of God. To highlight the distinction of the Office then becomes a good and wonderful thing for the people of God, who receive the service of the one God has “called and ordained” and placed into their midst to serve them.


It is exactly the “everyone a minister” theology - that seeks to highlight (elevate?) the people of God - that actually harms them. For while yes, the people of God have their service of love to neighbor as well, by making everyone a minister, we rob them of the Office that the Lord has created for them and their benefit. The result is what we often see in churches today: the pastor and people in competition with each other and robbed of their joy, instead of the pastor joyfully serving his people, and the people joyfully receiving his service.


Walther says that “Luther always and very correctly translated diakonia with the word office or Amt” (p. 152) - and not the more general word “ministry.” I do not have the time today to look at the other places in Scripture where this occurs and how that would change our look at things, but what an interesting exercise that would be! And I think this is very worthy of more study and discussion in our church today, to help clarify our theology of the Office, and the Call, and the role of pastor and people, which seems to have gotten a bit muddy of late. It is often said that we need this discussion in our church today - so let’s start here, with Luther and the theology of diakonia = Amt. If Luther is right, what are the ramifications of this for us today?


(If you want to see Luther’s German Bible translation of a passage, go to biblegateway.com and select to see the Luther Bible of 1545.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Another Interesting Article

This is an interesting article, on Christology and the importance of the Word for Luther (to put it in layman's terms).

Friday, July 30, 2010

Little in Your Own Eyes

In Morning Prayer this morning, we read from 1 Samuel 15 and heard this Word of the Lord to King Saul: "Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission . . ." The apostle Paul speaks similarly to Timothy (1 Tim 4:12) when he says, "Let no one despise you for your youth."

There is a difference between the man and the office into which the Lord has placed him. Whether King Saul was little in his own eyes or not, he was the anointed one of God, placed into his office by God as king of Israel. Whether Timothy was young or not, he was the one called by God and placed into his office as pastor. In the office is the authority of God. On that we rely, not on how we see ourselves or not.

I often find myself, as a pastor, as "little in my own eyes." I know my own shortcomings and failures, weaknesses and struggles. In many ways I still see myself as a "young pastor," even though I have been in the office for 15 years now. It is a struggle for me to see myself as someone who has experience and who others look to for leadership. I still often see myself as a young guy just out of seminary.

These verses remind me that it doesn't matter how I see myself, and that, in fact, satan would very much like me to look at myself instead of at Christ and the office into which He has placed me and given me authority to teach and preach and administer the Sacraments. As it always is, when we take our eyes off Christ, we become filled with doubts and fears. It doesn't matter how old a pastor is - as he is called and ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry, he speaks with the authority of the office, and as such can have full confidence.

Even Luther, at times, struggled with this, I believe. In those moments he looked at himself, he wondered how he could presume to teach the church; he who was just a little friar. Who was he? Yet when he considered the Office into which he had been put to speak the Word of God, he knew it didn't matter who he was - he had been chosen by God and called and put into that Office to speak this Word, no matter what. And with his eyes off himself and looking to Christ, his confidence was renewed.

I will, no doubt, struggle with this in the future. When I do, I thank God for these words! Did God not put me here? Am I not called and ordained into this office? Then speak and do not fear. It matters not who I am. But "as a called and ordained servant of the Word and by His authority, I therefore . . ."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Interesting Article

I am not a big fan of the magazine Lutheran Forum - I don't find most of the articles each issue very interesting or helpful. But as I recently received a free copy, I was reading in it and found an interesting editorial piece from Paul Sauer on ecumenism. I won't go through the entire article, but what he said that intrigued me was this (paraphrasing): ecumenism must start by an active engagement with those we are already in fellowship with.

Now, that's a funny sounding statement, for the (broad) purpose of the ecumenical movement is to establish fellowship with those separated from us - how can ecumenism start with those we are already in fellowship with? Well, here's what he meant: we need to stop thinking and acting like isolated church bodies co-existing in the world, and more like the body of Christ in the world. This would most easily start with those we are already in fellowship with, and then grow to those who disagree with us.

Practically, this would mean taking our relationships seriously, and especially when significant changes are proposed in our church body. For example, how would our sister Lutheran churches around the world respond to our "Specific Ministry Pastors?" What would they say about laymen "licensed" to do Word and Sacrament ministry? What do they have to say to us about the jettisoning of the liturgy and the importation of contemporary worship practices in many of our parishes? When these issues arise, is our first instinct to deal with them on our own and think of them as our own (specifically cultural) issues, or to think bigger - that our sister church bodies can help us? That they might have something to say? That what we do will also impact them? Are we thinking "colonially" instead of Christologically-bodily? Do we seek their wisdom before moving forward, or think we can manage just fine on our own.

Perhaps we are doing this at a high level that parish pastors like me aren't fully aware of. Perhaps this is much of what goes on in the International Lutheran Council. If so, I think that is a good thing. But I wonder if it is? And if it is, how can we get this same thinking to come down to our parishes, where [significant] changes are often made unilaterally without regard for sister parishes in the same or next town? This is a real problem (and one that I'm sure I am just as guilty of as the next guy). One example that has impacted me in recent years is the practice of early communion before confirmation. Such a change of practice not only impacts the parish deciding to do this, but my parish also, when a family comes after moving to our area. What do we do?

The point of Rev. Sauer's article, I think, was that our thinking about ecumenism must start at these small levels before we can move on to bigger levels. Such a change of mindset would be a true blessing. Perhaps our newly-elected president, who has a wealth of experience in working with and talking to our partner churches all around the world, can help us to do this. I pray so.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Out of Season" Hymns

Today we commemorated St. James the Elder, Apostle in the Divine Service and we sang the appointed Office Hymn, which was LSB #420, Christ the Life of All the Living. This is a hymn that we normally only sing during the season of Lent. I always find it interesting to sing a hymn such as this "out of season." I get a different perspective on the words and the hymn seems to have a whole new "flavor" for me. So even though it seemed odd to me at the time I was scheduling the hymns to sing this one this day, I rather enjoyed it and think it fit the readings and sermon rather well.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm Back

We got back from vacation last night. It was a good two weeks, but as usual, went by awfully fast! But it is good to be home, in my own bed, and back in the regular routine. I now have approximately a month to get my summer projects done before school starts in late August.

But just a few getting back thoughts . . .

(1.) From Morning Prayer this day, in the reading on St. Mary Magdalene, this line struck me: ". . . Jesus lets it be clearly understood that with these three courses (Mary's tears, kiss, and anointing) Mary served a much more glorious meal than the host of the home himself." This was written with the belief that Mary was the "sinful woman" who anointed the feet of Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7. Whether or not she was, what a great thought - a more glorious meal she served than Simon. I love it. (Watch for that in the sermon next time this reading comes around!)

(2.) While on vacation, the LCMS Convention both came and went. I usually try to follow these as closely as I can while they are going on, and I certainly was interested in the years leading up to this. But while on vacation, I forced myself to stay away from all computers and e-mail - so I could enjoy the downtime and family time. So coming back is very weird; it has all come and gone. Now I have the task of catching up on all that has happened. I must say that I am pleased with the election of Matt Harrison as our new president. I am very hopeful for the future of our synod now. Which leads me to . . .

(3.) I watched the video of the presidential election being announced. How hard it must have been for current President Kieschnick to stand at the dais and announce his own defeat. Wow.

(4.) Before the convention, there was a movement afoot to move the presidential election up to the beginning of the convention, instead of dealing with the restructuring first and then proceed with the regular convention type stuff. This was actually talked about by both supporters of the main candidates for president - for different reasons. This was brought to the floor of the convention, but was rejected by the delegates - which I think was good. For while I still need to catch up on how everything unfolded, it seems to me best to deal with the restructuring on its own merits, not on the basis of who got elected or not.

And finally . . .

(5.) While we were away, we asked a friend to watch our house for us - which means pick up stuff left on the doorstep, feed our fish, water our plants, stuff like that. Well . . . I cannot tell you how surprised we were when we got home to find that not only had she done this for us, but left all sorts of goodies in the kitchen to greet us when we got home! A gallon of milk, fresh fruit, homemade soup, and other goodies, so that we wouldn't have to run out to the grocery store today! :-) What a great idea, and what love shown. I and my wife are overwhelmed. And to conclude this post similarly to the way it started, her love and thoughtfulness are a more glorious meal for us than the wonderful food she left. How blessed we are!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vacation!

Well, I just got into the swing of posting more and more regularly on this blog . . . and now its time for vacation! So, no posts for a couple of weeks while I enjoy some R&R with my family. For R&R for me means no computer, no e-mail, no internet, but to get away from all that! :-) So I'll have a book to read, some crossword puzzles to do, and my family to enjoy. See you in two weeks!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sinners

The longer I am a pastor, the more I appreciate many of Eugene Peterson's pastoral writings. While not agreeing with everything he says, he makes me stop and think and often offers some very good wisdom.

One thing he said has stuck with me: "You're congregation is filled with sinners. How come you don't expect them to act like it?"

Such a simple statement, yet one that has helped me greatly. When I grow frustrated or disappointed, I remember this, and it helps me come off my high horse, deal gently and patiently with my flock, and remember that I too am a sinner.

But it is not only me - I need to reinforce this mind in all the folks in my congregation. When member sins against member, when hurts cause problems, when conflicts arise . . . yes; why do we not expect these things in our congregation? Why do you not expect to be sinned against? The church is a place for sinners and forgiveness, not a group of folks who always get along famously. And so we sin and repent; we are sinned against and forgive. That is what separates us from the world: the love and forgiveness of Christ that we receive and give.

If only we remembered this more, would there be less fires to put out?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

World Cup

I have been watching the World Cup matches when I can. The end of the Uruguay-Ghana game yesterday was simply amazing. A Uruguayan player named Luis Suarez hand-balled a sure goal off the goal line at the very end of extra time (that's overtime for Americans!). Without it, Ghana would have won. With it, Ghana should still have won, but the penalty kick was missed, and Ghana went on to lose.

In reading the story about this, here's what caught my eye:

"To think that Suarez, when he committed the handball, knew what was going to happen afterward would be something superhuman," the coach said. "The hand of Suarez is the hand of God and the Virgin Mary -- that's how Uruguayans see it."

Uh, no.

VBS Offering

In our VBS this year, we decided to include an offering from the children. We've never done that before. We've always offered our VBS for free and never asked for any contributions. But this year, since part of what we were learning included how the early Christians in Rome followed Jesus and how they were persecuted, our offering was designated to help Christians around the world today who are being persecuted.

We decided to do it this way: after introducing the idea on Monday, we collected pennies on Tuesday, nickels on Wednesdays, dimes on Thursday, and quarters on Friday. I really didn't know what to expect or how much we would receive - but to help us raise the amount, I said I would kick-in double of whatever the children gave. So if they gave $1, I would put in $2 more. I was thinking that maybe that would get our offering up to the $100 range.

Boy was I wrong! The children went bonkers and brought in almost $200! So now we'll be sending almost $600 to help persecuted Christians. I am astounded, and also grateful and thankful. We had a great VBS this year. This was just the icing on the cake.

Friday, July 2, 2010

End of a Long Week

Well, VBS is done and I've reached the end of a rather long week - but a good week! Many good things happened this week, the joy of the children's faces in VBS one of the best of them. Still have to finish getting ready for Sunday tomorrow, and finish up some things for my vacation, but it is coming up fast! I am really looking forward to the R&R with my family.

In other news . . . I have begun working on a Lenten series for next year based on the book of Lamentations. It has long been a tradition of the church to read Lamentations during Holy Week, so it seemed like a good series to do. I think it will work well. But did you know that the church fathers basically did not comment at all on the last chapter, chapter 5? It is a strange thing. Lots of writing through the first four chapters, then . . . nothing. A friend of mine, and a patristics scholar, Dr. Joel Elowsky, confirmed this for me, but I do not yet have a reason for it. Hopefully after vacation I'll be able to buckle down and get it figured out.

Finally, pray for some rain for us. We've had the hottest June ever (a whopping 6 full degrees above average!) and very little rain. Things are drying up. The water situation is fine - no rationing; but grass and plants are all brown and drying up. I'm trying to keep our lawn going (which we got sodded last year) and have been doing okay so far, but won't be able to water while we're on vacation (of course!). So I hope the rains will come.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Challenge

One of the challenges I face with the current church that our Lord has entrusted to my pastoral care is distance - the members of my church live so very, very far apart, and often, very, very far from the church. I have folks that drive over an hour on Sunday mornings for the Divine Service.

One the one hand, that is inspiring! The desire and belief that it is important to attend a Lutheran Church that is confessional in what we believe, confess, teach, and practice causes these people to come from so far and sacrifice to get here. Yet on the other hand, the distance means that Sunday morning is often the only time many can be with us. They live too far away for midweek services, midweek Bible studies, and other service and fellowship opportunities.

Now, certainly, the Divine Service is the central thing, and these folks are living out their Christian vocations in their homes and workplaces. One need not be at church many times a week to be a good Lutheran or a good Christian! In fact, being too often at church may take a person away from their other vocations, which would not be good. Being a father to the children God has given you is just as important (if not more important) than being at a meeting at church during the week!

The difficulty, I think, is in building a sense of community with such a group; that they are, together, the Body of Christ in this place. With a more local, neighborhood church, I think that must be a bit easier, though our modern day individualistic mindset militates against it. But when you only see your brothers and sisters in Christ for such a short time each week, and then drive so far home, I think it can seem like you live on an island so very, very far away.

This means that the times we get together are most important, that we use other means of developing this sense of community, and that it is important to work hard to maintain it - and not assume it will always be there. Do I succeed at that? Well, probably yes and no. What creates even more difficulty is the frequency at which people come and go also. I think this is a problem everywhere these days, but especially here in the metro DC area. Military and government workers routinely cycle in and out, and high tech people come and go with their jobs and assignments.

The people God has led to our congregation are the best. I love them dearly. I pray that God enables me to serve them well and provide what they need.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ruled by Rules

Going to grad school at THE Catholic University of America, I have begun reading a Catholic blog or two to keep up on what's going on among the Catholics. One of the blogs, written by a parish priest, gets a lot of questions mailed in, and they often go something like this latest one I recent read:

(Paraphrase) Father, our priest used the wrong readings at Mass on Sunday, using the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost instead of the Fifth Sunday. Was the Mass valid?

When I read questions like this, I am so greatly saddened by the burden this person has been placed under - the tyranny of being ruled by rules. That receiving the grace of God is not dependent on the promises of God made to us and attached to His Word and Sacraments, but dependent upon the priest doing everything "right," thus making the Mass "valid" or not. And as I said, this person is not alone - there are many questions asked in such a manner, and with such concern and fear.

How grateful I am for the certainty and confidence of the Gospel! That God's forgiveness is not dependent upon me saying exactly the right words in exactly the right way at exactly the right time, but upon Him and His promises, which are sure and true. Luther called such fear the "monster of uncertainty" - how true. But the death and resurrection of Christ leaves no monster or uncertainty. Christ is arisen! Christ is the victor! And so His forgiveness and salvation, given to us in His Word and Sacraments, are true and sure.

Your pastor will make mistakes - count on it! But your Saviour never does. And His gifts are here for you - you can count on it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

VBS Day 1

Well, our first day of VBS is in the books. Not a bad day. In addition to our own children, we have some from the neighborhood coming back again from last year, as well as some new ones. I get to teach the "little ones class" this year - ages from 3 to 5. It was fun, and the kids really paid attention to the story, and liked re-enacting it with finger puppets a second and third time. We don't have as much help this year, so things are a bit busier than usual.

We decided not to use the CPH material this year (I'm sorry Paul, buzzing bees just looked a bit too goofy this year) - instead we pulled "Follow the Lamb" off the shelf (a program that we had done a number of years ago) and are re-using that. My daughter and I made some video clips about a man from the early church avoiding the Romans and talking about what it was like to be a Christian back then - the kids seemed to like the first one.

During VBS week, I usually try to back off my other responsibilities a bit since it is a busy week. But this year, with my vacation starting next week, I couldn't do that. So I've got a full load and then some this week. That's gonna make vacation taste that much sweeter!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Comment Moderation ON

I am sorry to have to do it, but I have turned comment moderation on for this blog. For a while now, I have been having trouble with spam comments that I have to go in and delete (bunches of chinese characters). That's why if you look back at some posts, you'll keep seeing comments that have been deleted. I would like to contact Google/Blogger about this, but they do not provide for feedback - at least, that I could find. So, until they stop, I'll moderate.

Monday, June 14, 2010

This 'n That

T - i - r - e - d!

Helped a parishioner paint and clean their house yesterday after church in preparation for their move today. (A military family) Made for a long day. But it was not only me, but my kids and a bunch of folks from church came to help. We'll miss this family, but know they have already found a good church in Colorado and will be well cared for there.

A couple of links for you today:

(1.) This one is a good quote from the 4th century that should apply to our synodical conventions today - which seem to have become (in recent years) mired messes of political putridity. (And yes, I made that word up!)

(2.) This one is a spoof on BP and the oil spill. Pretty funny!

Have a great day.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

iTreasury

I just found out that CPH has made available an iPhone/iPod Touch app for the Treasury of Daily Prayer. If you go to the iTunes store and search for "Pray Now" you will see it. It costs only $8.99 and is quite easy to use. This is great for me for now, I do not have to haul my giant Treasury of Daily Prayer around on vacation - I need only my iPod! What a great thing. Thanks CPH!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

LCMS President Candidate Questions

Here is a link to how the candidates for LCMS President answered questions put to them. Although there are five candidates listed, the contest is really between the top two - Harrison and Kieschnick. Once you read the answers, it will be clear to you which man should be our next president and lead our church body forward.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Anniversary

This is a picture of the Peasant family on vacation last year. Front and center is my beautiful bride, whom the Lord bless me with 15 years ago today, making me the luckiest man in the world. Add to that the three children He has since blessed us with, and truly you see how good the Lord has been to me. So Happy Anniversary to my love - I don't know what I'd do without you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Good Post on Pentecost

Greg Alms has a good little post on Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit. Go read it here.

Balaam and his Donkey

In Morning Prayer today, we read the account of Balaam and his donkey from Numbers 22. Know what I find most amazing about this story? When the donkey spoke to Balaam, Balaam spoke back and carried on a conversation with her! Had a donkey spoken to me, I don't think I would have been so calm . . .

Monday, May 24, 2010

Children

This week marks the 15th anniversary of my marriage. I still cannot believe how incredibly blessed I am by God with the wife He has given me. So at this milestone, I have been doing so reflecting and thinking, and one of the things I have been thinking about is my children. We have been blessed by three - and they are all very different from one another. Different personalities, different temperaments, different talents, different abilities, different attitudes, different likes and dislikes, and lots more. What this means is that while we love them all the same, we do not treat them all the same. Our love for them means that we know them and treat them according to who they are and their unique needs. So we speak to them differently, discipline them differently, and interact with them differently, which, it seems to me, is how it should be.

Which led me to then think of the fact that we are children of our heavenly Father, and that we are all different too. And so our Father in heaven, in His perfect love for us, does not treat us all the same - but knowing us and loving us, treats us according to who we are and what He knows we need. And so while He loves us all the same, He blesses us differently, disciplines us differently, and leads us differently, which is how it should be.

Therefore, it is exactly because God is perfect love and perfectly loves that we should not expect to all be treated exactly the same. We sometimes fall into that trap of thinking that if God gives to one, He should give to all in the same way. Not at all. That is not love - that is mass production, and God doesn’t mass produce. Instead, He creates each individual life through a father and mother, specially created for them, and whom He will love through them.

Now, sinful parents do sinful things and do not always parent perfectly or with perfect love. Hopefully they try, but that is not always a constant either. One of the things sin has effected, and sometimes devastated, is our family relationships that were created by God for our good, not our harm. But what good news we have, in that our Father in heaven has dealt with our sin and restored His relationship with us through His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

For what is constant from our Father is not what He gives us in this world and life, but what He gives us through His perfect love in His Son - His forgiveness, life, and salvation. This (and it seems to me this is what Galatians 3:28 is about) is the same for us all. And so what is constant in our life is not us or what we have, but our triune God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

My mother used to tell me that being a strict parent wasn’t bad. By being strong in things that didn’t really matter so much (like bedtimes, curfews, and TV watching), my children would know that I would also be strong in the things that mattered; that they could count on me to be there for them when it mattered most. And by being loving and strong in the things that matter most, they also knew that I would be loving in the little things - even if they disagreed with me.

How true as well for God. By His love for us in the thing that mattered most - our eternal salvation - by sending his Son to die for us on the cross, we know that He is loving to us in all other things as well; the earthly things that don’t matter as much. We know that we can count on Him in all things, and know that in all things He is loving us with His perfect love - even if we may not understand, or even disagree from time to time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Family Day!

Today I am having a family day. I'll do some work, but soon we are going into DC to see an exhibit at one of the Smithsonians and then to Union Station for lunch and "National Train Day." Should be fun, as long as the weather doesn't get all weird on us.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This 'n That

Just a few thoughts . . .

#1: The Iranian president (whose name is too hard to spell) goes to the UN and tries to sell their nuclear program under the guise that they are environmentalists. Geesh.

#2: I love my brothers in office. The best.

#3: A great weekend. Dr. Francisco is knowledgeable, engaging, and a true blessing to our church. His teaching to use this weekend will be posted on our church web site soon. Check for it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Year 1 in the Books

Well, my first year of PhD studies is now over. It has been an interesting and fruitful year. I enjoyed my classes and learned a lot, though I am also thankful for the summer break. Lots of parish stuff to do and get ahead on, and need to prepare for language exams. But overall, a good year. I am looking forward to continuing in the Fall.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Interesting . . .

In 2 Kings 6:1-7, Elisha retrieves an axe head that fell into the water by throwing a stick in the water. What is the significance of this? Irenaeus writes that here we see a picture of the cross, which is the wood that has retrieved what was lost. "By means of a tree we were made debtors to God, [so also] by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt." Interesting . . .